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Current Affairs

Mar 8 2016

Supreme Decisions

by Hope L

Supreme

The week after I started writing this particular blog, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly.

I was already writing a blog about the Supreme Court and how the upcoming presidential election would dramatically affect the Supreme Court of the U.S., or SCOTUS, as it is often referred to nowadays.

Now, the stakes are even higher as the highest court in the country is evenly split along ideological lines, with monumental cases hanging in the balance.

According to Jonathan Hobratsch, Writer Editor for the Literati Quarterly in a blog for The Huffington Post:

“If the next president wins two terms, regardless of the party, the Supreme Court could reach a near ideological monopoly unknown in the post-World War II era of American History, perhaps a monopoly never achieved since FDR’s eight Supreme Court nominations.

However, FDR presided during a time when both parties had liberal and conservative wings; therefore, there was more ideological overlap in a judicial nomination, even if he/she was from the opposing party.  With two deeply divided parties, the next president has a crucial influence on the future of the Supreme Court that is rarely discussed as we get closer to the 2016 election.”

justices

 

Or, consider what USA Today’s Richard Wolf wrote in his USA Today News online report:

“Wedged between the Republican and Democratic national conventions next July will fall an event of greater long term significance for the future of the republic:  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

Barring unforeseen events, Kennedy will become the third sitting octogenarian on the court – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82 (and as of writing this DCPL blog, she is 83) and Justice Antonin Scalia turns 80 in March.  That will mark the first time since George H.W. Bush entered the White House more than a quarter century ago that a president has inherited three justices that old.  at 78 by then, Justice Stephen Breyer will be close behind.”

Some major cases to be heard in 2016 include those on immigration, voting districts, affirmative action for higher education students, union practices, state laws on abortion availability, and the Obamacare mandate on contraceptive coverage for employees at churches and other religions institutions.

I started searching the stacks of DCPL for anything SCOTUS-related, and I was absolutely stunned at the volume of material on the subject.  I mean, everything about the high court has been documented, explored and opined about.

And, the end of the last century had something new to write about the Supreme Court – a first throughout its history:  the naming of a female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and garnered unanimous senate approval; ironically, she was the “key swing vote in many important cases, including the upholding or Roe v. Wade,” according to the website Bio.com.

DCPL has many books on O’Connor, including: “Sandra Day O’Connor : How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic.

But one of my favorite reads has been Robert Schnakenberg’s “Secret Lives of the Supreme Court:  What Your Teachers Never Told You About America’s Legendary Justices.

 

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An interesting tidbit from this book about John Marshall, who spent 34 years as chief justice:

“Beyond his noble birthright (a distant relative of Thomas Jefferson), there was nothing much about Marshall’s upbringing that screamed “father of American jurisprudence.”  He had only a year of formal schooling and attended law lectures for less than three months.”

“…he dressed in a plain, occasionally disheveled, manner and did all his own grocery shopping.  A Virginia neighbor once saw him lugging a turkey home from the market, mistook him for a servant, and threw him some spare change.  Marshall humbly pocketed the money and went on his way with his bird.  A truly genial man, he won many a legal argument through conciliation and persuasion rather than confrontation and coercion – a fact that infuriated his political opponents.”

And, another item which I vaguely remembered and is covered in the book (but many people don’t realize): that President William Howard Taft, who had served as a U.S. District Court judge in his native Ohio, always had aspired to sit on the Supreme Court. He was steered instead into the presidency by both his wife and the outgoing president, Theodore Roosevelt.  He got his opportunity, however, when Republican Warren G. Harding sought him for an appointment to the high court.  Taft is the only former president to have sworn a new president into office (Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929).

Who knows?  If a Democrat is elected, perhaps Barack O’Bama could be a future justice.

One thing is certain, however – this country will be seeing many new faces on the Supreme Court in the coming years.

 

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Nov 18 2015

A Woman in Charge

by Hope L

Hill2Will 2016 be the year that a female takes the highest office in the United States of America? Is America ready for a woman president? How about a First Gentleman?

A few weeks back I attended a speech Hillary Clinton gave at Clark Atlanta University. I wondered why, at age 68, this very controversial yet very famous person would even want to go through the rigors, the barbs, the glad-handing, the clawing–let’s face it–the virtual pain in the neck that is running for POTUS and then fulfilling that role should she win. It has greatly aged all 43 men who have come before.

HillSo, I decided to check out Hillary Clinton. I mean, literally, to research whatever I could find out about her.

And, of course, to learn more about Hillary Rodham Clinton is to learn more about Bill, for the road to the presidency and Hillary’s meteoric rise (well, it wasn’t exactly an overnight thing–she’s been in politics most of her life in one capacity or another) to presidential candidacy is almost as much about William Jefferson Clinton as it is about Hillary.

Or, is it the other way around? Was Bill’s meteoric rise to the presidency due in large part to Hillary?

CarlRight now I’m reading A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein.

If you’re interested, DCPL has other books about Hillary Clinton. Click here to see what’s available–as we wait until next November to see who the new person in charge will be.

 

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Mar 11 2015

National Freedom of Information Day

by Glenda

foidayMonday, March 16, 2015 is National Freedom of Information Day. Freedom of Information Day is an annual event held on or near March 16, the birthday of James Madison. James Madison is regarded as the Father of the Constitution and an advocate for openness in the government. Freedom of Information Day comes from the Freedom of Information Act of 1966. On July 4, 1966, the Freedom of Information Act was enacted and came into effect on July 4, 1967.

As described at foia.gov: “The Freedom of Information Act is a law that gives citizens of the United States of America the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about the government. Under the Freedom of Information Act, agencies must disclose any information that is requested–unless that information is protected from public disclosures.” Frequently requested records are automatically disclosed as a requirement of the Freedom of Information Act. The Executive Branch, which is led by the President of the United States of America, is responsible for administering the Freedom of Information Act across the government. The Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy oversees all agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act directives and requires all agencies to comply fully with requests. So the next time you stop by your local library to look at the President’s Budget, the DeKalb County Budget, or the DeKalb County Code, you will know that this information was made available due to the Freedom of Information Act and the commitment of public libraries to openness in government.

If you want more information about the Freedom of Information Act and more, check out these books.

The Right to Know: Your Guide to Using and Defending Freedom of Information Law in the United States by Jacqueline Klosek

Secrecy Wars: National Security, Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know by Philip H. Melanson

 

 

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Sep 22 2014

A Sad Goodbye

by Hope L

diva1“Can we talk?”

One of my all-time favorite icons passed away unexpectedly.  She was as active as ever. Still tossing her barbs out, she had just written a book, was starring in two television programs and a podcast, and was still delighting audiences including myself in her stand-up performances (I saw her three times, the latest this past February at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall), plus she was hawking her very successful QVC merchandise.  Her energy amazed me, and I had to keep reminding myself as we watched her recent performance that she was an octogenarian.

“I don’t exercise; if God had wanted me to bend over he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

Her jokes were often salty and politically incorrect, but her favorite target was definitely Joan Rivers. Her constant joking about her numerous plastic surgery procedures and gravity’s effect on her aging body, the fact that she was ugly (“Bow-wow!  Arf-Arf!”), or fat, or old…  And, of course, one must ALWAYS marry rich, no matter what:

“The problem with marrying for money is that you end up earning it.”

Now, arguably, much of what came out of Joan’s mouth is not appropriate to include here, and she was constantly garnering attention because of her politically incorrect or just plain crude statements.  I always thought she got a lot of flak, though, for saying things that male comedians could say with impunity.

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”

When I find myself missing that catty chatter from my favorite comedienne, I can turn to one of the books written by Joan here at DCPL, her most recent being this year’s Diary of a Mad Diva.

“My mother kept asking ‘why can’t you be more like your sister?’ My sister had died at birth.”

I must admit that I have winced and even pouted at things she said at times during the all the years I’ve listened to Joan.  But, I know what Joan would say to me:

“Oh, GROW UP!!!”

Joan, you made me laugh until I cried.  You will be missed.

 

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Jan 16 2014

Winter Olympics

by Glenda

Sochi 2014 OlympicsDid you know the Winter Olympics start February 7, 2014 and are being held in Sochi, Russia? When I think of the Winter Olympics I think of my favorite winter sport, which happens to be figure skating. I think of all the wonderful figure skaters that I have had the pleasure of watching compete in Winter Olympics past, skaters like Michelle Kwan, Kristy Yamaguchi and Tara Lipinski. I am so excited that the anticipation of the games has me wanting to go ice skating.

The Olympic Games will also allow us to watch sports that do not get a lot of media coverage like bobsledding and speed skating. Everytime I think of the Olympics either Winter or Summer, I always think back to Atlanta 1996. Yes, right here. I think back to Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch starting the Olympic Games.

If you would like to learn more about the Winter Olympics visit your local library and pick up a few books. Here are a few suggested titles:

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Jan 6 2014

Resolving to Renew

by Rebekah B

Janus_15984_lg

As creatures who enjoy habits, creating or finding meaning, patterns, and structure in our lives, most humans keep track of time for these very reasons.  Our connections of the cycles of the seasons and the passage of time are intimately connected to our sense of identity.  With this comes the resolutions of the new year.

The sentiment of being given a clean slate (tabula rasa) is literally refreshing, the idea that we can each start anew, let go of some less than savory habits, pounds, grudges, and dedicate ourselves to healthier eating or exercise regimens, better financial planning, or creative pursuits we have previously allowed to fall by the wayside.  I think about checking out only as many library items as I can possibly read, listen to, or watch.  Hmmm…

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That most of us, soon after the January rollover, will also roll back to our previous comfort zones is probably inevitable and statistically about 80% of Americans do fall back to old habits, but this state of affairs does nothing to prevent us from hoping that our will power will be made of sturdier stuff than it was in previous years.  And some of us will accomplish or at least come nearer to the goals we have set for ourselves.  I might add that it is probably helpful to our self-esteem to set goals that are realistically achievable, as this is encouraging to the continuity of the process itself.  This blog post  contains a short history of new year’s resolutions and traditions and suggests writing down the goals, tracking your progress, and relying on friends to remind and support you along the path.  In fact, this site includes a page where you can record and track your goals.

While the ancient Babylonians modestly paid off old debts or returned borrowed items to turn a new leaf, the Romans offered promises of improved conduct to their two-faced god, Janus, at the beginning of the year.  As Janus was able to look backward into the past as well as into the future, this seems appropriate!

Here are a few recently published books available through DCPL that might help you focus and organize on your goals, or for those less goal oriented, to show gratitude and appreciation for self and the gifts you already enjoy.

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Dec 16 2013

‘Tis the Season

by Hope L

chicken_soup_christmasAfter I heard the heartbreaking news about the family who was robbed of their Christmas gifts this week, I decided to write a blog to try and conjure up a little holiday cheer for myself.

And what better place to find it than Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Cheer by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, with its stories about the spirit of Christmas and what it really means to give.

I love that the stories are mostly short and that there are inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout the book.

“For the spirit of Christmas fulfills the greatest hunger of mankind.” – Loring A. Schuler

“We can do no great things – only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality and the genial flame of charity in the heart.” – Washington Irving

Yeah, well, you get the idea.  Oh, “Bah Humbug!,” you say?  How about these—simple and straight-to-the-point:

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

and

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” – W.T. Ellis

Ah, yes—that’s the Christmas spirit! And Nat King Cole‘s iconic Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire  playing in the background helps, too …

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Of course, not everyone celebrates Christmas and those who do don’t celebrate in exactly the same way.  My own holidays have tended to be fairly low-key especially in recent years. I bake cookies,  but I normally try to avoid actual shopping as much as possible. As far as decorating my home goes, I hang a wreath on my front door and put up a Christmas tree and that’s it. I have to say that decorating the tree is one of my favorite holiday activities. After celebrating a fair number of holidays,  I now have a couple of boxes packed with  ornaments.  Each one calls up a fond memory as I put it on the tree.

Do you put up a tree? Mine is artificial but for many people only a live tree will do. Or consider a tree made of…books…as in this post from Jesse last year.

How about ornaments? My tree decorating strategy mostly involves just trying to find room for everything (really…I have a lot of ornaments!) but I’ve known people who create subject themes (Star Wars anyone?) for their trees or devise a strict color scheme. Of course the decorating magazines this time of year are full of ideas for beautifully decorated trees.

Do you need new decorating ideas for your home? Are you decorating for the first time? Either way, DCPL has resources for you.

bestIf you prefer a traditional approach, check out Victoria 500 Christmas Ideas: celebrate the season in splendor by Kimberly Meisner. Or you might consider Best of Christmas Ideas from the editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Are you the crafty type? You might love the ideas in A Very Beaded Christmas: 46 projects that glitter, twinkle and shine by Terry Taylor or the Christmas section in Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts by the doyenne of crafting perfection …Martha Stewart. Do you like to reuse, recycle and reduce your carbon footprint? If so, check out I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty.

historyFinally,  if you’re interested in learning how Christmas has evolved over time, don’t miss two excellent histories of the holiday—Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas and Christmas in America: a history by Penne L. Restad. You’ll learn that the Puritans banned the holiday altogether—associated as it was with rioting and public drunkeness. You’ll also learn that for all we (at least many of us) bemoan the warping of this family holiday into a tangle of commercial excess—it was actually the Victorians who transformed the holiday into what we think of as the “traditional” Christmas which includes Santa Claus, Christmas cards and what had been, up until then, a German novelty…the decorated Christmas tree.

Do you decorate for Christmas? What’s your decorating style?

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Nov 29 2013

The feast…and its aftermath

by Dea Anne M

By the time you read this post, Thanksgiving will have come and gone but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Whether you host a big gathering for which you do all the cooking or you enjoy a potluck with friends, DCPL has resources to help you prepare the best holiday meal ever.

Let’s say you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving but it’s the first time you’ve siftonprepared it. Or maybe you’ve been asked to bring a dish and haven’t a clue as to how to make it. An excellent resource is Thanksgiving: how to cook it well by Sam Sifton. This is a calm, authoritative guide to everything Thanksgiving and could be the only Thanksgiving cookbook that you will ever need. Also well worth considering is How To Cook a Turkey: and all the other trimmings from the editors of  Fine Cooking magazine. A fine guide for beginners as well as experienced cooks, this book provides detailed instructions for all the well known holiday dishes.

Of course, not everyone wants to serve and eat a turkey. Maybe you are vegan bittmanor vegetarian or you just want to take the focus off of meat. For a really impressive compendium of vegetarian cooking, check out Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: simple meatless recipes for great food. This book has recipes for every vegetarian and vegan dish that you can imagine as well as excellent suggested menus. You’re sure to find plenty here to prepare the most festive of holiday feasts. And keep in mind The Heart of the Plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation by Mollie Katzen. Katzen is the author of the well-regarded cookbooks The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu and this most recent volume is just as charming and visually appealing as the two older books with less of an emphasis on dairy products and eggs.

Of course, Thanksgiving usually means leftovers…lots and lots of bubblyleftovers…and for many of us that’s the best part of the holiday. When I was growing up my family would usually just make up plates of whatever each person liked best and reheat but you might want to transform your leftovers into something that doesn’t so much resemble the holiday meal. Many think that casseroles are the right and classic home for leftovers. If you agree, check out the pleasures contained within the pages of Bake Until Bubbly: the ultimate casserole cookbook by Clifford A. Wright and James Villas’ Crazy for Casseroles: 275 all-American hot-dish classics.

sandwichesMaybe you believe that soup is the proper vehicle for your leftover turkey (including homemade turkey stock!). Soup fans should check out The Best Recipe: soups and stews from the editors at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy to make recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Maybe you’re a member of the club that considers turkey sandwiches the absolute ultimate. If so, let me suggest Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: recipes, history, and trivia for everything between sliced bread or Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: the best sandwiches in America by Margaux Sky.

What will I do with leftover turkey this year? Nothing! This week, I’m heading to my mom’s house and she has already announced that the menu is to be everybody’s favorite…lasagna.

How do you like your Thanksgiving leftovers?

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Nov 25 2013

Time For Hand Turkeys!

by Joseph M

hand turkeyTurkeys have long been associated with Thanksgiving, and so it’s no surprise that one of the most popular Thanksgiving crafts for kids (and young-at-heart adults) is the hand turkey. To create a hand turkey, you start by placing a hand (palm down and fingers splayed) on a piece of paper. Next, you trace the outline of your hand, then embellish the outline so that it resembles a turkey, like this:

As you can see from my attempt on the right, you don’t need much in the way of artistic skill, just a vague idea of what a turkey looks like. There are many possible variations on this basic concept. This article showcases a myriad of impressive hand turkeys created in 2012.

It’s hard to say when the hand turkey first made its appearance, but this webpage offers an amusing fictional “history” of the hand turkey that you might enjoy perusing. Happy Thanksgiving!

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