In retrospect 2013. In vista 2014.

943669_10201903681097689_2051061332_nAs 2013 draws to a close,  looking back to the many moments of friendship deserves a final touch. In my Facebook timeline is a summation of my 2013 Activity – that I chose to ignore. Better to write a fresher lookabout.

Beautiful images. Friendship. Food. Celebrations. Reunions. Milestones. Discoveries. Deaths. Births. Greetings. Likes. Comments. The last word: Selfie.

These are not just words to me. They have moving parts. They represent how the daily grind of Facebook-ing took many of us. Looking forward to the next and the next. The cup of blessings are precious, timeless. New friends came to life and became part of the treasure box. Old friends journeyed away. Opportunities for learning came in the midst. Loved ones passed, yet left a shade of their revered existence in the heart of many. New births of precious children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews came that added magnificent color to the lives of families and friends. Ah, so wonderful!

As 2014 comes to the door, one may say, uh uh, another year added to my years. Oh well, that is part of living. In fact, I have one coming on January 26. Never had I fully engaged my emotions on my birthday. Routine is Bob takes me out to a good dinner, cooks the best meal, gets me great gifts – treatment fit for a queen. Daughter Shirley plans weeks before to do something special – lucky me. Finally, I will have a true birthday party – a tea party, believe it or not. No gifts, no room to put them in the inn. Instead a voluntary gift in memory of my dear friend Janice Carter who lost her battle against breast cancer a year ago this month. A gesture that gives honor to a wonderful person who thought nothing but bring goodness to others.

I will be taking the leadership role on the oldest organization of our community for the next two years. A humbling task, a test to enliven the heart and soul of the younger generation who were not engaged by the historical relevance of such an organization. One can only muster the strength of relationship within, seeds of friendship and hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.

So my dear friends, let us paddle along the chartered waters of Facebook and blogs with the same passion and glee. See what’s coming up next to Selfie. Surely there will be, that’s what techies are for. Happy New Year!

The fruits of epic incompetence

By  , Published: September 12

The president of the United States takes to the airwaves to urgently persuade the nation to pause before doing something it has no desire to do in the first place.

Strange. And it gets stranger still. That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.

Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?

Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.

He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.

Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the United States above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.

And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to the New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — a.k.a. “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-the-fruits-of-epic-incompetence/2013/09/12/7e6771d2-1bdf-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html

This entry was posted on September 13, 2013. 24 Comments

Honoring September 11

In a New York classroom one year after 9-11, students composed the following 9-11 poem. A relative of the teacher had perished on that tragic day in Tower One of the World Trade Center. The victim left behind a 3-year-old.

List of “Don’t Forgets” and “Remembers”

We were eight.

Before September 11th, we would wake up with a list of “Don’t Forgets”
Don’t forget to wash your face
Don’t forget to brush your teeth
Don’t forget to do your homework
Don’t forget to wear your jacket
Don’t forget to clean your room
Don’t forget to take a bath

After September 11th, we wake up with a list of “Remembers”
Remember to greet the sun each morning
Remember to enjoy every meal
Remember to thank your parents for their hard work
Remember to honor those who keep you safe
Remember to value each person you meet
Remember to respect other’s beliefs

Now we are nine.

This entry was posted on September 11, 2013. 1 Comment

The Inequality President

The rich have done fine under Obamanomics, not so the middle class

President Obama made his fourth or fifth, or maybe it’s the seventh or eighth, pivot to the economy on Wednesday, and a revealing speech it was. We counted four mentions of “growth” but “inequality” got five. This goes a long way to explaining why Mr. Obama is still bemoaning the state of the economy five years into his Presidency.

The President summed up his economic priorities close to the top of his hour-long address. “This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics,” he told his Galesburg, Illinois audience. “When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.”

Then the heart of the matter: “That’s why reversing these trends must be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly my highest priority.”

Which is the problem. For four and a half years, Mr. Obama has focused his policies on reducing inequality rather than increasing growth. The predictable result has been more inequality and less growth. As even Mr. Obama conceded in his speech, the rich have done well in the last few years thanks to a rising stock market, but the middle class and poor have not. The President called his speech “A Better Bargain for the Middle Class,” but no President has done worse by the middle class in modern times.

By now the lackluster growth figures are well known. The recovery that began four years ago has been one of the weakest on record, averaging a little more than 2%. And it has not gained speed. Growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 was 0.4%. It rose to a still anemic 1.8% in the first quarter but most economists are predicting even slower growth in the second quarter.

We hope the predictions of a faster growth in the second half will be right, but the Obama Treasury and Federal Reserve have been predicting for four years that takeoff was just around the corner. Stocks are doing great, and housing prices are rising, but job growth remains lackluster. What has never arrived is the 3%-4% growth spurt during typical expansions.

The official excuse is that recoveries coming out of recessions caused by financial crises are always slow. But then why have we been told every few months for five years that faster growth would soon be coming? Perhaps readers recall former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s famous 2010 op-ed, “Welcome to the Recovery.” Mr. Obama wants it both ways: Take credit for recovering from recession, but blame that recession ad infinitum for the slow pace of the recovery.

What about the middle class that is the focus of Mr. Obama’s rhetoric? Each month the consultants at Sentier Research crunch the numbers from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and estimate the trend in median annual household income adjusted for inflation. In its May 2013 report, Sentier put the figure at $51,500, essentially unchanged from $51,671 a year earlier.

And that’s the good news. The bad news is that median real household income is $2,718, or 5%, lower than the $54,218 median in June 2009 when the recession officially ended. Median incomes typically fall during recessions. But the striking fact of the Obama economy is that median real household income has fallen even during the recovery.

While the declines have stabilized over the last two years, incomes are still far below the previous peak located by Sentier of $56,280 in January 2008. No wonder Mr. Obama is now turning once again to his familiar political narrative assailing inequality and blaming everyone else for it. He wants to change the subject from the results on his watch.

The core problem has been Mr. Obama’s focus on spreading the wealth rather than creating it. ObamaCare will soon hook more Americans on government subsidies, but its mandates and taxes have hurt job creation, especially at small businesses. Mr. Obama’s record tax increases have grabbed a bigger chunk of affluent incomes, but they created uncertainty for business throughout 2012 and have dampened growth so far this year.

The food stamp and disability rolls have exploded, which reduces inequality but also reduces the incentive to work and rise on the economic ladder. This has contributed to a plunge in the share of Americans who are working—the labor participation rate—to 63.5% in June from 65.7% in June 2009. And don’t forget the Fed’s extraordinary monetary policy, which has done well by the rich who have assets but left the thrifty middle class and retirees earning pennies on their savings.

Mr. Obama would have done far better by the poor, the middle class and the wealthy if he had focused on growing the economy first. The difference between the Obama 2% recovery and the Reagan-Clinton 3%-4% growth rates is rising incomes for nearly everybody.

House Republicans have put a check on Mr. Obama’s most destructive economic policies, but the President could do more to help growth if he crossed party lines to pass tax reform the way Reagan did in his second term, or to work out a budget deal as Bill Clinton did in his fifth year.

Mr. Obama’s only pro-growth proposal is immigration reform, and we’re not sure he wants even that to pass. Judging by the partisan tenor of his Wednesday speech, he may be setting it up to use as a campaign wedge in 2014. If only Mr. Obama understood that before a government can redistribute wealth, the private economy has to create it.

A version of this article appeared July 25, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Inequality President.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323610704578626142861572144.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Welcome to the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential speculation sweepstakes

 By Chris Cillizza,   Published: June 23 E-mail the writer

 There’s a super PAC to support her and one that’s trying, at least in part, to stop her. Every word she utters is parsed by cable TV, blogs and anyone with a political pulse for indications of which way she is leaning. And, there are still 922 days between now and Jan. 1, 2016.

Welcome to the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential speculation sweepstakes, a process that not only has begun earlier than it did before Clinton ran for president in 2008 but also is significantly more well developed — on both sides of the equation.

“It did start earlier this time around,” said Brian Wolff, a longtime senior aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “You have the confluence of her being the anointed nominee [and] Obama supporters’ overwhelming support for her.”

Already there is Ready for Hillary, a super PAC designed to prime the pump for a Clinton presidential bid that has among its supporters longtime Clinton confidant Harold Ickes and even Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a strong backer of Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 primary fight.

And just last week, America Rising, a conservative-aligned super PAC, launched Stop Hillary 2016, a Web site designed to raise money for its efforts to “prevent Americans from ever having to see another Clinton in the White House.”

At this point in the run-up to the 2008 election, Clinton was running for a second term in the Senate and deflecting all questions about her political future until that race concluded in late 2006. While Republicans attempted to recruit a serious contender against her in that 2006 race in hopes of forcing her to spend some time (and money) in the Empire State, they failed miserably. She eventually announced her presidential campaign on Jan. 20, 2007.

While there is broad agreement in the political world that the Clinton hype has started sooner than it did last time, there are differing opinions as to whether that is a good or a bad thing for her if she does decide to run.

“What worries me about the super PACs and groups starting so early is that it is hard to sustain a movement based on an idea — sooner or later, enthusiasm will stall and supporters will want a decision by the person,” said Penny Lee, a former executive director at the Democratic Governors Association and now a lobbyist. “You want to make sure that need for a decision coincides with Hillary’s own timing and doesn’t force her to make a decision before she is ready.”

There have already been some grumbles about Ready for Hillary and whether its stated goal of clearing a path for Clinton when she decides to run might have the opposite effect — by, as Lee suggests, forcing her hand before she is ready to decide or making her look political before she wants to appear that way.

Others argue, however, that all of the early jockeying and planning around the possibility of Clinton running again ultimately is a good thing for her if she wants to run.

“I’m one who believes the early hype is a good thing on both fronts if managed properly,” said GOP media consultant Fred Davis, who handled advertising for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “She’s basically able to imply her opponents can huff and puff — but this time you’ll never blow this house down.”

Managing the attention that all of this early activity has created around Clinton is critical. On the one hand, she benefits from being seen as nonpolitical (or at least not a candidate) for as long as possible. On the other, if all of the buzz forces the media to litigate Clinton’s problems — or potential problems — now rather than in the heat of a 2016 presidential campaign, that’s a plus for her.

Also worth considering: Clinton, while one of the most famous people in the world, is out of office and, therefore, has no natural way of making news or driving an issue agenda. She clearly views her involvement in the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation as that vehicle, although it remains to be seen just how effective she can drive a message from that perch.

Whether all of the attention is a good thing or bad thing in the long run then depends on what Clinton and her political team— who is in her inner circle remains unclear — can make of it.

“It’s a double-edged sword. Early hype can deter viable challenges, but it also invites the kind of scrutiny that can deflate a bubble very quickly,” said Phil Singer, a senior staffer in Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “The team needs to manage the buzz carefully.”

Washington Post

Sharing wisdom

My very first manager at General Electric, my employer where I spent many years and where I retired, gave me a copy of a poster of “Desiderata”, a compelling poem written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann. This poster was a treasured gift. I gently placed the poster in a folder at the very front of my desk cabinet and glanced at it from time to time. Through the years every word of the poem was set in every fiber of my heart. The poster is nowhere to be found now as the file cabinet got reshuffled as my career in the company changed, but the many embedded lessons remained and conjoined with homegrown wisdom of humility, generosity, pride and compassion. Here is the text:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata

I come from a poor family who left the bosom of my parents at a young age, with the determination to better myself in order to be better for my big family and for others. The pride of having met many generous people when I came to the U.S., like my host family, Jaime and Dativa Millare, loving parents of Lynn and Mattie, my first GE manager and those who walked with me every day, encouraged and taught me, are my treasured gifts – they are the fruit of the wisdom shared by the poem, “Desiderata”.

Most sincerely,
Normita

On Mother’s Day

???????????????????????????????Today as we honor our mothers and mothers in our life, a lot of emotions pour out. I remember growing up when there was not much to share with material things – no money for cards, flowers and gifts. Our greeting cards were made from paper where we drew, painted and did the best we could to have something to take our mother. Those who can afford went to the big city. We honored our mothers by wearing a white flower, either a lei of pikake, a gardenia and whatever came in white.

When I came to the U.S. fifty years ago, I saw the significance of this day from the young and not so young. Statistics even showed that on Mother’s Day, phone companies regarded this as a heavy day for long distance calls. Cards and flower shops and restaurants enjoyed huge profits. The selection of cards, by category, were wide and got even wider every year – there are cards for ‘Mothers in your Life’ even fathers who are raising their children all his own have a card.

Admittedly, I get caught up by Mother’s Day based on the cards I send out to relatives and friends, year by year. When I had to leave for a family emergency a week before Mother’s Day last year, I failed to send my cards out and in haste did not tell Bob to mail them. When I returned weeks later, I mailed the card to my 90-year old aunt in Oregon, explaining why it was late.  A short time later, I ran into one of my friends who expressed some disappointment for not receiving the card.

Those un-mailed cards were tucked in a box and were mailed last week. Sadly, one of the regular recipients of my card-sending spree, my aunt in Oregon, passed away last December. At the funeral her daughter, cousin Elizabeth, told me how my cards were cherished and saved.

My aunt will have a special place in this spree, for her love of writing back to me on how happy she was for the cards. My aunt’s name remains on the list if not to send a card but as a part of the memory. In her honor, her daughter Elizabeth has been put on the list.  Even though I don’t hear back from many who received those cards, I know in some way the gladness is there. I wonder, though, will they miss the cards if they stop coming? Well this I know, my Hallmark points will decrease. Until then, Happy Mother’s Day!
Normita
P.S. Share your Mother’s Day memories.