Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Story of Domestication of Cats Continues

A press release from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA

Most of the cats alive in the world today are descended from this species of cat!

Caption: The Near Eastern Wildcat, native to Western Asia and Africa, is believed
to be the primary ancestor of all domestic cats now living around the globe. Source.


Five-thousand years before it was immortalized in a British nursery rhyme, the cat that caught the rat that ate the malt was doing just fine living alongside farmers in the ancient Chinese village of Quanhucun, a forthcoming study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed.

"At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication that is reminiscent of the old 'house that Jack built' nursery rhyme," said study co-author Fiona Marshall, PhD, a professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored."

Set for early online publication in PNAS during the week of Dec. 16, the study provides the first direct evidence for the processes of cat domestication.

"Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucun was a source of food for the cats 5,300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal, or advantageous for the cats," Marshall said. "Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits."

Cat remains rarely are found in ancient archaeological sites, and little is known about how they were domesticated. Cats were thought to have first been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were kept some 4,000 years ago, but more recent research suggests close relations with humans may have occurred much earlier, including the discovery of a wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.

While it often has been argued that cats were attracted to rodents and other food in early farming villages and domesticated themselves, there has been little evidence for this theory.

The evidence for this study is derived from research in China led by Yaowu Hu and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hu and his team analyzed eight bones from at least two cats excavated from the site.

Using radiocarbon dating and isotopic analyses of carbon and nitrogen traces in the bones of cats, dogs, deer and other wildlife unearthed near Quanhucan, the research team demonstrated how a breed of once-wild cats carved a niche for themselves in a society that thrived on the widespread cultivation of the grain millet.

Carbon isotopes indicate that rodents, domestic dogs and pigs from the ancient village were eating millet, but deer were not. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes show that cats were preying on animals that lived on farmed millet, probably rodents. At the same time, an ancient rodent burrow into a storage pit and the rodent-proof design of grain storage pots indicate that farmers had problems with rodents in the grain stores.

Other clues gleaned from the Quanhucun food web suggest the relationship between cats and humans had begun to grow closer. One of the cats was aged, showing that it survived well in the village. Another ate fewer animals and more millet than expected, suggesting that it scavenged human food or was fed.

Recent DNA studies suggest that most of the estimated 600 million domestic cats now living around the globe are descendants most directly of the Near Eastern Wildcat, one of the five Felis sylvestris lybica wildcat subspecies still found around the Old World.

Marshall, an expert on animal domestication, said there currently is no DNA evidence to show whether the cats found at Quanhucun are descendants of the Near Eastern Wildcat, a subspecies not native to the area. If the Quanhucun cats turn out to be close descendents of the Near Eastern strain, it would suggest they were domesticated elsewhere and later introduced to the region.

"We do not yet know whether these cats came to China from the Near East, whether they interbred with Chinese wild-cat species, or even whether cats from China played a previously unsuspected role in domestication," Marshall said.

This question is now being pursued by researchers based in China and in France.

That Neanderthal "Burial" -- It Was Deliberate and It Is Real

My take on this story is that so-called "modern humans" may well have borrowed the so-called "Neanderthal" practice of burying their dead and incorporated it into their own rituals.  The full story has yet to be figured out, dear readers.

From Live Science

Neanderthals May Have Intentionally Buried Their Dead

Rare Tlingit War Helmet Identified

Springfield Museums Press Release - awesome!

A Hidden Treasure Revealed: Rare Tlingit War Helmet Discovered at Springfield Science Museum

Springfield Science Museum

December 18, 2013
Stored on a shelf for over 100 hundred years, a rare anthropological treasure was recently discovered in the Springfield Science Museum’s permanent collections. Museum Director David Stier, who has worked in museums collections for almost 30 years, describes the discovery as nothing less than “the find of a lifetime.”

The mystery began to unfold when Museum staffers began to select objects from the over 200,000 items in the Museum’s collections for a new display titled “People of the Northwest Coast.” Dr. Ellen Savulis, the Science Museum’s Curator of Anthropology, was intrigued by one of the items described in collections records as simply an “Aleutian hat.” The object was relatively large, ornately carved, and made from a single piece of dense wood. Although Dr. Savulis’ main area of expertise is Northeastern United States archaeology, she had the foresight to question whether hats made by the Unangax, the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands, were typically made from such dense wood. Upon further investigation, Dr. Savulis found that the only type of wooden hat made in the treeless Aleutians is the hunting hat or visor, made from a thin plank of driftwood bent into a lopsided cone. None of this information matched the object she had in front of her.

Dr. Savulis suspected that she had a helmet of some kind, and enlisted the help of Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. After hearing the description and an extensive viewing of artifact images, Mr. Henrikson responded enthusiastically, “This is a Tlingit war helmet, absolutely, no question!” He went on to say that “it’s very rare - there are less than 100 Tlingit war helmets in existence that we know of. I’ve been studying them for over 20 years and I’m sure I’ve seen most of them.”

Museum records show that the artifact was accepted into collections sometime after 1899, the year that the Springfield Science Museum (formerly the Museum of Natural History) moved into its own building at the Quadrangle. The source of the artifact was not known, and it carried the simple label “Aleutian hat.” Having limited experience with cultural materials, museum specialist Albertus Lovejoy Dakin accepted the accuracy of the object’s label and entered it as such in the collection records. Some 40 years later the artifact received a permanent museum collection number from museum director Leo D. Otis, who still had no reason to dispute the “Aleutian hat” claim. There the artifact remained in its spot in the permanent collections, carefully preserved and unheralded, waiting to be found.

According to Mr. Henrikson, we now know that the object is indeed a war helmet from the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska. The style of the carving and decoration on the helmet (probably the emblem of a clan) dates it to the mid-19th century or earlier. With the mass importation of firearms to the region in the mid-1800’s, this sort of body armor became relegated to ceremonial uses. Today, a few helmets are still brought out at ceremonial gatherings, such as potlatches, to commemorate prominent events and honor past clan elders. Because they are associated with combat, the helmets are not actually worn on the head during such peaceful gatherings, but are instead held in hand or perhaps held over the head of someone needing spiritual support.

Henrikson estimates that there are approximately 95 war helmets in existence today, mostly in large museum collections. Many of these were collected by Russian explorers on the battlefield following clashes with the Tlingit. The largest collection of Tlingit armor is at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology in St. Petersburg.

Beginning as protection for Tlingit warriors in battle, war helmets today serve the Tlingit as healing reminders of their rich and ancient history. A glimpse of this rich history can be seen starting Thursday, December 26, when the helmet will be placed on display for the first time since arriving in Springfield over a century ago.

A Wari Matriarchy?

Archaeology Magazine named this one of the top ten discoveries of 2013!

Castillo de Huarmey, Peru
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

(Courtesy Patrycja Przadka Giersz)
Within an unlooted tomb of the Wari civilization, a pre-Inca culture of Peru,
archaeologists found the remains of several of the empire’s queens, accompanied by lavish
offerings uch as a cup that had been carved out of alabaster and a 1,200-year-old decorated ceramic flask.
At the center of Castillo de Huarmey in northern Peru is a burial complex where Milosz Giersz and a team of archaeologists from the University of Warsaw and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru uncovered chambers containing the remains of three, or possibly four, royal women of the Wari Empire. They were accompanied by 40 noblewomen buried in a sitting position, seven sacrificed individuals whose bodies had been thrown over the seated burials, and more than 1,300 artifacts, including ear ornaments typically worn by royal men and weaving tools made of gold and silver.

“This is the first time in an archaeological excavation that we have found a tomb full of prestige goods related to Wari women,” Giersz says, adding that cotton and camel-wool textiles also found as grave goods were considered by the Wari to be more valuable offerings than gold. Giersz estimates that the tomb dates to A.D. 750. Burials of royal men have been found at the site, but thus far not in chambers of this size. The tomb could answer questions about the roles that women played at the highest levels of Wari society.

Christmas According to Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets"

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!  Woo woo!  The image below depicts a sacred tree of Attis -- a pine tree, from which "decorations" are hanging.  Not sure, but I think the bull in this 4th century image is meant to be a substitute for the blood sacrifice of Attis.  The use of evergreens during this time of year has come down to us from ancient pagan practices. But then, you knew that :)

It's so damn dark and dreary out there, I can't stand it.  But I look forward to this otherwise generally dark, dank, cold, snowy (or icy, had freezing rain starting Thursday night and I couldn't even go out on my front porch Friday morning without bear claws on my shoes and tossing salt out before me) time of year precisely because I know after Winter Solstice, the days begin to get longer by a few minutes each day.  Woo woo!

Unfortunately we're under that massive storm system and somewhere between 5 to 9 inches of snow is expected between 6 p.m. tonight and 6 p.m. tomorrow night.  Sigh.  I can't shovel like I used to; indeed, I'm not supposed to do it at all according to my former Heart Doctor #2 (I fired him last month).  I do it anyway, just not as much :)

I was surprised that Walker's encyclopedia didn't have an entry for the winter solstice.  But it does have an entry on Christmas and within it is information on the winter solstice.  As always, absolutely fascinating, so here we go:


For its first three centuries, the Christian church knew no birthday for its savior.  During the 4th century there was much argument about adoption of a date.  Some favored the popular date of the Koreion, when the divine Virgin gave birth to the new Aeon in Alexandria.(1)  Now called Twelfth Night or Epiphany, this date is still the official nativity in Armenian churches, and celebrated with more pomp than Christmas by the Greek Orthodox.(2)

Roman churchmen tended to favor the mithraic winter-solstice festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.(3)  Blended with the Greek sun festival of the Helia by the emperor Aurelian, this December 25th nativity also honored such gods as Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, Syrian Baal, and other versions of the solar Righteousness, and Savior.(4)  Most pagan Mysteries celebrated the birth of the Divine Child at the winter solstice.  Norsemen celebrated the birthday of their Lord, Frey, at the nadir of the sun in the darkest days of winter, known to them as Yule.  The night of birth, Christmas Eve, was called Modranect, Latin matrum noctern, the Night of the Mother --  originally a greater festival than Christmas Day.(5)

Early in the 4th century the Roman church adopted December 25 because the people were used to calling it a god's birthday.  But eastern churches refused to honor it until 375 A.D.(6)  The fiction that some record existed in the land of Jesus's alleged birth certainly could not be upheld, for the church of Jerusalem continued to ignore the official date until the 7th century.(7)

Trappings such as Yule logs, gifts, lights, mistletoe, holly, carols, feasts, and processions were altogether pagan.  They were drawn from worship of the Goddess as mother of the Divine Child.  Christmas trees evolved from the pinea silva, pine groves attached to temples of the Great Mother.  On the night before a holy day, Roman priests called dendrophori or "tree-bearers" cut one of the sacred pines, decorated it, and carried it into the temple to receive the effigy of Attis.(8) [Attis castrated himself and died beneath the boughs of a pine tree. Some artistic renditions of his death show him tied to a tree or a stake -- crucified.]  Figures and fetishes attached to such trees in later centuries seem to have represented a whole pantheon of pagan deities on the World Tree.

Attis' sacred tree.  (Henderson & Oakes). Source.

Christmas celebrations remained so obviously pagan over the years that many churchmen bitterly denounced their "carnal pomp and jollity."  Polydor Virgil said: "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stage-plays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."(9)  Puritans in 17th-century Massachusetts tried to ban Christmas altogether becausse of its overt heathenism.(10)  Inevitably, the attempt failed.

A curious mistake in the Christmas mystery play of the Towneley cycle shows a Great Mother image not fully assimilated to that of Mary.  Before their attention was arrested by the annunciatory angel, idly chatting shepherds complained of their cruel overlords, and prayed "Our Lady" to curse them.(11)  Considering that they were not acquainted with the Mother of Christ, a rather different "Lady" must have been intended.

Among many other superstitions connected with Christmas were some that were typical of pagan holy days, such as the belief that animls could speak human words at midnight on Christmas Eve, or that divinatory voices could be heard at crosroads at the same time.(12)  Also at midnight on Christmas Eve, ater in wells and springs was supposed to turn into blood, or its sacramental equivalent, wine.  The miracle was not to be verified, however, for all who witnessed it would die within the year.(13) [One does not mess with the sacred rivers, wells and springs of the Goddess!]


(1)  Campbell, M.I., 34.
(2)  Miles, 22.
(3)  Reinach, 282.
(4)  H. Smith, 130; Hyde, 92; Miles, 23.
(5)  Turville-Petre, 227.
(6)  Frazer, G.B., 416.
(7)  Miles, 22.
(8)  Vermaeren, 115.
(9)  Hazlitt, 118-19.
(10)  de Lys, 372.
(11)  Miles, 135.
(12)  Summers, V., 157.
(13)  Miles, 234.

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories Part 3

As you are aware, I've often posted shocking and disturbing news articles about the treatment of women and children.  However, we need to maintain our awareness that abuse is a major problem right here in our own back yard.  And we need to stop shrugging our shoulders as if it isn't our problem.  Violence is everyone's problem. I knew the statistics were shocking, but I had no idea!

According to grab stats. com, on average, three women in the United States are killed at the hands of a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or former boyfriend each and every day of the year.  It looks like grab stats' numbers are more than ten years old!

The following statistics are from the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
  • According to the U.S. Surgeon General, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States.
  • The American Medical Association estimates that their male partners assault 2 million American women each year.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women.
  • A woman is beaten every 15 seconds in the United States. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Report to the nation on Crime and Justice. The Data. Washington DC Office of Justice Program, US Dept. of Justice. Oct 1983)
  • 35% of all emergency room calls are a result of domestic violence.
  • Of those who abuse their partner, well over 65% also physically and/or sexually abuse the children.
  • Each day .....4 women die as a result of abuse.
  • Each day .....3 children die as a result of abuse.
You get the picture.

What most people don't think about if they think about "domestic" violence at all was most saliently addressed in "A Grim Tally: Abusers, Guns, and the Women They Kill," by Andrea Grimes, at RH Reality Check:

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that, on average, more than three women a day are killed by current or former intimate partners in the United States, and many of the should-haves and could-haves that pepper Smith’s relationship with her estranged husband are the same should-haves and could-haves thrown at the thousand or more women who are killed by their partners in this country each year: should have gone to a shelter, should have taken a lethality risk test, could have filed charges, could have testified against him.

The problem with that should-have, could-have conversation is the popular implication that the ability, and the responsibility, to change the behavior of abusive men lies not with the abusers, but with the partners they strike, strangle, and shoot.

It’s why the question “Why didn’t she leave?” is far more common than, “Why did he abuse her?”
But research shows us why she, whoever she might be, didn’t leave: she didn’t have the money, she didn’t want to take the kids out of school, she couldn’t find a shelter, there was no shelter, she was embarrassed, her pastor or her mother or her father or her sister told her a good wife doesn’t give up, her self-esteem was in shreds, she had literally nowhere to go, or she knew that, in leaving, she would put herself in more danger than if she stayed.

But if women can’t be blamed for inciting violence in their partners, or at least scolded for not bailing at the first red flag, the problem of why intimate partner violence happens in the first place, and what to do about it, becomes much more complicated than asking the broken-record question, “Why didn’t she leave?”

That's the discussion that is still not being seriously addressed in this country -- why men abuse the women and children they claim to love. 

Notice how the onus of the crime is put on the victim!  Despite the fact that we know why many women don't leave -- especially women of color.  It was my experience more than 30 years ago that the women who came into the DA's office to file complaints against abusive spouses and boyfriends were overwhelmingly Caucasian.  I don't imagine that's changed very much, despite statistics showing us that women of color are more likely to be victims of abuse.  There may be as many factors at work to explain a woman's reluctance to report the crime -- because abuse IS a crime -- as there are that work against a woman leaving her abuser.

No easy answers.  So, is there anything we can do?  I've a few ideas.


Knowledge is power.  We need to educate ourselves about the problem and the issues involved.

Talk about it!  There is such a reluctance in this country to talk about the abuse that is taking place all around us.  Why why why do we accept such a level of violence in our culture?  We need to speak up and speak out -- especially women, because the violence overwhelmingly affects US AND OUR CHILDREN! 

We need to become buttinskis.  If we suspect a woman or children we know are being abused, we need to ACT.  If you can't bring yourself to ask directly, call a local program to get some direction.  If you suspect children are being abused, call Child Protective Services and make a report right away.  Don't rationalize that someone else is bound to report suspected abuse so you don't have to!  Is it really better for a child or children to remain in an abusive situation?  BREAK THE TABOO THAT THIS IS NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. 

Can you get involved?  Volunteers are always needed at local advocate programs and women's support service groups.  If you have the time, maybe you can help out.  It doesn't have to be as an advocate.  I'll be frank -- it was a draining experience that time I put in as a Task Force advocate and I don't know that I would ever want to do it again.  But perhaps you can volunteer to do office or organizing work, or local fund-raising outreach if that is your forte.

If you can afford it, contribute money to battered women's groups and shelters.  There is not enough shelter space - ever - but particularly for women with children.  Even if an abused woman decides to leave her abuser, she is not going to leave her children behind!  Every little bit helps.  The women who run local programs to aid victims of domestic violence know how to stretch a penny! 

If you cannot afford to contribute money, inquire as to needs for other items.  Clothing is often needed, towels, washcloths, toiletries and the like are needed.  Beds, mattresses and bedding are needed.  Childrens' books and stuffed animals, pajamas, robes, slippers are often needed.  Maybe you have some of these things that you are not using and would consider donating to a local group.  Consider asking if you can help with painting and decorating a women's and children's shelter.

Could your church or benevolent organization to which you belong get involved in raising awareness and hold a fund-raiser a couple times a year?  Fund-raising can be a bake sale, a silent auction, a craft fair.  It doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective! 

These are some of my ideas.  Maybe you can think of more and better ones! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories Part 2

My family was happy in 1983.  My three sisters and one of my brothers were married.  I had several nieces and nephews.  I was finishing up my second year in law school, working part-time to try and support myself and pay tuition, living with Connie, a long-time roommate, on the fashionable east side of Milwaukee in a lovely two-bedroom apartment.

This is what my siblings and I looked like back then:

That's me, lower left, next to youngest brother Jeffrey.  Across the back, left to right are Dennis, Yvonne, Darlene, and Deborah.  I'm the oldest of us six.

When I look at this old photograph now, I see a radiant, confident young woman with bad legs (even then, geez).  I was 32, a year away from graduating law school, still working toward getting to the top of my game.  I was a full-time student at Marquette University Law School.  One of my volunteer activities, besides working at the legal clinic for people who could not afford to hire an attorney to help with routine legal problems (evictions, traffic tickets, consumer debt issues), was working with a group that helped out victims of domestic violence.  I did a year's stint at the District of Attorney's office in Milwaukee as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.  I manned a telephone hot-line for an afternoon a week where domestic violence calls would come in from traumatized female victims (I never fielded a call from a male).  I would sit-in at meetings of assistant DAs, victims and alleged abusers, holding hands if necessary, lending whatever moral support and strength I could to the victim.  I would go home at the end of the day and worry and fret about my "cases."

The majority of the women who actually came in to file a complaint against a "batterer" were white women.  All ages.  All socio-economic groups. Caucasian women.  It was very rare to see a woman of color or of another race come in and file a complaint during the hours I manned the Women's Task Force Against Domestic Violence desk at the DA's office.  I would talk to other (non-Caucasian) women on the hot-line, but they almost never actually came down to file a criminal complaint. A few times, some women of color did come.  I would sit with them and talk with them, and they would pour their hearts out to me.  But in the end, they would walk away without taking the legal process further.  It seemed, just sitting and talking to another female, and others like me, was enough to -- send them back to where they came from...  Just having someone to listen. Someone whom they sensed was trying to, wanted to help them...

I did what I could.  On the hot-line and in person, I gave women information about local resource groups to whom they could reach out for emotional, physical and financial support.  Safe houses where they could go to if they were leaving, with their kids if they had kids (most women did), a big thing for women thinking of fleeing a dangerouus domestic situation. Back in the 80's, this was just barely getting underway, and the need was so great.  Many women stayed in place simply because -- as I was taught when growing up -- a woman stayed because that is what a woman did, and she couldn't rip her children away from the home.  Not that there were many places to go -- back then.  But there were a few.  We volunteers did what we could.  It wasn't enough.  But it was something.  In so many instances family members did not step in to help.  Unlike in my family's situation.  You know, that was just the way it was.  And as a woman you coped with it.  You got the crap beat out of you.  Your kids got the crap beat out of them in front of your eyes.  Sometimes you ended up dead, or nearly so.  Or --

To this day, I remember a lovely young lady who came in to "my" desk at the DA's office.  She was in her early 20's.  Well spoken.  Dressed well.  Not a dummy (you know what I mean).  She had been involved in a relationship with a much older man for three or four years.  He had money. He had a good job.  He was an executive at a high powered company.  He had a commanding presence. He was handsome, but older than her father.  Caucasian.  Lived in a wealthy suburb of Milwaukee.  Not the kind of people one would ever think would be involved in "wife-beating."  She wasn't his wife. She was a live-in girlfriend.

So what?  Being a wife does not give one special status or particular safety from an abusive mate.  Or potential killer.

One night, in a fit of rage (not alcohol-fueled), after months of physical beatings and psychological abuse, he picked her up and physically threw her out of a second story window of the fancy home they shared.  She was lucky.  She survived with numerous cuts, bruises on her face where he had punched her numerous times (and cuts, scrapes and bruises suffered during the fall), and a broken arm.

There had been previous incidents where he physically marked her with bruises and choke marks about her throat. This time, she was frightened enough to come in and file a complaint against him.  I was the "lucky" one who was at the desk when she came in.

She was SO fricking brave!  She was scared half-to death of that man and by the time she finished her recital of abuse, so was I. But she filed a complaint against him, and the wheels of justice slowly started to turn. The assistant DA assigned to the case was a young black female attorney (not too many of them in the 1980's), tough as nails and street-smart.  Been there.  Done that.  She wasn't taking any crap from anyone.  And there I was, in the thick of things, a now third-year law student who had seen and experienced more than a few things in her lifetime but sure as hell wasn't prepared for this confrontation.

I don't remember all of the details, but I do remember the initial conference where the accused was brought into a small room with a court reporter/stenographer, the Assistant DA, the accuser (victim), and the advocate (me).  I was there solely as victim support.  Not allowed to speak.

That man scared the crap out of me.  There was a definite miasma of evil about him.  I could see it in his eyes.  It seemed as if he didn't bothering looking at his victim. He focused on me.  I was the enemy.  He stared at me the entire time he was in the room.  Arrogant.  Self-assured.  An attorney with him, male, far less arrogant but just as self-assured.  They tried every which way they could to beat the victim down into retracting her complaint.

I sat there the entire time, sometimes holding her hand, but always staring in as self-assured stance and style I could muster, my eyes never leaving his face. I was scared shitless, to tell you the truth.  But I sat there staring back at him the entire time, pouring as much pride and disdain as I could muster into my eyes to shoot back at him and his evilness.  Thinking all the while that it wasn't doing any good, because he was absolutely relentless.  He was the Devil Incarnate.  And I am pretty sure I never let my hands shake a single second when the victim clutched at them, harder and harder.  I wasn't going to let HER down the way I let myself down, feeling such fear, such trembling, inside.  i wanted to run away.  I wanted to go hide and cower.

But I sat there, determined as I could be, pouring every bit of self-will into putting on a brave front.

Up until that point, I had never, ever, been afraid of a man I'd met in my entire life.  Not even my Dad, who had been a physical abuser.  I was afraid of the beatings at Dad's hands, but I was never afraid of HIM!  But this man, that day, across that small conference room, I was scared. Scared shitless.

She did not retract her complaint.

Eventually he plead out to some minor crime, and it was disgusting!  I was so pissed at the time, indignant!  He got a suspended sentence.  In the interim, she had moved out of his house (Thank Goddess!), back home with her parents for awhile, and then moved out of state. Smart move.  Assholes like that tend to come after you and hunt you down.  Don't we see it every weekend on "48 Hours?" on CBS network television...

I remember leaving the Safety Building that day, after that initial conference was over.  Ha - what a misnomer -- Safety Building!  I first escorted my charge down to a waiting cab at a "secret" exit, paid the driver with a voucher and, after making sure she wasn't being followed as far as I could tell, sent her on her way.  There were two cab companies at the time that donated services to help the victims of domestic violence.  They sent experienced drivers, but all of them were male drivers.  To this day, one rarely sees a female cab driver in Milwaukee.  Sigh.  That day, she got to where she was going safely.

Wells Street view of Milwaukee County Safety Building.  Secret entry
not visible from this photo (a good thing). 

Me -- I walked backed up to my desk, briefed the next woman at the desk on what had happened during my "tour of duty" and what was going on (we kept a written log of calls, among other things, and also wrote up reports for our time spent there and turned them in at the end of each 'shift').  I went into a vacant interrogation room and wrote out my report.  I then walked out of the Safety Building feeling haunted, feeling like that perp's eyes were all over the damn place!  Feeling like he was going to jump out at me at any second and beat the crap out of me, or shoot me.  I remember nodding at people I recognized and smiling as I made my way along the hallways going toward a particular elevator block, saying goodbye until next week.  I remember leaving the building.  I walked to the corner of 9th and Wisconsin Avenue (a few blocks away) to catch a bus home, shaking the entire time.  I was certainly shaking internally.  I don't know if I was physically shaking on the outside.  I tried never to manifest fear or cowardice in front of the enemy, just in case they were watching.

I spent the rest of my commitment at that desk without further incidents such as that one. 

It has been more than 30 years.  I've never gone back there.  Chamber of Horrors. 

Oh, it brings me to tears now, recalling the echoes of some of the women's voices.  So many of them would come in, and talk to me, and I would hold their hands, and try to give them encouragement and strength. Now, I remember physically feeling that I wanted to somehow magically transpose into THEM all of MY physical strength and mental determination and self-righteous anger and indignation I felt at the time.  I would tell them what we would do at the DA's office if they filed a criminal complaint.  I gave them hand-outs about what services were available then if they decided to leave their abusive situation, and information about the few support services that were available to help them and give them support even if they didn't leave. A few I gave them my personal telephone number, too.  We weren't supposed to do that.  AGAINST THE RULES! 

And then the women would leave my desk and walk down those marble hallways, and I never saw them again.  But a few, a very very few, would file complaints.  And a few, a very very few, did call me a couple of times, on my personal telephone number.  And I did the best I could to give them encouragement and strength over the telephone, and tap them into available resources to help them more than I could. And other things.  I don't want to talk about those. Totally broke rules, OHMYGODDESS. Totally put my own life in danger (not as if it wasn't in danger to begin with, doing this kind of work, even for the short time I did it).  I hope those two women got away! 

I like to think I helped a few women along the way; those who came down to the DA's office in the Safety Building in person, those I talked with on the telephone.  No way of knowing, except that one particular case, because the Assistant DA let me know afterwards what was going on.  And the two women I helped, let's see, what is the term?  Exo facto?  Well, something like that. 

Do those women remember me like I remember them?

Right now, I'm feeling like a coward.  I abandoned them.  I could have, should have, done more.

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories

Hola darlings!

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately.  This year the Christmas season has been a busy one for moi, lots of decorating the house for the season, watching a lot of football (including my poor Packers), shopping, getting together with friends and entertaining here at home.  It has been some 13 months since Don McLean's unexpected death.  Not a day goes by I don't miss him fiercely. 

Above is a photo of the desk I work at most often (in the front room across from the fireplace).  It's decked out for Christmas with a pine cone that I picked up in Montreal on December 7, 2001, after our trip back "home" from Amsterdam.  It is from the grounds of St. Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal, Montreal. Mr. Don and I had a close encounter with a very friendly squirrel there, and the pine cone is a souvenir of that happy time. I stayed with Don in Montreal for several days before and after the trip to Amsterdam.  Oh, what memories!  The one-armed soldier Mr. Don gifted to me one Christmas -- found and recovered from a sidewalk near his apartment.  That little soldier made out of a clothespin is one of my dearest possessions.  He is only brought out at Christmas.  Photographs, of course.  Don was so handsome and strong in his hey-day when I first met him (1999), heart beating hard right now, LOL!  The smaller photo to the right shows Mr. Don and I at the end of a carriage ride through old Montreal on December 7, 2001.  It was warm in Montreal that day.  EVERYONE was out and about.  It was a magical time.  We started and ended that carriage ride outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in downtown Montreal.  The heart-shaped candle votive with electric candle aglow, well, I'm sentimental, what can I say?  The birds -- Mr. Don loved birds and birds loved him.  There was a story he told me about one summer's day when he and one of  his bike-riding buddies (maybe it was Steve) were out and about, and stopped for a break in a parkland/wild-area near the river in Montreal.  They saw a yellow finch or similar bright colored tiny song bird in the trees.  For some reason that even he didn't understand at the time, Don put out his hand and then stuck out his index finger.  Sure enough, that little yellow finch landed on his finger as he smoked a cigarette with the other hand.  Oh Mr. Don!  So of COURSE when I had a few extra glitter birds left over this year from Christmas decorating, I put one on the frame of Mr. Don's portrait photo.  The larger bird with the crown, well of course that is moi!  I try to honor Don's memory by keeping Goddesschess alive as best I can.  One of these days, assuming I survive to retire in 3 or 4 years (I sure HOPE so, geez!), I am going to really tackle getting the Goddesschess website awakened from the stasis it is currently in.  Then, watch-out world!

This post isn't about Don or Goddesschess, though.  It's about something that came up a few days ago at one of the blogs I read - Cozy Little House.  Oh I know, I know, it has absolutely nothing to do with chess, or herstory, or world events.  Nope.  It's about a woman who found herself with drastically changed life circumstances who now lives much more simply than she would ever have imagined.  I love Cozy Little House because Brenda, its author/writer, doesn't pull her punches, and she writes about what appeals to her or moves her, regardless of what some people might think.  Hmmm, does that sound like someone you all know and love, heh heh heh?

The original post Brenda did was on December 9, 2013:  The Loss of a Blogger.  It reported the murder of a fellow blogger, in Michigan, USA, Christine Keith, and her son from a prior marriage, by her estranged husband, Randy Keith.  He shot and killed both of them and then turned the gun on himself.  Christine Keith had filed for divorce after years of abuse and threats of violence at the hands of Randy Keith, according to reports.  Well, he wasn't having it.  Like so many others before him, he committed the ultimate act of violence by depriving the woman he "loved" of her life, as well as her son from a prior relationship, before committing the ultimate cowardly act of killing himself.

Brenda did another post, on December 18, 2013:  When Women Try to Leave.  Some details emerged about the horrible events -- three children, 8, 6, and 3, are now orphans.  They were visiting relatives at the time, and so were out of the home at the time of the murders/suicide.  All I can say is Thank Goddess they were not there at the time.  Who knows what may have happened otherwise. 

Now just this morning, as my clock radio clicked on at 5:40 a.m. and the news was blaring, there was a report of a 21 year old woman, a mother of three daughters, all under the age of six, who had been killed by her boyfriend during an argument.  The couple lived at 21st and Lapham in Milwaukee, a neighborhood I knew well.  When I was growing up in the area in the 1960's, it was a solid working class neighborhood, filled with small single family homes and larger duplexes, mostly descendants of Polish and German immigrants who had settled the area.  There was no such thing as a gang, no graffiti, no filth in the streets, no unmarried couples living together, very few births out of wedlock, and no families on "welfare" as it was called back then (still is today, although drastically changed from what it used to be).  We all went to Mitchell Street School, Walker Junior High School, and South Division (the old one, with the dome, where 2200 kids were packed into a space designed in the late 1900s for 1400 kids), from which I proudly graduated as a "Cardinal" in 1969.  Remember the song "Back in the Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams?  A classic song to rock out to, and what he sings about is very indicative of the experiences I had back then.

Well, that neighborhood isn't like that anymore.  The summer of '69 is long past. It's hard for me to grasp, sometimes, that so much time has passed since those days.  Almost 50 damn years.  Geez.  I still feel like an 18 year old in my heart of hearts. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  When I was younger, I didn't understand what that meant. Now I do.  Sadly, when people hear a news report about a "domestic violence" situation that ends in murder, they shake their heads and then go on with what they were doing.  Back when I was growing up, there was a lot of that, because it happened all the time, all around me, even in my own home.  We females were conditioned to just "accept" it and carry on.  Men drink, they get drunk, they get frustrated, they beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on.  Men have bad tempers, they work hard and they're treated like crap at work.  They come home and beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on.  Men need our support, they have so many burdens to carry on their shoulders, especially when they beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on. 

I don't remember exactly, but the last time my Dad beat me up was before I turned 12.  The details are fuzzy, in fact, I didn't remember it until I sat down here this morning and starting writing this.  But I remember my Mom packing all six of us kids up, and my Aunt Diane coming with her big Cadillac car (Uncle Tony's car) to pick us up.  And we were taken not to Aunt Diane's house, but to Aunt Lorraine's small house, maybe because she only had one kid and one easy-going husband.  I don't think it was Aunt Lillian's house -- Aunt Lillian had 5 kids of her own and a hot-tempered Italian husband, and lived in a place much smaller than the flat Mom took us from.  So we were all jammed into that tiny little house of Aunt Lorraine's on the southside of Milwaukee for about 3 days.  And then we went back home.  And after that, things were different.

Wow, what a memory to surface after all these years.  I'd forgotten all about it.  That was, no doubt, the turning point.  Because although my parents would get into arguments after that, all the physical violence stopped.  I think it was also about that time that Mom and Dad both stopped drinking alcohol.  And they stopped "running around" as they used to call it -- chasing out to bars with their buddies and girlfriends on the weekends.

Yep, it was an interesting childhood, to be sure.  But my family didn't do anything different than countless other families at that time.  And I have to say, other than the beatings and the dramatic relationship between my parents, we always had food on the table, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, a roof over our heads, be it ever so humble, and were always in school and better damn well have gotten good grades - or else!  We knew what - or else - meant.

And so, I've been thinking about what Brenda wrote at Cozy Little Home, and how she reported that some of her readers had (privately emailed her) criticized that she would write about such a thing.  OHMYGODDESS! 

I was shocked that in this day and age that ANYONE would feel that way, let alone express it to someone else. 

Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

These days, my siblings and I josh and joke about those beatings we used to endure.  And the fights that we heard after we were in bed for the night, huddled under blankets -- sometimes the young ones would crawl into bed with me and our next oldest sister and we'd all huddle together, trying to block out the sounds of the loud voices, the accusations hurled, the sounds of violence, the screams and shouts. Humor used to cover up the painful (literally) memories.  Humor doesn't erase the past. But, as with all things, it is nuanced.  It wasn't all bad.  I knew my parents loved me and my siblings.  They were doing the best they could, and actually they did pretty damn well because all of us grew up to be prosperous, successful adults.  No one would have dreamed back then of reporting anything to Child Protective Services.  One or more of the Aunts would have intervened at some point and - perhaps - they did.  It is not something that is talked about.  And now, most of my Aunties are dead, so I cannot ask them -- what happened back then.  I will NOT ask Mom.  Dad died just before Veterans Day in 2002.  Mom is 86.  Hanging in there.  She may outlive me. She remembers the good things.  If she remembers the bad things, she does not speak of them.

All of which brings me back to Brenda's posts about the death of Christine Keith and her son at the hands of an enraged husband.  And the news I heard this morning about the 21-year old mother of three daughters, all under the age of 6, murdered at the hands of her boyfriend during an argument, while the children were in the house.  In that old southside Milwaukee neighborhood where I spent my teen years. 

Some news articles about the death of Christine Keith and her son:

The Mail Online (U.K.): December 7, 2013 -- Ex-husband shot dead wife who wrote popular housekeeping blog before killing himself and son - leaving their three other children orphaned

The Detroit Free Press: December 6, 2013 -- Years of threats, violence led to Lansing double murder-suicide, court records show

The International Business Times: December 9, 2013 -- Lansing Murder-Suicide: Christine Keith, Blogger Of 'Adventures Of A Thrifty Momma,' And Son Killed By Randy Keith In Michigan

What do we do?  How can we allow this kind of thing to go on?  Is there anything we can do?  Can things ever be changed?  Why do we continue to accept the deaths of innocent women and children at the hands of men who profess to love them? 

How ironic.  I've been searching for a written news report on the killing of that young mother of three on the near southside of Milwaukee that I heard earlier this morning on the radio.  Cannot find a damn single thing about it.  Guess it's not news any more.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Southwest Chess Club's End of Year Get-Together

This Thursday, December 19.

The Southwest Chess Club is holding its annual Holiday End of Year Party.  This will be an evening of casual chess and socializing.  Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available. This is a free event open to all chess players and their guests.
The Southwest Chess Club is located at the Hales Corners Village Hall/Police Station, 5635 South New Berlin Road, Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in the downstairs Community Room.  Club open at 6 PM.
I hope there is a great turn-out and everyone has a wonderful time! 

Indian Hypocrisy At Its Worst!

Oh Goddess. Well, I've had my own experiences at the hands of Indian males here in the United States where they come in droves to be educated and to make money, and none of them has been pleasant.  So, I view this story through the lenses of my own personal experiences and their "cultural norms."  Hypocrites!

Found at Yahoo News, but reported at AP:

Indian official: Diplomat's arrest in NYC barbaric
Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — The arrest and alleged strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York City escalated into a major diplomatic furor Tuesday as India's national security adviser called the woman's treatment "despicable and barbaric."
Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper. Indian officials said she was arrested and handcuffed Thursday as she dropped off her daughter at school, and was kept in a cell with drug addicts before posting $250,000 bail.
A senior Indian official confirmed reports that she also was strip-searched, which has been portrayed in India as the most offensive and troubling part of the arrest. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
Her U.S. attorney said he didn't know if she was strip-searched. Federal authorities said they were looking into the arrest.
"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India," said Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman. "Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

Harf said that federal authorities would work on the issue with India "in the spirit of partnership and cooperation that marks our broad bilateral relationship."

India was ready to retaliate against American diplomats in India by threatening to downgrade privileges and demanding information about how much they pay their Indian household staff, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Police also removed the traffic barricades near the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, a demand by the Indian government in retaliation for Khobragade's treatment, PTI reported. The barriers were a safety measure.

"We got orders to remove the concrete barriers," said Amardeep Sehgal, station house officer of the Chanakyapuri police station, the one nearest the embassy. "They were obstructing traffic on the road." He refused to say who had given the orders.

Calls to the U.S. Embassy were not immediately returned Tuesday.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon slammed Khobragade's treatment in New York.
"It is despicable and barbaric," he said.

Prosecutors in New York say Khobragade, 39, claimed she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually paid her less than the U.S. minimum wage. In order for diplomats and consular officers to get a visa for their personal employees, known as an A-3 visa, they must show proof that the applicant will receive a fair wage, comparable to employment in the U.S., U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement last week.

[So, not only is this "ambassador" a cheapskate, she is a liar, too, in addition to breaking U.S. laws.]

Federal prosecutors say Khobragade told the housekeeper she would be paid 30,000 rupees per month — about $573, or $3.31 per hour. The woman worked for the family from about November 2012 through June 2013, and said she worked far more than 40 hours per week and was paid even less than 30,000 rupees, prosecutors said.

Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity, her lawyer said last week.

If convicted, Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration. She was arrested outside of her daughter's Manhattan school.

"We are distressed at the treatment that Dr. Khobragade has received at the hands of U.S. authorities," said her lawyer, Daniel Arshack, he said she should have diplomatic immunity.

Her case quickly became a major story in India, with politicians urging diplomatic retaliation and TV news channels showing the woman in a series of smiling family photos. [Interesting how this allegedly innocent woman is being used by oppressive forces in her home country.  Ha!]

That reaction may look outsized in the United States, but the case touches on a string of issues that strike deeply in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. [So why should we in the USA curb OUR official behavior to satisfy INDIA's cultural sensitivities?  We're sick enough here as it is, why should we get even sicker by granting immediate special treatment to people who APPEAR to be of a certain class or caste?  And just how would we know a poor Indian from a rich Indian, anyway?]  For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes. [So, according to Indian protocols this woman is supposed to receive SPECIAL TREATMENT?  Are Americans not subject to the laws of the countries they visit or reside in without citizenship?  Yes!  But now this woman is going to worm her way out of her alleged crimes by claiming diplomatic immunity.  And I wonder what will happen to the poor nanny -- will she end up conveniently dead at some future date?  Do you feel like vomiting?  I sure do.]

Far less serious protocol complaints have become big issues in the past. Standard security checks in the U.S. regularly are front-page news here when they involve visiting Indian dignitaries, who are largely exempt from friskings while at home.

India's former speaker of Parliament, Somnath Chatterjee, once refused to attend an international meeting in Australia when he wasn't given a guarantee that he would not have to pass through security. Chatterjee said even the possibility of a security screening was "an affront to India."

The treatment and pay of household staff, meanwhile, is largely seen as a family issue, off-limits to the law. [Disgusting!  The "household staff" is not even given the dignity and legal protection of kept pets!]

The fallout from the arrest was growing. On Tuesday, Indian political leaders from both the ruling party and the opposition refused to meet with the U.S. congressional delegation in New Delhi. The Indian government said it was "shocked and appalled at the manner in which the diplomat had been humiliated" in the U.S.

Indian Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh summoned U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell to register a complaint.

In Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday that the department's diplomatic security team followed standard procedures during the arrest. After her arrest, Khobragade was handed over to U.S. marshals for intake and processing, she said.

Harf also noted that there is diplomatic immunity and consular immunity. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Indian deputy consul general enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions, she said.

Khobragade's father, Uttam Khobragade, told the TimesNow TV news channel on Tuesday that his daughter's treatment was "absolutely obnoxious." [What is obnoxious is how INDIA treats its female rape victims.]

"As a father I feel hurt, our entire family is traumatized," he said. [Yeah, right, I'll bet you feel "traumatized," Dude.]

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said there were "larger issues" involved in the case, but did not elaborate.

"We will deal with them in good time," he said.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...