Politics

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Prayer, Congressional Salaries and the #Shutdown

"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

- Matthew 6:2

This verse came to mind today as I read about all the members of Congress who are planning to donate their salaries while the Government is shutdown to local charities.

Which lawmakers will refuse their pay during the shutdown?

For people who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, this seems like the ultimate hypocrisy and slap in the face. It must be nice to be able to voluntarily go without pay for a few weeks, or however long the shutdown lasts. It must be nice to have that much discretionary funds or savings.

No, if members of Congress want to really gain understanding of the people they are supposed to be representing, they should take the SNAP Challenge

The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant - $1.50 per meal.

A few verses later, in Matthew, we find

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

So, while the members of Congress try to get by on $1.50 a meal, they should spend time praying for the poor, and for compassion and humility. For these quotes come nicely between the Beatitudes and the Lord Prayer.

Dystopian Rabbits

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. We'll here we are, another October. Like other months, when I get time, I start off with a childhood invocation for good luck.

But it's October, thirty-seven years ago, a classmate of mine from high school disappeared. They found her body later in the month, but never found the murderer. Last year, during Hurricane Sandy, towards the end of October, my mother died in a car accident.

Looking back over my career, many of my job changes took place in October. My youngest daughter was born in October, as were some of my closest long time friends.

It's October, and the Government is shut down. This weekend, I sat on the porch, after making a batch of green apple jelly. Yes, I'm connected online. With my Google Glass, I get notifications as they happen. But there is something about sitting on the porch, having just made jelly.

I thought about when my mother was a kid. Yes, she heard, via the radio fairly quickly about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but most news was much slower then, and even more slow before the radio and telegraph. How much is this always on, instant notification contributing to disfunction in Washington, where people seem more interested in the political theatre of the sound bite than in sound governing?

How much is the medium the message?

I've been reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The setting is a utopian community in the mid nineteenth century. The hero is sick and reads books that other members of the community bring to him. Yet I'm reading it as an ebook on my smartphone. What is the mixed message of a nineteenth century novel on a twenty-first century device?

Kim and I have started watching "H+". It is a series about human implants, similar to Google Glass and a mass kill off of people with the implants due to a network virus. The medium is the message, as my wife and I watch it on an old TV hooked up to an old Roku which manages to still get YouTube. I watched an episode on Google Glass, which pushes the medium is the message idea even further.

And here I am, writing a blog post about it.

It is a post-apocalyptical world and I've been thinking about this new millennialism, a resurgence of apocalyptical thinking. No, we didn't have a Mayan apocalypse. We haven't had an apocalypse as a result of people of the same gender who love each other now being able to marry one another.

Now, even though the Federal Government is shutdown, you can go online and purchase health insurance. Like same-sex marriage, for some this looks like the end of the world. For others, the Federal Government shutdown looks like the end of the world.

But as I sat on the porch over the weekend, with a kitchen full of jams and jellies that I've made, and as I sit in my chair now, writing my blog post and listening to the large dog snore on the couch next to me, this is nothing like the end of the world in all the dystopian post-apocalyptical stories.

So I say Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, bringing back all the simple childhood hopes and memories in this complicated hyper-connected world as I think of dogs and jelly and porches, and trying to get back to sleep.

Sad Tales, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about Sad Tails with Happy Endings!, a rescue shutdown by Southbury Animal Control. Since then, I've been in several discussions about the situation, including speaking with people directly involved.

I am particularly concerned about comments that some are making based on assumptions or inaccuracies. A post on Helping Connecticut Canines' Facebook page asking donations to the pound where the dogs have been taken describes this as "a serious hoarding situation".

This is a questionable assertion at best. Ms. Boeckel was running a rescue. Her website lists dogs that she had successfully adopted out and others available for adoption. The description of the veterinary care and feeding procedures for these animals that I've obtained clearly indicate to me that she was not hoarding.

Another comment that I found particularly disturbing was "I assure you they would not have been taken unless the dogs and cats were in immediate need. Thirty plus dogs in any home being cared for by one person is impossible." Based on the information I've obtained, I question whether or not the animals were in immediate need, and I know that the assertion that they were being cared for by only one person is factually incorrect.

Others have jumped in and noted that they knew of a person who as organizing a fundraiser for the rescue and others have applauded Ms. Boeckel's work.

I don't know the ACOs in Southbury, but based on my experience dealing with other ACOs as well as the State Dept. of Ag., I don't always accept everything they say at face value.

If the amount of effort that has gone into taking the animals and subsequently getting supplies to the Southbury Dog Pound had gone into helping Ms. Boeckel in the first place, I believe there would have been a much better outcome.

I am also very concerned when ACOs shutdown a rescue because they don't like the way it is being run. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent.

So, I encourage everyone to help clean up the mess now and prevent future messes. An important step in this is accuracy in reporting, and not calling something a "a serious hoarding situation", when it is far from clear that this is the case.

Sad Tails with Happy Endings!

Years ago, Fiona and I drove a young pit bull up to Maine as part of a team effort to save the dog from imminent euthanasia. The trip introduced us to what is going on in animal rescue here in Connecticut and across the country. I haven't looked at the official numbers from the State of Connecticut in a few years, but last time I looked, approximately 3,000 animals were put to sleep each year by animal control officers across the state. Too often, animal control was a thankless task tacked onto the responsibilities of the police department, who found it easier just to kill the animals than to find them homes.

Yet Connecticut is one of the better states. Across the country there are states that kill hundreds of thousands of animals each year, and estimate at the total number of animals killed typically vary in the range of three to ten million.

Over the years, I've also gotten to know many rescuers. Some can be a little fanatical, some may lack political finesse, but for the most part, they are the kindest best intentioned people I have met. They sometimes have run-ins with police departments, animal control officers, and the State Department of Agriculture that oversees animal control and I was saddened to hear of the latest run in.

NBC Connecticut posted a story yesterday, 31 Dogs, 3 Cats Seized from Southbury Home.

Owner Nancy Boeckel said she was running an animal rescue business out of her Georges Hill Road home and the dogs were neither abused nor neglected.

There is also a brief article in the Republican American about the seizing of the dogs.

The rescue community, despite various differences, is fairly close knit, so I thought I'd try to get a little more information. From Nancy's LinkedIn page, I found that she was educated at Quinnipiac and runs "Sad Tails Happy Endings" animal rescue.

This led me to the rescue's Petfinder page. Currently, it does not list any animals available for rescue. I'm not sure if this is because the page hasn't been maintained, or if it has been updated as a result of the animal control raid.

On her page, she talks about rescuing Maggie:

Maggie was an owner surrender after 8 years reason given "no time". I was notified Maggie was scheduled to be killed, I was able to rescue her within 3 hours remaining until her scheduled death. I became Maggie's foster Mom.

Christmas morning I transported Maggie to her new family. She was a surprise for 4 children for Christmas. The look of amazement and sheer joy on the children's faces will remain in my heart and mind forever. The parents and grandmother were standing there with tears of happiness running down there faces. It was a very special Christmas morning for all of us. Maggie is now living in her new forever home as happy as can possibly be. The entire family truly love her deeply and she returns their love ten fold.

Yes, rescue is a small word with an enormous meaning!

She also has a website, Sad Tails with Happy Endings!. It has pictures of about twenty dogs that have been adopted and about a dozen currently ready for adoption. There are links to poems popular in the rescuing community.

There is also a link to a blog about one of the dogs that was adopted from Nancy, and great pictures and a video of the adopted dog.

Doing a bit more digging, it appears as if she has had health and financial difficulties. Let's hope a solution can be found that will be best for every, human, canine and feline, involved.

Amity AstroTurf Referendum Results

Today, 1,803 voters in Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge went to the polls and rejected a referendum to spend $945,000 installing astroturf at Amity High School. While the turnout was very low by normal election standards, for an off-season referendum, the numbers were higher than many expected.

Based on the chatter around various water coolers, it seems like it boiled down to the fiscal conservatives and the environmental conservatives against the sports parents, with many people not having an opinion, and voting based on the recommendations of their friends.

The environmental conservatives were probably the loudest with comments against the proposal on the Conserve Woodbridge Facebook page, and presumably in backchannels. They expressed concern about fumes and runoff from the artificial turf. The fiscal conservatives spoke up at meetings raising concern about the towns' debt burdens.

This time, I decided to try an exit poll, which I set up using Google Documents. I put it together very quickly before heading off to work, so there were some mistakes in it. It wasn't clear to everyone that while I optionally gathered demographic information, there was no way for me to get any other information about the people filling out the poll.

A handful of people completed the poll, the results were 2 to 1 against the referendum in the exit poll and about the same 64% to 36% in the actual voting. For concerns express, the biggest concern appears to have been the cost, followed by health issues, and environmental issues.

At the Woodbridge polling location just a few people showed up to find the results, and the biggest concern appears to have been about the lack of information that was distributed about the referendum and who should have distributed it.

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