Thursday, October 22, 2015

More good stuff...

A few days ago I had a pleasant surprise when I answered a knock on my door. A sweet woman who lives down the road from me stood there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers!

I knew who she was, although we had met only once before. Her son is my "landlord" and also a friend of my younger son. It seems my son Matthew ran into her (not literally) at a neighborhood gas station, and he noticed she was having some sort of car trouble. (I think it had something to do with her tires.) Being the kind-hearted soul he is, he helped her out. The flowers were her way of "paying it forward" for his assistance. An added bonus - she stayed and visited with me for a while and we discovered we had something in common. We both love arts and crafts. I took her on a tour of some of my and my mother's artwork. She was generously complimentary. I hope to be able to visit her as she suggested in the near future and view her art. I've heard that she is very talented.
More good things have happened in our world lately. Some may not appear to be good in the beginning. One such is the recent scandalous price gouging done by Martin Shkreli, the young hedge fund manager and CEO of a startup pharmaceutical company. In September he hit the headlines when he upped the price of a lifesaving drug used in treatment of a deadly parasitic infection as well as for some AIDs and cancer patients, from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet! That is a hike of 5,000%. 

As shocking as this was, he was doing what most pharmaceutical companies have been doing for years - price gouging and manipulation of a drug's stock -- with the excuse of needing the high revenue to fund "research". There have been several good articles pointing out the way drug companies have been creating massive cost increases in their products, most frequently claiming the drug is a "specialty" drug, and there is not enough demand for it to continue producing it without significant increases. If we pay attention, it is obvious that most companies are paying more for advertising and marketing than they do on research and development! The U.S. and only one other country allow the blatant advertising for the pharmaceuticals to be public... New Zealand.

By putting the spotlight on the greed inherent in these practices that hurt so many who are unable to pay for the higher costs, perhaps we will finally get our government to do something about it.

Bill Moyers presented a good article about this on his site:  Big Pharma Rips Us Off

UPDATE Oct. 23rd, 2015: In USA Today's online report: San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals said it would offer customized versions of its drugs for less than $1 a pill as an alternative to Daraprim. Read the report here: USA Today.

This is a totally subjective observation, one that many Democrats share with me, but the former GOP candidate for House Speaker did Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign a big favor when he let it slip that the House Select Committee on Benghazi's work had hurt Hillary in the polls. It was obvious to most that this panel was a deliberate design to defeat Hillary Clinton. "McCarthy bragged to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”  Hillary is holding her own before the Benghazi Committee today. I suspect her performance will not only cinch her nomination in the primaries as the Democratic candidate, but will also assure her being our next President. Thank you, Kevin McCarthy.
Good news for parts of Texas that have been suffering severe to extreme drought conditions. The recent wildfire in Bastrop County made us fearful that more were in the works unless we got rain soon. That wish has been granted, and we are experiencing rain. The thirsty ground will soak it up, and the area lakes will be replenished. Now if we don't get too much, causing flooding! There's that Goldilocks Syndrome again. We have already been warned of flash flooding here in Austin in the next few days. When that happens, the only road into my neighborhood often looks like this:
Low Water Crossing

One more good thing before I close. Jade Helm is Over and Texas Still Exists!
“Oh dear Lord,” (Jon) Stewart said. “Yet another waste of Texas funds that could have been spent on actual threats, like your infamous chainsaw massacres. Texas, it’s not that I don’t find it adorable that your governor thinks your State Guard could take on the United States military. It’s like a little dog growling at a big dog, or an 8-year-old picking a fight with the Predator.” So much for the conspiracy theories surrounding the military operations of Jade Helm.

Stay dry everyone, and notice the good things happening all around you.

Peace and Love,

Monday, October 5, 2015

Finding The Good

  • The media has inundated us with stories and images of the worsening refugee crisis throughout Europe. Every now and then their cameras capture a very brief glimpse of someone handing a bottle of water to a traveler or candy to a child. I wish they would show more stories on television about the number of charities and volunteers that give so freely of their time and resources to assist the beleaguered thousands as they seek refuge in a strange land. The frightened and sad children make good news copy. However, there are also photos of some of these children going about just being a child - even under terrible circumstances. 
  • I saw one volunteer giving a doll to a grateful little girl; a photo of a child blowing bubbles in front of a barbed wire fence. We would benefit from seeing more images like these to remind us that these little children are still finding ways to be a child. Perhaps this would open our hearts and pocketbooks to help provide them with more opportunities. The heartbreaking stories and scenes have a tendency to make us want to quickly exit and try to forget. Please support the agencies and the volunteers who are often risking their lives to help these people.
    (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
  • Royal Dutch Shell recently pulled out of the Arctic Ocean, which delighted environmentalists. A Shell spokesman said that after spending $8 billion dollars, they found not enough oil and gas to warrant further exploration. Although it is a boon to Alaskan wildlife, some jobs were lost for about 300 Anchorage citizens. Let's hope that some other resource can replace those jobs. I wonder about solar energy in Alaska. Aren't the days longer there in the winter. Does that mean more sunlight?
(Photo by Emily Schwing, KUCB-Unalaska)

  • Due to declining numbers of pandas around the world, the birth of a new cub is seen as a triumph for conservationists working to save the endangered species. The National Zoo in D.C. had a pair of twins born in August, however, one twin didn't survive. Less than 1,864 pandas remain worldwide, with 300 of them living in zoos and breeding centers around the world. Ten cubs have been born at the Chinese breeding center this year! Below, China shows off 14 adorable baby pandas born two years ago at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan, China. Is it any wonder they are so popular with zoo visitors? Kudos to the wonderful people who work to help conserve wildlife around the world.

  • In June, the Texas legislature passed the open-carry law that allowed guns on campus. On October 1, students and faculty from UT protested this law. 162 professors will not allow guns in their classrooms. Pro-gun supporters tried to interrupt the protest and were asked to leave. Maybe more of these protests against open-carry will create enough interest to revoke these state laws. The latest mass shooting at the college in Oregon was done with "open-carry" in effect. It didn't save the ones who were killed. 
(Ralph Barrera/ American-Statesman)

One has only to look at the records of countries with stricter gun laws than the U.S. to know that they work. 

These statistics were compiled in 2007. I obtained them from an excellent article on global comparisons of gun policies at this site Council of Foreign Relations

With the latest tragic mass shooting in Oregon, the presidential candidates are now beginning to speak out on stricter gun laws. That's a good thing. Even better if/when we see them being enacted in Washington instead of individual states. Our politicians need to stop allowing the NRA to blackmail them into refusing to adopt gun laws that will stop so many homicides in our country. 

As a grandmother of three boys, I have never wanted any of them to play football. Hearing about the devastating brain injuries received by professional football players, I often wondered why we didn't hear more about injuries of high school and college football players. My nephew was a talented high school player. He received enough injuries in high school that he's had to have more than one operation on his knees. He still suffers, even in his 50s. A worse story: his dad was courted by all the armed forces when he graduated from high school for his prowess on the football field. He decided on the Air Force, and played on their team. While stationed in England, my sister pregnant with their first child, he broke his neck while playing football. That ended his football career -- thank goodness. He recovered completely after an emergency air flight to a hospital in Germany, and months of wearing a full body cast.

  • Recently, more reporting has been covering the tragic loss of life among young players. This year in September alone there were three deaths of high school players on the football field in the U.S.. The good news is that more and more schools across the country are dropping their football programs and substituting soccer instead. 
CBS News High Schools Drop Football recently reported the following:
  • "The number of high school football players in the U.S. has declined by 25,000 over the past five years. Last year, five high school players died playing football. That's more deaths than in college, semi-pro, or professional levels according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries."
Many parents and grandparents, myself included, are pleased to hear of the substitution of soccer for football. I hope more parents will insist on this for their children from the youth leagues on up to college.

More good news in regards to prison reform and the death penalty. It is still being reviewed by Congress, so more on this subject later. I am trying to train my brain to pick up on anything good I hear or read in the news. Sometimes it's not easy, as there are so many tragic happenings all over the world.  Why not send me the "good" that you  have heard in the recent news?

Peace and love,

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Impact of the Pope

Many good things have happened of late. Among which was the visit to the United States by Pope Francis. His address to Congress was the highlight of his trip for us non-Catholics. He spoke so movingly about many of the issues in the world today, admonishing not only Congress, but all of us of our moral, social, and political - if not religious - duty to follow the precepts of the Golden Rule, which is recognized by all religions and philosophies around the world.

He covered everything that the world is facing today from the issues of the mounting refugee crisis, war, the unequal distribution of wealth, human trafficking, the poor and needy of all nations, to the critical state of climate change. His speech brought tears to my eyes many times; so much so that whenever they showed him speaking during his whole trip I teared up. (As did Speaker Boehner. I'm still convinced the Pope instigated his reason for resigning the next day.) To see the Pope being drawn to the children and afflicted along his routes.. and kissing babies.. well, no politician on earth could ever match the adulation of this man. We as a nation, and our politicians in particular, needed to hear his message at this crucial time when the candidates for President in 2016 are running rampant across the country. More and more of the GOP candidates' messages seem to be targeting the wealthiest citizens and corporations, rather than the average citizen.

Perhaps we need to be reminded of the following:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, 
for this is the law and the prophets.

(Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)

What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow
man. That is the whole of The Torah and the
remainder is but commentary.


            (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)              

Do unto all men as you would they should unto
you, and reject for others what you would reject
for yourself.



Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.


(Udanavarga 5.8)

Tzu Kung asked: "Is there any one principle upon
which one’s whole life may proceed?" Confucius
replied: "Is not Reciprocity such a principle?-
what you do not yourself desire, do not put before


(Analects 15.23)

This is the sum of all true righteousness -
Treat others, as thou wouldst thyself be treated.
Do nothing to thy neighbor, which hereafter
Thou wouldst not have thy neighbor do to thee.


(Mahabharata - Ganguli, Book 13 CXIII)

Treat others as thou wouldst be treated thyself.

(Guru Angad - Macauliffe vol2, p.29)

A man should wander about treating all creatures
as he himself would be treated.


(Sutrakritanga Sutra 1.11.33)

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain; and regard
your neighbor’s loss as your own loss, even as though you
were in their place.


 (Tai-Shang Kan-Ying Pien)

Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee.



(*from the GRO website)

I found these statistics very interesting. At the swearing in of Congress in January of 2013, the following religions - or lack thereof - were represented:

Republicans: 232 members said they are Christians of different denominations
1 member was Jewish
Democrats: 164 members said they are Christians of different denominations
21 members were Jewish
15 members listed "other" or "unaffiliated" (or refused to answer)

Republicans:  All 45 members were of a Christian denomination
Democrats: 51 members were Christians
11 were Jewish
3 members listed "other" or "unaffiliated" (or refused to answer)

Am I the only one who finds it ironical that so many of our representatives in Congress seem to ignore The Golden Rule in all its many forms? Especially those who claim to be Christian?

It is tiresome hearing the self-righteous persons in Congress who have just passed the bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the House, and our state of Texas legislature which has already defunded Planned Parenthood, refused Federal funds for Medicaid when the ACA Act went into effect, and will reach a final decision next week on defunding more Medicaid benefits Texas Tribune, continually lump together the many hungry, the sick, the poor, and the elderly with the few who take advantage of the programs, as a reason for cutting the assistance to those really in need. It's time the millionaire Christians in Congress begin to act like Christians. Its time that the wealthiest 1% and the huge corporations in the United States start paying their fair share of taxes ("Render unto Caesar.." Mark 12:17), which would make it possible to fund programs they are currently trying to cut. 

The things I hear the Congressional right-wing Christians speak out about the most are healthcare, reproductive rights, abortion, and homosexuality. They want to defund some of the very programs that help the most needy. By defunding Planned Parenthood, what will happen to these poor (often unwanted) children who are brought into the world to an existence of poverty or even abuse and neglect? Who's going to provide their healthcare, nutrition, education? What kind of homes will they be brought up in? What about the 16 million children in the U.S. who struggle with hunger? What will happen to the explosion of elderly as the baby boomers reach their "golden years" and they find their Social Security and Medicare benefits reduced or eliminated? 

Bless Pope Francis for speaking out against judgement of homosexuals. He has shamed the anti-gay establishment. That is truly what Jesus would do if he were here today. Apparently, that is one area in which the conservatives are losing ground today, as more and more states are passing laws to allow same-sex marriage. In spite of people like Kim Davis. It is past time for their equal rights be observed throughout the United States.

Bernie Sanders, one of the Democratic candidates for President, stands for nearly everything expected of us as a moral society. At times, his message seems to come directly from the Christian Bible. However, he doesn't stand much of a chance of being elected in the political climate today. I love this saying at the right. My oldest son, Craig sent this to me that he got off Facebook. Jesus, as Socialist Jew? Oh, yeah..

On a positive note, I have more good things besides the Pope's visit that I will cover in my next blog post. Even in Texas there is sometimes a very good reason for optimism. Stay tuned!

Peace and love,