HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

February 4, 2008
Potpourri

Ernest Cassara


“Hi, folks, been over for the day?”

When they returned from a year’s sabbatical from Tufts, spent enjoying the many advantages of the ancient university in Cambridge, England, followed by a year as interim Director of Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland, that is how the Cassaras were greeted by a sole guard at the Vermont border.  We had chosen to return by ship to Montreal rather than New York.  When the folks at customs in Canada heard we were headed for the U.S., they just waved us on.

I responded to the sole “guard”  that it was a little more complicated than having spent a day in Canada.  We were bringing a VW bus, loaded with equipment from our camping across Europe.  Well, he looked for the manual to inform us what the custom charge on the vehicle would be.  Found an outdated booklet, and said, “Well, this should work to your advantage.”

Since he had cut his finger, he asked my wife if she would do him the favor of going behind the counter and typing out the forms.  Our three kids got a big bang out of that!

Now, we hear that one needs a passport, or some official U.S. document as identification at the border!

Well, after all, if one creates a Department of Homeland Security, it has to find ways to keep busy.  As if terrorists would choose to cross into the U.S. on a road controlled by customs agents!


Blow Jobs and Blow Hards

What President William Jefferson Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did in the alcove off the Oval Office, I always considered none of my business.  And, that, unfortunately, is not what Mr. Clinton informed the members of the Republican Inquisition when they attempted to remove him from office.

Now, however, Bill is taking an active part in the presidential campaign of his wife.  As I remarked to my wife the other day, I wish he would “just shut up.”  He is doing Hillary no favor in sounding off.


Then, There were Two!

Yes, all but two of the prospective candidates for the Democratic nomination have dropped out.  Most unfortunate.  Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico was probably the most qualified of the batch.  And, I say that not only because he is a fellow Tufts alumnus.

The two, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, debated on national television on Thursday, 31 January.  They were polite and cordial to each other, much to the disgust of some members of the punditocracy who would have preferred a cat fight!

On the Republican side, Willard Romney - he who is ashamed of his first name - continues to reinvent himself, and, in the process, spends huge amounts of his own money.

When I think of Romney, an old expression from my childhood days in dear old Everett, Massachusetts, keeps coming to mind.  In those days we would have called him a “phony baloney”!

I was charmed the other day, by the way, when a neighbor said that she had inquired of the Cambridge Election Commission how she might go about changing her registration, so she could vote against Romney on “Super Tuesday”!


“Abolish The IRS,” Says Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is peddling snake oil when he tells us that he would abolish the IRS, and institute a 17 percent sales tax.  Well, now, the poor would pay through the nose, but the former Baptist minister, apparently, is not bothered by this!

And, someone has to collect the sales tax.  My suggestion, you will recall, is that we name the agency the IRS!


Ron Paul

Don’t know much about Republican Ron Paul, but his foreign policy I find very appealing.  He says we should not go around the world telling other people how to live.

Paul, I hear, has raised a lot of money on the internet.  But, the mass media, although it believes that money talks, has not latched on to him.  Why?  Is he not pretty enough?


Troubles in Kenya

I am very saddened by the ethnic troubles that have been stirred up in Kenya over the disputed presidential election.  I had hoped that it was above such. 

Thanks to the academic exchange that my Better Half had arranged between the University of the District of Columbia and the University of Nairobi, years ago, I saw much of the country, when I was informed that I must earn my keep by lecturing.  Thus, on leave from George Mason University, I spoke at the University of Nairobi, and, then at five extra mural centers of the University across the country.

On one occasion, my wife spoke at an outdoor event in one of the towns, a large audience having turned out.  As I sat there listening to the festivities, I turned around and found a large group of beautiful little black faces in back of me.  My sadness was that I could not bring them all home with me!

By the way, I had chosen the topic “The American Revolution and Human Rights Today.”  I heard a group of Nairobi faculty members discussing the title, which they wanted to change, for “revolution” was the term that had been used for an attempted coup in the country.  So, I was persuaded to change the title to “American Independence and Human Rights Today.”

Kenyans bitterly resented President Ronald Reagan’s good relations with apartheid South Africa.  In the discussion periods after my lectures, I found that they assumed I agreed with the president.  It was very difficult for them to believe that I was free to disagree with him.  Over lunch one day, David Gikuyu, who drove the van that the university had arranged to take us across the country, said something to the effect that Africans believed that their leaders spoke for them.


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