Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Auction for Bark

A very special man was an important factor in bringing The Claire Files forum to the Internet. His name is Bark, and until recently, he was the web master at TCF. He has terminal cancer, which is being partly managed through herbal medications provided by some extremely generous folks that live near him.

An auction, to benefit Bark, is taking place right now on Ebay. A hardback copy of Vin Surpynowicz's book, The Black Arrow, autographed by Vin to Claire, is available to the highest bidder. All proceeds will help fund Bark's herbal medication.

If you would like to contribute, but cannot afford the auction at this time, here is the address where you can send donations to help pay for Bark's treatments.

This guy quietly, behind the scenes, enriched so many lives. If you feel so compelled, this is a terrific way to say thank you.

Holy Bidding, Batman! The auction is already up to $615. What a cool bunch of folks.
Edit 01-03-06: Freedom folks rock! This auction was an over-the-top, majorly cool success.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh Tannenbaum

Sunday night, we hauled out our Christmas decorations and trimmed our Douglas fir. Each member of the Lew household has his, or her, own ornament box (shoe boxes are the dominant vessels for ornament storage), each bauble lovingly wrapped in old paper towels or last year’s cast off gift wrap.

This part of the Lew holiday season, when we dig out these treasures and hang them on our tree, is what I enjoy the most. Ten years ago, our extended family started an ornament tradition. Each one of us makes an ornament, and on Christmas Eve we hold an exchange. You know, where you draw a number, and each person picks a package according to his number, or “steals” an opened package from an unsuspecting earlier contestant. So, each Christmas we add six more home made ornaments to our tree.

Over the years, each family member has honed his technique of ornament creation. My brother-in-law, for example, always uses golf supplies, like wooden tees and plastic golf balls, to create his ornament. Typically, it is snowman shaped, and a blowtorch is often involved—anyway, they are a hoot.

Grandpa’s ornaments have been the largest, historically. One Christmas, his ornament had a yard long pine tree branch as its base. He has a fondness for plastic fruit, fake birds and glitter, too. This spry gentleman shouldn’t be second-guessed, however. Last year’s ornament was a miniature basket of roses and greenery, with dew drops, tiny, wooden lady bugs and bees delicately glued to flower petals. Rosie triumphed in securing Grandpa’s lovely ornament (it was a fierce, but friendly competition ), and she placed it on her desk, so she could look at it all year long.

My brother always brings an ornament, but almost never creates it himself. His stepdaughters usually put it together for him when they make theirs. His family always creates their ornaments along a family theme, placed carefully in designer holiday gift bags. It’s like the Hallmark Collector’s Edition—they are always cute, always within the same theme and opened among comments from his wife and kids, “Oh, I’m sorry you picked mine. It turned out so ugly.” Of course, it isn’t.

The children of Lewville are partial to Sculpey® clay. They’ve created Santas, snowmen, marshmellow men, sports equipment, Nutcracker characters, the Grinch and animals out it. In typical Lew fashion, we’re often late in the game in the actual production of our ornament. We put most of our energy into the mental process, thinking of what to make, than the actual act of creation. So, rather than the pleasant, seasonal aroma of cinnamon and cardamom wafting through the house, the odor of almost burnt clay sets off the smoke detector a couple of days before the exchange.

My sister, Auntie L, is an artisan. Her ornaments are always beautiful, professional and unique. Grandma always disqualifies her ornaments, because “L is a crafty type.” Needless to say, this pissed off Auntie L to no end. By the conclusion of the exchange,though, she’s soothed, and Grandma’s comments are forgotten, because her ornament has been much sought after by the family at large, because it's so cool.

Each one of us in the Lew household has favorites among our ornament collection. There is cousin B’s beer can train engine, made from an MGD can, pipe cleaners and Christmas candy. Then there’s the rectangular ornament made by J, featuring Batman stickers on a field of green and Robin stickers on a field of red. The wooden snowman made by Tee, accented by a pea-sized glob of hot glue and the end of an orange colored pencil makes the list. Zander’s clay Santa, rucksack on his back; and Uncle M’s Styrofoam Christmas tree, decorated with wooden tee ornaments and a ball marker topper.

I think it’s so neat how, year after year, our ornaments says something about us, good or not so groovy. I can tell, at a glance, who’s made the ornament, without her identifying herself. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling that is quite chummy. I tried to describe it to Tee as we hung up our decorations.

“I love putting these up,” I told him, “It’s like getting together with old friends.”

He raised his left eyebrow and gave me a quick glance. “You need to make some new friends, Mom.”

Okay true, that’s beside the point. “You know, it’s like seeing a good friend you haven’t seen in a long, long time. Get it?”

He placed cousin B’s train at eye level on the tree and stood back to survey his work. He smiled. “Yeah, I get it.”

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cory Maye

This morning, I read for the first time about Cory Maye, thanks to a thread at TCF started by NuclearDruid. Upon further search, the tragic events, and subsequent trial, conviction and death sentence of Maye has gone virtually unreported, until Radley Balko discovered Maye’s questionable conviction and began blogging it.

Balko’s blog, the Agitator, contains developing blog reports of accumulated documentation of the case, with links. Stephen Gordon, over at Hammer of Truth, posted contact information for Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, so people could write him about Maye’s case. Matt Rustler, over at Stop the Bleating, blogs about Balko’s gathering of information, providing sequential links.

Usually it is pretty pointless to contact political critters, however in this case I’m going to make an exception. There appears to be a glut of unanswered questions and shady evidence. With the life of a potentially innocent young father at stake, it is worth a try.

In the bigger picture, this is also the unfolding story of the erosion of American safety. With each fatal police raid, another chapter is written. Claire Wolfe blogged today about Maye and paramilitary police raids. She recently spoke with criminologist Peter B. Kraska, whose research reveals that approximately 40,000 paramilitary police raid occur annually, and that only about 20% of them are to serve arrest warrants. Balko posted today a quote from El Monte police chief, Bill Ankeny, which appeared in the LA Times after the 1999 shooting death of Mario Paz, victim of a paramilitary raid.

"We do bang on the door and make an announcement--'It's the police'--but it kind
of runs together. If you're sitting on the couch, it would be difficult to
get to the door before they knock it down."

Police are conducting raids on innocent Americans, people with no previous criminal records; people of all ages (Paz was 64 years old when shot to death; Maye’s daughter was a year old when their duplex was raided); people who shouldn’t meet death at the hands of those who are supposed to serve and protect them.

We can close our eyes, and our minds, to this problem. We can fool ourselves and say that only bad people, with weak hearts, are affected by the War on Drugs. When it is someone else’s door, someone else’s family, it’s easy to dismiss it from our line of sight. To paraphrase an infamous parable, when they’ve already come for everyone else, who’s going to be there when they come for you? Maybe Joel Miller’s book, Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs Is Destroying America, is a good place to begin researching this question, although I shall infer the answer. Ignore this problem and no one is going to be there to help you in your time of need; they’ll be incarcerated or dead.

Note: If you choose to write Barbour, or other folks of your choosing, about Maye’s case, please double check any facts you refer to in your letter. Balko noted on his Saturday, Dec. 10 blog entry that there are some misconceptions and conflicting information posted in Blog land. He writes, “I've already seen a few misconceptions start to appear. I think this is in part due to conflicting accounts of the case as given by various media outlets in Prentiss and Hatiesburg, by Maye's first lawyer, by the cops at the scene, and by the prosecution. It's also probably in part due to me putting the first two posts up rather quickly, and perhaps not being quite as clear as I should have been.”Don’t give Barbour any reason to glibly dismiss your letter.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Gift of Time

Giving someone a gift doesn’t have to involve shelling out copious amounts of FRNs (Federal Reserve Notes).

Lew telephoned me from work this morning. “Where are you standing?” he asked.

I’d been walking into the living room, coffee mug in hand, to sit down in my favorite green wingback chair and chat with him. “In the living room.”

“Go look out the window,” he said. “Can you see the sunrise?”

I peered out the picture window, sipping my coffee. “I can’t see it from here. I’m facing west”

Disappointed, he was ready to end our conversation because he needed to get back on the job. I told him to hold up a second, so I could check out the back yard, which faces east. “You probably won’t be able to see it,” he advised.

But I could, a ribbon of pure rose blushing between the evergreens in our neighbor’s back yard. We shared a moment, both gazing at the same gorgeous morning sky. What a cool, amazing gift to give someone.

I passed Lew’s gift on to Rosie. She protested at first, because she didn’t want to go outside in her pjs. When I told her she could see it through the slider door, she came over and admired the sun giving the sky a raspberry-tinged smooch. All it cost us was a minute of our time.

It's a matter of attitude

Quote: An uphill libertarian finds freedom activities to be chores to be performed, tasks they find to be sacrifices, a constant uphill battle, if you will. A downhill libertarian feels the wind in her face, sledding down the hill on the constitution, dodging fedgov trees and plowing through fedgov snowmen with a wild grin on her face.
Cowardly Lion

What a glorious allegory. It’s no secret that cooperation and camaraderie among those in the freedom movement can be as warm and fuzzy as a sack full of feral cats. Is it because of our independent outlook? Our constant battle against a common enemy? Or is it our weariness, too often the odd man out among the sheeple we’re surrounded by in our every day lives, that we don’t know how to react to a freedom friend? As Cowardly Lion so eloquently points out, over at TCF, it’s a matter of attitude. Some libertarians drag along, working for freedom and feeling it in every muscle. Other libertarians find freedom work to be an adventure.

We need both types of libertarians to work together; each set has their own skills to offer to the freedom movement. Cowardly Lion said he’s thinking of writing an article on uphill and downhill libertarians. I sincerely hope he does. I look forward to reading it

Standing by the Little Guy: an update

May Your Putrid Stale Coffee Stain Your Grinchly Corporate Teeth Forever, Starbucks Narcissists—Yeah, what Kirsten said!

Over at Enjoy Every Sandwich, Kirsten has posted contact information for Starbucks, if you have a hankering pass on to corporate America coffee a message. It’s even toll free, so you can call them on their own dingy dime.

A Sambuck's update: According to May Kulthol, manager of media relations for Starbucks Coffee, "It's not about David and Goliath." She says they’re not going to seek repayment through the court. “The defendant is not required to pay legal fees nor did we seek damages from her,” Kulthol says.

Java giant Starbucks still wants Buck to give up her name; they’re standing by their assertion, and legal decision, that she’s violating their trademark. They just aren’t going to pummel their competition into oblivion by pursuing attorney’s fees. "We try to deal with these types of situations amicably and to come to a good conclusion for both parties,” says Kulthol.

It appears that Buck isn’t quite ready to roll over and die yet. Her lawyer, Kurt Rylander, says her case has several strong points, which she could use to as grounds to appeal. Paramount is the testimony of two witnesses who explained that she is known in the Astoria community by her maiden name, Sam Buck. She has 30 days from the ruling to file an appeal. Rylander says she would make a decision about an appeal after the two-week period for Starbucks to file a “bill of cost” passes.

As details become available, I’ll post additional updates.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Just Say No, Part 3

In the upcoming months, it will be interesting to watch the progress of Khaled al-Masri’s lawsuit. Al-Masri alleges he was picked up at the Macedonian border Dec. 31, 2003 and held against his will, “taken into custody” in PC meme, in Macedonia for 23 days, and then flown to Afghanistan for a four month detention at the hands of the US government. In May 2004, he was let go, flown first to Albania and then on to Germany.

The main defendant in the lawsuit is George Tenet, who was the director of the CIA 1997 through 2004. The CIA’s campaign of foreign national interrogation, which has come to the light of day recently, like earwigs and pill bugs exposed to the sun when a rock is turned over, snared al-Masri in its web of espionage when he was mistakenly identified as a 9/11 hijacker’s compadre.

His case is the first time I’ve read the term “rendition program.” Rendition sounds so harmless. Rendition conjures up jokey covers of songs, or Mad TV’s latest send up of a music video. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law, however, rendition also means, “extradition of a fugitive who has fled to another state.” However, typical of fedbeast impatience, they’re putting the cart in front of the horse yet again. They’re nabbing said fugitives before they know if they are truly fugitives. They're abusing said fugitives, trying to discover if they are truly fugitives. And this said fugitive, who isn’t a fugitive at all, is saying no.

No, I didn’t do anything wrong.
No, you did something wrong,
And No, you can’t just make me go away.

"Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others.'' Khaled al-Masri

Paying tribute to Memory Lane

These androgynous, illustrated children were all the rage on card store fodder, circa 1975. Normally they would have banned, due to the full frontal nudity, however these particular children lacked any genitals, and only sported pin-dot areolas. So, they were charming holding hands and flowers on magnets, coffee cups and wall plaques.

I’m displaying my age here, but I used to get such a kick out of them when I was a kid. I desperately longed for one of the key chains with them on it, along with a “Happiness Is…” saying. It didn’t matter that I was still too young to be a latch-key kid; I wanted one. Tough boogies for me—by the time I was old enough, they’d passed out of fashion.

This morning, as I drove Tee to school for his wrestling match weigh in, the Mountain (Mount Rainer for those ignorant of Pacific Northwest lingo) looked so cool. It was a charcoal triangle in the distance, with purple haze behind it and a smoky cloud tabletop flattening out its peak. Tee and I said at the same time, “Look at the Mountain.”

I can’t quite explain it, but this glimpse of joy brought up memories of those “Happiness Is…” kids. In tribute to those quirky, hippy babies I’m posting my personal list.

Happiness is…

…looking at the Mountain on a crisp, autumn morning.
…curling up in bed with a good book.
…hound doggie, Virginia, rolling over on her back so I can pet her belly.
…hearing my kids offer to help each other with homework.
…Lew’s kisses.
…freshly brewed coffee.
…listening to any Stevie Ray Vaughan song
…the aroma of bee balm and mint on a summer’s afternoon.
…ginger root tea when you have a sore throat.
…when my kids ask me how my day was.
…Gray Kitty curled up in a miniscule ball on the end of my bed (the couch, in a laundry basket, on a coat thrown over a kitchen chair…)
…the way Lew purses his lips while he plays the guitar.
…a warm towel, fresh from the dryer.
…peppermint tea.
…Government Mule’s version of “Soulshine” on the Deep End, Vol. 1.
…slipping between clean sheets.
…playing with Virginia and her wooly soccer ball.
…seeing Deadhead Girl smile (she doesn’t do this often enough).
…seashell Cosmos blowing in the wind.
…sautéed garlic.
…reading the comics.
…a vase full of indigo hydrangeas (fuchsia tulips, pink peonies, purple lavender).
…giving hugs.
…thinking of cool words.
…playing Boggle.
…watching my kids get excited over home-baked cookies.
…giving an anonymous gift.
…the smell of an orange as you peel it.
…a job well done.
…Virginia’s bawl mouth.
…Tee’s quirky sense of humor.
…Rosie’s compassion.
…Zander’s wicked sense of humor.
…being around Tony when he’s happy.
…Lew’s integrity.
…being able to ponder what makes me happy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A gift that keeps on giving through out the year.

In this season of giving, consider blessing someone with a gift subscription to a literary magazine. Earn some major, bonus high-fives for giving a helping hand to a start up mag, like A Flasher’s Dozen or Cranky.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of the flash written by A Flasher’s Dozen contributors, including the Winter Lone Flasher Sandra Seamans. Fun, fun reading—check it out.

Increase your skill base. It's the bee's knees.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in beekeeping, check out the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association (PSBA) website. They offer a monthly newsletter, swarm removal contacts and online information, including links to equipment sites, local laws and basic bee data.

Standing up for the little guy

When intimidation, name-calling and teasing doesn’t make a bully’s target cry uncle, then what else can a bully do? Oh, of course—beat the snot out of the dork.

The coffee klatch set are well acquainted with the hulking bully on the java playground that’s been stomping little places out of existence for years. December 1st, another perk entrepreneur got whupped.

Back in 2000, a woman named Samantha Buck opened a diminutive storefront coffee place in Astoria, OR and named the joint after herself. In 2002, she received a cease and desist letter from this major java player, along with an offered incentive, $500, to change her business’ name. When she refused, corporate America coffee took Sam to court.

According to the Seattle Times article announcing Sam Buck’s legal defeat, her courtroom nemesis now boasts 8,000 coffee stores globally. Just in the town I live in, they operate 8 store locations that I can think of right off the top of my head. It’s bad enough that, when faced with ever increasing rental fees and intentional mega over-exposure in the marketplace, the little coffee joes get squeezed out of the running. But to go after a shop owner for trademark infringement, when the owner named her place after herself, is none other than pure bully-ism, in my opinion.

I’m not a fan of roasted-to-oblivion coffee in the first place, but I do admit that I’ve enjoyed some of the cozy digs that said coffee corp. offers. I’ll forgo snazzy tunes and armchairs, however, to support cups of java brewed by local folks like Sam Buck.