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Might as well reprint my letter to the Inquirer

August 13, 2017 Leave a comment

A challenge for Trump
A comment on the president’s proposed immigration requirements:
Five decades ago I came to the U.S. as a political refugee with only a high school degree and rudimentary English language skills. After years of struggle and menial jobs, I earned an engineering degree and started to climb out of poverty. Today I am a law-abiding, taxpaying husband, father, and grandfather. The United States offered me sanctuary and a lot more, a chance at having a life. What President Trump does not understand is that the American dream is not about where you start but where you want to end up.
As far as English language skills, I dare say that, compared with the president, I have the better command of the language. (Remember: It’s not where you start.) I’m aware that English is his native tongue, while I still suffer from the occasional grammatical error, no doubt due to English being my third language. Nonetheless, I would be willing to challenge the president to an English-language duel. The stakes? How about if the winner gets to tell the loser: “You are fired.” Win or lose, it might get him the Emmy he’s been pining for.
|Jim Kempner, Holland

Our Honorable and Learned Congress

March 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I must be getting old and ornery; in the past I was merely ornery. But more and more the actions of governments, ours as well as others, seem designed to annoy me–that is when they aren’t harmful.

I felt compelled to do something,which in my case means, writing something and send it to the paper. I sent this opinion to the Courier Times, where it will be published.

Sometimes I preface a statement with “in all honesty.” To me it has been a meaningless cliché, a way to start a sentence, until recently, when someone warned me that it is the sort of thing people say before they lie.

This led me to wonder about other phrases and terms I’ve thought devoid of meaning, merely the product of long established custom, such as the term “honorable,” as in the honorable so and so we use for our representatives.

All this rattled into my consciousness by the unexpected Senate gridlock on the anti-white slavery bill. For a brief period it was that rarest of things, a bi-partisan bill, a law to right a wrong. Unfortunately, the honorable Republicans failed to mention they had included an anti-abortion clause while the honorable Democrats claimed foul because they hadn’t read the bill. I am not sure how things work among the honorable Congress people, but down here, on earth, we read before we agree. And if it is written in the gobbledygook favored by the honorable people, we hire someone versed in the language to translate.

“That’s just politics,” a phrase that excuses all sorts of otherwise unacceptable behavior, seems to apply here. But why should it be acceptable? Why should a bill contain amendments and attachments and the like that have little to do with the intent of the bill? Why should bills be so long that members of Congress and their staffs will sign without reading them?

The US constitution was written using 4,400 words. The Bill of Rights with 492. The first amendment, establishing freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and to petition the government, is forty five words long. By comparison, this piece is about 550 words long.

We are either willing to accept that laws, written in confusing detail and language inaccessible to most of us, can be crammed with unrelated items that wouldn’t stand on their own or, we are impotent because our honorable representatives don’t represent our interests.

I propose that if our representatives want a law authorizing the building of some road or bridge or the approval of some ‘pork’ so they can bring it back to their constituents as a sample of the good they are doing for their community, let them do so in a stand alone proposal. And if our honorable representatives want to grant someone immunity, or the the right to sell property without paying taxes on the gains, or any of the myriad other ridiculous attachments hidden in all sort of laws, let them propose it, in the open. If they want to ban abortion, let them introduce it as a bill. That would be the honorable thing to do.

No doubt people will say that I am naïve, that what I suggest is unworkable, that no one would vote for those bills, that only by sneaking them in, only by obfuscating their intent can a law be passed. Isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t we expect clarity, transparency and honesty from our honorable servants?

By the way, members of Congress refer to each other not only as honorable but also as “learned.” Having listened to some of them—more than a few, I’m sorry to say—I have sadly concluded they are anything but.

Breaking the Rules

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Since we moved into an  ‘adult community’ we’ve come under the ‘benevolent’ authority of a Home Owners Association. The people who run the HOA are those who want to do it–sort of like those who run for president; why would anyone want the job? Those who could do it well usually know better than to get involved.

I’ve tried to ‘grin and bear it.’ It’s still better than doing it myself and lately–do you believe in miracles?– they have been improving. And they let me make fun, even in their own newletter. For instance the piece below.

Black Ice

“What is it?” Ruth asked.

It was early winter, in Boston, so long ago that Ruth and I had been married for only one year—I was finishing grad school—and we were headed home, to our first apartment, in the old VW.

“I’m on the lookout for black ice,” I replied, hunched over the steering wheel, eyes straight ahead.

“It’s fifty degrees outside,” Ruth said.

Sometimes I hate science.

I was reminded of this incident—a Ruth favorite, by the way—a few days ago, while on the walking trail on a fine, bright, mid-November Sunday morning with the temperature hovering around sixty.

It’d been weeks since Ruth and I had gone for a walk. We’d built up to two or three walks a week in late summer—only the one mile circuit—usually at dusk, when the temperature had cooled some. We enjoy walking the path: admiring patios and plantings, greeting people—some we know, some we don’t—and waving at passing cars.

“Who was that?”

“No idea,” I answer Ruth, while waving. I have enough trouble recognizing people, let alone their cars.

We often spy hawks—gliding in easy circles—and deer, as many as a dozen, grazing at the edge of the tree farm. And of course, clustered around the pond, geese, our own illegals.

That Boston incident took place forty years ago. It came to mind because the HOA Board closed the walking trail until April; for our protection—in case of snow, black ice, or wet leaves—and here I was, not only breaking the law, but aiding and abetting as well.

I suppose it makes sense—if nothing else as a reminder of dangers—but mostly, I presume, as protection against law-suits. Sometimes the Board acts as our surrogate parents, offering advice on ways to prevent deer or ant damage. But the walkway gets muddy and slippery after rains, so one can fall and break a leg anytime of year.

The decision to walk in the closed path might seem rebellious and, while I remain an iconoclast, I didn’t mean to defy authority, not on this issue. But the one mile loop up the Keenan cul de sac, across Sydney by the carriage mail boxes and then turning south, past the pond, the geese and around the club house, is just about right.

Ruth said nothing although her face betrayed surprise that instead of my usual ratty sweatpants and old polo shirt I dressed in jeans, white Tee and leather jacket.

We saw neither deer nor hawks, only about two dozen geese huddled at the far shore of the pond.

I turned my head when I heard a noise. Ruth turned too.

“What were you looking at?” She asked.

“I thought the walking trail police might be after us.”

“If I were you,” Ruth said, “I’d worry more about stepping on goose s__t.”