Department Of Did The Last Four Years Really Happen?
I’m still numb.
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Department Of Difficult Family Questions
Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Freakonomics podcast (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), I heard this statistic on U.S. birth rates:
“As of 2019, the total fertility rate was 1.7 — that’s 1.7 babies born per woman of child-bearing age over her lifetime.”
I immediately thought of my two children, K and Belle, both young adults and successfully fledged. They keep up with politics, demographics and current affairs. I pondered how moiself, as a Loving and Responsible Parent ®, can honestly respond to them should they run across this statistic, then pose the inevitable question.
How will I decide which one of them is the .7 child? Should I flip a coin? Make my judgment based on which one is more likely to visit me in the nursing home (or less likely to put me in one)?
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Department Of Sometimes It’s Better To Let Your Imagination Run Wild
With The Question And Not Even Care About The Answer
The question I am referring to comes from the previously-referenced Freakonomics podcast episode (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), which posed the question,
To what degree have car seats functioned as contraception?
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“I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place. But this isn’t at all making the world better.”
( 14-year-old Girl Scout Olivia Chaffin, quoted in “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands”)
Dateline: Sunday afternoon. Moiself was backing my car out of the driveway, just as The Cutest Girl Scout In The World ® left a flyer on my porch. She continued on, walking with her father (my guess) and another Scout to my neighbor’s house. I stopped my car, got out and waved, and from a maskless-but-safe-distance her father said the Girl Scouts were doing a different form of cookie sales this year – orders online – and that the information was in the flyer.
After returning from my errand, I googled to see if the reasons moiself  had boycotted Girl Scout cookies the past few years were still valid. Sadly, yes. The Scouts are still using palm oil in their cookies…AND…a report has just been released linking the production of that palm oil to child labor violations.
I have long wished  that GS fundraisers would involve a community service drive several times a year, akin to the Boy Scouts’ Xmas tree recycling service. I mean, community service – yay! Besides, look at us Americans – no one should be eating those (or any organization’s fundraising) cookies.
But it’s the palm oil usage – specifically, the orangutan and other wildlife habitat destruction resulting from the production of palm oil – that has me the most concerned. People can choose to snack themselves into Type II Diabetes, but orangutans have no choice in the matter of where they can live, and they certainly don’t choose to have their habitat razed to grow a cheap oil so that humans can have smoother ice cream, less runnier lipstick, and crisp cookies and potato chips.
When K & Belle were in the Oregon Zoo Teens program they learned about the problems with palm oil production, and began educating us – their parents, family and friends – on why we should choose products that did not contain palm oil and boycott those that did. Such education should be right up the Girl Scout’s alley, so to speak, with the organization’s declared belief in “…the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)
But, according to the EcoWatch article, “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands,” that ain’t happening. Excerpts from the article (my emphases):
Environmental concerns first motivated then-11-year old Chaffin to investigate the source of the palm oil in the Girl Scout cookies she sold. Chaffin…saw that the palm oil listed on the cookie boxes was supposed to come from sustainable sources. However, she looked closer and saw the word “mixed”, which meant that sustainable and non-sustainable sources had been combined in the cookie recipe.
She swore off cookie-selling and launched a petition one year ago urging Girl Scouts to abandon palm oil….
Chaffin told The Associated Press that learning about the child labor issues  made her more motivated to fight for the oil’s removal….
The Girl Scouts did not respond to The Associated Press before the study was published, but did address the article on social media.
“Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production. Our investment in the development of our world’s youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some,” the organization tweeted.
They said that their bakers and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) should take action if standards were being violated.
In other words, business as usual. They are shocked – shocked! – to learn about child labor violations (and don’t forget habitat destruction), but not enough to put any political or economic muscle behind their rhetoric.
The Girls Scouts claim to “…offer the best leadership development experience for girls in the world.” Their girls are inadvertently learning a lesson in politico-speak (express concern, but don’t make any actually changes which may threaten your income stream), which is sadly common to leaders worldwide.
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Department Of Quote Of The Year, 2021:
“But fuck you for being there.”
Moiself realizes the year is young, but already there is a comment which so succinctly nails What Happened on January 6 ® that I am hard pressed to imagine what might beat it for Quote of the Year.
It comes from NPR’s January 15 article, “Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol.” Excerpted here, the article contains interviews with police officers who were attacked by the pro-#45 mobs who stormed the US Capitol.
Beaten, tased, lying dazed on the steps leading out of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Officer Mike Fanone remembered thinking,
“…about the movie Black Hawk Down when the pilot gets stripped from the cockpit because guys were grabbing gear off my vest, they ripped my badge off of me, and people were trying to get my gun, and they grabbed my ammunition magazines. I remember trying to retain my gun, I remember guys chanting, ‘Kill him with his own gun.’ “
Fanone was tased at least a half-dozen times. He says he considered using his gun to defend himself, but knew rioters would likely turn the gun on him. So he pleaded for his life.
“At one point, I decided I could appeal to someone’s humanity in this crowd. And I said I have kids,” he recalls. “Fortunately, I think it worked. Some people did start to protect me, they encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me.”
Fanone, a 19-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, was found and eventually pulled to safety by his patrol partner. He was hospitalized, and was told he had had a heart attack.
Fanone says he doesn’t want to get into what may have motivated Trump’s supporters, many of whom have long claimed they back police. He’s thankful he got out alive, but he’s angry that that was ever in question.
“The ones in the crowd that somehow appealed to their better angels and offered me some assistance, thank you,” he says. “But f*** you for being there.”
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Department Of Yes, This.
Reflections After The Inauguration
Although I love watching the Olympics and missed having the opportunity to do so in 2020,  moiself did not miss having to listening to the devoted, often over-the-top-and-arrogant, fans of Team USA. Hearing their strident, hyperbolic chants of, “USA! USA! USA! We’re Number One!” makes me want to do a number two, as I think of how those chants represent many of my fellow citizens’ understanding of our place in the world, both historically and in the present.
When it comes to being a “great” country, we *are* number one…in self-delusion and mythology. Maybe, just maybe, we could be #1 in potential of across-the-board quality of life, if the majority of us could be honest with ourselves.
Those ideals in our founding documents,  national anthem and patriotic songs are just that. They are ideals to which we may aspire, but they are not reflections of either historical or present reality; they are a journey, not a destination. We are not “there yet” – how could we be, when the codification and implementation of the lofty democratic ideals of our so-called fore-fathers involved the complete exclusion of our foremothers? The omission of political power for over half the country’s population lasted for 144 – yes, that’s one hundred and forty-four – years after our country’s “birth”!
We are not there yet. And how can we ever be, when there is only grudging (if any) acknowledgement from too many of us about the reality of  the treatment of the original occupants of our land – the native/indigenous peoples, as well as those who did not come here willingly, but who instead were the “…tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” because our ancestors had enslaved them?
Make America great again? To anyone who chants that insipid call to political arms slogan: what can you possibly mean by, *again*?
You can’t make American something it never was. Make America Live up to its great ideals – or tear them down and start over.
So sez moiself. Thus, it was refreshing to hear Baratunde Thurston give his take on the subject, on a TED talk. Thurston, a writer, comedian, political commentator, activist, philosopher, and “futurist,” is also the producer/host of the marvelously titled, “How to Citizen, a podcast which “… reimagines the word ‘citizen’ as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power.”
“I really appreciate the honesty of saying, ‘We haven’t succeeded yet.’ I think we are so good at myth-making, about our greatness and our uniqueness and our specialness, that we forgot we’re not there yet. We have a big number of us who can say, like, ‘We used to be so great!’
How could you say that when half the population couldn’t even vote? *When are you starting the clock?*
So, there’s a lot to do. There’s value to the honesty that we haven’t really done it yet, and there’s motivation to the idea that we might get there. And I think we have to be motivated by the pursuit, not just the arrival. That we’ve gotten a little bit better; that we’ve reckoned with some of the more painful things, knowing there’s a laundry list of stuff we still haven’t dared to face honestly. And if we get closer, that’s still good.”
( Excerpts from TED radio hour podcast, “How to Citizen,”
with Baratunde Thurston speaking with TED host Manoush Zomorodi )
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Department Of Gut Check – Yep, I’m Still Numb
And just now daring to relax. The inauguration happened; no one was shot.
When I finally let myself watch part of the proceedings moiself was both mesmerized and comforted by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her stunning poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
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Department Of One More Thing
And – hello, New York Times headline on the 20th  – I never, ever again want to read about #45 and his entire, vile, despotic, rapacious, racist, sexist, nepotistic, cadre of liars and thieves, unless the story has to do with their impending criminal charges, plea bargains, and convictions. 
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Pun For The Day
Finally it’s, 2021, and now I can truthfully say that hindsight is 2020.
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May your children all be 1.0 and never .7;
May we work toward making our country great (not “again”);
May we aspire to deserve the voices of poets like Amanda Gorman;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 A former girl Scout, and lover of their Thin Mints cookies.
 And have done more than wishing; i.e., expressing to Scout leaders and writing to the national organization (with no response).
 “Child labor is another major problem for the (palm oil) industry, according to The Associated Press. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 1.5 million children aged 10 to 17 work in Indonesia’s agricultural industry, of which palm oil is the dominant crop. In Malaysia, a 2018 study found that more than 33,000 children work in the industry, and that almost half of them are between the ages of five and 11.”
 On the off-chance you were off-planet, the 2020 Olympics were cancelled due to the pandemic.
 e.g. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence.
 And never mind the possibility of reparations for….
 Who gives a flying fuck if Tiffany tR**p is engaged? Shame on you for making me scroll past that in order to access my daily mini-crossword.
 And hopefully those stories will have at least eight footnotes.