February 29, 2012
February 26, 2012
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
February 23, 2012
They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.
Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.
Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.
February 20, 2012
President Barack Obama is a Christian. But, better than that, he stands for Christian values. Anyone can call themselves a Christian, but everyone who thumps a Bible and shouts hallelujah is NOT necessarily a Christian. Matthew 7:15 warns us to “watch out for false prophets” and further explains that, “by their fruit you will recognize them”. In other words judge by actions and results.
. . .
Santorum is sadly mistaken and has decided to believe the disinformation of the Republican party, instead of the information that is in the Book that he claims to hold so dear. In Revelations 11:18 the Word reads: “…The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets…and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” That’s right God said he WILL DESTROY THOSE WHO DESTROY THE EARTH!
Summary: God is environmentalist and will destroy those who destroy the earth.
. . .
I challenge all progressive Christians to call out those who are perverting God’s Word. There are those out there looking for something to believe in and it does our community no good to allow Republicans to usurp Christianity and turn it into this dogmatic, legalistic, paternalistic corruption of the truth!
February 19, 2012
Even if we didn’t have to compete with lower-wage workers overseas, we’d still have fewer factory jobs because the old assembly line has been replaced by numerically-controlled machine tools and robotics. Manufacturing is going high-tech.
Bringing back American manufacturing isn’t the real challenge, anyway. It’s creating good jobs for the majority of Americans who lack four-year college degrees.
Manufacturing used to supply lots of these kind of jobs, but that was only because factory workers were represented by unions powerful enough to get high wages.
That’s no longer the case. Even the once-mighty United Auto Workers has been forced to accept pay packages for new hires at the Big Three that provide half what new hires got a decade ago. At $14 an hour, new auto workers earn about the same as most of America’s service-sector workers.
GM just announced record profits but its new workers won’t be getting much of a share.
In the 1950s, more than a third of American workers were represented by a union. Now, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers have a union behind them. If there’s a single reason why the median wage has dropped dramatically for non-college workers over the past three and a half decades, it’s the decline of unions.
February 17, 2012
What: Saint Arnold Spring Bock Pub Crawl in the Heights
When: 2-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Where: Six bars along White Oak, from Studewood west.
The pub crawl will be in the “open house” style, in which revelers make the first stop between 2 and 3 p.m. to get a ticket, then get the ticket signed there and at four more bars. The party wraps up at a sixth location, where the souvenir pint glasses will be given to those with a completed ticket.
Designated drivers also are invited to participate and earn a pint glass by ordering nonalcoholic drinks along the way.
Per Saint Arnold tradition, the brewery provides only a series of clues to guide you through the tour. Here they are for Saturday:The first five locations (at which we will be simultaneously between 2 PM and 5:30 PM):
We’ll find two locations on the west side of Studewood on the corners of White Oak and Studewood. Another stop is a very chilly house located on the south side of White Oak. The final two stops can be found neatly in a row on the north side of White Oak if you’re headed west toward Heights Blvd.
At 5:30 PM we’ll look for one final place on White Oak. But don’t “chop” this stop out of your crawl, because it will likely cause you to shed a tear.
February 15, 2012
“Story-truth,” Tim O’Brien wrote, “is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” He wrote that in a story called “Good Form,” in his collection The Things They Carried, a hybrid of memoir and fiction that was a touchstone for a generation of writers looking for new ways to tell stories. That book was published 20 years ago this month, and in February of 1992 I met Tim O’Brien at a reading at the Milwaukee Art Museum on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was so cold that day that water blown off the lake encased rows of trees by the shore in ice, and, depressed and 16 years old, that’s how I felt—as if a thin shell covered me, dulling the outside world, chilling me to the bone.
The essayist John D’Agata makes an O’Brienesque claim about the difference between story-truth and happening-truth in his new book The Lifespan of a Fact (Norton). “If a mirror were a sufficient means of handling human experience,” he writes, “I doubt that our species would have invented literature.” D’Agata spent seven years arguing with his fact-checker at the Believer, Jim Fingal, over an essay about a Las Vegas teen who leapt to his death from the tallest tower on the Strip. Lifespan dramatizes that debate.
A century ago, in one of his last acts of office, President William Howard Taft attempted to solve the problem of inequality in America. In August 1912, on the cusp of a brutal third-place finish in the presidential election, he created a Commission on Industrial Relations to investigate “the general condition of labor in the principal industries.” Despite its fusty charge, the commission turned out to be one of the most sensational sideshows of the Progressive Era, a cross-country journey through the wilds of American class conflict. For three years, government commissioners traipsed from city to city asking capitalists, union organizers, and reformers what it was like to work in America, and whether the spoils of industry seemed to be distributed fairly among the rich and poor.
The commission’s answer, released in a 1916 report, speaks volumes about the persistent dilemma of inequality in the United States, and about the intellectual timidity of today’s political responses. “Have the workers received a fair share of the enormous increase in wealth which has taken place in this country…?” the report demanded. “The answer is emphatically—No!”
Their numbers bore this out. According to the commission, the “Rich”—or top 2 percent—owned 60 percent of the nation’s wealth. By contrast, the “Poor”—or bottom 60 percent—owned just 5 percent of the wealth.
Today, after a century of ups and down, we’ve landed back at those extremes, give or take a few percentage points. But what’s striking about the commission’s report, read from a 21st-century perspective, is how limited our own debate about inequality seems by comparison. For the commission, inequality was a fundamental problem that threatened the entire fabric of American democracy. Today, by contrast, we’re busy debating whether a multimillionaire like Mitt Romney ought to pay a few more percentage points in federal taxes.
February 14, 2012
IN 1983, a biologist studying vampire bats in the forests of Costa Rica made a remarkable discovery: Bats that spent the night gorging on blood returned to their caves and routinely fed fellow bats that didn’t find enough to eat. [...]It takes a village - always has.
Lately, I have been wondering what these bats mean for American politics, at a time when the very idea of helping needy fellow Americans has come under assault. Newt Gingrich routinely attacks President Obama as a “food stamp president.’’ Rush Limbaugh calls the safety net for the poor “one of the biggest cultural problems we have got.’’ A Tea Party Express audience yells “yeah!’’ when Wolf Blitzer asks if an uninsured man in a hospital should just be left to die. As I watch all this, I can’t help but wonder: Are we are really less generous than bats that suck blood?
So I call up Gerald Wilkinson, the biologist who discovered bat altruism.
I ask: “Are vampire bats all bleeding-heart liberals? Are they socialists?’’
Wilkinson’s answer: “Not exactly. If they were not helping each other, they would not live very long.’’
February 13, 2012
All we have to do is replace Obama. ... We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
This is not a very complimentary assessment of Romney's leadership. It's also not a very realistic political program: congressional Republicans have a disapproval rating of about 75%. If Americans get the idea that a vote for Romney is a vote for the Ryan plan, Romney is more or less doomed.
February 11, 2012
There is a fraud scam afoot - a guy (sometimes 2 guys) coming to the door (introduces himself as a UH student) selling magazines to be donated to Texas Children's Hospital or MD Anderson Cancer Center with part of cost to assist UH student baseball team trip (I think they have a list of those of those of us who are UH alumni and only hit certain addresses in the neighborhood - may not be a door to door fraud). He (or they) claim to be grandchildren of a neighbor just around the corner ("You've probably seen her out walking her dog or maybe you know her? She's lived her for quite a while . . . "). He (or they) are nice, friendly (maybe a little pushy, but in palsy-walsy sort of way) but persistent . . . after all, it's all for a good cause and some of the neighbors have already bought several of the book / magazine selections for the kids (Texas Children's Hospital is the more popular) and a couple of the neighbors mentioned how involved you are in the neighborhood and how you like to help people, etc. etc. etc. Finally, we are to make the check to "Timothy Salgado" a baseball coach at UH (or, in other cases, the Mass Comm Professor who is working with the students, etc. Google Timothy Salgado and don't write any checks to him . . .
Scammed in Houston
(BUT, we did figure some of it out yesterday evening and were able to close our account this a.m. and go through all the attendant hassle; however, the SOB does not have our $ . . . only tweaked our time and pride . . . Timothy Salgado . . .
Between 3:00 and 4:00 pm yesterday a young man rang my doorbell, waking me up from a nap and I opened the door. He began to explain to me that he was the grandchild of a neighbor several doors down the street, and he was raising money to study abroad in Italy as he was a student at Le Cordon Bleu. His personality was very friendly, but pushy. He said that his grandparents were paying for his trip, but they were making him raise money for a fellow student to go on the trip. His "instructor" Timothy Salgado had chosen his fellow classmate "Shawn" to receive the funds to go on the trip.And again, googling Timothy Salgado . . .
He went on to explain that the way he was raising money was to sell magazine subscriptions, which we could either receive ourselves OR donate them to troops abroad. I chose to buy 2 subscriptions for $146.00 to send to a nonprofit organization out of North Carolina called Soldiers Angels*. After I gave him the check he rambled on about also working on his pilot licensee and having a patent on a toilet invention (I know, crazy.) as his "back up" plans.
Friday afternoon, I received a knock on my door. Two fellows stood before me, holding up some papers. “Hello,” said one of them, “I live up the block. You’ve probably seen my mom walking her lab sometimes.” Sure sure… although I can’t say I have, but I also don’t ay any attention to anything. According to them, they were students at UH in the Communication’s program raising money for a trip to England to intern at the BBC. Had I ever heard of the BBC? Of course, I had, I am cultured too.
We chatted for a while about what they were doing, and what they would be doing in London. I am a recent graduate of the UH Mass Com Master’s program, so I immediately wanted to help them out. They were selling magazines to raise money for their trip and if I wasn’t interested in the magazines, they could be donated to a soldier oversees. The soldier would even write me letter of thanks. Well that sounds lovely.
Sure, I’ll donate a magazine to a soldier and support a fellow Communications Cougar. I picked out two magazines, as they said I should, and as they wrote up the bill, I ran to get my check book.
By conflating abortion and contraception in their rhetoric, and putting both in their sights, the ideologues in this new war are rolling back decades of medical and social progress and reverting to an era when all gynecological and obstetrical matters were yucky and bad — what my grandfather used to call “female trouble.” In an editorial this week in the Washington Examiner, Republican hopeful Rick Santorum used the words “abortion,” “contraceptive” and “sterilization” in the same sentence, as if they were interchangeable...
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is arguing for a wider conscience exemption, saying women who want birth control can go out and get it on their own; the White House has indicated that it may be willing to deal.
But to hold the consciences of a few powerful men over the private needs of families, to push this problem back onto individuals in an economy where women are already carrying an enormous load, is not just unfair. It is unconscionable.
February 09, 2012
February 08, 2012
After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian researchers have broken through 2.4 miles of ice to reach a 20-million-year-old freshwater lake that could contain clues on life from the distant past.
February 07, 2012
Obama signed off on the risky and unpopular bailout, seeking to save thousands of jobs, after concluding that if GM and Chrysler had failed, the entire auto parts support industry, as well as a third firm, Ford, could have also gone under.
February 04, 2012
Wislawa Szymborska (1923 - 2012)
Here is an English translation of the Wislawa Szymborska poem Sto pociech
So he's got to have happiness,
he's got to have truth, too,
he's got to have eternity
did you ever!
He has only just learned to tell dreams from waking;
only just realized that he is he;
only just whittled with his hand ne' fin
a flint, a rocket ship;
easily drowned in the ocean's teaspoon,
not even funny enough to tickle the void;
sees only with his eyes;
hears only with his ears;
his speech's personal best is the conditional;
he uses his reason to pick holes in reason.
In short, he's next to no one,
but his head's full of freedom, omniscience, and the Being
beyond his foolish meat -
did you ever!
For he does apparently exist.
He genuinely came to be
beneath one of the more parochial stars.
He's lively and quite active in his fashion.
His capacity for wonder is well advanced
for a crystal's deviant descendant.
And considering his difficult childhood
spent kowtowing to the herd's needs,
he's already quite an individual indeed -
did you ever!
Carry on, then, if only for the moment
that it takes a tiny galaxy to blink!
One wonders what will become of him,
since he does in fact seem to be.
And as far as being goes, he really tries quite hard.
Quite hard indeed - one must admit.
With that ring in his nose, with that toga, that sweater.
He's no end of fun, for all you say.
Poor little beggar.
A human, if ever we saw one.
Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
February 03, 2012
Wednesday's decision has been described as motivated by pressure from pro-life groups, but in reality Komentm is (and always has been) run by right wingers and closely aligned with conservative politics. The organization's current president, Karen Handel, ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary. Sarah Palin endorsed her. During her campaign she promised repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood. She took over Komentm a few months ago. You do the math. On a personal note, Karen, I hope you get cancer. I hope the doctors find it too late to do anything but treat your pain, and I hope they do a poor job of that. Cut and paste that at your leisure to prove how mean-spirited and Uncivil liberals are.
Komen's founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, is a big money Republican with ties to the past three Republican administration who received a political appointment from George W. Bush as a reward for her fundraising largesse. She draws a salary of $459,000 annually, money well spent compared to the 39% of its budget the foundation spends on "public health education" (i.e., marketing itself). Not to mention that they also spend a million bucks per year in legal fees to threaten other non-profit groups who use the phrase For the Curetm, to which Komentm claims to have intellectual property rights.
Please take the time to go read the entire post . . .
February 02, 2012
In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).Dayton, Ohio,
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,