Archive for June, 2012

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli

The Rainbow

The Rainbow

My heart leaps up when I behold
A Rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the man;
And I wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth – 1770-1850

 

On Scott Walker, Money and Enthusiasm

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

One of the reasons we’ve been told Scott Walker survived the recall election in Wisconsin is that his supporters were “more energized” and “enthusiastic” than his opponent’s. That may well be true but a far more plausible explanation is simply that “money talks.” Walker got so much money from uber-rich donors such as the Koch brothers that he was able to shell out more than 80 percent of the total spent in the campaign. So much for the notion frequently advanced by talking heads on television that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United-ruling has resulted in a state of offsetting “special interests,” e.g., corporate wealth versus “big labor unions” with regard to campaign donations. It isn’t so….and that alone might be enough to sap energy and enthusiasm from those who seek a more equitable society.

With money you can pay for cleverly twisted ads to convince working people that other working people’s pensions and benefits are why they are having trouble making ends meet. You can persuade them that Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start and food stamps are unaffordable “entitlements” in need of “reform.” Reform has now become a codeword meaning drastic cuts, privatization or even elimination of those programs.

Healthcare for all? Nah….that’s SOCIALISM! Protect the environment? Uh-uh. Drill baby drill. Frack baby frack. And while we’re drilling and fracking, let’s get rid of all those “illegal immigrants” who are draining our economy and committing crimes (the most galling of which seems to be not speaking English) and deport their children too (even if they speak English).

When I watched the debate on CNN between Walker and his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, I could not conceive of anyone in their right mind voting for Walker. The guy couldn’t give a straight answer to any of the questions. Barrett seemed effective until he decided to emphasize that he knows how to say no to “unrealistic demands” by his friends in the labor movement. That must have been a de-energizing enthusiasm sapper for Wisconsin voters who are union members and whose right to collective bargaining has been under attack ever since Walker took office.

President Obama does this sort of thing quite frequently on a national and global level. It doesn’t seem to win him any friends among those he panders to, and it sure doesn’t create enthusiasm or energy among many who will vote for him in the presidential election, simply because the alternative is so appalling. Why is the Guantanamo prison still open? Even Colin Powell is disappointed about that, for crying out loud. Why have so many of the most noxious practices of the Bush era been continued (and in some instances even expanded) such as the threats to civil liberties embodied in the Patriot Act? Why do we continue to use drone planes to drop bombs on people in Afghanistan when so many of those bombs have missed their intended targets (suspected terrorists) and instead killed innocent civilians (often referred to merely as “collateral damage”)?

Perhaps it was too much to expect that Obama would renounce the policies of his predecessor or, as some had hoped, launch an investigation or even bring charges against those government officials who authorized crimes against humanity (i.e.,  “Shock and Awe” in Iraq, extraordinary renditions, etc.) in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. There is a reason why George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other former U.S. government officials avoid international travel. Numerous complaints have been filed against them at the International Criminal Court,The Hague,Netherlands, and elsewhere.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in Vietnam. At a recent ceremony, President Obama rightly decried the way veterans of that war were treated when they returned home. He also paid lip service to the “patriotic Americans” who had opposing views. But he drew no conclusions about the lessons of the war itself. As I watched a telecast of the speech I thought of a song by the late Phil Ochs, written during the war in Vietnam. The lyrics made sense then. They make sense now. A few excerpts:

 We’ve got to protect all our citizens fair

So we’ll send a battalion for everyone there

And maybe we’ll leave in a couple of years

‘Cause we’re the Cops of the World, boys

We’re the Cops of the World

We’ll spit through the streets of the cities we wreck

And we’ll find you a leader that you can’t elect

Those treaties we signed were a pain in the neck

‘Cause we’re the Cops of the World, boys

We’re the Cops of the World

We’ll smash down your doors, we don’t bother to knock

We’ve done it before, so why all the shock

We’re the biggest and the toughest kids on the block

And we’re the Cops of the World, boys

We’re the Cops of the World

In fairness to the president, the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December. The Obama Administration has also committed to a full withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan, but not until the end of 2014. That is too late to generate much energy and enthusiasm among anti-war voters for the 2012 election…. but more than enough to energize those who regard it as a sign of “weakness” to be exploited in cleverly twisted ads.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.    

 

 

 

 

Annual Father’s Day Trek

Monday, June 11th, 2012

By Jean Webster

The coming of Father’s Day takes me back to those days when we left our winter home in Sullivan County for our summer place in Maine. One year John insisted that (a) we’d take the kids out of school early (classes in New York ended in late June) and that (b) we’d leave on Father’s Day, head east, stop in Connecticut for breakfast before continuing our eight-hour trip.

“We’ll find some place to stop around Danbury,” he assured us. Stephen and Kim were so young then, they had very little say in the matter.

Just as though he knew we’d find his new favorite place near Danbury, there was a sign – “Father’s Day Breakfast, All You Can Eat, Ramada Inn.” Long tables were laden with serving dishes holding bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and more bacon. John’s food heaven has always been filled with rashers of bacon, which we seldom eat at home.

That perfect Father’s Day breakfast set the pattern for our annual trip to Maine.

And, every year, our car was stuffed with everything we four needed for the next few months. Clothing, especially for those kids who kept growing, so we couldn’t leave things to use the following year. Summer clothes, sure, but warm clothes too, because summer in Maine isn’t like summer elsewhere. Some people say it’s more like – well – winter.

In addition to the four humans in the car, we had Rocky, a shepherd-collie mix and Velvet, a Maine cat who was confined to a wooden lobster crate.  Big Vel didn’t travel well. He mewed. He barfed, he did everything you’d expect an animal to do in an unhappy eight-hour ride.

This trip included many stops – bathroom, walk the dog, clean out the cat’s box, switch drivers, more food, candy, drinks. We’d discovered that the best way to keep our kids happy in the back seat was with plenty of food and snacks. When they started whining or fighting, the non-driver would dive into the cooler or bag of goodies and toss something into the back seat.

Of course, we played all the usual games:  I spy. The alphabet game. The license plate game. And the “educational” game – 20 Questions.

Another favorite stop was an old Chinese Restaurant in Haverhill, Mass., where the kids found a couple of dishes they would eat. The ever popular Pu Pu Platter, with fried rice and some little pork slices. Not gourmet, but filling.

“Remember the Fudgeanna,” refers to a trip when the kids were around 10 and 7. We were at a Howard Johnson’s for our ice cream break, sitting at a big counter with other customers. The ice cream menu showed this giant square dish with four scoops of ice cream – enough for our whole family. Of course, sharing was out, so I said, “No, get something smaller – one scoop each.” A whine went up around the counter. My proposal was vetoed, not just by our kids, but by John and other people sitting there. “Oh, let them try,” someone said. It goes without saying that three-plus scoops remained in both square glass dishes when they quit.

After years of taking the same route, eating at the same restaurants, things became pretty tired. We started reading aloud to each other. Stephen and I were into fantasy and we read “The Hobbit,” then “Watership Down,” and “Shardik.” That kept us happy for a while.

The real change came when we added a second car. A Volkswagen Bug, which Stephen drove to high school. That split us up, and gave us room for more “stuff.” The most memorable trip in that period was Father’s Day 1979, during the Energy Crisis. Stephen and I were traveling in the Bug. It was Sunday, fewer gas stations open on the highway. I was concerned we’d run out of gas, so for a while we exited frequently looking for an open station. But we didn’t run out of gas, and we decided to just go on. It all worked out.

Life went on. The kids went off. We left New York to spend winters in Portland and five months farther up the coast. The trip is about an hour and a half, and we start transporting “stuff” early, so we’re ready to move in when it’s warm enough. Stuff today includes about 20 house plants, food, some warm clothes, and other items I can’t live without in any season. No dog. No cat. Just us.  Father’s Day is quieter, breakfast is blueberry pancakes or waffles, and calls from the kids.

jean@zestoforange.com

The ‘Collateral Damage’ of Protest Votes

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

The Naderesque argument that the Democratic presidential candidate is merely “the lesser of two evils” has been making an energetic comeback on progressive blogs. Liberals have become restive about a growing list of incursions on civil liberties and human rights that President Obama once vowed to oppose or overturn.

I’m not wild about Obama’s national security policy, either. But making “protest votes” for unelectable third-party candidates is an exercise in futility. Far from merely sending a principled message to Democrats that their capitulation to GOP militarism will no longer be tolerated, this strategy may permit Republican extremists to sabotage both our economy and our social contract. If this radical contingent succeeds, middle-class Americans may worry far more about economic disaster than government surveillance, political prisoners, or terrorists overseas.

The president couldn’t possibly have lived up to the rosy expectations that voters, disgusted by the Dubya years, had of his presidency. But now, scores of disgruntled Democrats have resolved to abandon the two-party system and become registered independents. Some plan to vote for Obama only if they reside in swing states; others who live in solid blue states may write in Ron Paul (seriously!) or vote for a third-party candidate like former Utah Gov.  Rocky Anderson. Obama critics on the left claim there’s very little space between Obama and Romney, because candidates from both parties depend on corporate donors and are thus beholden to the same interests.

Rob Kall of the progressive website OpEdNews declared in a recent column that he had personally decided to leave the Democratic Party. Some 200 of the site’s 55,000 members commented, professing fervent opposition to Obama’s expansion of Bush policies, including the limited use of remote-controlled Predator drones to support battlefield operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama went on to implement drones operated by CIA officers to kill suspected terrorists (among them, American citizens) “without a shred or whit of due process,” in the view of Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald.

The CIA’s human quarry is tracked by U.S.-based “pilots” whose unmanned aircraft attack targets within the borders of sovereign nations. Drone strikes in Pakistan (which critics term “extrajudicial executions”) have been reported by observers to have killed numerous civilians near the pilots’ “marks” – indicating that these hits may not be as “surgical” as the CIA claims. The official record of “collateral damage” from May 2010 to August 2011? Militants: 600. Noncombatants: 0.

I personally deplore the barbarity of these strikes (and fear that we will eventually have to contend with terrorists acquiring this technology and once again blowing random New Yorkers to smithereens). I am also chagrined by the moral ambiguity of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which affirmed presidential authority over the indefinite military detention of prisoners without charge or trial. Other dubious offenses include the administration’s 2011 defense before the Supreme Court of GPS devices employed in warrantless surveillance; Obama’s failure to honor his inaugural promise to close Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp; his stepped-up policy of deporting undocumented immigrants at a far higher rate than Bush did; the continued use of military tribunals after vowing to try terrorism suspects in civil courts; and the ongoing militaristic fixation of our government.

Obama’s principled opposition to the Iraq War as a candidate for both the U.S. Senate and the presidency led me to foolishly imagine him as a pacifist. He did end the Iraq War, as he promised, but I don’t believe we should commit to staying in Afghanistan until 2024; no other culture, from the Mongols to the Soviets, ever succeeded in “unifying” Afghanistan’s warring tribes. Apparently we have forgotten the past and are condemned, as George Santayana observed, to repeat it.

Obama had to capitulate to certain political realities – the almost-universal opposition of both parties to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil to be tried in civilian courts, as well as Obama’s apprehension about facing a military/national security “coup” if he attempted to prosecute Bush-era war crimes. With an intransigent GOP opposition obstructing his every move – and rejecting their own proposals once Obama endorsed them – the president had to drop the popular “public option” from health care, abandon comprehensive immigration reform, and limit financial regulation.

I remain a pragmatist willing to work within the current electoral system because I believe that a radical-right landslide would eclipse any Democratic failure. Once in office, Romney would repay his wealthy donors by doing the bidding of the Koch brothers, the House’s “Ayn Rand” faction, and the Christian right. He would follow the dictates of Grover Norquist on a regressive tax policy that would exacerbate income disparity. He would install Supreme Court justices who would ensure a conservative majority for a generation.

Do left-wing purists really want to see the Ryan budget passed, along with interminable “Kill at Will” gun laws, racist voting laws, and xenophobic immigration laws? Do they want to witness Roe V. Wade overturned and women subjected to personhood amendments and forced vaginal probes? A GOP Senate majority swept in on Romney’s coattails could conspire with the Republican House to turn back the clock on the rights of workers to the Industrial Age, of African-Americans to the Jim Crow era, of the unemployed to “Hoovervilles,” of the elderly to county poorhouses, and of women to medieval times.

The Dingo and the Madam …

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

A dingo, like this one, ate the lady's baby in the Outback. It's official.

 

… with a touch of zombie fever

(A Bob and Bob encounter)

By Bob Gaydos

“So, did you hear that the dingo really did eat her baby?”

“What?”

“The woman in Australia, 30 years ago or so. Her baby went missing and she said a dingo stole it and ate it. Right out of the crib.”

“A dingo?”

“Yeah, you know, those wild dogs running around Australia with the koalas and kangaroos and jackrabbits and stuff. Geez, what a continent. They made a movie about it. Meryl Streep played the woman. The famous line in the movie was, ‘The dingo ate my baby.’ Elaine made it more famous on Seinfeld. ‘The dingo ate my baby. The dingo ate my baby.’ … Don’t you keep up with culture?”

“So what about the dingo?”

“Well, somehow no one believed the woman that a dingo snatched her baby from their camp in the Outback — and don’t you think the restaurant guys might have picked a name not linked with wild dogs? Actually, at first, they did believe her. An inquest cleared her and blamed a dingo. Then they held another inquest and convicted her of murder. Got her husband as an accomplice. Then they held a third inquest and decided they couldn’t decide what happened. And now, finally, a coroner’s court or something has decided the dingo did it.”

“Why now?”

“Good question. Apparently, the dingos have been busy in recent years killing kids in Australia. I think it’s because the jackrabbits have gotten too big.”

… “Well, good for her. But you want to talk about injustice — I see the ‘Monroe Madam’ finally got her bail reduced.”

“Slashed. Talk about abuse of power. Two million bucks bail on one prostitution charge because she wouldn’t give them names?

“For something done between consenting adults.”

“That’s legal in Nevada. … and, I guess, Colombia — which I didn’t know until the Secret Service guys tried to stiff one of the working women. I think this is just the Manhattan DA trying to repair his reputation after messing up some big cases. Cyrus Vance’s kid. He replaced Morgenthau who had the job forever and must have been like 93 or something.”

”Well, you know 90 is the new 85.”

“Yeah, right. Anyway, they had no business setting a punitive bail on her for what they charged her with. She’s sitting in jail in Manhattan for weeks and all the time telling them she’s got wild pigs to rescue in Monroe. It’s not right.’’

“Right. … There aren’t any dingos in Monroe, are there?”

“No. And another thing — why does Bloomberg think people won’t just buy two, 16-ounce sodas? I get it that smoking is harmful to people whether they smoke or not and the state has a stake in regulating it. But I don’t get fat if you have a Big Gulp every day. If you’re 18, you’re on your own.”

“Yeah, but I’ll tell you what’s worse! (The speaker is not a Bob, but another patron of the establishment who has obviously been eavesdropping and has some strongly held opinions of his own.) Governor Cuomo,” he continues, “wants to legalize marijuana. How’d you like somebody driving while they’re smoking a doogie, never mind drinking a large soda?”

As this has taken the conversation in a direction neither Bob was eager to follow, they both just smiled and nodded “Uh huh” in unison.

“You know something really weird though if you’re talking about government controlling our lives (which they really weren’t talking about, but were now in smiling and nodding mode)? You heard about that case in Florida in May? The guy eating another guy’s face?”

(Oh, thought one Bob, here comes the zombie conspiracy theory.)

“They blamed it on bath salts. But there was another guy in Maryland who ate his roommate’s intestines (thankfully the Bobs‘ bagels had been finished). One guy came from South America, the other guy came from Africa. They both came into this country through the airport in Miami. Coincidence? (Wild guess: Yes?) If the government is trying to find out how we react to certain substances (so they can, what, control us?) they could put it in the water someplace and see what happens.”

(So no zombie conspiracy? So what then? Banning big sodas, “legalizing“ pot and field-testing bath salts. What‘s the hook? Where’s he going with this?)

“It’s the beginning of communism.”

(Of course it is. Should have known.)

“Hey, (one Bob to the other) where you going?”

“Gottta go, man. I’m late. See you next week.”

“Yeah, right. Thanks, pal. Watch out for the dingos out there.”

“You watch out for the dingos in here.”

(This is virtually all true.)

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

Hungry in the Land of Milk and Honey

Friday, June 8th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

In their delicious book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio document the weekly food budgets of 24 international families. They point out that a family of eight in Guatemala spends 573 Quetzales (the equivalent of about $75.70) on groceries each week. The average yearly income is around $4,000, making groceries the highest expense for that family.

Meanwhile, back in Orange County, a family of five can spend a whopping $242.48 per week on groceries out of an average income of $35,000 per breadwinner. While the cost sounds much greater, compared to our Guatemalan neighbors, we Americans eat the cheapest food in the world, and plenty of it.

Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, writes, “Here we have the great irony of modern nutrition: At a time when hundreds of millions of people do not have enough to eat, hundreds of millions more are eating too much and are overweight or obese. Today…more people are overweight than underweight.”

In the U.S. 72 percent of men, and 70 percent of women are overweight. Cheaper food does not translate into healthier food. In fact, our current agricultural policy is to subsidize corn to the point where it is ridiculously cheap and ubiquitous in our food system. So cheap that we even burn corn as fuel for our automobiles, a crime against humanity when you consider that all starving people that could be fed with it.

Looking back at our Guatemalan family cited above, their weekly diet consisted mainly of potatoes, rice and beans, and vegetables from their garden. Meat was added to a meal less than once a week. While the Orange County family ate mostly processed foods like canned soups, frozen meals, packaged cookies, cakes, and crackers, and lots of meat. Another major difference is cooking.

The Guatemalans eat every meal at home and one person spends most of her time cooking, preparing, and purchasing ingredients for meals. Americans eat one out of three meals at home.
How can we curb our national eating disorder?

–Eat local. When we eat what is grown in our own region we eat healthier, and at the peak of freshness. This is better for our health and the environment, as well a boost to the local economy.

–Grow your own food. Victory gardens helped our grandparents survive the wars and Great Depression. Save money at the grocery store by skipping the imported produce and processed food.

–Eat lower on the food chain. Meat is a threat to our health and environment. Treat it as a condiment and purchase locally raised meats from farms you trust. Check www.EatWild.org or www.localharvest.org.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery. www.WallkillRiverSchool.com.

Dad

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

There are certain moments in our troubled relationship I wish I could forget, but things don’t work that way. Still, I want to write a little about him – mostly good stuff – so if these Zest of Orange posts last a hundred years, people living in the year 2112 will know that Al Page existed, was a part of this world, was a father (maybe not the best) of a son (maybe not the best) and a husband (maybe not the best).

He was born Abraham Pedratchick in the East End of London in 1904, the seventh and final child of a pious member of the local synagogue. Al had a beautiful singing voice and here the story quickly gets complicated. The father was deeply religious, but Al was pretty much an atheist. The father was adamant that the son become a cantor. At the age of 17, Al fled to America and to a sister already here. He changed his name to Al Page. He never saw his father again, but the nature of that troubled relationship was to shape part of him for the rest of his life.

Never could one of his sons take Al out for dinner. My dad had to pay his own way, and for everyone else if he could. Nor could anyone buy him a gift. When we tried, nothing was the right size, or the right color, or the right anything. It’s important for a kid to buy his dad a gift. But it made Al uncomfortable to accept. Even when his music system crashed, and he could no longer listen to his favorite Mozart and Brahms, and I offered to replace it, he would not hear of it. He would buy his own things. But he never bought a new stereo.

“What is with you?” I finally asked, and it turned out that his father had loaned him $50 for the voyage to New York and Dad didn’t repay it. He worked like a dog but never had enough to make even a partial payment, and this haunted him for the rest of his life. “No time did I have it,” he said quietly on the grass of the care facility where he was living with my mother after they lost everything to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. He died one year later.

When he arrived in New York in 1921, he took any work he could find. One of his earliest jobs was as an unskilled laborer painting the hulls of ships at dry dock on Staten Island. He used to take a banana and a bag of peanuts with him every day for lunch. Sometimes he couldn’t afford the banana.

Later he worked at a loan outfit and he said something complimentary about the hat that nifty girl was wearing. That was my mother, who’d recently ended a bad marriage.

They went out, had a good time. They got married. This was 1930, the Great Depression. The courtship may have been good. The marriage was not. They fought a lot, often about money. Throughout their years together, she said some really bad things to him. He responded, and said some pretty ugly things about her parents, my grandparents. Maybe he didn’t understand that you don’t insult your own kid’s grandpa. But how could you not understand that? He was not educated, but he certainly wasn’t stupid. Somehow they stayed together for 63 years. Maybe it wasn’t as terrible as I remember. Maybe each was getting something out of it, though once when I was about 8 my mother posed the devastating question: If Daddy and I broke up, who would you want to go with?

He and I had our moments. From adjoining beds – we both had flu – we watched the Dodgers lose that playoff series with the Giants in 1951. I was grief stricken and he rescued me with the magic words known by every Brooklyn fan: Wait until next year. He was gentle in offering advice about school and what I might choose to do with my life. And often he was harshly critical when he perceived my lousy grades as a rebuke to his advice.

Twice he offered some off-the-wall advice on sex. When I was about 12 he handed me a booklet and said “Read this.” Then he walked away. It was complicated and filled with bizarre illustrations and unpronounceable words that I’m sure Dr. Kinsey himself wouldn’t have understood. Years later when I was headed to Fort Dix for basic training, he told me to always be careful because some of the women around Army bases were there to get pregnant and snare a husband. Uh, that’s not why they were there.

In the Sixties he didn’t like the way I looked – the beard, especially – and told me so at every occasion. It boiled over one morning when I left to do some work at the library in New York. I walked out. Then I changed my mind and went back. You could hear the shouting in Canarsie. I moved out soon after that.

One more conversation would have been nice. There was so much to talk about.

jeffrey@zestoforange.com

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Oil on canvas, 12x36. Please contact me at carrieBjacobson@gmail.com for price and shipping information

By Carrie Jacobson

I’ve spent a day or so in fear this week, mostly, I think, because I’d promised myself that I would take it easy this week, and I don’t do well with leisure.

So today, instead of taking it easy and succumbing, I am taking action, and refinding my courage. It’s there, I know it. I can feel it. But like so much in life, it wanes and waxes.

Yesterday, I thought: Leave my job? Leave my family? Leave this place I know?

Today, I think: Why not? I have a dream, I have a goal, I have a mission. No one is going to waltz into my life and meet my goals for me. No one is going to dream my dreams. If I want this to work, if I want to leave my paying job, and make and sell art, and make this life happen, it’s up to me to do it.

It’s up to all of us to do it, isn’t it? And to not settle for anything less.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Dawn Over the Ocean

By Carrie Jacobson

I had my first show outside of New England this weekend, and though it was brutally, brutally hot in Annapolis, the show was fun and financially successful.

I am realizing some things about these shows, and where they bring me and the people who visit. Inside the tent, the atmosphere is intimate. We stand close because we have to, in this 10-foot by 10-foot space. My paintings are on the walls, pieces of my heart and my soul, in color, unhidden.

I love being in this place and talking with people about art, and life – I especially love listening to their stories, and their remembrances. Nearly everyone has an aunt or a mother or a grandfather who painted, or who is a painter – and so my paintings evoke memories in them. Their faces soften, they smile, they share, and we all learn something about each other.

Any day that there’s an exchange like that, I think, it’s a good day.

Bagels ‘n Birds: Hello from Woods Hole

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Downtown Woods Hole. Photo by Bob Gaydos

By Bob Gaydos

I wasn’t sure about filing a column this week. After all, there I was, sitting outside the Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, Mass., drinking fresh roasted coffee and fighting off sparrows and blackbirds for my toasted buttered bagel, but I was alone. Bob Who Likes His Salad Sans Dressing wasn’t there to bounce ideas off. And Woods Hole itself is not a place to stir the stomach bile of a columnist. It’s too nice.

Woods Hole, at the tip of Falmouth on the near end of Cape Cod is probably best known for two things: It is home for the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and it is also home for every kind of maritime, nautical research facility conceivable to man. If the word oceanographic or maritime is in the title, odds are the organization is poking around the waters somewhere in Woods Hole. Which means there are an awful lot of smart, healthy-looking people walking around town and gobbling up all the parking spaces. Some of them speak languages other than English. (I think it was French.)

Woods Hole is also one of those quaint coastal towns that has no problem expecting motorists and pedestrians to wait while a bridge is opened and raised on the main drag to let a couple of barely visible boats pass from the Great Harbor to Eel Pond. They’re right. No one minded. Not even me.

So how was I going to get worked up enough to offer my two bits on the rest of the absurd world in which we live? Well, God bless the NATION & WORLD page of the Cape Cod Times. It didn’t take more than a few minutes on page 6 of the daily to wonder, for example, what ever happened to the Wisconsin of Russ Feingold, or for that matter Barack Obama in 2008. Gov. Scott Walker, a mean SOB if there ever was one, survived a recall vote by spending nearly $50 million convincing voters that public unions are evil. Then again, a former Wisconsin senator named McCarthy once had a lot of folks convinced every actor, writer and director in Hollywood was a communist.

Moving from Walker up the page, I noted with satisfaction that Abu Yahya al-Libi, the day-to-day director of Al-Qaida in Pakistan and the coordinator of operations with Al-Qaida affiliates, was killed in a drone strike by the United States in Pakistan. Seven of his friends went to meet Allah along with him. The Pakistani government protested the drone strike as an illegal violation of Pakistani territory.

I am told by some of my more liberal friends, maybe including some reading this, that I, too, should be offended by the drone strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan and elsewhere. I am not. I think we are still fighting a major war against terrorists and, while tying to avoid civilian casualties is essential, the drone strikes are a necessary and effective weapon. Besides, Pakistan showed its duplicitous nature by shielding Osama bin Laden for years and, in fact, has never fully committed to the fight against terrorism.

I am also told by, of all people, conservative Republicans, that President Obama, who has taken the mantle of commander-in-chief literally in regard to the drone strikes, by selecting and approving them personally, is somehow to be criticized for killing off Al Qaeda’s leadership. They think W. didn’t get credit for similar efforts. What that has to do with Obama escapes me. And only one of them actually got bin Laden.

Also on the page was a story about police in Indiana, who are scared to death that a private citizen might shoot and kill one of them while performing his or her duty — and get away with it. It seems Indiana has a law that allows citizens to use deadly force in responding to “unlawful intrusions” by a “public servant” to protect themselves and their property.

The public servant element was added to the law at the urging of, surprise, the National Rifle Association, which doesn’t see what the police are complaining about. They apparently can’t put themselves in the place of an officer, issuing a presumably legal warrant and maybe having to kick down a door to do it, having to fear that the person on the other side will open fire and later claim he felt threatened by the “unlawful intrusion.”

The only sensible approach, of course, is to presume police have the right to enter the premises and sort it out later — not to shoot them first and claim unlawful entry later. Indiana, with a Republican legislature and governor (Mitch Daniels), is alone in offering this “recipe for disaster” as the head of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police described it. But then, you can say that about most of the NRA-backed gun laws.

And there was one last absurdity — a typically American one — on the page. In Brooksville, Fla., a 275-pound “tamed” mountain lion escaped from its cage and had the neighbor’s pet beagle, Fester, for lunch. A pet mountain lion, you ask? Well, this is Florida and the mountain lion’s owner has a license for him. The cat’s owner, of course, blamed the dog, which has to be a new standard in blaming the victim.

He said, “You’ve got a big cat and you’ve got a dog that was after his food and he was going to stop that dog any way he could.” Of course he was; he’s a mountain lion.

The dog’s owner had a different take — he worried whether the pet mountain lion might break out again and eat his granddaughter. Maybe the NRA, which has a lot of fans in Florida, can write a law for the situation.

OK, that’s about it. Gotta go and find some fried clams for lunch.

bob@zestoforange.com