The Rest of The Story….

September 23, 2021

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/criminal-justice/ct-chicago-sports-gambler-guilty-fraud-20200205-j2cpkbegbvfjhpxdtk3spti6la-story.html

The headline was that a New Trier grad (New Trier is a high school in an elite suburb north of Chicago) pleaded guilty to ripping off ‘a single investor’. Right. The guy, Robert Gorodetsky, is apparently a professional gambler. The charges he was found guilty of were wire fraud and filing a false tax return. He can get up to 6 years in prison for that. Oh, and (although he ripped the guy off for $10 million) he has to pay back $7.2 million. Who wouldn’t?

How did he do it? Convince 1 guy to part with $10 million? Well, starting in 2014, he was able to get $953,000 from ‘Victim A’ for the purpose of investing in the stock market…. Gorodetsky used the money for his lavish lifestyle. He told ‘Victim A’ that his investment had grown to $2 million, and ‘Victim A’ gave him more money. In the age of the internet, you’d think ‘victim A’ could have looked this up.

Incredible. & ‘Victim A’ believed it when Gorodetsky told him that he’s get even greater returns by wagering on sports. Riiiight.

Ok. In spite of Trump rescinding the law that says people who invest your money have to be fiduciaries (that means investing in YOUR best interests), for the most part, LICENSED INVESTMENT ADVISORS are pretty honest. Not all, but if they are with a company like, say TD Ameritrade, they are being monitored. Individuals who tell you they can do better are not monitored..

Since the American stock market came into existence, average returns over decades, due to horrible years, have averaged 8%. Several years ago, Harvard fired their entire investment department because they did worse than the index. Yet, this guy, ‘VictimA’ believed that Gorodetsky could do better. Was he just greedy and stupid, or was Gorodetsky that good a talker?

Does anyone remember Bernie Madoff? He convinced 4800 investors that he also could do better. His was a Ponzi scheme (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Madoff). I could see giving someone 10% of my wealth if I was really that wealthy….but all of it? Yes, he was licensed, but if any of you saw the move “The Big Short,” —or read Michael Lewis’ very well written book, you know the SEC is not paying attention. LET THE BUYER BEWARE. You’d think, at least according to ‘Adam Smith’ that capitalism would really need people with integrity to make things run smoothly. Ah, no, and now that Trump is president, all bets are off, What is legal is what you can get away with.

I guess ‘VictimA’ goes by this pseudonym because he doesn’t want the world to know how greedy and stupid he was—and probably still is. Gorodetsky hasn’t been sentenced yet, but I bet he goes to a country club prison.

The Pet Industry Would Have you Believe That There is a Shortage of Dog Groomers

May 13, 2021

I retired at the end of 2020..from grooming dogs. But, being a dog person is like being an artist: you don’t ‘retire’ from being a dog lover. So, I responded to a few ads for’ wanted: dog groomer’. The wording seemed flexible. They’ll take full or part time. They want someone who knows breeds, traditional trims, and who can talk to dog owners.

The problem is….these businesses are owned by people who are first, entrepreneurs, and second—-know nothing about animal husbandry, dog psychology, or ‘the fancy’. When I describe myself as a fancier who learned how to groom from other dog fanciers—-breeders—-that seems to be a big turn-off. You see, they want you to know how to groom, they just don’t want you to a have a philosophy or ‘point of view’ about it.

Many claim to be dog lovers, and support ‘rescue’, but are not intrested in solving the homeless pet problem. Worse, they believe—-with no evidence, other than what someone else has told them,, that breeders are the reason that our shelters are filled with unwanted dogs. Yet, they refuse to make the people who bred those dogs—pet owners who chose to allow their dogs to breed, responsible. Who should be responsible, if not the breeders of these dogs?

Here’s where the rubber hits the road: You won’t find Salukis , Briards, or, for the most part, Giant Schnauzers in animal shelters unless they become lost. What you will find are many smaller breeds and dogs that the “I’m not a breeder, my dog just had puppies” dog owner sold to people who really weren’t prepared for a dog. Those dogs are mostly Pit bulls and American Bulldogs.

I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve been asked by breeders who took dogs that they’ve sold back, because they really didn’t want the dogs to be boomerang dogs. Some were returned because the owner suffered a medical crisis. Sometimes, due to job loss and other issues. The breeders didn’t want these dogs to go into animal shelters. They asked if I owned a home with a fenced yard, if the others in my household wanted the dog—and could they meet those people. They asked if I was working, and how I planned to have the dog cared for when I was at work. All sorts of questions.

No matter: the dog lovers who believe conformation shows are beauty contests seem to think I’m too eccentric, and not a dog lover. I’ve had this happen several times, pet owners who I’ve formed relationships with, have my text number, and they’ve followed me where ever I’ve worked. Business owners don’t like that. In fact, many of the chains have you fill out a non-compete contract, and they would rather lose a good client than admit that the client came for the groomer.

I still have a few private clients, but I am very happy not grooming dogs all day every day. I feel bad for future dog owners, because they are being misled about how to care for and handle their dogs, and about where to get good information. We fanciers are retiring and dying off. You are no longer called a dog owner, but a ‘pet parent’, and that changes the dynamics…and the truth.

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, by Balli Kaur Jaswal

May 6, 2021

Several people have asked me why the main character in my recent book is a Sikh guy. I made him Sikh for several reasons.

The first reason is that Sikhs are a minority religion. Everywhere they go, they are others. The men, because they usually wear turbans to cover their hair, stand out, and are often thought to be Hindu or Moslem, as though that should make a difference to anyone. A belief the Sikhs have—depending on how ‘religious’ they are—-is to disavow vanity; you are fine the way God created you. Thus, they don’t cut their hair or shave, or tatoo themselves, or circumcise.

Sikhs use many Hindu holidays as their own —a convenience to the dominant culture (Hindus) but—very important—they don’t recognize caste. I didn’t know, until I worked in India, that even Jews and Moslems are part of the caste system. How much? I don’t know, but actually, all societies are socially stratified.

They believe in one God. My minor characters are secular Jews and a lapsed Catholic. They feel that religious mandates are often contradictory, as are the people who express profound faith.

I was acculturated to Christian society very young, as my parents owned a home in a religiously mixed (white) community. The Christians were very tolerant of us. Most of us were secular Jews with no outward signs we were Jews by our dress (compared to the religious: men with skull caps or hats and payots; women with long dresses and wigs. Our families withdrew us from public schools on ‘high’ holidays, like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but they had no qualms about us being taught to sing religious songs in music classes (as an aside: the song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was written by a Jew, and Mel Torme, a Jew, wrote the very popular ‘Christmas Song’). It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realize that we Jews were tolerated because we were white. When Moslems and Hindus started moving into ‘our’ neighborhoods, there was unease. As for Sikhs? They were always regarded as Hindus or Moslems because they were Indians.

Unless we go out of our way to learn the New Testament, we Jews and others know nothing about how Christianity is manifested—except when we are proselytized to. We know you all believe you can not get into heaven unless you admit to being a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive you. We don’t really have a concept of heaven—especially not we secular Jews…and certainly not Sikhs, who believe in reincarnation. When people start joking about believing in reincarnation, as though you return as a worm or a bird, it’s ridiculous, because that’s not how we believe. Is the idea any more ridiculous than believing in a place nobody has ever seen, but told is magnificent—and all you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you? Even if you knew you cheated people, were adulterous, unfair, hurt people…you could ask forgiveness and —-POOF! You go to a nice place. Even if you are racist and sexist, and hate people not like you—you’re in? Why would I want to go there?

I’ve taken to writing out my fantasies, and that’s what fiction is: Not real. I chose a Sikh boy who is barely Sikh, but knows why his parents became Sikh. They are not Punjabi, but they choose to be culturally Sikh to be part of a larger community. In fact, that’s why a lot of people join churches: for the sense of community. My character knows virtually nothing of Christianity, and when he goes to school in Europe, he is questioned constantly by well-meaning Christians who know it is their mission to save the ignorant from damnation. He doesn’t let it bother him until he marries and finds his Sikh wife covertly teaching their children about Christianity as she was inculcated. He then realizes their differences involve more than religion, but are tied to beliefs: that servants are not respected as equals, and that you are better because you have more money and choices.

This is a long explanation about why I love EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS. The gist: European-raised Nikki, a culturally Sikh woman, takes a part-time job teaching a group of women, many of whom are illiterate, at a gurdwara (Sikh temple). Due to one of them seeing a book of erotic stories that Nikki bought for her sister, they start telling stories. Realizing you start learning literacy from the point you are at, she asks the illiterate women to tell the literate women their stories, and the literate write them down. Some are based on their lives, some are fantasies. Of course, there is controversy. Rumors start flying. There is a fear a group of young men who believe it is their mission to keep women in line at the Gurdwara, and other facts come out: a young bride, Maya was murdered, but an older widow claims it was a suicide. The old widow made a business of blackmailing others in her community to get what she wants. Some women claimed to be widows, but their husbands had left them, some women were widowed at young ages. Nikki lives in another part of London, so she wasn’t privy to the local gossip until she starts teaching this class. When she stumbles over some evidence that Maya was murdered, she becomes a victim of the murderer. It all works out in the end. Plus, for those who don’t know anything about Sikhism, it’s a good introduction. One thing Sikhs do is feed the hungry, so many Sikhs go to the Gurdwara for evening dinners. I don’t know if this is true of all Sikh temples in the USA, but almost all have at least a weekly meal. Arranged marriage is still very common in many Sikh communities, but love matches are just as common.

All immigrant communities tend to stick together. All have their secrets and their commonly held beliefs. All fear their children will discontinue their practices and beliefs and be absorbed by the broader, Christian communities.

Because we become secular, are we not part of the larger community? Am I what I am because I do not believe in virgin birth, or that I need an intermediary to get into heaven I don’t think exists? when questioned, I say I do the right thing because it’s a matte of integrity. We all need our communities. How do we fit in?

https://www.facebook.com/robyn.michaels.9/

Book Review: Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

April 22, 2021

When someone is paying you to do work, work that either they don’t want to do or don’t have time to do, can the employer and the employee be friends? This is what’s called, sociologically, a ‘transactional relationship.’

I’ve been in work situations like this—transactional, but except for being invited to a few parties, a social intimacy never developed. I’m friendly with many clients, but not the type of friendship where you’d consider calling and say, “Let’s go see a movie or out for a drink.”

We know the dynamic. In this novel, the employee, Emira Tucker, is a black college graduate who can’t find what she wants to do and pieces jobs together to get by. Her health insurance ends on her next birthday. One of those jobs is babysitting Briar, a sweet three-year-old. Her employer, Alix, has always been a privileged white girl, who has made a ‘career’ out of being an influencer and asking for what she wants (including free merchandise). She marries a guy who is a news anchor.

At the start of the novel, Alix and her husband’s home seem to have attracted what might have been a racist attack (they are white in a transitioning neighborhood): a rock is thrown through a window, and Alx calls Emira on a Saturday night—while she’s out at a friend’s birthday party, and asks her to do emergency babysitting for Briar. Emira needs the money, so she leaves the party and they go hang out at a boutique neighborhood grocery, where a security guard accuses black Emira of kidnapping white toddler Briar.

Neither of these people would consider themselves racists, and bend over backwards to not be exploitive. A bystander films the encounter on his phone and offers it as ‘proof’ to Elmira. She is humiliated, but this is par for the course for many black people, and she chooses to ignore the incident and move on. Later, she and the filmer, Kelly, a white guy, meet on the train. She still doesn’t want to pursue action against the guard or the store, but he transfers the video to her phone. How this story evolves is a lesson to us all. I’m sure many of us have been in a situation where people we trusted took an action that didn’t really help us, “for your own good.”

This is a really well-written book, very fast-paced. The dialogue is spot on. I don’t doubt that many people will find how this played out controversial. I gope to encourage everyone to get a copy.

Book Review: Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman

April 15, 2021

Published in 2001, by Three Rivers Press, I’m sure it is out of print, though you might find it on ABE or Amazon. The gist: Rita knows her marriage is ending, around the age of 50. She has done the work for a Ph.D. in anthropology and decides to travel: learn Spanish and maybe some other languages, and start traveling on her own. She has a degree in anthropology (as do I) and she’s also written children’s books.

I love travelogues, especially by women who’ve traveled solo. In the 1980s,when her marriage broke up, RGG decided to do what she always wanted to do: travel around and learn about other cultures.

She started in Mexico and learned Spanish by living with families, and traveled to Guatemala and Nicaragua. This was of particular interest to me because I had friends who, with the Nicaraguan Solidarity Committee, volunteered to help the Sandanistas and their revolution during the Reagan years (in fact, the reason I have an FBI file) . She witnessed rural communities who were very much encouraged by the ‘Sandanista’ revolution. About 40 years later, Daniel Ortega is again president (his wife apparently having extreme influence) & corruption has returned, albeit a new set of politicians benefiting. But I digress.

Being Jewish (secular, but still), she also spent time on a Kibbutz in Israel. She always wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, and managed to do that.

She returned to the USA, then spent several years in Indonesia, off the tourist path. She had a brief encounter with the primatologist Birute Galdikas and hoped to write a children’s book about working towards saving Orangutans with Galdikas, but it never came to pass. She also spent time in New Guinea and learned how the Indonesians treated the natives much as we in the USA treat our Native Americans. She returned to the USA to be close to a her adult children, then went again to Indonesia, to New Zealand and Thailand.

She wrote a number of best selling children’s books, which funded her travels. This is important: she had an economic base and relationships with publishers.

RGG really wanted to know people, and spend a lot of time learning languages, and the nuances of culture. RGG was extremely lucky, being in the right place at the right time. She also tells us of some of the issues she encountered.

I don’t know that a man would appreciate this book, but women who are interested in traveling will. It’s worth looking for.

 

Book Review: The Commitment, by Dan Savage

March 25, 2021

Dan Savage is a blogger and he writes a regular column about sex that runs in regional, mostly ‘alternative’ papers. Dan Savage happens to be gay. If there is anyone who can and does destroy gay stereotypes, it is Dan Savage. He’s down-to-earth, does his research, and has an excellent way with words. I find him incredibly funny.

In this book, published in 2005, he takes on the subject of marriage.

The book starts out with him describing a car trip with his partner, Terry, and his four-year-old son who has told him that he can’t get married because boys have to marry girls. Girls can’t marry girls and boys can’t marry boys. Where has he learned this? From a little girl in his playgroup.

Not that Terry and Dan are planning on marrying, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a legal next-of-kin who might be called to make end-of-life decisions for you if need be?

They are on their way to an annual family reunion where he, his mother, stepfather, and several siblings plan to party for 2 weeks. He describes the relationship status of each of the sibs and their explanations for why they are or are not married.

He also goes into detail about the marriages of his great-grandparents and grandparents who, for years, owned a house in the neighborhood I live in now.  He comes from a Catholic family, and people were married until death.  It didn’t matter how good or bad the marriage was.  Back then, Catholics did not get divorced.

I was married to my high school sweetheart, and for about a decade, we thought nothing would tear us asunder. It was marriage and law school that did us in (and I could go into detail about all the things that affect relationships, but that’s not the point). I would be hard-pressed to marry again. As my grandmothers told me to do, I am looking for a man who can keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

How to Know if Your Child is Ready for a Dog?

March 11, 2021

Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

Friends often ask me about specific breeds of dogs and if they are good with kids—then they ignore me and go out and get a Bulldog, Frenchie, or Doodle.

The kids have been begging for a dog and are interested in (Doodles) because their friend has a (Doodle) and they want a dog just like that one.

Where to begin? First, I’m happy for their friends, but nobody breeding designer dogs, and very few breeding the popular breeds who are not involved in a dog club or conformation showing have any integrity. They are only breeding dogs to make money. When you skimp on genetic testing, it’s easy as long as the dam (mommy dog) doesn’t need a C section.

They’re known as ‘hybrids’, but they aren’t; they’re the same species. They are mixed breed dogs. They do not breed ‘true’. You really won’t know what you’ve got until the dog is at least 6 months old, or older.

Also, very important: do YOU—the parent—want a dog? If you’re acquiescing to whining children, and aren’t ready for a lifestyle change yourself, this is a recipe for disaster.

There are over 200 breeds of dogs available in the USA (some breeds have a very small gene pool, and they don’t breed ‘true’). Get a book (yes—a BOOK—with pages) and read about breed histories and what a parent club says about their breed. The parent club (American Maltese Association or Afghan Hound Club of America) is the ‘sponsor’ of the breed to the American Kennel Club. This is a bunch of formerly normal people who became obsessed with their breed, but agree on a general description of their breed, and also sponsor research into genetic issues the breed has. Not all breeds were developed to be pets. In fact, most breeds were developed as working dogs first, and how good they are with children was never an important issue. For those who think that they are no longer bred to do what they were originally bred for…I beg to differ. True fanciers are proud that the dogs they breed can still do what they were originally bred to do.

Some protective brees like Mastiffs and Great Danes, are generally good with kids, as are Pulik. I wouldn’t get a Boerbul or a Malinois for young kids. On the other hand, often Afghan Hounds, Siberian Huskies, and Greyhounds are good with kids but need exercise.

Most of the cute, cuddly breeds are not good with kids. Either they are very small and easily injured, so they assert themselves.. They have to be feisty, or they’d die.

There should be no rush about this new family member whom you hope will be with you for 12+ years. Talk to dog groomers and trainers. Chances are. if your veterinarian doesn’t breed or show dogs, s/he’s only has experience with dogs at their worst: fearful, nervous, in pain.

My first breed was actually a Miniature Schnauzer because my mother wanted a small, non-shed dog. I love the breed, but I, as a dog groomer, found the grooming onerous, and then only ‘in coat’ for at the most 10 weeks. When we saw a photo of an Afghan Hound, my family got one of those, knowing nothing about them. We were told they were impossible to train. Not so—not if YOU have a brain (as an owner). Groomers who groom show dogs will tell you an Afghan hound is easier to put into coat than a Miniature Schnauzer. As a teenager, I found the independence and aloofness of the Afghan, their quiet dignity, wonderful.

Breed personality is something most pet seekers don’t take seriously enough. I had a couple come to me for consulting because they thought their mixed breed was part Saluki. Very unlikely, but it’s amazing what the rescues post on PETFINDER, hoping to entice new owners. From the dog’s physical appearance, it was remotely possible, but the dog’s behavior was what they had issues with: she was not cuddly; she was not affectionate like a Golden Retriever. That’s what they wanted, without spending the money for a purebred dog. I believe they returned her to the shelter.

Americans! You can’t always get what you want just because you want it. I had a client who bought a St. Bernard for her four-year-old son. She allowed HIM to choose the breed because of the Beethoven movie. Mom had only seen photos, and she bought the dog on the internet. She brought the four-month-old puppy for a bath because she didn’t like the smell. Then, again, two weeks later. She had no idea whether it was a rough or smooth coat…or that it would slobber. The dog grew enormously every day. Finally, she told us she didn’t realize the dog would be so large, smelly, and wasn’t interested in paying someone to train the dog or in training it herself. She told us she had no interest in the dog at all and planned to resell it. No happy ending for that pup.

I’ve had people bring in Yorkie and Lhasa Apso pups, and always showed them how to get the dog under control, line brush the dog, and how important keeping the dog clean was if they wanted hair, and getting the dog on a regular grooming schedule. I was always dismayed at the many owners who claimed they could not control the puppy, so they couldn’t brush the puppy, and it bites. This basic dog care should have been explained and demonstrated by the breeder/seller. If you buy a dog off Craigslist or another internet site, or even animal shelters…well…who should be responsible for making surer you know what you’re getting into? Shouldn’t a dog owner have this information before buying a dog?

If you, as a parent, have no interest in taking care of a pet, don’t get a dog. It doesn’t matter if your child is ‘ready’. if your child lives with you, the dog is your responsibility. You are going to teach your kids the concept of delayed gratification. You can also guide them to ways they can satisfy their need to be with dogs. They can research local animal shelters that need volunteers to walk, train, and play with dogs. Perhaps they can find a dog trainer who needs assistance. My first grooming ‘job’ was with the Miniature Schnauzer breeder bathing her dogs. By working with fanciers, you learn a lot about dogs that you won’t get from reading books.

So…the short answer is:  when your kids do the research on their own and show reliability in other areas of their lives without being prodded.

What about poor, discarded dogs in rescues and shelters? Yes, it happens that old people have to go into nursing homes & give up their dogs. If they got those dogs from breeders, the breeder will take the dog back. In fact, when a good breeder sells a dog, they will often have you sign a contract that the dog returns to them. but dogs get stolen, lost, and the many are from owners who allowed their dogs to breed, claim they are not breeders (even though they allowed their dog to breed), and take no responsibility. Unfortunately, most of the dogs in shelters came from unethical breeders who didn’t bother to screen a family to determine if they knew what they were getting into. they just took the money and told them to have fun.  These owners thought the dogs would housebreak and train themselves. Nobody in the home took responsibility. If you’ve done your research, go for it, but you probably will have to untrain some bad dog habits. Let me remind you that the older the dog is, the more likely you have a good idea of exactly what you’re getting. You can’t save them all. Save yourself, first.

 

 

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…..

 

Has That Emotional Support Animal Made you Anymore Emotionally Secure?

December 10, 2020

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin.   Not an emotional support animal!

I have been mentally ill, on and off, with depression. Now, we know it’s a neurological issue involving brain chemistry, but when I was a child, it was considered an attitude issue. No matter. I was still able to be creative and function through my tears over…nothing. It also was, apparently, related to hormones. When I went through menopause, poof! Episodes pretty much disappeared.

I have to say this because I’ve worked with psychiatrists and psychologists. Actually, group therapy helped a lot—but in the end—it was drugs that got me ‘normal’.

Being introspective, I have, briefly, considered majoring in psychology when I ultimately went to college. I didn’t (I chose anthropology because I was interested in how people and their communities made decisions). The one reason I didn’t choose psychology is a textbook. It is Understanding Human Behavior, by James V. McConnell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_V._McConnell. Originally published in 1986, it was in its 5th edition by the time I took a self-taught course in 1986! His chapter on psychotherapy is very good, particularly his description of R. Bruce Sloans’s conclusions on behavior therapy.

In any case, before the INVENTION of the ‘Emotional Support Animal’, if people felt emotionally fragile, they’d take drugs like Valium, or ask friends to accompany them, or, work with a psychologist on altering their behavior and responses to triggers.

Suddenly, actual therapy was off the table. Get a dog.

I currently have a dog—a gorgeous dog, who was a bona fide rescue from a hoarding situation. She’s very smart and is generally well behaved, but she can’t contain her excitement. Worse, she stalks other dogs. She is what we used to call ‘high strung’. I am providing more emotional support to her than she is to me. I continue to work with her on her triggers, but I can just imagine the counterfactual condition:   what if she had been posted on Craigslist, and some emotionally frail person decided she didn’t need psychological help and decided to buy her & turn her into an ’emotional support animal’? I can imagine the chaos that would have s ensued. & that is exactly how most self-absorbed flakes got their ESAs. Not with the help of an actual dog trainer, or a psychologist who told them what kind of pet to look for. Need a letter on letterhead?  Pay me, and I will state (with no proof of anything) that you NEED YOUR PET TO ACCOMPANY YOU IN PUBLIC PLACES.   In fact, go on-line and buy a vest for your dog that says ‘service animal’.  Capitalism at its finest.

Did I miss something? Since it was so easy to game the system, people were able to get letters on letterhead (fake or real) for chickens, alligators, snakes, etc, etc, as well as the little poofy purse dogs.

Service animals are trained to provide a SERVICE, and the owner can tell you how the service animal provides the service. Some sniff for biological changes in the owner/’handler. Some recognize behavioral changes in their handlers and respond. What does an ESA actually do?

This is something that should have been nipped in the bud when it started, but due to our politically correct cultural mindset, we allowed empathy to override common sense. Worse, we allowed these untrained animals to attack us, inconvenience us, interfere with bona fide service DOGS, and allow the neurotic among us to consider themselves entitled. It’s an offense to all of us, particularly people who really need service dogs, and to the trainers who train and evaluate them.

This could have been addressed early on by the American Kennel Club. The AKC has so many certificate programs. if you have a modicum of control over your dog on-leash, you can get a CANINE GOOD CITIZENSHIP certificate. Several of my dogs have attained this easily (not my current nut case dog—but that’ just it—she’s ‘unstable’). but the AKC was too busy fine to tuning judges’ education and defending commercial breeders of puppies—who seem to make up a significant percentage of AKC income.

So finally the FAA has said ‘enough is enough. As I’ve said many times, if these people who feel they need an emotional support animal had just TRAINED THEIR DOGS (OTHER PETS…), the dynamic between them and their pet would have been behavior therapy for the owner, who would have gotten the courage and emotional strength from the success of having a responsive dog. No joke.

I feel the psychological industry owes us all an apology.

https://twitter.com/@RobynMichaels9

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,

 

Choices

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?

Comments
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.

Nobody’s Gonna Take Care of YOU

September 16, 2021

Hi!  I don’t work in finance, but I just retired and managed to do it  with a ‘spotty’ work history.  I was self-employed in micro-businesses (that’s business that gross under $500,000 a year) mostly.  In a  work ‘career’ that went from 1972 to 2020, I had , I think, 4 job that included health insurance—& 1 was in grad school, the other was Peace Corps.

Yet, my net worth is  over $500,000.  That might not seem like much, but it’s better than probably 90% of Americans. How did I do this?

1.My mother told me that my rent & overhead should never be more than 1 week’s wages…so that meant I had to live with other people. Yes, finding compatible roommate is difficult, but it can be done.  I’ve had the same roommate now for over 20 years.  In any case, that ratio should be kept in mind. If you ‘NEED’ privacy, either  live in a lower rent apartment or quit complaining. Capitalism is based on land rents.

2.Learn to budget & get comfortable with DELAYED GRATIFICATION.  The food pantry is your friend. Learn to cook. If you eat packaged food & ‘need’ alcohol every day, you’re throwing money away.  Similarly, shop 2nd hand, the alley, Craigslist & Facebook.

3.  These days, there’s no excuse to NOT open an IRA.  You can do it online with $100. No joke.  Subscribe to Kiplinger’s and/or Money magazine for just 1 year.  You can research mutual funds online.  Yes, you can  take risks—just keep in mind the brokers make commissions even if they are fiduciaries & invest in your best interest. They don’t know any more than you do, because they are also playing the odds.  If they were  better at it, they’d be trading option, not dealing with clients.

4.  Paying for college, especially if your ultimate goal is not a STEM field, is stupid—& going into debt is even more stupid.  Yes, you need to network to get jobs, but if you don’t graduate from an Ivy League or Big Ten school, the odds of you knowing the right people are against you.  BTW—I didn’t go to college until I was 30, & I paid cash every semester to a state school. I cut my costs by taking CLEP exams—everyone  about to go to college should look into that.  Otherwise, start at a community college: the best bang for the buck.

5.Start building equity.  If you’re the handy type (good with tools), look for property near public transportation, forest preserves and parks, but beware of water (flooding will be  worse in the future).  My first house was  in a neighborhood my horrified parents called a slum.  It went up in value 500% in 10 years.  This won’t always happen, but the point is to buy low & sell high.

6. Learn a skill or trade—then you can go to college & study philosophy.  Yes, I was  often marginally employed or self-employed, but I never had to go into debt.

7. Finally—delay having children. Seriously. God will not provide.  Don’t let ‘oops’ happen with a partner  who can’t afford to support kids, then complain about being a single parent. If you  think you can’t afford life insurance, you have no business procreating.

Choosing My Religion

September 9, 2021

I am a secular Jew from a secular Jewish Family. My great- grandparents were orthodox,and my grandparents were conservative. My parents were reform. Part of this loss of religious zeolotry was being assimilated into American society. When my parents were married, there were still restrictive covenants on land (that means who land could be sold to based on race or religion). But we lived in a tolerant community that was at ,least 1/2 Jewish, if not more.

In fact, in the suburbs of north Suburban Chicago, the Jewish ‘High Holy Days’—Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur, in September /October, our schools were closed not only because so many students were out, they could not find enough substitute teachers.

I guess I learned a lot of Old Testament stuff in Sunday school (keep in mind, for us, there is no ‘new’ testament or Gospels), but you sort of assimilate the stories from gentile friends.

As a teenager, when I started questioning, I, partly due to the influence of my boyfriend, became an atheist. Later, I described myself as agnostic. Spiritual?

I didn’t really think about what I believed until I was 30 and was on my 2nd trip to Africa. We were l working (making bricks) at a girls boarding school. They (the Africans) called us unusual visitors because they had never seen white people do physical labor, and had never EVER encountered white people—wazungu—who weren’t missionaries. That should give you pause to consider. A teacher asked me to teach her class, and we had been told to do this when asked, but her lessen was ‘How We Know Jesus is With Us Evey Day in our Lives.’

I told there that I couldn’t teach her lesson, because Jesus was not with me every day in my life. He wasn’t in my life at all.

She asked me if I believed in Jesus. I told her, “Well, we believe he lived, but we Jews believe we’re all children of God. We don’t believe in virgin birth.”

“That requires an act of faith,” she responded.

“No, that requires a leap of faith,” I responded.

Another teacher asked, “What do you believe?”

“Well, we don’t really have a concept of Hell.”

“We don’t have a concept of Heaven, either,” a Jewish friend added.

“So…what happens when you die?” the teachers asked us.

“We’re dead.”

“So, what causes you to be good? they asked.

“Your responsibility to your community,” I responded.

Well, the word spread that these wazungu weren’t missionaries, and just wanted to know more about them, and we made a lot of friends and heard stories about missionaries telling Kikuyu that they had to take Christian names, and couldn’t have access to education unless they went to church. This is how you change a culture.

When I returned to school in the USA, I was told to read Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.” When you understand history, you have to explore how you accept history.In high school, on my own, I learned that Africans had culture, and they were civilized and didn’t need Europeans to civilize them When I learned that I had been lied to, I started questioning everything I thought I knew.

I realized that I was not the only person who didn’t think the Bible made sense. There were so many contradictions.Still, it seemed to be an all or nothing proposition. You either believed in ‘God’ as the Judeo/Christians/Moslems PRESENTED Him, or you were atheist. Spiritual? Agnostic? What do those terms mean?

I realized that the idea that bees and other pollinators are attracted to flowers, and the clown fish has this sensuous relationship with the sea anemone, and that this couldn’t possibly be random. No religion addresses these specifics. Some even have people believe that dinosaurs lives at the same time as Adam & Eve!

Buddists don’t even believe in God, but in the self. Hindus believe in many Gods besides Vishnu, and have so many ideas tied to their religion, including a really horrible caste system that restricts people from meeting their potentials.

So, I characterized myself as ‘spiritual’ until I came across Sikhism. This religion is ‘only’ about 500 years old, and was founded by Guru Nanak, who believed in 1 God and was horrified by the caste system. More, he felt women were equal to men. His followers were jailed by the Moguls for refusing to worship God as the Moslems do. Same God, Their scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, is a 1400 pager poem. Sikhs, to honor God, must do three things: think of God, or have God in mind in every action you take; be altruistic; and give back to your community. Sin is not codified, but clearly cheating, hurting, being dishonest are sins. Simple.

I came across a website called Sikhnet. .after reading the Guru Granth Sahib, and interacting with other Sikh women, and finding so many that had come from disparate backgrounds…and then addressing the symbiotic relationships in nature, I just felt that you have to acknowledge that there couldn’t be that many coincidences. But that said, I don’t think the ‘God’ I believe exists would smite a whole town because of some unnamed behaviors (or we’d all be smote), and obviously, he wouldn’t have us suffer angst for being naked & ashamed. Lots of Jews are Buddists, but I think more would be Sikh if they really explored how the religion is manifested.

Thus, I now think of myself as Sahajdari Sikh: becoming.

People in My Neighborhood Get Free Food

September 2, 2021

I live in a very high density neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago (Rogers Park), and most of the residential buildings are about 100 years old, No joke. Most of the buildings are owned by people who do not live in them—-as investments. At one time, this might have been a good idea, but not for the last 20 years. Why? Old buildings need a lot of maintenance, and tenants tend to be hard on buildings. If they don’t have to fix things themselves, they tend to not be careful. But this is not my point, The other problem for property owners is…property taxes. In the last 30 years they have quadrupled.

The reason for this, in Chicago, anyways, is that our aldermen voted themselves pay higher than we pay our state senators and representatives in Springfield. It’s not just their pay: their expense accounts are huge. They get money for at least four assistants and office space.

Some aldermen have gamed the system, bought property, and rent from themselves, but even that is not the problem. The problem is that none of our aldermen (there are 50) apparently know math, or they just don’t care. They’ve voted to give enormous pensions to city employees (particularly police & firefighters—-but the aldermen also have huge pensions), and…they pay out when the city gets sued.

We’re not just talking about tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. When the police ‘accidentally’ shoot the wrong person (and/or kill them), or break into the wrong house (either no search warrant, or they read the address wrong), WE pay. It costs billions. We are never going to get out of this hole.

So, people who might otherwise be able to pay for food go to food giveaways. We have the Greater Chicago Food Depository that brings in food at least once a week, given out at various churches, and a group called ‘Food Not Bombs’ that gathers food from area grocery stores that don’t want to see surpluses landfilled, but don’t have enough at the end of the week for a pick up from truck.

From the Food Depository, they give out bags of food: oatmeal, lentils, beans, canned vegetables, soup, and fruit. Sometimes they give out packages of frozen food, Sometimes, fresh food (Food Not Bombs usually has fresh fruits & vegetables).

Unfortunately, you get what you get from the food depository. You sort out the bag when you get home. What to do with what you don’t want? Some people put it in a box in the alley by their trash. some put it into the little Libraries (we also have these cabinets with free books).

There is a free food ‘panty’ behind a restaurant, with a refrigerator, but if you don’t have a vehicle, it is a good long walk for most people, which is why they don’t schlep unwanted food over there. When I see it,I bring it to the pantry.

Mostly what people DON’T want are; macaroni & cheese(you need milk & butter), canned stuff, and dried food: beans, split peas, oatmeal. people either don’t like this stuff, or don’t want to keep it to cook in winter (it’s too hot to be boiling stuff in your kitchen if you don’t have air conditioning.

Lots of people know that there is food in the little Libraries, but they don’t take it, assuming other more destitute ‘need’ this. the irony is—the homeless hungry people can’t use most of the food, or don'[t want it—& since they aren’t looking for books, rarely take the food. I take it to the food pantry, but I’ve also posted on Facebook asking people to take it, because there’s plenty. Nobody need starve in our neighborhood.

2 books about Africa

August 26, 2021

Those of us who love Africa have a love/hate relationship with what Africa is. 2 different perspectives here that I happened to read at the same time. Gettleman, a young Jewish boy who couldn’t get over his fascination with East Africa and wanted to find a way to ‘help’, wrote this as a memoir. He learned kiSwahili in college. Like many, he considered being an aid worker until he found out that not everything the do-gooders do works.

The other book by a black America, whose father was a physician in West Africa, and grew up learning about the continent as he lived there. His experiences are in west Africa

I related to Gettleman’s book for several reasons: I, too was once of the mindset of the ‘great white hope’, that being an American with resources, I could ‘help’ Africans…not realize what my own government did to suppress education , economic vitality, and democracy. He writes about the late 1980s into the early 1990s, and had a good grasp of the dynamics of the post colonial era (after the USA, again on the wrong side of history, had the CIA assassinate Patrice Lumumba and install the stupid and corrupt Mobuto Sese Seko), about seeking a New York Times newspaper to get real news of Africa. Gettleman learned to be a journalist so he could get a newspaper to send him back to East Africa.

He spent time in Afghanistan and learned early on that, once again, the Americans had no idea what we were doing, Fighting the Taliban? Well, it seems that the Americans (us) were aiding warlords who kidnapped teenage boys and raped them for entertainment. We will never own up to this (and we wonder why, after 20 years—our longest involvement in a war, why we couldn’t win in Afghanistan). Then, same deal in Iraq. Our guys (you know, fighting for democracy) had no idea who the enemy was, and shot everyone. Gettlemen went to these places so he could ultimately get assigned to Nairobi.

This is partly a love story about his relationship with his wife as well as the people he got to know.; What I found interesting was the quote on page 180, where he addressed that Africa was ‘ripe for the taking’, which is how French (who also wrote the compeling China’s Second Continent—which should be required reading for anyone studying political science or international relations) titled his book.

China's Second Continent by Howard W. French
Planning for the future, China has been buying up real estate in Africa for a while.

French came to Africa because his father worked there, and he liked Africa. He worked as a teacher, interpreter, and became the NY Times bureau chief in Abidjian. He also starts his book (published in 2004) giving a brief history of Africa, and how the Europeans manipulated local populations. The modern part of the book starts in the 1990s, in Nigeria, when Sani Abacha refused to turn over the military run government to the legally elected president. He goes on to address how the US supported Mobutu and his kleptocracy, Savimbi in Angola (at least during the Reagan years. Clinton pretty much abandoned him. Dos Santos turned out to be not much better), Museveni in Uganda (for supporting anti-Islamic forces in south Sudan), ignored the genocide in Rwanda, and how we washed our hands of Liberia. You see, none of these countries every had any ‘strategic value’ to the USA,

Funny thing—you can Google how much aid we have sent to various African countries, and for what, but, as I have pointed out in this blog, we are not interested in democracy or respect for rule of law or improved social indicators. The reason these countries get aid is because of well paid lobbyists who make sure money for aid gets into the appropriations budgets.

French’s book is well documented, and in 17 years, virtually nothing has changed for these countries, or things have gotten worse. Between AIDS, Ebola, and now COVID, and almost total lack of investment in community services, including no environmental protections, what we’ve paid for will be an influx of environmental/political refugees from these places to the USA.

For all the money that Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have spent putting themselves into space for a few minutes, all these Africans could have had potable water. but ah, no. This is how capitalism works. Should this be the result of ‘diplomacy’, however?

Can We Survive THIS?

August 19, 2021

Last month temperature in the Pacific Northwest of the United States reached over 110 degrees. This is a part of the country known for a temperate climate, rarely getting to be over 85 degrees. What does that tell you?

In the same time period, in the Midwest, we’d been suffering a drought. Where it used to rain usually at least every two weeks or so, it was about a month, and then we got a deluge: several inches of rain in less than an hour. Basements flooded because the sewer system in Chicago could not handle the volume of water. We’re going to have to write off the Amazon rain forest, as the politicians in Brazil don’t care about the future of even their own children. If Mobutu could pillage Congo/Zaire, why shouldn’t every other politician ‘elected’ by his people be allowed to do the same?

It seems that only the meteorologists (who report the weather on TV) are concerned. Crickets from everyone else. We aren’t fixing our schools of education so teachers can teach real facts. In fact, we’ve allowed THEM to turn ‘inclusive history’ into ‘critical race theory’ that confuses an awful lot of people.

You’d think the religious organizations would get right on this, But, ah, no, they all seem to have a pedophile problem (at least the Christian denominations do) to obfuscate.

I know that most of the people I know didn’t learn much science in schools growing up. Or, they learned facts that are hard to apply to real life. so, let me put forth these ideas about environmental science.

  1. There is no ‘away’ When you throw out or discard anything material—it has to go somewhere. Often, it is a landfill. Landfills used to be in very rural areas, but people are still being fruitful and multiplying,and moving closer to landfills & complaining about them(& pig farms—but they still eat pork).

2. God isn’t making anymore real estate. This is IT. We’re finite biosphere. If we don’t protect water catchment areas, it evaporated quickly—hence, humid, sticky weather in places that used to not be tropical. There is a net energy loss when you desalinate water, Sure, it can be done, but at the expense of energy.

3. Reuse, repurpose, recycle. yes, it makes a difference.

4. Limit the size of your family. That’s right. If you’re such a child lover, foster or adopt, but 2 children per couple is zero population growth. if you want to talk about your right to reproduce more than your replacement, I hope you sit in traffic jams for eternity, and you have to pay for drinking/bathing water.

5. Some places were meant to be uninhabited by HUMANS. If you want to live in a desert, you might want to research how Bedouins do it.

6.Have you addressed how environmental your diet is? Using mammals for protein: cows, pigs, sheep—uses a lot of the earth’s resources. Look into beans and lentils. You can spice them up and they taste good and are filling.

7. Plant a tree—and spread the word that a lawn is a waste of time.

*****

I also write fiction. Please take some time to vote for this story to be part of an anthology: https://soopllc.com/blog/short-stories/the-key-by-robyn-michaels/

Richard Branson & Jeff Bezos: the planet is in YOUR HANDS

August 12, 2021

We’re all really impressed by your recent accomplishments, and happy for you that you enjoyed them. We made you rich. Granted, you worked hard, but frankly, we’re now in a big fix because of consumerism and the idea that you all seem to believe that there is no limit to economic growth. You seem to be clueless about climate change, and only act when you are prodded.

Here’s the deal, with kudos to Jeffery Sacks: We’re at the point that most individuals doubt they can make an impact on restoring global ecology.

Do you think our current weather patterns, with floods, extreme heat, and droughts are just ‘mother nature’ or ‘an ACT of GOD?”

You believed the science enough to get you both off the planet. Is there some sort of skepticism about how we’re losing species and habitable land? Potable water? You must understand the concept of NET ENERGY LOSS.

Are you all like Trump, with the mindset that your children will figure this all out & fix your ignorance—-or arrogance?

I have to ask, because you mega-capitalists are still in control, and can still stop the destruction of the earth.

Please buy Bolsinaro and the amazon & pay people to protect it.

Please help dig wells with solar powered water pumps.

Please build solar powered community centers that include health clinics that pr9omote birth spacing & have schools teaching science—with no fees—in rural Africa.

Please pay off our legislators in the US so they no longer take ‘contributions’ from lobbyists—especially from lobbyists for countries begging for foreign aid. We fund so many dictators.

In America, please offer total scholarships for people t who will major in the teaching of environmental education—and fund the schools that teach it.

Please make sure you are not funding Christian missionaries who promote a fatalist idea and are not addressing social indicators.

I can come up with more, but this is a staqrt.

Magomero (Malawi) the gist:

August 5, 2021

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi in 1992. Malawi—Nyasaland, at the time, this book was written about, was very sparsely populated into the early 1900s. A Scottish historian, Landen White, wrote a book about the early colonial history of Malawi, centering on Magomero.

If you know any Africa history at all, you know that Livingstone, the early explorer, ostensibly looking for the source of the Nile, decided to open a mission there to fight the slave trade. These slaves were mostly being sent to the Indian Ocean coast and the Arabic and Asian countries, although many were sent to Europe. This was into the mid 1800s.

By having the fire power to a fight slavers, and taking those trafficked ‘under his wing’, he was able to keep Yao and Arabic slave traders at bay.

Being a typical Christian and European, he was going to civilize the natives.

He rearranged villages, changed the social order, encouraged other Scots to come and farm: first cotton, then tobacco. The colonists needed a lot of labor to do this. How did they get the labor in a country with no cash economy? Ah…you’ll love this: they instituted a ‘hut tax’—like a real estate tax, and essentially made the natives work on settler plantations (land given by headmen, who had been bamboozled) a certain number of months per year…,.and pay for places they had lived for free (this is what Franz Fanon addressed in “the Wretched of the Earth”)

These Christian do-gooders decided they would educate the sons of headmen (whom the colonists chose to be in charge—as traditionally, in a matrilinear society—the women chose which males had influence, and many chiefs were women), but you know, they were now being ‘civilized‘, so men were now in charge.

& how did they manage to do this? They put the men in charge, and those men got perks, and the Europeans had firearms….see how easy? So people were no longer trafficked as slaves, but were made to work for minimal wages on European owned farms. Yes—they became…wage slaves. It just so happened that a very clever ‘native’—John Chilembwe—asked to be made a Christian, and become educated. He was born around 1871. He became associated with Joseph Booth, a Baptist Missionary, who, as White describes it, preached a ‘fiercely radical’ philosophy about the ‘elegantly robed men preaching to laborers working seven days a week for a few yards of cotton’, and urged the Africans to rise up and ‘save your country’. Chilembe wrote to Booth and said, “Please carry me to God. I like to be your cook boy.” Chilembwe became Booth’s interpreter.

They planned to appeal to European governments to return alienated land to the American Government (apparently thought to support freedom, LOL—I’m sure Ho Chi Minh has a few thoughts about that) for a grant in compensation for 250 years of slavery.

In 1897, Chilembwe and Booth left for America. Booth introduced Chilembwe to Dr. L.G. Jordan, secretary of the Negro National Baptist Convention. Chilembwe spent two years at Virginia Theological Seminary. He returned to ‘British Central Africa’ in 1900 and started his mission of ‘Africa for the Africans’, building schools, training centers, and churches. He was now an educated Christian. He purchased land, and apparently was outdoing the settlers in terms of success, but there he was, putting ideas into the heads of Africans about education, and self-rule.

He fomented an uprising, and settlers homes were attacked (with orders from Chilembwe to not attack the women). Those Africans caught were ‘tried’ in a kangaroo court and immediately shot.

The settlers were in a bad place. They needed labor, and were not paying laborers regularly, because they were not making money off their agriculture schemes, They could not stamp out ideas. One Christian/African told a planter that he wanted his children educated, and the planter allowed him to build a school. Chilembwe provided teachers.

Livingstone’s son, who was further north, heard what was going on, and sent word to not allow any schools, and told the African Christians to not build a church. With the backing of the colonial administration, a militia was sent out to burn all African churches and schools.

The official policy became to NOT ALLOW EDUCATION. Worse, although the settlers had taught the Africans to grow tobacco as a cash crop, the crop needed very little tending. They passed rules that made it impossible for Africans to sell to the marketing board and compete with settlers. The Africans formed cooperatives so they’d meet the minimum tonnage to compete, but, ah, no. Settlers tobacco came first.

Wait…what? Weren’t they Christian?Ah… yeah..my reaction (not being Christian myself) was…’WHAT THE FUCK? What happened in Malawi happened all over Africa. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who had been educated in the United States (at the University of Chicago AND Meharry Medical College), and who practiced medicine in Scotland AND was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, returned to Nyasaland and formed the Malawi Congress Party. He was, of course, jailed, but at independence, was made Prime Minister. He was accused of ‘autocratic tendencies’ (an understatement), accused others, jailed many of his fellow revolutionaries (or they ‘disappeared’) and—guess what—made himself president for life of Malawi.

Then…guess what? The United States started sending foreign aid to Malawi to reward Banda for NOT BEING A COMMUNIST. I was in Malawi during Band’s last days.; An exciting time.

Malawi has gone through several elected presidents, each one as ineffective as the last: in terms of raising literacy rates, giving more people access to health care, stemming deforestation and environmental degradation. They don’t have the incentive: the Europeans, USA…& now China will send money no matter what.

Caroline Alexander wrote a wonderful essay about how things were that was published just about the time I arrived in Malawi: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1991/12/16/an-ideal-state .

It’s rough being a citizen in a country that is constantly on the wrong side of history. For an African’s view of what was done in our name, read the classic by Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart.

Things Fall Apart

Why do We Keep Doing Stuff That Doesn’t Work?

July 29, 2021

We know money isn’t the answer to every problem, yet we keep withholding money from ideas that have been proven to work, because we continue to choose to spend it on stuff that doesn’t work.

We had the war in Viet Nam in the 1960s, and it is now proven that we were NOT fighting communism, and we threw money and lives into a war because

1. the elites were Catholics—and they had the ear of Cardinal Spellman in Boston, who convinced JFK that they could run the country WITH THE HELP OF TH USA, and it wasn’t remotely true. In fact, Ho chi Minh had come to the USA earlier to ask the USA to help rid them of the French Colonialists…and we would not, because we were allies of the French (so much for supporting self-government);

2. The joint Chiefs of Staff needed a way to continue to get monetary support from Congress. this is written history.

Then, even though the USSR spent over a decade in Afghanistan and could make no headway, we —again—got involved, supported a government that could not motivate her own people, spent over a billion dollars—unaccounted for, and never learned.

Look at all the old white men in Congress. They are the majority. Some actually represent their constituents, but having spent all this tax money we paid fighting communism first, then terrorism, we have absolutely nothing to show for it. Terrorism is still a problem, and it is now more high tech, and we can’t have universal health care. Amazing—to me—that our politicians have convinced so many of us that socialized medicine is not an infrastructure issue—like improved public health, and we can’t see through this that this is not in our best interests. We see that school districts that invest in their children have children who do better in life. Not just because they can read and write, but that they can discern. Yet, we fund education with property taxes. This means that school districts populated by poorer, less educated people invest less in their students. Those students can’t find a way to live, and either prey on the rest of us or become liabilities that we have to support in so many other ways,.

We now know that a majority of people in prisons—particularly men, have learning disabilities and other mental health issues that are never dealt with. We seem to forget that these people usually get out of jail with no coping skills, and probably ended up in prison because of a poor primary school education…and we are still doing NOTHING.

It seems to be a Judeo-Christian norm to punish wrong -doers at the expense of us all. The Bible says ‘We should do..” yet for those of us who follow other scripture, it makes no sense and doesn’t work.

As far as saving the earth, we are probably past the point of no return. Sad, really, that a minority of people are acting with so much hubris.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Wake Up

July 22, 2021

I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and my view, ‘from the street’ is different from what a diplomat sees. There is a very simple solution to the problem of the ineffectiveness of foreign aid.

One thing I would suggest is not allowing USAID personnel to serve without first being a Peace Corps Volunteer or VSO.  You get a much better idea of what affects the daily lives of citizens.

#2:  start tying aid to IMPROVEMENT OF SOCIAL INDICATORS: infant and maternal mortality  (and access to family planning services), rates of literacy, access to communications infrastructure and potable water. Why can’t we tie aid to transparency and respect for RULE OF LAW?  How about  improved human rights records?

We continue to give ‘aid’ to  contractors who only  have their own interests at heart. Look at how much aid we gave to a contractor in Nigeria to extend the  electric grid—when providing solar lights and refrigerators would have been more appropriate and costed less.

#3—stop giving  weapons.   Most Americans don’t  realize how much aid is weaponry. Why are we still pouring  aid into Israel & Egypt? I was in Egypt, and they do not collect property taxes ( neither does Greece), & we’ve rewarded Israel for encroaching on disputed land.  & yet—we keep giving money to corrupt leaders.

#4 Demand  monitored elections at least every 6 years.  Look what’s happening in Uganda right now. In fact, look at their human rights record. This is  why  people in the LDCs no longer trust us & think we are either fools or hypocrites.

Everyone involved in the process of implementing foreign aid should read the late George Crile’s book, “Charlie Wilson’s War”.  It is very well written and researched.

Most of us know that lobbyists actually  create our foreign aid budget. This is outrageous, but a fact.  We need to embarrass the congress people who take ‘donations’ from lobbyists.

So, you can talk all you want about ‘doing something’—but until you all  suggest specific actions to take, you all are just talk.

Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of our Times