Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Woman's War

A single mom who is an Army cook may face criminal charges after refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because she has no one to care for her infant son while she serves a year overseas. The Army requires all single-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for dependent children before they deploy to a combat zone, and Spc. Alexis Hutchinson had arranged for her mother to mind her 10-month old son, but that plan fell through at the last minute. Her mother kept the child, Kamani, for two weeks but felt overwhelmed as she already cares for three other relatives with health problems and also runs a day care center for 14 children in her home. She returned him to his mother a few days before her scheduled deployment. Hutchinson, who is no longer in a relationship with the child's father, was ordered to deploy on schedule even though she told her commanders that she needed more time to find another family member or close friend to help her mother care for her son.

She claims that her superior told her she would have to place the child in foster care and deploy anyway. The young mother was afraid that if she showed up at the deployment terminal, she would be sent to Afghanistan and her son placed with Child Protective Services, so she went AWOL. She was arrested by military police for skipping her unit's flight and briefly jailed while her son was placed in custody on the Army post until her mother could pick him up and take him to her home in California.

Specialist Hutchinson remains confined to the boundaries of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. A spokesman for the airfield said that he didn't know what she was told by her commanders, but that the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child. If true, then her superior is a shockingly heartless person who has no business supervising others. Jailing a mother for refusing to abandon her child represents cruel and unusual punishment and should not be tolerated.

While our armed forces fight for our country and its lofty ideals, it is important to remember that every country is made up of individuals whose rights must be upheld or the entire system fails. A nation's people are the nation. Military law says that soldiers must go where they are sent, which becomes the old question of the law versus the letter of the law: Do we uphold a law exactly as it is written without regard for its meaning, or do we try to determine what the law was meant to accomplish? When we obey the letter of the law but not its spirit, we are obeying the literal interpretation of the words while betraying the intent of those who wrote it, and those who live under it.

It is meaningless for a soldier to fight for freedom when her own child is denied the basic right to be cared for by a person who loves him.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mother Ship Has Landed

Tossing orange peels, coffee grounds and grease-stained pizza boxes in the trash is now against the law in San Francisco, and could lead to a fine.

The nation's most comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law was put into effect last week. It requires all businesses, restaurants, and residences including apartment buildings to separate their garbage into three separate color-coded bins: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for trash. The purpose is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and send nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020. Food scraps, plant clippings and other organic materials that go into landfills take up costly space and decompose to form methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Seattle passed a law in 2003 requiring people to have a compost bin but, unlike San Francisco, it did not mandate that all food waste go in there.

Those who fail to properly sort their refuse will receive warnings which, if unheeded, will result in fines: $100 for individual residences and small businesses which generate less than a cubic yard of refuse per week, and $500 for larger businesses. I wonder who will be assigned the task of going through people's garbage to ensure that it is properly sorted. Maybe the Meter Nazis Parking Police could pursue second careers as trash investigators.

A June 2008 report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a group focused on environmentally sound community development, said a zero waste approach is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective ways to protect the climate. Garbage trucks take food scraps to the Organics Annex which is already processing about half of the city's food waste, more than 500 tons per day. The compost is then sold to Bay Area farms and vineyards.

"We hear a lot about climate change, and what we can do and should do, and what's happening in Congress," said Jared Blumenfeld, City Environmental Officer. "But people want to know what they can, practically, do every single day, and composting your food scraps is probably the single most effective thing you can do as a citizen in the United States today."

We have duly been issued our very own little composting bin which is a bit like a house pet because it's small, hungry, and hangs around the kitchen, although I haven't named it yet. The mother ship sits outside, waiting for all her babies to come home.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Die, Facebook, DIE

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Facebook? None of the buttons works. For weeks I have been unable to accept a friend request from my cousin, whom I adore, or to send one to her or anyone else. I have tried repeatedly to block a couple of people I do NOT adore and FB keeps deleting what I type and stating that I have not blocked anyone. I am not even able to access my own friends list. Plus, my page has been taken over by someone with the same last name who is not a relative, and who seems to be obsessed with a Mafia Wars game which does not interest me in the least. So then people who are his friends, presumably, but whom I do not know comment to his progress in the game and my page does not feel like mine at all. He's a nice guy, but I feel as if I'm hosting a video game convention, and I am a pinball person. (Tilting is everything.)

I have thought the whole concept of Facebook was puerile, stupid and shallow from the start, but several people urged me to give it another chance. So I tried to get help, and after typing in "Other" twice to convey that my problem was not covered in their list of possible issues, I got a box where I could write what my problem was, which I did. Then I tried to deactivate my account, but even this didn't work because they kept telling me to type a security code which never loaded. Evidently, I'm a lifer. Facebook is like the Crips, the Bloods, or Ikea. Once you get in, you can never get out. Please send in the rescue dogs, an airlift patrol, a SWAT team, several sherpas and John Wayne. If none of this is possible, I would appreciate chocolate.