Send in the clowns … Marilyn Armstrong

America, land of the brave and the free. Photo by Turtsman.

My father was not a wise man, but a smart one who knew how to make money. He was a lifelong Democrat, small businessman and other things I would prefer not to delve into right now. A big part of his salesman’s repertoire were one liners and jokes. This was a favorite of mine.

It isn’t what you don’t know that will get you. It’s what you DO know that’s wrong.

Albert Friedman
Self-Made American (1917 – 2010)

How true it is, and also, how sad. So many people knowing with complete certainty so much that is so wrong. For them, the motto will forever be thus:

Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up.

So, I guess if you want to maintain your bona fides as a Real American, you should continue to watch ONLY Fox News. It will help to reinforce your unfounded opinions by presenting pseudo facts and speculation in lieu of real information and you, dumbass, will believe every word of it. Rupert Murdoch is laughing at you all the way to his offshore accounts.

Don’t read anything that contains facts unless they comply with your preconceptions. In fact, it might be best to avoid reading entirely. Make a flag of your ignorance and close-mindedness; wave it proudly. Tell the world you know nothing and don’t want to learn nothin’ neither.

Finally, proclaim that you are the prototypical American, unlike the rest of us snobbish book-reading socialist anti-Christian liberal Nazis who don’t agree with you. Don’t be concerned that you don’t know what prototypical means. I didn’t expect you to understand. Too many syllables.

After that, you can wonder why the world is losing respect for the United States. Maybe it has something to do with “true Americans” like you with your passion for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and stupidity.

You vote against your own best interests because you vote not for people who will help you, but for those who share your hates. Anyone can have you by preying on what you hate. You hate so many things that you are easily had. You are America’s fools and losers, the people about whom H.L Mencken spoke when he said:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 – 1956)

Let the Fun Begin: Williamsburg, Virginia – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends are here and today we shall emerge and go forth to enjoy! It turns out that Colonial Williamsburg doesn’t exactly have an entrance fee. There are things in there that if you want to see them, have entry fees, but it’s free to go to the town and just enjoy it. Which hopefully is what we’ll do today.

Adding Yorktown and Jamestown costs very little. For the historical stuff, time is more the issue than is money. We have to pace ourselves, see as much as we can without getting exhausted. Young at heart? Yes, absolutely. But our bones know the truth and we can’t ignore them.

Tomorrow will be some combination of fun activities … and I’m betting it will be Busch Gardens.

Pricey, but  they have all those roller coasters and I am simply NOT going to pass up the opportunity. I’m not going to miss it.

I didn’t drive all these miles to say “Oops, can’t afford it.” That’s stupid. So I’m doing it, and that it. Even if I have to pay more than I imagined in my nightmares I would need to pay!

The hotel which isn’t a hotel, but a condo time share, is MUCH nicer than I expected.

Living room and dining area lead to a balcony facing the woods.

Aside from our quarters being huge and very nicely appointed, there are many more activities and I expected and just overall, a really lovely place.

The kitchen. There’s a huge amount of storage space … much more than I have at home and there’s also a compact washer and dryer in a closet across from the fridge.

The balcony off the living room has a peaceful view of the woods and trails. Which is what we see out our windows at home, but it’s a big improvement from the many views of parking lots I’ve had over the years from where I was staying!

View from the balcony.

If only it weren’t so godawful far away from home!

We’re pretty much recovered from the drive and now, I WANT TO HAVE SOME FUN!!!

Tune in for updates!

Editor’s Note:  The above was originally posted August 5, 2012.  In the next two days you will get more from this trip.

Old Gettysburg – Marilyn Armstrong

Horse and buggy. Easy to shoot. Horse doesn’t move much. Okay. Not at all.

When you think of Gettysburg, you probably think “battlefield.” Military history. Civil War.

I’ve never seen an actual “cigar store Indian.” Heard about them, but never seen one.

What does not likely come immediately to mind are “Ghosts” and “Ghouls.” However unlikely, that seems to be the most prominent theme of this historic town and its battlegrounds.

Old soldiers never die?

The shops are full of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies representing the dead soldiers. And, of course, there are tee shirts. Many varieties of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies, dressed in both Confederate and Union uniforms. Some, with no uniforms.

A zombie of Gettysburg.

This is tourist central, but it’s charming and quaint and everything is nicely clumped together in a small area. Even for me, it’s not too much walking. That the temperature has dropped quite a bit helps too.

Tunnel on the path.

You can get a tee-shirt with the entire Gettysburg Address on it, with or without Abraham Lincoln. You can get a wide variety of  Confederate, Union, or combination tee-shirts. Guns and knives vie with children’s toys as souvenirs.

Tee shirts … whatever you want, bet they have it.

The honored dead did not die in vain. They died so we could have cool tee shirts.

The Blue and Grey Tee Shirt Emporium.

IN MEMORIUM, MARIA VON TRAPP

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

Maria Von Trapp died today at the age of 99. Here’s a bit of her real story.

Prologue Magazine: The real story of the  Von Trapp Family. The real story is a lot less sweet than “The Sound of Music,” but far more interesting and believable.

English: The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.

English: The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you enjoy history and like to know the real story behind the Hollywood version, this is wonderful information that will make “The Sound of Music” more than just a pretty movie with nice music.

If you just happen to  live in New England, you may already know most of this since the Von Trapp family settled in Vermont and were/are well-known local celebrities.

See on www.archives.gov

BORING STUFF YOU IGNORED IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Back on Facebook, the site I love to hate. Someone who ought to know better is saying “Here’s a suggestion: To solve this government shutdown, call a general election and let the people decide what should be done. Should we continue with the shutdown or go back to running the government? Sounds simple to me!”

Election day 2012

And getting the response:  “What’s simple to us is hard for our elected officials!”

It’s not hard for our elected officials. It’s impossible and illegal for our officials — elected and otherwise.

Not only that, but we do not have any mechanism that allows a plebiscite wherein everyone gets to voice his or her opinion and The Government has to Abide by Our Vote. How would that work, exactly? To which part of our legal system does that belong? Judicial? Legislative? Executive?

I’m pretty sure we have to pass laws via the legislature. To change laws, we have to get rid of old laws via the judicial branch and/or enact new laws. Which brings us back to the legislative branch. Or to put it another way — congress. If you don’t like the bozos in congress, don’t vote for them. What? You didn’t vote? Well then. I guess you got what you deserve.

The executive branch (aka The President) can’t enact laws. He can use his influence to try to get congress to create laws he likes. He can veto laws he dislikes although presidents do not use their veto much. It’s a thing. Oh, and congress can overturn a veto if enough members of congress agree. Like that’s going to happen.

So — after we have this entirely illegal “public opinion election,” who will enforce “the will of the people”? To the best of my knowledge, there is no force of law to public opinion. There never has been.

Returning to Facebook, I post a little something. Because I love it when I absolutely, positively know no one is going to pay any attention to me. I say: “You can’t just ‘call an election’ in the U.S. This isn’t Great Britain where members of parliament vote “no confidence’ to jumpstart a new election. The U.S. has scheduled elections. Beginning and end of story. The Constitution specifies how and when elections will be held. You can vote down a government in England. You cannot do it here.”

Everyone ignores me. Probably because I’m so smart.

So what can you do about all the stuff you don’t like? Between scheduled elections, you are free to gripe, whine, wail, argue, rant, piss and moan … but you can’t vote until the next scheduled election.

Green is for going.

Green is for going.

It’s one of several fundamental differences between our government and parliamentary governments (like England, France etc.). Americans are always saying how superior our government is, yet they don’t seem to know how it works. Hmm.

So I love it when folks call for an election to change something they don’t like. As if the United States has ever or could ever “just call an election” and “let the people decide.” Even in a parliamentary government — which is nominally more responsive to public opinion — you can’t just “call an election” anytime citizens are displeased with what’s going on.

Somewhere in every government throughout history a lot of citizens are/were/will be unhappy with whatever the government is or isn’t doing. If you had an election every time a bunch of people were mad at the government, we’d always be in the middle of an election.

Wouldn’t that be fun!

You are not required to like what’s going on, but if you want to participate, you need a fundamental grasp of how your government works. The boring stuff you ignored learned in grammar school. Today, you’re all grown up and your government is boring. I know. It’s not fair.

Feel free to ignore me. I should never read anything on Facebook. It just pisses me off.

 

JUST DIE ALREADY

That’s the message. The ACA doesn’t affect me directly since I’m already on Medicare — except that the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare have been going up each year. Higher deductibles and premiums, less coverage for the money and the doughnut hole in prescription coverage just keeps going and going and going. They are nibbling away at the coverage. Slowly and surely.

Coffin

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a rapid downhill slide into worsening medical care. As long as was on MassHealth, the Massachusetts version of “Obama Care,” I was fine. I got medication for cheap or free and if I was sick, they took care of me. Thank God I had cancer while I was still covered under MassHealth!

The day I turned 65, they tossed me off of MassHealth. I had thought I was protected because of my disabled status. I received Disability payments rather than Social Security. Being officially disabled automatically entitled me to Mass Health. But, they had a simple solution to the conundrum.. They reclassified me and took me off disability, switching me to standard Social Security. It’s the same money, but without any protection. Wow! I was no longer disabled — a miracle indeed.

Did I get really get richer or healthier? Nope. The Great Minds who designed the system decree when you hit 65, you are healed of your disabilities and can can live on 1/3 the amount of money you needed just days before. Poverty is redefined to levels so low you couldn’t afford maintenance on a refrigerator crate.

Apparently The-Powers-That-Be believe the benevolent folks who hold our mortgage and other debts will knock 2/3 off our payments because they understand we are older and poorer.

In your dreams.

poor-old-man2

I knew it was going to happen but I’d been trying not to think about it. I knew because it happened to my husband when he turned 65. Bang, no more MassHealth. You’re on your own, buster. Garry has fewer major health issues than I do, a situation that is not guaranteed to last forever but so far, so good.

Me, on the other hand … well. I’m just about to hit the second anniversary of the two tumors which cost me both breasts  — the definition of a bi-lateral mastectomy. I had cancer twice — simultaneously. Those two-for-one sales are a killer.

Essentially, I’m getting no care at all, not even checkups. My insurer has too few oncologists. I hope for the best and don’t think on it much. Usually. Except at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep. Then, I wonder what’s really going on in my body. It is not the sort of thinking conducive to peaceful sleep.

I have evolved into a cardiac disaster area. I need a new mitral valve and other things. Turns out that my Medicare Advantage Plan (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) charges $50 per day co-pay for cardiac rehab. Since there is no way we can come up with that money, I can’t afford cardiac rehab. With all the deductibles, I’m not even sure I can afford the surgery itself … and I’m not sure they’ll perform it if I can’t do the rehab. I’m trying real hard to find something funny here and not doing such a great job.

HealthCareCosts

I’ve been considering using Magical Thinking as a medical alternative. Magical Thinking is holistic medicine for the hopelessly deluded. Rather than medication and surgery, I pretend I’m fine and kaboom — I’m fine. Problem eliminated. Magical thinking is cheap, efficient and much less stressful than actually dealing with the problem.

Okay, back to earth. I’m getting a message from the ether and the message, ladies and gentleman is (wait for it) … “Just die already.”

If I could afford $220 per month more, I could get a policy without deductibles. Ironically, that’s exactly what it costs me monthly to keep the house heated. On the budget plan. Could I skip heating and trade up for better medical insurance? But this is New England. It gets cold.

Or, for an additional $200 per month (which we don’t have) — plus the cost of Medicare — I could get a Medigap policy that would cover everything Medicare doesn’t cover. I’d need a prescription plan separately and no plan covers that big doughnut hole in the middle of prescription coverage. Kind of a moot point since I don’t have the money. Hell, we have more month than money now. More? From where? Our generous government entitlements?

If I don’t take care of the bad valves, I will die. If I delay too long, the chances of the surgery working well become increasingly poor. I can’t afford the surgery, not really … and the alternative is?

The message comes through loud and clear. I’ve outlived my usefulness. Just die already.

With the shut down of the government by those opposed to the ACA (let’s call them “Republicans” and be done with the niceties), with the GOP apparently believing “Just die already” is a reasonable message to send to me and lots of other people, I have to wonder how I wound up here. We worked hard our whole lives. We deserve better than this. I try not to be whiney about it, but it hurts to find oneself discarded, marginalized, back against the wall with the wolves closing in.

How did the United States become this ugly, mean-spirited country that would rather close down than offer medical care to its poor, its children, its senior citizens? How did we come to this? Who are we, anyhow?

I know. I get it. Just die already.

Daily Prompt: New Internet Order – WHEN I AM QUEEN

Thank you, thank you. I accept your nomination and am pleased to be the first — permanent because I’m never giving up this job — Queen of the Internet.

dell xps 15r

My first order of business is to make high-speed Internet access free and universal. No matter who you are, and where you live … you have Internet access. High speed quality access.

We will also provide you with the computer of your choice, one per family. Tablet, laptop or desktop, whatever operating system suits your personal style. My goal is to make your life easier and more fun. Maybe even more productive.

I wish I could also give you a decent medical plan and a job, but at least if you’re dying of untreated disease and malnutrition because you can’t buy groceries, you’ll be able to complain about it on the Internet. It’s the least I can do.

Thank you for making me Queen. I will try to be the most benevolent monarch possible. Go in peace!

The Constitution of the United States

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

constitution_1_of_4_630

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

For those who have never read the Constitution — and for we who may need a refresher (it being a long time since school days), here is a link to a transcript of the Constitution by which ALL Americans are sworn to abide.

Regardless of party. Regardless of whether or not we like the President. We are a nation of laws, not extortion.

We are all supposed to care about this country. We can disagree, but holding the government for ransom and putting it in harm’s way — for ANY reason — is wrong. Unethical, immoral and unpatriotic. Maybe worse. We have laws for a reason.

Democracy is a slow, frustrating form of government. Totalitarianism is far more efficient. Is that what we want?

Rent “Seven Days in May” or find it on Netflix. Either version. Consider its message. Consider what message we are sending to the world right now. Shame on us.

See on www.archives.gov

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ONE NATION PRESUMABLY INDIVISIBLE

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Whatever happened to that? If you want to get a good look at the way we are, check out just this single page on Pinterest. If this doesn’t give you the willies, nothing will.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Rooseveltradio address, Oct. 26, 1939, 32nd president of US

A liberal is a man who is willing to spend somebody else’s money.
Carter Glass

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce

I’m a social liberal. I believe it’s the obligation of government to take care of its citizens. It has a special moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves, the most vulnerable amongst us. If government doesn’t do that, what’s it good for, really? Believing that doesn’t mean no one but me has a good idea. I learn stuff by listening, not by proving I have a louder voice.

The trend in this country toward demonizing anyone whose opinion differs from ones own has been eating the heart out America for a long time. The growth of cable and the Internet has sped the process until it seems there are no limits to which people will go to make their point. Civility, good manners and common sense no longer apply. We rant, shout, call names, and insult each other and apparently, it’s considered okay. I don’t think so. I believe almost everyone wants the same things: a good country, a better world. A place for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren to live in safety with reasonable prosperity and peace. We aren’t going to get it by denigrating anyone with whom we don’t agree. We are all Americans and we are constitutionally entitled to disagree.

No one gains by raising the level of hostility. Our world is not improved by rage. We can argue without name calling and accusations. People with whom we do not agree do sometimes have ideas worth listening to. Instead of treating each other as enemies, why not show respect to everyone on principle? Because being nice, being polite, being civil doesn’t cost anything and improves the quality of life for everyone.

Argue if you choose. Use facts, not invective and insults. If we don’t work together, we will lose everything important. Empires fall. Once-great nations lose influence and become historical footnotes. Most of us have watched it happen, so don’t believe we are exempt.

It can happen to us. We are well on our way to losing our position as a leader among nations. We have already lost much of the respect we enjoyed. Who could argue we don’t deserve it? We’ve done it to ourselves and refuse to rethink the road we’re on.

Election Day 2012

On a personal note, I don’t always live up to my best self, especially if I’m angry. But I do sometimes succeed — and these days, more often than not. That makes the effort worthwhile. Doing nothing is always the easiest path. It’s not better, though.

We won’t solve problems by hating each other. Meanness is contagious. So is kindness. Give kindness a chance. I’ll continue to believe (almost) everyone means well and deserves respect. Even people I don’t like. I promise to do my best to respect you. Remind me if I forget.

 

THE WHOLE GUN THING – I DON’T GET IT

I don’t get it. I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a child. When I was six, I didn’t understand why anyone would not want guns regulated. I do not understand it today when I am 66.

Our family has a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle with which we shoot paper targets. My son inherited his father’s target 22. It’s a pretty thing. Holds a single shell and is intended for competition target shooting. My son keeps it clean, oiled, and unloaded. I assume it works, though no one has used it in a long time.

Red Ryder BB gun

I like target shooting and I’m a good shot. I’ve never killed anything, not counting bugs … and you won’t get any apologies from me on that score. If insects stay outside, that’s okay with me. In my domain? Bugs get as dead as I can squash them.

But the whole gun thing. The fascination with guns, the passion for them. The belief that we need to have them because if not, “they” will take away our freedom? Who are “they” and what exactly do they want? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything much that anyone would want. Frankly, if you want it that badly, geez, just take it. I’m not going to die for anything I own. They’re just things.

WHAT FREEDOMS DO YOU WANT?

At the risk of asking a stupid question, what freedom are “they” coming to take away? My right to have a blog? Is this blog so important that someone is going to bring the swat-mobile to stop me from posting? How about my right to take photographs? Does anyone care that much? The right to pay my bills? You can have that freedom. Please, take it. No guns required. My right to own a car? That’s pretty well-regulated already. Watch TV? Charter Communications owns me. Feel free to take Charter Communications, however. Just leave me WiFi.

How about phone calls? I’m in thrall to the cable company and AT&T already. Could the government be worse? I tend to doubt it. My calls — and yours — are already monitored by the NSA. Seriously, exactly what freedoms are “they” going to take and why would “they” bother?

Virtually every aspect of life is regulated. You can’t cut hair or sell insurance without a license. You can’t own or drive a car without a license, registration and insurance. Most places, you need to get a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen or put up a new roof. You need a license for your dogs and cats.

We aren’t connected to town water or sewage, so we pay whatever it costs to keep our well healthy and our septic functional. If they ever put in city water and sewer, I’m sure we’ll be required to hook up and pay some ridiculous amount of money to do it.  With all the perils, I prefer my own water. As of this writing, the air is free. If someone figures out how to regulate it, I’m sure they will. And sin. That’s free, but there’s always (heh) syntax.

traffic-jam

So what is such a big deal about requiring gun licensing and registration? We control and limit citizens’ access to pretty much everything. Why are guns sacred? Don’t talk to me about the Constitution. We have reinterpreted the constitution to align with the realities of modern life over and over again. There is no reason guns can’t be treated the same way as anything else.

The arguments against sensible gun control are stupid. If we control who can drive a car and how that car can be driven and there are a staggering number of traffic regulations enforced with considerable vigor, why can’t we exert at least as much control over weapons? You can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk with a gun? To whom does this make sense? Not me. I’m flummoxed by the illogic.

I would never want to limit my right — or yours —  to own a car, unless there’s good reason. Such as eyesight so poor you are not able to safely operate a vehicle. Or your having been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being unable to pay for at least minimal insurance and registration. Or you can’t pass the driver’s test. It would be irresponsible to give licenses to blind, drunk, or incapable drivers, wouldn’t it? How could equivalent oversight not be appropriate for guns? Seriously?

Butch Cassidy’s gun sold for $175,000.

MY “SO SIMPLE IT’S ALMOST STUPID” GUN CONTROL PLAN

To own a gun, you have to pass a test to make sure you know how to shoot and care for a weapon. You become obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. You need to be able to see well enough to properly aim a gun and be able to hit a target. You need pass a background check so we know you aren’t a felon or a dangerous wacko.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You must know where they are and you may not lend them to anyone. If a gun is lost or stolen, you must report it. You need gun liability insurance on every weapon you own that contains a firing pin. If a weapon registered to you gets used in an illegal act, causes harm to others — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you can still wind up in court.

OldJail-300-72

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon that is considered unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention provide an explanation.

Simple, isn’t it? We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous; you can kill someone with a car. All this regulation doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own a lot of cars. We simply try to control who is allowed to drive and keep track of who owns what. It doesn’t mean we can keep every drunk off the road, prevent all accidents or stop joy-riding kids, but we do the best we can.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against this plan — probably because there isn’t any. Guns should be regulated like every other dangerous thing.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

UncleWalterOld

He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

murrow

I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network — a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

Lips that touch liquor …

Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States. The separate Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition including defining “intoxicating liquor” for anyone who needed an explanation.

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The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor or if you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before and whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

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Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class.

There are no fewer gay people because we made their lives difficult any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people. Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want?

How is that better or more moral? This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. And as often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before. Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcoh...

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since! The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.

Tzu Hsi – The Last Empress and the Rape of China

Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China, by Pearl Buck

456 pages – Open Road Media (On Kindle – May 21, 2013)

This is the story of Tzu Hsi, a woman who rose from obscurity to rule first as regent to her son, the boy emperor, then ultimately as the last Empress of China from 1861 to 1908. Her death heralded the end of the old China. The empire collapsed only three years after her death, in 1911.

First chosen as one of many concubines to the young emperor – no more than a child himself – she manipulates herself into position as his favorite, cultivates his favor until he depends on her completely. Still in love with her childhood sweetheart, a single night of love produces a son, the next emperor.

Intelligent, highly (self) educated Tzu Hsi makes herself essential to her debauched, physically weakened, opium-addicted husband. His early death leaves her regent to her son. She is forced to preside over the destruction of Chinese culture. Her fight against white imperialism is hopeless. As the representative of the last Dynasty, she tries to find her way while the China she has known is assaulted by wave after wave of western imperialist pirates under the guise of missionaries, traders, and ambassadors.

Once the rape of China begins, she is powerless to stop it. Even the rare victory is no more than a holding action. Despite all evidence, she cannot believe China can lose to these invaders and she never loses her unyielding belief in the superiority of Chinese culture … the ultimate irony given the unyielding belief of the Western powers of their superiority. The unstoppable force meets the immoveable object and the result is – as might be expected – tragic.

In a way, she was more right than she knew. The old China collapsed but from its ashes, the new China has gained more power than the old ever had.

A Western Portrait of China's Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi

There are a number of ways to read this book. It’s a brilliant, detailed picture of a vanished civilization … beautiful and to modern minds, bizarre. And, it’s the story of Tzu Hsi, her life, her deeply flawed, complex personality. Her bad decisions based on the logic of a world already gone to which the rules no longer applied.

You can also read Imperial Woman as a much larger story, how the western nations took the oldest culture on earth and destroyed it so we could plunder it for opium.

How we destroyed thousands of years of art and cultural treasures so each country from the west — who had no right to any of China — treated the Chinese people as if they were the barbarians because they did not want to become just like us.

The European powers with the help of the United States transformed China into a monster. Then we have the gall to complain we don’t like the way it turned out. China would never have become what it is today or taken the path it did without the brutality and devastation wrought by European imperialism. And of course, look what opium and all that has followed in its wake has done to improve our society? Karma is a nasty bitch.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Pearl Buck

Written in 1956, the story is probably more relevant today, 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent to the transformation of Communist China into the world’s biggest, baddest economic superpower. On many levels, for a lot of different reasons, it serves us right. We destroyed China. Now, in its own way, China is destroying us. One good turn deserves another.

I read Imperial Woman not long after it first came out. I was in my early teens and it was just a story. I read it as an interesting, even fascinating story. But at the time, it meant no more than that.

Reading it now meant a lot more to me not only because of the changes in my perspective, knowledge and interest in China’s history … but because the world has so greatly changed.

Imperial Woman was written at the peak of the Communist witch hunts in the U.S. and the hottest part of the Cold War. The world in which we live today is entirely different. If you have a reasonable knowledge of history, a sense of destiny and fundamental belief in Karma, you will find Imperial Woman contains many layers of meaning. It’s elegantly written, not even slightly dated.

Imperial Woman was available (as of May 21, 2013) on Kindle. It’s also available on Audible.com and as a paperback. It’s probably available at your local library too. It’s a classic, doubly so today.

The Porcelain Unicorn – A Miniature Movie

unicornThe back story (thanks to Sharla  at catnipoflife). Usually I reblog such posts, but posts with embedded video don’t reblog or scoop properly.

British film director Sir Ridley Scott created an international film making contest titled “Tell It Your Way.” More than 600 aspiring directors entered.

Release Date – August 2010
Genre – Historical / Drama
Awards – Grand prize winner of the Philips Parallel Lines ‘Tell It Your Way’ international competition.

Starring – Trevor Teichmann, Fiona Perry
Directed By – Keegan Wilcox
Screenplay By  – Keegan Wilcox
Produced By – Anselm Clinard

The requirements were that the  film could be a maximum 3 minutes long, contain no more than six lines of dialogue or narrative, and present a compelling story. The winner was  “Porcelain Unicorn” from American director Keegan Wilcox.

It presents a lyrical, touching story of an act of conscience and kindness of a boy  to a girl in a time a great peril … and their reunion many years later.

To me, it’s the story of how a single act of conscience can change the course of lives. If this little movie doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t know what will.

A dream of freedom

When I lived far away and spoke of home, no matter how long I lived away, I knew where home was. America.

What’s America? A dream of freedom, a failure of reality? An amazing constitution that nonetheless signed on for eighty years of institutionalized slavery? The greatest nation on earth? The greatest oppressor in history?

All of the aforementioned?

Afternoon walk - Tombstone

Like a person, America is all things, contradictory things. Mythic. Iconic. A place of extraordinary natural beauty, preservers and despoilers. The best government, the worst failure.

All of the above.

Government fails. All government perpetrates injustice, murder, cruelty, intolerance then tries to bury the truth … like all good all people who do bad things. Find me one that has not. I dare you.

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It’s a terrible thing that governments and nations are made of human beings. Such flawed clay from which to build. Wrong-headed people with good intentions. We don’t get it right, but try (usually) to do the right thing. Our failures are human. That we keep trying is divine.

Government is corrupt, will always be. We deplore corruption as we reap its benefits. We fervently object to any corruption which doesn’t give us a piece of the pie, but love and protect corruption that rewards us. You don’t? Really? You sure?

We aren’t our government, legislators, even our history. We are all this, more or less. Are we greatest amongst nations? What do you mean by that? Biggest? We aren’t, never were. Richest? Not today. Best form of government? Maybe.

We are a light to the world and embody a promise as perhaps does no other place on earth. We have ridden to the rescue of peoples and nations when no other nation would dare. And destroyed others. Been spit on for the good we do and applauded for the evil. Sometimes, it’s hard to know which is which.

We’ll do it again because we’re just that kind of place.

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Daily Prompt: So long, it’s been good to know yuh …

So Long, Its Been Good To Know Yuh
(Dusty Old Dust)
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

I’ve sung this song, but I’ll sing it again,
Of the place that I lived on the wild windy plains,
In the month called April, county called Gray,
And here’s what all of the people there say:

CHORUS: So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

A dust storm hit, an’ it hit like thunder;
It dusted us over, an’ it covered us under;
Blocked out the traffic an’ blocked out the sun,
Straight for home all the people did run,
Singin':

CHORUS

We talked of the end of the world, and then
We’d sing a song an’ then sing it again.
We’d sit for an hour an’ not say a word,
And then these words would be heard:

CHORUS

Sweethearts sat in the dark and sparked,
They hugged and kissed in that dusty old dark.
They sighed and cried, hugged and kissed,
Instead of marriage, they talked like this:
“Honey…”

CHORUS

Now, the telephone rang, an’ it jumped off the wall,
That was the preacher, a-makin’ his call.
He said, “Kind friend, this may the end;
An’ you got your last chance of salvation of sin!”

The churches was jammed, and the churches was packed,
An’ that dusty old dust storm blowed so black.
Preacher could not read a word of his text,
An’ he folded his specs, an’ he took up collection,
Said:

So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

 Strange for that song to be rolling around my head, but we watched a PBS show about old folk singers the other night … and there it sits, in my brain, rolling around and around.

It’s the anthem of my generation. We’ve said goodbye to a lot of folks. Some are gone because they went away to that other place, bought the farm, as it were … but just as many — even more — really did buy the farm, or at least real estate in a community far away where the only crop they grow are old people.

I never wanted to live in an Old Community, though I recognize one doesn’t always have a choice in the matter. I never wanted to live in any community that was all of a type. When I was young and raising my son, I sought out racially diverse communities because I like the grittiness of different cultures mixing together. I wanted my son to know, without being told, that people come in all colors and shapes and there’s no reason to be afraid just because someone doesn’t look like you. It was a very unpopular position to take, but fortunately my husband agreed with me and we found … and lived in … mixed communities the entire time my son was growing up.

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It worked. He didn’t — doesn’t — recognize skin color as a descriptor. He could tell me the type of refrigerator the new people in town had in their kitchen and every detail of the cars they drove, but not the color of their skin because for him — and my granddaughter is the same way — it was a matter of gradation. There were no black or white people, just off white, pink, tan and brown people, with a variety of hair textures and colors. Some friendly, some not so much.

Then we lived in Israel and he was one of the few Jewish kids who had Arab friends because no one had told him he shouldn’t, and even though it was dangerous, I wanted him to know that people are people, not the labels we put on them.

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Color blind. That’s the word for it. My granddaughter gets mad when someone calls her grandfather “black” because, she says, he’s not black … he’s a nice light to medium tan, depending on the time of year and whether or not he’s been in the sun. As for me, I stay a disgusting shade of fish-belly white no matter what I do and any effort to alter it results in third degree burns, a lot of pain, and turning an unnatural shade of hot pink which may look good on a tee-shirt, but looks alien on human skin.

And all of this somehow reminding me of driving down the highway in Garry’s old flame orange Dodge Challenger. He bought it when he was working at ABC Network in New York in the 1960s. He bought it in 1969, the year my son was born which is relevant because Garry is my son’s godfather. But the car was a 1970 model year. It was the car he brought with him when he became a reporter in Boston in November 1970.

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It was his first on the air job. It would be his last, too, because he would work at Channel 7 for 31 years, the remainder of his career. He would drive the orange car until after we were married, until it finally stopped being dependable and wouldn’t drive in the rain because the wires got wet and it would stall. It still drove like, as we say, a bat outta hell because it had a huge engine and Garry took pretty good care of it. Not great because he entrusted its care to a garage that cheated him and he, not knowing enough about the mechanical stuff to realize it, assumed that if it looked okay, it was okay.

We got another convertible after that … a red Mustang and had that for almost a dozen years, but it was getting to the end of the convertible years and they didn’t make them like they used to. They didn’t make us like they used to either, and I needed a car where I didn’t have to wrap myself up like a mummy to keep my hip length hair from turning into a mass of knots  or getting a horrendous sunburn just sitting in the car. Only in TV shampoo commercials do long-haired girls drive in top-down convertibles with their hair blowing free because it’s going to take hours to get that mass of hair untangled later.

And now, it’s time to stop, even though this has rambled from one place to another without any logic to it … Fast writing, stream of time, stream of consciousness. We’ve driven a ways down the highway of memory and time … I wonder if the old orange car is still around? It was a few years ago. It had been restored, I hear and I was glad to know it. I have such fond memories of the old beast. Of all the old things and old people I knew.

UU Church Uxbridge

We still don’t live in an Old Community, though this community is old in other senses. And I’m glad, though I sure do wish we had more ethnicities among us. Miss the mixing up of color and culture and music and dance … and the wonderful smell of the food everyone cooked on holidays …