Last US WWI Veteran Dies

Frank Buckles at 16

The last known American veteran of World War I died Sunday at his home in West Virginia.  Former U.S. Army Corporal Frank Buckles was 110 years old.

As a teenager, Buckles was eager to enlist. He had been raised on a farm and took a job at a bank in Oklahoma after delivering some horses there. After the Marines rejected him as too young and the Navy told him he had flat feet, he signed on with the Army, claiming that Missouri did not print birth certificates when he was born. He enlisted Aug. 14, 1917.

In reference to his recruitment age, Buckles shared:

I was just 16 and didn’t look a day older. I confess to you that I lied to more than one recruiter. I gave them my solemn word that I was 18, but I’d left my birth certificate back home in the family Bible. They’d take one look at me and laugh and tell me to go home before my mother noticed I was gone. Somehow I got the idea that telling an even bigger whopper was the way to go. So I told the next recruiter that I was 21 and darned if he didn’t sign me up on the spot! I enlisted in the Army on 14 August 1917.

I was selling Girl Scout cookies, chatting on the phone at all hours, and leisurely muddling through high school at age sixteen – putting my life on the line for our country wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind.  I suspect it doesn’t cross the minds of many teenagers now, either, though we all enjoy the freedoms we have in this country in great part due to the effort put forth by Mr. Buckles and his contemporaries.

On Monday, anonymous Pentagon workers put white roses and a handwritten note on his portrait. The note reads, “Thank you for your service to our country. May you and your generation rest in peace.”

Thank you to Frank Buckles and to each of our veterans and current military personnel for your dedication and personal sacrifices.   Rest in peace Corporal Buckles.

Any News?

Adopt A Rat?

I was just poking around over at the atheist blog Bay of Fundie and noticed a link on the right side to “Adopt a Rat.”  Given that the blog’s author is known for his tongue in cheek humor and general irreverence, I assumed it had something to do with a human “rat”….Pat Robertson, perhaps?

Having just told some friends that I needed something more uplifting to comment on today, I was pleasantly surprised to find the link led to a program known as HeroRATS run by APOPO which trains real rats to find landmines and to recognize a tuberculosis infection:

The APOPO Mine Action Program in Mozambique uses a three-tiered approach: bush cutters clear vegetation from the area, allowing access for manual deminers to enter the minefield and prepare safe lanes and boxes for the mine detection rats (official HeroRAT name in the minefield) to search. The locations that are indicated by the rats are then followed up by manual deminers, who detect and destroy the mines.


Once all the land in a district is complete, there is a ceremony where the land is officially handed back to the community. From that point forward, the community is able to return to their homes, start farming, build necessary infrastructure etc.


Since the start of operations, APOPO has returned over 2 million square meters of land to the community in Mozambique.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As data reported by the World Health Organization indicate, TB was responsible for the deaths of 1,770,000 people in 2007. TB currently infects about 2 billion people and roughly 1 in 10 of them will become seriously ill with the disease.


HeroRATs offer a local solution to the TB epidemic. A rat can evaluate 40 samples in seven minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, will do in one day. Without requiring sophisticated instruments, this method is non-invasive and can handle a high volume of samples, all very important factors in a pro-active screening approach.


The concept is very simple: rats sniff a series of holes, under which human sputum samples are lined up for evaluation. They pinpoint the samples that contain TB bacteria. Their correct indications are rewarded with a food treat.

Since I had a high school friend with a pet rat, I was well aware that rats are quite intelligent little creatures, capable of being taught tricks – I’ll admit that finding landmines is one heck of a trick!  It’s amazing to hear about these much maligned animals doing so much good for humans.  Here’s some fascinating rat FAQ from their main website and here’s an interesting article from on the program.

If you are looking for a good cause to support or an appealing one to introduce your children to charitable giving with, I would encourage you to read more about this charity.  To ensure your donations qualify as tax deductible, please follow the simple instructions for your country on this page.

Taking a Small Stand

I try to avoid giving my money to persons and corporations that will do bad things with it – even if I like their product or service.  I don’t have an engagement ring because I wanted nothing to do with the diamond industry, and the violence it fuels, for example.   I refused to buy Motherhood Maternity clothing because of pregnancy discrimination claims.  There’s a large electronics store here that we have refused to go to because we have experienced extremely dishonest tactics by their legal team.

I recently happened upon a complete list of Newscorp assets, holdings, subsidiaries, etc. As you may know, this is Fox News’ parent company and that pretty much qualifies as a “bad thing” in my book.  I support their freedom of speech completely, but I don’t have to support their warped conservative message or their bottom line…which in turn supports people like Bobby Franklin.

Similarly, we don’t knowingly purchase products from Koch Industries anymore.  I cringe at the thought of helping fund right wing extremism, even in these small amounts (though, let’s face it – with a 6 person household we do go through a lot of TP).  Some of the products were hard to let go, but acceptable replacements were found.

Someone asked recently whether boycotts are effective in this day and age, which is a valid question.  After all, these are massive corporations with huge incomes….they won’t notice the shopping habits of one person or even a thousand people.

My answer was this.  I guess it depends what your goal is. If my goal is to spend my money on companies who aren’t trying to take away my rights as a citizen and a human being by funding people who seek to marginalize women, children, and minorities, who would like to eliminate homosexuals entirely, who value the campaign contributions of corporations over the rights of workers and a cleaner environment, who cheer at tax breaks for the rich while cutting aid to the needy, who would seek to push their version of religion on the rest of us (and our children in schools), and who demonize those of us who push for a better America for ALL citizens, then yes – it works.

Am I deluded enough to think that by purchasing Costco paper products over Georgia Pacific products, I’m actually going to change some minds?  No – of course not.  But I will sleep better tonight.  Will you?

Walker Prank Call Ethics Violations?

In this interview, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager discusses the prank call made by a blogger posing as David Koch to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin regarding the collective bargaining protests:

When Gov. Scott Walker discussed strategies to lay off state employees for political purposes, to coordinate supposedly “independent” political expenditures to aid legislators who support his budget repair bill, and to place agent provocateurs on the streets of Madison in order to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, he engaged in what a former attorney general of Wisconsin says could turn out to be serious ethics, election law and labor violations.

I don’t think anything of any consequence will come of these alleged violations – some of them seem tenuous at best, but then again, I’m not familiar with the ethics laws in Wisconsin and will be interested to see how this pans out.

An Anti-Union Union

Author Adele M. Stan details how Rupert Murdoch, David Koch, and Wisconsin Republicans have come together to eliminate one of the most terrifying evils facing the US today:  American workers.

In the week-long battle taking place in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights, you’d expect Fox News to be doing what it’s done: misreporting the story, mistakenly characterizing a poll supporting public workers to mean its opposite, featuring Glenn Beck painting the protests of union workers as something cooked up by Stalinists. And you might be tempted to think, well, that’s just Fox playing to its base of frightened Tea Partiers who prefer a fact-free zone to the more challenging territory of actual news, where the answers are never pat, and the world is a bit more complicated than it seems in the realm of Fox Nation. READ MORE

It is unacceptable that we, as a nation, allow ourselves to be manipulated as the article describes.  It is nothing short of incredible that we allow these propagandists to drill into our heads that we need to be acting against our own best interests.  It is baffling that so many voters blindly accept being manipulated, willingly repeating their inane talking points over and over without actually considering the facts.  We need to recognize their true motives, their methods, and take a stand – this is not good for our people, our children, or our nation.

Miscarriage of Justice

There’s a lot of legislative insanity being perpetuated lately, mostly by Republicans, and mostly against women, children, and minorities, but one, written by a predictably white, male, legislator, takes the cake.

Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) has introduced a bill that, once enacted, would require a woman who has suffered a miscarriage (“prenatal murder” under the bill) to affirmatively prove that it occurred naturally.  Failure to do so would result in felony charges – possibly even the death penalty (the most pro-life penalty of all).

From MotherJones:

Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what “human involvement” means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that “the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally.”

From Daily Kos:

Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can’t tell how it happened, then those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it.

Miscarriages occur often and without warning…for many reasons and often, seemingly, no reason at all.  They often occur before the pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor, but even afterward, unless there are complications or the miscarriages are recurrent, doctors don’t have much to do with early miscarriages – there’s nothing for them to do.  For later miscarriages where the fetus has already died, a D&C is often required to prevent infection and hemorrhage as well as to lessen the emotional toll – something that Franklin would no doubt frown on.

I have no clue how one might affirmatively prove that there was no human involvement – and I doubt Franklin does either.   What exactly does that mean anyway?  Even in a natural miscarriage, might anti-abortion rights advocates demand proof that the mother did not take some medication or commit some act like (to use a Hollywood cliche) throwing oneself down a flight of stairs to cause the miscarriage.  How can you prove what you did not do?

From parenting blog Babble,

Many miscarriages happen without warning or explanation. Women are devastated. Most occur in the first trimester. Most are not “investigated.” Often we just don’t know why the miscarriage happened. It’s thought that the reasons for many miscarriages has to do with some kind of chromosomal abnormality that makes the pregnancy nonviable.  So, if a doctor says, I’m not sure precisely why this pregnancy didn’t continue, what will happen? How will they “investigate?” By asking friends? Asking them what? I can’t even imagine these conversations, the whole thing is so misguided. And miscarriage is common– as many as one in five pregnancies end in one. That’s lots of conversations and investigations of women who have just lost their babies.

There are other factors for miscarriage that may or may not be controllable – in theory.  Among these diabetes, Listeriosis (food poisoning), and obesity.  At what point does a mother who fails to properly control her diabetes, drinks too much caffeine, or negligently eats deli meat become a prosecutable killer under laws like this?

Birth control pills or an IUD may make conception possible in some instances, but may make implantation in the uterus wall (and therefore a viable pregnancy) impossible.  While it would be impossible to prove that this had actually occurred in any given cycle, under the proposed law, theoretically, use of these birth control methods could be construed as human involvement and thereby result in felony charges against the user.  I imagine that in a perfect world, as seen by pro-life zealots, these birth control methods would then be made illegal as methods of abortion.

And what about the emotional pain of being investigated as a potential wrongdoer while dealing with pregnancy loss?  Most of the women I know who have had miscarriages are nothing short of traumatized by the loss of a much-wanted pregnancy.

Miscarriage is unique (unless someone has disappeared) in that we have very little remains to bury, sometimes because no baby has formed properly or it is unfortunately passed when using the toilet.  When this happens, or even with a later miscarriage and an identifiable little body, our loss can be minimised and invalidated by others, which leads us to question our feelings of grief. However, unrecognised or not, it is the strength of the bond with our baby not the length of the pregnancy that determines the depth of our grief. This mothering bond can have begun to form as early as us playing with our dolls as little girls, so our grief is a normal reaction to a broken bond. For recurrent miscarriers, the grief can be compounded by earlier losses.

A funeral normally gives people their cue of how to behave appropriately with protocols to follow and when there isn’t one others are often at a loss themselves and may not even realise we are grieving. This adds to our stress as we can then feel we need to explain this, whereas with a still-birth or loss of a child, everyone is aware of the devastation and expects us to grieve. People may not want to talk about what has happened perhaps because of their discomfort with the issue of death, and it’s the only thing we can think of.

Does it really make sense to take every woman who is experiencing this personal pain (which is estimated to be 15-20% of all women who know they are pregnant) and interrogate them like criminals?  Where is the humanity in that?

Further, criminal trials put the burden of proof squarely on the prosecutor to prove wrongdoing “beyond a reasonable doubt” – not the defendant to prove innocence.  Why should grieving women be held to a higher standard of proof to defend themselves than serial killers and child molesters? And if one is unable to prove the nonexistence of an “intervention,” the inquisition then descends on family and friends who may not even know about the pregnancy yet but on whom you must rely on to defend you…against nothing?

Especially when there is likely no known reason for the miscarriage in the first place – one cannot defend a negative, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.  The entire concept is spectacularly illogical, but worse than that it’s offensive, overbearing, patronizing, and an incredible abuse of government authority.  And the thought that ANYONE – of any political affiliation – would think that this is acceptable makes me a little nauseous.

One of the inevitable practical effects of something like this would be to keep women from getting the vital prenatal care they need – including nutrition and smoking cessation counseling, prescriptions for prenatal vitamins, potentially lifesaving ectopic pregnancy diagnosis, discussion about their current medications which may not be safe for baby, and so on.  If women are going to be presumed criminals, they will assume it’s best to keep the evidence hidden.

And all of this works to marginalize women – to creep into their lives and control them.  Their medical decisions.  Their privacy.  The ability to grieve their loss as they should.  Women who overwhelmingly have absolutely no intention of having an abortion.  It’s insidious.

And it’s ironic.  Limited government?  Isn’t that what Republican, especially those of the Tea Party persuasion, want?  Despite the signs, no – not really.  They only want it limited as applied to themselves, not when they are enforcing their version of morality on others.  And that is the bottom line here.  It won’t pass, but Franklin will be a hero to anti-abortion rights voters who will willingly ignore the logical and legal flaws in his proposed legislation.

Conservative women – is this what you want out of your party?   To be treated as a criminal as a result of a heartbreaking pregnancy loss?  But it’s not just this bill – there are many many others winding their way through the various state legislatures that are offensive to women’s health in general:

Requiring women (and underage girls, and the disabled, and the mentally incompetent…) to prove rape was “forcible” to be eligible for abortions.

Allowing citizens to murder doctors (and their staff, presumably) in order to prevent abortions.  No matter whether you are for or against abortion rights, this is a horrifying proposal.

A bill that would allow hospitals to let a pregnant woman die rather than perform the abortion that would save her life or arranging for healthcare at a facility willing to perform the lifesaving procedure.  By what moral code are two deaths better than one?

Stripping Planned Parenthood of the funding it uses for NON-abortion healthcare, such as birth control, cancer screenings, and prenatal care, which will, undoubtedly result in MORE unwanted pregnancies and thus MORE abortions – something nobody wants.

What’s next? Incarcerating women upon conception (consensual or otherwise) to ensure they follow doctor’s orders precisely, quit smoking and drinking caffeine and other unhealthy activities, exercise daily, and eat only the most nutritional, organic, foods?  It’s time to put our feet down – we are not simply incubators.  We are citizens with the same rights as anyone else and we deserve and demand better than this.

Meet Your Owners

“… Politicians have traditionally hidden behind 3 things: the flag, the bible, and children – no child left behind, no child left behind. Oh, really well it wasn’t too long ago you were talking about giving children a head start. Head start – left behind, someone’s losing ground here, but there’s a reason. There’s a reason for this. There’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it’ll never ever ever be fixed – it’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you got, because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now. The wealthy big business interests that controls things, and makes all the important decisions.

Forget the politicians, they’re irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice – you don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own, and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media, so they control just about all the news and information you get. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying, to get what they want.

Well we know what they want. They want more for themselves, and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want – they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that – that doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right. They don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table, and think about how badly they’re getting screwed by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? Obedient workers – Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines, and do that paper work. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and vanishing pension that disappear the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your social security money. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it – they’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You, and I are not in The Big Club.

By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think, and what to buy.

The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged, and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good honest hard working people: white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard working people continue (these are people of modest being) – continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t give a fuck about you – they don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t care about you at all – at all – at all, and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.

– George Carlin

Pessimistic, wasn’t he?  And a more than a tad crude (sorry Dad!).  But is there truth in it?  According to this summary of facts at MotherJones, probably a lot more than the average American would like to believe:

A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244


“The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”   — Theodore Roosevelt (R), September 7, 1903

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