Saturday, April 29, 2006

Big Brother is watching you: From 35 to 3501



Does it worry anyone else to hear, "The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate."

Source: FBI secretly sought data on 3,501 people in ’05: Agency ramped up use of approach that requires no court approval

(For context, between November 2003 and April 2005 there were only 35. That's a 1000% increase. Ten times more. That's a lot. And I'm left wondering...why?)

NSLs---for you non-security sorts---are National Security Letters.

Just the very name sends me into SS shudders.

NSLs allow the executive branch (and whoever else their secret groups allow---or the entire nation should Bush and Cheney decide to allow some patsy to leak secret, confidential information to the tabloids...err, newspapers) to see just exactly what you are up to, via your bank, financial, telephone, Internet and heck, just about anything they can tap into to track you. (Imagine some Feeb sitting there reviewing your grocery purchases. Fun!) Without a court order. Without your knowledge. Therefore, without your ability to prepare or defend yourself. Or (my favorite part) ability to face your accuser and the accusations/suspicions against you.

Hey listen...at least they aren't spying on your library records. Yet. But they can.

And they are spying on businesses. 155 warrants through a secret court to examne business records.

This disclosure is required by the Patriot Act (another name that gives me the Pledge Loyalty or DIE DIE DIE! shudders) and is the first time the Bush Administration has admitted how frequently they are spying on their citizens.

Let me say that again: SPYING on CITIZENS

If you aren't shuddering, if you are mentally defending the practice, well, feel free to leave a comment, but make it respectful and intelligent. I realize those conditions tie your hands. Such is life.

The main counterpoint I hear is, "If you haven't got anything to be ashamed of, then you shouldn't worry."

Bullshit.

We all have things we are ashamed of. We all have a right to privacy and protection of our rights under that document currently being used as toilet paper by our current administration: the Constituition.

The court order process---due process, due diligence---is there for a reason.

For those of you who snoozed through your civics classes---and I have begun believing there are an awful lot of you---let me define due process, and cite the 5th and 14th Amednmenments...actually, let me let wikipedia do it:

The Fifth Amendment contains a guarantee of basic due process applicable only to actions of the federal government: "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." The Fourteenth Amendment contains the same phrase, but expressly applied to the States. The Supreme Court has interpreted the two clauses identically, so under the federal Constitution, there is no substantial difference in protection from federal or State action. However, State constitutions also have their own guarantees of due process that may, by their own terms or by the interpretation of that State's judiciary, extend even more protection to individuals than under federal law.


What if the commission of a crime unrelated to any sort of homeland security issue is uncovered in this NSL sweep?

That crime is at risk of failed (or no) prosecution because due process was violated.

If it isn't, it ought to be.

Due process and civil liberaties are the hallmark of this democratic nation.

If you are ready to simply throw that away well...

You know? Frequently in response to my criticisms of the hubristic high-handed MO of the Bush Administration, people tell me I am free to leave the country.

How about: if you don't like FREEDOM, I know some super sweet areas of Africa and the Middle East that are FABULOUS for you.

I happen to love the freedoms and protections at the heart of the US. I'm sickened to see them abused, misused and tossed aside. No good will come from it.

I don't see a lot of terrorists caught...do you?

What I do see are security agencies who are blinded by a quest for vengeance and self-justification for existence and the broad, ungoverned rights they continue to seize.

And I still shudder, and wonder why, why a 1000% increase?

And just where is this going?

Hey on the bright side, judges will get more time off and legal defense costs will drop dramatically. Of course, we'll need more land and funding for all of the people jailed, without benefit of a fair trial. People sitting there, much like some of those in Guantanamo, who don't know why they are being detained (my favorite euphemism for jailed without due process or fair trial for as long as the jailers want) and have no access to any legal assistance.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Very Bad Queen



I never actually watch live TV. It's all TiVO. So today, I was two weeks behind on American Idol. I watched the Queen Theme episode.

It's possible that the performances were okay.

From where I sat it was an utter disaster. I think Katharine McPhee has a lovely voice but I cringed all the way through her rendition of "Who Wants to Live Forever." I did thank whatever common sense gods convinced Taylor to not sing "We Are the Champions."

I admit, I haven't heard any of the covers of Queen out there on the tribute albums, and I have even avoided Sarah Brightman singing "Who Wants to Live Forever," although with her classical training and performance experience I imagine she gets it a little better than the average singer.

Queen is not simply a band, and Freddie Mercury is not simply a singer. They are not simply rock stars. Or were, in the case of Freddie Mercury. They were much more performers. Their music more rock opera in most cases than just rock. Freddie Mercury had an unbelievably versatile voice (four octaves) and successful grasp of multiple genres and styles of music (sometimes in the same song, LOL).

To ask Idol contestants to step out and simply sing this music is, well, a special sort of hubris. This is not music to just sing.

That said, I humbly request that American Idol not dip into the rock royalty again.

No more Queen, and while at it, no Prince either. Stick with genres, not artists who are a genre unto themselves.

I do suggest the 007 theme episode. All singers can sing title songs from any James Bond film. How about that?

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Good luck, Gardenia


The gardenias---lovely, secret love, joy, sweet love, good luck---grow next to the oleanders---caution---in my garden. They aren't overshadowed by the periwinkles---friendship---which grow in colorful profusion around the door we most often come in and out. The pansies are right next to them, an unintended reflection that we often think of friendship, first.

I would like to add in some peonies, but I'm not sure how to juxtapose bashfulness, shame, happy life, happy marriage, good health, and prosperity. Would they work best in front of gardenias? "Good luck, happy life, and much joy in marriage, good health and prosperity to you."

We hide the hibiscus in the back. The plumeria covers the ground next to it, and past that, more oleanders, pink and white.

The color is a random contrast of bright red, soft yet bright blue and pink and white.

They do more than look pretty; they speak beautifully too. The sentence the flowers write is, "Delicate beauty, I miss you, with caution and reserve."

Directly across the garden, my lavender heather---admiration, solitude, beauty---fans above and around the fern (sincerity, magic, fascination, confidence, shelter).

I suppose I ought to plant poppies, a real money tree (no pun intended). Instead, I plan for hydrangeas, secretly stocking coffee grounds to force my preferred color, which will either bring me understanding, or heartlessness.

I want a sea of iris...a charm bracelet of faith, hope, wisdom, compliments, passion and purity. And honeysuckle---love trap---protectively blanketing the back fence so love stays within.

And an ocean of roses. Burgundy for beauty; lavender for enchantment; my favorite peach for gratitude, apprecation, admiration, sympathy; pink and yellow for happiness; and white for the spirit.

My husband wants to once again plant clematis, the clever and intelleuctual vining flower. And I suppose we should, quickly.

For fun, a lemon tree. And maybe a cactus. By the kitchen window, plant rosemary and sage, although as my girls grow older, perhaps it is best to put that in pots in their rooms for some purity and virtue. ;)

No matter what, there is always the dandelion...faithful, happy, love's oracle.

To you, perhaps, just a yard, maybe a little hectic, overgrown. To me, an amulet, a poem, art, a secret...I surround myself with my flowers and garden. Visually appealing, emotionally and intellectually bolstering.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Little sacrifices...and bigger ones...every day...



I heard a statement the other day, and it was one of those "WOW light bulb oooh resonates" moments.

The statement was, "There was no good choice in the moment. There were too many factors, too many things you couldn't know or control. You had to make a choice. And you did. But there was no good choice; every choice involved a sacrifice."

Nobody needs to tell me that life requires a tremendous amount of balance and compromise. I'm not talking about balance and compromise.

I'm talking about sacrifice.

Not Sophie's Choice level.

But intense at times, less so at others, but all around, more a feeling of sacrifice than compromise. A feeling that there is no schedule juggling "this at 1:00, that at 2:00, everyone gets a turn and it all works out with a little balance and compromise." A feeling that it all must be in this moment, now, and you can't do it all so you have to choose, sacrifice.

Do you know what I mean...at all?

The first person I bounced it off of was nodding before I even finished my thought.

I'm just curious how many people it resonates with.

I can feel that this isn't a fully formed thought, so not perfectly clear. I haven't yet completely wrapped my mind around it. All I know is I suspect it is a stress-trauma mindset, and a terrible trap/state. And there must be a workaround.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

In her mind...in her eyes...in her words...



What does this face say to you?

Here's what this face, regularly, says to me:

Her: You're a mean girl.

Me: How so?

Her: You. Just. Are.

Me...raised eyebrows.

Her: A MEAN MEAN girl.

Me: Is this about the chocolate? Is this about me not letting you eat the chocolate for lunch?

Her: HUMPH!

Me: Or maybe it's the new toy. I said I was not going to go to the store and get a new toy for you today.

Her...jaw juts out, bottom lip hardens.

Me: Or maybe it's because I told you to clean up your toys.

Her: MEAN!

Me..arms waving: Someone call CPS, vicious mom, cruel parenting, abuse abuse! A mother making her child clean up her toys! Unheard of!

Her: It's too much for me. I'm too tired.

Me: Maybe we need to take away the toys, maybe you have too many. Point out the ones you want to keep and I'll put away the rest.

Her: Moooooooommmmmm, I don't like those words! You're a rude mean girl!

Me: Toys need to be put away.

Her: I will...in a minute...I'm playing now.

Me: A minute ago you were too tired to clean up. You're too tired to clean, you're too tired to play.

Her: I. Don't. Like. Those. Words!!!!

Me...

Her: If you don't help me clean up then I will...I will...I will take away this toy now!

Me: Okay. Want me to take it away?

Her...

Me...

Her: NO! This is my toy! I can't play ever again. You said I can't play ever again.

Me: I said you need to clean up these toys here before going on to play something else.

Her...more of the same

Me: Clean. Up. Now.

Her...more arguing, bargaining, threatening.

Me: Clean. Up. Now.

And how does it end? With a garbage bag of toys, as usual.

I'm so looking forward to the teen years. Ought to be a lot of fun. Really.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Dumbest Question in the World, Bar None, Hands Down, Ever

Okay perhaps that is a slight exagerration.

There are--despite rumors, assertions, and validation to the contrary---an awful lot of stupid questions.

"Do you support Bush?"

That's a good example.

But in this case, potshots aside, I'm talking about myself.

Hands down, the dumbest things I've ever said have come in the course of Parenting.

Let's set the scene.

Picture me speaking to a cute little kid who happens to be my daughter. If you have trouble visualizing, use the cartoons below, last entry. It's pretty cartoonish when this happens, and I often have Looney Tunes going through my head anyway (in these cases) so it works well.

Now you, you look at this kid and this one case and you think, awww chill out lady, she's basically a good kid. Why the mottled spit in the corner of your mouth, the flashing eyes, the horns erupting from your skull (although, it does add a nice bit of volume to your hair)? Break it down, understand, figure out why, and redirect positively.

Okay Ms. Mazlisch, you come live with my kids for a week. We'll see how positive and redirective you can be. I say that with a smirk, not a sneer. Honest.

What you need to understand is that my every day---times two since there are two of them now---is made up of moments and events that make babysitters and other parents run screaming in fear.

I'm not a lazy parent. My kids don't lack discipline. They aren't bad.

They are spirited.

Back in my day it was called precocious. (That, for the record, is my mother's favorite word to describe me as a child. You know, as a further aside, I swear I hear a lot of snickering going on when I rant to her about how my kids' goal is to drive me stark raving nutso---and while I am proud of them for being goal-oriented and so hmm tenacious when going after their goal,which they are often right close to achieving, perhaps, yes, perhaps, it would behoove them not to test my limit every 22.3 seconds.)

Does it even matter what the kids did? Do you even want to know about the impressively artistic and detailed new decoration added to my playroom wall? I mean, when did she find the time to make an entire, even row of little flowers with leaves, stems and colors all along the wall? And then...to add in terra and firma and sky-a (I made that one up) detail too?

It couldn't have been at night while I was sleeping. The grownups in this house don't do any of that monkey business, I assure you.

So the stupid question.

No...wait, the "The Dumbest Question in the World, Bar None, Hands Down, Ever."

We finally get to the point.

Here it comes...

"OH MY STARS, WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING??!?!?!?!?!!!"

This question reduces my normally verbose and eloquent child to saying, "Hummuhnuh hummuhnuh..."

I fall further down the rabbit hole, "I mean, come ON, you aren't STUPID, you know the rule is NO COLORING EXCEPT ON PAPER...why? Why would you do something like THIS?!?!?"

I hear you...you are thinking, evil mom, why would you crush your creative child's spirit in such a way? Trust me. This? Is time number 15 in the day. You missed the other 14 where I'd make even Dr. Sears proud with my handling.

The bottom line is...there is no answer to these questions. They are pointless. The only possible response is the truth: I don't know.

Because let's face it: they don't know.

I think Bill Cosby was right; the only insane person in the equation is the one expecting deductive reasoning and logic from a child.

(By the way, I still haven't regained those lost IQ points pregnancy and childbirth robbed from me, so do you happen to know whether I mean inductive reasoning? reductive reasoning? I better be off to wikipedia to check.)

In conclusion, why, seriously WHY would I ask such a dumb question?

You? Hug your children and be grateful people don't comment on their big personalities, level of required maintenance (high), or degree of busyness (very). If they do, a big hug of sisterhood from me.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Yeah...me on South Park...heh heh heh heh

So this is me...if I were on South Park. Too funny.



My daughter did one too. This is her:



I must find a way to use this. I might have a new what-do-you-call-it. The thingie next to my name.

I'm having way too much fun on this site: South Park Studio.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.