Saturday, April 29, 2006

Home invasion: Why haven't cops taken the White House back yet?

About ten years ago, there was a punk who lived in our neighborhood and he and his gang of sleazy criminal wannabes were specialists in "home invasions". They would enter a house in the middle of the night with their guns drawn and take over the place. This worked out pretty well for the punk for a while and he was soon seen driving up and down Stuart Street in a new Mercedes and wearing designer clothes.

One night, however, something went wrong -- the owner of the house the gang had just invaded fought back. The punk was shot in the leg, got arrested and was thrown into jail. (Here's the funny part -- when the punk got out of jail, he filed for disability pay because he was injured on the job!)

I look at George W. Bush's illegal seizure of the White House in the same light as what my punk neighbor did for a living. It was a home invasion.

If what had happened to the White House -- OUR White House -- had happened to any other house in America, cops woulda surrounded it immediately, the street would have been sealed off and SWAT teams with bullhorns would have demanded that the criminals surrender or else get their heads blown off. And if the criminals didn't come out with their hands up as ordered, the house would have been raided -- see, I watch COPS -- and the miscreants dragged off to jail.

How come 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the only house in America where a home invasion is allowed, permitted and even encouraged? Does that mean that a home invasion to my house are gonna be allowed to happen too?

PS: Speaking of home invasions, I just read where Mexico's Cantarell oil field is the second-largest oil field IN THE WORLD. Wow! So why is that country so poor? And, if Mexico has all that oil, why are poverty-stricken illegal immigrants invading our home? Maybe they are just following the trail of booty stolen from their own looted homes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

American Inventor: Inventing yet another way to save our country from GWB

A friend just sent me an interesting article about how Congress has sold out the American taxpayer. AGAIN. "The House Energy and Commerce Committee just voted against a proposal to protect internet users from being exploited by companies like AT&T. Network neutrality is now on the chopping block and the internet is now up for grabs."

Congress is about to hand OUR internet over to its usual chorus line of corporate welfare queens? The word "Judas" comes to mind.

We gotta get rid of GWB and his vampire friends. They are sucking us Americans dry. Because of Bush's antics in Washington, we are now facing economic disaster, the end of our democracy and nuclear winter. Not good.

So. Last week I was watching "American Inventor" on TV and thinking that instead of inventing such small-time items as portable gym equipment or cute little flower arrangements, someone needs to invent A WAY TO GET RID OF GEORGE BUSH. And all his corporate welfare leeches too. Before it's too late.

In the grand tradition of Yankee ingenuity, we need to invent a whole bunch of new ways to legally and non-violently get rid of those jerks in the White House before they bankrupt America and blow up the world -- or, better yet, let's invent ways to bypass Bush and his evil corporate-welfare cronies altogether and JUST SAVE OURSELVES!

If you are unhappy about losing your job, having your kids go to inferior schools and getting your foot shot off in Iraq for no reason, we GOTTA think of a way to change the course of our future. We gotta start thinking outside the box.

Then I read Mike Whitney's eye-opening article on American finances. "America is now facing a slow-motion meltdown that could escalate into a widespread run on the dollar," Whitney said. "Attacking Iran will only aggravate the situation and push tenuous states towards new alliances." A whole bunch of other nations are gonna form alliances against US? That's bad. I don't want Europe, Russia, China, Latin America, Africa and Japan allied against ME just because of George Bush. "Expect the greenback to follow a long-downward spiral."

Then it hit me. We need to invent a way to save ourselves that involves money -- because money is at the heart of what is happening in the world today. Follow me closely here. It's complex and I'm not even sure that I myself understand this. A dollar bill itself is worthless. It is merely a symbol of other wealth. And since Bush has hijacked the dollar, it no longer represents -- to you and me -- a symbol of OUR wealth. It only represents the symbol of the Bush bureaucracy's wealth. THE DOLLAR NO LONGER REPRESENTS AMERICA.

The Bush bureaucracy has stolen our dollars and turned them into some neo-con Monopoly money that has nothing to do with us. We just use dollars and spend dollars and save dollars out of habit. But the dollar per se no longer belongs to us. The dollar per se no longer exists!

So. Let's just forget about the dollar. It is meaningless, not worth the paper it is printed on. It has simply become George Bush's plaything. And, since the "dollar' no longer represents the hopes, dreams and ideals of America, let's switch to something else. So. What else can we switch to? I know! What if we started using euros?

We have handed our American dollars over to a man who has as much right to them as Tony Soprano or Al Capone. And -- considering the Bush bureaucracy's fabulous capability to hide, steal and down-grade American dollars -- sooner than we want to think about they are going to be worthless to us completely. So. Let's get a jump on the future and start fresh with euros!

"But, Jane, how would you go about doing that?"

It's easy. Just go to your local financial planning specialist or bank and say, "I want to buy some euros, please." And boom shake the room, it's done. And don't get certificates that SAY you own euros. Get the actual euros themselves. And use them to buy and sell. We could even develop an underground trading network based on euros.

If we can't get Bush out of our White House, at least we can get him out of our pocketbooks!

Why should we continue to pretend that American dollars are a big deal when we all know that the Bush family house of horrors has hijacked OUR currency and turned it into the U.S. dollar's evil clone? We need to stop thinking about misplaced patriotism, save OURSELVES and get out while we can! And asking the Bush gang to solve this problem for us is absurd. That's like asking someone who just committed identity theft on you to handle your money because they can already access your accounts.

As Mike Whitney says, "The problems facing the dollar are purely systemic. The privately owned central banks in the Federal Reserve cannot be trusted to decide monetary policy any more than the oil giants can be trusted to decide foreign policy. When the public interest is excluded from policy-making, catastrophe is inevitable." We the public HAVE been excluded by Bush. So let's exclude him.

Great idea. Yep. I just invented it all by myself.

What Americans need to understand is this: In a country where Bush bureaucrats are making war on "We, the People" daily, we owe no allegiance to them. We pledged allegiance to our citizens and our country, not to a team of carpetbaggers. And we must do whatever we possibly can to protect our country from disintegration -- even if it means choosing Europe as our ally instead of Cheney and Bush.

However, don't limit yourself to just buying euros. Befriend the rest of the world too.

According to Chris Gaffney at, Canadian and Asian currency is also rising in value in comparison with the dollar. You could also buy Japanese yen, Singapore dollars or Thai bahts. Or while you're in Montreal buying your prescription drugs, just stock up on Canadian dollars too.

PS: "Why euros and not gold?" asked my friend Paul. That's a no-brainer: Because hordes of speculators have already driven the price of gold through the roof. "Goldbugs" figured out early on that Bush is systematically looting the U.S. economy and they acted accordingly. Thus, unless you already own Scrooge McDuck's money bin, the gold market pretty much out of your league. But we GOTTA do something to protect our families. Euros will just have to do.

PPS: And even though the U.S. dollar has fallen approximately 30% in relation to other currencies recently, the Federal Reserve seems to be churning out even MORE dollars. Dollars are flooding the market. In the last month alone, according to Richard Daughty, 125 billion dollars have magically appeared "as savings and 'other deposits'" in American banks. How can the Federal Reserve do that? Have they invented a new way to turn lead into gold? Or have they merely invented a new way to launder all those billions of dollars in drug money that are pouring in from Afghanistan?

You gotta admit, that's inventive.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dracula had family values too: The Republican 2006 campaign against Senator Byrd

I can't believe it! In the 2006 West Virginia Congressional election, John Raese, who is running against Senator Robert Byrd, has the absolute audacity to be running on a platform of Republican "Family Values". Don't even get me started on this one!

"We can't ignore the facts," states Mr. Raese. "Robert Byrd has slid slowly but steadily into the grip of the radical left-wing of his party. He no longer embraces West Virginian values -- hard work and strong families."

After all the lies, corruption, war-profiteering, tax gouging, job-stealing, hypocrisy, skulduggery, slander, malfiescence, law-violating, hanky-panky, torture and blood-sucking that characterizes the Bush bureaucracy, isn't a White House supporter such as Raese declaring to posses "Family Values" a bit like Count Dracula claiming to have America's best interests at heart because he and the Red Cross have so much in common -- they both collect blood.

Then Raese has the NERVE to ask his supporters to come up with a 9.85-million-dollar war chest in order to beat the evil Senator Byrd and "the nation's most notorious far-left group,"

9.85 million dollars? It will take 9.85 million dollars to beat Senator Byrd? That's approximately $87 for every voter in West Virginia. What does he plan to do? Buy them all fangs, a cape and a video-clip tour of Transylvania so they can become vampires too?

PS: Isn't West Virginia the home state of Lynndie England, the soldier who apparently received her Abu Ghraib "family values" torture kit straight from the White House itself? And isn't West Virginia the site of the Sago mine disaster that resulted when the Bush bureaucracy refused to shut down an unsafe mine?

Monday, April 24, 2006

How to break into prime-time news: An effective media tactic from -- surprise -- Falun Gong

After sending a long and busy day touring Washington DC with some friends the other day, I took the Greyhound bus to Fredricksburg, Virginia and joined up with the American Indian Movement's Sacred Run, which has spent the last three months crossing America on foot. My son Joe, who has been on the Run since last February, hasn't bathed in four days but is otherwise doing really well.

Fredricksburg is the site of a 1862 Civil War battle wherein the Confederates held off the Union Army long enough to re-group. The battle involved lots of house-to-house fighting and a whole bunch of death. Yuck!

Despite its grisly past, however, Fredricksburg itself is really CUTE and there's a historical marker on almost every building downtown. After the Runners finished setting up their tents down by the Rappahannock River and had a chance to look around, one of them said, "Jane! Guess what? There's free internet access at the local library!" Free internet access? Wow! I am now typing this at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation computer center. Apparently there is one in every library in Virginia. Bill Gates is the new Andrew Carnegie. Go him.

Meanwhile, back at the Rappahannock, we got our new schedule. In just two more days, the Run will be over. We will street-hike into DC, rally at the Lincoln Memorial and that will be that. On to a new subject: When I toured Washington DC with my friends, we saw at least 5,000 Falun Gong people standing in bunches on EVERY corner and holding up signs accusing China of harvesting organs off Falun Gong members before putting them to death -- and apparently transplanting the organs into well-heeled Americans.

The Falun Gong people were holding up LOTS of horrible photos. It was a total blitz of the nation's capital. There were grisly pictures on every corner. And it was VERY EFFECTIVE. The pro-Peace/anti-Bush people might consider doing something like that too -- with LOTS of photos of America's homeless, America's crippled soldiers, America's dying sick people, America's out-of-work refugees from Corporate Welfare, America's Iraqi and Afghani torture victims, America's financing of the killing of children in Palestine, America's election fraud statistics, America's leaders in their mansions and limousines bought with taxpayers' money, etc.

These photos would really make an impact on the DC tourists. For sure.

And maybe those of us who still believe in patriotism and democracy might also do this once a month in every large city in America. A single occasional protest march is easy for the media to ignore -- but not this. Not if all these photos are out there on hundreds of street corners in every large city in America once a month where millions of Americans will see them -- and finally be forced to come face to face with the cold hard facts that they are carefully being kept from seeing on TV. And maybe Americans will finally be able to "get the picture" that Bush is destroying our country -- and ripping us off.
Antiques Roadshow: My adventures with receiving Social Security before age 65

Well, I thought I'd go on Social Security early and avoid the rush. Big mistake.

"If you go on Social Security BEFORE you turn age 65," a friend advised me, "you will receive less money per month but you would have to live to age 78 before you would start getting less TOTAL money than you would have gotten if you had gone on Social Security at the full retirement age." Let me get this straight. If I retired at, say, age 62, I would be gambling that I would win the lottery or something by age 78, would actually be receiving more money up to that point and could use all that extra cash now instead of 16 years from now?

"Something like that," said my friend. "Plus if you applied for Social Security now, you would be getting your current paycheck plus some extra cash on the side."

That sounded like a good idea.

It wasn't.

Here's what actually happened. I applied for Social Security early. I continued to work. I received Social Security and a paycheck at the same time. And my Social Security check was less than it would have been if I had waited. I had expected that. But here's something that I hadn't expected: The Social Security money you receive BEFORE the official retirement age ISN'T REALLY YOUR MONEY.

To receive your Social Security benefits before full retirement age, you are only allowed to earn $12,000 a year. I earned $15,000 last year. My bad.

The Social Security people wrote me a letter. "You earned too much money in 2005. Now you owe US money." So now instead of having extra money, I need to pay money BACK? "That is correct."

But this year I don't have a job and I don't have any income. But I STILL can't receive Social Security. Why? Because if I actually did get a job, then I would owe the government even more than I do now and I'd be even deeper in debt. It's all very Catch-22.

I called the Social Security guys up. They were very helpful and very nice. "Do I have this right," I asked them. "I can't get a job because if I did I wouldn't be able to receive Social Security. And I can't receive Social Security because I might get a job."

"That is correct."

Okay. That's clear. But with no job and no Social Security, how can I pay you guys back? "This is not a problem, Ms. Stillwater. We will deduct what you owe us from your FUTURE Social Security payments."

"You mean that not only are you not giving me money and that I owe YOU money instead, but that I will CONTINUE to owe you money for years to come?"

"That is correct."

And in addition I just heard that, once I finally turn 65, Medicare will also deduct $76 a month out of my Social Security money to cover my medical costs.

"That is correct."

This is just WRONG. I paid into Social Security. I earned that money. Congress needs to stop passing all these holier-than-thou laws and just give me my darn money.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Madame Jane predicts: The Fall of the House of Bush

In my crystal ball, I see that George Bush will attack Iran, the resulting radioactive bunker-buster fallout will contaminate the entire world and Americans will forget all about bird flu as we struggle with lung cancer and mutated babies.

And our George will go to jail forever. End of story.

But what will happen to the USA after that?

Of course I predict the Fall of the House of Bush. You don't have to have been born with The Sight to see that one coming. But what separates the great fortune tellers from your average hack tarot-card reader is this: What will happen to our country After The Fall?

Will we once again fall prey to empty promises and be taken to the cleaners by yet another corporate-welfare shill? Will we watch our beloved country fall apart under the burden of having kept the empire-building shell game in play for too long and end up like the Roman Empire, the Third Reich or the USSR? Will we plunge into an abysmal Depression due to years of federal fiscal credit card scams and all end up living in bleak shanty towns with no electricity while our kids pick through dumptsers? Or will democracy flower once again and the hearts of men evolve into goodness and love? "Madame Jane, what WILL happen after George goes to jail?"

I predict a power vacuum.

I predict a moment in history when America can go one of two ways:

Door Number 1: More of the same. Yet another Little Napoleon, sponsored by TV commercials paid for by electorial bagmen like Abramoff and Delay, arrives on the scene and the great dream of democracy and the Perfectibility of Man takes another step back. We settle for less. Again.

Door Number 2: A miracle happens. We all put aside our obsession with material things and power plays and work our butts off -- like all those students who went down to New Orleans to help with the Katrina clean-up on their spring break -- to change the world and make it a better place.

The odds are in favor of Door Number 1. It would take a miracle to open Door Number 2.

What do I predict?


Monday, April 10, 2006

Better than casinos: South Dakota's legal abortion spa for women!

I'm in the middle of reading a book about the bad old days when women "in trouble" had no other option but to get abortions from street-corner hacks. And to die from them, to bleed to death in a pool of their own blood in hospital emergency rooms because it was against the law for doctors to save them. And when I was young, EVERY young woman I knew had a horror story about a friend who had lost her ability to have children ever again -- at the very least -- due to botched abortions.

"But Jane, abortion is murder!" said my friend Gary. I don't disagree. Abortions are nasty things to be avoided at all costs. But what if a woman decides that she needs one? Who the hell are we to send her off to some back-street butcher? Are we God? Hardly.

Apparently the State of South Dakota HAS set itself up to play God. And the chief of the South Dakota Oglala Sioux, Cecilia Fire Thunder, thinks that it is not the state's business to interfere with a woman's life -- but only before the baby is born. According to Chief Fire Thunder, Sioux women are afraid that even though the state won't let them get legal abortions, it will be them, not the state, that will be responsible for raising the children. "An elder on my reservation said, 'So they don't want you to have contraception or abortions after rape? Are they going to step up and take care of that baby?'"

Chief Fire Thunder is going to move Heaven and earth to get a clinic for the women of her reservation, almost half of whom are living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate on the reservation is 85 percent and the life expectancy rate for the average woman, according journalist Rose Aguilar, is only 55 years.

All this talk about the South Dakota Sioux gave me an idea. Aren't Native American reservations considered to be sovereign nations? Ungoverned by state law? Isn't this how gaming and casinos are allowed on reservation land? Well, let's extend this concept a little further, "What if the Oglala Sioux Nation declared abortions to be legal too," I asked my friend MA.

What if the Oglala Sioux opened a POSH women's health clinic on reservation land? Then women from all over South Dakota -- and all over the world -- could come and be pampered and taken care of during this stressful time? NARAL and NOW could help fund it. It would bring sorely-needed jobs to The Rez. And women would be safe there from the back-street butchers whose assistants are the South Dakota state legislature and the Angel of Death.

Abortions won't just magically go away if you make them illegal. Your wives and daughters will fall into the hands of butchers instead.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Muslim cabbies change course of woman's life: Berkeley legal assistant converts to Islam, plans journey to Afghanistan
By Kristin Bender, STAFF WRITER, Oakland Tribune

BERKELEY — As a legal assistant in a law firm representing East Bay taxi drivers, Jane Stillwater built friendships with many Afghans who drive cabs locally. She found them warm and hardworking, kind and unassuming.

Stillwater, a free-spirited woman who has lived in Berkeley for 40 years, felt at home among her new friends. Slowly, she also started learning about their faith and, after years of research and study, she converted to Islam a year ago.

"I figured it would be the one thing that I could do that would really (upset) President [sic] George Bush," she said with a slight laugh.

In all seriousness, she said she accepted the faith because it meshed with her core belief that life is about trying to be a good person. "The way I look at it ... life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds," the 63-year-old said.

Now, Stillwater is trying to raise money to do some good deeds in Afghanistan. This summer, she hopes to take a "reality tour" of the country and support people in their reconstruction and peace-building efforts.

On the tour, participants will deliver humanitarian aid to Afghan schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee camps. They will visit with women at Kabul University to learn about their hopes and challenges. They will meet with landmine awareness groups and talk with journalists about efforts to createan independent press.

"I want to make America aware of what is going on in Afghanistan," she said.

Stillwater, who has written a blog ( for about 600 on her distribution list since 2000, plans to post her story when she returns. "I would report the bad stuff and also the good," she said. "The American way is not prison and bombs. The American way is freedom and democracy, and that is not what came to Afghanistan."

Stillwater's interest in the country started while working for 15 years as a legal assistant in a law office that represented taxi drivers. "I got to know many Afghans and (heard) their stories. People who used to be doctors and lawyers and even princes in Afghanistan were now driving cabs in America. But that didn't bother them. They were glad to be here in America, safe and employed."

But Stillwater could see the trouble in her new friends' eyes.

"What did bother them was that their country, which had been almost reduced to rubble during battles with the USSR in the 1980s, was now being even further degraded and destroyed by the American occupation," she said.

They'd ask Stillwater, who came to Berkeley in 1966 and has a master's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, if she could help them. "They'd beg me, 'Please do it.' It pained them to their very core to see what has happened to their former homeland," she said.

Stillwater wanted to know more.

"They made me want to go see Afghanistan for myself, just to see the kind of country that could produce such kind and generous people even in the face of such adversity."

One of the cab drivers Stillwater met was Wahid Aslami, the chief representative for the East Bay Taxi Drivers Association. Aslami left Afghanistan at age 14, but visited the country in 2004 and plans to take his 9-year-old son back this summer. "When I went back to Afghanistan (in 2004) the changes were so drastic that it broke my heart," he said.

Aslami said warlords ran most of the country outside of Kabul and drugs were everywhere. Children were being kidnapped and killed for their organs. Just two years ago, 40 bodies were found stuffed down an old well, and all the dead children had their kidneys removed. Young girls were being snatched off the streets and sold into prostitution, he said.

Although Aslami said he believes things have improved in the northern part of the country since the fall of the Taliban, there is still much violence and unrest in the southern portion of the country. "When the Northern Alliance committed themselves to the new government, much of the heavy fighting and checkpoints were diminished. Life became better for the people. Where we are seeing the incidents are in southern Afghanistan. To that end, he commended Stillwater for her courage and desire to help his people.

"She is really excited to go there to observe firsthand and see what is going on and to see if she could be of help to any organization, which we really deeply appreciate," he said.

Because Stillwater will travel with the nonprofit organization Global Exchange on its ["Voices against Poverty"] tour, she will not be alone on the trip, which is from June 18-28. Tour organizers say the goal is to enhance "understanding of Islam and Afghan culture as well as the role the Afghan people want (Americans) to play in building lasting peace in Afghanistan."

Although Stillwater said she is not concerned for her safety, there are risks. Four years after the fall of the Taliban, violence continues in Afghanistan, according to Amnesty International, which is particularly concerned about reports of attacks on civilians by anti-government forces in recent months.

Stillwater, who said she lives in low-income housing and eats a lot of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, is currently trying to raise at least $3,500 for the trip. She is collecting donations outside the Grand Lake Theater, where owner Allen Michaan often posts anti-war messages on the marquee.

She has only collected $37, but she isn't deterred. "I don't expect that I will get anything out of this, but I can't not try. Even if I don't raise a cent, hopefully I will make someone aware that there are problems there and they are big ones."

To donate to Stillwater, send an e-mail to or call her at 843-0581.
The War Lover: The US has never been invaded but we have all experienced war....

"Americans aren't against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing," said former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter recently. Are Americans pro-war? And if so, why? Perhaps they don't realize what a nightmare war is or the terrible devastation that it brings?

Except for the tragedies suffered by the 9-11 families, none of us have ever experienced the gore, heartbreak and cruelty of war in our own hometowns. No one living here in America has seen anything even vaguely resembling the horrors of the Dresden firebombing or the Hiroshima nuclear attack or Baghdad after Shock and Awe.

None of us have ever seen our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities in flames while we scramble among the ruins of, say, Chicago or Reno, desperately looking for food.

However, Ritter's comment got me thinking. Even though they have never experienced its devastating effects, Americans ARE completely familiar with war. And they love it!

From what I have seen -- from firsthand experience -- Americans love every aspect of war. They love explosions. They love killing. They love carnage. They love blood. They love to see children butchered and women raped and people tortured and cut up.

How do I know all about this hidden, dark side of the American psyche? Am I a clinical psychologist? Do I work for the National Security Agency spying on people's e-mails? No.

I watch television. I go to the movies.

If Americans didn't like torture and grim cruelty and murder and gore, why would CSI be our most popular television program? Why can we bet good money (and win almost every time) that the number one box office smash this week will be a film that involves the evisceration of at least ten people?

In the movies and on TV, Americans are encouraged and TAUGHT to love brutality, murder and war. And they are fast learners. If they weren't, we would all refuse to watch Law and Order SVU and Veronica Mars and all start watching Masterpiece Theater and Barney instead.

My solution? Easy. Let's demand a law requiring that every movie that shows violence on-screen be given an "X" rating. And NO violence on television. EVER.

PS: If America wants to experience war in its own back yard, the idiots in the White House will give us that chance UNLESS WE PUT THEM IN JAIL IMMEDIATELY. GWB is actually planning to bomb Iran!

When (not if) Bush blows up Iran, Iran will retaliate and blow up Israel -- and then all hell will break loose in the Middle East. And what's to keep the war from migrating here? Nothing. To quote Seymour Hersh, "A retired four-star general told me that, despite the eight thousand British troops in the region, 'the Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck.'” And then the insurgents will move here.

Get this straight, America. The Bush crazies actually WANT a war on our soil. Why? Who knows what goes on in the brains of madmen. Perhaps they are dreaming of Armageddon. Or maybe they just want to rule a chaotic world from their bunkers. In either case, we are screwed.

If, in the next three months, Bush isn't wearing an orange jump suit, America had better learn to love war even more than they do right now -- because, if Bush has his way, it will soon be coming to a back yard near you!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

No Social Security, unemployment benefits or chocolate: When your safety nets are all gone

I just got a letter in the mail. "Your request for unemployment benefits has been denied." When your bank account is anemic, your rent is due and you can't find a job, these are words that you do NOT want to hear.

I just got a letter in the mail. "Social Security has determined that we owe you nothing but you owe us $861." I didn't particularly want to hear that one either.

I just got a letter in the mail. "Your medical insurance has just lapsed." Could that skin discoloration on my face possibly be cancerous? Lack of healthcare could definitely be problematic. I don't even want to think about that one.

My safety net is getting smaller and smaller.

"Stop whining and expecting the government to support you," said my right-wing friend. "Go out and get a job like the rest of us." That's easy for him to say. Our government is supporting him in a manner I would LOVE to become accustomed to. He works for Halliburton, who gets all its money from government handouts. Capitalism in America has been dead for over half a century, happily replaced by corporate welfare. "Oh, but that's not the same!" cried my friend. It's not?

Okay, okay. I'll go find a job.

I looked on Craig's List and I e-mailed employers. I sent out resumes. I pounded the pavements, I networked, I googled. Nothing. I even applied to McDonalds -- and am actually waiting to hear back from them with baited breath. Has it come to this?

I'm scared. I'm worried. I'm afraid. What am I doing wrong that I could be doing differently? I don't know.

But tonight the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra gave a free concert and during the intermission they gave out wonderful samples of Alexandria Watlington's fair trade chocolate-covered toffee squares. Free music and free chocolate made me forget my worries and smile -- if even just for one night. And I appreciated it.

PS: I finally figured out what I do well -- I write a MEAN personal injury settlement brief! Want someone to write about your poor client's pain and suffering as a result of some defendant's obvious liability? I'm your man. It's just like writing soap opera -- combined with a big dose of Rage Against the Machine.

If I could get a job with some public interest law firm who would just set me up in some out-of-the-way corner to grind out settlement briefs, all those big insurance companies who rake in billions in profits by intimidating innocent victims of auto accidents had better watch out!

With a job like that, I could be a revolutionary against corporate greed AND get paid for doing it too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The War at Home: How to make war on America without getting caught!

What do Iran, Iraq, the Sudan and southern Louisiana all have in common? Oil.

What do the residents of Iran, Iraq, the Sudan and southern Louisiana all have in common? They're screwed. (There's a pattern here. If you have oil on your property, you can bet your bottom dollar that sooner or later some oil-obsessed neo-con is gonna attempt to "liberate" your land. Venezuela? Nigeria? Canada? You're next. No wonder Canada is so happy that Homeland Security is building that fence!)

The inhabitants of Iran, Iraq, the Sudan and southern Louisiana might be the kindest, nicest, most decent people in the world. Or they could all be terrorist jerks. It doesn't matter whether they are good guys or bad. In today's modern world, if you live on top of oil reserves, you're screwed.

Because Iran, Iraq and the Sudan are foreign countries, it's easy to steal their oil. You just start a media campaign and then bomb the hell out of them. No problem. "They are evil predators and we need to defend ourselves," friends of Big Oil tell us over and over and over again. "It's PATRIOTIC to hit 'em with Shock and Awe." But things get a bit more complex when it comes to bombing America.

Bombing America is different from bombing Iraq. You can't just declare war on Louisiana. You can't just out-right accuse Cajuns and Native Americans of being "insurgents" and "enemy combatants" and blow them all up. After all, they ARE Americans. Sort of. Plus those idiot liberals might start to object. But not to worry. Oil companies can still make war on Americans without getting caught. It's still war -- but it's a different kind of war. Instead of using napalm, tanks and DU, they use bribery, economics and laws.

When I was down in the southern-most tip of the Louisiana bayous last week, I got an ear-full from the residents of Isle de Jean Charles. "There's an old law somewhere that states that if a place is under water then 'off-shore drilling' is allowed," said one man as he stood in front of his house -- which, in order to avoid high water, was hoisted into the air by 12-foot stilts. "We used to have a lot more land around here. Now there's just this little strip. If they keep excluding us from the plans for the new levee, water will cover the whole town and that will be the end of Isle de Jean Charles."

Incidentally, I couldn't resist asking the man what it was like to be in his home during a hurricane. "It's like being in a washing machine on spin cycle!"

People who live on oil-rich land can't stop the oil companies from taking over their property if there is no property left to preserve. "If your home and the only road out becomes permanently covered by eight feet of water," said another resident of Isle de Jean Charles, "there's no way we can continue to live here -- and the oil companies inherit the place by default. I'm a man, not a fish."

So. You wanna take over the southern Louisiana oil patch? No problem. You just bribe a few officials, pass some new laws, neglect the levees south of New Orleans, let nature take its course, wait until the land gets submerged and then Bingo! You can drill where you please, you've won bigtime profits, your stock shoots up through the roof -- and the Cajuns and Native Americans of southern Louisiana are screwed.

Big oil has learned from experience that they can make war on America too and get away with it -- as long as they use bribes, economics, water and laws instead of bombs. Plus this way they don't have to deal with those messy anti-war marches.

Let's just hope nobody discovers oil under Berkeley. I don't want no preemptive war on my home town too. I am allergic to napalm. And I don't want to drown.

PS: There are no people living in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so the oil lobby doesn't have to declare war on Alaska to get all that oil. They just have to declare war on Congress.

PPS: I just realized that there are lots of other ways to make war on America without getting caught. There's NAFTA's war on the working class, Diebold's war on elections, the War on Social Security, the War on our schools, our media, our unions, our nutrition, our universities, our Constitution, our environment, our healthcare, our highways, our forests, our treasury; the War on Middle-Class Taxpayers...and of course PNAC's wistful dream of "a new Pearl Harbor" followed by the WTC....

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My 15 minutes of fame: Auditioning to be on "The Apprentice"

"We are going to hold the next season's auditions in California," said The Donald on TV last Monday night. "If you want to be on the show, come to one of our casting calls." Okay. I want to be the next Apprentice. Hang in there, Mr. Trump. I'm on my way!

The nearest auditions were being held on March 31 in Sacramento. 75 miles away? I could do that. My 1990 Toyota could make it that far. No sweat. So I booked a room at the nearest Motel 6, drove to Sacramento, sat around all that evening in my motel room watching HBO and showed up at 5 am the next morning at the Channel 3 TV studios on D Street. 5 am? That's insane. No one gets up at 5 am! I did. And even despite all that, there was still nine people ahead of me.

Then the news crews came. They asked me, "Ms. Stillwater, why are you doing this?" They looked around. I looked around. I was easily 30 years older than anyone there.

"Mr. Trump always tries to get a variety of types on his show," I replied. "Men, women, ethnic minorities, different nationalities. Well, I am here to represent SENIOR CITIZENS! The Donald needs some geezers to go on his show." In addition, every group of Apprentices so far seems to have at least three bitchy ladies and one loose cannon in the cast. So with me they could get two for the price of one -- a loose cannon AND a bitchy female. Represent!

Well, we stood around outside the studio in long lines in the cold for another five hours before they let in the first 20 applicants. We were ushered into this large room and were instructed to all sit around this huge table, next to a casting director who was old enough to be my grandson. "Tell me why YOU would make a good Apprentice," he asked.

"Because I love to write and I could help Mr. Trump write his books -- not, mind you, that he needs any help of course." Plus I was cute?

Then the casting director asked a hot-button question of all 20 of us and then all hell broke lose. "Is America safer before or after 9-11?" I think he wanted to see who could hold their own in an argument. He did. We did.

"I'm a blogger," I spoke up first. "Bush knew beforehand about 9-11. And what about the photo of the woman standing on the steel beams in the North Tower -- the ones that were allegedly supposed to be so red-hot that they were about to melt?" Then everyone else around the table jumped in.

"Bush is a saint."

"We must double security."

"We got to start investing in infrastructure at home and get out of Iraq."

Everyone else tried to drown me out (I was just an old lady after all) but I wouldn't let them. I jumped right in there with the rest of them. And, among all those sharks, I had the final word. "We need to run the U.S. like Mr. Trump runs his organization -- we need to look for talented and honest and capable people instead of just a handful of rich guys and greedy jerks who steal America blind!" Ha!

Then the group job interview was over. It had been five minutes of hell. Grueling. I left the room shaking. But when I got outside, some guy actually asked me for my autograph! "I saw you on the news this morning! You were great!" Really? I signed his napkin, "To Ron, lots of luck from Jane 'Senior Citizen' Stillwater" and I went home happy. I had had my 15 minutes of fame.

Will the casting director call me back? Probably not. Did I have fun? Absolutely YES!