chinese ancient doors

About objecting to Cuba

You can’t fight them, you can’t sanction them forever, you cannot hold them outside your sphere of operation to the end of time. I am talking about Communist China and Communist Vietnam, and even the former Soviet Union.

The United States has been sanctuary to the citizens, including myself, of all these nations. Cubans who left their country are not exclusive in that sense. And in protesting the resumption of relations with Cuba, they do not understand that throughout history former enemies become allies, some if only through trade. Japan, once a deadly adversary, is now solidly a world partner.

All that is only recent history. Cubans living on the shores of America should think of similar recovery of their native land. Cubans living in Cuba must either come around or stay isolated in poverty and stagnation. There is no need to forgive the human rights aspect, but recognize that all communist nations and all revolutions commit atrocities in that arena.

Communist China executed 20 million citizens (and possibly twice that many) in their takeover; Vietnam all but exterminated their citizenry in the south. The Soviet Union beginning in 1917 slaughtered tens of millions. These nations did not require proof of good reason to do so; it was enough to be a dissident. Japan went to work with a will in Asia killing and torturing indiscriminately. The invading soldiers from that country massacred 240,000 civilian Chinese, children and pregnant women in Nanking, for no purpose but that they could.

And so, Cuban migrants in America, drop your objections to resumption of relations because of human rights violations in your country of birth. Nothing will work better to mitigate their brand of communism than open trade and travel. Think of the relief of being to obtain scarce car parts, or even being able to manufacture automobiles themselves! In five years or less, memories of mistreatment will be submerged in a release of tension between Cuba and the United States.

How do you think victims of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Soviet Union persecution view our current toleration of each other?

A natural progression of necessity in a shrinking world.

Images of Australian cassowary look into the camera angry face.

The Donald mouth that roared

Donald Trump at the next world summit on climate change:

“I have a solution for the atmosphere’s pollution over China,” President Trump declared. He squinted around at the other delegates, who appeared mesmerized. “Leave China alone. Let her manufacture and pump carbon all she wants, and let her people drink the drainage water they’ll end up with. They’ll all die! End of the biggest polluter in the world!”

There was a silence, then Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke up. “And what about India, another huge polluter, and the United States?”

“Same thing,” Trump shot back. “I’ll take care of the United States my way.”

“And what way is that?”

“He, he, wait and see. The next four years is gonna be absolutely showbiz time.”

After everyone but British Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had left and neither had yet recovered his and her speech, an odd sound arrived at Cameron’s ears. Was it….? Could it….? Yes! The usually solemn, dignified Merkel was giggling. The giggles turned into hysterical laughter and Cameron could not help it — his chin shook and shook and together they wiped each other’s tears unable to stop laughing.

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Bowling with pussycats

The terrible drought is doing strange things to certain fruit trees. My nephew Anthony has a huge crop of peaches but not a single cherry. The wild plums in my yard have grown to twice their normal size and are good to eat for a change. They litter the ground and so Mojo and I find their other use. At 11 months, his energy is inexhaustible, chasing after the plums I pitch along the ground and almost, not quite, mouthing them, having once made that mistake. We do this for 10 minutes and then we go upstairs. Going downstairs for him is awe beholding. I figure he touches one step in five as he plummets headfirst.

Upstairs, I toss his catnip mouse, and he catches in midair. My adult cat, Loaner, watches all this calmly. I begin grooming her. When I move to Mojo with the brush he makes himself looong until suddenly I have twice the cat to work on. Any day now he will begin turning over to get his other side done.

The squirt learns quickly by watching what I do with Loaner. The big cat and I have rituals, one of which involves sharing water. I dip my fingers in my glass and offer them to her. He had to see this only once before lapping up his offering.

At night when I fill their chow bowl I say to her, “Show me the way” and she wheels about and heads for the bedroom where we keep water and chow away from the raccoons. Mojo now joins in and we have a procession.

The kid has promise.

snow leopard

He’s a doctor. Really?

In the news this week is the doctor who was sentenced to 45 years for falsely telling patients they had cancer and then treating them to the tune of millions of dollars charged to their health insurers. His face on the television screen awash with tears, the doctor expressed remorse for ruining the lives of the men and women he mis-treated. Remorse is cheap, especially after the perpetrator is caught, as everyone knows, and does not cancel the wrongdoing.

But this: I had occasion to visit the home of a doctor in my neighborhood. His wife and I were working together on a voting campaign. There, all around the large living room with the sweeping view of lush oaks, were mounted heads of animals, antelope, bear, moose, wildcat, wolf and more. My mind reeled. I pondered this healer’s hunting imperatives. Was he killing helpless animals when he would rather kill his patients? And was he doing it from helicopters, as I hear some so-called hunters prefer?

I marveled that this man’s wife thought nothing of allowing people into her home to see evidence of this slaughter, which made me wonder about her own sensibilities. Did I want to be in her company? Well, no.

And then I read this news article about the actor Morgan Freeman planting his entire 140-acre (is this number correct?) ranch with milkweed and other plants bees and butterflies love.

That made me smile.

Fountain with Ancient Roman Statues in Rome, Italy

Dating in Sicily

My parents, sister and I landed in Naples, ending our 33-day peaceful voyage from China and crashing into reality. I’ll skim over that part, which I have included in my novel Journey from Shanghai. With no money and nowhere to go, we ended up on a train to Sicily, final destination Catania, in a bombed-out school. Our accommodations were a segment of a large room screened off by a ragged tarpaulin. My father had just had a heart attack. Again, we’ll gloss over that. Too many things, too much to reprise. I leave 1952 gladly in the past.

We were met at the gates of the place by a young Sicilian man, a cub reporter for his newspaper, Tempo Etna, who got all our names wrong in the paper next day. Undaunted, he returned a couple of days later to ask me out of an evening. Well, sure, I was interested. The camp food was tomatoes and bread and I looked forward to a real meal at a restaurant.

Totuccio Biondi duly showed me the town of Catania, all the time with the live volcano Etna brooding over us, he showed me and showed me: the opera house with its interior designed by Bellini, a miracle that it was still standing under Allied bombardment. He then walked us to the ruins of their ancient royal palace, a view of the beach, and past a movie theater. I remember the film being shown, “The Yanks Are Coming.” Then, finally, he bought me an ice cream, and walked me back to the camp.

And do you know what? Next day, the Sicilian women in the camp would not speak to me, snubbing me good and properly. A kindly soul, another woman WHO HAD BEEN NORTH TO NAPLES and had acquaintance with customs there informed me that it was because I had gone out, unchaperoned, with a man.

But Totuccio knew well and good what he was going to my reputation. In Rome a few months later, I received a letter from him wishing me well, and signed “tuo fidanzato” Your fiancé. My sister Maria laughed heartily at that. I didn’t then, but I do now.

Images of Australian cassowary look into the camera angry face.

Heat wave, pussycats and carnage

It wasn’t that it was so hot in Oakland yesterday but it was hot enough to disable me for much more than some absolutely necessary business at my computer. Only 80, compared to 111 north of here but wimps like me can’t handle 80 degrees very well anymore. Those 1000 Pakistani dying of their heat wave, and they are used to extreme heat, illustrates this poor Earth’s plight in high relief to all reasonable people (except the Republican climate change deniers. They must be scrambling for their footing in the face of world leaders signing pledges at summits).

Ten-month-old Mojo has been blooded; I was awakened at 2 a.m. by the sound of objects being knocked over and galloping up and down the house until, finally silence. Later I found a bird, a sweet dove, lying dead on the feather-strewn carpeting of my workplace. There are more feathers in other parts of the house. Mojo did only what all felines do; even birds hunt other birds, but still I mourn.

And this about Donald Trump: Can you visualize him conducting foreign diplomacy on behalf of our United States of America?

african owl hanging by a tree

The encyclical of Pope Francis

And so the pope has weighed in about climate change, rebuking profit-seekers and the undue influence of industrial advancement and technology on society. He lambastes the effect of these developments upon the poor and upon the planet’s fragility. Man does not have dominion over the earth, he avers, as those who cite Genesis insist, that justifies practices like excessive mining, or fishing with unfair means. In the latter, he specifies gill netting.

Further, Pope Francis brings up two papal predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as lecturers on the same theme. Ours is not to till the earth indiscriminately, Francis says, but to conserve. Again and again he goes to the complaint of too many poor who are made to suffer by the desecration of our planet’s atmosphere.

So far so good. Here is where I go off Pope Francis track. All this talk of the overwhelming poor who are the victims of advances in technology points up his glaring avoidance of the matter of helping the poor control their suffering numbers by — perish the notion! — contraception.

Certainly he does not condone the abomination of children born in poverty and growing up stunted from deprivation of proper food and nurturing; naturally, he wouldn’t even approach the topic of contraception for the middle class and wealthy. He does not say: We are all in this together, the desperately poor and the fortunate ones, all should limit their numbers in order to conserve the Earth and thus reduce the degradation of the atmosphere with our smoke and chemicals and overfishing (I wish he could have used the power of his office to mention Japan’s killing of whales for “research” purposes, but then that would have been too specific). Instead, the watchword is, as always, “Human life is precious.” How so? By being born unwanted, unfed, ignored? By being forced into a hostile world?

Instead, the papal blind eye remains turned away from the glaring situation of overpopulation of all quartersP, and remains faithful to Church doctrine appropriate for the time when the Creationist Couple, Adam and Eve, were the only human inhabitants of a pristine Earth.

I can sympathize with Pope Francis. Awkward to alter Church doctrine to suit, isn’t it?