Saturday, 12 July 2014

Refugees: Syrian and Central American; the shame of the USA; with a look back to 1939

There are:
100,000 Syrian refuges in Europe.
600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan
600,000 + Syrian refugees in the Lebanon
212,000  Syrian refugees in Iraq  (in Kurdish controlled areas)
670,000 Syrian refuges in Turkey.
(Numbers from the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy).

Europe  (i.e. the European Community) has mixed a religious population, viz mostly Roman Catholic and Protestant  (many of these are nominally Catholic and Protestant but do not have an active religious practice) , with minority Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims -  and a heck of a lot of agnostics/atheists!)

Jordan has a majority Muslim population.

Lebanon (for political reasons) has not had a religious census since 1932.  The best recent
guess-timate is that the Lebanese population is 40% Christian, 54% Muslim, and 6% Druze.

Syrian refugees are being sheltered by their religious allies i.e.

 Christian Syrians (there are many) in Christian Lebanese areas,
Sunni Syrians in Lebanese Sunni areas,
Shia Syrians in Lebanese Shia area.

Because of the complicated (yeah even Byzantine) nature of the Lebanese government it does not recognize any of these Syrians as bona-fide refugees  (there are many apple carts in Lebanon which, if turned over would create political chaos!)
The Kurds of Iraq are mostly Muslims (with a tiny minority of all manner of religious beliefs and practices!)

Turkey is officially a secular State but the vast majority of Turks practice Islam.


So there you have it.  Some 2.2 million Syrians are refugees: those  who have fled the murder and violence of the brutal uprising/civil war in Syria,

Most of these refugees are being sheltered (at considerable costs)  in Muslim (or majority Muslim) States and areas.

 Majority Muslim countries are doing their best to shelter 2.2 million refugees


In the meantime some 60,000 people  from Mexico and Central America  have "flooded" our borders.

Of these (according to the USA Border Patrol) some 40,000 are children and young people (with some mothers) who  have fled from the ghastly violence and murder which is the lot of many children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The right wing of the Republican party calls them "illegal immigrants".

The less than progressive Democratic Party dithers, with an eye to elections. 

The United Nations believes that the kids and their Mums from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are bona-fide refugees.

See this from the New York Times


The truth is that these 60,000 people who have "flooded our borders" hah -  ask Turkey about "border flooding" -- are here, and by American law (passed in the George W. Bush era),  they are here to stay-  pending judicial reviews of their status.

Some Republicans want President Obama to flout this law, even as they accuse him of breaking other laws. 

(Republican hypocrisy know no bounds).
(Nor does Democratic craven-ness).
In matters of justice I  have little faith in the Democratic party.
I reserve my ire for the hypocrites  of the Republican party.  This is because that Party often claims that America is a Christian Country. They often make that claim with  regard to the health of women,  and the status of gay and lesbian Americans.
For these Republicans America is a selectively  Christian country, which ceases to be "Christian" at our borders.
These "Christians"  want to expel some 40,000 political  refugees  who are fleeing the terror of life in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
In the meantime the majority Muslim countries named above give shelter and food to 2.2 million political refugees.
 And as I am just saying I invite you to look back to 1939

A look ahead to Sunday in the Vatican



Friday, 11 July 2014

Cat to the chase (awful pun)

Ada and Adelaide took a trip today.  They were not too excited about this but they had no choice. it was time for their triennial rabies shots.

Early this morning I set out two cat carriers. This gave them the opportunity to sniff and to explore.

At about 2:30 I decided it was time to place them in their carriers in preparation for the car ride to the vet a bit later.

I snagged Adelaide first of all since she is the most able to run and then hide  So (feeling like a cheat) I picked her up as to caress her, and then put her in the carrier before she could do a disappearing act.

So far so good, but Ada watched the action and guessed that she would be the next in line. So she ran and hid.  A chase to the cat ensued until I was able to locate Ada under a china cabinet and pull her out by the tail  ( I know, how cruel, but needs must).

Both cats in the carriers I set them down into the calm and cool of the spare bedroom so that they could relax, and get used to their temporary imprisonment.

Came 3:45 and it was time to load the car.  As I began to carry the cat carriers from my house to the car Penne got in on the act. She (in human terms) became highly perturbed and anxious.

Why were the cats in these carriers?  Where was I taking them? Why couldn't she come in the car with us?

Once in the car I was treated to a duet of protest as Adelaide (a soprano) and Ada (a baritone) miaowed their misery.  Fortunately the vet's office is about a mile and a half away so the cat-tanta was brief.

At the vet's office they each recovered their feline dignity and behaved with British type stiff upper lips as they were weighed (Adelaide 7lbs, Ada 10lbs), examined (they are both in good shape), and given their injections without protesting.

Back at home Penne went wild with excitement. She sniffed at the carriers and once the cats were released followed them around the house, nose a-sniffing and tail a-wagging.

I will have to take a restful day tomorrow for this has been enough excitement for me to last for a few days.

"Cat to the chase?"   see this

Thursday, 10 July 2014

I miss my family

When my mother turned 80 (1993) I resolved to visit her in England every year. I just about kept that resolution, except that when she died in 2002 I had not seen her for eighteen months.

Twelve years on I realize how much I miss my family.

Of course I saw many of them in 2009 and that was good. But I did not travel to England for five years after that.

This year (2014) saw me in England again (for my 70th birthday).  I was able to visit with each of my eight siblings, with six of their spouses, with thirteen of my nineteen nieces and nephews, and with twelve  of my great-nieces and nephews. (I love being a great uncle!)

I love them all, but by grace and by happenstance I talk most often with my kid brother Martyn (a kid brother aged 60!), and with my fabulous big sister Maureen  (who was 77 last Sunday).

Dammit, I forgot her birthday!   I made up for this by calling her today. We had a sweet, loving, prayerful and gracious conversation.

When I hung up I got a bit melancholy and  my heart began to ache with the realization of how much I miss my family.

My phantasy is of returning to England after thirty eight years of good life in these United States.

It's a lovely but unrealistic phantasy.

1,  I would have to default, and walk way from my mortgage which is under-water,

2. My pension and social security (good as they are) would be insufficient to enable me to buy/rent an apartment in the U.K., get a car, and live from day to day.

3. What would I do with my good cats Ada and Adelaide, and my best friend and darling dog Penne?

4.  Once in England I would be sure to deeply  miss the scores of good friends I have made in the U.S.A.


Mine is a lovely but unrealistic phantasy.  It is deeply rooted in my love for my sibs. and their progeny.

I am grateful to God for this:   I was able to visit with each of my eight siblings, with six of their spouses, with thirteen of my nineteen nieces and nephews, and with twelve  of my great-nieces and nephews. (I love being a great uncle!)


And there is always "next year".

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My Great-Nephew and buses

My great-nephew Ryan (7) has a great interest in buses and bus routes in our home City of Bristol. He has a great knowledge of many of the routes and was fascinated by my stories of the Bristol area bus route #319 which I took a few times.
I wrote to Ryan today, via his Mum my good niece Nicola.  Here is what I said:
"Hi Ryan I went on a 'bus today because my car is being repaired.
 In the place I live the buses are called S.C.A.T which stands for Sarasota County Area Transit.
I had to walk about ten minutes to the 'bus stop, and then I took 'bus number 6 to the centre of Sarasota.
It was a fifteen minute journey and it cost me 60 cents, that's about 35 pence (cheap because I am old).
All our buses are single deckers. The one I rode was very modern and had air conditioning. 
 People can put their bikes on the front of our buses, that way they can cycle to the 'bus stop if they live too far away to walk. 
 I could not find a picture of a number 6 bus, but the one here, number 12,  looks just the same.
The X100 bus is an express. It has very comfortable seats, and free Wi-Fi 
 Also there is a picture to show you what our bus stops look like."


Incidentally dear readers, our SCAT service is not great, but it is not bad. For instance my nearest bus (route 6) runs every half hour during the daytime.  I can use it to get to the big "Sarasota Square Mall", or to go downtown to get to Resurrection House (which is what I did today) or to the Library, City Hall, County Offices, or the Whole Foods Supermarket.  But I would need to take three bus routes to get to Church - with highly inconvenient transfer times between each bus
However, SCAT provides an essential service for the "working poor", for car-less seniors, and for students at our local colleges e.g. the Sarasota County Technical Institute.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Not much, but no political comment today.

1.  Oh my sweet dog. (1)

As we walked out yesterday she pulled me up to the front door of my neighbour Ed.  He is one of her favourite people. 

I said "Ed is away, he is in North Carolina for the summer".  I walked her back to the roadway.  Not to be deterred by mere words Penne pulled me again to Ed's front door.  She was so determined to see her pal.

I  again explained to Penne that Ed. is away, and led her away for a walk around the pond. She is not entirely sure that I spoke the truth.

2.  Oh my sweet dog. (2)

This morning as Penne and I walked out she decided that a visit with some other neighbours, (Bert and Polly and their cat Daisy)  was to be desired.

I had to explain to Penne that Bert, Polly and Daisy are in Indianapolis. She was not entirely convinced of my truthfulness.

The odd thing is that Penne has no interest in our cats Ada and Adelaide, but she is "crazy" about Daisy. Go figure!

3. Cars:  We can't live without them - but they suck up our dollars.

All the recent huffings and puffings of my car came to a head today when, returning home after a brief shopping trip,  I could hear the noise of boiling in the car's radiator.

Thanks to my membership in A.A.A. I got a "free" tow to Sam's Auto - a local auto shop which I deeply trust.

Sam's Auto tells me that my  car's radiator is shot.  I have no reason to disbelieve them (and based on previous experience) I have every reason to trust their word,.

With that in mind they have ordered a new radiator  (coming by overnight U.P.S. from Fort Lauderdale)  so that with any luck I'll have the use of my car again ASAP.

Please do not ask about how many of my dollars will be sucked up for this Auto repair, save to say again regarding cars (in this neck of the woods)  we can't live without them - but they suck up our dollars.

How and why did we create such an automobile dependent culture?

Monday, 7 July 2014

"Comment is free but facts are sacred" (C.P.Scott 1846-1932) (2)

A Facebook friend of mine posted this photo’ the other day.
My friend added: “Dam straight we the American people where here first and our founding fathers came up with this. It's not here to offend it's here to let everyone know where we are. A free Country. In china don't they make you respite things only about them? In Russia don't they do the same thing with a little old fashion brain washing!” (sic)
I gently corrected him as to the origin of the pledge, (it was not written by the Founding Fathers) to which he responded:
“I under stand that all. But us feeling like we have to watch every word we say in side our own country? This is getting unreal.” (sic)
I replied:
“What words do you have in mind? (I don't find the need to watch any of my words (except those which could be cruel or unkind).”   (I also should have said “untrue”).
I went on to say: “And of course the Pledge of Allegiance IS said in most schools. It's an urban myth that it can no longer be used, although no child may be forced to say it.”
I am very fond of this particular Facebook friend.  I think that I understand his sentiments. And yet….  “comment is free, but facts are sacred”. I had to remind of a fact ….  the Pledge of Allegiance IS said in most schools.
Here is a potted history of the pledge -  I “lifted this from the web”
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the (1) socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.

In its original form it read:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. At this time it read:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times,
(2) President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we know say today.
I also lifted the following from the web with, in the interests of clarity, some slight but not material changes.
The Supreme Court ruled about the voluntary nature of saying the Pledge way back in1943.
"In the case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette”, the Supreme Court found that the right to remain silent during the Pledge of Allegiance stems from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Just as the First Amendment protects our right to express our beliefs, it prohibits the government from compelling us to declare a belief that we do not hold.
As the Barnette court wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” (3)  
(1)  “Shock, horror, disbelief” The original pledge was written by a Socialist.
(2) What a shame that Ike intervened and that Congress got in on the act. What should have been a personal pledge made or not made in private conscience became a quasi-governmental utterance.  That was an example of  the kind of big and interfering Government which I deplore (and it was suggested by a Republican President to a Republican Congress.)
(3)  Can any of us imagine that the present conservative majority and ideologically right wing “Roberts” Supreme Court which, (against all Republican Party principles has been so entirely “judicially activist” in creating new laws),  would be capable of issuing such a constitutionally centered ruling as did the “Barnette” Supreme Court in 1943.

"Comment is free but facts are sacred" (C.P.Scott 1846-1932) (1)

A Facebook friend of mine recently  posted these words about the American Declaration of Independence.

He said:
"Wonderful words that started the most free and progressive nation in history."
The words of the Declaration of Independence are indeed  mostly wonderful, except that they describe the noble original inhabitants of this sub-continent as "Savages", and that they take slavery for granted. There is nothing wonderful about that.
But to say that America is "the most free and progressive nation in history" is sheer nonsense. Such words ignore the historical record.
1. The Indians who were banished to reservations were hardly free.
2. Nor were the millions of Africans who were enslaved.
3. The Supreme Court ruling that slaves counted as 3/5 of a human being was hardly progressive.
4. Nor was the Supreme Court ruling which affirmed racial segregation in that infamous "separate but equal" ruling which paved the way for the horrendous "Jim Crow" laws.
5. We were hardly "progressive" in the wide spread nativist  and "know nothing" movements which were anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish, and anti-immigrant.
6. Nor was it progressive to intern loyal Japanese-Americans during World War II
7. Was the Red Scare nonsense (promulgated by Joe McCarthy and supported by Richard Millhouse Nixon) progressive?
8. Regressive forces ensued that we could not pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
 My list could go on. But my points are simple:
(a) None but the most ignorant or determinedly nativist Americans could assert that we are amongst the most free of nations.
(b) The record of history belies the notion that we have been progressive.
I'll grant my friend his patriotism.  But his assertion that America is "the most free and progressive nation in history"  is built on shaky ground.
True patriotism is rooted in an honest assessment of the historical record.  That record in America is far less than progressive. We are not the most free peoples in history.
Would that the opposite were true.