Saturday, August 21, 2010


Congressman Charles Rangel is 80. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is 54. Both of them are in limbo, and to my eye, both of them are sort of doing The Limbo.

(It's a West Indian dance in which the dancer bends backwards to pass under a horizontal bar which is progressively lowered toward the ground.)

It's strenuous -- you've got to be limber and flexible, but both of these guys are gifted, mentally and physically, capable of adapting to any and all the challenges and exigencies of politics.

Rangel, tears in his eyes, is pleading with everyone who will listen, saying that he's got to have a hearing right now in congress, no matter what other issues (like war and unemployment) are on the on the agenda. He's demanding a chance to prove that he's not corrupt.

Rod Blagojevich, innocent-faced and fluffy-haired, has been limbo-ing for years. He's in great shape physically and superbly skilled in changing the subject -- proving that his critics and accusers live in glass houses and shouldn't be throwing stones -- proving that everything he's done was done to help the people of Illinois.

Blagojevich claims he is a hero to most people who live in Illinois, and Rangel's says he's loved by his constituents. Both men claim passionately they've done nothing wrong.

With appeals and the media (that loves to bring in celebrities outsiders with opinions), their guilt will be discussed, re-hashed, minimized, reduced to such an extent that we'll think --"hey leave the guy alone -- he's done a lot of work for the people --so he did a few things he shouldn't have done, but who hasn't done things they regret?"

Based on what has been written about Rangel (what he's accused of and what he's admitted doing), I know Rangel has used his political position to gain money and power. And I can say the same thing about Blagojevich.

Rangel admits that he made a couple of mistakes in filing taxes (he made the same mistake 28 times) but he proclaims that he's not corrupt, and he keeps listing his good deeds. Blagojevich is celebrating that he was found guilty on one count only -- confident that the other 23 counts can't be proved, certain that a new trial will be a mistrial, proclaiming over and over that he's done nothing wrong.

I'm declaring: Both these guys have done illegal, unethical things. Both are guilty.

I want them banished! I want both of them out of the news. I think Congressman Rangel should retire immediately -- go on a vacation for a year or so. I think Rod Blagojevich needs a new profession -- (even if he serves time in jail), he ought to work on a night club act -- as a famous ex-con, he could earn a good living telling his story.

Since Nixon, we've been developing a "look the other way" habit. Rarely, these days, are we shocked by lying, cheating, corrupt leaders.

We've been ignoring criminal behavior in businesses, banks, insurance companies, builders, ignoring it on Wall street, in hospitals, in institutions of higher education, and on and on goes the list.

Right now, we desperately need men and women in public office who are honest, who will not lie, cheat, or be corrupted -- definitely no limbo dancers -- more than anything else, we need men and women in our government whom we can trust.

Friday, August 20, 2010


We loved/looked down our noses at "Joe the Plumber," the ordinary guy John McCain used once, and then, because people paid attention, McCain used Joe again and again.

Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher became quite famous -- got to be a public official in Ohio, actually won a seat on the Republican Party committee that sets the party agenda.

Criticizing the Senator for "trying to use" him, Wurzelbacher, wrote a book -- "Fighting for the American Dream," with a jacket cover that says "what you will discover about this simple plumber from Ohio will reach deep down into your soul and inspire that spark of the American Dream that lives within is us all."

Also "Joe" served briefly as a war correspondent, which is (my opinion) -- for a very prosaic, boring, ordinary guy, more than enough.

Remember the "Balloon Boy?" We ate up the news about a six-year-old floating away in a homemade flying saucer near Denver. And then, when authorities found the kid at home and said it was a hoax -- we ate up the news about the punishment meted out to his folks. "Yay," I thought, ungenerously, hoping they'd suffer for what they'd done just to gain fame and money. (Mom got 20 days, Dad got 90, a fine, 4 years probation -- 100 hours of community service to pay off the fine.)

Gee, the "Two Pilots"-- missing the airport by 150 miles -- that turned into days of media speculation. How could two guys miss it? The weather was clear. What were they doing? They said they were working on their laptops on crew scheduling. No one mentioned what I was thinking (Sex? ) I remember bulletins about the investigation. So, what happened to them? Were they fired?

Just now I Googled them -- their licenses were revoked. The guys can re-apply and get new licenses at the end of this month. For goodness sake -- they shouldn't be piloting anything ever again!

Ah yes -- the beautiful young couple -- Mr. and Mrs. "Salehi" who crashed the White House party for Obama with no invitation. Wow, the party crashers won big! They were set to do a realty show. Did that fade? Oh well, any day now, we'll undoubtedly be seeing them on some other show.

Do you wonder how "Octo Mom" is doing with all those kids? I don't. I am sure she'll cook up something else to earn our attention, and get some sponsor's money.

In December, I wrote about the 19-year-old "Barefoot Bandit," Colton Harris-Moore -- New Hero for the Kids." (Click the link and check it out -- he's got 29,400 Facebook friends.)

He was arrested in the Bahamas after crash-landing a plane he stole on July 4th, from an Indiana airport. He's a suspect in more than 80 police investigations in nine states and three countries. We made him into a hero and now, well, he's amazing -- we have to stop him!

Hey, we've got Stephen Slater, a flight attendant who couldn't get a woman to sit down when the plane was landing. She kept unloading her luggage, and called him a nasty name. He called her a nasty name, grabbed 2 beers, and left by the emergency slide exit. Everyone's interviewing him. What's ahead for him? A promotion? Unemployment? A job on TV?

Joe, Balloon Boy, Pilots, Party Crashers, Octo Mom, Barefoot Bandit, Flight Attendant Slater -- what hits me hard is why oh why do we herald them, make them famous?

Maybe, because if it can happen to them ... hey, gee, maybe it can happen to us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I am haunted by this picture of Aisha, 18 years old. The picture was on the cover of Time Magazine, August 9th.

Aisha ran away from her husband's home in Afghan's southern province, Uruzgan. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, beat her, abused her. Aisha said if she hadn't run away she would have died.

A local judge said she had to be made an example of so that other girls wouldn't do the same thing. Her brother-in law held her down. Her husband sliced off her ears. Then he went to work on her nose.

Click on the photo; enlarge the photo -- Time Magazine describes how they left her on the mountain to die but she didn't die. Aisha is alive, hidden away in a woman's shelter in Kabul. She tells her tale about what happened with dulled eyes, and a toneless flat voice.

That's what happens in Afghanistan. Human rights for men and woman are not protected. President Karzai, talking with the Washington DC representative from the New York Human Rights Watch, wondered how he could do anything about human rights when so many people were dying. Karzai asked, "What is more important-- protecting the right of a girl to go to school, or saving her life?"

What does this mean to us, after nine years of war, when we need an exit strategy-- when we have been spending billions training and equipping security forces -- we've lost 1000 soldiers, have no way to win a war with the Taliban, and protect women's rights which the Taliban deem a Western concept -- an idea that goes against Islamic teachings.

During her visit to Afghanistan in May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Women's rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved."

Yes, progress has been made in Afghanistan -- girls go to school, women and girls hold down jobs, wear jeans, some even hold public office. But if the Taliban came back, everything that has been gained over the nine years of war will probably be lost.

Right now, women are getting "night letters" -- someone knocks on their door and delivers a missive -- a note forbidding them to leave their homes without a male relative, threatening them if they do, with harsh horrible death -- "But first we will set fire to your daughter, the heads of your children will be cut off."

It seems impossible, a bad dream, not a serious real threat in a world with airplanes, Internet, phones that can reach people anywhere, a space station in outer space, and yet ...

Where do I fit in this world where this happens? Where do you fit? Do we give up our lives, our work, the patterns we've made for ourselves and our families? Even if we did, what difference would it, could it make, when these ideas of right and wrong and punishment exist.

So I write this, and publish it, and live my life in a soap bubble. When it bursts, I have to blow another and float along.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Wrangling, complaining, name calling -- I want to cover my ears.

I hate the jabber about polls and audience opinion. I'm bored with announcers getting comments from his/her guests. Sure, the guests are on opposite sides of the issue -- sure, they don't agree, but what they say is babble-jabber.

The guests are just paying attention to the annoying, insulting things that other people have expressed. They make it sound significant even though the guy who said it -- whoever he was, whatever he said is unimportant -- and what he declared authoritatively is more mumbo-jumbo, babble-jabber.

It's as if major news is what so-and-so said about so-and-so -- so the news is more about what someone said about a lying, cheating someone else -- some guy who is already, more than likely, on his/her way out of the limelight.

And dammit, worst of all -- mostly the news is news about the media person -- the announcer, reporter, or anchor -- his/her thoughts, about some event and the Twitter, Facebook comments that other celebrities have made about the event -- bla-bla-baloney blabber -- till the anchor mentions another event he'll be talking about next --"So stay tuned -- don't go away!"

Actually, I am sick and tired of the news -- reporters, anchors like a flock of mosquitoes, briefly landing, biting, flying off for fresher skin -- news alerts that aren't alerts but a squeeze of katsup on the alert to give it more flavor.

Yes. I trust Rachel Maddow and I like Chuck Gibbs, Andrea Mitchell, and Brian Williams. Yes, I tolerate John Roberts, Erica Hill and usually nod with Anderson Cooper -- sort of like the way I mostly nod with Whoopi Goldberg, and Barbara Walters.

But I haven't been watching. We usually watch at meal times and I lose my appetite. I can't help thinking all this is news about politicians who are more concerned with their jobs than the country.

And worst of all, I'm not sure if that's true, because I'm getting my news from the news which isn't news -- it's predigested opinion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Once upon a time, the most beautiful land in the world chose a good-looking, young, brown hero, a Dem to rule the land and live in the White Palace.

They called him "Boss." The Boss has to follow the constitution made by the very old, very first ruling gang who founded the land. The Boss has a lot of work to do to fix the economy, wars, unemployment, and a real-estate crisis, and things can't be fixed without a bunch of new rules.

Rules have to be okayed by the new gang -- Reps and Dems, whites and browns, mostly rich people who have plenty of time to work on the rules. They were chosen by the folks who lived in the big cities, one-horse towns, farms, beaches, and no-name, no-where-everywhere places on the map.

The folks loved the new boss. The Reps didn't. They didn't want things changed, but the Dems knew if some of the rules didn't change, folks were going to go hungry and have to sell their houses and cars, and not send their kids to college.

So every time the Boss tried to change the rules, the Reps in the gang said, "No siree, Bob," while the Dems got sweaty nervous, and comforted each other, figuring they'd change the rules later.

Even so, the Boss fixed quite a lot of things because a "boss" has power. Being a convincer type of guy, by golly, he convinced some Reps NOT to say, "No siree, Bob." And of course, he had the pen every boss of the land gets to have, in order to mark the X on the paper that makes a new rule work.

He got some of the failing car and housing businesses working again with a whopping amount of money in an Economic Stimulus plan. And that meant jobs for some of the folks who were hungry, selling things, spending money they didn't have.

He negotiated and got a huge tax cut, the biggest tax cut that was ever made for the folks who weren't rich; got Credit Card reform, and Student Loan reform, so young people could go to college and eventually pay back what they'd borrowed for tuition.

The Boss also got more civil rights -- fair and equal pay for women; also a Hate Crimes act; also Wall Street reform -- new rules about money that the land desperately needed so it wouldn't go broke again in a couple of years.

Despite the "No siree Bob-ers," the Boss, a talented wheeler-dealer, got unemployment insurance extended. And because the Boss went to international meetings, he cooked-up "don't make or sell nuclear weapons" deals with the Russians and a bunch of other countries who were worried about terrorism.

What surprised the Reps -- really pissed them off -- what they couldn't stand was the fact that he got a Health Care reform bill passed.

Yes, and Boss made a good deal with BP, the oil guys. They're paying for fixing up the land that's been ruined by BP's oil spill.

All this, while the pissed-off Reps have been spending $3 million bucks a week on advertisements putting down every single thing on the Boss's agenda.

But wow, just the other day, the Boss got $600 million for the land's immigration problem -- border security -- 1,500 new enforcers and drones along the borders of the southwestern states. Also, last-minute, before the Dems and Reps disappeared for vacation, he got $26 billion for various states who are out of money, to help them pay for teachers and emergency workers.

Well, the Reps are furious. They want to change the constitution -- it has some old-fashioned things in it that they're desperate to change -- especially NO more automatic citizenship for brown, half-breed babies.

The Reps are working night and day, raising money for the big election day two years from now. They want a white Rep in the White Palace -- the browns, according to the census, are going to be majority soon.

The question is "when." White women are having fewer children. The Latino browns are having nine brown babies for every one death, compared with a roughly one-to-one ratio for whites.

Yes, the Reps are seriously frantic, and the Dems are definitely sweaty nervous. Is this fairy tale going to have us and the brown Boss living happily ever after, or a new, pale face Rep moving into the White Palace?

Monday, August 16, 2010


I became a blogger, because my novels were not being published. There used to be 12,000 blogs and now there are 1.5. million, and every day more. (That is a helluva lot of competition.)

And books -- ten years ago maybe 242,000 books were published. Now, 1,050, 000 are published, but they're mostly e-books -- for every 100 hard backs , 200 e-books are sold. Amazon, with the Kindle, says that by the end of last year, 3.7 million people had electronic readers. They claim that by 2015, there will be 30 million reading e-books on their readers.

Well ..."Don't cry for me Ar- gen- tin -a... " (I'm humming the tune, probably off-pitch.) What does this mean if you are a writer? It means further and further away is the dream, the hope, the faint possibility that the novel you write will be published. (I put away that dream away, but dreams remain shadows of themselves, and sometimes, in the dark, I'm scared.)

When I saw this picture in Newsweek, I felt sick to my stomach. Zoom IN on it! Look! See how it was ten years ago, and what's happening right now to things we do and use!

Newspapers -- 178 of them have died. And letters -- I can't think in the "billions" -- I just picture 207 B and 175 B-- see that 31 B letters are being mailed.

E-mail rules the world. Online research is HUGE!

And while I am frowning about that, I see the fantastical figures on texting --400,000 text messages were sent ten years ago. 4.5 text messages were sent this year.

I see people on their cell phone keyboards, tapping away with a finger confidently, in the abbreviated language texters use.

On Facebook, I've been getting messages with LOL or :) or :O or ^-^ symbols, and have to look them up online, in the "Emoticon Dictionary."

What bugs me may not bother you, but if you like games, CD's, or iTunes -- well, zoom in on the picture, and brace yourself.

Double-brace yourself! The big guys, the Kings -- Google, AT&T, and IBM aren't whispering about cloud computing -- they're saying CLOUD COMPUTING is HERE and coming to your desktop!

Oh dear, maybe we'll be sending invisible messages into the vapor with ultra Hi-Fi, practically inaudible twitticons, that only a dog's ear can hear.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


John and Emily chat about actor Sean Penn, impressed by the fact that he's still managing a tent camp in Haiti. After six months, most of the country is still like a war zone.

Emily tries to get John to express his opinion on Penn's talents as an actor. John's reluctant at first, but he digs into the subject, and delights Emily with his clear understanding, and appreciation, of the way Sean Penn creates a character for each of his films.