Thursday, June 28, 2012

News From Hell

The past six days have been an amazing news cycle, one of the busiest we've seen in ages.  A lot of very important stuff happened, and there was something for everybody to love and hate.

First off, last Friday the jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial came back with 45 guilty counts out of 48 charges.  The whole situation is pretty dreadful and awful, and is an object lesson in how things can get completely out of control when authority figures feel they can do whatever they damned well please and the "good ol' boy" network will shield and protect them.  Sandusky's predation on young boys is stomach-turning in the extreme, and the administration of Penn State University choosing to do nothing in the face of undeniable evidence is something they will have to answer to and pay for dearly.

One has to wonder how such horrendous abuse seemed so easy.  There has been a lot of investigation into the mindset of child molesters, and a lot of them pick occupations or endeavors that place them in direct contact with their quarry.  Sports coaches in the past have been automatically assumed to be benign and the vast majority of them are, but for the small percentage who are child predators, it provides an ideal shield and opportunity for their nefarious activities.

When I was a child, I was taught that adults were to be obeyed unconditionally and they were always right.  For me it was a fact of life that if the teacher gave you a beating in school for doing something wrong, when you got home you got another beating, because the teacher was always right, and you were always wrong.  That kind of blind, abject deference to "authority" creates the perfect climate for abuse.  It's like if a burglar comes to your home to rob it, and you welcome him with open arms and make him a nice dinner as he ransacks your house.

Sandusky will die in prison, as he deserves, but what of the lives he has destroyed with his sick activities?  There are no winners in this whole sorry situation, just pain and wreckage.

The following Monday had the Supreme Court striking down most of Arizona's hateful, racist SB1070, the draconian anti-immigration law passed in 2010, much to the delight of the bigots and hate-mongers in this wretched, godforsaken state.  Governor Jan "The Walking Dead" Brewer signed it with much fanfare, and used the resulting court challenges as a tool to raise nearly $4 million to defend it.  Even as recently as last week, when conventional wisdom indicated (incorrectly, it turns out) the Court would uphold the legality of SB1070, that dried-up old corpse was gleefully sending training materials out to police officials.  So it was particularly gratifying when the Court struck down most of the provisions of the law, and left the door wide open for future legal challenges to the part of it that was left standing.  Brewer immediately went on the news media and we were treated to the pathetic sight of that delusional, hatchet-faced old hag trying in vain to spin the ruling in her favor.  It's been obvious for a very long time that Brewer is incredibly stupid and most likely mentally disturbed, and she can add pathetic embarrassment to the very long list of reasons why she needs to go.

There was also a ruling in a Montana case which very tragically affirmed the vile, loathsome Citizens United ruling of 2010, which opened the floodgates to a deluge of corporate money into the election process.  This is plainly astonishing, as nearly everyone except the Republicans agree that the original ruling was a horrendous, horrific abomination and probably one of the very worst Supreme Court rulings in the history of this country.  As Mannequin Romney says, "Corporations are people!" and much to the detriment of this country, the Court agrees.  Another terrible, awful ruling from a Court that seems to take the side of corporations over the welfare of the American people.

Of course in the midst of all this history there just has to be some batshit-craziness, and that was provided by the witch hunt tight-assed douchebag Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca) is waging against Attorney General Eric Holder.  There was this little sting operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called "Fast and Furious." started during the George W. Bush administration, which sought to trace firearms used by Mexican drug cartels back to sellers in the US.  They ran into a little snag due to the incredibly lax and ridiculous gun laws in (where else?) Arizona.  It seems that a couple of people plopped down $350,000 for 650 guns, got them, and just waltzed across the border to the south where drug cartels got an early Navidad, because according to AZ gun laws, there wasn't anything illegal or suspicious about a purchase that size. Now that this fiasco has blown up all over the place, AG Holder is getting blamed for everything, and the 2nd Amendment gun nuts are all bent out of shape, saying the failed sting operation is all a big scheme by the Obama administration to ram stricter gun laws down everyone's throats.  Because it's so important to be able to spend $350K on guns without some law enforcement agency asking you a lot of inconvenient questions.  Yeah, they really ARE that stupid.  They're gun nuts.

The big-deal ruling dropped this morning, when the Supreme Court basically reaffirmed the constitutionality of Obama's centerpiece Affordable Health Care Act, individual mandate and all.  There is still much to discuss and learn about this ruling, but the important take-away is that Republicans and right-wingers are crapping broken glass now, and will do so for the foreseeable future.  It is extremely gratifying to see all the right-wingers losing their shit in a very public fashion.  Anything that makes conservative right-wingers unhappy makes me EXTREMELY happy, and I have a great deal to be happy about this morning.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The One in Three

I have been doing cottontail rehab for a couple of years now, and I can't think of anything else I have ever done in my life that can be so rewarding and so emotionally devastating at the same time.

My survival rate with the little bunnies is not good at all, probably one in three babies I get survive to be released into the wild.  But in this business a 50% survival rate is considered pretty good, so I'm not that far behind.  Still, losing any little babies that come into my care can be very painful.

One in three is just not good enough.

Two young cottontails came to me recently.  Nine days ago, when I was working at the thrift store, a woman and her daughter came in carrying a glass aquarium with a little bunny inside.  They said it was in danger of being a snack for a bull snake when it was saved, and they wondered if we could take it in, since they had no clue what to do.  I said sure, and brought home the little ball of fluff with the huge ears.  This is a picture of the bunny:

This little bun is probably close to a month in age, older than most cottontails I get.  He or she is doing very well, eating with great enthusiasm, and exhibited genuine outrage and indignance when I tried to clean his enclosure the other day, standing his ground and boxing my hand with the greatest of attitude.  And you can't help but love that.

Three days ago I got a much younger and tinier cottontail, brought to me by my friend Kathy in Payson.  Looking a lot like a furry golf ball with ears, his eyes had just opened up that day, which would put him between 10 and 14 days old.

He looked so very small and fragile, and Kathy asked me to take him because she had never cared for a bunny so tiny.  I agreed, since we have a nursing domestic mother rabbit, Tilly, and usually the mother rabbit will accept another tiny mouth to feed with no problem.  Tilly's four babies, born nearly three weeks ago, were about 4 times as big as the little cottontail, but I would try to place the baby with Tilly.

Unfortunately that did not work out, and the baby for some reason could not get enough milk from Tilly, even though she was loaded with it.  I took the baby back and started to feed him with goat's milk through an eyedropper, standard procedure with cottontail babies that size.

The goat's milk seemed to upset the babies stomach, and appeared to be doing more harm than good.  With my options dwindling, I started the baby on kitten replacement formula, and that seemed to work much better.  The baby sometimes got an "Ewww" face when I fed it, but it seemed to be doing well being fed three times a day.

The little one spent a lot of time sleeping, as do all bunnies that age, but could be very active and spry.  He (or she) got to recognize my voice and ran out of his little cardboard box when I came up to his enclosure.  I would put my hand inside his tank and he would scramble up into my palm.  He loved to be rubbed and gently stroked, and would lick my hands and fingers quite vigorously, until he fell asleep five minutes later.  This is a picture of the little one:

I spent a lot of time holding the little baby, since it seemed to crave physical contact and enjoy it so much.  I loved holding that tiny, incredibly fragile, little droplet of life.  How could that little ball of fuzz with the tiny ears, barely weighing an ounce (less than 1/3000th of my body weight), steal my heart in less than 24 hours?  I swear that if someone came in and stuck a gun to my head and told me to crush the life out of that little speck in my hand, I would say go ahead and shoot.  A bullet to the brain would be fast and quick, as opposed to a lifetime of remembering the alternative.

The little bunny ate fairly well, but never enough, and it didn't seem to grow much at all over the past couple of days.  It always seemed skinny and thin, and it was not putting on weight as it should.  It would consume a bit of kitten formula, but soon started to bat the eyedropper away from its mouth.  In spite of that I was cautiously optimistic, but I knew the little one was by no means out of the woods yet.

Today everything seemed normal, and this afternoon I held him in my hand for a while.  As usual, he licked my fingers and then snuggled in for a little snooze.  I put him back in his enclosure and went to the gym.

I returned to find him lying on his side, breathing in shallow gasps.  He had crashed on me, as is all too typical for these delicate little creatures.  He was dying, and his internal organs were slowly shutting down.

I picked him up and held him in the palm of my hand, cradling his failing body and trying to let him know I was there.  He looked at me with his tiny dark eyes as if to say, "Why?"  I could not answer.  I didn't know why his little life was being ended after such an incredibly short time.  I still can't come up with an answer.

He did not want to go, and fought his impending death for a good 20 minutes.  He gasped, stretched his arms and legs out several times, and endured a series of twitches and spasms.  Finally, he took one last gasp, and reared his head back.  His body went limp, and his breathing stopped.

I am done cursing out the universe or whatever deity is currently in charge.  I can't believe any deity of any kind - even the hateful, vengeful Christian one - would create an innocent life like that, so small and beautiful, only to take it away a short time later.  Some events seem so utterly, completely pointless and without merit.  Why couldn't that little one live?

It's been a rough year so far, with many beloved rabbits going to the Bridge.  Camilla, Babs, Elinor, Georgia, my own bunny Apricot, quite a few others.  At least this newest, tiniest resident at the Rainbow Bridge will be welcomed and cared for by some absolutely wonderful, beautiful rabbits.

And when I get another cottontail baby - and I know I will - so frail and delicate and hanging onto life by a thread, most likely I might have to go through all this again.  Why do I do this?  Why would I subject myself to having my heart ripped apart and stomped on the floor, again and again?

For the one in three, that's why.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

R.I.P. Democracy

It would appear that America's rather fanciful 236-year experiment with democracy is officially over. Once given the backhanded compliment of being the "worst form of government on earth, except for all the others," democracy was nonetheless touted as the best that the human race could come up with, and something to which all nations should aspire. And, when it comes to giving the average citizen a say in what happens to their lives, American democracy could once lay claim to being the best of the best. But something called the Citizens United ruling put an end to that, in dramatic fashion.

Democracy itself has a long and storied history, originating with the ancient Greeks and spreading to many areas of the world since then. It has gone through refinements and tweaking, as all dynamic, living ideas will, but there comes a time when a tweak will turn into something much more toxic and poisonous.

Big news this week was the attempted recall of governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Walker and the other Republican bloodsuckers in that state went on a rampage against public sector unions - you know, representing all those greedy and overpaid teachers, police officers and firefighters - and passed unprecedented legislation to take away their collective bargaining rights, which had been in place for decades. Blaming the unions for being the source of a huge budget deficit, Walker and his stooges decided that the bargaining rights were at the root of everything that ever went wrong anywhere since the beginning of time, and they had to go. People of all types went understandably nuts, and huge protests paralyzed the state capitol daily. The country was treated to the extraordinary spectacle of Democratic state legislators fleeing to a neighboring state to avoid a quorum in the legislature to pass the heinous bill.

All this was a blatant and obvious attempt at union busting, since unions are widely seen as sympathetic to Democrats and a source of campaign funds for them. Republicans hate employee unions, for lots of reasons. They're seen as fighting for annoyances such as fair treatment of workers, equitable wages and benefits, and for taking profit out of the coffers of corporations. Back in the 1950s and 1960s unions had great power, but the advent of the right-to-work movements in states, particular southern states, curtailed that power.

Unions have been on the run for a long time now due to rapidly declining membership and influence, and Republicans smelled blood. They took a gamble on creating a showdown with the unions, and Wisconsin became the crucible for that battle. Recall petitions were signed and an election was scheduled. At first it seemed that Walker would be shown the door in quick fashion, but a little problem cropped up.

It seems that the US Supreme Court ruled on something called the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. That ruling stated that "the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions." This meant that corporations and other outside influences, could dump as much money as they wanted into elections to try and sway the outcome. When the ruling came down, the entire country gasped in stunned disbelief at such an outlandish concept - that corporations have a measure of freedom of speech, and that can somehow be transmuted into enormous amounts of money being allowed to pour into an electoral system already choked to death with special-interest dollars. That's like giving a smoker with stage 4 lung cancer a carton of cigarettes and saying, "Enjoy them, there's lots more where they came from!"

Also aided by a ridiculous loophole in Wisconsin law which imposed a $10K upper limit on contributions to the Democratic challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, but not on incumbent Walker, Republican money poured in. The national Republican Reichstag regarded this as a test case, a prelude to the presidential election this fall, and pulled out all the stops to win. The following graphic tells you everything you need to know about the amount of money that poured into that state, and where it came from:

The Wisconsin media was flooded with nonstop advertising, and Republican Z-listers like Nikki Haley, some trollop governor from somewhere who is portrayed as a Tea Party "rising star" (read: amoral famewhore), was dragged in for campaign appearances. The Republican blitzkrieg worked, and Walker won the election 54% to 45%. And therein came the death of democracy.

It is an epically tragic commentary on the political system of this country that, in a very real sense, whoever has the most money wins. Money buys advertising, and with enough of it, opinions can be swayed. It's really sad that so many voters can be influenced by what they see on television or in print, and accept it without one iota of critical thought. Some people believe anything they see on television, and Citizens United just opened up the floodgates for a huge torrent of biased, blatantly prejudiced misinformation to rush in, and the financial backers of this tsunami of bullshit don't even have to tell you who they are.

The Wisconsin recall was only a little glimpse into hell, a tiny preview of the carnage that's going to happen in the upcoming November elections. As a direct result of Citizens United, it's been estimated that the Republican side will raise and spend a billion dollars trying to buy the White House and the Senate. And the gods help us all, they may very well do it.

For democracy to work, it's absolutely critical that those being governed are informed, engaged and fully participating in the process. That's the part that's missing. American voters are by far too lazy, ignorant and uneducated to learn enough about the issues facing them to make intelligent choices. Instead, they choose to let other people tell them what to think and do, and their vote will go for whoever created the slickest and most eye-catching political advertisement. For the vast majority of voters, that is far easier than actually "learning" about the problems they have and "making good choices". Let Rush Limbaugh and the Koch brothers tell you what to do. Just sit back, pop open another brewski, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It will all be over before you know it.

Right after the Citizens United ruling was announced in 2010, I said that in future decades, people will look back at this time and say, "This is where it all started, this is the exact point in time where everything started to go to hell." I believed then and I more firmly believe now, that the Citizens United ruling will go down in history as one of the absolute worst, if not THE worst, Supreme Court ruling ever. The only ways to correct this spectacularly bad ruling is for the Supreme Court to reverse itself in a future case and admit they had made a truly awful, terrible ruling (very unlikely) or for Congress to willingly pass laws turning off the spigot to an unlimited supply of corporate money pouring into their campaigns. Yeah, THAT'LL happen. Citizens United is a stunningly, breathtakingly bad example of how horribly wrong things can go.

I believe the full effect of that ruling in the future will be far, far worse than anything we can imagine today. It will be seen as the day democracy died.