Mike’s New Project

So, here we are again. Mike and Judy took off for a few days to the mountains of North Carolina, leaving me and the other cats in the care of Michelle. She’s a great Big Sister, and a super good sport, as she is allergic to cats. I guess they had a relaxing time while away. It was the first vacation they have taken since 2018. Between Mike’s chemo, and the COVID mess, normal life has been on hold. We are hoping for a prolonged stretch of normal.

I may have mentioned that Mike has taken advantage of his enforced isolation by working on a book. He has made good progress, and is moving into a new stage, that of trying to get it published. Getting a book published by a traditional publisher is challenging. When Mike wrote his first book, Autobiography of a Georgia Cat, he talked with a lady who had been in the business. She told him the it was almost impossible to get a book published without an agent—and that it was even harder to get an agent. This proved to be the case, and Mike eventually went the self-publishing route. Since that time (1999) much has changed, most especially the world of social media. Mike has learned that in order to get published an author has to have already established a reputation and a following. He has to build what is referred to a a platform. This involves building a social media presence. At a minimum this must include activity on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, and an author’s blog. Mike has not only committed to establish a platform, but also to not complain about it. He is already on Facebook and Linked-in, and just opened a Twitter account. He has contacted a publicist to assist him with navigating the journey through the blogosphere, twittersphere, etc. All of which is leading up to saying that he will start a new blog that will be written by him, not by me. He has promised me that he will continue to help me with my blog. Once the new blog is up I will give you all the details and put up a link to it from my blog. I promised to give Mike all the support that I can.

So, the world is still a crazy place, but we need to make the best of it as it is the only world we get to live in. And don’t forget, Cats Rule and Dogs Drool! Until next time, be safe, be well, give someone a hug, and pray for peace.

Great News

So, Mike had a meeting with Dr. B., his lymphoma oncologist. She said his recent scan looked good (no evidence of recurrence), and that she wants another scan in 6 months. In his most recent meeting with Dr. K., his multiple myeloma oncologist, he also received a report of no evidence of recurrence. Mike gets periodic blood tests to follow this, and will have another bone marrow biopsy in December. So, this is great news. Even better, Mike feels fine and is enjoying his life. We hope you all are as well.

Happy day after Mother’s Day to everyone. Mike and Judy went out with Michelle to celebrate Judy and her place in our little family. I include a picture from the event. Are they not adorable?

Mike continues to work on his book, and feels as though he is making good progress. I will keep you posted.

Life gradually moves back towards normal. Don’t think, however, that things will return entirely to the way they were pre-COVID. That cannot and will not happen. Most industries have been affected by the pandemic. As one example, the health care industry is down over 500,000 jobs since February of 2020. A great many people have either died or contracted chronic illness from COVID. It will be interesting to see what a post-COVID world looks like. I hope you all will make a positive adjustment. Mike always talks about the importance of learning to deal with both uncertainty and change as critical life skills. Good luck to all of you with the new world.

And speaking of the new world, the sides are lining up and gathering ammunition to face each other in what Mike thinks will be the Great Battle of the next 20 years or longer. On the one side we have the people who want justice and equality for all people, and the other side we have the people who want to maintain the status quo, white privilege. Mike says it has become clear that the real danger to our nation comes from within, outside threats (China, Russia, cyberthreats, and viruses) notwithstanding. I have held forth before in this blog how, as a black cat, I am sensitive to mindless prejudice and discrimination based on differences in race, social status, color, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, etc.  I expect that our country will become a much better version of itself in due time. It will take determination, hard work, fearlessness, cooperation, and prayer, all readily available commodities. Let’s do it!

Mike took a new picture of my annoying little brother, Magi.

If you check your Encyclopedia of Cats you will find that he strongly resembles a Bombay cat. All of us are rescues, and none of us are pure-bred cats. I can’t say that being a mixed-breed cat is preferable because that would be saying that cats of a certain origin are better than cats of other origins.  This is not any more true than saying that people of one origin are better than people of other origins.  And I doubt if there is a person in the world that isn’t racially mixed in some way. People still carry Neanderthal genes, for heaven’s sake. As the line from the spiritual song goes, “We’re in the same boat brother, we’re in the same boat brother; and if you shake one end you gonna rock the other, we’re in the same boat brother.”

Well, it’s time for lunch and a nap. I hope you are all doing very well. Let’s all love one another, right now. I know, a line from another song. I can’t seem to help myself. Unlike most cats, I have learned to appreciate music and poetry. I will talk to you soon.

I’m Back!

Hey y’all! I did not expect to be gone for so long. It has been 8 months since I have posted. Mike muzzled me as I was getting too outspoken about the political situation. He is not doing a very good job of remembering how to put this together, and we have already lost what I just wrote a few minutes ago. Try, try again.

I am committed to say nothing about the former president, with the understanding, of course, that he will have nothing to say about me.

Mike’s health seems to be good. He goes for a scan in 2 weeks. It’s a routine follow-up to his chemo. I expect that he will prove to be in full remission. I will let you know, and not wait 8 months, either.

Our other cats are fine. Magi is all grown up. He is a year old this month. Lady Bug still doesn’t like him. Mike and Judy has somewhat pacified her by telling her that she is the Only Cat. I have some pictures, but not a recent one of her. Later. Mike got his first haircut in over a year a few weeks ago. His friend Chris says he looks like a hippie and sent him a tie-dyed shirt to complement the appearance. Picture included below.

Two of Mike’s elderly friends have died of COVID. I imagine everyone has been affected by this pandemic in many hurtful ways. Better times ahead.

Mike has made good progress on his book about the Twelve Steps as a heroic journey. I will let you know if he gets it published. You would think I would have a lot to say after 8 months of silence, but if I think of anything I will add it to the next post. In the meantime, stay well, and be safe. And remember, love is the answer.

An old hippie
The Twins

I honestly can’t say which one is Shayna Maidel and which one is Jackson.

Magi holding down his blanket
Shayna Maidel and her bear

 

Bye, bye!

The Black Codes

So, Mike has been reading up a storm, and has been neglecting his duties as my blogging assistant. One of his recent books was “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, the chair of African-American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. In the book she wrote about the Black Codes which were enacted by the legislatures of 10 of the 11 Southern states that had seceded from the USA. Strangely, nobody Mike has asked had learned about this in their high school American History classes. Or maybe not so strangely. These codes succeeded in depriving blacks, whether former slaves or not, of basic human rights. President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Abraham Lincoln after the assassination, was from Tennessee, a former slave state. He saw equal rights for blacks as a disaster for whites and was quoted as saying, “This is…..a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.” Likewise, the provisional governor of South Carolina said at their constitutional convention, “This is a white man’s government.” The Black Codes enacted, first in Mississippi, and then throughout the South, severely limited the freedom and rights of blacks. A great many blacks stayed on the plantations doing the same farm work they had always been made to do. Blacks who worked in towns were required to sign a labor “contract” with an employer which denied their right to seek better employment elsewhere for a year. If a man left his employment, for whatever reason, he was subject to arrest and return to his “master.” Most contracts required the worker to reside on the employer’s property, work sun-up to sundown 6 days per week, and not leave the property or receive visitors without permission. Wages were low and non-negotiable. Employers were authorized to whip their “employees” under age 18, but needed a judge’s order to whip older servants. An inducement to sign these contracts was the risk of being arrested for “vagrancy.” Anyone arrested for vagrancy could be put to hard labor and fined. A prisoner could be “hired out” at a public auction to an employer as a bondsman to work off the fine, often an impossibility. Vagrancy was a broad category which included being unemployed, loitering, frequenting brothels or drinking parlors, being disrespectful to a white man by word or gesture, or basically, by being black in public. Blacks were prohibited from fishing or hunting, owning knives or firearms, or to testify against a white man in a court of law. And so on and so forth….. just slavery by another name.

First appearing in North America, Black Codes were promulgated in 1685 for all the French Colonies by King Louis XIV, and issued almost unchanged in 1724 as the Louisiana Code Noir. Interestingly, the very first article in both codes says that Jews may not reside in the colony(s). (European countries and principalities, in particular, have a long history of kicking Jews out, and then, eventually, letting them back in again. Rarely, though, did Jews have the same rights as their Christian brethren until modern times.) Some choice items from the 54 articles of the Code Noir of 1685: Slaves must be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church; slaves belonging to different masters may not gather together under any circumstances; a slave who strikes his master or a member of the master’s family will be executed; fugitive slaves who have been absent for one month shall have their ears cut off and be branded; if they are absent for an additional month (or presumably, run away again) one of their hamstrings will be cut and they will be branded again; for a third offence the punishment is execution; masters who kill a slave will pay a fine; masters must provide food and clothing for their slaves even if they are old or sick; and so on and so forth.

Mike thinks that it reprehensible that the law is used as the underpinning of such horrors. What is worse is the complicity of religious agencies in this outrage. Mike thinks it is ironic that Cobb County, where we live in Georgia, is named for the author of a greater than 600 page treatise on slavery law. Thomas W. Cobb served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, then as a US Senator, and finally as a Superior Court Judge. Our city, Marietta, is thought to be named for his wife, Mary Cobb. So, the mistreatment of blacks, Jews, Indians, and other minorities in our country and elsewhere has a long and dreadful history. Mike thinks we can expect the struggle to continue with minorities demanding their full human rights, while others will try just as hard to deny them. A friend of Mike’s once defined politics as competition for limited resources. It’s more than that, but the point is a good one.

Some progress is being made in the sports world. Erik Moses has been named president of the Nashville Superspeedway,  a venue owned by Dover Motorsports. He is the first black man to hold the position of president at any NASCAR track. His previous job was as president of the XFL’s DC Defenders. And Jason Wright was named as the president of the Washington Football Team (formerly known as the Washington Redskins.) He is the fourth former player and first black man to serve as an NFL team president. Wright played for the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and the Arizona Cardinals, and while a player served as the union representative for the Cardinals. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. Congratulations to both men. And condolences to the Caray family and everyone connected with the Atlanta Braves on the passing of Paula Caray, wife of the late Skip Caray, the legendary announcer who died in 2008.

In other milestones, we have just marked 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the USA. Mike thinks it’s amazing that at the time that he was born women had only had the vote for 23 years. It seems so right and natural that women should vote. The greater the participation of everyone in our democracy, the better it will be for everyone. And, I’m just saying, on another important topic, Black Cat Appreciation Day has just come and gone on August 17; and International Cat Day (World Cat Day) was August 8. National Black Cat Day will be on October 27, just in time for Halloween. I’m not making this up, and I admit it seems like a bunch of silliness. Cats deserve to be esteemed every day, especially black cats. And speaking of black cats, here is another picture of Magi, although he is much bigger now.

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Magi is growing like a weed. He weighs almost 5 pounds. We had him to the vet for his shots last week, and he is good to go for a year. What a great little guy!

 

So, we had a little excitement over the weekend. Mike decided to have a couple of trees removed. One was hanging over the garage roof, and another one in front was hanging over our neighbor’s driveway and aiming at his house. Here is a picture of the worker up in the tree:

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This was a river birch that Mike had planted when they moved in 36 years ago. I think you can see where they already removed one trunk. This is what it looked like after the tree was cut down:

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Judy has wanted a pink dogwood, and now we have a nice spot for it. We will probably wait until spring to plant it. There might be room for two dogwoods.

A friend of Mike’s just called. He is sober 3 years today, a wonderful thing, and a cause for grateful celebration. I hope all of you have good things in your lives to celebrate as well. We are all certainly dealing with enough difficulties at this time; but things will improve. We even had a Zoom crash today, probably due to the increased use due to the start of school around the country.

Well, by all means stay healthy. Pray for world peace, be kind to everyone, wash your hands, and mask up. The more diligent we are about public health measures the sooner this mess will be over, and we will save lives. We have passed 5,000 deaths in Georgia, 175,000 nationally, and would like to put the brakes on. We love you all, and until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.

What a Week!

So, hello again from Happy Meadows. Not much has happened here or elsewhere, unless you want to consider: a 300 pound male black bear was captured recently a mile from our house and hauled off to north Georgia  where, we hope, he will be much happier; international cat day has come and gone; Joe Biden has picked Kamala Harris to be his Vice-Presidential running mate; the pandemic is pressuring decisions on school opening and on fall sports competitions; an explosion of unbelievable proportions took place in Beirut; and on and on. What a week, what a year!

Across the street today some tree trimming went on, during or after which our mailbox got thumped. Mike went out to look at it, and found a little frog had insinuated himself between the box and the support, his little throat vibrating like mad. Mike says he won’t fix the box until Gerald leaves voluntarily. (All our frogs are named Gerald, for some reason, and once you name a frog you have to treat it like family.) Here he is:

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Magi has seemingly doubled in size since he came to live with us almost a month ago. He and Jackson have been helping Mike read, which they have found exhausting as evidenced by this photo:

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He is a great little guy who loves to aggravate his siblings with games of chase and bite. We all tolerate it okay, that is, all of us but Ladybug. Yesterday Mike and I were in the living room when we heard a screech like the sound a cat makes when a 250 pound man accidentally steps on its foot, and Magi tore into the living room and hid under the couch. I didn’t think he was ever going to come out, but Mike got down on the floor and talked him out from under. There is a limit to what Ladybug will tolerate, and he will learn that limit, of that I am sure.

The hummingbirds have been at our feeder a lot lately. Mike got a few pictures. Here is the best one:

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So, we hope you are as well as you can possibly be. Please stay safe, wear your masks, wash your hands, pray for the world, and enjoy the beauty all around us. Until next time, remember that we love you all. So long from Happy Meadows.

Magi – Out and About

So, Magi has been cleared to mingle with the rest of us cats, and he has been having a ball. He and Jackson love to chase each other around the house. When he first came out of his room Ladybug disappeared for a day. None of us knew where she was. She is starting to get over it, but hisses at Magi if he gets too close to her. Shayna Maidel still isn’t sure what to think of him, and thus far has shown no inclination to either play with him or to avoid him. Me, I think he is great! Here are a couple of pictures:

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As you can see, he is adorable, and he loves his toy dragonfly. And speaking of bugs, look at what we encountered on a walk this past week.

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It is a Robinson’s annual cicada, the common cicada that serenades us on these hot summer days with its love song.

So, with a big election coming up it is a good time to talk about what Mike says is the biggest weapon in the armamentarium of those who want to preserve the status quo. The weapon is voter suppression. This takes many pernicious forms, some of which go back hundreds of years, and some are of recent origin.

The newest game in town is the crippling of the United States Postal Service (USPS). The post office has been under duress for years. Some of the challenges have been the advent of electronic communication platforms and the competition of private companies in package delivery. Added to that was the law passed by Congress in 2006 which requires the postal service to fund the pension fund of every employee going forward 75 years. This ties up revenue unreasonably, it seems to me, and puts the USPS at a competitive disadvantage. The post office receives no government funding, relying entirely on revenues derived from the services it provides. But it can’t really run like a business, because it can’t set its own rates. Congress does that for them. In 2020, the post office has been hammered by the COVID pandemic. The workers are considered essential, so they have had more virus exposure than people who get to work from home. Tens of thousands have had to quarantine because of exposure to known COVID cases, which has slowed production because of the resultant understaffing.  And who knows how many have died since the beginning of the year? This has placed an increased burden on the timely delivery of the mail.

In this setting, we have a president who is determined to be re-elected by whatever means necessary. He believes that voting by mail will decrease his chances, and has been attacking absentee voting all year with his statements. He says that it is vulnerable to massive fraud, which has not been the experience of those jurisdictions where voting by mail is the norm. Congress authorized 10 billion dollars in emergency COVID funding for the USPS, but the money has not been released by the Treasury Department, which is demanding control over the USPS operations. Another loan of 25 billion has been passed by the US House of Representatives, but is being held up by the Republican controlled Senate.  Very recently a major donor to the Trump campaign, Mr. Louis DeJoy, was appointed Postmaster General. He has instituted changes designed to slow the delivery of the mail, such as not allowing overtime to workers. Mail delivery has been limited to once per day. Donald Trump has attacked the USPS, calling it “a joke.” He is calling for a 400 per cent increase in rates for package deliveries, which if instituted would accelerate the financial problems of the institution as more package delivery would be diverted to private carriers. And right now package delivery is the only postal service that doesn’t lose money.

All these moves, and more, are designed to cripple the post office which could be broke by October, and to severely impact voters who depend on the mail to vote. For example, many poor people, much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, may be unable to get off work in order to vote. Even if they could get an hour off, say for lunch, long lines would make it impossible to vote, as polling places have been drastically reduced in number in many states, especially in minority neighborhoods. Many potential voters are burdened by lack of access to child care, lack of transportation to polling sites, or are elderly or disabled. This kind of maneuvering in order to win an election is unconscionable, but not surprising. Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey has said, “Attacks on the USPS threaten our economy and the jobs of 600,000 workers. With our states now reliant on mail voting to continue elections during the pandemic, the destabilizing of the post office is a direct attack on democracy itself.” Mike thinks he will be able to vote by mail this year. but if the issue is in doubt, even though his doctor has warned him to remain quarantined until he is vaccinated against COVID-19, he will vote in person. Mike says he loves his country enough that he would absolutely risk his life to cast a vote against Donald Trump. Mike was just reading the Tao Te Ching, a translation by Stephen Mitchell. Poem #18 says, in part, “When the country falls into chaos, patriotism is born.” Still as true today as it was 2500 years ago, give or take, and still a good thing.

Happy birthday to Medicare which just turned 55 on July 30. Medicare is a good example of something which was vigorously opposed by many when it was being debated, (mostly by those who are opposed to government control of much of anything)  but which has come to be highly valued by many people and institutions (such as the AMA) which originally fought its enactment into law.  It is kind of like white and black people in the South drinking from the same water fountain and thinking nothing of it. There must be a lesson in this.

We should find out this week who Presidential candidate Joe Biden is going to pick to be his running mate. Donald is getting so nervous that he suggested postponing the election. It should be an interesting time, and as the Chinese are said to wish upon their enemies, “May you live in interesting times.” I have a lot more to say about voter suppression, so stay tuned for my next blog. Until then stay safe, wear your mask, wash your hands, pray for your socially distant neighbors, practice the Golden Rule, and be nice to your cats and dogs. And speaking of dogs, some of our Happy Meadows dog owners are leaving little plastic bags of dog poo lying around instead of properly disposing of them. Come on now, you know who you are. How about starting to live a better life by going back out and picking up your little treasure’s little treasures? Thanks a heap, so to speak. We love you all. Bye bye!

Magi is Home, Stinkbug No Longer

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So, with mixed feelings I report that Magi, aka Stinkbug, came to live with us last week. He really is a cute little guy. He has been isolated in a spare bedroom because of a cold and an eye infection. We took him to the Extreme Vet yesterday and got some medication for him. He stays isolated until another Vet visit next week. But he seems happy, friendly, active, and he eats well. That is Magi at the top of the page. Adorable, I must admit. My lack of total enthusiasm about him is strictly my own self-centeredness, for I no longer am the only black cat.

It has been another wildlife week here in Happy Meadows. A few days ago we went for a walk and encountered a big snapping turtle. He was over 20 pounds, for sure. I went up and sniffed at him and he hissed at me. So I hissed back at him as I backed away, happy to give him all the room he needed. This is what he looked like.

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And this morning as Mike and I were out for our walk down Happy Meadows Trace a Marietta Police car pulled up and stopped. The officer said he wanted us to know that a black bear had been seen in the vicinity. When we got home Mike told Judy who checked the internet and found out that the bear was seen at a park less than a 1/2 mile from where we had walked this morning. How cool is that! If he comes by maybe I could hiss at him too! Or maybe not.

In other news, I suppose you have all heard that John Lewis died a few days ago at age 80. He was one of Mike’s heroes. Representative Lewis was immensely courageous as he fought for the rights of the underprivileged all of his life. He was relentless and outspoken. He was arrested over 40 times as he practiced civil disobedience as a non-violent tactic for change. He called this getting into “Good Trouble.” He had little regard for material gain, living as he did by the guiding principle in life of “love your neighbor.” Far less famous but equally highly respected in Atlanta civil rights circles was Rev. C. T. Vivian who died the same day at age 95. He was well known for his education and for his extensive library, and was regarded as the “intellectual” of the core group of civil rights leaders. There has been an enormous outpouring of love for both of them since their passing. They both earned the love and respect of everyone whose lives they affected. Representative Lewis was known as the “Conscience of the Congress” as he always took the position of what was right, not what was expedient or advantageous for him personally. He had the advantage of not having to worry about the next election, as so many of his colleagues in Congress seem to do. Mike says if our elected officials worried less about their re-election and more about doing the people’s business we would all be a lot better off. Not one of them would have any trouble getting a good job if they lost an election. And while I am on this topic, Mike wants me to say that he thinks there should be term limits in Congress just like for the presidency. He suggests 2 terms in the Senate and 5 or 6 terms in the House of Representatives. This would avoid the problem of people gaining too much power, never a good thing.

So, we continue to be under siege by the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 infection. There has been tremendous resistance from too many people to the public health measures recommended by our leading scientists, and the whole issue has been politicized. Since it is a new infection, we are only learning about the illness and the behavior of the virus in real time. Clearly, it is a novel infection. Mike follows the medical information fairly well from his quarantined office here in Happy Meadows. It is starting to look like many survivors of infections may have long term neurological, cardiac, and pulmonary consequences. And although the elderly and infirm are more susceptible to severe illness and death, young people are not immune. There was an article in today’s paper about Kyle Gregory, a 24 year old man who played high school football near here and got an engineering degree at Georgia Southern. He died of COVID-19 a couple of days ago. Please say a prayer for him and his family. While you are at it, say prayers for the over 140,000 Americans who have already died from this disease, and for their families. We can disagree about a lot of things, but 140,000 dead people is not fake news.

I hope you are all taking good care of yourselves, and not putting yourselves in harm’s way. You will hear from me again soon. Until then please wash your hands, wear your mask, keep a safe distance from others, be kind to everyone, and pray for world peace. I love you all. So long from Happy Meadows.

Still Stinkbug

So, we finally have summer weather here in Happy Meadows. Mike isn’t taking his afternoon walk, but some days he goes out to do yard work, which he enjoys very much. I hope wherever you are the heat isn’t getting to you. Mike said he saw in the paper where the high temperature in Baghdad was 118 degrees. Mike, Judy, and Michelle were in Palm Springs one day in June a couple of years ago when it got that hot. The low temperature that night was 99. I guess you get used to whatever you have to.

There is a lot of news about the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) these days. For one thing, Senator Kelly Loeffler from Georgia is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team. She was appointed to the senate by Governor Brian Kemp a few months ago when Senator Johnny Isakson retired due to poor health. She had no experience in government or public service, but Kemp was looking for a woman who he hoped could appeal to suburban women voters who the party seems to be losing favor with for reasons that should be obvious. Her background is in business, and of course, she is a Republican. The other appeal to the Governor was that she agreed to spend 20 million dollars of her own money on her campaign for reelection this November. Thus far Mike thinks she is a lightweight who can’t do much more than say she supports President Trump. She has come out against players wearing a Black Lives Matter hashtag on their uniforms.  As I’m sure you all are aware, the National Football League (NFL) has done a 180 about players using their platform to express concerns about social and racial injustice. Loeffler objects to players using the #BlackLivesMatter on the uniforms, advocating instead for the American flag. She has said that the flag is a unifying symbol which is what we need in our country right now. And of course, she stands with the Great Divider-in-Chief out of the other side of her mouth. While the flag is a worthy symbol to get behind, it seems to Mike to hearken back to the “America. Love It or Leave It” mantra of the sixties. She is substituting a revered symbol to avoid dealing with current social issues; or so it seems to Mike.

On the other hand, let’s not be confused about Black Lives Matter. As a hashtag it is kickass. As a concept it calls attention to the danger that black men are in from police officers who have killed a great many black men who didn’t need to be killed. As an organization, it is another story. Mike suggests that you investigate their political agenda to make sure you can support it before you start sending them kudos or money.

The sports page these days is radically different from what one would normally expect. I’m sure today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution had more about political action and social issues by sports figures and organizations than it did about on-field action. Of course, there is very little on-field action to report. And I never expected to see both Adolph Hitler and Louis Farrakhan both mentioned in the sports page at the same time (let alone at all), but today was the day.

But getting back to the WNBA, players are demonstrating not only a strong social conscience, but also are taking action. Atlanta Dream player Renee Montgomery announced last month that she is taking a year off from basketball to work for social justice. She said her decision was made when she learned of the murder of George Floyd. Two weeks later Dream player Tiffany Hayes said she was also taking a year away from basketball to devote herself to social action. Their role model in this was Minnesota Lynx  player Maya Moore who stepped away from basketball early in 2019 to focus on criminal justice reform. She was primarily motivated to work on the case of  Jonathan Irons who was released July 1 from a Missouri prison after his conviction on assault and burglary charges was overturned. He had served 23 years of a 50 year sentence. His case was an outrageous example of the way the criminal justice system has disgraced itself in the treatment of blacks. Irons was 16 at the time of the crime that he was accused of committing, but he was tried as an adult. The prosecution claimed he confessed, which he has always denied. The officer who testified to his confession interviewed him alone,  took no notes, and made no recording of the interview. There were no corroborating witnesses or physical evidence to connect him to the crime. Furthermore, fingerprint evidence which could have cast doubt on his guilt was withheld from the defense. In another case. Johnny Lee Gates was released from a Georgia prison on May 15 after spending 43 years incarcerated for crimes that he did not commit. He was convicted in 1977 of armed robbery, rape, and murder in Columbus, Georgia. He was cleared by DNA evidence from the crime scene.

You may wonder how many people are incarcerated, some on death row, for crimes they did not commit. Of course, most incarcerated felons will proclaim their innocence. Thanks to DNA testing, we are now able to further investigate such claims. According to the Innocence Project, since 1989 in the USA 367 people have been exonerated of crimes in a total of 37 states. Of these the average time served was 14 years. Twenty-one had been convicted of a capital crime and had been on death row. Of the 367 convictions, 41 people had confessed. It is well-known that confessions are extracted under threat of conviction of a more serious crime or more time in prison. This happens to poor people who can’t afford a good lawyer. Remarkably, 69% of the convictions were based on a witness misidentifying the individual who was convicted. (In this regard, it is interesting that Jewish law requires 2 witnesses to testify against someone to get a conviction of a crime.) While these individuals sat in prison, the actual perpetrators of the crimes committed additional crimes. Of the 162 perpetrators who could be identified, they were convicted of 152 additional violent crimes including 35 murders and 82 sexual assaults. Of the 367 people who were wrongfully convicted, 225 were African Americans, 61% of the total. Mike had an eye-opening conversation with a detective in Madison, Wisconsin years ago. It was about an unsolved murder that occurred in Madison in the late 1960s. The detective told Mike that he had 3 prime suspects in the case, but could never quite put enough together to make a charge that they could get a conviction on. What was interesting, and disturbing, was that it was clear that it didn’t matter to the detective if they had the right guy or not. He just wanted a conviction to close the case, and would have been happy to pin it on any one of them.

So, we just got back from a trip to Good Mews to pick up little Stinkbug (Magi will be his name once he gets home.) Since yesterday he has developed conjunctivitis, so we left him there to be treated and cleared by their Extreme Vet. They offered us the opportunity to take a different cat. They are covered up with adorable black kittens right now. But Magi (Stinkbug) has stolen our hearts, so we will wait until the stars line up and he can come to his forever (ours) home. I will post more pictures when he gets home. Until then, don’t forget to wash your hands, mask up, keep a safe distance, pray for world peace, and be kind to your neighbors, and to their dogs and cats. You will hear from me again soon, but until then, so long from Happy Meadows.

Magi

So, it has been a few days. Mike is on a reading tear and not as available to help me with my blog. But we have something so newsworthy, that I was able to shake him loose from his latest book. He is reading up on mythology and spirituality, and who knows what else he will get into. He especially liked a book by Barbara Brown Taylor called “Holy Envy.” It is about learning to appreciate the best in other people’s religions. Of course, if you really want the inside scoop, ask a cat. As Eckhard Tolle said, “I have had many zen masters, all of them cats.”

The big news is we are getting a new kitten, a little fellow from Good Mews where Judy is a volunteer. They call him Stinkbug, but we are going to call him Magi; actually, Magi Stinkbug Gordon. The people will call him Magi, but the cats will probably call him Stinky. This is what he looks like:

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Adorable, eh? It’s about time we got another black cat. He needs to be cleared by the Extreme Vet there before we can bring him home. Very exciting stuff, although the other 3 cats act like they couldn’t be less interested. They will perk up when Magi progresses from a potential cat to a real cat. I will keep you posted.

There remains a high level of polarization in our country, although you couldn’t really tell just by hanging out in Happy Meadows. It is as though a major segment of society has just awakened to the fact that black people continue to be mistreated in various and significant ways. And it is not just that there has been a new awareness, but that lots of people seem to care about it and want things to be set right. There will be significant push back by people wanting to preserve white privilege. Mike heard Brooke Gladstone on the radio the other day make the point that many of the poor white people in our country are trying to defend a white privilege that they don’t even get to benefit from. Interesting. As a black cat, just let me say that both from a study of history, and my personal experience, you don’t get treated the same. For me this is just a challenge, part of my life; but for others, 2-legged and 4- legged alike, things could improve. And it is not just black people. The treatment of Native Americans continues to be a national disgrace. As an example, Native Americans are disrespected in ways that other groups would not tolerate. If the Washington Redskins had been the Washington Kikes, the name would have been changed years ago. It does seem that the owner is going to finally yield to pressure that has never been there before. It will be interesting to see what happens.

So, the COVID-19 virus has not melted away in the hot weather like the Divider-in-Chief said it would. We have now surpassed 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths worldwide. Things are getting out of control, and if people don’t start masking and distancing, a lot more people are going to die. Get smart, y’all, the situation is nearing critical. A lot of people, Mike included, don’t like to be told what they can’t do or have to do, but if everyone just decided to be considerate of the common welfare we all would be safer. After all, a lot of people don’t like the idea of having to have driver’s licences, buy car insurance, wear seat belts, or pay taxes, but they do it anyway. We do have to concede that being a member of society confers certain obligations.

This would be a good time to celebrate the passage and the signing into law of the hate crimes bill in Georgia. It was passed as a bipartisan effort, and signed by a Republican Governor, although he never took a public stance on whether he was in favor of it or not. It included the LGTBQ community, which had been the roadblock for the past 16 years since the Georgia Supreme Court knocked down the hate crimes bill passed in 2000 as “unconstitutionally vague.” It’s about time, and ironically, would not have passed if not for the coronavirus pandemic. The Georgia legislature shut down along with the rest of the state in March, April, and May, during which time Armaud Aubury was murdered in Brunswick in what was an obvious targeting because he was black. Then George Floyd was murdered in Mike’s home town of Minneapolis, and suddenly Black Lives Matter mattered. So, when the legislature reconvened in June the hate crimes bill had strong bipartisan support that it did not have had in March, and Georgia no longer has the disgrace of being 1 or only 4 states in the country without such a statute. Who are the others, you ask? they are Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming. Some people also count Indiana, whose statute some say is very weak.

And let’s not fail to wish a big happy birthday to the USA, still a great country and a great place to live. The bombs were bursting in air the other night as people were having a good time and letting off some steam. Some of my dog pals were terrified, which is unfortunate, but they are okay now.

So, before I leave, may I encourage everyone to mask up. If we don’t the coronavirus will go on a feeding frenzy that everyone will regret, liberals, conservatives, and don’t-give-a-craps alike. Please, please, please, and thank you. And there are advantages to wearing a mask. As Jim Galloway pointed out in his column in the AJC yesterday, while wearing a mask our good Georgia Baptists will be able to go into liquor stores unrecognized. And on a more serious note, in a stroke of unexpected (by me) genius, Georgia Governor Kemp warned that if everyone doesn’t mask up and stay that way, there will be no college football this fall. If that doesn’t stimulate behavior change nothing will. Until then don’t forget to love your neighbor, pray for world peace, and extend a helping hand wherever possible. We love you all, and hope your favorite team wins. So long from Happy Meadows!

 

A Sampling of Craziness

So, a lot is going on here in Happy Meadows, and elsewhere in Atlanta, in Georgia, and around the world. Here is a sampling.

Yesterday was Juneteenth, which I suppose now everybody knows about, thanks to our fearless leader who said it is he who made it famous. He said that until he scheduled his rally in Tulsa for that date, nobody know about it. The nobody he referred to, specifically, was the few people he has left in the white House who advise him or assist him in his leaderly activities. But maybe he thinks this group is representative of the larger group of nobodies we have in this country, you and I included.  Remarkably, he says that he has done more for black people (not to mention black cats) than any other president, I suppose, excluding Abe Lincoln.

And speaking of Donald, John Bolton’s book has been reviewed by the press, and will be released next week. In the book he tells what are alleged to be more dirty secrets about life in the White House. And he criticized the Dems for not expanding their charges in the impeachment proceeding. Of course, he refused to testify, saying the Dems would have to subpoena him, which would have rendered the whole process moot due to the length of time it would have taken to get him to testify. What it seems he was doing was protecting the 2 million dollar income he will get for his book, a better deal for him than giving it to Congress for nothing. But maybe I am too cynical.

And speaking of Tulsa, where Trump’s rally occurs today, what a lot of people will learn about that was never taught in their US History classes is the massacre that occurred there in 1921, during which an entire black community was destroyed in a fire set by a white mob, and 300 people were murdered. Thank you Donald for exposing this ugly bit of real history. This event is not entirely unrelated to the remarkable revival of the Black Lives Matter movement, in that it addresses the failure of black people to experience protection of persons and property by local police. Hopefully, there will be enough momentum generated that real change will take place in achieving equality for all Americans. Michelle had some good exposure this week, both in an interview on Fox News, and her being quoted in an article published in Facing South written by Rolando Zenteno about monuments to Confederate leaders. Go you Michelle!

Mike ran across some figures that I will share. COVID-19 isn’t the only health problem people should be concerned about. People are avoiding going to the ER when they are ill, so that by the time they or a loved one call for help, it can be too late. In New York City between March 1 and April 25, 2020, there were 3989 instances in which a patient needed rescussitation from the EMTs on a 911 call. The number of cases for the same period the prior year, 2019, was 1336. This is an almost 300% increase. Furthermore, of the 3989 people only 10.6% were successfully revived, as opposed to 25.7% of the cases from the previous year. The logical conclusion to reach from this is that people are waiting too long to ask for help when they are sick, because they are afraid to go to the hospital. Actually a hospital is one of the safer places to go because of the infectious disease precautions they have put in place. Compare a hospital to a large public gathering, such as a protest march or a Trump rally, in which people are jammed together, and many or most people are not wearing masks. Mike thinks we are in for an increase in COVID-19 cases, not a decrease as many predicted and all have wished for.

And, do you remember all the talk about the opioid epidemic? Well, it seems to not have gone away. You may not know that heroin is rapidly being supplanted on the streets in many cities by fentanyl, which is cheaper to make and more potent and deadly. Well, look out fentanyl, you have competition. Those clever chemists from China have synthesized a new drug, isotonitazene (“iso”), which is now causing 40-50 overdose deaths per month in this country, as opposed to about 6 per month last summer. Since it is a new drug, it has yet to be listed by the DEA as illegal. It is a derivative of etionitazene, which is illegal. As long as there is no way of banning entire classes of drugs the government will never catch up with the chemists.  And here is another disturbing fact about opioid overdoses. Of all the patients who come to an emergency department with an accidental opioid overdose, and who are revived, 5 per cent will die within the following year. Most of the deaths are from another opioid overdose; and many occur within the next 2-3 days. Unfortunately, the treatment offered upon leaving the emergency department is often nothing more than a recommendation to seek help at a community health clinic, and to attend 12-step meetings. Without a direct and immediate institution of intensive treatment, including what is referred to as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), relapse is almost inevitable.

In the schizophrenic world in which we live two events have occurred within the past week. First, the US Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can’t fire a person solely on the basis of being gay or transgender. At almost the same time, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights issued a rule that removed protections that had banned health care providers and health plans from discriminating against LGBTQ patients, women, and others. The American Medical Association’s new president, Dr. Susan Bailey, issued the following statement: “The federal government should never make it more difficult for individuals to access health care—during a pandemic or any other time.”

And, on another topic that nobody has ever heard of, did you know that esports is rapidly growing in popularity? Esports is watching other people play video games via a streaming platform, such as Twitch. The estimated worldwide audience in 2018 was 380 million people. Betting on esports is expected to reach 10 billion dollars this year. What?

So, I know I am a broken record, but it is another beautiful day here in Happy Meadows. I hope it is equally lovely wherever you are as well. Tomorrow is another Hallmark holiday, Father’s Day. Happy F.D., y’all. Michelle is coming over, and Judy is making chili and cornbread. The cats will get our usual kibble, and a wet food treat in the evening. It will be some kind of fish, no doubt. We were offered some beef and chicken pate this past week, which Shayna Maidel lapped up like mad, only to throw it up all over everything a few minutes later. The rest of us were only too glad to let her have it all, and after cleaning up after her, Mike put the rest of the can down the grinder. Luckily, Judy only bought the one can. We hope you are well, happy, and at peace. Stay safe, love your neighbor, and pray for world peace, por favor. We love you all.