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Walgreens decides to stay and play…for now.

August 8, 2014 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I wrote about Walgreens’ potential move overseas for the express purpose of avoiding taxes.

Well, now it appears that they have abandoned this idea after fierce criticism from both Washington politicians and the public (their customers).  This is a good thing.  But.  Going forward, American Corporations will not use this as an object lesson in the same way you or I would use it to teach our children about good citizenship: if what you are about to do is a bad thing, don’t do it.  Instead, I can assure you, Corporate America will use this as a lesson in stealth and secrecy: don’t talk about it until it’s a done deal.

Walgreens and the exporting of the American Dream

July 17, 2014 1 comment

Walgreen’s is contemplating moving its headquarters overseas to avoid paying federal taxes. Unfortunately, this has become more and more common. For an American corporation, born in the United States, to pack up and leave simply to avoid paying taxes is traitorous.

These corporations have been built on the backs of American workers. They enjoy the benefits afforded by the American system of government and monetary policy. The Coast Guard and Navy provide transportation channels free of piracy to ship their products to and from overseas. They take advantage of a domestic system of paved roads and bridges to ship their products to market. An energy grid built with government subsidies provides them with continuous, reliable power for their stores and warehouses. A national intelligence and law enforcement network keeps them and their businesses safe. An Internet built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) using public money allows them to open their doors to the entire nation. They rely on a national weather service to warn them of potential disasters that could harm their assets and employees, and; should they need it, they take advantage of government subsidized flood and natural disaster insurance. They hire employees educated in public schools to perform the labor necessary to generate profits. Walgreen’s, in particular, profits from the massive government subsidies given to pharmaceutical companies for research, and billions in Medicare funding and healthcare plans for public employees and retirees. They’re protected by the largest, strongest military every built in the history of humanity to secure lines of communication and logistics and access to natural resources. The taxpayer underwrites almost all of the food products they sell – especially if they are sweetened with corn syrup. And most importantly, they enjoy the benefits of a stable currency provided by all of the above and more. Without all of these things, they would have nothing. Every morning, they would have to chase off thugs and thieves from their front doors just to open for business. But they don’t want to pay for any of that.

They want the privilege of profits without the responsibilities of citizenship.

Hobby Lobby update

July 5, 2014 8 comments

Well, this was faster than I thought.  I wrote yesterday that the line at the Supreme Court’s door would wrap around the block.  It’s already forming.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/07/04/the-supreme-court-opens-the-floodgates/?tid=recommended_strip_1

Time for a New Conversation

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s time we had a rational, sensible, adult conversation about gun violence in America, just like it was time we had a rational, sensible, adult conversation about drunk driving.  I like guns.  I own guns.  I use guns.  Hell, I sell guns (and other sporting goods) for a living.  But I don’t walk into a crowded classroom and gun down innocent children just like I don’t drive drunk or punch another person in the face (as much as I would like to sometimes) just because I disagree with them.

We glorify guns in our culture.   We shouldn’t.  We glorify violence in our culture.  We shouldn’t.  We preach the virtues of gunpoint diplomacy and the evils of sex.  We tolerate hundreds of images of violence against others (particularly women) on television but become apoplectic over images of physical pleasure between consenting adults.  Don’t think that doesn’t have an impact on the developing brain.  Neural pathways are formed by observation of the familiar and routine and are designed to produce consistent outcomes according to those established rules of order and algorithms.  We are what we experience and observe on a regular basis – what is acceptable and what is not, what works and what does not, which thoughts and actions produce results and which ones do not.  It’s time to start changing that development model.

Brave, rational thinking is the only way out of chaos.  Keeping a gun in your closet and Jesus in your heart will not save you from the madman.  Faith and hope are nothing more than excuses for inaction and cowardice.

We need to make an honest and productive assessment of our cultural priorities.  It’s time to start allocating resources toward illegal gun trafficking and the untreated mentally ill and less time on busting pot smokers who built the pizza delivery industry.

We need a national healthcare system that makes it easy and inexpensive for people with mental illness to get the treatment they need before they go off the deep end.  Arming kindergarten teachers with 9mm automatics won’t change the equation.  The madman will still come – and he will be fearless and ready for death.  Only a team of SEALs are prepared for that kind of enemy.

We have a problem that goes far deeper than guns.  We need to examine our relationship with confrontation and violence.

Beware: Mormons Masquerading as Christians

September 4, 2012 1 comment

My family now has pictures of Jesus on their walls.  Every few years he changes, though, moving from a scarlet-robed Charleton Heston type to a cuddlier man clothed in fluffy homespun, his kind face turned toward his sheep.

When I look at their Jesus, I remember my childhood in this same house where a portrait of Christ on the wall was considered bizarre.  Only converts to the Mormon faith would tolerate Jesus icons, or people who were not tightly wound.  My family was fifth-generation Mormon and we knew how to behave.

At Seminary school, I remember a lecture on why it was against our religion to wear a crucifix.  My handsome instructor, Brother Dolan, pointed out that a Mormon girl wouldn’t sport a cross anymore than she would string a tiny guillotine around her neck.  He called it “execution jewelry” and, being 15, I agreed.

The prophet-saint Joseph Smith was everywhere in homes and churches then along with prints depicting the pioneers’ struggle to reach the Salt Lake Valley.  Joseph, reconstructed to mirror the current strong-jawed movie star image,  appeared with a glow around his head.

For many of us ex-Mormons, this Presidential Election time of spotlight on our church of origin is uniquely uncomfortable.  The Mormon face-lift rankles even more than usual.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me about her “other mother.”  Her name was Fanny and she was a convert from England.  Fanny came to help out in my great-grandmother’s house and stayed on as my great-grandfather’s second wife.  This would have been standard procedure in the community, but unfortunately, great-grandpa Edwin favored Fanny and built her a beautiful new house of her own where he spent more of his time.  When the federal government began arresting polygamists, he took Fanny and their offspring to hide in Mexico, abandoning my great-grandmother to fend for herself in a harsh desert land with 11 children.  That’s a face of Mormonism that isn’t depicted in missionary literature.

I can accept the Mormons’ colorful history, but not the pretending that it never existed.

African-Americans are now admitted to the church with full privilege.  I have clear recall of being taught that black people were genetically inferior and not suitable hosts for the restored Gospel.  Gays, by the way, did not exist.

The civil rights movement cured the church of their misconception regarding blacks, but women have not fared so well.  Still clearly inferior, women in the church are taught that since they have been “given the privilege of bearing children” they forfeit the priesthood authority.  I probably believed this was a good trade until, on a sweltering August afternoon, I experienced the privilege of birthing twins.  I’ll take the Priesthood.

The schools of my girlhood in Idaho were so influenced by Mormons that pants were forbidden to females.  The church still teaches that a woman of any age must always wear a skirt to enter into the door of the chapel.

By the way, Bibles were not very evident in the Mormon homes of my childhood, either.  After all, the Holy Bible is only true until it contradicts the Book of Mormon, a higher wisdom.

The Mormon church has changed so subtly and with such skillful art that my family, who still believe, seem unaware of it.  When I comment on the new Jesus focus they look at me with bewilderment.   However, any Christian or other faith beliefs I have acquired since my liberation from Mormonism are regarded with suspicion or outright disdain.  If I am not Mormon, no matter how devout or solid in my faith, I am deluded, deceived, or otherwise influenced by Satan.   Certainly, I am not accepted or respected.

Neither, my  friends, are you.

Portrait by Anonymous

August 21, 2012 3 comments

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 Portraits by Anonymous

Our third day in Yellowstone Park.  Started out as glorious and then, as we approached Old Faithful, rain dumped out of a seemingly clear sky.  I don’t know how this happens up there in Montana, but magic must be involved.   Del found a parking space that was quite close to the beautiful historic Inn.   This is a miraculous feat in high summer, but my husband was known for doing the impossible, impossibly often.   We all ran for it.  Dad, mom, and twin girls, our hair and clothes soaked through even in the short sprint.

Inside, we watched the geyser for the second time this year, do what it is known for world wide.  Does it spout so high you can’t see the top?  Uh, no, actually.  It is a modest height, impressive but not overwhelming.   Does it roar and growl and rumble the ground before it spouts?   It is quiet and orderly, in fact.   Old Faithful starts low and then builds quickly to full height, then moves back down the scale until it disappears.   Why does such a predictable and orderly geyser garner such a rapt and adoring audience?   Because it is predictable.   The times of eruptions are posted inside the massive, historic lodge and tourists can stroll and eat and shop at the gift shop without any real fear of missing the spectacle.   Other geysers in Yellowstone can be much higher, screamingly loud and sulphur smelling, threatening in their sudden blasts and reach, and can shoot out at any moment.    They wow you!   They scare you into shouting, cowering and running.  But, you have to catch them doing their act and therein lies the problem.   Old Faithful is faithful and never disappoints its fans.

I love Yellowstone National Park.  I grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho which is now less than 2 hours from there, but in the sixties it took longer.   Old two lane roads,  farmers pulling out on tractors and backing traffic at 10 mph until they reached their next field to mow,  old Fords and Chevys chugging along, their fat bodies resembling colorful beetles, all contributed to the slow caravan of Park worshippers.    Going to Yellowstone  as a child seemed more of a trip to me than it does now and I live in Southern Oregon.   But, oh is it worth the trip – from anywhere!  Nothing is like Yellowstone Park.  I won’t describe the beauty and the majesty because even a huge coffee table picture book like I have in my living room, does not prepare you for the solace, the spectacle,  and the grandeur.   Go see it.

Del also grew up in Idaho and was no stranger to Yellowstone.   We were  equally vested in our twin girls experiencing this bedrock of our own childhoods.  We warned them ahead of time that Yellowstone Park was not Disneyland.   It was an experience of the soul.  And, even though they were only 14  when we visited first, and we had taken them to many places in Europe, South America and even China, their hearts were nurtured there.  Yellowstone spoke to our offspring and why wouldn’t it?

As we watched the geyser out the grand picture window, rain trickled into my ears from the short minutes we had spent in the downpour.  “It is still raining, honey, maybe we need to get a rain slicker or something from the gift shop.  I think they are fairly cheap.”

Del nodded.  “Sure.   Get something for you and the girls.  I will be fine.”   That was so like him.   His white t-shirt would be damp for hours, but he would not even notice.   So, when the geyser finished its performance, the girls happily  strolled with me to the gift shop, and found what  looked like glorified trash bags that fit over our heads.   They were dazzling white,  and had a black etching of the geyser on the front.  At $2, I thought they were charming.  We put them on as we exited the lodge and kept the pouring rain mostly off as we navigated almost blind from the deluge to our car.

By the time we got to the Falls at Canyon, the day had brightened and warmed up, but the girls and I kept our slickers on just in case.   Del’s t-shirt had almost dried out.   After “daddy” deftly negotiated yet another unlikely parking space, we eagerly hiked down to get a closer look at the exploding water off the Yellowstone River.   A mountain range on one side and the water on the other formed such a perfect view that Del got out his seldom used camera.  We were always so engaged that we forgot to take photos and photography was nobody’s forte in our family.  A group of people walked by – three or four – and Del instinctively targeted the man of the family.   He said “Hey sir, would you mind taking a picture of me and my family?”  This sort of thing usually embarrasses me.  I am quite private and do not like bothering people on their holiday.   But, Del always offered to take other’s pictures and I had to admit that a shot of all of us together is a nice thing to have.   Del backed us all up to the rail with our backs to the mountain range, grabbed us all in close.   Our hastily recruited photographer  smiled at us and then said, “Smile.”  He clicked and checked the shot, asked us to pose for another, and said, “There!”  He handed Del the camera.   We were off to finish the hike.

The girls had their 15th birthday on that trip.   Our  twins’ birthday always started as just a small celebration, but got out of control.  I mean, hey, twin girls for heaven’s sake and completely identical and gorgeous to boot.  So, the trip was all part of that celebration of lives so precious they took our breath away every time we looked at them.  August 24th, for us, was the day to celebrate over all others.

It was September 24th when Del did not come home to dinner.   I had it on the table as usual.   He was a dentist and his office was close to home.   Sometimes he had a procedure go longer and he was late, so I didn’t worry too much for the first hour.   The girls and I ate without him and preserved the part of the dinner we knew he enjoyed the most.   When too much time had passed, we went looking for him.   I won’t relate the rest.  It was the day the girls lost their dad and the love of my life was gone forever.

After the funeral, a friend recommended some grief counseling.   Donna, our counselor, asked me if we would spread Del’s ashes.  I said we would later, so we discussed where to spread them.  Yellowstone Park was agreed on as the ONLY place we could consider letting him go.    We knew he would like to be part of that land.  I guess just to further convince ourselves, I told  Donna about our trip and realized I had some pictures I hadn’t yet processed.

When I picked up the photos – processed old style because we hadn’t discovered digital yet, the shot of our family at Canyon Falls was breathtaking.   Backed by the mountains and lit by the brilliant sky, we are all four there, dressed in white – the girls and I in the slickers and Del in his bright white t-shirt.   The whole family looked like angels, but Del was the only one who had made it so far.   With Donna’s encouragement, I took it to a photographer who made the little photo into a 16 X 24” portrait.    It hangs on our wall to this day as our last family portrait.  Nobody – even a professional – could have taken a better shot.

And, the crazy thing is that it is a stranger who took this.  I don’t remember his face, I never knew his name.   But, he gave me the best gift for healing our grief that ever could be imagined.

This summer my twins will turn 20.   They are both working at Canyon Village in Yellowstone Park.  To them, it feels like heaven.   Their dad is always there in every blade of grass or breeze that blows.  And, through the kindness of a stranger, I wait for them here in Oregon, with the Yellowstone scene and our smiling faces always above my dining table and in my heart.

The Trek

August 11, 2012 2 comments

The Trek

    On the morning of August 7, I began my yearly trek to the holy place where I meet my maker. Having overloaded my Ford Taurus with the necessary equipment and supplies, I hit the road, breathing a sigh of relief as I passed the sign indicating I was leaving city limits and the trappings of civilization. I was on my way at last, headed for “God’s Country” (or Goddess), and my eagerly awaited communion with the Creator.

    Proceeding east along highway 126, I began the process of de-stressing. By the time I reached the tiny community of Vida, I found that I could actually breathe through my nose again, which rarely happens for me in town. I knew I was on the right track and better things were in store during the coming week. This might not seem like much to some, but for the person who feels like he tries to breathe with cotton balls shoved up his nose most of the time, it is huge.

    As I turned from 126 on to Aufderheid Forest Drive, my sense of exhilaration grew stronger. Dead ahead and just a mere twenty miles up the road was my destination, Frissell Crossing Campground. I have driven this stretch of road so many times over the years that I think I could probably do it while I sleep. But for the sake of expediency, I chose to keep my eyes open and take in some of its beauty as I drove. As an aside, it seems that the place got its name from the fact that over a century ago an old sheep herder by the name of Frissell, forded the South Fork of the McKenzie at this very spot.

    I soon struck camp. All was in order and it was time to let my hair down and my beard grow. I sat with my back to an enormous fir tree, letting the rushing whitewater stream take with it all the worries and cares and stress of my everyday existence, feeling them wash away with the flow of the pristine waters. I pictured these burdens flowing downstream, eventually to end up where the river meets the sea. The purification process had begun, and with it the much needed healing of body, mind and spirit.

    By late evening the other members of the expedition had all arrived and made camp. So here I was, in the midst of such natural beauty, among family and friends. By this time some of the “curmudgeon’ I have been blessed with had gone downstream as well and I was ready to welcome all with open arms. No man is an island, not even Mr. Curmudgeon with a capital K. Part of the magic of this wonderful place lies in the fact that I have around me those that I care for the most; my 82 year old father, my grown children and their children.

    The time had come to undertake a ritual that needed to be done without the distractions of others. I began my yearly solo hike on the Ollallie Trail into the Three Sisters Wilderness to a small stream known as Bull Creek. Here I sat on a moss covered boulder and opened my spirit to those of the trees, the water, the sky and the rocks. I heard their voices and let them hear mine. I felt my connection to the Earth Mother and my responsibility to live in harmony with the spirits of all things. I don’t know how long I sat there in silence, absorbing the truths of my own lifestyle and its impact on Mother Earth. I was one the universe..

    I spent a wonderful four days in paradise, but all good things must end. Begrudgingly, I made the return trip to reality, or the Twilight Zone, as I prefer to call it. Even now, the experience is just a memory; one among many such memories accumulated over the years. And true to form, some of the curmudgeon wafted out of the river somewhere around Leaburg, attaching itself firmly to my psyche. I shall endeavor to keep it under control. But even now I look forward to another visit to my favorite haunt before summers end and a refresher course from the earth. Unless I completely miss my guess, those around me will be thankful for a second retreat, even if they are unable to accompany me.


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