The American Renaissance

Baja Canada del Sur: Comedy and Comment in the Age of Occupation

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Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

found done in needlepoint on Mel's Front Porch: I Pledge Alligence to the Constitution of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it guarantees, One Nation, Undeniable, with Liberty, Truth, and Justice for All.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Operation Enduring Vacation - Day 28 - Bush is pulling out

I am profoundly saddened for the people down in the Deep South -- I fear the true horror of Hurricane Katrina is only beginning. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods, their very sense of peace. In the rest of the country, we can only imagine what they are going through. Word to the press...people taking food from stores are in a different category from those stealing jewelery, clothing, etc. Relief efforts are being greatly hampered by the very nature of this disaster, and folks do got to eat.

Further word to the press: With all major oil companies recording RECORD PROFITS for the year 2005, it is truly annoying that the media is cooperating fully with the ongoing gouging at the gas pump. For two days now, coverage of the 'devastation' of off-shore drilling keeps being hammered home, to soften up America for even more ridiculous increases in the price of motion-lotion.

What the rest of the country wants to know is how we're going to help the PEOPLE affected. This is one of the times our homeland needs our military to be mobilized en masse to do some humanitarian work. Soldiers in Iraq, especially from the hard-hit areas, are going nuts worrying about the folks back home, and certainly feeling the fact that their reserve or guard unit is sitting in the parched desert while their folks, relatives, friends and neighbors are in God-knows-what kind of condition.

Doesn't it make you feel better W. cut his vacation short?

By a whole two days. It's obvious there is no sacrifice to big for Shrub.

His ass should have been on national television Monday night, with a comprehensive starting campaign to address the needs of those affected, expecially the poor, who, as usual, are in the most dire straits. I wonder sometimes, why I expect Bush to do the right thing, when he's proved repeatedly that's not a job skill he possesses. We really need to fire the man.

Let's do what Americans do best...send the Red Cross some money, and I'm taking a little time off from politickin' about Bush and am going to write some letters advocating some exceptional emergency dollars from the feds. We're not talking about beach-front condos this time.

Lighting a candle, and keeping the folks in my thoughts...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Operation Enduring Vacation - Day 22

George and Cindy are back in Crawford - Pat joins Rush in Denial

It is so difficult not to be constantly angry these days. Then, just when you think you can't take any more, the entertainment kicks in.

First there was the Rush flip-flop flap on Tuesday. Fans of Rush are apparently fluent in Dittoheadonics, a language that would make the people of Oceania scratch their heads in puzzlement. The dialect seems to be based on what he meant, not what he said. Meanwhile, out here in the Real World, when you call a woman a liar, it's pretty cut and dried what you freakin' meant. Perhaps that pilonidal cyst that kept him out of Vietnam is flaring up again, pressing on his brain, and preventing him from fighting fair. Again.

And while we were still giggling about Hillbilly Junkie, faith-healer and all-around charlatan Pat Robertson steps up to bat. The poster-child for American Shiite Evangelical Christianity openly called for the assassination of a foreign head of state, while amazingly tying together The Communist Threat and Radical Islam. As the kids say online, WTF????

Pat came out today and issued an apology, well, of sorts. Like (I need an oxycontin)Rush, he heemed and hawed, claimed he had been misquoted, a bald-faced LIE, that. He later admited he had called for assassination, but still insisted Chavez could be 'taken out' in various ways. I must have missed the part of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said, "Blessed are the kidnappers, for they shall inherit the oil."

As for the target of Pat's ire, I'm having a Devil (snicker) of a time chasing down verifiable information on the man. So far, I have been able to ascertain that Chavez is leftist, hangs out with Castro, pisses Bush off, and seems wildly popular with the little people in Venezuela. The word 'Che' bubbles up in my mind. The people in his country keep overwhelmingly re-electing him. Wish we could say that about our prez.

Good to hear that Ms. Sheehan, god love her, has made it back to Camp(s) Casey. All Americans owe her a big thank you, for finally getting the conversation started. Best wishes to her, and get well wishes to her mom.

There's a lady that understands family values.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Classic errors continue

I hear that George made a speech today in Salt Lake City, preaching once again to the converted. Needless to say I am not only sickened that a man who dodged the draft is again flogging support from people who have actually seen combat, the content of his speech is the same as it ever was. Despite overwhelming evidence that the invasion of a country that posed no threat to America was not only unwise, but terribly planned, Bush is still invoking the unrelated issues of September 11th, terrorism, and promised democracy.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, to try to satisfy U.S. imposed deadlines, the provisional Iraqi government has proposed an incomplete constitution. One that is apparently not following the example of working democracies, in that Sharia law is to be the basis. Women's rights, minority rights, religious and human rights are not necessarily part of the compromise constitution. This is beyond troubling, it is outright alarming. But, unfortunately, not surprising.

It is becoming clear that Bush's proposed successor to Sandra Day O'Connor possesses a similar disregard for women's rights, minority rights, and even the basic concept of the right of citizens to privacy in their persons, homes, and possessions. I am beginning to realize the war protests are actually a left-handed gift (pun INTENDED) to this administration and its hell-bent determination to divert capital from the people who work for a living to the worldwide structures that make life and livelihood so damned difficult for have-nots, be they in South Central or South America. Or Central America, or Central Africa. Or anywhere else wages per day are counted in pennies.

We should all realize that in the twisted neo-con universe, George Bush is only telling the truth. The radical right truly believes that freedom equals the ability for some to economically grab every asset, so that they may finally realign all economies in all countries to serve those who by their superior guidance understand How Things Should Be. That is why they equate democracy with totally unregulated markets and unquestioning support for military endeavors conceived by those wiser than the unwashed masses. This is, of course, the morality of madmen convinced they are anointed by a higher power.

Kind of like Osama. Who Bush himself "doesn't think about a lot."

The folks of the sailors killed on the USS Cole think about Osama. The folks of the people killed in NYC, Washington, and Pennsylvania think about Osama. The people in Africa who lost their loved ones in the Embassy bombings think about Osama. The people of the United States think about Osama.

And here at home, we also think about Social Security. We think about an economy that is once again creating only service and entry level jobs. We know folks who've lost jobs, we know folks who've gotten sick, spent their savings to deal with it, and have their entire family sinking slowly with them in the quicksand of debt; we know those who have lost hope, and we know many who will come back from war with nothing. Many of us live one paycheck away from disaster, which, thanks to a lapdog Congress and a cold-hearted rich man in the White House, is soon to become a national crisis when the new bankruptcy strictures strike in September.

There is coming a second American Revolution. When the middle class, the two-income backbone of this country has every bit of their ability to live indoors and feed their kids ripped from them, when they literally cannot afford three dollar per gallon gas, when they are forced from their over-priced homes to double-up with relatives en masse, there is going to be a terrible uprising. My only hope is to remove the rot from our highest offices legally as soon as possible, before the honest folks make them regret sponsoring the NRA.

Let's not forget the modern extremist form of Christianity that helps our president sleep at night. If the Rapture is eminent in our time, the faithful will be snatched up, there will be seven years of tribulation, and then the son of God will return, the true war to end all wars will ensue, and the mud people will perish. Incidentally, Israel must exist, only to be destroyed to fulfill the Prophesy. Why bother to save a planet that is doomed, anyway? Might as well have champagne and caviar (or beer and BBQ), while we wait.

I must say, for those that are truly believers in Christ's example, those of us who think, those of us who have common morals, those of us who appreciate what a fantastic, crazy, but right, experiment democracy really is, we know it isn't perfect. Democracy literally means government by all the people. It's messy. It's annoying. And it's wonderful.

And it is free. There is no democracy at the end of a rifle. There, is only death.

Our government has been taken over by Crusaders.

I'm praying for a revival. Of the Enlightenment. Before the warlords make all their dreams come true.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Happy to see these!

Here's some roadside images, courtesy of And one of my own even Nixon would have agreed with.

Impeach, indict, convict, condemn.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

The truth, eventually, shall set us FREE

And Rush must be back on meds. He apparently either can't remember what he says on Wednesday a couple of hours into Thursday's broadcast, but it's of little account anyway. Doing Bush's work, he, O'Reilly, Coulter, and numerous others are attacking a bereaved Gold Star mother. It's a tough sell, and a cop-out. Even Rush doesn't have a good reason why we attacked Iraq, and the good people of America are starting to wake up.

Be interesting to see if the public execution of Saddam Hussein (a sure bet within minutes of his conviction, itself a winning bet) will be broadcast live in this country. Or will it be deemed too ugly for 'the kids' to see? On balance, with the projections of 12 more years of conflict in Iraq, shouldn't every kid from first grade on, who will likely be a part of this nonsense personally, get to go ahead and get used to it? Eat the hamburgers, kids. Maybe obesity is your best bet in a draft.

Agitated agitator,

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Seattle Support for Cindy Sheehan

Just got back from a candlelight vigil at Denny Way and Dexter. One of several vigils held in Seattle, about 50-some-odd folks (and several Dogs Against War -- I believe the ringleader was a Chihuahua mix) took the time out tonight to show their support for Ms. Sheehan, and her efforts to bring the war to an end. I felt privileged, as I ended up standing between two veterans, people who understand what war is. Like most Americans, I understand a need to defend our country, and am proud as hell of our folks who put themselves on the line. It is just common sense to never, ever, put them in harm's way unless justified.

We received much encouragement from pedestrians, drivers honking and waving, including several taxi drivers, and the driver of the Metro #26 bus (headed, of course, for Fremont!). In the spirit of Fair and Balanced, the single dissent honked and flipped us the bird. Take heart, at least it's half a peace sign!

Look forward to further posts, as I'm planning a series of short essays on issues concerning the motivations of the administration, from a viewpoint I have yet to see. I may be preaching to the choir, but I hope to stir some debate on how liberals, progressives, and true conservatives might work effectively to right our ship of state. All is not lost, folks.

Until next time,

And meanwhile, how's the folks?

Below, you will find the text of an article published in USAToday, that clearly reflects some stark realities. I prefer to keep postings short, but in light of the President's recent pep rallies for his vision of Social Security, I think this article speaks for itself. This is the reality now, has been for years, and will continue to be. Things are bad enough for a large chunk of America...let's not Vegas what little bit little people have.

Millions of Americans get by on Social Security alone

By John Waggoner, USA TODAYTue Aug 16, 7:35 AM ET

Mary Rathbun gets an $809 check every month from Social Security and an additional $100 in food stamps. The 74-year-old former nurse pays $550 in rent for her apartment in St. Helens, Ore. That leaves less than $400 for food, utilities and other expenses, including medical bills.

"It takes a lot of management," says Rathbun. "I watch for things that are on sale and don't drink soda." She's fortunate, she says, because her treatments for colon cancer - which has spread to her lungs and liver - don't require a lot of costly medications. "I think the good Lord looks over me," Rathbun says.

When Social Security was launched 70 years ago Sunday, it was meant to be a supplement for retirees, not a full pension. But today, 10.6 million people, or 22% of the 48 million who will receive Social Security benefits this year, live on that check alone, the Social Security Administration says.

Living on only Social Security isn't a happy prospect. It means stretching every dollar, depending on a patchwork of family, charity and state programs to pay for what Social Security doesn't cover - and sometimes doing without. Those living on nothing but Social Security are often single women and minorities. AARP, the senior advocacy group, says 25% of retired women, including 46% of unmarried Hispanic women, have no income beyond Social Security. AARP also says 33% of retired African-Americans live on Social Security alone.

Those numbers could grow as the baby boom generation enters retirement. Currently, 53% of people in the workforce have no pension, and 32% have no savings set aside for retirement. The number of traditional pension plans - the kind that guarantee a set amount of money for life and that have propped up many of the pre-boomer generation - has fallen to 29,651 in 2004 from 112,208 in 1985.

The average Social Security payout is $955 a month, $11,460 annually. The benefit can be more or less, depending on how many years you worked, how much you earned and the age you started taking payments. If your check is less than $579, you can get Supplemental Security Income. But that just brings your monthly income up to $579.

President Bush has proposed overhauling Social Security by allowing private investment accounts and indexing benefit increases to changes in consumer prices, rather than wages. But proponents and opponents disagree on how those changes would affect people who are totally dependent on Social Security.

Private accounts would give workers the potential to earn more on their savings than they would get from Social Security, proponents argue. And while tying increases to consumer prices would slow the growth of payouts over time, the bottom third of income earners would be exempt from that provision, says Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank.

Opponents argue that people would have to get a return of more than 3 percentage points above the inflation rate to benefit from private accounts. "The president's proposal would reduce benefits for people living on Social Security and subject what was left to substantially greater risk," says Jason Furman, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Getting there

How do you wind up with nothing but Social Security? Cindy Hulsey, a case worker for the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas, says about half of her 65 clients live on nothing but Social Security. "They tended to have lower-paying jobs in their working careers, the ladies were homemakers or the husband was a farmer," she says.

"I've been a jailer, a deputy sheriff, owned a taxi and drove it, too," says Faye Hickman, 79, of Harrison, Ark., one of Hulsey's clients. She also worked 30 years for Tyson Foods, the giant meat-packing company. "You could go into the pension or the stock," she says. "I went into the stock." Tyson stock fell to $7.28 in March 2003 from nearly $25 in 1997. Her money soon evaporated. Today, she lives on $888 a month, $146 of which goes to her mortgage. She gets an additional $20 in food stamps. "It is tight," Hickman says.

Rathbun had retirement savings. She got a lump-sum payout from the hospital where she worked. "I went through that when I first got sick," she says. "It didn't take long."

Kenny Fewell, 63, of Leesburg, Va., was just hitting his stride as a heavy-equipment operator when he fell into a diabetic coma at age 49. That ended his career driving dump trucks and other big equipment: For safety reasons, the state took away his license.

"We never did have much savings," he says. Being laid off took care of the savings he did have, and diabetes took care of the rest of his working career. Now, he and his wife, Nancy Ann, 56, also a diabetic, get by on his $998 Social Security check. They pay $188 a month for their subsidized housing.

"People say you can work with diabetes," Fewell says. "Some can and some can't. I've got a real bad case." Fewell has neuropathy that affects his hands, causing numbness, pain and weakness.

For a while after he was laid off, he reconditioned lawn mowers, getting $30 to $35 apiece. But he can't do that anymore. He mainly stays in bed, trying to avoid getting diabetic sores.

"It gets boring sitting at home, staring at four walls," Fewell says.

Nancy Ann Fewell worked for a doctor, doing filing and domestic work. She paid her own Social Security, but until she's declared disabled, she won't get any payments. "Her feet swell up, and she has tendonitis," he says.

Marnie McDonough, an Atlanta social worker, says many of her clients are single, African-American women who had menial jobs - as maids and housecleaners, for example. "The families they worked for didn't pay into Social Security for them," she says. "And the women didn't earn much as domestics and were more concerned about putting food on the table."

It's not easy

Getting by on nothing but Social Security isn't easy. "Unless you're living with relatives, it would be very difficult," says Alexandra Armstrong, a Washington, D.C., financial planner.

Start with food. Rathbun says she's had to pinch pennies most of her life, so she's used to it. "I was raised during the dirty '30s, when you learned to manage," she says. "I cook from scratch and don't use a lot of prepared food." She grows vegetables in her small backyard garden and watches for sales. "No frivolities," Rathbun says.

The Fewells get a box of groceries once a month from Reston Interfaith, a local charity, although some of the food isn't suitable for diabetics. Eating at charity dinners isn't much of an option. Fewell's neuropathy makes his hands shake, and he says it's embarrassing to eat in public. "We went to a potluck dinner, and my shirt looked like I was a pig," he says. "We don't go out much."

Beyond food, medicine looms as the biggest problem for many of those trying to get by on Social Security.
Hickman is fortunate because she beat cancer. "Whatever can be cut off has been cut off," she says. But the 79-year-old also has heart problems and asthma. Hulsey arranges for her to get her heart drugs free from the manufacturer, although Hickman frets that the program might end this year.

Fewell, too, gets some of his drugs from the manufacturer, although he says it can take two months or more to get them. But because he needs as much as 75 units of insulin twice a day, he puts up with the wait and keeps his $600-a-year Medicare drug allowance for emergencies.

Because it's so difficult to live on Social Security, a primary challenge for many is finding people to help them untangle the maze of government and private programs available.

For some of the elderly, just admitting they need the help is tough. "They are proud people," says Hulsey. "They want to live independently for as long as possible."

Many times, they never call. "We find them because other people call," says Ken Johnson, director of senior respite services in Columbia County, Ore.

One reason they hold on: They don't want to have to depend on Medicaid, the government's health program for the poor. If they get Medicaid, they can't have much else. Johnson says that in Oregon, if you go on Medicaid, the state can get reimbursed by your estate when you die, leaving your heirs with little. "People want to leave an estate when they pass on," Johnson says. "They hold on to the desperate last."

For some, it's a lifeline. Recipients of Supplemental Social Security Income must have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify for Medicaid. But Medicaid will pay for some of their drugs, and that can make a huge difference in their standard of living. "Sometimes those people are better off than those who are just above the guidelines for Medicaid," Hulsey says.

Many of those living on Social Security alone are looking forward to the new prescription-drug benefit from Medicare, which kicks in next year. "It's so wonderful to be able to tell them that they will get a free drug premium," says McDonough, the Atlanta social worker. "Once they hear that, they're thrilled."

A good social worker - often found through a state's programs for the elderly - can be a godsend. "My case manager is wonderful," Hickman says of Hulsey. Hulsey helps Hickman and others take advantage of local programs for seniors. One, called Share and Care, provides free groceries once a month. The homebound aged can get meals delivered via Meals on Wheels, a charity, or through a local senior activity center.

Families help sometimes. Rathbun relies on her daughter, Lucille Masterson, to drive her to a clinic for medical treatment. "It helps to have a driver," she says. "I used to do it myself, but I'd be pretty darn tired by the time I got home."

But not everyone has family available to help. And when they are available, dealing with a financially strapped and often ailing elderly relative can be hard on a family, McDonough says.

In some cases, a son or daughter will quit work to help the parent - which means both are living on the parent's Social Security, or some combination of Social Security and government assistance.

The task of caring for an elderly family member is exhausting, Johnson says. "A lot of times we have wives taking care of husbands, sons and daughters taking care of moms and dads, and we try to find relief for the primary caregiver."

Skeptical of private accounts

Many seniors are split on Bush's proposal for letting workers invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts in the hopes of earning more. Because of her losses in Tyson's stock, Hickman is skeptical of that plan. "That's crazy," she says.

Charles Goss, 75, of Leesburg, Va., isn't enthusiastic about the idea, either. He and his wife, Annie, live on an $840 monthly Social Security check. He says he wouldn't want to risk getting any less. "It pretty well takes what I get to live," he says.

Rathbun thinks future generations will need some help. "If they're planning on Social Security, they will need an investment account of some sort to help them," she says.

Those who are getting by on Social Security have some advice for those who haven't retired yet: Save. "Try and save all the money you can," says Kenny Fewell. "When you're on Social Security and disability, it's hard to get anything else."

Be cautious in your spending. "You've got to manage close," Hickman says. "You're going to have to pinch pennies."

And don't kid yourself. "It's rough living on nothing but Social Security," Fewell says.

USAToday, August 16, 2005 Source: "In the News"

Monday, August 15, 2005

As seen at

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Broad on Broad

Welcome to my brand new blog. I am Meldonna, a happy resident of Seattle, WA, or as I like to think of it, Baja Canada. After growing up in Arkansas, then living for 15 years in Texas, being in a Blue State is a very refreshing experience!

I'll be posting my take on the State of Things, be it cultural, political, or of worldwide conditions, tempered with a small dose of salt and a large dose of humor. Whether you agree with me or not, feel free to respond. Just spare me any childish name-calling. If you have a point, make it clear in respectful adult terms. If I wanted to hear silly jingoistic nonsense, I'd listen to Rush.

Cheers to all,