Friday, May 17, 2013

House Hearings: Send in the Therapists

House Hearings: Send in the Therapists

by Meg Curtis, PhD

Following a national trend, would it be premature to send in the therapists now? If House hearings on the IRS scandal continue for long, how many citizens are going to suffer nervous breakdowns from an overload of information? Accustomed to sound bites, the nation sits before a smorgasbord of political chicanery so devastating, we may never be able to refer to the American Dream again.

This is the American nightmare: to hear our tax system scrutinized in public, with not even a commercial restoring happy campers. Does the public recall our Constitution is based on private property rights—and these are not dirty words, but the words coming out of the hearings are. How many times can viewers hear "I dunno" before viewers turn off the show to keep their sanity?

And this is the real danger: that we will send in the therapists before the real pain begins. If this country can absorb endless bouts of bloodletting and surgery in ER, House, and NCIS, it shall withstand the awful revelations which are beginning: This is Your Life, American Tax Payer: If your ideas are "inappropriate," you get to do it all again and again with the help of your IRS aparatchik.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spring Shouts Joy!

965K   View   Share  D
Photo by Meg Curtis, PhD

Walt Sedlmayer, President of The Chautauqua County Genealogical Society: Interview

Walt Sedlmayer: Interview

By Margaret Curtis, PhD

Saint Patrick's Day offered the perfect occasion to explore how genealogical societies can bring new information to light about lost relatives and ancestors, to celebrate both relationships and community. The interviewer was Margaret Curtis, and Walter Sedlmayer graciously spoke with her by telephone. 

MC: What is the official name of the organization which you head in Fredonia, New York?

WS: The Chautauqua County Genealogical Society.

MC: Where and when does it meet?

WS: On the third Tuesday of each month, except for December, January, and February. It gathers in the Meeting Room of the Barker Library in Fredonia. In November the annual Christmas party is held at the Fredonia American Legion Post.

MC: How long has it been functioning?

WS: The society has been functioning since the summer of 1977.

MC: Who can apply for membership?

WS: Anybody from any location.

MC: What is the cost of membership?

WS: Costs are $20 for individuals, $25 for families, $25 for Canadians, and $30 for foreign memberships.

MC: What is the purpose of this organization?

WS: To promote genealogical research and to preserve records of a genealogical nature.

MC: How does genealogical research contribute to the community and families?

WS: It may assist in identifying and locating distant relatives.

MC: What is your position in this organization?

WS: President of the organization. The other officers are as follows:

Vice President: Norm Carlson;

Secretary: Debbie Kotar;

Treasurer: Donna Keith;

Publications Chairman: Ruth Nichols;

News Letter Editor and Membership Chairman: Wayne Leamer;

and Trustees: Lois Barris, George Davis, and Ruth Nichols.

MC: How long have you held this position?

WS: Since November. 

MC: What kinds of activities are planned this year for this group?

WS: A genealogical seminar is planned later in the fall.

MC: How many members participate in this group?

WS: About 200.

MC: Does this group go into the schools to attract the participation of youth?

WS: No.

MC: What is the current contact information for the group?

WS: Flyers and person-to-person communication, as well as libraries.

MC: How does the genealogical society interact with local libraries?

WS: Cooperation is very good. Barker has a genealogical room with books contributed by the Genealogical Society. Officers and members of the society are frequently on hand to answer questions. In July of every year the society holds an open house, which runs from 1 pm to 9 pm in addition to its regular meeting to answer questions from the public.  

MC: Is the society planning any trips this spring?

WS: Members traveled to Warren, PA, last fall. Other trips may be arranged.

MC: What is the application process for membership?

WS: Fill out the application and pay dues—this is the process.

MC: Why do ancestors matter to Americans?

WS: Because if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here, and a lot of our personality characteristics we get from them.

Special thanks to Walter Sedlmayer for his time and cordiality. The interviewer appreciates this opportunity to learn how the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society fosters the study of human history in this community. Western New York is fortunate to enjoy the benefits of this organization.

Medical Advertisements, House, and Angelina Jolie

Medical Advertisements, House, and Angelina Jolie

by Meg Curtis, PhD

If I want to discuss my body parts with a physician, I go to his office. Our discussions are private, but, if I turn on a television, discussions of body parts—defying all privacy—intrude upon my absorption of the news, entertainment, or weather reports. Could the FCC devote a channel to these intrusions? Then, interested parties could find them, and body parts would stop chasing unwilling citizens, who are doing their best to enjoy life.

If I gave my full attention to these advertisements, I would look at every person I meet as not only a collection of body parts, but a conglomeration of ailments. What better way to develop hypochondria or even paranoia? I want to see my friends as personalities, interests, allies. I do not want to play diagnostician because I am not qualified. I do not want them to view me as a likely candidate for the medical drama House, either. Can we reach an understanding on this issue?

In this context, Angelina Jolie's recent reports of the whereabouts, condition, and future of her body parts are particularly annoying. Citizens who need to focus on the condition of their democracy are distracted by her pretty face from realizing that their last election suffered intrusions from the IRS's harassment of selected parties. Their overall welfare hangs in the balance, with or without breasts—unless the news has become the novella The Breast, by Philip Roth. Has it? If so, that's old news!

White House Scandals: The Role of Technology

White House Scandals: The Role of Technology

by Meg Curtis, PhD

Even Americans living under rocks know how hard it is to hide the truth in 2013. Where do Americans go without their cell phones and internet service? These amenities carry a price, however: Where they go, digital records accumulate. Is this fact news to the White House?

Teachers cannot get students off their phones. Schools and businesses do not function without the internet now. Pedestrians step into traffic without so much as looking up. Interviewees rudely interrupt their future to take a call or leave a message for Darling or To Whom It May Concern.

Telecommunications workers absorb this lesson in American history faster than the general population, perhaps, but does anyone really believe that Obama, Biden, Hillary Clinton, General Petraeus, and everyone in America's hottest hot seats can claim: "I dunno" to critical questions?

Did this gang disappear into a shower together? Were they lost in the Appalachian Mountains on a safari? Maybe they went into lockdown, and all their digital devices suffered collection? Wasn't Obama famous long ago and far away--a few months maybe in DC—for being a Blackberry guy?

Privacy died the minute cell phones were born in all their silver wonder. Americans can mourn this loss as much as they like. What they cannot do is accept that the most heavily guarded individuals in the World can escape the same surveillance they dish out to everybody else and his half brother.

The answer "I dunno" is unacceptable in the Innformation Age. FYI to Jay Carney: This answer is not only "inappropriate," but it is also incomprehensible, inconsiderate, and smacks of a stunning lack of preparation for public speaking. America is on the worldwide web right now, Jay!

White House Scandals: Oedipus and Obama

White House Scandals: Oedipus and Obama

by Meg Curtis, PhD

As scandals unroll faster than whiplash, the immortal words of Sophocles come to life in blazing color on TV and the internet: "The truth will set you free." So, now the victims of persecution may celebrate release from the aspersions cast upon them: Conservatives in all their glorious diversity can now point to the leader of the charge to cancel their impact on the 2012 election in America.

As Maureen Dowd observed about George W. Bush, sons and fathers play a critical role in presidential drama. W went to Baghdad, as his daddy never did. Obama also played upon "dreams from my father" as he campaigned relentlessly to become the leader of the Free World. But that allusive phrase points to another father, the father of the US Civil Rights movement in the sixties.

How would Martin Luther King, Jr., now feel to see the man who aspired to carry his legacy under suspicion for "the quality of his character"? The IRS has admitted targeting conservatives as they sought tax exemption status even as the IRS facilitated the same status for liberals who backed the "appropriate" candidates with their political organizations, including Obama's half brother.

Obama himself introduced the word "son" into this context. He chose to identify Travon Martin as a young man who might have been "my son." This extraordinary honor Obama never conveyed upon the four white men who died at Benghazi. Neither did he identify a single veteran from the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as rising to worthiness of being related to the US Commander-in-Chief.

Investigators need look no farther for "leadership" in the campaign to deprive conservatives of their civil rights. Like Oedipus, Obama may claim that he did not know who destroyed the legacy of MLK, Jr., his spiritual father in American politics. A man looking for himself may suffer considerable blindness. The question will always be: Is Lady Justice blind in America, too?