Another State Added to the List: New York Votes for Marriage Equality

Tonight is another good night.  After a long week of expectations and delays, the New York Senate voted to approve same-sex marriage by a vote of 33-29.  In the Republican-controlled senate, four of those voting in favor of passage were of the majority party. 

After frequent internet checks all week, I started out the night checking tweets from various bloggers, but then went downstairs to try to find something on TV.  CNN was doing Piers Morgan re-runs, but when 8 o’clock hit, I switched of to see what Rachel Maddow was doing on MSNBC.  Of course, everyone is totally focused on the murder case in Florida, but after a bit, Rachel got off of that and started live coverage from Albany, New York.  At that point a couple of Republican senators who had previously not been committed either way gave speeches saying that they were going to vote in favor of the bill.  Then after a few delays in the procedures, the final votes were read and it was a done deal!

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who really pushed for marriage equality, will now need to sign the bill into law, after that, a 30-day wait, and the state of New York will begin executing same-sex marriage certificates.  Another good thing is that anyone can get married in New York, not just residents!

With New York now joining the states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, not to mention the District of Colombia, we are starting to see the old prejudices and discrimination starting to chip away.

Update:  Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law before I had even finished my original post.  Congratulations to all those who worked so very hard to get this passed!

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Egypt in Transition: Sidenotes from Personal Experience

Like many others, I’ve given quite a lot of attention in the past several days to what’s been happening in Egypt.  For certain, what changes will be made there, whether there will be a complete change in government or whether Mubarek will stay in some sort of power, remain uncertain.

I think I watch what’s happening there with a different perspective than a lot of Americans.  As I’ve written here, and those that know me might be aware of, I was an Arab linguist in the U.S. Air Force back in the 1970s.  I studied the Egyptian dialect and the main focus of my work was Egypt, though I never set foot in the country, until a couple of my fellow airmen and I took a 10-day, TWA tour of Egypt in April of 1974.  (I’ve had a more detailed description of that trip started for some time now, so I won’t go into all of that now.)  But in looking back, it’s surprising that the Air Force let us take that trip to a country which had been the center of so much of our military work, especially the October ’73 War, which had taken place only about half a year earlier.

When we got there, we discovered a couple of things.  First, the Egyptian people liked us Americans, despite the country still being under some influence of the Soviet Union, as evidenced by the great number of Soviet tourists that we encountered and some military installations around the then new Aswan Dam.  Second, the country was very poor, but teeming with people.  The current news media talk about squares filled with people, making it sound as if is something unusual.  The streets were filled with people on a daily basis even back in the 70s, when the population of the country was around 33 million, nothing like the 80 million of today. In Cairo, people hung off the sides of buses, and the trains from Cairo to Alexandria had riders on top of the cars because inside there was no more room.  The big difference, of course, was back in those days, people were just going about their daily lives, not protesting for a change in government.  I also remember the poverty evident most everywhere.

Anwar Sadat was the president of Egypt in those days, coming into power after Nasser.  I admired Sadat a lot and felt that he really wanted peace for the region and with Israel, unlike so many other Middle Eastern leaders, who wanted–and want–to do away with Israel.  I was really saddened when he was assassinated in 1981 by fundamentalists, they said, but I have always wondered if Mubarek didn’t have something to do with it as a way to get power.

I think the current problem in Egypt is, yes, partially, that of a government not giving enough freedoms to the people.  But there is another problem–a world problem–too many people.  And too many people too fast.  Egypt’s problem is not so different from that of Mexico.  Poor countries (and some rich ones too) in the past century have grown in population by leaps and bounds.  Maybe it’s because of having more access to medicines and health care.  But go to a poor country these days, and you find that the majority of people are young, and these huge numbers of young people are having more babies.   And more people use more and more of a country’s resources, but the countries just cannot create enough new jobs for everyone.

I took a lot of slides when I was in Egypt, and I’ve had a few of them digitalized.  (How many of you will have those pictures you’ve downloaded to Facebook 40 years from now?)   Here are some I like:

Night view of the Nile River and the boulevard running alongside it (1974)

Pyramids of Giza (1974), at that time the pyramids were a ways outside of the city

Luxor, Egypt (1974), the street running alongside the Nile River, across the river from the Valley of the Kings

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is No More; President Signs Repeal into Law, Today, December 22, 2010

President Obama signs law repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on December 22, 2010

“It’s a great day,” stated the President, and, indeed it is a great day. 

I got up at Annie’s regular going-out time, and even though I have the day off, I did not head back for the coziness of the bed.  I flicked on the TV, looking to find which network might have coverage of the signing ceremonies.  MSNBC, as would be expected, started showing the event at 8:00 AM (CST), but then by chance, I found even more direct coverage via whitehouse.gov.

I’m sure there will be any number of youtube videos up soon if not already of the event, but from a personal point of view, putting off a planned trip in order to watch was more than worth it.

It was definitely emotional to be able to watch the happenings on such a momentous occasion, something I had almost given up on just a couple of weeks ago.  But I was even more impressed by the President’s words before signing the repeal into law (Again look for the youtube video.  I’ll add it here later.)  Today I saw a happiness and a sincerity from the President that I haven’t seen for a long time, probably since the campaign.   The President was truly happy to be able to get this law passed as he had promised, but even more, was happy for the people who had long been affected by the discrimination of DADT.

What this indicates is that this President is going to be a stronger President now despite the results of this past election.  Maybe having a majority in both houses of congress was not the challenge he needed in order to show his strengh.

Today, December 22, 2010, should be remembered as a proud day for all Americans.

(I’m even going to remove the widget on the sidebar asking for people to call congress to lift the ban.)

U.S. Senate Votes To Eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Announcing the vote count of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. Senate.

Today, December 18th, 2010, at 2:30 PM (CST), the U.S. Senate approved the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the 17-year-old law which denied openly gay military members from serving.  The final vote in the senate was 65-31 on the bill which the U.S. House of Representatives had approved by a 250-175 margin earlier in the week.

The bill now is to be signed by the President.  However, both the President and the Pentagon must agree about how and when the measure will actually go into effect.

U.S. Senate To Vote on DADT Repeal; Call Your Senators Today–Easy Access to their Phone Numbers Here

The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in this Lame Duck session.  Senate Majority Leader Reid has called for the Senate to vote on the same legislation on Saturday, December 18th.

It’s time for you to do your part.  Call the senators from your state and tell them to vote for the repeal of DADT. 

Unlike some days, when I have had difficulty getting through to Senator Cornyn’s and Hutchison’s offices, this morning I was immediately able to speak to interns (I assume) who listened to my point of view and probably were tallying those for and against.  Maybe it’s easier to get through because it’s Friday or people are Christmas shopping.  Whatever it is, it seems like today is a good day to call and be heard.

Find the numbers for your senators here.  Just click open that cell phone and call.

A View from the Suburbs: Not All the Dips Are in Washington; Here Are a Couple That Everyone at Your Holiday Festivities Will Want To Socialize With

The counter was filled with recipes, and then later filled with the results.

In less than two weeks Christmas will be here. 

I know that I haven’t posted anything for over a month.  I’ve been bummed by the entire political scene and just haven’t even wanted to write about any of that, but there are many other sites that express my viewpoint (check out my blogroll–“Places I Frequent”–esp. Towleroad and AmericaBlog Gay), so “my two cents” would only be just that.

More than anything, I’ve been busy, and with the time change, it’s usually dark when I arrive home from work, so the evenings seem shorter even though the actual clock time is the same as before.  Then too, there was Thanksgiving and an entire Sunday afternoon putting up a storm door on the backdoor, the continual necessity of sweeping up the acorns, and now the leaves, dropping from the otherwise wonderful oak tree which shades my house and patio.  More recently, another birthday decided to pass my way.

But most of my time has been spent preparing and decorating my house for a holiday open house for my colleagues and friends.  I had never gotten myself together to have a party after I had bought my house and moved in, now more than a year ago.  So as my mom used to say, “It was ‘high time.'”

I think my house looks plenty “Christmasy,” not over-decorated, but something in every part to say “tis the season.”  The dining room window is just the place for the tree, a white one trimmed in red and gold.  (Take a peek at the banner above.)

This was my first big party in years, so, of course, I overdid it.  Every evening for more than a week, I was cooking or baking something–9 pounds of meatballs, a turkey, even a roast made on the barbeque, plus a variety of cookies, a sugar-free fruitcake, queso and chips, some dips, and who knows what else.

I had dug out my recipes, wanting to make things I hadn’t had the chance to for years.  A couple of the dip recipes are even better than I had remembered.  And if you want to try them both, you can make them both, one right after the other, and only have to clean up the food processor once!

This first one is so good it will knock your socks off!

Beau Monde Dip

  • 12 ounces sour cream
  • 12 ounces mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons Beau Monde spice (I used Spice Islands brand)
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh dill (my recipe calls for 2 tbsp. dry dill weed but I think the fresh dill is what makes this dip so good)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dry parsley (I used dry)
  • 1 large unsliced round loaf of pumpernickel rye bread (if you can’t find pumpernickel, any kind of heavy, coarse bread will do)
  • 1 small sliced loaf of pumpernickel rye bread

I used to mix this up in a bowl, but it’s super easy using a food processor.  Put a couple of green onions into the processor and pulse into fine pieces.  Add a generous handful of fresh dill and pulse again.  (If you’re using fresh parsley, pulse it in now.)  Add the sour cream and mayonnaise, then the Beau Monde spice and dry parsley.  Pulse until well mixed and the color is consistent.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Just before your party starts, hollow out the center of the round loaf of bread with a knife to form a “bowl”; be careful not to cut through the bottom of the loaf.  In fact, leave at least a couple of inches of bread on the sides of “the bowl.”  Put the “bread bowl” on a large plate or platter.  Cut or tear the bread removed from the center into pieces to be used for dipping and place them around the bowl.  Cut or tear more pieces from the second loaf for additional bread for dipping. 

Most people love the dill taste and using the bread makes a nice change from chips.

This second dip recipe is a great alternative to traditional guacamole.  Not only is it easy–and tasty–but it will last in your refrigerator for a week and won’t turn brown.

Guacamole Cheese Dip

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pulse the green onions into fine pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

View from the Suburbs: The Flag, Pink Bougainvillea, and Even More Okra Recipes

 

Waiting for the breeze.

I put my flag out this morning for the  Labor Day holiday and took it down this evening.  This is the first Labor Day in my house, and just like other national holidays, I’ve put out the flag.  My Georgian-style house looks great with the flag hanging out from it.

Anyone who says liberals are unpatriotic have definitely got it wrong.  Even though the flag is just a symbol, if we don’t respect the flag, we don’t have much respect for all that it represents.  I have never liked that businesses and other places put flags up and don’t take them down until they are deteriorated almost beyond recognition.  I also miss the time when it was a daily ritual for school custodians to raise the flag in the morning and take it down and neatly fold it up at the end of the school day.

I know the Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that it’s a First Amendment right to desecrate the flag, but those who disrespect the flag really are showing no respect for the country that gives them that very right.

There’s a house in the neighborhood, which has cars parked in the drive with bumper stickers saying, “I’m proud of my U.S. Marine son.”  Yet wound around a pole jutting out from the house is a U.S. flag so faded and tattered, it looks more like a rag someone used for washing the car.

Then there are people like the notorious Phelps clan, of Topeka, Kansas.  They continue to trample and show complete disrespect for the flag at protests across the country, especially at funerals for soldiers who have died fighting for the flag and the very freedoms which give these people the right to  protest.   This entire family has never grown up.  It’s like the 15-year-old who calls her mother “a bitch.”  Give that same girl another couple of years and she’ll know better.  The Phelps have never grown up enough to understand the freedoms the flag gives them.  Or maybe they do, and they’re just using it to work the system.

This pink bougainvillea has found the right spot.

On a brighter note, while summer is still here there’s a promise of the fall to come in the air.  Each morning when I take out Annie for her “go”, the air is just a bit fresher.  Some of the flowering plants are now coming into their own.  The bougainvillea I bought in the spring is now covered in blossoms.  Each bloom goes through a wonderful transformation of colors, starting with the palest of apple greens, finally ending in almost a hot pink.

What’s left of the vegetable garden is still trying.  The okra continue to produce and even the pepper plants that would bloom without any peppers setting on are finally getting a few.  I’ve canned almost 20 pints of pickled okra.  I’ve even tried cooking it some new ways.  The results were definitely tasty.

Grilled Okra

Brush olive oil onto whole okra pods.

Arrange on a medium to medium-high grill.

Let cook about 3 minutes on each side for about 10-12 minutes total.

Okra should get nice grill marks on all sides and be sizzling when cooked.

Serve with garlic butter or just salt and pepper.  Great finger food!

 

Cast iron skillet works best for frying okra.

Battered Fried Okra

12-16 okra pods

1 egg

1/4 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive or vegetable oil.  While the oil is heating to almost sizzling, beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Cut the okra–about 1/2 inch slices–into the egg mixture and toss with the fork.  Put the dry ingredients into a paper or zip-lock plastic bag and shake well.  Add the egg-covered okra into the bag a few at a time, shaking until all the okra are coated.  Add a bit more flour if the okra are not coated to your liking.

Put the battered okra into the hot skillet, spreading them out evenly.  Let them cook until golden on the bottom.  Then turn with a pancake turner.  Cook until done.  (Okra changes to a darker green when it is cooked.)

If you love okra, this recipe is enough to serve 2 people 1 helping.  You might like this with a dollop of ketchup on the side.