Dispatches From The Edge: Italy: The Barbarians At The Gates

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 05:55:00 PM

Paestum, Italy—

Walls tell you a lot about a country’s history. Since their purpose is to keep people out who want to get in, they generally mean trouble. In the case of this stunning ruin of a city southeast of Naples, back in the 6th century BC the Greeks were trying to keep out the Etruscans who didn’t cotton to a colony plunked down in their midst.

Italy has lots of walls, particularly in the north and center where towns and cities cluster on the high ground. The Italians did not build on mountain tops for the view. What is picturesque now was safe haven from the barbarians back then.

Except, the barbarians are back, only this time they are not tribes with scary names like Goths, Huns and Lombards. Today the brutes have bland sounding labels like the International Monetary Fund IMF), the European Union (EU) and Moody’s. And some of the worst are homegrown: Silvio Berlusconi and Giullo Tremonti. -more-

Eclectic Rant: Libya and US Debt: Another Treasury-Draining War

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 01:22:00 PM

The United States national debt exceeds $14.2 trillion and climbing. About 14 million Americans are unemployed. Public health, education, social services, and police and fire departments are facing cutbacks. Yet, the bill for U.S. participation in the NATO-led Libya mission is projected to reach at least $844 million by September with the U.S. funding about three quarters of the military spending by all NATO countries. This expenditure is on top of $1.2 trillion and counting, we are spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Clearly, we cannot continue these enormous war expenditures ad infinitum, especially with our faltering economy. This money could be better spent elsewhere.

Here are some of the important events in the NATO-led Libya mission. -more-

My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader)

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 12:40:00 PM

"I had a romantic idea of the earth religions. I felt they took us back to the beginning. . . I thought they had a kind of beauty. But the past here (in Nigeria) is still lived . . . The dark abyss of paganism.
"A Lagos city councillor said to me, 'Muslims and Christians practice forgiveness and cannot harm you. In the pagan religion there is no forgiveness . . .there are rules you have to follow very strictly, and if you go against them you either die or go mad.'"

V.S. Naipaul The Mask of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (2010)

I once shared Naipaul's romantic idea of the “beauty” of pagan religion. Then I did some research for a play I wrote about Gauguin in Tahiti. I learned that the word TABU, used throughout the world, came from the Tahitian language, because so many things on Tahiti were TABU: like women walking on the same paths as men, or touching anything men ate, or even riding in a canoe. (The only authentic scenes in those romantic south sea island movies were those of girls swimming out to meet ships from Europe. It was “sink or swim” getting to those ships whose crews were so much kinder to them than Tahitian men.) -more-

Leftover Whales

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 09:25:00 AM
Mother and calf: grey whales in a Baja California lagoon.

If you have to get scooped, it might as well be by David Perlman. -more-

Senior Power: The Affordable Care Act (ACA):

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 01:03:00 PM

The American Version of Health Care for All is the title of a forty-two page OWL publication that senior citizens and boomers should know about and read carefully.

OWL is a membership organization located in Washington, D.C. at 1025 Connecticut Avenue NW, #701, D.C. 20036, with state and local chapters throughout the U.S., including Ohlone/East Bay, Sacramento, San Diego, Placer County and San Francisco, all with websites. In recent years “Older Women’s League” has become a bit of a misnomer on two very positive counts—(1) OWL is The Voice of Midlife and Older Women, and (2) much of what OWL reports and engages in affects positively both women and men. -more-

On Mental Illness: The Suffering of Schizophrenia

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 12:53:00 PM

I can not overstate the intensity of suffering that goes along with being schizophrenic and having a full-blown psychotic episode. Part of it comes from imagined events that are perceived as completely real, and these imagined events are often horrific, awful, and terrifying. Part of the suffering is from the fact that the brain is malfunctioning in a considerable way. Because of the brain lacking its normal regulatory mechanisms, the suffering that is felt could be as much as tenfold what a non-afflicted person can feel. And thirdly, additional suffering is created by real events; caused by the outcomes of the disorganized and sometimes dangerous behavior of a person having a psychotic episode. -more-