January 20, 2009

Welcome President Barack Obama

President Obama Takes the Oath of Office
 Reuters Foto of Obama

I guess that I am an old man now. I have seen changes that were beyond my ken as a boy and a young man. The election and inauguration of Barack Obama came as a complete surprise to me. As a young man, I struggled against racism and war. I opposed the economic system we call capitalism because of its brutality, its ability to inflict pain and suffering without a rational reason. Folks around the world are getting a strong dose of this pain today as millions are laid-off and tens of thousands lose their homes. In recent years I have been overwhelmed by cynicism, in the realization that my dreams for a better America would likely never come to fruition, because the American people would never change their selfish, backward ways.
But one thing has changed.

Moments ago, I was filled with emotion as Barack Obama was inaugurated and became the forty-fourth president of the United Sates of America. He has inspired millions here and around the world to be selfless and forward thinking. The new president also marks a huge step toward the ending of racism in the USA. This has been one of my life long goals. So I must say:
Welcome President Barack Obama. Thank you for rekindling hope and optimism in the likes of me. May you successfully guide the American people to fully embrace its ideals of peace, freedom and justice for all!

If you had told me even ten years ago that we would have a black president in ten years, I would have said that it was impossible. Perhaps, in twenty years, when my children's generation took power. Maybe, then. Well, it only took ten years, not twenty or thirty. It took the worst president in a hundred years to lay the foundation for the change. But still it came. He is twelve years older than my daughter. He graduated from high school in the late 1970's. When my kids were in high school, I knew that racial prejudice was clearly waning. The color line was disappearing. I could see it in the interrelations of my children and their friends. I knew that it was more than the values that Betty and I passed along, because it was not just our kids that were changing. It was our children and their friends and their generation, free of the racial bias of previous generations who elected President Obama.

Race is not and has never been simply about the color of one's skin or who your parents were. It has been the justification for oppressing a large portion of the working class by providing privilege to the majority of workers. This system of black oppression and white privilege is what racism has been in the USA. The system fostered personal prejudice and bias, which were internal justifications for preserving a system from which every white person has benefited. In the last 50 years, in zigs and zags of two steps forward and one step back, the system has been eroded. Tendrils of this dying social relation will continue to do harm. Let us hope that President Obama will be able to finally lay racism to rest in the ash heap of history.

A Prescription for Health Care

I have said it before, but I must say it again: The one other thing that President Obama can do for the American people is to reform our medical delivery system.
This task will be extremely difficult. The capitalists who control existing medical delivery system have much to lose. They are extremely powerful. I have heard that Americans spend more each year on health care than the gross domestic product of China. Think about the power of so much money. It will be incredibly difficult to bring about fundamental change. My guess is that the health care industry in the USA will find a way to maximize their profits. But we must fundamentally alter how we get health care in the USA. Recently I recommended that Americans watch the Frontline program Sick Around the World - Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a health care system? If you have not seen it, please click on the link to the left. It is well worth seeing. If you want to get a flavor, as to what kind of system we are likely to end up with, listen to presentation that Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, gave earlier this month to the Commonwealth Club of California. Just push play button on the gadget to the right to hear A Prescription for Health Care. Dr. Emanuel is the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the Chief-of-Staff for President Obama. The system he advocates is similar to the Swiss system which is probably the best we can do in the USA. It would be too much, I guess, to hope for a system like the French or English have. Obama says that everyone has to take responsibility for such changes. I hope that you take his words to heart. Otherwise, we are likely to end up with only superficial changes. Pressure your congressmen to push this reform to the forefront.

Welcome President Barack Obama.
Good Luck in Leading the American People to a Brighter Future!

Posted by bill at 06:19 PM | Comments (9)

January 17, 2009

From the Frozen Tundra

Tenth Avenue Slick with Ice and Snow
 Tenth Ave

Reasons for Leaving: Snow
Cold: The Coldest Day in Five Years
Danger: Icy Streets
  Icy Strets
Oblivious: a Solo Skater in the Park
   Solo Skater

The beautiful Lucy and Johanna have kept us in the frozen tundra long enough. We dearly love them, but the cabin fever has hit us hard. If you have never lived in the far north, you may not understand the concept of cabin fever. It is a mental disorder that comes from being indoors all the time. For folks from the far, far north it is compounded by the lack of sunlight. Luckily, after the first of the year, there are some sunny days here, even when it is extremely cold. How cold does it get? Well, the last three nights have had low temperatures of -20f, about -30c. Yesterday, the high temperature was -9f, -22c. Such cold, drives me crazy !!There has been a lot of snow too. It does not bother me as much as the cold, but still it is a nuisance. There is more than a foot on the ground. The mounds produced by snowplows at the side of the road are called snow banks. They are two to four feet high. When I was a teen-ager, we would try to put our cars into spins - knowing full well that the worst thing that could happen was that we would have to push the car out of the snow bank. Of course, this is nothing compared to the snows in northern Michigan or the winters of the 1930s. Still, I have to question my sanity, because I do not have to be here.

There is a happy side to all this talk of the cold and snow.
We have bought our tickets for South America.
That is right, we will be on our way in two weeks.

We are very pleased that soon we will be able to see all of our friends in Argentina and Chile. We have a general plan for our trip, but nothing is written in stone. Here is what we are thinking about doing:

  • We will be prepared to travel by bus and plane, but we would prefer to use a car. Our first priority will be to see if we can borrow or rent a car from a friend in Buenos Aires.
  • We will visit Chile for at least one month. We will start in Santiago. We hope to visit our friends, the Miranda family, who live just outside of Santiago. Then we will head south. We will pass through many cities and fishing villages. We hope to visit Francisco and Ida in Concepcion. Betty hiked the Inca trail with Francisco in 2002. I love the fishing villages and small towns all the way to Chiloe.
  • We will cross the Andes and enter Argentina again. Betty would like to see the glaciers in southern Patagonia. We will see them and more. Thank god, it will be summer in Argentina. Then we will head north to visit friends in Nechochea and Mar del Plata.
  • We hope to find a furnished apartment to rent in Buenos Aires. We will be there two to three months. We will be back with our friends in the English Group and the Talk-Time clubs. We will be dancing the Tango again. Jeeze, we are happy just thinking about it.

For sure, we will need some help finding a car. We also may need some help finding an apartment. So, if you live in that part of the world, think a bit about this for us. If you come up with some ideas, write us.

You can look forward to our first report from the south in three weeks

Running Park
 Running Park

Posted by bill at 09:51 AM | Comments (4)

January 05, 2009

Lucy Tops 2008 Events

Luciana Delora Linder - New Year's Eve 2008
 Luciana Delora Linder
The Sundstrom - Linder Family
 Seth Lucy Gitta Johanna

For me 2008 had some serious highs and lows. Perhaps as a harbinger of events to come in 2009, the greatest high in 2008 of the year came on the eve of the next year. The event that topped all others in 2008 was the birth of my second grandchild, Luciana Delora Linder. I have placed 30 or so of the best photographs on Fickr.com and I invite you browse my photostream. After you click on one of the small pictures that follow, a large photo will be loaded from my Flickr photostream. They were taken on the day of Lucy's birth.
 Lucy 71  Lucy 72  Lucy 73  Lucy 98  Lucy 25  Lucy 91  Lucy 32  Lucy 59

My year started out hopefully. I had damaged my airplane late in 2007 and was hoping to have it repaired and hangered so that we could travel to South America. While we waited for the repairs, we traveled in the southern part of the USA. Those travels were recorded in this BLOG. There are many things to highlight about the trip. First and foremost is the wonderful reception we got each time used CouchSurfing.com. Every host was wonderful and they made our journey much more pleasant. Following close on the heals of this were the wonderful visits with my dad and my distant cousin, Carolyn Parr. I spent more time with my dad since the summer I lived with him in 1965. Carolyn and her husband Jerry were simply wonderful to us. Other highlights were eating barbecue across the Mississippi delta, a week in the Garden District of New Orleans, San Padre Island, Savannah, Charlotte. We loved staying with my sister, Dawn. We met the wonderful Margaret in Charleston.

The hopefulness drained away as time passed. My plane was never fully repaired. It had turned into a money pit that I could not escape. So, with great reluctance I sold it in May. I was very depressed for months afterwards. Plans to travel to Portland were scraped. Nothing seemed to be working out. Birgitta and Seth decided to not buy the Elliot house. There were only two things that cheered me in the summer: wonderful weather and Johanna.

We got lots of grandma and grandpa time during the summer. And we loved every minute of it.
The garden was not very fruitful this year. There were lots of raspberries and pears. The squirrels took all the hazelnuts in August. Deer or some other large animal came a couple of evenings in September to eat all our grapes. It was a pity, because the vines were heavy with fruit.

We finally got out of the country in October. We spent a little over a month studying Spanish and visiting various places in Guatemala.

The year ended much better than it began. The American people finally voted their pocket books to elect a progressive president, a man of color. The US economy is in such bad shape that serious reforms could be enacted for the first time since the 1930's. So far, the only serious attempts to save the economy has been to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the bourgeoisie. More of the same seems to be on the horizon. The economic problems will certain postpone the only real fundamental reform that is possible now, a national health plan that will provide quality health service to everyone at a cost the country can afford. If you had not heard it before, the USA spends the most and gets the least of all the industrialized countries when it comes to health care. People actually lose everything and go bankrupt due to health care costs. If you live in the USA, I highly recommend that you watch the Frontline show Sick Around the World - Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a health care system? The link to the left will get you to the Frontline page with the link that will play the show. It is important that everyone put pressure on the new president to fix our health system.

What is ahead for Betty and me? We hope to be in South America before the end of January. Whether we first fly Buenos Aries or Santiago, we plan to spend at least on month touring in Chile. After that we hope to see the far south of Argentina. After all that, we will try to find an apartment in BA.
Of course, this is very close to the plan we had one year ago. Let us hope it all goes better this year.

Posted by bill at 11:37 AM | Comments (4)