Walking the Cat . . .

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Archive for March 2013

Some of the Things on my Mind . . .

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I haven’t been posting much the past few days and I want to apologize to those few who have taken the trouble to stop by and see if anything new has been posted.  Actually, I’ve been reading quite bit; blogs (other than mine), books and magazines (both online and off).  I think the reading has had more to do with my lack of writing than any inability on my part to find something of interest to write about or any “writers’ block” .  The simple truth of the matter is, I despair of my writing.  The more I read, the more I come to realize the tremendous amount of I don’t know what (I was going to say self-delusion, but that somehow doesn’t really convey what I mean; hubris probably comes closest to the mark) it takes to aspire to being a writer. 

I know myself well enough to realize this attitude stems, mostly, from my own low self-esteem; I have no background in writing, no extended education and no true writing experience (outside of “letters-to-the-editor” and more than one failed attempt(s) at blogging). I wrote papers, of course, during my brief collegiate career but never gave it much thought as a means of earning a living, just assignments that needed completion.  Still, for all that, I’ve always (at least it seems like “always”) had this cacoethia scribendi, this “itch to scribble”  I just couldn’t shake.  So, having filled my (up until then, empty) head with Romantic visions of conquering the “world of letters”, I embarked on my “writing career”.  It lasted a little over a year.  What I learned was I had no real skill with words and absolutely no tolerance for rejection, which is kind of weird when you consider how many times I’ve been married.  Don’t ask, it’s not something I’m especially proud of (except for the fact I kept doing it until I got it right). 

Anyway, I set aside any notion of being, or becoming, a writer and set out in search of “gainful employment”.  In the course of my wanderings in the world of work, I’ve been at various times a sailor, salesman, taxi driver, bartender and cook; none of which were especially enjoyable (with the exception of cooking, but then I have this inbred desire to eat on occasion and cooking seemed a “good fit”).  I still wrote, from time to time, still scratching that “itch to scribble”, but didn’t produce anything of more than passing interest (to me anyway).  Then, when I wasn’t looking, something happened that really changed everything.  I got old.

I didn’t look old.  I certainly didn’t feel old.  When I looked in the mirror each morning, I still saw a young man, ready to take on the world, staring sleepily back at me.  I could still work, could still be productive.  I hadn’t done anything wrong, hadn’t done anything except survive; in spite of everything, Viet Nam, living in California (Oakland in the 60s), and  all that followed, I’d managed (somehow) to live to “retirement age”.  I was a “Senior Citizen” and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.  I tried, really tried to prove I wasn’t ready to be set out to pasture, but the effort proved useless.  I simply wasn’t “marketable”, as one interviewer phrased it.  As I said earlier, I’m not real good with rejection, so I finally accepted the reality of my situation and settled into retirement, uncomfortably.  Anybody tells you when you retire, you should enjoy those “golden years” is full of **it!  If I had to  assign a metal to retirement it wouldn’t be gold, it’d be lead.  Dull, gray, heavy lead.  Describes retirement (for me anyway) perfectly; dull, gray and heavy.

So, this is why I’m here, writing this drivel.  I’m tired of my dull, gray, heavy life and I’m trying to do something, something to give me a reason to get out of bed in the afternoon.

I just had an interesting thought; a question, really.  If the College of Cardinals had elected a black pope, would the Holy See pay any more attention to him than the Republicans do to President Obama?  Just askin’. . .

(I’ll try to be less “whiny” in future posts, I promise.)

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Senators Mitch McConnell (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) . . .(and George Orwell)

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 A 1984 commercial for Microsoft’s new MacIntosh personal computer promised  “. . . 1984 won’t be like 1984”.  They were right.  1984 wasn’t like 1984.

In his classic novel, 1984, George Orwell presents us with a totalitarian dystopia, Oceana, in a state of perpetual war with the two remaining “superpowers” in the world, Eurasia and Eastasia; siding first with one then the other of the two, but always in a state of war.

It is now 2013 and we may be on the verge of realizing Orwell’s nightmare.  Two United States Senators, Mitch McConnell (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are planning to introduce a resolution urging the United States government to support Israel militarily, economically and diplomatically should the Jewish state be compelled to attack Iran.  Basically, what this resolution is saying is, “Go ahead.  Attack Iran.  It’s okay with us.  We’ll even help.”  We wouldn’t have to start another war; we can have our “ally” do it for us.  The United States would be obliged, for a number of reasons besides this resolution, to go to war with Iran.  Essentially, we would find ourselves at (or very near) a perpetual state of war (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “winding down” but they’re still being fought); a war started, not for “our way of life” or “to defend our freedom”, a war fought for profit.  There’s a great deal of money to be made in a war, apart from oil and the territorial spoils.

Defense contractors like Halliburton will provide men (security contractors — read “mercenaries”) and material.  Arms manufacturers, airplane, tank, troop carrier manufacturers will provide weaponry and transportation; clothing manufacturers and makers of body armor will provide support.  Armies need to be fed; food suppliers like Sodexo will see that the army is supplied with food and fed.  And all of this will be provided at rock bottom inflated prices (can’t be too cheap where “our boys” are concerned).  Back home, someone has to make all this stuff, so there will be jobs, lots and lots of jobs (at rock bottom rates, to be sure).  Think this is a little far-fetched?

Another feature of Orwell’s nightmare vision was “Newspeak“.  “The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotee of Ingsoc,” Orwell explains, “but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”  Politicians, especially conservative politicians (neo-cons), have been using a form of Newspeak for generations.  We think of it as “the usual political b.s., but it’s more than mere b.s.  It’s not only a language, and for most of us a foreign one, it’s a way of thinking, often contrary to demonstrable facts.  Sound familiar?

But what about the people, you say.  Surely they can vote these jackals out of office and stop this insanity.  Right?  Presently, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is before the Supreme Court (see my blog post, Justice Scalia & SCOTUS . . .(W-T-F, Tony?!).  It’s being challenged as unnecessary in today’s society.  There are people alive today who remember why the VRA was created; to afford people (people of color) who were previously prevented from exercising their constitutional right to vote the opportunity to vote, free from discrimination and coercion.  It took a very long time and a great deal of blood to get the Voting Rights Act passed into law.  This happened nearly 50 years ago and those who took part in the battle (and those of us who saw the dogs and truncheons and fire hoses used on those who fought for civil rights (and their lives), both black and white) are aging and the benefits which, in many cases, allow us to continue are in jeopardy.  When we pass from the scene, who will be left to remember?  A society obsessed with its youth and an increasingly irrelevant pop culture and the ever-expanding technology which allows them to access it without interacting with it.

If a law ceases to be, it is as though it never was and if all the records tell the same tale, as Winston Smith (Orwell’s “hero” in 1984) observes, then they pass into history and become the truth.  So much for a voting population.

We are, as we have been at various times throughout history, at a crossroads.  Are we to become a nation “at peace everywhere in the world”, as President Jimmy Carter once observed.  Or are we to become like the Oceana of 1984; perpetually at war and powerless to do anything about it?

Scared yet?  You should be.  (I told you in my previous post it would be interesting!)

 

Changes are sometimes necessary . . .(like now)

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If you’ve landed on this page expecting to find Walking the Cat, a rather cramped looking blog site with little “personality”, you’re going to be disappointed.  If, on the other hand, you’ve landed here expecting to find a bright, literate and (hopefully) instructive and entertaining blog site, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve changed the appearance of Walking the Cat because, well, because it was time for a change — in a number of ways.  And because I thought it was time to expand the Cat’s range of interest(s).  I’ll still be writing about writing, inspiration and personal stuff.  That won’t change.  But I’ll also be writing about things of importance, not only to me but to all of us.

To those few fellow bloggers who are following “the Cat”, I hope you decide to stick around for what’s to come.  It will be interesting. . .

Written by stevewthomas

March 3, 2013 at 12:26 am

Posted in life lessons, writing

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Justice Scalia & SCOTUS . . .(W-T-F, Tony?!)

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At the outset, I want to say I had some reservations about posting this here but then I re-read the “About Walking the Cat” page and decided it was as appropriate as any other post I’ve written, so . . .

I am troubled by comments made by Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments in a case before the Court regarding certain sections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  Justice Scalia’s reference to VRA as “. . .racial entitlement” is appalling on its face, but a larger issue resides in the attitude this comment represents as it relates to the function of the Court.

It was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) should be a vehicle for legislation.  It was designed to be a check against “unruly” legislation; to insure those laws passed by Congress comport with the Constitution.  I don’t believe it is within the Court’s purvue to examine the motivations of individual legislators as to why they voted, pro or con, on a particular piece of legislation.  Using such as argument the Court could examine every law enacted by Congress going back to the founding of the country; even to question the very decision to declare independence from England in the first place.

Yet Justice Scalia sees it as his responsibility to do just that.  After labelling VRA as “racial entitlement”, he continues: “It’s been written about.  whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.  I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act.  And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution.”

Further along in the argument(s) Justice Scalia reaffirms his belief in the reasons some senators voted to enact (and reenact) VRA.  After noting the existence of “black districts by law” (the results of state’s practice of gerrymandering), he adds, “And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this (VRA) . . .and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.”  

I find this last statement mind-boggling.  Apparently, in Justice Scalia’s mind, senators should not vote for or against bill based on what their constituents think.  Never mind that, in the case of VRA, some of those whose rights are being protected could conceivably be persuaded to vote for them (I know it’s not likely to happen, especially for conservative senators, but it’s conceivable).  Senators (and Congressmen, too) always take into consideration what their constituents think about the laws they are expected to vote on (at least they should be thinking about it); if they don’t, they abrogate their responsibility as elected officials and risk being voted out of office by that same constituency (as they should be).

The Voting Rights Act is important legislation and it should be reenacted; not only because it protects the rights of blacks (for whom it was enacted in 1965), but because it protects the rights of all of us.  In 2011, seven states, all of which were (and still are) controlled by Republicans, attempted to establish restrictive voter ID laws in an effort to block (or at least restrict) those voters (not only blacks, but Hispanic, the poor, the elderly) they felt likely to vote for “the other guy”.  Those efforts were blocked by the Justice Department, in two states, under Section 2 of VRA.  The Voting Rights Act is vibrant and necessary legislation; as much now as it was when first enacted in 1965.

If Justice Scalia wishes to determine the constitutionality of law based on his assessment of the motivation(s) of lawmakers; whether or not their motivation was sufficient to warrant a vote for passage of a given piece of legislation, he should, perhaps, retire from the bench and take up psychology.

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