Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend workshop

I spent the weekend in a workshop with interesting people:
Poor business-driven Charlie came home to a barely-furnished apartment in Geneva on his birthday and the only wishes he received were from the taxi driver and the video shop clerk.
And fifth-grader Eddie sat on his chair backwards, his feet turned inward talking about stealing cigarettes.
Teenage Cassie could not make her Uncle Jack, a farmer understand her mother had a drinking problem.
War-Junkie Leoni brought her art therapy to victims in Gaza, while Sophie struggled with her gambling addiction and we all worried about how she would tell her husband how she'd lost the money that would pay for the B&B they wanted.
These characters were all the creation of six wonderfully talented women as we shared a workshop together. The photo above is the terrace above the studio where we ate lunch and listened to the fountain bubble next to the olive tree bearing its first fruit as we exchanged secrets, laughs and tears.

Today these writers are either back home or wending their way. They left me this wonderful bouquet along with my feelings for being truly blessed at sharing the time with them.

Sardana Weekend

No matter where I went in Argeles this weekend there was Sardana dancing and music. Although this isn't a novelty, it was more than usual and included a special mass. The locals are proud of their Catalan patrimony and with the drop of a brass instrument groups will form to point their toes and lift their arms. To see the dance live and hear the music:

Sept. No Buy

The blue fountain pen that I bought at the end of last year (I only have one everyday pen, the glass pen is for decoration and writing special things: haikus, thank you notes, etc. but it us far too delicate to survive in my pencil case) rolled yet again off the table onto the floor and the head fell off. No amount of fiddling would get a letter much less a word out on paper.
I headed for the librarie. They had cute plastic ones for eight euros, but then I spied this blue metal one with a golden flower on the cover for 31 euros. Holding it felt right. However, the first cartridge didn't work and I took it back. They were able to extract the cartridge, which was defective, install a new one, and now I am happily took notes during a phone interview to Canada.
And because of the gold flower on the top, chances of the pen rolling off the table are miniscule. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the last pen I ever have to buy, and no Melissa, you don't have to promise to replace a pen. It is just that this pen is substanial and should last the lifetime of someone much younger than myself... Each time I sit in a café writing, take notes during an interview, this pen will become more and more precious so I do hope it is the last one I ever buy.
I want it to become a treasured friend albeit it an inky one.
One of the pleasures of my no buy year, is that everything I own has a meaning, and just isn't items cluttering up my life. At the end of the year, I will buy pretty new underwear, have my friend Barbara make me a new outfit of two, and maybe add a few books to my collection, I will be more apt to buy flowers and I want to add a small olive tree in front of my house, but I still don't want to buy to buy, but keep with the addition of items to my life by conscious decisions as thought-out process that brings lasting pleasure because they are rare.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It is worrying

Another dangerous precedent has been set. The Army Times reported from Oct.1 and for one year the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry division will be assigned to U.S. Army NorthCom, which. was founded in 2002 to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. This means they could help with civil unrest and crowd control.
After the unlawful raids into private homes of potential demonstrators at gun point and arrests without habeas corpus in St. Paul by the police before the Republican convention, this new development is troubling at best.
Use of the U.S. Military inside the US was outlawed in the 1880s by the Posse Comitatus Act. However, The Defense Authorization Act of 2006 expanded the power of George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist incident which could include U.S. citizens protesting against any government action. This is a further extension of National Directive 51 which stated the president had the right to do the same and appeared on the White House website in May 2005.
With the crackdown of protests around the country, arrests of people wearing an anti-government T-shirts, police stopping cars with anti-bush or anti-war bumper stickers, the suspension of habeas corpus, the building of 100,000+ more jail cells (the U.S. spends more on prisons now than education) it is a worrying trend especially since terrorist is defined by the authorities.
I have been called paranoid and alarmist. But putting it all together the trend is worrying especially when we have witnessed the demonsratable lies by the administration over the last few weeks of the “economy is strong” and a couple of weeks later unless we bail out the economy “the economy is in trouble.”

From multiple sources including Article by Glenn Greenwald, Salon magazine, Army Times and the White House website.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumn...signs of

Walking home from the movie Sagan (and I would not want either her success, monetarily and literarily if I had to live her tortured life), I smelled another sign of autumn--a wood burning stove taking the chill of a home.
Granted, in Argeles we do not have the change of colour in the trees and even Geneva's are muted, but I do need a jacket during my morning walk and if I go out in evening.
But the best sign will be the extra hour of sleep when we turn the clocks back.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Palin's honour--the woman who charged rape victims for their rape kits

Dear Friends,

We may have thought we wanted a woman on a nationalpolitical ticket, but the joke has really been on us,hasn't it? Are you as sick in your stomach as I am atthe thought of Sarah Palin as Vice President of the United States? Since Palin gave her speech accepting theRepublican nomination for the Vice Presidency, BarackObama's campaign has raised over $10 million dollars. Some of you may already be supporting the Obama campaignfinancially -- but want to do more -- anything.

Iam horrified by Palin's selection, furious, andfrightened by it for many reasons, one of which is herposition on women's issues. May I pass along the following fiendishly brilliant idea? Make a donation to Planned Parenthood. Of anyamount, in Sarah Palin's name. Here's the bestpart: when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donationhas been made in her honor. It won't change the election but it will support an important organization andit will make women's voices heard. (And even if thiswas cooked up by a PP person -- I don't care!)

Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood website: You'll need to check "make honorary or memorial gift," and fill in the name of the person you want to "honor," i.e. Palin. Fill in the address to let PPknow where to send the "in Sarah Palin'shonor" card. If you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, they'll get the message. McCain's headquarters address: McCain for President1235 S. Clark Street1st FloorArlington, VA 22202

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just because

When I took my morning walk the colours, the shadows and the shapes made me happy.


The band Ekinox had a Johnny Halliday wantabe that belted out Que je t'aime. Unlike other free street dances during the summer in the Place de la Republique, there were more natives than tourists, and it didn't take long to find friends to join. Pedro, who runs the bio store, grabbed me for a dance, and soon I was dancing almost every dance with different neighbors. A newcomer, a Swiss, was watching from his balcony, but it didn't take too much to convince him to join us. Another neighbor, a mega-macho retired soldier, twirled his wife around the square. I suspect the man has a Fred Astaire gene and his intricacy and knowledge of all the dances including tangos, waltzes and fox trots belies his tough guy image. So we twisted and dos y doed, rocked and discoed until midnight.

Children are always a part of the street dances, and these two little ones watched the adults before joining in.

Jour de la patrimonie

In all of France, it was la jour de la patrimonie, a celebration of French history and culture. In Argelès, guides talked about the original walls and life. Sites were marked by hay bales and knights' shields, although this has been more of a peasant area with farming and fishing the major sources of livilihood. The first mention of the village was during the time of Charlemagne.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mabon is tomorrow

Tomorrow is Mabon, the pagan celebration of the fall harvest and autumn equinox. The fields and gardens are lush with fruits, but the days are growing shorter. Now the garbage men come hours before sunrise instead of with the sun peeking through the window.
I too will celebrate by decorating my flat with nuts, pine cones and sage. Not only it is good for memory, its smell pervades the room already, and I will add a few leave to the tarte of red onions and girofle (mushrooms) that I will make. Dessert will be Muscat grapes and raspberries.
But mostly I will consider the joy of the natural forces of the world that provide me with food, water and air. I will remember the simple over the complicated, the natural over the artificial and I will be thankful for the truly rich life I live.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A "C" kinda day

Because it was Cloudy and CL.* and Cuz (we share a family name so probably some where back in medieval times had a common ancestor) had a hire Car we decided to visit the La Cité de Carcassonne and I was delighted to see that the Carousel was still there, because of the juxtaposition of the old and new. La Cité has been used in tons of movies including Robin Hood and Lion in Winter. Although it is my umpty umpth visit over the last three decades, I still love sharing it.

A new Carving of Dame Carcas is outside the gates. The story goes the town was beseiged by Charlemagne and when the citizens were near starvation, the ruling lady, Dame Carcas stuffed a pig with all the remaining grain and threw it off the ramparts. Charlemagne seeing the over fed pig gave up and broke camp. In victory, Dame Carcas blew her horn, and Charlemagne who was a bit deaf asked what the noise was. "Carcas te sonne," "Carcas is calling you," an aide said.

And lunch had to be cassoulet, the regional dish of beans and meat eaten in an open courtyard as a young musician played both his own songs and those well known.

But most important of all, we HAD TO STOP at the Cookie shop where we picked (not plucked) among a wide selection of the most luscious biscuits as the English say imaginable.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taking care

Out of the window to the left of my desk is this neglected house. The roof has been moss covered with a hole the 21-years I have had my nest. The shutters need painting. A curtain is only half hung. It is owned by a Catalan school teacher, who shrinks from people who smile at her. My Catalan neighbours say she has always been like that even when she was young. I can’t imagine being in one of her classes.
Out the window to the right of my desk is the house owned by a Danish film maker. He has renovated the house completely (even the toilet works, no mean feat in France), although he has kept the rustic flavour that it had when occupied by full-time residents. He is not here all the time, although he swears every year he is about to retire then takes on another project. Right now he is in Asia scouting out scenes for his next film.
It seems as if the two houses are an example of what happens when you do or don't take care of
…you fill in the blank.

The US has not taken care of its people nor its financial markets and the financial world has seen disarray the last few days. Bankers in other countries did not take care to check the validity of the junk they bought. Regulation was not important, it destroyed the free market US leaders said, and where there was regulation enforcing it didn’t seem all that important as the government pushed economic theories that have proven invalid.

But taking care is something else. It is taking care of our own property, of not abusing our material things and trying to avoid this throw-away society. We can take care of the planet by thinking about what we consume. At one time a woman who owned a needle was considered wealthy, and she took good care of it. If she was a good woman, she shared it with others, which brings me to the most important item: taking care of people.

A mother can praise a child, a husband can give his wife a hug, a grown child can call a parent. We can bring a casserole to a neighbour just because we know she had a bad day or be polite to those we pass on the street. We can nurture our relationships, both close and casual.

Perhaps the house the Dane has taken care of is partially because it is an investment, but he has made an investment in his smiles when he arrives that does not carry a price tag. But then time spent in taking care of relationships is an investment too...
Take care,

Talking to a bit of history

He had a Santa Claus face, only without a beard, but I could picture him laying a finger aside of his nose. His English was heavily accented and we had talked before when I was watching my friend’s store.

This time he told me more of his past, how in 1933 he and his mother walked from Germany to France to escape Hitler’s arrest of those in the syndicates. She had been a secretary, not a person of power, but no matter. They had no papers, no French. His mother found work in Paris, and they escaped to the Pyrenees as Germans marched into the city and were housed with a peasant family.

He went to school, began English and joined the Marquis and led American pilots to their rendezvous points behind enemy lines because he was the only resistance person who had any English at all, albeit limited.

After the war he became a physicist leading a normal life. He spoke of his experiences in the same way I would say, “I went to a basketball games in high school,” or “I visited with my aunt when I was 10.”

He didn’t treat his experiences as “important” but he and others like him were very “important” and I wonder how many today would have the same courage today?

Picking and plucking

It is almost the end of fig season both the brown and green varities. I love figs almost to the level of my love of chocolate. I ate my first one when I was at a ghost village in the wilds of the Pyrenees. There was a fig tree just outside one of the ruins and a friend plucked a fig from the tree and handed it to me. If my tastebuds could have done cartwheels, they would have and the bees sang the Hallelujah chorus as they buzzed around.
Grapes are now being picked in the nearby vineyards and are appearing at the green grocers. Not as good but along with walnuts from Grenoble, they provide mini fall feasts. I wanted a photo of the fruit coming and going, but after taking it I thought about picking and plucking and the difference in the words.

Some how plucking always seemed more exotic to me…you might pluck a luscious fruit while picking seemed more like a chore. I headed for the dictionary.

Middle English, from Old English pluccian; akin to Middle High German pflücken to pluck before 12th century
1. to pull or pick off or out
2. to remove something (as hairs) from by or as if by plucking one's eyebrows (now that is not exotic and as my eyes get worse involves magnifying mirrors and bright lights)
3. rob , fleece (hmmm, not pretty at all)
4. to move, remove, or separate forcibly or abruptly plucked the child from the middle of the street
5. to pick, pull, or grasp at (okay pick and pluck can be changeable, but the gentle act of reaching up to a fruit in a tree and twisting it off to plunk, yes I did say PLUNK it in your mouth, doesn’t seem grasping unless we add other descriptions to the act.)
6. to play by sounding the strings with the fingers or a pick, the noun. Put you can pick a guitar with a pick but you can’t pick a guitar with a pluck.

Still I like the idea of plucking an apple, fig or plum off a tree, or even plucking a fig from the baskets at the green grocer, a choice to be followed by a lovely experience of eating the chosen item.

Middle English piken, partly from Old English *pīcian (akin to Middle Dutch picken to prick); partly from Middle French piquer to prick 14th century
1. to pierce, penetrate, or break up with a pointed instrument, picked the hard clay
2. to remove bit by bit as pick meat from bones (not there’s something nice about having had a chicken dinner and sitting at the table and picking a bit of skin or meat, one last yummy taste while chatting and waiting for the coffee to perk)
3. to remove covering or adhering matter from
4. to gather by plucking as in pick apples (AHA So, I can pick a fig to pluck near a chicken who can cluck and maybe duck to miss the bough as I and we won’t use a rhyme that starts with F...but I pluck feathers from that clucking chicken )
5. choose, select (I would say, I pick that dress or I pick this route as shorter, but I couldn’t say I pluck that dress rather than the other one but when I pick it I can pluck it from the hanger.)
6. pilfer, rob (Now I can pick what I pick)
7. to obtain useful information from by questioning
8. To provoke, dig into
If I keep on like this, I might have to give up writing because agonizing over which would is best, could get out of control. Then again that could lead to a short story about a person who couldn't talk, because she couldn't decide which word to say first...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday mornings DON’T get me down.

The Tramantane has stopped howling and started whispering, although a turtleneck under a sweatshirt is required to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
My early morning walks are curtailed to woodsy areas within the confines of the village because it is hunting season and if I venture into the mountains I don’t want to be mistaken for a tall fox (probably the only time I’d be mistaken for a tall anything)
The old path to Collioure was a good start when I came across a Robert Frost moment,

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Unlike Frost and much of my own past, I took the path more trod.

I love looking at how the old mountains fold into themselves. Occasionally a shot would echo down and I wondered if a boar had given up its life to become a roast and sausages.
If I could ever figure out how to get this photo at the top of the blog, I might replace the Boston Gardens one now there heading EXCEPT, my New England Yankee roots run deep. The last time I left Boston I wasn’t sure if I would ever go back, but as they say you can take the girl out of Boston, but not Boston out of the girl. Besides, I cannot deny so many decades of my life nor do I want to.
As I gazed at the mountains the next scene for Mama’s Ring the novel I am currently writing came into my head. Five-year old Pippa is in tears and Mama Martha arrives and saves the day to the astonishment of both MM’s daughters, Emily (Pippa's mom) and Helen, and off they will head to Boston Children's hospital where Pippa will undergo yet another round of tests to see why she has the fits of uncontrollable vomiting.

Thus armed with my writing plans I headed for a cup of tea at La Noisette and a last read before going home. Unlike most days, the tearoom was deserted, but then it is Monday and many of the stores are closed and the wind does not encourage people sitting outside. But the tea is just as good, and the 13th century church stones just as lovely and I can chat and commiserate with Patricia the waitress about her upcoming holiday, which will be spent in Argeles because of her sick son.
By the time I reach my computer, the morning has half gone by, and as I am about to settle into my writing, I am anything but down feeling that my day has already been a success in terms of just plain revelling in life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


The Tramantane blows
Church bells peal, together
a pagan chorus

Village Brouhaha

When I bought my nest 21 years ago, all the buildings were grey and many needed repairs.

Over the years as retirees from the North of France and other countries have bought the houses first at cheap prices from the Catalans and now at one arm (two years ago it was two arms and a leg), they have gentrified the village.

A Socialist mayor has contributed much to the process giving grants for repainting the outside and getting historical grants for restoration of historic homes in the old part of town. However, they did set standards on colour that bear no resemblance to those that existed in history (grey).
A lovely Scottish lady chose the right colour for the house but somehow the blue of the shutters and the door weren’t right. Letters and words passed back and forth. She changed the colour of her garage door, but the more she looked at it, the more she liked the colour of the shutters. The latest I heard is she will change the door and not the shutters.

In a way it reminds me of those horrible pcommunities in Florida that control so much of the exterior. I am not against standards per se…but many get so carried away that we become no more than old cans of peas on a shelf.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Les Blues Brozers

It is an experience being at a plush camp ground open air theatre watching a French production of Les Blues Brozers (their accent of the Belushi show), dancing around the tables (how could anyone sit to the beat?) and as the final applause died away, the lights came up, the heavens opened leaving us drenched to the skin and lightening added its own version of clapping.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Some thoughts on 9/11

This is not to minimize the loss and pain of anyone who lost someone in 9/11. However, I wonder some things. No one who loses someone they loved will ever be the same as before their personal tragedy.

Just under 3000 people from 82 countries lost their lives not 3000 Americans as politicians keep saying. 82 countries did not attack Iraq who we all know had nothing to do with 9/11. What gave us any more right to attack a sovereign nation for lies than the Saudis had to fly their airplane into the WTC?

The 9/11 attacks were horrible, but what about the three weeks of shock and awe and then the following violence that the Iraqis have suffered at our hands since March 2003? Didn’t we inflict more pain and damage on innocents than the Saudis did during those few hours in one day?

Innocent civilians have been attacked by the US in Pakistan this past week. Does that mean Pakistan will subject the US to five and a half years of constant violence and of course if they won’t we have to agree with the action because they are merely doing what we did?

More Americans and many times more Iraqis have died than were killed in 9/11. Does multiplying the number of useless deaths make any sense as a memorial to those that did die five years ago?

What right does the US have to attack innocents but act shocked and outraged when it happens to us?

Wouldn’t it have been better to have worked as hard on peace than on the havoc and destruction the US has caused?

Am I quatro lingual?????

I speak, understand, read and write a reasonable facsimile of French (written is good enough to understand, but not good enough that I don’t need a francophone to correct it, spoken has a muddled accent and grammar, but people respond properly to what I say and ask with only an occasional excusez-moi?) I feel I can say I am bi-lingual.

Last night my agent asked me for the American copy of my book Triple Deckers to send to an American publisher. She had been getting my English version rejected by English publishers, so I sent out the one with color not colours, cans not tins, trash baskets not bins, and curbs not kerbs, etc.

When I produce my newsletter, I set my spell check to Canadian English and have ABMs as well as ATMs, cheques not checks (which the Swiss have practically banished from usage).

However, in writing an article today for the newsletter, I need to say two people were fired, but I am not sure if it is fired, sacked or even made redundant in Canada. I have an emergency email out to Mighty Mom, a Canadian writer to set me on the correct path.

So the question is if I speak/read/write American-English-Canadian English and French am I quarto-lingual?

Book Sabotage

A group was at La Noisette including one of my friends, a remarkable Scottish woman who has done massage on war victims in Bosnia and walked the St. James de Compostela. It was natural to stop and have a cup of tea.

She was just back from a trip to the UK. There was nothing unusual about the talk turning to politics (French, English, American). This woman regrets she can't contribute to Obama. Her grasp of the issues (economic, health care, foreign affairs, education) probably exceeds that of many Americans I speak with.

I voiced the opinion that I thought McCain would win the election.

Horror crossed her face. "He can't." She then confessed when she was in the UK and was in a bookstore there was a display of McCain books. When no one was looking she put them under the counter and replaced them with Obama books.


I was on the way to have keys made for my friend Barbara's new front door. We keep keys to each other's house. I passed a house I love to look at the purple flowers agains the blue shutters in this house. It makes my eyes feel good. Thus when I reached the key maker, I decided to get a colour key that carried out the theme. (Llara roll your eyes here, Melissa, you're right I should meet your Mom, if she thinks this way)
Colour makes me happy, spurs me to write, makes me smile. Sometimes colour be it in painting or a towel, provides the same calming effect as a soothing melody.


One of the joys of retirement is there is no longer any rush to get out of the house, although many mornings I choose to take a long walk before breakfast or maybe a wander would be a better term. If I wait until later in the day, it may be too hot, or I become engrossed in whatever I am writing. But I leave on my schedule with no thought of having to clock in anywhere until I am good and ready.

I've discovered many paths on the edges of the villages that propel me into nature. I look forward to seeing a special tree, check out how a meadow's flowers are advancing, the horses, the state of grapes in a vineyard, what the sky looks like against the mountains, which seem to change colour with the light. During the half hour to hour I am ambling, I also find myself writing in my head, much like I did when I went to a 9to5 prison, but instead of having to wait until after supper to put down what I want on paper I can do it whenever I climb back into my loft.

Of course, there are the days when I return from my walk and I pass La Noisette and see friends of misc. nationalities the only sensible thing to do is to sit and have a cup of tea with them and a good natter.

Everyone who knows me knows I am news junkie, searching papers on the internet or television news from many countries. But what I still miss after a couple of decades abroad, is reading The Boston Globe with breakfast. The internet is great, but I still love the feel of paper between my fingers and even getting them inky so they need to be washed. My first job out of university was to write a newsleter (hmmm seems like I am still doing that) and got the info I read papers from over 10 states.

When I am at a café I will read the French papers if no one else is around, but I seldom buy papers, but a friend gave me a copy of the Sunday Times. What luxury to be in my pjs with my tea and oatmeal and turn page after page.

Of course I loved the headline that said "Obama Offers Freedom from American Stupidity." Okay, the paper was after the convention.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My father never voted for anyone in office

twice... He gave them one chance to get it right. The current administration got it wrong.

1. The Iraq War Money PitBefore it even began, nearly half of all Americans opposed the war in Iraq. [Gallup] Now, after five years of casualties and billions of dollars spent, nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose it. [CNN] So far, the federal government has authorized $656 billion for the Iraq war. Of that total, $152 billion was appropriated to fund the Iraq war during the current fiscal year. [Congressional Research Service] That amounts to more than $12 billion per month and $416 million per day. The Iraq War has drained America’s resources, contributed to the increased oil costs that are destabilizing the nation’s economy, and added volatility to an already unsettled region—but conservatives continue to throw good money after bad. [Washington Post]For More Information: Making Sense on The Unaffordable Economic Costs of Iraq
2. Hurricane Katrina Blows Away FEMAWhen Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, government officials failed to provide vital assistance and information to many of the city and surrounding areas’ most vulnerable residents. Over 26,000 people were left stranded on the rooftops of their flooded houses, and many more families’ homes were destroyed. [Government Accountability Office] The Bush Administration was completely unprepared to respond to the disaster even though, according to the GAO, “Many of the lessons emerging from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are similar to those we identified more than a decade ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.” [GAO] FEMA, under the control of one of Bush’s friends, bungled what limited relief it offered, first stalling on releasing disaster aid, then distributing an estimated $1 billion of duplicate checks and payments to people who didn’t exist or for properties that weren’t damaged. [MSNBC, GAO] Despite these failures, McCain repeatedly voted against a commission to examine the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. [Votes 6, 229]
3. Housing Market CrashesConservatives have gutted many crucial housing-market regulations and looked away while corporations have violated others. This reckless abandonment of government responsibility has allowed banks and hedge funds to run amok, gambling on risky exotic home loans without concern for the long-term impact of their actions—or the immediate consequences for American homeowners. [The American Prospect] The result: a wave of subprime-mortgage foreclosures that has sent a ripple effect through the housing market, driving down home values and devastating families financially. Through the beginning of 2008, home prices have fallen 14.1 percent—a drop that eclipses even the 10.5 percent fall that came in 1932, the low point of the Great Depression. [The Economist] With families taking increasingly desperate measures to save their homes and make ends meet, the number of homeowners with both a home equity loan and a second mortgage has nearly tripled during Bush’s presidency. [U.S. Census 2001, 2006]For More Information: Making Sense on Housing
4. Bush Administration Tortures Human RightsFor centuries, the United States has been an international leader on human rights and civil liberties. But during the Bush Administration, government officials violated our own laws and principles by torturing and unjustly imprisoning suspects. At the Guantanamo Bay prison and at secret “black sites” in countries whose laws allow torture, CIA agents have carried out Bush Administration instructions to use “waterboarding,” sleep deprivation, and threats against suspects’ families during interrogations. [Washington Post, Human Rights Watch] These inhumane acts have sullied America’s international reputation and have drawn criticism from the United Nations and the Red Cross. [New York Times]
5. Trade Deficit Devastates American JobsConservative trade policy has pushed America’s trade deficit to record levels. Since President Bush took office, the trade deficit has grown by nearly $250 billion (adjusted for inflation). [Bureau of Economic Analysis] The United States’ trade deficit in oil and other petroleum products was responsible for 56 percent of the growth in the trade deficit in the first quarter of 2008. [Economic Policy Institute] The growing trade gap between America and our economic competitors has had a devastating impact on jobs and wages. For example, the U.S.- China trade deficit of $262 billion resulted in the loss of an estimated 2.3 million American jobs, nearly a third of which were held by workers with a college degree. [Economic Policy Institute]For More Information: Making Sense on Trade
6. Big Oil Empties Consumers’ PocketsConservatives have mismanaged energy policy for years, bringing America to the brink of a nationwide energy crisis. Since President Bush took office, he and conservative allies in Congress have blocked efforts to achieve energy independence, such as energy conservation programs, renewable-source energy production mandates, and increased fuel efficiency standards. [Center for American Progress, Washington Post, New York Times] The result: record-setting multibillion dollar profits for oil companies and a more than 100 percent increase in gas prices (even after adjusting for inflation). [Washington Post, Oil Price Information Service] For More Information: Making Sense on Clean Energy
7. Health Care Costs and Uninsurance Rates SkyrocketDuring President Bush’s time in office, 7.3 million more Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured—a group that now includes over 15 percent of Americans. [U.S. Census Bureau] Yet when the opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable uninsured Americans—children in low-income families—to get the health care they need by expanding the highly successful SCHIP program, conservatives in Congress blocked the legislation and Bush actually vetoed it. [MSNBC] The legislation would have helped provide health insurance to an estimated 5.8 million poor children by 2012. [Congressional Budget Office] That number of uninsured Americans would likely grow under John McCain’s proposal to force families with employer-sponsored health care into the individual-insurance market. Under the McCain plan, an estimated 56 million Americans living with long-term conditions such as cancer and diabetes could find themselves unable to buy health insurance at any price. [Center for American Progress Action Fund]For More Information: Making Sense on Health Care for America Now
8. The Middle Class Falls Further BehindThanks to conservative economic policies, middle-class Americans are financially worse off than they were eight years ago, and economic inequality is on the rise. During President Bush’s tenure, pre-tax income for middle-class Americans grew less than 2 percent, while the wealthiest one-percent saw their income grow by more than a third—34.8 percent. [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities] In real terms, the average annual earnings of a middle-class household have actually fallen by nearly $1,000, even as the cost of necessities continues to rise. [Economic Policy Institute] It’s hard to blame workers for this decline; statistics show that they’ve actually been working harder and producing almost 20 percent more since 2000. [Economic Policy Institute] So why has middle-class wage growth stagnated? One reason is conservatives’ resistance to raising minimum wage, a policy that drags down salaries all the way up the economic ladder. John McCain, for instance, voted against a minimum-wage increase 19 times. [Politifact]For More Information: Making Sense on Economic Growth
9. Conservatives Embrace ScandalSoon after being elected to the presidency, George W. Bush appointed a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff to his presidential transition team. [Associated Press] Unfortunately for the American people, this was only the first in a long list of questionable decisions made by conservatives in the last eight years. Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration improperly fired seven U.S. attorneys to protect Republican political interests, destroyed over five million email messages to avoid investigation, and leaked information about a covert CIA agent. [Washington Post, Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, National Journal]
10. Bush-Appointed Labor Board Attacks LaborPresident Bush’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board have used their power to roll back workers’ hard-won rights and prevent workers from gaining new protections. The NLRB reversed long-standing precedents, making it more difficult for workers to join a union or to recover back-pay after leaving a job. [Change to Win] The Bush NLRB also denied labor protections for disabled and temporary workers, and moved workers with limited authority—such as nurses—into an employment category that prevents them from organizing a union in their workplace. [U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce]

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why the change?

I was playing around with the blogger site, thinking I would like to get a photo on the top much like Mighty Mom and The Perpetual Expat have BUT then I saw this heading, which is George Washington at the entrance to the Boston Common/Garden and my little old Yankee roots, said hmmmm... and violà.

Friday, September 05, 2008

WHEW ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

One of the scariest moments in writing is getting the first review. Rejections are normal for any writer... but once the book is going to be published much is dependent on the reviewers. The Booklist Review is important because bookstores making buying decisions based on it.

So when my publisher sent me this, I feel so much younger...sort of a mental facelift.

Starred Booklist Review - it is in their 10-1-08 issue.
This title will publish November 19, 2008.
Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. Leah Stockbridge has achieved all of her dreams. She is an accomplished artist. She has two beautiful children with her husband, Jean-Luc Perroset, one of the richest, most powerful men in Europe. She can have any luxury she wants. There's a golden tether tying her to her husband and limiting her freedom, but she tolerates it, even as she longs for her old life as a free-spirited artist. But, little by little, Leah learns how her husband has manipulated her life, much the same way as he manipulates his collection of rare puppets. Worse yet, she discovers that not only is her husband evil and corrupt, he is also a murderer. Now he knows that she knows, and Leah must run for her life. Jean-Luc's influence is worldwide, so the prospects of finding a safe haven are bleak. Nelson has written a fun-to-read thriller filled with odd details about life in America (remember tonettes and A-bomb drills?), Paris, and Switzerland from the 1960s to the 1990s and a real, Hitchcockian nail-biter.
—Shelley Mosley

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Swift boating or true

AL Jazerra interviews the warden of the prison camp where John McCain spent five years and also the man who pulled him out of the water. There is, according to the report, a statue of McCain there.

Some thoughts on Palin and wish list

If she became president we would have a president who believed that talking snakes changed the destiny of mankind, but that man has nothing to do with destiny-changing global warming.

Although I agree in principle politican children should be off-limits and her daughter's pregnancy
resulted in her daughter making the choice to keep the baby is private, she wants to limit other women's choices by taking away the abortion choice. This puts the subject into public discourse.
Palin also has disapproved of sex-education especially unless is it is abstinence only. Of course, there is no way to know what would have happened if Bristol had known about birth control or even if she did know about it and chose to ignore it. That is not a question for public discourse.

As a feminist the question whether she should be VP when she has five children would never be asked of a man. It angers me.

Her world view is far too shallow from quotes I have seen for her to lead should McCain die in office. The definition of experience seems to depend on which party is saying it. Both Obama and Palin come from middle class families. Both have worked hard, but I will put Obama's education, the fact he has lived outside the country and in Hawaii, California, NY and Chicago and is aware of multi-culutral America, had experience organizing, headed the Harvard Law Review against Palin's living in a small rural environment.

It is not Palin's fault that only 36 of the RNC delegates, according to the Washington Post were black, the rest were white...

I have said the VP choice for both Obama and McCain were of major importance, especially considering the race of one with the number of crazies in the world and the age of the other.

I soooo wish I could find a woman worth voting for, but I resent the idea that politicians think that I will make my choice based on gender.

I am not sure Obama can do what I want either...but what I would like to see happen:

1. Restore habeas corpus.
2. Prohibit the arrest of independent journalists and the raids of citizen journalists at gun point and without search warrants as we have seen in St. Paul this week.
3. Close Guatanamo and stop torturing as policy.
4. Rebuild our schools both physically and educationally. I kids are scoring too low in the major areas such as math and sciene against all other industrialized nations.
5. Institute a one-payer health system such as France. Health care is a human right.
6. Rebuild crumbling roads
7. Rebuilt crumbling bridges
8. Overhaul the airtraffic system before we see more crashes
9. Institute tight regulations for investments to prevent another subprime.
10. Increase tighter regulations for the food industry so the food eaten is safe.
11. Support small farmers more and big food corporations
12. Tax companies that shift jobs off shore heavily and reward those that keep jobs in the US
13. Push the idea that taxes are necessary if we want an infrastructure that works
14. Reduce our defense spending (it is already double what the rest of the world's is) and put that money into rebuilding America.
15. Invest heavily in enviromental research and products to reduce carbon emissions. Already Europe is developing products that will help their economies capture this future market.
16. Give equal consideration to Palestine.
17. Stop interferring in other governments
18. Challenge the idea that corporations are persons with equal rights but not equal responsibilities.
19. Get rid of the death penalty.
20. Rethink our prison policy. The amount of prisoners we have is the highest per capita in the world.
21. Limit guns to people who have a reason for them such as hunters and then only hunting guns.
22. Have daycare available for every child of working parents.
23. Issue vacation and sick day policies to that of the rest of the industrialized world.

Okay, okay, if I expect either candidate to do many or any of these things, I am living in a fantasy world. But I want my country to live up to what its resources if properly used would make possible for every citizen.

This photo is on the window of a French Restaurant

near the Spanish border. The restaurant is owned by two Frenchmen. Yes we can.
Yesterday I met the postman who had delivered my last presidential ballot, now retired. When I'd said it was my vote for Kerry, he hugged me, and the woman at the post when she asked me who I had voted for when I handed her the envelope said, "Okay, I'll pass it on."
This election I haven't seen the same passion, but then neither candidate has generated the same hatred and contempt as Bush has. That was the first time I had experienced it having lived through every election since Bush 41.
When non-Americans talk about the election they want to know about economic policies and what a new president might do to prevent future idiocies like the subprime crisis. This is not voyeurism, it has affected their lives too as they learned that European bank investments in subprime instruments have threatened their savings and their own abilities to get credit. That European banks did invest, merely shows stupidity and greed can be international.
I am always amazed that many of the Europeans have a better grip on the issues in the American election than many Americans seem to have be it the war, torture, the lack of health insurance (I have yet to meet a European who can come to grips with that problem it is so unthinkable), what they hear about our education system (they know their kids outperform ours), the poverty, the violence, etc.
As my housemate says, and I find it myself more and more having lived on b0th sides of the pond I understand both mentalities.

Le petit chat

My dinner companion and house guest turned her eyes to the waiter and smiled and in excellent French said, "The meal was delicious, but I cannot eat it all. Do you think, please, it would be possible to take it home with us, I have this tiny, little cat." Almost blink, blink, blink.
"Little cat," he said with a disbelieving air as he cleared our plates.
She nodded.
However, he returned with the duck wrapped in tinfoil along with our cheese course.
Neither of us had much room and we knew a wonderful dessert was to follow.
"I could say I have a tiny, little mouse and ask for him to wrap it," I said.
We both giggled and decided that in a country where doggie, kitty or mouse bags are very uncommon in restaurants we would just add the cheese to top of the duck when the waiter was occupied in another part of the restaurant and carried the little tinfoil packet home to have its photo snapped on my counter top.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sudoko and Wild Pancakes

The cork had been harvested from the tree next to our table at the crêperie hidden in the mountains near Argeles leaving the trunk bloody. The cork will reform. It has been at least two years since I have eaten here, discovered years before by my buddy and brother-wantabe RB2. He would stand below my window before lunch and bellow "Wild Pancakes" and I would rush out and we would make our way up the windy road past 13th century churches, vineyards and streams.
The tables are placed on different terraces and mostly they serve crêpes. The husband of the couple that own it is a chef, who once worked in Collioure, and they are still there. His name is Jimmy, like my father's. No matter how hot it is below, here it is cool as the wind whispers through the trees.

This day I was with a friend and former colleague who is hanging out for a few days with me, a real treat for we have fallen into that easy complicity of just being. And one of the things she introduced to me, was the trick on solving Sudokos. As we mumphed down absolutely over the top desserts, I finally got it.

Who was Marie Pagnon?

Her name is on a little plaque on the back of the seat in the monestary. On the next seat was Henrietta Vidolet...As I listened to the Argeles Gospel Singers belt on negro spirituals I wondered how long ago had she lived, was she a friend of Henrietta and who cared enough to put a plaque on the back of the seat.
My mind drifted to Ocean Grove New Jersey where most of the benches along the board walk and walkways are memorials.
Marie may have died last year or more likely from the rust of the nails, decades ago, but on the last night of August 2008 someone thought of her.