Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Friends, family, and readers know I applaud Snowden's brave whistle blowing and feel he should be allowed to return to the United States, granted total clemency, and thanked for his service to the citizens of this country. So clearly, I'm very happy about this, via CNN:

Two Norwegian lawmakers have jointly nominated National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize, they said Wednesday on their party website. 
Snowden has "revealed the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance," and by doing so has contributed to peace, said a joint statement by Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen of the Socialist Left Party. 
Nominations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize -- whose previous winners include such figures as the late South African President Nelson Mandela, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Barack Obama -- close on Saturday, with the winner announced in October.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger, a great American

Arlo Guthrie:

I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep - Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That's the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere. 
I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I'd grown up that way - loving the Seegers - Pete; Toshi and all their family. 
I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I'd been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound trite or plain stupid. "They'll say something appropriate in the news," we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night. 
"Arlo" he said, sounding just like the man I've known all of my life, "I guess I'll see ya later." I've always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. "Pete," I said. "I guess we will." 
I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away. 
"Well, of course he passed away!" I'm telling everyone this morning. "But that doesn't mean he's gone."
Photo via John Nichols

Monday, January 27, 2014

Entitled, empowered, and indicted

Photo via.

Former First Lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell, aka The Honorable Mrs. Governor Ultrasound, can't be faulted for merely fantasizing about swirling around the dance floor in an over-the-top-expensive Oscar de la Renta gown. I know I've entertained more than a few Walter Mitty reveries in which I'm a twirling princess or goddess or queen, my taffeta skirts swishing in the spotlight as I soak in all the admiration.

And then the light turns green and someone honks a horn.

Being empowered, being celebrated--whether one is a public servant, the spouse thereof, or even a vice-presidential nominee with a borrowed Neiman's card (ahem, Sarah Palin)--is not the same as being entitled.

But sometimes power-drunk people confuse real life with television.

In the HBO program Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker's character got to live out an Oscar de la Renta fantasy. She was dating Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the day after reading aloud to him from that month's Vogue--describing a gown by the designer as "her poetry"--Baryshnikov presented her with the very dress she'd coveted. The episode's final scene shows the couple in a Manhattan McDonalds; Parker is wearing her fantasy dress, à la McDonnell, doing what one does while wearing an Oscar de la Renta: pirouetting on someone else's dime.

And other people's dimes are subject to wildly varying laws when it comes to gifts and goodies bestowed upon public servants by individuals and businesses. Then there are federal regulations. Clearly the intent is to maintain the illusion (if, sadly, little else) that public servants are there to serve the public--the people who vote them into office and pay their salaries--and not, as is all too often the case, to do the bidding of this billionaire or that foreign interest or those corporations.

Seemingly, there isn't much in the way of such laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to the Washington Post, the state is one of ten that allows officeholders to accept gifts of virtually unlimited value. (There certainly are federal laws. To wit.)

Speaking of the word commonwealth, it comes from the late middle English commun welthe, the wealth of the people. It is the wealth of the people that paid Governor Bob McDonnell's salary, as it is with all American public servants and the families they support: it's the people's money.

In short, the spouses of public servants are supposed to buy their own dresses.

And really, there is no excuse for what Maureen McDonnell did. Oh, there are plenty of reasons for her behavior, with baldfaced greed topping the list.

(Yes, what Governor Bob McDonnell did is obviously far worse, because he was the one the people voted for and entrusted with all that power, but right now, we're talking about dress-greed, not megalomania, abuse of power, or for that matter, rank misogyny, all of which deserve long posts of their own.)

But there is no excuse because, hey, ever heard of regular old ready-to-wear? Forgive me, but other than its label, the blue dress in the picture is no different from those on racks in bridal and department stores all over Virginia. (Moreover, I can only imagine the state is home to countless gifted seamstresses, any one of whom could have whipped up a gown to rival Oscar's.)

And I don't for a moment buy the whole "We're under so much pressure to look nice, we simply had to get donors to spend tens of thousands of dollars on clothes for us" line, either.  Please. Professional American women with actual jobs manage to pull themselves together and stand in front of courts, cameras, and classrooms every single day.

It was about entitlement, pure and simple. We're the First Couple--we're entitled to fine watches, elegant holidays, and couture gowns!

And this from a so-called "conservative" couple! Who, when it comes to providing for the basic needs of the people who elected them, love nothing more than to preach the gospel of cutting spending, not living above one's means, tightening that belt, honey.

Learn to sew, Mrs. Governor Ultrasound. Perhaps you can replicate that gown--I hear orange is the new blue.