Archive for March, 2015

Cutting the Budget to Make up for the Failure to Fund the Pension Plans

March 27, 2015


Bangkok topiary.  Not sure if their city workers have pension plans.  We do have street art in Chicago...and our pension plans are in crisis due to  inept politicians.

Bangkok topiary. Not sure if their city workers have pension plans. We do have street art in Chicago…and our pension plans are in crisis due to inept politicians.

Illinois—my state—is a perfect example of  voters not paying attention to what our legislators are doing.  It’s not that we don’t have ‘watchdog groups’, it’s that we have  major  newspapers  which are  edited  and published by  people who seem to be in collusion with  corrupt and inept politicians, and an uneducated populace that  ranks legislation right up ther with insurance: boring.

These same  newspapers—which endorse our politicians, have real chutzpah when, several months later, they  browbeat us citizens for voting for them.  Why they endorse these hooligans is anyone’s guess…or are they being paid off?

What got me going on this is that we are having a mayoral election  in about  two weeks (early voting has started).  It is a run-off between Rahm Emanuel—the incumbent, and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a county commissioner. Chuy  has a degree in urban planning, and has a lot of experience as an elected official.  He’s known as a neighborhood guy. He’s had some missteps (all of us have applied for  tax breaks we end up not being entitled too), but for the most part, he  doesn’t have wealthy friends in high places:   the 1% who want to do  business in the city and  make  deals behind closed doors.

Rahm speaks with authority.  Even though he has screwed us over:  he  promised to be transparent about the Tax Increment Financing money…and he immediately cut a deal with DePaul University —a private, CATHOLIC, endowed  entity…so they could build a stadium—& Rahm took  residential property OFF THE TAX ROLLS TO DO IT…even though he  promised is 1000 more police on the street, there are not, and even  though he closed  50 neighborhood elementary schools & diverted tax dollars to private charter schools…and in 4 years time has done NOTHING to address  the under funded pension funds for city workers (and we have a crisis at the state level as well).  He still seems to have more credibility than Chuy—because he  speaks with confidence—and because the local media present him as being a better choice. They ar not neutral, and the newspapers bury the  stories of shady dealings in the business section.

He’s turned the argument into the fact that Chuy has not come out with a plan, and he knows people fear that property taxes will go up. Yet,he’s put forth no plan of his own  and that’s ok with  major media.  It’s frightening.  It’s all marketing.  Rahm has the money to twist and obfuscate.

Knowing people who  work on the Garcia campaign, I’ve suggested that he  ask every alderman (there are 50) to give up 1 staff person. That  the  neighborhood  ‘development corporations’ (what  in some areas are  chambers of commerce) actually be put into aldermen’s offices—without a separate overlay of staff and expenses.  Raise fees, fines, and rates.  Hell,  there  are so many  businesses—particularly pet  industry businesses—that are not in compliance with current laws, and  they are being ignored.

Chicago Animal Care & Control  could easily double their adoption fees and nobody would complain.  We have way too many street fairs which really don’t  market  actual businesses that  pay property taxes (via rent) all that well, and  we provide free police  for those fairs and to all the sports teams when they have games in town.  Discretionary infrastructure money  could easily be cut by at least 30%.  In our ward, we have  voted on projects that have been nice—but would I rather have my taxes go up 30% to cover them?  Well, it looks like that will be the reality no matter who the mayor is.

A candidate  for mayor who withdrew due to health reasons, Karen Lewis, suggested taxing trades 1% at the board of trade.   Bunch of whiners—speculator/gamblers   talked of moving out of the city, Really? To where? Skokie?  I don’t think so.  I know from working  in a service business that most of the 1% hardly pay attention to what  frivolities cost.

Finally:  legalize  and tax marijuana…and release all those serving time for non-violent drug crimes.  It’s one thing to involve a weapon, and  another  to be in jail for being an entrepreneur.  We just can’t afford this  morality craziness.  It hasn’t worked and costs too much…and we can look at the examples of Washington  and Colorado.

Matt Taibbi has an excellent article in Rolling Stone  several years ago:

I urge  everyone to read it.  it’s not a mystery how this all happened.  We let them.


When do we say When?

March 20, 2015

My Bop & Daz 005 (Small)roommate and I were at odds about if it was time for  Bebop, the dog in the photo, to ‘cross the rainbow bridge’. We had a horribly brutal winter, with wind chills of 30 below, and Boppers  kept going (although just to eliminate & come back in).   Boppers was 15.  He became very stiff (although glucosamine-chondroitin  had helped),  virtually blind,  pretty deaf, and  really didn’t have the muscle power to defecate without falling over.  Yet, he still  was eating. Finally, he could not trot to the kitchen if he thought there is a bowl to lick, and while he hadn’t walked himself into a corner, he walked in circles due to an attack of vestibulary disease.  He could no longer jump on the furniture.

Were it not so dangerously cold, this would not have been an issue.  He could no longer go for a walk, and he used to love walking.  He was just to frightened of the stimuli  and could not  keep up even slowly with my younger dog.

This is a link I copied to help me decide:

Some friends  told me how bad he looked. Indeed, all of my dogs (all sighthounds) looked terribly frail and in pain as they neared their demise.  But you know your dog.

I have only owned  8 dogs in my adult life.  Khyber, my first Afghan, always had pancreatic issues.    His whole life, I don’t think he ever went a week without vomiting bile. I euthanized him when he had a heart attack, at age 10, on a Saturday night.  We all knew he was slowly dying.  We being my parents and I. The last few weeks of his life,  he lived with my parents because it was summer and they had central air conditioning and I didn’t.  He had never been a happy dog (many sighthounds are very serious), but  you could tell he was losing the will to live.

When Khyber was about 8, I got Aswan, my 2nd Afghan.   She was a show prospect  with a  great pedigree and a perfect example of why you don’t breed pedigrees—you breed dogs.   She had always been very happy and outgoing, full of mischief.  I had put an a CD (AKC Companion Dog—showing off leash reliability) on her, and she was trained for Open competition, but  she was such a ham and I couldn’t afford to amuse the gallery. She also attained an ASFA field championship.  She was my heart and soul, but the last  year of her life was grim.  When she was about 11, when I had gotten divorced and sold my business, the person I sold my business to offered take care of her for  6 weeks while I managed  a kennel in another state. She got  mange  during that time—and I wonder if this person actually kept both my dogs crated the whole time.  I had to shave her because  it was so hard to diagnose, and ultimately use  a very heavy insecticide to ‘cure’ her, but it was downhill from there.  She  started falling: she was going blind, and she became incontinent.  She didn’t know who she was anymore, so, at the age of 13, after weeks of agonizing, I euthanized her,.

During the time I had Aswan, while I was still married (because my then husband didn’t want me to get another Afghan), I got my first Whippet, Bari. Bari was also a conformation show prospect who didn’t mature as I had hoped, but he was a very sweet dog who attained his CD as well as  his ASFA field championship with a Best in Field.  My ex-husband  got into law school, and   the dynamic changed.  We got divorced.  I couldn’t afford  show or trial entry fees.  I was  in college, then grad school, and then I joined Peace Corps.  I had several friends who offered to care for Bari, and I was surprised at how quickly Peace Corps found me a placement.  I was only gone a year (due to  ‘the political situation’ in the country), but Bari has been  12 when I left, and  although relatively well cared for, the stress got him. He just slowly  broke down with small physical  annoyances.  I could see, because he was roaching his back, that he was in pain, so I euthanized him after agonizing about the decision over three weeks.  He was almost 14.

I wanted a larger dog,  but another Sighthound, and I didn’t  want the care an Afghan takes.  I got the Saluki, Sadiq, from Bill and Cindy Brown.  He was never a proper house dog (not housebroken and into everything), and  after I had had him  four years, he actually succumbed to cancer after exposure to pesticides (or so the oncologist theorized, and I did not doubt).  I actually paid over  $2000 to have Sadiq treated, which a friend advised me  not to do, and she was right.  His quality of life initially got worse, and he was only in remission for a couple of months before, one day, he decided to NOT got for a walk with me, and it was  just a day or  2 more  when his nose started bleeding.  I might have waited for him to die naturally, but didn’t think it was right, so I had him euthanized.  He was  eight years old.

Then came Dazzle. I had  initially contacted Saluki rescue, but there were no dogs in the Midwest, and this is often the case  of the rare breeds. The rescue coordinator put me in touch with Dazzle’s breeder, Nancy Badra, who  was not advertising  him (she had  3 left from his litter, they were 14 months old).  She asked me what I knew about the breed. Since I had gotten Sadiq from  the Browns, who were very active in the Saluki Club of America, she agreed to sell me Dazzle.  He was the sweetest dog. It took him a couple of weeks to warm up to me. I knew he wondered what had happened to himself (he had lived with a pack of Salukis).  He never did a naughty thing, and never had an accident in the house until the last few months. He was always very shy, but about a year after I got Dazzle, Whippet rescue called.  I had been on the waiting list for  four years! They had Bebop (formerly Magic), who was turned in  by relatives of an owner who had died.

They  brought  Bebop to me, because I said I’d take him if he got along with Dazzle.  Bebop  was immediately at home, and the first thing he did was walk under Dazzle —a sign of dominance.  Dazzle then went into play posture, bowing down, and they started running in the house, and I knew they’d get along.   The greeting they did was the last they ever played together, because  Bebop was also a pest.  He always  loved to play.  He was also always cold if it wasn’t 80, and  liked to lay next to Dazzle.  Dazzle liked to sleep alone.  He didn’t want to be part of a dog pile. Dazzle died 2 years ago.   He had become very frail, and , as I said, incontinent, but  we was obviously still interested in life.  What happened was, we went for an afternoon walk, and then, suddenly, after dinner, he fell, and could not get up. I lifted him, and he fell again. I knew then it was time, and took him that night to be euthanized. He was about 15.

We got Dash a few months later, and  neither he nor Bebop seemed particularly interested in  playing with each other but they didn’t mind being together. I know that Bebop was attached to Dazzle, but really just to keep warm, or steal bones.  These 2 will lay with each other, but  only on my bed.

Dash  is a unique personality.  He does not like  dogs that are not sight hounds, and if any dog, even a small one,  gives him the stink eye, he reciprocates.  He came somewhat obedience trained, but with a lot of bad habits (counter surfing and digging holes), but he is a good dog. This is not about him, though.

My roommate has been with me for  13 years.  He came to live with me just a couple of months after Bebop. When KN came, he  barely spoke any English, but he  liked dogs.  He  bonded with Bebop.  Bebop has always been a little tough guy.  He cuddled because he was cold.  He wanted to play constantly, and would bark at you to  get you to  chase him around.  I had wanted to do  obedience competition with him, but I was too busy with a business to  schlep out to the closest class.  We tried doing  straight racing, but he was a goofball, not particularly fast, and  wasn’t on the lure until he was about  8 years old.  He would not have been eligible to even compete had I not  met his breeder, by chance, at a dog show.   I was showing Dazzle, and we had brought Bebop along for the ride. She recognized him as a dog she bred, and asked me how I got him.  She sent me all his registration information.  In any case,  KN often joined me when we went to race practice, because he was experiencing America.  Dazzle was a hard dog to get close to (being a Saluki), but Bebop was just the right size and  personality….

A person who works for an animal shelter posted on Facebook that so many people bring in old dogs to be euthanized because they don’t want to bother with them. Someone posted  a photo of a line of people  hauling dogs to a shelter in Florida on Christmas Eve.  I know many of these people are dumping a dog who no longer plays, who  probably has health issues, and are going to  go right back out and get a puppy.  I’ve worked at kennels where people who have dumped old dogs for boarding, told us to  ‘find a home’ for the dog  because they were getting a puppy.  There is a huge segment of the population   that thinks this is acceptable.  U think it is cowardly and immoral. However, I also know that  people agonize, and try  not to deal with the sadness of an end of life.
They may go to an animal shelter for euthanasia because the animal hospitals are so expensive.  You really don’t know  unless you know the owners.

I have a friend who had he three pet male dogs die within  three years of each other. She knew they were failing, and knew they were dying. Being a nurse herself,   she found drugs and other means to keep them comfortable until they expired on their own.

My roommate grew up without any religious training in Japan. His parents were of the post WWII generation whose parents were  relatively urban and not really  practicing Buddists.  KN is constantly asking me about Christianity, and ‘the God’,and is genuinely trying to understand the  pretzel logic of the  Western world.  He is, however, among the most ethical people I know.  He feels as long as this dog’s life has value to this dog, and he isn’t in enough pain to stop eating, he should live.  I  was feeling that way.  I still feel that way.  I also feel  that if we can end suffering, we should.

I know that people wait too long to euthanize a dog, and I know we did, too.  I could see Bebop failing.  he finally could not get up without falling.  KN did not want to let go.  I  emailed him  info on how to tell, and euthanizing a dog at home, but it took Bebop not being able to stand, not eating, and  being enticed to eat that convinced KN. Boppers was so tired.  At the  animal hospital, they offered him a  last meal of cheese and  hot dogs, and he ate until he was sedated, and left peacefully.  Of course we miss him, and he left a hole in our lives, but there will be another dog, soon.

Elephants…and the Availability of Family Planning Services

March 13, 2015
Me on an elephant in Thailand

Me on an elephant in Thailand

What do   most  Americans know about elephants?  They are big, they are smart (they never  forget),and they live long.  But, do most of us understand that their habitat is disappearing due to  human population encroachment, and  that those in Asia which  traditionally had jobs  are losing them to trucks? Do many people know that the ones still used, for  work—often entertainment—are either passed down in families…or actually mortgaged (and  they cost around $100,000)?

I learned about this when I traveled in India and Thailand.  In Thailand, there are several businesses that  are open to tourists in the Chang Mai area, that do elephant ‘shows’ of elephants playing soccer and painting. They address the  history of elephants in Thailand, and that  they don’t  want to lose  their elephants, but  need to find  something for them to do, and keep them healthy.  The  keeping and using of elephants as  beasts of burden goes back centuries in Asia, but  not so in Africa.

2 good books for learning about  elephants are, “Coming of Age With Elephants,” by Joyce Poole, and  “Portraits in the Wild:  Behavior Studies of East African Mammals,”  by Cynthia Moss.  Poole was a protege of Moss, and the Moss book, published in 1975, is dated, of course, but  anyone thinking of going on safari in Africa should definitely check it out, as  it is comprehensive and a good   entre’ into  wild animal behavior observation.

Why should any of this matter?  I have  been a proponent of animal rights/animal welfare for  most of my  sentient/conscious life.  I am not a vegetarian partly because my father was a meat packer when I was young.  However, I do eat  lower  on the food chain, and am conscious of my choices.  But enough about me.     I have blogged about  Armchair Activism, and one of our concerns  has always been  animals  exploited for entertainment.  Animals in zoos/aquariums, and circuses.  It’ one thing to train a dog.  Dogs have been domestic for over  10,000 years.  Dogs love to learn,and  many love to work.  Some of the Asian elephants have been from  domestic  bloodlines, but  from what I’ve read, this is a rarity,and they are still being captured in the  Asian forests.

We know  African elephants are still being slaughtered  for ivory, and, as I write this, in 2015, China has put a moratorium on  ivory imports (but this has not  been true in the rest of southeast Asia), and Robert Mugabe,  the president of Zimbabwe—one of the last old time dictators who will NEVER get the Mo Ibrahim prize for leaving his country in better shape than he found it, has been selling  elephants to  highest bidders.

The news came  down this week that the largest  circus in the US, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, is phasing out the elephant act.  Could be they finally got religion, and the ban on their use prevented them from  setting up shop in some major markets?   Or because they are old, and many are ill? This came about  not because elected officials  have such a high consciousness about animal exploitation, but because activists made a compelling case for why this  should not be allowed.  In case I am not getting my point across:  these are large animals, they are smart, they are under a great deal of stress, and they can be dangerous…and it is no  feat of intelligence on the part of humans to brutalize them.  It is a display of cruelty and  exploitation—hardly entertaining.

I guess the Felds—the owners of the circus,  saw that this scenario  was really bad for the bottom line.  It costs a lot  to  care for elephants.  People are starting to think about what is involved in  keeping  endangered species for entertainment.  The elephants in the circus are old, and they should be retired.

Most likely, if we can make our voices heard, the elephants will be retired to the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee:

This is a true sanctuary.  People are not allowed to visit—but you can go to the website & see how  they elephants live.  In fact,  zoos with elephants should  bring their  elephants living in  solitary confinement (as most are in zoos) to the sanctuary, and run the films  to explain to zoo goers  that this is much more humane, caring,  and ethical  than  what we  did before we knew better.

So I have to put this out there:  if the thought hasn’t crossed your mind already:  how can you  say you love animals—your pet animals, and  not  at least be concerned about  ALL ANIMALS?

We are at the moment of truth.  We’ve known for decades —at least 5—about habitat loss and human encroachment.  But do we know that  women in less developed countries still don’t have access to  family planning and education? That  my own United States government still gives foreign aid (mostly in the  form of military  equipment and expertise) to many governments that  don’t provide  public education, don’t train teachers,and don’t allow  women to have control over their own reproductive choices?  We give money to MEN who  make the decisions…and you can see they’ve done a piss poor job of it.  Women would choose to have smaller families, and there would be less habitat loss…and more room for wildlife, and fewer ecological disasters.

I urge  anyone who hasn’t seen it, to get a copy of the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”   It’s an entertaining  look—based on a true story—of how a politician who didn’t have  an opinion either way—was influenced.  I also urge you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s marvelous book, “The Tipping Point.”

With social media—yes, Facebook—we can now get out message out so much faster.  I  became reacquainted with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in  30 years, and he asked me what I had been doing.  I told him  about grooming dogs, training, Peace Corps.  He said he wished he could  do something. I told him   the  one thing he could do right now  was to start recycling his trash. Start there.  Start learning the issues.  Know who your elected officials are. They are not entertainers (for the most part), but  public servants.  Tell them what matters to you. Sign the petitions.  Anyone asking you for money—any nonprofit group—really do some research and make sure they aren’t  countering your values…but  go out of your way to help those  that  live your values, like the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  If everyone gives or does just a little, it makes so much difference!

Fiction: 3 Deaths Affecting Families(Book &amp Movie Reviews)

March 6, 2015

I am sure it is a mere   coincidence that I came upon these 3 stories within  weeks of each other, but such is modern fiction.  Also, this is such a typical plot scenario.

All  three start with a death, and incorporate  flashbacks to  partially tell the story.  All are about resolving conflict.

The first I will  describe is a movie that didn’t spend  long in theatre release, but  worth renting:  “Black or White“, which Kevin Costner  produced and starred in.  It wasn’t well reviewed, and some described it as somewhat racist.  I’d  say  more condescending, as written, but it was co-produced  by one of the black actors, and the acting and story is generally  good, and the story told well to fit into the time frame of the movie.

Costner’s  (white)character is suddenly widowed. He and his wife were raising a grandchild .  Their daughter died in childbirth, and the father of the child was a drug dealing thug.  Costner’s character maintained his resentment  towards the thug and the thug’s family.  When  his wife  dies in an accident, the thug’s mother, a real matriarch who genuinely wants a relationship with her grandchild ( played by Octavia Spencer), asks for  joint custody, and this is the story of how they reach a compromise.     This  is  really  just  five main characters, but  richly developed.  Not Oscar material, but an interesting story. Anyone  involved  in divorce or a custody dispute should see it, and  it would be good to show to  kids who  live in  a racially isolated environment.

I had just finished Anne Patchett’s “The Magician’s Assistant.”  I  had enjoyed her book, “Bel Canto“, so was eager to read this.   Sabine, the Magician’s  assistant,  had been a waitress at a club that specialized in magic, and   this was how she met the magician.  She fell in love with him, but he was gay.  He dies at the very beginning of the book, and Sabine, the only child of holocaust survivors who met in Israel and emigrated to the USA, learns the man she spent 20 years with was  NOT an orphan, as he had  told her. .  Her curiosity about why he hid his family and  past from her makes this  a really interesting story.  Really movie material. Patchett makes this sort of an odd fairy tale come to life.

Jacquelyn Mitchard’s  ” A Theory of Relativity,” is, again, about  a death and family.  What’s  unique about the main characters is that their family was built through adoption, and custody of a  baby is challenged because some don’t consider adopted children  to be the  real  children of their adopted parents.   What complicates this is that  a set of grandparents  bases their  custody claim on the fact that their son (the father of the child being fought over) was not adopted, and that they should have more rights than th  mother’s parents.  This should probably be assigned reading (or on a readying list) for high school age  kids as it addresses  social relationships, and differences in religion, life outlooks, peoples’ opinions, and what love is.

I am not  very close to my blood family.  It could be psychological issues (ya think?) or  philosophical differences, but in my case, I’ve formed bonds with friends, and even these  are challenging.  It’s  good to read about how people cope with differences they have with people they care about.