After the Fire [UPDATED]

November 11, 2009 at 1:20 am (By Amba)

A little update, taking my cue from Trooper York’s query in recent comments and then, caught by an echo in his own ear, his posting of the lyrics to the Pete Townshend song of that name:

After the fire the fire still burns,
the heart grows older but never ever learns.
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns,
After the fire the fire still burns.

I saw Matt Dillon in black and white
there ain’t no color in memories.
He rode his brother’s Harley across the TV
while I was laughing at Dom DeLuise.
Now I’m cycling all my video tapes,
I’m crying and I’m joking.
I’ve gotta stop drinking, I’ve gotta stop thinking,
I’ve gotta stop smoking.

After the fire the fire still burns,
the heart grows older but never ever learns.
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns,
after the fire
The fire still burns, raging through the pain,
blackening the promises, the tears and the rain.
The fire will burn
’til the wind begins to turn
and it all begins again.
After the fireeeee …Yea the fire still burns
(Pete Townshend)

First of all, Troop, I wanted you to know that I sent those lyrics to my favorite former neighbors and they struck home there too.  Good medicine, a bitter herb.  For healing, don’t turn away from it, go into it.

Good medicine, too, has been the $$ so many of you sent me.  I would never have asked for it, and was embarrassed that Randy did, but it has turned out to be the fourth wall that keeps the rain out.  The fact that that is one immediate anxiety I don’t have, that I don’t have to worry whether I will overdraw my bank account replacing things like the kitchen trash can and wastebaskets (which I abandoned rather than trying to salvage and wash them, knowing it was wasteful but, you know, I haven’t got time for the slime), has been just night and day.

And having you all to vent to, talk story to, show scary pictures to — priceless.

Where it’s at:  the apartment next door is probably going to be ready before November 19.  It’s empty and being painted now.  The door is left open, and I pushed J in.  What’s eerie:  it’s exactly like the old one. Same floor plan.  The back porch looking out through glass doors at trees is in the same place.  All the rooms are in the same places.  You walk in and it’s like Groundhog Day.

OK, not exactly the same.  There’s a folding door between the laundry room and the kitchen.  The front door opens to the left instead of the right, and the foyer light switch is on the right instead of the left.  The placement of the main bedroom door is slightly different, making the swath of living-room wall where one of our bookcases used to be somewhat narrower.  And the floors are bare wood; no wall-to-wall “crapeting.”  But all in all, you feel like you’re in the same place, even though in reality it’s all rotated 90 degrees by the compass.  (The back windows face southwest instead of northwest, which should mean more light on winter afternoons.)

My first reaction was to recoil, and to feel confined and suffocated by the sameness, even though it was a good layout for us.  If you’ve got to change, then let it be change; fake sameness is creepy, not comforting.  I never got attached to the old place and had no yearning to recreate it.  The one thing I liked was looking out the back, but now — in concession to more social J — I’ve gotten to like looking out the front, cars and all.  There’s more light, and less of a sense of isolation.  It’s less of a firetrap, too.  No doubt a larger part of my aversion to that layout than I’m consciously feeling is the circumstances under which I departed it.  (Someone over here pounded on a door upstairs at 3:30 A.M. a few nights ago, and I was instantly physiologically aghast, although it pretty clearly was an isolated lovers’ or drunks’ quarrel in which someone had locked someone else out.)  It’s like returning to the scene of the crime.

But, blah, blah, blah.  It will be relatively easy and convenient to move right next door, and we’ll have enough space again, and a chance to start fresh in terms of order.  I threw out or abandoned quite a bit of junk in the process of throwing things into boxes to get them out of there, some of which I mildly regret:  probably one long-defunct little Mac laptop went down the tubes, buried in piles of saved Sunday New York Times sections I used to buy out of big-city nostalgia but never read.  My sadly abused chef’s knife must have been in the sink with the cutting board, because I was on deadline at the time of the fire and because washing dishes after J’s asleep is too clanky.  I left the knife-sharpening stone on top of the refrigerator.  It was dark in the kitchen, and moldy, and the wreckers were chafing to get started.

What J lost in the fire and the resultant disruption was the last little bit of ability to stand up — with a lot of help — just long enough to have his pants pulled up or the water wheelchair quickly switched under him.  If he can’t get it back, that will make going to the swimming pool almost prohibitively difficult (Chris suggests taking the Hoyer lift along to the pool, perish the thought), and that in turn will turn the screw of his decline.  He did manage to stand for the strength trainer he works with once a week, so it’s not impossible, but it is Sisyphean.  Up is not the direction things are going.

UPDATE:  Finally, finally got J to the karate dojo tonight for the first time since the fire.  His extreme fatigue plus early dark, cold, and rain had beaten us back, but today a number of factors came together:  it’s Saturday, when class is at 5 instead of 6:30, so we didn’t have to leave in the dark; the remnant hurricane finally passed, leaving beautiful weather (as they always do, like giant brooms); and the core karate gang had been here last night for supper, and he wanted to see them again.

Even though all he did was sit and watch the training, the effect was remarkable,  He was better tonight than he’s been since the fire.  Contact high?  Or just human contact?


  1. karen said,

    I am so glad to hear that you will be settling back into a home and routine again– good for you, J and the kittens(do you call them kittens?) Maybe once you’re in and the rotation 90 is adjusted to, you’ll be happy as a clam. More sunlight in the Winter is a major plus.

    As for J– he’s rallied before– he may just need to feel settled, too? Hospice can surely help out here, can’t they? I’ll jsut be glad for you to be in your own space again. Love you:0)!

  2. amba12 said,

    Thank you, Karen. You may well be right about J.

    You know I’m wishing you more of a settled feeling of being “in your own space again,” too — even though it’s a much bigger challenge.

  3. Ennui said,

    “If you’ve got to change, then let it be change; fake sameness is creepy, not comforting.”

    I recall a snippet from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to the effect of,

    “I had to wait until today cos he has
    a scar on the back of his neck
    and when his hair is long
    you can’t see it.
    He went to have a haircut today…”

    Reply – “And the scar was gone.”

    “No! It’s still there!” (the exclamation point in that last sentence ought to stretch up to Jupiter)

    A crude approximation of the original but if IIRC, it captures the spirit. In short, you’re in a pod place now, Amba. :)

  4. amba12 said,

    AAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! That explains it!!!!!

  5. Rod said,

    I was struck by how much the fire has taken from J. When we are getting old and in poor health, even problems can be large setbacks. My mother fell a month ago. Nothing was broken, but she had a large bruise on her buttocks. We are now two emergency rooms, two rehab units, and one quick care visit along, and I wonder if she will ever regain her strength. Mortality’s endgame is so cruel.

  6. amba12 said,

    Oh, I’m sorry to hear that . . .

    My doctor sister has a motto I’ve picked up — “Don’t mess with homeostasis.” Equilibrium in old age is fragile and precarious. If anything at all upsets it, it can become a cascade. Even if it doesn’t reach a point of no return, the climb back to equilibrium is such a struggle.

    It’s as if mortality is a pack of wolves, circling, inflicting wounds, waiting for an opening.

  7. PatHMV said,

    It’s not just mortality. The pull of entropy and disorder is powerful. There are always the wolves circling. The stress of living in one room of my house for the past year has left me especially susceptible to any other disruptions or stressors. The least little financial issue, passing of a relative’s pet, work issues, you name it, any of these can put me in a serious funk, keeping me from being fully effective at work, liable to cry at the drop of a hat, you name it.

    We’re all in a precarious balance. Being young gives us a bit more time to absorb the problems and cycle back, that’s all.

    Keeping you and J in my prayers, as always. i had the same thought as Karen a couple of days ago. I’m betting he’s got a few more cycles left in him.

  8. amba12 said,

    I’m betting he’s got a few more cycles left in him.

    That would be in character.

    The new permanent (!) place becomes available the 21st, so we should be moved in before Thanksgiving. It will be easier then to reestablish a routine. Maybe the sameness of the layout will be consoling to both him and the cats. I thought “Gee, I wish we could have a grab bar in the apartment so he could practice standing up,” and then today Chris, our Feldenkrais/PT friends, said, “Why don’t you have them put a grab bar on the wall so he can practice standing up?” DUH.

  9. PatHMV said,

    I wonder if we’re not genetically programmed to need a real home, a consistent, stable place to go to most nights, and keep all of our stuff. Since I’m partly in my house, I was able to handle it fairly well for a few months, but after about 7 or 8 months, the displacement really started to take its toll on me. It’s just so hard to develop a routine for anything.

  10. amba12 said,

    I am certainly experiencing exactly that on a short-term basis.

  11. Donna B. said,

    I have only one memory from the apartment we lived in while waiting for our house to be rebuilt after a fire. That one memory is of my son climbing the empty shelves in the pantry, falling, hitting his chin on the bottom shelf and biting his tongue.

    And what I remember most about that is the ER visit.

    When we moved back in, it was like it wasn’t really *my* house anymore. I had done so much work on decorating the house when we bought it. I’d wall-papered, painted, coordinated…

    I didn’t have the energy to do that when we moved back in, and I never quite regained it. I watch my daughters in awe now as they make even a rental *theirs* in ways I never bother to do much anymore.

    Don’t let this happen to you. I can see now where it was very bad for me, and not so hot for my family.

    And don’t let this comment get you down! I’m basically just grumpy today.

  12. karen said,

    {{ }} hugs to Donna and hoping today is a brighter day!!!

    Amba, maybe i haven’t been trying hard enough to ~like~ my new ~home~; especially wehn i know our little home on the quiet country back road is empty and could so easily be moved back into ~sigh~. When we are blessed w/two houses(and paying for them, i might add) i feel very ungrateful to be so sad w/this decision. It did take both Allan and me 7(count them- 7) yrs to feel like our home was really HOME. And we both experienced that at the same time, too– we were about 1 mile from home and we just both felt the *aaaHhhhh experience of being home. Isn’t that weird??

    Amba, (or Randy:0)) could you e-mail me Randy’s e-mail(lol)? I’d like to keep in touch w/him.

    Oh– & P.S. = Obama, after 3 or 4 months of not deciding what to do and risking our troops’ safety even more by disregarding his top General’s request… is soooo dithering– to the point of losing, not that victory is any main goal of his. Sorry to tear a seam in this thread by mentioning politics, but since i listen to so much NPR– i think even they are thinking: dithering, dude.

  13. amba12 said,

    Donna: I think that had happened to me with the previous apartment. I never really moved into it. It remained generic. The one room where I had the rug and futon couch from home I loved, which was supposed to be my “study,” ha ha, ended up being a storage dump. (J wouldn’t let me out of his sight, so I wound up doing all more work and “study” in the room with him.

    Plus which, I wasn’t committed to being here. I was still hoping to get back to New York.

    There may be more of a chance that I’ll do a little more with the new place. I love rugs and am thinking of buying one (not expensive but pretty) for the living room. Getting to decorate the identical layout twice is reminiscent of some children’s game, though I can’t put my finger on it.

  14. amba12 said,

    Karen: Petraeus seems not to be thinking “dithering,” or is he just being polite?

  15. ennui said,

    My doctor sister has a motto I’ve picked up — “Don’t mess with homeostasis.”

    That’s the untutored conclusion that I’ve reached and I’m glad to hear that medical professionals agree. I’ve had two grandparents die from Alzheimer’s. In both cases, the most striking onset of symptoms (the transition from “she’s getting forgetful” to “Uh oh”) coincided with a move or a trip. On an intuitive level it seems to me that, when moving from one environment to another, the brain has to “reboot” to reorient itself – but if the hard drive is corrupt … gibberish gets loaded into main memory. Shortly after a disastrous and unsettling trip, one of my grandmothers became convinced that my grandfather had secretly moved their house (a regular house not a trailer house) across the country. When someone pointed out that the neighborhood was still the same, she said he’d evidently moved that, too. In the wonderful world of Alzheimer’s (at least the two instances I’ve seen) there is, more than anything, a sense that the world has become alien – that even if things look the same they’re really a simulacra or something (actually, sort of like that snippet from the Body Snatchers). That seems to me to be connected with the “moving,” or “going on a trip” thing. I don’t know about other forms of dementia.

    Obviously, in your case there was nothing else to do – but for anyone that has a relative or loved one in a fragile state – even a weekend trip should be considered carefully. In my (untrained) experience at least.

  16. amba12 said,

    Jacques always thinks we’re in some alien place and are about to leave and go home. Actually, in our case, from his point of view we are in some alien place, and he’s had so many traumatic dislocations and just plain travels in his life that it’s no wonder he doesn’t know where he is. However, apparently people with Lewy Body Dementia (what J has and the second most common dementia after AD) who have lived in the same home for decades have the same delusion.

    My observation about J is that the brain can no longer take in new information, so it runs cached pages which over time become increasingly scrambled and corrupted; it recycles and recombines (still creatively!) not only past content, but past configurations. Especially before he started taking a low dose of Namenda, he’d sometimes put on a “head” from, say, 1965 (I met him when he was 44, and it was only through this dementia that I have discovered that the most important and characteristic part of his life for him, the part where he felt most “him,” was before he met me). I would be cast as one of the girlfriend characters from that time, and he would actually become more coherent and less demented-seeming, although living entirely in another reality. He’d even become much more physically coordinated, better able to stand up — but would be susceptible to agitation at the mismatch between what his brain was telling him and the dim contradictions from his senses. Those would be the times when he insisted on getting up and going “upstairs”/outside/to the train/”home,” and only his disability restrained him. He’d pick up the phone and try to call the train station.

  17. Donna B. said,

    Thanks Karen – today is much brighter. The only thing bothering me is the mosquitoes are vicious and numerous and keeping me from enjoying the perfect weather outside.

    Amba, that rug is gorgeous. Buy it!

    I find your descriptions of J’s condition fascinating in so many ways. That’s probably because you seem to “go” with him where he wants to go, or where he finds himself. And he certainly takes you to some interesting places, doesn’t he?

  18. Rod said,

    Karen: I had a thought about Obama and dithering today. It started with something I read last night. Someone poiunted out that it had been 73 days since the proposed plan and options were presented to the President, versus 65 days from 9/11 to the occupation of Kabul. Of course, there must have been a plan for invading & taking out the Taliban already sitting on the shelf, but still, President Bush moved very quickly, and President Obama is taking criticism for not deciding quickly enough.

    Why is Obama taking so long? Do you really think he is having that much trouble making up his mind? Obama is not Hamlet. He has smart advisors and he knows he is getting accused of dithering and it is beginning to hurt politically. I think Obama knows exactly what he intends to do. The problem is that his choice will set off a political firestorm and make some of his supporters very angry. He doesn’t want to risk his health care coalition over the fallout from his decision.

    Either a decision to escalate or to de-escalate would undercut whatever momentum his health care plan has, but I am guessing that he intends to send more troops into Afghanistan. That is what he was talking about in the campaign and afterwards. He knows that will prompt demonstrations and outrage some of his supporters. It would make sense to wait to see if he can nail his health care proposal before opening that can of worms.

  19. amba12 said,

    Interesting and astute.

    A couple of people who know whereof they speak — Eikenberry and before him, that State Department guy and former Marine captain, Matthew Hoh — have stated strongly that we could be wasting American lives in Afghanistan because the Karzai government is such a poor partner — weak, unrepresentative, corrupt — and because there is essentially a civil war between traditional and modern Pashtuns.

    This has to be seriously weighed. You can be willing to spend American lives to gain something (for us and the Afghans), even if it is a gamble, but you can’t rush in and waste American lives just to prove you’re tough. I’m with Obama wanting to listen to all points of view on this one. Even if the motive is partly political, it’s still the right thing to do. Personally, I hope he does send more troops in, once the hard questions about strategy, goals, and partners have been faced. That’s the only way the troops can be given confidence in their mission. A bluff is not enough.

  20. William O'blivion. said,

    The last house I lived in in the states had 2 light switches in the kitchen. One by the entrance to living room, and one by the door to the outside. The one by the outside door controlled the light over the door. The one by the living room controlled the kitchen over head light.

    The ENTIRE time I lived there I would come in at night from outside and expect the switch by the door to turn on the light in the kitchen. Two and a half years.

    Three years from now you’ll still be reaching on the wrong side of the door for the light switch.

    I’m lucky in a way that Home is wherever I happen to sleep. My half of this tiny 11×11 room here in Baghdad is as much home to me as the last house I lived in in

    In 18 days I’ll be popping smoke and heading back to the land of indoor toilets. The house my wife and child live in will be home for the next 3-4 months, then we’ll move. Home will be where it is.

    Of course part of that may be that I’ve moved about 15 times since 1985, not counting moves of less than 4 months.

    RE: Dithering:
    “He has smart advisors and he knows he is getting accused of dithering and it is beginning to hurt politically.”

    I’m sure his advisors are smart, but what are the smart AT? What is their goal? What do then want?

    RE: Petraeus:
    He is a brilliant strategist, and a REALLY good tactician. However his is a political animal and a soldier. In part his job is to provide support and assistance to the CiC in the prosecution of the war(s). He cannot do that if he puts himself on the other side of the political divide.

    The Karzi government may, from the perspective of the US, suck out loud. But it will be much better for us if we work with what we have rather than abandon them, or do like we did in vietnam and just replace them with a different stooge.

    The problem in Afghanistan, and here in Iraq is the same problem we’re starting to see more of in the US (and this frightens me more than anything) and that is pure unmitigated corruption. The actions of the Ted Stevens, the Chris Dodds and Barney Franks, and all the rest of those nasty kleptocrats imperil the republic far more than the mere idiotic naive socialism of The Anointed One.

    The Army cannot win in Afghanistan. This isn’t the Army’s fault. They ARE better than the people they’re fighting. They are faster, better equipped, and better trained. Even with the choke-collar and leash the State Department has them on they are–even w/out air support–10 times more lethal than the poor bastards they face.

    But all the Army can do is buy time. Opium buys a lot more. Opium buys corruption. You aren’t going to fix Afghanistan until you fix the opium problem. A significant number of the “taliban” fighters aren’t really ideologically motivated. They’re fighting for the same reason our PSD teams put themselves outside the wire between a principle and the Taliban. Because it pays well, and there is no work at home (which isn’t to say there are no ideologically committed Taliban, nor that the paid fighters don’t have sympathies, but a lot of them ARE fighting for the money and would be willing to stay home with their families if they had cash.)

    Currently there is a world-wide under-supply of Opium. Turkey is the only legal provider of “legitimate” opium. Turkey desperately wants into the EU.

    What happens if you make Afghanistan a second source of legitimate opiates doing five things in one stroke: 1) Reducing the Taliban/Al Queda’s revenue stream. 2) Redirecting that revenue stream to civilians who are now part of the legitimate economy. 3) Free up anti-narcotic forces to either get out of the country or switch to anti-terror. 4) Produce enough good quality opiates to meet medical demands. 5) Second source those opiates in case something happens in Turkey.

    I’m just sayin.

    Afghanistan is far more complicated than Iraq. Iraq was a real country for a while–at least it thought of itself as one. I don’t think Afghanistan ever did. And I’m not saying that this opium legitimization would fix the country, but if you suddenly have an economic network tying large parts of the country together and that network starts to supply good things to people they’d be less likely to want to f in up.

    Or maybe not.

  21. karen said,

    Holy cow– who’s William??? Wow– stay safe, William.

    As for Petraeus– i haven’t heard otherwise as to how he’s leaning about the additional troops, but there is some consulate- or head honcho in the Embassy(sp?) that seems to think that the Gov’t of Afghanistan is corrupt &/or lazy& therefore- deserving of no more troop support, no sirrie… it was reported on NPR, probably ~Fresh Air~ where the guy called the Army leaders/soldiers the Bully’s of West Point(which i thought was pretty freaking brash of him)(Kirsh? has written books, etc) as they graduated around 1974-75 and all hung together– and are powerful, i guess. Bullys. Sounds like an envy of sorts, eh?

    I’m worried about our men and women overseas– i KNOW men and women overseas– good, strong young people– i don’t want them to suffer because they don’t have the backup they need, or to suffer morale because they know there’s a CinC that prefers to jetset to Asia or -where’d he go for the plea for the Olympics– Copenhagen?- and couldn’t give a rat’s ass that they’re left w/their backs exposed. He just doesn’t care. And the Healthcare passage could be it, too.

    Seriously, though- do you think that the supporters of Obama would ever turn on such a SMART man?? C’mon, now.

  22. William O'blivion. said,


    I’m on the big base in Baghdad. I’m safer here than almost anywhere in the US. My biggest threat here is overeating. And the occasional rocket or mortar. Mostly un-aimed.

    That and my contract is up soon so I’ll be home by the middle of December.

    As to “Gov’t of Afghanistan is corrupt &/or lazy& therefore- deserving of no more troop support”

    Um. In that case we should disband OUR military.

  23. amba12 said,

    Thanks, Wm O’B — you sound like one of the few people here who REALLY knows what he’s talking about (like Karen on agricultural subsidies and milk prices) — having “been there done that.” Most of us have variously informed opinions — some very well informed, some (yours truly, e.g.) not so much.

    You are a nomad, that’s all. And there’s something appealing about it. Since we moved here, certainly, if not before (when we were in the same place for more than 3 decades), I’ve felt that “home is wherever we are” and that most “stuff” could simply be walked away from if need be — and either replaced or good riddance.

    How long have you been living and working apart from your wife and kid?

  24. Rod said,

    Another thing. I think a domestic economic agenda of income redistribution drives Obama. The wars make massive economic reorganization more difficult to accomplish. I think our President would love to withdraw from Afghanistan, but he knows that he will be savaged politically if he “loses” Afghanistan. It is the trap Lyndon Johnson found himself in in Vietnam. Making the problem more difficult is the concern that withdrawing from Afghanistan could undercut the stability of Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons.

    As the President makes no decision and people keep dying over there, popular support for our involvement erodes. If the public turns against the war, he may obtain the political cover to simply withdraw.

  25. amba12 said,

    Karen, you look at Obama and see what you are predisposed to see, which is all black (and I don’t mean that racially). He doesn’t care? How do you know?

    I certainly don’t idolize or idealize him (or Sarah Palin either), but I’m not looking for confirmation of a hatred of him either. That way, when I see something I don’t like, I can be more convinced that it’s actually there :-P

  26. amba12 said,

    I think a domestic economic agenda of income redistribution drives Obama.

    Now that’s depressing.

    One thing that puzzles me, though: if he would love to withdraw from Afghanistan, why did he make it “his” war, the good war, even during the campaign? Was it a way of adorning himself with a “toughness” credential? (Despite my words to Karen, I don’t rule out the possibility that much of what he does is motivated by political ambition and narcissism.) A calculated appeal to the political middle? I’m not so sure. He’s always shown a hawkish streak. I think it could be the opposite of what you said: that he does not want to withdraw, but is afraid of the backlash from his left base when he commits more troops. I guess I’m most worried that he’ll try to “split the difference” and give something to everyone by sending troops, but not enough.

  27. PatHMV said,

    The President in his campaign showed every sort of streak you could possibly imagine. Dovish, hawkish, statist, capitalist, you name it, he showed it. To some, this came across as him being middle of the road and rather moderate. In reality, it was simply a campaign tactic to allow people to see what they wanted to see. In his own words in The Audacity of Hope, he was; “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He was truly the Rorschachcandidate.

    He could not politically oppose ALL wars. Americans are not THAT dovish, even after 7 years of war. The Democratic Party as a whole supported the Afghanistan war in order to help defuse any charge that they were merely peaceniks or appeasers. That stance predated Obama’s candidacy, and he had no real room to maneuver on it. Plus, it was much stronger to oppose President Bush if you could say not that you were against retaliating against those who struck us on 9/11, but instead accuse him of diverting resources and attention from our real foe, by getting bogged down in Iraq.

    I still have never seen any solid evidence that he actually has any strong, grounded, principled beliefs of his own. Generally speaking, however, I agree with Rod. I think he wants to focus on domestic policy. Other than lobbying for the Olympics, he has not been heavily engaged in international matters and indeed put his biggest intra-party rival in the top spot for international matters. On those occasions he has gotten involved, he’s been pretty tone-deaf both to the domestic perception of his foreign policy statements and indeed to the reaction from the rest of the world leaders. He wants to mouth some nice words and hopes everybody will just leave us alone for awhile so he can enact government-run health care and borrow some more money from the Chinese.

  28. trooper york said,

    Glad my nonsense was able to help Amba. You have each other, which is way more inportant than anything else. You will figure it out I am sure.

    We had a fire in our apartment and were very lucky. All we had was some smoke damage and it still took about six months to get back to normal. So give it time and it will be eaiser. At least I hope it will be for you as it was for me. All the best.

  29. Rod said,

    When evaluating politicians of all stripes, my default assumption is that personal ambition/self preservation trumps actual values. My secondary assumption is that one or two policy imperatives might actually matter to the politician on some philosophical level, in which case all other issues are bargaining chips. If you think of it as a form of chess, on one side of the board, Obama is King, economic redistribution is Queen, and pretty much all other issues are pawns.

    Republicans are no better. There are just different inserts for King and Queen.

  30. Rod said,

    Almost forgot, this post originally made me think of a song: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!” …

    The song was the basis for the title of a book by James Baldwin.

  31. William O'blivion. said,

    “””How long have you been living and working apart from your wife and kid?”””

    A little over a year at this point.

    Heading home in 17 days.

  32. amba12 said,

    Hurrah!! Stay safe!

  33. karen said,

    :0)– i’m late again!!

    “Karen, you look at Obama and see what you are predisposed to see, which is all black (and I don’t mean that racially). He doesn’t care? How do you know? ”

    Black and white is a choice between what the facts state and what the emotions make us feel. I have plenty of emotional reaction to Obama- he is so different in mannerisms from anyone– anyone– i’ve ever met– that he does make me feel distrustful from the get-go. That and his charming, suave ability to lie through his perfect teeth.

    Amba, when i saw the clip posted of Obama letting ~the World~ know about the shootings at Ft Hood– i thought it was either the wrong clip or the wrong caption running underneath. Over two minutes into a speech about/to Native Americans– he casually inserts… ~Most of you have probably heard…~ and tells of the attacks. I found this to be freakish. To be so counter-climactic– it was made trivial and off-handish. IMhO.

    So– he rushes to Ft Hood to visit the wounded and to comfort the families of the dead- correct? Our finest, our protectors of Freedom have been struck on Home soil– he should be there for strength- yes?

    Hah. Do you know who did visit the wounded and meet w/grieving families, though? Good ‘ol W and his lovely, gracious wife– w/out pomp, circumstance or cameras. That is what Obama should have felt the need to do– should have done.

    I guess he must have been just so busy meeting w/his table of war strategists on his ump-teenth conference to figure out how to ~move forward~ in Afghanistan.

    That God he’s so smart, though.

  34. karen said,

    Since i was the on that disrupted the thread about you to go after Obama(i really shouldn’t listen to so much NPR, dammit)i want you to know that i just read your update(didn’t see it before i posted) and am so thankful that J was so inclined to get back into the swing of life. That’s so great and something that i promise to focus more on(the swing of life:0))– and try to focus less on the person leading our Country who seems like such an Alien, to me.

    And… no. That is not a racist remark.

  35. amba12 said,

    I think he is seen as an alien outside major cities, and that much the same would be true of a white Ivy League liberal who’d hung out with radicals. In the case of the hippies of the ’60s, their long hair and sexual mores was enough to make them aliens. They come from an entirely different context.

    This is what’s frightening to me about the divide in America. It’s become so tribal and mutually hostile, and it doesn’t have to be — I am living proof. I kind of crossed over, because my life experiences carried me across so many lines. So did Obama’s, but the one crucial line it seems he did not cross (though we hoped he had) is the one that insulates the liberal worldview. It’s hard to overcome conditioning — for a long time it feels like the eyes you see through — but it can be done. And I recommend it to people of all single persuasions — it’s good the way learning another language is good.

    All that is needed is some mutual respect — but it has to be mutual. You cannot be expected to respect Ivy League liberals and their values if they have contempt for you and yours. And vice versa. I don’t see this vicious cycle being broken any time soon. We’re just going to ricochet from one derangement syndrome to another. You cannot give Obama credit for being any kind of an American or having a single good impulse or action, just as dwellers in liberal-land could not stand ANYTHING about GWBush. Palin is next.

  36. amba12 said,

    By the way, I read conservatives who gave Obama credit for his tone in speaking of the Fort Hood shootings. Perhaps they’d seen the clip out of context, and had not seen that he went on with business as usual at the Native American conference first, and maybe they changed their minds when they saw that. But some felt his statement was appropriate.

  37. karen said,

    “In the case of the hippies of the ’60s, their long hair and sexual mores was enough to make them aliens. They come from an entirely different context.”

    I like in Northern VT– i’m used to hippies:0). The funny thing i cannot understand about most of them is that– they are such great businessfolk and reaaly rely on the Capitalistic nature of the USofA– they need capitalism and yet they hate it. Or, that is my impression of Capitalism vs Socialism. Awww- i’m all f-ed up these days.

    You know– i read Gateway Pundit– really conservative– and he just gave Obama credit for urging India to release a woman under house arrest for 14yrs because she’s proDemocracy. He says– Well, at least Obama got this one right:0).

    I just think there are some people who will always feel superior to others and overlook any kind of common good they may offer. Like Althouse thinking Palin is dumb– & it ain’t just Althouse, whereas, you know what i think of Palin:0). I think- as a general rule, feminists dis Palin, anyway.

    She’s not man enough– or something.

    I understand her perfectly. And i saw a snippet of Palin w/Oprah– about her interview w/Katie and how Oprah said:” Well, it was in your book so i’m assuming it’s true…” all i could think of was how many times Oprah has been burned by elevating writers that have told made up stories… i thought that was funny.

  38. amba12 said,

    Really really important — to give credit where credit is due. Too few occasions when Democrats said of GWB, “Well, he got that one right.”

  39. karen said,

    That’s because they honestly believe he never did.

    I have to go to the barn, now. I love you and i can’t wait to see how it all goes when you move into your new appartment:0). I’m excited for you!!

  40. PatHMV said,

    Amba, I think the credit that conservatives were giving to the president for his Ft. Hood remarks were for his remarks at the memorial service, not for his remarks on the day of the shooting. It was the latter which were surrounded by the hugely inappropriate continuation of business as usual with the “shout-out” to the Medal of Freedom (NOT the Medal of Honor) winning Native American.

    It would, of course, suck to be the people at an event where the President must speak, and to have his remarks preempted by a national crisis of any sort, but that’s the nature of the beast. There are any number of things the President could have done to give appropriate attention to the people at the event while also speaking appropriately about the emerging crisis. He could have given remarks about Ft. Hood, then excused himself, then come back later to talk to the Interior Dept. people (with his PR staff telling the networks that he won’t be mentioning the crisis again). Or he could have addressed the nation directly first, and had his PR staff get the networks to switch coverage, once he finished talking about the crisis.

    It wasn’t so much his fault as an indication that his staff is just not ready for primetime.

  41. amba12 said,

    Vanderleun was giving him credit for hitting the right note on Twitter, but probably from seeing the clip out of context, before the context was widely known.

  42. Randy said,

    What crisis, Pat? It was over by the time he spoke. I don’t understand this line of reasoning. What was he supposed to do? Get in the bunker? Drop everything and fly to Ft. Hood? What was he supposed to at Ft. Hood, other than generally be in the way and causing massive problems for the CO and everyone down the line trying to accomodate the POTUS?

    Why is is so hard to grasp the concept that terrorists and would-be terrorists win whenever we demand that everyone drop everything NOW. Despite yours and others claims to the contrary, I thought Obama’s comments on that day WERE entirely appropriate. I am glad he went through with the meeting. As he said, and should be obvious, he was also being kept informed of the situation by the army. There was no need to panic or got sit in the War Room.

    As for the shout-out: It wasn’t played on most broadcast television in the evening, so the number of people who saw it, or even know about it, are a small minority. I saw nothing wrong with it, except perhaps an advance man/woman screwing up the name of the medal held.

    Finally, a lot of Obama’s critics kept their mouths firmly shut last week rather than note or compliment the outstanding speech he gave at the appropriate time in the appropriate place with the appropriate people at Ft. Hood. Every time I note failures to be even minimally gracious such as this, it reminds me to be highly suspicious of any criticism emanating from such quarters.

  43. PatHMV said,

    Randy, it’s not that he’s supposed to DO much of anything, other than to say the appropriate words. I don’t expect him to drop everything else. Did either of my suggestions include “drop everything and race back to the White House?” No. I didn’t even suggest that he cancel the meeting, did I? My complaint is addressed entirely to the discordance between the severity of what had just happened and the joviality of his first public words after being informed of the details of what had happened. THAT was not well-handled.

    He’s the Commander in Chief. One of the soldiers under his command massacred 13 other soldiers under his command. At times like that, his first responsibility is to the troops and to the rest of us, not to the participants in the Interior Department ceremonies. He knew full well his remarks were being carried live across the nation. At the very least, he should have said: “Before I make my remarks for you assembled guests and honorees, i must take a few moments to address what’s just happened at Fort Hood…”

    As for keeping their mouth shut, I frankly saw a great many conservative bloggers say that he hit the right note in the Fort Hood speech. Saying much more than that would have been the ungracious act: “ooh, look, the President actually said something reasonably appropriate, without once again making it all about him.”

    If that’s your criteria for being highly suspicious of any criticism, then you must be incredibly suspicious of EVERYBODY. Should we not accept any criticism by President Obama because he’s said so few minimally gracious words about President Bush?

  44. William O'blivion. said,

    “What was he supposed to do? Get in the bunker? Drop everything and fly to Ft. Hood? What was he supposed to at Ft. Hood, other than generally be in the way and causing massive problems for the CO and everyone down the line trying to accomodate the POTUS?”

    You mean like after Katrina?

  45. Randy said,

    Yes, William, I do. Bush stayed out of the area at first. I think it was the appropriate thing for him to do.

  46. Randy said,

    Pat, I believe he met his responsibilities, remained informed and in-charge, and acted appropriately. He said something to the effect of what you’d have preferred he said, just not the way you say you wanted him to say it. Based on your past comments about Obama, Bush, Republicans & Democrats, I’m not at all convinced it was the message so much as the messenger that really bothers you.

    WRT keeping their mouth shut: I’m speaking of those I follow on one venue or another who criticize others for not being “fair” or “objective” yet can’t or won’t make even a feeble attempt at it when it is so obviously due.

    If that’s your criteria for being highly suspicious of any criticism, then you must be incredibly suspicious of EVERYBODY.

    As a general rule, I believe in doing my own due diligence.

    Should we not accept any criticism by President Obama because he’s said so few minimally gracious words about President Bush?

    As a general rule, I believe in being suspicious about every politician no matter how gracious that politician may appear to be.

  47. PatHMV said,

    And based on your past comments, Randy, I’m not at all convinced that you don’t regularly ignore Republican criticisms simply because it comes from Republicans.

    Ok, got the personal insults out of the way? If you can’t win an argument other than by claiming that the person you are arguing against is merely acting reflexively out of personal bias, then you don’t have much of an argument.

    I said that I thought he should have left all the light-hearted stuff addressed at the Interior Dept. assembly out of his remarks, handled them in some other fashion. You responded without actually reading what I wrote, and addressing an argument that I did not make, that he should have dropped everything and gone back to the White House or immediately to Fort Hood.

    You could have simply decided that we disagree, and asserted that you believe it was ok for President Obama to give “shout-outs” to folks live on national news, simply because nobody was really watching anyway, and nobody really cares what the President says at that moment; it will all be cleaned up in the clips for the evening news. But you didn’t. You attacked a straw-man of your own making, and then decided to get personal with me by suggesting that I am criticizing him only because of my own Republican leanings (which are hardly a secret).

    He could also, by the way, have had his staff tell the networks not to cut live to his speech, because he wasn’t going to address the nation on the attack yet. Then he could have done his shout-out bit, returned to the White House, and THEN addressed the nation. But having decided to address the nation on the topic, he had an obligation, in my view, to do so with complete decorum and dignity, not to simply slip it in in the middle of a lively, fun address to the Dept. of Interior crowd, complete with “shout-outs.”

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt because it’s late. Go to bed, and wake up feeling better and better able to argue without foolishness.

  48. Randy said,

    Sorry, Pat. “Bad hair day” at this end. We disagree.

  49. PatHMV said,

    Happens to all of us, Randy. (Well, not so much me anymore, literally speaking, as all of my hair fell out long ago!) Here’s hoping for a brighter day!

  50. karen said,

    In re-reading these comments–as i wait for apple pies to bake– i think Randy was responding to… ME:0)!!! I’m sorry i mussed your hair, Randy- but, not really because it’s a new side to you and probably good to see– makes you less of an angel:0).

    I was very underwhelmed w/the tone of Obama on the announcement to the Nation as to the attack. And– i was not impressed w/the ~let’s not jump to conclusions~ line because he was way out there behind the 8ball then. Hell, i told myself that very thing when i heard the man’s name!! No, i will not jump to conclusions- until i heard that he had yelled ~Allah Akbar(sp)~ right before he began shooting. That is harder for me to swallow when it comes to intent.

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