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July 29th, 2011

30 Day Challenge

I have been sorely missing my blog and blogging in general yet still felt unmotivated in getting back into it.  That's why I was excited to find out about the 30 Day Challenge on TurnJacson's awesome blog.  It sounded fun and would get me here on the blog every day.  Hell, why not?

I realize I likely have 0 readers left, but that is okay.  I write for me; I write because I can't not write.  Maybe someday someone will stumble upon these words I have left out in cyberspace and will be moved by them, or at least enjoy them for awhile.  That is enough for me.

So, for any faithful readers that may come here from time to time to see if I'm still alive, I will be here at least for the next 30 days consistently!  (Well, I hope I will - we all know "consistency" and "schedules" aren't really in my vocabulary).

(Many thanks to the creator of this challenge - who is also trying to get back into the swing of blogging - Miss Taylor Cast!)

Let's get started, shall we?

Day 1: Introduce, recent picture of yourself, 15 interesting facts.
Day 2: Nicknames.
Day 3: Your first love.
Day 4: Your parents.
Day 5: What song inspires you.
Day 6: Pet peeves.
Day 7: What makes you happy.
Day 8: A place you’ve traveled to and where else you want to travel.
Day 9: A favorite picture of your best friend.
Day 10: Something you’re afraid of.
Day 11: A quote you love.
Day 12: Something you don’t leave the house without.
Day 13: Goals.
Day 14: A picture of you last year – how have you changed?
Day 15: Death row meal.
Day 16: Your opinion about your body and how comfortable you are with it.
Day 17: Put your iPod on shuffle, first 10 songs.
Day 18: Something you miss.
Day 19: Things you want to say to an ex.
Day 20: Something you wonder “What if…?” about.
Day 21: Something you’re proud of.
Day 22: What do you want your future to be like?
Day 23: Favorite Movies and TV Show.
Day 24: Something you’ve learned.
Day 25: Something you are looking forward to.
Day 26: Your Dream Wedding.
Day 27: Photo of your city .
Day 28: What stresses you out?
Day 29: Who is you hero?
Day 30: A picture of yourself this day and 5 good things that happened since you started the challenge.

June 17th, 2011

I Support Gay Love

This past week has been a landmark one in the gay rights movements.  While some states came closer to allowing same sex marriage, prospective Obama-2012 voters lashed out at the President for his lack of support and failed campaign promises to the community.  The week was rounded up by a former football star commenting that allowing gay marriage to happen would create utter "anarchy".

In light of all this, I would like to re-post a portion of a post I wrote a couple of years ago, "Not Special, Just Equal", when I was dissenting with a fellow HuffPo commenter on whether or not gay rights mattered at all.

The end of the post goes to something I have been saying all along - this is not about sexual partners, but LOVE and who a person can and will love.  That seems to get forgotten by the anti-gay rights folks when they are spewing their often ignorant and bigoted hate.

I don't just support gay marriage or, even, all gay rights.  I support GAY LOVE (or, better, LGBT LOVE).

Here is the end of that post, reiterating this very stance:

What bothers me, too, is that in all the hubbub and din, all the people decrying "gay sex" as deviant and gay people as aberrant for engaging in it - just for larks, of course - is the idea of Love.  Being gay isn't just about - isn't really at all about - who you have sex with or want to have sex with.  It's about who you can and will Love.  Yes, homosexuals are sexually attracted to the same sex.  But do not forget, that attraction - just like with straight people - can and does lead to more than just meaningless sex.  It becomes relationships, it becomes lasting partnerships, and long-term affairs.  It becomes Love.

And that is what this battle is really about.  No one can choose who they fall in love with - not straight people, gay persons, bi individuals, or anything in between.  And, therefore, it is not a choice for the lesbian who falls in love with the woman who becomes her partner of 20 years or the gay man who falls head over heels for the person he knows is his soulmate, no more than it is a choice for the woman who marries her high school sweetheart or the man who rekindles a romance with the woman he never got over from college.  We don't choose who we love...love has it's own agenda.

The most beautiful thing about this is that Love always wins.  It will prevail; it always does.  And gay people will win their rights.  I guarantee it.

In the meantime, to all the naysayers, I say think long and hard about the reasons you are against homosexuals or gay rights/marriage.  Remember what this country stands for, and take some time to re-read the teachings of the man you base your religion on.  You have a "choice", now - and the choice is to choose acceptance, understanding, and compassion over denial, ignorance, and hatred.  You like to ask, "What would Jesus do?" and so I posit that to you now - what, indeed?

June 9th, 2011

God, Save Me From Your Followers

I literally chunked my iPhone across the room when a local news-updater app came up telling me that, with no dissent ("unanimously and without debate"), the Louisiana House voted, to add a Ten Commandments monument to the Louisiana State Capitol.

Separation of church and state apparently doesn’t exist here.  Jefferson would be taking to his unique, personally-edited Bible and the other founding fathers would be shaking their heads in utter dismay.  State Representative Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, who brought the proposal makes the entire thing all the more worse (if that can be imagined) by saying the monument is not about religious observance but is of historical note:

The significance is historical. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. In fact, without them, a lot of our laws would not exist.

I am unsure what history classes Rep. Williams attended, but I was unaware that the history of this nation was based on Christian doctrine.  In fact, it would seem that our founding fathers said something completely different:

[Our] principles [are] founded on the immovable basis of equal right and reason.

- Thomas Jefferson, to James Sullivan, 1797

Not founded on Christianity, but the simple concepts of equal rights and sound reason.

May it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [July 4th] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them....

- - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C Weightman, June 24, 1826, Jefferson's last letter, declining, due to ill health, an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of that document; Jefferson died ten days later, the very day ot the 50th anniversary of the Declaration's signing (John Adams died a few hours later, not knowing that Jefferson had also died)

Emphasis mine.

Rep. Williams claims the plaque will have an added mention of its historical context:

Context for acknowledging America's religious history.

I believe this is more a future legal loophole that Rep. Williams and his ilk hope they can use when this plaque is deemed unconstitutional - it's not religious, it's historical, they will say.

Whatever your beliefs, I assure you they are not everyone's and it is unfair to leave out others (in this case non-Christians) when erecting something like this in a state capitol.  The sad part is that this will be challenged and, at a time when the State of Louisiana is in dire economic strife, cost the state untold sums in litigation.  The state simply cannot afford such a pointless distraction at this time, and, therefore, I put this in the same realm as Rep. LaBruzzo's ridiculous proposal to make abortion illegal in Louisiana thereby bucking the federal government's ruling.

 

June 5th, 2011

Riley Claude Prestenback

Riley Claude Prestenback,
my grandfather, and the man I consider my 'father who raised me'...

Dec 9, 1926 - Jun 5, 2009

...I found this just this morning.  I must have written in shortly after his passing but it still expresses how I feel today.  I miss you so much....

I watched you take your last breath, I whispered encouragement and 'we love yous' as your spirit fled the confines of your broken body.

I was blessed to experience your transition with you; the palpable peace that filled the room connected you and I irrevocably and, for quite some time, all I knew was peace and contentment; it stayed with me for weeks afterward - a light weight in my heart, a buoyancy in my step. I was one with the Earth and everyone in it; I had experienced the peace of dying; of transitioning from one phase of eternal life to the next. I knew we lived on; and I knew, in the end, *everything* would be all right for everyone! I carried this in my heart as one might carry a treasured object in their pocket.

Slowly, it leeched out of me; reality rushing back in to chase out any remaining hope and joy; as it does. I remember it, but I cannot touch it - it is a dim memory that fades the closer I get to it. One isn't meant to live in a state of total bliss; not until their mind is ready for such, anyway. There is a life to live, reality to deal with, pain and suffering to mourn over.

None of this means a damn thing, when all I really wanted to say was that I miss you so much and I wish you were still here and that in some ways you totally are b/c it is NOT REAL to me yet that you are gone - it can't be. Goddamit, you were supposed to live forever! I thought we'd have you for decades yet, Pa-Pa! None of us were ready for you to go, and - though it has brought us closer - it has also killed something in all of us. You meant so much to so many people, so much to each of us in a special, unique way.

You left this world as a gentleman - who always knows when to leave - just as you lived your life. My Clark Gable-ish grandfather, as I read aloud at your funeral for your eulogy, and everyone smiled and nodded. There was no one else like you in the world and there never will be; you were made of special stuff and we were so so blessed to have been a part of that, a part of your family.

You were the best grandfather a girl could ever ask for, that is for sure! You taught me so much - how to dance, how to drive a car. I used to love going to work with you to the restaurant! I remember your reading to me when I was little, your voice so soft and your intoning just perfect for whatever passage you were reading. You loved to read - a noble trait you passed on to your daughter, who passed it on to all three of her children.

The last thing you said to me was correcting me when I joked - while you lay in the hospital bed with a blue cap on and a gown - that all you needed was your Elizabeth Taylor's "Passion" and you'd be ready to hit the town and visit all the old ladies.

"No," you corrected me, seriously but in a quiet, rasped voice because you were hurting and scared, "I'm wearing Polo Black now."

Just before that, when the doctors and nurses were crowded in that little room, detailing all kinds of crap to you and things you had to sign, you glanced around the doctor and met my eyes as I stood against the wall. You made that "I have no idea wth they're talking about" face and shrugged your shoulders. A total "screw it" expression with the shrug, and I laughed at you, like you wanted, and you smiled.

I was rushing to get to the hospital when they admitted you. They'd told me they were sending you straight to surgery and I couldn't see you. Thankfully, I had about 10 mins in the room with you and the family - I remember rushing in and relief flooding me just as panic swooped in - seeing you lying in a hospital bed; you were always so hale...this couldn't be happening. Mom says you smiled when I came in the room; I didn't see, but I don't doubt it. You knew your "Gypsy" would come, didn't you? Wouldn't have missed it for the world, Pa. It was the last time any of us saw you alive and conscious. I wish I could go back to that moment, to that room. I told you I loved you a few times, I joked with you to lighten the mood and even made you laugh a few times...I don't know what I'd do different if I'd known what would happen...if I'd known you'd have a stroke on the operating table and never wake back up. I just wish I had those few moments back.

I shouldn't be posting this, b/c Mom might see it - and she can't read anything like this about you right now; not yet. She wants to read the eulogy, she says she can remember bits of it but her mind was so jumbled she wants to actually sit and read it...someday. She isn't ready. Like me, I don't think she's ready to face the fact that you simply aren't here anymore. It doesn't fit, it doesn't seem right.

This is long and rambling, and I apologize to any that choose to read it. I just let the words come out, I needed to get them out - I hope you understand. I miss him so much.

May 18th, 2011

Pot for Life

The title does not mean what you probably think it does.  Instead, it is referring to the life sentence given to Cornell Hood II here in Louisiana for getting busted a fourth time with marijuana.  Remember that, in this state, life means life.  There is no parole for lifers here; the only state in the Union where that holds true.

This boils my blood, as did the recent AlterNet article, The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot by Paul Armentano.  I knew, before even clicking through to it, that Louisiana would be on there.  We have some of the harshest laws and toughest punishments in the nation.  Sure, enough, we made #4; which reads, in part:

Each year, cops make nearly 19,000 pot busts in the Bayou State – some 91 percent for simple possession – and according to Gettman, only three other states routinely punish minor offenders so severely.

It also brings up Cornell Hood, who was convicted on February 15 in Covington, Louisiana under the "repeat-offender" law.  Up to 2 lbs. of pot were found at his home near Slidell during a routine visit by his probation officer.  It was Hood's fourth conviction for possession and/or distribution and the State chose to "send him up the river", as they say.  Yes, for a victimless crime, this man will die in prison.

One of three for a long time, Louisiana is now the only state that still has "real life"; which means that, 90% of the time, you will die in prison.

"No possibility of parole" means exactly that in Louisiana.  Indeed, a second-degree murder charge in Louisiana is known as a "second death penalty".  Due to such harsh sentencing, 97% of the 5,000+ inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola will die there; that is a statistical fact.

Now add to that list Cornell Hood.

He will be sent off - most likely to Angola - and serve the rest of his natural life behind bars.  Are the streets of Louisiana any safer because Mr. Hood, known only to be a pot smoker (and possibly dealer) as far as breaking the law is concerned, is off of them?

Truly, has justice been served?  Or will the cost of keeping a man convicted of a victimless crime behind bars for the rest of his life be worth it for Louisiana and it's flailing economy?

The United States, as a whole, is insanely backwards and backwoods-ignorant when it comes to drugs and its fruitless yet costly "war on drugs".

Justice is rarely served, though so-cheap-it's-nearly-free slave labor of inmates contracted out through Prison Enterprises certainly serves the free market, capitalist society we have become.  And the majority of Republicans, Libertarians, evangelical Christians, and most social conservatives want us to be even more like that, if possible.

Do not for a moment think that locking up gaggles of people for ridiculous reasons is to cleanup our streets and/or eliminate crime in our towns and cities.  It's all to turn a profit, these days.  Some prisons - those bought out by private industries, as Jindal is trying to do here - will not even take "problem" inmates; they do not good workers make, you see.

It looks and sounds good for these politicians to be "hard on crime" and lock up everyone and throw away the key - the public eats that shit right up.

But it's all a ruse, my friends.  The wool is over your eyes and where you see justice being done those politicians see dollar signs in the pockets of the big industries and companies that are going to donate to their next campaign fund.

Wake up, America.  You're being sold out and you do not even see it.

 

September 18th, 2010

Mudslinging & Cocaine Snorting in Louisiana’s 3rd District Congressional Race

Most of us are well aware that the majority of modern political campaigns consist of more mudslinging than issue-tackling.    Indeed, some have taken the tried-and-true method of  dredging up old dirt and creating mountains out of seeming molehills into a fine art.   Yet even in the world of fallacious and farcical politics, some campaigns manage to deliver more low blows than most.

A case in point is the smear campaign foisted on the citizens of Louisiana's 3rd District by Republican Hunt Downer in the runoff campaign against Republican Jeff Landry.

A long-time politician and former state House Speaker, Hugh Downer appears to have let his good name be sullied by his 25 year-old campaign manager, Buddy Boe, who is doing more than just going out of his way (grasping at straws would be putting it lightly) to paint Jeff Landry as something he isn't.  Despite evidence to the contrary (including a letter sent from the 16th Judicial District Attorney's office written by the D.A. who personally dealt with the matter, Assistant D.A. Chester Cedars, clearing Landry of all charges and insinuations) Boe - insists on labeling Landry a former drug abuser who barely came out clean after a serious scrape with the law that would have garnered him a possession charge for cocaine. Boe, it seems, is hellbent on convincing voters that Landry was convicted - or at least suspected of and possibly arrested for - involvement in illegal drugs all the way back in 1993.

As the story - and truth - goes, 17 years ago officers with the St. Martin Parish sheriff’s department knocked on the door of a rent house shared by Jeff Landry, Towaski James, and a few other young men.  Landry, at the time a deputy with the department, answered the door and signed the search warrant which was presented to him.  The search turned up cocaine under the house, which was found to belong to roommate Towaski James.  The extent of Landry's involvement was his cooperation with the police.  That seems to be enough, however, for Downer's campaign to repeatedly refer to "Landry's cocaine charge".

In defending himself against the Downer campaign's spurious claims, Landry sent out the following in a mailer to the voters of the 3rd District:

Doing What is Right

Working as a Sheriff's Deputy, after military service, Jeff signed the order allowing a roommate to be searched and arrested for drugs ... a tough decision.  That man now credits Jeff with helping turn his life around.  Although in the past Democrats have tried to attack him for it, he stands by it.  Jeff is ready to take on the political attacks in the fight for our values.  It's the kind of principled leadership we need.

Between the actual record, Jeff's own admission of what happened, and the letter from the D.A.'s office, it should go without saying that there is absolutely no merit to the Downer campaign's assertions.  Yet they still continue on with the attacks, marring what would have been a respectful career ending for Hunt Downer and taking the race for U.S. Congress down into the mud.

That Boe had to go digging all the way back for something so innocuous (that happened, mind you, when he was all of 8 years-old) and turn it into something so decisive and spurious says a great deal (none of it too flattering) about what type of person he must be.

Whatever made Downer think that this callow hack and his juvenile tactics (which he used in a failed campaign run of his own for St. John Parish President) were a better way to go than taking the high road and focusing on the issues, as he'd done in the past, is beyond me.  Perhaps he thought a fresh, young mind would have tactics and ideas that would appeal to younger voters.  Whatever the reasoning, his decidedly foolish decision will leave a bad taste in the mouths of those that remember him as a fair and balanced campaigner and may, rather than garnering him some fresh, new votes, have cost him the race altogether.

September 8th, 2010

What Will You Say – Before They Come For You?

Don\'t Be a Sucker

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

About

Writing since I could hold a pen, I have put out an extensive mess of words that have, over the years, accumulated into a myriad of web sites, blogs, and even a few published works. This happens to be one of them.

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