Last night I couldn’t sleep so I did the unthinkable. I tuned in to Glenn Beck. He was on a rant about Benghazi, a place I’ll bet he’d never heard of before the 2012 attack and probably couldn’t even pronounce. Now ‒ he’s an expert.
Unless you are a world traveler or a student of geography you had probably never heard of Benghazi either. I hadn’t. Turns out it is the second largest city in Libya, a 700,000 square mile country bordered by the Mediterranean on the north and surrounded by a variety of North African countries, the largest being Egypt. Tripoli (Remember the Marine Hymn? “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli?) is its biggest city with 2.2 million people.
Until 2011 Libya was ruled by a cruel and greedy dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.
We’ve gotten so used to hearing about people in third world countries killing each other that we hardly paid attention to the rapes, tortures and killing going on in Libya, the 17th largest country in the world.
Maybe we thought it would end with the death of Gadhafi, but revenge exacts a heavy price. Those who fought on Gadhafi’s behalf are being hunted down and slaughtered by revolutionaries and they have opened the way for islamic militants. The new prime minister, Ali Zeidan, has spoken forcefully about these injustices but has done nothing to control them. Nor has the UN or the U.S.
Then came an anti-Muslim YouTube video that went viral and is said to have infuriated’ Islamic militants around the world.
In the middle of this upset, Ambassador Christopher Stevens went to Benghazi to review plans for a new cultural center and modernizing a hospital. He was aware that threats had been made against the diplomatic compound but refused additional support forces. Then, on September 12, 2012, the compound was attacked and the ambassador killed.
Thus the name Benghazi has become familiar to us all. The administration’s U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, went on television that Sunday and said that “based on their best information, the attach was spontaneous.” A day later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged a link between Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Benghazi attack.
I believe President Obama and his administration released news of the attack based on their best information they had at the time. This is what a senior official said. “It was not an innocent mob. The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective but this was a clearly planned military-type attack.”
President Obama said he believed the video was an excuse by extremists to try and harm U.S. interests. (The oil company lobby probably would agree with that since oil interests in Libya must be huge.)
That’s when I turned on Glenn Beck who said: “In Benghazi [President Obama] was transforming the Middle East. He wanted to run guns, support the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was the one who asked us to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. So support the Muslim Brotherhood in the entire Middle East, run guns to the Muslim Brotherhood through Turkey into Syria and cede revolution, not just in Syria but all throughout the Middle East. This is the transformation of the Middle East. That’s his policy.”
Maybe that’s why people listen to Glenn Beck. He’s ridiculously funny.
Sadly, this is another of those drummed up debacles to ‘get’ President Obama and to defame Hillary Clinton (who may want to run for President in 2016 though I’m rooting for Elizabeth Warren.)
Anyway, probably none of us will forget Benghazi any time soon.
It has been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.(Is that a pithicism?) This spring we have a lot of what others call trashy plants in our yard, but I prefer to think of them as treasures.
The sweet smell of honeysuckle is everywhere . . . by the kitchen door, hovering over the drive, encircling the back fence. It’s probably giving everyone hay fever but it’s worth it and it won’t last long.
This common plant may be my all-time favorite. It’s called mountain laurel and grows in abundance along the eastern seaboard and in the Great Smoky Mountains. I don’t think it is supposed to grow here but mine seems to love sitting by our front door and sends up the most delectable sweet fragrance.
There are lots of varieties of Laurel, my next favorite being English Laurel which sends out spiky white blooms in the spring and then loads up with black berries that the birds love. It is very hardy, dense, and can be used as a hedge or privacy screen.
Last but not least ‒ the trashiest of all ‒ the super invasive trumpet vine ‒ but ya gotta love how it draws hummingbirds and bees. I try to keep it under control but it isn’t easy. It tries to hide in the spirea and orange blossom bushes and wants to crawl up the house. Still, it is great on fences and telephone poles. Hard to resist.
If you have a chance and don’t mind getting out the clippers, give these persistent pests a try.
They are well worth the effort.
If cocktail conversation ever veers toward marriage or the Tudors or Henry the VIII there are stock replies that suggest that he was far too fat and was exceedingly troubled with getting rid of his various wives. Hilary Mantel portrays him as despotic and desperate to produce a male heir in her prize winning novel Bring Up the Bodies. We know him as the corpulent king who becomes increasingly blood thirsty. However, although we are justified in this assessment of Henry, certain good and interesting points are sacrificed and should be considered. When Henry was not hunting or waging war, he was a rabid collector of art and tapestries, and though his purpose in art gathering was to focus on the power of the English throne he did collect wonderful objects.
This majesty of the Tudor Court was part of a concerted campaign by Henry to put the country and his dynasty on the map. He acquired displays of armor, textiles, portraits and silverware to boost his reputation. At the time of his accession to the throne in 1509 England was at best a marginal nation on the edge of Europe and Henry wanted a prominent place on the map of the continent. The entire campaign was for the purpose of self aggrandizement. He set about building palaces to house his huge collections of furnishings as well as the royal crown jewels. There were 17,000 items in the collection at the time of his death in 1547. Henry’s amassed wealth of objects made greater claims to the power of England than could really be justified at the time. His idea was that international visitors would see his lavish court full of wonderful tapestries and deduce that if he could afford to spend that much on a simple wall hanging there would be no limit to what he could spend on ships for war.
And so by the time of his death Henry had about 55 palaces inducing Nonesuch, St.James and Whitehall. The most spectacular of his palaces was Hampton Court which he forced Cardinal Wolsey to surrender to him. Hr then rebuilt and extended the palace, spending the equivalent of $18 million today. At its completion Hampton Court was the most modern and magnificent palace in England. There were tennis courts, bowling alleys, and 60 acres of formal gardens. The kitchens covered 36,000 square feet. The Great Hall took five years to complete and Henry was so besotted with it that he had his masons work through the nights by candlelight to finish it. There were tapestries stitched with real gold ad silver thread, the floors tiled in the Tudor colors of green and white. Persian rugs and portraits added to the opulence as did crystal clocks and ornate carved furniture. Expensive wax candles were imported from Venice. And for what purpose? Henry became in the eyes of his neighbors a true Renaissance king. He was a skilled jouster, diplomat, lawmaker, patron of the arts, builder and musician. He even had running water for his bath. Water was channeled from a hill 2 miles away. As it traveled down it built up pressure which meant it could then be forced up a lead pipe and out of a tap into the bath. The tub was round and carved of wood lined with a cloth to prevent splinters.
Henry imported the artist Hans Holbein to become the official court painter to the king. Holbein was considered to be the greatest painter of the period. It is possible that this may have been the reason that England did not produce native artists of distinction until many years later. They encouraged great artists from other nations to paint for them. They did celebrate the written word and English philosophers were among the leading intellectuals of the time. It just seems that visual images were either too difficult for them or they valued the visual beauty of the actual England and its people and felt that the real thing was more perfect and yes, priceless, than any simulation of it could be.
There were almost 2500 tapestries in Henry’s inventory as well as huge quantities of rugs imported from Persia and Turkey. Only Henry could walk on them. One series of 8 tapestries depicted the story of Abraham who sired a son at the age of 99, thus suggesting that Henry too would be capable of siring a male heir. He demanded that heraldic carvings and motifs be added wherever possible to remind people that his favorite wife, Jane Seymour, belonged to one of the most important families in England. He was also trying to make people forget about his own slightly shaky royal lineage. For Henry did not come from a long line of kings and he knew that he had to constantly remind his subjects and the nations of Europe of his great power and cultured court. So while the people became more secure with their sovereign Henry achieved his goal to make England an important presence in Europe. Maybe Henry VIII was not too different from powerful collectors of today whose acquisition of art is perhaps guided by a desire for prominence or power.
In the US, it is estimated that one out of every ten people has a hearing loss of sufficient magnitude to interfere with communication in some situations.
Somewhere in her sixties, I noticed my mother began to lose her hearing. I’d say ‘pass the salt’ and she might think I said, ‘What’s not your fault?’ She refused to admit she had a problem and even after I convinced her to get hearing aids, she wouldn’t wear them.
So when I began to lose my hearing, I decided to purchase the best hearing aids I could get (an outrageous $6000 for a pair, of which my Medicare paid zero). I thought they would return my hearing to normal. That, of course, is a myth. My hearing aids are designed to amplify and clarify but as anyone with hearing loss will tell you, they also produce a multitude of communications problems.
• Hearing aids don’t do much to reduce background noises, no matter what the experts say. Social gatherings and restaurants are hard for me. Sometimes I can barely understand what someone says even if they are sitting right next to me. (I might bluff, pretend I do by mimicking their expressions, smiling or frowning, sometimes embarrassingly inappropriate.)
• Vaulted or high ceilings cause an echo. I can hear but can’t distinguish the words so I am uncomfortable conversing or responding. Super frustrating for me and for you.
• People’s voices makes a difference. Very deep, very high, and very soft sounds give me a problem.
• Accents, especially British are difficult.
• I’m not a lip reader, but I can do it a little bit, so good lighting helps.
• I have a hard time hearing when I sit in the back seat of a car because riders naturally speak toward the front.
• Today, without wearing my hearing aids, I can bearly distinguish the words my husband says while lying in bed next to me.
Dr. Jim Wise, my hearing aid specialist, tells me hearing aids degrade over time and need to be replaces every five or six years. (Oy Vey) As my hearing has worsened, I’ve upgraded my aids but Dr. Wise’s specialists tell me they’ve done about all they can do to improve my hearing.
With all the exciting, new technologies available, one has to wonder why they can’t come up with better, cheaper hearing aids. New, more expensive models come out every year, but from a user standpoint, they don’t seem to be that much better.
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned from Samuel Trychin, Ph.D. of the professionals at the International Federation of Hearing Loss People.
I should advocate for myself. My friends can’t guess what I need. By hiding my hearing loss I miss conversations and cause miscommunication.
People who are hard of hearing often say things like, “Huh?” “What?” “I’m sorry.” “Excuse me?” These are all ineffective responses to a communication problem because they do not contain any information about what needs to be done to resolve the difficulty. The speaker is informed that a communication breakdown has occurred, but has no clue as to what to do to solve the problem. A much better response to a communication breakdown would be to offer a solution to the problem. For instance, ask others to talk more slowly and clearly and not to obstruct their mouth.
Some of my friends deny that they have a hearing loss. If they admit it, they deny that it presents a significant problem for them. That too is a myth. It makes poeple “reluctant to ask others to change their communication behavior [and] can prevent them from recognizing the effects of their hearing loss on others.”
Mark Ross PhD says: “Hard of hearing. . . is not some lesser manifestation of “deaf”, but a disability entity in its own right. Of all the confusions that arise regarding hard of hearing people, this one has . . .the most far-reaching consequences. Many government bureaucrats and educators do not like, or understand the necessity, of making this distinction. They much prefer to join deaf and hard of hearing together into one category. It makes for a much neater classification system, and precludes the more expensive option of providing a separate program and different services for both groups.
One last thought. Captioning is a godsend. The captioning of speech and sounds in real time is not always provided, even when it is vital for human communication. Hearing aids, implants, and other devices are not a substitute for quality captioning in many situations, such as foreign movies, videos on the Internet, complex studies in education, business meetings, several varieties of entertainment, and more.
We used to call them tattletales, a child’s term for telling wrong-doings on one another. Bill Cosby joked that his wife sent their best tattle-telling child along with him for a blow by blow account of his activities.
Today, a tattletale is called a whistleblower and it is not perceived as a child’s term. Whistleblowers reveal secrets that may be covert, and implies someone who fears reprisals.
Mordechai Vanunu, AKA John Crossman, claimed he didn’t believe in weapons of mass destruction so he secretly filmed and distributed information regarding an Israeli nuclear facility. Mossad, Israel’s CIA, captured him. He was convicted of treason and spent 18 years in prison.
Mark Felt was later known as deep throat. He was the FBI agent who told Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post about the Watergate break-in. The spotlight was shined on him again when he was convicted of violating the civil rights of members of the Weather Underground Organization to prevent what he thought might be bombing attempts. He was fined $7,000 but appealed his conviction and was later pardoned by Ronald Reagan.
Sherron Watkins blew the whistle on Enron when she told the told the world in 2001 that the company was a ‘nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.’ TIME Magazine selected her as one of their People of the Year. She has since written a book and gives speeches on why it is so important to tell the truth.
Dr. Jeffrey Wigand accused Brown and Williamson Tobacco company of intentionally putting more nicotine in cigarettes so that people would become addicted. He appeared on ’60 Minutes’ in 1996. A movie was made about him and he devotes himself to Smokefree Kids, Inc., a not-for-profit organization.
But there is a caveat. Though some whistleblowers serve us well, many are threatened, cursed, and denigrated. Jeffrey Wigand had to hire bodyguards. Mark Felt was dogged for the rest of his career. Some lost their jobs, their friends, their wives, and their families.
Mike Rogers is not a whistleblower. He’s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee but he’s out searching for whistleblowers concerning the Benghazi affair. If you are someone he is looking for, you might wish to hunt up an attorney to represent you. Some law firms do nothing else. If you wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation and/or damage to your career, the lawyer assigned to you can aim for that goal but can’t guarantee it.
What would you do if you discovered illegal activity in business or government? What if you are threatened? Would you still report it? What is it about human nature that targets tattletales and whistleblowers?