EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 9, 2013

Anderson column: Made in the shade: How to escape from all the bad news

Barbara Anderson
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — My favorite summer destination is my back yard.

When my partner Chip bought the rope hammock for me, the double-trunk maple tree had a tight canopy, creating deep shade that was many degrees cooler than the surrounding sunlight. Over the years, some of the heavier branches have become horizontal, with two of them positioned just above my reclining body. Even those smaller branches at the top have spread out to allow sunlight and heat into my space. It was time to move.

Fortunately, the tree had an offspring, which has its own tight canopy, creating a dark tunnel between the younger maple and the arbor vitae. My rope hammock was moved there just in time for the weekend heat wave, which I had to escape because the window air-conditioner won’t be installed until the new living room window arrives.

I’ve been making my house more energy efficient, one attic, two doors, one window at a time – I don’t borrow money, just save up and do projects when I have the cash. This lifelong dislike of borrowing is why the seemingly inevitable economic crisis doesn’t scare me as much as it would if I owed money. The only thing that worries me is the idea of out-of-control property taxes, which were the norm in the early years of my mortgage, when my family struggled to pay them.

We voters eventually achieved some control by passing Proposition 2 ½ in 1980. But at a recent State House hearing on taxes, House Revenue Chairman Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington, said that maybe “it’s time to take a look at Proposition 2½.’” And this is why I don’t retire permanently to my hammock: Eternal vigilance is the price of keeping my housing affordable.

The heat wave sent me to a weekend retirement, though, an escape from the ongoing drumbeat of government-dysfunction news:

The IRS. Lois Lerner, who oversaw the tax-exempt department that targeted conservative groups, taking the Fifth at the Congressional hearing on the Treasury Department’s inspector general audit of this targeting. New report by same inspector general on IRS spending $50 million on 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, including $4 million for a conference at Anaheim that featured a $17,000 speaker on “Leadership through Art.” The IRS will be adding employees to oversee Obamacare.

Massachusetts EBT cards for dead people, or as Rob Eno at RedMassGroup was the first to call it, “The rise of the Mass Zombies.” A report by state Auditor Suzanne Bump found $18 million in suspicious welfare payments, including $2.39 million sent to more than 1,160 recipients listed as dead. It also seems that some beneficiaries may have sold their electronic benefit cards, which is illegal; one person “lost” and had to replace his card 127 times. No one in the Department of Transitional Assistance, so-called, seemed to notice.

An earlier state auditor, John Finnegan, once explained to me the problem with audits: It takes a while to do them, so when you release the results, audited departments acknowledge the problem but say it was fixed last month. When you check and find it wasn’t, the response is sorry, misspoke, but it was fixed yesterday, and so on.

New Obama betrayal. From an U.S. News & World Report last month: “The families of 17 SEAL Team 6 commandos who were killed in an ambush in Afghanistan during a helicopter flight to help Army Rangers pinned down by Taliban gunmen accused the Obama administration of deliberately endangering their loved ones for political ends.” They blamed a White House decision to announce shortly after the killing of Osama bin Laden that SEAL Team 6 was responsible for the raid. “In releasing their identity, they put a target on their backs,” said Doug Hamburger, whose son, Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, served among the helicopter’s crew.

Speaking of Islamic extremists: Last week I attended the free screening of “Northeastern Unbecoming” at Marblehead’s Temple Sinai. This documentary exposes antisemitism, anti-Israelism and radical Islamic activities at Northeastern University. The documentary was produced by Americans for Peace and Tolerance on Campus in response to complaints by faculty and students. I was shocked. During my college experience, antisemitism was politically incorrect, though that phrase hadn’t been invented yet; we Penn State freshmen were shown a film on the Holocaust and told, “Never again.” According to APT, what is happening at Northeastern is happening on other campuses across the country as part of a new politically-correct support for radical Islam.

From the ridiculous, zombie welfare, to the horrible: betrayed Navy seals and campus antisemitism. What is happening here?

I was grateful for the heat wave, driving me to my hammock to finish Brunonia Barry’s “The Map of True Places” with its Salem-Marblehead setting; wonderful read. But I needed total escape, so on Sunday I started Janet Evanovich’ “Sizzling Sixteen.”

I discovered her Stephanie Plum series when my elderly mother moved into a nursing home and I went to my hometown bookstore to find a book on dealing with life’s difficult events. The clerk told me to read Evanovich instead. Lesson learned. And my mother and I continued to laugh together, despite the news of the world, for as long as she lived.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.