Monday

NOT-SO-SWEET CAROLINE

Caroline Kennedy is someone many have rightfully admired. She is an accomplished attorney and author, has raised three children with an amazing discretion rare among public figures, and has always behaved in a way that brought honor and dignity to the historic name she carries.

Kennedy has also stayed far from the eye of most political storms, limiting her involvements-- until this presidential year-- to occasional public appearances to help candidates such as her cousin, RI Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Then Barack Obama came on the scene with his alleged, “Change We Can Believe In.” In a flash, Caroline was on the stage, on the road and-- after the nomination had been secured-- on Obama’s Vice President Selection Committee.

Caroline, along with clan head Uncle Ted and lesser-known kin with varying degrees of political involvement, piled onto the Obama bandwagon and savored victory on election night as only Kennedy’s can—by figuring out what their candidate could now do for them.

Apparently one of the things the president-elect could do was to save Caroline from empty-nest boredom by freeing up the U.S. Senate seat that coincidentally represents her Park Avenue address. (Will she then go on to a challenge for the presidency down the road?)

Within days of Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, global media was reporting the former First Daughter’s interest in running for her senate seat. Shortly after that Caroline Kennedy was frantically lobbying political powers to convince NY governor David Paterson to appoint her to finish the Clinton term.

Like Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Kennedy has dodged the press, avoiding interviews and speaking only through spokespeople. Kennedy, however, does this with impunity while Palin was excoriated for her initial silence. Palin may have been aware of her limitations, thus avoiding the scrutiny that eventually came anyway. Kennedy may also fear being exposed for what many hesitate to say she is—less experienced, though more polished, than Palin.

Rhode Islanders more than most Americans are familiar with the syndrome of electing unqualified people named Kennedy: they keep re-electing Patrick Kennedy to represent them in Congress. They are also familiar with such people buying power and keeping it by outspending all challengers.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo tops a list of 12 more qualified aspirants to the vacated Clinton senate seat. Caroline’s dashing of Cuomo’s hopes must be especially satisfying. He is the ex-husband of her cousin and Kennedy’s always get mad, and always get even.

The Caroline senate seat hunt will tell if the Kennedy name alone is still enough. In a political world where “What can you do for me yesterday?” is all, patriarch Ted Kennedy’s terminal illness changes the chessboard significantly. His last remaining chits may either have been called in (for Obama), or their expiration dates are racing against his metastases.

The perpetuation of political legacies is something America thought it had left behind with the choosing of Obama and the farewell to Bush. If Caroline Kennedy ever was sincere about “Change We Can Believe In” she ought to let such change occur, and continue her apolitical career while she still has the nation’s undying respect and affection.

___END___

Sunday

MOVING TOWARD THE BLINDNESS WE NEED

Since Barack Obama’s election the media has been full of congratulatory essays—verbal and written—about the greatness of an America able to elect a person of color to the highest office. A few mention casually that it has taken us more than 2000 years to get to this point: more often the thrust of the commentary is about the greatness of a nation finally gone color-blind.

We aren’t really color-blind. This year, in a sort of national desperation fueled by a sitting president widely viewed as a failure and even a dangerous incompetent at many levels, American voters were able to get a bit more farsighted in their vision of race-- even if they have not gone blind to skin color altogether.

All the orchids being heaped on us in the meantime bring to mind feminist Gloria Steinem thoughts in the 70’s about the women’s movement and men who were coming along on the long road to gender equity. She used to point out how odd it was that men got sanctified for doing simple things like throwing their own underwear in the hamper when they should have been doing that all along anyway.

In that same way, Americans are being congratulated (and are congratulating themselves) that they finally were able to go to the polls to elect a capable man coincidentally of color as president. In this euphoria, not enough is said about how obvious the choice between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin obviously was to so many, not because Obama is half-black but because he and his running mate are so qualified, so calm and rational, so what America needs right now by stark comparison to their opponents.

One speculates whether Obama privately shakes his head at all the racial fuss. Does our president-elect wonder what took America so long? Does he think about all the men and women of color who came before him, equally and even more brilliant than he is, who were rejected and even destroyed because America’s vision was monochrome?

Certainly the outcome of this election is something to be proud of because we have elected a great man and also because his defeated opponent has graciously stepped aside with sincere praise for the new president and even promises of cooperation.

But America should not be fooled into thinking its fixation on race has disappeared overnight. Sadly, and terrifyingly, those who cannot embrace the color blindness of true equality (and its related gender neutral and faith irrelevant underpinnings) will continue to hate, malign and even try to harm, those they see as unacceptable.

In times like these, racism and the related hatreds of all who are not white, male and Christian in America simply go underground. They get quieter and sometimes more determined in the face of what they see as a defeat. They also necessitate extraordinary precautions like the two-inch thick bullet-proof glass surrounding the First Family on election night in Chicago for Obama’s victory speech. (U.S. press hardly mentioned that glass, though the foreign media showcased it.)

Only when all the bullet-proof measures safely come down can America start patting herself on the back. She may be needing bifocals now, but she’s not color-blind just yet. ______________________END____________________

E PLURIBUS.....PLURIBUS

While all 50 United States follow, like lemmings, as the same bureaucrats who created the current financial crisis pretend to correct it, in the European Union it’s not so easy.
Over the weekend, Europe’s leaders met and pledged to implement steps to allow EU member countries to recover from their own fiscal woes. But while individual countries vowed to help their own floundering banks, the group stopped short of any “joint effort” to pool aid for any European bank that needed help. Spain, Germany, and Estonia could not, in the end, act as financial equals.

Beyond the obvious economic differences between Malta and Berlin, for example, the EU lacks homogeneity among its members. While Americans claim regional differences—New Englanders vs. Southerners or Midwesterners vs. anybody else, for example—when push comes to shove we put our hands over our hearts and sing the Star Spangled Banner as if we mean it (assuming we can remember the words and carry the obtuse tune, that is.)

Overseas, the Italians have little in common with the Danes, and Athens has a worldview very different from Warsaw, while the French disagree with almost everyone. The EU may be a “union” in theory—Teutonic, Nordic, Baltic and Greco-Roman offshoots joined by a common currency—but it is a mistake to think of the EU as a “United States of Europe.”


Varied as the root backgrounds of Americans may be, and deep as the classic distrust even fourth generation U.S. WASPS and ethnics still have for each other, we coexist as “one people.” We may think of ourselves as “Irish Americans,” “African-Americans,” or “Jewish Americans,” at times, but when terrorists take down two towers in New York City or the stock market crashes on Wall Street, we understand how connected we are and how common our pain really is.

Americans tend to forget their individual differences in times of crisis, becoming more “American” as times get tougher. Europeans, instead, retreat into their distinct cultural caves when life throws them a curve.

Though historically Washington is the cultural “new kid on the block” (compared to, say, Rome or Paris) Americans have been sharing a uniform currency, singular allegiance, common language and free travel between all the states of our union for more than 200 years. In Europe all of these are recent (1992) ideas, which, in some places, haven’t caught on yet.
Since we’ve been “one people” longer than they have been trying to become such a thing our job is more difficult now. Iowa and Maine, Georgia and Nevada may all want Europe’s leaders to stabilize the European markets so Wall Street can benefit, but London, Amsterdam, and Budapest may not be in harmony about how to do it jointly.

The almighty dollar may be less mighty these days, but the world still recognizes it on a price tag. Euro prices, conversely, are still translated into lire, francs or marks—whatever currency locals think of as “real money.”

So as long as our friends overseas count their money differently within their individual borders, they will find it harder to come together to embrace a European economic solution. Until then, their global neighbors can only wait, and pray.
_________END_________

Friday

NOT IN YOUR WILDEST, RUSH LIMBAUGH!

If there were an award for the most asinine remarks about l'Affair Edwards, it would have to go to radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh who blamed Elizabeth Edwards for her husband’s sexcapades commenting, on air:
"...if Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards, is it likely that she thinks she knows better than he does what his speeches ought to contain and what kind of things he ought to be doing strategy-wise in the campaign? If she is smarter than he is, could it have been her decision to keep going with the campaign? In other words, could it be that she doesn't shut up? Now, that's as far as I'm going to go...It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk...my theory that I just explained to you about why — you know, what could have John Edwards’ motivations been to have the affair with Reille Hunter, given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him a lot about doing this, and he found somebody that did something with her mouth other than talk…"

I know a little about talk radio. For 13 years, I had one of the top-rated radio talk shows on Southern New England’s flagship talk station. Rush was also syndicated on that station. I met him, and he was already a jackass then.


Rush enjoys taking potshots at people from the safety of his bunker in Florida. He never engages in debate—even with his callers. Anyone who dares to challenge one of his statements disappears quickly into the silence created by turning off the caller’s sound.


Limbaugh has three failed marriages under his belt. As TV commentator Keith Olbermann pointed out recently, Rush earns a reported $30 million but can’t find a woman to put up with him at any price.


Now, in a monologue more shallow and stupid than his usual lack-of-depth ravings, Limbaugh blames Elizabeth Edwards for he husband’s “straying” because, in the Rush World, intelligent, capable women apparently can’t also have sex appeal.


Such a distorted view may spring from the probability that no intelligent, capable woman would want to have sex with Limbaugh (especially without benefit of all those pain-killing drugs he’s so fond of.)


Rush Limbaugh isn’t a conservative, he’s a failed sportscaster who found a niche in talk radio and he’s milking it for everything he can. He spends most of his time, alone now, in a mansion in Florida, from whence he broadcasts his daily tirades.
For a few hours a day, Rush can beat up on the poor, the halt, the liberal, and even cancer-stricken women like Elizabeth Edwards from the solitude of his studio. Then, the red “On Air” lights go off, he gets into a limousine, and goes home again-- still alone.

No throngs of women scream at curbside or tear at his clothes as they might were he a sex object.

So if Rush, and men like him, want a woman to use her mouth for “something other than talk,” they will simply have to pay for it.
_______END________

Saturday

FATHERS KILLING DAUGHTERS -- FOR "HONOR"

New Year’s Day 2008, in Lewisville Texas, teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said were shot to death in a taxi—allegedly by their Egyptian Muslim father, a taxi driver charged with the murders but still at large.

His motive? They had dated non-Muslim boys.

A month earlier, across the border in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death by her Pakistani father for refusing to wear the hijab or head scarf. She was also “guilty” of changing into Western clothes once she got to school.

On July 6, 2008 twenty-five year old Sandeela Kanwal was strangled to death, allegedly by her father, Chaudhry Rashid, 54 in Atlanta, GA. Two months ago Kamwal had fled her groom in an unhappy arranged marriage and wanted to divorce. Father and daughter had not spoken since.

These four women were victims of so-called “Honor Killings,” not sanctioned by Islam’s holy book, the Koran, but tolerated and criminally overlooked in many Muslim countries. The United Nations Populations Fund estimates 5000 such killings occur annually worldwide, though they are vastly underreported.

The horrific statement such crimes make about women as disposables in extremist Islam exposes a frightening and repulsive subtext of Americans apparently unwilling or unable to leave barbaric practices in the “old country.” While many American Muslims are working to build bridges with non-Muslim neighbors, “honor killings” feed a national distrust of Islam, still raging since 9/11.

Though Islamic religious law does not sanction the killing of women in cases such as these, it does breed a misogyny too extreme to respect logic, reason and compassion. Women cannot drive cars or speak to a male stranger without severe punishment. When such primitive patriarchal dominance subjects intelligent, educated and reasonable women to the whims of sometimes uneducated, unreasonable and fanatical males, the consequences will eventually reach criminal stages.

The women will rebel, at their peril, and the men will react in the extreme. Ironically, in fanatic Islamic circles, the murdered victim is disgraced as the one who brought shame to the family while the male murderer is defended as the injured party.

In all of the above cases, the fathers are said to have had a history of physically and/or sexually abusing the young women before murdering them. And though Mrs. Said did flee to another state with her daughters, her husband’s fixation that “Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters, “ as the Dallas Morning News describes it, gave murder better odds than attempted escape. Generally mothers and siblings do not go to authorities, or file charges at any point.

American justice cannot tolerate misogynistic violence and death in the name of “honor” any more than it can allow parents to leave unwanted female children on a hillside to die, as the ancients did.

The embrace of “hungry masses yearning to breathe free…” is the promise of one famous Lady to all comers—male and female. Those who cannot accept equality under the law here must be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Tuesday

PTSD and John Mc Cain

While some worry about the impact of John McCain’s age on his physical health and his longevity in office, others are more concerned about his mental health. The more than 1500 pages detailing McCain’s medical information released to date do not dispel the persistent notion that the candidate’s notorious temper may be related to his more than five years in a Vietnam prison camp where he attempted suicide (as reported in the NY Times August 25, 2007, eleven months after the British Observer-Guardian’s story.)

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)-- diagnosed in 1 of 8 veterans returning from the hell that is Iraq-- did not appear in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980, seven years after McCain’s release from Hanoi.

Anger and depression are two key symptoms of PTSD and much has been said about the government’s failure to provide veterans with the medical help they need. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that only 23-40% of soldiers suffering from PTSD seek help because of the stigma the military attaches to psychiatric treatment.

In “John McCain: An American Odyssey” author Robert Timberg (who McCain says knows, “more about me than I do”) calls McCain’s legendary rages, “out of all proportion to the provocation.” He has also spoken of McCain’s reaction to the sound of keys jangling as a trigger for his Vietnam jail nightmares.

McCain has also been quoted by columnist Sidney Blumenthal as calling colleagues, “asshole” and “fucking jerk,” on the Senate floor. Even if this were considered “normal” behavior, it would be difficult to classify as “presidential.”

His conservative idealism founded on “God, the USN, family and country” coupled with his age and questionable state of mind remind us of the infamous Clinton red-telephone ad. If/when the nuclear phone rings at 3 a.m. voters will prefer that the awakened president not be prone to disproportionate rages or phobias about jangling keys. They might also like allegiances to God, family and country to be weighed against diplomacy and global survival.

McCain’s claim to superior “foreign policy” skills in contrast to Obama is based on his Vietnam War experience. By that standard, approximately 500,000 U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq would be qualified to become president, though 80,000 of them will be experiencing post-traumatic stress and 5 of those soldiers will try to commit suicide every day according to CNN and USA Today.

In the end, it may not be the Republican nominee’s age, but the very life experience that makes McCain a “war hero”—even to his opponents—that becomes his political undoing.

It is not enough to respond, as some have, that McCain’s mental health is no worse than Richard Nixon’s since no one cares to re-run that presidency. For the nation’s faith to be vested in John McCain, he will have to prove he is not the same man who tried to hang himself in a prison cell near Hanoi. And he shall have to do that without flying into a rage because someone raises a legitimate question about his mental health today.

The REAL Depression

She looked like many teenage girls-- dewy complexion and Miley Cyrus curls framing a pretty face. She cast her eyes toward the pavement, though, to avoid my smile as I held the door for her and her look-alike Dad rushing to join her from a suburban luxury car. He took the door and held it while thanking me. Her look said, ‘Please don’t notice we’ve come to this.”

I was dropping off clothing after a closet-cleaning spree. The Salvation Army is glad to have wearable donations, plus used books and toys, children’s furniture and anything re-useable. It provides a real service, especially in times like these. Lately, once-more-affluent newcomers have swelled thrift shoppers’ ranks.


The young woman and her Dad separated. He stopped at the collection of books and CD’s and she headed for the racks of women’s clothes. I watched her moving the hangers one by one as she inspected the items arranged by color. She slammed each rejected blouse angrily into the previous unwanted item on the rack, upset that her choices were reduced to this.

Behind her, a baby wailed. His young father comforted him while his mother turned from her inspection of used dishes to set the baby’s pacifier in his mouth. That little family showed none of the teen’s embarrassment. They looked like the usual clientele that enjoys bargain hunting in thrift shops.

The teen finally identified a blouse she could live with. Laundered and starched, it had today’s gypsy fashion look. She marched it over to her Dad who checked the price tag and gave her a cautious nod.

She never smiled. A shirt she could live with as opposed to an item of clothing she loved was a distinction her set jaw made clear. Holding the blouse up for a final inspection, her expression wondered, “Will anyone ever know I got this here?”

By then, Dad was inspecting clothing for young men. He found a Red Sox sweatshirt that looked as if it might fit a son about 10 years old. As he made the decision to take it, his head moved slightly toward one shoulder and he shrugged to himself in resignation.

This tiny drama in the Salvation Army mirrored scenes in supermarkets and other retailers of late. An elderly woman picks up a box of cereal, looks at the price, shakes her head and puts it back on the shelf. A young man in overalls driving a work truck watches the dials spinning at the gas pump and, in the end, replaces the nozzle mumbling curse words to himself. Good friends collecting unemployment make excuses when invited to join us at a local diner. In the drug store, a mother tells a begging child, over and over again, “Mommy can’t pay for that.”

“That” used to be a ten-dollar toy: now it’s a one-dollar bag of candy. Either way, the child is devastated and the Mom saddened.

My grandparents used to talk about “the Depression.” I am only now able to put a face on what they were remembering, and I am terrified for what the heartless, cold and costly winter will bring.
_____________END______________

SACRAMENTAL WEAPONS

Douglas Kmiec is a 51 year-old legal scholar who has taught at Pepperdine University Law School, Notre Dame, and The Catholic University of America where he was law dean. He is a Catholic firmly opposed to abortion, personally and in public policy.

Kmiec cut his political teeth on Bobby Kennedy’s run for the White House then became a Reagan Republican and social conservative. Now he makes news as an “Obamacon.” While he supports Barack Obama despite—not because of—his position on abortion, Kmiec continues to oppose Roe v Wade.

When Kmiec recently expressed publicly his support for Barack Obama he was refused communion by a local priest, though the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ actual rule on support of pro-choice candidates by Catholics states:
“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position.”

But Kmiec opposes Obama’s pro-choice stand, and publicly advocates for a consistent “pro-life” position beyond abortion to include opposition to war, for example.

In 1985 after my publicly declared excommunication from the Catholic Church because of my work at Planned Parenthood and its abortion service, the diocese of Providence also attempted to withhold confirmation from my then 14-year-old daughter. Her “offense” was being my child. Pro- and anti-choicers alike expressed public horror, the church backed down, and an innocent child was confirmed after years of preparation.

In the 1980’s, former Sisters of Mercy Arlene Violet and Liz Morancy were forced by the bishop of Providence to choose between their vocations and their elected offices-- RI Attorney General and state legislator respectively. Both chose to continue to serve people through their government work. Both were also pro-choice, upholding the constitution as they had sworn to do in their oaths of office.

Kmiec took no such oath as a professor and he has consistently opposed abortion. The punitive action of one misguided priest, therefore—as well as the arrogance of clergy pretending to know who is worthy or unworthy to receive the sacraments—only resurrects the pelvic fixation of a hypocritical Catholic code.

There is no similar prohibition on communion to others who may kneel at the rail guilty of stealing or “covetting a neighbor’s spouse” for example. A priest on the altar cannot know who is or who is not “pro-choice.” Finally, the recent pedophilia pandemic in the church raises again the question I asked of my pastor in 1985:
“Father, let me get this straight. Because of my work at Planned Parenthood, you don’t want me to take communion from the hands of a man who may sexually abuse children. Is that right?”

Catholic Sen. Ted Kennedy has always been a leading proponent of reproductive rights. He is also battling brain cancer. Does anyone really believe he is going to be (or should be) denied sacramental comfort?

Catholic priests call themselves “vicars of Christ” so those giving communion need only recall Christ’s fogiveness of a thief on an adjacent Calvary cross, and ask, “What would Jesus do?”
______________END_________________

Sunday

THE SAD STATE OF OUR MARKETPLACE

“Inflation,” and “recession” are, for most of us, words we hear on a newscast or read in headlines. We understand only that things are not good, and “not good” means different things, depending on whether we earn over six figures or are struggling to survive on a small, fixed income.

So I went to the mall for a lesson in economics. America’s bad times were palpable there, and the national discomfort made itself known with every step.

I had a gift certificate for $250 from Christmas, and the semi-annual women’s sale was just beginning. A criminal lawyer might say I had means, motive, and opportunity to make a killing at the cash registers. Three hours later I had spent only about $10 having found little worth buying. Quality goods marked down were replaced with shabby “special purchases” manufactured in China or countries I can hardly pronounce. The price tags, however, were equal to those on designer goods tailor-made in Paris. The scam was obvious and I was not about to fall victim to blatant profiteering.

The store was also disarmingly empty with none of the usual “Big Sale” crowd buzzing with the excitement of a great item found at a bargain price. Several shoppers sorting through leather goods on a sale table seemed unenthusiastic (as well they should: the offerings were uninspiring.)

The store’s staff, did its best to “meet and greet,” as they were taught in Retail 101. There was something of desperation in their voices, however. My sense is they’ve been doing a lot more meeting and greeting lately, than closing the deal. Like me, shoppers often walked away empty-handed.

Disappointed but not deterred, I headed for the mall exit to spend my money in some other store. The depressing mood of the cavernous walkway-- almost empty except for a handful of shoppers-- chilled me. No pairs of shoppers squealing with delight, no buyer overloaded with shopping bags. The mall music was overwhelming with no consumer din to mask it.

Bored salespeople stared into space or chatted on cell phones. Some busied themselves with rearranging merchandise in the desperate hope of catching a buyer’s eye with a new display.
No shop I entered was busy. I did note that boutiques with big-ticket items seemed busier than department store chains that have been showering consumers with endless mail and newspaper coupons for double-digit discounts. Still, their aisles are sparsely populated.

No less determined, I went to the men’s department thinking I’d buy a new raincoat for my husband, but struck out there as well. No crisp, classic trench coats with zip-out linings, only overpriced “microfiber” numbers made in… you guessed it.

I headed for the garage and, on the way out, bought myself a new lipstick with one of those coupons I mentioned.

Hours after I had left for the mall an enthusiastic shopper, I was self-serving gas at $3.89 a gallon, grounded in brutal reality. I was headed home with only my lipstick and a more graphic understanding of America’s economic woes-- darker and heavier than I realized before my trip to the deserted, dying marketplace.
_____END_____

Saturday

MY DOG WHO SPOKE TO MY SOUL




Last week I had a total meltdown, in my car, in the garage, sobbing uncontrollably. I had just returned from doing a few errands when I realized—again—that my faithful companion of the last 16 years was forever gone from the back seat.

Joachim—or more officially, “Joachim the Good Dog” as we liked to clarify—was no ordinary beagle: he was, simply, a very special dog. Sweet and serene, he never growled, bit, or threatened. He loved people of all ages, other dogs, and even cats.

And he also loved me: his adoptive “mother” of the past decade and a half.

That I adored him goes without saying. I rescued him from the SPCA and he became my pet. I took him everywhere with me, nursed him when he was ill, fed him scraps from my dinner, walked him in rain, sleet and snow-- at all hours-- and tried to attend to his every need.

In exchange, he gave me unquestioned devotion and a quiet and comforting companionship too precious to lose.

Now it is lost.

Books are written about dogs and dog-lovers: Hollywood makes movies about dogs, their owners and the special bonds between them. Poems and essays also abound about the loss of faithful pets and the humans left behind to mourn them.

There was a time when I might have pooh-poohed the sadness people described upon the death of their dogs. Sure, I would have thought, they’re sad, but they’ll get over it. After all, in the end, it’s a dog.

I had no idea, before Joachim.

When my rational side kicks in, I focus on the “important things” and on my many “blessings.” I am grateful for my good health, and for my loving family. I live a decent life and have much to be thankful for, in fact.

But I miss my friend.

I miss the sound of his steady breathing as he slept next to my bed, his wagging tail whenever he saw me, and the warmth of his body at my feet as we watched TV or read together in the evening.

I miss his bark from the back seat, signaling me to open his window so he could drive with the breezes blowing back his velvet ears.

I miss his constancy and, yes, the unquestioning love people talk about when they talk about great dogs.

Our vet suggests another dog to fill the void. Despite his good intentions, the suggestion seems a bit like telling a parent who loses a child that, “It’s a good thing you have other children.” No living being can replace another that was loved and lost.

For the moment, the idea feels like investing again in certain heartache.
I don’t want. “another dog:” I want my Joachim back.

And that can never be.
_________________END________________

Monday

PRIDE OVERTAKEN BY NEED TO SURVIVE

Michelle Obama raised eyebrows when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” because, “hope is making a comeback” and the country is “hungry for change.”

Unlike her, I feel disappointed in my country-- more specifically, in its federal and state leaders—and not for the first time.
I am not unpatriotic. I appreciate the liberty the United States promises and the great American (immigrant) spirit that made it a superpower. I cry at the Star Spangled Banner and at Fourth of July parades. I am grateful for the quality of my life here

But I do not agree that the USA is the only place on earth where one can enjoy such life quality. Today, many countries offer the same (or higher) levels of personal freedom, economic advantages, high living standards, affordable (even free) quality health care, free education and exciting employment opportunities.

America has hit a new low in global perception of its once unchallenged “greatness.” Not since Vietnam have we been weighed down by such misguided militaristic blockheadedness. Our leaders seem determined to again airlift the last remaining US diplomat from the roof of a stormed embassy before we have the good sense to come home and bind our domestic wounds.

But the war is not the only reason to be ashamed of what we have become.
We have triggered a global food crisis that threatens the lives of people far outside U.S. borders. We were warned this could happen: even Fidel Castro predicted the famine-for-fuel folly we have created.

Meanwhile, America’s richest 2% enjoys tax relief while working class majorities lose their jobs, homes and aid in record numbers. It will be decades before the internal economic damage of this millennium can be repaired.

China and India—once considered far beneath the USA technologically and economically—are now countries on which we depend. Indeed we are in their debt to the tune of trillions of dollars.

The Executive and Legislative branches, meanwhile, are so politically compromised they do nothing. Laws controlling immigration, regulating monopolies, protecting the environment, and upholding human rights go unenforced. Washington sits idly by while pharmaceutical firms, the ghost of organized labor and other campaign-supporting lobbies hold America hostage.

American children are undereducated: our elders uncared for. Nuclear families have disintegrated and our society cannot fill the void. Our greatest institutions—religion, government, and academia—have served up an endless and spirit-breaking series of scandals, crimes, and hopeless disappointments. Americans have been lied to, taken advantage of, and used by the very people and entities they most need to trust to survive.

If Barack Obama—or anyone running for president this year—really had a cure for all this, it wouldn’t matter. A corrupt and prostituted Congress insures that no remedies that might disrupt the political power and personal fortunes of a few will be enacted.

Obama, Clinton and McCain are part of the problem. You simply cannot get into the US Senate or any high level of federal or state office in America unless you turn a blind eye to corruption, power, and political gain.

McCain can’t tell the Sunnis from the Shiites, and admits economics is not his strong suit. He’s called a war hero, not because he rescued a village or several military colleagues while sustaining injuries, but because he got caught by the enemy who put him in a prison camp.

Barack Obama came out of nowhere—or rather out of the belly of Chicago’s Democratic party-- arguably one of the most corrupt political machines in the nation going back to Mayor Daley the Elder. No one knows who Obama really is, and no one wants to ask because his half-blackness has become his invisible protective shield. Can anyone question his white half without being “racist?”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, tells us repeatedly she “has baggage” and everyone’s been through it anyway so this makes her the candidate of choice. Not the most uplifting rationale.

Unemployment is moving toward 6%, 4000 military are dead in Iraq and we are almost out of available soldiers to send anywhere. Bank foreclosures are at a historic high, consumer confidence hasn’t been lower in 26 years, and even Republicans gag at the mention of W.

Our global neighbors either hate, distrust, or deride us. The dollar is worth half a British Pound and only two-thirds of a Euro. We depend on Canadian pharmacies for our medicines and anonymous voices from Mumbai and Manila for our “technical support.”

Michelle Obama, professional six-figure administrator and former aide to Chicago’s Mayor Daley, may be “proud.” We’d be “proud” too if millions of people were paving our way to the biggest political payoff in the country (if not the world.)

The rest of us have to focus on “survival,” which may not allow for much “pride.”
___________END________________

Friday

WOMEN ARE BETTER SHOPPERS: EVEN FOR SEX!

Now that former New York governor has resigned amid revelations he was a client of an elite prostitution ring, several lingering questions remain.

Were the thousands of dollars Spitzer paid hookers from taxpayers’ money? Will he be charged for transporting a woman across state lines for sexual purposes? Will his wife leave him?

Then there is the bigger question haunting many women (and a few men, I would guess) since the $2000-$5000 rates per hour of horizontal refreshment first hit the headlines: What exactly DO these women do for that kind of money? (More to the point, what do these hookers do that isn’t being done, can’t be done, hasn’t been tried at home for the bubble?)


There used to be a myth that young men dated “nice” girls but married “good” girls. This not only separated the men from the boys, but it also separated the sexually active from the virginal where girls were concerned.


Then after Woodstock, drugs and free love, the sexual revolution gained momentum, peaked, and finally seemed to stabilize with generally accepted pre-marital sex and a higher tolerance for what used to be called “sexual gymnastics.” By the time the Lewinsky story unfolded with no less than the president of the United States making a distinction between oral sex and “sexual relations with that woman,” the nation shook its head in disapproval, but it did not swoon in puritanical shock.


Now wives and significant others meet in small groups for the 21st century version of the old Tupperware party. Instead of salad spinners, however, they buy the latest in sex toys for their own bedrooms (or motel rooms.) So today’s average sexually active couple seems to have the same motivation, equipment and capability as Client #9. Her post-partum stretch marks and his emerging beer gut are compensated for by an assumed bond of affection we call a “relationship.”


Perhaps that is the problem for men like Mr. Spitzer (and now, we find, for his gubernatorial successor and the new first lady of New York as well.) Maybe it’s about the boredom of the same-old-same-old that makes a $5000 an hour hooker so desirable.


There was a time when wives who recognized the male need for diversity tried to “become” other partners. Out of this French maid and cheerleader costume fantasies were born.


So while the male quest for diverse sexual experiences has been recognized, little has been said about the female partner’s equal frustration and boredom after years of the same partner with the same moves and too often the same unfulfilling result. So women too have gone on to seek sexual highs elsewhere and now almost match male levels in experience, diversity and unfaithfulness.

My guess is, however, that women have not been willing to buy sex at the $5000 an hour level, and with good reason: they know that the generic brand is usually just as good as the high-priced item. So if women decide to get a little something on the side, for a change of pace or to see how the other half lives, they are usually looking for free samples. And they usually find them!
They’re just better comparison shoppers than men are.
____________END__________

Monday

THE (37th) BEST HEALTH CARE IN THE WORLD

John McCain should stop flashing a spotlight on what he doesn’t know. He’s already pleaded ignorance about the economy, which, in the current recession, is a big problem. More recently he is fond of noting, incorrectly, that we have “the best health care in the world.”

In a globally televised March 4th speech almost as exciting as a Cialis commercial McCain said this again. In a flat, barely audible voice, he read haltingly from a teleprompter high above his head, forcing him to look heavenward as if seeking divine aid. Periodically, McCain winced inexplicably as if speaking were painful for him. His concluding remarks were drowned out by a torrent of falling confetti and balloons. (The words, “ John McCain is too old and feeble for this.” did not flash across the screen, but they might as well have.) Still, his facts are wrong.

The presidential hopeful ought to read the World Health Organization’s rankings of global health systems, which places the U.S. at 37th. France and Italy top that list, and most of Europe, Costa Rica and even Colombia are ranked higher than the U.S.

Cuba, the government American politicians love to hate, is just below the U.S. on the WHO list.

Though Americans have been brainwashed into thinking they have “the best” health care, those who venture abroad and end up in foreign health facilities are often pleasantly surprised at the courtesy, skill and efficiency of the hospital systems. They are especially impressed that it’s all free.

More stunning, countries with government-regulated health care provide decent services for anyone who needs them—even doubting and degrading Americans of the “Show ‘em a buck and they speak English.” variety. Young, old, rich or poor, native, naturalized or visiting, no one is turned away. It’s not perfect, but it is no less perfect than the U.S. system, plus it’s free.

Those who wish to may pay for additional top professionals from their own country or elsewhere, but even wealth does not preclude eligibility for free government health care.

The web site http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html raises amazing questions.

How do they do it? (By avoiding massive defense spending, for one thing.)

Why do they do it? (Because in at least 36 civilized countries in the world, the public health and welfare is more of a priority than it is in the U.S.)

Why can’t the U.S. match the health delivery records of countries like Andorra, Chile and Costa Rica, all ranked above it? (Because the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies that own America’s politicians are more powerful than the voters who allegedly elect lawmakers.)

With Medicaid and Medicare headed for bankruptcy, prescription drugs grossly unaffordable and health insurance widely unavailable for too many Americans, McCain’s military blindness to national faults may be one of the most dangerous-- and least obvious-- flaws in his candidacy.

While the Clinton and Obama national health insurance proposals aren’t perfect, McCain’s “even greater privatization” plan ignores the embarrassing reality that the richest and most-powerful superpower, enslaved by private health insurers, would rather leave citizens ailing, wounded and unattended than care for them.

National security smokescreens only mask America’s growing public health crisis. Better for John McCain to wake up, answer the “red phone” and hear the national cry for real economic and health care solutions, now!

________________END_________________

27 (WHITE) DRESSES

The front page of the February 15th Projo delivered a one-two punch to Rhode Island Roman Catholics. Below the fold was the report that Father Philip A. Magaldi, a defrocked priest guilty of having sex with and stealing money from his former North Providence flock, was HIV positive in a Texas nursing home. The Texas diocese is publicly alerting those who may be at risk, something unheard of in Rhode Island when priests have AIDS or HIV.

Above the fold, however, was the priest scandal du jour: Christ the King pastor, Fr. Joseph Creedon, once fond of touting his membership in Priests for Justice, is battling parents in his North Kingston parish about what color dresses their daughters might wear to receive “the body and blood of Christ” for the first time. More disturbing, most parents have sheepishly tolerated his control mania, even after the diocese’s Vicar General confirmed canon law mandates only what color the priest must wear, not the communicants.

Joe Creedon—as he liked to be called—was one of those dashing, bright priests who came through the 60’s with a seeming yen for Vatican II reforms and Pope Paul VI’s charge, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Parishioners, especially women, fell under his spell.

When he became pastor of Christ the King, that parish welcomed traditional and disenfranchised Catholics. Traditionalists sat in pews beside the divorced and remarried, the gay and lesbian, defiant birth control users, people fighting for female and married priests, and other renegades called “Catholic” by the skin of their teeth.

Creedon seemed to smile on the global push by the laity to force the church into the 20th century.

Given that myth, I visited Creedon’s rectory one day. I had no appointment, but the gracious housekeeper welcomed me warmly. She recognized me from media coverage after Bishop Gelineau declared me excommunicated because of my work at Planned Parenthood and its abortion services.

She went to call the pastor after showing me to a private office.
Minutes later, Creedon arrived. He sat as far away from me as he could, stunned that a “public sinner” could appear on his doorstep.

I wondered if Christ the King had any room for me on occasion? It was not easy to say that the public excommunication was more painful for me than I publicly admitted, and I longed for the comfort of a church I still loved at that time.

Creedon’s face showed his feared that I was asking him to minister the sacraments to me. He aimlessly alluded to my dilemma, and his own helplessness: it became obvious that I would have to minister to him instead.

So, I offered, “Father, don’t worry, I didn’t come here to ask you for communion.”
I excused myself and left. I had seen the real Joe Creedon; not at all a Priest for Justice.

A quarter century later, Creedon is fixated on controlling what color dresses 7 year-old girls should wear at their First Communions. Worse, he is quoted by the Projo saying the traditional color white cannot denote innocence and worthiness.

“No one is worthy of receiving Communion,” Creedon opines, “Communion is not a reward for being good; Communion is a source of strength to become better.”

If 7 year-olds approaching the altar to accept their savior cannot be innocent and good, then Jesus’ command, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” is idle chatter.

If they or “no one” one is worthy of Communion, Joe Creedon may one day find himself excluded as well.
_______________END________________

Changes We HOPE We Will Be Able To Believe In

As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue in a fight-to-the-finish, the debate over the value of the Electoral College system gathers steam-- again.

Currently, Democratic delegates are won based on voter percentages not ballots cast. More distressing, “super delegates” are free to vote as they please.

Democrats are about to select either the first woman or the first black presidential nominee. Followers of both candidates are deeply committed. Women who remember a lifetime of sexism in lost opportunities and exclusion support Clinton. So does the mainstream mainly white Democratic establishment and Latinos who love the Clintons and dislike blacks they feel too often overshadow them.

Obama, conversely, has tremendous support among African-Americans, archliberals, and young voters, all of whom work tirelessly for his cause. Such a passionate following sparks more energy than Clinton’s traditional gang.

Obama— always mesmerizing—often uses language of entitlement. With every step closer to a convention fight, he invokes a vague “we” whose “time has come.” On Super Tuesday, he finally said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

“We,” who?

The race card long avoided is now subtly played daily by both sides, though older female and Latino support of Clinton pales before the fired-up black legions for Obama. Such support is in line with America’s political habit of ethnics lining up behind “one of their own.” Though few are willing to articulate this, blacks for Obama are no different than Irish for Kennedy, Italians for Cuomo, or Jews for Lieberman.

When Obama speaks of so many small contributions like the $3 money order mailed in by a Southern elder, he is not talking about masses voting from conviction on national or international issues, he is talking about a black person voting for another black person because, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

In the end, voters will have “chosen” a bunch of political regulars who, between visits to “hospitality suites,” will select the nominee. “Super” delegates who hold the deciding votes this year may favor Clinton who clearly has more political chits to call in than the less-than-one-term senator from Illinois.
How will black America react if Obama is “passed over” and Clinton gets the nod in this politically tainted and obtuse system?

Oprah, Jesse Jackson, and black scholars from Harvard may be angry and vocal, but, in the end, they will surrender to the pecking order that has always defined political reality. They are more comfortable with rhetoric than rioting.

But will those who cheered OJ Simpson’s acquittal because, finally, they beat “the man,” joined by college students always ready for a fight, and, inner city poor weaned on the rioting of Watts be physical or philosophical?

CNN and Washington Post polls show that if Obama is the nominee, Clinton supporters are willing and even happy to rally behind this capable, charismatic black man promising, “Change we can believe in.” The same polls say Obama supporters will get behind the brilliant, hard-working Sen. Clinton if she is chosen.

In the end, the demeanor of the losers, whoever the Democratic nominee will be, will test one “change” that we would all like to believe in.

______________END_______________

Wednesday

Randy Moss: GET A REAL JOB!

Even people who are not sports fans, like myself, are proud of our New England Patriots’ spectacular season.

Then there's someone called Randy Moss spoiling it.

Moss is the perpetually traded bad boy for whom the Patriots paid more than $3 million when they traded him from the Raiders (who were paying him $8 million.)

As far as I can tell, if Moss hadn't been a talented wide receiver, he'd probably be in a dive somewhere stoned on pot and barely surviving financially.

Football has been 30-year-old Moss's life. His dream was to play for Notre Dame, and after high school he got a scholarship to join that historic football team. Even in those early days, however, Moss couldn't avoid trouble. He lost his Notre Dame scholarship following his arrest on assault charges from a racially inspired school fight.

But Moss lives in today's celebrity world where moral character, civilized behavior and ethical concerns are irrelevant. As long as a guy can toss a ball through a hoop, carry a pigskin to a touchdown, knock his boxing opponent out cold, slide the puck to goal or hit a home run, the money will keep rolling in and the fans will remain adoring.

I have never understood the need for sports teams to be so tolerant of antisocial and even criminal behavior. They want to win, of course, but the playgrounds of New Bedford, Boston, Revere, Providence or wherever are probably full of kids at least as talented as Moss and others like him. The scouts need to spend more time helping talented kids get onto the college teams that have become football's free "farm team" system. If that's the way it's gong to work, professional football needs to have more players in reserve: when the time comes, they'll just pull some kid out of college anyway.

Somebody's time should be coming right now, to replace Randy Moss. It doesn't even really matter if the latest domestic assault charge sticks or not, as far as I'm concerned. He has also driven into a (female) traffic officer who stopped him after he took an illegal turn, squirted water in a referee's face, and walked off the field. Then, of course, there is the infamous "mooning" incident. Randy Moss's rap sheet already includes enough assault charges, marijuana use and parole violations to certify him as wayward.

Moss says the woman who has sought and received a restraining order against him is just looking for money. So let's take away this guy's money; it only seems to get him into trouble. Let's just fire Moss for his own good since he seems to be a threat "to himself and others" when he has access to enough cash.
While talk of recession gets louder and more difficult to avoid, struggling Patriots fans in Bristol County and elsewhere depend on the spiritual lift great local sports teams can provide (as long as we can watch them on TV, since tickets are beyond reach for most of us).

Those struggling with a moribund economy need real heroes to see them through. Moss and others "just here for the beer" don't fit that profile.

________________END____________________

THE PRIVATE SECRETS IN THE VOTING BOOTH

Although it might seem like ancient history for 20-somethings, it wasn’t so long ago when women had little chance of stepping outside the kitchen to make real differences in the public and private sector. Because of this, I was elated when Hillary Clinton, who personifies accomplishment and merit-based opportunity, emerged as a legitimate presidential candidate.

I hoped that the 2000-year bondage of women might end, so I resented Barack Obama’s entry into the race, which threatened that dream. When he won in Iowa, I wanted to be angry.

Obama’s moving speeches however, made it difficult to keep anger and disappointment alive. I recognize his magic: his intelligence, inspiring oratory and his themes of hope and change are what the nation craves. His appeal is intoxicating -- especially to young idealists-- but the dark cloud of questionable electability that faces Hillary also looms large over Obama.

Doubtless brighter and more articulate than George W. Bush, Obama has not used race as a crutch, and the media has not made race an issue (as they have gender). In lily-white Iowa, he transcended race. Then independent blue-collared New Hampshire leveled the playing field between the first-female or first-black potential president
The electability problems of a tough female like Hillary have been extensively debated. Yet if Obama heads the Democratic ticket, his race may also be a negative factor for many voters. For reasons of “political correctness,” people don’t reveal that they would prefer to elect the devil himself rather than someone they consider a “nigger,” but two weeks ago at a dinner party, an otherwise intelligent accomplished man actually said this. It terrifies me, but I believe he represents millions.

When a John McCain supporter referred to Hillary as “that bitch,” McCain never distanced himself from the insult to a Senate colleague and former first lady. If the questioner had used the N-word, would McCain have reacted differently?

While the word “bitch” barely causes a ripple, no one can deny the ongoing presence of a reservoir of racial prejudice, overt and subliminal, in this country. But to paraphrase Churchill, by November Hillary might be a warmer and fuzzier woman, but Obama will still be black.

Iowa Republicans chose folksy extremist Mike Huckabee over Mormon flip-flopper Mitt Romney. Democrats need to ask how many similar voters, along with others, will choose a Republican nominee whom they perceive as a bulwark against a black liberal in the White House.

We don’t know the answer, because no one wants to ask that question -- and because voters will never admit their bigotry to pollsters.

Despite the chorus that Democrats MUST win in 2008, lest the country be doomed, most voting Americans just want a president they can love; one with whom they feel comfortable and who, coincidentally, may guide the country to peace and prosperity. For Iowa caucus-goers that was Obama: in New Hampshire, women led a groundswell for one of their own. Now a black man and a woman—both pioneers- challenge a nation yearning for “change.”

Keeping our eye on the November prize, one blogger says it best. “Please, God,” she writes,” all I want for Christmas is a Democrat president.”
_____________________________________________________

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

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