Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Paintings for the People I Love!!

Painting for my husband's office in Washington, D.C. when he worked on health care reform in 2009. 

Painting in my son Noah's apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (he has several other paintings and I joke that he is my Brooklyn gallery :) This painting measures five feet by three feet, and is the largest painting I have done so far.

 Painted for my husband's cousin, Liz, who lives in California. The painting is three feet by four feet.

Daffodils painted for my daughter, Lindsay, who lives in Denver. Painting is three feet by four feet.

Painting commissioned by my friend Rebecca on the occasion of her wedding in Northampton, Massachusetts in July 2012.This painting measurs four feet by three feet. Do you see the couple facing
 each other? The bride wears white.

Painting for my daughter Jocelyn and her husband, Evan, on the occasion of their new apartment in Brookline, Massachusetts. This painting measures three feet by two feet. I call this my "Circus Painting."

Painted for my sister Karen, this one will hang in her soon-to-be home in Easthamption, Massachusetts.
Painting measures 20 by 24 inches. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Spring Shipwreck, a Poem

By Claudia Ricci

O what do we do with what will we do?
It is the evening of the last day.
My companion is now
standing at the cliff staring at me.  With me.
When you have known someone this long, it’s hard to distinguish the
“one from the other” condition.

I say, “Look out there, the ship is in a terribly narrow passage of dark rock and there looks to me
to be certain devastation ahead.”

And then I wipe my eyes and the dream ends, and I wake up beside my husband of nearly four decades. 
Mouth dry,
So gloomy I can barely open my eyes.
And yet I still see the cliff and the light on the ship in the distance,
Rocking between the rocks.
In my half-dream state, I whisper,
How could the ship not flounder on those rocks?
There was moonlight, yes, yes,
But there wasn’t enough of it to keep the boat afloat.

I sit up in bed.
He lies there asleep.
Outside the window, it is spring
but the winter has wandered back in
The ice clings to the heart and the hull and the sails.
A nor’easter is up and the boat is glazed, sheathed in ice now
completely socked in by the bad weather.

Ah the boat, our old old weathered ark,
It rocks in dark dark water.
And now, I get up out of bed,
And I tiptoe.
I go below, and lock myself in my cabin.
The worst thing: there is no fresh air to breathe.
There is no fresh air to cry with.
There is nothing but the rocking
And the certainty that the ship is going to crash.
And now, I come to this:
What happens happens happens.
It only matters what description we give to all of it.
We rise we fall we crash we sail.
We look for reasons.

Was that lightning that struck the ship?
Was that a fire on board that could have been extinguished?
Or was the fire extinguished so long ago we forgot where we put the matches?
Or maybe this: the captain broke the rules and brought another woman aboard.
And after a night of sex and pleasure, he lay there smoking a cigar until he felt himself sinking into
            peaceful sleep.
Nothing could keep the boat safe.

Ah, but those are just the stories we might tell each other
my friend and me, standing at the cliff,
Staring out to sea.
If we cared enough to tell them.
This is our toil and our work: we keep inventing stories for why something
crashes and burns or sinks forever into the sea.
A better teaching might be this:
We might rather say the simple prayer, It is what it Is,
It is God’s will.
And please, forgive us this day, for what we need to do to keep our boats sailing.
Show us the real objective is to learn
to be content with our
Lots.  Our love.
As we course our way through the endless rough waters.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Supreme Court's Ruling This Week Helps the Rich Buy More Political Power!!

By Richard Kirsch

The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this week (the McCutcheon decision) makes it easier for the rich to buy political power. The court ruling highlights the big question raised by Thomas Piketty’s new instant economic classic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. 
What chance is there for our democracy to stop the relentless accumulation of wealth by the richest few?

The core lesson of Piketty’s book, based on extensive analysis of data, is that, as Eduard Porter summarized in the Times, “the economic forces concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time.” Piketty says that as the return to capital exceeds economic growth, an ever larger share of national income goes to the owners of capital, the managers of capital and to their heirs.

Economics can’t reverse this, Piketty warns. Only “political action can make this go in the other direction,” he told Porter. The political action he recommends is global taxation of wealth and highly progressive income taxes. As James Galbraith points out in a review of Piketty’s book in Dissent, labor policies like raising the minimum wage and empowering labor unions would also work to share increases in national income more fairly and reduce income inequality, as would robust inheritance taxes.
Policy solutions are easy to come up with. The enormous challenge is that the more wealth is concentrated, the harder it becomes to enact those policies.
That’s not how it is supposed to work in a democracy. In theory, if the great majority of people are doing worse, while a few are doing much better, the majority should be able to change the policy at the voting booth. As just about anyone in America will tell you – from the Tea Partiers who decry crony capitalism to the Occupiers who rail against the 1% (I’m with them) – that’s not happening.
In the last few years, several academic studies by Larry Bartels and others have documented that what the rich believe prevails in politics and what the rest of us think has relatively little impact. The most recent study, released last month, was summarized in Forbes this way:
Those who have assets worth $40 million or more, hold undue sway over the positions politicians take on issues ranging from health care to global warming to defense spending. The wealthiest Americans, contends the paper, are more conservative than the public as a whole on many issues, and U.S. public policy reflects that.
That academics are finding what everyone outside of the five-member conservative majority in the Supreme Court believes – money buys influence, not just access – is gratifying, but hardly surprising. Of course, the political clout of the wealthy is based on more than just campaign cash. It’s control of major media and of much of academia. It’s control of people’s lives, so that corporations can threaten to cut jobs due to pro-labor policies and those threats are too scary for many people to risk challenging. It’s the prevalence and convergence of the conservative narrative, creating the “false consciousness” that leads so many people to vote against their own economic self-interest.
If we look to American history for guidance on whether democracy can rally, the lessons are not clear. For the first three centuries of European settlement of the United States, the opportunities offered by the expanding frontier relieved the pressure for economic justice. But as the frontier closed, the political pressure for policies to rein in corporate concentration and provide basic labor rights intensified. The result was the landmark legislation enacted in the Progressive era, from income and inheritance taxes to child labor laws to trust-busting. But that didn’t stop the huge rise in income inequality that led up to the stock market crash of 1929.
The New Deal provides more positive evidence that if it gets bad enough for enough people, the political system will respond dramatically: regulating finance, establishing labor standards and the right to organize, providing for social insurance, government job creation. Still, it took a world war for the political system to make the all-out investment in jobs and conditions for growth that built the great post World War II middle-class.
So where does that leave us in 2014, after 40 years of slowly stagnating wages and gradual but relentless shrinking of middle-class reality and hopes? My first boss, Ralph Nader, wrote that “pessimism has no survival value” and 39 years after he hired me I continue to follow that advice. I can see many positive signs that we can successfully organize the political will for progressive policies to create an America that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.
Most encouraging are new movements, by low-wage workers and by people demanding we stop killing the planet. I’m encouraged by the Millennial generation’s belief in community and embracing of diversity. And by the rising American electorate of women and communities of color who share with Millennials a belief in collective action to care for our loved ones and our communities. I’m lifted by the election of a growing number of economic progressives to local and state leadership and most recently to Congress. All of these groups share a deep concern about the state of our democracy, reminding us as well that with a switch of just one vote, the Supreme Court can reverse the disastrous Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, as well as the damage done by striking down key parts of the Voting Rights Act.
Can the powerful forces Piketty describes by turned back by a resurgent democracy? Two thousand years ago, Plutarch observed, “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” The stakes in the 21st Century are still that great. Don’t mourn: organize.
Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform. This post first appeared in Roosevelt's blog, NextNewDeal.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

An Early Early Admission to MIT!!

It seems like kids are born smarter and smarter these day. Take my grandson, Ronen, for example :)

From the looks of things, he is going to be a happy camper at college, following his dad to be a chemistry major. :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Bear Sighting!!

So I was alone with our new puppy Poco
last night because my husband was out of town. Wouldn't you know she had to go outside every two hours!

About 4:30  when I took her out, I was totally freaked -- I heard this growling sound coming from the side yard where the birdfeeders are.

I grabbed Poco and ran into the house and when I looked outside I swear I saw a snout and two eyes in the porch light.

Sigh, lucky we have our darling little Poco safe and sound! We've had bear sightings before but none of them were this close a call!