Feelin’ Like Santiago Blues

I’ve been getting ready for another property-tax protest. It’s a yearly ritual: The county appraisers do a flyover or drive-by, or throw darts at a board. They  send out a whopping new evaluation, my jaw drops, and I get ready to protest.

I’ll round up all the usual documentation to show what an Appalachian shack I’m living in. Cracks in the outside walls. Estimates from foundation repair people. Photos showing this year’s new problem: In a torrential storm a few weeks ago, we discovered that the people who did our new roof didn’t quite get it right: Water leaked  into the kitchen, leaving  water stains on the ceiling, etc. More estimates for repair costs, painting and the like. Oh–and did I tell you about our heating system? Musta come with the house. We’re talking ancient, probably dangerous. I’ve got a replacement estimate.

And so on. If it goes as it usually does, they’ll knock off about half the proposed increase, I’ll sigh and shake my head and agree to it, and my modest rebellion will end for another year, at which time they’ll sock me with another big increase.

Maybe it’s because we’re about to head to Destin, Florida for what I hope will be some great fishing, but I somehow found myself thinking of Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, and poor old Santiago, who hooks the great fish and then must watch impotently as the hungry sharks gnaw it to the skeleton before he can get it to shore.

 Can’t imagine why that image comes to mind.


Omnivore, Herbivore, “Locavore”

I’m intrigued by the emerging trend toward “locavore” diets–the idea of eating only, or mostly, things grown in your part of the country, however you define “part.” Start reading some food labels, and you may be surprised at how little of your diet comes from nearby. I had 7 items out on the counter the other day, making a salad, and 5 of them came from at least 1,000 miles away.

 At least three forces are driving this trend:

 1. Higher and higher fuel costs,  meaning that someday, it may no longer make economic sense to bring bananas from Costa Rica to Wisconsin, or olives from Spain to Poughkeepsie.  

  2. Fears of global warming. As we begin, at last, to scrutinize our use of fossil fuels, we may have to cut back from luxury uses to necessity uses, and the Costa Rica-to-Wisconsin banana route may not make the cut.

    3. Alarm over problems in the food supply chain, which now stretches across the globe, bringing us staples and goodies from China, Peru, and all points between.  The more middlemen involved, especially from countries with lax regulation, like China, the more danger points along the road from field to plate.

The authors of this new book adopted a 100-mile cutoff point and tried to spend a year eating within that perimeter.  I haven’t done a full inventory of what I’d have to abandon if I took on that discipline, but one thing jumped out at me fast: I don’t think they grow much coffee in North Texas!

Commencement Time: No Irony Allowed

 “. . . when I first went to the White House, I was told,  ‘Avoid at all costs typographical errors in the work you give the president.'”  When I asked, ‘Why does the president care so much about a simple typographical error?’ the response was:

‘”[the President] worries that if you are careless in little things, you’ll be careless in the big ones.'”

–former White House counsel Harriet Miers, speaking to Dallas Christian graduates

I don’t know how many people could deliver that line with a straight face. You mean, “big ones” like the proper conduct of the war in Iraq; hiring competent non-Brownies  to run agencies like FEMA; creating some kind of coherent and explainable policy for firing U. S. Attorneys. . . .big ones like that?  Joseph Heller {Catch-22} should be living still.

How do we explain the yawning gap between the Bush she claims to know and the Bush who has presided over so much boneheadedness?  Two  alternatives, both distasteful:

1. Ms. Meirs is right. There is a total disconnect between the Bush she knows and the Bush who heads an administration that is alienating even its would-be supporters with constant displays of incompetence. But somehow, another GW Bush exists, one who really cares about exacting detail and careful completion of duties.

2. Ms. Meirs is just reading something a White House spinner sent her.

I don’t know which would be the more depressing choice. Perhaps Ms. Meirs is the true author of “My Bush.”

More Memorial Day Thoughts

I had so many thoughts swirling around about Memorial Day yesterday. The Dallas Morning News seems to excel at Memorial Day editorials; they usually produce a keeper, and this year’s is no exception. Check it out here. (Sorry about all the distracting, bobbing and dancing ads, by the way; that’s the way it goes on the vast blogostubenet.)

Also, if you’ve got about five minutes, listen to “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” which reminds us that even when a war is “right,” it brings untold suffering to many of its survivors; in the spirit of the News editorial, that’s one more reason why we must always be sure that the horrible cost of war merits that inevitable suffering.

Here’s a link to Eric Bogle’s version of the song, complete with a slide show of WW I photos. I originally linked to the Clancy Brothers’ version, which is more affecting, I think, but YouTube purifiers took it down. Listen and watch here.

A Memorial Day Salute

Some months ago, I happened to see an obituary for the man who was  my grade school principal in Garland years ago. I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that he was a decorated WW II hero. That led me to scanning the obits now and then, which then led to this KERA/NPR commentary  today.  Use this link  to read or hear it.

Dems Keep (Some) Lobby-Reform Promises

Having bopped House Democrats a few days ago for watering down and stalling their much-ballyhooed lobbying/ethics reform, let me now tip the hat: They’ve passed two bills. One lets the sun shine on  campaign donation “bundling”; the other requires that lobbyists disclose efforts to insert special projects into spending bills. The bills now go to a House-Senate conference committee.

I’d still like to see them carry through on the promise to slow down the “revolving door” between elected office and lobbying, but these are good steps that might, if enforced, reduce citizen skepticism about the fix being in on Capitol Hill.