Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mother's Day

“Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story. Because hers is where yours begin.” ― Mitch Albom

Sunday, May 01, 2016

"The Rise of the Unprotected"

The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.
~ Peggy Noonan, Feb. 25, 2016

Peggy Noonan wrote this piece back in February. The continuing success of the Trump candidacy seems to prove her point, and as usual Noonan presents it with more pith and style than just about anyone else, except perhaps Mark Steyn.

Conrad Black also has some keen observations on how we got into Trump-land, and it was his article on Trump's "inevitability" that linked me to Noonan's analysis of the rise of the unprotected.

I think Noonan's choice of words--"protected," rather than the shopworn term "elites," vs. the "unprotected," meaning you/me/everyday working people--and the powerful imagery of her examples, are spot on target to explain the uncontrollable mood of today's electorate.

In a nutshell, the unprotected are tired of taking all the hits to keep the protected safe and cozy. Donald Trump has tapped that vein and is running it wide open. If Trump is the Republican nominee, and if he can keep that line flowing clearly, he will be the next president.

I'm not saying I like what's happening in our national politics today, but I am a realist. More to the point, I'm also weary of being unprotected.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Bard's Birthday

We know what we are, but not what we may be.
~ Wm. Shakespeare

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday. The New York Post had an interesting article about how Shakespeare was almost lost to history. Alas and alack!

There is a fascinating theory that Shakespeare worked on the King James translation of the Holy Bible. Supporting clues are embedded within Psalm 46 of the King James Version (KJV).

Work on the KJV translation began in 1604. It was published in 1611, the year Shakespeare turned 47 years old. If he had been involved in the project, he would have been working on it at age 46.

Now comes the fun part.

If the reader counts 46 words in to the 46th psalm of the KJV, you'll find the word "shake." Then count 46 words back from the last word, and you'll see "spear." Pretty cool, huh? Could it be a secretly coded signature by one of history's greatest geniuses? Methinks, aye.

"In natures infinite book of secrecy, a little I can read."

Friday, April 22, 2016

America, Lost

 "Because the great choice in a nation of 320 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal."

Peggy Noonan sums up the feelings of countless Americans in this column about experiencing "That Moment When 2016 Hits You." Read it and weep.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

So Close, So Far Away

Aunt Kathleen ~ c.1940
Her name was Kathleen, and she was beautiful. She was my aunt and my godmother. Today she died at the honorable age of 94.

Born in 1921, eighteen months after my mother, Kathleen was the second of five children. Of all the siblings, now only Mom remains.

Most of my memories of my aunt are from childhood. Soon after my birth, she married and proceeded to have five sons and two daughters, in that order. In my early years, she lived in the New York suburbs. Our families visited regularly, and I often spent a week at my aunt’s house during summer vacation. Looking back, I’m amazed she didn’t mind having another mouth to feed.

My memories are old but vivid. In my mind’s eye, I see identical tee shirts in several different sizes fluttering from her clothesline, turned inside out in case the sun faded the fabric. I recall a large plastic tablecloth spread on her garage floor, a tall step-up chair, and the hum of a barber’s clippers while each of my cousins sat in turn as she gave them buzz haircuts. I remember huge plastic pitchers of powdered milk, one plain and one chocolate, that my aunt vigorously mixed and placed in the refrigerator the night before “so the flavor sets,” she once explained to me.

I also remember being made to feel quite special on certain occasions. On my sixth birthday I received a gold birthstone ring from Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Bob. She would present me with a small gift as a reward for a good report card. These kind surprises occurred as her own family was growing so quickly. I marvel that she found the time.

When I was twelve years old, my aunt and her family moved from New York to Florida after my uncle took a job there. This was a seismic family event. Visits, by practical necessity, would become increasingly rare over the decades. My own relocation to California further restricted our physical contact. She telephoned me the day after Pete died, overcome with emotion. I remember being so glad to hear from her. But it’s well over twenty years since I last saw my aunt.

The first year after she moved to Florida, she and I exchanged letters. Aunt Kathleen’s letters, two or three pages long, were written in crisp, clear script on loose leaf paper (no doubt lifted from a three-ring school binder). I would devour her words, often reading paragraphs aloud to my curious mother, then quickly write back. Sure as sunrise, within two weeks, Aunt Kathleen’s answering letter would arrive.

My aunt never drove a car, and my uncle was often away from home for his job. Yet she raised and cared for seven children, kept a spotless house, walked to and from daily Mass--and wrote letters to her niece a thousand miles away. Remarkable.

I kept my aunt’s letters tied in a ribbon and tucked in a drawer in my childhood bedroom. Over many years and several moves, the letters have been lost. Today, remembering good days long gone, I dearly wish I could read them again.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Political Fatigue

It's tough to stomach the thought that our "Mad Max" political season will continue with increasing intensity throughout the conventions and all the way past November's election. I, for one, am exhausted and already sick of all the candidates. Sander's wagging finger, Clinton's carping voice, Cruz's smarmy pandering, Trump's obnoxious rants, Kasich's delusions of relevance--all wore thin, months ago. The idea of a four-year term for any of them makes me weary.

I've talked with many people of widely varying opinions on national issues, and everyone seems to agree on one thing--nobody now running is a promising candidate for president. The prevailing sentiment among everyday people seems to be that "we don't like any of them and we're screwed no matter who wins." This voter ennui is symptomatic of just how ill our nation has become.

How sad for the country that there's probably more truth than poetry to that thought.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Biting the Apple
Can you imagine an American company in the 1940s denying a request by federal investigators to help the war effort? No, I can't imagine it, either. But what a difference seventy years can make. Apple, in refusing to assist in accessing the iPhone data of the San Bernardino terrorist, put company before country. For awhile, it seemed that Apple had the high ground in the PR battle, if not the moral struggle. Apple seemed quite pleased with itself.

But, as I suspected they would, the FBI found a "third party" to hack into the targeted iPhone. Now Apple, who argued the sanctity of their high security brand, must confront the fact that an unknown entity can crack their treasured secret code. Worse, the whole world now knows that iPhones are vulnerable. Furthermore, Apple doesn't know how the data was accessed. But what's really the pits (sorry, couldn't resist) is how many other iPhones in government custody are next on the third-party
hacking block.

I'm guessing the FBI won't be sending Apple the briefing, either.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Light a Candle for Us

I'm losing count of how many times this has happened, but events always seem to follow a set pattern following an Islamic terrorist attack.
First there's the sounds and images of explosions/gunfire/bomb detonations that result in carnage, death, destruction, and panic mixed with heroism, all viewed through veils of smoke and shadows of running figures. Immediately after we see 24/7 media coverage, often fraught with misinformation or even rumor. Next comes the obligatory outrage expressed by world leaders, complete with platitudes about "solidarity" and "thoughts and prayers," all of which is meaningless empty words. The current American president will be sure to throw in a warning about not judging Islam by the acts of a few. (Interesting how, after a mass shooting in the USA, he never warns about not judging all gun owners by the acts of a few.)
After the heads of state have dutifully weighed in we begin to see the increased security, with armed military and law enforcement officers patrolling in full fighting gear, often with search dogs. The police presence juxtaposes with the calm and meditative candlelight vigils, with flowers, teddy bears, and heart-rending signs and letters piling up in close proximity to the site of the latest atrocity. This is the longest portion of the standard reaction, often lingering for days as news anchors capture poignant closing segments for their television network that are certain to bump up the ratings.

Newspaper stories continue to appear regarding an "ongoing investigation" as the days wear on. We may even hear about additional suspects being apprehended or new twists to the evil plot. But the buzz is now fading. The news articles grow shorter and less frequent until they disappear. People go back to watching "Dancing with the Stars" and talking about the newest iPhone.

What can we do, after all? Nobody wants another Iraq War, we say to each other over drinks at happy hour. No, of course not. But what we sometimes forget is that we may not have a choice in the matter. In fact, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we don't have a choice. We have an enemy that means business. Until we mean the same back at them, we are all in grave peril.

Finally, about ten days to two weeks after the terrorist attack, we have returned fully to "normal," listening to presidential candidates hurl insults at each other, fretting over gas prices, looking forward to weekend sports. As attention ebbs away from the latest international scene of death and devastation, the Islamic terrorists press quietly ahead with their plans for the next attack on Western civilization.

As we continue our rituals of complacent reaction, there is no doubt that one day, the candlelight vigils will be for us or our loved ones. It has been so already, in both Paris and Brussels.