|By: dakine01 Monday July 18, 2011 1:05 pm|
I was scrolling through the various commentaries on offer at TownHall.com yesterday when I spied one written by Newt Gingrich’s daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman titled “Are We Sick of Him Yet?” Being all too familiar with the anti-liberal, anti-progressive and rabidly anti-Obama venue that TownHall has devolved into I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I opened the article to find just what I had suspected to be contained therein. In this stock and shop worn anti-Obama diatribe Ms. Cushman likens Obama’s decline in popularity of late to a story she once heard about a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband, not for any of the usual reasons, but because she had grown sick of him. So much for family values and the sanctity of marriage among conservatives.
Cushman went on to juxtapose from the marital to the political: “Relationships that begin bright and shiny can fade into dark and gloomy when events occur that change one’s interactions, perceptions and hope for the future. Hope was gone — the relationship could get no better.” She then went on to try to force fit this juxtaposition, derived from her friend’s failed marriage, into a broad brush analysis of Obama’s present public relations predicament: “He has fallen furthest among 18- to 29-year-olds — down 7 points within the last week to 42 percent. More telling than his 40 percent overall approval rating (Gallup), is his disapproval rating, which has reached 53 percent…the 53 percent disapproval rating marks a new high. Simply put: More people than ever before disapprove of the job that Obama is doing…What can’t be determined is if Obama can get back that loving feeling or if it’s just that finally we’re sick of him. Maybe we need a divorce.” Thus reading Ms. Cushman’s piece we are left to conclude that vast swaths of the American people have grown sick of Barack Obama and are desperately in need of relief from this most onerous, if not debilitating relationship. However, short of impeachment, which is thus far unlikely no matter how strong the flights of fancy on the right are about such a thing, there’s no divorcing Obama for the next three years so get over it.
But as novel an approach to dealing with Barack Obama as Ms. Cushman’s might be seen to be, she has stumbled pathetically in her analysis of our collective gastrointestinal maladies by failing to examine the extent to which the American people have grown sick of Obama’s critics on the right. A simple examination of polling numbers from Real Clear Politics or Polling Report.com on the public approval of Congress shows that while Obama’s popularity has fallen the popularity of the Republicans on Capitol Hill remains stuck near historic lows at 21% and that 73% disapprove of how they are handling their job. While those numbers are off the absolute lows, its only by a few points and that with all of the problems besetting Obamacare already factored into the latest numbers. These results for Congressional Republicans are consistent throughout all of the recent polling, even that of the right leaning Fox News Network. And when it comes to the popularity of the regularly reliable anti-Obama movement that is the Tea Party the results are pretty much where they’ve been for quite some time, at the historic lows in terms of both popularity with the American people and those who consider themselves members of the movement.
Speaking of things that make voters sick, the plight of the political right is hardly anything to cheer about and it’s certainly nothing to be overlooked if your in the business of intellectually honest political commentary, which apparently isn’t the case for Ms. Cushman. Am I being trite in suggesting that it’s probably a good thing that Ms. Cushman isn’t in the medical profession as her methodology when it comes to formulating a diagnosis leaves much to be desired?
In the past few days much has been made among conservative commentators about the numbers of young people who are dissatisfied with the participation mandate of Obamacare. This has given, I believe, many on the right a false sense of hope that they might now capture the votes of those 18- to 29-year-olds. That’s a giant leap of faith when you stop to factor in where these voters are on issues such as climate change, same sex marriage, reproductive rights, immigration, minimum wage reform and voter identification issues, all issues where the G.O.P. is definitely out of step with young voters. Republicans and their fellow travelers still have the albatross of the government shutdown around their necks and the negative aspects of that will far outlast the Obamacare website rollout debacle or a few million cancelled insurance policies as a issue to reconcile before the voters in 2014. Why, because the technical glitches of the ACA website and cancelled insurance policies are far less debilitating politically than are those of the Tea Party afflicted government shutdown or the track record that comes with five years of political obstruction. That being understood, is there any reason to think that these young voters are well on their way to becoming conservative voters? I seriously doubt it.
|By: Deena Stryker Friday December 6, 2013 8:57 am|
The country that used to be the breadbasket of Europe is a new bone of contention between the European Union and Russia. Ukraine, the land of the southern Russians (as Yugoslavia was the land of the southern Slavs), sits on Russia’s Western frontier.
According to one RT commentator, the Poles and Lithuanians are pushing Brussels to bring Ukraine into the European fold. Although they have old scores to settle, these pale in comparison to a shared desire to cock a snoot at Russia in retaliation for a historical pattern of domination.
It is difficult for Westerners to understand why any country would want to join a European Union that is currently experiencing so many problems. In fact, this is a totally irrational desire: the Orthodox former Soviet Republics, whether it be Bela Rus, Ukraine or Georgia, are obsessed with not wanting to be identified with historically backward or Communist Russia. Notwithstanding their own backwardness they want to be considered part of the culturally superior West. Having lived in Eastern Europe for six years when it was still part of the Soviet Empire, I can testify that it is impossible to overestimate this longing. When I worked at the Hungarian Radio, lack of recognition that together with Poland and Czechoslovakia it was indeed part of Europe was expressed as: ‘They think we still cook meat under the saddle.’ Of all the countries of the East European block, Hungary most actively strove to play the role of bridge between East and West. Its efforts culminated in the opening of its frontier with Austria starting in May 1989 that allowed thousands of East German tourists to reach the West. A previously unthinkable act, it led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November and the dissolution of the Soviet block.
But Bela Rus, Ukraine and Georgia have far less of a claim to a European identity than the Eastern European satellite nations. In the Middle Ages, Bela Rus, Ukraine and Russia were all part of the principality of Kiev, or Kievan Rus, which extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. While all three countries claim Kievan Rus as their cultural heritage, today independent Bela Rus and Ukraine constitute a sort of no-man’s land that buffers their vast and powerful neighbor. As of 2011, Ukraine was the world’s third-largest grain exporter, and according to Wikipedia, it is one of ten most attractive agricultural regions. Although regarded as a developing economy with high potential, indispensable economic and legal reforms would be more brutally implemented under Brussels tutelage than if they happened at Ukraine’s own pace.
And yet, for western Ukrainians, (as opposed to the pro-Russian eastern half), the fact that Brussels cannot afford to bring them up to speed economically is obviously less important than being part of glamorous, sophisticated Europe. They probably feel that they are well-acquainted with hardship, but the demonstrators in Kiev should ask themselves whether they would they be happy in a European Union that is being forced to walk back its welfare state?
|By: wendydavis Saturday May 5, 2012 2:00 pm|
(This is a reprise from 2011. I’m reposting it in part because I’ve been involved with several virtual friends, and at one website, about the notion of ‘grace’. Additionally, there are a couple people at Firedoglake that may find the vignette at least somewhat helpful; peace to you.)
She sat on the bed in her sister’s room. Linda had left for college a few weeks before, and she had finally been allowed to move into her large lavender room with the ruffled curtains framing the picture windows that looked out onto East Twin Lake. As she watched, the occasional Sailfish or Sunfish skimmed along the glassy surface, carefree as the white geese that would beat their wings backwards floop, floop while they breezed over the surface of the water, as if hoping for a soft landing. She could see the pond lilies on the near edge of the lake, and remembered once rowing a boat near to them, then carefully diving among the mass of round green pads to harvest some of them for her mother. Once home again, she filled a wide, etched glass bowl with water, floated the lilies on top, and placed them in the center of the dining room table. Was there an unconscious desire that it could act as a shrine to her loving apology to her parents? Perhaps.
Their layers of waxy white petals and enormous golden pollen-encrusted stamens sang to her of China somehow, or Japan; their long roots grabbed at her as she tried to float above and among them to steal their treasures, then clutched their stems in her teeth and behind her ears and swam them back to the little boat. Later in life, she would learn of the Buddhist parable that the more muck and mud these flowers grew through, the larger and more magnificent they were. The parable stayed with her forever.
Even her early life had been filled with irony, such as when the fusspot Marcella Parsons next door had seen them, and just had to tell her mother that it was a crime to pick them, and that she could go to jail, as though she were ready to make the call herself. But then, Mrs. Parsons loathed her for not dating her creepy son, and calling him a football head in seventh grade. She blushed at her past cruelty, but admitted to herself that she still thought he was a football head at sixteen.
A week ago her father had had a third heart attack, and was still in the hospital in Ravenna. The day before, she and her best friend Judy had just smuggled in the Arby’s sandwich and Jamocha shake he had begged her to bring him when they spoke on the phone earlier.
When they’d gone into his hospital room, her heart had broken in two. Her bearish six-foot-three father looked so small in the big white hospital bed, the top half cranked up to a semi-sitting position. Gowned in a flimsy white smock, dark circles under his eyes, his face had a pallor she’d never seen him wear before. Well, except for the other two heart attacks, she then recalled. But somehow this was different.
He’d tried a bit of smile, but it looked almost sheepish, rather than brave, as he’d surely intended. They’d stayed long enough for him to consume the contraband food; she’d hoped it wouldn’t kill him. She and her father made a pact to keep their secret from her mother, pretending it was a joke. They both knew it really wasn’t.
They’d made small talk in that nervous way hospital visits induce; God, she loathed hospitals. How many Christmases and Thanksgivings had her family spent in one hospital or another over the years? Of course she knew it had to have been coincidental that her grandparents would have medical emergencies on so many holidays, but it seemed to stretch the bounds of credulity somehow. She’d even familiarized herself with large hospitals well enough to feel comfortable spooking around them to find the nurseries; they were at least happier places within the halls of sickness, misery, and harsh smells.
As they drove home to Kent, Judy chattered away, but she scarcely heard her. She had suddenly realized that with this heart attack, her father looked worse to her, more fragile, and less guaranteed to live. She could still smell of the fear in the room, both hers and his. It had blended with the antiseptic hospital odors and made her stomach roil; she lit a cigarette to push both the scents and the awareness away.
Safe back at home, she unlocked the awkward combination front door lock, push-in-7-3-4-2- twists, oh, help me, and let herself in. Her mother was gone, but no note was on the kitchen counter.
She hurried down the pale carpeted stairs, flew to her newly purloined room, and sat on the bed, absently feeling the texture of the floral bedspread with her fingers. Not her bed, but Linda’s; her own was in the tiny cave of a room across the hall, with one tiny window on the world: a short stretch of the neighbor’s block foundation and a few white boards. She almost headed for the little womb of a room, but instead sat frozen as memories flooded in, her face burning with shame and injustice, and the familiar sense of being considered…a bad seed, the problem daughter. Still-frames of her mother’s accusing face fairly screaming at her last night filled her mind, her body…and then the feeling of the blood draining from her head into her legs in shock and bewilderment washed over her again in waves.
Her mind kept seeing a close-up of her mother’s deep read lipstick as her lips and teeth spat out accusations that it was all her fault that her daddy’d had this heart attack because she’d been late getting home from a date some night earlier, and that his anger or worry caused his heart to go frazzled…or something. Backlit by the light in the hall where she stood, her short curly hair created a halo of electric hatred and…insanity, although she didn’t know to call it that in her young mind.
The images pulled her back into the familiar hole; its name was Despair, though she didn’t know it then. She could sense, rather than see, its edges and shape; feel the rough texture of its walls as she crouched and waited, her eyes squeezed shut, trying to hide from the many accusing voices in her head.
Glimpses of the past scrolled by: her mother’s car accident injuries; the failure of the doctors to discover any cause for her wild pain; hints that she was conjuring it up for attention. ‘PsychoCybernetics’; they gave her the books. She’d spent nearly a year in bed while her two daughters had kept the house together, cooked, and answered the little bell she rang for help. Doctors had armed her with bottles and bottles of the yellow and blue and red pills she had eventually become addicted to, and supplemented with bourbon highballs. Even later when some specialist had later found some cracked cervical vertebrae and fused them, she couldn’t get better. Her soul and mind and spirit had been damaged too far by then; the pity of it was immeasurable.
In the hole, the vertical cave, the voices would have at her: a chorus of accusers and malign interpreters of her life; cruel demons who had the power to leave her shuddering with guilt and anguish. She had no idea that they were extreme versions of the critical voices who’d made her feel small and weak in her real life; they came to her when her defenses were down.
Memories of listening to her parents from the bottom step of the staircase crowded in. They had no idea it was her personal intercom for discovering what they really thought about things: resentments, fears, money… Ensconced in their throne-chairs near the widow overlooking the lake, sipping cocktails, she would often hear the litany of lies her mother would invent about her, just making up things out of whole cloth, not that she was any angel, but certainly not much worse than a lot of kids her age. She would long to leap up and refute them, but never could summon the energy, or the nerve. Sometimes she’d even wonder if they might be true. Sometimes she’d get off the stair and go outside the downstairs door to her pot stash, have a few tokes, and go back to her room and turn the music up as loud as it was permitted to be. And she’d read. Books were safe harbors, full of other ways people saw and lived in their portions of the world, she bathed herself in the balm of words and authors and titles and ideas and stories and history, and in the music her clock-radio put out.
Deep in the hole on this particular day, gradually she heard one voice become ascendant over the others in the maelstrom of castigating voices swirling about her. It was not as sharp, an almost reasonable, thus seductive, voice that soon reduced the others to murmurs.
It calmly reasoned with her that as she was the source of tension in the family, the Author of Family Pain and Angst, it naturally followed that if she were gone, her family’s problems would be solved. She considered the notion as the voice continued to make the case; it made sense. She saw the logic of it; almost the relief of it.
She found a pen and paper, and wrote out the explanation of the plan and its elegant reasoning for her parents. She folded it neatly, placed it an envelope, went up the stairs and into her parents’ room and propped it against her mother’s jewelry box. A quick stop by the bathroom provided the tools she’d need: some of those vials of pills – red and blue and yellow; Mother’s little helpers.
She floated down the stairs, swung lazily around the end of the banister and once back in her sister’s room, she perched on the edge of the bed. She clutched the small bottles in her sweaty palm more as one might a talisman than a weapon of self-destruction. Calm had infused her once the solution was laid out before her. She gazed out at the still lake with its reflections of the clouds overhead; it was a rare blue sky day, and all the colors she saw were brighter than usual. She fancied that she could almost see the bright gold in the centers of the pond lilies, and a smile played at the corners of her lips.
Suddenly there was a startling change in her perspective, and her focus was forced onto a tree in the yard. Then came another fluctuation, perhaps generated by the power of the talisman she held, and she was suddenly sitting in the tree and looking at herself through the window, sitting on the bed, ready to commit suicide.
She had read of this phenomenon, astral projection, but was too caught up in the experience to remember what it might mean. She gazed at her other self with a bit of off-hand pity, but compassion, too, that her self on the bed clasping the pills was so tied, so chained…to that freedom-less place of unnecessary agony. Didn’t she know of all the other possibilities that lay beyond? Couldn’t she see how self-aggrandizing it was to imagine herself at the center of her messed up family’s hidden pain and anger? That harmless sixteen-year-old, about to kill herself for want of approval withheld by parents who had had approval denied them, too? A wave of pity for them, and for their own hard and unresolved stories, flowed over her. It was all too ludicrous to bear!
The absurdity of it hit both of her selves at once, and they chuckled together; the chuckles became giggles, then laughter, and finally soul-cleansing flat-out, heads-thrown-back… mirth. They laughed until Astral-Self snapped back into her Linda-room-self, the two once again united.
She became aware of her left hand, unfurled her fingers, saw the nasty vials, and said ‘Oh’ in surprised recognition. She went up the stairs, tucked them back into the cupboard, retrieved the note to her parents, and went back downstairs to listen to the radio.
Stepping outside…inside?…she was free. Her attempt at ‘leaving home’ created the hope of at least making her own home one day…
In my experience, grace has come as a flashing moment in time, one that leads to an instant epiphany, or at least allows us a glimpse of a better way forward, less encumbered by some of the baggage we’ve toted for too long. It’s source will likely be understood different for all of us; for me? I have no earthly idea of the source of those several moments I’ve experienced; I’ve just accepted them…with gratitude. We are the ones who can stop the generational family dysfunctions, and learn to forgive and love ourselves along the way. Grace.
(cross-posted at Cafe-Babylon.net)
|By: Rex Friday December 6, 2013 1:02 pm|
Louis Scarcella, Brooklyn homicide detective (retired), was not a guy you would want to meet, especially if you were a person of color who was innocent of a crime that needed to be cleared. (Cops dislike inventory just like Walmart dislikes unsold crap).
His stock in trade was the coerced (or even fraudulent) confession, the perjured testimony of jailhouse snitches, and the convenient disposal of exculpatory evidence.
His behavior was so flagrant, that after a few over-the-top frame ups were discovered, and deemed so out of even the relaxed bounds of professional malfeasance that obtain in all prosecutorial offices in every city, county and state jurisdiction in the country, even the notorious Brooklyn DA Hynes (blessedly, as of the last election, retired) was obliged to set a task force to work examining all of Scarcella’s cases.
What should we learn from these stories?
1. Scarcella is not an outlier, he was just a little too flamboyant; his methods are replicated with the same quota of unjust imprisonments and lives destroyed. It’s kinda like the border patrol stats–for every kilo of heroin they intercept, they figure that a double-digit multiple really got through.
2, Judges stink. When they stink too badly to continue on the bench, they become arbitrators.;
3, Although paying large dollars does not guarantee competent counsel, getting an appointed lawyer of ancient years will likely result in incompetent representation. Hold out for a public defender (increasingly being replaced by court appointments because, budgets.)
|By: Ruth Calvo Saturday November 19, 2011 7:00 pm|
South and inland from Tulum the ruins of Mayan ceremonial temples named Chacchoben is located many miles from the shoreline. Most visitors to Costa Maya go there for the reason of seeing this site, excavated in 1994. The original temples have been dated back to 700 A.D.
Visitors to the site today walk a circular path that includes three excavated and restored pyramids, as well as many walls and staircases. Excavation is continuing on several mounds which are known to contain further buildings. Some structures still bear traces of the red paint with which they were originally coated, and INAH has set up shaded areas to prevent further degradation of this pigment by the sun. Also notable at the base of the largest pyramid is a large stone slab called a stela with a Mayan hieroglyphic inscription. Chacchoben is one of the more popular ruin sites in southern Quintana Roo, with regular tourist trips from the port of Costa Maya.
The highest temple is reached by climbing its lower area, and can be seen to reach to full height from previous constructions which are part of its area.
In choosing the academic life, most teachers expect to be part of a community committed to freedom, fairness, and justice. It’s the rare academic who does not take pride in belonging to an honorable profession.
I was a young college president during the turmoil of the sixties and early seventies. Within a few years, students, faculty, and administrators at virtually all our institutions of higher learning were serving on committees charged with aligning institutional policy with emergent values of racial diversity and gender equality.
By century’s end, most colleges and universities had taken steps to disallow discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
Once again, we find ourselves in a moral predicament. In educational institutions of every kind, adjunct faculty are being subjected to de facto discrimination and exploitation. They know it, tenure-track faculty know it, administrators know it. The awful secret is out, and we can no longer avert our eyes. We’ll have to deal with this injustice as we did with those that came to a head in the sixties, because if we do not close the gap between our principles and our practice, the profession will forfeit its honor.
I need not belabor the immorality of paying adjuncts a fraction of what other faculty earn, and of denying them benefits, office space, parking rights, and a voice in departmental and institutional policy. These insults and humiliations are reminiscent of the degradation and injustice that roused academics to act against racial, gender, and other indignities.
Of course, there’s a reason that things are as they are. There is always a reason, one which seems cogent enough until suddenly it does not. What began as part-time teaching to meet a temporary need or plug a gap in the curriculum has evolved into systemic institutional injustice.
No one takes exception to cost-cutting, but forcing one group to subsidize another that’s doing comparable work, while maintaining working conditions that signal second-class status, is what the world now rejects as Apartheid.
That Academia has fallen into a practice that warrants the ignoble label “apartheid” is inconsistent with both academic and American values. By working for a pittance, adjunct faculty are serving as involuntary benefactors of other faculty, administrators, and students. That administrators and tenured faculty are themselves the beneficiaries of such victimization only strengthens the case for righting this wrong.
Honor requires that colleges and universities examine this practice and take steps to grant equal status and equitable compensation to those who, for whatever reason, are classified as adjunct faculty.
How might this be done? Coming up with a plan to end exploitation is never easy, and no doubt will require that we do what we did forty years ago: charge college and university committees—that include representatives of all stakeholders—with devising equitable solutions. Everything must be on the table, even the sensitive issue of tenure.
As anyone acquainted with adjunct professors knows, they are, on average, as conscientious and committed, and as capable of carrying out research and of inspiring students, as the tenure-track faculty they subsidize.
Let me suggest a goal to guide the deliberations of what I hope we will soon see on every campus: a “Committee on the Status and Compensation of Adjunct Faculty.” That goal is: Part-Time, Full Status, Equal Dignity.
If colleges and universities tackle this threat with the same commitment and determination they brought to the issues of civil and women’s rights, they will find a way to end the exploitation of those now relegated to the back of the bus.
[Robert W. Fuller is a former president of Oberlin College, and the author of Belonging: A Memoir, and The Rowan Tree: A Novel, which explore the role of dignity in interpersonal and institutional relationships.]
|By: dakine01 Monday July 18, 2011 6:08 pm|
I have been a voracious reader almost since I was first taught to read and I am always on the lookout for new authors. Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons is about as credible a first effort as I have run across in years.
The book is centered around Chief Resident Steve Mitchell, a surgeon:
Chief resident Steve Mitchell is the quintessential surgeon: ambitious, intelligent, confident. Charged with molding a group of medical trainees into doctors, and in line for a coveted job, Steve’s future is bright. But then a patient mysteriously dies, and it quickly becomes clear that a killer is on the loose in his hospital. A killer set on playing a deadly game with Steve. A killer holding information that could ruin his career and marriage. Now, alone and under a cloud of suspicion, Steve must discover a way to outsmart his opponent and save the killer’s next victim before the cycle repeats itself again and again…
The story begins almost as a hospital procedural, evoking memories of Michael Crichton but then it gains its footing as a hospital based detective mystery, with Mitchell first investigating deaths that are being blamed on him through his discovery of the real killer and his efforts to both thwart future killings while bringing the killer to justice.
Parsons’ knowledge of medicine and experience as a doctor is evident from the opening pages (he is a board certified urologist.) The problems of overworked medical residents and the often seemingly high school clique nature of medical staffs are interwoven in this tale. With his experience so evident, I was most surprised by the various doctor and surgeon characters without the stereotypical backgrounds in biology and chemistry but I have to assume Parsons pulls these backgrounds from his own experiences.
This was a mostly quick moving, suspenseful story. If I have any complaints about it, there are a couple of spots where the minutiae of the medical terms and experiences bogs down the actual story and mystery. I hesitate to get too specific about things as I do not want to detract from the story and give away too many plot twists although I will state that in some respects, I was reminded of the black comedy movie The Hospital.