Here it is...

Can we move on now, please?


Flower of the Week

These Azaleas sit buzzing outside my front door. Every day, the dozens of bees who live nearby help to animate the whole bush as it hums and vibrates on a very noticeable level. Like a soft chant of OM, these flowers bring to mind the subtle energy of the earth that lives within everything. It's an audible, quite lovely way for spring to officially announce itself.


For Animals, For Health, For the Environment

The most common question I hear asked of my vegetarian friends who reveal their gastronomic choices in mixed company is: "why?!"

It always amuses me to see how utterly baffled people can be that someone could possibly be satisfied by a diet excluding meat. The typical assumption is that the vegetarian is a nutritionally vacant PETA zealot (or some other equally judgmental assessment). The thought of factory farms and their widespread devastation to farmers, to the environment, to the animals, and to our own health is rarely the first topic that comes up.

A more appropriate question to ask of vegetarianism is why not? It's pretty clear that you do not need meat to satisfy protein and other nutritional needs; eating a thoughtful and balanced vegetarian diet is more than adequate in that regard. Beyond that, there are so many more benefits that come with choosing that lifestyle.

This article by Felix A. Lopez does a pretty great job of summing it all up: vegetarianism is good for the animals, but it is also good for YOU, and for the environment you inhabit.

I am not personally a vegetarian (although I've come close), but have endless respect for my friends who are mindful both of what they put into their bodies, as well as the trace they leave on the earth.

If going completely veggie seems like a daunting or even impossible task, why not try to simply cut back? Just cutting back on your meat intake can make a great impact all of the pieces of the food system puzzle. Cities and countries all around the world are promoting one meat-free day per week for their citizens, and the concept of Meatless Monday has really taken off in the U.S. So do the research, think it over... and then ask yourself, why not?


Called Out

The trouble with corporate personhood is that while behemoth corporations like General Electric and Exxon Mobile are entitled to the same basic rights and constitutional protections as you and I, as if they were individual citizens (natural persons), they are not held accountable for their actions in the same ways. For example, if you or I were unable to pay our taxes because of say, unemployment or rising health care costs, the IRS would come down on us with heavy penalties to put us even further into the hole. And if I poisoned my entire community's water supply by drilling into my backyard, using hazardous chemicals to extract natural gas to heat my home, it is likely that I would go to jail. But corporate criminals are not prosecuted the way that individual criminals are; they are afforded a lot more leeway. Meanwhile, our fellow "citizens" the big corporations are entitled to a number of tax loopholes allowing them to legally evade paying the IRS while the rest of us set-up scheduled plans to pay down what we owe.

In the midst of a huge set of government budget cuts primarily targeting programs for low-income Americans, we hear about those companies we bailed out a few years ago posting record profits, giving out record bonuses to their top execs, and failing to pay billions of dollars in corporate income tax.

But some groups are calling them out on their hypocrisy, like US Uncut. Yesterday, in collaboration with the Yes Men, US Uncut released this fake press release from General Electric, stating that the company intends to repay its $3.2 billion tax refund to the government to help alleviate budget cuts affecting the poor. The release stated:

"We know that Americans are going through tough times... While we owe it to our shareholders to use every legal loophole to maximize returns, we also owe something to the American people. We didn't write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we'd like to share those benefits."

Ha! If only... while it is indeed true that these laws were written by congress, by OUR representatives, it is also true that they were written as a result of the massive pressure put onto these representatives (and into their pockets) by corporate lobbyists, in the form of large campaign donations and gifts. Which brings us back to the trouble with corporate personhood. Anyone else notice a pattern here? My head is spinning.


D.C. Women

For many people living in and around Washington, DC, the recent aversion of a federal government shutdown has meant so much more than a continuing budget negotiation. For those of us who live in the shadow of power, the recent deal struck between feuding parties on Capitol Hill is an infringement on local sovereignty, and a direct attack (once again) on already undeserved citizens.

The full details of the compromise have not yet been realized, but what is certain is that Washington D.C. has lost the right to determine the use of its own Medicaid funds- specifically, that Washington, D.C. can no longer use its funds to pay for abortions for low-income women. These crucial funds, which prevent women from having to make a life-altering decision based on immediate circumstances, were only reinstated in 2009, and have now been revoked again, in the agonizing, dehumanizing game of ping-pong that Congress plays with the rights of D.C. residents.

This issue is beyond women's rights, because those women who are not on Medicaid, and those who can afford to pay out of pocket for an abortion procedure will not be affected by these cuts. Instead, this setback will have a wildly disproportionate effect for low-income women, leaving them with little to no choice in the event of an unplanned pregnancy.

I understand that this is a controversial issue, and many people have very disparate opinions on the matter of abortion. However, if your empathy or sympathy will allow it, please make a donation today to the DC Abortion Fund, a volunteer-run, non-profit organization helping low-income women in the district access abortion services. You can give as little as $10, and they guarantee that 95% of your donation will go towards helping a woman in need. And if ever the women of D.C. were in need, it would be now.

If you'd like to donate to the fund, you can do so here.


Flower of the Week

Cherry Blossoms are kind of the thing around here in DC, their blooming being a natural phenomenon that brings flocks of tourists to this city for two weeks every Spring. They are also one of those flowers, like daffodils and magnolias, that bring me hope for warmer days. Seeing them lets me know that this erratic April weather will soon taper off into steady, lovely vibrant springtime. It can't be long now...


P.S. 22

It seems as if the talented P.S. 22 Chorus is getting some well-deserved national attention of late, ever since they performed at the Academy Awards ceremony back in February. Now their YouTube channel has gotten over 31,000,000 views!

It is uncontestable that the arts play a major role in students' education and development, so it's great to see a public school arts program garnering so much attention. This type of activity in schools not only fosters learning, but self-expression, self-confidence, and an outlet for creative energy. And what a great job the chorus of P.S. 22 has done to promote these lessons around the country! Seeing as I was once a student myself at P.S. 22, I couldn't help but give them a shout-out here. I'm so proud of these wonderful kids, their amazing voices and their inspiring story!

Check out their blog, and stay up to date with what these cuties are doing-> http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com/


"Study Hard, Party Harder"

Recent headlines and world events have given me a number of excellent reasons to sit down and start writing again. From compounding disasters in Japan, to democratic uprisings in the Middle East, to the GOP's all out war on the United States' middle class, the need to shout out my opinions from the rooftops has been brewing furiously over the past several months. And what is the reason for my kettle finally boiling over and bringing me here to this page? I wish I could say that it was something high-minded and morally righteous, like defending social entitlements or a woman's right to choose, or a vote of support for government employeess and union activists in Wisconsin and Ohio. I wish I could say that it was something even along those lines. But it is not.

Astonishingly, the thing that has ultimately broken my months-long period of blogging silence this time around is... 'Snooki' from the 'Jersey Shore.' I know, I know. I mean, of all of the meaningless media topics to be attracted by... But seriously, who can resist hearing about these people? It's practically impossible if you a.) live in the United States and b.) have had any sort of interaction with the world outside of your bedroom in the last year.

So, I heard about them. And ever since that first faithful time (I'll never forget being at that bar while a friend of mine told me about a girl being punched in the face on T.V.), I have been subject to these irritating tidbits about Snooki, Vinnie, The Sitch, etc. But never before have I actually taken an interest in (or been incensed over) what I heard about them... that is, until today.

As it turns out, Snooki is a published author (and a successful one at that), and something of a public speaker. So much so, Rutgers University recently paid her $32,000 to come speak on their campus. Now, let's put aside the fact that she's a highly inappropriate speaker at a university with an already less-than-savory reputation. What really got to me was learning that Ms. Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize Winner, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and all-around literary hero, also set to speak at Rutgers as the keynote speaker at this year's commencement, is to be paid $2,000 less than a woman half her age and with half the amount of wisdom to offer. Not that Ms. Morrison is in any way put-out by this discrepancy: she's a NYT bestselling author multiple times over, and I'm sure the payout from her speech at Rutgers' commencement is a mere drop in her enormous bucket of success.

What aggrevates me, though, is the context and the appropriateness of Snooki being invited to speak at any academic institution for that price tag. I understand that she is technically "an entertainer," and that non-academic events on campus can provide students with much needed stress-relief from writing papers and studying for finals. I think that is healthy. But to pay the cost of one student's entire tuition for a year just to have a person preach unapologetically about her arrests for public drunkeness and shameful shenanigans is deploreable for an institution which should be enriching students' minds.

While Toni Morrison epitomizes the depth of intelligence, cultural richness, and amazing creative possibility within all of us, offering an inspiration to students as they prepare to enter adulthood; Snooki has become the figurehead of a society completely devoid of any cultural substance. With colleges and universities all over the country crying out about fiscal instability, and with tuition costs rising every year, there is no excuse for a university to shell out that amount of money on a speaker who's advice to students was "study hard, party harder." (Yes, she actually said that to Rutgers students).