Archive

Archive for October, 2012

American Beauty : the moment

October 27, 2012 1 comment

*

a wonderful moment indeed…RT

(reposted from Dieu on the Grass)

American Beauty : the moment.

Advertisements

AV:: Three Spoons and a Bowl

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

*

and meanwhile, back in the world of art… RT

(reposted from Artfully Veiled)

*

AV:: Three Spoons and a Bowl.

Why I will be Voting Democratic in November

October 26, 2012 2 comments

*

Mitt Romney’s recent gains in the polls have RT worried. After thinking about it a little, he suspects the sudden movement towards Mr. Romney makes sense from a political point of view: President Obama represents change, which is something that Americans historically are uncomfortable with.

1) For starters, he is black, a historic first, but one which can easily be twisted to scare people.

2) Then there is Mr. Obama’s ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its accompanying photos of military men kissing each other; that is bound to ruffle more than a few feathers, though President Obama ended DADT with the certification of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that ending the policy would not harm the U.S. military, and surely the Joint Chiefs have the best interests of America’s defense at heart.

3) Next, there was the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), which mandates that all U.S. citizens must have health insurance and helps poorer people make their premium payments–thus raising the dread specter of “Socialism” (whatever that might be), even though the Supreme Court upheld the central provisions of the ACA under Congress’s power to tax (RT can’t help wondering why they didn’t use the “general welfare” clause to justify it).

4) Behind the recent election cycles another issue has been gathering momentum. Though the weak economy the country is laboring under is certainly no fun, there is the long-term decline in the economy to deal with, a decline that stretches back into the 70s.

5) Finally, though Osama Bin Laden is now dead, there is the question: are we now safe from Al-Qaeda-style terrorism?

Cool heads are what we need at a time of great political and economic change at home and around the world, so let’s look at each of these issues separately:

Frederick Douglass

1) Race and Leadership. The fact is, Black Americans have produced an impressive set of leaders that stretches far back. Consider the following individuals: Frederick Douglass (escaped slave, author, and orator); Sojourner Truth (escaped slave and women’s rights activist); W.E.B. Du Bois (sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist); A. Philip Randolph (first President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters); Thurgood Marshall (first black Supreme Court Justice); and Martin Luther King, Jr. (assassinated civil rights leader and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize). These people were brilliant visionaries; we need more people like them–and in places of power!

2) “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If there was ever a country that has to keep an eye on its military preparedness, it’s Israel. And Israel has allowed openly gay soldiers to serve since 1993, without any loss in its military strength or effectiveness. Of course, Israel is a small country and must use all available manpower (including women) in its armed forces. But is the United States really so large that it can afford to ignore its military resources? And there is no doubt that many U.S. gay soldiers have served with distinction.

3) Obamacare. Here is the fact: 15.7 percent of the U.S. population lacks health insurance, and this figure actually represents a decrease because an ACA provision that allows parents to keep their children insured until age 27 came into effect in 2011. This is nothing short of a national disgrace and the ACA solves the problem in part by increasing the number of clients that insurance companies will serve while maintaining the principle of competition. In sum, the government is intervening in a modest way to help rebuild a broken healthcare system.  This is plain old American compromise.

4) The Economy. It might have started in 1974, with the Arab Oil Embargo. Or it might have been 1960, when Belgium started producing steel more cheaply than plants in the United States. Whatever the starting date, America has been in the grip of a long-term economic decline that has its roots in the expectations that sprang out of our post-WWII boom–everything American was the best and of course we were entitled to the best standard of living in the world: cars; single, detached houses with big yards, and more gizmos than you can shake a stick at: radios, TVs, computer games, laptops, iPods… but then the rest of the world began out-competing us. If we really believe in free trade and economic efficiency, then we will have to accept the fact that our expectations are unrealistic, to say the least. What after all, is wrong with manual labor? In a country where the wealthiest one percent of the population controls forty percent of the wealth, why can’t the rich afford a tax increase to pay for Obamacare? What’s wrong with extended families sharing living space? What’s wrong with taking a high-speed train (or bus) to work? All of these changes will be necessary if America is to once more be a competitive economy that can win back factory jobs. And while some of this change is happening spontaneously, Obama’s administration is helping or enabling some of the rest to take place.

5) American (and Global) Security. War is expensive (and inflationary). And what do you do with the soldiers who come back with chronic conditions and terrible injuries? Far better is successful diplomacy backed up by a military that is used only when there is no peaceful way to resolve a crisis. No wall can keep the world out, or we would still have the Soviet Union with us. In the long run, being a good neighbor is the best bet for peace (and survival). That does not necessarily exclude the intelligent use of force, but, as we have seen with the Arab Spring, there is only so much that can be accomplished by the judicious intervention of the military. Obama, I think, understands all this. And, yes, his administration did get Bin Laden.

*

In sum, RT thinks that President Obama has us on the right track; Mitt Romney, when all is said and done, would take us backwards several steps. And so RT will be voting Democratic in November, and he urges his readers to follow suit.

RT

*

Photos: Top: Barak Obama; WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic; author: brookage. Bottom: Frederick Douglass, WikiCmns, Public Domain.

*

After Thomas

October 25, 2012 2 comments

*

Here is a fragment of a poem I scribbled about five years ago while on the MARC commute home. It was early spring, I think, and I had been making my way through the Gospel of Thomas (yet again) in Marvin Meyer’s wonderful edition with an interpretation by Harold Bloom. Enjoy!   RT

*

*

*

After Thomas

*

the morning stripped

◊ ◊off its tattered

◊ ◊◊ ◊clouds

and danced

◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊oblivious

◊ ◊◊ ◊to the season’s

◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊formalities–

*

the ache

◊ ◊of earth

desiring

◊ ◊rain;

the promise of

◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊pain

◊ ◊in the bobbing

◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊◊ ◊and weaving

tulips

*

© copyright, The Rag Tree, 2012.

*

Photo: Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

*

Exquisite Craftsmanship

October 20, 2012 2 comments

 

*

Beauty from the other side of the world…   RT

(reblogged from Stephen G. Hipperson)

*

Exquisite Craftsmanship.

*

Wheeling, WV and the Dream of an American Fifth Coast

October 20, 2012 4 comments

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge
(finished 1849)

Wheeling, West Virginia, may be the most authentic city RT has ever visited. Now RT will allow that he has visited the city only twice, but both times was impressed by its untouched quality–and the elegant and disheveled feel of the place. But here is the thing: though Wheeling‘s population (28,355) has dropped by more than half from its peak in 1930 (61,659), RT thinks that the city may hold the seeds of its own renaissance. And it couldn’t happen to a more American city.

The best place to start (as is so often the case) is with Wheeling’s glory days. And glorious they were. In the period between 1840 and 1930, the city boomed; a river port (downstream from Pittsburgh), the city had vigorous glass and pottery manufacturing industries. As if this were not enough, the city was also a railroad town with two excellent bridges across the Ohio River, one of which is historic (the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, the first bridge to span the Ohio River).

And here is a list of some of Wheeling’s better known companies: Fostoria Glass, (formerly in nearby Moundsville, WV and now defunct); Hazel-Atlas Glass (now defunct); Fiesta Dinnerware (still in business, located to the north in Newell, WV); and the Wheeling Steel Company (merged into Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel, 1968).

With the success, of course, came the style to live a refined life. Wheeling’s historic districts and buildings are justly celebrated. The streets are lined with Greek Revival and Late Victorian buildings; Highland Park, built before WWII, served as a model for the American postwar subdivision; and the West Virginia Independence Hall is (from RT’s perspective), as fine an example of American architecture as you are likely to find anywhere.

Downtown Wheeling

WV Independence Hall

So what happened? What halved the city’s population and left Wheeling with a 15.95% poverty rate and an average family income of $39,600?

Economic cycles are difficult to untangle, and doubtless the set of circumstances that led to the decline of industry in the central part of the United States would take volumes to analyze. Be that as it may, RT thinks that one cause might be a lack of confidence and imagination. It can be awfully hard to break the downward spiral of negative thinking that attends a broad-scale decline of any sort. That is why remembering what has been achieved in the past can be so useful in starting a new upward trend (as Americans did during the Federal period by modeling the new republic along Roman lines).

C&O Canal, 1900-1924

That said, here is another, concrete factor to consider: the state of the U.S. canal system (and the Mississippi River). The state (and commercial use) of U.S. canals could be much improved. Why bother renovating antiquated canals? Because barge transportation, though slow, may well be the most economical, least polluting way of carrying heavy cargo. And there can be little doubt that barge transportation (along with railroads) constituted an essential component of the economic health of inland American cities during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Two famous canals illustrate the point: the Chesapeake-Ohio Canal (terminus in Cumberland, MD) and the Erie Canal (which runs across upstate New York from Albany to Buffalo). Both canals were vital to opening up American agriculture and industry, but are now deemed uneconomical, despite the cost advantage of river transport. Even the New York State Barge Canal, built to supersede the Erie, is used mainly for recreational boating. What with the price of gas hovering in the $4-a-gallon range, RT can’t help but think that there is a future in commercial barge traffic, and in the towns that served as river ports for it. This might well be the economic salvation of Wheeling and the entire Mississippi basin.

RT is aware that there are no perfect solutions. Just to mention one problem, canals are responsible for the introduction of many undesirable marine species into water systems around the world. And what about barge traffic through historic areas? But at bottom, these sound like technical problems that can be overcome by good-old-American ingenuity. What is really difficult to live with is the sight of dynamic inland American cities disintegrating for no apparent economic reason. Want to help Appalachia? Take a barge on your next trip into the Heartland.    RT

*

All Photos: WikiCmns; Public Domain.

taurus

October 18, 2012 Leave a comment

*

the Bull of Heaven (with a nod to Gilgamesh!)  RT

(reposted from Neoalchemist)

*

taurus.