Monthly Archives: May 2009

Gitmo facts before jumping to conclusions

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I had planned to announce today that I would pay the $80 million that President Obama needs to relocate the remaining 245 prisoners held at Guantánamo. My plan was to borrow the money from a TARP bank, take over the facility and develop a golf course, casino, hotels and some condos. This all fell through when I found out that the US doesn’t actually own Gitmo and is just renting. Imagine my disappointment.

How could it be, you ask? Just four years ago, we paid Halliburton a billion dollars to build the “detention center” on land we don’t even own? Wait a minute, we paid a billion dollars for that? Stop. Go back. Why does Obama need $80 million for relocation? That’s $326,530 a prisoner. For that, couldn’t he check them in to the Ritz for the next 4 years and forget about them? Yes, but stop interrupting.

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I wish Castro were my landlord, or it’s about clean coal technology. Since 1934, the US has “rented” the 46.8 square miles around Guantánamo Bay for the purpose of coaling1 and naval stations with annual payments of $2,000 in gold (currently, $4,085 per month in check) – from 18982 until 1934, we didn’t pay anything. Since the Cuban Revolution (1959), all but one (an accident of the revolution) of the checks have gone un-cashed and are reportedly stuffed in Castro’s desk. Cynically, we continue to make the checks out to the “Treasurer General of the Republic” since we still don’t recognize the new (60 years) government.

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For 60 or 80 centuries, Cuba was inhabited by the Taíno and Ciboney peoples. They were peaceful farmers and hunter-gatherers. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed, it all went to hell and, except for a brief period after WWII, has pretty much been there ever since. The Spanish brought with them infectious diseases and Christianity. Those indigenous people who didn’t die from one, died from the other. For 400 years, the Spanish colonized Cuba and developed a plantation economy on the backs of African-descended slaves.

When the desperately poor finally rose up and looked like they were going to overthrow the Spanish, we stepped in. For the next 110 years, we have cruelly dominated this poor island country. By US law, we are required to leave “control of the island to its people.” Yet, we have invaded. Propped up dictators. Funded insurrection. We have forced unfair trade and have decimated Cuba economically by military blockhead and embargoes. We’ve dumped toxic waste and broadcast toxic radio. 040825_cubabaseball_hmed_2phmediumjpgIn spite of this, Cuba is a diverse country with a stable government and no lobbyists. It has free elections, universal healthcare, a strong education system, freedom of religion, low crime, wonderful food and great baseball players. All things that we aspire to.

There is that nagging “socialist” thing. According to Wikipedia, in 2006, Cuba’s economy was 78% public-sector employment and 22% private sector (compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981). Ours, on the other hand, is about just about opposite those figures, but moving the other direction.

It is time to give notice on our lease. Of course, we’d have to recognize their “new” government.

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So what to do about Gitmo? Of the 775 detainees who have been our guests, only three3 have been convicted; 420 were released without charge by the Bush administration; 69 are now hosted by other countries; 41 are either in US prisons or have been misplaced; and 245 remain. Of these, we want to release about 185 when we can find a country to take them, which requires the bribe that Congress has yet to fund. That leaves us with what to do with the remaining 60 or so.

These 60 men so terrify our governors, representatives and senators that they are afraid to run for re-election if the prisoners are on our soil in their states. Closing of Gitmo is the issue that our alpha-male ex-veep came out of hiding to describe as “unwise in the extreme” and “recklessness cloaked in righteousness.” This is the issue President Obama says is “the toughest issue we will face.”

Doesn’t sound so tough to me. These worst of the worst are no match for the vicious criminals in our prisons – certainly, not in the showers. They are friendless, penniless and powerless. Many have been tortured and are incapacitated. Most don’t even speak English (except those who take our English language courses and enjoy some of the 7,500 books in the Gitmo library). These “masterminds” aren’t. They have long since been replaced by new recruits – many of which were likely recruited because of our internment policies and torture. Gitmo prisoners aren’t coming back here. Chances are, they aren’t going to be welcomed anywhere. No matter what we do, there are risks. But the risk to our system is greater if we don’t act.

We are a nation of laws. It is time to trust them. Trust the courts. Charge them or let them go. Take them back to where we found them (or, release them in Texas – they wouldn’t last a week).

Suggested reading:

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1 Our Navy ships used to burn a lot of coal – almost a thousand tons per day per battleship, which explains why we might want Guantánamo, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. We started switching to oil in 1910.

2 Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain! Sure. The state that gave us the two senate votes to pass Obama’s stimulus. No, the other Maine. The USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor (1898). Even though the explosion that caused the Maine’s sinking was in dispute, President Bush at the time, played by William McKinley, cited it as a reason to start a war with Spain and take over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. While the Republicans were waiting for a reason to pick a fight, disappointingly, Spain had already lost Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Santo Dominto, Columbia, etc.

After the Spanish-American war, the Cuban-American Treaty gave us Guantánamo Bay and the surrounding land in perpetuity for the purpose of coaling and naval stations in exchange for our recognition of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba, their prohibition from negotiating treaties with country but us, and our agreement to preferential sugar tariffs, which allowed the US to dominate the government and the economy so long as we both shall live. This treaty was a requirement of the Platt Amendment to the Army appropriations bill (1899). While the treaty was rejected by the Cuban assembly, it was accepted by the government du jour (del día) and integrated into the Cuban constitution. One note: we signed the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) which voids treaties obtained by force, but we ignore it in this case.

3 The Austrailian kid, who after torture, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence; the former chauffeur who was released for time served; and a man who received a life sentence for making a video celebrating the attack on the USS Cole.

The NRA are a bunch of yellow (insert euphemism here)

nra_logoRaccoons? Beavers? Hedgehogs? Rabbits? Squirrels? Trees? Dogs? Children? Other campers? Aliens? Socialists? Terrorists? Park Rangers? Our President? Other NRA members? What are they afraid of?

Congress passed a bill that, at least nine months from now, will curtail just a few of the many grotesque abuses of the credit card industry. Your NRA, which has a budget of $150 million to $200 million, much of which they spend on bribing your elected leaders, got language stuck in the bill that will allow anyone (not just NRA members) to carry guns in national parks. Wussies — the NRA and everyone who voted to tack a silly gun measure on to a serious bill intended to address a real economic and consumer issue. Reprobates — everyone of them — including the 105 Democrats in the House and 27 Democrats in the Senate who pandered their support for the NRA measure.

Here’s the evidence (from a great read in the National Parks Traveler): 273 million people visited national parks in 2006. Sadly, there were 11 homicides*; two went off cliffs in relationship disputes; one, a suicide. another a DUI. One, a victim of a drunken fight. Another, a shooting death by someone with an illegal firearm. One a drowning. We do not know how the others died, but, like the NRA, I suspect it must have been attacks by raccoon, beaver or terrorists. One note: there were 37 times as many bears killed by humans than humans killed by bears. Oops, I got my math wrong: 37 bear deaths by human, human deaths by bear 0.

The same year, the number one crime in national parks was liquor law violations (5,752). Number two, was carrying a gun (1,950). Number three, intoxication (843). Seems to this outsider that if we allowed guns in the parks, the number one and number three crimes might become more serious. Of course, that is easy for me to say, I’ve never been attacked by a squirrel or a terrorist in a national park.

There may be another explanation: protecting poachers (aka: hunters who think they have a right to shoot anything, anywhere without fear of prosecution). Poaching is big business with an organized illegal safari going for upwards of $10,000 per poacher. The park service has few law enforcement rangers (one ranger for every 118,000 acres), but (according to Science World) they still catch about 5,000 poachers a year and estimate that they don’t catch another 150,000-200,000 a year. Since it would take an enormous amount of luck to catch a poacher in the act (“Ranger, we’re just on a nature hike”) most of those caught end up being prosecuted on gun violations. Poachers are big winners with this new legislation.

Why are we even talking about this? Anyone not at a cocktail party sponsored by the NRA would read the second amendment and understand that our founding fathers were protecting the right of the states to have militias and for those in the militias to bear arms (sorry, for the bears). No one, not even Democrats, have mentioned (I dare you to Google it) taking away the state militias’ rights to bear arms. After all, we need them to continue fighting Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No. I must be missing something that Wyatt Earp (born in Kentucky, officially a Southerner) also overlooked when he and Wild Bill disarmed Dodge City. The right to commit suicide (on purpose or accidentally). The right to kill your spouse (on purpose or accidentally). The right to kill your children (on purpose or accidentally). The right to kill your friends (on purpose or accidentally). The right to protect yourself and your property while drinking. And the right to commit crimes with guns. We must protect these rights and quit trying to take the guns out of Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands.

Depending on whether you have basic cable, or the full spectrum, there were dozens of times as many police shootings on TV as actually happened — police actually shoot and kill about 200 criminals each year. During 2005 (the most recent year statistics have been released), gun owners, exercising their NRA-guaranteed right, shot and killed over 3,000 of their children, wounding ten times as many. In the same period, the rest of the world combined (not including our wars), didn’t add up to our domestic output.

Listen, I’m fine if Texas wants to spend what money they have left in their former governor’s economy on buying and hoarding guns (way up since Obama’s been in office). They are planning to secede anyway and I bet the Pentagon, or the Mexican drug cartel, can handle whatever they have in their gun cabinets. Just stay out of our parks, or we’ll sic a beaver on you.

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* Tom Coburn, (R-OK), and sponsor the NRA Amendment to the Senate bill states in his press release that the number of 2006 homicides our National Parks and the US Fish and Wildlife Service** public lands was 16, and also includes statistics for rape, robbery, kidnappings and assault. He cites the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service as his source, but they do not collect and publish such statistics. This information could only have come from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, though it beats the heck out me how it could have been compiled accurately from the data available.

**The US Fish and Wildlife Service manages more than 150 million acres, 550 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 37 wetland management districts – in all 50 states and many near metropolitan areas.

How your Southern Senators voted (Alphabetical by Senator Name): 29 Yay; 3 Nay; 2 Not Voting

Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Bunning (R-KY), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Yea
Byrd (D-WV), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Nay
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Yea
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
DeMint (R-SC), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Yea
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Martinez (R-FL), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Nay
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Not Voting
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Not Voting
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Webb (D-VA), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Yea

Polling the choir

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Two new polls out find that people who still answer land-line phones and are willing to talk to pollsters are more likely to be confused by “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” labels than in previous surveys – or is it the other way around? Hard to tell.

The news, of course, is that Gallup has announced a dramatic shift in how people label themselves on the abortion issue. A year ago, 50% chose “Pro-Choice” with 44% choosing “Pro-Life.” Gallup’s new survey shows those figures have flopped and now only 44% now choose “Pro-Choice” with “Pro-Life” coming in at 51%. A dramatic 7% increase for “Pro-Life” in one year. Something significant must have occurred this year. I wonder what it was?

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People choosing the label, “Republican” who also chose the label, “Pro-Life” increased from 60% to 70%. There was basically no change with “Democrats” coming in at 61% “Pro-Choice.” It seems safe to assume that the branding war conducted by axis of virtue (the church, Limbaugh and Fox), at least with Republicans, has tipped to the “Pro-Life” label. Or, has it?

Admittedly, “Life” trumps “Choice” on the importance list for almost everyone not specifically talking about a woman’s right to choose. As trick questions go, this has always been one. Let’s face it, most Americans couldn’t name their governor or find Washington, DC on a map (though, most could name the American Idol finalists), so it may just be that they guessed right (as in, far right).

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Perhaps we need to look at another survey. Gallup says those choosing to label themselves as “Republican” is down. Their most recent survey showed 27% of the people that agreed to answer their call, labeled themselves “Republican,” compared to 36% who labeled themselves “Democrat” – there is an even greater spread when Gallup included those leaning Republican or Democrat. No, that doesn’t explain it. Assuming, and maybe I shouldn’t, that Gallup reached a representative sample of “Republican” and “Democrat,” and the “Independents” split, the survey should have been overwhelming “Pro-Choice.” What other explanation could explain the results?

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Oh. I know. I know. I think, I know. Teacher call on me… Gallup calls are a sample of adults weighted by demographics (gender, age and race to match the accuracy of the US Census), but not party affiliation. The pollsters called about 15,000 homes with land-line telephones to get 1,015 to agree to the interviews, of which, they used 971. Federal law forbids pollsters from using computers to place calls to wireless phones and it is really, really expensive for surveys to have “people” dial to get enough people to agree to talk to a pollster. To Gallup’s credit, they also called a “supplemental sample” of cell-phone-only households which Gallup says is based on up to 15% of the population. Problem is, the number of households who don’t use land-lines is over 35% (according to the CDC survey). The CDC survey also found that those who do still use land-lines are older, dumber, whiter, richer, and, apparently, Republicans.

Whew. For a news cycle (AKA: a moment), I thought something significant had occurred.

From the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey:

  • 20% of US homes (21.3% in the South) no longer have land-lines. For people living together, but not married, the figure is 61%. For people living alone, it’s 28%. For renters, it’s 40%. For people under 30, it is 40%. And nearly 55% for people who are near or below the poverty line.
  • Add another 15% have both land-lines and cell phones, but take few or no calls on their land-lines, often because they are wired into computers – combined with wireless only homes, that means that over 35 percent of households – more than one in three – are basically reachable only on cell phones.
  • Add to that all the homes that have given up phones due to the economy since the survey was completed (December 2008).
  • The survey also reported that those still reachable by pollsters are 37% more likely to binge drink, less likely to have college degrees, more likely to live in rural areas, and much more likely to be non-Hispanic whites.

Why are they torturing us?

smilingdickSeeing Dick’s crooked smile again on talk TV. Watching Nancy parse, fumble, flip, fluster, clarify and accuse. Hearing the Newt call for a leader to step down for something other than sex, racism or corruption. Watching liberal pundits be interrogated night after night by the gleeful wing nuts.

It was cruel. I just wish it was unusual for there to be more outrage at someone who is presumed guilty of not doing than those proven guilty of the most heinous crimes.

House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D) of California, stands accused of having attended a highly classified intelligence briefing in September 2002  (Republicans held the majority in the House at the time and she was not in the minority leadership) that included a description of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) used by the Bush Administration – and not doing much as a result. Further, at different times this week, she denied she was briefed on water-boarding, accused the CIA of not being truthful about the information presented, and had great difficulty describing her role without betraying the secrets of the briefings.

pelosiandbushWhat did she not do and when? Who else knew and didn’t act?

Beginning in 2002, the CIA held 40 separate intelligence oversight hearings that included information on EITs.  It is believed that at least 65 members of the House and Senate attended at least one of these meetings including John McCain (R, AZ), Pat Roberts (R, KS), John Rockefeller (D, WV), Carl Levin (D, MI), Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), Evan Bayh (D, IN), Barbara Mikulski (D, CA), Russ Feingold (D, WI), Lamar Alexander (R, TN) and Richard Shelby (R, AL).

Pelosi was included at one of those briefings along with Porter Goss (R, FL)) who later became head of the CIA. The subject of the briefing was the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah who had been captured in Pakistan in 2002. The interrogation techniques used on him were discussed and the representatives were reassured that was legal. Most of the focus is presumed to be about Zubaydah’s confession (later proved to be phony) that Al Qaeda terrorists use chemical weapons, helping justify invading Iraq.

I’m not here to be an apologist for any of them. What they did not do is disgusting.  It was September of an election year. The first anniversary of 911. The Rove propaganda machine was at full tilt. Bush, the decider, had decided to go to war. No one in Congress had facts. The Misleader-in-Chief and his dark sidekicks, Dick and Don, had threatened the patriotism of any one that wasn’t for them. It is easy to look back and see how convenient it was for our leaders to be informed, but not have the courage to martyr themselves just because it was the right thing to do.

Even if she knew of the water-boarding, just remember the controversy that surrounded Pelosi after her election two months later as the first female Minority Leader (of the lame duck session). It is pretty easy to see why she would might been reticent to stand up in January as House Majority Leader and throw away the Democrats’ promised agenda by announcing the Bushies were war criminals.

Bring on the Truth Commission. The tortured truth needs it.

Lessons of War

copsMIDTOWN ATLANTA, Ga. – Sunday evening, two third-floor loft dwellers were attempting to enjoy the remnant of their weekend, when war broke out.

The young men had their windows open only to find the fresh evening air fouled by the sounds from a crueler side of life coming from the park bench below them. This was not the first time they had been bothered by the loud and constant talking. They knew their choices. They could have turned up their TV again, or closed the window. They could have attempted to negotiate with the men on the bench to quiet down. Or, as they had done before, they could have complained to the police. They just knew they couldn’t ignore it. That, and the Hawks had just lost to Cleveland.

There is no confirmation on how long they deliberated, but it is assumed their IQ’s  and judgment declined with their continued alcohol consumption. They decided to act. Taking a dozen eggs from the fridge, they took positions on their balcony. With shock and awe, they attacked.

The homeless men on the bench were taken totally by surprise. For a brief moment, they laughed with and at one another. Had they been given a chance, they probably would have requested their eggs prepared differently. But as the bombardment continued, their levity turned to anger. Their disorientation to resolve. They knew that their unknown enemy had the strategic advantage of the high ground, but they had to make their stand. They had no place to go. These men of the street had no weaponized food products to return fire, so they acted with instinct. Grabbing what was close at hand, they counter attacked with rocks.

Rocks thrown at a high target in darkness are not known to be precision weapons. This was again proven.

It was unknown to the men at the bench, that the commotion had attracted the attention of the City of Atlanta Policeman who lives one floor up and one apartment over from their target. The egg tossers had retreated to the safety inside when the officer came out on his balcony. Using his training and experience, he quickly assessed the situation. Two men. Black. Mid-thirties to mid-forties. One about 5’7“. The other about 6’1”. Agitated. Probably intoxicated. Yelling and throwing rocks at the apartment building. He recognized the men as Bull and Red. But before he could announce himself, an errant rock hit him and drew blood*.

The risks of war can never truly be estimated. But in retrospect, what happened next should have seemed inevitable. Within moments, the sounds of sirens could be heard. Seconds later, flashing and colored lights from thirteen Atlanta police cars broke the darkness.

Encircled by more than dozen or so of Atlanta’s finest, Bull and Red should have done as they were told, but they were angry and felt justified in their actions. The police, they felt, should be after those punks who started it. They wanted desperately to tell their side of the story.

The police, on the other hand, only knew that these two drunk and violent men had hit one of their brothers-in-blue with a rock (not to be confused with Iraq). The situation had to be assumed to be dangerous. The police are trained to first stabilize a situation like this. They needed for Bull and Red to quiet and assume the position. When Bull and Red resisted, the police had no choice but to use pepper spray. When that was not sufficient, they then subdued the men with means deemed necessary.

eggBull and Red were taken to Grady Hospital for their injuries before going to jail. Disturbing the peace, public drunkenness and resisting arrest will be enough to keep them there for at least a few weeks. They both have prior offenses. If assault on a police officer is added, they could go away for years.

So what are the lessons of war? According to Curtis, who is also homeless, often in the park, and told me this story, the lesson is: “It’s stupid. You can’t win. Walk away. Just got to let it go.” Curtis also was quick to point out that, “those people [egg tossers] have lawyers and will always win.”

So here’s the box score:
Egg Tossers:
•    Total cost: less than a dozen eggs.
•    Achieved: complete objective.
•    Plus, they have stories to tell their buddies.
•    Remain anonymous.

Mark and Red:
•    Total cost: pain and suffering, plus at least a couple of weeks in jail, maybe more.
•    Achieved nothing, unless you count increased bitterness.

City of Atlanta:
•    Total cost: many thousands of dollars in police time, medical expenses, incarceration and legal expenses.
•    Achieved: one night of peace for the egg tossers.

The lessons of war? War sucks. Particularly for the powerless and those who have to pick up the pieces.

*There were conflicting reports on whether the officer was actually hit. Another eyewitness, Brian, claims that the rock actually hit the officer’s door and the entire event was  blown out of proportion. Brian also said that when the egg tossers ran out of their preferred ammunition, they resorted to throwing dinner plates.

Update: Now that he’s out, Red says they weren’t throwing rocks. They were throwing bottles.

Park Rules

City of Atlanta Park RulesThere are official rules for most public parks. And then there are rules you learn by being there. For instance, in my park (Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta), officially, you aren’t allowed to drink alcoholic beverages except during a festival. Unofficially, it’s okay if you are having a picnic, put your drink in an alternative container and don’t act drunk, or if you are homeless and no one has complained in the last few hours.

Most of the unofficial rules seem to be about how you interact with others. Here’s some that I have observed:

1.    Dog owners who don’t observe the leash law only talk to other dog owners who don’t observe the leash law unless they are retrieving their misbehaving dog at which time they say something unintelligible that doesn’t sound like an apology.

2.    Women pushing a baby carriage who seem likely to be a non-English-speaking babysitter, will always smile as they pass.

3.    Tall, thin, well dressed, blonde-haired women will never speak or make eye contact with short, over-weight, middle-age men walking alone.

4.    When a man and woman are walking with small children, they will talk to anyone.

5.    When a woman is walking alone with a child, they will speak to your dog, ask for the dog’s name, age and demeanor, but will never speak to a male on the other end of the dog’s leash.

Protect the Lawn Rules6.    When a man is walking alone with a child, the child will likely run up and play with your dog and the man will smile while continuing to talk on his cell phone.

7.    When a man is walking more than one dog, he always takes the right of way.

8.    Older couples will often smile at you in a manner that seems to imply that you aren’t dressed well enough or that they suspect you recently littered.

9.    When walking the dog with your wife, she will make many new friends with people who you see every day, but have never met.

10.    The currently preferred method to take a relationship to the next level is by taking photos of them in the park with a thousand dollar camera.

11.    Homeless people are more likely to ask you to buy them a beer than food.

12.    The larger the dog, the less likely their owner will scoop the poop.

13.    Every third frisbee toss by a woman will purposely go far past the man who they are with.

14.    Male joggers will only give way if you make eye contact so they can scowl at you.

15.    The most profitable place to panhandle in Piedmont Park is the entrance from Piedmont near 10th.

img_051716.    There is a direct relationship between testosterone levels, foul balls and strikeouts.

17.    There is an inverse relationship between sweat and sociability.

18.    Use extreme caution when approaching if a dog is a similar size and/or weight to their owners – this is especially important if the “responsible” party is talking on their cell phone or otherwise occupied.

19.    If you don’t earn the money to buy the beverage you drink, you are less likely to put the container in the recycling or trash container.

20.    The best time to be in the park is just after the time it looks like it is going to rain, but doesn’t.

Please comment and share more park rules.

The Prodigal Child

mothernaturewithearthYou are the greatest. You gave me life and everything I could possibly want. You nourished me and nurtured me. Showed me beauty, introduced me to awe and delight, and lit my imagination. You taught me the importance of family, friends, community, diversity and respect. You inspired me to be curious and solve mystery. You let me have my way even when it wasn’t good for me – and I know now how much it hurt you. You taught me about right and wrong and consequences. You have seen my tantrums and protected me from myself. You’ve seen me ignorant and unfeeling and enabled me to learn the lessons the hard way. You are wise. You are patient. You are beautiful. You are my muse. And I am so proud to be your child. Thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

I hope you like the flowers. I know you prefer live to cut flowers, but, at least this time, I didn’t get you plastic. Imitation is the greatest compliment, you know. And, well, I was just trying to make them last longer. How was I to know they’d be forgotten, make their way to a stream, then to a river and make their way to the ocean and float around leaching toxic chemicals until birds would choke on them, die and end up in the stomach of a whale?

PS: I know it must look like I threw a wild and crazy party. Really sorry about the mess. Meant to clean up and get rid of the trash. The spills were just an accident. Didn’t mean to leave the heat running and the lights on. Or let your fish and plants die – some made it, didn’t they? And I don’t know who let the ice box melt. Or was smoking. Yes, there were a couple of fights and we broke some stuff. Just thought the place was bigger than it was. We let too many in, and it got out of hand. Plus, some didn’t get along so well with your pets. Just tell me the damage and I’ll pay for it or get my children to do so. Maybe it’s time I got my own place.

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