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August 2009
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September 2009

Obama, the Olympics, and Gang Bangers

Right now, as we speak, two of Chicago's most prominent leaders, Michelle Obama and Oprah, are headed to Denmark to make arguments that they are hoping will bring the Olympics to their city. They will be joined by President Obama for a day long presentation. This morning I was getting my boy ready for school while the story about poor little honor student, Darrion Albert, played in the news. It is hard for me to understand how Oprah Winfrey, and the Obamas, can hop planes to attend such an elite gathering while this kind of mess is going on in the city they have had such an influence on. How can a 16 year old honor student be murdered walking home from school in such a heinous manner, and life go on just as if it never happened? How can these important Chicago leaders not address this issue, and the persons responsible, before they head overseas to promote an event that none of the Darrion's in Chicago's southside will ever be fortunate enough to participate in? Chicago's underprivileged children are suffering in a climate of hatred and misbehavior difficult for anyone to survive in, yet our political leaders, and top entertainers, rarely publicly address these gang related atrocities. I feel as if the Obama's, and Oprah, have passed on an opportunity to impress publicly upon gangs how they feel about these issues by heading off on an elite trip without expressing some shame and disgust. In fact, if I were president, I probably would have told Chicago they weren't worthy of the Olympics.

The cell phone video of this child's death truly illustrates the nasty depths of mob cowardice, gang idiocy, insensitivity, and total ignorance. In fact, this behavior is an insult to all criminals everywhere. This is the lowest of the low, the most meaningless example of wasted humanity, and no excuse whatsoever can be made. Still, Obama has to my knowledge made no statement confronting the gang issue in Chicago, or elsewhere, that carries any strength. Now is the time for him to pick up the torch in our country and light a fire under the gangs that perpetrate this kind of baseless, and low classed, criminal behavior. It is time to evaluate, study, and enforce laws that make it impossible for these animals to continue their nonsense on little school kids. So while our elite leaders schmooze over Olympic politics, a family in Chicago will bury the love of their life--Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  


What if I told you I would never leave you alone, not if you were sick, or injured, living with depression, or suffering in jail? As long as you followed me forever, defended me when I needed it, and gave me something to live on...a wage, prosperity, a chance to use my talents and be loved by others, admired and respected--would you believe in my fidelity? Do you think I am worth fighting for and could you trust in me? I believe you could, because I know you see the real me: the fighting, fearless woman that I am. Someday the invitation will come, written by your hand, and the envelope sealed with your lips. Quietly, without words, we will agree to spend our time together on a job, in a home, maybe together on the water, or in the sky. You are beginning to see me, and, finally, I am beginning to see you. Seems a shame we have wasted our youth this way, apart from each other, traveling on the road. In every mountain, on every desert, I have seen your magic and felt your love for me...yet, you never could sit still long enough to learn my secrets. You always had another place to go, and another plan to finish.

How honest we are, my loyalty, you and I. Each and everyday we follow each other through life, the endless rolling and hypnotic march of everyday society. Up and out of bed, out to work we run through the city streets, down the roads, through the halls, into the buildings, warehouses, destinations of dreamy prosperity. Over my shoulder, and outside my window, the endless glare and glaze of eyes and people struggling to find acceptance, and a share of our love. For so many of us now, the dream has transpired into something of a nightmare, so many betrayed. The days of work and struggle, streaming into the city centre, collecting the check, and charging the card has come to an end for them. Homelessness, unemployment, and destitution have become their norm; hope and loyalty are foreclosed upon. Please let us go on with our love, with our loyalty. Don't go away, and believe in me...I am here for you, whenever you need me. I am.

About the Light

When they decided to turn my light out, I knew it was about a lot more than just the electricity bill. It had become a political statement, another insult, something to add to their list of achievement. It was another knock on the door of insult, poor judgment, an outlandish class statement...just another group that underestimates value at hand. And tonight I looked into the eyes of complete irritation, derision, a man who had finally come to some understanding of me: the woman behind the wheel, the woman at the keyboard. He knows I am an absolute cockroach, a survivor, an irritation to the bitter end of life; for his understanding, I now congratulate him. But in the end, it is all just another object they take away, like the jewelry in my mother's safety deposit box, the theft it is. And I am angry for these stolen moments, the glitter I can no longer forward to...the beauty I was promised for a lifetime. I am unhappy about the prejudice bestowed upon me, undeserving and cruel. I am angry I never lost my civility when my Mother was too sick to speak. I remember explaining my side and having it fall upon deaf ears, while authority took in all the background noise, the lies, and while they let the meanest win. I contributed to the education, from my heritage, to a man who looks down his nose at me. I have been called every filth, and I have been accused of all types of crime, yet, within my circle, my credibility is intact.

It's true...I am nothing great. No writer, no glamourous education, no Ivy league, no ivory tower. I really have nothing to cling to above "normal." But I am certainly nothing less than that. In fact, I have achieved more than most. This is why tonight, while they pack up their tools and all agree I am a "problem," I giggle at the outcome. It makes me happy that my light is back on...I hope it stays on for the rest of my days here. And I feel sure, the next time this group wants to crush someone, they will pick an easier and less irritating target.

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Recently, I read an article in the New York Times, Health Ills as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells, discussing how dairy farms in Wisconsin polluted the ground water. People were becoming ill and the water was not even safe to bathe in. Much has been written, and scientific research has found,  large herds of domestic animals raised for meat and dairy are contributing to the greenhouse effect. Most sides of this argument are now common knowledge and most of us would agree we consume too much animal fat and not enough produce. Here in Texas, this is not a popular point of view, and if you consider the long distances some of our produce is trucked, then the Texas cattle rancher has a viable point. How about hog farming? Smithfield Farms has a facility at LaGloria, near Mexico City, and is thought, by some, to be ground zero for our current worldwide swine flu pandemic. Last night, on Katie Couric's evening news show (CBS), two ten year old children in Oklahoma City were featured suffering, and possibly dying, from this infectious disease.

Overconsumption is a problem in our country, however, unemployment numbers will continue to climb if businesses continues to suffer from overtaxation and slow sales. This will create an even larger cycle of poverty and poor eating habits. Once in a while, my child and I go to the local fast food chain and eat a quick night time dinner; but what we are reading in papers and journals, and the numbers connected to obesity, heart disease, and other numerous health problems has made our trips to the burger joint a lot less enjoyable. Declining food quality, and scandalous stories about illness and food born disease perpetuates feelings of suspicion over dinner tables. "Where did the fish really come from? What kind of fish is it really?" The other night my kid produced something on the tip of his index finger and croaked, "Mom, is this a bone fragment?" So, I guess the moral to this story is, 'The problems with food will continue to get worse until we have some effective oversight.' And if I was smart enough to offer any advice, I would ask you to carefully consider all of your food choices, and look for meaningful labels that document the origin of your food. Cleaning up at dinner is a responsiblity we all must share.

Obama and the Media

Today Obama has been on most of the national networks promoting his health care plan. Tonight I have been listening to some of the response. Rather than commend our president for making this effort, most of the media are simply asking, "Is he on television too much?" By raising such a frivolous question, the media is simply hurting the debate. They are steering the public thought off the task at hand and into some subject without use. Who really cares if Obama is on television too much, or if he is hurting his image? What he is attempting, is to saturate the public with the facts as he sees them. He is strategically covering networks at times when he feels his voice will promote some merit. He is choosing specific time slots and specific programs.

The people who are against healthcare coverage, or its mandatory inclusion, should visit some parents with critically sick and injured children. These people, rather than attend town hall meetings and march up and down the streets around the capital, should go to some hospital billing offices and listen to the derogatory language used against cancer patients, and other sick people, who can't afford their escalating bills. They should stand in line to check in at an emergency room once their benefits have run out or, better yet, suffer with some disease they can't afford to treat. The cost of healthcare in our country must come down...and if you are young and you do not pay for healthcare, then you are costing someone else treatment. When you are young, you can still become sick, or injured. Everyone should pay a premium once they are independent; this is not a tax, it is personal responsibility.

Trucking and Me

The time is now for me to find work not requiring long distance travel, but the task is made more challenging when I am asked about my previous occupation. Yes, I am a real truck driver: fully licensed, over twenty-five years of road experience, and no accidents. But it's difficult for potential employers to note any comparisons between the world on the road and life in the office; however, the similarities are striking. True, I am of the feminine gender and this does generate a rather unhealthy stereotype: large, cigar smoking, sweating, masculine looking, and rather hairy woman, but reality is miles from imagination. Instead, I am average in all manner, and I do not smoke at all. Most people who do not know any career truckers believe we are all woefully undereducated, lacking of office skills, and have an abscence of civilized protocol. Wrong, once again. Many of my fellow truckers are well educated, with beautiful manners, large bank accounts, huge property ownership, and some are college graduates. Yes, of course, I am willing to concede, like any occupation, we in the trucking business have our share of complete no brain dummies. Many of these people fail to bathe, shave, or wear underarm cologne, but you can find those sorts in the office also. You can find them almost anywhere.

Out here on the road, I have enjoyed the corner office, the stylish business travel, art, museums, books, and study. I have walked along the beautiful red beaches of Prince Edward Island, and I have tackled the snowy mountain passes of British Columbia, and Alberta. I have learned tolerance, respect, and business like acumen from men and women of all stripes and classes. Out here I have learned lessons in finance from millionaires, homeless people, and everyone in between. These years of street wise education, powered up with my formal university schooling, provides me with more than enough to succeed on. No matter what you have to face on a day's travel, you must learn to put your fear aside and get on with your job. You have to keep your office clean, and mechanically sound. You have paperwork, deadlines, appointments to make, customers to satisfy, regulations to abide by, safety issues to tackle with, equipment to maintain, and weather to watch. You have to take a shower, find something to wear, get some exercise, deal with your family, all while constantly telephoning bosses, discussing business, planning routes, and managing your cool all day and into the night. Trucking is an office job you wake up to in the morning and you take to your bed, a never ending cycle of work and commitment.

We out here on the road sacrifice our family life, and a social life, to the never ending grind of business travel. We miss our children, funerals, weddings, religious events, and doctor's appointments so the citizens living in our country can buy fresh food. We forget sometimes how to get along with 'regular people' we work so hard in our trucking world. In coffee houses and truckstops we discuss politics, safety issues, weather, rates, shipping problems, mechanical breakdowns, prices of food, clothing and showers. We argue with each other, and we fight over television channels, sporting events, and we openly discuss gender roles and family issues. We share technology, cell phone tips, quibble about software, different laptops, and blackberries.

Sometimes we see each other get killed or injured on the road. We pray together--a lot. So, you see, I am not far from the office on any given day.  

Mexican Trucks and Nafta

Something is about to happen in the trucking industry that will affect each and every person that drives, or rides, in a vehicle. This change will occur over time and its success will depend on Mexico and how they achieve enforcement goals and meet educational strategies. In an effort to drive down shipping costs, large businesses have decided to push ahead with agreements inside Nafta dealing with cross border trucking. The problem is, Mexico has not met our standard of safety enforcement, reciprocity issues, individual license agreements, driver drug testing, and fuel taxing. Furthermore, American trucks can not travel across into Mexico (satisfying the fair standard clause of this agreement) because of drug cartel violence, random crime, substandard roadways, and other law enforcement issues. Mexican travelers regularly enjoy car, and truck, trips into the United States to visit relatives, shop, engage in commerce, and enjoy other US amenities and institutions. We, however, have rarely enjoyed this same privilege and would be considered unwise to do so, especially now. If you will not send your family in a vehicle to Mexico, then why would you expect your trucker to go, and how could the 'fair standard' of this cross border agreement possibly be met?

The Mexican government is crying foul and they have slapped a tariff on our goods in retaliation even though they must realize, logically, they are once again expecting 'special treatment.' This expectation of 'special treatment' is exactly what is wrong in the culture of Mexico. Their government has had as long as ours to establish law and order and provide opportunity for its citizens. If they expect to enjoy this extra commerce, then they should immediately mandate regulations parallel to our own and Canada's. They should make an effort to insure all of the drivers admitted into the US are drug tested, speak fluent English, and we have access to their criminal files. They must prove this to our officials with records and documents. How can Mexico make this claim of unfair treatment in good conscience when murder and violence is their norm and American trucks cannot travel to Mexican destinations in safety?

Trucking into US destinations is not something most of us believe Mexican truckers are prepared for anyway. Large cities, huge ports, snow and ice conditions, mountainous terrain, confusing freeway interchanges, and general cultural differences, including language barriers, are only some of the problems they will encounter, thereby, compromising public safety. This issue has languished in the background of our national news, when I believe it is something that should be brought to the forefront and dealt with. Mexican operators have no right to engage in US travel, especially, if our American operators are excluded from their market. This is simply not 'free trade.' US truckers are banished from that market by good old common sense and the Mexican government has made no statement, to my knowledge, that will encourage us to believe they are on a path of cultural reform. Instead, they are crying foul even though they fully realize thier country is in chaos. This is not good business, and I believe if Mexico really wanted to make a difference in the lives of their impoverished citizens, then they would be honest about the mess their country is in, and they would agree it isn't a fair situation; they would ask that the cross border trucking program be delayed until order is the norm in Mexico. They would agree to provide computer networks, drug testing, safety regulations, driver education, and conformity to US and Canadian standards across the board, including amenities for US and Canadian drivers equal to those in our country: safe parking, fuel stops, clean restaurants, no toll options on roadways, regular highway maintenance, and trustworthy law enforcement. And they would agree this opportunity is their privilege and not a 'right' until they have managed to meet our reasonable standard.

We have given our Mexican neighbors many industries to enjoy and prosper from. We have handed them a chance to once again prove they are stable and capable neighbors; but instead of making an effort to conform to the law, they have slapped us down once again screaming for more concessions. We should not give them unfettered access, or any access, to our highways until we have the same freedom on theirs, and we can receive assurances from their trucking industry, and their government, the game will be played fair and ethically. Too many lives are lost on our highways, and too many criminals are already living in our country illegally. For our protection, our government must stand up to the hand Mexico has dealt us.

It is obvious that the Obama administration is interested in deal making with Mexico. I believe, soon, we will find we are in the middle of another so called 'Mexican Pilot Truck Program.' Already more trucks from Mexico are venturing into US destinations, and they are traveling farther north; these trucks carry hundreds of gallons of cheap Mexican fuel and this enables them to cut freight rates on honest taxpaying American truckers. Something has got to be done, or you are going to be a travel partner on the roadway with a large truck from Mexico that hasn't been properly inspected, operated by a driver who may not even have been tested. Think about that.