investing…in the presidency?

Mitt and Ann Romney on December 22, 2007, at a...

Romney family buys voting machines through Bain Capital investment

Cleveland : OH : USA | Oct 19, 2012 at 10:11 AM PDT
BY  send a private message SelectMedia

Tagg Romney, the son of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has purchased electronic voting machines that will be used in the 2012 elections in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Colorado.

“Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a “strategic investment” to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic,” according to independent journalist Brad Friedman.

But Friedman is not the only one to discover the connection between the Romney family, Bain Capital, and ownership of voting machines.

Truth out reports:

“Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.

In other words, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, and his brother, wife and son, have a straight-line financial interest in the voting machines that could decide this fall’s election. These machines cannot be monitored by the public. But they will help decide who “owns” the White House.”

Both The Nation and New York Times confirm the connection between the Romney family, Solamere and the Bain Capital investment in the voting machine company, Hart Intercivic, whose board of directors serve H.I.G. Capital.

“Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, and their son Tagg Romney are also invested in H.I.G. Capital, as is Mitt’s brother G. Scott Romney.

The investment comes in part through the privately held family equity firm called Solamere, which bears the name of the posh Utah ski community where the Romney family retreats to slide down the slopes.” Truth out added.

There are also political connections between Solamere and the Romney’s. “Matt Blunt, the former Missouri governor who backed Mr. Romney in 2008, is a senior adviser to Solamere, as is Mitt Romney’s brother, Scott, a lawyer,” according to the New York Times.

Voter ID and voter fraud have been a top issues in the 2012 race, as have claims of Republican voter suppression. Mr. Romney’s campaign has also been the subject of controversy over misleading ads, false claims, sketchy math on his tax plan, and overall vagueness on women’s rights and other hot button issues.

Raising further questions of legitimacy in the Romney campaign is an audio recording recently made public, where Mitt Romney is heard asking independent business owners to apply pressure to their employees to influence their votes. What has also been made public are the emails those employers have sent to their employees with an implied threat that if they don’t vote for Romney they may lose their jobs.

What it all says is that Mitt Romney, with the help of his family and Bain Capital connections, is more than willing to try to take the White House through illegitimate and highly unethical, if not specifically illegal means.

With each passing day, the character and campaign methods of Mitt Romney cast an ever-darker shadow over free and fair American elections.

Yet there is an irony in the Romney campaign that cannot be ignored. For all the noise the right-wing has made in questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, there have been so many questionable efforts made to help put Romney in the White House, if he wins, there should be great dispute over whether his election could ever be called genuinely illegitimate.

The nagging question is why, if Mr. Romney truly has the qualities that American voters want in their president, does he have to go to such great and questionable lengths to try to win the election.

Watch the video:

Bain-Controlled Company Owns 2012 Voting Machines

…your choice…your vote…

………hugmamma.

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this generation…”the voice”

If, like me, you feel totally disconnected from ” whassup?” with this generation, I highly recommend you start watching the latest, reality talent phenom, The Voice. It airs Tuesday nights on NBC. The first in the series ended last night with one of four challengers being hailed as “the voice,” in addition to walking away with $100,000 and a recording contract.

Trust me when I say, I knew very few, if any, of the songs that were sung throughout the course of the competition. Every once-in-awhile I recognized a piece of something from having heard it on my car radio, as I ran errands. Fortunately I love music with a beat, or tunes that have heart. I can be-bop to almost anything. I love singing; I love dancing.

Christina Aguilera performing during the Sanre...

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Of the 4 judges, who also coached the challengers, I’d only heard of Christina Aguilera. And it was only recently when I saw her starring with Cher in a film, that I became a huge fan of the blonde songstress. She is one amazing vocalist! But as I tuned in faithfully to watch The Voice each week, I became a huge fan of Blake Shelton, country crooner, and Adam Levine, pop rocker, who served on the panel with Aguilera. I’m still not familiar with Shelton’s songs, can only recognize a couple by Levine, and am well acquainted with only one by Aguilera, Beautiful.” Knowing who they are now, still doesn’t give me entree… into this generation. But at least I can step up to the peep hole and be a “peeping tom” into what makes the young folk tick.

Adam Levine from Maroon 5

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Adding to my credibility as an honorary member of this generation, is the fact that I’m the one who got my 25-year-old, professional dancer daughter hooked on The Voice. Like me she really wasn’t committed to watching any of the other talent shows. But The Voice definitely persuaded us to delay our phone conversations until we’d both watched it in our own time zones. Now that’s saying something!

I heartily encourage seniors and anyone wanting to “get with it” to watch the next season of The Voice. By the way, the talent crosses all generations. One of the TV audience favorites was a 42-year-old, bald, Lesbian, with tatoos, who got the studio audience on their feet, moving to her powerhouse vocals. Beverly McLellan could belt it out with the best of them. She was one of my favorites.

Blake Shelton - 1

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While I liked many of the singers, my favorite was Dia Frampton. Coached by Blake Shelton, she succeeded in coming into her own as a performer, right before our eyes. Though still shy and exceedingly humble, Dia showed her creative genius for songwriting, versatility at playing the piano and guitar, and exquisitely different tonal quality which ranged from barely audible and raspy, to scintillatingly explosive. It didn’t hurt that she was Miss U.S.A. caliber either. While she wasn’t voted the winner by America, Dia wasn’t far behind. Only 2% separated her from Javier Colon, the guy who already had “the voice,” even before he joined the show.

I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that Javier should’ve walked away with
the grand prize. Evidently he’d had a couple of non-starters at a musical career. With the unfailing love and support of his wife and 2 young daughters, as well as other family members, Javier continued to search for his breakthrough moment. Luckily for him, and for music afficionados, he found his way to The Voice, and a win he very much deserved.

Dia Frampton

Following YouTube videos are of Dia Frampton singing “Heartless,” Dia and Blake Shelton singing I Won’t Back Down,” and Javier Colon singing “Stitch by Stitch.” Hopefully these videos will convince you to tune into season two of “The Voice.”

…celebrating the voices…of this generation…hugmamma.

 

the last word…diana

President and Mrs Bush greet TRH The Prince of...

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Am almost done reading Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It really does seem to be the definitive last word, with contributions from previously unheard sources. Now that Diana, the Princess of Wales, is no longer at the center of the maelstrom that had become her life, and Prince Charles and Camilla have moved on together into older age, and Prince William has married his Kate, those “in the know” are inclined to come forward with the truth, as they witnessed it.

“The definitive biography of the Princess of Wales. In this authoritative account, Bradford paints a revealing, accurate portrait of a complex woman flawed and adored in equal measure.” —Daily Telegraph

“A very sad story. Bradford tells it eloquently, but it’s her admirable detachment that leaves one pitying all, not one, of the characters involved.” —Antonia Fraser, The Guardian Review

“Forget about tawdry revelations–Bradford takes us to the heart of the People’s Princess, examining her relationships with her staff, friends and family as well as her children, husband, lovers and the royal family. Authoritative and admirably balanced, it draws on new sources and firsthand accounts.” –Tatler

Minefield warning on the Golan Heights, still ...

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I won’t rehash the past, I’ll leave that to your potential to purchase the book, but I did want to call attention to the last charitable cause Diana undertook, which no individual seems desirous of undertaking in the wake of her untimely death years ago. And that is the detonation or better, extinction, of land mines. While those who sought to undermine the Princess of Wales would’ve labeled her a “basket case” or a “nut job” for walking through fields which had been cleared of landmines, there are those who would beg to differ.

According to William Deedes, a traveling companion on Diana’s landmine research trips to Angola and Bosnia

she sought to address herself to various issues in the world which were being neglected. There were millions of them (landmines) scattered round the world. They lurked wherever there had been conflict. A few charitable organisations were engaged in locating and lifting them, but it was discouraging as well as dangerous work because more mines were being constantly laid in the wars bedevilling Africa. The manufacturers of these mines represented a huge vested interest, which reduced the chances…of an international ban…defence forces in Britain, America and much of Europe saw the mines, properly laid and charted, as legitimate means of defence…

…’Nobody took a blind bit of interest in landmines until she (Diana) came along,’…

Deedes went on to say that the journalists who accompanied Diana on these trips were accustomed to “royal visits in daintier surroundings than Angola” and were, therefore, ” ‘dismayed’ by the state of the capital, Luanda, with stinking rubbish piled high in the hot streets.

 Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, a young, veteran war reporter cynical of Diana’s efforts there, had a change of heart after witnessing her work firsthand. “She was impressed: despite the heat and the smells Diana had come to work and work she did. Angola, said Lamb, was one of the few remaining places in the world where most people had no idea who she was, and therefore it was all the more remarkable to see the effect she had on the amputees she went among. ‘The Red Cross whisked us from one hospital to the next,’ Lamb wrote,…”

Nelson Mandela.

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each with ever more horrific scenes of skeletal figures with missing arms, missing legs, and blown off heads–victims of some of the 16m landmines scattered round the country. Many of the injuries were so gruesome I could not bear to look, despite years of Third World reporting. But Diana never turned her head away. Instead, she had something I’d only ever seen before in Nelson Mandela–a kind of aura that made people want to be with her, and a completely natural, straight-from-the-heart sense of how to bring hope to those who seemed to us to have little to live for.

Her cynicism ” ‘wiped out’,” Lamb went on to say ” ‘That Lady-with-the-Lamp performance wasn’t just for the cameras,’ “

Once, at a hospital in Huambo when the photographers had all flown back to their air-conditioned hotels to wire their pictures, I watched Diana, unaware that any journalists were still present, sit and hold the hand of Helena Ussova, a seven-year-old who’d had her intestines blown to pieces by a mine. For what seemed an age the pair just sat, no words needed. When Diana finally left, the young girl struggled through her pain to ask me if the beautiful lady was an angel…At the end of the Angola trip Diana said that the lasting image she’d take away was of that terribly ill young girl.

Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute

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…one for the ages…diana…the people’s princess…hugmamma.

 

 

getting my mojo back…with love letters

It doesn’t take long to settle into the rut that is my life. I say that with my usual tongue-in-cheek humor. But after the last few weeks of unexpected twists and turns, I’m glad to be doing the same old, same old. There’s comfort and bountiful pleasure in just being able to muddle along…contentedly. Small things mean a lot at this stage of my life.

Cover of

Cover of Elvis in the Twilight of Memory

Half-Price Books at Crossroads Mall is where my eyeballs become the size of saucers. You know, cups and saucers. The biography section being my favorite. It’s always inevitable that a title or two or three will beckon me to buy, and I usually do. Books about celebs from the Golden Age of Hollywood, or singers whose songs got my foot tapping or my heart beating, or historical figures who let their guard down, always get my attention. Skimming the jacket covers I decide if, in fact, they’re worth my time and money. The titles I brought home tonight? Herbert G. Goldman’s Fanny Brice – The Original Funny Girl, Paul Alexander’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams – The Life, Times, and legend of James Dean, Elvis – in the twilight of memory by teenage girlfriend June Juanico, The Bluebird Cafe Scrapbook – Music & Memories from Nashville’s Legendary Singer-Songwriter Showcase edited by Amy Kurland, Mark Benner & Neil Fagan, and I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

If you’re a regular to hugmamma’s mind, body and soul, you already know you’ll probably be reading a review of one or more of the above-mentioned books. But the one that most impressed me tonight was the slim paperback containing Reagan’s love letters to his wife, Nancy.

Unlike most of America it seems, I was more enthralled with Ronald Reagan the actor than Ronald Reagan the president. Not that I didn’t think he was fine, but after all he was a Republican, not necessarily my brand of politician, although I might’ve voted for him. Neither was I a huge fan of Nancy Davis, preferring Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Reagan. But all this is ancient history, as they say. What was obvious then, and now, is how devoted the Reagans were to one another. That’s why I was intrigued by the book of letters. Following are 3 of the many contained therein.

July 13 (1954)…a.m.

My Darling
     The first day of shooting and like all first days I can’t tell you good bad or indifferent. Everything is hectic and upset what with the truck caravan arriving from L.A. in the dark last night. Most of the morning was spent getting the trucks unloaded and the equipment straightened out. Ben. B. is on hand so things can really get buggered up. I think Alan D. is trying to get some of the story holes plugged and this morning changed one scene “a la” a suggestion from “guess who.” However, our opposition is B.B. himself so I only whisper in an off-ear and let them fight it out. So far “Lady S.” is no help–taking the attitude of “who cares in these kinds of pictures.”
     However there is one golden glow warming my soul in this first sunset–I’m twenty-four hours closer to you. Last night was another one of those nights–just too beautiful to stand. So tonight I’ll probably be looking at the Moon which means I’ll be looking at you–literally and figuratively because it lays far to the South of this mountain top and that’s where you are. That takes care of the “literal” part–the “figurative” part requires no direction, I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.
     Please be careful and don’t get too good at covering your own shoulder at night–I’d miss doing it. Be careful in every other way too–nothing would have meaning without you.
     Now if two “Muffins” I know will exchange a kiss for me–my good night will have been said.

I love you
Ronnie

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952

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Feb. 14 (1960)

Darling Mommie Poo
     Feb. 14 may be the date they observe and call Valentine’s Day but that is for people of only ordinary luck.
     I happen to have a “Valentine Life” which started on March 4 1952 and will continue as long as I have you.
     Therefore realizing the importance of this to me, will you be my Valentine from now on and for ever and ever? You see my choice is limited, a Valentine Life or no life because I love you very much.

Poppa

According to Nancy Reagan “The assassination attempt made us realize how very precious our lives were. It made us all the more devoted to each other. I think this comes through very strongly in Ronnie’s Christmas letter of 1981, written nine months after the shooting.”

The White House
Washington

Dec. 25 1981

Nancy Reagan says her last goodbyes to the pre...

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Mrs. Reagan 2

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Dear Mrs. R.
     I still don’t feel right about your opening an envelope instead of a gift package.
     There are several much beloved women in my life and on Christmas I should be giving them gold, precious stones, perfume, furs and lace. I know that even the best of these would still fall far short of expressing how much these several women mean to me and how empty my life would be without them.
     There is of course my “First Lady.” She brings so much grace and charm to whatever she does that even stuffy, formal functions sparkle and turn into fun times. Everything is done with class. All I have to do is wash up and show up.
     There is another woman in my life who does things I don’t always get to see but I hear about them and sometimes see photos of her doing them. She takes an abandoned child in her arms on a hospital visit. The look on her face only the Madonna could match. The look on the child’s face is one of adoration. I know because I adore her too.
     She bends over a wheelchair or bed to touch an elderly invalid with tenderness and compassion just as she fills my life with warmth and love.
     There is another gal I love who is a nest builder. If she were stuck three days in a hotel room she’d manage to make it home sweet home. She moves things around–looks at it–straightens this and that and you wonder why it wasn’t that way in the first place.
     I’m also crazy about the girl who goes to the ranch with me. If we’re tidying up the woods she’s a peewee power house at pushing over dead trees. She’s a wonderful person to sit by the fire with, or to ride with or just to be with when the sun goes down or the stars come out. If she ever stopped going to the ranch I’d stop too because I’d see her in every beauty spot there is and I couldn’t stand that.
     Then there is a sentimental lady I love whose eyes fill up so easily. On the other hand she loves to laugh and her laugh is like tinkling bells. I hear those bells and feel good all over even if I tell a joke she’s heard before.
     Fortunately all these women in my life are you–fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you. Browning asked; “How do I love thee–let me count the ways?” For me there is no way to count. I love the whole gang of you–Mommie, first lady, the sentimental you, the fun you and the peewee power house you.
     And oh yes, one other very special you–the little girl who takes a “nana” to bed in case she gets hungry in the night. I couldn’t & don’t sleep well if she isn’t there–so please always be there.

     Merry Christmas you all–with all my love.

Lucky me.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

 I Love You, Ronnie should be required reading for men and boys everywhere. Maybe then both sexes would be from the same planet…Venus. Now I “get” the passion between Nancy and her Ronnie. Perhaps if this book had been published at the time he was president, onlookers wouldn’t have been so disparaging of her. But then again the naysayers would have probably faulted her for self-promotion had she made the letters known back then. Or worse, the couple might’ve been ridiculed for being more absorbed with one another than they were already viewed as being. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad Nancy Reagan gave us a peek inside her love affair with Ronald Reagan.

…always room for one more pair of star-crossed lovers…another Romeo and his Juliet…hugmamma.

in the aftermath…#4

6 World Trade Center

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This, the final post in the series, speaks directly to how Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda came to undermine their own efforts in waging war against America. They like others who use their own people as pawns to acquire what they desire, at any expense, proverbially “shot themselves in the foot” and “cut off their noses to spite their faces.” How is it that many with power feel they can forever hold an axe to their victims’ necks, without realizing the possibility, however slim, that the axe will ricochet cutting off the head of the one wielding it? I think working at long-term compromise to satisfy everyone’s needs is truly better for everyone’s health, welfare… and survival. Easier said than done…but worth a try. Better than the alternative…don’t you think? 

The Slaughter That Muslims Could Not Ignore
by Reuel Marc Gerecht

Like all fundamentalists, Osama bin Laden was attuned to the past. When his speeches weren’t about the economic decline of America, they recalled Islam’s classical age, especially the rise of the Prophet Muhammad through the Rashidun (“rightly-guided”) period, which ended in 661.

Bin Laden saw himself as an Islamic Martin Luther: a protestant who was willing to go to war with the Muslim world‘s Westernized, U.S.-aided kings and presidents-for-life. He hoped to arouse, by the strength of his example, a global movement that would drive the U.S., the cutting edge of the West, out of the Muslim world. Showing American feebleness would bring the inevitable collapse of the unrighteous and the restoration of a more virtuous age.

He sustained himself for so long in the Middle East and Central Asia because lots of Muslims–especially in powerful places in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan–were sympathetic to his cause. For a time, he tapped into an angry, shameful intellectual current among Muslims, who after World War II were increasingly immiserated by their ever more lawless rulers. 

The Westernized police-states (Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) and the corrupt “Playboy” monarchies (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Jordan and Morocco) all became breeding grounds for violent fundamentalism. And even among most Muslims, who did not drink deeply of this creed, the spiritual depression and conspiracy-mongering of these societies made bin Laden an admired celebrity, if not a hero, since he at least scared and hurt the all-powerful United States and openly belittled the detested autocrats.

Muhammad: The Last Prophet

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Historically, Islamic societies have had a fairly high tolerance for the use of violence for a just cause. Bin Laden knew well the line of thought that sees rebellion against unjust rulers as a moral obligation. This was a defining theme of early Islamic history, when Muslims as a community wrestled with what constituted legitimate authority after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Among the Arabs, Princeton’s Michael Cook has written, “political and military participation were very widely spread, far more so than in the mainstream of human societies–whether those of the steppe nomads, the later Islamic world, or the modern West. It was the fusion of this egalitarian and activist tribal ethos with the monotheist tradition that gave Islam its distinctive political character. In no other civilization was rebellion for conscience sake so widespread as it was in the early centuries of Islamic history; no other major religious tradition has lent itself to revival as a political ideology–and not just a political identity–in the modern world.”

Twin Towers, New York

Image by Guillaume Cattiaux via Flickr

Bin Laden, who believed that only the most virtuous had the right to rule over the community, was undone by his love of violence. He pushed it too far: Slaughtering innocent Africans in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 was tolerable since the targets were American embassies (and black Muslim Africans were too far from the Arab world to compel a scathing moral critique). Killing American sailors on the USS Cole in the port of Aden was praiseworthy since no modern Muslim power had ever so humbled an American man-of-war. And destroying the Twin Towers and punching a hole in the Pentagon was just astonishing.

But then came the slaughter that could not be ignored, as al Qaeda affiliates started killing in Muslim lands. The suicide bombers who hit Casablanca in 2003 and Amman in 2005 made an impact. But the war in Iraq was bin Laden’s great moral undoing.

Iraq was supposed to be where al Qaeda and other “good Muslims” broke the American back. Instead the carnage there, carried in all its gore by Arabic satellite channels, produced a backlash. There was a limit to the number of Shiite women and children that Sunni Arabs could see murdered. Blowing up hospitals, mosques and shrines–even Shiite ones–became too ghastly to sublimate into an acceptable war against the Americans.

Al Qaeda had helped to provoke one of the worst bloodlettings in contemporary Arab history. Voices within Islam began to rise against its ruthlessness. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s intellectual, knew that his kind had gone too far but there was little that he or bin Laden could do once the jihadist beast had been let loose.

In Iraq, al Qaeda effectively became a takfiri movement: Holy warriors “legitimately” slaughtered other Muslims because they deemed them no longer Muslim but kuffar, infidels, who may be killed in conflict. Bloody takfiri movements can outlast one inspirational leader, but they never win.

It’s entirely possible that if the Taliban win in Afghanistan, al Qaeda could get a new lease on life. The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban movements have absorbed much of the ideology that ignited al Qaeda in the early 1990s. The operational support–free passage and refuge–that Iran gave to al Qaeda before and after 9/11 is probably still there if al Qaeda can organize itself into an effective strike force, especially against Saudi Arabia. And Zawahiri has long been Tehran’s favorite Sunni holy warrior. He certainly has the ability and perhaps the means to maintain al Qaeda’s global networks.

Libyan community protest in Dublin (3)

Image by Tom Szustek via Flickr

But networks must be nourished. If this spring’s great Arab Revolt continues–if the brutalized societies of the Middle East can establish more lawful, representative governments, if their ethics can recover from the years of powerlessness, shame and conspiracy–then al Qaeda will surely lose its future among the Arabs.

It may raise its head now and then. If it could get its hands on the right type of weapons and the deranged young men to use them, it could still kill on an impressive scale. But the group will most likely wither, perhaps rapidly, as Sunni Arabs construct a moral universe in which militants cn no longer compellingly call upon Islamic history to justify rebellion. Bin Laden understandably loathed democracy: It’s the end of the political and ethical order where his world makes sense.

(Mr. Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is the author of “The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East”-Hoover, 2011.)

freedom of speech…my voice

I began my blog because just like everyone I’m entitled to my own opinions. They’re not carved in stone, but they support my core values. We all seek to align our voices with those similar to ours, that’s only natural. When we absorb others’ opinions, we embrace those from whom they originate, whether in toto or in part. Our own experiences help to determine, consciously or unconsciously, the paths we take in life. Those of us fortunate to live in America have the constitutional right of freedom of speech. So we can give voice to our opinions and beliefs.

It’s obvious that I have found several voices which I felt offered valuable information in the endless discussion that swirls around the demise of Osama bin Laden. Hence my posts “in the aftermath…#1 through #4 (soon to be published). A couple of comments have been left which I always welcome, whether they align with my thoughts or not. I learned early on that good blogging etiquette required I respond to each and every comment left, and so I do, willingly. I wanted to reprint two such comments as a post which I recently left in answer to a couple left on the “aftermath” posts. I wanted to reiterate who it is I am as the author of “hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.”

My first comment:

I’m certain no person with a modicum of intelligence imagines that Osama bin Laden’s death means paradise on earth from here on out. But as with Hitler and other satanic evils before and after, bin Laden himself has exited the scene. But just as with Hitler, bin Laden’s ramifications in the franchisees which have been spun off will linger, probably forever. And again as with Hitler, we can still celebrate the moment of bin Laden’s passing from this world into the fiery one he so richly deserves. Hitler needed to be “taken out,” and it was done in a full-blown World War. Lucky for the world, we did not need another to demolish bin Laden.

With bin Laden gone, I’m hopeful, as are millions of Arabs, not only in the Middle East, but certainly globally, that they can finally determine the course of their own lives rather than be the pawns of self-serving men who set themselves up as autocrats. People the world over go about their business the best they know how, I think, given the circumstances, physically and economically, in which they find themselves. Not everyone was fortunate to land in the United States of America where freedom of speech, and a right to happiness is guaranteed by the Constitution. And yet, even with those guarantees, there are no guarantees. Even Americans must eke out their lives the best they can.

I’m of the mind that we’re all of this earth, so we’re all in this together, Arabs and non-Arabs, whether we like it or not. With industrialization and technology, we cannot climb back into the wombs from whence we came hoping that will spare us dealing with people and places in which we have no personal interest or concern. We are earthlings before we are Americans, and as such are already connected to non-Americans.

I’m always hoping for the best for ALL of us who inhabit earth…a little naive, perhaps…but I feel good waking up with that thought, and laying my head back down upon my pillow at night with that thought. That’s probably why I’m still a practicing Catholic. The nuns’ teachings still resonate in that I can be a vessel for good, from which others might drink. That’s what Jesus was about while on earth. We all choose what we are about.

mine is to be a positive-sayer…rather than a naysayer…hugmamma. :)

My second comment:

Whatever took place in the heat of the discussion, a very important, history-making decision had to be made. In the end, Obama had to make it because the consequences would fall upon his head. If the mission failed, he would have been lambasted the world over, not to mention how monstrously he would be pilloried in America. The remainder of his days as president would be worse than the almost 3 years he has experienced thus far. So, it seems, the man can’t do right even when he does right. But that’s the way of mankind…to find fault. Heck, even the media is on board with that.

we’re all free to exercise our freedom of speech…i do it by blogging…and others, like yourself, are more than welcome to express yours on my blog, Ed…hugmamma. ;)

in the aftermath…#3

The following is from the perspective of an American Muslim, someone who straddles 2 worlds, seemingly able to opine both sides of the argument. It’s an opinion I’d not really come across before, and thought it worth sharing. The author imparts “insider” information which helped me to understand a little better how his countrymen think. I fear we Americans often fail to accept that citizens of other cultures might have differing world views which are as valid as our own. Then again I think most people tend to see things one way…their own. That’s human nature, unfortunately. This need not be carved in stone, however, if we keep an open mind.

Osama Bin Laden, Weak Horse
by Fouad Ajami

The trail had grown cold, but the case for justice had never gone away. Osama bin Laden had warred against the United States, he had called on every Muslim “by God’s will to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can.” He had erased the boundary in the laws of war between combatants and civilians, and he had set out the case that the age-old ailments of a deeply troubled Islamic civilization could be laid at America’s doorstep.

He and his top lieutenant and partner, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, had made sure that America would be caught in the crosshairs of a deadly civil war between their foot soldiers of terror and the Arab regimes in the saddle. The “near enemy” they dubbed the incumbents in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. The “far enemy” was the name they gave the U.S. It was halal, it was permissible, to war against the far enemy, to exploit its freedoms, in a campaign of vengeance against these regimes and the Pax Americans said to sustain them.

There was plenty of victimhood and rage in Arab and Muslim life, and this man of checkered background–Saudi citizenship, Yemeni ancestry on his father’s side, a Syrian mother–found his themes as he went along. There was his mastery of lyrical Arabic, and it played to the gullible. There was the legend on offer of the man born to wealth but giving it all up in pursuit of a holy cause. In his run, his decade if you will, Arab political and cultural life was a scorched earth–terrible, plundering regimes, disaffected and sullen populations trapped in no-man’s land, the absence of any hope of economic and political improvement. Some 300 million or so Arabs seemed cut off from history’s progress.

Bin Laden and Zawahiri had little to offer that world, but what they presented, it must be conceded, had its appeals. There were media spectaculars, attacks against American embassies and battleships and military housing compounds. There was the sheer satisfaction of seeing the mighty get their comeuppance.

From perfectly educated and otherwise normal folks in Arab and Muslim cities could be heard echoes of bin Laden’s sentiments, sly insinuations that the man was an avenger for the slights suffered by Arabs and Muslims in modern life. For a perilous moment, when Osama bin Laden held spellbound the audience of the television channel Al Jazeera, there was a rancid wind at play in Islamic lands. Even with the terror of 9/11, when soot and ruin hit American soil, there could be seen that deadly mix of moral indifference and satisfaction in Arab Muslim places. Bin Laden had sold a cult of power. When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse, he had famously opined.

But American power held steady in the Islamic world. We did not cede that vast region to the jihadists and their enablers. We were not brilliant in every campaign. We did not fully know our enemies and their cunning. We were not always at home in the tricks of the dictators and the hustlers in that vast arc of trouble in the Greater Middle East, but we held the line when it truly mattered.

State of Al Qaeda in Iraq

Image via Wikipedia

In Afghanistan and Iraq we fought back, we even put on the ground–in the face of all kind of obstacles–a reasonably successful democratic experiment in Iraq. Bin Laden and his ilk (not to mention some neighboring powers) had done their best to thwart the Iraqi project, but the experiment had survived. And al Qaeda was to be rebuffed in Iraq by the very Sunnis it had presumably come to rescue. Bin Laden’s bet had failed: There would be no hasty American retreats a la Beirut and Mogadishu. We had awakened to the connection between Arab pathologies and our own security here at home.

In the decade that separates us from 9/11, the bin Laden legend dimmed. The tapes he sent were “proof of life” and little else. Arabs began to reconsider their place in the world, and that grotesque disfiguring of a religious tradition, the cult of martyrdom, lost its luster. There was no way back to the Islamic caliphate.

It was bin Laden’s deserved fate to be struck down when an entirely different Arab world was struggling to be born. The Arab Spring is a repudiation of everything Osama bin Laden preached and stood for. If al Qaeda found an appropriate burial ground, the place must be Midan al-Tahrir, Liberation Square, in Cairo. Of all Arab lands, Egypt is the biggest, the most culturally evolved polity, the one with perhaps the most acute economic and demographic crisis. This was Zawahiri’s birthplace and a special target of the jihadists–claim this realm and you will have upended the entire balance in the region.

Yet no one in Liberation Square paid heed to bin Laden and Zawahiri, no one chanted “Death to America.” They had, in their own peaceful way, settled their account with the dictator and signaled their desire for a free, modern society. The drums of anti-Americanism, steady during the Mubarak years, came to a halt.

Men and women came together to bid for a New Egypt, to reclaim their country. No gaze was fixed on the Hindu Kush guessing as to the whereabouts of the remnants of al Qaeda fighters and their wives and children. To the extent that ideologies could be dead and over with, the ideological challenge of al Qaeda is a spent force. “Affiliates” of al Qaeda will survive in Yemen and North Africa, but they will be a nuisance, a matter for police and security services.

The Syrian Revolution 2011 الثورة السورية ضد ب...

Image by Kurdistan KURD كوردستان كردستان ا via Flickr

The Arab Spring has simply overwhelmed the world of the jihadists. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, younger people–hurled into politics by the economic and political failures all around them–are attempting to create a new political framework, to see if a way could be found out of the wreckage that the authoritarian states have bequeathed them. It is a risky thing to say, but Arabs appear to have wearied of violence. I hazard to guess bin Laden’s fate was of no interest to the people in the sorrowful town of Deraa enduring the cruelty of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his death squads.

al-qaeda territory

Image by chrisdebruyn via Flickr

When our remarkable soldiers gave him a choice, Osama bin Laden gave them a fight. Fittingly, he was not in a cave. He had grown up in the urban world of Jeddah, and he was struck down in a perfectly urban setting, a stone’s throw from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in odd proximity to a military academy, in a visible and large compound. He had outlived his time and use, and doubtless Pakistani intelligence was now willing to cast him adrift.

A savvy American official once observed that Pakistani’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, must have an “office of hedging your bets.” A generation ago, South Asia made room for the Saudi plotter and financier. He had money, and the aura of the Arabian Peninsula, the land of Islamic revelation. Now all that was of the past.

(Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is co-chair of the Hoover Working Group on Islamism and the International Order. …Wall Street Journal, 5/3/11)

in the aftermath…#2

Following is the second in a series of opinions reacting to Osama bin Laden’s death, which I am sharing.

Bin Laden’s Last Challenge–to Republicans
by William McGurn

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...

Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

In life, Osama bin Laden‘s ability to elude capture for almost a decade after 9/11 challenged the American claim that no enemy is beyond her reach. In death, the al Qaeda terrorist now presents a new challenge, mostly to Republicans hoping to run in 2012. The message is this: You better have a coherent foreign policy to go along with your fiscal agenda.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is looking strong. For the moment, at least, he is strong. In the nearly 10 years since our troops set foot in Afghanistan, a clear outcome remains far from sight, and many Americans have wearied of the effort. As President Obama reminded us Sunday night, getting bin Laden doesn’t mean our work there is done–but his success in bringing the world’s most hunted man to justice does reinvigorate that work.

It does so, moreover, in a way that few of Mr. Obama’s recent Democratic predecessors in the Oval Office have matched. The killing of bin Laden was no one-shot missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory suspected of making chemical weapons, as ordered by Bill Clinton. Nor was it a failed hostage rescue in Iran a la Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was a potent combination of American force and presidential decisiveness.

SEALs in from the water.

Image via Wikipedia

First, Mr. Obama authorized a ground operation with Navy Seals far inside Pakistani territory. Second, he did not inform the Pakistanis.

These are the kinds of hard decisions that presidents have to make, where the outcome is likely to be either spectacular success or equally spectacular failure. For taking the risks that would paralyze others, and for succeeding where others have failed, the president and his team have earned the credit they are now getting.

Yes, in the days to come we may learn that the real story is a little more complicated than the one Mr. Obama gave us Sunday night. Did enhanced interrogation play a role in generating vital intelligence? And about that order to the CIA to get bin Laden: Wasn’t that a modification of an order given by George W. Bush after 9/11?

Nevertheless, in going after and getting bin Laden as forcefully as he did, Mr. Obama has just undermined one of the primary narratives against him–that of an indecisive president who worries more about the rights of our enemies than the freedom and safety of our citizens. If Mr. Obama ends up toppling Moammar Gadhafi too, he will look even stronger.

In fact, even weaker policies–e.g., cutting defense, pulling out from Afghanistan, might now be argued from a position of strength: “I said I would get us out of Iraq, and I did–and Iraq is stronger. I said I would prosecute our real enemies in Afghanistan, and I did–and we got bin Laden. It is true that I am reluctant to commit America to overseas conflicts. But when we are engaged I will finish the job.”

Do Republican candidates even have an answer? Apart from Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, few Republicans even talk about foreign policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably comes closest to offering a coherent vision, having come out for a robust foreign policy that backs up our friends and takes on our enemies without apology.

Within the GOP, however, there remains a strain that is deeply suspicious of U.S. involvement overseas, especially since the end of the Cold War. The irrepressible Ron Paul, of course, has been most explicit. Before announcing he wouldn’t run in the GOP presidential primaries, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sounded a similar note when he complained about trying to turn Afghanistan into Ireland and suggested we start shrinking our troop presence there.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

As for the rest, the former governors from last time around (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) seem to be hedging their bets. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served under President Bush, but he would hardly be confused for an advocate of any freedom agenda. For the most part, the Republican hope appears to be that eight-plus-percent unemployment along with six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will be enough to defeat Barack Obama.

They may be right. Certainly one forceful strike is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be re-elected, much less that he will follow-up with other muscular acts. But it does make the argument against him weaker. Up to now, Republican candidates seem to have believed they had been gifted with the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

President Obama makes surprise visit to Bagram...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

If Republicans are smart they will recognize that this meme took a big hit when a Navy Seal put a bullet in bin Laden’s head. Along with his decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president now has the opportunity to present himself in a way few Democrats ever have: as more hard-nosed about protecting the American people from foreign threats than his Republican opponents.

(Write to MainStreet@wsj.com)

in the aftermath…#1

President Obama confirms death of Osama bin Laden

Just as the media was rife with coverage of the royal wedding, so now the spinmeisters are  squeezing every last bit of life out of the latest news, Osama bin Laden’s demise. All the details have been revealed and recycled ad nauseum. So too have the endless probing questions put forth by the journalists. It’s made me realize that they’re just doing their jobs, as we all are, prince and princesses, presidents, housewives, reporters. So rather than regurgitate the known facts, I prefer to share some insightful opinions from different perspectives.

Obama’s Finest Hour
by Bret Stephens

There was only one discordant note in Barack Obama’s otherwise masterly speech Sunday night announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden. It came when the president invoked the word “justice” to describe what had just been done to the architect of 9/11.

It wasn’t quite the word he was looking for. But actions speak louder than words.

Justice as we in the West have come to know it, requires due process. It takes place in a courtroom under the supervision of a judge. Prosecutors must prove their case; defendants are entitled to a competent defense; rules of evidence and procedure must scrupulously be followed. A jury must render its verdict. Punishment can be neither cruel nor unusual.

Khalid_Sheikh_Mohammed

Image via Wikipedia

This is the sort of justice the hapless Attorney General Eric Holder had in mind when he sought to have bin Laden’s operational lieutenant, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, tried in a civilian Manhattan courthouse. The people of New York City revolted. KSM will now get better than he deserves in a military tribunal.

As for bin Laden, what was meted out to him was vengeance. Vengeance pure and simple, sweet and sound. Vengeance cathartic, uplifting, necessary and right. Got a problem with that?

I don’t. Nor did the people who poured into the streets Sunday night to cheer outside the White House, or the crowd I saw Monday morning as I walked the perimeter of Ground Zero.

“Why does everyone root for the avenger in feature films?” asks my friend Thane Rosenbaum, who teaches law at Fordham and is writing a book about revenge. “Is it because people are immoral in the dark, or is it because we all realize that the avenger’s quest and duty is righteous and true?”

Thane’s point isn’t that vengeance is better than justice. It’s that there can be no true justice without vengeance. Oddly enough, this is something Barack Obama, Chicago liberal, seems to better grasp than George W. Bush, Texas cowboy.

The former president was fond of dilating on the point, as he put it just after 9/11, that “ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice.” What on Earth did that mean? Of course we sought revenge. “Ridding the world of evil,” Mr. Bush’s other oft-stated ambition, was nonsense if we didn’t make a credible go of ridding the world of the very specific evil named Osama bin Laden.

For all of Mr. Bush’s successes–and yes, there were a few, including the vengeance served that other specific evil known as Saddam Hussein and those Gitmo interrogations that yielded bin Laden’s location–you can trace the decline of his presidency from the moment he said, in March 2002, that “I really don’t care (where bin Laden is). It’s not that important.

Outside of White House after death of Osama bi...

Wrong. It was of the essence. Americans didn’t merely want to be secured against another attack–an achievement experienced only in the absence of fresh outrages and appreciated only in hindsight. Americans wanted vengeance. It’s what they had wanted after Pearl Harbor, too: what took the Marines up Mt. Suribach, the Rangers up Point du Hoc. Revenge is a glue that holds a fractious nation together in the service of a great and arduous cause.

Mr. Obama, for all his talk of justice, understands this. Or, in the education that is the presidency, he has come to understand it. Maybe it’s true, as his critics allege, that his steady focus on finding bin Laden was done for the sake of declaring victory in the war on terror so that he could start rolling up America’s commitments in Afghanistan. If this is his “Mission Accomplished” moment, he will come to regret it.

But I doubt Mr. Obama is that dumb. Nor is there any reason not to take him at his word when he said Sunday that bin Laden’s death “does not mark the end of our effort.” Osama is dead; his franchisees carry on. Count on a self-styled bin Laden Martyrs’ Brigade to take credit for whatever terrorist atrocity comes next.

But even if it does, it will lack the sinister potency of previous attacks. The air of mystery that sustained al Quaeda all the way through Sunday night has finally been laid bare, and it looks like an ugly house that can be located in seconds on Google Maps.

Here is something that Mr. Obama, more than most Western leaders, deeply understands: Symbolism matters. It matters that the ultimate symbol of Islamist rage did not wear a ring of invisibility. It matters that he was taken out not by a laser-guided bomb, but by American fighting men whose names we may someday know. It matters that the story of 9/11 has been brought full circle, even as the fight against terrorists carries on.

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s been a whiff of sour grapes in some of the right-wing commentary about the president’s speech. Too much emphasis on the first-person pronoun, not enough credit to President Bush, and so on. It’s unbecoming. If ever there was a doubt about just how American Mr. Obama is, Sunday’s raid eliminates it better than any long-form birth certificate. This was his finest hour. It’s for the rest of us, avenged at long last, to rejoice.

(Write to bstephens@wsj.com)

 

the “right” wing voice…which is it?

Stanley Armour Dunham, Ann Dunham, Maya Soetor...

Image via Wikipedia

Don’t usually reference Republican opinions on my blog. I think they’re more than entitled, that’s for sure. Let’s just say our way of thinking, theirs and mine, don’t usually run along the same lines. This once, however, I thought I’d share the opinion of Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, former leader of the Office of Strategic Initiatives in the George W. Bush administration.

The GOP and the Birther Trap

Thanks to Donald Trump–real-estate mogul, reality-TV star, and possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination–a fringe conspiracy theory is now front and center in American politics: the claim that President Barack Obama might not be a natural-born American citizen.

By focusing on Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, Mr. Trump has garnered a lot of attention and some support. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, among Republicans he is now tied with Mike Huckabee as the most popular prospective GOP presidential nominee. If responsible Republicans don’t speak out immediately against Mr. Trump’s gambit, it will do substantial damage both to their party and to American politics.

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

Image via Wikipedia

The Trump case goes like this: Mr. Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate, his grandmother has stated that he was born in Kenya, his family is fighting over which Hawaii hospital Mr. Obama was born in, and “nobody knew” Mr. Obama while he was growing up in Hawaii.

The problem is that Mr. Trump is wrong on every particular.

Many media outlets have shown that Mr. Obama has a certificate of live birth that includes an embossed seal, an official signature, and all the information necessary for proof of citizenship. The directors of Hawaii’s health department and its registrar of records have both verified that the information on Mr. Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s record. His certificate would be accepted by the State Department and any court in America. “In other words,” the conservative magazine National Review has written, “what President Obama has produced is the ‘real’ birth certificate of myth and lore.”

Stanley Ann Dunham

Image via Wikipedia

In addition, both the Honolulu Star and the Honolulu Advertiser published birth announcements just days after Mr. Obama’s birth. Mr. Trump speculates that Mr. Obama’s grandparents put the ads in the papers “because obviously they want (Mr. Obama) to be a United States citizen. ” That sounds like an odd strategy. No one disputes that Mr. Obama’s late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a U.S. citizen. She graduated from Mercer Island High School outside Seattle the year before she gave birth.

Yet people like Mr. Trump act like the president appeared out of nowhere. He ominously said, “I’ve seen too many things,” hinting that there is a massive conspiracy underway that is obscuring the truth. What he is trading in is nonsense.

The problem for Republicans is that some significant figures within the party are giving a wink and a nod to his efforts. Sarah Palin has said, “I believe (Mr. Obama) was born in Hawaii,” but in recent days she also said, “More power to (Mr. Trump). He’s not just throwing stones from the sidelines, he’s digging in, he’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.”  (Ms. Palin has refused journalists’ requests to explain where the $2 million figure comes from.)

Representative Michele Bachman (R., Minn.) has said that she takes the president at his word and doesn’t care about the issue. But she has added: “The president just has to give proof and verification, and there it goes”–even though proof and verification have already been given.

When prominent figures in a party play footsie with peddlers of paranoia, the party suffers an erosion of credibility. While certain corners of a party’s base might be energized by conspiracy theories, the majority of the electorate will be turned off by them. People are generally uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks.

There’s more than a partisan cost to all this. Mr. Trump is succumbing to a pernicious temptation in American politics: not simply to disagree with political opponents, but to try to delegitimize them. The argument isn’t simply that Mr. Obama is wrong on almost every public policy matter (which I believe he is). Rather, the argument is that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien.

President George W. Bush and President-elect B...

Image via Wikipedia

Something like this happened with Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who inspired such rage in some of his critics that they deemed his presidency illicit.

In self-governing societies, there have to be unwritten rules by which we abide. Among them is that we accept the outcome of elections and keep our public debates tethered to reality.

From time to time people emerge who violate these unwritten codes. They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.

(Wall Street Journal article)

2 wars, high unemployment, medicare overhaul, trillions in debt, nuclear disaster, unstable global economy, mid-east turmoil…

then there’s…obama’s birth certificate…

…hmmm…hugmamma.

 

artists, “children of god”

Dancer performing Fouetté en tournant. A dance...

Image via Wikipedia

Regular readers of my blog are aware that my daughter is a professional ballet dancer. It’s no secret that I’ve felt superstar athletes could do a good turn for their peers working in less financially advantageous careers, dancers being one such group. No NFL, NBA, or baseball player will deny that dancers are highly underrated athletes. Not too long ago, professional football players were taking ballet classes to supplement their training. Think “light on their feet,” and you’ll get the picture.

When 9-11 occurred, I silently gave thanks that my daughter had chosen to pursue a career in the arts. While not viewed as financially essential to the community at large, I think the arts represent the better side of human nature and, therefore, are necessary for civilization. Remove the arts, and we are no better than the beasts we confine in cages, or hunt down for our personal aggrandizement. Remove the arts, and we would be no better than the terrorists who killed Americans in blind obedience to their baser instincts, disguised as martyrs to their religious beliefs.

While those who do not partake of the arts might feel they reap no benefits from federal funding to the National Endowment of the Arts, I say think of it as an investment in our humanity. It’s a small price to pay that we remain more God-like, than that we return to crawling in the dirt like the serpent.

Dance, even ballet, is no longer a past time for the wealthy. As current reality TV shows demonstrate, the young, and not-so-young, are flocking to the dance floor and the stages. Joyfully, enthusiastically, they are overflowing with positive, creative juices as they strut their stuff. Many entertain the hope to one day dance professionally. I can tell you from my daughter’s experience, there is not the money to sustain such a workforce, unlike that which sustains billion dollar sports clubs, and 3 foreign wars.

ABT Principal dancer Xiomara Reyes, in a 2006 ...

Image via Wikipedia

One beautiful dancer, like my daughter, reminds me to be compassionionate, to be hopeful, to be humble, to be grateful, to be thoughtful, to be forgiving. While these are not winning entries in a mega-millions powerball lottery, these intangible gestures of good will are of immeasurable value in who we are as children of God.

So I disagree with Sarah Palin who decries the National Endowment for the Arts as “frivolous.” It’s more likely that the “bridge to nowhere” was superfluous, as admitted by Alaskans themselves. 

Sarah Palin trashes National Endowment for the Arts

Palin JUSTIN LANE EPA Television commentator and half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin trashed the National Endowment for the Arts recently, describing the agency as “frivolous” in a Thursday interview on a Fox News talk show.

“NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn’t be in the business of funding with tax dollars — those should all be on the chopping block as we talk about the $14-trillion debt that we’re going to hand to our kids and our grandkids,” Palin told right-wing host Sean Hannity. “Yes, those are the type of things that for more than one reason need to be cut.”

Palin did not elaborate on what the other reasons might be for chopping the NEA budget. But the government of every major civilization in world history has also prominently funded the arts.

The comment about the NEA came during a discussion of the ailing U.S. economy. Palin is certainly conversant with frivolous activity, but her grasp of the economy is weak.

Debt reduction would barely be affected by penciling out the small federal arts agency, which currently operates on a $161-million annual budget. Palin’s support of a federal subsidy for the notorious “bridge to nowhere” in her state became a campaign issue when she ran for vice president on the 2008 Republican ticket. That local project carried a price tag of $223 million.

“Reality is we have 15 million Americans who are out of work,” said Palin. Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry supports 5.7 million jobs and generates $166.2 billion in annual economic activity, according to Americans for the Arts. The NEA is one linchpin in that sizable economy.

In the interview Palin made no statement advocating similar budget cuts to her home state as she recommended for the NEA, which is also in the cross hairs of Washington’s Republican leadership. Palin’s Alaska gets $1.84 in federal spending for every dollar its citizens pay in federal taxes.

 

welcome news…from across the “pond”

The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometime in the 80’s my husband and I toured Paris. It amazes me to think back to how I called long distance, 2 or 3 times, and spoke with the hotel clerk, reserving a room for a couple of nights. There was no Expedia or Travelocity to compare rates and accomodation details, or even Trip Advisor to guide me through the myriad of pros and cons about an establishment. Chock it up to youth. I didn’t know better, so I plunged ahead, uncaring if the woman at the other end of the phone was rolling her eyes at my obvious lack of sophistication or inability to speak French.

Thank goodness the next time we venture back to the City of Light, the internet will pave the way. This time there’ll be 3 adults whose needs will have to be met, including one 25-year-old who’ll want to do as Cyndi Lauper wails in her song,”Girls just want to have fu-un!”

I’ll have to enlist my French blogging buddy, My English Thoughts, for some help there. Maybe she’ll drag my daughter along to some of Paris’ hot spots, after her elderly parents totter off to bed long before midnight.

I’m hoping when our family does make it back to France’s capital of haute couture and irrepressible charm, the Parisians will be as amenable to us as they were to the author of the following article. I’ve come to love Joe Queenan‘s irreverent sense of humor, which always seems to be “on point.” He publicly admits to things about which most of us probably “bite our tongues.” I guess he’s allowed to get away with it since he writes a column for the formidable Wall Street Journal.

Needless to say when I was in Paris decades ago, the French were as reserved as I’d heard they would be. They weren’t rude, but they weren’t falling all over themselves to be nice either. Being raised to be invisible, an Asian thing, my husband and I had no trouble blending into the background wherever we went . So we were most accommodating of the Parisians then-disdain for American tourists. Hopefully this time my old-age crankiness won’t get me, and the locals, into a battle of the wills, the ill-wills, that is. They’ll have no issues with my always-calm spouse and sweet-tempered off-spring. I’m both, unless I see an injustice about to happen. Then…get out of my way! This 5’2 senior will make you rue the day God gave you 2 ears to hear what spews forth like venom from a cobra!

Okay, well…now according to Queenan, I’ll have no need for any of that. I’ll just have a wonderful, heady touristy time in “gay Paree!”

French Twist: Meet Monsieur Nice Guy

 If you’re a seasoned inhospitality buff like me, the very worst has happened: The French have stopped being mean and surly.

I started to notice this two years ago when I spent two weeks in Paris, and an equally unexpected aura of congeniality was certainly evident when I visited southern France last fall. But now the restraining walls of condescension and nastiness have utterly collapsed and a wave of warmth and courtesy have flooded in. Sacre bleu.

Plaque rue mouffetard

Image via Wikipedia

During my four-day stay in Paris last month, waiters,Paris Cafe, Paris, France concierges, museum guards and even cabdrivers all treated me with jaw-dropping affability. The ticket-taker at the Pantheon did not scream at me when I asked where Emile Zola was buried. The woman in the chocolate shop did not sneer when I asked for directions to the Rue Mouffetard (it was directly around the corner.)

The garcon in the posh restaurant did not treat me like the prototypical Ugly American when I asked what a “cocotte” was. The clerk at my two-star hotel asked if I would like to use her computer to print out my boarding pass, and went out of her way to get the broken elevator fixed so that I wouldn’t have to climb three flights of stairs on my gimpy legs.

The Eiffel tower at sunrise, taken from the Pl...

Image via Wikipedia

Wherever I went–the Louvre and Orangerie, the Comedie Francaise, Honore de Balzac’s house, even the Eiffel Tower–everyone went our of their way to be charming and helpful. For a minute there I thought I was at Epcot.

What happened? What triggered this explosion of courtesy and warmth? Well, for starters, the recession, which would motivate even the most chauvinistic French to tone it down a notch when dealing with tourists. But France has had recessions before, and that never took the edge off those legendary brusque, haughty people.

No, my suspicion is that much of the coarseness and incivility toward foreigners–and particularly toward Americans–stemmed from embarrassment about having collaborated with the Nazis. Anti-americanism was practically an official state policy under Charles de Gaulle, but now the war is no longer an issue. Most of the World War II generation has died out and been replaced by young people who do not have a chip on their shoulder.

Street market in nearby Rue Mouffetard

Image via Wikipedia

Friendly young people. Helpful young people. I know this will come as a shock to those who have not visited France for a while, but the French are now friendlier than the Italians, than the Irish, than the girls who greet you at Hooters. This unanticipated onslaught of goodwill totally floored me.

As a globe-trotting malingerer, I have always enjoyed returning from a jaunt abroad with fresh support for popular American stereotypes about foreigners. Yes, Belgium really is boring. Yes, the Swedes really are laconic. Yes, the Scots really do like a dram or two.

But now these stereotypes are collapsing like wisps of straw. Though most Americans still associate England with bad food–fish and chips, bangers and mash–the truth is that dining out in London is now an absolute joy, with top-flight restaurants everywhere. You can get a good meal even in the provinces, which was certainly not the case before Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair dragged the U.K. into the modern world. So there goes another beloved, hoary stereotype.

As a world-class spoilsport and curmudgeon, I now have less and less anecdotal material to fall back on when I want to blast another society. Luckily, when last I checked, the Germans were still arrogant, the Italians were still incompetent, and the Canadians were still reliably unexciting.

Still, if I go to Berlin this fall and find out that the Germans are no longer bossy and overbearing, I’m going to throw in the towel and turn into an American who doesn’t overeat, overspend or take the first five minutes of every conversation trying to figure out how much everybody else in the room paid for their house. I’m warning you frogs, you Teutons, you Russkies: Two can play this game. Columnist's name

the guy makes me laugh…even though much of what he says is not meant to be funny…hugmamma.

“the ventures,” music link to japan

Classic lineup of the Ventures in Japan in 196...

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The Issaquah Press, a local newspaper, carried another “small story” with ties to Japan. This one has a unique twist. It tells of an American rock band from the 60s era that has had an enduring love affair with the people of Japan. “The Ventures, unlike perhaps any foreign musicians before enraptured Japan in the early 1960s and have remained popular in the decades since.” Member Don Wilson makes his home here on the eastside in the Sammamish Plateau. Japan’s largest public TV network requested that the musician extend a message of encouragement to the inhabitants of the island nation who continue to revere Wilson and the other band members.

Hawaii Five-O (1969)

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If you’ve no idea who The Ventures are, like yours truly, think the musical theme to Jack Lord’s “Hawaii Five-O,” and surf-rock anthems like “Pipeline” and “Walk, Don’t Run.”  Or other great numbers like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Tequila.” While their sound may have resonated sunny, southern California, the band originated here in Tacoma, Washington. Wilson’s home shelters “a Fort Knox of framed gold records,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame statuette bestowed upon the group in March 2008, and a medal from Japanese Emperor Akihito. The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, has been conferred on only a handful of foreigners. In June of last year The Ventures were honored with the decoration at the Japanese consulate in Seattle, and were cited for having contributed to the “development and enrichment” of the country’s music culture, as well as “fostering ‘cordial relations’ between Japan and the United States.”

An instrumental rock band, The Ventures reshaped Japan’s pop music scene. They succeeded in part because there was no language barrier to overcome.  Scoring 20 no. 1 hits, the group also outsold the Beatles for a time, “in the electric-guitar crazed nation.” But in the days before screaming audiences, the band encountered audiences unlike those in the U.S. “You could drop a pin and you could hear it–while we’re playing …After we played, it was an eruption of applause.” According to Wilson’s son, Tim, “Japanese fans ’embraced The Ventures like no other.’ ” 

“The band continues to tour in Japan each year, and usually sells out a 3,000-person venue in devastated Sendai. …’The band played in the city almost every year for the past half-century.’ ” according to Wilson. Having played in Japan last summer, they planned to return at the same time this year. Those plans are now on hold. In the meantime The Ventures will do a benefit concert here in the U.S. to assist disaster-relief efforts.

“I’ve been doing a lot of praying for those people,” Don Wilson said. “But, actually, those people are pretty resilient, amazingly so. They’re very compassionate to each other. You know how organized they were after the disaster, lining up for food and water and things like that.”

“It’s such a cliche to say, ‘Hang in there. You just have to get through it.’ And I’m sure they will,” he said. “I’ve never seen harder-working people in my life.” 

and here for your listening pleasure………………………………………..and mine

brings back great memories of island life………………………………..hugmamma.

street paper, off-the-beaten-track news

 

Uploaded by Real Change and owned by Real Chan...

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Picked up Seattle’s street paper, Real Change, from a vendor I’ve now seen for the second time outside the local Trader Joe’s supermarket. I’ll have to ask his name the next time; he’s very helpful, pushing empty carts back into their storage areas. He even came running as I dashed between the rain drops, taking the cart and returning it for me. 

A dollar per newspaper isn’t cheap by today’s standards, and I usually hand over $2 for one paper. I can’t help but feel it’s such a small price to pay to help another human being get by. But in addition to this feel good gesture, I look forward to finding “small stories” that are absent from mainstream media. To my pleasant surprise, Real Change ran an article about Hawaii and the white man’s role in its history.

Anyone who has read or heard anything substantive about Hawaii’s history, will probably  empathize with the natives who were out-maneuvered in terms of land wealth and self-governance. Unfortunately theirs is not a unique story; the Native Americans tell a similar one. Both have the same unhappy endings, although the Indians are making a tremendous comeback with their casinos.

But the romanticism of bygone days living off the land, taking only what was needed for sustenance, allowing Mother Earth to care for all species equally, was brought to an abrupt end. Buffalo were killed making way for trains, and the Indians were corralled onto Reservations, becoming the first recipients of government welfare.

Sarah Vowell signing books after a lecture at ...

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“Saying hello to the Aloha State‘s complicated history” is an interview with author Sarah Vowell. Guessing from the accompanying photo, she looks to be in her early 30’s. I was impressed to think someone her age was so attuned to the sad events that had transpired in my ancestral history. But when I learned that Vowell is part Cherokee, I understood her interest in Hawaii’s dealings with the white man. To do her voice justice, I am letting the author of Unfamiliar Fishes speak for herself.

Cover of

Cover of The Wordy Shipmates

Cover of

Cover of Assassination Vacation

Sarah Vowell is a very, very busy person. She’s the New York Times bestselling author of “Assassination Vacation” and “The Wordy Shipmates,” a frequent contributor to Public Radio International‘s “This American Life” and she serves on the board of Dave Egger’s educational nonprofit organization 826NYC. She even lent her trademark deadpan vocal delivery to Pixar’s 2004 animated feature “The Incredibles.”

Vowell’s writing combines conventions of history, journalism and tongue-in-cheek satire that is often as hilarious as it is thought-provoking. She revels in the absurdities and contradictions of American history, exposing the hypocrasies of power while remaining personally committed to the ideals upon which our democracy was founded. Her latest book, “Unfamiliar Fishes,” explores the history of Hawaii, and the American missionaries, sailors, plantation owners and imperialists who arrived on its shores in the 19th century. Vowell recently took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her work with Real Change. …

What is the historical significance of the glop of macaroni salad on a Hawaiian plate lunch?
On a Hawaiian plate lunch, which is a traditional mixed plate that is served throughout the Hawaiian islands, there is always a scoop of macaroni salad along with two scoops of Japanese style rice and then some sort of Asian or Polynesian fish or meat. The macaroni salad is this little American anomaly amidst that Pacific smorgasbord and the whole lunch hints at the multiethnic saga that is the history of Hawaii, starting with the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820 and going up through the 19th century when the missionaries and their offspring founded the sugar plantations that became the foundation of the Hawaiian economy for about a century. And for those plantations to run, those New Englanders and their descendants had to import labor from all over the world–Japan, China, the Philippines and Korea–but also Portugal, and to a lesser extent Norway. My book is mostly about those people: the Haole, the Caucasians, the Americans who showed up and changed the islands. And so a glop of macaroni salad is not just a glop of macaroni salad: It’s indicative of centuries of change.

How do the words “aloha” and “haole” represent the differences between Hawaiian and Western cultures?
“Aloha” is to my mind the most Hawaiian word, and on the mainland we just hear that it means “hello” and “goodbye,” which is true and it also basically means “love.” But, literally translated, it has to do with the word “breath.” It can mean “the breath of life,” and the reason it’s said as a greeting is that the traditional Polynesian greeting is when two people touch noses and then literally breathe each other in.

Now the word “haole”–which also contains that word “ha,” the word for breath–there’s a sort of old wives’ tale or myth that the word “haole” connotes “without breath,” because the first Westerners who came to the islands, they did not greet one another in traditional Hawaiian. So, it’s supposed to be symbolic of how alienated the white people are from the breath of life. But really, it’s an old word and it can mean anything non-native including plants or animals. The story that I tell in the book is basically about the coming of the white people in general and the New Englanders in particular. These people changed the islands and a lot of native Hawaiians think for the worse. Besides their ideas about Christianity, capitalism and private land ownership, they also brought with them their diseases, which had a devastating effect on the native population, just as it did in the Americas. So the coming of the whites to Hawaii is a pretty complicated story and there’s some resentment toward those people on the part of native Hawaiians, which I find understandable.

Native Hawaiians

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Generally though, Hawaii is a pretty easy-going, accepting place, and because of its multiethnic heritage, it is wildly integrated, especially compared to the rest of the country. It’s rare to find someone who was born in Hawaii who is just one race. Even the people who identify as native Hawaiian might have Chinese grandparents and American grandparents. But the origins of that are kind of nefarious. The reason that so many different kinds of people were shipped there wasn’t because the sugar plantation owners had this “It’s a small world after all” mentality. Their goal was to bring in workers from as many different places as possible because they felt that people who  spoke different languages were less likely to organize against the plantation owners.

How did the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820 affect the institutions of Hawaiian society?
Radically. Those missionaries, they were smart people. As New Englanders, they were pretty democratic: Their only goal was to usher as many people into heaven as possible and they didn’t care whether those people were commoners or chiefs. But they recognized that because Hawaiian society was so hierarchical, they were going to have to convert and convince the monarchs and the other aristocrats first. And by sucking up to the ruling class, one major impact the missionaries had on society at large was convincing the Hawaiian government to outlaw fornication and adultery and to regulate liquor. Just as the first New England missionaries arrived, the first New England whalers had pretty much opposite goals than the missionaries, and so the Hawaiians got to witness Americans at our worst, at both our most puritanical and our most Orlando spring break.

Then, when the missionaries and their offspring started the sugar plantations, that completely revolutionized the Hawaiian landscape. They built these complicated, engineered irrigation ditches and diverted water so that places that had been dusty dry plains and near deserts became green with sugar cane. In traditional Hawaiian society, land had been held communally and was managed by the chief in concert with the commoners, but with the sugar trade, it became the American capitalist system of plantations overseen and owned mostly by white people and worked mostly by foreign workers. The native Hawaiians were increasingly shut out of their land and the Hawaiian population was decimated by as much as 80, maybe 90 percent, just by disease, so it’s hard to overemphasize how much impact the haoles had on Hawaiian life, government, culture, everything.

You write about David Malo as a figure who embodies the transitional period of Hawaiian history between traditional culture and Westernization. How does his life and work capture this?
Well, he’s a really interesting figure, and probably because he’s a writer, I really identify with him. When the first missionaries showed up, he was pretty old. He was nearing 30 when they taught him to read and write, and he happened to be, luckily, one of the Hawaiians who had been the keepers of the oral tradition. So he knew all the old chants and genealogies and was intimately aware and knowledgeable of all the old customs and the stories of the old chiefs and priests and the old religion. So after the missionaries taught him to read and write, he wrote “Hawaiian Antiquities.” He also became a very devout Christian and was eventually ordained as a minister.

But later in life, he still had nostalgia for the old ways even though he (was) a true servant of Jesus Christ. He wrote this rather melancholy letter to some Hawaiian friends that I quote in the title to my book: “If a big wave comes in, large and unfamiliar fishes will come from the dark ocean and when they see the small fishes of the shallows they will eat them up.” And it turned out to be the truth. When he died, he asked to be buried up this hill that was really hard to get to because he just wanted to be where no white man would build a house. But his book is really quite beautiful.

Native Hawaiians

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The events leading up to the U.S. annexation of Hawaii were driven by the opposing ideals of Lorrin Thurston and Queen Liliuokalani. Can you explain the political and cultural conflicts between these two figures?
Lorrin Thurston’s major problem with Queen Liliuokalani was just that she was a queen. Even though he was born in Hawaii and because he was a descendant of the missionaries, the whole idea of monarchy was just something to disdain. And that is something I can kind of identify with. To me, there’s no inherent value in monarchy. That said, the Hawaiian kingdom was an established constitutional monarchy and as monarchies go, it was wildly inclusive. I mean, the Hawaiian monarchs welcomed all these foreigners into their kingdom and into their government, including Thurston.

Ship's landing force at the time of the overth...

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Although to me there’s nothing inherently great about a queen, she was, I think, for that time and place, pretty much the ideal ruler. She was an impressive person who was schooled by the missionaries, so she was a very devout Christian who at the same time was a very proud and knowledgeable native Hawaiian. So by the time the queen became the queen she was plotting to reverse that constitution which had also severely limited native Hawaiians’ right to vote for their representatives. That’s when Thurston and his pals conspired to oust her to support their own sham of a constitution. Even though she had overwhelming native support, the native population was in such decline that there just weren’t enough of them to put up much of a fight.

The Three Cherokee. Came over from the head of...

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You write about a double-sided view of American history that you have come to know through your own experience. How does Hawaii represent this notion of America as two places at once?
I’m part Cherokee and was born in Oklahoma because some of my ancestors were forced by the U.S. Army at gunpoint to march across the country in what came to be called the Trail of Tears. So, that’s always been a little bit of a caveat to the story of American exceptionalism that I was certainly taught in school. You know, I’m all for self-government and the First Amendment and all that stuff–but there’s always a part of me that knows firsthand about the failures of those ideals.

The annexation of Hawaii, as many of the dissenters of the time pointed out, really does contradict the ideals put forth in the Declaration of Independence. In 1898, when the U.S. annexed Hawaii along with Guam and Puerto Rico and invaded the Philippines and Cuba, we became a global empire overnight. A group of Americans, a lot of them in the highest echelons of the government, were more concerned with power and greatness than our core ideals of republican forms of government. One of those men was Henry Cabot Lodge and he gave (this speech) in 1900 to poo-poo all of the anti-imperialist sissies where he just demolished the idea that consent of the governed is even possible. He talked about Thomas Jefferson, the author of that phrase, being the greatest expansionist in American history who, when he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, acquired the biggest chunk of land at once that we had ever acquired, and it didn’t even occur to him to ask the consent of all the French colonials and Indians who were living out on that vast continent he had just taken over. So, I think Lodge sort of has a point.

It is interesting to me that throughout American history, this idea of government based on the consent of the governed is at our core, but also this contradictory process of expansion. The Hawaiian annexation definitely is a part of that because the Hawaiian people, once annexation was afoot, they rallied and collected thousands and thousands of signatures and sent them to Congress, protesting annexation. It was definitely something that the Hawaiian people were completely against and yet the United States annexed those islands anyway. So, I guess in that sense it jibes with my view of the country as having these lofty ideals that we frequently betray.

Interviewed by Robert Alford
Contributing Writer           

japan, different perspectives

www.army.mil

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

Saw my physical therapist today. As with other alternative health practitioners, I find my sessions with Dieter and Jody mentally therapeutic as well. Perhaps it’s because they, along with chiropractors and massage therapists, are in “my space” as they work to heal my body. I find it easy to express my thoughts and feelings about a whole host of topics, especially about life’s ups and downs. Because these practitioners look to getting at the root of the problem, rather than prescribing drugs for the symptoms, their solutions are more organic. They resolve to get my body back working for me, not against me. I cannot recommend them enough. Carrie, Rachel, Jennifer, Dieter and Jody are my pit stop team. Whenever I need retooling, they’re on hand to service my “parts.”

Dieter and I spoke briefly of the devastation in Japan, as did Jody and I. What was interesting about the latter conversation is what Jody told me about a couple of her Japanese co-workers who have families in Japan. To her surprise, her peers expressed little concern about their relatives. One of them still had parents and siblings there. She seemed to feel they were fine since they were in the southern part of the island. The other staff member whose sister lived just outside Sendai, where the earthquake struck, explained that such natural disasters were commonplace. The implication was that the Japanese learned to live with them.

神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa oki nami ura (

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Needless to say, I was as surprised as Jody. I thought of American parents who were frantically seeking word of their young, adult children who lived and worked in Japan. I thought of TV news pictures showing people flocking to catch flights out of the country, hurrying to get away from the nuclear contamination that threatens to spread. As I pondered the disparate views of 2 Japanese women, and 2 American women, I realized the answer lay in the differences in our cultures.

Honor of country and oneself is what drives the Japanese. They honor their gods, but the people control their own destinies. With their hands, their minds, and their steely determination, they forge ahead. They work through and around obstacles. They seem to take no notice of the words “no,” “can’t be done,” “not possible.” Instead they seem to embrace the words “let’s try,” “let’s see,” “if not this, maybe this.”

SHOW ME THE OBI ! -- THE OSHIMA ISLAND GIRLS o...

Image by Okinawa Soba via Flickr

On NBC’s World News with Brian Williams tonight, reporter Ann Curry spoke with several survivors. A middle-aged couple seemed to epitomize exactly what the Japanese are about. In the midst of a country torn apart, they were picking up the pieces, literally. They swept and scrubbed the tile floors, and along with neighbors, they carted snow from the surrounding hillsides, melting it into water. The men were shown proudly carving chopsticks from bamboo they had gathered themselves.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Jo...

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Curry and her camera crew also visited shelters, one where young boys were seen laughing and clowning around for the the TV team. Another boy was drawing pictures, lost in his own world. The elderly were being tended to by others concerned for their fragile health. And local women sent food in the form of rice-balls, for the starving homeless. There was a general air of people helping people, as they patiently awaited their turn for help from their own government, or the outside world.

Oft-times I think we Americans tend to project our own world-view upon those of others. We can’t imagine that others would think differently. We proclaim English as the universal language, and our way of thinking as the most reasonable. Knowing the Japanese culture as I do, having been raised among them, I could guess at the reasoning behind the reaction of the 2 Japanese women who worked in the physical therapist’s office. My immediate reaction was the same as Jody’s. However, it was tempered by my knowledge of a culture that is world’s apart not only physically, but in its value system as well.

Two maiko performing in Gion.

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so perhaps they don’t worry…until they have to worry…hugmamma.