Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012, Hello new year

Photo by Luis L. Tijerina - Taken in Burlington, Vermont last night

What December Said to January

Let the record
show I did
not go willingly.

Nor am I impressed
by the ruse you
call “The First,”
which you use
to hide the fact
I passed this way.

I am offended,
not ended.

Do not forget,
I have frozen ponds
and cast blood-red berries
to the ground; I have
blotted out the sun.

You have crocuses,
I’ll grant you that;
but I have summoned them;
the rest you leave for
spring to solve.

My advice to you?

Take pride in what you do
and never follow suit;
your days are numbered;
be true to them.


From Poems, Slightly Used, by William Michaelian.    I posted this same poem here in 2009 (with William's kind permission) and thought I'd include it again.

End of year thanks to the many fellow writers/poets/bloggers who've inspired, shared and generously given of their time, talent, and encouragement when approached by the Salamander for poems, photos or art work, or queries about poetry, translation or writing in general, some of whom have since become treasured friends.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Receivings and Takings Away

Holiday Gifts Received:  

-a new camera. Yay.
-a pair of NukNuuk slippers, footware so comfortable another owner actually wrote an ode to them.
-a gigantic white, scented candle
-a tall glass vase crammed with apricots soaked in amaretto-liquor
-a yellow tablecloth with a red rooster motif
-microwavable teatowels
-a crate of imported Moroccan clementines
-lavender hand cream and lime-colored liquid hand soap
-green dangly earrings (from me to me)
-two poems,  by email, from a haiku poet acquaintance, out of the blue
-a hand-painted Christmas card
-a friend's recently published book
-our cat Nikki, in my lap, her final gesture of affection, touch of paw extended
  before the unexpected, unwanted--devastatingly difficult for us--Relinquishment
 -Consciousnesses,  too detailed and/or impossible to articulate

~ ~   ~ ~   ~ ~

Some photos I'd like to share:

Bike path, Burlington, VT, first snowfall, two days ago (photos by Luis L.Tijerina)
Lake Champlain waterfront, Burlington VT
Burlap again, a favorite remembered walkpath

my neighborhood (T-R, Quebec), yesterday

~ ~   ~ ~   ~ ~


she is not a footnote
some things take time to
talk about:



"Nikita" a/k/a Nikki  2001-2012

Des bons souvenirs:

See ya, Nik.


It's not fair
I got to hold her one last time &
you didn't.
Our Nikki
here for years and then suddenly

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The new normal

SPMCs ["simply persistent multiple contrails"]

Blue sky.
They scoot by.
Spray stays,

Bye bye 
blue sky.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The urge to respond


This tragedy, that -
20 innocents murdered in a classroom in Connecticut
10 young girls blown to bits gathering firewood in Afghanistan,
this number colatterally damaged by drones last month,
that number killed in this or that war, today,
another veteran suicide (do the dates matter?)
Depending on the proximity
      calamity  / enormity,
its effect on you personally,
out pours the grief,
          outrage/ stunned silence; the
words, they come Later - as
newspeople go media it
      photographers go photograph it
          bloggers go blog & twitterers go tweet it -

artists go paint it
      writers go write it,and
               poets go poem it:
Impact/ Reaction/ Expression/ Analysis/ Catharsis

I can't find words
this time. It's not working.
Word-working the fact or penning an emotion;
      draped in this format, seems
simply a comment,
trying hard to be other.

The urge to respond; Some have
with money / wreaths / care/
candles/ food baskets/ a teddy bear/
tears/ hugs/ call for action/ more security,
words & more words
or just plain numbed

How does one paint silence?
Or word speechlessness?
   how do you convey a felt unpunched punch in the gut, you're left to
dig into the mind's Word-Bin and
all that comes out is
   (wholly inadequate)
wordcrumbed, scatterworded
af-fect (after the fact).

So compelling, that urge to respond - how ever
Because  you're alive, and can
(albeit remotely,
        ineffectively) ...
while they - those 20 small ones -



*Re:   the attempted black/red/white artwork - 20 birds ascending/ transcending/ out of the raw memory of bloodbath/ darkness. I am not an artist but this image of the children as small birds flying together kept coming to me. Despite the spatial dominance/symbolism of the jagged red streaks, when I re-look at this picture, I'm taken past the red and see only those wings, 20 little white birds in a night sky, almost like stars, forever twinkling.  It is how I would like to remember them- together, at peace, happy, free.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thank you, Ravi


Every time I hear that sitar-
a flood of memories.

"The music that I have learned and want to give is like worshipping God. 
It's absolutely like a prayer."

                                                                                       ~ ~ Ravi Shankar, on Playing the Sitar

Monday, December 10, 2012

Letting their Voices Be Heard

Today is Human Rights Day worldwide.  If anyone's interested, here are two brave persons, continuing to speak out.   

 "They shot him nine times.
Losing a child breaks your heart in pieces.
It can't be compared to anything.
We gather strength from nowhere,
and start over.
My dream is to find justice."

Doris Berrio is the founder of the "League of Displaced Women", a group of women denouncing human rights violations and supporting women's issues.  She was forced to flee her home village in the region of Uraba in Colombia in 1997. Her husband received death threats from armed groups who had moved into the area. She escaped with her two young sons to the city of Cartagena, only to have her youngest son then murdered in retaliation for her efforts to fight back.

Blind self-taught legal activist Chen Guangcheng speaks directly to China's new leader Xi Jinping about human rights and rule of law violations, as well as religious persecution.  He names particular prisoners of conscience and asks for their release, one of whom is Nobel Peace Price Laureate Liu Xiaobo*.

(*For 26 months, Xiabo's wife Liu Xia has been cut off from the world outside her apartment in Beijing – prevented from receiving guests, making phone calls or using the Internet. She’s been charged with no crime. She is being punished for being the wife of China’s most famous political dissident, jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo). [Source]

When life becomes intolerable because their rights as human beings are consistently denied them, people sometimes, in desperation, take their own lives,  because the entities who govern them do not do anything to help or protect them:  Here are two countries' examples:

In Kyrgyzstan, three young women, aged 19, 19 and 20, hanged themselves after having been kidnapped for marriage, a 'tradition' in their country.

Every day approximately 32 girls are kidnapped and six are raped. That’s more than 11,000 young women who are kidnapped each year, and 2,000 rapes. Only one out of 700 are investigated as crimes, and only one in 1,500 is prosecuted. [Source]

And in Tibet, recently, three more!:

A 16 yr old Tibetan girl died yesterday after setting herself on fire.[Source]

A 17-year-old Tibetan man burned himself a week ago in Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province. In an apparent protest against China’s repressive policies in Tibet, Songdhi Kyab set himself on fire near Bora Monastery. He was reported to be alive when police forcibly took him away to a public hospital in Tsoe township, one of the biggest towns  in the area.  Eyewitnesses in the area say that Songdhi's survival may be “very slim” as he was seen smashing his head while engulfed in flames.[Source]

Lobsang Gendun, 29, a monk at the Penag Kadak Troedreling Monastery in Seley Thang, died after after setting himself on fire today in Pema County, Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Eyewitnesses say Lobsang raised slogans with his hands clasped in prayers while engulfed in flames.[Source]

At least 92 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, with 28 cases reported in November alone. The acceleration has coincided with several anti-China rallies and a corresponding security crackdown.

China's response to protests of the Tibetan people has been to more harshly tighten an already tight control over them regarding their practice of religion and ability to speak out about their situation. Journalists are forbidden to investigate. 

U.S. officials have urged their Chinese counterparts to address policies such as restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist practices, surveillance on monasteries, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and use of force against Tibetan activists, calling on  the Chinese government to "permit journalists, diplomats, and other observers unrestricted access to China's Tibetan areas," where Beijing has tightly restricted the flow of information. [Source]

Expressing concern and asking China to "please stop doing this" I don't think will have much effect, unfortunately.  It hasn't worked in the past.   Human rights violations have been occurring in Tibet for many, many years, since the Chinese swept in and took over the country.  Anyone following these matters can see that the Tibetan culture is slowly being erased and replaced.  Sixth-generation exiled Tibetan refugees living in India cannot become citizens. [Source]  They remain stateless, a people without a homeland.  When there are soldiers on every street corner, when  displaying an image of the Dalai Lama is grounds for punishment, when a people live in constant fear so great that they see no other recourse than to suicide themselves, it seems to me governments who are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should do a tad more than just express concern, claim sadness, and merely request the country violating these rights to please stop.  Am just saying.

This is 2012.  We humans have been living among one another for millions of years.  You'd think we would've evolved more by now.  Why is this crap still going on everywhere?   The injustices remain the same; only the technology and methods get more sophisticated.  Human trafficking, sexual abuse of children, kidnapping or disappearing whole groups, imprisonment for expressing an opinion, torture, murder, assassination  by drones, destroying another's land and people with poisonous chemicals or bombs laced with white phosporous guaranteeing lasting suffering to generations to come.  It never ends.

I sometimes wonder what it'd be like  to be inside the skin of one of many thousands of frightened, severely oppressed people, for just one day.  To feel that absolute fear, to have to watch everything you say and do for fear you be 'taken away', to live under such threat day after day after day.  Would I fight back, and how?  Would I keep silent, for fear of what they'd do to my children if I continued?  Say I escaped them, would I stay silent, just glad to have gotten away?  Fear can follow you, live in you, scar you  forever.  All these thoughts flood through me when reading these stories.  And it's not just one's rulers one fears.  The growing power of the drug cartels in Mexico, for example, decapitating and dumping mutilated bodies in public places as a warning not to interfere with their activities - last year, 493 such deaths; this year predicted by year's end to have been similarly high (49 headless and dismembered bodies in Nuevo Leon state in one month alone).  Not to mention the countless lives destroyed by civil unrest causing humanitarian crises in places too numerous to mention.

Not only lawless criminals, ruthless governments  or endless wars take away one's rights (and life); ordinary persons do it to one another as well, like a husband to a wife, a mother to a child, a friend to a schoolmate, unfortunately.  No one should have the right to tell you what to think or believe.  Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and that "this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief."  Under this provision, not only does no government have the right to not allow you to practice your religion, but no parent has the right to dictate his/her offspring's present or future beliefs or religion.  (The Declaration also declares that one has the right to change one's beliefs.)  Choosing to follow this or that path in life, especially one that is not 'traditional', should be one's right as well.  One should be free to choose the life one wants, marry who one wants, be who one wants, without fear of reprisal.    This is a subject that's rarely addressed, much less discussed, in terms of universal human rights.  Granted, being shunned, chastised, bullied or disowned is not the same as being imprisoned for speaking out or being physically tortured, but the victims of intense or sustained personal intimidation (of whatever kind) and certain victims of state-sponsored, unjust persecution do have this in common: their individual rights have both been summarily dismissed as being totally irrelevant. 

 It's interesting to see how many of the basic rights specifically mentioned --even among the more civilized, democratic and 'advanced' countries, are still, sadly, simply not the case today,  due to massive economic hardship, and the arrival and spread of Terrorism, where citizen's rights are increasingly subject to being bargained away. But here's the thing.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just that--a declaration.  It does not in form create binding international human rights law

The "right to an existence worthy of human dignity", of those basic things necessary for survival, such as "food, clothing, housing, medical care, and protection" -  may one day amount to being privileges, as more and more are finding themselves entitled to less and less (or no) access anymore  to what was long taken for granted.. A sobering thought.

There are many ways to fight injustice, support human rights, and spread the word.  Here's one:

Video from 2011 celebrating 50 years of Amnesty International

I remind myself that although I've posted about the situation in Tibet  here, here, here, and  here (and about writer Liu Xiaobo here and elsewhere),  these and today's posting are but small, infrequent or 'occasional' speakings-out, and that it's  not enough.  It's never going to be enough, given the magnitude of the reported abuses.  But maybe a reader (assuming anyone actually got this far reading!), might do the same - i.e., spread the word.  Let's do it!  Because they can't, the ones for whom it would be dangerous to do so, the ones who will be punished for doing so.  We should do it - because we can:     Talk about it, write about it, sing about it - just get the word out.  ("Let's stand up/ Stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up/ Don't give up the fight!" ~ ~ Bob Marley).  :)

Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, December 7, 2012

The difference a few words make

Daniela Selak, an 8th grade student at Pujanke School in Split, Croatia, recites the poem "Poets" of Antun Branko Šimić, translated by Boris Vidovic, the school principal.


Poets are a wonder in the world.
They walk over the land and their eyes
grow large and mute beside things

Leaning their ear upon the silence
which surrounds and torments them
poets are an eternal twinkle in the world

                I've also seen this poem translated as:

Poets are the astonishment of the world.
They go to the ground and their eyes
grow big and dumb beside things

Leaning against the ear
the silence that surrounds them and the passion.
poets are forever blinking in the world

 Each translation of that last line gave me an entirely different understanding of the poem:

(Version 1) Poets are one of the world's "wonders" - they're amazing, they walk the earth, observing life, listening for sounds that are not there (which anguishes them), yet themselves become somehow immortal. (They go on twinkling forever (like the stars).

(Version 2) Poets are "astonishing" - these incredible creatures, mesmerized or struck dumb by "things", silenced by their own tortured passions, nevertheless go on blinking about it, forever.

There is yet a third sense of this poem, a felt understanding (to this reader, at least) of a shared sense of meaning behind the words offered up in the different renditions.  I decided to try to find the poem as originally written (in Croatian) and attempt a literal translation concentrating on certain words that'd been translated differently (below italicized):


 Pjesnici su čuđenje u svijetu.
 Oni idu zemljom i njihove oči
 velike i nijeme rastu pored stvari

 Naslonivši uho
 na ćutanje što ih okružuje i muči
 pjesnici su vječno treptanje u svijetu

Possible interpretations:

 čuđenje =  wonder, amazement, surprise.
 zemljom earth, land, ground
 treptanje =  a kind of flickering, or palpitation; a flashing or blinking, "twinkling" 

One reader, who'd translated zemljom as "ground", suggested that "Oni idu zemljom" ("They go to ground")  refers to "underground", where there's no light; only a tomb-like,  torturing silence where one squints to see in the dark/ blinks rapidly when struck by light.  But is that what the poet actually meant here?

Stars flicker and glimmer ("Twinkle, twinkle, little star"); eyes that twinkle, have a sparkle or gleam in them.  Poets rendered awestruck and speechless by phenomena ("things"), tormented by the silence pressed against their ears, go on blinking, twinkling and flickering (writing poems), ad infinitum.  "Poets are [an eternal twinkle, forever blinking] in the world."  The point is not so much how they do so, but that they do so.

What a wonderful, crazy bunch, Poets.  My deep apologies to the poet, Šimić.  How horrid  to have some reader come along, decades or centuries later, intrigued by a few slight differences in translation, eager to know what you  really meant, who then goes and deconstructs it, word by unfamiliar word.

"Hey!" [I can imagine the poet grumbling], "Yours is not to decipher, reader - or pick it apart like you're dissecting a bug .  What I want to know is, did you like it?  Did it resonate?"   Yes, yes and yes - in both translations, despite the different impressions they left me with.  Specifically:

The first translation, it seems to me, is highly flattering: Poets are a true wonder, I heard the words hint to me.  Now, they don't entirely function like other earthbound beings (with respect to life).  And they tend to suffer (artistically speaking) more than other segments of the population, perhaps due to the silence often accorded their output.  However, there's something about what they do (make poetry) that aligns them (albeit metaphorically) with the stars.  And as a group,  however different or divided, they've somehow achieved a kind of immortality, or at least some of their writings have.  Overall impression:  Poets -- wow!!  Right up there with the gods!

The second translation, on first reading, to me sounded a bit as if it might be subtly poking fun at poets:.   Man, poets are astonishing!!  They're not holed up in their ivory tower at all--they're down-to-earth, grounded beings just like you and me (although unable sometimes to call a spade a spade - some seem to resort to metaphor by default).  And they sometimes hear nothing of the voices that surround them (except their own thoughts), which nonetheless bothers them.  And yet they never stop.  Ever.  They just go on and on and on... and on ... Forever ...  twinkling,  blinking, palpitating and flickering away, until Never.  Overall impression:  Poets -- wow.  They're still around.  Amazing!

Actually, it's not poets so much as Poetry I find amazing - it stretches 'cross earth, announcing itself o'er the swift/slow flow of days, if you just look.  Inflamer of passions, giver of insight, provider of comfort, it tempts, beckons, thrills, outrages, soothes, devastates -- like Life.   Now, it may be the case, that one day Poetry dies out, that nothing survives, that some future world will neither know nor remember it.  ('Forever's just a word to express what we can't personally verify.').  So sing, poet, sing/  Write, writer, write./ Open the cave door/  let in the light - for as long as it's there.

Antun Branko Šimić, one of the greatest Croatian poets, died in 1925 at the age of 27, from tuberculosis.  He sometimes wrote of death:

Death is beyond me. It is in me
the foremost beginning: it grows with me
at any time
One day
I stop
and it continues to grow


Smrt nije izvan mene. Ona je u meni
od najprvog početka: sa mnom raste
u svakom času
Jednog dana
ja zastanem
a ona raste dalje

In this poem,  Šimić advises us

OPOMENA                                                                 WARNING

Čovječe pazi da ne ideš malen                                    Man, take care, not to go small
ispod zvijezda.                                                              under the stars.
Pusti da cijelog tebe prođe                                         Let the star light
blaga svjetlost zvijezda!                                              pour right through you!
Da ni za čim ne žališ                                                   Regret nothing when you cast
kada se budeš zadnjim pogledima                              your last look
rastajao od zvijezda!                                                   at the stars!
Na svom koncu mjesto u prah                                   At the end, instead of dust,
prijeđi sav u zvijezde!                                                 turn into stars!

To hear the poem read in Croatian, click here.

                    [Sources for the Croatian  original, and English translation].

Artwork by my son, Alexi, for a school project, years ago

I love those lines "Let the star light/ pour right   through you!"  And that at the end of life, while your body turns to dust, the "You" of you - flies off to become One with the stars.

Thank you to that high school principal at Bujanke Elementary School in Split, Croatia for the little video above, introducing me to the poet Antun Branko Šimić.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Words, remeaned

The Washington Post a few years ago published a contest in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for various words.   Here are a few of the winners:

* Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
* Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
* Bustard (n.), a rude bus driver.
* Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
* Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
* Dopeler effect (n.), The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
* Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
* Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

* Foreploy (n.), Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of obtaining sex.
* Frisbatarianism (n.), A belief that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and gets
    stuck there.
* Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavoured mouthwash.
* Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
* Glibido (n.), All talk and no action.
* Hipatitis (n.), Terminal coolness.

* Inoculatte (n.), To take coffee intravenously.
* Inspissator (n.), one who inspires covert micturation.
* Intaxication (n.), Euphoria at receiving a tax refund, which lasts until you realise it was
    your money to start with.
* Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
* Negligent (adj.), a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightie.
* Osteopornosis (n.), A degenerate disease.
* Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.
* Pokemon (n.), a Rastafarian proctologist.
* Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediatelybefore he
    examines you.
* Reintarnation (n.), Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
* Sarchasm (n.), The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the reader who doesn't get it.
* Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
* Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our countries, our memories

"C'est ton pays" ("It's Your Country")
Written and sung by Jean-Marie Vivier

Québec's original settlers came from France, bringing with them their language and traditions, which the Québecois have kept alive ever since.  (Québec license plates today carry the words "Je me souviens" ("I  remember.")

This song speaks of a people "adrift", of remembering those who stayed back on "the other shore", of being taken away "towards endless shores".  It tells of bodies that knot themselves harder as they feel themselves torn to pieces with every death, of hiding one's sorrow behind a face that smiles.  

The words "for those who live in fear", and "an entire people that's drowning" made me think of the Tibetans.  The words "memories that flap in the wind" and "your country that's adrift" reminded me of my own birth country.  Adrift, as in - heading in the wrong direction.  And the words "it's your country they're destroying" brings to mind the countless wars and occupations, everywhere, then and now.

A combination of word and sound and image that made me sad, but also more aware of those things we all have in common--what we carry over from our ancestors, what we remember; the fear of loss of identity; of not wanting to be erased.

All our countries are in grief, I think to myself, on hearing from friends, or reading the news lately.
Some more than others, and for different reasons. Countries are not just destroyed by wars or economic collapse; but also by corruption and division and hatred and injustice--and unrelenting (or unforeseen) change.

What will the generations that follow remember, I wonder.


The animated images added to the music track of this video were produced at Haus Design Communication in Montréal, Québec for the purpose of a 2009 pop music video. The person who posted the video on You-Tube notes an incorrect translation at 2:31, where Vivier says "L'espoir qu'il faut réinventer" ("the hope we must reinvent") which appears in the subtitles as "these chances we must reinvent").  Some of the translated words might be misleading.  For me, "fooling around with the light" has an entirely different ring, for example, than the more literal translation "dreaming that you play in the light"). "vivre n'est pas interdit  ("to live is not forbidden") was translated here as "living ain't forbidden" and "pays qui agonise" ("country that agonizes" (i.e., that is in agony) is interpreted here as "your agonizing country".  Despite differences in how one might translate this song, though, the sentiment behind the words and music came through loud and clear.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Managing the Cloud

Deutsche Telekom's T-Systems' proposed mega rechenzentrum, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another One

Tsering Dhondup

Tsering Dhondup, 34, set himself on fire, protesting against the Chinese government’s failed policies in Tibet around 8:30 am (local time) yesterday (20 Nov) at Amchok, Labrang in north-eastern Tibet’s Amdo region.  He burned himself in front of a local mine field and died on the spot.

 Tsering Dhondup is the 78th Tibetan to set himself on fire. [1]

He joins:

Name                                         Age         Cause of Death                       Date

Wangchen Norbu, male,     25,         self-immolation            November 19, 2012
Sangdhak Tsering, male,     24,         self-immolation            November 17, 2012
Chagmo Kyi, female,                            self-immolation            November 17, 2012.

 Tenzin Dolma, female        23,           self-immolation            November 15, 2012.
 Khabum Gyal, male            18,           self-immolation           November 15, 2012.
 Nyinchak Bum, male          18,           self-immolation           November 11, 2012.
 Nyingkar Tashi, male         24,           self-immolation           November 11, 2012.
 Gonpo Tserin, male            19,           self-immolation           October 1, 2012

That's just since last month.

Total number of self-immolations in the last three years: 78
Total death toll: 64
See complete list here.
Details and photos here
Since occupying Tibet, the Chinese government has deliberately and continuously suppressed Tibetan  language, religious identity and civil liberties.  In monasteries pictures of the Dalai Lama have been removed and replaced with images of Chinese leaders.  The Tibetan culture is systematically being erased and replaced. The world watches in alarm as monks and young Tibetans self-immolate out of desperation and despair.

Disturbed by "continuing allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion", U.N. high commissioner for human rights  Navi Pillay urged Chinese authorities last Friday " to better address grievances expressed by the Tibetan people." (How the Chinese rulers of Tibet address Tibetan grievances has been to use excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, as well as detain and disappear them.    The Chinese refuse to allow independent human rights monitors to visit the region.

 And don't even think about associating with these self-immolators or reporting to the outside world about these continuing self-immolations, if you're Tibetan:

 Courts in Sichuan Province sentenced 19-year-old Lobsang Tsultrim and 17-year-old Lobsang Jangchub, to 11 and eight years in prison respectively for associating with a self-immolating monk. Another court in Sichuan, meanwhile, sentenced two Tibetans in their twenties, Lobsang Tashi and Bu Thupdor, to over seven years in prison just for sending information about the burning protests to foreign contacts. {Source] 

[Read Human Rights Watch World Report 2012 on China here.]
There have been 64 deaths by suicides of this particular type (self-immolation) in Tibet in three years.  As of early June last summer there've been 146 suicides from active-duty U.S. soldiers, "averaging a suicide a day in 2012." [Source].

The reasons may vary but what these 'deaths-by-one's-own-hand' have in common is a loss of hope that one's situation could change. Whether it's a broken body/shattered mind as a result of war experiences, or extreme repression and having to witness the slow, eventual extinction of one's own culture, such tragic responses are always shocking but shouldn't be surprising.  That they're increasing, however, should make us take note.

The media's all abuzz this week about the Gaza/Israel rocket/missile skirmishes.  Few mention Tibet or those U.S. soldier suicides.   Reporters and readers of news can absorb only so much.

 One or thousands, a life is a life.  Each was somebody who mattered to somebody.

These two current news stories (the latest in a series of Tibetan self-immolations, the Gaza/Israel conflict) made me think of Identity.  How one defines oneself according to one's culture/beliefs/what constitutes "home", etc. , and the circumstances one encounters in life that change one's perception about identity. 

The world is increasingly becoming a "melting pot", several countries now flooded with refugees of displacement, where various cultures coexist (or fail to) after chosen (or forced) change places them in a situation where they must suddenly adjust or assimilate.  What is retained, and what is sometimes lost.  (While for centuries individuals have emigrated "to be free" or for economic or personal reasons, I'm thinking more here of large masses of people whose country is no longer a viable or safe place to live.)
The spiritual sense of the "We are all One" mantra is obliterated when heard not as an invitation to togetherness or enlightenment, but as a threatened mandate to submit or be marginalized/disenfranchised/punished or annihilated. 

Humans who die by their own hands, because life becomes intolerable.
Humans who end the lives of others, by choice, or accidental overkill.
In both cases, toleration has limits.
It's when those limits have been reached that resistance turns deadly.

Remembering that song by John Lennon:  "Imagine ...."
Imagine living in a world without murder and suicide.  Without wars.
Where our children get to grow up, not be made casualties of our inability to end the madness.
Given the history of the human race, though   ...   probably not in my lifetime.

and yet ....  one wants to DO something.

when hoping isn't enough
when praying doesn't work
when talking/protesting/writing about it's just a mini squeak-blip in the deafening fog of ROAR ...

A friend of mine tried to commit suicide last week.
Because life has become intolerable.
You can help an individual person. ('Attempteds' that don't succeed are  sometimes a cry for help.  Mostly they want you to just listen.)  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.  I tried to think how devastating it would've been had she succeeded.

And so yes, a news story about another Tibetan suicide (and the remembered suicided soldiers of war) struck a chord with me today.  Another (hospitalized 94-year-old) friend would love nothing better than to have 30 more years (judging by his eagerness to get back to work and his favorite pastimes); a grieving father in Gaza whose son didn't even make it to age one.    Life.

Life is a gift. (Some would say a curse.).  I look at the world.  I think of patterns.  And how much has changed.  And how much            really  hasn't.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trash Picking

Yesterday morning, returning from the market, as I turned  back into the far end of our street I saw an old man with a cart bent over, scrummaging through our garbage bin.  Tuesday is garbage day here.  We have two city-mandated pickup bins--a big black one for trash, a big blue one for recylables.

That old man, and this article today about waste pickers in India reminded me of a little tour we once took of a local recycle plant. I was amazed at what people sometimes dump into their recycle bins: kitchen cabinets, vacuum cleaners, wicker chairs, fur coats, unopened bottles of ketchup, salad dressing or shampoo (which have to be emptied and cleaned out before becoming recyclable). Things one buys or inherits and for whatever reason doesn't use, and just throws out.

 Jason D. Geil/The Cincinnati Post
As the planet inches (or perhaps gallops) toward becoming unsustainable, consideration of what and how we consume might better prepare us for when we'll no longer be able to buy those   convenient, time-saving items to which we've become accustomed where the world we enter might require us to have to start doing certain things completely "from scratch", as it were, in order to clothe and feed and transport ourselves from place to place.  The 'breakdown-of-civilization-as-we-know-it' theme currently playing out in novels and TV series perhaps has contributed to this mini wake-up call to some extent; the tanking economy worldwide doesn't help dismiss it as total fantasy, though.

Some have already been forced to face this unwelcome reality. Others are incapable of even imagining being reduced to having to actually resort to picking over someone's garbage, much less begin having to put in place practical measures to ensure basic survival--if it'd ever come to that.  Many will continue to spend money they don't have, refusing to make even the smallest change in a lifestyle becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain.

 It's interesting, though, noticing the increased awareness of people who're discovering innovative ways to adjust to what may become even more crippling economic times in the months/years to come.  (I think we've passed the point of relying on mere hope to somehow change things.)   I hear of more recycling, more downsizing/"cutting back", more cases of bartering, more people willingly sacrificing certain habitual recreational or personal pleasures; bouts of voluntary asceticism even. Do these folks know (sense?) something coming that others do not?

Hoping it's temporary, but what if it isn't? What's that scout motto?: "Be Prepared!"   There are people today who haven't the faintest idea, for example, of how to make a simple soup (unable to conceive of a world without "just open and pour"). The Crash, when it comes (the "if" already gone out of most predictions), is going to be harder on certain people than others, I think.

Seriously, say someone gave you $15 to go buy whatever food you would need to last you one month. Kind of a 'What If?' game.  Do your list.  Pick the item and attach an estimated price.  Stop when you reach $15.  Now take a calendar page and plan 90 meals (3 meals per day X 30 days; do that first before you think about scheduling 'snacks'.)  What items would you chose and how would you plan to 'stretch' them?   This simple exercise alone can induce one to begin thinking more about the life one's "used to", and how that might someday have to drastically change, given certain circumstances, and how you'd cope.

 Now imagine you have to do this for an entire year.  Welcome to the kind of tortured, careful planning not just certain individuals but entire groups of humans have to do every single day of their lives, without shelter being a given, or any funds at all.  It humbles you.  Like (now elderly) people who have survived the lean 'war years', who wasted not a single scrap of food, out of sheer habit, a sensibility arises, and stays with you, about how bad things could really get and what sacrifices you might have to make to survive. A different type of consciousness than one that tends to take everything for granted.  ("But of course there will always be air, food and water!" But of what quantity?  And of what quality?). 

Curious if anyone's come up with a Survival Skills for Dummies or Survival Skills 101, I googled.  Well what do you know?  ha ha.

Some links about basic survival:

 Practical Survival Skills 101

Wilderness Survival for Dummies: A Cheat Sheet

Pushing thru concrete: Little Summer Survivor
In my neighborhood, an old man picking through our garbage bin for something to use or sell -- not an uncommon sight, but it struck me as a wake-up call, that this sort of thing seems to be increasing. I mean, one doesn't normally do that if one doesn't have to.  As the 'have-nots' themselves are increasing, so does the 'having to' engage in activities heretofore unthinkable, just to survive.  Dignity is only one of the things one risks losing.  Life itself becomes precarious.

But good to the Pune (Maharashtra) waste pickers for what they're doing.  It has made me think twice about what and how I discard things, the importance of distinguishing between what's important and what's not.  And what the definition of "life" is.

This started out to be a post about trash pickers.  How'd that collapse into doomsday thinking? I'm reminded of the humor, practicality and downright optimism of people who, while they may feel the "darkest days" are yet to come, still go about doing what they normally do, adjusting.  When I mentioned recently to a friend about being leery of eating kelp from Japan (on account of Fukushima), she told me "Hey, did you know that seaweed packed in burlap sacs under the bed can block the winter cold and damp?"   She is living on a remote Greek island with solar panels insufficient to run the refrigerator for more than half an hour at a time, so has limited use of an everyday appliance I take for granted.  (You wouldn't, of course, need a refrigerator in Quebec December through March, what with all the snow piled round the house.  I once used such to stash 40 frozen fish there was no room for inside, but the neighborhood stray cats soon put an end to that best laid plan!  But all this also got me thinking about in what sense does our level of comfort determine how we proceed with everyday "musts"?

Random thoughts on a chilly November afternoon, under a too-too brilliant northern blue sky, turning chillier as I close.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


There’s a huge black cloud overhead,
the size of the sky.
Not a soul on the street
         But then we’re only 11 houses here.

Someone recently suggested 'go ahead'
nah I'd said.  Who'd read them?
                                   sometimes all it takes is a push
Ohheck why not.
Fragestite be damned
               Otherwise they’d just rot in the drawer, right?
one should clean out the closet sometime,
make way for air.


I forgot.
It's Halloween tonight.

Smile, dear.  They're pointing a camera at us.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It's That Time Again!


October 2012 Issue

Click HERE to enter


Dimitar Anakiev
 Ruth Bavetta
Kurt Brown
 Catherine Chandler
Lorna Crozier 
 Warren Gossett 
Alison Joseph
Chen-ou Liu 
Irina Moga 
Carlos Pardo
Becky  D. Sakellariou 
James Tate
 Judi van Gordo


Maria Kondimäe
Anatol Knotek
Lea Kelley
Donna Crosby
Michael D. Edens
Warren Gossett 
Robert Oyner


Bob Arnold
Trane DeVore


Curtis Bauer
Irina Moga

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That Debate Last Night

In case you missed the televised debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney last night, the NY Times has the full transcript  here.

Pundits told us to watch for possible gaffes (like Romney's not being able to maneuver sitting on a stool without practice--because, as one  hastened to remind us,  he's a Mormon and (therefore) doesn't frequent bars. File under Political Theatre.

So not only were viewers listening to what was said, they were analyzing the two candidates' facial expressions, tics and body language as well.   I found myself more interested in the evening's' actual words.  Even the 'oops's.'

Such as when moderator Candy Crowley called Mitt "Mr. Romley"  or when Romney twice used  an adjective that sounded very much like "champening".  

[N.B.  The transcriber, it appears, has corrected this to read "championing".  I could have sworn though that I distinctly heard him say 'champening', and being a professional transcriptionist myself, I have an 'ear' for these things.  Anyone else hear it?  (If so, shouldn't that've had a "(sic)"  or "(ph)" appended instead?)  [ph=phonetic].  Okay, this is unwarranted nitpicking, ha ha.  I like tracking the invention of new words, what can I say.]

 Not just the candidates' words but how they were said told me volumes about each speaker:

MR. ROMNEY: Candy, Candy, Candy, I don’t have a policy of — of stopping wind jobs in Iowa and that — they’re not phantom jobs. They’re real jobs.

 I hear:  Romney condescendingly lecturing the woman moderator, when the real intention of his interruption was to rebutt something Obama had said.  And why would he need to repeat her name THREE  times in that haughty, singsongy tone, as if speaking to a child?  Seemed to me a passive-aggressive-type reaction to having to confine his replies to 2 minutes (the nerve of 'these people'!) so Candy Crowley, as the CNN enforcer, gets a thinly disguised mini-lecture.  Talk about winning hearts and impressing voters, ha ha.  Okay, enough.  Let's try to be more objective.

Objective Observation #1:  In answering the questions, Obama six times prefaced his remarks with the words "what I've said is" or "what I've also said is", followed by a recitation of what he'd previously  said.  (As if to say, "Pay attention!") (Or maybe just reinforce what he'd said he said).  It didn't seem even remotely spontaneous.  The result of three gruelling days of pre-prep still lodged in the brain.  Use it or lose it, the brain says.  But it came across as practiced recitation, albeit flawlessly delivered.  I noted the expression in the eyes of the group of Undecideds.  No emotion whatsoever.  Images of a jury box came to mind.  ("Convince me.")  

Observation #2:  Neither candidate seemed comfortable with adhering to the (debate time-limit) rules, and each had to be reminded his allotted time was up.  (The rules don't apply to us.)  

SELECTED UNDECIDED VOTER: It seemed like a simple Yes or No question:  "Do you agree that it's not the job of the Energy Dept. to lower gas prices?" 

(quoted excerpts from the transcript):  We have to control our own energy ... We've increased oil production ... gas and coal production... We've doubled wind, solar and biofuel production ... We're going to drill more for gas.  Romney's plan has the oil and gas part but not the clean energy part....  I'm not going to cede future jobs to China and Germany....  Future energy sources are going to be built here.  That'll bring down gas prices in the future.

So, maybe I missed Obama's answer here.  Let's try again:   Is it or is it not the job of the Energy Dept. to lower gas prices?

Turning to Romney, the moderator, instead of repeating that specific question, as originally asked, instead suddenly generalizes it to "the subject of gas prices".   Goodbye further answer to that guy's specific question.  Your turn, Romney.

Since it's no longer being framed as an "answer", but more an invitation to just speak, ROMNEY gets to opine about "gas prices".  He begins by criticizing Obama's energy policy... he cites 25 birds being killed... tells the questioner "People grab my arms and say, 'Please save my job"... I'll do more drilling... bring that pipeline in from Canada ...that's what I'm going to do."

Hello?  These are all related to gas prices--twenty-five dead birds can't be wrong.  Okay, so neither candidate answered the question "Is it the Energy's Department's job to lower gas prices?"  But notice the pattern here.

Observation #3:  Both candidates, when asked a specific question, sometimes dance around it and distract, or bury it under a rehearsed repetition from campaign speeches, so sometimes the original question gets forgotten.

Maybe in the next and last debate, one of them will answer just how specifically they each plan to actually bring down the deficit (and give details, not vague promises).  Romney's as much as said  Big Bird and NPR will be given pink slips.  And more probably going to the military for perhaps yet another projected foreign civil war U.S. taxpayers  must bite the bullet to pay for our engagement in.   

Observation #4:  Romney interrogates Obama: (Never mind your  timed responses, I'm continuing, he pushes; "Let me give you some advice", his business persona intones...
Obama: (Yeah, yeah, whatever. I thought we were talking about immigration)
Narrator:  (Guys, please--the clock.  Keep it short, Governor.  Go sit down please Mr. President.)

From the transcript:
MR. ROMNEY: Mr. President, why don’t you let me finish? I’m going to — I’m going to continue. I’m going to continue. The president made a —
MS. CROWLEY: Go ahead and finish, Governor Romney. Governor Romney, if you could make it short. See all these people? They’ve been waiting for you. Could you make it short, and then —
MR. ROMNEY: Yeah. Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in — in Chinese companies. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Inaudible) — Candy —
MR. ROMNEY: Have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ve got to say — (inaudible) —
MR. ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it — it doesn’t take as long. The —
MR. ROMNEY: Well, let me — let me give you — (laughter) — let me — let me give you some advice.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don’t check it that often. (Chuckles.)
MR. ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension.
MR. ROMNEY: You also investments in Chinese companies.
MR. ROMNEY: You also have investments outside the United States.
MR. ROMNEY: You also have investments through a Caymans trust, all right?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. (Inaudible) —
MS. CROWLEY: And we are way — we’re sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney. We are completely off immigration.
MR. ROMNEY: So — so Mr. President — so —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’re — we’re — we’re a little off topic here, yeah. Come on. The — I thought we were talking about immigration. I — I — I — I — I — I — I do want to — I do want to — I do want to make sure that —
MR. ROMNEY: I came — I came back to what you spoke about before.
MS. CROWLEY: And we were. So quickly, Mr. President — if I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you. 

To be honest, I am horribly conflicted with the choice this election cycle because as a registered Independent voter I don't feel that we were given much of a choice.  There was, from Day One, only one candidate ever even under consideration for the Democratic party--Barack Obama.  That always struck me as a bit odd.  The Republicans had a whole bag of them, some recycled from former elections.  I'd see these ever-expanding lists:  Repub candidates: 13.  Dems: 1.  Is it just me or does that strike anyone else as kind of unusual.  As if there were NO other possible choice to represent the Democratic Party.

Observation of  Debate Set-Up:  No Third Party allowed.  Third-party candidates are given one-tenth the media opportunity/exposure of the Big Two so voters don't get to hear much about these other candidates' policies, platforms or proposals, much less be reminded of their party's existence, unless they ferret out the information on their own.  Jill Stein  and Rocky Anderson of the Green and Justice parties, respectively--the system all but guarantees they remain unknown to millions of voters.  

Observation #5:  A growing number of citizens, unhappy with both proffered candidates, if considering voting for a third party, are told to hold their nose and vote for "the lesser of two (perceived) evils."  Said with the implied threat that if disaster ensues, it's  your fault (Dems will remind you of the wasted votes to Nadar in 2004, giving us Bush instead of Kerry).   

Well, the Democrats finally managed to get back in control and it was on with the usual Them/Us war again, and though some changes were made, significant others were very early on put on the back burner.

Disconnect #1:  Presidents get to pick their own advisors, put people in places of influence or power in important government departments, etc. But first a little widely reported true story.  The first lady, Michelle Obama, in 2009  planted an organic garden on the White House grounds, ""to both set an example of healthy eating and to grow tasty edibles for her daughters and husband."  But toxic sewage sludge was used for fertilizer. [1]  Well, shit happens.  We should get used to it.  But when the president went and appointed Michael Taylor, former top lobbyist for Monsanto, to a specially created post in 2010 as Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration, I kind of scratched my head in disbelief.  Say what?!
A person who's made a living extolling the virtues of genetically modified food is now in charge of  decisions concerning the nation's food, which comes both from organic and GMO farming. A Monsanto -paid person at the FDA.  How convenient for Monsanto.   Wherever you stand on this GMO/organic divide, doesn't this kind of register as even the slightest disconnect between the White House publicly supporting organic food and then hiring an industry insider who vigorously works to insure the opposite?  Am just saying. 

Observation #6:  With each successive administration, I feel less and less opportunity for choice.
Choice to not have news filtered, censored (and sometimes  disappeared).  Choice to know what's in the food I eat. Choice to vote my real choice, not feel pressured to hold my nose and choose to install/re-install someone some of whose policies I'm cannot, in good conscience, support.

It is a proliferation of these little disconnects, unsummable, that've morphed into a kind of profound disappointment, that has me wondering if, as some revolutionary thinkers (like poet and writer Linh Dinh) suggest, that no matter who you vote for--the Republican, the Democrat, or those virtually invisible Third Party candidates,  the things that most need to be changed, likely aren't going to be any time soon: ("It's the economy, stupid!" might  be replaced by " It's the system, dummy.").   With the ability to manipulate votes, by intimidation, machine or local attempted prevention of, does our vote really even count, when even the counting thereof is suspect?    (Read the Brad Blog to find out why you should be worried.)

We're told to believe this or that leader will make the difference needed to stop the country's impending implosion and restore an equilibrium.   Here's my biggest concern.   Candidates come and go.  The system remains.  The divisiveness increases.

Herewith, an Fox News electoral map of the  "United" States.  A color graphic to show how  Red States/Blue State, (Conservative/Liberal) were predicted to vote this year.  Red State/Blue State maps are prepared every election cycle.  It helps candidates plan where next to campaign.  Where are the maps showing the 'others'?  The Independents, the Greens, the Undecideds, etc.  Can't we get identity colors assigned and inserted into the chart as well?   Are we so peripheral as to not warrant so much as a pinpoint in the election prediction map?  Alas, like most designated minorities,  we're forever destined to remain marginal--of interest only as possible poll-changers whose votes not going to the Red/Blue people could affect the outcome of either.
To be honest, I've reached a point where I[m beginning to believe it doesn't really matter.  One will win, the other will lose.  And life will go on.  What happens after will either be bad, or worse, than it now is.  I don't have high hopes that, for example, no matter which candidate wins, the entities responsible for the financial collapse/certain crimes/certain decisions will ever be sanctioned, much less held accountable.  Certain investigations into the truth of certain incidents will continue to be stonewalled or abandoned (if not forbidden altogether).   I can think of several 'investigations' that resulted in nada, not just that flawed, stragetically underfunded and deliberately obstructed one about what happened on September 11, 2001.   The Powers That Be just prefer that you simply stop asking.  That, too, I think, is endemic to 'the system', unfortunately.

And despite the lofty rhetoric calling for bi-partison cooperation or compromise, certain factions will continue to thwart/obstruct/delay/deny particular inquiries based on their own private agenda.  It's like a game, played by players we install to work the system for us, and hope our guy wins.  (Gals traditionally don't get to be top player here, sorry.  Some suspect Hillary may try again in 2016.  But traditions are hard to break.)  A game where every four years you get to choose a different top player.  Sort of.

Personal Conclusions:  I think a Romney win would be catastrophic.  Just my opinion, after apprising myself of as much information as could be humanly absorbed  (by me) about the guy. I think an Obama win would be more of the same.  Meaning we're sinking economically, we owe trillions of dollars, we've both new and  unending wars, declared and undeclared, a fleet of 7,000 (so far) surveillance and/or assassination drones, and the training of foreign troops, overseas bases, defensive armament and massive surveillance are devouring  the budget.  Recovery will take more time than anyone cares to admit, just to get back to where we once were.   And some things will never be recoverable.

People are going to have to adjust to this new reality.  I don't hear either candidate suggesting that should start preparing if things get worse.  How to prepare for when, for example, not just Big Bird or NPR won't be around anymore, but maybe post offices, daycare centers, fuel for our cars, heat for our homes,  functioning hospitals, or (if we don't stop messing with Mother Nature), food and water.  

Think of a normal little household as a microcosm of the country.  Drastically less (or no) money--how does that family survive?  The two most urgent considerations, it seems to me, are food and shelter.  Everything else depends on having those two needs met first.  There are statistical reports of how many individuals are currently incarcerated, what percentage are currently on food stamps, for instance, but none (that I know of) of how many people nationwide are homeless.  (Because how can you track someone with no known address?)  The two candidates talk frequently about the middle class;  sometimes about the billionaire class.  Rarely about the underclass(es).  The ones who work for minimum wage (when they can find work), the ones who sweep streets and wash dishes, change the diapers on your nursing-home-based grandparent, serve burgers, clean toilets.  The candidates want these peoples' votes, too.  But I don't hear either of them talking about raising the minimum wage.

 Such are my thoughts this day after the big debate.   I'm not alone in thinking perhaps  the only way to break the pattern and reform the system, is to simply not participate in the charade, to vote "None-of-the-Above" rather than vote for a party that has absolutely zero chance of winning (sorry, Greens) or not voting at all--and let the chips fall where they may.   Maybe that is what it will take to wake the current government, and people, up. Because I think too many have already given up.  Many more simply don't care anymore, it's all they can do to get out of bed in the morning, things have gotten that bad.  People are getting desperate.   I think the Powers That Be less fear the loss of votes from an apathetic or frustrated populace than if that populace were to suddenly rise up, en masse, and tell them in no uncertain terms that  "Enough is Enough!

Only in the movies would that happen here, though.  Occupy Wall Street occupied Wall Street; the 1% still call the shots.  News at 11. It's going to take more than just sporadic tent 'occupations' of city parks.

Wondering About #1.  I've heard rumors that there will be riots and massive unease if either candidate wins.   Maybe the great unraveling has already begun.  Does this make me a Doomsday person for voicing this possibility?  I think of myself as an optimist, with an inclination towards occasional (my kids will say chronic) worrywartism..  But why aren't either of these candidates ever mentioning what's being done to the planet.  Jobs, energy, taxes, abortion, health care, all get discussed..  Why are they not talking more about the environment?  The air we breathe, the land that produces the food we eat, the polluted waters?  The implications of Fukushima?  Instead, they talk about building more nuclear power plants.

Wondering About #2.  Will the oil being waiting to be Keystone-pipelined across the U.S. from Canada a solution to, as Romney insist, make us less oil-dependent on "the Arabs or Venezuelans"--or is it ultimately destined (as reportedly originally planned) to be an export product sold to China or Latin America? Because if so, that would bring in more money (you sell something, you get money for it) but we'd still have to buy oil from "the Arabs or Venezuelans", no?  Some undecided voter might've asked Romney this--a yes-or-no answer--"If the Keystone pipeline goes through, is that oil for us, or are we  just the designated transport route/ refinerer of said oil, and the resulting fuel product gets sold to some other country?" Yes or no answer, please.

[Source for initial wondering:  Keystone XL is an export pipeline. According to presentations to investors, Gulf Coast refiners plan to refine the cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.]  Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed.

Whichever side wins, it's gonna be macaroni as usual, I'm afraid.  Barring something miraculous.   (No more lobster; who can afford lobster anymore, or find one that's not been Fukushima'd?).

So, what'll we do?    Stand up, speak up, make some collective effort to reach the attention of the maintainers of the system hoping it'll stop being  ALL about money, less about returned favors, control of  perception? -- or play along another four, eight, twelve, sixteen years till the players  at the top eventually give some serious thought to exactly what kind of world our grandchildren are going to be left with, and start making hard decisions for long-term solutions, not short-term political expediency.

I'm ready for change.  It's coming anyway, ready or not.  I think people should be talking more about how to deal with it, if recovery is not fast enough.  And re: the elections, I guess I qualify as one of those Undecideds.  Granted, Obama has had horrendous obstacles to overcome in keeping his campaign promises.  Who knew it'd be so hard?  But many of the decisions he's made these last four years, I find hard to accept. Assassination drones, of "suspected" militants, for example, aimed at buildings or groups  where at least 60 children have become "collateral damage."  It has been suggested that drone-targeting of suspected individuals is better than, say, bombing a whole country.  The lesser of two evils.  End justifies the means.

A part of me wants to vote "None of the Above", as a last resort, wake-up call to a government that does not seem to be listening to its citizens.  I fear a pre-emptive, or retaliatary nuclear war, on behalf of Israel.  And that scares the hell out of me.  The thing is, I feel it's a very real possibility now, with either of these candidates, our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president and the fiery, yet coldly business-like, "I-can't-be-controlled, the rules-don't-apply-to-me, I'm-going-to-continue .... " Republican contender, Mitt Romney.   Voting for Obama based on the fear that if I don't, a Romney win will hasten the demise of the country and bring on Armaggedon--means I'm hoping Obama will change, or the great unraveling will be somehow be slowed down, or Armaggedon delayed.  In other words, vote Obama to buy more time for things to possibly turn around, and hope that things will get better. That's what millions did in the last election. Their hopes were dashed when the promised changes didn't happen.  The thing is, maybe four more years won't make enough of a difference for it to matter, given the possibility of a pre-empted or retialatory nuclear strike.  The world's that volatile right now.