Monday, January 8, 2018

Grandmother in Training

by Madeleine Kando

My friend Karen is a grandmother. She insisted on being there during her grandson’s delivery, but for some reason, her daughter said it would be better if she spent the $3000 airfare on a vacation with her husband in Hawaii instead. ‘But I can give such useful advice’, Karen said. After all, she had been through it three times! Ok, so maybe her daughter was right. In Karen’s days, not even husbands were allowed in the delivery room.

She was a bit disappointed, she told me, when her daughter didn’t take her advice on naming her grandson. ‘What kind of name is Redmond’, she said. ‘His hair isn’t red’. But no matter how sensible her suggestion was, to name her grandson Gregory (after her own father), it fell on deaf ears.

Since Gregory’s (I mean Redmond’s) birth, Karen likes to pay her daughter surprise visits, and give her the opportunity to spend quality time together. But last time her daughter got upset and said that Karen should call first to ask if it was convenient to just show up like that. ‘Well, what’s more important; grandma’s visit or their precious schedule’, Karen told her. Read more...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy Holidays!


from Madeleine and Tom Kando

We would like to take this holiday season’s opportunity to once again sincerely thank you for the trust you have shown us throughout the year.

May the joy of Christmas bring you hope for a new year without future Trumps, Brexits, ransomware cyberattacks, additional withdrawals from climate agreements, category 5 hurricanes, mass shootings, Spanish style   secessions, surprise recognitions of foreign capitals,  California fires or threats of  nuclear Armageddons.

From the whole 2 person team at European/American Blog (notice the meticulous use of the non-sexist word ‘person’), we wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! leave comment here Read more...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Kando's Dogma



I’m sick and tired of hearing how very unpopular “liberal” has become in America.

I’m sick and tired of America’s extreme rightward drift. Don’t be mistaken about it: We are THE most conservative country in the world today!

I am sick and tired of the cliché “we are the richest country in the world.” I can think of a dozen countries that are richer (see List of Countries).

And as to the distribution of wealth, well in that regard we are doing worse than nearly ALL other developed countries. Our still relatively high per capita income obfuscates the fact that we have more obscenely rich and also more devastating poverty than most other western nations. Among OECD countries (the 35 largely more developed countries of the world), the US has the fourth highest Gini coefficient of inequality, after Mexico, Chile and Turkey! We are in good company! (See Inequality) Our relative income poverty is nearly 17%, the third highest among these 35 countries. And with the new Republican tax package, things are about to get a lot worse. Read more...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Dutch Santa Claus and Black Pete



The Dutch celebrate Santa Claus on December 5 - Sinterklaas Day. In recent years, this celebration has become problematic. An old custom has become controversial, namely the Zwarte Piet or “Black Pete” tradition:

The way the Dutch have celebrated Sinterklaas Day traditionally is by having him arrive by boat from Spain. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that the Netherlands were under Spanish rule until about 300 years ago.

What has made this custom problematic in the 21st century is that each year, Santa is accompanied by a bunch of helpers called “Black Petes.” These are supposed to be young black Moorish boys, perhaps formerly slaves. They are usually enacted by white people who splash on blackface. Read more...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Canoeing in the Adirondacks

by Madeleine Kando

Horseshoe Pond, New York

The weather today is a lot better than yesterday: sunny, no wind, blue sky with cute little white puffy clouds floating by. We wake up to the sound of loons calling each other over the misty pond. Loons are more like submarines than aquatic birds –only their dark black heads and striped necks stick out of the water, like periscopes. As soon as you think you can spy on them through your binoculars, swoosh! They have disappeared. Eons later they pop up somewhere else, playing a ‘catch me if you can’ game.

After a morning coffee (which we drip through our dishtowel since the outfitters forgot to pack us coffee filters), and after my husband Hans takes a dip in the probably freezing cold water, we go on a short canoe trip around 'our' pond.

Canoeing is like meditation: the sound of the water sloshing against the boat as the sun burns your shoulders and back and the reflection of the sun in the water, creating jewels on the rippling waves. The rhythmic motion of your arms on the oar.. You get the feeling that you could go on forever. Read more...

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Tax Bill

by Madeleine Kando

I am not an expert on taxes, other than knowing that taxes, if structured right, come back to benefit the tax payer. Taxes pay for everything that is essential in a well-run society: roads, bridges, police, firefighters, schools and so on. If you lower taxes too much, you jeopardize these services and a society becomes dysfunctional. A few bananas at the top that have and control everything, and everybody else be damned.

We do not pay a lot of taxes compared to most OECD countries. Taxes accounts for about 26 percent of the United States’ GDP, placing the U.S. 31st out of 35 countries studied (See: General Government Revenue). In countries with the highest percentages, (Denmark, France, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Italy and Sweden), taxation accounts for more than 42 percent of GDP. The countries continue to improve their quality of life, because they pay more taxes. Their roads are better, their health care is better and cheaper, their educational system is better and cheaper. Among OECD countries, only Korea, Chile, Mexico, and Ireland collect less taxes than the United States as a percentage of GDP.

Here, we already have an anemic social safety net that leaves too many Americans without the basic needs to live a decent life. Our health care system is one of the worst of the OECD countries. Our infrastructure is appalling, our schools are underfunded and higher education is so expensive that many young people cannot afford it. Read more...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sleuths: European and American



We just saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” I found it quite entertaining. The cast included Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and other luminaries. It received curiously mediocre reviews, both by the audience (IMDb) and by “experts” So be it. To me, it was lovely. Maybe I am prejudiced because I remember fondly taking the Orient Express as a child.

So then, I began to think about the whole genre - crime-fiction, the whodunit, and its central character, the sleuth, the detective, the private eye, the guy who solves crimes and chases down criminals.

I grew up devouring detective novels in Europe. One of my favorites was Commissaire Maigret. He was the quintessentially European detective, created by Belgian author Georges Simenon, who published over one hundred novels featuring this character. Maigret was with the Paris Sureté, the French national police. Read more...