Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Friday, February 26, 2010

MMDB may be coming...


Okay, I may seriously trade categories and turn this into a marine mammals defense blog (I'll call it MMDB) ...what the heck is going on with this poor KILLER whale that killed his trainer? (See what I'm driving at with the bold type?)

Because this whale has been in captivity for 20+ years, humans have destroyed a lot of his natural instincts, so they may have to destroy him.

Sounds like there's a parallel in D.C.  The President is going to push this healthcare through (put us in a man-made tank) if the Republicans don't play ball (do un-natural tricks) and work on this nationalized healthcare (feed us fish that looks fresh but is in fact, old.)  Maybe we should all go live in the ocean; become mer-people.  And if whales eat us; then so be it.

P.S. on this: I do feel terrible that this trainer was killed, and in such a brutal fashion.  But I have the feeling that she, of all people, would be sad at the thought of this mammal's possible euthanasia.  I'm sure she was aware of the risks every day, and it was worth it because she loved these mammals.  We need to show our love differently - by letting them go.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Free All the Willies, Everywhere

Okay, so one day you are minding your business, going to get something to eat, or watching your kids play, when a huge sea mammal comes out of the water and grabs you and two or three friends, and drags you into the ocean.

You are without your family, coffee is just a dream now, and it turns out that you are living here - forever.  The huge water creatures teach you tricks, feed you when you perform, and name you Goober or Popcorn.  At night you can hear the free humans, above the surface and back on land, calling your name. They sound sad, and distant, but you can hear them.  Always.

One day, you decide that you have had it. One of the huge sea creatures wants you to stand on your head and rub your belly, and he is laughing.  You are never getting out of here, you see that now, and your nature is to fight back. You didn't ask for this. So, without even realizing it, you charge the sea mammal, and you hurt him; bad.  He might even be dead.

You were kidnapped, put in a small cage to live, and your loved ones and your natural habitat are tantalizingly close.  But because you did what humans do...you might be killed.  Shame on you for getting caught.

WHALES BELONG IN THE OCEAN AND PEOPLE BELONG ON THE LAND!!  IF GOD HAD WANTED WHALES TO BE PETS, HE WOULD HAVE MADE THEM SMALLER, TAMER, AND ABLE TO WEAR DESIGNER CLOTHES AND FIT INTO A PURSE.  WHAT ARE WE DOING TO THE ANIMALS?

Okay, all done with that. :-) In other news, I may read a column I wrote about Grammy years ago at her memorial, and I just hope I can get through it.  Sh will help me out, I know.  She would have sided with the whale, by the way...all the way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Cowgirl in our Midst - The Conclusion

Mary Helen passed away peacefuly at 6:19 am today, with her son, my dad, and her daughter-in-law, my mom, at her side.  Swift crossing, Mary Helen, and enjoy the awaiting jubilee - I know you are.

In my sadness and respect, I picture MH alone, atop a horse, at the foot of a mountain that is part of the Tennessee mountains. There is a valley of purple wildflowers below, and they catch her roving, alert eyes as she scans the woods around her and the mountains above her.  She is not 90 anymore, but 19 or so, and in my daydream has not yet married or had children - those are to come.  She gazes out over the valley, and shifts her shotgun slightly on her lap as she urges her horse to start walking forward, away from the steep mountain before her. The sun is filtering through the trees, and she is wondering how she will capture the scene - and the feeling that it gives her - later, on canvas.  She has a sense that the Lord is quite close here in the woods leading out to the purple valley, but has had this feeling so often here that it is like greeting her dearest friend in the place they are accustomed to meeting.  She decides to just take off, and with a quick kick to her willing mountain horse, off they plunge into the valley.  They ride as fast as they can, for the pure joy of doing it, yet with a feeling of purpose neither the horse nor Mary Helen quite yet understands.  They disappear; only Mary Helen's happy shout of discovery and joy echoes through the valley as the purple flowers part to mark her passing.

To God we entrust this dear soul; as He is the One who truly understands it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Blend

With a RealClear Politics poll revealing that Obama's approval rating is at 47.1%,and Congress' approval rating at a paltry 20.4%, still we slog on through the healthcare "crisis" that is stalling progress in other areas and testing the patience of Americans who thought that they had already been loud and clear on this.  As most Amercans continue to worry about losing their job or have already lost their job, the economy continues to suffer.  Every day.  Vacations are put on hold (sorry, tourism), homes remain on the market and renovations put on hold (sorry, real estate market), goods and services are scaled back (sorry, retailers and all sorts of service-oriented entities). Unemployment did see a modest improvement statistically speaking, from 10.0% to 9.7% in January.  But there's this from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for January:

"The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over)
continued to trend up in January, reaching 6.3 million. Since the start of
the recession in December 2007, the number of long-term unemployed has risen
by 5.0 million. (See table A-12.)

In January, the civilian labor force participation rate was little changed at
64.7 percent. The employment-population ratio rose from 58.2 to 58.4 percent.
(See table A-1.)

The number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes
referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell from 9.2 to 8.3 million
in January. These individuals were working part time because their hours had
been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job."
 
And we have idiotic, potentially illegal shenanigans going on like the Nebraska deal?  Why is the President pushing forward on this, and why wouldn't Harry Reid move forward the more modest-gains healthcare proposal that some Republicans were actually on board with?  Think of it this way: if we passed one bill that established that it is illegal to deny coverage to persons with an existing health problem, that would be HUGE for healthcare in 2010.  Can't we look at this one piece at a time, and turn our public focus (what leaders talk about on TV, C-SPAN) to jobs?  That would sure make people sitting around unemployed feel better, to see that on tv.  (That and the Americans beating the Canadians again at hockey in the Olympics.) Please drop the hubris and concentrate on jobs, Mr. President.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Saturday Reading, etc.

I usually don't agree with Yahoo's political bias (because it's not my own :-), and have frequently thought of changing my mail and homepage because they lean left - unabashedly - with their homegrown analysis/commentary, and the commentary they choose to post from other sources.  But a pretty good article today from AP seems fair, and hits on the important point that the public is "numb" as the author puts it, and is tired of the political one-uppmanship between the parties.  Also, I love articles that us non-policy wonks can read without our brains hurting. 

I disagree with the author's tax cut assertion, however; tax credits are not tax cuts, so the claim by Romney re: Dems and taxes is valid.  But check it out; great article.

What's the deal with airplanes lately, in an unrelated brain sneeze from me, your faithful correspondent: Kevin Smith gets booted off a flight for being too fat, and Romney gets in a fight with one-row-forward dude on a flight?  You need to be in shape to fly; a lot is going on up there.  Keep your wits about you when flying the "friendly" skies!

Today I am doing homework for two courses I am taking, and cleaning out a closet.  Ahhh, suburbia.  I just watched a documentary on Shaun White travelling the globe snowboarding, and wanted to reach through the screen and say, "Don't slow down and don't ease up."  What a life!  I bet he doesn't have organized closets, though.  :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Politicizing Tragedy - I Chose the Wrong Party

In an earlier post about the Texas plane crash into an IRS building, I warned that this event should not be politicized.  I was actually afraid that perhaps some conservatives might blame big government for this man's feelings of alienation.  But no - it is, in fact, the liberals that take a mis-guided whiff of a swing - saying that this man's alienation is similar to the feelings of the extreme members of the Tea Party Movement.  Huh????

Both a Washington Post editorial writer and a New York magazine blogger asserted this in different ways.

Umm-umm; too bad, and worthy of some professional reflection and self-reflection on the part of these writers.  Two people died, Americans were sadly reminded of 9/11...and it's equated to the Tea Party folk. 

Tiger Apology: Tiger Becomes a Pussycat - the play-by-play

Tiger is a Pussycat at the Podium as he apologises...

Well, he seems sorry.  He veered off-course a little talking about his foundations, but seems contrite enough.  Tears well in red-rimmed eyes, especially when he talks of wife Elin.  I do feel he's been coached in delivering this speech, but is that wrong?

He just said that he has never done performance-enhancing drugs, which is good.  Puzzling that he is so private, according to his words, when he flew women all over the world.  His mom looks distressed, angry, hurt.  Elin is not by his side, nor should she be.  He is a Buddhist, which brings to mind the Fox commentator saying that Tiger needed Christ.  I believe so, but believe Tiger has the right to his own faith, and I hope he does explore his faith more fully.  "Needs to regain balance, and become more centered..."

Sports dudes, we are so tired of this.  Please, enjoy your wealth, share it with others as you see fit, and every day wake up and say, "I am so flippin' lucky to have this gift, this talent."  Most of us are average Joes, and will never know what it feels like to fly through the air on our way to a slam dunk, watch a golf swing turn into magic on a Scottish course perched on the ocean, or hit a baseball into the twilight evening while an adoring crowd roars.  We live through you, so when you go down in flames, so do we, in a sense.

"With the money and the fame, I thought I was entitled." That says it all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bureaucracy and Insanity


The plane crash today in Texas is a reminder of the isolation that fighting the machine can cause...but is that only part of the story?  How many pieces go into the fractured puzzle of one man's despair?

My grandfather was audited for years by the IRS.  They finally ended up owing him money, which always makes me smile.  Not a wealthy man ever, he endured this intrusion into his personal finaces and professional pay history with grace, and somehow compartmentalized this IRS mess so that he could get on with the business of living.  I never heard an IRS rant, or a rant of any kind; it was only after his death that I found out about it.  At his funeral, a speaker related that my grandfather once said, "I never succeeded at anything;" which caused gasps, as he was such a success where it matters - loving family, devoted friends, faith, and a passion in life.  Perhaps the IRS and it's hounding made him feel this way?

I just hope that no one tries to insert politics into this sad event; this man was disturbed and if it wasn't the IRS, it most probably would have been something else.  People are so isolated, which is ironic considering the ways we have to communicate with each other.  But a Twitter account or a Facebook post cannot feed the hungering and hurting soul.

More tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Now is the Waiting

Waiting for the phone to ring...

I am back in Boston, and have to just wait to hear of Mary Helen's passing.  (Or could there be a miraculous recovery?)

I haven't paid much attention to politics - other than the nine hours I listened to on talk radio driving down the edge of the country - but did hear the comment by a pundit that there could indeed be a third party in our near future.

The Tea Party is intriguing as a national movement; the fact that there is no leader is pretty cool.  So much of the fighting is really about power in Washington, paticularly within the parties themselves.  A third party - what do you think?  Would it eventually become jaded and unproductive, too?

I dread the phone ringing; the world will be lighter when Mary Helen goes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Had to Get Rid of My Horse and My Gun

Mary Helen had both a restful and active night, and has been very lucid; praying and whispering "I love you."  My mom (Mary Helen's daughter-in-law) has all but crawled in bed with her, and is stroking her face like you would a little child with a fever, to which she responds by gazing, sightless, at my mother's face.

Mary Helen is blind now, and almost deaf, but is still at her essence a country girl from Tennessee.  When I once asked her what the biggest changes in her life were after getting married, (at age 14) she said, "I had to get rid of my horse and my gun."  That is Mary Helen.

I can't tell you what a privilege this has all been, to participate and rise to Mary Helen's weakness, need, and childlike trust throughout these days. It pierces the heart, but at the end of the day, and at the end of a life, all we have is "I love you" to offer and to receive. And if this is not so at the end of a life, then what a shame that is.  Chasing other things is pointless in and of themselves; money is just paper, and prestige just a fiction.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Norman Rockwell at right reminds me of my grandmother; we would visit her in Florida when I was a kid and she and my grandfather took such good care of us, delighting in our once-a-year visit.  They took us to Disneyworld the very first day it opened, showed me my first alligator, and spent long evenings with us watching fireflies and eating watermelon.

I have already veered off-topic for this "politics and humor" blog, putting both topics in the backseat, but that is the appropriate place for politics in all our lives, I feel; immediately secondary, when need be.  The problem is, we've become so polarized that sometimes we forget that real life is all around us, and much of the time has nothing to do with politics.

My grandmother holds on.  She is speaking in a whisper, and what she is saying is garbled.  She is at times convinced that there is a baby that needs her help, there in her room, and we now play along, and pretend to rescue him, and we have given her a teddy bear to hold, to stand in as this phantom boy.

Who is this baby - my dad, or his brother, or perhaps her little nephew, that died during the Depression of starvation?  Where is Grammy now, in this land where I can't reach her, so close and yet so far away?

Life is sometimes measured in breaths, in moments, in heartbeats.  Right now it is measured in fading hope and a dawning realization that she is moving on.  But I remember her love and care, on those Florida visits long ago.

P.S.  I mistakenly deleted several of your comments from my mailbox; please re-comment if you'd like. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mary Helen

Still in Maryland, and it's snowing again!  This time, I dont feel the frenzied feeling of the first storm, but rather a "let it play out" attitude."  There are bigger things in life, and it's actually quite beautiful.  Sometimes we forget that.

I am in Maryland to help my folks with the snow, but also to help with my Grandmother, who is dying.  She is 91, and receiving hospice care at my parents' home, and took a turn for the worse yesterday, with a small stroke.  Another small stroke (we think) followed today.  She is frail, and pale, and seems tied to this earth by the slenderest of threads; her breath comes out in little wisps.  I think back to all the moments, as if in a slideshow, that we have had together; her teaching me to do ceramics, her explaining how to survive on swamp cabbage if you have to (she's an ol' country girl at heart), her holding up a turtle for my inspection.  She brought me to church when my family didn't attend, on summer vacations, and planted in my mind the idea of heaven, and what waited there.

The tables are turned, as I, whispering and holding her little hand, remind her what waits for her there.  It is so hard to let her go, but how lucky I have been.  How very, very lucky.  The valley between life and death is the lonliest place on earth for the watchers.  I can only hope that the valley that Mary Helen is in is anything but.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow

I thought I knew what snow is; I mean, I live in Boston, and we have cold and snow.  But apparently we are mere novices at snow, because the real place to be when you're talking snow is Columbia, Md. 

I am still here visiting my family and helping out with my 90 year old Grandma, and I have been shovelling for hours a day - and I am sick of the color white.  I exercise an additional two hours a day just to be able to be in shape to shovel.  It's an enigma inside a riddle, dealing with 30 inches of snow.

So, I have to go to sleep now so I can be up bright and early to shovel again.  There's no time for political commentary; I wish there was, but again, all my energy must be saved to...well, you know.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Homeward Bound

Today I am making the drive from Boston to Columba, Md., where I grew up. I love the drive, which will give me time to think...I am in a stage in my life where I am literally never alone. My husband has a home office, I work at home, and I have a busy ten year old and another, older son who lives here, too.

I say the ride gives me time to think, but does it? I am going to return phone calls, listen to a whole book on tape for a book club I am in, and of course listen to talk radio. I am also taking my little dog Neeley, so he'll have to get out for a few minutes, etc.

Forget it; no time to think. But I will celebrate the fact that Scott Brown will be certified by Governor Patrick today as our U.S. Senator, and if all goes well he will be sworn in this afternoon by Vice President Joe Biden. So glad I volunteered on this campaign; I really feel like a part of the process. Next...Republican Governor for MA? Look at Charle Baker.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time to Scale Back

Last night something occured to me, and it was sort of an epiphany. I was watching The Biggest Loser when I had this revelation. Now, I love The Biggest Loser because 1) I am not as overweight as any of the contestants, and 2)I find it inspiring, the way they work so hard. (It's perverse, but I like to eat while I watch the show - ice cream, a few cookies, whatever. Things that Jillian would yell in my face for.)

Anyhoo, the revelation was this: just how low my viewing standards have gotten. Growing up as a kid, I liked watching National Geographic, where nature was displayed in all it's glory. A little later I enjoyed watching The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch, where suburban family dramas (or family-band dramas) were played out in just half an hour. As a teen I liked Dallas, a show where oil tycoons waged corporate war while ther wives had affairs and sported extremely big hair. A little older, in my late twenties, I liked the show Thirtysomething, a hip yet complex look at work, marriage, and raising kids. Then on to Kevin James' show The King of Queens, where an Average Joe life of a delivery driver was celebrated in all it's hilarity and realness.

Now, I like to watch people weight themselves. That passes for enertainment now in my life.

What the heck?? I mean, it is a great show, and can be inspiring, but it basically is a lot of people weighing themselves; that's a good bit of the show right there. Stepping on a scale. And I am as fascinated by it as if it were complex brain surgery or a travelogue of someone's trip to China. How much will they weigh? Did their weight go up, heaven forbid? Did they take full advantage of the Last-Chance Work-out? Will they feel discouraged, or will they battle on?

Oh brother. Welcome to America and reality tv; we just can't get enough of watching other people triumph - and fail.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mr. President, Use your Home Ofice

The President comes to my neighbor to the North today - New Hampshire. As he continues his whirlwind speaking tour post-Scott Brown election, it makes me wonder: why can't the President stay home and work? He needs more time in the home office - the Oval Office. He reminds me of a country-western singer that gets itchy when he's home too long, away from the adoring (well, that part might not be true these days) crowds.

When things get tough, you hunker down. You work it, then meet with people, then work it, then meet with people, then work it again...it is not glamorous. No one knows what you're doing; there are no cameras there. You have to believe in your ablility to create a workable plan, and then...create a workable plan.

Mr. President, please stay home and work on behalf of America. If you are out on the road you can't be at your desk. There are opportunities coming up to hit the road, I promise - the next 2010 elections. Go home and get busy; we need you at home doing the work of the people.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mommy and Daddy and...Mommy?

Excerpted from National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com) this morning where it was posted, a provocative and well-written piece by Heather MacDonald on the fading of the traditional family. I am just looking at a piece of the article; below:

"...New York Times editorial writer Adam Cohen recently considered the possibility that reproductive technology will eventually allow “three or more people . . . to combine their DNA to create a baby.” Cohen’s response ultimately boils down to: “So what?” The “law should move toward a greater recognition that the intent of the people involved is more important than the genes,” he wrote. The concept of “fractional parents,” a phrase coined by a professor at the University of San Diego law school, causes no obvious disquiet in Cohen, and the legal conundrums that the reality of “fractional parents” would generate — “Could a baby one day have 100 parents? Could anyone who contributes DNA claim visitation rights? How much DNA is enough?” — apparently are to him (and undoubtedly to many others) merely interesting intellectual challenges, not potential sources of heartbreak and chaos for children. (It is just possible that the centrality of tradition-exploding fertility technology to gay conception drives the cheerful acceptance of that technology’s complicated and destabilizing results by members of the enlightened intellectual elite.)"

Wow. You know that'ol slippery slope? Three or more people involved in creating a baby? In today's moral challenges surrounding babies and children, whether it is abortion or genetic engineering or fertility, it is always the baby that is left out in the cold (or worse, in the case of abortion); the baby that pays. What kind of society can exist when it targets the young for adult pleasure and fulfillment? The author also notes in this interesting piece that it was heterosexual couples who began the popularity - and through demand caused the advancements of - infertility procedures in our culture; not gay couples. So, our need to have what (or who) we want, when we want it, or what (or who) we DON'T want, when we DON'T want it, results in chaos or physical death for the child. Why are we called grown-ups? I forget.