Tuesday, February 24, 2009


We expect a conspiracy. In last night's episode of 24, all of the plot lines seem tied up with nothing left to fix and nothing left for Jack Bauer to do but sit on the Capitol steps in contemplation. Of course, we knew that couldn't be true, because we hadn't used up 24 hours yet and Jack's not that inward-looking --- and lo and behold, Tony showed up to introduce a new cabal.

We expect another conspiracy to keep on popping up, not only on 24, but in real life.

It occurred to me that we always expect a new conspiracy because we can't trust the people we have put our trust in. At home, in our educational institutions, in our private organizations --- religious and otherwise, and in government. To a large degree, our nation and the world's current financial crisis stems from misplaced trust in the rich and powerful people we allowed to govern and manage our money.

As a federal employee, I always knew that --- at least in my agency, the IRS --- the federal government wasn't adequately funding oversight and enforcement of the laws. There was a lot more work to be done at a cost much less than the revenue it would produce to get people to comply and pay their taxes. So many individuals and corporations and companies were let go, allowed to wallow in their dishonesty and greed. It wasn't hard to surmise that that was probably the case with other regulatory agencies that oversaw finances and trade. And low and behold, it was true. And it continues to be so.

Nonetheless, those we have elected to represent us continue to balk at adequate funding for such agencies and for such oversight. A person has to ask themselves why. There is no doubt that in our country we need transparency in our government --- to use the latest catch word. That's true not only in government but in our personal lives and our private institutions. At some point we have to give meaning in a real and substantive way to the notion, "I have nothing to hide."

Yesterday the Utah republicans met to talk about Chris Buttars . . . in secret.

We love our conspiracies. And we love to perpetrate them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


For quite a few years now I have engaged, along with my wife, in a reading group. We meet in the local Barnes & Noble on the third Monday of every month to discuss a new book we have read. It has been an adventure. The reception of Barnes & Noble to us over that time has varied significantly. At first, they were all for it. The new store wanted to encourage readers to be there. They made space for us, accommodated us with comfortable seating and extra chairs, when needed. They posted our meeting time and the book we had selected for that particular month. Over time, as the store became more and more popular and underwent management changes, and, I suppose, due to the broader perspective of the chain's upper management, the accommodations lessened. "We have to make more space for merchandise." Now, quite often, we have to beg for any accommodation whatsoever. Fortunately, we are a small group and don't take up too much room. Furthermore, I am pretty certain we buy a lot of books there at the Barnes & Noble store.

The major host of the group, who was there before we joined, is leaving for a year. She is the individual that always has greased the skids between the group and the store. After her retirement from government, she worked at the Barnes & Noble for a while and helped get it going on such firm footing to begin with relative to customer service. Things seemed to go downhill after she left, from my perspective. I think there was a major shift in the thinking of management relative to customer service and sales.

Anyway, this friend is going on an LDS mission with her husband to Hawaii. Poor babies. They will help man an office for a mission there, doing office-like work. Both of them are retired. Their parents have passed on. Their children are independent. They have reached a situation where they can leave home and contribute their talents and time to do the work. We went to their farewell this morning and enjoyed their talks. Both of them were extremely well prepared as to the content and length of their presentations. I enjoyed being there and listening very much. Our friend told of her ancestors who also gave service in Hawaii relative to the church. For her, then, it was a continuation of such service, meant to honor and respect her heritage and the example set by her forbearers.

Mostly I like to be left alone. I'm a solitary individual. I don't know if I have always been so, but I think I have. I have felt that way as long as I can remember. It's not that I'm a hermit; I do enjoy other people's company and some social situations, but for the most part I have learned to be satisfied with my own space and company. And I am a family man, and to enjoy the company of my family, some more so than others. But sometimes I am perturbed by people's intrusions into my solitude. Nonetheless, going to discuss the book we have read for a particular month has always been a nice break from my solitude. I enjoy it and the company I find there.

Friday, February 20, 2009


There is so much unemployment out there in the wide world of today. It makes me worried and feel thankful to be retired. I am glad I selected to work in government. Although it has many drawbacks, it has also many advantages and I loved the work I did. I'm glad I don't have to look for employment now though. The job situation is tenuous, to say the least, and it seems to grow worse every day.

Becoming unemployed causes problem not only for the person who loses his or her job, but for all of the people affected by the loss: dependents, the government who now has to pay some kind of welfare or out of work compensation, the relatives and/or friends who have to help support the person out of work and his or her dependents. The ramifications don't end there either. All of society is affected. It is a personal problem, but it is also a financial burden upon society.

The person who loses a job probably feels some degree of loss of identity. They may become depressed and they may lose touch with society , work associates, and others who previously helped them get along in the world and feel good about themselves.

I guess the bottom line is to ask a question: what causes such a chain reaction in society that leads to financial dilemmas? It seems a lot like greed and avarice. People want money, things, financial security, to lord it over others who don't have as much. They want such power and position so much so that they are willing to sacrifice their personal and societal morals.

Two youngsters look at me. One is feminine and the other is male.

The female is attired skimpily, her upper body mostly bare except where the law prohibits its public exposure. Her hair is shaved except for a mohawk, leaving a strip of hair bleached blonde and died with a red or pinkish tint. Her hair is not naturally blonde. She appears to be quite attractive, except for the accoutrements that "decorate" her: a myriad of pierced ear rings along the entire edge of her visible ear, a nose ring, a chain around her neck, and the metal lobe on its stud poked through her outstretched tongue.

Her male friend -- I assume he is a friend, for they are head to head and shoulder to shoulder -- has the top of his head wrapped in a scarf, his eyes hidden behind massive dark glasses, and his torso cloaked in a black T-shirt with lettering on it. It says "body" and then something else illegible below, hidden by his folded, tattooed arms. His tongue, too, is outstretched to display its piercing and the knob .

The unemployed. Prideful people, unprepared for the greed and avarice of those who control their lives.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It's been quite a while since I made an entry. Personal crises have kept me busy. First, Shelley's father got worse health-wise and ultimately ended up passing away. About the time that all happened, my daughter had a bad reaction to a change in medication and has spent days and days trying to get over that, requiring many trips to the hospital and other communications with doctors and other health care providers. She continues to flounder.

On top of all that, of course, the snow keeps falling and the normal expectations of life roll on.

Some days ago I completed reading The Attack by Yasmina Khadra. Last night I went to reading group where we discussed the book. Most in the group enjoyed the read, even though it was depressing and overwhelming to consider the consequences of the proposition presented. They felt that the narrative caused them to think and consider propositions they might not otherwise do in our American environment and coming from our Western point of view.

The protagonist is a doctor, Amin Jaafari, who works as a surgeon at the hospital in Tel Aviv in Israel. He is an Arab-Israeli citizen, a secular man, who seems to have more or less abandoned or neglected his religious roots and focused more on his profession and life in Israel than on contemplation of his past history, family, and friends in Palestine. He has set himself aside from the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, content to have a place, things, tranquility.

One night there is an attack --- a suicide bomber --- and consequently injured people and bodies start appearing at the hospital. Dr. Jaafari is busy assessing the injured and giving assistance. One particular Jewish man, recognizing Jaafari as an Arab, says he doesn't want to be treated by him because of his heritage and genetic makeup. Ultimately, Dr. Jaafari goes home to sleep the work off and to await the return of his wife, who has taken a journey away from home to visit family.

Before he is able to catch up on his sleep and welcome his wife's return, he is called back to the hospital where he is told to look at a body. The authorities believe it is his wife, and all indications are that she was the suicide bomber. Dr. Jaafari is incredulous. At first the authorities suspect he might have known about the attack and might have been complicit in it.

The rest of the book is about Dr. Jaafari trying to figure out how or why his wife would do such a grotesque thing: killing innocent people and, in particular, children.

There are a couple of things in that endeavor that put me off.

One was that Jaafari elevated his suspicion that his wife was having an affair and needing to find out about it above and beyond his need to find out why she had become a suicide bomber. Infidelity is so commonplace everywhere in the world. Arabs and Palestinians are no more faithful in marriage than anyone else is, are they? Suicide bombing and the killing of innocent people and children is not commonplace. Even when he realizes she didn't have an affair he says, "it makes me very angry to think that she preferred a set of fundamentalists to me. And my anger doubles when I consider how I was taken in." It is all about him! Her effect upon him. It is ugly and profane. Dr. Jaafari's sense of priorities seemed skewed. He was a severely flawed character in that respect

The other flaw that put me off was the doctor's persistence in pursuing information about his deceased wife even when it was imprudent for him to do so. It isn't like the doctor could have been ignorant of their heritage or of what he and his wife had learned as youth growing up Palestinian in the dire living circumstances of their old world. His wife went home to visit her family, didn't she? Such ignorance in Dr. Jaafari didn't seem consistent with his earlier character, which the author had established as an individual worried about giving care and comfort as a doctor. He surrendered what he could do to help out to simply try and find out how his wife had betrayed him. It was all so self-centered, so inconsistent in a character designated early on in the book to be less self-centered and more inclined to serving and trying to heal others.

I didn't find the protagonist very likable at all.

Early on in the book the protagonist narrator says, "However great the damage may be, no cataclysm is going to keep the world from turning." Well, that isn't true, and he finds that out.

Some interesting narrative and metaphors:

  • A few cigarette glow in the blackness like an eruption of pimples.
  • Life, your whole life --- with its ups and downs, its pains and pleasures, its promises and failures --- hangs and has always hung by a thread as flimsy and imperceptible as the threads in a spider's web.
  • On the infinitesimal track that is starting to appear in the darkness.
  • ... look at the sea. It's a mirror that can't lie.
  • ... anger's like marriage: it doesn't always obey its own logic.
  • When I was still young, I realized that sitting between two chairs made no sense...
  • anyone who tells you that a greater symphony exists than the breath in your body is lying.
  • The city seemed to be having trouble getting out of bed.
  • And I've clung to my ambitious like a jockey to his horse.
  • ... the whole place is replete with her, as full as an egg, leaving me only a tiny pocket of air so I won't suffocate.
  • Who dreams too much and forgets to live...
  • reason has a mouth full of broken teeth, and it rejects any prosthesis capable of giving it back to smile.
  • She couldn't work on her suntan while people were bent under the Zionist yoke.
  • Existence has taught me that a man can live on love and freshwater, on crumbs and promises, but he could never survive insults.
  • There is no worse cataclysm than humiliation
  • I don't care about finding out exactly when Sihem sank into suicidal militancy or knowing whether I wronged her somehow, whether I contributed in one way or another to her ruin. All that has been pushed into the back ground. What I want to know first and foremost, what has supreme importance in my eyes, is whether or not Sihem was cheating on me.
  • Just as night begins to pull her black skirt away from the first touch of dawn
  • its hideousness isn't just a question of architecture.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I must be a big wuss.

My heart just doesn't have the hardness it should have, according to so many people in the United States.

It seems one janitor of 31 arrested during immigration raids in Rhode Island escaped deportation back to Guatemala and was granted asylum based upon domestic abuse in her home country.

I applaud that decision.

However, respondents to a story reporting the news mostly thought it was just terrible that she received asylum and wasn't being deported. That despite the fact that her husband back in Guatemala had constantly beaten her, had put her in the hospital with a broken foot, with a broken skull, and had knocked out her teeth, etc.

The insane man had also burned her possessions and had kept her penned up inside, threatening to kill her if she ever left him.

She did leave him, leaving behind her mother and three children, and sneaked into the United States, undocumented. So INS apparently wanted to deport her, send her back to her hell.

The complaints of the respondents: her case will open the floodgates of other women, including abused Muslim women; it will drain the state of funds; such judges as this one should be thrown off the bench.

Harden my heart. My mind can't wrap itself around such cruely.