Archive for April 2011

The Council Has Spoken: April 29, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: Bookworm Room–-What happens when government (state or federal) is pathologically hostile to business

Noncouncil: Barry Rubin- How the West Is Being Turned into a Version of the Middle East

Full voting here.

It’s 1979 – Just With Worse Music

Let’s see…
Skyrocketing gas prices… Check.
Raging inflation… Check.
Soaring precious metals prices… Check.
Plummeting consumer confidence… Check.
A self-absorbed liberal in the White House more concerned about his legacy than governing… Check. Again.
Ugly cars on the road…. Check.
Islamic fundamentalism on the rise in the Middle East… Check.

It’s 1979 all right – but without the 2011 equivalent of Blondie, Bauhaus or the Sex Pistols. And the president isn’t being controlled by a foreign policy crisis; but the year is young.

The Council Has Spoken: April 22, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

CouncilJoshuapundit–-The Real Battle In The Middle East: Syria

Noncouncil: Zombie/Pajamas Media- Tea Party vs. US Uncut: A San Francisco Tax Day Showdown

Full voting here.

A Taxing Time in America

As I recently wrote I’m not feeling good about my family’s tax bill this year. Here are some further thoughts on the matter as my checks go out in the mail.

1. All sense of fairness has been thrown out the window. The fact that Goldman Sachs, the Fed Chairman, CEOs, legislators (I’m looking at you Barney Frank and Chris Dodd) who oversaw the great financial calamity since the Great Depression have gone unpunished and are still in power would mystify the thugs of Tammany Hall. These people profited from the bubble they created and worse, from the tax payer funded bailout of the mess afterward. The problem is that they didn’t really clean up the mess; they just pushed it out a couple of years by kicking it into the future. Congress even made the situation worse by hiding the pain from the taxpayer. Instead of making the cuts necessary to pay for the bailout and causing the immediate taxpayer pain, they put it on America’s “credit card”: the national debt.

Had the American taxpayer felt the pain of the bailout directly, s/he would not have allowed Bernanke, Geithner, and the partners of Goldman Sachs to avoid paying for their mistakes. The bailout would have become like an economic 9-11, and the calls for justice would have been just as great as they were in Sept. 2001 when America couldn’t seem to get Marines to Afghanistan fast enough to find al Qaeda and exact revenge for the pain of 9-11. But Congress short-circuited this. It just added the sum to the debt, while promising to hold hearings into the matter. In the end nothing changed, and the people who weakened the world’s largest economy remain in positions of power and wealth – where they continue to do damage to the economy.

2. The term American taxpayer has become an archaic expression. It seems that taxes are for the little people judging by how large American corporations like GE don’t pay any, and Treasury Secretary Geithner and now Attorney General Eric Holder can’t pay the full amount owed. Meanwhile 47% of Americans paid no income tax at all – not even a token amount – while the super-rich saw their tax rates decline as a percent of their income.

So we have a system whereby the wealthiest game the system to avoid taxes and half of the population pays no tax at all. This leaves a large percentage of Americans bearing the weight of a state showering largess on the economic rungs above as well as below them. In fairness the majority of that 47% probably doesn’t understand that they aren’t paying any taxes at all. The details of withholding aren’t easy to understand, and most people overpay. So they see a hit on their checks every week – but the difference between their gross and take home pay also includes social insurance taxes like Medicaid/Medicare taxes, Social Security. This system gives the impression of fairness but that is only on the surface.

The IRS estimates that calculating and complying with the tax code is a process that consumes 6.1 billion hours. That is because the system isn’t about spreading the tax burden across all citizens equally; over the past century the federal income tax system has been hijacked to become a tool of social policy. Then that hijacking was in turn shanghaied by lobbyists to protect particular constituencies or businesses. Is it any wonder that something that costs billions of man hours can’t fund the government properly yet still manages to upset everyone – including the 47% of people not paying federal taxes?

3. S&P “downgrading” US debt. A good explanation is here.

What’s interesting to me is that the S&P thinks that politics will prevent meaningful deficit reduction before the 2012 election. Not a bad idea considering how low both parties think of the American Public. I think that the Public could handle the truth if the messenger was credible. Donald Trump isn’t that messenger although his frank demeanor could force another Republican to gather up his courage and talk in specifics – in contrast to Obama’s soaring rhetoric that means nothing.

The downgrade is bad news for the Obama and the Left. Krugman and other hard core Lefties have been calling for MORE deficit spending. Even one of my good friends threw Cheney’s quote “Deficits don’t matter” at me last week; this move by S&P proves they do (Cheney was wrong then and is even more wrong today). I think that Obama himself sides with these lefties and has only been pulled to the right to pay lip service to the deficit by his political advisers. This downgrade undermines their resistance and shifts the political ground towards the Tea Partiers and others who have been warning about rising deficits for years (since the “W” administration – there was a civil war in the Republican party against the expansion of government under his watch that was missed by the Left and the mainstream media infatuated with Iraq.)

The S&P is another tool of our banker overlords. All the ratings agencies were too happy to grant AAA ratings to toxic waste (mortgage-backed CDO’s) and should have paid a price for their failure. They didn’t, and now they are rattling the chains of the politicians again. What is their motive? Probably to prevent the government from inflating away its debt by more Qualitative Easing (QE3 had been bandied about by Krugman et al). I’m not sure though; I don’t believe in conspiracies as a rule but given the fact that the financial wizards who caused the meltdown haven’t paid any sort of price for their malfeasance makes open minded about a conspiracy here.

UPDATE: Here is a harsher take (and I’m tired of the comparisons to Rome):

Simply put, it is this: those responsible for the nation’s financial crisis and its catastrophic after-effects are not paying for the consequences of their actions—it is the innocent, those who were not responsible, who are paying the price.

The Council Has Spoken: April 15, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: The Noisy RoomRumors of Beck’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

Noncouncil: Yid With Lid -A Science Fiction Story That Predicted The Manner of Western Suicide

Full voting here.

WSJ Mauls President’s Speech

The president is not serious about deficit reduction because he doesn’t believe the harm they cause the economy. The Wall Street Journal takes him to task for his failure.

The immediate political goal was to inoculate the White House from criticism that it is not serious about the fiscal crisis, after ignoring its own deficit commission last year and tossing off a $3.73 trillion budget in February that increased spending amid a record deficit of $1.65 trillion.


Under the Obama tax plan, the Bush rates would be repealed for the top brackets. Yet the “cost” of extending all the Bush rates in 2011 over 10 years was about $3.7 trillion. Some $3 trillion of that was for everything but the top brackets—and Mr. Obama says he wants to extend those rates forever. According to Internal Revenue Service data, the entire taxable income of everyone earning over $100,000 in 2008 was about $1.582 trillion. Even if all these Americans—most of whom are far from wealthy—were taxed at 100%, it wouldn’t cover Mr. Obama’s deficit for this year [emph. ad].

Goldstone Must Collect the Feathers

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center suggests how Richard Goldstone should repent for his blood libel against Israel.

The Council Has Spoken: April 8, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD-The Little Satan Posse

Noncouncil: Doug Ross- In the spirit of bipartisanship, Mr. Speaker, let the Senate Democrats shut the government down

Full voting here.

The New Judenrat – Jewish Collaborators of the 21st Century

I’ve always been fascinated by the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. I’m also interested in the Irish who sat out World War 2 as neutral, but that is another essay. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Jewish collaborators since learning billionaire George Soros was one of them, a teenaged judenrat who helped the Nazis expropriate Jewish property, and it’s difficult for me to think of the wealthy, powerful man today without considering the assistance he gave the Nazis who annihilated his own kind. I throw the word judenrat around a lot when I write about him, and it’s good for me to consider exactly what the word means. This article serves as a reminder of the potency of the term.

The more I learn about these collaborators, the more I cannot understand leftist Jewish groups like J-Street and people like new DNC head Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. While the original judenrat could be excused for not being aware of the scale of the Holocaust or its corporate nature, no such excuses can be used by Jews today when faced by the attitudes of Islamists towards the Jewish people and their state of Israel. While the judenrat under the Nazi occupation had the likes of Adam Czerniakow, judenrat leader of the Warsaw ghetto and Chaim Rumkowski of the Lodz ghetto, today’s judenrat are led by the likes of New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, Noam Chomsky and Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth. Czerniakow made notes in his diary about having to provide the Nazis with 7,000 names to send to “work camps in the East.” He could at least console himself with thinking that the people he named had a chance of surviving at these camps. He wouldn’t have known that most would be gassed or shot immediately upon their arrival. He also didn’t have much choice. Those judenrat who refused German orders were shot, and their families either joined them against the wall or met their end in a concentration camp.

Not so the likes of Friedman, Chomsky and their followers. They live and speak freely in the West. No government is forcing them to create 21st century blood libels like that promulgated by Richard Goldstone in the Goldstone Report. No one is threatening to gas their families if they refuse to spread lies about Israel and Jews. Ken Roth of HRW spends George Soros’s money propagandizing relentlessly against Israel while remaining silent on the atrocities committed by its neighbors. No, the modern judenrat choose to collaborate with their people’s enemies by choice. The original judenrat couldn’t believe that their gentile friends in Poland, the villages their families had lived in for centuries, the nations that they called home would turn on them and “process” them the way cows are “processed” at the slaughterhouse. Today’s judenrat are well aware of the threats Jews face because Islamist groups like Hezballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza make their intentions all too plain. Today Hamas shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, and looks forward to rearming once a new Egyptian government is seated and removes its blockade on the Gaza Strip. Iran has made clear it plans to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, as a new secret nuclear site is revealed by an Iranian opposition group. Hezballah rearms under the noses of UN “peacekeepers” in South Lebanon waiting for orders from the regime in Tehran.

Meanwhile efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in Europe and the United States. This effort capitalizes on the complexity, history and general ignorance of the Arab-Israeli conflict (e.g. the demand that Israel should allow the “right to return” for displaced Palestinians but failing to recognize that such a demand effectively ends the state of Israel), to blur the line between criticism of Israeli government policies and actions, and the right of the state of Israel to exist. This hasn’t been helped by the overreaction of Israeli supporters to label all criticism as “anti-Semitic” (I personally was called a “nazi” and “skinhead” at a town hall meeting for speaking out against a proposed expansion of a Chabad Lubavitch community center in my neighborhood), and the tendency for Jews in the West to be more liberal and open-minded than non-Jews. While some of these liberal Jews may hope that the growing ideological alliance between the Left and Islamists would fall apart if Israel gave up settlements in the West Bank and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, such sentiment ignores the rising background “noise” of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and the United States.

As a gentile and long-time supporter of Israel I am often amazed at how some Jews can ignore 5,000 years of oppression – massacres, pogroms, expulsions – and support the people and ideas that strive to carry these practices into the 21st century. While Hamas lacks the opportunity and manpower the Nazis had at their disposal, only the most delusional Jew could think that the Islamists would not slaughter the Jews in their beds given the opportunity – as proven by the attack on the Fogel family. One in three Palestinians think it’s a good thing to stab a month old infant, a three year old and an eleven year old in their beds – yet the modern judenrat selectively ignore such behavior and attitudes and continue to provide moral cover for their killers. These Jews may not realize it themselves, but their actions prove they hold the belief that the destruction of Israel would solve all these problems, ignoring the oppression that is behind Israel’s founding in the first place. It’s as if the Holocaust or any other of the countless atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people ever happened, or worse, that the Jewish people deserved its fate.

Today’s judenrat believe that the Jewish people can survive without the state of Israel, and accept that Zionism or Zionist are pejorative terms. I would have hoped that the Holocaust would have put that belief to rest, but the systematic slaughter of 6 million capping the deaths of hundreds of thousands in expulsions, massacres and pogroms evidently wasn’t enough.

Obama: Loser in 2012 and Obama the Weak President

Obama Will Lose in 2012. Favorite quote: “If you set out to design a policy that impoverished 80% of the citizenry and channeled a larger share of the national income to the top 10%, then this is precisely the set of policies you would pursue.” Indeed.

March Madness, Andrea Tantaros. Favorite quote: “What we are witnessing is a profound indication of leadership paralysis. Obama does not know what to say on all fronts. He has no roadmap on fiscal issues, a national energy plan and gas prices, or the Middle East. He is not guided by US interests or any discernable strategy. His only goal is moral preening and making amorphous statements that make him sound like the most righteous man in the room.”

Anti-leadership, John Podhoretz. Favorite quote: “He began his presidency as a potential colossus—but if he doesn’t change, he will finish it as a pipsqueak. Pipsqueaks don’t win second terms.”

Weakest president in history Favorite quote: “What is President Obama doing about anything? The most alarming answer – your guess is as good as mine – is also, frankly, the most accurate one. What the President is not doing is being clear, resolute and pro-active, which is surely a big part of his job description.”

Why I Don’t Think the Government Deserves My Money This Year

I just finished calculating my taxes, and normally I don’t think too much about it. But this year is different. As a self-described patriot who supports the Global War on Terrorism, I have to accept that such a war needs someone to pay for it and as an American that someone has to be me. I imagine that the money the Wife earns doing paperwork or tending to a Medicaid patient or that I earn sitting in a meeting taking notes about some esoteric IT topic that few outside the room would understand or think important goes to buy body armor for US Army soldiers, bullets for Marine corps snipers or fuel for UAVs that send jihadis to their beloved 72 virgins. I also imagine the money we earn going to protect National and State Parks, or to pay for search and rescue training by the Coast Guard. Although I am viewed as an anti-government extremist by many on the Left, there is much that the federal government does that I have no problem paying for.

But this year is very different. Last year was the first full tax year spent living in North Carolina. North Carolina is a state with an above median state income tax along with a 7.75%/2.0% sales. The taxes that I just completed do not include this sales tax – which is a substantial hit on our household finances given that at this stage our family consumes almost as much as it takes in thanks to outgrown sneakers, a mortgage payment on a farm, and 35 lb bags of dog food for our mutt-ly crew.

The cost of gasoline hits us especially hard. While my wife and I drive economical cars living in a rural area requires a lot of driving. The Wife also makes house calls; she isn’t reimbursed for her time or for gas but she believes that it is part of her job regardless. I’d estimate that our fuel costs have gone up $1,500 or so over the past year and notice that gas at the local pumps jumped a dime again this morning. Rising transportation costs have been hidden in our grocery bill. I’ve found that many of the staple products that I buy like pasta, cereal and peanut butter now come in smaller containers, no doubt thanks to the rising cost of diesel fuel. It seemed to me that during the Bush administration, whenever a gallon of gas rose a nickel there was a New York Times article on the cozy relationship between the Bush family and the oil companies. Under the Obama administration the price of a gallon of gasoline has risen 67% and the mainstream media has uttered not a peep.

Even though I have a political science degree under my belt I’m not a complete idiot. I recognize that this isn’t Venezuela: Obama can’t order gas prices down the way Hugo Chavez can. However his policies of limiting drilling and more importantly, running huge deficits that can only be handled by printing money forces investors into commodities like oil – driving the prices up. The price of oil is calculated in dollars, and as the dollar weakens thanks to the feds spending more than it takes in, the price of oil and other commodities like gold, wheat, and copper – rise. And that’s exactly what has been happening and why Obama doesn’t get the same pass that President Bush got in 2006 (or that this article gives Obama).

It’s also tough to cut the check for the difference between the amount withheld from our paychecks and the amount we owe because of the sense of entitlement held by public servants. The recent fight in Wisconsin over the restrictions to collectively bargain that limited the practice to inflation rate wage increases is fresh in my mind. The behavior of the teachers especially was appalling and embarrassing to a former TESL teacher like me. Without getting into specifics (this is the Internet after all) let’s just say that our total tax bill this year could pay an entire year’s salary for a low-level public servant. Not a teacher (we don’t pay that much in taxes) but say, for one of those cheery people that meet you at the DMV.

Meanwhile I drive a 11 year old Honda with 150,000 miles, my family has catastrophic medical insurance that still runs me $4k/year and covers nothing, we are hundreds of thousands of (taxable) dollars in debt thanks to medical school, and I have avoided the dentist since the Wife left residency because we don’t have dental and about the only thing I inherited from the Irish side of my family besides alcoholism is bad teeth.

Speaking of teeth, the fact that my family (2010 income: $—-) paid tens of thousands of dollars more in taxes than General Electric (2010 income: $10.8 billion) is a big roundhouse kick in them. I’m still waiting for my invitation from the Obama administration to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, since I funded government operations more than GE CEO Jeff Immelt did, but so far nothing. Maybe the email has been marked as spam in the Yahoo! mail account that I haven’t used since the 90’s.

Immelt might say “Scott, GE employed hundreds of thousands of workers so it shouldn’t pay taxes.” And I would reply, “Jeffrey, under your ‘leadership’ GE cut 30,000 jobs in the United States. Under my ‘leadership’ my family helped create jobs in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina by hiring local carpenters, an electrician and a plumber to fix up our house. Which is better for America?” And not only did that, but bought fuel for planes to bomb Libyans and hired public servants who are overpaid and hate their jobs.

Wait a minute…

Which brings me to our support of the “freedom fighters” in Libya. If ever there was such a thing as a politically correct military operation, the US/NATO operation in Libya is it. Only the likes of “the rather crazed Susan Rice” and Samantha “Israel is guilty of war crimes” Power could think up an operation that would send military support and arms to the same folks in Africa we were hunting down and killing in Asia. So the hours the Wife and I spend working will buy surface to air missiles that Obama’s Valkyries will hand to wide-eyed fanatics who will use them to shoot down American or Israeli civilian jet liners.

Perhaps Ms’ Rice, Power and Clinton should read the Koran to understand why we shouldn’t give weapons to Muslims (as if arming the mujahadin in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s weren’t good enough lessons). “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them.” (Koran, 5:51) Since the Koran is the word of God, God is making it clear in no uncertain terms that Muslims cannot befriend non-Muslims without leaving their faith. Oh, and by the way, for the “Islam is just like any other religion” crowd: the punishment for leaving Islam is death. When I left the Catholic Church, I didn’t have to worry about being kidnapped by a Knights of Columbus member and having my head chopped off.

In fact the only circumstance it is allowed is when such friendship is used for deceit, as in the case where Muhammed orders Muhammad bin Maslama to kill a Jewish poet who wrote insulting verses about Muslim women. “Then allow me to say a (false) thing so that I may deceive him,” bin Maslama asked Muhammed. “You may say it.” (Muhammed Ibn Ismaiel Al-Bukhari, Shih al-Bukhari: The Translation of the Meanings, vol 5, book 64, no. 4037). If that isn’t clear to the Harvard Kennedy School professor, perhaps Muhammad’s statement that “War is deceit,” (Hadith, 4:269) will bring some clarity to the matter of Libya.

I have handed a terrific sum of money to my government. It is the result of months of hard work done by my wife and I at the pinnacle of our earning power. It’s the most it will ever get; it’s all downhill from here. She’s taken a lower-paying job and I’ll probably be unemployed by the Fall. I don’t resent the taxes themselves, but in 2011 I do begrudge a government that in its attitude and endeavors clearly doesn’t appreciate our sacrifice.

A Personal Note on My Mother’s 90th Birthday.

Today my mother turns 90 years old. As a man almost half her age her longevity fills me with wonder and awe at such an accomplishment. Cynics (like me at most times) might scoff at the accomplishment since she didn’t have to do anything except not die, but it’s not like that’s easy. Besides, there is more to it than that.

First, let’s look at the raw numbers. At the time of her birth her life expectancy was 57.4 years. This meant that she had a 50-50 chance of living through the end of August 1978. She had less than a 4% chance of making it to her 85th birthday in 2006. Thankfully living conditions improved, especially for poor Americans.

My mother was born on St. Louis’s South Side, an area that was ethnically German but actually contained a mix of several nationalities who spoke German – usually as a second language. These included a large contingent from Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. Her mother’s father had arrived in August 1891 on the SS Trave, a steamer out of Bremen, and her father’s family, also Bohemians, had arrived just a few years earlier. On the day she was born, her father had gone out fishing, hoping to return home to a boy, only to find another daughter. He wasn’t too pleased about that, and never treated her affectionately as best as she could recall. She did seem to have a pleasant albeit poor upbringing; none of the flats or small detached homes she lived in had indoor plumbing until after she had married.

The Depression hit her family hard, and she got her first job selling door to door at the age of 16, working to support her mother. He father had died suddenly, taking a fall down basement stairs on his way to get some homebrewed beer, which he had made my mother bottle and cap for his and his friends. It gave her a life-long hatred of the smell of beer. Ironic, given that fact she met my father at a beer-garden soon after graduating high school. His father, of pure Irish stock, wasn’t pleased. “I don’t want my son marrying no dirty bohunk,” he is rumored to have said. This being America, even the Irish had someone to look down upon, and early in the 20th century it was the Italians and Eastern Europeans who had arrived starting a half century after the Irish were starved out of their own European homes.

Life was tough. Employment prospects weren’t good for my father who left school after 10th grade and bounced from one menial job to the next. I grew up on a steady diet of stories about how my parents skipped meals themselves in order to feed their growing family. My mother had dreamed of being a nurse prior to marriage but began a family instead – too quickly she later admitted. The War took my father away to the Pacific, leaving her at home with two daughters and the birth of a son, born while my father was fighting the Japanese in the Philippines. His wartime buddies even chose his name while they retook the Philippines, fulfilling General MacArthur’s “I shall return” pledge.

At first my brother thrived, but soon my mother noticed differences only an alert mother could spot. With my sisters in tow, she presented my brother to a doctor. “Take this boy home,” he said dismissively, “He’s going to die.” My mother cried all the way home on the streetcar, but she didn’t give up. She went to other doctors where she learned that my brother had been born with a hole in his heart, a defect that left him prone to illness throughout his childhood and that would eventually kill him. Some of them told them to institutionalize the boy so that she could focus on raising the rest of her family, but she stubbornly refused. Instead she sat in bed cradling my sick brother with my sisters laid out asleep on either side of her. She cried alone, but she never quit. Eventually she found a doctor, Dr. Danis, who appreciated her persistent and worked with my family to keep my brother alive until 1967 when he was one of the first to receive open heart surgery to patch the hole in his heart. Dr. Danis became a sainted figure in our house.

While my mother gave her all for her children, she never resented our failures to appreciate what she had done until much, much later. My mother continued working until five years ago, and always found money for house downpayments or some other unexpected financial crisis that befell her adult children. She kept the peace between my father and his children, which wasn’t easy given my father’s alcoholism and the rebellious spirit of one of my sisters.

My father had a simple rule for his daughters: always be home by 1am on the weekends. Most of us abided by this rule, but one sister fought against it. “If I’m going to be bad, I can do it before 1am,” she once said to my mother. “It has nothing to do with you,” my mother responded. “It has to do with not upsetting your father.” There was a logic to this deadline: bars closed in St. Louis at 1:30am, and neither of my parents wanted their daughters on the streets after that time.

My father, who fell asleep early, always woke up at 1am, getting out of bed and making certain that his children were home. If they weren’t, he would explode. He was an extremely fearful man who channeled his fear into aggression, and my mother had learned how to handle him. Today we would call such an “education” abuse, but this was 50 years ago. Back then it was considered simply part of being a wife.

One Saturday night, my sister wasn’t home as the clock approached 1am. My mother began to worry, knowing that my father would soon awaken. She slipped out of the house and began driving around the neighborhood looking for her daughter. She found her near the house, waiting defiantly for the deadline to pass. My mother pulled her cursing and kicking out of her boyfriend’s car.

Another time a younger sister came home, her face puffy from bruises she received after being hit by her boyfriend. My mother grabbed the keys, drove to the boyfriend’s house and banged on the door. His father opened it. “Where is he,” she said, bursting into the house. His parents were stunned, and she saw him at the top of a flight of stairs. She charged up the stairs and grabbed him by the throat with one hand and slapped him with another. “Don’t. You. Ever. Touch. My. Daughter. Again.” She hissed and spit, smacking the boy as hard as she could. His mother screamed, and eventually the father pulled my mother off their son.

My mother later explained that she was doing the boy a favor. By beating him herself she had kept my father from doing the job. She weighed half of what he did, and knew that had he found the boy he would have killed him. The boy would be dead and my father in prison, his family left to fend for itself. The beating was just her way of protecting her family.

Eventually his daughters were married off, although my youngest sister had to hide her marriage until the week before the wedding for fear that my father would stop the wedding. The three daughters whom he saw married, even the rebellious one, never knew divorce. Their husbands were all solid providers and were just as devoted to their own families as my parents were to theirs.

But like many big families there were divisions. Over time, especially after the death of my father, these became more difficult to hide. Slights between siblings became more pronounced. The number of people at family gatherings dwindled even as the number of individual gatherings grew. It was most apparent at major holidays like Christmas Eve: my brother and the rebellious sister refused to attend this gathering, so my mother would drag me along to visit my brother’s family on Christmas Day and my sister’s a day or two afterward. After I left home the situation became even worse. Sisters who grew up as friends became fast-enemies as one slighted the other at her daughter’s wedding.

My mother did her best to paper over these fractures, but there was little she could do. Her family, which she had dedicated her life to preserving, had become so successful that members could afford complete independence from one another. All of my siblings had done well and were solidly middle class, as were their children. They didn’t need the support – either emotionally or financially – of their brothers and sisters.

Although I am certain that she feels that she failed, I see this breakup of her family as an inevitable consequence of her success. My mother had raised them with the characters they needed to thrive and do better in the world than she and her husband had. They were smart with money, recognized the importance of education, valued their religious faith yet were all critical thinkers who questioned authorities, and never, ever quit. Their “children” were never “taken home to die.” Each of my siblings has persisted in the face of adversity and never, ever gave up. For some it was money; for others it was status. For me it was addiction and other internal demons; and thanks to my mother I never, ever gave up on myself.

But these characteristics that made them successful weakened their familial bonds. These were personal struggles that were shared with their spouses – at most. They were qualities of personality that created patriarchs and matriarchs who stood alone at the top of their own families; they found it hard if not impossible to accept the achievements of their siblings and desperately wanted to revert to roles of subservience set during their childhoods. In other words my parents, particularly my mother, had raised a family of kings and queens – not peasants.

For some the past was alive – too alive. What one sister did to another in 1964 was as alive today as it was 47 years ago. For others, including myself who grew up alone with my parents because my siblings had left home to live their own lives, the past was filled with loneliness and easily forgotten.

I wish for my mother’s sake that we could forget, that my brother and sisters could set aside their grievances if only for the remaining days of my mother’s life. But they are no doubt to stubborn and self-centered – and forgetful of the kindnesses their “enemy” showed them while growing up under the same roof.

Regardless, this is a day of celebration, of the life of a truly gifted, intelligent, and remarkable woman who taught six children to pursue their dreams and to persist against the odds no matter what a higher authority tells them. “Take the boy home,” echoes through the lives of dozens of my family thanks to the strength and passion of one little Bohemian woman who did what she thought in her heart was right and in the end, proved to the world it was.

The Council Has Spoken: April 1, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council: New Zeal–-“Responsibility to Protect” – The End of National Sovereignty As We Know It?

Noncouncil: Sultan Knish- Saving 1 Billion People From Themselves

Full voting here.