May the Farce be with you

Now we know what Trump and Putin were talking about in their private meeting in Helsinki. Space Wars. Maybe they already have a board game designed and the whole summit was set up so they could try it out without anyone looking over their shoulders. Maybe they had a couple of those lightsabers from last year’s Star Wars convention and were jousting all over Gothic Hall in Helsinki’s Presidential Palace while their highly-paid advisors were standing outside in the hallways looking lost.

Because if Trump is so gung-ho about creating a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military, you better believe Putin is just as gung-ho about the plan. What better way for the two bullies to distract attention from real issues, award giant contracts to their friends in the military arms industry, and, at the same time, have a heck of a lot of fun acting out their science fiction fantasies.

Nevermind that our space programs already have cost billons and billions of dollars with little real benefit to our struggling species here on earth. Nevermind that we already have plenty of terrestrial wars and genocides and terrorist attacks to keep us busy day and night just adding up the number of deaths of innocent victims.

Maybe Trump will appoint William Shatner as Commander of the Space Force and Harrison Ford as Chief of Star Battles. On second thought, he’ll probably appoint his sons. Their birthdays are coming up.

WHITE BIRD, by RUTA SEVO

“It’s an adventure you haven’t had yet, Thomas. Sit.”

Thomas smiled. He was thinking of his dog Sally.

For a long time I’ve had a fascination with westerners who expatriate themselves to remote places in the Asian Subcontinent. The way they make full and rich lives for themselves, steeped in eastern tradition, and yet often accomplish great things for the welfare of the local inhabitants, somehow intrigues me. I’ve heard some pretty amazing stories. Well, here’s a pretty amazing book:

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In her novel White Bird, writer-scholar-translator Ruta Sevo skillfully explores the unusual demographics of present-day Nepal and the clash of cultures that confronts an American visitor and raises some very fundamental questions about what life is, or ought to be, all about. Thomas Rusak, the American, has come to Nepal with his brother’s ashes in search of the most meaningful spot for scattering them to the wind and rain. This mission turns, necessarily, into a search for his brother’s mysterious past in Nepal, a past that Thomas feels he must unearth in order to finally understand his brother and the lifelong complexities of their relationship. And Thomas cannot open up that past without intruding intimately into the lives of two extraordinary women.

As it turns out, Sevo tells this story with such pungent detail, such a “sensory onslaught” of Nepali life and landscapes, that it becomes more than just a story about individuals. It becomes a story about cultures. It becomes the equally mysterious search for the essence of that great magnetic pull that eastern philosophies have over westerners, who sometimes chuck it all for the rustic spiritual life in places like Nepal. Thus, White Bird is a dazzling, swooping mystery that lifts itself to different altitudes. Like all good mysteries, there may be answers for every question on one level, but ten questions for every answer on another.

Sleepless in San Ysidro

If only I could sleep. Tomorrow is too important. That’s why I can’t sleep. If I’m too tired tomorrow how can I be strong for myself and for my kids. By tomorrow this time where will I be, where will my children be? I don’t want to think about it. But I can’t help it. I can’t help thinking that I have done this to my children. That I have put them through so much danger, that I don’t know what kind of dangers are ahead for them. What will happen if we are separated? How can they speak for themselves, they don’t know English, not enough to explain our situation. Neither do I, but at least if we were together—

Look at the way Antonio is sleeping, hugging his backpack like it was his old stuffed dinosaur. Jacklyn, thank god, she’s asleep, poor thing. I hope she doesn’t remember that nightmare when she wakes up. But how will she ever lose the memory of what happened to her after we left Durango. Molested by that gang member who carried drugs, while I was throwing up in the brush from the bad food. Her clothes torn and she had thrown up, too, from the things that monster did to her. Even now, look at the way that man sleeping near her keeps inching closer every time he turns over. In a minute I am going to wake her and trade places with her. She didn’t deserve any of this cruelty.

I really wish to god I had turned back before we got to the border of Mexico. But the farther we went the harder it was to turn back. How can I ever forget this living nightmare? This thing I have done, listening to false promises and lies and giving all our money to these bastard smugglers, these “coyotes”, who tell you they will keep you safe and get you to the U.S. and you will have a job there and a place to live. I was a fool, just like all these other people. And now look what I’ve done to my children. I suppose that’s the real reason why I can’t sleep.

Robbed twice, then arrested by Mexican immigration, they separated me and my children for two days. Then they finally let us go and told us not to stop until we reach the U.S. border. I was almost raped by that bastard smuggler but those two men from my country were nearby and saw I was in trouble and scared him off.

I miss the baby so much. But how could I bring her? You can’t take a three year old on this kind of travel. Some people do, but—. Will I ever see her again? Will I ever see Grandma? Sometimes I wonder if I ever really will.

In the morning I have to be sure the children remember those two words: Asilo Politico. The coyotes tell us that the Americans have nice hotels for families like us, we will get our own room, food, everything we need while they listen to our case. I don’t really believe any of that. I don’t know where they will put us. I don’t know if they will take my children from me. But I know they will not harm my children, they have compassion, they will give them plenty of food and a safe place to sleep with other children. Maybe they will let me visit them. That is all I care about. Maybe I will be able to sleep at night then. If I could only sleep now. But first I must move Jacklyn to the middle, between me and Antonio. I don’t want to wake him. He needs these few hours of peace. Before tomorrow comes.

No such law

I’ve been away from immigration law for six months now, but I can tell you this: There is no law that requires undocumented children and parents to be separated. If there were such an absurd law, you would have known about it long ago. Family unity is a fundamental principle of our immigration laws. You find it written into all aspects of our laws.

There are various laws and regulations that require certain removable aliens to be detained. Some criminals and those who pose a terrorist or security threat must be detained. Others may be detained or have a reasonable bond set if they are a danger to the community and/or are a flight risk. A lack of strong ties to the U.S. or the lack of any legally valid basis for remaining here generally indicate that the individual may be a flight risk.

If a parent is detained for one of the above reasons, then obviously the child cannot be kept with the parent in an adult detention facility and must be placed elsewhere. Undocumented children are not kept in immigration jails. Under the Flores v. Reno class action settlement, such children must be placed in the “least restrictive” setting appropriate to their age and needs. This might be a licensed group home or foster home, if no other relative is available. They go to school, receive medical care, counseling, etc.

Homeland Security has built family detention centers with family living units, but there are tens of thousands more families than can be accommodated. And other class action lawsuits have caused some of these centers to be shut down.

Family separations are thus an unfortunate, albeit temporary, situation that comes with immigration enforcement. Such separation should never be used as a deliberate policy.

Do you want good government or don’t you?

I’m Faith Wellernd and I approve this ad. . .

I believe I am qualified to be Governor of California because I have worked in all the branches of California government for many years, in leadership positions. Most recently I have been Lieutenant Governor and was Acting Governor for nine months while the Governor was recovering from heart surgery.

The problems we face are complicated and there are no simple answers or guarantees that we will overcome them. I can only promise that I will work hard and do my best to find those answers. I would like to lower taxes but only if we can meet the needs of the people of this State without spending as much as we spend now.

My opponent, Ernest Phelluh, would also make a good Governor. He has a great deal of experience and always does a good job. He is honest and sincere. He believes that California should meet its clean energy goals by emphasizing wind power over solar power. I believe that the emphasis should be more on solar power. So while I fundamentally disagree with him, I understand and respect his point of view.

Here’s some moderately-flattering footage of me digging the first shovelful at the groundbreaking for a new school. Here’s some moderately-flattering footage of Ernest cutting the ribbon on a new transit line.

Please consider both of our records and our platforms and vote for the candidate who you feel would best govern this State. Thank you.

PAID FOR BY THE CALIFORNIA MONEYLESS AND SLIME-FREE PUBLIC CAMPAIGN REFORM FUND

Postcards From the Edge

Postcards From the Edge, Carrie Fisher’s highly autobiographical novel, is made up of two parts, despite its table of contents which lists seven.

The first one-third of the book is written in first person and contains the journal of a Hollywood starlet who is a recovering drug abuser. Her journal is very frank and introspective, clever and nicely written. Her character is very well-developed, not surprisingly, since it is probably a mirror image of the author’s own character. It’s a good portrayal of what growing up in show business can do to fragile egos.

The most powerful and important component of the book is the inner monologue of a hardcore cocaine addict who is in denial. It is brilliant and, as the New York Times calls it, “harrowing”. Boy is that the right word. Fisher interlaces the guy’s monologue with the actress’s journal. The contrasts between the two characters are significant and full of meaning. And it would be hard to read the entirety of the guy’s monologue without the comic relief of her journal entries. The guy puts himself through hell, taking copious amounts of drugs, and reading his first-person account is a little taste of hell itself. But people need to understand that reality. School kids, especially, should read that part. Fisher apparently had swallowed some very strong doses of reality herself.

The last two-thirds of the book is in third-person with very little plot or character development. It shows the actress putting her life and acting career back on track after getting out of drug rehab. It has some funny repartee-type dialogue, some witty narration. But it is nothing like the first part of the book, and probably can be skipped altogether. I don’t know why Fisher made the book so disjointed. Seemingly there just wasn’t enough story to fill a whole book.