A Good Idea on Paper & Why it Didn’t Work: Ujamaa in Tanzania

February 18, 2021

If you’re not interested in Africa, or Tanzania, none of this will make any sense to you. If you are interested, this is an abridged history of what took place.

I remember the magical feeling of riding from the airport in Arusha into town, seeing the fields of sunflowers, and thinking, ‘This is where human beings come from.” At the time, Arusha was still a small town. Our tour guide advised us to go to the bank to change money, but to beware, and showed us what currency should look like, as the country was undergoing a currency change. Why?

Due to high inflation (not yet hyperinflation, but close), people were hoarding currency, and the exchange rate on the black market was about 500% more than you’d actually get at the bank. We were warned to not even try the black market because chances were we’d get old bills, which vendors were now being instructed to not take.

 It was a bit over 20 years since independence, and Nyerere was still president. He was a diehard socialist. He had a socialist vision for development because he did not want neo-colonialists causing economic hardship among the people.   He sort of had a plan, and, amazingly, he was encouraged by the World Bank. Good intentions…..

At the time of independence, Tanzania was reported to have  a 90% rate of literacy (An interesting story.  Missionaries who opened primary schools all over the country taught in KiSwahili because it was a lingua franca, and the missionaries didn’t want educated Africans competing with Europeans for jobs).

Nyerere had a master’s degree and was known as Mwalimu—the teacher. He translated Shakespeare into KiSwahili.   But he was naive about economic development. Back then, in the 1960s, not much was known about economic development, because, globally, it occurred ‘organically’: the wealthy invested and got more, and the ‘peasant’ class farmed.

Nyerere, and TANU (Tanzania Africa National Union) the political party, hoped to get citizens involved in the development of the country and producing cash crops for export to earn foreign exchange. They did not want capitalists to buy the land, do commercial farming (think tea and coffee estates, but cotton, peanuts, sunflower oil, and pyrethrins were also cash crops) start mining, exploit the citizenry, and export profits. Sounds fair, right?

Goran Hyden’s book, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania, is the history of the policies and what went wrong.

The gist is, that although Nyerere & TANU, did bring free primary school education (when fee-based was still the case in most other African countries), water services, and health care to rural farmers, as well as giving them machinery so they could till more land, the peasant farmers didn’t have enough labor to till more land, and didn’t see the incentive when the return was so meager. Nyerere and the TANU party also believed that if people lived closer together, especially near relatives, they would be more inclined to cooperate, This cooperation would spill over to providing extra labor for farming.  What the party didn’t take into account was that many farmers had been on their land for decades, and knew that land. They were not given comparative land when asked to move into villages.  Also, they had lived without modern development for all their lives, and for the most part, didn’t recognize the ‘value’ that the government was providing.

I know the feeling. As a dog groomer, I could groom 5 or 6 dogs a day if I bathed my own dogs. If I paid a bather, I could groom 8 dogs, but by paying a bather, I still netted the same amount of money at the end of the day. What was the point of doing more work?

What Nyerere and TANU really got wrong about socialism was that the workers are supposed to own the means of production and make decisions about policy.  This was still very much top-down policy implementation.  Also, the concentration on agriculture as a capital earner. the only people who make money off farming are middlemen and end processors/sellers. Farmers rarely make money.

At the time, there was little mining going on, and very little manufacturing.  In 1985, Philips and Colgate Palmolive were the two large manufacturers in Tanzania, and they were only profitable because of their distribution network throughout East Africa—and the low wages they paid.  There was a tourism industry, but barely, as it was not supported the way agriculture was.

The irony is that due to TANU pressure on farmers, they became either more politically involved (or fled to remote areas of the country to be left alone as subsistence farmers, which worked for them), and people working in manufacturing in urban areas started forming unions.  TANU morphed into another entity:  Chama cha Mapinduzi.  Banks remained nationalized until 1991, and gradually, mining permits were granted to private enterprises.  Nyerere resigned in 1985 and Ali Hassan Mwinyi took over. There have been peaceful transitions of power since then, and the economic policy is still socialism. What that mostly means is that in urban areas, land is not freehold, but 99-year leases. That is not unusual in many places in the world, and it is done this way to discourage speculation, which drives inflation as much as energy scarcity. Israel, Viet Nam, and most of Europe is socialist in this regard, yet you still find plenty of capitalists.

Because there is so little infrastructure, but the country is not landlocked, tourism 8is still a huge capital earner for Tanzania, and more and more tour operators are promoting environmental conservation and getting local people involved in tourism.  Would an American notice the differences between Tanzania and her neighbor to the north, Kenya? I’m not sure.  Kenya is more densely populated, partly because of refugees from Uganda and Somalia.  thus, there seems to be more economic activity.  Does a lot of economic activity mask underlying policy? I’m not sure.


Book Review: From Condoms to Cabbages, by Mechai Viravaidya(with Thomas D’Agnes)

February 11, 2021

Topiary and horticulture are skills that you can make a living doing!  Bangkok

In 2005, about 6 weeks after the Tsunami that devastated so much of South Asia, I took my first trip to Thailand. So many Americans, who are too lazy to look at a world map, asked me if I was still traveling, Of course, I was! The  Tsunami had hit the south. I was going to the north.  Tourism was drastically cut. So many had canceled their trips. It was wonderful, for me, as a tourist. Our guides (I traveled with Gate 1—look them up—-fantastic travel values!!!) were incredible and mentioned Mechai Viravaidya, who started the family planning ‘revolution’ in Thailand. He had gotten prostitutes to own a cooperative restaurant if they wanted to leave sex work.  Je actually did so much to make Thailand a healthier place.

For those who have never traveled to Thailand, or have only gone to the beaches, you have no idea what you are missing. Thailand is ‘set up’ for tourism. There are many historic sites, going back over 1000 years. So much culture. Thailand is an economic development success story. The downside  is sex tourism.  it’s also a large part of the economy.  Thais regard sex as recreation.

If we address modern development which occurred after World War II, you realize all ‘3rd world countries were in pretty much the same place in terms of social indicators: infant and maternal mortality were high, as was the birth rare. The communications infrastructure was almost non-existent. Literacy rates were low, and college graduates were rare. Then, in Thailand, due to a series of fortuitous meetings, and the involvement of Mechai, family planning took off in Thailand. Use of modern family planning methods went from almost nothing to 30%, then, in less than 20 years, over 70% and in a short period of time, social indicators improved. The improvement in social indicators led to the improvement of economic growth that benefited more of the population, which led to a viable middle class.

Mechai came from a mixed-race family, His father was a Thai elite, sent to study in the UK, where he met his mother. Both were physicians, who returned to Thailand. Mechai was given an elite education, He wasn’t a good student, but he persevered. When he returned to Thailand after university, he sort of lucked into a job with the government, evaluating development schemes. He remembered what his mother had told him one day when they saw a very old woman carrying a heavy burden through city traffic, and cars honking at her.  She told him that if we don’t help the poor, who will?  He kept that in mind when he traveled all over Thailand trying to learn what the Thai people actually wanted. He recognized that not being able to do birth spacing, burdening families with children they could not feed, was a major issue.

His life was a bit more complicated. He found he enjoyed the work and started writing about it. He was asked to escort Miss Universe, a Thai national, in 1966, and due to a situation, was photographed with her and became an instant celebrity. He got a radio show, and also became a well-known television actor. I’m simplifying, but he used all this to promote his platform of making family planning services available all over Thailand.  Population growth immediately slowed.

Where was the FBI When ‘Patriots’ Stormed the Capitol?

January 14, 2021

This story, I would have thought would have begun with my protesting the Viet Nam war, but no. It began when David told me I had nothing to lose, and I should keep them —the FBI—busy. 

It was because of David Gassman I even considered applying for it.  David, whose parents were bona fide Communist Party members ( he was known as a ‘red diaper’ baby—but in actual fact—as he has informed me—there is speculation about whether both his folks were ‘card carriers’), knew a couple of people who I knew.  At the time, I was really not ‘active’ in any radical political organizations. David knew my roommate, Gloria Smith, through SANE/FREEZE, the nuclear weapons-free area campaign.  David also knew Judy Freeman, who got me to be a board member for Uptown Recycling Station, one of the first community-based recycling stations in the country.  This was started by Ken Dunn of Resource Center (RPCV Brazil).

It was 1987, but we had known each other for several years, via both Gloria & Judy.  I don’t remember how it came up in conversation, but David told us he had requested his FBI file, to make the FBI do something for all the money they got.  He suggested that both Gloria and I send for our files.

I didn’t think I had a file.  If there was anything, it would have been because my former husband, D.Craig Ledford, was General Secretary-Treasurer for the Industrial Workers of the World, and I owe my membership in the IWW to journalist Abe Peck, whom I met at The SEED underground newspaper.  He also taught me how to use an IBM SELECTRIC, one of the first ‘computer’/word processors. Anyways, that is just background. I was in arrears after I bought my first dog grooming business, and stayed in arrears after we got divorced.  I couldn’t imagine what the FBI would want with me.  David admitted that there might not be anything, but he helped me file the Freedom of Information Act request, and we had to file several requests.

I didn’t really think much would come of it, but after several months, I did get a packet from the FBI.  It turns out I DID have an FBI file!  It had nothing to do with my ex-husband, and it appeared they had been spying on me quite recently!

Apparently, they were actually interested in Gloria, who lived with me at the time. Gloria had been to Nicaragua with the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, providing technical assistance to the Sandinistas.  Back in the 1980s, during the  Reagan Administration, we weren’t at ‘war’ in Nicaragua, but Reagan used his ‘discretionary funding’ to provide support for the CONTRAS, who were fighting socialism.  He called them ‘freedom fighters’.  Never mind that there probably were over a dozen political parties in Nicaragua at the time, & Daniel Ortega had won a ‘free & fair’ election.  Our ‘American’ attitude was that the Nicaraguans had voted in the wrong guy and the wrong party!

The spying on American radical activists was a carryover from Nixon (apparently, there were so few criminals for the FBI to spy on, they had to spy on people doing nothing illegal). It was quite controversial.

So, anyway, Gloria had gone to Nicaragua and was now living with me. According to the non blacked out parts of the file (it’s really heavily redacted), a couple of guys were watching the house.  How would we not know this?  We lived in west Lakeview at the time, before it became Yuppieville, and wouldn’t have noticed a strange car on the street due to all the activity What is particularly funny about this is that they didn’t have photos of us, and they followed my tenant. We’ll call her ‘Susan’.

Susan was a figure model (as was I. That’s how I knew her), an art student, and delivered singing telegrams for extra income.  According to the FBI notes, they followed her from the house, dressed as a clown,  carrying helium-filled balloons, down a circuitous route to where she was going–thinking SHE was ME.

WE had a good laugh over it, & I believe I wrote to the FBI & told them they followed the wrong person, but I never heard back from them.  I still have the papers in my file cabinet.  Gloria never did file the FOIA request for her file.

Even though I had to be fingerprinted to get into the Peace Corps, and told them straight out that I had an FBI file, it didn’t matter at all.  One branch of the government rarely speaks to another branch.

So—that’s what the FBI is doing. THE employees of the FBI are overwhelmingly white men, so they decide on their own, or with some direction from the White House, who should be considered subversive. So now. it’s Jan. 6, 2021. The ‘Patriots’ and their ilk had been posting on social media that they are going to meet in Washington,D.C., and overturn the election because everyone they know voted for Trump, and there is no way he could NOT have won…unless there was fraud. never mind that he didn’t win the popular vote in 2016.  Never mind no other Republican on the ticket says they didn’t lose fair & square.THIS time, he had done such good stuff (started building an ecologically damaging wall at the Mexican border & putting refugees fleeing violence in cages; promised us ‘Better than Obamacare…of course, there’s nothing; decimated our enviromental laws; claimed Climate Change is a hoax; banned Muslims from certain countries from coming to the USA (unless they were rich Saudis…); claimed COVID19 was no worse than the flu; defended police brutality, particularly towards racial minorities; was heard on recorded phone calls attempting to bribe the president of Ukraine, was impeached, and his politcal party voted in lockstep even though we all heard the evidence; was then heard to strongarm the attorney general of Georgia into commiting fraud; he was heard making many speeches calling the election rigged and calling for he is supporters to stop it; even though there was a lot of evidence that he refused to pay people he contracted to work for him, he still managed to get more flunkies and syncophants due his bidding (even though they knew the liklihood of him humiliating them).

We know that the FBI monitors social media. The FBI employees had to know the possibility of violence and insurrection. Why didn’t they do anything? Warn DC police, the attorney general, and the vice-president?

Because they were in on it…or they followed orders…..


Book Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

October 29, 2020

Prototype cover without the dogs & title. /for Polyandress: available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Itunes….

I’ve always liked Aziz Ansari. Funny guy, adorable. I found this book in a free library and had no idea what to expect. I guess a bunch of anecdotes about meeting someone and falling in love. Actually, the book is about how we meet in the modern world. This book was published in 2015, and he did not write it alone, but with a sociologist (Eric Klinenberg), and also interviewed other sociologists and anthropologists, including Helen Miller Fisher. They also held focus groups in several countries.

This is a very well written, put together book. Aziz starts out with a focus group of people my age (boomers), or possibly bit older, and asks how people met their partners. Most said either in their neighborhoods or at work. I know proximity is everything. You can’t really tell a lot from a photo (except possibly physical attraction),  and you have to have  regular interaction… and it’s so logical that people used to meet via connections with others.

That’s not how things are anymore. Because so many men are ‘woke’ to sexual harassment, you probably would not meet at work, and many workplaces have rules about relationships.

So, there are bars, churches, sports teams,  and internet’ dating sites’ . We all know how fraught dating sites are. But he has done focus groups with singles in several places in the world. The Japanese are loathe to touch or even get involved, At the other end of the spectrum, are Brazilians, who seem to always be looking for hook-ups. In between, are people like the French, who tend to polygamy and are ok with it. We also know that in many parts of the world, your parents arrange your marriage, and those marriages are often more successful than the ones you foen with the guy you met at a softball game or a bar.

He devotes several pages to texting and how texts can be misconstrued, and worse, how bad men are at trying to attract women.  I don’t think he really knows how many dick pictures guys sent, but he does know their texts can  be both stupid and gross.

The most important idea he addresses is what you want from a partner, and if you’re looking for a soulmate or a partner to have kids and develop a family.

I think of these things often when I find a man attractive,  Is he looking for a nurse and a purse, a hookup, or does he really want a woman to spend time with and share?  You really have to talk with a guy and delve deep.  So many guys are so shallow, they fold immediately.

I just read a story in a newspaper about how a woman was scammed by a man she had actually met and developed a relationship with. He was good looking, charming, outgoing, and he had several businesses. Something didn’t add up, but he always had an explanation for why he drove a beater car, and why he lived in a small apartment  He got this woman to invest most of her life savings in his ‘business’, which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, and she lost everything. I’ve blogged about this before. Do you have to get a credit check and hire a private investigator before becoming intimate with a man? How about meeting friends and family?

So Aziz and Eric address whether you want to get married, if it really makes sense.  The statistics they’ve gathered do make sense, but this book puts ideas out there, and the bottom line is:  spend time to see if you want to know someone.  It is too easy to miscommunicate with texts.

I’d suggest this book to anyone who feels it’s difficult to meet a romantic partner.  I’d also suggest you binge-watch Anz sari’s TV show

on Netflix, “Master of None.”  it’s about him dating and finding a partner, and very well written and acted.


1968: You Mean it Wasn’t About Communism?

October 20, 2020

I’m a native Chicagoan. I had just completed my freshman year in high school. My father, who really hated being with us kids for any length of time, decided to take us up to Wisconsin Dells for a four-day vacation. Partly, this was a test trip, to see if he could stand being with us for two weeks, but partly, my folks were alarmed by the news.

Even though we lived about 20 miles from downtown Chicago, Martin Luther King, jr. was holding demonstrations about desegregated housing (my parents called him a trouble maker and my mother said the negroes weren’t ready to —in essence—be full-fledged citizens), and there were riots, and buildings being burned…and then, the Yippies were in Grant Park and there was the Democratic Convention at the International Ampitheatre at the Stockyards (this no longer exists).

Now, in theory, because Grant Park is along the lakefront, and the Ampitheatre was at least five miles from there…two separate gatherings of people, the problems—well, there were several. The Democrats were mostly in the Blackstone Hotel, across from Grant Park (& actually, not exactly across, because there were the train tracks and then Michigan Avenue).

But Hizzoner Mayor Richard M. Daley, who made sure JFK had been elected earlier and was a real power player, wanted to show force and strength, and he had the police attack the wild but peaceful demonstrators in the park. He is shown on film, flummoxed, saying the police were not there to create disorder but to maintain disorder. What a Freudian slip!

Who were the demonstrators? Mostly anti-war (Viet Nam) protesters, but also people involved in the civil rights movement. Later, the Kerner Commission (Kerner had been a Democratic governor of Illinois, and was later implicated in a scandal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Kerner_Jr.) called what happened a police riot. Yes—the police attacked the demonstrators. In any case, from all this hullabaloo, we got the Conspiracy 8 trial (later, when Bobby Seale was removed from the conspiracy the Conspiracy 7 trial).

Who were these guys? Bobbie Seale was a Black Panther. The Panthers were fighting racial discrimination. In Chicago, they had a free breakfast program for kids from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, Now, all poor kids are entitled to free breakfast and lunch in school. It was considered a socialist idea at the time. David Dellinger, an old anti-war activist who had actually served jail time for refusing to be drafted during World War 2, John Froines and Lee Weiner—academics, Tom Hayden, an anti-war activist and later a congressman from California (also married to Jane Fonda, the actress), Rennie Davis, also an anti-war activist, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman who were also antiwar activists. You have to remember that most Americans really believed we were fighting communism in Viet Nam. In fact, what we taught ourselves in primary schools was that capitalism equaled democracy and socialism equaled dictatorship. I am afraid we are still—-50 years late, teaching this.

One thing you have to understand is—-we had been fed the idea—by the United States Government—that we were fighting communism. There was no internet. For all we believe about a free press and fourth estate, our American journalists took press releases from the government. Neil Sheehan didn’t publish “A Bright and Shining Lie” until 1988. It was the anti-war activists swimming upstream against mainstream media, all the while being characterized as dirty hippies, communists, and anarchists.

I was not even 15-years-old, and I echoed my parents. Then the Conspiracy 8 trial started, and although I could no go downtown to the trial, it was being reported on the local news because it was a really big deal. Did the defendants (particularly Rubin and Hoffman) disrupt things? For sure, but they were on trial for—the charge was: CROSSING STATE LINES WITH INTENT TO INCITE A RIOT. How do you indict people for a state of mind? Worse, the judge, Julius Hoffman, was biased against them. He should have recused himself, but no matter.

Bobbie Seale did not want the team lawyers (William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass) representing him. He wanted to represent himself.   He wasn’t even in Chicago.  His lawyer of choice was receiving medical treatment.  Yet Judge Hoffman refused to listen to Seale. Indeed…these guys barely knew each other before the trial. There was no conspiracy. In the end, the government could not prove their case and they were found not guilty upon appeal.. Go to Wikipedia…but check out Aaron Sorkin’s movie.  In the movie, Judge Hoffman would not allow former Attorney General Ramsey Clark to state why he refused to indict these guys.  It was a waste of taxpayer money.  Also, during the trial, State’s Attorney Ed Hanrahan murdered local Black Panther Fred Hampton in his bed!  He tried doing  a re-eneactment of what went down on local television.  it was clear his  men busted in and execjuted Hampton.

But more importantly, we Americans were NOT winning the war in Viet Nam. We were bombing the bejesus out of Laos and Cambodia (ignoring the Khmer Rouge and what was happening separately from us in Cambodia), our young men were dying (but hey— war is a type of birth control—especially when you don’t allow birth control or abortion) and being maimed. Soldiers were coming back fucked up—mentally ill, addicted to drugs, asking people, “What are we fighting for?” & they were not able to beat the guerilla army of disparate (yes—until Ho Chi Minh—although the ‘country’ spoke Vietnamese—there were about 20 different ethnic groups, most not in touch with each other, trying to get rid of the French colonialists, whom WE—the AMERICANS—supported!!!)

Muhammed Ali, the fighter, went to jail for dodging the draft. He said, “No Vietnamese ever called me nigger.” & it was partly racism, minorities showing they supported the United States even though they were still legally discriminated against in schools, housing, and jobs.  Yes, my young friends—we maintained an underclass and Black Lives Matter is no mystery—because legally, they didn’t matter.

During the trial, Rennie Davis was invited to Highland Park, an upscale suburb about 20 miles north of Chicago,  to talk about his opposition to the Viet Nam War, and my mother and I attended his lecture. He was very compelling.

So, I want you to understand I had graduated 8th grade a mere couple of years before, and had to study the U.S, Constitution, and capitalism. I lived in a white suburb, where just a few years before, a so zoning change to permit high-density apartment building was voted down by the community because that would have allowed poor (black) people to move in. The only black people I really knew were maids.  These were not stupid women.

My mind was opened up. But there was also the election. Hubert Humphrey was no match for Richard Nixon. Nixon was a racist, anti-Semitic, probably sexist, and he said he’d end the war. What he did was declare victory and leave—in a matter of days. There had been a lot of refugees. it wasn’t so ‘cut and dried’. Check out Le Ly Hyslip’s book, “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Heaven_and_Earth_Changed_Places).

Nixon…Google Watergate.  The public relations/advertising industry slowly started putting minority ‘talent’: actors, into TV shows and commercials.  There was affirmative action, meant to counter employment and educational discrimination.  Yet, schools in minority communities were still underfunded.  Many white Americans still didn’t know any black Americans (or other minorities) socially.  The  Republican Party , really big on  fiscal responsibility and state’s rights, transformed itself into having a policy that any social program (which would partly be considered Keynesian—look it up) benefited not just minorities, but criminals gaming the system.  In the meantime, they, during the Reagan Years, cut takes on the wealthy and supported a ‘covert’ war in Nicaragua based on the same lies we told ourselves about Viet Nam(Google George Crile, and get his book, “Charlie Wilson’s War”).

Because of the GOP, we have over a billion dollars unaccounted for in Afghanistan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War_(Filkins_book),  countless American lives lost—-& democracy is still nonexistent there…but a whole lot of military contractors made a lot of money off of us.  Yet now, the GOP would have us believe that Qanon should be taken seriously because the REAL PROBLEM is …Democrats who support child trafficking rings and pedophilia.

We have an election coming up in a few days. Trump—who has been caught lying about everything and discounting scientists (we’re still in the COVID catastrophe due to his ‘leadership’), vs. Jo0e Biden—a decent guy who Trump says will make you give up your security in the suburbs, destroy the economy, etc, etc.  How does he get away with it?

We Americans are still terribly uneducated.  We believe anyone who says they are Christians, and that anyone challenging a Christian has been sent by the devil.   So many people still don’t socialize with anyone not of their racial or ethnic group and don’t trust science. Yeah, that’s how it is.


Book Review: “The Kid” by Dan Savage

July 30, 2020

For those not familiar with ‘alternative newspapers’,  many major cities have weekly papers that post about local culture. to fill out copy, they buy syndicated columns. Dan Savage is a gay man who answers questions about sex, both gay and straight, in his weekly column, Savage Love’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savage_Love

He’s a really funny guy. Who are you going to ask about sex and kinks and sex issues if not him?  He does his research.  he’s also written about half a dozen books.  I find him insightful, funny, and easy to read.

The Kid is about his adventure into adopting a child.  He and his partner chose open adoption because they felt it would be easier than a closed adoption, less expensive than a foreign adoption,less complicated than an informal arrangement with a woman who wanted to bear a child,  and he saw no reason to not have the birth mother of his child present in his child’s life.

He discusses all of this in his book, starting with how he met his partner, Terry, in a gay bar: why he was attracted to him, and how they started living together.  his biggest qualm with Terry is that Terry likes techno dance music, especially in the car. Dan hates it.  but he says that what ‘sealed the deal’ for him after a two-day lovefest was Terry’s excitement at Dan bringing him a book by Gore Vidal (United States) he wanted to read.A committed monogamous relationship developed, and they started discussing having a family.

Dan addresses that he was approached by lesbian friends and he writes they never got it together, One par ir split up.  he discussed this with a lawyer friend who had done an open adoption with his wife, and Dan and Terry decided that would be the way for them to go.

They live in Seattle, but the adoption agency was in Portland, Oregon, so they make a trip to scope out what they have to do. The adoption agency has no issues with gay couples, and Dan  & Terry are told that they will stand out in a book of prospective parents because they are not the typical white bread Christians that most of the couples are. Dan is skeptical, but within 6 weeks,  after getting their paperwork to the agency, they are chosen, and the birth mother is about  6 months along in her pregnancy. She’s a homeless  ‘gutter punk’ who chooses to live on the street, but who knows she can’t care for a baby. She doesn’t care that Dan and Terry are gay. Apparently, she likes other aspects of how they describe themselves, and that Terry will be the stay-at-home dad.

Dan also describes his relationship with his parents, with Terry’s parents,  coming out and ruminating over what he wants in his life, what to name ‘the kid’, and whether to circumcise or baptize him.  and is funny every step of the way.   I might say you’d never know Dan was gay unless he told you. He’s a writer who knows he can help people make decisions by giving them the information they might not be able to find otherwise.

Anyone  even considering adoption, or anyone who wants to read a story  by someone who  looks at his life seriously, but with humor, will enjoy The Kid,



May 7, 2020

Some people who disregard what I’ve written because it’s…smut. But is it?  When Ann Patchett wrote Truth and Beauty, about her relationship with the writer Lucy Grealy (who wrote ‘Autobiography of a Face’), she didn’t consider it controversial, but the truth.  Yet,  a bunch of protesters, who hadn’t actually read either book, demonstrated against Patchett being allowed to speak at Clemson University because she wrote about ‘the love between two women’. Yes, Patchett did write about the love she had for Lucy, and how Lucy had coped with so much physical pain and romantic rejection. Patchett even wrote about Lucy’s bad choices, including drugs and sexual promiscuity, but there is nothing salacious about Patchett’s book. That’s the problem when Christian men get hold of something & turn it into something else to discredit or debase women. The men remain credible, and the women have to defend themselves.  In any case, what I write is being judged by the larger Christian community.

I am going to defend my choices.  I became acquainted with an attractive man through a dating site.  He seems honest. We haven’t actually met. There are some things that aren’t quite right.  He’s Catholic, and as I’ve said many times, you can’t have it both ways.  Over the past week, he’s tried to find out more about me, and he has asked some interesting questions.  However, in a recent text chat, he mentioned me to his daughter and had her text me.   I just can’t imagine why a man would do that.  If I had kids, I wouldn’t have them meet anyone I didn’t know until I really knew them.

Our actual conversations haven’t been totally clear because of the audio quality of both our phones.   He now has Covid19, is very discouraged and not feeling well (but not bad enough off to be hospitalized).  I asked him what it was he actually did for a living. He lives in a very upscale community, so he must be paid well (he had also asked me if I invested).  He told me he sold mining and drilling equipment. When I asked him, he affirmed that yes, he sold fracking equipment. He was reluctant to explain how he justified helping greedy people ruin the global fresh water supplies just to make money. He said to me, “Don’t judge.”

  I am not rich, but I’ve been able to carve out economic security for myself while not having to compromise my values, for the most part. It’s been tough. A few times I took work for pay doing things I was not comfortable with, but I didn’t make a career out of compromising my values.  I worked for less than a week for a man who resold dogs from puppy mills. He lied to buyers that they were raised by families. Sure, the Amish are families—but make no mistake: puppies are a cash crop to them, like any other livestock. I just couldn’t do it. I am a purebred dog fancier. Ethical hobby breeders who love their dogs don’t sell puppies to be resold. They want to meet the people who say they want puppies.

I’ve worked for veterinarians who lied about how much playtime day boarding dogs got, and how much time dogs spent in cages, especially overnight in their own filth because they didn’t want to pay an overnight person to let the dogs out. I’ve even worked for one who told people he would euthanize a dog, and kept it as a blood donor! I’ve worked for dog daycare owners who didn’t train their staff and allowed dogs to be bullied and harassed, or isolated with no playtime. People whose friends found dogs that were lost, and, instead of searching for the owner, or seeing if the dog was chipped, kept the dog for themselves or resold it.

I’ve groomed dogs for ‘no-kill’ dog rescues that lied about dogs being good with kids, or housebroken.

Briefly, I sold timeshares for a company until I learned that, because they were resellers, most of the buyers had a terrible time booking the weeks they had paid for.

I have many Catholic friends. Most have lapsed.  They lapse for the same reasons I   address in my writing:  a religion that has managed to sustain itself by protecting leaders—and that’s what the church hierarchy is—who have acted for their own best interests, while not just misleading followers, but protecting stronger people who have exploited their flocks.  It’s 1 thing to be culturally Catholic, and another to continue to support these hypocritical people because it’s comfortable and you think it benefits yourself.

I wondered for a long time if I was really out of the mainstream. Having these questions led me to study cultural anthropology. I had a unique instructor who assigned books written by Africans, and that’s where I discovered Chinua Achebe’s books, particularly Things Fall Apart.

So now, I am being confronted, and that is the term, by potential lovers who haven’t ever addressed that they’re characterizing themselves as Catholic. I’ve had the conversation with a few Christians who have denied that this is how it is—but this is how it appears; once you have admitted that you are not perfect, you can make the wrong choice. Then, you ask Jesus for forgiveness, and you can get into Heaven. You can attain salvation even though you knew what the right choice was but chose to do the wrong thing anyway.

Having been an environmentalist…evolving from being a teenaged tree hugger into someone who understood the scientific ramifications of protecting or stewarding the natural environment (or not), I try to act on what I believe.  I helped found one of the first community-based recycling centers in the country. I have lived in places where getting fresh water was a daily struggle. I don’t think I could make the wrong choice and then ask a deity to forgive me. I have no savior. Nobody would get me into their heaven. I could not live with a wrong choice to just make money. This is what Trump and the GOP are doing now.

Yet, that is what I am being confronted with. I am being asked to overlook or discard the fact that a potential lover helps people poison the environment. Does he think there is an ‘away’? That what he does two miles down the road, or on another continent, won’t affect him and his children? I’m waiting for an answer. but, for now, I have to step back. I can’t be giving (or receiving) sexual pleasure from a man who does this, and that was the whole point of trying to get to know him. I am very disappointed. Such is life.

An Emotional Support Animal is NOT A Service Dog

March 6, 2020

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right. Bred by hobby breeders for the betterment of their breeds.Not emotional support animals, but keep me mentally stable.

I just had a big ‘tif’ on a grooming related FB site. Someone new posted a photo of a poodle mix she thinks is a purebred dog (it’s merle–no way can the dog be purebred—the coloring has never appeared in the breed), but THEN she says she got the dog to be a SERVICE ANIMAL! When I asked what service the dog is trained to perform, others on the site got angry & said I had no right to ask. But by law, I DO. Turns out the dog is an ’emotional support animal’. Not a service dog. So if any of you are seeing a therapist who panders to the self-indulgent neurotics who want to manipulate the rest of us into indulging them, you might want to rethink how valuable the therapy you are getting really is. I know what it is to be mentally ill, but I also know what integrity is.

‘Emotional Support Animals’ are a new construct. They didn’t exist even 10 years ago. However, because psychologists are giving people permission to have them—a walking security blanket—now they are a thing. Based on a letter the ‘patient’ carries around, the ‘patient’ feels entitled to take a(usually untrained) dog anywhere most dogs are not allowed….unless they are bona fide TRAINED service dogs.

As a dog lover, and as someone who has been afflicted with mental illness (I may still be…who knows? You have to talk to me…but I digress…), it really irks me when I am out with my two trained dogs, and someone with an out of control dog allows that dog to harass my dogs. I also don’t like being molested by untrained dogs. I spend more time intimately involved with dogs than a lot of people ( hey—I shave a lot of penises), and I can usually control most dogs in my own environment. When a dog is in his own environment, the dynamic changes. Passing off untrained dogs as service animals is dangerous and unethical. We’re not talking PTSD, we’re talking entitled.

But there’s another problem: psychologists who know nothing about dogs, and don’t really care, are pandering. It used to be you’d go for therapy, and if you didn’t feel emotionally stronger in a few weeks, you’d change therapists. You would not ask for permission to indulge yourself. Psychologists are not medical doctors. They can’t prescribe drugs. They essentially use talk therapy and behavior modification and may consult with a psychiatrist, to help their clients achieve mental stability. They don’t prescribe security blankets. Why would they think a pet will automatically make you feel more emotionally…stable? Will it? What it does is forestall dealing with issues. The irony is that if these emotionally unstable people actually trained the dog they have…actually spent time getting used to being in charge and confident, not only would they have a stable, well-behaved dog, they’d be more confident, and their emotional issues may dissipate—- but the psychologists  can’t have that happen, can they?

Robyn Michaels


Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

What do purebred dogs have to do with erotic romance?  Nothing.  It’s just that  one of my characters thinks he wants to breed dogs.

Draft for cover of Polyandress

Lots of people I know think dog breeders are evil.  Funny thing:  the BACKYARD BREEDERS are totally off the hook for responsibility. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want..are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispel in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

What Ever Happened to Chemistry?

August 15, 2019

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

So, I’m  on a few dating sites, including ‘Plenty of Fish’ and ‘Match’.  I bet I also appear on other sites these companies own.  I am on a few other obscure sites, like Elite Singles , but never, ever do I get responses from any men remotely suitable.  That said, I’ve had a few friends who met their husbands on dating sites, but they were younger than I am now.  From Match and POF, however , I’ve been getting responses from men who look at my posted photos, do not read my profile, and it’s  pretty much a waste of time. Why?

Often times, , even if they are younger than I am, they look like my father.  No thanks. Then, there are the guys who  clearly live over  an hour away, and haven’t put much thought into travel time.

I was an anthropology undergraduate, and what I learned about forming relationships—-especially romantic relationships—-is that personal attraction/’chemistry  is important, and you can’t determine that online .

So…. several very attractive men have told me distance is no object. Really?  You  know,  it is to me, I would be reluctant to schlep out to where you live, and that you might be hiding a wife or girlfriend.   But I do  tell them my zip code and 2 cross streets a block away, and suggest they get in the car and tell me how long it takes from where they live. They disappear…

Then, there are they guys who think being Christian (Catholic, even!) to my  Judaism/other, should not be a big deal.  What they do not understand about being an ‘other’ is that Jews don’t  prostelytize. I’m not religious at all, but  why wouuld I give pleasure to a man who supports  evangelism, and worse—- paying legal fees for a bunch of pedophiles?  That’s what identifying with a religion like that means to me.  Are they viewing me as an adventure?  So they can sin with me but ultimately settle down with a nice Christian/Catholic girl?  I’m 65…that’s a really big risk —to be vulnerable to such a man.

But we also have the guys who  tell me they are not religious…but they want to get to know me better before meeting in person.  Yet you ask, “In what way?” and they  don’t have a response.

One of my very dear friends describes me as ‘bitchy.’  Well, I’m not sweet and ladylike, that’s true. If I had been, I could have never accumulated any wealth, owned a home, or  trained dogs.  I’m a pretty tough broad.  That said, because am not ladylike, I learned to be a good lay.

I was a founder of one of the first community based recycling  centers in the USA.  I still source separate my garbage. I was also active implementing public school reform and community policing.  I’m pround of these accomplishments, and that I was a ‘judge of elections’ for years.

So, how much  history do these ‘nice guys’ need?  How many sibblings  I have doesn’t matter. That I have no debt except my home (I owe under $30,000) & pay off my credit cards  every month does matter…& I want to know this about them.  I want to know how old they were when they first had sex.  I want to know  their kinks, if they admit to any.  I don’t want to be tied up, spanked, or a few other things involving pain or force.  Have they ever seen an illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra? If sex isn’t important to them, what do they want?

In my profile, I stateI have lived with the same male roommate for over 18 years. He’s like a brother except he’s  more reliable and sober.  I rarely dine out alone, but I often go to movies and exhibits on my own amd I’ve traveled many times myself.   I don’t want to have to accomodate another person who has strong opinions about how to do things, not if I am relaxing.

I was wrongly arrested once, before we had community policing. It could happen again, but the  commander apologized and I had my arrest record expunged.  I’ve had  3 tickets in my life for moving violations.

In my 65  years, I’ve owned 8 dogs.  They mostly lived—-6 of them— to be old and unfortunately, I euthanized them when their quality of life became bad.  Nobody  lingered.  People who understand dogs understand that most people wait too long.  Now, 1 dogs is 8 and the other is 11.  I’ve made most of my living grooming and  training dogs, but I’ve also been a prudent investor.

I am a left over hippie.  I took  LSD, peyote, and mescaline in my younger days, and when marijuana is legal again, I will probbly keep a stash.  I rarely drink. Alcohol is not my drug of choice.

I am a Wobbly in arrears…Industrial Workers of the World, an anarco-sydicalist.  If you saw Warren Beatty’s move, “Reds,’ you  know a little of the history.  Yes, in my heart, I believe in small economies…but infrastructure doesn’t pay for itself.  Also, I’ve worked in  businesses that were run as ‘collectives’ by default because an owner  didn’t think having a manager was important.  Even if elected, somebody has to be the manager—the fall guy.

Finally, I have a portfolio of nudes of me: drawings, paintings, photography.  One of the photographers I worked for got me an assistantship to graduate school.  It’s a persona.  It was a job.  So this blog is about all I  can think of. I’m afraid  these do guys are not as adventurous  as they say they are or think they are.

I give as good as I get.  I am, actually, trying to scare off the ‘faint of heart’.  I hope this works.

The Coton de Tulear

April 18, 2019

3 Coton de Tulear in Specials coat.

About three years ago, I responded to a Craigslist post for a groomer to come to a home and groom five small dogs. I’m thinking Yorkies or Maltese. So, since the distance was not far from where I lieve, I responded.

The guy who placed the ad said they were Cotons. My gut reaction was, “Oh.”

For those who don’t know, Cotons are from the island of Madagascar. Off Africa—that’s right. Now, how would small, fluffy white dogs get there? Dig this: the ‘explorers’ and their crews from Spain and Portugal, where the generic (at the time—this is the ‘breed’ that all those who don’t know anything about dogs say ‘they all were at one time…and so it was…) small white dogs that later turned out to be Maltese, Bichon Frise, and white Toy Poodles, came from. The Teneriffes, and those that came from the Canary Islands. The Coton de Tulear are the ”National Dog of Madagascar ( http://caninechronicle.com/current-articles/royal-dog-of-madagascar-the-history-of-the-coton-de-tulear ).

Very cute, very smart, very sweet and outgoing. The problem is…their coats. Clearly, from the historical photos, one can see that the ‘foundation’ dogs (that is, the dogs everyone used 40 or so years ago to establish the breed in Europe and the Americas) had a coat texture that was a mix of silky and cottony . The coat draped. But the foundation breeders, for some reason (I think they really didn’t have any idea how this would play out) decided the ideal coat was a COTTONY COAT. A coat that is dry and stands off from the body.Certainly, the Cotons you see at the dog shows are magnificent as presented. They have big bushy coats. But it is not a coat you can scissor like a Bichon or a Poodle. It mats. The breed standard says that no clipping is allowed….not even ‘sanitary’ trims. You wash it, you brush it…& that’s what you get.

I know the handlers showing dogs for clients have their assistants bathe and brush the dogs out every other day. Othewise, just the static and dirt from living would cause them to mat. I know what causes matting. I’ve been grooming long haired dogs for over 50 years myself.

To their credit, these clients of mine with the Cotons do not have any carpets, and all their furniture is leather. That cuts static. But, the dogs still live. When I started working for them, they had just two dogs in specials coat, and one had an improper (meaning silky) coat. But they had a litter and kept one, and bought another bitch (she became the top winning Coton, (in terms of dogs she bested in the ring in 2018), had another litter and kept two, and are now up to seven dogs, with three in specials coat.

I am an experienced dog groomer, but I can see, now that these younger—just about one year of age—are going through the coat change, that it is overwhelming. In fact, both young dogs are AKC champions and ‘finished’ (as we say in the fancy—once the dog gets a title, it has finished) their titles in record time due to excellent structure underneath the coats, and good grooming/training/handling. There were several buyers who wanted the young male. Unfortunately, my client—the breeder—-thinks that none of these buyers who are willing to pay several thousand dollars for this dog, can handle the coat.

It’s an issue. Like I said—I’ve groomed long haired dogs for about 50 years, and these Cotons are challenge for me. My solution would be for anyone who wants the dog to come stay for a couple of days and help us groom. They then can decide if they really want to get into this. If not, no harm, no foul. After all, how are you going to get new fanciers into your breed?

This is the problem. The Coton de Tulear is one of those ‘low registration’ (AKC statistics) breeds actually in danger of dying out. Considering the low number of fanciers, and the genetic tests that those with the most integrity do, and the number of breeds anyone who might want to show a dog would consider for ‘getting into’, how are the current fanciers going to attract new fanciers to the breed?

The pragmatic thing to do—if they want to save the breed from extinction, is to either change the breed standard to allow a different kind of coat texture or allow the dogs to be shown styled like a Bichon.

Another thing that might help would be to offer grooming symposiums whenever the parent club has a specialty show. However, ther is so much arguing within the club that it is amazing they are able as a collective fancy, to maintain a gene pool. & that’s the fancy in a nutshell.

The Debate About Forgiving College Debt: I’m for Renegotiating, not Forgiving

February 25, 2021

I used to create a lot of collage with fantasy images.  You do art for the joy of creating…shouldn’t education be for the joy of learning?

After my first trip to Africa, when I had turned 30, I was inspired to go to college so I would be employable in Africa. I was over 30-years-old at the time. I had learned the skill of dog grooming as a teenager and was making an ok living, but I knew they didn’t need dog groomers in Africa.

I started researching colleges. My favorite, Northwestern University, which had a Program of African Studies, in 1985, was charging around $20,000 per year for tuition. There was no way I could afford that. Several friends suggested that I take the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams, which were free, where you could get up to two years of college credit for life experience. So that’s what I did. I considered private schools, but clearly, my state school was affordable.

I realized that I wanted to major in anthropology as a base to finding what I particularly wanted to learn about: development issues. I enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University,  just a few miles from my house, offered anthropology as a major, and international/intercultural studies as a minor.

My first semester, I took two classes, for six credits. Later, I felt I could handle 3 classes for nine credits, and got my bachelor’s degree going part-time —paying cash each semester. Being a public university (it was a ‘land grant’ school, originally to teach primary school teachers), tuition was relatively low. I worked part-time, grooming dogs, I had a roommate which helped me pay my mortgage (I had bought what my parents considered a slum building, a two-flat, so I had income from the other flat as well), and I graduated in three years. I will admit to ‘lucking into’ an assistantship at the University of Illinois, where I got my tuition and a small salary while studying urban planning. I graduated with no debt.

My niece started her educational career at the College of Lake County (Illinois), a community college, where tuition was also about $50 a credit hour. She worked part-time at a bank, where a client of the bank taught her the mortgage brokerage business (this was before you could find comparative rates on the internet). She started working for mortgage brokers, finished her bachelor’s at Northern Illinois U., where she incurred debt, then went to Kent IIT college of law, incurring more debt…BUT when she graduated,  she concentrated on real estate law and doing closings. She married a tradesman, and they bought foreclosed HUD homes and rented them out or flipped them, and in a few years, she was free of college debt.

At the age of 30 with a mortgage, and earning an average of $13 an hour (this was 1985, mind you), I couldn’t see taking out loans for college. My ex-husband had done that. He didn’t know if he wanted to work things out with me and stay married. When I got the first statement of his college loans, I knew that if I stayed married to him, I’d be responsible for his debt. I just couldn’t do it.

Now, we find a lot of people, over the past several decades, who, for some reason, decided to incur debt to go to college with the belief that a college degree alone would be the ticket to a middle-class life in America. I saw, early on, that graduates of elite, “Ivy League” colleges, helped their fellow alum get established in careers. Some had fraternities and sororities, but for the average college graduate, unless they majored in engineering, computer science, or a medical field, there was no way most would ever be able to earn enough to pay down this debt and own a home.  Did any of these students who chose private colleges do so for particular programs?  Or was it location?  Or…reputation?

I guess most didn’t really think about it. They just put off thinking about it.   If they saw their parents rack up credit card debt, they did so, too. They got married, had kids they couldn’t afford, and lived above their means.   Many bought dogs requiring professional grooming—something else they could not afford.

Now, there is a movement or all these people who incurred debt with no plan asking that their debt be forgiven. Not renegotiated to a lower interest rate: forgiven. It seems that even with those college educations, they never could figure out what they’d be paying or for how long. When you get a mortgage on a home, the contract tells you what, at the mortgage rate you agreed upon, you would actually pay over the cost of the principle, over the time of the loan. I’m sure when you sign contracts for educational loans, you are given that information. Why should the rest of us forgive your arrogance, stupidity, or religious faith that things would get better? 

Granted, Betsy DeVoss assured the racket of enticing naive people into debt continued during the Trump years, but many asking for forgiveness of their debt supported Trump and his policies. You can’t have it both ways. I  have no kids and I already support public schools and hospitals so people who believe ‘God’ provides a can continue to be irresponsible.  Unless the whiners come up with a plan so we don’t have to continue deficit spending as a government (hint:  we give a lot of foreign aid that doesn’t get spent to improve social indicators), I can’t get excited about this.

What’s the Harm of Breeding a Pet Dog?

February 4, 2021

We’re still stuck in COVID-19 quarantine, and it seems that a lot of people stuck at home decided to buy or adopt dogs. There are no puppies to be had…at least not from ethical sources. Most hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of their breeds, have a waiting list of people who want dogs. The American Kennel Club continues to spout the idea that there is a dog shortage and hobby breeders are not meeting the demand.

Having worked with most breeds of dogs, I know that just because there is a demand for certain breeders, it doesn’t mean that the demand should be met.  Too many people are expecting their Doodle or Yorkie, or even a Golden Retriever—-to be Lassie. That is, perfectly well behaved and somewhat docile until call3ed into action. A Golden is not a Black Russian Terrier,is not a Coton de Tulear…

Hobby breeders do not just for conformation (morphology to non-dog folks), but for a temperament ‘type’.

The person breeding —-ok…ALLOWING their pet to breed—for ‘fun & profit’ cares not a bit about integrity, breed standards, or breeding good dogs. their attitude is,”What does it matter?” If they can get rid of the puppies and make money, who gets hurt?

My Saluki as a young dog. Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows. His breeder trained him—& didn’t charge for the training!

I’ve been grooming and training dogs for over 50 years and I’ve helped hobby breeders evaluate puppies. There are methods to evaluating dogs for temperament and trainability. They involved picking a puppy up, rolling it on its back, banging a pan, and getting a pup to follow you. Even within a litter, there are many temperament vaiations. One thing you can learn right away is if a puppy will have the tendency to be a biter to get his way. You can do this as early as eight weeks.

People tend to think that all dogs that are bred are good family dogs. That’s not true. Boerbuls, Akitas, chows, Black Russian Terriers…were never bred to be pet dogs, Neither were Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes.. It just turned out that because they were bred to work together, they are generally good family dogs.

What amazes me is that most people believe that if a dog bites, it’s because he’s been abused. That doesn’t seem to be the case. I work with an agency that ‘rehabilitates’ dogs confiscated from dogfighters, and it is the rare dog that really doesn’t like other dogs. More, if they’ve been abused, they shut down. They don’t attempt to fight back.

It’s the ‘cute’ ones bred by both commercial and ‘backyard’ (“I’m not a breeder…my dog just had puppies…we didn’t know she was pregnant”) that seem to be the worst.  <ots of experienced dog groomers will tell you they’ve gotten a puppy for a first grooming, and it fights like hell and bites to get away from being touched. The puppy is not being abused. This is genetic.

So many of the ‘no-kill’ rescue  groups are either ignorant about this, in denial, or believe the dogs can be trained out of this. Even though the ‘breed’ most likely to turn up in urban shelters is the Pit Bull (and mixes thereof—that’s what our working-class neighbors “I’m not a breeder’ breeds, people want cute, small, fluffy, and the no-kill groups will travel to where commercial breeders dump puppies to  have this supply available.  I worked for a kennel owner (not a breeder—it was daycare and boarding with some b grooming) who ras a volunteer for a ‘no-kill’ group. Several small, cute dogs were returned after being adopted out because they were biters.  The  Organization told volunteers that if THEY didn’t adopt these particular dogs—the dog would be euthanized.

Death is not the ultimate loss, and to use this tactic to save lives and put people at risk of being bitten is unethical.  No matter. She asked me to groom these dogs. I could not get near them without tying them up, and I could NEVER get t near their faces.; Everyone who worked for her knew that they dare not reach down. All the dogs were non-shed, fluffy dogs. If poop got stuck to their anuses, oh, well….

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I currently have a beautiful oversize Whippet from a rescue.  She’s at least 3 inches taller than an average Whippet. it happens. She is nervous and dog reactive.  I would not ever adopt her out as a pet.  She is healthy, housebroken, and clearly was obedience trained.  Just not what I was expecting from a Whippet.

People, especially Americans, expect that those who work with pets love pets, and have more integrity than the average person.  When all these volunteers demonize hobby breeders, and lump them with commercial breeders, but allow the imbecile (come on—this is the 21st century…there are no accidental litters of puppies or kittens anymore…A breedable dog that gets loose will more likely be hit by a car or succumb to the elements than breed…) dog owners who have ‘accidental litters’ to be off the hook, what they want is for YOU and ME to not be particular about getting a dog as a pet.  Not about the size, coat type, trainability, exercise needs…or temperament. If this goes on, we won’t be able to choose a pet that fits with our lifestyles.  It’s expensive and heartbreaking to breed good dogs, and an ethical breeder culls dogs that will not have a good life. they do not sell paralyzed dogs, dogs that need surgeries, dogs that can’t walk,  dogs with cleft palates, or brain-damaged dogs.  They endeavor to do genetic testing so dogs don’t mature to have luxated patellas, juvenile cataracts, hip dysplasia, and liver shunts.

I have had several rescue dogs, and  I’ve taken adult dogs from breeders.  My best experience has been with hobby breeders.  They’ve been honest with me about why they were placing dogs.  The excuse you will often hear from a ‘rescue’ is that the owners had to move, or they had to take in a relative who was allergic to dogs. They will rarely tell you that the buyer failed to housebreak the dog, or the dog is a biter.  Think about it,

Book Review: American Taboo, by Philip Weiss

January 29, 2021

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

I served barely a year in the Peace Corps. I was assigned to be a town planner and implement some plans that professionals in the government were eager to get started, but it was not to be. One reason was that Malawi was a single-party state, with a dictator, Hastings kamuzu Banda getting a lot of support from both the USA and the European Community. The other was …the whole dynamics of a country trying to develop with no freedom of expression or access to real information.

What were the plans? You’d think not controversial at all: 1. to get people living in ‘traditional housing areas’ (these would be what we might call high-density slum areas, where there were no building codes) to source separate trash for recycling, as feedstock for import substitution. Not controversial, right? In return, if communities got organized, they would be given more water infrastructure;  2. Make building plots available to the urban poor, 1 plot per person, owner-occupied, so there would not be a continuation of petty landlords ripping off their fellow poor neighbors; 3. Getting these people to pay rates—property taxes. Yes. In return, in lieu of that, have them buy and plant fruit trees and buy ceramic lined, energy efficient cookstoves (at a subsidized price) to ameliorate environmental degradation—turning in the receipts to their landlords or the city.

The problem? No political will.  If the Life President—Kamuzy, wasn’t on board, we were just spinning our e wheels.

Worse, I was called into a meeting of high-level officials. The Life President wanted some land for more development. We could say for economc development, but only the Life President and his cronies would benefit. The complication was that many of the people residing on the land  had gone through an adjudicatione exercise when they bought or got possessionof the land. They had title to the land. They wanted the Mzungu—ME—-to kick them off. I refused.  If the government wanted to take the land, they had to pay these people & give them other land.  That’s sort of international ‘best practice’. We were at a stalemate.

During this time, I also had regular planning tasks: getting after people doing development/building work to pay their fees and submit plans. I had a guy who had built a brick wall over the ‘road reserve’ (it was a swamp, but still—he had encroached), and my nemesis, Hamid, who had a junkyard at the gateway to town, who had been given better, improved land to move to…& was just not moving.

What did me in was I had stumbled over a bit of corruption. I stumbled over a lot, but in this case, a draftsman was telling my counterparts he could not be paid because we had interrupted a scheme where the Blantyre Civil engineer would sign off on plans for Lilongwe, and the Lilongwe civil engineer would sign off on our guy’s—and  neither was actually qualified to sign on either. I brought it to the Town Clerk. It was a major thing.

My track record wasn’t great, but it was known in Blantyre that the Mzungu—me—- was getting stuff done. Upsetting the patronage system. The Blantyre Civil Engineer called Peace Corps and threatened me, and I was evacuated within about 72 hours.

Was I lucky?

Even though you couldn’t find it on the internet (this was 1992), we’d all heard stories of Peace Corps Volunteers being raped or attacked—and being sent home, never a trial. The Peace Corps didn’t want trouble. We were not part of the state department, Peace Corps was a separate entity. Caught with drugs? Send out before there could be a trial. Rape a local woman? Sent home. Burglarize a store to get beer? Sent home.

As for our mental health? Culture shock was the explanation for the stress we ‘suffered’. Some people took to Christianity, some to alcoholism, or both. Many took physical risks they would not have if they had been living in the USA. A woman who came in with my group was killed in a head-on collision. A few weeks later, another volunteer was killed in a traffic accident. You heard of drownings, falling off mountains. But murder?

This story takes place in Tonga, in 1976, in the months before Jimmy Carter was sworn in as president. A male volunteer, clearly in a fit of sexual jealousy because a woman, whom he perceived to be of loose moral character, had turned down his advances, and he stabbed her to death. He got away with it.

Weiss had heard the story and wondered what happens. There was no doubt that Dennis Priven had murdered Deb Gardner. The evidence was  more than circumstantial. Just before she died, she told the people at the hospital it was him.  This is the story of how he got away with it.  He gamed the system. You find bureaucrats, who were discomfited and bored by having to deal with the agency and Americans with little supervision, covering their asses every step of the way.

Weiss does an excellent job of describing how things were, and who knew both Dennis and Deb, and how they were involved.  I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone from joining Peace Corps. It’s said that we’re a self-selecting bunch.  Much like the types of people who become police, or ministers, it takes a certain kind of personality type to want to give back to others and have the confidence to leave what you know and be part of another culture.


To My Overseas Friends…we Americans are the new Russians

January 21, 2021

We’re living through a surreal moment here in America. This wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

I stopped watching Donald Trump and the Apprentice in the 2nd season of the TV show because he was judging success based on which team or people did the best marketing—in terms of who brought in the most money-(even though most were within 10% of each other)  not  who developed a good product or who worked together the best. But then, if you go back to the Old Testament of the Bible (you know, the CHRISTIAN Bible), you know that God made the people of Babel speak different languages so they could not cooperate with each other.

In any case, we are at a perfect storm moment of history: Americans are now the collective victim of economic and environmental malfeasance/ineptitude/stupidity/and short-sightedness. All to save white privilege.

When you study environmental science, you learn physics, biology, and about the concept of population crash: i.e. destroying an environment and then expecting too many people to live in that environment. We learn it with pesticides. We as humans were patting ourselves on the back by eliminating smallpox and polio, but we’re still not just over-producing people…but using the resources in other people’s environments. There is no such thing as unlimited growth. And here we are.

Of course, President Trump—the leader of the free world, could not wrap his head around the concept that you can not overcome the laws of nature. So, he lied about  COVID. He could have marshaled resources, but his base believes the market will solve all problems—& here we are.

Maybe Trump genuinely didn’t know what was the right thing to do, and nobody on his advisory team did. either.  Maybe Trump made up a personal fear: that if resources were allocated to fight COVID, his friends in the business world would suffer if they didn’t profit. And look: a critical mass of bullies now is helping him spread COVID. Baffling. His 4 adult children with exemplary educations just don’t understand science (& in the waning days, we found that they (Jared & Ivanka) wouldn’t even allow the Secret Service protecting them to use their residential toilets. How petty and selfish do you have to be?)

We have his critical mass who believe Trump kept his promises—like “better than Obamacare” (what the fuck happened there that the whole entire GOP could not come up with a plan?), the Wall at the Mexican border which the Mexicans would pay for,, doing great environmental damage in some places, and I don’t think most Americans really understand what the appointment of 3 conservative Supreme Court justices really means. The irony: Sandra Day O’Connor on her reasoning in supporting abortion rights.

The problem, really, you may not understand, is that patriotism is taught as civics, in our primary schools. We do a piss poor job teaching mathematics and science, but you can be a 5th grade barely literate dropout, and YOU are a patriot.

I kid you not: our schools, nationally. teach myths as history: That Washington chopped down the cherry tree, and the ‘Indians’ invited the pilgrims for Thanksgiving. Really.(As an aside, we told ourselves were fighting communism in Viet Nam, because we refused to fight colonialism).

Keep in mind, our primary education is not federally funded—it’s funded by local property taxes. so—children of wealthy parents get more resources. How short sighted is that?

I have an FBI file. No joke. I have blogged about it. In what isn’t redacted, they followed my tenant, thinking she was me. Why were they after me? Actually, my friend was working for the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, during a covert war where we, again, were on the wrong side of history thanks to Ronald Reagan and the GOP coaching elites fighting ‘communism’. With all the criticisms I have of the American government, and the activists I know, nobody thought violence was worth the risk or even a viable tactic.

Another part of our problem is the lack of logic. The capitalists have marketed socialism as all-or-nothing. Never mind that public roads, communication infrastructure, libraries, hospitals, and schools are socialist concepts. Social security is socialism

England, Israel, Japan are socialist economies. Actually, a Keynesian_mix, if you will. but Americans don’t know who Keynes was. Yet the elephant in the room is that mob afraid to lose white privilege. the insane fundamentalist Christians who want us to comply with their convoluted, hypocritical way of life.

& now, some among us want us to all get along.I am supposed to overlook their bullying and self-righteousness, pushing Christianity s the answer, with all its contradictions, and respect that. I don’t think so.

Joe Biden is not ideal.  I am hoping his thinking has evolved since the  Anita Hill testimony he dismissed the allowed Clarence Thomas to become a Supreme Court Justice, but I think we’re off to a good start. He’s honest. He believes in science, and it’s clear he believes in inclusion.  But th bad guys are not going away, and i  do not intend to tolerate them.

How I Retired Debt-free (Even tho I am Mentally Ill…)

January 7, 2021

https://clep.collegeboard.org/ Check it out!

I didn’t go to college until I was 30, and even then, I paid cash. I learned to groom dogs when I was a teenager. But it wasn’t just being able to earn money that got me this far. It was knowing math, taking calculated risks, and trusting my own decisions.

I ‘suffered’ from depression from a very early age. I was probably in fourth grade studying health when I learned about depression and realized that was me. The book said sometimes a Vitamin C deficiency was the cause, so, one day, I got a can of orange juice (my mother kept small cans of orange and apple juice because she wanted us kids having juice as well as milk for breakfast) and drank it. My mother asked me why I was drinking it at night, and I told her, crying, that it was supposed to be good for depression. She knew it was not my favorite, and she laughed, and told a friend she was talking to on the phone. This was in the 1960s, when everyone thought mental illness was a matter of bad attitude, not a problem with Seratonin.

I seemed to handle stress badly. For the most part, my grades in primary and high school were just average, and everyone was telling me I was not working up to my potential. I was also bullied in primary school because I had big frizzy hair during a time when straight hair was the fashion. In any case, I saw several psychiatrists, and my father wanted to know when I would be cured. I never was. Actually, it wasn’t until I went through menopause that the symptoms disappeared.  Prozac really helped, but I was never a party girl.  It was me and dogs.

That said, I was actually in my 30s when I discovered Oliver Sacks’ book, “An Anthropologist on Mars.” He named it for what animal physiologist Temple Grandin told him about how she felt. Suddenly, I had the terminology to express what I was really feeling. More on that later.

I got a boyfriend when I was just turning 15, and we were ultimately together about 10 years, even though he moved away after just three months of us dating. He was my first love, and we both learned a lot. I continued to trudge through high school. I discovered there was a school for training dog groomers in Chicago. At the time, grooming shop and kennel owners trained their kids to groom, and really, ultimately, I was shop trained and mentored by some amazing groomers, but during my last year of high school, I had enough credits to go to school just half a day so I went to the grooming school. Back then (this was 1971), every dog that came into a shop for grooming was a Poodle, Sometimes there’d be a Min Schnauzer or a Cocker. Owners of other breeds took them back to their breeders for grooming. MY early jobs after leaving home were with fanciers and hobby breeders who helped me hone my skills.  I think my parents might have been horrified I did this—but I never had to ask for money after I learned to groom dogs.  So—tell your kids to LEARN A SKILL. then, if they want to study art history, they can make a living. That said, borrowing more money for college than you know you can repay in a year is folly.

I think my parents were relieved, after the initial shock of my moving out a month after I turned 18, that I left and thought I could support myself. They might have been relieved, though, that I had not been admitted to any college I applied to because my grades were meh, and I knew I didn’t want to major in education. I was interested in Black Studies and Forestry, which they found laughable.

I moved in with my boyfriend and several other friends of his, The total rent for the apartment —2 bedrooms and a huge living room we turned into a bedroom, was $150 a month. This was on the East Side of Milwaukee. Craig was in college at UWM, majoring in philosophy. He didn’t tell his parents I had moved in with him, My parents called his parents (who lived in Kentucky) & that’s how they found out. I got a job right away. It wasn’t a great job, the ‘Mom & Pop’ I worked for barely could groom. But then, our roommate saw an ad in the paper for a dog groomer. I had to take 2 buses to get across town, to Capital Dr. & Appleton Ave, Jo-Kor’s Klippette. That whole situation was also an experience, but I learned so much from Joan Fredericksen, about grooming, managing time, and running a business. I will forever be in her debt.

We continued to live with roommates, and I wasn’t saving much, but I was able to budget. This was during first, Nixon, then Carter presidencies. Inflation was the worst that I ever remember. In any case, Craig was offered a job in Chicago. It took a long time for me to find a grooming job, but I actually typed letters and sent over 20 to grooming shops listed in the Chicago Yellow pages. By a stroke of luck, Jan Condurso’s boyfriend, who opened her shop in the morning for her (this was 810 N. Wabash, a few doors north of Chicago Av—which is now a huge DePaul U. building) called me and asked me to come in. I mostly bathed and patterned dogs, and Jan groomed an average of 20 dogs a day, which mostly booked the day before—Poodles mostly, but some Bedlington Terriers and a few Min. Schnauzers, and now her dogs were started when she got to the shop by noon. I was able to not just save money, but take my Afghan Hound, Aswan, to dog training classes.

Then, there was OPEC, Reagan was president with trickle-down economics, and I was piecing jobs together again By calling around to my old employers, I was able to get a job with Jocelyn Slatin, who bred Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaton Terriers. I  worked for her for about 2 years, and 95% of the dogs’ I groomed were terriers. Most of my clients had either bought a dog from her or had either shown their dogs or bought a dog from another hobby breeder.I would have stayed, but she planned to move to Arizona, and my father encouraged me to open my own business.

During this time, Craig & I decided to marry, He had decided to go back to school and become a labor lawyer (not sure how that worked out), and I showed him the real estate ads in the paper. I showed him that if we didn’t by a house soon, we’d be priced out of the neighborhood. He didn’t want to be a landlord. I told him we’d either pay a landlord or a bank, but we’d have to pay someone. MY parents really tried to dissuade me, My mother told me no insurance agent would insure in the neighborhood we chose: Lakeview. It wasn’t even a mixed-race neighborhood, just poor. Also, banks would not lend to single women. Now, well, let’s just say real estate appreciated over 1000% in value. This was a stressful time, because, at my father’s urging, I bought a business from an acquaintance (Reigning Cats & Dogs in Schaumburg, Illinois) that they had let deteriorate. I hoped, ultimately, we could buy a boarding kennel. My parents gave me the $5000 to buy it, and I paid them off monthly. It was 30 miles from where we lived.

Lots happened all at once, I discovered Craig was cheating, and I was under a lot of stress. I had a mental breakdown, and my friend, Romaine, worked in the shop until I got myself together. My mother died, and then Craig got an attitude because now he was going to be a lawyer. I didn’t want a divorce, but we were separated for about a year, and then, I got a statement for his student loans. I realized if we stayed married, I’d be responsible for those loans, so that was really all it took. I had saved money, but Craigs demanded a settlement because he felt he had worked on the house. My father was furious, but it was, again, pay a lawyer or pay him. Someone was going to get paid.

I was pretty devastated. The house was a small balloon frame house. I called it the ‘little pigs house’ because it was merely tarpaper over a frame, and just a space heater—a small stove, to heat it. It had a barely 400-foot building footprint. However, I was building equity.  I tell everyone to get $2000 together, buy anything, and start building equity. At this time, I didn’t even own a credit card.

In any case, I ended up selling the business (mostly because of the commute) and trying other things. I was a VISTA volunteer for Literacy Volunteers of Chicago, and I set up their ESL program. I groomed part-time because the stipend wasn’t really enough to live on. I had opened an IRA, but barely put $200 a year into it because I didn’t have the money. I really trusted my father’s advice and went with his agent, who turned out to be a shnook, but whatever. I also started working as a figure model for artists and photographers. I knew I’d have to hustle to get assignments, but I was doing ok. I had a boyfriend, Tony, who worked at the Field Museum. In fact, by this time it was the early 1980s, and I had taken his seminar series about ‘Animals in Human Perspective,” where I met many in the fledgling animal rights movement. I still believe most animal testing is wrong, and I certainly don’t trust PETA, but I became aware of the issues and met many friends. Then, Tony moved away.

I had been waiting until I found a guy to go with me to Africa, and realized if I kept waiting, I might never go. so I went. It changed my life. I took the CLEP exams and enrolled in college. I was interested in information technology, but there was a waitlist, so I decided on anthropology.

In 1987, I volunteered for the 8-week Crossroads Africa program and was able to spend that time in Kenya, improving my KiSwahili. When I returned, there were over 50 messages from real estate agents who wanted to sell my house. Long story short, I picked 1, she said “$125,000” on a house I had paid $24,000 for, and it sold in a week. I found a much better house with more room in Rogers Park and paid off the house a few months ago.  I could have paid it off  20 years ago, but I took a calculated risk on buying a dog grooming business that had a lot of potential, but never dreamed Bush II would allow the economy to be destroyed.

During this time, Gloria and a few of us others started our socially responsible investment club: Progressive Investment Group.’ Yes, we were PIG, and no broker would handle us because we didn’t have $100,000. This was before the internet,  around 1988, so we had to rely on what we read in the papers and magazines. I even went downtown a few times to check out ValuLine. We ended up doing ok, We would have been more ok if people hadn’t kept joining and cashing out, Our minimum investment per year was $200. We owned shares of the club. Yet, we kept getting people who felt they didn’t have $200 a year to spare.

I was really thinking of getting my Ph.D. in Anthropology, but 1 of my instructors suggested that I think carefully about this. At this time, I was going out with Jon, who was getting his Ph.D.  in mass communications. Many of my friends remember Jon. A very nice guy who couldn’t put a sentence together. He was shy. We had very little in common. He did tell me, though, that I should try to get an assistantship to grad school, because if they didn’t offer that, it meant they didn’t have faith in me. I was looking into Public Health(no money offered to domestic students) & Public Policy (at the U. of Chicago, they were really snotty). I had modeled for Ashish Sen,. His hobby was photography. He was a professor at the U. of Illinois, and he got me an interview at the Center for Urban Economic Development. My masters is in planning, My concentrations are community development and land use. They paid me at bout $500 a month, which, with a roommate, was enough to get by.

There is no money in community organizing, although I was very active in instituting community policing and school reform. It’s almost impossible to get a job in doing land use planning unless you have a background in architecture, finance, geography, or civil engineering. After I graduated, in June 1991, I took a job grooming, applied to Peace Corps, and they took me quickly. I was a town planner in Blantyre, Malawi.

During the time I was in the Peace Corps, Malawi was going through a lot of political change, as well as a drought. Peace Corps Volunteers are not supposed to be in politically sensitive positions, but the staff has no idea what that means. I stumbled over a bit of corruption, which resulted in several civil engineers not just losing their secure jobs, but their ‘side gigs’. One of them called Peace Corps and threatened me, and they sent me home. In retrospect, I was lucky: some Peace Corps Volunteers get murdered.

So, I was back in the USA. My mentor from grad school told me there were no jobs (end of Bush 1 years). Democrats straighten things out, and Republicans trash the economy again. They talk a good game of fiscal conservatism, and single-payer health care is too expensive….but they manage to overfund the military so that the military can afford to waste billions…and I saw how foreign aid is spent in Africa. I took a job with Women’s Self-Employment Project. I blogged about that. Then I went back to grooming dogs and was offered a job managing a resale store for a nonprofit. Another Peace Corps Volunteer had recently been hired and he wondered why the store wasn’t making money. I was there for almost a year, and discovered why. No need to go into it, The nonprofit no longer exists, but I’ve learned a lot about how nonprofits are ‘managed’. I was then hired by ‘The Ark’, another nonprofit with resale stores, and saw the same thing all over again. These places exist on their reputations for doing good work and ‘helping the poor’, but they could do so much more.

During all these years, I always had a roommate. I never liked living alone. Some were very good. Gloria went on to buy her own building. Some never got their acts together. Having a roommate helped pay utilities. Also, my tenants, for the most part, have been good. I’ve had my share of nightmares, but that’s life. The first home I bought, the property taxes weren’t even $500 a year. Now, I’ve lived in my home a little over 30 years, and the taxes hove around $7000—and are only this low because I challenge them every cycle. In theory, I can lock them in, but the court buildings are closed right now. COVID.

Kunihiro came to live with me 20 years ago. He was sent to me by a private language school that advertised in THE READER looking for homestays. I had been doing this for several summers.  He could understand English but barely speak it.  I had him watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and he continued to go to school.  When he spoke enough English, he told me he planned to get a job.  I learned (from mail addressed to Dr. N—) that he had a Ph.D.  He got the 1st job he applied for, and they paid his legal expenses for a green card.  They also helped him get a credit card.  He had told me he had planned to invest up to $100,000  in himself to get a job here.  He loved my dogs. He was the most reliable guy I ever met. I had been seeing a guy on and off for about 13 years.  It was never even ‘friends with benefits’ because the sex was meh and he was so unreliable. He told me he didn’t see a future with me, so I just stopped seeing him.

There is a saying in the US: every woman is one man away from a life of poverty. It’s true unless you inherited money or are part of the 1%. Too many people are influenced by marketing and culture. They have to dress fashionably. They have to live on credit. Too many women believe in fairy tales and trust men. Too many women decide to have babies because they want someone to love them.

Book review: Gertrude Bell Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, by Georgina Howell

December 31, 2020

In addition to my interest in purebred dogs, dog performance, progressive politics, and writing about the cultural interactions I have to endure, I’ve turned out to be a World War I nerd.

Do you know why the United States got involved in WWI?   Most Americans do not.  We did not have a horse in this race. Do you realize it was because the British and French were our allies and they were losing? And that the British got involved because of an agreement they had with the French, and they thought it was a good opportunity to wrest the oil fields of ‘Mesopotamia’ away from the Ottoman empire? Also, they got in over their heads, and the allies would have lost the war (they were losing) were it not for T.E. Lawrence, who ‘organized’ the Arabs to fight the Ottomans, as they were pretty sick and tired of the Turks shafting them. They were being shaken down. ‘They’ hoped the British wouldn’t shake them down and help them to self-governance.   As those who spent time in the Middle East knew, the land was inhabited by various mostly nomadic tribes. But, you know how the Europeans are. Well, white male folks: they all believe that they know better than anyone, especially if you may have darker skin, dress differently, don’t speak the King’s English, and haven’t taken Jesus Christ as your savior.

So, we know the gist of why WWI turned into a World War, but we really don’t know what the public policy upshot was for the people of the Middle East.

I had read so much about Lawrence. He really is a fascinating character. But another shaper of what is now the modern Middle East was Gertrude Bell. She was the daughter of an upper-class British family, who was allowed to get a university education and then continue to do what she wanted. What she wanted to do was to explore the archeological sites of the Middle East.

When I started reading this book,  published in 2006, I wondered if I’d be able to slog through it. The author includes a lot of minutiae on her childhood and her relationship with her father and stepmother. It was when she was in her thirties that she got it into her head that she wanted to study archeological sites in the Middle East. She had the(family) money to do it—because she organized her travels, bought what she needed, hired whom she needed, learned Arabic, and went and did what she wanted.  She took a lot of photographs (remember—cameras and film plates were very large and heavy back then). She never married. Her first engagement was with a soldier serving in India, but her parents broke it because he wasn’t ‘of means’. She later fell in love with a married man who had interests similar to hers. This was just before World War I.  Divorce—for him—was out of the question.  She would not have an affair with a married man.  So they seemed to have a chaste relationship, and he was ultimately killed during WWI.

There is a lot of minutiae in the book, but it helps to know the dynamics of what was going on. This includes how the Kurds were hoping the British would be better ‘colonists'(to use an expression) than the Turks, and help them develop an autonomous country (in spite of the Kurds being broken into three groups, and none of their leaders having a western education) but—due to the British having lost so many soldiers during the war, they could not maintain government services, and the Turks kept returning.  Most Americans don’t know this. The British wanted the Middle East but didn’t have the means to secure it. Also, their agreement with the French was that after the war (so sure the allies would ‘win’), Syria was to be turned over to the French.  The Arabs didn’t know this, but both Bell and Lawrence knew. While this was going on, the Zionists of England—not by an7y means the majority of Jews), were lobbying for Palestine to be turned over to then (in some  cases buying land, but in just as many cases taking occupied land with the protection of the British)

So, with the leadership of Lawrence—who was in battle with the Arabs, the Arabs were able to secure Damascus and beat back the ottomans.  Sure this was the start of self-determination. The French, who did nothing, came right in and pushed the Arabs out of the way and said the British gave Damascus/Syria to THEM. That’s how it went down.

The author had access to Bell’s diaries and correspondence and does an extremely good job of covering how this all went down.  Like George Crile’s book, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” being so well documented, it’s easy to understand why the region is still troubled.

After the War, Gertrude stayed in Baghdad, and help the overwhelmed King Faisal develop a government and civil society in his new country.She was considered among his most trusted advisors because she always talked straight. 

Unfortunately, Gertrude was always a heavy smoker, and as she got to middle age, she continued to have bouts of bronchitis.  Her family had lost its fortune, and she no longer cared to return to England.  It appears, at the age of 58, she took an overdose of sleeping pills, and was buried in Iraq.


In Chicago: Police Policy Costs us

December 19, 2020

Integrity is very important to me. It may seem that I am taking a circuitous route to make this point, but it’s really about people in the public sphere being accountable.

In 1993, upon my return from Peace Corps, I took a job with a nonprofit called “Women’s Self Employment Project.” It was a loan fund for low-income women. Major foundations, including Joyce and MacArthur gave us capital to repackage and lend to women with business plans. I won’t go into the minutiae of it, but if you had a business plan (and I, with several other women, were to help women develop REALISTIC business plans), THEY COULD GET ACCESS TO UP TO $5000.

The idea our project was based on was Mohamed Yunis’ Grameen bank fund in Bangladesh. Yunis claimed a 95% repayment rate. The way it was set up, as women paid back their loans, other women could borrow.  It was a revolving loan fund. That’s how we sold the idea, to those who wanted a business loan and to those who funded us. In fact, we promoted a 90% repayment rate,but while I worked there, the loan fund was not audited.

I was hired to be an enterprise agent with another woman I knew from my master’s program. After being hired, we found we were not just working with lending circles and helping women with business plans, but we were expected to GO COLLECT OUTSTANDING DEBT. According to anecdotal evidence (what we agency employees knew of outstanding loans), repayment was hovering around 60%. I was sent to a street address where 1 of our alleged borrowers lived. Her loan was at least six months in arrears, and apparently, her borrowing circle had fallen apart. Nobody had seen her, her name was no longer on the bell, and of course, her neighbors didn’t know her. She could be on the next block now, or anywhere on the planet. That was the difference between why this worked in Bangladesh and not in Chicago. In a town in Bangladesh, a woman never left.  She was probably illiterate, and could not move. Everyone in town would know where she was, her business was not a side gig. iIwas her livelihood, and the community would rally and help her. In Chicago, your best friends are probably not your fellow borrowers. I pointed this out to the executive director, and she dismissed me. When I asked my immediate supervisor, who had a good friend who was OUR program office at a foundation that funded us, she told me they suspected as much but were funding us because it was a good idea.

I was at WSEP for less than a year. It was an agency of fewer than 20 employees with an 80% turnover. When I got my first paycheck, I realized I was being paid at a rate  (per year)that was $4000 less than we had agreed on. I had it in writing. I was told, first, that I was on probation for three months,  then I would get a raise. Then, I was told I hadn’t bargained hard enough. Then, my immediate supervisor quit, and a consultant (being paid at the rate of $40,000 a year), told me, that although I deserved the promotion because they needed me to do MY JOB, they needed me to TRAIN MY NEW BOSS. I went to yet another nonprofit organization that similarly screwed me, then returned to grooming dogs.

I was so demoralized that these organizations operated with so little INTEGRITY.

I am addressing what I am about to write as an issue of integrity. Earlier this year, we elected Lori Lightfoot our mayor, partly because we, as a community, wanted changes in how the police deliver service. In a field of 13 candidates, she emerged because she wasn’t beholden to anyone.  She ultimately won by over 70% (granted, with only 30 % voter turnout, but the people who cared voted) over an ‘almost’ as good candidate (Toni Preckwinkle) who was outed by the news media as hiring a political operative’s son for over $100,000 a year who not only did nothing, but harassed his fellow employees.

Almost two years ago, there was a police raid on the apartment of Anjanette Young, a social worker. It was 1 of those ‘no-knock’ raids.  The police broke in, while she was in the shower. They handcuffed her, naked. Now, say you’ve done nothing wrong and  the police bust your door down. Would you not feel fear, horror, and humiliation? And—as is so typical—they busted into the wrong apartment. A very bad police tactic fraught with ineptitude. Looking for a guy she never heard of.

Like what they did to Breonna Taylor (in her case, looking for an ex-boyfriend). Ooops. sorry.

Anjanette sued the Chicago Police Department, and she got a six-figure settlement. Juries award big settlements for two reasons: 1. It is being charged to a big agency(government or corporation, same/same), and 2. It’s a ‘lesson: ‘punitive damages’, as a deterrent so…. it doesn’t happen again.

Except—the police who did this—& THAT SHOULD INCLUDE THE GUY IN CHARGE WHO SENT THE POLICE OUT—shouldn’t this come out of their pockets? Not the tax dollars I paid? Also, since this happens so often: police breaking into the wrong building, roughing up the wrong ‘suspect’—shouldn’t we make it public policy that this is not a safe way to apprehend a suspect? That too many people get hurt?

We only know this happened because CBS news in Chicago filed a FOIA  request to get the cop-cam footage, and Lori Lightfoot—our mayor—fought it being released. She is OUR MAYOR because Rahm Emmanuel tried to suppress the tape of the shooting of Laquon McDonald by police officer Jason VanDyke…with over a dozen other police offers standing around watching. Police who claimed McDonald attacked VanDyke with a knife —even though it is clear in police video footage that he was walking away from VanDyke.

Is it a coincidence that this continues to happen to black people?

So …in any case, this all went down in February 2019, before Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor, on Rahm Emmanuel’s watch.

I’m trying to give Mayor Lightfoot the benefit of the doubt. Rahm didn’t want anyone to see the Laquon McDonald tape, and he used our tax dollars to suppress it.  It appears Chicago City Corporate Counsel—on Lightfood’s behalf—Mike Flessner—took it on his own to fight the release of the tape.  Lori—he’g gotta go. At one point, she said she ( did she say this—or did Flessner?) didn’t want the news media to release the tape because it would stir up (strong feelings is the way I’d euphemistically put it). It’s not like helping to cover police misconduct saves us taxpayers’ money.

Same week:

It’s  been reported that both the Catholic Church ,Joel Osteen, and several other releigious gamers got business relief money for business losses due to Covid. Now, you know how churches make money: people give them money of their own free will. Why would churches in America be allowed to qualify for taxes we paid?

I wonder, with Jesus forgiving the shnooks and crooks among us, and the police who ‘accidentally’ shoot or terrorize the wrong people, if we will ever have integrity valued again.