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those who forget the past
Will the Republicans nominate Chris Christie for president in 2016? The presidential politics of 1860 provide an answer, my premise being that the spirit that drives the Republican Party in our times is a re-emergence of the spirit that drove the South in the years leading up to the Civil War.
sacred economics to heal
Pope Francis’ recent encyclical is sending shock waves around the world. In addition to exhortations to the faithful, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) packs a scathing critique of “unbridled” capitalism and consumerism. Here’s the flavor of the Pope’s message:
Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
Nothing is as it seems in the land of the Cons. We’ve got to remember that. Sometimes it seems that, regardless of the issue, con men have to deceive, even if it means cutting off their own noses or, if they happen to be politicians, the noses of the constituents they expect to vote for them. If that makes no sense, it is still a fact in the twenty states where Governors, no doubt on the advice of their Representatives in Congress, are rejecting the extra dollars that would extend health care to people not earning enough to afford even subsidized insurance policies.
anger and unresolved pain
There is considerable cultural wisdom embedded within idioms, fables and nursery rhymes. Consider “The early bird gets the worm,” “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Which makes the “sticks and stones” adage such a glaring exception.
As a child, I broke three bones, once turning my forearm into a stair step by slipping from a swing — at the zenith of its rearward arc — onto wet grass.
When in the life of a democratic nation it becomes clear that the government has parted ways with the governed and evinces no intention to reform, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that the governed, i.e. the People, should declare in terms both broad and narrow the causes that impel them toward a separation of their own.
We the People hold to be self-evident the same truths that were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence of 1776, chief among them an inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and we remind the nation’s leaders…
to be or not
I looked over and the strange fact that Pamela Kheto was driving seemed perfectly normal, even though my sole contact with her in the last ten years was a brief meeting in a parking lot where she tried to recruit me for some kind of power-grab at her church. When I looked to the front I saw we were on rough terrain. I felt the bottom scraping on large boulders and finally hitting something huge that threatened to completely tie us up, the edge of a cliff actually, but our momentum carried us up and over, teetering on the edge a moment then flipping over, dropping about 20 feet.
The holiday just passed, the one y’all call Thanksgiving, is known here in Alabama as Turkey Day. It’s part of a pantheon of Holidays, or — as we prefer, using the words the way they were first spoken — The Holy Days. Each one of The Holy Days, also called the Four Hoarse Men of the Apocalypse because of the way every Alabamian will be talking in 48 hours, has its own name.
the sublime cannibal
“Where is the Love?” Kristof asks in his Thanksgiving column for the New York Times. Thanksgiving is a euphemistic feast. I still haven’t found just the right term to describe cannibals bloodlessly and indirectly destroying and consuming their own kind. Some call it “sacrifice,” but that too is a euphemism. “Symbolic predation” doesn’t work because the injury and destruction are all too real.
engaged in the drama
Last week Americans saw heavy media coverage of the death 50 years ago of President John F. Kennedy. I couldn’t help but compare the aftermath and funeral of JFK with that of Abraham Lincoln, both victims of assassins.
One reason this came to mind is because I had just finished a year-long project — reading Carl Sandburg’s six volume biography of Lincoln.
number 95 of the 100
If you were to ask me if I considered myself a soup lover, I would tell you “No” without even thinking about it. Isn’t it strange how I can tell a lie so easily; how I can fool myself into thinking things about the way I act that have no bearing on reality? I mean—I must be the Grand Marshall of Liars, for why else would I tell people—those both close to me and strangers—that I detest soups, stews, and their ilk? All one has to do to prove I’m a liar is take a peek at my final list of Top 100 Meals and Side Dishes…
when the times changed
“If you ever get the chance to go to Dallas, take it from me, pass it by,” so sang Jimmy Buffett. “People do you wrong down in Dallas,” the song pointed out. “Dallas,” written by Roger Bartlett in 1974, had nothing to do with the pain we associate with “Big D.” Yet the tragedy and heartache still comes to mind whenever the song is played — at least ’round here.
representing the ruling class
Way back in 1988, I sat across from Strom Thurmond in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C., and listened as he explained his opposition to federal anti-lynching laws and any other federal encroachment on states’ rights during his long career.
“I felt it was dangerous to shift it all to Washington,” the then-85-year-old U.S. senator and former Dixiecrat presidential candidate from South Carolina told me. “Lynching was nothing but murder. All states had laws against murder. … I’ve never had any feelings against minorities.”
your crazy uncle
Many of us love a good conspiracy theory. Some of us, though, love them more than others. It’s no surprise liberals are more likely to buy into a conspiracy theory critical of the right, or conservatives are more likely to believe one critical of the left. The data supports exactly that, proving we often dare research the obvious. Here I’m going to discuss four specific conspiracy theories, two from each side of the political spectrum, and sketch what a national sample of over 5,000 U.S. adults tells us about who does, and does not, believe in them.
30% tax credit
A big part of the future of Gwinnett may be happening right now, and most people don’t realize it. Already underway at the current 168-acre excess land of the OFS fiber optic cable plant (the former Western Electric site) at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85, is filming of a major motion picture. It’s to be called Fast and Furious Seven, an action-crime-thriller, and is a $300 million blockbuster being produced by Universal Studios, entirely in Gwinnett County. It stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson.
compare two experiences
You may have seen a series of reality shows on TV recently about two survivalists set down in hostile territory sans clothes, food, matches, water or shelter, and required to survive for 21 days. Each week a man and woman who had never previously met, removed their clothes and shook hands in a jungle, or on a beach, the Serengeti, a desert island, or wherever that episode was filmed by an unseen two-man crew. The fact that in the course of the episode participants each lost about 20 lbs. in weight and were seen eating maggots…
I join these three books because of their common unveiling of who-rules-for-whose-benefit, across cultures and time. Parenti shows an ancient example, the destruction of early Roman Democracy by oligarchic forces. Chomsky illustrates the continuation of plutocracy, or elite rule, in our time, despite and in opposition to the advances of Democracy. Roy provides confirmation that this struggle is international, in this case India.
number 96 of the 100
I’ve been trying — for two months — to write about recipe Number 96 — Ron’s Southern-Fried Pork Chops (Ron is not his real name). It’s been one difficult affair. There are two reasons. The first is because I became (perhaps, I still am) addicted to eBay. I’d never fooled with eBay before, and on September 15th, once I stuck my foot in the door, I couldn’t pull it back. I mean — the thrill of selling something and making five dollars. Wow. You may ask how in the hell can making five bucks be enjoyable?
When I was a child, I had a purple Crown Royal bag filled with all manner of marbles. We collected them, admired them, competed with them, and crowed about who had the most or “rarest.” There was something deeply satisfying about the heft of the bag, and the “aggies, beauties, cats-eyes, clearies, steelies, tigers and swirlies” within. We gathered friends in the same ways: through an arcane process of admiration, competition and number-building.
coax our jaded existences
“Awe is the beginning of wisdom.” — Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Years ago, a friend confessed that she was not at all religious. Then, in the next moment, she described her reaction upon first beholding Monument Valley, whose stark, unearthly beauty provoked her spontaneous tears. My friend, although not conventionally “religious,” was deeply spiritual, I believe, for the ability to be awed is the hallmark of a receptive spirit.
guaranteed legal counsel
The best television drama these days mostly comes in serialized form, with shows such as Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex and Mad Men vying for top industry honors and critical huzzahs. But there was a time – a stretch of 20 years or so, beginning around 1974 – when weekly series were mostly formulaic and unchallenging and the serious money and ideas went into original TV movies. The “made-fors” addressed historical events and social issues considered too complicated or controversial to be plot fodder for a Marcus Welby, M.D. or a Dallas.
moronic public displays
Everything is indeed bigger in Texas, and now that slogan can also apply to moronic public displays of intimidation. The New York Times reported today on an armed protest outside a suburban restaurant this past weekend. From NYT: “A small meeting of a group seeking tougher gun laws was interrupted Saturday at a suburban Dallas restaurant when the woman who helped organize it saw something outside that startled her: at least two dozen men and women in the parking lot with shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s…
kings bay naval base
For reasons unknown to me, I recently got an invitation to attend a Friday conference at the Kings Bay Naval Base at St. Marys, Ga. Three local journalists were there, and I was the only outside interloper. I had never heard about the gathering, to be on the nuclear deterrence of our country. The invitation had another caveat: invitees were offered a two-hour tour of an Ohio Class submarine.
The sub tour grabbed me.
walk on the wild side
Reading The Soundtrack of My Life, the second memoir by record label executive Clive Davis, brings to life a period when Davis was in at least his second chapter as music mogul. It was the mid-70s, when Davis emerged from the messiness of being canned as President of Columbia Records. There were allegations of Davis using company funds of up to $94,000.00 to feather his own nest while covering such expenses as his son’s bar mitzvah.
duty to share
A friend of mine recently came out with her first novel which was so delightful that I wondered if I could do the same. Needless to say, I’m discovering that it ain’t easy. All my life, I’ve been writing short essays, not fiction, on my take of what’s happening. I don’t write diatribes or commentary, though. There’s enough of that on the opinion page of any newspaper. In fact, we stopped our subscription to our local rural paper, since I couldn’t help myself from reading the owner’s nonsense each week and then fulminating over how worthless his ideas were and how pathetically he expressed them. But I couldn’t help myself.
elegance from another era
The cab driver deposited our luggage on the sidewalk in front of the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris where the uniformed porters didn’t blink at the two huge suitcases, the carry-on bag, the hanging garment bag, and several shopping bags. We followed the two pillbox-hatted young men through the station crowd, beneath the sign announcing: Train spécial – VSOE Istanbul, onto the carpeted area on the platform cordoned off by a red silk rope where we showed our papers.
Between the commemorative magazines at grocery checkouts evoking “Camelot” and the early-bird TV specials – JFK: The Smoking Gun, Killing Kennedy and Capturing Oswald, to name just three – it’s hard to miss the fact that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is fast approaching. By midnight on November 22, there will have been more than 20 newly produced assassination specials, including a History Channel offering that promises to be “definitive.”
The green envelope in the photo is only one of 12 new forms necessary to qualify Texas voters (or make their vote “provisional” if they don’t have identical photo ID).
Yesterday I was an elections judge on the Northside suburbs of San Antonio (read: big houses). This was not a heavy voting day, since there were no candidates on the ballot, so the polls were visited primarily by the faithful. Still, it provided insights into what we can look forward to in the future.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
"If you ever get the chance to go to Dallas, take it from me, pass it by," so sang Jimmy Buffett. "People do you wrong down in Dallas," the song pointed out. "Dallas," written by Roger Bartlett in 1974, had nothing to do with the pain we associate with "Big D." Yet the tragedy and heartache still comes to mind whenever the song is played -- at least 'round here. Some of John F. Kennedy's advisers wished the president would pass Dallas by. His personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln told JFK of premonitions about a Dallas trip. Kennedy revealed a sense of Read on →
Nothing is as it seems in the land of the Cons. We've got to remember that. Sometimes it seems that, regardless of the issue, con men have to deceive, even if it means cutting off their own noses or, if they happen to be politicians, the noses of the constituents they expect to vote for them. If that makes no sense, it is still a fact in the twenty states where Governors, no doubt on the advice of their Representatives in Congress, are rejecting the extra dollars that would extend health care to people not earning enough to afford even subsidized Read on →
Last week Americans saw heavy media coverage of the death 50 years ago of President John F. Kennedy. I couldn't help but compare the aftermath and funeral of JFK with that of Abraham Lincoln, both victims of assassins. One reason this came to mind is because I had just finished a year-long project -- reading Carl Sandburg's six volume biography of Lincoln. (Altogether, it was about 2,400 pages, and that in small type. I gave myself a year to read it, and as a reward, could read a shorter book when I finished each volume.) Sandburg's massive biography is a great read, Read on →
Way back in 1988, I sat across from Strom Thurmond in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C., and listened as he explained his opposition to federal anti-lynching laws and any other federal encroachment on states’ rights during his long career. “I felt it was dangerous to shift it all to Washington,” the then-85-year-old U.S. senator and former Dixiecrat presidential candidate from South Carolina told me. “Lynching was nothing but murder. All states had laws against murder. … I’ve never had any feelings against minorities.” Never mind that Thurmond, who died at 101 in 2003, led the Dixiecrat revolt out of the Democratic Par Read on →