Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante – Book

In Book 4 of the Neapolitan Novels, The Story of the Lost Child we find Elena back in the old neighborhood in Naples living upstairs from Lila and her partner Enzo who run a business teaching Basic computer language. Elena finds living near Lila stimulating enough that she begins writing again. Sometimes it almost seems that without Lila Elena might not have been so successful. Lila is passionate about the Naples neighborhood and the people they have known since childhood.

For a while the cultural changes, the revolution of ideas around the role of the worker and the role of women in Italy and, indeed, the world had excited Elena and kept her busy writing, but as the movements calmed down and the excitement died down Elena had been flailing for new subject matter and her finances were dwindling. Back in Naples, she was inspired to write about the things Lila talked to her about. She betrayed a promise she had made to her friend that she would not write about her. Did this lead to the things that happened to the two friends? You will have to judge for yourself. Lila has a certain mental illness that attacks her from time to time that I have not previously mentioned. She still manages to command some power in the neighborhood, but one wonders how much her failures and her successes are affected by her periodic mental imbalances?

Here is Lila talking about the Solaras brothers who consider the neighborhood their person crime fiefdom and who have their fingers in every business, legal and illegal. Now that Elena has exposed them she is nervous about retribution.

“She [Lila] cited the experience of the earthquake, for more than two years she had done nothing except complain of how the city had deteriorated. She said that since then she had been careful never to forget that we are very crowded beings, full of physics, astrophysics, biology, religion, soul, bourgeoisie, proletariat, capital work, profit, politics, many nervous phrases, many unharmonious, the chaos inside and the chaos outside. So calm down she said laughing, what do you expect the Solaras to be. Your novel is done. You wrote it, you rewrote it, being there was evidently useful to you, to make it true, but now it’s out and you can’t take it back. The Solaras are angry? So what. Michele threatens you? Who gives a damn. There could be another earthquake at any moment, even stronger. Or the whole universe could collapse. And then what is Michele? Nothing. And Marcello is nothing. The two of them are merely flesh that spouts out threats and demands for money.”

Later we hear Elena’s disillusionment (although she claims it is Lila’s) with human societies, social change and human nature:

“To be born in that city. I went so far as to write once, thinking not of myself but of Lila’s pessimism, is to be useful for only one thing: to have always known, almost instinctively, what today, with endless fine distinctions everyone is beginning to claim: that the dream of unlimited progress is in reality a nightmare of savagery and death.”

The things Elena has observed from Naples and from Italy have led her to basically discard socialism, communism, and capitalism at least exclusively and individually as models for an economy that will not bring out the worst in people.

By Nancy Brisson

But while Elena is convinced of the brutality and filth of human interactions, Lila, who with her insider knowledge of that human filth and chaos that surrounds her in Naples, with the bitterness of a woman who lost a chance to study and perhaps rise above, as a mom who has lost her child, Lila is reading and writing on her own to remove the human tarnish from the beautiful landmarks of Naples and is showing us the beauty that people also create.

I cannot tell you about the lost child, but I have spent quite a while in and near Naples and, while I can’t say that I always enjoyed it, it has been “real”, a true gift to the reader of a generation of life in a poor corner of Naples. Don’t even pretend if you read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Books that these things only happen in Naples.

On Megalomania, America, and the World

It seems that a portion of America is having a crisis of confidence, a self-image slippage. When we see these candidates with huge egos (adjective deliberately chosen) running at the top of the polls it’s a sign. We know what happens to teens with low self-esteem. They are vulnerable to con men and users of every stripe.

These demoralized Americans believe that diplomacy is wimpy and that the only proper role for America is astride a nuke (á la Dr. Strangelove) pointed at anyone who causes trouble. What did that guy say – yahoo, yipee-yi-oh-ki-ay? This could be about pride but it comes off as more about fear – fear that America will be overrun by Muslims, by the Chinese, by the North Koreans, by the Russians (wow, we are beset, aren’t we – it is a little paranoid-making). Surely, looking at this, someone who advocates trying to take a diplomatic approach to calm everyone down makes good sense to some of us and, seemingly, no sense to the rest of us.

Opponents of diplomacy want America to come out large, guns blasting and make sure that other nations know who is in charge, to pistol whip them into some kind of dazed submission that puts star spangled flags in their eyes when they even think of America. Well, to many Americans, this looks more like an Armageddon-WW III scenario that may rage for a century, as opposed to what we have right now, just the small conflagrations that pop up now and then, have to be put out, but are confined to specific areas, so that life in the rest of the world goes on.

There will always be people who get drunk on power and stomp around uncaring about who they stomp on. And they will always raise the ire of people who love freedom because they are enemies of freedom. But after all these centuries of human interaction and after being taunted by power- sick individuals over and over again, after endless wars to subdue men who want to rule the world you would think we would have come up with some better strategies for these megalomaniacs than to drive a few tanks over them (they get back up). People with these personality disorders should not ever be allowed to assume a role of power. They should be defused and their talents redirected early on before it takes half a world to defeat one madman.

People in America, Conservatives, seem to believe that the best way to defeat one megalomaniac is with another. So we have a lineup of egomaniacs running on the Republican side (D. Trump, B. Carson, T. Cruz, C. Christie) and we have free Americans on fire to put themselves under the control of these nuts. But there is no “we” in ego. These guys sound more like they are running for King than for President.

America, because it is a nation run by flawed humans cannot be perfect. We have sometimes done what we thought would be right and we have sometimes done wrong in order to protect our might (although that didn’t always end up well). Right now our President is trying to walk closer to the line of doing what is right – and many Americans are afraid that this will lead us to lose our might. Boots on the ground or be a squish? Are those really our only choices? Yikes! (Stop watching FOX News!)

By Nancy Brisson

On Authenticity, Hillary Clinton, and Ben Carson

I do understand how people question Hillary’s authenticity. Her answers do not sound like they come from a marriage of her heart and her head. They sound like answers from her head only, her political head, which weighs expediency and poll numbers and produces a well-rehearsed sound bite. She is an authentic person who seems phony.

In order to appreciate Hillary you have to review what she has tried to do, what she has done, and what she wants to do. She is a person whose actions speak louder than her words. I saw how nervous she was when she went to China to speak about women’s rights. She entered the jaws of the authoritarian dragon, a society dominated by men for centuries and she spoke to Chinese women. Everyone at that meeting must have felt that there could be repercussions. She has met with women and girls on almost every continent trying to raise awareness of antiquated misogynistic traditions that keep women powerless. She has worked with groups offering micro loans to women who turn a small business into progress, family by family.

If Hillary has done all of this without being President it is fairly easy to believe that, whatever problems she has with sounding authentic, she will faithfully strive to determine what the American people need, to listen to what the American people want, and to make sure to accomplish as much of her agenda, an agenda that while it is somewhat left of center is in no way extreme, and which she believes is our agenda. She tells us that she would like to win bipartisan support, but I am certain that if she cannot move the other party, she will still work to make a strong America.

On the other hand, everyone talks about how authentic Ben Carson sounds. He talks in a calm manner and argues persuasively, if laconically, offering statements that seem both rational and heartfelt. Even when he says outrageous things he quietly and pedantically accuses us of misunderstanding him and of giving his words more drama then intended.

Sunday (10/25/15) on Meet the Press he was questioned about his statement that if the Jews had guns then Hitler would not have been able to round them up and kill them. He, without changing his laid back tone, blows off those who see this as anti-Semitic and says there is no double meaning. (Somehow I cannot see Hillary ever making such a comparison to begin with and I have difficulty seeing that as a bad thing.)

Ben Carson also said that he sees those who fight abortion as being brave activists like the abolitionists who fought slavery. Yet I cannot agree to this analogy. Slaves were snatched from their families as adults and turned into the property of a usually white owner. They were fully formed people with lives and rituals and wives and children. Unborn babies begin as clumps of cells. They have no foothold yet in the world. I believe that those who defend the rights of women to control their own reproductive health are much more similar to those who fought against slavery. And why does Ben Carson go to these extreme analogies except to get attention and display his contempt for our petty powers of reasoning.

The problem is that when Ben Carson tells what he wants to do as President, the American people do not seem to enter into the equation anywhere. He says that he believes all abortion is wrong. He will be the final arbiter. He will overturn Roe v Wade. We could assume that he is a moral authority but there is no proof of that. He does not speak of our government as a democracy. He does not mention the wishes or the needs of the people. He may sound authentic to some but to me he sounds arrogant, a leader for a much more authoritarian nation than ours.

Perhaps Hillary has some areas where her own values will not permit her to follow the majority but I am guessing that Hillary mostly wants an America that offers all its people a comfortable life with opportunities for individual growth and for our nation to prosper. So while she may strike some as phony, her actions and her hopes make her anything but inauthentic.

I would say that exactly the opposite is true of Ben Carson, who speaks softly but has a burning desire to teach the bad, bad American people a lesson, which, one on one, might involve a switch from a willow and a closed room. What good is it to be authentic, if you are authentically wrong?

By Nancy Brisson

Google/Microsoft/Betraying My Liberal Ways

The Google/Microsoft wars are heating up. If you buy a Microsoft computer and you are a person who gets nervous about messing with your computers settings, you might have to call in the Geek Squad to make a Google Home Page stick. In Windows 10 the preferred browser is MS Edge, but it is not my preferred browser. Mozilla Foxfire gets along best with Windows 10 while Internet Explorer and Chrome are just about useless. Without the talents of the Geek Squad even using Foxfire was a struggle. The preferred search engines in Windows 10 are MSN and Bing.

Politically, as you may know, I am a lefty, so I should be opposed to businesses that try to corner a monopoly of any market. But in the case of Google I am a traitor to my liberal leanings. I know Google is getting too big and is trying to take over everything but I have a terrible Google habit that I just can’t kick, so I still throw in my lot with Google. They manipulate everything with their algorithms for search engine optimization (SEO). Tough to find the ‘little’ guys, those who have yet to make money, build up a reputation or a following. They will be buried so far back in the search results line-up that no one but the contrary will ever find them. Of course, now all search engines use algorithms and they do improve your chances of getting very relevant sources right up top – right under the paid ads which appear just before those relevant search results, and which often echo them. Money talks on the internet too. I guess I stay with Google because I think they are the best.

Then there is Amazon – as a liberal I cringed when I read the recent accounts of how they treat their employees. However much they deny it I will bet that there is some truth in the reports. And yet I love getting my new wreath stand (or whatever) in one day. Because I have purchased a year of Amazon Prime I find myself buying all kinds of things from Amazon like the slippers I just purchased. However, now in the back of my brain is a screen which runs a little movie in my imagination of a poor soul, sometimes male, sometimes female chasing madly through an enormous warehouse with only 5 minutes to “pick” my items and get them to shipping. I may not renew my Prime membership when it runs out, except that I already bought a fire stick for the TV which I have found useful on empty TV weekends. Oh surely now you can see the battle between my love of consumption and my political ideals.

In the future I will have to parcel out my measly few purchases amongst more sellers, but unless there is a popular movement to ‘spread the wealth’ I doubt my gesture will do much to change the marketplace. I am worried that Barnes and Noble will go under, and that it will be my fault. So I now need to find a way to shop more often at Barnes and Noble. First I need a more sophisticated Nook. Perhaps what I really need is more money. Barnes and Noble – I hope you have other options.

By Nancy Brisson

October, 2015 Book List

Publisher’s Weekly – most up-to-date list of new publications but I did not get all my Tip Sheets this month or perhaps I deleted some by mistake.

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen

Calf by Andrea Kleine

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann (Connected stories)

Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea

Find me unafraid: Love, loss, and hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner (NF)

MARtians by Blythe Woolston

The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf (Memoir)

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Independent Booksellers– these picks tell what readers are buying at the Independent bookshops who are members of the ABA. Sometimes older books are mixed in on these list because they are still selling.

After You by Jojo Moyes

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

X by Sue Grafton

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

Family Furnishings by Alice Munro

Room by Emma Donoghue

Eve by William Paul Young

The Occupation Trilogy by Patrick Modiano

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Armada by Ernest Cline

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! By Jonathan Evison

The Blue Guitar by John Banville

Patriot by Ted Bell

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong

Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

The Company She Kept by Archer Mayor

So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Amazon – Amazon performs a service for readers (and for itself) by giving us lists of new books each month, divided by genre. I’m sure Barnes and Noble does the same. Which service you use depends on which electronic reader you have – Kindle is Amazon; Barnes and Nobles is Nook. So unless you read paper books still or own both a Kindle and a Nook you have perhaps voted for a bookstore chain when you purchased your reader. I hope we don’t lose either of the big two that remain.

Pretty Girls: A Novel by Karin Slaughter

*City on Fire: A Novel by Garth Risk Halberg (highly rec. by all)(70’s NYC mystery and more)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

Mrs. Engels: A Novel by Gavin McCrea

The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (King David)

*The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

*A Strangeness in My Mind: A Novel by Orhan Pamuk, Ekin Oklap

A Gap of Times: A Novel by Jeanette Winterson

Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe

Katherine Carlyle by Rupert Thomson

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Survivor by Vince Flynn

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter

Saturn Run by John Sanford, Ctein

Foreign Affairs (Stone Barrington) by Stuart Woods

Fear of the Dark: A Bishop/SCU Novel by Kay Hooper

Icarus by Deon Meyer

The Dead Student by John Katzenbach

The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison

Biographies and Memoirs

M Train by Patti Smith

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Unfaithful Music by Elvis Costello

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

Empire of Self – A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini

Find a Way by Diana Nyad

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth

Becoming Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 by Mark Twain and Harriet E Smith

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: A Novel by David Wong

Compiled by Nancy Brisson

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante – Book

It was clear from the beginning of Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels – My Brilliant Friend – that Elena (Lenù) Greco, our storyteller (perhaps our author) was smitten with Lila (Lina) Cerrullo in the way that children admire another child who seems to be a leader. Elena felt not quite as quick-witted or smart or creative as Lila and although she surpassed Lila in some ways, she never really believed her success. As the story progresses we see that Lila never appreciates a secondary role. While she may sometimes be laid low in her life, she, with her native intelligence and ambition finds her way back into life decisions that bring her back into Elena’s view, sometimes peripherally and sometimes face to face.

To understand this almost toxic tango between these two friends we only need focus on the person of Nino Sarratore. Elena loved Nino since childhood. He is a thin, tall figure with long hair and he is, perhaps, even more intelligent than either Elena or Lila. But one summer when Lina’s new husband Stefano rents a house at the beach, when Lina convinces Lenù to go with her, Lila/Lina begins a passionate affair with Nino, even though she swore she did not find him attractive and despite the fact that she knows that Lenù loves him (from afar). Lila, in fact, leaves her husband and the lovely apartment he furnished for her, and a rising prosperity and moves back into a far cheaper and poorer place to live with Nino. After a while the affair burns out and Lila, without Stefano’s support must take a soul-sucking job in a sausage factory.

Later Elena, now married to a college professor who is rather stodgy and controlling but is part of a wealthy influential academic family, meets Nino again and begins her own affair with this man she has loved since childhood. Nino is a womanizer and probably will not be Elena’s soulmate for long but by the end of Book 3 Elena is with Nino and Lila, who got in at the beginning of IBM (long story) is back in Naples working for one of the Solara boys, who use mafia-style tactics to rule the old neighborhood, and who she has always purposely stayed away from because she believed them to be quite dangerous.

The young adult lives of Elena and Lila straddle the tectonic divide which opened up worldwide in the late 1960’s and seemed to take a hiatus sometime in the 1980’s. Everything Elena had on her list of priorities for her adult life, an academic life, a comfortable life, a cultured husband and his family, children and to continue writing belonged to a far less revolutionary life than people were living on campuses, in factories, and in the culture of not just Italy, but the world. There is no talk of hippies here. There are no anti-Vietnam War rallies because Italians were not involved in that war. The things around which revolt coalesced in Italy had to do with social class and fluidity, with worker’s rights and women’s rights.

Young offspring of professors found themselves aligned with young Communists to change working conditions by getting workers to strike, to protect themselves, and to demand their rights. There was violent backlash from Fascist elements that remained in the aftermath of WWII. This same discombobulation of the class structure was going on everywhere. It is not strange that Elena and to a lesser degree Lila, with their roots in the poorest parts of Naples, with Elena’s fairly recent climb up the social ladder through her intellectual achievements, would be pulled between the two worlds.

Even Elena’s very gender and the way females had been treated, cosseted, and yet imprisoned gave her reason to break from a traditional marriage, which had been less a partnership of intellectual equals or a passionate sexual union, and more a matter of assuming typical male/female roles. Her role became defined as housewife, mother, and helpmate to her husband’s not very brilliant career and required her to push her own aspirations aside. She experiences the same drive to be liberated which was so prevalent at the time and which is still reverberating now in the 21st century. She even expresses to the open-minded reader a new way to look at male/female relationships, which we knew but have perhaps never explored as we should have, which says that women keep allowing men to create them.

Taken together these books are a real tour de force and they are certainly as detailed as the critics claim. No time being wasted here and no way to explain the totality of these books, which I am happy to wander around in for however long it takes to finish. This volume is called Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. On to Book 4 in the Neapolitan Novels and, alas, the end of the series.

By Nancy Brisson

If Only

The Republicans are always bemoaning Obama’s foreign policy. He’s weak, he’s feckless; Obama’s policies are making America lose its gravitas in the world. Republicans blame the entire chaos in the Middle East and beyond on Obama. Last Sunday, Chris Christie said that Obama is hurting America so much with his foreign policy that he should be removed from office.

Republicans say that Obama should have never backed down from that red line in Syria. If only he did not back down then Assad would already be gone. This is just a theory of course, even though they say it as if it were fact. There is no proof that this is true and in fact, since it is a hypothetical, it cannot be proved. Assad is stubbornly large and in charge, willing to let refugees from his entrenched and unpopular regime flood first his neighbors in the Middle East and now Europe. He has the backing of Putin and everyone is trying to avoid an all-out war with Putin, because he seems to want one so badly.

Republicans say, if only Obama had not pulled all our troops out of Iraq. They are trying to sell the idea that Obama, even more so than Bush, made the mess in the Middle East and the formation of ISIL is therefore also Obama’s fault. (They love this twisted reasoning that makes my brain feel like a pretzel.) Some people seem to be buying this but the rest of us have longer memories.

As we watched the same American troops serve duty after duty in Iraq (and Afghanistan), as we watched how IED’s were depriving generations of men and women of the limbs they were born with, as we got better and better at manufacturing futuristic prostheses and all-terrain wheel chairs, we came to believe that the human costs were too great and the rewards too small. People knew there were different sects in these ancient lands but they underestimated the bad feelings that had been pent up over the decades, along with the social hierarchies that defined the pecking order of the various sects. Our troops were stretched too thin and regrouping was a good strategy.

If we had stayed in Iraq we would have been reviled as imperialists, heretics, occupiers, all old labels we were trying to shake off. Once Bush unleashed all of this, the whole struggle became our business only in the sense that we need to contain it.

If only we had stayed in Afghanistan, the GOP opines, then we would not have allowed the Taliban to come back in. Forget that we only went in to get Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. Forget that, although the Taliban is anathema to people who love human rights and freedom, beating back the Taliban was actually a different fight than the one that originally sucked us into Afghanistan. And as much as we gained ground and beat back the Taliban, as much as we don’t want to see our hard-won victories undone and the risks that our soldiers took disappear into this rocky land as if they never accomplished anything good for the people of Afghanistan, we don’t want to be occupiers, and how long could we stay in Afghanistan among hostile people who had asked us to leave.

If only the Iran Nuclear Agreement was better, Republicans say. Obama gave away all America’s power. Being diplomatic with these people won’t fly critics say. If will only make us appear weak and if they think we are weak they will find ways to exploit that weakness. But there is so much hostility and competition among nations. Why are these times turning into such a flash point with everything in turmoil at the same time?

It sounds reassuring to build up our military, perhaps to reinstate the draft if we can’t find enough volunteers. It sounds like security to build up our navy and our air force, to stock pile weapons, to be the toughest nation on the globe. Perhaps we think we need to fight fear with fear – bring back the Cold War only bigger, colder. The more militaristic we get though, the more militaristic are ‘enemies’ get. If only Republicans understood de-escalation, diplomacy, defusing confrontation. If we presented a united front to try to do that deescalating hostilities thing we might find strength and perhaps even respect from that.

The Republicans may have their if-onlys – but I have my own too. I think mine make more sense on a tiny planet with 7 billion+ people that feels, right now, like it is on the verge of apocalypse.

By Nancy Brisson

What If?

We will never get to see what the results of Obama and the Democratic Party’s liberal agenda would have been if the obstructionists in the Republican Party did not hold the Democrats back. One area where this is true is in the health of America’s economy. We will never see if loosening up on the budget a bit would have allowed business to come back even better than it has since the recession, because the Republicans insisted that the budget needed to be cut and threatened to shut down government unless it was cut. So we see what semi-austerity allowed, but we can’t go back and take that other pathway and see what would have resulted from a little spending, not go-wild spending but careful injections of cash. They might have acted like those cortisone shots people get for their arthritis, but we will never know. Instead we got The Sequester, which as far as I can see has had no positive effects on our economy.

We could have experimented with raising taxes on the wealthiest people and, since corporations are now people, on corporations, and although we did get rid of the Bush tax cuts this just brought back the status quo and was not enough to cause a change in our economy. Would higher taxes have been a shot in the arm our economy needed or would these taxes have made the business climate in America worse as the GOP informed us they would. Since these things are predictions and since the variables we might have examined never included any appreciable tax increases we will never know if America might have done even better in the Obama years than it did.

We could have experimented with some basic gun regulations like registrations of all gun sales with records retained for use by law enforcement. We could have done this for perhaps five years and we would already know the results by now. Did shooters still continue to target people who are either captive in public spaces as in the case of schools or are congregating socially in public places as malls, movie theaters, and churches? But an obdurate group of extremists has managed to convince Americans that President Obama is just waiting to take away all their guns and turn himself into President-for-Life Obama, crushing our 2nd Amendment rights forever. We will be the new Cuba. This is nonsense. Are the perpetrators really frightened (I doubt it) or are they just trying to have their way with the American people regardless of who the President is. (Much more likely)

What about infrastructure? If Obama had been allowed to begin a few infrastructure projects (not Keystone) would that have brought up the employment numbers? Would it have helped move more people into a comfortable financial condition? We have no idea. We did not get to find out.

So when you hear the Republicans blame Obama for America’s slow economic recovery, unless you are totally hypnotized by FOX News and have to get your right wing fix every day, then you must admit that there is some truth to the things I have just talked about. Perhaps instead of saving America by refusing to give Obama (and the American people) a decent allowance the Republicans are actually responsible for some of the atrophy in the America economy. Why would you trust people who want to get rid of the Federal government to mess with the Federal Budget? How small do you want your government to be? These folks still want to end all social programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and they have already made a start on this in their home states. So why would we elect a Republican President and hand them the whole kit and caboodle when we have already been following their policies by default and they have not been working. Think it through and you might agree with some of this.

By Nancy Brisson

Happy Birthday John Lennon

Thankfulness and John Lennon

This is a repost of a blog published on 11/27/2013 for Thanksgiving. Things have changed in Syria but my sentiments are the same and John Lennon provided the sound track for those sentiments.

I came of age in those amazing times when America learned to hate war and long for peace. I grew up chanting “All we are saying, is give Peace a chance” along with John Lennon and many blue jean clad peers. We all boarded the “Peace Train” and pinned our hopes on a world that wanted peace as badly as we did. We recognized war as a terrible thing, tearing people, families, children, homes, villages, cities, and nations apart and emphasizing the fault lines of hate that run through human history. We did not want to go to war in Vietnam.

As we aged our anti-war message mellowed. We learned the lessons of expediency. With Katie we watched two planes fly into the Twin Towers; we watched those proud towers which pierced our skies burn to ash, melt, and fall over our iconic city. While many of us peaceniks did not want to go to war in Iraq and had real doubts about those weapons of mass destruction, we felt that if we seemed unprepared for some military style of retaliation we would only invite more attacks. We recognized the need to mount a good defense in terms of domestic security systems, and a good offense in terms of a willingness to find and hunt down our enemies and to be ready to meet them on a battlefield. War reared its ugly head again and our chorus of “give Peace a chance” dwindled until it was almost just a silent wish. But that refrain is still there; it is the bass line of our existence. When our strong yearning for peace was met by the revelation that anti-American sentiment around the world was about to become the treble line of our existence, we girded our loins (well the loins of our soldiers) to do more war, war seemingly without end, as it is unclear how all the hostilities that face us around the globe will ever give way to tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It looks as if our contretemps with Islamic extremists will be quite hard to unravel, and then we face other unhappy campers in far flung corners of the world. It looks like we will become way more weary of war before the people of earth will ever reach some kind of equanimity and détente.

So when I saw what happened with the chemical weapons in Syria; when I saw that a peaceful solution was found that seems to be functioning; when I see Syria’s chemical weapons being destroyed by Syria without our having to brings our missiles to bear, then it does not matter who looks weak and who did or didn’t get to strut their hawkishness. I am simply thankful and since it is Thanksgiving, what better week is there to express my thankfulness. And when I see Iran asking us to consider a bargain, a deal, however small that deal may be, I am again thankful, although with lots of reservations – a kind of wait and see thankfulness that that little bass line, John Lennon’s line, “give Peace a chance” just got a little bit louder; not rocking the car louder, but the car next to you knows you are listening to the tune louder. I guess you could say that I am tentatively thankful, hoping this will turn into full blown thankfulness and that this trend of working things out will continue. Happy Thanksgiving! Listen to the bass line.

and Imagine…


By John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

For non-commercial use only.

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

Why Would Anyone Be a Republican?

Somedays it seems that there are so many things to say about the GOP that it is impossible to pick just one. When I hear the ridiculous, tone deaf things Republicans say I can’t believe that anyone claims an affiliation with this particular party.

It is not just because Ben Carson says that the students in Oregon should have attacked that gunman en masse and that if they did attack then the gunman would probably be able to shoot only the first person to oppose him. We all know what this is – it is blame the victim.

If we should all be ready to attack an armed person at any moment then I think we need to be like Israel and require everyone to serve a stint in the military. That way we will be trained in combat, our reflexes will be quick, and we will be skilled in the correct approach to disarming an armed person intent on taking us out.

Carson, not yet sure he had made his point, continued on to say that he would rather see someone riddled with bullets than give up his guns. Who was ever actually offered that choice? Do we all get a chance to answer? Is he actually saying that he would rather see people shot to death than give up his guns? This is not in the context of a revolution, it is in the context of a massacre. He is not Patrick Henry saying ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ He is saying I will never give up my guns to protect your son or daughter from being senselessly slaughtered. No one has asked for your guns Ben Carson. We have asked for your commonsense as a fellow citizen and a responsible and well-educated adult. But we wish we did have the guns that the shooter took to classrooms in Oregon, Sandy Hook, Columbine and more.

Our clothing is not designed to make carrying guns easy or stylish. Will we all buy gun belts with holsters and learn how to twirl our six-shooters? We will have to put fashion designer on notice about this new style. Do the comments made by Ben Carson fall into the category of ridiculous, or in the tone deaf one? I pick both.

Next we get the news that a new committee will be formed in Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood. Americans do not react. They just keep texting one another and sharing cute jokes on Facebook and I do these things too. But these men are using our money to hound poor women and take away their health services and they are using sneaky tactics to close down all the centers where any woman can get an abortion, in their own state at the very least; but their true target is the entire nation.

I’m surprised they don’t offer a deal. If you liberals give up abortion rights we’ll be quiet about same-sex marriage. But they cannot be quiet about either because their religion won’t let them.

We don’t need a committee to investigate Planned Parenthood. Isn’t there any way to stop these guys? Isn’t anyone angry about the atavistic bombardment of women by these reactionary males trying to prove their alpha male bona fides? Or if not isn’t anyone at least angry about our tax dollars being spent to form another committee we don’t need.

Few people speak up. Do they like what the Republicans are saying and doing or is it that they have no desire to be an activist? Ours is a country which relies on us to govern (of the people, by the people, for the people). Sometimes we need to let our representatives know when we are displeased. If you don’t want to march or carry a sign at least you can sign a petition online or drop an email to your Congressperson. All their email addresses are available online.

I could go on and list more ways the GOP ticked me off this week but, for now, enough. You’ll be happy to know there will be more later.

By Nancy Brisson