Wednesday, August 25, 2010

  • Rustaq to Faisabad
  • Pic By Kirsty Anderson   Farmers cultivate the poppy plants in the Takhar provence North East Afghanistan.
  •  Farmers cultivate the poppy plants in the Takhar provence North East Afghanistan.
  •  Farmers cultivate the poppy plants in the Takhar provence North East Afghanistan.

David Pratt: The role of heroin in sustaining the Afghan "war"

I just got an e-mail from Scottish journalist David Pratt, asking me to please let people know about the insidious effects of heroin on Afghanistan -- and on Scotland. Of course I will. The two articles that Pratt wrote on this subject offer huge new insights into why the Bush-Obama "war" in Afghanistan is still going on after nine long bloody years of both physical pain and financial disaster for both Afghanistan and the United States (not to mention Scotland).

I first met Pratt when we were both embedded in the Green Zone in Iraq in 2007, and it was love at first sight -- I immediately fell in love with his writing style, his knowledge and his willingness to go WAY out on a limb in order to get an accurate story. He has spent the last 30 years as a war correspondent for Glasgow's Sunday Herald, and his book "Intifada: The Long Day of Rage" is the ultimate eye-witness report on "The Troubles" in Palestine.

Pratt is a fabulous reporter and if he says that poppy cultivation and heroin sales are not only financing the Taliban's weapon supply in Afghanistan right now but also has become its current favorite way of screwing up the U.S. occupation by destabilizing the government in Kabul, then I know that information is spot-on.

According to Pratt, one American drug-control adviser in Kabul stated categorically that, “Once the Taliban realized that narcotic control was a major goal of the international coalition and Afghan government, they OK’d it to the farmers to grow poppy because they know it destabilizes the government. That’s also the reason why we’re seeing even more opium and heroin production.”

These are the kind of insightful articles that make other journalists (including myself) drool with envy. I wish that I could have written that!

According to another Pratt source, Dr. Zemoray Amin of Doctors of the World, "cheapness and easy availability of drugs, joblessness, displacement and, above all, the effects of the war are the main reasons for heroin’s escalating impact in Afghanistan. But ...there is another, even more worrying root cause. It stems from the widespread corruption among those within the top tier of the Afghan establishment, and complicity by the international community in ignoring that crookedness in exchange for political allegiance and strategical leverage in the fight against the Taliban."

Gen. Petraeus might be better off spending his time fighting poppy growing rather than fighting small-time villagers who are caught between a rock and a hard place regarding the Taliban.

Here's the rest of Pratt's article, entitled "Trail of Destructionl":

Next, Pratt takes on the other end of the poppy chain -- heroin in Scotland. Entitled "Made in Kabul -- shot up in Glasgow," This report is also grim. Drug addicts are now dying in Scotland in large numbers, thanks to Scottish soldiers who die in Afghanistan so that the drug trade there can continue to grow and prosper.

Here's a quote:
"Jawad was left for dead in a ditch. Stephen was found overdosed in a doorway. Though more than 3000 miles separate Kabul’s Karte Seh district and Glasgow’s Gorbals, the lives of these two men are inextricably linked by one thing: heroin. In the space of little over a month on opposite sides of the world, I listened to both tell of a hellish journey each had taken while trapped in the grip of a powerful and terrifying addiction.

"Jawad is no stranger to pain – in Kabul’s drug institutions, the methods used to detox heroin addicts come from the Middle Ages. Head shaved and stripped naked, on numerous occasions he has been locked in a cell and hosed down with freezing water. But it was the night when some policemen started beating Jawad that the agony became so great he found himself begging them to stop.

Read the rest of this article at

If I don't have the talent, insights, opportunity and/or knowledge to write important articles like these two, at least I'm glad to know that someone like Pratt is out there writing them for us -- and it my pleasure to pass them on even though it makes me sad to know that the information they contain is verifiablely true.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Corporatist America: The revolution has already been televised...

"It's the government that's to blame for everything!" right-wingers cry. "We need to have less government!" But exactly which government are these people talking about? Is it the government that Americans used to have back when George Washington was president? Or has a new form of government stealthily replaced that old-school government we used to know and love -- sort of like a take-over by body-snatchers, happening while our backs were turned and we were happily off watching TV.

Let's face it, guys. The U.S. government IS to blame for everything nowadays. But it is not the same government that we used to have -- as recently as 60 years ago. It's our former government's evil twin that is screwing everything up!

Just exactly which government is getting blamed by the right-wingers these days? Are they blaming a government that is run according to the Constitution, was elected by people who knew that their votes were being counted honestly and which is designed to work for the benefit of us American voters? Yep, that's the very one that the wingers are blaming -- even though that fantasy government has been moribund for decades.

And are the wingers blaming this new doppelganger government too -- the one that was bought and paid for by lobbyists, that is owned lock, stock and barrel by corporatists and corporations, and that is turning Americans into just another source of cheap labor for the new oligarchs? Nope. THAT government is escaping Scot-free from the right wing's wrath. That government is not being blamed for anything.

America's current "government" right now appears to resemble one of the multiple personalities from that old movie, "The Three Faces of Eve" -- in the scene where Eve Black jokes about how she used to do bad things when she was a kid and then escape her body and let poor sweet Eve White take their irate mother's punishments.

What wingers think of as government these days -- and most other Americans do the same thing too -- isn't really America's real government at all. Our real government is more like a monster growing out of some poor schmuck's stomach in "Alien".

Wingers seem to be all about blaming "Government" for all of our woes -- and yet they sing the praises and kiss the [bottoms] of large global corporations. But guess what guys. Global corporations and America's government are now almost exactly the same thing.

Right now, there is almost nothing on this planet more "privatized" than the American government. All the fruits of our labor, and perhaps even our very souls, are government property now -- a government taken over by oligarchs. And the government of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Boston Tea Party -- the one that right wingers seem to hate so much -- no longer exists.

And this oligarchs' revolution has already been televised.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Conflicts of interest: Secret Qi Gong self-massage techniques, babysitting & blogging

By the time I get done trying to entertain my two-year-old granddaughter all day, I don't have much energy left for blogging. Sure, I write a lot of stuff down -- but when I read back what I just wrote, it all seems like dookie. But even if I could somehow manage to write meaningful prose of Shakespearean quality, so what? Most Americans are too busy getting fleeced by the Republican noise machine to even have time to read any of my humble stuff anyway.

Screw it. At least two-year-olds give you an occasional smile.

However, today I really would like to write about some secret Qi Gong massage techniques that I learned 32 years ago, from a wandering Tibetan Buddhist monk. "I learned these in a secret cave in China," he told me back then, "and if I teach them to you, you can't tell ANYONE about them. Not anyone. Okay?" Sure.

But 32 years later, with the world going to hell in a hand-basket and 1% of the rich owning 83% of the stock market and almost all of our taxpayer money being vacuumed off to kill orphans in Afghanistan, why bother even trying to keep secrets any more? So here's the story on secret Qi Gong self-massage techniques from hidden caves in China: Please watch it now, while we still have Net neutrality and you still have access to the internet.

Oops. Gotta go. Sesame Street is on and Mena and I gotta go watch it.

PS: Here's a video segment of Senator Al Franken's speech on Net neutrality, FYI:

I also took notes on this speech at the Netroots Nation convention in July, so here are my fairly-raw notes on that speech -- wherein Sen. Franken actually encourages us blogger types to hang in there. "We march forward because the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard. And that has to be us. We can't give up. And we have to take pride when we make progress. This country is a better place because of us."

Hey, tell that to Mena next time she gets all chatty at 2 am!

Sen. Franken in Vegas: Lies, lies & access to truth

Five years ago, GWB and the right wing echo chamber and the wealthy had built what seemed like an unstoppable machine. But all over the country, progressives were incubating a movement to raise money and back progressive candidates. And they became senators. Five years ago was a pretty exciting time after all. In 2006, we felt a little giddy, like we had pulled off the upset of the century.

In 2008, the energy of the netroots and people-powered activism developed a grassroots movement that was inspiring. More than 200,000 people made an online contribution to my campaign. Thanks. My campaign was based on the help of the conversation online. When the MSM was announcing that my candidacy was dead, it was the citizen bloggers that were showing the world that Minnesota was not Florida.

Now everyone believes that the internet is important. But it is not the whole story. It is only a tool. It depends on what you have to say, not how big a megaphone you have. Our story can and has changed the country.

Paul Wellstone says the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard. And now we can't afford to stand around and admire what we have done. Conservatives are now motivated too, and they want to prove that our wins are just a fluke of history. They are just as motivated to stop our movement. You can tell they are motivated because they have boatloads of money. One oilman gave Karl Rove one million dollars for attack ads. Citizens United allows them to spend unlimited funds.

Congress would be a very different place without Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi. VERY different.

We need to prove that 2008 was not a fluke. We have to support great candidates like Joe Sustak and Tarryl Clark [she's running against Michelle Bachmann -- donate here:]

I know that some of you who have elected Democrats haven't gotten your money's worth. Immigration reform, the public option. But don't think for a second that you are not being heard. I go to a lunch every Tuesday with all the Senate Democrats and, believe me, they hear you.

We didn't get everything we wanted but we did get a lot. These bills were better because you made us make them better. We have a lot of democratic votes but we need more progressive votes. We need to send us more senators like Bernie Sanders. You can't back out now!

I can't tell you to be patient because that would be hypocritical. Because I'm not patient. But the Republicans want to take back even what we did get. We have seen what Republicans do when they take control of congress and it ain't pretty. Plus they are talking like the deficit took place on the day Obama was inaugurated.

They want to cut things that are not government handouts. They want to go back to the dark days of the Bush administration. And this time it may not be so easy for us to regroup. And the corporations have even darker plans -- an America where no individual's rights are so important as to take precedence over America's corporations.

There are great corporations that aren't inherently evil, but they are powerful and can be evil if they want ot -- or feel that they have to. And our rights are disappearing one right at a time. Your right to a jury trial, to clean water, to privacy. Used to be only the government could threaten you rights -- but now corporations can threaten them too. And Net neutrality threats are the biggest danger to your rights.

They want to sell premium access to internet access. When the same company owns both the pipes and the programs we may be in trouble. And as the only senator who has been in show business, I know how communications networks work. Mergers and consolidations mean that they can both control the programs and the means of delivering them.

If Citizens United is allowed to stand, how long do you think it will take before four or five mega-corporations control all access to media? How long do you think it will take before the Fox News network loads five times faster than the Daily Kos.

It's not just about politics. The internet is an incredible source of innovation. Its value comes from it being open to everyone. YouTube and Twitter started small. How many people are Tweeting right now. The internet has changed our lives. Imagine how an independent producer couldn't get a show on a network-controlled television. The internet will become like that -- major corporation controlled.

I can't imagine what life in America will be like if this kind of innovation can't take place. The government can pass rules to protect Net neutrality. And congress is hearing more than enough from the corporations on the other side of this issue and not enough from you. You have to help us fight this.

We are at the worst moment in our history. More unemployment than ever. Climate change. We have to resist and rise to this challenge. If we don't, no one else will. Even if you only started blogging because you can't stand President [sic] Bush or wanted single-payer healthcare, you still have to keep at it. We have to fight these battles because we are right and our country is worth it.

We march forward because the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard. And that has to be us. We can't give up. And we have to take pride when we make progress. This country is a better place because of us.

In the Obama administration, we have seen progress. These are things that are worth celebrating. And I am confident that we will have even more to celebrate at next year's Netroots Nation convention.

The Netroots Nation gang has given me the honor of announcing the official location of next years Netroots Nation convention. It's not as glitzy but it's a great place for fishing. And if it gets a little to crowded at Marcos's party you can always come over and hang out at my house. The next Netroots Nation convention will be in Minneapolis!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

EVERYONE dies eventually: My thoughts on death (and suicide)

Someone I know just died in her sleep. This person and I had been at loggerheads with each other on a number of political issues for the last 30 years but I still wanted to say something nice about her -- and so I came up with this: "She pissed me off so much that she forced me to come up with much more interesting and creative ways to overcome our disagreements -- which has made me a better person for having known her."

She also got me started on the road to being a political blogger -- because I figured that if I could survive 30 years of local political in-fighting, then taking on Cheney and Bush would be a stone cinch!

This person's sudden passing away also got me to thinking about how none of us are immortal. None of us. Her death came as a complete surprise to me, even a shock. If this person could die, then death could come sneaking up behind any of one of us, at any moment -- and it will happen to all of us eventually. EVERYONE dies. No one is immune. No one. Not even you. Not even me.

So. As long as we have been granted the magical gift of life, it seems clear to me that we should then be duty-bound to do the absolute best that we can with what we've been given. Fighting, killing, war, greed, lying? That's just a stupid waste of our time. Instead of just taking the low road, let's spend every possible living moment striving to be the best that we can -- 24/7. Think of Gandhi. Think of Jesus.

And for those of us who might sometimes envy the newly-dead, who get discouraged and occasionally wish that we too had finally Gone Home and were in some nice coffin and being sung to by a nice choir -- so that we would no longer have to trudge through our days under a cloud and feel so much pain, then here's a short lecture for you (and for me too). "We are alive now. Let's take freaking advantage of it."

And for those of us who are committing suicide the hard way -- by letting the earth get polluted and/or eating ourselves into a coma, allowing baby-killing nuclear waste to be created endlessly across the planet, allowing greedy corporatists to tear down the forests and kill the oceans that clean and filter our air, allowing bankers to steal our homes, letting Wall Street robber barons steal our jobs, drinking ourselves to death and/or spending our time in hundreds of other ways that we KNOW are unhealthy -- that's all just a stupid waste of time too.

Life is precious. Let's stop wasting it. It's like the bumper-sticker says. "Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds." Let's shape up, guys. No more killing. No more hatred. No more pollution. No more greed. Sheesh.

You would think that at some point in time our self-preservation instincts might finally start to kick in -- but apparently they haven't so far. Clearly we've let our world fall apart -- when everyone with half a brain knows that we can do better. Much, much, much better.

So I'm grateful to the person who died recently, if for no other reason than because she gave me a huge wake-up call regarding the urgency of death -- and the urgency of life as well.

"Jane, you are starting to sound like one of those wild-eyed crack-pot street-corner preachers who go around shouting, 'Repent! The end is nigh!'" Yeah, well?

PS: One of my friends was just telling me about Star Children. "They are the new babies that are being born today and they have a raised consciousness and empathy and intuition and idealism. And they are arriving right now -- now when we really need them."

"Hey, I was a Star Child once too!" I replied. Once. Long ago. Before my idealism got all stomped on. It was really hard to be a Star Child back then -- when everyone around you was either fighting Adolph Hitler, working on their atom bomb chops, enforcing segregation, cheering on Joe McCarthy or trying to be June Cleaver and the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

"But it's not too late," answered my friend. "It's never too late to become a Star Child."

PPS: When the human race starts to die out from war and pollution in the next 20 years, the resulting scenario will probably run something like this: All those Americans who have consistently voted for unnecessary wars, against maintaining important government services and in favor of Wall Street bailouts at the expense of the rest of us will just smile in that infuriating Mona Lisa way that they have and say, "We have nothing to worry about! We are under the protection of God and Fox News!"

And God of course will be siding with us few remaining idealistic liberal-blogger patriotic clean-environment war-resister types (still hanging on here by our toenails) who, following in the tradition of Jesus, have tried to protect the downtrodden, to seek peace and clean up the freaking air.

And all those Fox News guys like Rupert Murdoch and Glen Beck will just continue to smirk down at you from on high while you struggle to eat out of dumpsters, choke on pollution and scratch at your nuclear-waste-induced scabs. "We only needed you for cheap labor, suckers," they'll say -- as they slam the doors of their air-purified bunkers in your faces. "And now that we have achieved our dream -- more cheap labor than we will ever possibly need -- there's no longer any need for you. Sorry about that." Not!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saving Afghan women: Just give them all M-16s!

Did anyone see that horrible photo on the cover of Time magazine this week? The one of the young Afghan girl with her nose cut off by the Taliban? I saw it yesterday while standing in the check-out line at the Berkeley Bowl, and it gave me horrible nightmares last night. How could anyone do such a horrible thing to a young girl? What kind of monster could do such a thing?

Well, the message on the cover of Time magazine was perfectly clear -- Islamic monsters could do that. And, therefore, "we" are justified in killing Muslims by the millions, right?


That kind of insane brutality in Afghanistan was not produced by Islam. It was produced by the mental instability and psychosis that has resulted from hundreds of years of colonial warfare against Afghans -- just as the torture and bombing and killing of untold numbers of Afghan women by Americans is a result of America's insane "war" priorities, not Christianity.

But I digress.

If Americans were truly worried about the status of women in Afghanistan, "we" wouldn't have made that country our plaything and pawn in the CIA's recent stupid and wasteful Great Game with the USSR. "We" wouldn't have armed and created the Taliban. "We" would have supported RAWA, an Afghan women's organization that promotes reading and self-respect, instead of wasting billions on arming and empowering brutal and corrupt Afghan drug lords and warlords. "We" would have provided schools and hospitals instead of bombs and more bombs after "our" brutal and unnecessary 2001 occupation of that country. And we would never have let our war-lobby-toady lawmakers pour billions of tax dollars into the coffers of weapons manufacturers, those slimy merchants of death, so that they could make insane profit margins on manufacturing the deaths of innocent Afghan women and children who had NOTHING to do with 9-11.

But. If weapons manufacturers are truly dead-set on making their greedy and outlandish profits on the spilled blood of innocents, then how about having THEM go to Afghanistan and personally cut off the noses of Afghan women instead of just doing it from a distance with their drones? Come on guys, quit just sitting around your posh mansions in Loudoun County and
actually earn your money. Get some actual blood on your hands.

Or how about this idea? Let's make the weapons manufacturers happy yet once again by developing a whole new weapons market for them. How about giving every woman in Afghanistan over the age of eight years old an M-16 of her very own? And the training and the bullets to use it too?

I'd like to see who would be willing to cut off any women's noses when said women were holding one of those babies in their hands.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loser: My ignominious defeat in small claims court

There are many stories to tell in this naked city and I am determined to tell them all. Here's one of those stories -- about my recent resounding defeat in small claims court.

"If you can't even win a case in small claims court, then you must really be a loser," a small (but very mean) voice inside my brain keeps repeating. Hey, that's me -- the one with the big "L" on my forehead.

Here's the story. I loaned someone some money. She promised to pay me back but then later claimed that she had never made such a promise. I took her to small claims court. She married a fancy-pants lawyer. Her new fancy-pants lawyer/husband took over the case. "Can he DO that?" I asked. Apparently he can.

Apparently there's a law that says that a husband can substitute in for a wife -- with the judge's permission. But later, when I was reading the minutes of my trial, it didn't say anything about the judge having approved the substitution of the fancy-pants attorney/husband in place of the missing defendant. It didn't even mention the fancy-pants husband at all.

By law, the judge has to approve this substitution -- and, according to the trial's minutes, she didn't. But where the freak can I go to appeal this, er, oversight? Nowhere. From what I have been told, plaintiffs have no right to appeal a small claims court decision. Ever. Sorry, no Supreme Court rulings for us.

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, the dude in the fancy suit wiped the floor with me -- by offering his infamous "Judge Judy" defense. Apparently, according to the fancy-pants lawyer-husband, the main purpose of me filing this claim was to allow me to get on the Judge Judy show! How can one even begin to fight a charge as bizarre as that one?

But, sadly, our small claims court judge bought the missing defendant's husband's whole package -- fancy suit, big words, irrelevant exhibits and all. "Claim of plaintiff denied." And now I'm a loser.

I did, however, learn one very important thing from this trial -- which I would like to pass on to all the rest of you big-time fancy-pants lawyers out there. Whenever you are arguing a case and you really really want to win it, just offer up the "Judge Judy" defense. Apparently it works like a charm.

For instance, if that recent California anti-Proposition 8 decision, the one that now makes gay marriages in California legal, ever gets appealed before the Supreme Court, all that the attorneys speaking against the repeal verdict have to do is to say, "But Your Honors, you can clearly see here that these Californians are only trying to repeal Prop. 8 so that they can get on Judge Judy!"

Then you'll win your case for sure.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Holding onto eroding Houma bayous: Harder than holding greased pigs?

In March of 2006, my son Joe participated in the American Indian Movement's Sacred Run, traveling from San Francisco to Washington DC on foot -- and I joined him for the New Orleans leg of the journey. He ran. I drove.

Joe ran through the Ninth Ward and he ran through the bayous. I drove behind him through both, getting a windshield tour of Katrina's incredible destruction. Following along behind Joe in my car, I saw the Katrina damage up close. "You think the outsides of the houses look bad?" someone in the Ninth Ward told me. "You should see the insides."

For several nights, the runners and the rest of us camped out in the back yard of the chief of the United Houma Nation, an organization formed by a Native American tribe that has lived in Louisiana's southern bayous for possibly a thousand years. Houmas were definitely living in these bayous back in 1682, when French explorer Rene-Robert de La Salle passed through. Plus I got a "United Houma Nation" T-shirt from the chief herself and now I wear it every single time that I fly in an airplane. Call me superstitious, but it has definitely brought me good luck -- I've never crashed yet. Just as long as I keep wearing my United Houma Nation T-shirt, I'll be safe!

Anyway, after we ran/drove through the Ninth Ward, we then ran/drove through various bayous south of New Orleans and we ended up at the very tip of the bayous, in a small town on Isle de Jean Charles. This town's major occupation in 2006 seemed to be trying to think up ways to prevent the Gulf of Mexico from drowning the town. The main road past the fire station was at sea level already. I couldn't imagine what it must have been like here during Katrina. All the houses were already built on stilts, ten feet off the ground. What could they do next? Build their homes 20 feet off the ground and swim to the store when they needed supplies? Things didn't look hopeful for Isle de Jean Charles. Not at all.

"People don't realize," said one of the tribal elders I talked with there, "that we are losing more and more of these outer islands every single year. When I was a child we used to go fishing and crabbing over there, where there used to land. If I had a nickel for every crab we caught, I'd be rich! We ate better than any rich man. Fresh crab for dinner every day. We were poor but we lived well. A lot of that land is now under water. I miss those days."

As of March 2006, this town at the end of the bayou was just barely holding on. "During a hurricane, this road is under four or five feet of water. If you don't get out before it starts to blow, you just don't get out. And being in one of these homes on stilts during a hurricane is like being in a washing machine during the spin cycle. Levees are being built to protect the nicer homes further inland, but nothing is being done to protect these outer areas -- where we were born and raised."

"Are the people living out here mainly Houmas?" I asked.


Then we passed by a straw man hanging from a tree. Someone had put it up in the aftermath of Katrina. The sign around its neck read, "Help me!"

I asked the tribal elder about how he saw the future unfolding for Isle de Jean Charles. "We have several seers in our tribe," he replied.

"And what do they say?"

"They just tell us to pray."

The Houmas of Isle de Jean Charles were just barely holding on to their homes four years ago. I wonder how hard it is for them to hold onto their homes today, after the huge BP oil spill disaster. I bet that it's like holding onto a greased pig.

And the eroding lives of the Houmas in the bayous of Louisiana could also be an analogy for the eroding lives of all Americans today -- as inch by inch, town by town, the corporatists and militarists who own my country take over more and more of our land, our wealth and our rights. Soon we too will be lamenting the loss of our native lands and our traditional lifestyles.

But the Houmas are doing things and organizing and campaigning to try to save what is left of their beloved bayous. And what are most Americans doing? They are happily gulping down anti-depressants, watching Fox News and blaming all our troubles on welfare recipients and immigrants -- NOT on the corporatists and militarists who are the ones who are actually eroding our lands -- and greasing our pigs.

PS: Speaking of oil, Betty Soskin just sent me a video ( on how to solve California's budget crisis -- by getting oil companies who drill here actually start to pay their fair share of taxes, like they do in Texas and Alaska.

Let's make this video go viral!

Friday, August 06, 2010

"Dear Madam Jane: My daughter has grown up to be trailer trash...

Well it looks like Madam Jane has now gotten into the advice-to-the-lovelorn business. She just showed me these new letters from her fans:

Dear Madam Jane:

My daughter has grown up to be trailer trash. What can I do? As she drove by me today in her car, she stuck her head out the window, gave me the finger and screeched "F*ck you!" like a barbarian. She also seems to lie at the drop of a hat. What can I do? Where did I go wrong?

Signed, Perturbed


Dear Perturbed:

First of all, it sounds like you are falsely maligning trailer trash here.

Second, you need to be aware that having children is the luck of the draw. You do the best you can to raise them and sometimes they just turn out bad, no matter what you do. Just forget about her and move on. The best revenge? Live a good life, do the best you can to make this world a better place, go to Heaven when you die, have a great funeral and don't invite HER.

Signed, Madam Jane


Dear Madam Jane:

I am the president of a relatively large super-power and am being bossed around at work by corporate lobbyists and special-interest groups. In addition, my country looks like it might be going bankrupt in the near future. Either way, I am starting to worry that I might be losing my job. What should I do?

Signed, First Fired


Dear First Fired:

Perhaps it is time to either stand up for your principles or else start looking around for a new job. I hear that Haiti is looking for a new president -- but I think they are looking for someone who can rap. Also, be aware that as your country goes deeper and deeper into recession, it can no longer afford any more wars -- no matter what the bosses tell you. Start trying to persuade people to downsize. Or else your country will be screwed.

Signed, Madam Jane


If you want Madam Jane to give you good advice too, just treat her to a trip to Hawaii (or perhaps a jelly doughnut) and she will tell all!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel & Iraq: America's favorite money pits

Yesterday my two-year-old granddaughter Mena and I were completely at logger-heads. She'd already stubbornly refused to make nice at the library, a restaurant and an olive-tasting party -- and now she was refusing to take a bath. Ah, two-year-olds. I'm too old for this!

"But Jane," someone advised me, "she's obviously rebelling against you because she is bored. She's tired of doing little-kid things and now she wants to do big-kid things." I'll just bet that she does. And what kind of big-kid things does she have in mind? Declare wars, get drunk, pollute the air and/or lobby to corrupt our politicians?

"What that kid needs is to go to a pre-school." Hey, you might be right. So I trudged off to look at pre-schools for Mena.

There's a neighborhood pre-school right down the block from me, the Martin Luther King Child Development Center,
that is run by our school district and serves as an inexpensive daycare provider for working parents who might otherwise not be able to afford safe and decent daycare. My son Joe went there 30 years ago -- and the place is still going strong. So I went over to see if I could enroll Mena there too. No luck. "There's a really good chance that we will be permanently closing our doors forever on August 31," said one of the school's teachers. "The State is cutting our funding." What?

Let me get this straight. California is going to cut its funding for daycare for working parents and then said working parents are going to get fired because they can't show up for work without daycare -- and then all these working parents will be forced to go on unemployment? And this saves the state money how? That's totally stupid.

"But government shouldn't be paying for people's daycare," you might say. Well why not? We already pay for billionaires' tax breaks -- even though statistics prove that for every corporatist billionaire created by outsourcing or subsidized weapons manufacturing or Wall Street bailouts or tax breaks for the uber-rich, approximately 100,000 working-class Americans sink below our country's poverty line. If we are going to flat-out subsidize billionaires, why can't we also subsidize daycare for people who actually do pay taxes?

And speaking of layoffs and things that our government should or should not be spending money on, apparently it's not okay for our government to spend money on police and fire protection either. Oakland just laid off 80 cops and San Jose just laid off 53 firefighters. But if spending money on that stuff is also a no-no, then what exactly SHOULD our government spend money on? Apparently nothing -- except for corporate welfare and wars.

I remember back in the day when the United States used to have all kinds of surplus money -- more than enough to fund education, infrastructure improvement, libraries, firefighters, cops and even daycare. But what happened to all that surplus money? Where did it all disappear to? Hmmm. As far as I can tell, an awful lot of it has been vacuumed off into America's all-time four favorite money pits -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Iraq.

Little did we know when the Twin Towers were destroyed back in 2001 that what we were watching on the television screen was not just two buildings being destroyed but also the United States economy's destruction. It took mere hours for the World Trade Center to fall. And it took almost a decade for our economy to fall after it. But the causes were the same -- and the results were the same. We were sold a bill of goods and conned into spending our money on guns instead of butter. And now there are guns everywhere but there's no butter -- and no pre-schools either.

Sorry, Mena. You are just going to have to be bored. And if we don't stop shoveling trillions of dollars into America's favorite money pits in the Middle East, by the time you're an adult, one of the big-kid things you're gonna be doing is standing in an unemployment line.