Monthly Archives: August 2011

Turning Right

I was reading in the New Yorker the other day that Clarence Thomas exerts a powerful Conservative influence over the Supreme Court even though he rarely speaks. Apparently his wife Patty and he are a Tea Party team and they are winning as the Court slides ever closer to the extreme right end of the political continuum.
What this makes me believe is that the deadlocked split we currently have in the Congress will not end when our Congress people come back in September. The GOP has decided that this is their moment. They are going for the jugular vein of America. They believe they are absolutely “right” in their “small government” view of America and will lead those of us who are “deluded” to the truth. We will, perhaps, recognize the new America if we go back to the Puritans; Jonathan Edwards (the minister, not the psychic), Increase and Cotton Mather, the Salem Witch Hunts.
The worst part is we knew America required “change” but here are the very foxes who robbed the chicken coop and now they want to remodel the farm. If the design of the farm (the laws) favors them now – it will be even more skewed when they are done. Not only will we have “small government” but, with this change in the size of government come some other things that tag along as a sort of silent agenda. If we “turn right” abortion will be illegal, there will be only private healthcare, there will be no social security and your children will learn “creationism” in school. Will we become a fundamentalist religious society? I think so. These guys offer up a package deal that is about way more than just “small government”. Could they lead the whole globe into religious wars? It’s vaguely possible.
This whole view of America is so opposite to what I hoped we would come up with, although it does make some valid points about our economy. If compromise were possible I think America could find a path that would not please anyone completely, but would please all of us to an acceptable degree. If this large right wing of our government has signed pledges that say they will not negotiate, how will America find its center? How come there is a wall of silence whenever these pledges are discussed? How do our officials on the left or center feel about this issue of pledges? Can we stop this new trend by making the signing of pledges illegal; if so, how?
What makes me so nervous is that compromise seems to have been ruled out and enough people will be persuaded to vote for these extremists and that then we will go there, to the there to which I do not want to go. If we do I don’t think I will ever understand why; except someone, I think it was Edward Albee, once said, “sometimes you have to go a long ways out of your way to come back a short distance correctly.”

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They’re Coming Back

We hear the patter of little feet. We were resting from overexposure, lolling in our hammocks, watching our favorite show, or enjoying an adult conversation and suddenly they’re back, they’re awake and our peace is about to be shattered. Our Congress people are coming back into session after Labor Day bringing their enormous egos, their ambitious energies, their stubborn positions, and their squabbling contentiousness.
I wish I thought that over their hiatus they learned that the very strength of America lies in our extremes only when there is also a will to meet somewhere in the center. This is how our nation maintains its balance. This is the one successful strategy from our past that seems to have abandoned us in the present. We can’t expect one party to do all the compromising, which is what is being asked. Compromise is not the same as surrender. It requires give and take; not just give, give, give, or take, take, take.
Please tiptoe back into session like grownups and bargain together in good faith. Fall is a beautiful season, we’ve had a rough year so far, and we’d like to continue our quiet enjoyment of our lives and our families before we retreat to our dens for the winter.
Don’t make us come (up/down/in) there!

Our Hurricane Drama

Irene was a stunning experience. Not the strongest hurricane in nature’s arsenal of significant weather events, but she certainly demanded the attention of at least 2/3 of the East Coast of America and of a portion of coastal Canada also. It is our great good fortune that this hurricane, on this track, was not any stronger than it was. Something about the human spirit needs excess. If a hurricane is Category 4 we secretly feel a certain grim satisfaction. If we prepare for disaster and it doesn’t come, we know we are wrong, but we feel vaguely let down. This is a tiny portion of our human nature and a sort of bizarre aspect we are not really proud of. Our more rational self says this storm was quite large enough, thank you.
I say this storm was large enough to justify the preparations taken by our state and local governments. I already hear people complaining that the lead in to this weather event was a perfect example of overkill and given that every channel on TV had 24 hour a day coverage it would seem to be true. Actually this is more a function of channels dedicated to all news all the time and we must admit we were fascinated. There wasn’t a lot of other news going on with our government on hiatus and, although it was a bit excessive, we couldn’t look away.
 I’m sure that every part of us except that little portion that is titillated by catastrophe is happy that a hurricane like this which hugged the East Coast for so many hundreds of miles was not as strong as we feared it would be. If I was one of those who was evacuated from my home and then felt that I had been inconvenienced for nothing I might feel differently. I was, however, happy to see our dysfunctional government is not so bad at the state and local level and was able to work in concert when necessary. That was reassuring.
Now we will have to spend millions of dollars that we don’t have to clean up from this hurricane/tropical storm, but not as much as we would have had to spend if it had been more powerful. Now we have lost millions in tourist dollars that would have contributed to the economies of the affected states, but tourist services will be back on line much sooner than they would have been if the storm had lived up to its early hype. Let’s count our blessings, thank our leaders and our newscasters and move on to cleaning up and living our lives.

Hello Irene

We are waiting to see where Hurricane Irene will go. This is a key difference between a tornado and a hurricane. A tornado seems to pop up out of nowhere. It gives those in its path little time to prepare. When it comes in the middle of the night emergency alarms may jolt you awake if your community has one. If it comes by day the quality of the light in the sky may tip off people who can actually see the sky and they may pass on the warning.

With a hurricane we have plenty of time to watch it wobble its way toward us or towards someone else. Irene seems a little slower than some. We can see her coming but we still have uncertainty on several points such as what her exact path will be (which we really wish we knew), exactly how strong she will be, exactly when she will arrive, and how much damage she will do.
I don’t know if there is much choice between being hit quickly by the knock-out punch of a tornado or the drawn out anticipation of a slow-moving hurricane. Once the damage is done they probably feel pretty much the same to those who are hit; so it’s either the drama of lengthy anticipation and dread of the hurricane, or the lightening fast zap and heart attack funnel of a tornado.
I am usually soothed by the fact that I live in a part of the country where tornadoes and hurricanes rarely affect us. I was eight when Hurricane Hazel hit and it was a powerful enough storm that I still remember it. I remember the power of the wind and the rain and I remember the calm of the eye. I remember having to cook out in the back yard on the old cook stove that was there at that time and I remember how difficult it was to find staples like candles, bread and milk. People didn’t buy water then.
I have never experienced a tornado although one Labor Day in the recent past we had a very dramatic hit from a storm with a sky that was sheeted with lightening for well over an hour and lots of straight-line wind damage. Trees were down everywhere but only on east-west streets. north-south streets had no damage.
Given these two experiences I would not chose either type of storm and, I assume, neither would anyone else. I don’t think this storm will be another Hurricane Hazel, but there is at least one potential path that takes it inland and could put me in the storm. Maybe I should buy a few batteries and some water. NOAA says this is not just a coastal storm, that its impact will be felt well inland. It could still go out to sea (although the prospects for that look very iffy). They are making this storm sound pretty scary. Good luck everyone.

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Today my Mom turns 94

Today my Mom turns 94. She is doing very well. She has lost a little ground this year but it only shows in small ways. She takes a lot of naps. She has fallen behind on her ironing. (Who irons these days?) But she still gets dressed most days, gets her own breakfast and lunch and usually gets dinner for my sister and her. She still does dishes and laundry and goes to the basement and the attic chasing her silly little cat more than I like to think about. She has a pendant with a call button but I suspect she often goes on her treks without it. She still can outlast me at a good garage sale.

She is pretty cute. She’s only about 4’ 11” and weighs around 120 pounds after having and raising 8 children. Her mind is still sharp although her hearing is very bad. She still sorts out her own meds for the week and pays her own bills. She is still trying to make a killing from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. What a deal, she reasons, $7,000 a week for life given to a 94 year old would save them a lot of money.
She has lived through so much history it boggles the mind. She was born during WWI so, of course, she has no memory of that war, but she clearly remembers Prohibition and the Great Depression. Her family was very, very poor. Her dad served in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). My Mom was 22 and worked downtown. She ate lunch for 10 cents at a lunch counter in town.
She married my father in 1941 just before the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. My father was not accepted in the service because he had flat feet. I don’t get it but that’s the story and apparently this was a deal breaker at that time. He also worked in a vital war industry, although I’m not sure what he did..
By mid 1950 my mother had 8 children and Dad had bought a sturdy, but unbeautiful house in the suburbs where we had a great time growing up. Mom and Dad had 6 girls and 2 boys, but we all lived like hooligans (nice ones) outdoors almost all of the time. I picture Mom in those years in pin curls with a scarf wrapped around and tied in the front hanging laundry from a basket onto the outdoor lines with at least two kids hanging on her skirts.
She thinks it was terrible that she didn’t “work out of the house” and that she never learned to drive. She still faults herself for this at 94. But she did earn money by taking in children. After we were gone she worked at a check company, she and Dad sold Tupperware, and then for years she made craft items and she and Dad went to craft fairs. She lived through the Hippie Days, the Civil Rights Movement, the Space Race, the moonwalk, Vietnam, Desert Storm, 9/11 and all the events since. She danced to Big Band music and put her hip out doing the Twist, but she cannot hear well enough to listen to rap which she would purely hate anyway. She lost a daughter to a car accident and much later she lost her husband. There are so many more mom stories to tell but I can’t put a whole life in this small homage.
Mom, I have learned to admire your calm strength and gentle courage so much. It is a pleasure to enjoy your company and I hope we have you for as many years as you are able to stand us and hope you remain well enough to feel like you life has some quality.
Happy, happy birthday to you, Mom!  Your family loves you.

Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki – Book

Roopa Farooki, in Bitter Sweets, writes about an Indian/Pakistani family living between two worlds –one foot in the traditions of the old world – one foot in the modern world of air travel and non-traditional relationships. The traditions explored here are those surrounding marriage.
Henna is from a family with ambitions to marry up. Henna’s gifts are beauty and youth (she is only 13) and the ambition to be a Bollywood star. It’s her ambition that makes her go along with her father’s plan to marry her to Ricky/Rashid Karim, an English-educated son of a well-to-do Pakistani family. Rashid realizes he has been duped on his wedding night but he stays with the marriage and waits until Henna is old enough to have a sexual relationship. They have one child, Shona.
Shona marries Parvez Khan and they go to live in her father’s beloved England. Shona, in this one way her mother’s daughter, keeps a secret of her own throughout her marriage. In the end everyone’s secrets are revealed and disaster almost results from all these secrets. It escapes being a “French hotel” type of comedy because the characters seem so real and we care about what happens to them.
I just love India (and apparently Pakistani) books and this was no exception. It is not because they all tell the same story, because they don’t. There is just something about the culture that is so recognizable and yet foreign at the same time, and then there is often a certain light-heartedness even in the face of some pretty awful events, which tells us a lot about the spirit of the people.
Although there have been a number of books from the Indian culture with the words bitter and sweet in the title, this title is quite appropriate because Shona and her husband live above a sweets shop in the early days of their marriage.
The only way you will know if you enjoy books by Indian (and Pakistani) authors is to read a few. One of my blogs from 2010 includes a list of books from India.
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Harry, Hermione, Ron, et al; We’ll Miss You

Last Sunday I went to see Harry Potter, The Deathly Hallows, Part II. Finally the demise of Voldemort on film has been accomplished as it was long ago in print and all our friends from Hogwarts are tucked into their comfortable futures with evil suppressed, although probably not for all eternity.

It is sad that we can no longer travel by flue powder, port key, or even apparate. No new spells will be learned in the Room of Requirement, which was quite demolished. What happened to the Ministry of Magic? What happened to the bad wizards? Is there still an Askaban with dementors or did all that disappear with Voldemort?
Of course, we can read the books over and over; we can watch the movies as many times as we please, but seeing the last movie based on the last book did signal the end of an era, and the end of a very significant literary event in this world where reading books seems to be a dying activity.
The story of J.K. Rowling is almost as much the stuff of myth as the wizarding world she created. All those days when she worried about the future of her child and herself, while she filled her notebooks with the now familiar characters that she brought to life; I wonder if she ever had any inkling of how successful she would be and that she would make us another world to escape to and enjoy.
What I would like, eventually, is to be able to see both Part I and Part II of The Deathly Hallows in the same screening (perhaps with a short intermission).

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The Libyans Enter Tripoli

Freedom was in the air last night.
It is always amazing when you happen to be watching TV at the exact time that a momentous event takes place. Usually the occasion is a natural or man-made disaster and you want to both watch and look away. But watching the Libyans at the moment they enter Tripoli to win (we hope) their hard-fought independence is a happy occasion, although fraught with loss.
In days past we watched as the heroic Libyan rebels advanced across the coastline of Libya from East to West, and were chased back from West to East by Gadhafy’s forces, took a breather and now we have watched as they made up the ground they lost and captured Tripoli, last night, Sunday, August 21, 2011.
These fighters have no uniforms; they ride in rusted-out trucks with guns mounted in the back. They have lost many of their comrades and families are mourning all over Libya; but they are also celebrating. In this push they have lost about 3,000 brave freedom fighters. But tonight they captured three of Gadhafy’s sons and have met little resistance in Tripoli and it looks like they will soon have their victory. Gadhafy is under siege. They ride in their trucks holding two fingers aloft in the sign for victory. Their once anxious faces are wreathed in smiles.
This celebration is just a temporary break in the fighting as the freedom fighters have not captured Gadhafy yet and are not sure where he is. This is not the quintessential moment, but victory seems assured. Perhaps the free citizens of Libya do not know what form their new government will take or perhaps they have given this a lot of thought. We will hope that their future will not be a continuation of their past. Freedom, once won, is often difficult to sustain. For now I will celebrate with the smiling people of Libya.

Are We Babies?

Every time the President leaves Washington news commentators question his timing and Republicans question his patriotism and his work ethic.
I don’t think we are children who can’t function without our Papa (who is still in touch with the White House I am sure). I don’t believe that America will fall apart if Obama visits another continent or country or even if he takes a vacation. I’m sure that right about now he could use a vacation. He’s the President, he can’t just vacation anywhere. He needs to go somewhere where security demands can be controlled.
This is just another example of how Republicans will use any opportunity to make Obama look like a bad President. I don’t ever remember a President receiving this kind of flak for travels of state or for vacation trips.
The new Presidential bus is also under fire. I must admit it does look formidable and funereal and it was quite costly. I cannot imagine, though, how we could entrust the security of the United States President to a regular rental bus. The bus must be less expensive to operate than either the Presidential plane or helicopter. I know we’re feeling poor, but not poor enough to put our President at risk.
While I do agree that our need for jobs is pretty desperate, I think the issues involved in a fix are complex, the possible avenues of attack are limited, and, because most proposals require the approval of Congress, and because the political divide is not likely to have disappeared over the Congressional hiatus, such approval is likely to involve exhausting amounts of posturing.
Given the wild gyrations of the stock market I wish I could believe our government will return with a good solid will to implement every job creation measure in its arsenal instead of voicing more mumbo-jumbo about letting the marketplace fix itself (laissez-faire is so laissez-over).

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Rick Perry for President – Really?

Yes Rick Perry is handsome. Yes he’s a boot-stompin’ Texan, but have you listened to what he has to say? He wants a teeny-tiny federal government which will do what? I am not sure. He wants to give everything back to the states (who are already overwhelmed). He wants health care to be designated to the states. It will be a nightmare to make interstate moves if he has his way. What will happen to your health care when you move from state to state?
He wants all social programs to be totally administered by the states. You can bet everyone will want to move to the states with the best programs. Again, how will there be any uniformity among the states?  He wants almost all regulation of corporations to go away. (Unregulated capitalism leads to abuses which are unacceptable in a democratic society.)
He does not say what he will do about the fact that we give the lion’s share of our taxes to the federal government. That equation will have to be reversed. Our major tax levies will have to go to the states. If voters know these things will they want Rick Perry as our President? I would be very surprised if they did.
And that is just the tip of the ice berg. Apparently, according to the Daily Beast, he has an interest in a branch of Christianity called Dominionism, which is a belief that it is his Christian duty to turn the whole world to global Christianity, and a really narrow, Old Testament brand of Christianity is what we are talking about.  Rick Perry denies any such connection but I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this subject. It is said that he makes George Bush seem like a pussy cat or, just kidding, a Democrat.
The extremism represented by some of the Republicans running for President would not be nearly so frightening if a fair number of people didn’t seem to think we should go there. Why would we want to go there? Are we guilty of something? Are we punishing ourselves? We didn’t do anything wrong? We did not force corporations to leave America? We did not invent cheaper markets elsewhere? It would have happened eventually if not now. It was inevitable. We need to decide how we will stay afloat until global balance is achieved. I do not think a Christian state is the answer. I still believe in freedom. Let’s leave Rick Perry in Texas.

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