Friday, August 29, 2014


Our Lady of the Driveway
Thanks to Athenae at First Draft for the photo and the title. She took the picture when she was in New Orleans at the end of March, when a group of us led by FD bloggers, Athenae and Scout Prime, gathered to gut a house, view the destruction, and squeeze in a little fun.

The statue of the Virgin Mary stood in a driveway. The head was broken off, but someone had put it back in place. The photo and the title struck me with such force when I first saw it that I have never forgotten it. The image of the statue of Mary in the driveway - "Mary, full of grace" as Athenae calls her - was the symbol of my destroyed and broken home town, my abandoned city, my beloved New Orleans - always full of grace to me.

Our Lady Of The Driveway

O Mary of the Driveway,
Broken like your city,
Your head lies on the ground.
A sorry sight, a sign,
A sign of devastation
Wrought by wind and water,
Angry blow and raging flow.

A passer-by, one of tender heart,
Sees and stops and mourns your head
Lying there apart,
And gently, gently takes it
And replaces it.
There. Our Lady's whole again.
Or so it seems. Or is it so?

June Butler - 5-13-07
I posted the picture, the commentary, and the poem first on May 13, 2007 and then again on the anniversary of Katrina in the years that followed. Until I change my mind, I will post the picture and the poem every year on the anniversary of Katrina and THE FEDERAL FLOOD, which, in New Orleans, was not a natural disaster but an ENGINEERING DISASTER. I remember the more than 1800 people who died and all those who loved them. I remember the 275,000 who lost their homes. I remember those who survived, but suffered through horrendous conditions in the days after Katrina. I remember those who have not returned to their home towns, and who want to, but can't find affordable housing. I remember those in Louisiana and Mississippi still struggling to recover and rebuild their homes and their lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


In a move certain to bolster his national standing with conservatives, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the Obama administration Wednesday, hoping to strike a blow against the controversial Common Core education standards and raising his profile as he builds a likely presidential campaign.

"The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal said in a statement. "Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything."
Jindal, the governor who is always in campaign mode, filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration that will be paid for with the tax money of Louisiana citizens.  The governor lost two earlier suits in state courts to stop Common Core, so now it's on to federal court in another grandstanding, frivolous lawsuit at the expense of the people of the state.
When the Louisiana education board embraced the standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, calling the standards an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy.
The governor was for the standards before he was against them.  Neither the Louisiana Legislature, nor the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, nor State Superintendent of Education John White want to discontinue the use of Common Core standards, for which the teachers and students have been preparing for four years, with the first tests due in the spring of 2015.   Does Jindal ever give a thought to the teachers and students who operate under conditions of uncertainty because of his own personal ambition?  As blogger LouisianaVoice said, Jindal is a 100% absentee governor.  All his activities have to do with his fantasy of winning the Republican nomination for president, or at the very least vice-president, and then moving on to win election to higher office.
Neal McCluskey, of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, said he doesn't expect the lawsuit to be successful, even though he agrees with its premise.

"They've definitely got a steep hill to climb on this lawsuit," McCluskey said.
Exactly, but why would Jindal care?  It's our money.

Monday, August 18, 2014


President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion.

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.
While there's much to admire about Hillary Clinton, she made several statements in her recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic that worry me.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.
I remember my doubts about the suggestion to arm "vetted rebels" in Syria. What could possibly go wrong?

As I see it, Clinton is not wise to so quickly distance herself from President Obama. As you may recall, Al Gore hardly, if ever, mentioned President Clinton during his campaign to succeed him, nor did he allow Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf, even in carefully chosen locations where Clinton was quite popular. Still, the president was always the ghost on the stage of every campaign event. I've always believed that Al Gore would have won by a large and indisputable margin, had he not run such a poor campaign and had he not so obviously run away from Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton ought perhaps to take a lesson.
Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.
How's that for damning with faint praise?  Au contraire, Madame Secretary, the president is wise to step away from the fantasy of American exceptionalism in which we bear the burden of setting the world to rights, as we see the right.  Also, for a Democratic would-be candidate to criticize the Democratic president in these difficult and tumultuous times seems disloyal.  I realize that she will inevitably differentiate her policies from those of the president, but she seems to be making serious mistakes in her statements in the interview.

If Clinton is the candidate, I believe she could lose the election by taking the anti-Obama track.  She cannot win without an enthusiastic turnout by African-American voters, and Obama still retains a fair amount of support among Democrats of all colors. She appears opportunistic, and, even worse, ruthless in her ambition.

Clinton takes a harder line against Iran than Obama, but negotiations require some wiggle room unless one's position is, "My way or the highway."
HRC: I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out. So, little or no enrichment has always been my position. 
Not much wiggle room there.

Clinton's seemingly unreserved support for the policies of the present Israeli government is worrisome, too.
Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration's behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”
While it's true there is wrong on both sides, Israel's response seems disproportionate, as is indicated by a comparison of the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed and wounded.  Also, if the Israeli government truly wants peace, perhaps the leaders might consider a bold, unilateral, admittedly risky move to lift the blockade of Gaza, remove the checkpoints which make travel so difficult for the Palestinians, and stop the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  So long as Israel's neighbors in Gaza live in miserable conditions, Israel will not have peace.

Note: To disagree with the present policies of the Israeli leadership does not make me antisemitic any more than disagreement with the policies of my own government makes me un-American.

If the interview is Clinton's pre-season launch of her candidacy for the presidency, and I think it is, then she's made several missteps, and, I hope she sets herself aright.  I don't think any candidate, except in certain circumstances, a sitting president, is entitled to anointment as the chosen candidate for a political party, but I fear the stage is being set for anointing Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate.  I hope other prominent Democrats in the party rise to challenge Clinton, so we have a real contest and open discussions of various policies for moving the country forward and winning the election in 2016.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


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We'll see how this goes.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


The Kurds are our best friends in the Middle East, and they remained so even after we betrayed them when Bush Sr encouraged them to revolt against Saddam and subsequently refused them help. The Kurds seem like the sanest and most compassionate group in Iraq at the moment, and, if they want a measure of autonomy in Kurdistan, I'd like them have it.

They've taken in Christian refugees who were driven from Mosul by brutal IS and are now accepting Yazidi refugees from Sinjar, where ISIS has taken over by brute force. We are already sending humanitarian aid to Kurdistan, and we are ethically bound to send humanitarian aid to the Yazidis trapped on the mountain.

I'm against violence in all forms and very much against the US policy of supplying arms to the world, and I'm not certain of the consequences of the military support President Obama announced last night, but I cannot condemn the policy. In this one instance, I'm willing to consider the possibility that the arms might help the Kurds continue their humanitarian efforts and help them retain control of Kurdistan. I wish there was an alternative to bombing, but I don't see it, and I do realize it could all go bad.

I am pacific but not 100%.  If I saw a child being abused by an adult, and the only way to save the child was to commit violence against the perpetrator, I think I would do it.  Reasoning from the particular to the general, I arrived at the conclusion not to condemn the president's decision to give military support to the Kurds and the refugees in Iraq, which includes bombing of IS positions.  I realize that inductive reasoning results in answers that are no more than probabilities, and I cannot rest easy in my lack of condemnation, but, for now, that's my position.

And there is the unspeakable horror of the story linked below, which is only one among many brutal assaults by IS on Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

Canon Andrew White, the "Anglican Vicar of Baghdad"
“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” he said. “I baptized his child in my church in Baghdad. This little boy, they named him after me – he was called Andrew.”
Canon Andrew ask for our prayers and our support.  The article includes a link to donate to support the church in Baghdad.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


"Nebraska" is a beautiful, funny, poignant film in splendid black and white, a road movie about a father and son who take off in pursuit of the father's fantasy.  Bruce Dern's portrayal of the father, Woody Grant, is one of the finest in his long acting  career.  Will Forte plays David, Woody's son, with just the right mix of fondness, impatience, indulgence, and uncertainty that, in the end, show him to be a son who loves his father very much.

June Squibb as Kate Grant, Woody's wife and David's mother, is a piece of work, but she seems at the end of her rope, as Woody leaves the house time and again to wander the road on foot in pursuit of his fantasy.  Woody is an alcoholic, who is now slipping into dementia.   What a mouth Kate has!  Since she is elderly and now seems so stressed, I cut her slack, but I'd guess she was a feisty woman from a young age and not one to hold her tongue or mince words.

Writer Bob Nelson's excellent script contains many quotable lines, both funny and sad, and I laughed out loud and was near tears a number of times.  Two examples:
David Grant: Where's your family?
Kate Grant: Oh, they're over in the Catholic cemetery. Catholics wouldn't be caught dead around all these damn Lutherans.

David Grant: How did you and mom end up getting married?
Woody Grant: She wanted to.
David Grant: And you didn't?
Woody Grant: I figured, what the hell.
David Grant: Were you ever sorry you married her?
Woody Grant: All the time.
Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael's black and white scenes of the West during the road trip are lovely, indeed.  Kudos to director Alexander Payne for pulling it all together to produce a very fine film.  I can't recommend the movie highly enough.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


In a sign of rising tensions over Common Core, state Superintendent of Education John White told Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday that he is being unfairly targeted personally for possible wrongdoing by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and its allies.

“I am no stranger to politics, and I know that political rhetoric can be heated,” White said in a four-page letter to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

White sent his letter on the same week that Smith said controversy over Common Core test contracts could spark charges of ethics violations by White and others in the state Department of Education.

Smith cast her concerns in general terms — a posting on Facebook and a telephone interview — and did not offer any documentation.

However, she said unnamed parties are investigating whether employees of the state Department of Education acted improperly.
How low will Governor Jindal sink in his vindictiveness toward his own appointee, Superintendent of Education John White, because of their disagreement over Common Core?

Are there any limits at all to what Kristy Nichols (Commissioner of Administration) will do and say to support her boss and his unbridled ambition? I guess not, or she'd quickly be out of a job, for Jindal brooks no dissent.

Jane Smith, a staunch supporter of the governor, lost her bid for election to a seat in the Louisiana Senate, so Jindal gave her the consolation prize of a seat on BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to continue the march to destroy public education in Louisiana. Now, Jane Smith resorts to smearing John White by innuendo on Facebook.

Thanks Governor. You and your honchos are a real class act. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.

“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.

The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.

Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has shrunk rapidly in the years since US-led forces pushed Saddam Hussein from power. Before 2003 the city’s Christians numbered some 60,000 people, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June this year, Mr Sako told AFP.
The United States is complicit in the destruction of the earliest Christian communities in the history of Christianity in Iraq as a result of sanctions and the invasion of the country.  As well, the US is complicit in the rise to power of IS (Islamic State) radical fundamentalists in northern Iraq.
The 1987 census gave 1.4 million Iraqi Christians out of a then population, probably, of 19 million. By 2003 the Christians were estimated at 800,000, with over half a million having emigrated during the years of harsh US/ UN sanctions, or having not been able to afford to have children. The US military occupation of Iraq gave Christianity a bad name and Iraqi Christians were most unfairly targeted as somehow American clients. Over half of the remaining Christians were said to have left by 2008, leaving about 300,000 or so. Now it appears that the remaining 300,000 are being ethnically cleansed in the north of Iraq, where most Christians had lived.
Wars always produce unintended consequences, but the mindless rush to invade Iraq on the basis of lies and deception resulted in the destruction of Iraqi society, along with many of its institutions. We see the results in the violence in Iraq today.  How ironic that the cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein, protected Christians in Iraq, even as the violent intervention by the US enabled the rise of cruel and violent Islamic fundamentalists who completed the destruction of the Christian communities.

Republicans and right-wingers can rave on from now till kingdom come blaming President Obama for the chaos in Iraq, but the facts of history show that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of  Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush and their enablers in Congress, including, I'm sad to say, Democrats in both houses.

Friday, July 18, 2014


The flea market was attractive and well worth a visit and included food and drink booths for those who were hungry and thirsty. We walked from the subway station down Lafayette Ave, a pretty part of the borough with elegant old houses, which I'm sure cost the earth.

My granddaughter likes vintage clothing. She bought a dress at the market and souvenirs for her family and friends. The dress looked homemade, but very nicely done. If it was vintage, it was recent, because the style was of today. The photo shows Ashlynn trying to decide.

My daughter bought souvenirs, too, and one or two pieces of inexpensive jewelry for herself.

Since I no longer do souvenirs, I purchased only an inexpensive foldable sun hat to go with my collection of foldable sun hats, all of which I forget at home when I travel, thus leading me to buy yet another foldable sun hat.

My favorite item that I didn't buy was the pink elephant, a nostalgic reminder (for other people) of boozy wild and reckless nights.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


During our visit to New York City, we visited the New York Botanical Gardens.  The roses in the rose garden were past their prime, but I photographed one cluster that was still beautiful. My daughter walked around the garden with pen and paper noting the names of the varieties she liked, I suppose with a view to future planting.