Friday, July 2, 2010

July 4th, The Compassionate Friends, Cuba Travel Bill, Ducks and Geese, Hello Honolulu

Happy July 4 to all, a day I plan to spend with family, housemates, and friends, ending with an evening down at the mall watching the fireworks.

I’m registered at this weekend’s annual conference of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for people who have lost children, taking place across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. I was over there last evening to deliver some of my books to be sold to benefit the organization. At registration, I met people from all over the US, wearing nametags and looking much like attendees at any annual conference, giving the gathering a feeling of normalcy. Many were also wearing large buttons bearing their child’s photo, but I am not in that category. One of our keynote speakers, I see on the program, lost her step-daughter during the Virginia Tech shooting. But the program is not all tears and sadness—there will also be a humorous skit performed by the zany satirical group, The Capitol Steps.

Tomorrow, Saturday July 3, I will appear on a conference panel about writing and publishing your book, presumably a book about or dedicated to the lost child. My book falls somewhat in that category, but appeals to a wider audience and, I hope, gives that wider audience a glimpse into the special feelings associated with such a severe loss, which, thankfully, is uncommon in this country these days. The other books I’ve seen being sold at the conference focus more directly and often exclusively on the particular deceased child and the author/parent’s grief. Many are frank tributes to that child, attempting to keep him or her alive, at least in memory.

Meanwhile, back in Honduras, marches in ten cities marked the anniversary of the Zelaya ouster. The Washington Post (June 29, 2010) reports that Manuel Zelaya, from his refuge in the DR, is blaming the US for engineering his ouster. Does he really believe that or is he just parroting Hugo Chavez? He’s undermining his own credibility by such statements, in my view. Hillary Clinton seemed genuinely surprised at the time of his ouster and called it a “coup.” Of course, conspiracy theories attributed to the US abound worldwide, everything from American agents killing foreign children to obtain their organs for transplant(not medically feasible) to blowing up the twin towers to shift the blame to Muslims. Everything that goes wrong is the fault of the United States. But if the US is so omniscient and all-powerful, why are we still struggling in a poor, underdeveloped country like Afghanistan?

Got a notice that Berta Caceres, apparently a strong Zelaya supporter, had been arrested in one of my old stomping grounds, La Esperanza, Intibuca, apparently charged with hurting a policeman. Then I heard that she had been released. I don’t know anything more.

A column in the Wall St. Journal by conservative commentator Mary Anastasia O’Grady (June 28, 2010) decries efforts to lift the Cuba travel ban, pointing out that travel by Europeans and Canadians has resulted in no change whatsoever in Cuban government policies. O’Grady is referring to H.R. 4645, a measure submitted by Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Agriculture Committee Chairman and voted out this week. Cuba imports the majority of its food, the bulk of it from the US. While it is true that tourism by Europeans and Canadians has resulted in no visible changes in repressive Cuban government policies, the wholesale arrival of American tourists would probably have a greater impact. More importantly, it would remove the major scapegoat for all of Cuba’s ills, namely US “aggression” in the form of the embargo and travel ban. Of course, having the measure voted out of the Agriculture Committee is only a first step.

Rumor has it that Cuba has appealed to China for economic assistance, but that China is demanding economic reforms along the Chinese model. If that happens, you heard it here first.

Every time I travel out to rural Prince Georges County for my interpretation work, I notice huge flocks of ducks and geese swimming in ponds and waddling together across parks and fields. In Honduras, they would have been eaten long ago.

The Obama recession reduction strategy, apparently, is to stimulate the economy to the point that it begins an upward instead of a downward spiral, generating more jobs and taxes, thereby reducing economic distress and the deficit both at the same time. Of course, stimulus means greater budget deficits in the short term, but without a turn around, matters will continue downward with ever more layoffs and furloughs, reduction of services, less buying power and sales, less tax revenue. How long should the stimulus continue? Obviously, it cannot go on forever. Too much borrowing and debt—too much economic exuberance--is what got us into this fix to begin with. Right now, it seems that we are facing the danger of a double-dip recession, so pulling back on the stimulus and raising interest rates right now would not be a good idea. The challenge is not only a matter of resources but of changing the collective mood, generating confidence and optimism to replace the current skepticism, caution, and pessimism.

Much of the anti-immigrant sentiment that seems to have turned ugly in many places is, I believe, related to the recession. People feel gloomy and angry and are venting their frustrations on the hapless Latinos doing much of our low-level work. However, as a recent NPR commentator so aptly put it, undocumented millions are already here and “You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.” As he observed, not only is deporting 11 million people completely impractical, it would create havoc in our economy and communities.

As mentioned in the last blog posting, I’m leaving for Honolulu on July 6 and not returning until July 16, so will not be posting meanwhile. If you have any comments, please e-mail me directly. It’s best to always respond to me via my e-mail address anyway (posted at this blog’s heading), as I do not always see your remarks made on the blog itself.

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