Archive for January, 2014

purple pumps
To the loyal followers of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, the latest addition, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, will be cause for concern. Most all of us were looking forward to Grace Makutsi’ pregnancy as her swansong at the detective agency. With Grace at home nursing young Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti, Precious Ramotswe would be free to pursue solving cases without having to constantly work around the obstreperous Grace; but no, what happened instead is that Precious felt lonely and sought out Grace at home. It would have been better if she had hired the often maligned Violet Sephotho as her temporary secretary, or if she had inquired of the Botswana Secretarial College for a less difficult, recent graduate, regardless of their score.

What do we have now? For starters, we have Grace and baby Clovis in the office. We have milktoast Phuti Radiphuti coming in for minor praise. We have Precious acknowledging the existence of Grace’s many talking shoes.

The final blow comes on the closing page of the book; but I am too alarmed to report it. Mark my prediction, there will be rough days ahead for the detective agency. Charles Marlin

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Doris Kearns Goodwin has written a little book, well as little as the subject will allow, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, And The Golden Age Of Journalism. Most readers will find about what they expected of Theodore Roosevelt, and probably much more than they expected of William Howard Taft. Without the mercurial magazine publisher, S. S. McClure, neither of the presidents would have made it to the White House, so this is rather like a three-volume set bound in one book cover. We all know she is good at this history stuff, so enough said of lady Goodwin.

Jump in time, but not in issues, location, or culprits, to the contemporary political smack down by Mark Leibovich, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral–Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!–in America’s Gilded Capital. Corporate American continues to defecate on the American public, at the same time they corrupt the track and stable employees, dope their own horses, and bet wildly on races they know are fixed. Where is this? Why, I write of Washington Downs, the center of the District of Columbia, or as Leibovich tells us, the insiders call “This Town.”

Goodwin moves faster when she is on Roosevelt and McClure, and much slower on Taft. No one can blame her for that. Leibovich has no slow pacers in his book. If his subjects don’t keep up their frantic pace, they are dead, or might as well be dead, because it is snap, snap, snap from prologue to page 371.

In the middle of reading these two books, I received a nice mailing from Public Citizen outlining their fear for America resulting from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which almost any university freshman can tell you was a dunderheaded ruling. Public Citizen wants an amendment to the Constitution they have named Democracy Is For People Amendment. I know they mean well; but that name alone should give a citizen reason to pause.

They claim their amendment would outlaw corporate spending on elections, overturn the Supreme Court ruling “money is speech,” and require PACs be composed of individuals. It is their Carry Nation solution to establishing a democracy of equality, justice, and public service, where so many others have failed. If you read one or both books, you will not sign their petition. If you have respect for history, you will not sign their petition.

Is there no hope? Yes, I think there is hope for incremental progress. I continue to read to prepare myself to recognize those increments when they occur. If I had no hope, I would stop reading, and watch Fox News.

Yes, I have mixed metaphors, first a race track and then a rat infested town, but Washington is flexible and can fit most derogatory comparisons. We are blessed. Charles Marlin

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