Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog #129: Who feeds me?

The Hands That Feed Me

I would like to put a plug in this week for the organization that feeds me five frozen, well-balanced meals a week. It’s called Interfaith Ministries, and it runs a program in Houston called Meals on Wheels. Those lucky people who happen to live in the heart of Houston get five hot meals a week, delivered daily to their front door.

Those of us who live out in the boonies get a one time delivery each week of five frozen dinners, prepared for us by the Houston Food Bank. I can’t say enough about the quality of these meals, and I credit this service with making a real contribution towards keeping me alive and relatively healthy since the illness which sent me to the hospital four years ago right as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on Mississippi and Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina’s tracking path.

I was in the hospital during Katrina, and missed those nightly tv shots of bodies rotting in the streets of New Orleans, after a flood wall constructed by the U.S. Army of Engineers collapsed during the hurricane, and flood waters roared in drowning at least 1,836 people, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Economist and crisis consultant Randall Bell wrote: "Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Preliminary damage estimates were well in excess of $100 billion, eclipsing many times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992."

As the Hurricane was bearing down on Mississippi and Louisiana I had awakened that morning with bleeding diarrhea and thanks to a call to 911 I was brought to a hospital by the Houston Fire Department’s emergency service. My son Joel, who was living in Houston at the time, later told me he had doubts whether I was going to live through it. But fortunately for me I did. Meantime, far above the flood waters which had devastated New Orleans that famous compassionate conservative George W. Bush was surveying the damage, after which he did little to nothing to aid its victims.

After returning home my health care provider, Texas HealthSpring, sent a social worker to give me some tips on rehabilitating myself. And among the things she told me about was Meals on Wheels, and she gave me a phone number to call. I called, they came to the house to interview me, and I have been getting a weekly meal delivery ever since.

The meals are well prepared and have a wide variety with many ingredients I would never think of getting for myself. If you know of a senior citizen in your neighborhood who could use a service such as this, I suggest you find out if the service is available in your city. If it is, you should give the person the phone number, and have them get interviewed. And you have a little extra money using some of it to support a local organization which is doing this remarkable service for the elderly in your community, then you need look no further than Interfaith Ministries or its equivalent in your city.

A lady picks through what was left of her house in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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The Republican Version of Russian Roulette

Who Really Cares About Our Health?

In their zeal to keep the Obama’s administration’s agenda from having the slightest bit of success, the Republican leadership is playing a game of Russian Roulette with the American voter, and unfortunately it seems to be working for them. They are using this tactic in the fond hope that being fed up with the Democrats’ failure to govern (a failure, of course, brought on in large part by the GOP’s refusal as a man, to support a single one of the Democrats’ initiatives) the American voter will put the GOP back in control of the House and Senate later this year, and elect a Republican to replace Barack Obama in 2012. They have done this by as a man voting no on every Obama and Democratic initiative.

They attempt to justify this by claiming the Democrats shut them out of the initial planning of each piece of legislation, even though they did the exact same thing to the Democrats during the GOP’s own eight year autocratic rule, not only excluding Democrats from meetings where legislation was being honed, but also allowing lobbyists of the affected industries to actually write the legislation, all of this being done in deep secrecy behind closed doors. The energy policy which was overseen by vice president Dick Cheney, was written with contributions from energy company heads including the late, disgraced Ken Lay of Enron. And despite being a person hired by the public, thanks to an obliging court system Mr. Cheney has kept the information of who he met with secret until this day.

Because the Obama administration had published every detail of its health care bill on the internet so that it could prove it is holding nothing back from the public, that empty suit who speaks for House Republicans and answers to the name John Boehner, threatened not to show up for the president’s planned meeting with Congress on Thursday, asking, “why should Republicans show up if they’re going to put the same old crap on the table.” Mr. Boehner did show up, however, still prattling on about how the President and the Congress should throw out a year’s worth of work and start over with a blank sheet of paper. Perhaps Mr. Boehner is the one who needs to start over with a blank sheet of mind.

Republicans needed to show up because they have been sent to Congress to represent the voters back home, not hoe the Republican line by saying “no” to everything the Democrats attempt to do. Obviously Mr. Boehner is confused about who he is actually working for.

However, I’m sure this will come as a total shock to you, but this attitude is nothing new. Republicans have traditionally voted against every attempt to spend some of the tax payers money on the average tax payer. Republicans fought tooth and nail against Social Security, the Civil Rights Movement with its equal voting rights agenda, and Medicare and Medicaid. The fact is that Republicans seem to only support legislation which funnels money to corporations and to the very wealthy. And despite of the fact that the middle and lower classes pay the bulk of the taxes, in the eyes of Republicans money paid out for the benefit of tax payers other than the very wealthy is a sin and a waste of money.

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Better Late Than Never?

The President’s Health Care Meeting Thursday was a fascinating discourse in which both sides clearly and honestly had a chance to put forth their disparate views. As usual Democrats recited tale after tale of constituents losing their jobs and with it their health care, as they fell ill and eventually lost their lives. Republicans continued their mantra of “throw this bill out and start over with a blank sheet of paper.” However, they also raised legitimate concerns, which the meeting allowed to be aired in full.

Everybody got his or her chance to air their points of view at the meeting, which ran over about 45 minutes from its allotted time. And although it is doubtful that anyone from either side was nudged to the other side, it’s true importance was in informing the American people of the true facts about the Democratic plan, and the reason why Congressional Democrats and the President think that passage is necessary for their political future. That of course is the very reason why Republicans oppose their every initiative, in the fond hope that if the voting public sees that Democrats can’t govern, then they will throw the rascals out and put the GOP back in.

One voice not heard during the meeting was that of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the man who blew the cover on the entire Republican agenda with his gleeful comment early on that Health Care could be President Obama’s Waterloo if Republicans would just stick together and cause it to fail. And feeding off a national impatience in the speed of bringing something as complicated as Health Care Reform to fruition in Congress, and on fears of the spiraling national debt, the flames of which Republicans are fanning with all their might the GOP is merrily pressing on with its message, “throw out the bill and start over from scratch.

In an attempt to keep a little reality in focus the President pointed out that how Health Care Reform is viewed depends upon how it is presented by the pollsters. Whereas it may be true that the bill under consideration at this time is lagging at the polls, if people are asked about separate components of the bill, such as whether or not people should be bumped from a paid up policy because they suddenly get sick, of course they reply of course they should have access to insurance they have paid for. Even the so-called “public option” dropped in the Senate and President’s plan, is favored by a comfortable percentage of voters polled.

The President handled the proceedings with aplomb and made at least this one voter proud that he had supported the man for the presidency. Much of the newly minted Republican trepidation concerns whether having lost their 60 vote majority the Democrats will attempt to pass the bill under “reconciliation” which will allow it to pass with a 51 vote majority. GOP squealers cry that such a use has never been applied to a bill of this size, forgetting that Bush’s tax cuts for the rich were passed with just such a plan. And besides, as NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd pointed out on Hardball, nobody is proposing to pass the Health Care bill under reconciliation, bill already passed the Senate with a 60 vote majority. What reconciliation will be used for will be to pass the various amendments needed to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version.

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A Follow Up on Chatroulette

Last week we (and most every other blog) reported on the latest program to capture the fancy of internet addicts, a program called chatroulette. This week in case you didn’t get around to trying the service out yourself we would like to follow up on that report this week by showing you a short video reporting on the chatroulette experience.

chat roulette from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

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Tap Water Ignites in Plume of Flames

Imagine holding a blowtorch to the water running from your kitchen sink, and suddenly having it burst into a plume of flame. Good old YouTube presents this phenonemon in flaming color, and thanks to the fact that they include the code which allows for embedding, we can have it on our blog for you to witness. Our thanks goes out to son Daniel Badeaux, of Seattle, WA, for emailing us this.

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A Frontline Report on Laptops in School

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Since we are rapidly becoming top heavy with video clips this week, how about another one. This clip is from the PBS program Frontline, and discusses the use of laptop computers in a middle school in the Bronx. In it the video covers the many academic uses of the computers, and demonstrates the ability of the school to activate the cameras in the machine remotely, as in spy on the children, and they can even take pictures with the child’s laptop if they wish. In this case the use of the spy ability was benign, and observers were treated several shots of middle school girls using the laptops as a mirror while they combed their hair.

A Movie About Bullies

In my trolling the web the other day I came upon a video which I thought was well worth seeing. It’s a dramatic little video about a bully in a school situation, called The Price of Silence. It quotes Albert Einstein, “The world is an evil place, not because of those who do evil , but because of those who look on and do nothing.” It was produced by Shake State Productions in association with the Museum of Tolerance. A click on the arrow below will show you what I mean.

More Thoughts on Children's Camps

The video on bullies makes an excellent lead in for that part of our blog we dedicate to our camp memories. Not that bullies had any part in life at Killooleet, for in my six years there I can remember no child ever bullying another child. I believe that this was because of the peaceful spirit of the camp as projected by its leader and guru, John Seeger.

Last week’s news of the memorial service for John set off a flood of memories. Somehow we expect people we know and care about to live, if not forever, at least for as long as we live. John certainly lived a long and fruitful life. Long enough to see his offspring, Tony and Kate, grow into exceptional adults.

John and his wife Ellie made Killooleet into a laboratory for growing children into responsible adults. They were brilliant and ever experimental, and weren’t afraid to leave minor problems for their counselor staff to handle. As a result Killooleet has an excellent record in producing outstanding human beings, many campers have gone on to be counselors themselves, and many of those have had children which they have sent to the camp. You might call it a most fascinating, non-vicious circle.

I was inspired to leave the University Settlement Camp which is where I first leaned the craft of counselor and song leader when during my third year there the camp director seemed to be at war with the campers, almost daring them to act up so that he could demonstrate his command. He did this by sending a very popular camper home early because the boy walked his girl friend to her cabin after a dance, and was caught coming from the girls’ cabin. He also kept my cabin confined to their cabin for four days at the end of a trip because one camper carved on a window sill, and the boys would not say who had done it, nor would the guilty boy come forth.

In both cases I thought the punishment was excessive. In the case of the boy sent home, to me his walking his girlfriend home was a very sweet gesture, and certainly nothing to get upset about. If the boy had been found inside the girls cabin, and engaged in intimate behavior, maybe that would have merited some kind of extreme punishment.

In the case of my boys, the carving was a bit unsightly, but there was no structural damage, and the punishment was inflicted solely in an attempt to get someone to turn in the guilty boy, and of course the Settlement kids had a code which would never allow them to turn another one in.

When my complaints to Charles Cook, who was the head of the Settlement House in the city, and the Camp, he explained that the man had a master in social work from Columbia University, and that was that. And when I announced that I was leaving to work at John Seeger’s Killooleet Cook assured me that I would find out that they would treat problems the same way. Well, of course, when I got to Killooleet I found nothing of the kind. Staff and campers were never in conflict. An atmosphere of peace and security enveloped the camp. Attitudes are set at the top, and go down from there. And John and Ellie were both experts in child education and development, and ran a secure camp which allowed growth not only for campers, but also for counselors.

It’s a wide, wide world out there, and room in it for all sorts of philosophies on handling children. But I put my two feet squarely in the camp that says you can get more out of a child by challenging him than you can by browbeating him. And both of the two camps that I subsequently worked for, Killooleet in Vermont, and Blueberry Cove in Maine were practitioners of the art of child rearing which had the personality of the child as sacrosanct. It took nineteen years of the two before I became utterly convinced, but of course the fun was in the journey.

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And so another edition of Little Eddy’s blog gets put through the wringer, only to come out pristine and almost moisture free. We do this blog each week, at least until that greater power which I really don’t believe in, says “enough is enough” and shuts me down.

Unlike the ocean in New England, Gulf of Mexico waters are warm and refreshing, and we do invite you to come swim with us again any time next week. Until then, bye now, and don’t take any Republican Health Care talk seriously. They say throw out the bill and start over, because they want Obama and the Dems to fail. Hopefully the American people are smart enough to know better.

The Real Little Eddy §

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