Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is That a Pistol in Your Pocket...or?

Here’s a good idea: Let’s follow Texas. Let’s let college students carry concealed weapons. Yeah, let’s do that. Freshman frat boys make level-headed keepers of the peace. Go ahead - Allow concealed weapons on college campuses.

Neither Texans, nor the rest of us have forgotten the ominous 1966 shooting at the University of Texas, Austin, when a gunman killed 16 students shooting from the school’s landmark clock tower. The bill that’s working its way through the Texas legislature right now is authored by those who hope to prevent such events as this and the more recent Virginia Tech massacre.

The idea of the legislation is to allow innocents to arm themselves so they can defend themselves, and others, should the need arise. The bill has the support of Texas’s pistol-packing Governor Rick Perry.

Since I’m planning to take a course at my local community college this summer, I know I’ll feel safer if my peers in the classroom are armed. I’m certain they will all be rational.

Professors too. They should be armed. After all, they never get in the same frame of mind as stressed-out students. Their lives are sound and stable or they wouldn’t be professors. And who’s in a better position strategically than the guy at the front of the class?

Let’s go ahead with the next logical step and allow high school students, at least the 18 year old seniors, teachers (and administrators!) to carry concealed weapons. After all, there are many tragic examples of shootings on high school campuses. Parents and students, everyone in public schools can finally relax with gun totin’ good guys in classrooms, in the cafeteria, and on the quad.

I’m sure it will be helpful in the battle against violent crime to put more weapons into everyday circumstances. Then, if someone brandishes a weapon, almost anyone could shoot that person! Yeah. I’m likin’ the sound of that.

We’ll let all the good guys carry guns, so when the bad guys show their guns, it will be a fair fight.

I’m just wondering about cabbies and bus drivers. They see a lot of unexpected violence. And we shouldn’t leave out the clerks in liquor stores around the country. They definitely need to be able to defend themselves and their customers.

I once read that convenience store clerks who greet customers as they come in the door are less likely to be robbed. Greet ‘em with your Gloc! See how many robberies we have after that.

Finally, bank tellers, we’ve gotta take care of the bank tellers. Amazingly, banks are still getting robbed, just like back in the Wild Wild West. Can’t think why concealed weapons were outlawed in the first place.

We’ll have to consider cross fire of course. Maybe we could establish some guidelines. The first one to draw on the bad guy has dibs. He (or she) becomes the designated shooter, defender, righter of wrongs. Everyone else, duck! Because if all the armed people, legitimate and illegitimate carriers, pulled out their guns and started shooting, well, you can see, it would be confusing. The wrong person might get hit.

We’ll have to set up good guy criteria so gun salesmen can sort out who to sell to. Otherwise, just anyone could be carrying a gun. That’s kind of how it is now, right?

Certainly entrepreneurs will be glad to see this law go into effect. The opportunities in fashion alone are staggering. We’ll need new lines of handbags for sure. Makers of the popular organizer-style bag will want to include a built-in holster to keep a woman’s weapon at-the-ready while out of the way of her cell phone and lipstick. Boots? Just formalize the popular informal location for a concealed gun. And for the purist, a simple ankle strap holster will suffice.

Levi’s and the GAP will want to begin developing jeans with an interior waistline holster for carriage down-the-front or small-of-the-back, depending on the carrier’s preference. A designer line of under-the-armpit holsters is sure to do well: lightweight, colorful. Not just leather any more!

We’re onto something here: A boon to the economy and a lift to the spirits of safety conscious Americans.

Now off to my errands: I’m going to run by the post office, then to McDonald’s, and of course, “Books, Guns & Ammo.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Have the American People Spoken to Egypt?

For the United States government to send Egypt wishes of happiness and success is a little like Michael Vick sending words of encouragement to the American Kennel Club.

Can we maintain any degree of credibility in the Middle East now that our duplicity is common knowledge? Or put more accurately: Can we regain or even attain credibility? How?

The word is out that a string of United States presidents supported Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive regime for lo these many decades because it suited us. It was our means to our ends. We got what we wanted from the Egyptian government; and it wasn’t so hard to turn a blind eye to its abuse of its own people. Shame on us.

We’re embarrassed for our President who now must smile and offer his hand (our hands) with a disingenuous blush as he congratulates those who see us for who we’ve been. As Google’s Regional Marketing Manager, Wael Ghonim, unofficial leader of the essentially bloodless revolution said very plainly, “Dear Western Governments: You have been supporting the regime that was oppressing us for 30 years. Please don’t get involved now. We don’t need you.”

In toppling Mubarak, they have, in effect, thrown us off their backs as well.

How cynical we were in the process to show early support for Mubarak’s heir apparent, Vice President Suleiman, when the world has read WikiLeaks. We initially backed the one clearly shown in embassy cables to be Mubarak’s consigliere! “Oops! Forgot you could read. Really, we want the people’s demands to be met. We support their quest for democracy, justice, and empowerment.” How hollow.

I’ve been reminded that the United States was in league with the Russians to win WWI and even with the unspeakable Stalin in WWII. So the enemies of our enemies became our friends. We stood with the unsavory and defeated the devil himself together. But then, when the common goal was achieved, we each withdrew to our respective corners.

Not so with Mubarak or his predecessors. We stuck by them and their cronies. It was convenient, the path of least resistance. Maybe because the goal of our deal with that devil was subterranean, open-ended, a Viet Nam of commitment, our government just kept pretending it was OK. After all, the Egyptian people hadn’t found their voice (or Facebook) yet.

Yes, I know. Politics makes strange bedfellows (see WWI and WWII, above). But if the United States is truly exceptional in the world arena, we’ve got to do better.

We believe in our uniqueness in the world. We built our nation on the concept of freedom and the fundamental right of humans to enjoy all its benefits. But if we don’t have the courage of our founding ideals, we surely will shrivel into the realm of the disrespected and be treated with disregard.

Here’s an idealistic dream: If we encounter another snake in the grass, let’s not make friends with it and bring it mice to eat. And let’s not become obliged to it either. At the very least, let’s step around it. If we want to help human beings, we must help them all, even if it is only through our refusal to support the morally corrupt and self-serving tyrants who oppress them.

Let’s tell the truth and turn away from evil. What evil is necessary? Only that which serves selfish ends. It seems we have soiled ourselves with the evil of abandoning one human for the benefit of another. It’s not okay. Ghonim says it best with the title of his Facebook page which sparked a revolution: “We are all Khaled Said,” referring to a young man beaten to death for speaking out against Mubarak’s brutal police state.

You say you want a revolution? Well you know, we all want to change the world. This time, the world is changing in spite of us. A section of the globe we haven’t heard, or haven’t listened to, is speaking. How have we positioned ourselves to be respected and influential in the conversation?

So it is with mixed emotions that we watch the historic events unfolding in Egypt and across the Middle East: With awe, with joy, and with anticipation for the Egyptian people. With anxiety and hope for the people of Tunisia and Iran, Bahrain and Yemen.

With humble heart for America.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We're Funding the Department of Redundancy Department

Our new old Governor, Jerry Brown, has set out in an earnest effort to reduce expenses, saying services may have to be reduced to close the budget gap. As he combs through the budget line by line, he might want to turn a miser’s eye to the state’s plethora of agencies.

Prompted by an emailed list from an outraged friend, my own visit to, found a directory of nearly 400 state departments, bureaus, commissions, offices, and agencies at our disposal, and out of our pocketbooks.

Now we are a state of more than 33 million people. We make necessary and worthwhile demands on the State to facilitate our daily lives; and in turn, its services to us require agencies. But 400?! Remember, each one employs well-trained and cheerful staffs who receive paychecks, benefits, and pensions. They’re set up in buildings with lights, plumbing, copy machines, and HVAC. It’s a pricey operation.

In fairness, there must be some overlap in the listings. An office might encompass a department and a commission, representing the same entity, but listed separately. For example, the

• California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs,
• California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and the
• California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board.

At least we hope they are one and the same. Otherwise, the worst case scenario looms in the imagination. Each department sprang up in a different wing of the building. Each one ignorant of the other. Each with its own protocol, paperwork, personnel, and of course, budget.

Some boards, commissions and agencies could be combined:
• California Bureau of Automotive Repair,
• California Bureau of Electronics and Appliance Repair and the
• California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. (I know, this last one is a stretch, but really, where else would it fit?)

What about the California Political Reform Division and the California Pollution Control Financing Authority? Ok, I’m being flippant. But we do know that without reform, politics pollute.

Here’s a logical, money-saving combination: The California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau and the California Office of Deaf Access. They’d probably be glad to make each other’s acquaintance.

For the pragmatic, let’s combine the California Department of Mental Health and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the very least, they should sit next door to each other. That way, after a day in line at the DMV, you could get the mental health support you’ll need.

Surely the following two have enough in common that they could share offices. Rename some forms, and voila! The California Division of Communicable Disease Control and the California Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control become the California Division for Control of Diseases You Catch at Work, or Somewhere Else.

Some of these agencies seem obsolete; others appear frivolous in their creation, and superfluous in their ongoing operation. To wit:
California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology --- What’s left for them to do?
California Acupuncture Board --- What’s the point? (Sorry.)
California Spatial Information Library --- Is that information about outer space, or parking lot design?
California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine --- Stop!
California Committee on Dental Auxiliaries --- OMG.

In some cases, there exists no readily available evidence these agencies are doing their jobs:
California Prevention Services --- What exactly are they preventing? Nothing of note. We all can name things needing prevention that go unchecked in this state: litter and bad manners come to mind.
California State Legislative Portal --- We need a window on dysfunction?
California State Legislature --- Yeah, speechless.

The California Office of Binational Border Health must be pretty busy trying to figure out how to revamp our immigration procedures and policies. If not, they should go ahead and get started. I don’t recall hearing anything from them, ever.

The California Office of Public School Construction won’t have much to do in the next few years. Maybe they could lend a hand to Binational Border folks.

One agency appeared on my friend’s list, but not in the State’s directory of agencies: the California Opinion Unit. Darn! We could use an office like that. But I doubt the Governor wants to open the forum. Not enough room in the inbox.

He’d have to create a companion agency: the Office of the California Department for the Commission on Opinion Response – Unit.

And if he did, he’d need to hire.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who's Putting Whom Out of Bed?

A new study out of the University of California, Berkeley, says that we should put our pets out of the bed. They’re germ-laden and will cause us more illness. So says the UC.

Not only do I protest this weak science, my cat does.

My cat will be 21 years old in June: Susan. That’s almost 140 in people years. Though she eats well, she’s thin and demanding. She spends her days on the deck in the sun, and her nights under the covers, cozied up to the small of my back.

She works the system and gets pretty well whatever she wants---unlimited petting, space on the lap, love, admiration, and amazement.

Susan’s always been small. She peaked at about 6 pounds when she was five or six years old, long ago. She’s tiny now, barely 5 pounds. When people first see her, they invariably think she’s a kitten.

Once, when she was young, I saw her whip a big white fluffy cat who dared to look comfortable in our back yard. She watched him with her head low. She growled long and steady to give fair warning. At this, he turned and gave her a lazy look, underestimating the force of her will.

In a flash, Susan leapt on him and they had a cartoon cat fight. A frenzied cloud rose before my eyes with only the occasional paw or ear identifiable as they screeched and yowled in a wild, wild scramble. Then they separated, landing face to face for an instant before the white cat broke and ran for the fence.

Susan watched him for a moment, then decided he wasn’t exiting fast enough to suit her. She lit into him again, catching him on the haunches just before he bounded up and over the enclosure with one last howl.

She sauntered back to sit at my feet, smoothing her coat and pulling tufts of white fur from between her toes, never looking in the direction of the interloper.

In her prime, she killed a bird every day, quite disconcerting for a bird lover like me. I used to come home to the scene of the crime. She brought the slow and the weak to my bedside time after time, dismembering them, eating bones, feathers and all. Mostly I would find feet, beaks, a smudge of blood, and the occasional entrail. Now she watches birds from the windows, occasionally chattering at them, more often showing only detached interest.

She killed a squirrel once, leaving him stretched out in the center of our bedroom with only a hind leg missing. We discovered him after an appraiser had surveyed the entire house, including the bedroom, without mentioning the gruesome scene. (In spite of this, the house appraised well, and we refinanced successfully.)

Back in the day, Susan had a favorite toy, a catnip mouse with pink ears and a leopard-print body. She played with him daily, crouching behind chair legs to ambush him in the hall, sliding across the kitchen floor with him in her jaws, tossing him in the air. She traded that mouse once for what she seemed to perceive as my favorite toy, a furry trinket from Alaska she saw me fawning over after our first trip there. I came home from school to find her leopard-print mouse sitting on the shelf where the souvenir had been, and later found the trinket in the kitchen next to her dish.

Susan rode with us in our big black Chevy Blazer when we moved here from Oklahoma, adjusted to two more changes in residence, supervised two Labrador retrievers, and still travels with us when we go for weekends on the coast or a week in Oregon. She’s a wise old friend and respected confidant.  

And not once, in all these years, has she made me sick.

Put her out of the bed? I don’t think so. I prefer to rely on the long-standing, well-established research that says human contact with cats (and dogs) enhances our lives, reduces our stress, diminishes the blues, and brings us joy. That matches my experience with the venerable Susan. 

Besides, I’m a little intimidated. If she knew about the research, she might put us out of the bed!