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skygazer's Journal
Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Mon Sep 03rd 2007, 11:04 AM
I left Tuesday and got back yesterday.

First, I drove up the gorgeous California coast -



I went to a really cool beach that was made up of "gravel" that was actually ocean-polished glass -



Then I took a ride through some beautiful Redwood country -



And on to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where I camped near a mountain lake -



Saw some neat hot springs -



And climbed a volcano -



Up a gnarly trail -



To the summit -



Where the views were incredible -



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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Fri Aug 17th 2007, 03:23 PM


No, it's not as pathetic as it seems. I have people in my life I've known longer but none of them have been so constantly a part of my life as my saddle has been.

I've been riding in that saddle for over 33 years now. It belonged to my riding instructor when I first started working at her place in '74 and it quickly became my favorite. The most comfortable saddle I've ever sat. She sold it to me two years later.

It was old when I got it. A master saddler once looked at it and judging by the style, he told me it was built in the 30's or 40's. Good make, though and well cared for.

It's been trail riding and showing and three-day-eventing and fox hunting for 3 decades now. It's been on dozens of horses (and, amazingly, fit every one) and every photo I've posted here of me on a horse (there's been a few) features that saddle.

It's pretty worn now and I can't use it because of that. I'm in the process of trying to find someone to refurbish it, something that will no doubt cost more than the thing is worth. Except to me. It's priceless to me.

Just felt like saying that.
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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Sat May 05th 2007, 10:58 AM
Which makes perfect sense - after all, everyone knows that people who listen to Pink Floyd have never dabbled in anything beyond some gentle lawn tennis and a cocktail.

This place kills me sometimes.
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Apr 19th 2007, 02:33 PM
My legal analysis instructor asked us to write a paper discussing our thoughts about this, focusing on the legalities and the court's analysis as well as our personal reaction. I thought I'd post what I wrote here.

My Analysis of the Gonzales Decision

I think the main flaw with this decision lies in the repeated references of Justice Kennedy to the Court’s “legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.” This phrase is repeated several times throughout the decision (there is a noticeable lack of any comparable discussion in regards to the health and welfare of women) and given great weight in the conclusions drawn. However, it is faulty reasoning in that the Act as written does nothing to “preserve and promote” fetal life; it continues to allow several alternative methods of performing second trimester abortions. The only possible way it could act to preserve and promote fetal life would be by preventing a woman from getting an abortion because the alternatives were considered too risky to her health and in fact numerous medical professionals testified that the proscribed method is sometimes the safest one in terms of the health and safety of the mother.

This leads me to conclude that the Court’s reasoning is that the life of a nonviable fetus trumps the health and safety of the woman in need of medical attention. This in itself contradicts precedent in several areas.

First, it contradicts precedent because it lacks protection for the preservation of a woman’s health and safety. Second, it contradicts precedent because it blurs the clear line that was previously drawn between a viable and nonviable fetus. And thirdly, it contradicts precedent because it places the welfare of a nonviable fetus above that of the mother.

Beyond that, I’m insulted and alarmed at the paternalistic language and conclusions throughout the decision. Justice Kennedy seems to be saying that women are too fragile to be given any clear information about the medical procedures available to them; rather than require doctors to provide that information, the Court needs to protect these delicate flowers by deciding for them what is in their best interests. He speaks of the tragedy of women who have subsequently come to regret their decision to abort and makes the absurd leap of assuming, against all empirical data, that many women must suffer severe mental anguish because of this (never mentioning what sort of mental anguish might result from having to bear an unwanted child or from undergoing a procedure that caused grave health problems because one that was safer was denied). It is appalling that a Supreme Court Justice could write these things in the year 2007.

Finally, I’m disgusted by the repeated use of emotionally charged and politicized language throughout. Medical professionals are repeatedly referred to as “abortion doctors.” A nonviable fetus is referred to as a “baby.” Page upon page of discussion is devoted to lurid descriptions of what is referred to as “a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is NEVER medically necessary.”

I agree with Justice Ginsberg when she says that the big change is in the makeup of the Court, not the reading of the law.
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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Sat Apr 14th 2007, 05:47 PM
Perforations.

What would you include?
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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Sat Apr 07th 2007, 07:31 PM
(a translation would be nice but not required)
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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Tue Mar 06th 2007, 03:14 PM
A remark in lionessprianka's question thread brought it to mind.

My daughter gave up a baby when she was 15 - I keep in touch with my granddaughter and her parents (she's 9 now) and they're the best people in the world - so deserving of having a child to love.

My son-in-law is adopted and he and my daughter, if they decide to have kids, want to adopt because they both have such positive experiences with it.

I know several people who've chosen to adopt and a few who have made the decision to give up a child for adoption. All of them are great people who wanted nothing but the best for their kids.

So here's to adopters and adoptees and those who make the (heart-wrenching) decision to give up a child to a better life
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Mar 05th 2007, 05:21 PM
Twelve years ago on my birthday, I quit a 6 year heroin habit. I did it cold turkey and from that day to this, I have not touched a grain of dope. Nor have I had any desire to.

Still, I’ve had proponents of 12 step programs tell me I’m not “really” an ex-addict – rather, I’m in denial and in danger of relapse because I didn’t go through the program. Stephen King wrote a column in Entertainment Weekly a couple of years ago that touched on that – he said that the only way a person could kick an alcohol or drug habit was by going through a 12 step program. Advice columnists regularly recommend 12 step programs for a broad range of addictions. I started to wonder how successful they really are.

So just for the hell of it, today I thought I’d do some research and just a preliminary (and completely unscientific) look at some of the information out there was enlightening to say the least. I just googled a bunch of terms – “AA recovery rates”, “12 step recovery rates”, “12 step relapse rates” etc.

I got a mix of information but the actual scientific studies that turned up suggested that the recovery rate for people who attend 12 step programs is roughly the same as that of people who simply decide to quit on their own (which seemed to apply to both drugs and alcohol). The relapse rate is quite high, also about the same as those who quit cold turkey.

Which brings up a couple of questions in my mind. First, isn’t it possible that those people who say that a 12 step program “saved” them might actually have saved themselves? In other words, perhaps their recovery is more because of them than because of the organization. There are numerous stories of people who quit several times, attended a program each time, relapsed and then finally quit for good. Was that because they were finally working the program “right” or because they’d finally decided to change their lives and meant it?

Secondly, why is it okay for judges to order people to attend AA meetings or other 12 step programs if they aren’t actually effective? This happens every day. Isn’t it dishonest to officially sanction a course of treatment that isn’t actually proven to be more effective than no treatment at all?

And perhaps most importantly, are we, by so universally supporting a course whose effectiveness is questionable failing to look for treatments that ARE effective?

Once again, I have to stress that the information I have is just from one afternoon’s casual googling. I have also never attended an AA meeting in my life so I have no personal experience with it. But it makes me wonder about a lot of stuff – there are people out there who are frightened and desperate and 12 step programs hold out the hope of a solution. If it isn’t really a solution, that’s pretty disillusioning.

Thoughts? Comments?
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sun Jan 28th 2007, 06:04 PM
People here seem to like to throw stones but shy away from actually figuring out how to address it.

I think the biggest obstacle for the poor is the seeming lack of any coherent way to get out of poverty. Americans are fond of proclaiming that anyone who works hard can do whatever they want but they don't tend to address those who have no idea how to begin that.

I think the most positive things we can do about poverty are to institute programs that help keep people from falling into it in the first place and that help them climb out of it if they're already there. Things like -

Job training programs
Resume writing programs
Job interview workshops
Child care programs
Job placement programs
Transportation assistance
Low-cost addiction assistance
Medical assistance


Also -

After school programs
Career programs for schoolchildren
Parenting classes for both adults and teens
Mentoring programs
College prep programs
Programs to help low income students find funding for higher education

All of these things are the first things to feel the budget axe when things get tight and they're the things that I see as most likely to help people out of tough situations. We need to quit funding prisons and start funding people.
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Jan 23rd 2007, 09:57 AM
And that's what generates the hostility because it's very frustrating when people can't see beyond the surface.

When a homeless person is in the situation you describe, it IS easier for them to remain homeless because the alternative is frightening and overwhelming. The idea of intervention and being substance free is quite frightening - why do you think so many people who have all the wealth in the world continue to abuse drugs or alcohol even when they have every opportunity to kick the habit? Because the idea of going without is terrifying.

Multiply that a thousandfold and you have the addict on the street. That's their cushion, their comfort. As is the (false) security they have among the other street people who know them, who may even respect them, who are a known quantity.

Change is frightening to most people - look at the fact that many long-term inmates in prison would say they'd rather stay in than be released. Does that mean they'd rather be in prison than have a comfortable home? No, not really. It means the steps in between the two are frightening and seemingly insurmountable and when you add in the fact that there is precious little apparatus in place to assist in that transition - except for people who have no understanding of what it's like and only a dogged determination to save the world - it makes it even harder.

To take at face value the statement that a homeless person would rather be homeless is to ignore the reality of their situation. I've known many homeless people, not as a social worker but as a casual aquaintance. They do have dreams and they're not of cardboard boxes on the street. But those dreams are so far from their reality that it's easier and seems safer for many to continue with the status quo.
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sun Jan 21st 2007, 06:18 PM
I haven't seen any hard evidence either way of late so I don't know anything for sure. I would tend to be skeptical - even the best employers are being squeezed on health care and have had to funnel more of the costs to their employees so I would find it hard to believe that WalMart is doing anything major in that respect. It's quite easy as we know to put a positive spin on things that aren't really that positive. I feel the same way about their philanthropic efforts - mostly band-aid goodwill measures to make people feel kindly toward them. But I'd feel better about them if they built fewer parks or contributed to fewer charities and simply paid their employees a decent wage, sold quality products and didn't support overseas sweatshops.

Certainly WalMart isn't the only threat to communities, downtowns, local businesses, etc. They are, however, one of the biggest and best-financed threats. And of course, it's very true that there are plenty of people who are unaware of the negative aspects of the company and I don't slam those people for shopping there because they don't know any better.

I try not to slam anyone but I do think that those of us who DO recognize the problems have somewhat of an obligation to try to refrain from supporting them as well as let those who are unaware know what they're supporting. I too come from an area that is pretty much non-union - not here in California but in Vermont where I used to live. I saw the impact that a WalMart had when it was put up across the river in New Hampshire and it was and is rather grim. And in addition to undercutting so many local businesses and putting them under, the jobs created were virtually all at the lowest level - upper management is all from elsewhere. Though the area is non-union, the non WalMart jobs did tend to pay better but the companies couldn't compete with the monster.

I don't mean to go on and on but I do want to say one more thing. My single biggest political concern is poverty. Certainly there are many major issues but I think poverty contributes to every single one of them and is a critical and moral issue in this country. I've been poor. And though poverty is the rationale most often given for shopping at WalMart, it's actually an action that does a great deal to contribute to the problem. I don't like to see poor people fleeced and though they feel they're getting more for their money at WalMart, in many ways and in a collective sense, they're actually getting less.

Peace to you and thanks for putting up with my long-windedness!
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sun Jan 21st 2007, 12:47 PM
In the end, you're shooting yourself in your own foot because you're creating a self-fulfilling prophecy - low wages, few choices and little chance of getting ahead.

Obviously you didn't read the post fully - I'm not middle class, I don't have extra dollars and there have been times in my life when I would have been grateful for a can of cat food. Don't assume that just because a person is able to find alternatives, they must have extra resources. That's just not the case. What it does mean in my case is an ability to see beyond the immediate.

The problem arises because thousands of individuals see their case as unique and only see their small contribution to WalMart as ... well, small. But collectively, it's what companies like that bank on. All those individual shoppers who feel they "have" to go there to save a buck create a giant entity that sucks the life out of communities and actually makes their life worse in the end. Only an understanding of the true cost - the cost to everyone and the entire community - makes one realize that we HAVE to seek alternatives. For our own good and betterment. And there are alternatives.

Coupons, USDA food giveaways, food banks, bulk markets, markdown stores that sell dented or otherwise damaged but still usable products for less, the WIC program, etc. Resources are out there and no, it's not easy. But it's important. And the main reason there are people who harp on the subject is they're trying to make people realize how important it is and how it's in their own best interest to find those alternatives.

This is not a matter of imparting morals - do you deny the damage WalMart does to communities and its empoloyees? Do you really feel its selfish to try to make people understand that this sort of company leeches resources from the cities and states in which they operate? In the end, it costs all of us and I don't think there's anything selfish about pointing that out. It's nothing personal towards anyone - its a matter of awareness.
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sat Jan 20th 2007, 06:54 PM
And my social conscience doesn't get tossed out the window when it becomes inconvenient. I'm well aware of what it's like to be poor - I have been extremely so in my life, to the point of doing things like chopping up furniture to burn in my wood stove. Even so, shopping at places like WalMart has never been something I've chosen to do because I cannot in good conscience reconcile it.

If you want to see that as a snide remark, that's unfortunate. It's not. The truth is, we make choices and the choices we make impact more than ourselves. Of course your food stamps go farther at WalMart - because the company undercuts the prices of local business, driving them out of competition. Because thay don't pay decent wages or offer decent benefits. You may see it as your only option but in reality, by shopping there, you're making it a self-fulfilling prophecy - there will be no other place to shop if no one supports local business.

When hundreds and thousands of people make choices based only on their situation and not on the long-term consequences of their actions, it's short-sighted and selfish.
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Posted by skygazer in The DU Lounge
Mon Dec 25th 2006, 07:01 PM
Books or movies.

For movies, I think I'd pick 12 Monkeys.

For books, I really loved Time and Again by Jack Finney. The way he used old photos of NYC throughout the book was fun.
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Posted by skygazer in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Thu Dec 21st 2006, 06:43 PM
Who here has been catastrophically poor? I don’t mean poor as in not being able to afford extras – I mean poor as in not being able to afford necessities. Food. Shelter. Heat. Even the most basic of medical care.

I have.

The membership of DU for the most part seems to be a pretty well educated bunch. That’s good. Education is great – I wish I had more formal education because I probably wouldn’t be working retail at the age of 46 and suffering a lot of physical problems because of the wear and tear it puts on my body. But I am for the most part self-educated. I dropped out of school when I was 17 because my mother died and my father left me to fend for myself and it was a choice between working or going to school starving. I chose work.

A good portion of my self-education comes from the School of Hard Knocks. I learned about poverty there, and desperation. I learned about just how hard it is to be poor. I learned how absurd is the notion that people “want” to collect welfare or live on the streets. I learned what it feels like to depend on the charity of others, and what it feels like when people in grocery lines turn up their noses and judge what you’re buying with your food stamps. I learned to feel guilty for buying my child a candy bar with those food stamps when he did well in school or deserved something special for being such a good kid. I learned that very few people were interested in the circumstances that led me to poverty and more interested in blaming me for it.

I learned that I had to defend myself, to explain that I’d worked and worked hard, paid my bills but still lived very close to the bone until it all fell apart when I got divorced.

Right now, DU is holding a fundraiser for Second Harvest which is terrific because its an organization that helps poor people. Even so, I see a lot of hostility to the poor on this board. There seems to be sympathy for some poor people but not others and people seem to think they can tell when a person “deserves” help and when they don’t. That disturbs me.

I see threads about “able-bodied” people who “refuse” to work. Or about bums looking for handouts just so they can get a drink or a fix. I wonder why the same people who show such compassion when a fellow DU’er mentions a friend or relative in rehab show such little compassion for someone on the street facing addictions of their own. I know when I was homeless and felt I had nowhere to turn, something to help me forget my problems for a little bit was a very tempting thing.

I think we all acknowledge that it’s damn hard to give up drinking. Or smoking. Or doing drugs. Imagine how much harder it is to kick those habits when you’re living on the street. There are plenty of people who look “able-bodied” who can’t work for various reasons. Maybe they’re mentally ill. Maybe they have untreated substance abuse issues. Maybe they’re homeless and can’t go to interviews in their dirty clothes, unshowered and unshaven, without an address and missing teeth because they’re too poor to go to a dentist. The point is, why do people feel the need to assume bad intentions on the part of these people? I’m sure there are some of them who are scam artists but there are a hell of a lot of people in this country who are living under bridges and in subway stations. People who live a life many of you can't imagine.

You may never have to experience what that’s like. I hope you never do. But the next time you give a bum a couple of bucks and he buys a 40 ounce bottle of beer or a pack of cigarettes, try to put yourself in his shoes. It may be the only pleasant thing he experiences all week.

Merry Christmas.
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