Be both.

"What If We Really Love All Humanity?"

"What If We Really Love All Humanity?"
by Steve Roberts Fine Art


I peruse many blogs and once in a while, the writer touches me profoundly.  Bill Hess, over at Wasilla Alaska by 300 is one of those writers.

In writing about a local Tea Party rally, Bill stopped me in my tracks with this photo and commentary:

Look at that mountain, standing so beautiful above and indifferent to the fray. It is not on your side, it is not on my side. It doesn't give a damn about you or me or our squabbles. That mountain is Alaska, that mountain is America. It is the absolute, real America. When we are all gone and forgotten, it will still stand. Not forever - nothing of this earth does, but long beyond any memory of us.

Thank you Bill, for your irrefutable wisdom.

Please visit Bill's site often.  He is a phenomenal writer and I like to think of him as the literary Norman Rockwell for our times.

I Want My Country Back! Wait a Minute... YOUR Country?

Tea Partiers want their country back.  Last time I checked, the good ol' US of A belonged to ALL citizens. And we all have our part to play... respectfully.

Tea Partiers seem to think the U.S. government is too big.  Government is not too big. It's grossly inefficient.  And dangerously partisan.

Congress plays numerous games with our money.  Take NY Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman for example.  He has a $200,000 pet pig, er... pork project for the expansion of the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York. The museum had a fund balance of $6.9 million at the end of 2008.  Really?  How's your state budget, Congressman?  According to CNN, Gov. David Paterson has proposed cutting billions from school aid and state agencies, as well as closing four prisons.  And you want to expand a museum?  Is that REALLY necessary in a time when NY is cutting programs for the elderly, children and the poor?   Where the hell are your priorities?

The Miami Herald  states, " There are 9,129 pork barrel projects listed in the ``2010 Congressional Pig Book... In the defense category, there are earmarks ``totaling $6,056,565,000 for 35 anonymous projects. This accounts for only 2 percent of the 1,752 earmarks, but 59 percent of the $10.3 billion cost of the bill, which is more than last year's 57 percent.''  I wonder how much of that went to Halliburton and Blackwater/XE, the treasury-raping, scum-sucking military contractors?  Or the more (alleged, yeah right) literal kidnapper-rapists, KBR?

Note:  That's strictly my opinion of them; but if I die unexpectedly, please direct authorities back to this post.

On the partisan front, we have so-called "leaders" that disgrace their respective offices by telling outright lies - not misstatements, not misunderstandings - these are outright lies. And the media won't call them what they are - fucking lies!

Said Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King:  "The federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act bill would create "special protection for pedophiles."  Rep. King wanted to make people afraid of what wasn't actually in the bill, so it wouldn't pass.

Of course, who could forget the infamous Death Panels (Yes, I know Palin's doesn't hold any office, but for some inexplicable reason she seems to be a part of political discourse despite her lack of knowledge and her general lunacy)?  Death panels?  Hmmm... I'm thinking of putting some death panels in my office.  Do you think they'll clash with the carpet?

Not only are the lies deplorable, but the hateful rhetoric currently being spewed is dishonorable.  Many of our state and national leaders have disgraced our nation.  Beginning with South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson and continued with Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's "We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government."  I know their mothers taught them better manners.  They should be ashamed!  But sadly, they're not.  They're no better than the street gangs who proudly brag about how many ho's they have in their stable.  It gives them street cred.

If the Tea Partiers want to reduce the size of current government, they should take a step back and look at what our government does for us.  Then they should think about how life today would be without some government intervention.  I'm NOT saying government should be the end-all-be-all and rule our lives.  Trust me there is plenty I would like to change (Patriot Act anyone?).  But... well... this comment from poster, DrCardio, on HuffingtonPost says it best:

I prefer having my government regulate my chicken breasts before I grill them and take them down into the government regulated mines, where I can safely earn money to put away in a government regulated bank, so that I can afford health insurance from a government regulated market for my kids with preexisting conditions, who attend government regulated schools. Then I will drive home in my government regulated car, with government regulated battery technology, down government regulated roads, across government regulated bridges, protected by government regulated officers. And the government regulated tax break was awesome. I can now afford to paint my government regulated house with government regulated paint so that my children don't get lead poisoning overnight. I'm thirsty, time to drink some government regulated water, brush my teeth with government regulated paste and sleep; have to wake up early for my government regulated flight.
I wish you all a great government regulated day! And a safe return to our government regulated troops!

The Tea Partiers can't "take their country back" because it's not theirs to take back.  It's ours - the TP'ers, the CoffeePartiers, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents.  The United States belongs to all of its citizens.

Stop! Police!

On a lighter note...
The following are actual reports made to the Oak Harbor, WA Police Department:

Sunday, Feb. 28
At 4:31 p.m., a caller reported a "communist man" on Oak Harbor Street was trying to convince an elderly woman that she cannot do something that is perfectly legal.
At 3:46 a.m., an Oriole Street resident reported her husband hid her registered gun from her and she wanted it back.  Maybe there was a good reason for hiding it.
At 3:05 p.m., a NW Second Avenue resident reported someone broke into her car sometime last summer. 
At 7:59 p.m., a caller reported a bunch of juveniles in a SW Erie Street were mooning motorists.
At 6:08 a.m., a SW Berwick Drive resident reported his daughter is not cooperating with Mom.

Thursday, Feb. 25
At 11:23 p.m., a caller reported a woman, wearing dark jeans and a black hoodie, was walking into an apartment complex on Ely StreetAnd...?
At 12:37 p.m., a caller reported someone broke the washing machine at the Lexy Manor.   And we'll send someone right over to fix that, Ma'am.
At 10:35 a.m., a caller reported a brown chihuahua has been wandering around the area of N. Oak Harbor StreetHe sure looks like he might be up to something!

Tuesday, Feb. 23
At 5:24 p.m., a caller reported two people having sex inside a tan Volkswagen Rabbit.  Bring a camera!
At 11:26 a.m., a NW Crosby Avenue resident reported his girlfriend is living with him and causing problems. He wants to know what his options are for kicking her out when she doesn't pay rent.
Courtesy of the Whidbey News Times  

We feel your pain, officers!

An Image That Made Me Stop

I live in a nice, middle-class neighborhood.  If you travel about a mile in one direction, you'll end up in a wealthy sub-division.  If you travel a mile in the opposite direction, you'll think you're in the ghetto.  On this day, I traveled due ghetto because that's where the cheap grocery stores are.  Hey, I'm squeezing my wallet like everyone else.

I pulled into the local Albertsons parking lot that sits amid a tiny strip mall.  On any given day, there are panhandlers begging for change in front of the small stores.  Like most people, I try not to make eye contact.  Because, I'll admit it; I am afraid of them.  But today I met Arlette.

I've seen her there before, sitting on the hard concrete with her walker beside her.  Today I glanced down and what I saw shook me.  I don't know why this particular image had such an effect on me, but it did.  She was sitting there smoking a cigarette.  Her short, stubby, little legs splayed out in front of her, she smoked that cigarette right down to the butt.  The burning butt was right against the skin of her fingers.  I don't know how she couldn't have felt pain from the embers.  My eyes zoomed in closely on one detail.  Her fingers, where the burning cigarette touched them, were black.  Black like you would see on severely diseased skin.  I wondered how long it had taken, how many cigarettes she had smoked to cause them to blacken like that.

I continued past her into the store, but my mind whirled.  Those burned fingers!  What had happened to her?  I thought there wasn't really much I could do to help her aside from giving her a couple bucks, which is something I normally don't do.  After purchasing a few items, I decided I would give her a couple dollars.  With the cash in my hand, I walked out of the store.

I hadn't really meant to strike up a conversation with her.  But when I approached her, she looked up at me with that expectant/hopeful look that I would hand over some green.  So I forked it over and she followed up with the obligatory, "God bless you!"  I turned to walk away, then saw her burned fingers in my mind again. I stopped.  Stepping back toward her, I asked if I could ask her a couple questions.  Amazingly, she didn't hesitate to say yes or look at me with suspicion.

You can't see Arlette's burned fingers in this photo.

I asked her how she ended up there, panhandling.  She told me that she receives $637 per month on Social Security and lives in a group home (assisted living) where her rent is $575.  After falling two months behind on her rent, the home gave her the choice of having her SS check sent directly to them or she could find a homeless shelter.  She said she's never been to one but has heard horror stories about the shelters, so she agreed to signing over her monthly stipend.  Her son also sends her $100 per month, and the home takes $25 of that as well.  It will take a little over thirteen months for Arlette to pay off the back rent.  And she has $75 per month left over.  Wow.

She spoke about the perils of pandhandling.  In this city, the police will arrest you if you're caught.  Just today, as she was arriving for her "shift," another bum (her words, not mine) named Eddie was picked up and put in jail.  The cops also took his dog and put him in doggy jail, i.e., the local animal shelter.  Arlette waited about a half hour and then began her hustle.

She said she was trying to get enough money to buy a pouch of tobacco so she could roll her own cigarettes.  As if to prove it, she moved her coat and showed me the plastic baggy with her cigarette papers and the small remnants of loose tobacco.  Odd, because she also had a pack of cigarettes in front of her.  But maybe rolling your own lasts longer.

The entire time I spoke with her, her hands and arms shook.  I wasn't sure if it was from a disability or alcoholism.  But parked right next to her was her walker/wheelchair and in an opaque water bottle was liquid that I couldn't be sure was water.  For all I know, it might have been vodka.  Or lemonade.

I asked Arlette if I could take her picture and put it up on my blog.  Another conversation ensued... "What the hell is a what?  Bog?  Blog?"  I snapped a quick photo and showed it to her.  "That's me," she stated, then seemed to become embarrassed for the first time.  "I don't have my teeth in; they're back at the home."  I smiled and told her it was okay.  But she wanted to explain further.  "A friend of mine gave me some Polident, because the cheap stuff I was using didn't work and my teeth moved around every time I ate.  He didn't like it and had only used the tube a couple times so he gave it to me."  God, I am so lucky, I thought.  Not in a smug way.  In the feel-guilty-for-complaining-about-anything way.

I'm not usually a bleeding heart, but I wanted to know more about Arlette and how & why she decided to panhandle.  She seemed to be happy to have someone to talk to, but I surmised that I was cutting into her cash collection time and told her I would see her again soon.


We see panhandling everywhere, yet we do nothing to understand the issue.We have huge problems with homelessness and it's only growing worse.  There are whole families living in tent cities in the Seattle area and other cities across the nation.  Many are not bums, as Arlette called them.  Many simply cannot afford housing because they have either lost their jobs or don't make enough money to put a roof over their heads.  And yes, some are there because of the choices they made in their lives.  But until you actually talk to someone to get to know them, you cannot judge.  Or more aptly, you should not.  Because you don't know their situation.

I'm glad I met Arlette.  She opened my eyes to a world I had previously refused to see.

Katie Couric & Glenn Beck Like You've Never Seen Them (and Others)!

I've never been a fan of auto tuning, but ...  Enjoy!

I Am So Damn Proud of My City!

Imagine a 4th of July without fireworks.  But, but... that's crazy!  That's unpatriotic!  That's exactly what Seattle was facing this coming Independence Day.  One Reel, the non-profit organization that produces the fireworks show, lost its sponsor for the annual event.  The now non-existent Washington Mutual was the sponsor for 8 years.  After JP Morgan Chase absorbed WaMu, they agreed to extend the sponsorship for one more year.  But it's now 2010, the economy sucks and Seattle's July 4th celebration would amount to well... nothing.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Just another day.  Ho-hum.  

Yippee skippy.

Whoa!  Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute!  That is unacceptable!  So said KIRO Radio's prominent morning talk show host Dave Ross and Seattle's distinguished Chef Tom Douglas yesterday.  Tom issued a challenge to the businesses of Seattle to donate at least $1000 each to keep the fireworks show alive.  How much did they need?  $500,000.00!  What was the deadline to raise that kind of greenage?  Tuesday.  Yikes!  Could they do it?  To kick it off and put their money where their mouths were, both Dave and Tom made the first donations. 

KIRO Radio immediately put out announcements online and on air about the challenge:

KIRO's other popular talk show hosts, Dori Monson and the Ron & Don Nation began making public appeals.  By 4:00pm, they had raised about $80,000.  They were still a long way off.  Then something wonderful happened.  Dave & Tom showed up in the studio during Ron and Don's show and made an announcement.

Wow.  Starbucks and Microsoft, two of the city's premiere employers offered to match contributions of $250,000 ($125,000 each) which would give us our $500k.  We now only needed $170,000 more.  Could it be done?  

Or were we destined to go from a celebration like this:

and this:

to this?

Gasworks Park, the annual 4th of July celebration site

Can you picture a city as large as Seattle without fireworks on the 4th of July?  I assume that people would still have their picnics, BBQ's and their neighborhood fireworks,  but nothing as spectacular as the sparkling, Ooh-Ah inspiring lights displayed above Lake Union. 

However, you should never underestimate the powerful feeling of community in Seattle.  As of this morning - in 24 hours time - Seattle business owners raised $500,000 to keep the American tradition of celebrating our freedom alive.

 Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn proclaimed today to be, "The Day the People Saved the Fireworks" in the City of Seattle!

To all the Seattle businesses that donated, I say thank you!  And to all the citizens in Seattle and the surrounding areas, please make sure you patronize these businesses and show them the same sense of loyal community that they showed to us.

From KIRO's website, the list of Seattle's proud business donors:

Dave Ross $1,000
Taco Time $5,000
Charlie's Produce $10,000
JK Fabrication $1,000
Sharron & Gary Deibert $1,000
Jana Helmuth CPA $1,000
Beecher's Handmade Cheese $1,000
Pacific Urethane Recycling $2,000
Heston Technical Inc. $1,000
Heidi Heineman Aflac Insurance in Kent $1,000
Security Imaging Corporation $1,000
Ewing and Clark Inc. $2500
Red Mill Burgers $3000
Futurepoly $1,000
Renton Concrete Recycles $2,000
Claudia, McClain Insurance in Everett $1,000
Nursecall Northwest $1,000
John Hanson $1,000
All Systems Electric $1,000
Reconstructed Clothing Company $1,000
Seattle Bank $10,000
Max Technology $1,000
Ward's Cove $1,000
Turnure Telecom LLC $250
Seattle Ferry Service $1,000
Neighborhood Grills $2,000
Blue Moon Burgers $1,000
Rite-Line Tax Service, Inc. $1,000
Tricia Rendina $1,000
Hollywood Lights Inc $1,000 $1,000
Next Door Media $1,000
Brian Cartenuto $1,000
Heidi McBain $1,500
Paddy Coyne's Irish Pubs $1,000
Filco Environmental Services $2,000
Lucius Hill $1,000
Findwell Real Estate $1,000
Continental Van Lines, Inc. $1,000
Meriwether Partners $1,000
Blue Rooster, Inc. $1,000
MCW Events $250
Homestead Book Company $1,000
Anchor Bay Charters $1,000
Hy-Security Gate, Inc. $1,000
West Seattle Blog $1,000
Schumacher & Co., P.S. $1,000
The Frenchy Bee $100
BNI-Western Washington, Inc. $2,000
Catherine Budbill State Farm Insurance $1,000
Marty Rood, Mr. 99 & Associates, Inc. $1,000
Capital Management $1,000
Sweetwater Investments $1,000
Northwest Gourmet Foods $1,000
Pamela Hinckley $1,000
Phoenix Mailing LLC $1,000
Smith Brothers Farms $1,000
Nordstrom $25,000
Underdog Sports $5,000
Sprague Pest Solutions $1,000
Anita Yearley MD $1,000 $100
In Play Films $500
Silver Cloud Inns and Hotels $1,000
Cascade Federal Credit Union $1,000
Lenati LLC $1,000 $1,000
Legal Media Experts $1,000
Medina Hair Design $1,000
Minor & James Medical $1,000
Vulcan Inc. $50,000
Santamaria and Sons $1,000
International Parking Management Inc. $5,000 $1,000
Read Products, Inc. $1,000
Dancey & Cassady, L.L.P. $100
Dearmin Fogarty PLLC $1,000
Stewart & Terry LLC (Aspira Apartments Seattle) $5,000
Brian Hartman $1,250
Gunning, Stenson & Price, P.S. $1,000
Pennys Salsa Inc. $1,000
Turner Construction $5,000
Ventana Construction $1,000
Greg Hunicutt $1,000
Fusiontek $1,000
Novastar Development $2500
Cristal Charters $2500
Cutter & Buck Inc. $1,000
Hales Ales $2,500
Northwest Administrators $5,000
Brewe Layman p.s. $1,000
Point B Inc. $2500
Key Bank $2,000
Berschauer Phillips Construction Co. $2,500
Sequoyah Electric $1,000
Northwest Yacht Brokers Association $1000
KING 5 $5,000

Seattle, you make me so damn proud!

As for JP Morgan Chase?  Here's a line from their website:  Leadership in community partnership is part of the enduring culture of JPMorgan Chase.  Sorry, Chase.  You just earned a huge FAIL in community relations.  Oh, and you suck.

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