Saturday, September 1, 2012

San Jose Obrero, Republican Convention, Williams Leaving Peace Corps, More Shootings, Book Reviews For Sale, Counties Bucking States, Amnesty’s London Website Hacked, Late Son’s Birthday

First, the above photo, which I saw on another website describing the work of San Jose Obrero, really a kind of Catholic Goodwill store in Choluteca, Honduras, where I often buy used wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers to donate to the Choluteca rehab center located nearby. The priest in charge there, originally from Cuba, has made a deal to send donations from the U.S. free to a port on Honduras’s north coast, usually La Ceiba, in empty banana cargo containers. He has offered to let me use some of the space for items I want to send, but my problem is getting stuff to Miami and loading into the containers, then unloading it on the Caribbean coast and transporting it to Tegucigalpa or Choluteca or wherever else I want o distribute it. I have enough trouble just getting around the country myself with luggage I’m carrying, much less trying to engineer such an operation long distance, especially with theft being so common. Still, I salute San Jose Obrero for doing it and although they never give me price break, even though I am donating the items to the rehab center, it’s really been easier for me to buy there than to transport a lot of stuff from home myself. However, I have accumulated a bunch of yard sale crutches which I must take on my next trip somehow.

Well, the Republican national convention is over, thank goodness. Some of its excesses and outright falsehoods were breathtaking. Fact-checkers have pointed out the many misstatements (lies? referred to discreetly in the press as “factual shortcuts”) but Republican partisans don’t look at facts. As for Romney, reportedly at a campaign time-out with veterans, he said that Obama had reduced America’s standing in the world. That’s a laugh. He increased it from the low point where it had fallen with GW Bush. Citizens, if not all leaders (certainly not Netanyahu), of most other countries like and admire Obama and are holding their breath that he will win again to prevent such world disasters as took place during the Bush years, whereas Romney really bombed on his recent overseas trip. As for Romney’s Thursday night keynote, I give him an “A” for effort, though I feel a little sorry for him because he’s obviously trying so hard and wants so very much to be president, something I certainly hope he doesn’t achieve. If not, maybe he can console himself that so many at the convention apparently loved him. His convention speech was actually better than some he has given, with no gaffes that I noticed, so that’s a plus for him.

Mitt Romney made a lot of promises in his speech: creation of 12 million jobs, lower taxes, cheaper gas, abolition of “Obamacare,” support for the needy and elderly, and reduction of the deficit aiming toward a balanced budget. His successful business experience will make all that possible! How? No examples or specifics were offered, just raw numbers. If voters actually believe him, then they deserve the unhappy result, though they’ll take us unbelievers and the rest of the world down with them. When the Supreme Court declared GW Bush the winner of his first election, I was in Honduras, but I remember thinking then, well, maybe when he’s actually in office, he won’t be so bad after all. Actually, he was worse. His name was never mentioned at this year’s Republican convention.

Of the few other convention speeches I listened to, Condoleezza Rice did the best in my view. She sounds like an intelligent woman who writes her own speeches, unlike some others. I thought she laid out the Republican position quite well, even though I don’t always agree with her, and I appreciated her statement that immigrants have found opportunity here and that we must welcome them, a refreshing change from the usual Republican line. It was also nice to see a darker face at a largely all-white convention. Otherwise, I found most of what was said at the convention bland or even sickening. How is that so many whom we call our fellow Americans can be so myopic and, frankly, mean-spirited, anti-intellectual, and greedy? Republicans say it’s un-American to be envious of the rich, since we all have an opportunity to be just like them. Well, fewer and fewer of us are actually achieving that opportunity—is that our own darn fault? Is the pie—are earth’s resources— really infinitely large, large enough that we can all be well off, that we can all be rich? There may be some elasticity, but often one person’s gain becomes others’ loss.

Like many who will be voting for Obama, I don’t support him and the Democratic Party in everything. Although he has offered a modified dream act, his administration has been aggressively deporting people, including going after folks who may have committed minor traffic offenses decades ago—this despite lip service for immigration reform. So, as with anyone else who has been in office for a time, his honeymoon is long over. But Romney and company, talking big about creating jobs and lowering taxes, give no particulars except for less regulation, which doesn’t sound like such a good idea, and allowing the oil pipeline from Canada, while reducing incentives for renewable energy, which will only add to the climate change that has been assaulting our nation and the world. Romney, in his convention speech, snidely accused Obama of being concerned about rising sea levels, while Romney himself was concerned about your own family. Some families in neighboring states were being assaulted by rising waters as he spoke. As a Catholic, I was surprised that Cardinal Dolan seemed to be giving his blessing to the Republican convention, but I understand he will also be at the Democratic convention next week, also Sister Simone, a socially oriented Catholic nun. Some Mid-West voters interviewed on NPR said they would never vote for Obama because they just can’t stand his appearance or Michelle’s either—the Obamas just don’t look like a first couple of the United States should look. Maybe a little bleach cream would help?

And, while I’m on my soapbox in this election year, we residents of the District of Columbia, with a bigger population that Dick Cheney’s state of Wyoming and close to that of other small-population states including Alaska, Delaware, North and South Dakota, and Vermont, each with 2 senators and a congressperson, yet we still have no voting representation in Congress because the rest of the country has ganged up against us. Is it because we have a large black population—although now, for the first time in decades, slightly below 50%--and because our registration is about 95% Democratic? The citizens of the capital of the “free world” don’t have the same voting rights accorded to all other Americans and no one seems to care except us.

Alas, Peace Corps director Aaron Williams has announced his departure in mid-September. He has not stayed the fully allowed 5 years, only 3, leaving now before the election. He is a good man and was always very supportive of me personally, so I’m very sorry to see him go and will be sorrier still if Romney wins the presidency and appoints his own director.

A couple of other multiple fatal shootings, this time in NYC and New Jersey. We’re kind of jaded now, almost getting used to it, the "new nomal." And, unfortunately, some of it is copy-cat, whereby guys with grievances see others going out in a blaze of gunfire and decide to do the same. NYC cops do seem to have had a pretty bad aim in hitting so many bystanders during that particular shooting. Supposedly bullets ricocheted. Also a high school student near here was shot and badly injured by another student on the first day of school. In an election year, it looks like no politician dares to utter a word about controlling either gun proliferation or access to firearms. It’s just a matter of so sorry, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and now are dead or disabled, tough luck; our hearts go out to you or your survivors and we will say a prayer. Anyone who has a grudge, hallucinations, intends to rob, rape, or commit suicide, or wants to commit terrorism just picks up a firearm. Need we all go around wearing helmets and body armor? And, among other things, what about the cost to our health care and rehab system of treating all these serious injuries? Climate change is another topic not mentioned during this election year, despite weather extremes occurring over the last few years, including during the Republican convention.

As a follow-up to my lament about falling book sales, here’s an excerpt from an intriguing item in the NYTimes (Aug. 27, 2012) about buying laudatory book reviews. No wonder I missed the book-promotion boat now in the digital age! According to the article, in the fall of 2010, Jason Rutherford “started a Web site, At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50. There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.”

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. After some state governors have announced that they are standing at the statehouse door, refusing to go along with at least some aspects of “Obamacare,” now in Texas, some counties say they plan to buck the state (presumably in the name of local control). Next, we’ll have towns and cities opposing counties. Where will this chaos and madness end? Having different public jurisdictions asserting their own sovereignty in opposing directions makes for tremendous confusion. This is democracy? Can’t we all just get along and go along once the political system we currently have arrives at a conclusion? Undermining laws after-the-fact makes for ineffective and inefficient governance. Wait until the next election to kick the bums out, or to mount a referendum, do something where voters and the public can weigh in, but don’t just allow political figures willy-nilly to engage in civil disobedience.

Because of Amnesty International’s criticism of the atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime, its London website has been hacked and items have been posted attacking the Syrian rebels for committing “crimes against humanity.” Cyber warfare has risen to new levels.

September 4 is my dearly departed son Andrew’s birthday, a time of remembrance. It doesn’t seem as though 18 years have gone by since we lost him. Of course, I still miss him.

No comments: