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The Marital Contract in California?

This guy is hilarious – found this on AOL Huffpost this morning:

A Modest Proposal: Why Can’t Couples Have a Proxy Statement for Their “Merger & Acquisition”?
William Quigley

The recent debates over gay marriage, civil unions and what exactly marriage even means today reminded me of how antiquated our marriage and family laws have become. They don’t take into account how the nature of wealth has vastly changed over the last few decades. I am neither an advocate nor an opponent of marriage but I do believe that the financial obligations we assume when entering into a marriage contract, including the court-ordered redistribution of personal wealth that takes place upon divorce, are not well understood by most of our citizens. Even lawyers I have known have been confused about the differences between spousal versus child support. If Chris Anderson really wanted to investigate the long tail, he should have taken a look at the potential length of California spousal support terms.

California has always been the leader in divorce and alimony law, and I think it is time the state started addressing the profound inequities alimony judgments have created. In short, alimony has evolved into a pension plan for the less successful spouse. In many cases, this pension commitment becomes a lifelong burden for the paying spouse, regardless of who initiated the divorce and under what conditions the marriage dissolved. It promotes unproductive behaviors as well, such as the alimony recipient avoiding employment in order to maximize spousal support. The spousal support payer may reluctantly forgo re-marriage as well, fearing the income of his/her new partner will be combined for the purposes of calculating higher support payments. If the state believes that promoting marriage among the population is a public good (a reasonable belief), then it needs to reduce the severe financial penalties associated with divorce. And since many marriages do end in divorce, it makes sense to acknowledge, upfront, the consequences of that likely outcome.

One marriage-neutral option would be to provide every couple with a simple disclosure form that highlights the financial obligations they are about to assume.

This disclosure form could easily fit on just a single page, with disclosures of the following sort:

1. The State of California recognizes your marriage as a legally binding contract.

2. By entering into marriage in this state, you agree to assume all debts incurred by your spouse during the marriage, whether or not you were aware of these debts when incurred, and whether or not you personally benefited from them in any way.

3. You also agree to provide monetary payments to your spouse in the event your marriage dissolves and you are the higher income earner. The amount and length of these payments will be decided by a court of law.

4. The State can and will use its court and police powers to enforce the financial obligations you are assuming in the event of divorce, including the garnishment of your wages and your incarceration in the state prison system for your failure to comply with court ordered spousal payments

5. If your spouse so chooses, he/she may divorce you at anytime. In so doing, he/she may be legally entitled to receive monetary payments from you for a time period that may extend to the rest of your natural life. These spousal support payments may exceed 50% of your income, could be adjusted upward if you remarry and as a result have more disposable income, and they cannot be eliminated though bankruptcy.

6. The conduct of your spouse, including him/her having one or multiple out-of-wedlock affairs, does not change your legal obligation to provide spousal support.

7. If you are the higher earning spouse, you may be required to pay your lower earning spouse’s divorce related legal bills. This is the case regardless of which spouse initiated the divorce and regardless of the conduct of either spouse during the marriage

8. If you have questions or concerns about what financial obligations you are about to assume, it may be advisable to consult with a family law attorney before signing your marriage contract.

The most important point to highlight when it comes to marriage is that the State of California recognizes it as a legally binding contract. Too often that simple fact is misunderstood or ignored by the couple getting married. In fact, curiously, the one thing the state absolutely does not care about is whether or not a couple is “in love.” There is no requirement to be “in love” to be legally married in the State of California, or any other state for that matter. Only in recent human history — perhaps the last 150 years — has the predominant purpose of marriage been associated with romantic love. It has nearly always been, and remains in much of the world, primarily an efficient method of property redistribution. In the end, the state, and your future divorce lawyer, care only about one thing: the legal enforceability of the marriage contract as it relates to the financial obligations borne by the higher wage earner.

Our society has become accustomed to warning its citizens of potential legal and financial hazards every time they enter into a contract, even those of relatively small consequence. We as a society like to be informed when we are assuming a financial obligation, particularly one that is potentially large and open-ended. Isn’t it odd then that while we require our citizens to initial car rental forms (just in case they didn’t realize that they will be charged $6 a gallon to fill the gas tank), we let 18 year olds get married without so much as a tap on the shoulder about the greatest financial liability they will likely ever assume? Keep in mind that we are talking about state-sanctioned marriage, a legally enforceable contract. Shouldn’t such a contract, with its profound lifelong financial repercussions, only be assumed by those fully informed of its potential consequences? This is why I completely support a marriage financial obligation disclosure form.

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September 30, 2011 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Marriage, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Not-So-Real Housewives

Over Thai food, I confessed my guilty secret – I can’t help it, I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Real Housewives of New York. I expected a horrified response from my sweet smart niece, Professor Little Diamond, but she just laughed.

“Oh we all watch them,” she reassured me, “It’s like watching a train wreck, you are appalled, but you can’t look away.”

What makes me really, really nervous about these ‘real’ housewives is that I think that the Bravo station is carried in Qatar and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. While the more educated have travelled, and know that these ‘real’ housewives are not the norm, there may be many who think that this is the life of the American female.

I remember when I shocked my Qatari friends as I told them I was going home to take care of my Dad while my Mom had a knee replacement and spent a few weeks in rehab. They didn’t know we take care of our parents; they thought we just put them in grim warehouse like nursing homes. How did they know? From television, of course.

So you can understand I have a major concern that these women are representing us normal people in the homes of our friends in the Middle East. These women spend a lot of money on scanty clothing, these women have people who come in and do their make-up before a dinner party, these people have nannies taking care of their children (many of whom are really bratty) and they all seem to be designing handbags or creating make-up lines or (oh-no!) cutting records to try to get a singing career started.

Ask yourself this – who do you know in your own circles who would agree to have camera crews follow them around in their lives, filming their most intimate conversations? Who do you know in your circle who creates drama and conflict? Who do you know who needs the affirmation of an audience to believe her life is worth living? Who in your circle is addicted to plastic surgery or throws charity events to get attention? Those are the women they are filming.

You never see these women go to church. You rarely see them cooking up a normal dinner for their family. You don’t see any of them heading off to an 8 – 5 job. You don’t see them doing all the normal things we normal American housewives do (a lot like our sisters do in every country of the world) like laundry, running the kids to school, doctors appointments, soccer matches, paying the bills, scrubbing the floor, making appointments at the veterinarian, getting the car serviced, buying groceries, going to PTA, or doing their volunteer work. You don’t see them running over to their children’s house to babysit, or going to their exercise classes.

But then again, if they were doing all these things that us REAL housewives do, who would watch, LLLLOOOOOLLLLLLL! I understand there may be some sister Real wives series coming up from foreign countries. It will be interesting to see how their lives look.

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Community, Cultural, Entertainment, Interconnected, Lies, Living Conditions, Middle East, Random Musings, Rants, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Male on Male Sexual Abuse on Law and Order

AdventureMan teases me about my loyalty to the Law and Order Series . . . “Ripped from the headlines!” he will taunt me, when I flip the channel. We often watch separate TV’s when he wants to watch one of his droning military history channels and I want to watch Law and Order re-runs. But tonight’s L&O will tackle a topic no-one talks about – male on male rape and abuse.

I was so naive. I thought it only happened in prisons. While I was living in Qatar, I started hearing horrific stories about young men abducted and taken to the desert, often gang raped. Most of them lived, but had to deal with the aftermath of the violence and humiliation. In Kuwait, it was reported almost weekly in the papers, it was so common. I had a friend whose son was abducted, and walked with her through the horrors of the aftermath. Her greatest fear was that her son would commit suicide. He overcame his abduction, and is happy now, but the path was long, and full of perils along the way.

Male on male rape, like male on female rape, or any kind of rape, is not about sex. It’s about power. It’s about humiliation. It’s bullying taken to the extreme. It’s just wrong.

From AOL TV:

The second episode of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Season 13 is one for the TV history books. Not only does it feature guest stars Dan Lauria, Mechad Brooks, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, but it’ll also tackle the taboo issue of male-on-male sexual violence.

In ‘Personal Fouls,’ a basketball coach known as a trusted mentor and figure in the community comes under suspicion of molesting a number of his players.

“This script was very exciting and I think the cast felt honored and excited to be able to talk about this issue because obviously sexual violence is something people are scared to talk about,” series star Mariska Hargitay said at a recent press event on the ‘SVU’ set.

Hargitay’s The Joyful Heart Foundation, Wolf Films, NBC, 1in6 and A Call to Men are partnering in an effort to raise awareness about male-on-male sexual abuse.

“It takes so much courage to come forward and male-on-male sexual violence is even more swept under the carpet,” she said. “The statistics are frightening.”

According to statistics from 1in6, an organization that seeks to help male sexual abuse survivors, 19 million men in the United States are victims of sexual abuse.

“It’s exciting to do a show about it because obviously when things are on TV somehow they’re made OK to talk about and that’s been exciting.”

The partnerships between the organizations hope to spread awareness about the subject. Hargitay said one of the objectives is to “let male survivors know they’re not alone and there are so many people that want to help them.”

“It’s not a shameful secret that you should keep to yourself, that the blame belongs with the perpetrator, not the survivor,” she said.

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, Health Issues, Law and Order, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Values | 2 Comments

Saudi Women to be Lashed for Driving

On the downside of today’s news, the brave Saudi women who exercised their right to drive (there is no law against a woman driving in Saudi Arabia, only religious police who say it violates customs) have been sentenced to 10 lashes for conviction in the Saudi court. How do you convict a woman of a crime for which there is no law???

You can read this for yourself on the Huffpost:

CAIRO — A Saudi woman was sentenced Tuesday to be lashed 10 times with a whip for defying the kingdom’s prohibition on female drivers, the first time a legal punishment has been handed down for a violation of the longtime ban in the ultraconservative Muslim nation.

Normally, police just stop female drivers, question them and let them go after they sign a pledge not to drive again. But dozens of women have continued to take to the roads since June in a campaign to break the taboo.

Making Tuesday’s sentence all the more upsetting to activists is that it came just two days after King Abdullah promised to protect women’s rights and decreed that women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. Abdullah also promised to appoint women to a currently all-male advisory body known as the Shura Council.

The mixed signals highlight the challenge for Abdullah, known as a reformer, in pushing gently for change without antagonizing the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population.

Abdullah said he had the backing of the official clerical council. But activists saw Tuesday’s sentencing as a retaliation of sorts from the hard-line Saudi religious establishment that controls the courts and oversees the intrusive religious police.

“Our king doesn’t deserve that,” said Sohila Zein el-Abydeen, a prominent female member of the governmental National Society for Human Rights. She burst into tears in a phone interview and said, “The verdict is shocking to me, but we were expecting this kind of reaction.”

The driver, Shaima Jastaina, in her 30s, was found guilty of driving without permission, activist Samar Badawi said. The punishment is usually carried out within a month. It was not possible to reach Jastaina, but Badawi, in touch with Jastaina’s family, said she appealed the verdict.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women – both Saudi and foreign – from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

There are no written laws that restrict women from driving. Rather, the ban is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.

Activists say the religious justification is irrelevant.

“How come women get flogged for driving while the maximum penalty for a traffic violation is a fine, not lashes?” Zein el-Abydeen said. “Even the Prophet (Muhammad’s) wives were riding camels and horses because these were the only means of transportation.”

Since June, dozens of women have led a campaign to try to break the taboo and impose a new status quo. The campaign’s founder, Manal al-Sherif, who posted a video of herself driving on Facebook, was detained for more than 10 days. She was released after signing a pledge not to drive or speak to media.

Since then, women have been appearing in the streets driving their cars once or twice a week.

Until Tuesday, none had been sentenced by the courts. But recently, several women have been summoned for questioning by the prosecutor general and referred to trial.

One of them, housewife Najalaa al-Harriri, drove only two times, not out of defiance, but out of need, she says.

“I don’t have a driver. I needed to drop my son off at school and pick up my daughter from work,” she said over the phone from the western port city of Jeddah.

“The day the king gave his speech, I was sitting at the prosecutor’s office and was asked why I needed to drive, how many times I drove and where,” she said. She is to stand trial in a month.

After the king’s announcement about voting rights for women, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdel Aziz Al Sheik blessed the move and said, “It’s for women’s good.”

Al-Harriri, who is one of the founders of a women’s rights campaign called “My Right My Dignity,” said, “It is strange that I was questioned at a time the mufti himself blessed the king’s move.”

Asked if the sentencing will stop women from driving, Maha al-Qahtani, another female activist, said, “This is our right, whether they like it or not.”

UPDATE:

RIYADH, Saudi Arab — Saudi King Abdullah has overturned a court ruling sentencing a Saudi woman to be lashed 10 times for defying the kingdom’s ban on female drivers, a government official said Wednesday.

The official declined to elaborate on the monarch’s decision, and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Woooo HOOOOO on YOU, King Abdullah!

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, News, Road Trips, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Secrets to a LONG Marriage

Read this article and weep, and be sure you have a group of wild girlfriends. 🙂

I found it this morning in AOL News Huffpost:

The Fine Line Between Marriage and Divorce

Iris Krasnow, Author, The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married

I’m just coming off 200 interviews and two years of listening to mature wives reflect on — or moan about — how they are managing to stick it out in long marriages. Scenes from their relationships that range from 15 to 70 years are woven together in my new book, The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married coming out in early October.

I’ve been married for 23 years during which my husband and I have raised four sons, and have had plenty of rocking and rolling in our relationship. From my own experiences, and from the dozens of sagas unloaded into my tape recorder, I am constantly reminded of the eggshell-thin line that separates loving from loathing. I know that staying married can mean plates flying across kitchens, tears soaking pillows and emailing old boyfriends at 3 a.m.

I thought nothing could shock me about what really goes on behind closed doors between two people working hard to make it “til death do us part” — without killing someone first. After all, I have heard every brand of twisted love story — swinging, adultery, spouses coming out as gay after 30 years together, threesomes, fist fights in restaurants, even the tale of a husband discovered to be having sex with a sheep, documented in a photograph discovered by his wife in his nightstand drawer.

But in piecing together this latest book I have been surprised at some of the revelations. I’m not as ruffled by the tawdry tales of farm animals or one I heard from a 55-year-old wife about screwing a perfectly sculpted landscaper while her doctor husband was lecturing on vein surgery in another country. My biggest shock is how many outwardly cheerful women who have been married forever think about divorce if not weekly, at least once a month.

How’s this for a statistic? Of the 200 plus women interviewed and woven into The Secret Lives of Wives, I can count on one hand those who have never considered splitting up. It was no surprise that Beth often considered leaving her husband. He routinely told her she was fat and ugly, and when they fought in the car he would pull over and shove her out the door. Who could blame Shauna for her many consults with a divorce lawyer? She’s the wife of the traveling doctor, a man who hasn’t initiated sex since their honeymoon 30 years ago. Her secret is that she has it both ways: an intact family and a ten-year affair with a hard-bodied lover, who does her landscaping for free.

The biggest shocker is the number of wives in stable unions who frequently contemplate fleeing their marriages. These are not abused wives; they are women with nice husbands who give them orgasms and jewelry and stability. Yet many of these settled midlife women admitted they were slightly jealous of Tipper Gore who gets to have a fresh start after 40 years of matrimony with the same guy. While many speculated about whether one of the Gores fell in love with someone else, my instincts without talking to either of them is that perhaps they are a lot like other couples portrayed in the book. Maybe they were simply sick of being around each other. And maybe one or both of them finally couldn’t take it any more.

Who stays married and who doesn’t is a question not always about commitment or deep abiding love — it’s about endurance.

I have found in my collection of wives who remain in long running marriages that the majority of them share these common traits: They have the guts and determination to stick it out, no matter what. And their laments about their marriages aren’t because of anything serious. It’s the subtle nuances of living with one person in one house for a very long time that grates at the soul, that causes a simmering malaise. It’s the grind of the ordinary that drives people into thinking, “Is this all there is? I want more. I want adventure. I want change.”

Who wouldn’t want changes with the current statistics on lifespan? Women in their 80s and 90s are the fastest growing segment of the aging population which means that many of us wives could easily hit our 50th wedding anniversaries and beyond. That’s a hell of a long time to sustain one love affair, particularly when empty nest hits and it’s only you and the husband with no cushion of kids as a buffer.

There are three strategies that have worked the best with the women I interviewed. The happiest wives have a sense of purpose and passion in work and causes outside of the home. Wives who counted on a spouse for fulfillment and sustenance were often angry and lonely. And the happiest wives don’t spend a whole lot of time with their husbands. My chapter called Separate Summers is filled with women who take their own vacations, take their own summers, take charge of their own lives. Couples who allow each other to grow separately are the ones with the best chance of growing together and staying together.

Finally, the wives with the highest marital satisfaction have a tight circle of wild women friends with whom to drink, travel and vent about their husbands.

Yes, my work on this book has been quite surprising and enlightening. I now know that acceptance of mediocrity in a marriage relationship is more prevalent that you would imagine. I know that sometimes the only reason women stay with a spouse is because they have divorced friends who may have more sex than they do with new husbands but they also have cranky step-kids who hate them. Other women stay in lackluster marriages because they don’t want to give up their swanky lifestyles, and divorce is expensive, really expensive. We know from our friends who are pushed to the edge and do call it quits that the grass isn’t always greener, there are parched patches on both sides of the fence.

But most women told me they stay married simply because they like their marriages more than they dislike them, even if much of the time it’s 51 percent “like” to 49 percent “dislike.”

Iris Krasnow is a bestselling author and an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University. Connect with her on: http://www.iriskrasnow.com

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Harlan Coben: Long Lost

This totally light weight mystery was just right for a beach read. It was light on motivation, light on character description, light on substance – it was a very fluffy mystery.

Long lost love calls and says “come to Paris; I need you” and doltish hero heads off. Confusing plotting calls for some irrational police interaction, some unknown bogeymen, and a truly thin story line.

You can read it in about an hour, though, or stretched out between beach activities, it might be good for a weekend. Not only lightweight, but forgettable.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fiction, Law and Order | Leave a comment

Weekend At the Beach

We didn’t go far – just out to the beach, Pensacola Beach, for a weekend. It was so much fun. It rained our entire drive to the beach, LOL all twenty minutes it took to get there:

But it started clearing, and with all the clouds, the sunset was spectacular:

We all have such a good time together. We took a drive out to Fort Pickens and I saw so many butterflies!

We had to watch THE game later in the day, which the Happy Baby calls “buttball,” LLOOLLL!

Here he is at breakfast with his BaBa:

It was a beautiful day, with another beautiful sunset:

AdventureMan asked me if I wanted a house overlooking the Gulf. I said ‘no, it would never be so interesting as Kuwait.’ In Florida, I think I would want a house up high over a bayou, where there are birds and wildlife. High enough to not flood when there is a hurricane or a storm surge. . . It still was a thrill to spend a couple days high above the beach, and watch the sun set. 🙂

It’s funny the things that make a marriage succeed. It’s the little things. We both wanted to go to Barnes and Nobles because the 2012 calendars are out and we like to have calendars we love to look out through the year. You can take a chance on waiting until New Year’s week, and sometimes you get a cool calendar at 50% off, but mostly the one you really wanted is already gone gone gone, woe woe woe.

Besides that, we always like to get what we want, then the other one hides it until Christmas. By then, we’ve forgotten what we picked out, so it is a really good surprise. 😉

I told AM that I was going to have to have a chocolate fix and he said he would have to have a chocolate fix, too. We decided we could share an Oreo cake:

It was a fun idea, but it didn’t taste as good as it looked. We didn’t even finish it, it just wasn’t that great.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Hurricanes, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Values | 5 Comments

Wooo Hoooo! Saudi Women to Have Right To Vote!

I found this today on Huffpost World; hey four years is not such a long time compared to forever. Getting the vote makes it more and more illogical for them not to be driving . . . think about it. Does choosing national leaders take less brains than driving? Ummm. . . . well . . . (LOL)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, considered a reformer by the standards of his own ultraconservative kingdom, decreed on Sunday that women will for the first time have the right to vote and run in local elections due in 2015.

It is a “Saudi Spring” of sorts.

For the nation’s women, it is a giant leap forward, though they remain unable to serve as Cabinet ministers, drive or travel abroad without permission from a male guardian.

Saudi women bear the brunt of their nation’s deeply conservative values, often finding themselves the target of the unwanted attention of the kingdom’s intrusive religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation of Islamic Shariah law on the streets and public places like shopping malls and university campuses.

In itself, Sunday’s decision to give the women the right to vote and run in municipal elections may not be enough to satisfy the growing ambition of the kingdom’s women who, after years of lavish state spending on education and vocational training, significantly improved their standing but could not secure the same place in society as that of their male compatriots.

That women must wait four more years to exercise their newly acquired right to vote adds insult to injury since Sunday’s announcement was already a long time coming – and the next local elections are in fact scheduled for this Thursday.

“Why not tomorrow?” asked prominent Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar. “I think the king doesn’t want to shake the country, but we look around us and we think it is a shame … when we are still pondering how to meet simple women’s rights.”

The announcement by King Abdullah came in an annual speech before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council. It was made after he consulted with the nation’s top religious clerics, whose advice carries great weight in the kingdom.

It is an attempt at “Saudi style” reform, moves that avoid antagonizing the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population. Additionally, it seems to be part of the king’s drive to insulate his vast, oil-rich country from the upheavals sweeping other Arab nations, with popular uprisings toppling regimes that once looked as secure as his own.

Fearing unrest at home, the king in March announced a staggering $93 billion package of incentives, jobs and services to ease the hardships experienced by some Saudis. In the meantime, he sent troops to neighbor and close ally Bahrain to help the tiny nation’s Sunni ruling family crush an uprising by majority Shiites pressing for equal rights and far-reaching reforms.

In contrast, King Abdullah in August withdrew the Saudi ambassador from Syria to protest President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on a seven-month uprising that calls for his ouster and the establishment of a democratic government.

“We didn’t ask for politics, we asked for our basic rights. We demanded that we be treated as equal citizens and lift the male guardianship over us,” said Saudi activist Maha al-Qahtani, an Education Ministry employee who defied the ban on women driving earlier this year. “We have many problems that need to be addressed immediately.”

The United States, Saudi Arabia’s closest Western ally, praised the king’s move.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said it recognized the “significant contributions” women have been making in Saudi Arabia. The move, he continued, would give Saudi women more ways to participate “in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.”

The king, in his own remarks, seemed to acknowledge that the Arab world’s season of change and the yearning for greater social freedoms by a large segment of Saudi society demanded decisive action.

“Balanced modernization, which falls within our Islamic values, is an important demand in an era where there is no place for defeatist or hesitant people,” he said.

“Muslim women in our Islamic history have demonstrated positions that expressed correct opinions and advice,” said the king.

Abdullah became the country’s de facto ruler in 1995 because of the illness of King Fahd and formally ascended to the throne upon Fahd’s death in August 2005.

The king on Sunday also announced that women would be appointed to the Shura Council, a currently all-male body established in 1993 to offer counsel on general policies in the kingdom and to debate economic and social development plans and agreements signed between the kingdom with other nations.

The question of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is a touchy one. In a country where no social or political force is strong enough to affect change in women’s rights, it is up to the king to do it. Even then, the king must find consensus before he takes a step in that direction.

Prominent columnist Jamal Khashoggi said that giving women the right to vote in local elections and their inclusion in the Shura council means they will be part of the legislative and executive branches of the state. Winning the right to drive and travel without permission from male guardians can only be the next move.

“It will be odd that women who enjoy parliamentary immunity as members of the council are unable to drive their cars or travel without permission,” he said. “The climate is more suited for these changes now – the force of history, moral pressure and the changes taking place around us.”

___

Hendawi reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Maggie Michael contributed to this report from Cairo.

September 25, 2011 Posted by | Living Conditions, Political Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 4 Comments

Taste of India in Pensacola – They’re Back!

I didn’t want to say anything. There is only ONE Indian restaurant that I know of in Pensacola, and it is just a short drive from where we live. When we moved here, it was really really good, and we went there often. Then it changed hands, and it was still OK, but not the same. Then when we went in, it was all different, and the food was NOT spicy – they dumbed it down! We were disappointed, but we didn’t want there to be NO Indian restaurants in Pensacola.

We think maybe it changed hands a time or two. We wanted to go back, but had been so disappointed by the dumbing-down that we just couldn’t do it. Today, we had decided to give it one more try.

We are so glad we did. Once again under new management, the Taste of India is great tasting food once again. The buffet had a good assortment of tasty dishes, mostly veg, which we like, but so rich and flavorful that you don’t even miss the meat. There were also several really good condiments, home made and delicious.

Yes. It is a little spicy, meaning tasty. It is not bury-your-mouth spicy, only tasty spicy. Only go to Taste of India if you like REAL Indian tastes, fresh fresh fresh and delicately made. It was a delight to be able to eat there and enjoy the food once again. Lucky lucky us, and lucky lucky Pensacola to have Indian food of this calibre. 🙂

There is a lunch buffet, and there is a dinner and take out menu. It looks like they are doing some improvements to the building, too. Welcome back, Taste of India!

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola | 9 Comments

Uyen Nichole Duong: Mimi and Her Mirror

I must be on a streak. I really wanted to like this main character, Mi Chou (Mimi) but I found her obsessive, impulsive, overly emotional, self-absorbed and boastful. Her strongest relationship in the book is with her three way mirror. She specifically claims not to be narcissistic, and I think the story tells us otherwise.

The book is supposed to be fictional, and I truly hope some parts are fictional, but the strengths of the book lie in the ‘coming to America’ experience, which she captures well. She has a strong eye for ironies, hypocrisies and cultural differences. Her beginnings are vague, as is often the case when an immigrant goes through the shell-shock of being cut off from their own culture and grafted into another. I believe the author drew strongly on her own experiences to write this part of the book, and to me, it is the strongest part.

Mi Chau and her family leave Viet Nam during the great evacuation, and are given a spot on the planes that should have gone to someone else. Her entire family, mother, father, sister and brother all escape together, leaving behind a beloved grandmother who refuses to leave. Their entry into the US goes smoothly. They are the first wave of Vietnamese, the lucky ones. They have support, they have jobs. They have lost their own world, and they struggle. All this is part of the normal immigrant experience.

Neither is it abnormal that the children thrive through their struggles, and achieve excellent eduations. What is distracting to me in the book is how Mimi bases her self worth first on her academic excellence, and later in life on what she owns, and on her status. She has accomplished so much, she owns high-status symbols, but she is miserable and her life is empty.

Is it because of her experience as she evacuates out of Vietnam? Is it a character defect? There are no meaningful relationships in her life, she lives an empty and soulless existence, focusing on work and accomplishment and status symbols. Her major problem, as I see it, is an unwillingness to connect, to step out of herself and see through other’s eyes.

It’s an interesting book. There are, in my opinion, better books about the Vietnamese coming-to-America experience, and one is Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about immigrant Hmong, which is rich in cultural teachings, rich in relationships, and I still remember details more than ten years after I first read it. It is only available in Kindle format now, through Amazon, although they may have a used copy from time to time. Way better book than Mimi.

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Lies, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments