February 28, 2009


As I read Sherman Alexie's book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a large part of the story's impact on me, both as a part of Arnold's character and on the actual page of the book for me as the reader, were the 60+ illustrations by Ellen Forney. In my little review, I left that sentiment out and should not have. The drawings enhance the book to a degree that probably cannot be over emphasized and somehow do credit both to Mr. Alexie's judgment and Ms. Forney's talent.

I am impressed with her scope and talent and recommend that you watch for her in the future (and, of course, she already possesses an accomplished past worthy of review and exploration).

book review

My youngest grandson loaned me a book to read that he has read about three times now. I've now read it once. The book is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born in 1966 on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He received his B.A. in American studies from Washington State University in Pullman.

His books of poetry include Thrash (Hanging Loose, 2007), One Stick Song (2000), The Man Who Loves Salmon (1998), The Summer of Black Widows (1996), Water Flowing Home (1995), Old Shirts & New Skins (1993), First Indian on the Moon (1993), I Would Steal Horses (1992), and The Business of Fancydancing (1992).

He is also the author of several novels and collections of short fiction including Flight (Grove Press, 2007); Ten Little Indians (2003); The Toughest Indian in the World (2000); Indian Killer (1996); Reservation Blues (1994), which won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), which received a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.

Among his other honors and awards are poetry fellowships from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award.

Alexie and Chris Eyre wrote the screenplay for the movie Smoke Signals, which was based on Alexie's short story "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona." The movie won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 and was released internationally by Miramax Films. He is also a three-time world heavyweight poetry slam champion. Alexie lives with his wife and son in Seattle, Washington.

This is now one of my favorite books. It is a "coming of age" book (coming of age is another way to say "growing up"). It is the story of an Indian boy born on a Northwest Indian reservation (called derisively "the rez") who decides to leave the reservation each day to attend a school in town instead of remaining at the reservation school. The boy, Arnold Spirit, is born with water on the brain, a fragile brain-damaged Indian child not expected to live long. Part of the joy of this semi-autobiographical book is that we know he does live, and now, because Sherman Alexie wrote this book, he will live forever (forever is another way of saying for as long as we will be able to remember).

Arnold's decision to attend school in town is a costly one for him because it causes a rift with his best friend; a rift that actually includes almost the entire population of the reservation except for his immediate family. It is a courageous journey into another world. One of the first of the white kids who befriends Arnold (or at least tolerates him) is Gordie, "the Genius White Boy." One of their early conversations is an especial jewel within the story. Gordie tells him:

"You have to read a book three times before you know it. The first time you read it for the story. The plot. The movement from scene to scene that gives the book its momentum, its rhythm. It's like riding a raft down a river. You're just paying attention to the currents. Do you understand that?"

"Not at all," I said.

"Yes you do," he said.

"Okay, I do," I said. I really didn't, but Gordy believed in me. He wouldn't let me give up.

"The second time you read a book, you read it for its history. For its knowledge of history. You think about the meaning of each word, and where that word came from. I mean, you read a novel that has the word 'spam' in it, and you know where that word comes from, right?"

"Spam is junk e-mail," I said.

"Yes, that's what it is, but who invented the word, who first used it, and how has the meaning of the word changed since it was first used?"

"I don't know," I said.

"Well, you have to look all that up. If you don't treat each word that seriously then you're not treating the novel seriously."

As I said, my grandson has read the book three times; I've read it once. I have the plot down okay, but I'm still a little short on some of the history.

Arnold's family is dirt poor and struggles with a variety of issues that lots of other families also know about. He is faced over and over with hurdles to surmount that would slow a less determined boy; Arnold is no quitter. But even he is finally faced with such overwhelming loss, that it is all he can do to continue walking forward one step at a time. This book is a blessing and if you know young man (of any age over, say 13 years old or so, this is probably a book for him - it was certainly a book for me).

This is also a book that you will not find in some libraries probably. It does not shy from the realities of life and like other great books for young men (Huckleberry Finn comes to mind), it is probably banned from the shelves in some communities. It is worth a search.

thoughts on more direct benefit

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is a personal favorite of mine when I can find a buck or two to share with our animal cousins and they have a fine gift shop. Actually visiting gift shops on non-profits and animal sanctuaries is a great way to find a special something for the birthday kid.

This occurs to me because of a recent story on npr about how many traditional African artists and crafts folks are ripped off by companies mass producing supposed handmade crafts and art pieces from Africa. I know, not the same thing except you do know who benefits.

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade source. They have a nice shop in Houston. The Fair Trade Federation is another source of information.

oopsie indeed

Via Digby article from Yahoo news explains a lot:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Judd Gregg, President Barack Obama's former nominee for commerce secretary, won taxpayer money for redevelopment of a shuttered Air Force base where he and his brother had invested in commercial property, an Associated Press investigation found.

Gregg, R-N.H., has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg's office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping to arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.

Gregg said he violated no laws or Senate rules. In a conference call with New Hampshire reporters on Friday, he said most of the federal money he steered to Pease had been requested by the National Guard or the city of Portsmouth.

"None of these in any way have benefited me personally," Gregg said.

But the senator's mixture of personal and professional business would have been difficult to square with President Barack Obama's campaign promise to impose greater transparency and integrity over federal budget earmarks — funding for lawmakers' pet projects. Gregg said that during his consideration for the Cabinet job, the White House did not know about his Pease earmarks, although the administration knew about his investments at Pease.

Of course, we all believe him when he also says that withdrawal of his name to be Commerce Secretary is completely unrelated to his earmark which just happened to line his and his brother's pockets. Judd, we hardly knew ya......

February 27, 2009


Paul Krugman uses a different word.

End of work week deep thought:
The current Republican response to President Obama, indeed their entire current strategy, can be summed up in a single word.

police work

From Benders: maybe local police departments can do the jobs they were trained to do:

"Enforcing immigration laws detracts local police from their primary job of fighting crime and keeping neighborhoods safe, the report says, and race, not crime, has fueled the program's growth in Phoenix and other areas of the country with growing Latino populations. "It had enough time to prove itself, and it failed," said Aarti Shahani, a researcher with the Justice Strategies group who co-authored the report." Arizona Republic, Feb. 26, 2009.

February 26, 2009

new member of the family

We have a new member of the Eugene branch of the family: Allie

Poor GOP has it hard

Via TPM:

The Wall St. Journal reports that John Boehner made an interesting observation about the Republican Party's problems: It's simply harder to sell their own ideas to the public, compared to the easy answers offered by the Democrats. "We have a tougher job than our friends across the aisle. They've been offering Americans a free lunch for the last 80 years, rather successfully," Boehner said, at a lunch hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "Those of us that believe in a smaller, more accountable government, we have a tougher time making our principles relevant to the American people. But it's our challenge, and we've got to do it."
A note about free lunches and small government: Boehner voted in 2003 for the Medicare drug bill, a mega-expensive expansion of entitlement spending with no method laid out on how to pay for it. And the modern GOP's platform is based largely on tax cuts, with the constant claim that they'll result in even more revenue.

February 25, 2009

February 24, 2009

damn good speech

Maybe it's memory, but I've heard lots of these speeches....from John Kennedy onward (probably President Eisenhower as well, but maybe that's the point where the memory starts to fade) and this was as good as it has been in the last decades. I believe what he says....don't completely agree with all of his ideas (or rather the nuances of his ideas ... for instance, social security). It was a good speech.

I did not listen to the pundits and don't plan to. I thought the chamber was 'forced' by his skill and real concern to actually react to what he said and not so much to their posturing. Good speech.

Damn good speech.

Sri Lanka's children

One of my friends spent a large part of the last years of her life talking, supporting, and volunteering in efforts to further the work of UNICEF. Here is a story she probably would want me to share with you:

VANNI, Sri Lanka, 23 February 2009 – Sennappu had a split second, a moment, literally a heartbeat to throw her body around her 18-month-old daughter before the bomb landed. Her reactions were enough time to save the life of her baby girl. Sennappu was killed instantly.

As Sri Lanka’s conflict has grown in intensity, so too has the number of civilians injured and killed. UNICEF has consistently called upon the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (the rebel group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to give absolute priority to the protection of civilians. And yet mothers like Sennappu continue to die, as do children.

These are children caught in a crossfire.

February poet

I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

progressive strategies

Listening to Mike Lux:

I get extremely tired of hearing Blue Dog Democrats and hypocritical Republicans yammering about the need for everyone to make sacrifices in terms of entitlements and the budged deficits when the policies that they have supported in the past have required sacrifices mostly of the poor and middle class, while doing almost nothing to cause the same kind of sacrifice from their corporate and wealthy donors. There is a progressive way to bring fiscal responsibility back to our federal budget, a path that embraces progressive values of taking care of the poor and investing in a prosperous middle class and equal opportunity for all. Let's choose that kind of path, for the first time in a very long time.

February 23, 2009

February 22, 2009

bogus economics

Why is bogus so often considered just another side of an argument? It's beyond time that some facts attend anything written by Amity Schlaes. Her unpalatable nonsense is accepted at face-value throughout the MSM.

February 21, 2009

I Knew a Woman

Okay, it's a few days late to call this the "birthday poet" but we're still within the month of his birth and this guy is one of the centers of my "sense of place" in poetry (see previous blog for discussion of sense of place). This is one of my favorites from Theodore Roethke:

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

sense of place

... no place is a place until it has had a poet. And that is about what Yeats was saying only a moment ago. No place, not even a wild place, is a place until it has had that human attention that at its highest reach we call poetry. What Frost did for New Hampshire and Vermont, what Faulkner did for Mississippi and Steinbeck for the Salinas Valley, Wendell Berry is doing for his family corner of Kentucky, and hundreds of other place-loving people, gifted or not, are doing for places they were born in, or reared in, or have adopted and made their own.

I doubt that we will ever get the motion out of the American, for everything in his culture of opportunity and abundance has, up to now, urged motion on him as a form of virtue. Our tradition of restlessness will not be outgrown in a generation or two, even if the motives for restlessness are withdrawn. But after all, in a few months it will be half a millennium since Europeans first laid eyes on this continent. At least in geographical terms, the frontiers have been explored and crossed. It is probably time we settled down. It is probably time we looked around us instead of looking ahead. We have no business, any longer, in being impatient with history. We need to know our history in much greater depth, even back into the geology, which, as Henry Adams said, is only history projected a little way back from Mr. Jefferson.

History was part of the baggage we threw overboard when we launched ourselves into the New World. We threw it away because it repealed old tyrannies, old limitations, galling obligations, bloody memories. Plunging into the future through a landscape that had no history, we did both the country and ourselves some harm along with some good. Neither the country nor the society we built out of it can be healthy until we stop raiding and running, and learn to be quiet part of the time, and acquire the sense not of ownership but of belonging.

“The land was ours before we were the land's,” says Robert Frost's poem.
from Wallace Stegner, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs

I was born in San Francisco; I grew up in Texas.

I returned to California, to Fort Ord, on the Monterey peninsula, for boot camp when I enlisted in the Army in 1963. After boot camp, I remained on the Monterey peninsula to attend Hungarian language classes at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey.

An aside: the Monterey peninsula, with its Monarch butterflies, its gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean, its windswept trees. the early morning fog (thickest just as we stand inspection in the seal-barking predawn of another day of Magyar language instruction), and evenings spent on Cannery Row, may be one of god's gifts (no suitable link to 'god's gifts', it tends to be all jibber jabber faith-based nonsense) to my youth (I'll maybe get around to discussing another such gift at a later time).

I have, on my own, forged a somewhat tenuous, but to me substantial-enough, connection between my birth place and my coming of age place. In 1972, a poetry anthology published in Berkeley, California by Thorp Springs Press, self-styled, The San Francisco Bark, a Gathering of Bay Area Poets, was put on sale and included a couple of my poems. In 1974, the Texas Center for Writers Press published the Bicentennial Collection of Texas Short Stories, edited by James P. White, and included "Gato Malo," one of my short stories. I was in both cases, and in all due modesty, flattered to be placed in such company.

My roots seem relatively clear to me, but my sense of self, my sense of place has been a little more troubling. Even though I came of age in Texas, the state is large enough to offer an abundance of locales and my family took advantage of this abundance. My schooling covered virtually the entire state (google the widths of Texas and you may sense some of my early vertigo). I started school in Antelope, moved to Windthorst and then Archer City, followed by Seth Ward and Plainview and then, in Odessa, back and forth across the landscape of the 'oil capitol of the world' (a title contested by Tulsa, Oklahoma), I attended several different schools: Crockett Junior High (some districts call these middle schools), Bonham Junior High, Odessa High, Permian High (in its inaugural year) and then back to Odessa High for graduation. Of course, lots of grand things happened during this time, but one of the grand things happening was not the necessary fermentation time for the forming of long and lasting friendships.

Wallace Stegner reminds me that our sense of place is in part a state of mind, but it can also be an inner compass, even a destiny. I'm not fully comfortable with Robert Frost's quote that "[t]he land was ours before we were the land's." I'm no more comfortable with Woody Guthrie's line: "This land was made for you and me," though I may better like his politics. They are not talking the same thing exactly, but they are both referencing, in their individual oblique manners, the terrible myth of Genesis that humans were gifted by god with dominion over the earth and its creatures.

We need a sense of place to know who we are in relation to those around us. I remember that Gandhi, as part of a distinct minority, was first effective in South Africa before he returned to India. His sense of place may have shifted somehow, in South Africa, he seems more Indian, and then in India, he becomes more international, more the everyman.

I feel, though long gone, a member of the San Francisco bay area tribe. During my 'return' years to the bay area, where I met she-beside-whom-I-have-awakened-lo-these-many-years (though she is actually from the other coast - another story for another rainy day), I never felt displaced or out of my element. I was at home.

But, oddly enough, I am at home in Texas as well, though god (with ample assistance from his Republican children) has visited upon our lone star state an unholy swarm of the worst national politicians imaginable. And these gnats are harder to bare with Molly Ivins gone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in eulogy for Thoreau, tells us,
Mr. Thoreau dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields, hills and waters of his native town, that he made them known and interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea. The river on whose banks he was born and died he knew from its springs to its confluence with the Merrimack. He had made summer and winter observations on it for many years, and at every hour of the day and night. The result of the recent survey of the Water Commissioners appointed by the State of Massachusetts he had reached by his private experiments, several years earlier. Every fact which occurs in the bed, on the banks or in the air over it; the fishes, and their spawning and nests, their manners, their food; the shad-flies which fill the air on a certain evening once a year, and which are snapped at by the fishes so ravenously that many of these die of repletion; the conical heaps of small stones on the river-shallows, the huge nests of small fishes, one of which will sometimes overfill a cart; the birds which frequent the stream, heron, duck, sheldrake, loon, osprey; the snake, muskrat, otter, woodchuck and fox, on the banks; the turtle, frog, hyla and cricket, which make the banks vocal,--were all known to him, and, as it were, townsmen and fellow creatures; so that he felt an absurdity or violence in any narrative of one of these by itself apart, and still more of its dimensions on an inch-rule, or in the exhibition of its skeleton, or the specimen of a squirrel or a bird in brandy. He liked to speak of the manners of the river, as itself a lawful creature, yet with exactness, and always to an observed fact. As he knew the river, so the ponds in this region.
Sense of place for some is geography. San Francisco is not merely geography. Texas is not merely geography. I would argue that sense of place is much more than geography. So much more that sometimes the geography becomes almost irrelevant. Almost irrelevant. Only almost. But it is the people - really the family, the culture of the family, that finally shapes the relevance of the geography as much as the geography shapes the sense of how we see ourselves.

Anyway, Wallace Stegner is exactly correct to say that we need to "acquire the sense not of ownership but of belonging."

obligatory cat blog #1

Sasha. Photo by youngest grandson.

fireflies in houston

The dogs (Thelma & Blondie) and I went for our usual pre-dawn stroll along the bayou behind our backyard and Thelma and I think we saw fireflies. Now we both know that it is probably too early in the year and that there may be another explanation for what we saw.

An aside: the bayou is actually a human-dug ditch that retains water all year lying between our subdivision and the subdivision just to the west. I think it may drain into Greens Bayou. It has slowly moving water throughout the year and serves as a flood control during some of our East Texas downpours and for most of the year is a good place to walk a dog or watch a long-legged crane hunt small fish, turtles, frogs, etc. along the banks.

So we return to the house because the supposed Firefly sighting takes us to the Wikipedia entry on Firefly to learn something about fireflies.

And then a discovery that there is a website Fireflies in Houston dedicated to returning fireflies to Houston. This site also serves as a gathering place for firefly sightings throughout the country.

A good start to a week-end morning.

February 20, 2009

we all need a little mercy

Judge Sharon Keller, who heads the state’s highest court on criminal matters, is in the dock facing charges that could lead to her removal from office. She should hope for more mercy than she has shown.

This is a woman who voted to deny freedom to a man imprisoned for rape even after DNA evidence showed the sperm belonged to someone else. Her argument: He might have worn a condom. Later evidence provided proof of his innocence even she couldn’t explain away.

This is a woman who, with her colleagues, appointed grossly incompetent lawyers to handle appeals for indigent death row inmates and then said, “Sorry, your client had his chance,” when skilled lawyers later came in to try to clean up the messes.

This is a woman who, a week before Christmas in 2002, voted to deny freedom to a man who under pressure had accepted a plea bargain for a crime that new evidence showed — “unquestionably,” according to the trial judge who heard the evidence — he did not commit.

Now, Keller stands accused of five violations of the state constitution or its judicial code of conduct.

Read the rest of the Rick Casey column in the Houston Chronicle.

We all could use a little mercy now. I know we don't deserve it, but we need it anyhow.

February 19, 2009

fling that ball down the field

Coach Mike Leach will evidently stay for awhile longer at Texas Tech. More the fun for all of us.

the talk of the town

I saw the below paragraph, from The New Yorker, online earlier this week. I don't remember where. And now, I've just been reading the hard-copy at my dining room table. The notion expressed cannot be repeated too many times - not at this early stage of President Obama's term. First, so you know, here is The New Yorker online, but there is not where I first read the paragraph:

Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if--or especially if--the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a total strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it's not Rovian hardball he's playing. More like Gandhian hardball.

Omigod, the price per issue is $4.99; wasn't it .75 last time I subscribed...of course, I was in the service then...and maybe I got a discount?

The commentary is signed by Hendrik Hertzberg. It appears that Mr. Hertzberg also has a blog.

sanctuary cities for 'illegal immigrants'

From The Dallas Morning News:

AUSTIN – In a heated exchange over immigration Wednesday, Rep. Leo Berman shouted "go home!" to a Dallas lawyer of Chinese-American descent who had called the lawmaker "despicable" and "evil."

The confrontation followed a panel discussion on the issue, where Berman, R-Tyler, spoke about his bill to relocate illegal immigrants to "sanctuary cities," where law officers are instructed not to ask people they encounter about their immigration status.

Harry Joe, who practices immigration law with the Winstead law firm, approached Berman afterwards, and the discussion soon turned angry.

Joe acknowledged calling Berman "despicable" and "an evil man," and Berman countered with the "go home" remark and told Joe that he could "kiss my [expletive]."

The argument was overheard by a reporter and several spectators.

Joe later apologized for his remarks, but Berman declined to comment further.

"I'm not saying anything about it," Berman said. "This was a private discussion, and I do not owe him an apology, not after what he said to me."

Berman has helped author eight bills aimed at illegal immigrants, including provisions to challenge birthright citizenship, bar illegal immigrants from public universities and tax money orders sent between Texas and Mexico.

The exchange focused on a provision that would require all illegal immigrants to relocate to self-designated "sanctuary cities."

Berman said the bill was intended to "send a message" to cities across the state, a message that Joe called spiteful. Joe said that the proposal, which Berman said he recently withdrew, "looked like a bill the Nazis would have passed."

earmarks scandal

Via Political Wire, CQ Politics has the story involving a huge number of Democrats and Republicans who evidently secured over 100 earmarks for a lobbying firm linked to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) all in a single bill.

February 17, 2009

out in the cold

Blowing hot and cold:

There needs to be some sort of Godwin's Law variant for conservatives who try to argue against global warming because they remember that Newsweek dipped into pop-science in the mid-70s and touted "global cooling." Call it Will's Law, after George Will, the supposedly cerebral conservative who brings this up every time he doesn't have a better column idea.

For a good summary on the global cooling myth -- an idea that took root in the popular press but never in the scientific literature -- go sit in on the free lecture provided by the folks at Real Climate. Will makes a lot of the 1975 Newsweek cover on the subject, but the more telling document is a National Academy of Sciences report from the same year. The report argued that climate change is the product of many potential forces and the state of the science wasn't yet advanced enough to discern which would prove decisive. To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate." As such, they recommended "a major new program of research designed to increase our understanding of climatic change and to lay the foundation for its prediction."

-Ezra Klein


President Obama’s Ties to Lugar Give Republican Support on Foreign Policy.

enternal optimist . . . not a sap

Bob Herbert gets it right:

Listening to President Obama, I was struck by how well he understands that most voters are not driven by ideology and are not searching for politically orthodox leadership. Most want leaders who speak to their needs — especially in this time of economic crisis — and a government that works.

Republicans in Congress — all but completely united in their effort to build a wall of obstruction in the path of President Obama’s economic revitalization effort — seem to be missing this essential point.

In a conversation with a small group of columnists aboard Air Force One on Friday, the president discussed the fight over his stimulus package, which was in the process of gaining final passage as he flew from Washington to Chicago for a brief rest with his family.


But he made a point of adding, “Now, I have to say that given that they were running the show for a pretty long time prior to me getting there, and that their theory was tested pretty thoroughly and it’s landed us in the situation where we’ve got over a trillion-dollars’ worth of debt and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, I think I have a better argument in terms of economic thinking.”

He also made it clear that he won’t let his desire for bipartisanship undermine important initiatives. “I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I’m a sap.”

our folks in eugene

Looks like our folks in Eugene, Oregon area have authentic representation in Congress.

February 16, 2009

sounds right

What Frank said . . .

AM I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. “Obama Losing Stimulus Message War” was the headline at Politico a day later. At the mostly liberal MSNBC, the morning host, Joe Scarborough, started preparing the final rites. Obama couldn’t possibly eke out a victory because the stimulus package was “a steaming pile of garbage.”

February 15, 2009

Stimulus Package

Just a small voice to all the kvetching and moaning about the various pieces of the final bill ... I'm aware of some stuff I would rather change (let me be honest here, if Paul Krugman wonders if this is enough, then how can I not wonder something very similar......?). BUT, with the right wing publicly soiling their undies over this thing, it's getting stinky around here and it's time to see if this thing will help ... let's keep in touch with our local officials (mayors council members, etc.) about not allowing any of the $$ that may come their way to slide into some deep black wormhole.

Let it stimulate / let it stimulate / let it pour.
I don't want to smell your stinkin' undies no more.

yellow jasmine

Our yellow jasmine (Carolina Jasmine) is blooming. That's great ... harbinger of Spring and all ... but it also announces how far behind I am with my yard and garden work ...

new internet

.... there is a growing belief among engineers and security experts that Internet security and privacy have become so maddeningly elusive that the only way to fix the problem is to start over.

Can Janet Napolitano stop the border-fence boondoggle?

Does Janet Napolitano want to stop the border-fence boondoggle? The Texas Observer has a must-read article taking us back to the wall and the questions regarding its future.
In 2006, with the passage of the Secure Fence Act, Congress mandated the construction of 670 miles of fence along the southern border by the end of 2008. As of Jan. 21, according to Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Angela de Rocha, 582.2 miles had been built. Despite the Dec. 31 cutoff date in the Secure Fence Act, DHS is still building its wall. So far it appears that properties entangled in lawsuits, like Tamez’, have been mostly bypassed. But there’s no telling how long that will last.

February 13, 2009

a class apart

Hernandez v. Texas was a case that helped establish equal protection under the law for Latino Americans who, whether citizens or not, were treated as second class citizens under the law. As late as 1962, returning from Houston to Odessa with a carload of high school students and the school's football coach, I was with a group refused service at small town cafe somewhere between Austin and Odessa. It was a quarter of an hour or more before we realized we were being purposely ignored. When Coach went to counter and talked to the waitress, his body stiffened and angry words were exchanged, but we left without service. One of the guys with us appeared to be Latino (he was) and that was all it took. Our friend was a kid. We were all kids, except for the coach (who was probably in his 60's). The ironic thing, from our perspective, was that Martin couldn't even speak much Spanish. His parents had this notion that if he spoke only English, he could avoid the discrimination they had suffered. I assure you that few people I talk to realize the extent of the racial prejudice in Texas during this period.

In 1951 in the town of Edna, Texas, a field hand named Pedro Hernández murdered his employer after exchanging words at a gritty cantina. From this seemingly unremarkable small-town murder emerged a landmark civil rights case that would forever change the lives and legal standing of tens of millions of Americans. A team of unknown Mexican American lawyers took the case, Hernandez v. Texas, all the way to the Supreme Court, where they successfully challenged Jim Crow-style discrimination against Mexican Americans.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents A Class Apart from the award-winning producers Carlos Sandoval (Farmingville), and Peter Miller (Sacco and Vanzetti, The Internationale). The one-hour film dramatically interweaves the story of its central characters— activists and lawyers, returning veterans and ordinary citizens, murderer, and victim — within the broader story of a civil rights movement that is still very much alive today.

Get your family together. Sit down and watch. It will premiere on PBS on Monday, February 23. Check your local listings to see when it will be on in your area.

through the looking glass

As if we taxpayers haven’t been scammed enough by Wall Street, Citigroup’s chief executive, Vikram Pandit, decided to take us all for another ride.

Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Pandit declared — repeatedly — that he had asked the bank’s board to reduce his salary to $1 a year until Citi returns to profitability.

Facing public outrage over runaway pay in a year when Wall Street plunged the global economy into one of the most profound financial crises ever, Pandit portrayed it as an act of contrition.

The dollar-a-year CEO has always been a compensation stunt, one that we’ve seen most notably from Apple’s Steve Jobs. In Pandit’s case, tossed out before Congress as some sort of good will gesture, it’s downright insulting.

“When somebody tells you they’re working for a dollar, grab your wallet,” said Joe Birkofer, president of Houston-based Legacy Asset Management, who teaches a course in executive pay and benefits for Rice University’s certified financial planner program.

I recommend the whole of Loren Steffy's column. These CEOs employ a logic Alice's friends could approve.

"And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five what remains?"

"Three hundred and sixty-four, of course."

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful, "I'd rather see that done on paper," he said.

And of course there is this:

"Please do not call it a bonus. It is not a bonus. It is an award. And it recognizes the importance of keeping our team in place as we go through this integration."
-- James Gorman, co-president of Morgan Stanley, during an internal conference call

February 12, 2009


Sorry .... but who is it that really cares what these people have to say?

natural selection

There is another birthday being celebrated today around the world.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin !!!

The People, Yes

by Carl Sandburg

He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?

Lincoln? Was he a poet?
And did he write verses?

“I have not willingly planted a thorn
in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
I deal with is too vast for malice.”

Death was in the air.
So was birth.


Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

February 11, 2009

Ford Theatre rededication

President Obama's remarks (via TPM):

Michelle and I are so pleased to be here to renew and rededicate this hallowed space. We know that Ford's Theatre will remain a place where Lincoln's legacy thrives, where his love of the humanities and belief in the power of education have a home, and where his generosity of spirit are reflected in all the work that takes place.

It has been a fitting tribute to Abraham Lincoln that we've seen and heard from some of our most celebrated icons of stage and screen. Because Lincoln himself was a great admirer of the arts. It is said he could even quote portions of Hamlet and Macbeth by heart. And so, I somehow think this event captured an essential part of the man whose life we celebrate tonight.

As commemorations take place across this country on the bicentennial of our 16th President's birth, there will be reflections on all he was and all he did for this nation that he saved. But while there are any number of moments that reveal the exceptional nature of this singular figure, there is one in particular I'd like to share with you.

Not far from here stands our nation's capitol, a landmark familiar to us all but one that looked very different in Lincoln's time. For it remained unfinished until the end of the war. The laborers who built the dome came to work wondering whether each day would be their last; whether the metal they were using for its frame would be requisitioned for the war and melted down into bullets. But each day went by without any orders to halt construction - so they kept on working and kept on building.

When President Lincoln was finally told of all the metal being used there, his response was short and clear: that is as it should be. The American people needed to be reminded, he believed, that even in a time of war, the work would go on; that even when the nation itself was in doubt, its future was being secured; and that on that distant day, when the guns fell silent, a national capitol would stand, with a statue of freedom at its peak, as a symbol of unity in a land still mending its divisions.

It is this sense of unity that is so much a part of Lincoln's legacy. For despite all that divided us - north and south, black and white - he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people. And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who've carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today. Thank you, and good night.

daily dose

Time for my daily dose and then straight to work.

Lincoln bicentennial pennies

Time to celebrate the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth. His birthday is tomorrow.

I'm not sure when it will start, but in 2009, the United States Mint will mint and issue four different one-cent coins in recognition of the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln's birth and the 100th anniversary of the first issuance of the Lincoln cent.

The reverse designs were unveiled September 22 at a ceremony held at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. While the obverse (heads) will continue to bear the familiar likeness of President Lincoln currently on the one-cent coin, the reverse will reflect four different designs, each one representing a different aspect, or theme, of the life of President Lincoln.

The U.S. Treasury has a history of the Lincoln cent that is instructive and fun to read.



Seems some of the banks may want to return Uncle Sam's bailout pennies . . . could they be worried about scrutiny of executive pay?

Wall Street banks have taken billions of taxpayer dollars. Now some of them are starting to wonder if they should give the money back.

Seems they think the rules that come with the money may be unfair.

February 10, 2009

texas politics

Texas Senate Bill 730, filed by Glenn Hegar, R-Katy would prohibit public and private employers from enforcing restrictions that currently prevent employees from possessing a legally owned handgun or ammunition inside a locked motor vehicle while in a company parking lot.

Leading the world into the wild woolly past.

February 09, 2009

A Lady

Amy Lowell

You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune
Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.

My vigour is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust,
That its sparkle may amuse you.

Amy Lowell, our birthday poet, was born on February 9, 1874 -- an imagist poet, influenced I think by Ezra Pound among others.

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?
Isn't it Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."


Deep Thoughts

Isn't the recession a taller wall keeping migrants from Mexico coming North than any actual fence?

We seem to continue to have the money to build a fence between U.S. and Mexico but we are in the process of removing spending from the stimulus package for other infrastructure including schools and rail.

Flash from the Past

From Ronald Reagan:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Return to Sender

Article from the Salt Lake Tribune by way of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.....

Sometimes, it takes a child's perspective to help us see things as they really are.

Julia Alvarez demonstrates as much in Return to Sender, a book for young readers (10 and older) that takes apart the problem of illegal immigration in all its complexity through the moving story of a Mexican migrant worker girl and the Vermont farm boy she befriends.

Alvarez's research for the book led her to explore the profound effects on families of workplace raids by the Department of Homeland Security, such as 2006's Operation Return to Sender, which eventually led to the arrests of more than 2,000 undocumented workers. She ended up using the raid's moniker as her book's title.

A poet and author of numerous books, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies, Alvarez grew familiar with the bitter political arguments that surround illegal immigration. Yet the story she weaves through her young characters in Return to Sender carries none of the ego, anger and polemics that too often hinder productive discussions about the issue.

Worth reading . . . .

February 08, 2009

getting to know you

We were at Arbor Gate yesterday for pansies to liven up a wintery pot of sleeping Texas bluebells. I always browse into all the corners looking for natives and suddenly there were some pots of the big floppy leaved plant we inherited when we bought our house several years ago - a messy plant that only occasionally flowered and then only after a really good summer wetting from the gulf. They always seem to need more sun than our tall pines and magnolias allow through to the ground - our yard becomes shadier by the year. Well, it's more accurate to say that it was becoming shadier (post-Ike, we have more sunshine on the ground). We have, from time to time talked of taking out this messy mounding plant but because our list of things to do is long...... Anyway, there was the plant in a plastic nursery pot with a $40 price tag. Suddenly it seemed to me that we may have been uncharitable to these lush denizens of our back and front yards. But more than their sudden worth, they also now had a name - Crinum.

The picture is from Dave's Garden but it looks very like the Crinums in our yard.

It seems that these lovelies may need a little more tender loving care in the form of fish emulsion, etc. in order to strut their stuff without the scruffy appearance.

According to my online research,
The name Crinum originates from the Greek Krinon, which means white lily but Crinums are not lilies (family Lilium), but a member of the family Amaryllidaceae.

It's always better if you know a little about those with whom you live.

February 07, 2009

first times

First time I tasted a banana I was pre-school, almost or barely 5 years old, after my 23 year old mother died from ovarian cancer and we (my younger sister and brother and I) were traveling to Texas from Oregon with Grandmother B - actually a great aunt, but then family relationships are complex with all the births, deaths, marriages, etc. They were the grandest things, the bananas were, and so delicious and we were allowed seconds and thirds. It was disastrous: I became carsick etc (you won't want the whole picture).

First time occasions sprinkle our lives like early spring rain - they mostly happen early and taper off with living - the ones we remember after a while must be momentous or they would have faded. I expect memories of my first blog to fade early and painlessly.

But I must tell you, one year ago I skied down a mountain (more or less), for the first time in my some 60 odd years, and that memory will fade slowly, if at all. The vacation around the ski trip was wonderful. The ski trip down the mountain is not something I look forward to repeating, even with lessons. Some things are probably best started early (and perhaps finished early).

I still eat bananas. I no longer ski (unless she-with-whom-I-live decrees otherwise).

As of yesterday, I am a blogger. Who knows what tomorrow brings?

over the edge

From the New York Times: "It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge."
- Paul Krugman

Yes...worth reading the whole thing.

heirloom garden seeds

The new Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogue has arrived and is a beauty. Time to begin planning the garden.

February 06, 2009

just asking . . .

When will the Democratic Congress ever get the balls to tell their "colleagues" across the aisle to shut up and sit down. We've been cutting taxes and talking 'trickle down' crap for a couple of decades.....it is time for people to wake up and talk to the issues. Spending is stimulus. Tell your representative in Congress that it is important that they wake up lest the parade of our mutual lives get lost in the dark.

darkness around us is deep

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

I could have started with another poem by another poet (this is from William Stafford's "A Ritual to Read to Each Other") - several come to mind (I'll leave a bunch of folks that I like out of this initial list under the pressure of my very first post): Roethke, Hayden, Frost, Yeats, Moore, Cummings, Williams, Plath - all the old folks from home.....
but William Stafford is closer to what I'm feeling and thinking tonight.


And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider --
lest a parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give -yes or no, or maybe-
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.