Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

What’s a Republican to do?

March 26, 2017

Lincoln

Donald Trump thought he could use the Republican party to enforce his bully twitter program.

However, if Republicans will work smartly, holding steadfastly to the classic values of individual liberty and collective strength, we can turn this situation around.

The Republican party can use Trump, instead of (the other way around) him using us.

This regimen makes more sense for retaining America’s greatness than letting one strong man steal the show just for the sake of gaining advantage over the other party (the party of whines and poses).

As for ole Mitch, he just needs to, at this point in time, do whatever is necessary to facilitate the Gorsuch appointment.

Lastly,  here’s a word of encouragement for our Speaker, Mr. Ryan: keep up the good work. We can see you have a burden for governing the entire nation of USA, not just the conservative part of it. This is what a true statesman will always do, instead of allowing politics to perpetually trump governance.

In other exhortations: Centrists unite! Save America from the extremists who strive to dominate us from both sides.

Glass half-Full

What about them Ruskies?

March 22, 2017

The inner workings of our democratic republic were brought into my awareness a couple of days ago as I was listening on NPR to Congressional hearings while mixing concrete for a deck stairway addition to my home.

They say that multi-tasking is not something you can effectively do. I have never believed that, so I try to do it all the time.

On that particular day, which happened to be the first day of spring, it felt good to be outside on a sunny morning in the slowly warming upper-40’s fahrenheit air, doing a constructive work in the yard while at the same time tuning into the hearing being conducted by Chairman Devin Nunes of the  House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

While trying to learn about the delicate and bullysome governance of our great nation while getting some work done, I make mental note to self: good luck with that.

So there I was  in the morning sunshine mixing concrete and it felt great in our cool early morning Blue Ridge mountain air.

And there was something about the experience that I would like to convey to you because I feel it is important that citizens make themselves aware of some of the issues that confront those men and women whose job it is to govern, and to work productively within in an immense, arcane federal bureaucracy the purpose of which is to keep our nation going.

Maybe its because I’m an old guy now, 65, that the first thing that jumps out in my mind is a deja vu of the Watergate hearings in 1973. As I was hearing our Representatives speak about Mr. Flynn, President-elect Trump, the Russians, FISA, unmasking this or that person, and possible unauthorized dissemination of classified information about a US person, etcetera etcetera blah blah blah . . .

My mind was flashing on the summer of 1973 when I was watching the Senate Judiciary Committee as they gathered info about the White House “plumbers” who broke into an office in the  Watergate hotel in Washington. During those hearings there was talk of Mr. McCord, Mr. Mitchell, and John Dean, and there was administrative finesse being displayed by Chairman Sam Ervin.

That was the last time, you see, that I listened attentively to a Congressional hearing.

Of course there is no real relationship between that Watergate fiasco 44 years ago  and whatever is going on now with this present wiretapping allegation brouhaha  as it relates to presidential politics.

But there was a connection in my mind between these two situations that are so far apart in time.

Perhaps what triggered the memory in my mind was the repetitive mentions of certain phrases being spoken by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. I kept hearing certain answers:

Hearings

“I can’t comment on that.” “I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals.”

. . . can’t comment on individual persons, US persons. . ., can’t answer; it would depend on. . ., not going to comment on a news article . . . , not at liberty to talk about communication within the executive branch . . ., I’m not going to answer. . . same answer . . . “same answer.”

At one point, Director Comey allowed this personal admission:

“That’s not something I can comment on. I’m trying very hard to not talk about anything that relates to a US person.”

My first thought was that these two Intelligence Directors were perhaps not as forthcoming as they should be, because, you know, their inquisitors were members of Congress who represent We the People, etc.

But then I realized that these guys are doing their jobs by not just spouting information about the US persons whom they are striving to protect.

My second thought was about how much grace the Congressional questioners were extending to these reticent public officials, by tolerating, without objection, such a continuous string of  those “I cannot answer that”  responses from Directors Comey and Rogers.

Reflecting on it now, two days later, the conundrum is best represented in this statement by Representative Terri Sewell:

“So Director Comey, I know you cannot discuss whether any investigations are ongoing with ‘U.S. persons,’ and I respect that. I think it’s important, though, that the American people understand the scope and breadth  of public, open source reporting of Mr. Flynn’s actions that led to his resignation. And while we can’t talk about . . . an investigation, I believe that we here at HIPSI, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,  must put those facts into the public domain.”

As the hours wore on, I came to understand that there is a very delicate balance going on here, in a very complicated world.  Irresponsible exposure of information that has been gathered about US citizens would be a violation of (Director Comey’s and Director Rogers’) sworn duty. At the same time they are duty-bound to protect US citizens, they are duty-bound to investigate people, both native and foreign, respectively.

This is no simple task.

Even though I managed, in the several hours I listened to all this, to mix 1360 pounds of concrete and place it strategically it in the ground in my yard, this labor that I did was far easier, I concluded, than the task that has been appointed to Directors Comey and Rogers.

To those two public servants, I am moved to say:  Thank you, gentlemen, for your service.

I did, nevertheless, notice a pattern developing in all this Congressional enquiry that flooded my earbuds as I labored through the day.

The Directors’ hesitant refusals to answer all questions were frequently preceded and/or followed up by lengthy statements from the Representatives who were questioning them.

At first, I thought this was just the politicians grandstanding, running their mouths to convince the public of their eloquence in the grave matters of national security.

By the end of the day, however, I had figured out that the Representatives were using the public forum to inject information from their own research into the public record. This too, is important.

I see it as public education, much more important than, say, how bathroom assignments are administered in public schools.

For instance,

Rep. Andre Carson says “There’s a lot at stake here for Russia.”

I’m paraphrasing Rep. Carson’s message here.  He went on to explain . . . This is big money, lots of implications.  If they (the Russians) can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what’s next? Are we looking at a new ‘iron curtain’? . the United States, as leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion. . . At the Republican convention in July, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Trump himself changed the Republican party platform to no longer arm Ukraine. So, the same month that Trump denied Putin’s role in Ukraine,   Trump’s team weakened the party platform  on Ukraine, and . . . this was the same month that certain individuals in the Trump orbit held secret meetings with Russian officials, some of which may have been on the topic of sanctions . . . this is no coincidence in my opinion. . .

Now  is there something to this, does it even matter, does this amount to a hill of beans in all the gigabytes of data streaming across cyberworld . . . I’m wondering? while mixing my concrete.

And here’s another sample of the Committee’s exchange:

Rep Frank Lobiando: . . .if you can describe the use of Russia’s active measures during the campaign. . .

Rogers: So we saw cyber used, we saw the use of external media, we saw the use of disinformation, we saw the use of leaking of information, much of which was not altered, . . . release of cyber-information

And yet another random snippet:

Rep. Jackie Speier:

“You know, I think it’s really important, as we sit here, that we explain this to the American people in a way that they can understand it. Why are we talking about all of this?”

Thanks for asking, Jackie. I understand a little more than I did five hours ago, but I’m just one sand grain on the shores of America.

Meanwhile, I got something done today on the old homestead.

Concret1

And I must conclude that we’ve made some progress in our relations with the Ruskies since I was a kid in the early 1960’s. Back then, the big question was whether they were going to blow us to smithereens with nuclear bombs!

It seems we’ve come a long way since then. Maybe our peace-seeking has something to do with demolishing that infamous wall over in Berlin, the one where President Kennedy said “Let them come to Berlin. Ich bin ein Berliner,” and later President Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In this life, there is a time for tearing down, and there is a time for building, and there is a time for listening, and a time for trying to figure a few things out while while listening and while building or tearing down, as the case may be . . .

Concret2

This has been going on a long time, but now, in modern times, the stakes are higher with all them nukes in the ground somewhere.

Be careful, gentlemen.

Glass half-Full

Let us prove him wrong.

March 16, 2017

God does not need any favors from the likes of us mere humans. Nevertheless, if you are like me–that is, if you call yourself a Christian–you can do us all a favor–you can do this nation a favor–  by proving this man wrong.

Hedges

He opines that we Christians are working ourselves into a fascist movement.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP5gjrh-3Ew

I have respect for this man and his opinion. Chris Hedges is a smart man, a doctor of divinity; he was a good reporter for the New York Times, and a Pulitzer prize recipient. But his assessment about Christians is incorrect. Or at least I hope it is incorrect.

Let us therefore prove him wrong in his analysis of us.

We are not fascists; nor do we want to be.

Let us remind Chris what it means to be Christian. Let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Let us not do to others what we would not want them to do to us.

Let us demonstrate to Mr. Hedges, and to whomever it may concern, that we live and we act on behalf of the man from Galilee who came to bring good news to the afflicted.

Let us fulfill the command of that prophet who admonished us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to give shelter to the those who need it.

Let us visit the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the prisoners.

Let us act on behalf of the healer who was sent to bind up the broken-hearted.

Let us be advocates for  the the one who was taken prisoner, the one who came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners.

Let us proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and of his judgement on all of us.

Let us comfort all who mourn.

Let us hunger and thirst for righteousness (not right-wingedness).

Let us be merciful.

Let us love mercy, and do justice, and walk humbly with our God.

Let us proclaim the message of the one who exhorted us to love one another.

Let us heal, if we can, as he healed the sick, the lame, the blind.

Let us speak truthfully, because we shall be made free by the truth.

Let us act honorably, as Jesus himself did on the night he was arrested, when he told Peter to put down the sword.

Let us be bold in our kindness, as he was.

Let us speak confidently about the power of love, compassion and mercy, as he did when he preached on the Mount.

Let us be brave, as Jesus was when he went to the cross rather than betray the redemptive, resurrective mission that had been laid upon his shoulders.

Let us not be haters, nor slanderers, nor liars, nor killers, nor maimers, no adulterers, nor thieves.

Let us love those who see themselves as our enemies.

Let us love those who make themselves our enemies.

Let us not be enemies.

Let us love those who despitefully use us.

Let us love those who abuse us.

Let us love those who accuse us.

Let us not become fascists.

Let us not be deceived by the fascists.

Let us not be used by the fascists.

Let us not be despised by the socialists, nor the communists, nor the jihadists.

Deliver us, Lord, from the jihadists.

Let us project calm on the political waters as you invoked calm on the sea of Galilee.

Let us be Christians who love the Lord and who strive to love all people whom the Lord has brought forth.

Let us conquer death, as you have done, Lord, and then live eternally with you in peace and love.

Let us pray.

Forgive us our trespasses, Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

And Let us not be agents of evil.

We do have a message of mercy for all men and women. We do have a song to sing.

Glass half-Full

Austerity or Stimulus?

February 25, 2017

Well this is an improvement.

When I was still a gleam in my daddy’s eye, Germany fought a world-sized war against France. But now, in 2017, all the obsolete ideology that then fueled both fanaticisms–fascist v. communist–has withered down into a battle of ideas.

Fiscal ideas, like whether budgets should be balanced, or put on hold until things get better.

From a Peace vs. War standpoint, I’d say that delicate balancing act is an improvement, wouldn’t you? Budgets and Economic Plans are, theoretically, much more manageable than tanked-up military campaigns.

Now Germany and France– those two nation-state heavyweights whose fiscal priorities set the course for the rest of Europe–they are getting along just fine now. They expend financial energies trying to keep the whole of Europe humming along on all cylinders. Budget deficits that drag down Euro economies are generated mostly in the lackadaisical southern  economies–Greece, Italy and Spain.

But those two mid-continent economic heavyweights–France and Germany, function as fiscal opposites, polarizing European values and budget priorities in opposite directions. They are two very different countries; and yet Germany and France are not as opposite as they used to be. A lot has changed since they finally made peace back in 1945.

At the time of that last Great War, early 1940’s, Germany was suffering through the death-throes of a dying monarchy. What was left of the Kaiser’s authoritative legacy had been lethally manipulated into a world-class death regime by a demonic tyrant who wore an odd, obnoxious little mustache on his flat German face.

France up to that time was still stumbling through a sort of awkwardly adolescent stage, having booted their kings and queens out back in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and then replacing, in stages, the ancient monarchy with a struggling new Republic.

What the French did as the 18th-century came to a close was similar to what we Americans did, but different. We had ditched King George III in 1776. The French cut off Louis XVI in 1792. On the other side of the Rhine, the Germans kept their Wilhelm top dog hanging on a thread until the Allies ran him down in 1918.

We Americans did a whole new thing after we rejected the old wineskins of monarchic government back in 1776; we had a lot going for us–a vast, nearly-virgin continent that stretched out for 3000+ miles, with plenty of room to grow,  and to expand our new-found explorations for Life, Liberty and Pursuits of Happiness.

The Europeans–neither the French nor the Germans–did not have all that fruited-plains expansion space like we had. They were cramped up over there in the Old World.

Having wielded a fierce guillotine ruthlessness upon their king and queen, the French tried to spread the wealth all around, ensuring that everybody got a chunk of it. They had wrung a blood-stained liberte from the palaces of privilege in 1789. Over the course of the next century and a half, they generally moved leftward the whole time, toward an egalitarian idea of solidarity.

The Germans have always tended toward authoritarian leadership, which is one reason why Hitler was able to pull off the abominations that he did. But we Allies put that to an end in 1945.

Thank God.

Now in the post-WWII Europe, the Germans have turned out to be pretty good kids on the block, considering all that had happened back in the day. The last 3/4 of a century has seen a remarkable recovery. They went through some serious changes, rebuilding after  losing two wars, and then being divide into two different countries.

Since 1990, when Germany became united again into one country, those krauts have established a pretty impressive record. They now have the strongest, most stable economy in Europe.  One reason it turned out this way is: the Germans have historically been, by necessity, very disciplined, rational people and they know how to get things done.

The French are different from that. You gotta love the French. As the Germans have made the world a better place with their great music (Bach and Beethoven), the French have brightened and lightened our worldly life with their very lively, expressive and impressionistic art, coupled with their unbridled Joie de vivre. And let’s not forget the original architectural piece-de-resistance of the Western World. It was French creativity married to inventive 19th-century industrialism that brought us the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

ParisGargoyl

The French do progress with style and artistry; the Germans get it done with impressive efficiency and precision.

As an American who has geneologic roots in both cultures, this fascinates me.

Their two different attitudes about generating prosperity also encompass, respectively, their approaches to solving money problems.

Or more specifically. . . solving “lack of money” problems.

A new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas, explains how these two nations, as the two polarizing States of modern Europe, each lead in their own way to set policy, together,  for solving Europe’s financial problems. Their tandem leadership is enhanced by their two very different strategies.

The simplest way to describe their treatments of European deficits is this:

The Germans are into Austerity; the French are into Stimulus.

Or to put it into a classic perspective:

The Germans want to balance the books,  thereby squeezing all governments and banks into economic stability. The French want the assets to get spread around so everybody can have a chunk of it.

How do I know anything about this?

This morning I saw Markus Brunnermeir being interviewed; he is one of the authors of the new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas.

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/02/europes-future-will-settled-battle-ideas/

In this fascinating, very informative interview, the questions are being posed by Rob Johnson, President of Institute for New Thinking, whatever that is.

Together, these two guys explore the two basic problem-solving approaches to working out Europe’s economic deficiencies. And it just so happens that the two main strategies are related to those two old nationalized culture, described above, between Germany and France.

Sounds simplistic perhaps, but this comparative analysis makes a lot of sense when you hear these two knowledgable men talk about the present condition of economic Europe.

So, rather than try to explain it to you, I’ll simply leave you with this list of characteristics, as identified by. Mr Markus Brunnermeier. The list identifies how each country’s budgetary priorities contributes to a strategy for solving Europe’s fiscal woes.  My oversimplified version of it  looks like this:

France

Germany

1.Stimulus

1.Austerity

2.Liquidity

2.Solvency

3.Solidarity

3.Liability

4.Discretion

4.Rules

5.Bail-out

5.Bail-In

Consider these two lists of national characteristics as two different strategies for solving large-scale economic problems.

Here are a few notes I made while watching Mr. Johnson interview Mr. Brunnermeier:

For French, the problem is always liquidity. Stimulus will flush money out of markets again.

Germans see problems as solvency difficulty. Fix the fundamentals. Don’t throw good money after bad.

French: If you see it as a liquidity problem, just bail them out.

German. If you see it as solvency problem,  Bail in, to avoid future hazards. Bail-in means: Bond holders who essentially gambled with a country or bank and  then reap the gains on upside– they should take losses on downside.

There was a radical shift in attitudes in Europe over the Cyprus bank crisis in spring 2013. Who pays? Who covers the losses?

. . . Bail-in or bail-out?

French fear systemic risk so they tend toward governmental bail-outs.

The Germans, on the other hand, see crisis as an opportunity to address and solve the systemic deficiencies. So penalize  the depositors/ investors; others will learn from that, and you will have bank-runs in other places. Such circumstances provide incentives for institutions and individuals to take responsibility for their own actions and investments.

Just how the Europeans get all this worked out, we shall see in the days ahead. And the working-out may provide some lessons for all of us.

Smoke

The Rights of Humankind

February 20, 2017

Archives

Twelve score and one year ago Thomas Jefferson submitted an innovative set of political principles to a congress of delegates from thirteen American colonies. The gathered assembly, known as Continental Congress, debated the contents and the merits of Jefferson’s proposal. The document began with these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness–that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

The world has changed a lot since those words were adopted  as the philosophical basis of a new experiment in civil government. Here are just a few of the ways our world has changed since those revolutionary days:

~ Our fledgling national legislature, known at that time as the “Continental” Congress, is now called the Congress of the United States.

~ We Americans now associate the world “Continental” with Europe.

~ On the “Continent” of Europe, citizen-groups are now struggling to form a workable political basis for a European Union.

~~ Whereas, In the year 1776, when our American Continental Congress adopted a plan for a United States of America, we had a nominal consensus for the basis of our Union; and That consensus was based, rhetorically, upon “certain unalienable Rights, . . . Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; which Rights that had been “endowed” by a “Creator,

~~ In the year 2000,   the European Parliament adopted a Charter of Fundamental Rights of European Union, by which the peoples of Europe are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values. . . indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity. . . based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

We see, therefore, that the American Union was initiated during an historical period in which faith in a Creator God was still, at least rhetorically, allowed to be a basis for political consensus.

The European Union, however, is coalescing in a post-modern, humanistic age in which their unity can only be expressed in terms of human agreements and motivations, stated above as common values.

As we Americans ultimately divided ourselves into two primary political identities, Democrats and Republicans, with one side being generally associated with  progressivism programs while the other is  based in conservatism,

We notice that in Europe, in what is now a churning crucible of 21st-century economic constraints, the divisions seem to be congealing toward two uniquely Euro polarities. On the Right side, we find the  Austerians, whose values are based on fiscal responsibility and the austerity that is thought to be necessary for maintaining economic and political stability. On the Left side, we find the Socialists, whose values are based on equality that is assured and managed by the State, which should produce solidarity among the people.

As Thomas Jefferson had proposed a declaration based ostensibly on the zeitgeist of the so-called Age of Enlightenment, so has a spokesman stepped forth, in our age, to propose for the Europeans a document that aspires to manifest the zeitgeist of this (perhaps) Age of Equality.

Toward that end, Mr. Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of the Greek Syriza party, has proposed a five-point plan by which the Europeans would collectively assure the rights of persons as they are understood in this, the 21st-century.

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/01/new-deal-save-europe/

Stated simplistically, those rights are:

~ a collective investment in green/sustainable technology

~ an employment guarantee for every citizen

~ an anti-poverty fund

~ a universal basic dividend (income)

~ an immediate anti-eviction protection.

So we see, now, that in the 200+ years since the inception of American Democratic-Republicanism, the zeitgeist that was then seen as inevitable has changed. In the so-called Age of Enlightenment (c.1776) we were demanding a Government that would Protect our Unalienable Rights, defined broadly as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.

The modern zeitgeist, however, as it appears to be evolving in the Europe of Our Age, is demanding: a Government to Protect our Basic Life Necessities.

Instead of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, citizens of the World now appear to be demanding Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Equality.

EURomeHdq

And that’s the way it is, 2017. We shall see how this develops as the 21st-century unfolds.

Smoke

Is that over the Top?

February 17, 2017

So did you hear the one about the Over the Top President?

No. Don’t think so.

Guy walks into a starbucks . . .

StbxVw

and he says to the barista, “Why do they call the the Donald the ‘over the top’ Prez?”

So the barista says, Ya got me. Why do they call him that?

Cuz he’s over the top of everything!  Haha! You get it?

Uh, I’m not sure. . .

All the so-called chaos that’s going on–he’s right on top of it! You get it?

Uh. . . you mean he’s in charge of it?

Yeah, not to worry, he’s got it under control! It’s just gonna take a while for media people to come around to his take-charge leadership style– he’s actually got it all under his thumb. My cousin Molly says he’s just got a higher tolerance for chaos than most people do, and he feels that it’s, on some level, productive.

Well, that’s comforting.

Yeah! oh yeah. And my other cousin, Gregor, says the Prez may be living in his own world, but millions are right there with him, living right beside him.

Maybe so, Greg, but . . . he seems a little paranoid, like he takes everything personal, even belligerent at times. . . you think he’s stable?

Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, I think he owns a bunch of ’em. I think he’s got some high-quality stables somewhere out there in the hinterlands. . .

Like in flyover country?

Yeah, like I said, he’s over the top.

CloudDapl

Well that’s good to know.

Oh yeah, and he’s got some good people, right on top of the situation, like a good hound on point. You can relax and feel better about it.  So you feel better about him now?

I guess so, as long as all the so-called judges and the so-called reporters and all the other so-called Americans can get used to the way he does things.

Oh yeah. The Prez has got it covered. You can take that to the bank. I mean . . . look around, the stock market agrees, it’s all good, not to worry.

Oh yeah? Sounds like a bunch of bull to me.

No way. Relax. The Prez has got it covered.

Really? Got it covered?

Oh yeah, not to worry. Eventually he’ll get all the leaks stopped; he’ll get ’em covered, and  his people will be running our .gov along like a fine-tuned machine.

I thought machine politics went out with the Democrats.

It did. Well, yeah, their machine went out because we won the election. You realize, of course, we won the election? You did get the news, right? in spite of all the fake news. . .

Fuhgedabowdit.

. . . and the machine will be fine-tuned, like a fine-tuned machine is what he said. Why can’t the Dhemmis and the Media get that through their heads? They need to get with the program.

Excuse me, I just think we are in a struggle for the soul of our democracy here. At least, that’s what my cousin Elijah said.

No way, Hosay! Oh, here’s my Uncle Tom here. What do you think, Tom? Is that over the top?

I don’t know. Let’s ask Steve. Steve, is that over the top?

Oh, no. It’s not over the top at all . . . when you consider his behavior at the press conference, and . . . all the things that are not working, the things that are signs that the administration has not even found its footing yet in Washington. People should be very very concerned about what’s coming next and whether the administration will ever be able to actually govern, which we haven’t seen it do yet. I don’t think there’s anything that’s over the top in terms of what the response would be to this kind of signaling from the chief executive of the United States . . .it’s all really mind-boggling. . . none of us I think has ever seen anything like this . . .

Hey, hey, hey, Steve, relax, man! Take a chill pill. Like candy, man. The candy man can. This ain’t no ratpack; this ain’t no disco, ain’t no jive He’s right on top of it. Not to worry, man. You need to lighten up, man. What you need is a little humor to leaven this heavy-duty trip that the so-called Press is trying to put on you. Let me help you, man. Did you hear the one about the Over the Top Prez?

Uh, no. Don’t think so.

Guy walks into a starbucks and he says to the barista . . .

Glass half-Full

An Ambassador On Point

February 16, 2017

President Trump went to our Capital city with an intention to drain the swamp.

Good luck with that. However, if I’m not mistaken, the swamp in that Chesapeake area was drained at about the time President Washington took office, over 200 years ago, and Congress decided to build us a Capital in that environs.

Now two weeks into the Trump administration we already see some rearrangement of the chairs from which our multi-layered  executive branch of governance will administrate.

With Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor, all the media talking heads were abuzz  yesterday with speculation about what this early switcheroo means for the future of our  security and national defense. Trump’s  shoot-from-the-hip  leadership style seems to impose on his nascent administration a wild wild west kind of drama upon which the media talking heads thrive.

In order to gain some comprehension of what is happening on that national security front,  I, citizen, was listening on my radio yesterday to Tom Ashbrook’s  NPR talk-show On Point.

   http://www.wbur.org/onpoint

Host Tom’s introduction of his 2/15/2017 guests included a few words about William Burns, who is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.   

That mention of the Carnegie Endowment triggered a 2015 memory in which I had been walking along Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC. On that summer day, I had snapped this pic:

CarnegEn

I suppose I had thought to  take this picture because the  legacy of Andrew Carnegie in our national development has, for a long time, fascinated me. His work as an immigrant industrialist turned out to be a fulcrum in our  exceptional westward continental expansion. Carnegie’s role, in later life, as a generous philanthropist is legendary.

So Ambassador William Burns’ role as President of that Carnegie foundation for peace got my attention. Furthermore,  I found Mr. Burns’ comments to be informative and well-delivered.

I daresay it was the voice of experience glinting through in his cogent analysis that lent authenticity to Ambassador Burns’ observation.  William Burns’ former role (2005-08) as Russian ambassador certainly lent to his perspective a readily identifiable authenticity on the currently hot topic of Russian influence in our internal affairs. It seemed to me his perspective is not that of your run-of-the-mill inside-the-beltway pontificator, but rather, a truly informed opinion.

Our former Ambassador to the Russian Federation said,

“New administrations typically try to do a couple of things early on. The first is reassure your allies and partners, and the second is to sober your adversaries. What we’ve seen in less than a month is almost the opposite of that, creating a fair amount of unease among allies and unnerving partners, while at the same time giving adversaries and potential adversaries the sense that there are opportunities out there.”

After hearing this, and listening to yesterday’s On Point discussion, I visited the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website. I read there an Op-ed letter written by William Burns that the New York Times had published on Jan. 7.

In the letter, he describes Vladimir Putin as a leader who is playing rough.

He observes that Putin has sought a deferential government in Kiev while grabbing Crimea and trying to provoke a dysfunctional Ukraine.

Vladimir is flexing Russia’s military muscle in Syria to preserve Assad’s brutal government, thus emasculating the West by making us appear conciliatory. The Assad/Russian brutality forces  many war-displaced Syrians to flee toward Europe and the West. Putin’s  Assad-boosting military adventure thus spawns the infamous emigration that destabilizes those countries to which the Syrian refugees flee.   Putin  exploits this ongoing destabilization  by striving to  replace, by strong-arm intimidation, European instability with Russian power.

This scenario becomes evidence of our need to maintain our “absolute commitment to NATO.” William Burns writes, “Our network of allies is not a millstone around America’s neck, but a powerful asset that sets us apart.”

I agree with this statement. American alliances based on shared values and principles that cultivate liberty do set us apart from the  bullies of the world–the historical ones such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez etc, but also those dictators who may be lurking in the world today, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on weakened nation-states.

Ambassador Burns served in Moscow as our Ambassador during 2005-2008. He  expresses respect for the Russian people and their contributions to Western civilization. But he warns that Putin’s aggressive tactics must be countered with American firmness and vigilance. We Americans should remain confident in our enduring strengths, and unapologetic about our values.

Our values call for, I remind you, government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Not power plays by bullies.

Glass half-Full

This is for the Birds

February 10, 2017

We placed this bird-feeder outside our kitchen window. We bought it from Lowe’s, where I work a few hours every week, since I’m an old guy now.

This bird-feeder has been a real hoot. There’s nothing in the world like watching birds, at close range, while they do their thing, whatever it is that birds are doing. I mean, it’s hard to figure out what they’re up to. Their ways are higher than ours.

Personally, I think they’re a higher life form than we are.

Although yesterday, I had to wonder about them because of some of the petty bickering they got into that later came to my attention.

ArguBrds

One of these birds was talking trash to the other, and so they got into a dispute about who was to have the corner spot on the White House. (We call it the White House).

The corner spot, like the corner office, is the hallowed position on the pecking order because it’s easier there to pluck the seeds and kernels from the White House trough.

I thought these two combatants were arguing about the corner spot. But later, I found out otherwise. Shortly after the altercation occurred, I was visited by my informant, who shall remain nameless, except that I shall heretofore refer to him/her as deep Beak, so you’ll know the aviant of whom I speak.

When deep Beak subsequently made his/her clandestine visit to me, I was, at that time yesterday afternoon, able to gather non-fake news (that is, the real scoop) about the real issue that provoked the confrontation you see photoshipped here. Deep Beak disclosed this information to me in a discreet manner to protect his/her own anonymity. As you can surmise here, deep Beak’s face cannot be seen. I insist on preserving the anonymity of my source.

TrapdBrd

My source revealed that the two birdbrains pictured earlier were not arguing about the corner spot at the White House. In sooth, they were having a political discussion.

The cold, hard truth about these litigants is: they were  arguing about Rule 19 of the US Senate. That’s the arcane legislative rule that enabled the Republicans to do their very subtle, though obviously potent, power play on the senator from Mass so that the said senator could not retrieve from history some information about Jeff Sessions who was up for nomination as Trump’s Attorney General.

Oh, and did I mention that deep Beak intimated to me that one of these combatants you see here is a Democrat and the other is Republican?

Pshaw! I’ll bet that explains a lot, huh!

It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that these birdbrains are too polarized to be thinking clearly. They are, forsooth, just playing politics. These two have been politicized beyond rationality; they are just winging it, making up stuff as they go along just for the sake of preserving their own tribal identity instead of their common heritage as endothermic vertebrate Avifauna.

Anyway, according to deep Beak, Jeff Sessions is a pretty good guy, although he has a checkered past, like all old Southern geezers, including this reporter, when it comes to his attitude and his professional history as a lawyer in Alabama as pertaining to the issue of Civil Rights, back in the day.

I’m talking about the dark days of segregation and Jim Crow before the South was born again unto the liberating effects of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It has been reported that Senator Sessions, the AG nominee, has changed his tune–has even changed his tweets since the Dark days. He has radically revised his attitude toward blacks and their civil rights since those dark days of Jim Crow southern discriminatory segregatory  laws that protected and prolonged the ancient scourge of racism and its deleterious effects.

Just ask Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, if you have any questions about the nominee.

Let’s hope Sessions has changed his tune, anyway, since he is now Attorney General of these here United States, which I hope will remain United.

The last time the secession talk got so heated up was when those wild-eyed Democrats of South Carolina declared their independence at Fort Sumter.  But now its the Left Coast making the secession noise; we’re hoping to keep California in the fold since they make all our blockbustin’ movies out there, not to mention most of our fruits and nuts.

Blockbustin’  movies is OK, but Union bustin’ is not.

All you citizens of the good ole USA out there, keep an eye on your Senators and Representatives. Don’t let  them screw this thing up. We can’t allow this good thing we got going to fall apart. We must not permit this US thing to fall apart over petty politics. Keep the birdbrains accountable.

And let’s hope they confirm Judge Gorsuch.

And you should get a bird-feeder from Lowe’s. Get a high on a bird today!

Glass half-Full

The Tower and the Ball

February 4, 2017

Out in Berkeley Cal they have a big sculpted ball;

while The Donald building in Chicago is straight and tall.

Berkball

Notice  the Berkeley ball has a chunk out of it,

while The Donald building is a gleaming megalith.

ChiTrump

The blown-out ball suggests anarchic demising,

while the skyscraper implies  capitalist uprising,

We note here in the devolving USA today

we have two different extremisms now on display,

The Berkeley cadre’s unrest has unfurled

as the Donald crowd is getting up in the world,

Some Trumpist whacko named Milo came to speak,

so the lefty radicals in Berkeley had to freak.

In fact the Berkeley riot had gotten so violent

that the talking TV heads could not remain silent.

The Righties said it was instigated by Lefty Professionals,

while Lefties blamed it on Whitey Right Radicals.

Both sides are flinging the fascism word,

to the point that now it’s getting absurd.

In reality however the fascist delusion

stalks us through both Leftist and Rightist confusion.

So whether you’re grabbing power and wealth,

or radical revolution inflicted by stealth,

the real question’s do you plan to kill and maim,

or does your strategy retain the law and order game?

If by the sins of Hitler or Stalin your impose your will,

We the people will oppose you by the rule of law still.

Of dragging us down that murderous path–

don’t even think about inflicting your wrath.

Whether you’re destroying by hook or by crook

we will defeat it by throwing at you the book.

Smoke

“The Press”

January 24, 2017

Our world was forever changed when, about 577 years ago, Johann Gutenberg devised an effective way to reproduce printed documents. His invention enabled the printer man to apply controlled mechanical pressure to an inked image in a manner that facilitated efficient multiple printings.

When the printer man repeatedy applied “the press” (more about this later) to those blank pages, the world was changed forever.

Gutenberg’s innovation enabled printers to print multiple editions of documents and books. Our Library of Congress recently displayed  a centuries-old Bible that was printed by means of the Gutenberg innovation.

BiblMainz

The printing industry progressed rapidly. It wasn’t very long before books and other documents were being churned out all over the world in great numbers.

Books have changed the world.

Our fascination with the stories, literature and information we find in books has revolutionized the way we live. In the late 1800s, the American artist John Frederick Peto painted this image of a pile of books. His picture, recently displayed in our National Gallery of Art, captures the fascination that I find within those printed pages.

BooksPntg

The spread of printing throughout the globe induced an information revolution that has affected the way we think about, and do, just about everything. As people became more and more literate, news of the times we live in became a larger and larger factor in the ways people think about the world. People in the modern world use news and contemporary information  to inform their decisions, and modify their strategies for living life successfully.

TimesLon'37

News became such an obsessive element in our modern life that large institutions were built for the purpose of informing people about what’s happening in our world.

ChiTrib2

Those massive news-spouting institutions now find themselves being cornered into a different role.  The big picture of 21st-century information dispersal is being turned on its ear by an unruly multiplicity of online mini-sources. This development is along the lines of what George Orwell called the “brave new world.”

Actually, it’s the wild, wild West out there. What we have now is like a million Okies hightailing it across the internet prairie, every one of us hell-bound to claim our little stake of the cyber-dirt that’s now being divvied up for the media of the masses.

Or “dictatorship of the proletariat”, if that’s what rings your chimes.

It used to be that “The Press” was all those journalists and editors who gathered and published the news on a daily basis.

But not any more. Our meaning of “the press” is now something else entirely, and I’m not sure how to define or describe it.

But I do surmise that our new understanding of “the press” has something to with that collective pressure applied by reporters on public spokespersons.

Here’s an example. Sean Spicer, the new White House Press Secretary, argues with The Press about how many people showed up for the inauguration.

PressCon

That’s The Press now, and this disconnect between “us” and “them” is the new “news.”

Lastly, as Uncle Walter might have said:

And that’s the way it is, Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Glass half-Full