After 9/11, many of us went to New York to respond to then-Mayor Giuliani's plea to help the city by spending money there. We visited Ground Zero, museums and restaurants, determined not to let "terrorism" lock us in our homes.

National leaders were also entreating the public to support the stricken airline industry by traveling. If we stayed home, terrified, the enemy won. Afflicted by wanderlust, I took this seriously and continued to travel as much as my schedule and purse allowed.

I am always open to a "last-minute deal" that appears in my e-mail box. Recently British Airways offered great flights to London from Boston plus two free hotel nights.

I logged on to the Web site already dreaming of a London escape. Sure enough, I could book air from Boston to London, round trip, for $225. The kick in the teeth, however, was that taxes and Homeland Security fees, plus airport charges, added a full $347.99 to that ticket. The bottom line is that the total cost became $572.99, more than 150 percent more than the basic airline charge of $225!

Passengers start with this $347.99 charge, since the airport taxes and so-called "security" fees are flat and not based on a percentage of airfare. Add to these realities the plummeting dollar, now worth less than 60 percent of a euro and only half a British pound, and the global unpopularity of America and Americans and the "terror" that keeps us trapped in the homeland has less to do with jihadists than it does with our own misguided bureaucracy and policies.

Domestic air tickets on so-called low-cost carriers also add significant taxes and fees. With gas prices skyrocketing, airfare will only rise, and driving to our destination — when that is geographically possible — will also be unaffordable.
As for the use to which all this money is being put, most U.S. airports are more crowded, less comfortable, dirtier, less efficient and no more secure than they were on 9/10. Weekly we hear about someone smuggling a weapon on board, wandering onto the tarmac or actually working for the airport or its security team, the FBI or CIA while huddling with terrorists. Taxes and fees worth 150 percent more than the ticket itself won't fix that.

Like the song says, "We gotta get outta this place." Problem is, we can't afford to do so.


Cast your Cake Upon The Waters

With regular triple digit tumbles of the Dow and foreclosures threatening to outnumber new mortgage loans, it follows Americans might embrace Prosperity Theology. This is the belief—usually associated with evangelical groups-- that financial prosperity, and personal and commercial success and good health, are evidence of God's favor.

This premise suggests that preachers worth listening to should be rolling in dough. On that score, a half-dozen well-known (and well-heeled) ministries recently received a letter from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) minority leader of the Senate Finance Committee. By December 6, recipients are to answer the committee’s questions about executive compensation, use of private cars and jets, and ministry expenses.

Some might argue that high-rolling senators scrutinizing the spending of men and women of god smacks of the proverbial pot calling the metaphorical kettle black; but those doing “god’s work” are usually held to a higher standard. That standard probably precludes a $23,000 toilet like the one purchased for the headquarters of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo. Three of the ministers being asked for answers by Grassley’s committee are regents at Oral Roberts University, itself the subject of a spending probe. ORU “first lady” Lindsay Roberts is said to have $800 monthly cell phone bills. Charges include alleged “inappropriate” text messages to “underage young men.” My personal favorite extravagance of Lindsay’s is $39,000 in charges at Chico’s, which sells third world fashions at Fifth Avenue profits.

When biblical scribes spoke of casting one’s “bread upon the waters” to have it returned “a hundred fold,” it seems unlikely they had marble commodes from Carrara and brocaded slacks from Bangladesh in mind. Popular televangelists as well as the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, appear to have rejected the vow of poverty.

Pioneer televangelist Pat Robertson lives well and has power. He was in the news recently too, not for his lifestyle but for his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. How much Robertson spends has become secondary to his controversial pronouncements. Besides embracing the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, thrice-married and openly philandering Giuliani, Roberts has called for the “taking out” of Venezuela’s Chavez, the rejection of feminism which he claims, “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians” and the condemnation of Presbyterians as the “spirit of the Antichrist.”

While Robertson’s camp may quietly wink and plead the dementia defense, Giuliani is seriously running for president. Both men are full of contradictions and both fly in private jets.

At a minimum of $100,000 per public speaking engagement plus millions in consulting fees since he left Gracie mansion, Giuliani—a former Catholic seminarian—seems more suited to the Prosperity Theology camp than among the rope-girdled, sandaled Franciscans embracing poverty as basic to their faith.

I look forward to the “Prosperity Theologians’” responses to the senate investigators. Whatever the outcome of the government probe, however, it seems hard to believe the moneychangers were thrown out of the temple for nothing.




The pathetic assault by Democrat presidential hopefuls on frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a recent MSNBC debate probably will (and should) come back to bite them where they sit. To her credit, the former First Lady, current senator from New York, brilliant attorney and good mother stood her ground with distinction. It will apparently take more than 8 political flunkies (counting co-hosts Russert and Williams) to bring down such a woman of substance.

It’s time to clarify: HILLARY CLINTON IS NO WORSE—AND, ACTUALLY, MUCH BETTER—THAN MOST MEN WHO HAVE EVER RUN FOR PRESIDENT! She brings far-superior credentials, talents, intelligence and integrity that W brought to the job. While accusing her of deflecting questions, the fellas onstage dodged a few of their own. Obama—after berating Clinton on immigration policy—didn’t answer himself when asked pointedly if he supports changes in current policy. Edwards, eyes aflutter, launched whiny attacks on his female competitor. He tried to temper his bullying with, “nobody’s perfect…not even me.”

Thank’s for that insight, Jack.

Sen. Joseph Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson attempted to distance themselves from the frontal attack on Hillary. Candidate Kucinich, true to form, threw a pebble at the front-runner, then retreated to muse about his UFO sightings. Not enough credibility there to merit additional analysis.

Most annoying was the speech by Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd who attacked Hillary’s electability numbers. He said a majority of those polled say they would never vote for Clinton for president. He did NOT clarify that of those polled, some are Republicans who aren’t ever voting for ANY Democrat, and others are large numbers of those unlikely to vote at all – for anybody—given this nation’s terrible track record on voting.

(Doesn’t Chris Dodd think that a person as smart as Hillary figured this out already? Doesn’t he realize that—come primary days and election day—Clinton’s camp will be driving, busing, and even carrying eligible and supportive voters to the polls and making sure shut-ins absentee vote for Hillary? Where was this guy when they said Bill Clinton would never get elected—twice?)

Most frustrating, however, is the refusal of these men to admit that if half the nation is skeptical of Hillary, even larger numbers never heard of the rest of these guys, and/or have rejected their candidacies-- while embracing hers- by double-digit margins!

Women vote in large numbers. My guess is this very public bullying-- by fellow Democrats-- of a qualified, capable, and unflappable candidate will send more women—and a lot of men—into the Clinton camp. Decent people in America, whatever their politics, still hate to see men beating up on a woman.

Democrats need to be united in their support of the nominee, even if it’s Hillary Clinton. They’ve suffered from disunity in the past and they ought to be asking themselves what good it did them-- or their party?

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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About Me

Hillsboro Beach, FL/ Cranston, RI, United States

"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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Castel Del Monte

Castel Del Monte