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Archive for January, 2013

Closing arguments have wrapped up in a trial that has everybody talking in Central VA. In the sleepy town of Culpeper, Daniel Harmon-Wright is fighting to get his life back. An ex-police officer, he made the mistake of taking on the wrong woman in the parking lot of a Catholic School on February 9, 2012. Somebody called and said there was a “suspicious looking car.” Think of Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes in front of the Winn Dixie, “TOWANDA.”

Only it didn’t work out that well when 54-year-old Patricia Ann Cook decided that she wasn’t getting out of her car for no good reason. When Harmon-Wright tried reaching inside (to get her keys I presume), she closed the window on the officer’s arm and started dragging him down the pavement. That’s when he shot her. He is charged with “…murder, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony…A prosecutor called the fatal shooting “excessive” and unnecessary, while Harmon-Wright’s attorney said the officer was doing his job in shooting at a ‘fleeing felon.'” http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/ap/ex-culpeper-officer-s-murder-trial-nears-end/article_76733eba-ade6-5188-a938-ec980d8b5db2.html

Wait, who’s the felon? The officer had a history of unnecessary force, “…about a month before the fatal incident, Harmon-Wright received a reprimand for entering a house with his gun drawn and forcing a teenager to the floor. It turned out he had the wrong teen.”

I remember thinking how strange and stupid the whole thing was when I first heard about it, why not shoot out the tires, or just threaten her, or aim at her hand or something? Now I love the police just like the next guy, or girl, but growing up in the North we learned to never take chances when somebody in a uniform with a gun approaches us. You do what they say. Period. However, you know that if they want to search your car, they need a little something called “probable cause.” Just because you’re a young man with long hair and a brake light is out won’t cut it…do you detect a note of the anti-establishment 60s? Maybe Cook was having a bad day, maybe it was a menopausal Towanda kinda day? Did she deserve to die?

It’s serendipitous that the jury will most likely deliver its verdict on the same day that a new immigration policy is unfolding further upstream in Washington, DC. Police have been stopping suspicious looking people, (ie Mexican) and asking for their identification in some states. They have been imprisoning people who may have been called for a domestic dispute, turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and deporting them…because they raised their voice and didn’t have a green card. Children have been separated from parents. During President Obama’s tenure, deportations have risen beyond the levels of President Bush, calling for a policy that “…would force local law enforcement to share fingerprints of those arrested with the Department of Homeland Security, which has immigration records, through the FBI.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/27/obama-is-deporting-more-immigrants-than-bush-republicans-dont-think-thats-enough/

We read about police states, but we never really think this could happen here. When is deadly force the right move? Who gets to question who about their immigration status? Now, because the clueless GOP thinks that losing 71% of the Latino vote in November is reason enough to consider a humane, comprehensive immigration policy, we should celebrate. Well, OK, just un pequeno.
RIP Patricia Ann Cook, the unarmed Sunday School teacher who was shot 7 times. And thank God for online petitions, like the one that kept the city from brushing this case under the proverbial rug.
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Red ghillies and oxfords, while we’re in the mood, high heels and sandals.

When we were packing up the house to move South, my daughter was helping with my closet. She’d lined up my shoes in 3 orderly groups – 1) shoes I definitely want to keep; 2) shoes I may want to keep; 3) shoes to give or throw away. Naturally, the second group was overflowing, which led her to ask me this simple question,
“How many (insert color) shoes do you need?”

No apology, I happen to love shoes, in all their myriad shapes and colors. There are pictures of me with my foster sister and her fiancee on a trip to see the circus in NYC. What circus I do not know. I was too young to remember this special trip, but was always told how much I loved my “circus shoes.” In black and white, CLR Child w Jackie 20130125I am beaming happiness with a little pair of oxfords on my feet. Perhaps this is where my need to see the Big Apple Circus every year with my children arose. Being able to wear only oxfords in Sacred Heart School, and only penny loafers at Camp St Joseph may be factors in my fashionable fetish. For sports at camp or school, we would wear white Keds, so you see we had little choice growing up in the 50s. There is also the lasting value in classic design. Trends may come and go, you can gain or lose a few pounds, but a classic pair of good leather shoes can last a lifetime! Though, fair warning to you pregnant girls, my shoe size increased by half with each child. I asked the Rocker once why he needs so many guitars, he looked at me and said, “Why do you need so many shoes?”

I’ve written here about shoes a number of times. About our town’s famously decadent shoe store Scarpa, https://mountainmornings.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/small-times/
I remember writing about the fashion writer who stood staring at the one red shoe in a gigantic see-through bin of discarded shoes at the Holocaust museum. Once, while writing about Pinterest, I even included a picture of my shoe shelves: https://mountainmornings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/pining-or-pinning-that-is-the-question/

One of the first gifts I bought when I found out the Bride was pregnant with a girl was a pair of pink leather shoes. Will they be helpful in her quest to start walking, like those overly-polished and re-polished white Stride Rites I laced up my baby’s feet? Probably not. Will they be ever so adorable, absolutely! I was star-struck once while strolling down Madison Avenue with my sister Kay. We stopped short in front of a fancy children’s boutique with pink leather Italian shoes in the window. Of course, I had to get them for the toddler Bride, even if they might only last her a few months.

There have been Picasso shoe periods. The 60s teen years of wearing Weejuns, penny loafers without pennies, polished just so with black to tone down the oxblood color. The dancing decade of wearing espadrilles with rope you wind around your ankle, very Isadora Duncan. The Pappagallo phase of pastel and mini bows with Queen Anne heels paired nicely with mini skirts. Thankfully I never went in for the high dollar, designer stilettos of Sex and the City; either I was just too old wise or whygobroke/killing/your/feet.

So if you love shoes, you may enjoy reading this historical essay on shoes and gender and power, “Why DID Men Stop Wearing High Heels?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21151350 _65446635_red_soled_compositeThink of Louis XIV, initially men wore heels in order to ride a horse and the height and color became tied with rank and royalty. But eventually, “High heels were seen as foolish and effeminate. By 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether.” We women dropped the need for height after the French revolution too, but for some insane reason, in the mid-19th Century, we decided it might be nice to squeeze our feet into high heels again…well, if you read the article you’ll learn why, and it’s not pretty.

But take heart, these teeny tiny feet are ready to dance in the Music City. Thank you velcro, and thank you ecommerce for making fancy baby shoes as easy to find as say, a good pair of Minnetonka slippers.
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Sit down, take a load off. We’re not talking about Weight Watchers here; we’re going to talk about warrantless wiretapping. Just because you think they’re watching you…doesn’t mean they are, does it? I have to admit that conspiracy theories will always get my attention. Then I move on, attributing most of the paranoid delusional rhetoric to a bunch of crazies. But this past weekend, I was staying up late with Real Time and Bill Maher on HBO. Getting the TV fixed definitely cuts into my healthy sleep habits. Welcome back Bill to your new season you are the Left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. Maher routinely comes up with one or two-liners like this: “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what’s philosophically wrong with Republicans. It’s like asking what’s intellectually wrong with lobsters.” http://www.real-time-with-bill-maher-blog.com/real-time-with-bill-maher-blog/2013/1/18/party-foul.html

But his closing soliloquy left me sleepless in Cville. Now it’s probably not a good idea to lay your head down on your pillow after hearing that we Americans have just been giving most of our fundamental rights away without so much as a whimper. I’m talking about all of us, red and blue Americans and any other colorful configurations. He pooh poohed the idea that we are losing our 2nd Amendment rights and got right to the heart of the matter, saying,

“The Senate quietly reauthorized the National Defense Authorization Act while everyone was so concerned about the fiscal cliff, and there wasn’t even a peep out of the “freedom” crowd. In fact, people seem to be okay with government surveillance and warrantless wiretapping at this point….Does anyone care that this is the new normal?” I was lying awake and thinking about baby robotic drones overhead stealing my ideas about how to make a better lasagna.

Then I read this – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/google-transparency-report_n_2537153.html Now everybody knows that one usually needs to acquire a warrant from a judge before snooping through a private citizen’s home. But your email and internet searches are another matter; maybe your mail box is federally protected, but your inbox is fair game. “From July to December 2012, Google revealed, the company received 8,438 total requests for information about 14,791 users or accounts in the United States. Requests were up 34 percent from 2011 to 2012.” Yes folks, requests from law enforcement went up 34%!! I wonder what the stats will be for 2012 to 2013. The article goes on to say that only 22% of the time is a warrant involved; the FBI and/or police will simply write up an administrative subpoena.

It’s good to know that privacy advocates and Google (Facebook would you chime in here) are trying to reverse this trend, and hats off to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for passing an amendment to reform the very broad law ironically titled the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress in 1986 based on technology at the time. In 1986 the Rocker was 2 years old and we all were wearing shoulder pads! Leahy spearheaded his plan for governing internet surveillance in November saying this is the first step in corralling the Department of Justice, “…growing and unwelcome intrusion into our private life in cyberspace.” Still I’m not too hopeful it will go anywhere in our congenial House of Representatives.

The Tea Partyiers are worried the government will take away all their guns; that helicopters will be landing in their back yards. That’s why they need assault weapons. Maybe the “freedom” they are fighting for is misleading? Maybe both parties need to worry more about how incrementally we have given up our right to privacy. Background checks to buy a lethal weapon? Sure. Emails and social media about a shoe sale in Cville – What? Technology races ahead while civil liberty law limps along trying to play catch-up.
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If I may, I’d like to give you some tried and true suggestions for raising teenagers in the White House.

!) Keep up the no Facebook policy: I’d like to think if there were such a thing when I had teens it would have been verboten, like MTV. Oh and let them watch more than 2 hours of TV a week, maybe 4 not counting sports?

2) Make them pay half for their first car: I know they probably don’t have a part-time job, like working at Starbucks or babysitting, but make it clear you expect a contribution.

3) Set a reasonable curfew: Figure out when the bars close in DC, and make it an hour before that as long as it’s before midnight. We all know bad things happen after midnight.

4) Make no drugs or alcohol a sacrosanct rule: Destroy all paraphernalia you find immediately and have the Secret Service (SS) deliver any drunken teenage boys they might find on your lawn to their own homes pronto.

5) Make no exceptions to Rule #4, except: Have them sign a contract that states they can call you at anytime if they have eluded the SS and are drunk and need a ride back to the White House; no questions asked.

6) Cellphone criteria: There will be NO sexting, instagram or tweeting. Zero, zilch, none.

7) Dating Dilemma: Have a realistic sex talk please, if you haven’t already. Mom and Dad-in-Chief will have to meet and approve of each date; football games, movies, concerts. Of course the SS will have fully vetted said date, and will accompany them. There will be no dating of bodyguards!

8) Lighten up on Health: We all know body image problems may set in when hormones surge. Eat fewer carrots and more pie. Practice yoga and not spinning. Allow NO permanent body changes (such as tattoos or body piercing) until age 18. Wear less sleeveless shirts, those arms are intimidating.

9) Do NOT hire a college counselor: You are an educated woman, surely you can require the dreaded college essay and application packet be delivered on time. Suggested topic: “How to Elude the SS.”

10) Be Proactive: Invite their friends over on weekends, start a bowling league in the basement or set aside an arts and craft’s room near the Blue Room. Keep their friends close.

I hope you take my suggestions freely and without any mental reservations.
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Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone. I know, the official holiday is tomorrow, but today is the actual day. And every so often, MLK Sunday is aligned with January 20th, the Presidential Inauguration Day, which is why President Obama will be the only Prez to take the oath of office 4 times!

Last time he said the words “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” twice because a fledgling Justice named Roberts mixed up the “faithfully execute” part. There should be no tripping over the words this time, since the charming pair of oaths will be executed today in a private ceremony and then again tomorrow for public consumption.

But this is only the 7th time in history a President has been sworn in on a Sunday, making the alignment of this particular President with MLK Day  historical in another way. When President Obama said that a mere sixty years ago his father “…might not have been served” at a restaurant a block from where he was standing, I had one of those Aha moments.

My nephew grew up in Memphis. One of his first writing assignments was about asking his mother what a certain sign meant over a water fountain, the sign said “Whites Only.” The Flapper was visiting at the time and copied that paper and sent it to me. I was in college, in Boston in 1968, when Dr King was shot. I marched on the state capital for the first time with a black armband, but I had never personally witnessed the kind of apartheid our country was carrying out on so many different levels.

I lived most of my young life in New Jersey, I still had not experienced teaching at a Head Start Preschool in the projects of Jersey City (now colloquially called ‘public housing’).  I, like most of us back then, didn’t even know any African Americans precisely because we were separated in a not-so-subtle way, by schools and geography. There were no blatant signs of racism in the north, like the water fountain sign in Memphis, but ignorance could only take us so far after seeing women and children being attacked by dogs, bombs exploding in churches, and the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King.

You were wrong Mr President, it wouldn’t have been sixty years ago that your Kenyan father may not have been able to sit down in a certain restaurant in DC. King was gunned down less than fifty years ago in April. He was still tirelessly working for social justice even though the Civil Rights Act had been passed 4 years before his death, and wasn’t fully enacted by the states until the late 1970s.

This weekend makes it personal for me. For the first time in my sixty plus years I came face to face with a sign in an antique shop. It was a Pennsylvania Railroad sign welcoming passengers to VA. I felt sick, wondering who would buy such a thing. Bob said we should never forget, and I know that he’s right. Living in the south now makes it all the more personal. Congratulations Mr President, know that we all admire and respect you…and that Martin would be so very proud

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“No Blacks in the Front 4 Cars”

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Schools are closing early today because snow is in the air. Things are getting back to normal, it’s winter so bring it. The fire is on and I’ve got all-wheel drive, and even though I don’t have little ones coming home early for lunch, still, I couldn’t help thinking of Newtown.

Yesterday I was nearly crying at the gym, thereby ignoring one of the first rules I set down for the kids – Never Cry in Public! But I was on the bike without earphones, reading The New Yorker US magazine, when I became aware that something was happening on the big screen over the treadmill. Putting aside my need to know why Bethenny was divorcing her cute and rather normal hubby, I looked up and there was the VP about to introduce the President on CNN. Lucky for me, it had its closed captioning switch turned on, so unlike the other day when all I could do was listen to Mr Obama on NPR, I could now watch him and read what he was saying…about guns.

Thank you Mr President. Thanks for starting off the conversation about research, and how knowledge is good and go right ahead CDC. I’m telling you to study gun violence. I’m glad he puts the public’s health ahead of a lobbyist’s agenda. Thank you for signing 23 unilateral orders,  of which research is #14 Oh, and thanks for revisiting and clarifying the Affordable Care Act such that doctors ARE allowed to ask about guns in the home #16. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/01/obama-executive-actions-gun-list/61075/. Closing loopholes like gun shows and requiring law enforcement to run full background checks “… on an individual before returning a seized gun” just seem like no-brainers.

But along with telling our doctors what to say, and trying to stop all research into gun violence, did you know that gun manufacturers and dealers cannot be sued? It’s like they hold some huge, unspoken grip on our legislators, that grip that tightened when the clause to give the Assault Weapon Ban an expiration date was introduced back in 1994. OK we know that ‘Arms used in the theatre of war must not be used in movie theaters’ – one of my favorite lines btw – but somebody thought that maybe they just might want to kill about 60 ducks in one minute? Like the .223-caliber Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault-style rifle with a drum clip that could hold up to 100 rounds and was used in Colorado?

Back to lawyers, there’s a little known clause in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that says that the people who manufacture these guns and their dealers are immune to prosecution for negligence and product liability. Should I say this again? No lawsuits allowed! Which means even if you are a ‘law-abiding’ gun owner and your gun misfires due to no fault of your own and blows off your face say, or your hand, you cannot sue. Am I alone in thinking this is nutso? This week, Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Calif) will introduce legislation to roll back legal immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers. Thank you Rep Schiff http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/adam-schiff-gun-bill_n_2471863.html

Here’s a thought. Maybe if we can keep the right side of Congress busy trying to figure out how to dodge and weave around gun control legislation, they will be too tired to introduce personhood bills? It’s funny how the GOP is so intent on being known as the Pro-Life Party, while it condones our 2nd Amendment Right to kill as many people as fast as we like. Oh wait, that’s not what the founders meant, was it?

I got choked up in the middle of Obama’s speech, then the Bride called me with fun news. So I stopped watching CNN and listened to her plan to get the Love Bug an exercise saucer. When we were done, happiness mixed with sadness, trying to read the last part of his speech through my tears. Grace McDonnell. A little girl who deserved to live.  A gorgeous little girl with a bright future, “…I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now — for Grace. For the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give.” Thank you President Obama.

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7 year old Grace McDonnell

In every vote that is cast to curb gun violence, please make them a roll call vote. I want to know who’s thinking about our children’s safety. And who isn’t.

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A few days ago our television died. How old was that thing anyway? We bought it when we built this house, about 5 years ago, then I started wondering how long should a TV last. While I was busy lamenting, Bob of course, started researching the latest wired-to-the-internet models while also taking apart our measly 37″ flat screen Magnavox and finding the culprit. Yep, it’s a capacitor problem in the power board! He happily showed me the leaky, cracked caps! I had no idea what he was talking about, but like a good wife, I feigned interest. photo copy

I’ve always said that there’s just something on that Y gene that gives our guys the power to pull stuff apart and put it back together again with impunity. Now I know this sounds sexist, but just follow along. Once I brought home a beautiful antique chandelier – it was a bargain. Only it didn’t work. Well, before long, Bob had all the pieces lined up across our dining room table, and wouldn’t you know it, he re-wired the thing. I asked him if he’d ever done that before, he just looked at me, smiled, and said, “No.”

My foster father Jim liked to fix things too. This may sound arcane, but I distinctly remember him behind our old 1950s era black and white TV cabinet, taking the back off and removing its mysterious vacuum tubes. Then I’d accompany him to the hardware store where he’d test them in some gizmo; I remember them lighting up and the buzzing sound they would make. We’d buy only as many as were damaged. At home, he’d replace the tubes, screw the back on the cabinet and hop up on the roof to adjust the antennae. Nell would tell me when to yell, “Stop” out the window.

Now our TV had to go into the one shop in town that does “TV and VCR” repair work, simply because Bob didn’t want to solder onto the mini=computer board the $8.95 capacitors he could buy at Radio Shack. Thankfully, he knows his limits. It will cost less than a hundred dollars to fix and save us close to a thousand to replace with the latest in LCD wizardry. Which is great. But what’s better is we’ve been listening to the radio at home, NPR to be precise. And yesterday while listening to our President address the nation about the debt ceiling, I liked his tone. I am hoping he’ll deliver his ‘take no prisoners we’re not a deadbeat nation’ message later in the week to Congress about gun violence. I really liked his delivery as I sat there, knitting a rose colored dress for the Love Bug, and feeling like a 1930s era housewife. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. photo

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