Archive for August, 2009

hen2aThe World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 04 from Emma Blackwell.

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courtJames MacGregor Burns has written a short and thoughtful sweep of the soiled history of the Supreme Court.  The soiling began immediately with George Washington and the Founding Fathers.  The three branches of the Federal government sort of looked like they were equal but were not.  The tricky problem of how to “check and balance” the judiciary was basically left to be worked out later.  Washington packed the court with Federalists because anyone not so identified was simply not his kind of man, and that set the pattern for all the succeeding presidents brilliant as well as average as well as incompetent.  Washington made the court political.

Then along came Chief Justice John Marshall, Federalist to the hilt, appointed by John Adams who saw no good in any man unless the man fully agreed with Adams.  Marshall knew the Constitution and he knew what he wanted.  To put his wants and the Constitution in the same holding bag he declared in Marbury v. Madison that the Supreme Court had a power the Founding Fathers had not written down, the power of judicial review.  He and his fellow political appointees on the Supreme Court had the final word on what laws were constitutional and just who had what powers to govern.  It was a nice piece of work that solved a serious weakness in the Constitution, but it left in place the problem of what to do with political mediocrity sitting for life on the Supreme Court.

Burns shows in Packing The Court: The Rise Of Judicial Power And The Coming Crisis Of The Supreme Court that presidents pick judges little better than racetrack betters place bets.  They rarely know the quality of the person but always know their political background.  They rarely know mediocrity from excellence.  They appoint life-holders who  become reactionary and ossified as the country changes, leaving them out of touch with new needs and realities.  Most appointments to the Supreme Court should never have been made.

In the final chapter, Burns writes, “Whether in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century or the Gilded Age at the turn of the twenty-first, the justices have most fiercely protected the rights and liberties of the minority of the powerful and the propertied.  Americans cannot look to the judicial branch for leadership.  They can not expect leadership from unelected and unaccountable politicians in robes.”  Up to and including this point, Burns is correct, but he goes on to add the weakest pages of the book.  His solution is not worth covering, but something does need to be done about our tolerance for slipshod Appellate and Supreme appointments.  The big, transformational philanthropic foundations, the American Bar Association, and the media need to do a better job of explaining what is at stake, identifying excellence that goes beyond a successful legal and political career, and educating the public on who is being appointed and how the appointees are performing.

What do we know about potential Obama appointees?  Of course the White House has a team vetting any number of people, but who is vetting for us, the mythic average citizen?  We don’t need a constitutional amendment shuffling power around.  We need public involvement in the vetting.  Mediocrity and rigidity when exposed to light create a strong odor that is often intolerable even to Federally elected officials.  Charles Marlin

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Giving no gifts is traveling alone in threatening weather on a rutted road you sense is not leading you where you want to go.  Giving gifts is watching friends and family enjoy the last picnic of the season in a park you love.  This is the third month of the third quarter Clarion Friends features the CCCF Operating Support Endowment Fund on our Donations Page.  The name explains everything.  The Clarion County Community Foundation created the fund as a dedicated source of support for keeping the foundation functioning in a healthy way.

While the CCCF can create a fund it has no way of funding it unless donors give their support.  There are no grants from larger foundations, or the Commonwealth, or the Federal government.  The fund breathes and walks only if you nurture it.  Please give a helping hand for one step and one breath.  You will feel better and you will be a richer person for having made the gift.  The process is simple.  Click on the Donations Page and follow the directions.  We will send you an immediate acknowledgement of your gift.

Time is relatively short because at the end of the third quarter, Clarion Friends will rotate another needy fund into the featured spot on the Donations Page.  It will be many months before this fund is featured again.  We all know that we are each pilgrims in this life.  A good pilgrim knows more.  Charles Marlin

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chick chickThe World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 03 from Norma Simpson.

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perkins2There is nothing witty or catchy you can say about Frances Perkins.  She was everyone’s grandmother in her felt hat, black coat, black strap purse, sensible shoes, and no makeup.  Who fully knew that she was the social conscience of FDR, that without her he would not have had enough of a domestic program to call “A Little Deal” let alone The New Deal?  Unfortunately for her it was a time of straight white chauvinist domination in everything, so her contributions were belittled or claimed by others.  She birthed, nurtured, and toilet trained what we consider the domestic achievements of the era, a better and more secure working career and retirement for the average American.

Kirstin Downey has written The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life Of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary Of Labor And His Moral Conscience, a biography that makes you wonder how we ever achieve anything in Washington given whom we normally appoint and elect in office.  FDR, bless his political soul, knew he had a classy jumper in her even if he treated her like a wagon mule.  So if you want to know how a woman can make it in New York politics, then move on to become a historic cabinet secretary in Washington, read this book.

I did not get the feeling she was the most likable person in any room but she had many loyal friends and associates although they never matched the mass of her detractors.  Added to that imbalance she was burdened with a mentally unstable husband as well as a disfunctional and unstable daughter.  She when she found a friend she kept them if at all possible.  If you read the book you will agree that she deserves more than a postage stamp, a federal building, or the fledgling Frances Perkins Center at The Brick House, her ancestral homestead in Newcastle ME.  I say put her face on our Social Security checks.

For more information about the Center and its future, go to www.francesperkinscenter.org/  If you have Perkins ephemera this is the perfect place to receive it before you or your heirs lose  or scatter it.  They will also not decline a cash donation.  Charles Marlin

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The World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 02  from John Rexrode

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c1Truman Capote’s birthday is coming up September 30th.  He was born in 1934 and died August 25, 1984.  To celebrate his birthday it is altogether proper for one to dine on what he told E. J. Kahn, Jr. in 1984 was his staff of life.  Kahn was a reporter and writer and a New Yorker man, who published The Staffs of Life in 1985, drawn from his series in the New Yorker.  The Truman  Capote recipe for the staff of life was an Idaho potato, that is the variety Russet-Burbank, smothered with sour cream, heaped with the freshest biggest-grained beluga caviar, and washed down with 80-proof Russian vodka.

Conceding that TC knew he was speaking for the New Yorker and that he had many short days himself, it is possible for everyone who admires him to celebrate September 30th by serving the Truman Capote recipe.  A few short cuts will not be out of line.

I checked several sources on the internet for caviar looking for the less expensive choices.  Forget the beluga, you are looking down the line for something available and far less expensive.  American Salmon Caviar or Roe, please I don’t want to fight over the names, is described as “initially buttery to the palate,” and “intense salmon flavor.”  It sells for 9 oz. tin at $80, 8 oz. for $29, and 8.8 oz. for $25 depending on where you shop.  Black Bowfin Roe at 8 oz. for $56.  Golden Whitefish Roe at 8 oz. for $19.90, and 8.8 oz. for $20.  Wasabi flavored roeat 8 oz. for $20.  Wasabi is neither mustard or horseradish although it has the flavor and fire of horseradish.

If you did not happen to inherit and keep your grandmother’s mother-of-pearl plates and spoons you can buy your own at $45 per plate, and $4 to $38 for each spoon.  You can however take a shortcut and use white plastic spoons and a small glass bowl from any store.  Vodka is just vodka regardless of what the advertisers  try to make us believe.  What Russian ever paused to taste it?  None.

c2And if at this point you have drifted back to TC’s story, A Christmas Memory, of how he recalled his great aunt Sook Faulk cooked for, loved, and nurtured a lonely little boy along side her fruitcake making and kite flying, you are reading the right blog.  Not only do you have the wonderful story, TC’s powerful reading of the story, you can now have the original recipe passed from Sook to her niece Marie Rudisill and from her to her book, Sook’s Cookbook: Memories And Traditional Receipts From The Deep South, Updated Edition.

TC was an American wonder and we are justly proud of him.  You can not name  a comparable Englishman, Canadian, Aussie, or Frenchman.  Celebrate and dine on Truman Capote.  Charles Marlin

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