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Showing posts from May, 2015


MARIJUANA/FREE SPEECH/ABORTION The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the Veterans Equal Access Amendment allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other conditions for which the substance may be prescribed. This would have been an encouraging development if only co-sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) had just kept his mouth shut. Instead of simply saying that giving veterans all of the tools that we are able to give them to afford them the best possible chance to recover from the consequences of their service is the right thing to do, Daines couldn't help being a Republican. "It's a free speech issue," he declared. This from a guy who has a 100% Right To Life approval rating and 0% from folks promoting reproductive choice. I admit that I'm lazy. I haven't looked to see if Daines has been confronted, either in the House or the Senate, with a vote concerning what doctors can say, cannot say, or


IRELAND/GAY MARRIAGE Now that I live in Europe, my sources of news and information have changed drastically. No more television or radio news. PBS, FOX, and NPR were my mainstays. We only subscribed to the weekend editions of our local newspaper, a rag on the way down. Daily, we subscribed to the The Wall Street Journal . As a result, our primary news sources were easily identifiable as being left or right of the political center. It's different now. I'm not always certain of the point of view of a particular source. Take, for instance, the Irish referendum on gay marriage. I use an app called Flipboard as one of my information sources these days. Flipboard's news board aggregates articles from a wide variety of sources - from FOX to Huffington Post, from the The New York Times to the The Wall Street Journal and more from the States. And from abroad, Al Jazeera, Reuters, BBC and The Guardian all contribute. And I've just finished The Guardian's early analy


If ever there was a restaurant review that required a warning label, this is the one. When visiting Hotel Jalabert, you can't care about the niceties. There's no menu. There's only jug wine, probably from the local cooperative. The dishes, glasses, and utensils are clunky. The 'napkins' are old tea towels. And there's a slightly musty odor in the background, the result of the woodwork having soaked up generations of grease. But if you want to taste food as it might have been served to you in a French farmhouse kitchen 50 years ago, there's not a better place to have that experience...other than a French farmhouse. This was our third visit to Hotel Jalabert and each has been rewarding. Madame greets us with a genuine smile and handshakes all around. She's stooped and shrinking and ageless. I have no doubt that she served partisans...perhaps during WWI? Our non-uniformed waitress (grand-daughter?) asked who wanted the poultry and who wanted the pork. T


B.B. KING Rest In Peace. I'm not capable of adding significantly to what will be written about B.B. in the coming weeks and month s. But here's a tip. If you're not into guitar-driven blues, and I understand that not everyone is, give a listen to Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan. It's mostly swing and jive. It's upbeat and fun. And the players are top notch. You won't hear overmuch of B.B.'s guitar but you'll get a good feel for the man's joyous feel for music. WYOMING/FIRST AMENDMENT Slate reports that the Wyoming legislature has just passed a law making it illegal on open lands to gather data intended for use to report, among other things, environmental crimes to the state or federal government. The report suggests that taking a photograph of a criminal environmental act in Wyoming (illegal dumping in a watercourse on federal land, for instance) would result in a jail term for the photographer. Folks out West are fond o


TEXAS/TINFOIL Texas Governor Greg Abbott is reported to have ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor training exercises being conducted by Navy Seals and Green Berets in Texas as well as in other states. There are reasons that he's doing so, I suppose. There are also reasons that people wear tinfoil hats. SENATORS/TINFOIL Several Senators (some who are running for President, by the way) say that they are looking into the possibility that the United States is preparing to invade Texas. There are reasons that they're doing so, I suppose. There are also reasons that people wear tinfoil hats. CLIMATE CHANGE/TINFOIL I secretly admire the Forbes family. Papa Malcolm Forbes was a motorcycle aficionado, to be forgiven for his taste for Harleys. I knew some of his riding buddies. Good guys. Son Steve is kind of a nerd, though, to the Right of me politically, but I admire him for championing a flat tax. It's the way to go. (Here's my take on a flat tax.) And Forbes as


Vide Grenier is the French term for a community yard sale. Literally translating as Empty Attic, vide greniers can be anything from a few tables in a local community hall to a kilometer or more of trash and treasures. Le Somail, a small hamlet along the Canal du Midi, hosts on of the earlier, larger ones of the spring. Amateurs and professionals alike line up along both sides of the Canal and through the village, selling everything from clothing used and new to tools, from collectibles to furniture. It took us two hours to see everything there was to see. We spent all of 10 Euros on a pretty, flowered ceramic umbrella stand. The temperature rose to the 70s by mid morning on a beautiful, blue sky day. You had to look carefully. You never knew when a VW Bus might be headed your way. Here's the only floating shop that we saw, selling everything from baskets to spices. How's that for a life, living and retailing on a barge on the Canal du Midi?  Mostly folks


Victory in Europe. VE Day ending World War II. The French take the day seriously. We gathered in the square in front of City Hall, old and young, police and fire, youth auxiliaries... We heard patriotic music including La Marseillaise .   In the foreground, the Mayor joins with two of the youth fire auxiliary in the laying of a floral tribute. In the background facing the camera, students are preparing to present a dramatic reading, a lengthy poem on the horrors of war and the heroism of warriors. It's a simple ceremony, and the audience doesn't include enough of the village's young people, but we were there. It's our town now, too.


Every spring, the Abbey Fontfroide outside of Narbonne holds a plant sale dedicated to plants that are native to or will survive well in the Massif Central, that upland region of plateaus and smaller mountains leading up to the Pyrenees to its southwest and the Alps to the north and east. The Abbey is a wonderful setting and the quality of the plants is outstanding. For the gardener, this is not to be missed. Even if you don't buy, you'll learn what can be done to beautify your garden or your terrace.


JUDGES/CITIZENS UNITED SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) has just ruled that it is Constitutional for states to limit campaign contributions in judicial elections. Let's see if I understand. In the case of judicial elections, SCOTUS reasoned that money in and of itself is a corrupting influence. In Citizens United regarding federal elections, SCOTUS reasoned that money in and of itself is not a corrupting influence. Huh? OK. I understand that there are nuances to both decisions. For instance, in the decision concerning judicial elections, SCOTUS reasoned that money (and money is speech according to SCOTUS) could unduly influence judges who are beholden to the facts of a case and the letter of the law. But politicians are obliged to listen to constituents. It's part of the job. So influencing a politician through speech (and money is speech, according to SCOTUS) is a protected right of constituents. Forget for a moment the tortured logic that inf