Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meeting in Cyberspace & in Person, Alzheimer’s Facility B’day, Santorum Out, Non-Dream Act, Conn. Abolishes Death Penalty, War on Drugs

First, posted here is another photo from the Honduras medical brigade, a candid one just sent showing me apparently signaling villagers coming to meet us.

Just got a surprise e-mail from Omoro, a young Kenyan man who oversaw the bishop’s construction programs in South Sudan when I went there in 2006. He is still in South Sudan, but working now with a Polish NGO. The internet has really made the world smaller! Just imagine being in South Sudan in a guarded compound in very hot, desolate place surrounded by sand, baobob trees, and a few roaming goats looking for something to eat. A line of colorfully draped very dark-skinned women walk erect with water jugs on their heads and carrying bundles of firewood while a bunch of guys in sunglasses and army fatigues bearing AK-47s ride by on camels and horses. That’s South Sudan and you can actually send e-mail from such a place.

When I was on the metro going to an interpretation assignment, a woman asked me if I was Barbara Joe. Imagine my surprise! She said she had read my book and recognized me from photos there. Then, transferring from metro to bus, a woman on the bus asked me if I were an interpreter! I was wearing an ID badge with my photo, but a lot of people wear those and interpretation is a not exactly a common profession. She ended up getting off at my same stop and going into an apartment building right next to the one where I was going for a child needing occupational therapy services (right up my alley)—she said she was an outreach worker for the National Institutes of Health. It was a little spooky.

Talk about living in the moment. A friend and I visited a mutual friend living in an Alzheimer’s facility, bringing a cake and juice to celebrate her 85th birthday. Five years ago, at her 80th, she seemed OK, so has gone downhill fast. This time, she was delighted to see us, embraced us, and seemed to recognize us, but kept on asking our names. Finally, she asked us to write them down, which I did. Apparently residents aren’t allowed pens or pencils. She was recognizable as her old self, but diminished in memory and concentration. She said “shit” a few times, a word she had been too ladylike to utter before. A male resident who said he was from Korea and was a chemist (that much was intelligible) started an animated nonsensical conversation with our friend, mixing real estate terms with chemistry and she responded in equally puzzling strings of words. Although they seemed to talk gibberish right past each other and we understood little of it, they seemed to be enjoying their exchange, so that was heartening. The facility has extensive attractive grounds surround by a high fence, so we walked around out there as it was a nice day. I put a copy of my book in the library, but doubt most residents read much, if at all. Many carried around stuffed animals. Our friend was carrying a small horse, also a toy car, which she kissed a few times, saying. “I love it.” We left her sitting in a circle, listening to music with other residents and she didn’t seem to notice our departure. She may have even forgotten we had been there as soon as we left. Our heads were kind of spinning afterward, as if we had been in the rabbit hole with Alice, where nothing made much sense. I just hope my body goes before my mind.

Probably to avoid an embarrassing defeat in his home state of Pennsylvania, Santorum bowed out, using the excuse of his daughter’s illness. I don’t doubt that the little girl has a serious health condition, but I do doubt that’s why he quit. He did give Romney a run for his money. I’m not thrilled with Romney, perish the thought of his becoming president, though he may be the lesser of many Republican evils.

Marco Rubio’s attempt to win over Hispanic voters with a Dream-type Act that does not include a path to citizenship is somewhat confusing, a desperate attempt to not lose that vote. It has put Romney in a quandary. He has said he would veto the Dream Act as president, yet cannot afford to dismiss a rising star like Rubio out of hand. He still has primaries to get through, like some today, and fears alienating the Republican base, so he just says that he’s studying Rubio’s proposal. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has deported more undocumented people than any other president, not always focusing on violent criminals, as he has contended, while fewer undocumented immigrants are arriving, so that doesn’t seem to be such a burning issue any more. If anything, we could use a few more immigrants. Whatever happened to the American tradition, embodied in the Statue of Liberty, of offering refuge and opportunity to people from around the world? Public opinion seems reactive, changing only when the foreseeable consequences of a particular policy actually come to pass; then, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction.

Romney has said that while the economy is slowly improving, it’s happening despite Obama and that he has a plan to improve it even more. What specifically is that plan? All we’ve heard is that he is a businessman and knows about finances. Yes, he has inherited and made a lot of money, laid off a lot of workers, and invested off-shore. Is that a national economic recovery program? I imagine that deregulation, bring-on-the Canadian oil pipeline, and abolish health care reform are his main agenda items.

Glad to see that Connecticut has abolished the death penalty. There are too many problems with the death penalty, in my opinion, for it to remain on the books. The world is moving toward abolition and toward substituting life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. I’ll grant that there are a few people whose crimes are so horrendous that their death would seem welcome, but the death penalty in principle and in general is not good public policy. Connecticut lawmakers seem to agree.

While the Secret Service prostitute scandal has overshadowed the substance of discussions at the Summit of the Americas, one of several issues on which there was no agreement was crafting an alternative to the “war on drugs” that the US has been waging unsuccessfully for the last 40 years. See item below.

Wash. Post April 10, 2012

Latin American countries pursue alternatives to U.S. drug war

By Juan Forero

BOGOTA, Colombia — When President Obama arrives in Colombia for a hemispheric summit this weekend, he will hear Latin American leaders say that the U.S.-orchestrated war on drugs, which criminalizes drug use and employs military tactics to fight gangs, is failing and that sweeping changes need to be considered.

Latin American leaders say they have not developed an alternative model to the hard-line approach favored by successive American administrations since Richard Nixon was in office. But the Colombian government says a range of options — from decriminalizing possession of drugs to legalizing marijuana use to regulating markets — will be debated at the Summit of the Americas in the coastal city of Cartagena. [Article continues.]

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