Make Voting a Family Tradition

One of our parenting wins is how we’ve worked to make voting a family tradition, which made this morning’s WRAL’s Go Ask Mom blog post one of the easiest I’ve ever written.

Make Voting a Family Tradition

We usually walk to the polling station, where my children watch me receive a ballot and place it in the box. My seven-year-old enjoys seeing our voting count as the ballot disappears into the box. My five-year-old likes the fire trucks. We all get our “I Voted” sticker, and then leave to enjoy our post-voting pizza dinner.

As a registered voter, I am responsible for participating in local, state, and federal elections. As a woman, I am responsible for showing my respect to the women that fought with all they had to earn this voting privilege. As a parent, I am responsible for teaching my children how meaningful an individual voice can be — and how to make that voice heard by voting.

Kids Voting Durham and NC MomsRising with Jack and Jill, LangoKids, Mocha Moms, and other family groups are joining forces to help make voting a family affair!
When: 10 a.am. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 25
Where: Durham Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., Durham with a parade to the Durham Board of Elections, 201 N. Roxboro St.

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Public education funding, pre-K funding, unemployment, equality, environmental protections– there are so many things that need attention in NC. The polls need YOUR attention.

If you have 8 minutes, I made this very-safe-for-work youtube video after being inspired by February’s HKonJ March. Whenever I’m feeling done with politics, I watch it as a reminder of how vitally important it is that we all show up at the ballots with the same enthusiasm shown at protests and rallies.

 

Adventures with Kids in Politics- EITC delivery

I decided earlier this year to start moving my more political posts over to stephanielormand.com because the current political climate seems so well-suited with fiction writing.  Most of the time I wish the news reports were actually fiction.

Ahem.

This isn’t a political rant, but rather a snicker moment with Elliot during a momsrising lobbying effort to reinstate NC’s EITC.  Yes, I involve my kids in politics and have since this thing happened in DC.

Zach loves a good rally. He asks really good questions about why we are there, and with the innocence wonder of a child (and, okay, many adults) wonders, “but WHY would they DO such a thing?” Moral Monday Kids

 

Elliot has two very specific political positions:

  1. Why can’t they just stop so I can stop wasting my Mondays here?”
  2. Will there be candy?

Poor kid, he can be very shy around large groups of adults.  Except for that time in DC when he saw that NEW JERSEY gave out, not tiny peppermints, but FULL SIZE boxes of M&Ms.  With his powerful swagger and rakish good looks he waltzed right in there and asked if he “could, hey, maybe get some of that candy.”

I waved at the dude from the hallway– if someone was going to tell an over-tired 4 year old “no” it wasn’t going to me.

But then? Today?  In NC? Someone trumped NJ’s M&Ms with ice cream.  That’s right, my friends, he spent the first 30 minutes rocking out in the NCGA with his own personal NC State ice cream.

A NC flag lapel pin, which he accepted with the same enthusiasm as a kid at Halloween getting the toothbrush.  His “thanks” was a perfect mimicry of my own sarcastic use of the word.

But it wasn’t until we were a few stops short of my much-anticipated (but not actualized) visit to Representative Tillis’s office that Elliot really just came out of his shell.

Rep. Leo Daughtry, reading the paper, while his assistant makes conversation with Elliot:  “You’re so handsome.  You’re going to grow up and just have your pick of pretty girls to marry.”

Elliot, from around a mouth stuffed full of jolly rancher from the previous office: “Nope.  I’m going to grow up and marry my friend, Landon.  And maybe a cat. Most of the girls like princess stuff and, well, I just don’t much care for wearing a dress.”

I smiled at Elliot and said,  “I hope you can marry Landon someday, if that’s what you want.  Don’t know about the cat.” Then I winked at Daughtry, thanked his assistant for the candy and moved on to the next delivery.
It was a good day at the NCGA.

My Thoughts on HKonJ

I spent Saturday morning protesting the direction of NC politics with the HKonJ’s People’s Assembly.  Friday, I spent the day at a women-in-politics training given by Lillian and Emily’s List .

Fascinating stuff, politics.  It’s been a strange week.

A threat of cold and rain made me leave the boys home with Joel, which instead allowed me the freedom to tigger-bounce through the whole march, taking lots of pictures (like I do). I came home battling a migraine, but took a minute to flip through the files, noticing a clear story path written in the signage.   I do like words.  But it was while I slept in that hazy sleep/non-sleep of a migraine that I thought, “hey, I should make this into a movie real quick“.

Following the 2012 elections, North Carolina saw its first Republican-led one party government since the Reconstruction.  The amount of destruction that has followed makes us a regular laughingstock of the nation.  In so many ways our government has intentionally turned our reality the butt of someone else’s joke.

But it’s not funny, what has been done here.  Some of these legislators are people I view to be immoral, yet they try to legislate my morality. 

It started by redrawing voting district lines with the sole intention of perverting democracy.

Millions of tax payer dollars– and thousands of lawmaker hours– spent to pass a constitutional amendment against something that was already against NC law.  A law that broke the heart of my children and my youngest still identifies Chik Fil A as the place that doesn’t want his friend’s moms to marry. 

The allowed concealed weapons to enter the school parking lots and playgrounds where our children play.  It was already legal to open carry in these places—thus allowing for “heroes”—so why the new law that allows gun owners to hide their armed fear?

They have chipped away at women’s rights under the guise of health and safety; creating an environment that damages Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide birth control and mammograms to the economically disadvantaged women that dominate the rural areas of our state.

They have systematically cut Medicaid, food stamp and unemployment benefits proving again that it’s the fetus and not the child that deserves life.

They did not change the $1500 tax cap on yacht purchases.  The tax shelters and cuts made for corporations in this state could fill a… deficit.

Like pin-strip-suited Vikings they have raided public school budgets, demoralizing our teachers and students while increasing the availability of Charter Schools.

They have written ambiguous environmental laws, created giant tax shelters for developers and padded those agencies designed to protect our public health with members that make profit off of environmental disasters.

Not only are their actions an affront to common sensibilities, their heavy-handed, corporate-led legislation is driving our state’s economic decline (for those us not buying yachts) with a speed worthy of NASCAR.

Most importantly, these lawmakers have no issue with calling us morons, or refusing to listen to our valid concerns.  They have forgotten who they work for and it’s past time to fix that.

 

Cadillac Heath Insurance

Momsrising, an amazing grass-roots organization with which I volunteer my time, started a 3 day Let’s #Blog4Health campaign to share stories about the Affordable Care Act. So many stories.

Is the ACA perfect?  Of course not, life– and the government policies dealing with it– rarely approach perfection.  But for millions of people it’s close enough to count. 

Which leads to my story of how the Affordable Care Act has affected me.  In truth, not at all. My husband has a great job for a company that chooses to provide its employees (and their families) with that famed Cadillac health insurance.

As a matter of fact, in all of my years on Earth– 37 and counting– I have never been without health insurance.  My Dad’s military career covered me as a college student until I was 25.  When it finally expired–and oh, how I mourned the loss of my dependent ID– I picked up insurance through my full time retail job.  Less impressive, my insurance coverage cost me $60 every two weeks, which might sound like a pittance, but is a lot of money for a worker earning $9 an hour.

I carried that insurance to cover any potential catastrophic health crises.  However, high deductibles and co-pays still sent me to planned parenthood for my yearly gynecological exams and the birth control not covered by my prescription plan (though it DID cover viagra, which no amount of arguing with the claims department could change).

In between my retail years and my stay-at-home-mom years, I worked at the same company my husband works for now.

So how has a lifetime of having affordable health care affected me?  A few days after high school graduation I suffered reoccurring hives that spread across my whole body and down my throat.  I spent a little less than a week in the hospital, being pumped with high-dose steroids and anti-histamines.  They ran allergy tests, blood tests, and urine tests.  The total cost of that hospital visit– and I remember because my dad forgot his checkbook, so I had to pay– less than $15.

During the pre-kid working years when a really nasty cough and extreme shortness of breath sent me to a doctor, then to a lung x-ray;  my cost, $75 dollars.   My cost for the mental health provider necessary for medicating my ADD, and the cost for the ADD medication, both of which a requirement for my quality of life;  $35 dollars a month.

The cost of my husband’s surgery to remove a huge paratoid tumor in his neck; less than $500.

The entire maternity cost of my first child– $1100.  And I thought that was really expensive until I saw the line item cost on the EOB.

When intense uterine cramps sent me to both a doctor and a radiologist– both of which would have saved my life had that ovarian fibroid been an ovarian tumor instead, cost less than $100.  And the month I spent suffering from extreme dizzy spells that swept me off my feet? Several doctor trips and tests provided a solution:  I am the only person to whom my doctor has recommended eat more salt (I have low blood pressure).

When I went to an out-of-town-ER with pain that I was fairly certain would be fatal? Even after several hours in the ER, a CAT scan, IV drugs (y’all kidney stones–even small ones–are brutal) my cost was almost nothing.

So how has having affordable health care affected me?

I have never once had to hesitate to bring either of my children to the doctor, or the two times we’ve gone, to the emergency department.   I have never once had to worry about an illness bankrupting my family.  Now, thanks the Affordable Care Act legislation, I never will.

 

Alien Abduction

Would I lie about an alien abduction?   Choosing to run an ad-free, sponsor-free blog leaves me blissfully unfettered when it comes to posting, but even I wouldn’t neglect my precious for 2 months.

So yeah, alien abduction.  Just a few days after the turn of the New Year I laid myself out on the sun warmed concrete after failing to convince E that he wanted to help me weave a wreath from the grapevines I pulled off a gasping crepe myrtle. I watched my youngest child stack chairs to climb the tree and contemplated the symbolic meaning of circles.

Heavy stuff, circles.

A gust of wind whooshed my hair off my neck in time with Elliot’s gasp, and I felt the chill of a retreating sun even before noticing the increasing creep of a large shadow.  Grabbing a stick, I stood and turned, readying to attack whatever crazed mountain bear threatened my baby. On the street, parked like a dutifully registered motor vehicle, hovered the shiny metal spaceship of my Spielberg/Lucas/Roddenberry childhood.  I scooted to Elliot and pulled him out of his tree perch, whispering for him run and hide in the closet.

Straightening, I watched the door slide open; a warrior mom prepared to protect her progeny from what would surely be a warp speed attack from Reese’s Pieces gone to the Dark Side. But no amount of preparation could prevent the choking cough of reality.

It had attempted to mimic the most innocuous of humanity; a sweater, a blazer, casual pants.  The uniformed clothing of one meaning to soothe and reassure.

It could have worn an apron while delivering cookies to me in the street without achieving a reassuring visage. Its face as dominated by a mouth flapped open in a rictus of forced cheer, its skin mottled and discolored like that of a person with lots of access to toxins and no access to healthcare. It was terrifying even before it spoke– moreso after.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I might have lost a little tinkle from my bladder.  But its voice, gratingly mocking, delivered words of such jumbled insanity that I feared it spoke in a cipher whose decoding would determine my survival.

It skulked closer to me continuing to speak with increasing volume as its ire raised with my obvious confusion.   I finally blurted out that I knew of the words it spoke--concepts and strategy and theory and also facts— but that none of my university-acquired critical thinking and inference abilities could apply a sensible meaning to its statement.

Y’all, it became enraged; shrieking so loud that every dog in the neighborhood howled in answer. One bony hand reached toward me, waving in my face and demanding I show something that sounded like “identification”,  but surely meant something else in its language-that-sounded-like-mine-but-wasn’t.   I dragged my feet against the concrete wanting to slow its pull on my person, finally pushing away my fear to yell,  “Dammit, I have rights”.  Then it stopped, turning its dead eyes to my house muttering insensibly again; because what sense can be found in vaginal motorcycle education charters?

However the mention of education reminded me of my children thus I choose to enter its ship despite my fear of an unwanted probe.  As the doors closed behind me, it suddenly freed of its grip and disappeared. I stood, peacefully trying to assemble myself back to right when an intense vertical lurch had my loud exclamation of FRACK echoing off the ship’s granite walls.

My time as its prisoner was fraught with confused ambiguity.  Its friends came over for fancy parties, sometimes staying after as part of the ship staff.  And while I rarely understood their conversations, I knew I was not part of the inner circle, that my relative comfort existed only on their whim.  One night they all giggled as one of its friend dropped a bag of knitting supplies on my lap.  I never got the joke because I don’t knit, but they all laughed for hours.

When I was finally returned to earth, I was shocked to learn that what had felt like 4 never-ending years had really only been a few months.  But my experiences had forever altered my perspective; never again would I laze in the sun without fearing being taken hostage by one more powerful than I.

North Carolina, a riddle:  How do you know your state policy making has gone insane?   When a blogger can write an alien abduction story from the key outcomes.  

Chemical Safety. Someone Should Care a Whole Awful Lot.

It’s March 2001 and a British man steps out of a blue police box and says that I will someday be grateful for the acute myelogenous leukemia (Agent Orange- related cancer) that has just killed my father.   He promises that the next half-dozen years my mother and I will spend spinning in the revolving door of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) will benefit me later.  He whispers that I need to pay attention to the draft Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) legislation in 2013.

If only, right?  Almost 13 years and two children after my father’s death, I can appreciate how much that past informed the present.  His death fueled that first tank of moral outrage.  But it was the 7 years of cycling Request/Response/Wait with the VA, the writing and copying of a forest-worth of appeals, and the knowledge gained from working in the biostatistics department of a local CRO that kept the tank full.

In my efforts to understand (and convince the VA) of the why of his cancer,  I added new words to my personal dictionary: benzene,  2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4,5-T), which was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8- TCDD), and  2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2-4-D).

From 2002 to 2004 the thousands of hours spent reading scientific articles full of words necessitating both conventional and medical dictionaries made three facts clear:

  1. chemicals are not required to undergo any safety testing before being sent out into the populace,
  2. the average human has far more exposure to toxic chemicals than they realize, and
  3. regular exposure to toxic chemicals is not healthy.

My family is safe because I buy organic foods.  None of this applies to me. 

Both of my children have food allergies; I can read a label to avoid the eggs that will send one of them to the ER.  As a consumer I can (and do) choose to avoid foods with food dye, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

I can choose to purchase organic diced tomatoes to avoid eating the pesticides, completely ignorant of the fact that no law that regulates what’s in the actual can.

Organic Tomatoes Toxic Can

This is why CSIA applies to all of us– even the eaters of organic foods–irrespective of race, political leaning, gender, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or geography.  We are equal in our inability to opt out of toxic chemical exposure.

Those chemicals hang out next to you on the couchslap you a high-five every time you take a receipt, and dance with your dust bunnies.

Chemicals–meh. I don’t drink jet fuel, and I don’t work in manufacturing.  

Of course you aren’t drinking jet fuel. Yet scientists are finding persistent chemicals in the breast milk of average American women. Since you didn’t brew a k-cup of chemicals this morning, and you don’t work in chemical manufacturing, how do you suppose those chemicals got into your body?   

Do you sit on a couch with foam cushions?  Sleep on a flame-retardant mattress? Buy lunchboxes and bookbags for your children? Do you eat canned soup? Drink water from a contaminated well?  Drink any water at all?

Now is a good time for me to point out that being exposed to Chemical X does not mean you will die from Disease yy. No one factor determines whether an individual will develop cancer, even if a specific exposure explains a high proportion of the occurrence of a specific cancer.  

Why We Should All Care a Whole Awful Lot

I share a birth year, 1976, with the Toxic Substance Control Act– TSCA (toss-ka), the law written to regulate the chemical industry.  TSCA passed– and with it an automatic exemption for the 60,000 chemicals already on the market.  Since 1976, an additional 24,000 chemicals have come to market.  About 15% of the 24,000 new chemical submissions included any health-and-safety data.

Put another way: for 37 years Americans have invited about 83,800 untested chemicals into their homes, gardens, clothes, dishes, shampoo, soap, detergents, and mattresses.  About 200 chemicals in the past 37 years have had pre-market safety testing.

83800 Untested Chemicals

In an astonishingly abrupt difference, should I find myself diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, I cannot take a pharmaceutical drug without it first having passed trials for both safety and efficacy.   I can go online and read the data from the clinical trials of an approved drug. I can (and have) read thousands of pages listing adverse side effects of investigational study drugs.   Extensive examination of data is required before a drug can be sent to market and, should post-market safety concerns develop, the FDA can pull the drug.

I’m concerned that similar requirements haven’t been established for the chemicals that stain every surface of a modern America household.  I can’t flip over my couch cushion and see a listing of the chemicals used to make it flame retardant.  I can’t choose.  As a parent and a consumer, that’s not okay.

I gave birth to my first son in 2006.  During an infant safety class, the nurse looked out at the sea of mounded bellies, protected by elastic-waist pants and folded hands, and warned us that using soap would wash the flame retardant off baby’s clothes.

I asked her what it was about babies that made them more flammable, thus requiring flame retardant clothing.  Her answer was that “newborns, being immobile, can’t move themselves away from a fire.”   After nights of being woken by an indignantly wet, screaming newborn I felt confident that, should he find himself suddenly on fire, we’d be well-informed.  No longer concerned about his increased risk of spontaneously bursting into flame, we eliminated treated pajamas.

Then, as I nursed 3 month old Zach, I read an article that mentioned how disposable baby diapers contain dioxin—an unavoidable byproduct of the paper bleaching process.  I thought we had been pathologically cautious– testing the paint and pipes for lead in our 1969 home, choosing low-VOC paints, unscented baby shampoo and lotions, vaccinating, breastfeeding—only to find out that we had been laying dioxin next to his bare baby skin.

We switched to cloth diapers.

Zach spent a year playing with/chewing on what would later become known as Thomas the Toxic-Lead-Paint Engine.   2007, the year of massive toy recalls for lead paint (and other) violations, cemented my child’s natural love of cardboard boxes; it was difficult for me not to see each plastic toy as the next toxin-bearing Trojan Horse.

Why I’m grateful for cancer–

Wait- did you just say you were grateful for cancer?

Yes, I did.  My 18 year old father’s firebase experienced heavy deforestation from Agent Orange (AO) giving multiple AO-related diseases a chance at his mortality.  If it was going to be something, I’m grateful it was AML.   You see, my father’s death had already informed me of the chemicals that lurked– largely unregulated– in every corner of modern life.   But my peer group at the time– young adults whose parents had not been military– were unaffected, and therefore unimpressed, by the irresponsible behavior of the chemical industry.

I cheered over the public outcry against Bisphenol-A (BPA)—and, for a minute, felt pride over the chemical manufacturing industry’s response.  Victorious fist-bumps spread as baby bottles started to show up with BPA-FREE labels.

callout

 

Unfortunately, the chemical manufacturing industry replaced the BPA with Bisphenol-S (BPS), which is, at best, comparably bad.

In their short lifetime—and despite my rigorous efforts to the contrary—both of my children likely walk around as unwilling hosts to multiple toxic chemicals.  The repeating statement in these biomonitoring chemical summaries (even for those chemicals identified as probable carcinogens) is that: “Human health effects from [INSERT CHEMICAL] at low environmental doses or at biomonitored levels from low environmental exposures are unknown.”

That’s true—we don’t know the human health effects of long-term exposure to low level chemicals, because safety tests are not required of new chemicals, and for the past 37 years the only data available have been those voluntarily given by the industry writing the rules intended to regulate it. 

No, I’m not going to go all Jenny-McCarthy and say that I know for certain that living with  low levels of multiple chemicals deemed as “possible” and “probable” human carcinogens causes negative health outcomes.  It’s hard enough to identify association, let alone causation.  What I do know for a fact is that children have more years of future life than adults; more years for their developing bodies to accumulate the byproducts of almost 80,000 untested chemicals.   I also know exposure measured for a 37 year old is different from that measured for a 7 year old, a 3 year old, a 2 month old, and a fetus.  I know that measuring the chemicals causing early puberty will not yield accurate results for an adult well beyond puberty.

I know that children are at a current—and future—risk for unknown health effects simply because we do not require safety testing.

Now I’m terrified of my couch and grocery receipts, and I think I saw a tumor growing on my foot.  What is my government doing about this?

Which leads us to 2013 and the introduction of the “bipartisan effort to update embarrassingly outdated legislation”, aka the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). Bipartisan cooperation, being the shiny snowflake twinkling against the Unicorn’s horn it is these days, is both appreciated and even encouraged by the voting public.  Notwithstanding, I do NOT intend to encourage the passage of tepid, ineffective legislation for the sake of bipartisanship cooperation.

As it’s written—and yes, I read each overly comma’ed and semi-colon’ed paragraph— the first draft of the CSIA scores big for The Bill Most Likely to Define Governmental Ambiguity.  The current version of CSIA sacrifices the opportunity to protect health and environment in favor of protecting profit.  CSIA forfeits my freedom as a consumer to make informed choices.

CSIA prevents States from passing chemical safety regulations, limiting the rights of individual states in favor of a large federal government.   Sorry Californina voters, DC will be taking over now.  This ceding of regulatory control to the federal government is a complete dissension from S. 1482, a bill written recognizing the primacy of States for setting chemical regulations with regard to hydraulic fracturing.   Fascinating, really.

CSIA legislation requires the EPA assess exposure in vulnerable subpopulations (such as children and at-risk workers) for the safety assessments.  It fails to define what should be done to protect a subpopulation should they be found to be at an increased risk.   This is similar to acknowledging that children are a greater risk for lead-exposure related illness and then doing nothing about lead.

CSIA creates multiple layers of bureaucratic red tape for the EPA with the use of phrases like “time to time” (my favorite), “timely”, and “within a reasonable time”  as the definition for key deadlines and timelines.

CSIA requires that a chemical product be defined as either high or low risk.  If the EPA cannot prove a chemical to be high risk, then that chemical is automatically categorized as low risk.   I don’t consider unstudied to be the same as low risk.

This is not an example of a socialist agenda against free enterprise.   A fair number of chemicals are vitally important to the continuation of humans world-wide.   I don’t want to write legislation that cripples the innovation of the chemical industry.  But I do want legislation written that stops toxic chemicals from slithering all over children.

I want legislation that promotes public and environmental health, and protects consumer freedom.  We need legislation that puts health over profit.  Contact the members of the Environment and Public Works Committee and tell them that you want them to keep working.

We all have the right to know that we’re not accidentally poisoning our families with the products purchased for our homes.

 

 

Give Me Your Tired

The city of Raleigh doesn’t want charity groups* to feed the homeless in Moore Square.

*My family volunteers with one of these groups, Human Beans Together, and have done so for a year.

Not only did they (the city) not want us to feed the homeless in Moore Square– the homeless most definitely did not make it into the $14 million dollar renovation plans for the park— no one in the city offered suggestions for other options.  Or they didn’t until a blog post from Love Wins blew up with internet and NC made the national news.  Again.  Don’t forget that October election.

The first time the cops threatened arrest for noncompliance with a long-standing, but never-enforced city ordinance, we moved across the street to an empty Salvation Army building. This lasted about 2 weeks before the city announced that they owned that building, too, so– no.  The next week Human Beans paid for parking spots in a nearby parking lot (smart, we are).  Then national attention and political deflection, and meetings with politicians making nice– remember that election in October?

It’s the refusal to open a weekend soup kitchen that made the suddenness of these plans feel deliberate and calculating.  For me, the fight isn’t about Moore Square at all– if they gave me a building nearby and said, here- you can use this space, I would be fine. My fight isn’t for that small block of land;  it’s about feeding the homeless on the two days where the soup kitchens are closed and, AND children cannot get meals at school.

Yeah– we have kids that come through that line, too.

Lt Carswell says, “The truth is, they are chalking the fine up as a cost of doing business. It’s all about making money.”

Now, I’m no business woman, so maybe I’m missing how that particular business model succeeds. The one where providing free food to people unable to pay for food makes rocks a huge profit.

Phase 1: Pay for food and give it away for free.  Phase 3: Profit.  Ah, Lt. Carswell must have watched the Underpants Gnome episode on South Park.

I realize I’m rambling a bit and I’m probably dangling participles all over the place, but I have my first ever sinus infection and, whoa, does it suck.  

So, if the city doesn’t want the homeless fed in Moore Square, then the city should open the soup kitchen on the weekends. If the city (state) finds themselves uncomfortable when confronted by homelessness, then perhaps Step One is the re-allocation of funds for unemployment benefits, mental health and domestic abuse programs.  Shouldn’t that happen prior to starving human beings? Obviously the money exists– if only we could filter some of that $87,500 back from the 24-year old hands of the under-qualified, but politically-connected, HHS policy adviser.

And finally, these crime stats, collected into lump statistics designed to show an increase in crime specifically around Moore Square? I spent afternoon reading the individual crime report data and, yeah, Moore Square has more arrests than the proximate Nash Park.   Quite a few drunk and disorderly charges around 2am, and DUIs that… WAIT! That’s it,  we can solve the crime problem at Moore Square by closing the many bars that flank around surrounding streets.

Ahem.

All of that sarcasm aside, I’m not saying that the people living/working downtown don’t have a point about trash and outdoor bathroom usage (though I’ve not yet identified a free public restroom down there– very New York of us, hunh?), because they also have a voice that needs to be heard.  Some of the people down there have expressed themselves with compassionate concern.  I’d like to work with THOSE people.

Then there are these people:

“Screw ’em, they choose to be homeless, they should get a job.”  Sure, sure.  It’s not as if NC’s 8.7% unemployment rate (the national rate is 7.3%) creates job-finding difficulties– even for those with showers, homes, and the appropriate education.

Sidebar: The internet, and the anonymous, hate-filled minds that comment therein, causes more 3am nightmares for me than any dark alley, or homeless filled park.

I just… when I read the reasons for homelessness as tabulated by the folks that study that sort of thing, choice isn’t what leaps out at me.

Lately, whenever I hear a conservative this or that spout off about traditional American values; how we’ve forgotten what America stands for; how we need to get back to our forefather’s America I can’t help but think:

I agree.

Though I think many of y’all skipped school the day teachers defined the real meaning behind all of that American symbology you’ve armored up in.

Lady Liberty Did I Stutter

 

 

 

My Teacher Said

“To have our parents show us video about what happened on September 11th.  Okay, mom?”

Edit: I sincerely doubt that the teacher delivered this exact message.  I’m sure it was more along the “ask you parents” route and my kid is pre-programmed to request a youtube education.

In a word, no.  No way will there be any video watching of 9/11. Joel pried me off the couch and away from CNN somewhere around the end of October 2011, marking the last of my obsessive watching of news coverage.  Hyperfocus and national tragedy just don’t get on well together.

I should have looked up more information on how to explain September 11th to children.  After last year, I should have been more prepared, should have known better than to think I had just one more year.

Defining terrorist, explaining why they’d want to fly planes into people, describing the resulting change in America without the many layers of my well-nourished cynicism, and revisiting symbolism’s importance in human culture?

See, I normally do an okay job with this– I’m reasonably good at peeling away all the extra adjectives and keeping information at an age-appropriate level.  For example, I’ve never mentioned Zoroaster during religious conversations.

But I struggle with this day.  Because September 11, 2001 was the “I made it 6 months” after my father’s rather abrupt death (some of you I promised warnings: that’s the make-you-cry-post).  I started that day steeped in symbolic grief– and the attacks just made it MORE.

I struggle and I didn’t even know anybody that died.  Not a single person, not a single friend-of-a-friend.   It feels like the depth of my emotion is transferral. Raw.  But not legitimately raw.  And because they aren’t raw just because of the attacks, it makes me feel fake to think about it too much.

He asked to see pictures.  And I know him– I know if I hadn’t found something for his brain to see, he’d just go find it himself.  There are some pictures– you know the ones– that remain as vivid in my memory as the first day.  I don’t want him to see those.

He’s 6. His brother is 4.  Their history doesn’t include those images.

But it’s symbology, right?  The smoke pouring from those two buildings.  It’s hate, it’s disgust. It’s religious intolerance.  It’s patriotism.  It’s human spirit.  It’s retaliation.  It’s war.  It’s the willing sacrifice of personal freedoms.

It’s complicated.

Honor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NC: Lawmaking For the Corporation, By The Corporation.

North Carolina Constitution

The current NC trends in law and legislation creation appear to focus on:

a) turning away federal money for social programs, and to make “necessary budget cuts” therein.

b) accepting federal incentives for corporate and commercial growth.

Y’all, they (as in NCGA folks– a suspicious number of which are either real estate developers and/or lawyers) are messing with our… everything.

Like water. Here, there, everywhere.  For example, in the Farm Act:

DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION TO JOINTLY PETITION THE WILMINGTON DISTRICT OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS TO ALLOW FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY AND OPPORTUNITY TO PERFORM STREAM AND WETLANDS MITIGATION BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE WATERSHED WHERE DEVELOPMENT WILL OCCUR.

Developer Tom wants to build some coastal property and make some fancy-mitigated wetlands, you know, over there somewhere. Cool beans. Unless you are a loggerhead turtle, and really, what do we need turtles for anyway?  

I mean North Carolina’s representatives are diligently working to write legislation based on solid environmental science.  Look at real estate broker/ State Representative Pat McElraft’s bill that specifically would NOT mandate regulatory sea-level policy based on scientific evidence of sea-level change.  Regulations that would have risked a large number of already-approved, or under-review, land use plans.

 Fishy Time Troll Herring

M’kay, developers and real estate brokers (no conflict there, snort) simply don’t believe in climate change. More importantly, they don’t believe in rescinding the millions of dollars in planned building permits over something that might happen.

Since we’re already talking about water, grab the environmental legislation and a shovel for this giant pile of inorganic fertilizer, House Bill 94.

Why exactly should everyone in this state be nervous about the folks futzing with the environmental laws? It starts at the top, with John Skvarla, Secretary of N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

John doesn’t seem to believe much in things like climate change.  Or renewable energy.

Then next, Assistant Secretary Mitch Gillespie, a long time Republican member of the house with a lot of corporate backing not known for environmentally friendly policy. 

A beach-loving state, yes.  And now also a state embracing Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) with the same fervent enthusiasm a child has for a new puppy. But it’s okay, because certainly the newly reconstituted Mining and Energy Commission has been populated with members that are politically/industrially objective, and scientific experts.

Okay, probably not.  You don’t have to drill too far down the member list before finding the new vice chairman of the Commission is George Howard– co-founder and CEO of Restoration Systems.

“It’s good to see big-time institutional capital come into it, because we want to see the industry professionalized — not a lot of mom-and-pops,” said George Howard, co-founder and president of Raleigh, N.C.-based Restoration Systems, which banks 25,000 acres of wetlands and 60 miles of waterways in half a dozen states.”

and Howard lauded the success of other mitigation firms.  Firms that think…

“If you think about pipelines and power lines and the siting of renewable energy … mining, oil and shale gas — all have significant impacts,” he [Fred Danforth] said.

Regs, shale drilling spur business”

Restoration Systems… why does that sound familiar? Ah, right- John Skvarla was the CEO.   

You can get more government/corporation incestuous than that.

The people charged with protecting the environment are the same people that view environmentally unfriendly activities as things good for business?  This seem like a horrible idea.

But wait– there’s more!

House Bill 321, which amends Local Solid Waste Planning made me snort when I saw that they replaced actual goals and reporting practices with: “local government shall make a good‑faith effort to achieve the State’s forty percent (40%) municipal solid waste reduction goal and to comply with the State’s comprehensive solid waste management plan”

I’m a parent– this is what I think of when I see the words good-faith:  It was a total accident that I was kicking the window when it broke.

At this point I admit to hours of reading punctuated by snorts.

There was intent written into those laws on solid waste, landfills, and new brownfield mitigation rules– you can smell it.  At first I couldn’t find the relationship between the systematic deregulation and the why.

Then a friend mentions the ReVenture project in Charlotte…   Revitalization of a superfund site, cleaning up contamination, job creation, recycling– on the surface this all sounds great.

Everything to make my little hippie heart dance with glee.

Except when I turned on the hyperfocus it looks a little more like this:

How the ReVenture project shapes NC legislation

Click for a larger image

 

And after looking at what ReVenture proposes and considering the types of things being written into law? When looking at–

ReVenture happening in McCrory’s previous backyard; if the NCGA wasn’t slipping in new deregulation legislation on brownfield development [1]; and if both the brownfield development and “greenness” didn’t come with so many nice local incentives [2]; if the recycling part of ReVenture didn’t involve burning trash and trees and the NCGA wasn’t proposing amendments to air quality rules[3]; if ReVenture wasn’t right off Catawba River and the Environmental Management Commission (goodness that’s a lot of lawyers) wasn’t getting ready to amend all of the Riparian Buffer Rules for the state’s watershed [4] ; if the EMC had to follow their own rules about making rules [5];  if none of this [6]; or this [7] existed. 

[1] PART XX of House Bill 94 and Part V of House Bill 74.

[2] HOUSE BILL 1829 and GS_105-277.13.

[3] Senate Bill 171: Limit Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

[4] House Bill 94: SECTION 28.(e)  The Environmental Management Commission shall adopt rules to amend)…

[5] House Bill 94: Rules adopted pursuant to this section are not subject to G.S. 150B‑21.8 through G.S. 150B‑21.14.

[6] House Bill 94: PART XXXII.  PROVIDE THAT CERTAIN WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS WITH EXPIRED AUTHORIZATIONS… 

[7] . . . as described in sub‑sub‑subdivision 3. of sub‑subdivision b. of subdivision (1) of this subsection. . .

I have to stop; I can’t look at this anymore.  My children are currently making their own lunch– and it sounds like it involves raisins, hummus, pomegranate juice, and cupcakes.  I think Elliot taught himself to read yesterday and I’m pretty sure that Zach just washed a load of clothes.

As amazingly self-sufficient as they have been these past few days, it cannot last much longer.  And now I feel obligated to take them to Chuck E Cheese (shudder) to demonstrate my appreciation.

I’m torn because:

1) it’s both fascinating and horrifying to see what a large group of intelligent psychopaths do all day.

2) there is an ah-mazing story arc sitting in all of this, but that would mean abandoning my other one.