This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fionnbhar the Dog Recovering

Fionn (FIN) the Dog has had a rough couple of months, which means of course that I have as well. It all began at the beginning of August, on a lovely day, when I was working up in Sandown, NH, building stone walls, a pleasant enough though arduous task, especially when one is in the Granite State and there is plenty of stone at hand, and when one is working cheek-to-jowl with a beautiful conservation land of woods and wetlands, as we were. From time to time we would set Fionn free in the fenced-in backyard, and let him chase thrown balls. On this particular beautiful day, he chased the ball readily enough, but once at the ball he wouldn't pick it up. Instead he turned and looked at me.

The next day my dear friend Dermot and I went to Castle Island in S-B for lunch. It was a scorcher of a day. En route, Fionn was sitting in Dermot's lap. Dermot shifted, and Fionn began yelping in pain as I had never heard him yelp before. Once we got out of the car I went over his body inch by inch, but could nothing that made him wince, nothing swollen or bruised or battered. Over the next few days he would do this intermittently-- again i could find nothing wrong with him. Then it became apparent that he could not, or would not, open his mouth. He stopped barking. He stopped yawning. He grew listless. I had to hand-feed him soft liquidy stuff. A trip to the vet (the first of many) resulted. They thought he had suffered a head trauma of some kind, and that, while the wound was healing, an infection had started and gone into the hinge area of his jaw. They put him on a strong antibiotic, and said if that didn't work, they'd have to go in there for tests and possible surgery-- it would be delicate, as the area was so close to his brain. The meds seemed to do some good, as slowly he got better, and began yawning again (though only halfway) and barking again. When the meds were up, he had recovered perhaps 75%, and I was loathe to have him be subject to invasive testing, as it seemed nature was taking her course and healing him.

Such was not the case. We woke up one morning and his face was swollen to twice its size. One eye was closed with the swelling. I thought it was some kind of allergy, as he kept rubbing at it, to the point where he rubbed away the fur and skin. It was a Sunday and I couldn't bring him back to my vet until the next day, where I was told that he had a very serious abscess-- the worst my vet had seen in 40 years of practice-- and that he needed to go immediately to the emergency hospital. We hastened to the New England Veterinary Referral Hospital in Woburn, a state-of-the-art emergency care hospital that is more like a modern day hospital for humans. They performed surgery on him the next day, and kept him there for most of that week. When he came home, whimpering still and all stitched up, and half his head shaved, we had a few sleepless nights while we fought over getting his meds into him, and to keep his bonnet on. That was four weeks ago today, and I'm happy to say that it appears he's made a total recovery.

We had a lot of time at home, and during that time I have (more or less) finished Happy Land, the novel I've been working on for about four years. I may self-publish an e-version of the book this winter, once I have a new website up where one can get e-book versions of my first three books, which started going out of print when my first publisher was sold several years ago-- so stay tuned for updates on that. And to all who sent prayers, notes, flowers, and other forms of encouragement during Fionn's time of travail, a huge thank you-- your support means more to me than I can say.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Post Election Thoughts

Sent from a friend:
Parental advisory:
WHERE'S THE FUCKING OUTRAGE!!! Help me out, I'm getting sick of trying to explain to Australians (even the conservative ones) just how the world's biggest so-called Democracy can be so full of stupid, delusional, racist, self-destructive, dumbass fuckwits who vote for the very same thugs who have been robbing them blind for nearly 30 fuckin years!!!! Sorry to rant, but I am so pissed off, frustrated and disgusted (yet again) that MY country is once again is being taken over by these fuckin dinosaurs!!! I'm talking about these lying, arrogant, greedy politicians, vicious pundits on FuxNews and plundering corporations who are sucking the life out of everything good, decent and right (including the planet). I am hoping to move back there someday, but I have a 5 year old who I think deserves a far better future than what we will get with the Tea Party hypocrites and their masters who are against everything and everyone except their own narrow-minded dumbass selfish interests.
But then what should we expect when nearly US $4 billion was spent on this midterm election, mostly by large corporations who can spend unlimited and undisclosed amounts of cash to essentially buy our congress. In an assault to Democracy a recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has shredded what little integrity the US electoral system previously had. This is actually far more damaging than the supreme courts decision to hand Bush the election in 2000.

Millions of frustrated poor and middle class white voters who have been victims of Bush era policies are represented by the Tea Party which has become a pawn masterfully exploited by the Republican party, the very same folks who drove the US economy off the cliff in the first place (let's not forget they were enabled by spineless democrats). The Republican party is (and has been since Reagan) a shell for the most powerful corporations and richest elite and will never allow a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Obama tried to compromise with these extremists and look what he got. Republicans and their corporate masters who run the US cannot be reasoned with, they are ruthless and will not stop until they own, exploit and control everything for their. FOX news controls the agenda and all reason, dialogue, and decency goes out the window.

That said, the Democrats are mostly spineless bureaucrats who have lost their soul. The corporate hacks that derailed the economy are largely still in charge of fixing it thanks to Democrats who should have fired all these fuckers. These same corporations WE bailed out have funded the election of many of the rightwing politicians who want to deregulate already pathetically weak banking rules. SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH IS ALIVE AND WELL IN AMERIKA!

If reasonable people don't start to raise hell then you can kiss any reasonable semblance of Democracy goodbye.

Below is a letter from CREDO a nonpartisan organization that works on restoring our Democracy followed by some actions (at the end) that we can take to counter the destruction of Democracy.

* * * * * * *

Dear Jeff,

What a truly brutal election. One rare exception was the crushing of Texas Oil's Proposition 23 in California (see CREDO's campaign at, which proves that even unlimited corporate cash can be beaten back — if it is disclosed and fought by grassroots mobilization.

At CREDO, we fight hard on the issues, but we don't take sides in partisan elections. As someone who cares about progressive issues, there is no doubt that Tuesday's results will make for even harder times for our country. It is crazy making to realize just how extreme and misinformed much of the new Congress will be.

There is little reason to expect any useful legislation from the Tea Party-dominated House or the dysfunctional Senate. Swing votes in the Senate have really troublesome names: Lieberman, Nelson, Manchin, and Pryor. In fact, this Congress will do damage to anything even remotely progressive.

So let's take a look at what happened and what we can do now. Bear with us as this is a bit longer than our usual missives. The media, unfortunately but not surprisingly, will be of no use in making sense of Tuesday's results, and even less so in helping chart a course for the future.

There is a lot of evidence that the state of the economy, and employment in particular, drive the results of elections — and this one was no exception. As the saying goes, "If you think the economy is working, ask someone who isn't." We have an economy stuck in a deep ditch, with corporate profits and bank bonuses soaring while long-term unemployment is at near Depression levels.

The Republicans shrunk the first "stimulus" package and filled it with tax breaks, even as corporate Democrats helped them along, blocking any effort to restructure mortgages in bankruptcies, freeze foreclosures or force banks to lend money. The election outcome was partially baked in early 2009, when the White House preemptively conceded on the scale and provisions of the stimulus package and chose to coddle the banks. To watch this unfold was simply maddening.

Making matters worse were other factors. Among the most damaging were the actions of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which seemed energized by the new President, and took the radical step of rehearing a campaign finance case — now known forever as Citizens United. In ruling 5-4 that corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money for and against candidates, the Court transformed the electoral landscape in a way potentially more profound than its 5-4 ruling that seated George W. Bush as president. As many predicted, the Citizens United ruling unleashed the greatest wave of corporate spending in history, though it's a safe bet to say that their spending in 2012 will make this year's outlay look modest.

In an astonishing turn of events, the right wing was able to kill — essentially murder in public view — the organization that registered millions of poor and working class African-American and Hispanic voters in the last six years. I am speaking of ACORN, of course. By editing video completely out of context, and using the right-wing media machine to perfection, Andrew Breitbart was able to convince the mainstream media and eventually Congress, that ACORN was an election-stealing organization that had no qualms giving advice to pimps on how to increase revenues. Fulfilling Karl Rove's wildest dreams, Congress, including most Democrats, voted to block public funding for any of ACORN's laudable and effective housing or tax assistance programs, and ACORN died a quiet death. There would be no millions of new registrants.

Traditions are important in the Senate, but almost always to the detriment of progressive change. The health care reform effort was a victim of Senate conventions. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who chairs the critical Senate Finance Committee solely due to his long tenure, stalled development of a health reform package for many months in order to "negotiate" with Republicans on his committee. They weren't interested in the least, and walked away from the discussions muttering bizarre comments about reforms "killing grandma" and setting up "death panels," because Sarah Palin says so. The behavior of Baucus would be laughable if it were not so utterly destructive.

No matter what one thought of FOX News in the 2008 election, Murdoch's monster went on a rampage over the past two years. Serving as both an instigator and an amplifier for the craziest and most offensive pundits, FOX News misled and misinformed the American people on every issue, and effectively became the public face of the Republican Party. Glenn Beck's show became so toxic and spewed so much venom that one of his devoted fans took it upon himself to plot the execution of key leaders of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, who had figured prominently in Beck's rants. Fortunately, the madman (the fan, not Beck) was stopped before he accomplished his mission.

We could go on, of course, on all the missed opportunities, the cave-ins, the sell outs, and the unpopular and misguided war in Afghanistan.

But the results are in. The House of Representatives is in the hands of the most corrupt Speaker-in-waiting ever, the Tea Party is ascendant, and the U.S. Senate, however dysfunctional it has been, is poised to be much worse.

For those of us who had hopes that the Obama Administration could seize the moment and enact popular progressive changes, this is a bitter pill. And like many, we grieve at the lost opportunities.

* But now we need to brush off the dust, suck it up, and plunge back into substantive fights. Politics is not fair — indeed, U.S. elections are rigged in profound ways! But walking away is not an option at CREDO Action, and we hope you will join us in some of the actions below we think are strategic in the new political landscape:

1. Commit to Taking Down FOX News. So long as FOX News has any credibility within the Beltway, it will be a pipeline for malicious material that will poison our political culture. Join our friends at Color of Change:

2. Tell the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act during the lame duck session. We were able to defeat the Texas Oil Initiative, Prop 23 in California, in part because we knew who the enemy was — having disclosure of corporate contributions brings the enemy out in the open for us to take on and fight. The DISCLOSE Act passed the House and came within a single vote of passing the Senate. One vote. You can join this fight by taking action with Public Citizen at

3. Keep fighting to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This issue will get resolved during the lame duck session. Take action at

4. Sign up for the fight for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision by declaring that corporations do not have the legal rights of humans. This may take years, if not decades, but we should start now. Please join Free Speech for People:

5. Tell the FCC to use its existing authority to establish and defend net neutrality. Our friends at Free Press are leading this charge:

6. Demand that the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service investigate the political organizations set up by Karl Rove to launder millions of dollars in secret cash to change the outcome of elections. Act now at

7. Defend the EPA from castration by pro-coal interests in Congress. The EPA accomplished almost nothing during the Clinton years because the Gingrich-led Congress used the budget process to prohibit the agency from doing its work. This battle has already started. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign is a great way to join this fight:

8. Convince the Obama administration to stop appealing progressive court rulings on matters like the Defense of Marriage Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the state secrets defense against torture and wiretapping. Urge the Department of Justice to change its approach at

9. Urge Democratic senators to do away with lifetime tenure for committee chairs and open up all chair positions to majority vote elections. This will go a long way towards more progressive legislation. Take action with us at

10. Demand that the Department of Justice enforce the provisions of the national voter registration law that require state governments to offer to register all voters at departments of public welfare and motor vehicles. Many state governments simply ignore these requirements and this is a cheaper and more inclusive way of registering voters than the campaigns of the now dead ACORN. Urge Attorney General Eric Holder to expand voter registration:

I suspect you are angry and exhausted at this point. I know I am. But let us not forget that the values and ideals we fight for are greater than any one election. They still endure, and so must our fight. We have a lot of work to do.

Michael Kieschnick, CEO

CREDO Action from Working Assets