Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category

The Trump effect or What hath the orange one wrought?

August 13, 2017 2 comments

(or subtitle: Where is Mencken when we need him?)

Things have been steadily going from bad to worse since the November elections. The image that comes to mind is that of stones being lifted from the wet soil in ever larger numbers, allowing the ugly life forms underneath to wiggle out, rearing fat pink heads that should have remained hidden. Thus the frightening recent events in Charlottesville, thus people Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 16.13.38we didn’t know still existed becoming vocal with demands appalling in a nation that seemed geared toward more tolerance, less factions, less throwbacks to racist, bigoted times where cretins and downright monsters could thrive.

Change is everywhere. As an intro to how I’m about to illustrate the point, let me say that some years back, when I was doing a stint with an IT firm, my boss, noticing that writing was listed on my resume, pushed on me a couple of paperbacks with gaudy covers picturing full-breasted females and muscled men in various states of pre-sex extasy. The guy—Joe was his name–proudly revealed that these were written by his wife, a full-time and successful romance writer. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I thanked him and went home, the books burning a hole in my trunk where I had tossed them with a covert look around my parked car to make sure no one had seen me. There they remained, under a pile of clothes for Goodwill. After a respectable amount of time had lapsed–two or three days, I guess–I returned them, telling Joe how much I had enjoyed them. I still remember my one fear at the time, that I would  have an accident while the books were still in the trunk, and that once they were found in the mangled remains of the car, my reputation as a person of some intellectual gravitas would be forever marred and that would hurt even in death. Read more…


More Than a Touch of Schadenfreude


Sorry, I don’t normally rejoice at people’s setbacks.  While not necessarily liking everyone, I do suffer from abnormal levels of empathy. But over the last few years, watching the behavior of Republicans geared toward the single goal of blocking Obama, my empathy strings have become strangely mute. To be sure, Republicans had a field day–the democratic party is in disarray and no one person was quite right to follow in Obama’s footsteps. Obama, who, flaws and all, brought dignity and grace to the highest office in the land and in the world, who didn’t take the attacks and the obstacles personally but dodgedly went on doing what was right as often as he could although not as often as he should have (Assad? Netanyahu ? Guantanamo ?)


Today, I imagine that the man who met with slightly raised eyebrows and the word “silly” every insult, every slight, every  aberration from imbeciles such as McConnell (remember him saying that he would not rest but continue blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court ?), Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz, must be aghast at the cascade of uglier and uglier developments. But any insight I, like most Democrats, have gained into Obama over eight years, tells me that he must mostly be feeling pain at the destruction of the country. Read more…

So the President has cojones after all

November 23, 2014 2 comments

At least as seen through the eyes of fans–even chastened but still fans such as myself. Signing an executive order to set five million undocumented Hispanics on the road to legalization, hurray. Refusing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bad for the environments and good only for deep pockets in which far too much tainted money goes as it is, hurray again. Continuing to provide health insurance for Americans who didn’t have any, yes, indeed.immigration

The view is quite different as seen through the jaundiced eyes of the extreme wings of the Tea Party and even so-called “moderate” Republicans such as Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They consider Obama at the very least as deserving impeachment–an actual lynching would be difficult to pull off–for innumerable crimes, among which signing too many executive orders, (less than his predecessors, but we’re not talking good faith here). Read more…

The Bush-Cheney years: the shame that won’t go away

February 4, 2014 8 comments

Driving while listening to an NPR interview with John Rizzo, former CIA agent, about his book “Company Man” and his years with the CIA, I couldn’t help but cringe and hit the wheel and more than once cry out, “oh, for shame!”dilawar

Much as I hate publicizing a book by anyone from the eight nightmare Bush-Cheney years, I can’t help mention how actions once considered so ugly and perverted they would never have been publicly acknowledged can now be discussed on radio shows with guests who believe themselves to be not only decent human beings but staunch patriots who kept America safe. The man I heard today—none too eloquent by the way, I’d like to think he was at least slightly embarrassed—did mount a sort of defense.
“We never water-boarded more than two or three people beside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. That’s not much considering the prison population at Guantanamo. And the enhanced interrogation procedures had been vetted by legal departments.” Two or three only? And that makes it okay? And it was legal? According to whom? Read more…

For? Against? Don’t know?

“Don’t know” is a response that doesn’t exist outside polls. Everywhere else, everyone knows everything, has an opinion about everything and is busy sending it out for all to hear. What we don’t always realize is how obvious our buttons are, the ones that every social, economic, or political issue pushes. We are robots with features incorporated by our background and circumstances and rarely are we capable of moving beyond. Think? God forbid. We just jump in and engage in disquisition about this or that issue that’s already being beaten to death. The public gabfest wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t carry my voice, would it?Tsarnaev boat
Case in point, the Zimmerman verdict. This guy, a self-appointed vigilante who thought packing heat made him someone to be reckoned with (my regular readers know how I feel about guns) shot and killed a young black man. Neither the police investigation nor the trial that just ended with Zimmerman’s acquittal could establish the exact sequence of events, only that the armed guard was not racist. The jury did its best under murky circumstances and returned a not-guilty verdict. But the chorus of voices on all sides pitching in with arguments and opinions? The only one worth hearing was the President with a moving unscripted statement about what it means to be a black man in America today. Everything else, just so much wind.

Case in point. Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of surviving Boston Marathon bomber, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, and the related story by Janet Reitman. Howls of outrage went up; calling it a glam shot glorifying the assassin, retailers refused to carry the issue; one Boston police photographer retaliated by producing photos of Tsarnaev bloodied and dazed flushed out of his hiding place. Personally, I’m not as worried about the cover as about the question foremost in my mind: how many Tsarnaevs, Adam Lanzas, Mohammad Attas are even now stirring in their primal muck in pods like those in the old horror film “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” getting ready to unleash mayhem? But does the magazine cover insult the victims of the bombing? I don’t know.

Case in point, Edward Snowden. Now stuck in Russian limbo, was this man–overnight celebrity for the next fifteen minutes–right when he denounced the NSA’s vast spying system of unsuspecting citizens? Here I do have an opinion. Yes, he was. But the rest of the discussion about his life, personality, motivation—out to make a quick buck, selfless whistleblower, cheat, hero? Who knows? I certainly don’t. And I’ll defer to Daniel Ellsberg, certainly more qualified than anyone to have an opinion on the matter, when he says that Snowden was right to make a run for it.

Case in point, Syria and American intervention. Is it okay for tens of thousands of Syrians to die while Bashar Assad emails congratulations to his wife for buying her latest Louboutin heels? Should Obama go in, is he half-hearted about it, has he moved the red line again, should he actually arm insurgents? I don’t think anyone, including the President, has the answer to that. The administration is playing it by ear. Two years ago, something could possibly have been done to overthrow the tyrant son of a tyrant and replace him with a more palatable government (though America would never have heard the end of it) but now? Obama promised light armament and logistics help to the insurgents but despite David Ignatius’ op-ed echoing others accusing the president of equivocating, the situation is not clear. Whom would we be arming? Sectarian fanatics? Democratically inclined future leaders, potential allies of the US? Brutal thugs who think nothing of ripping out their enemy’s heart and eating it, as we saw in one video? What should Obama do? Once again, I don’t know.

About many things, I have an opinion, some too strong for my own good. But about many others, such as in the above examples, sorry, the earth will have to continue turning without knowing what I think. All of you out there express more than enough to fill the void.

I don’t want to be safe

The eight years of the Bush Administration caused no end of anguish and contempt in my heart. Nothing, but nothing, is as important to me as freedom. That the most powerful country in the world, mine, would lie its way into taking up arms and deciding of the fate of the Iraqis, that it drew us in the shadowland of the ugliest precedents in history, of deceit, spying, arresting, torturing, hidden agendas, prison camps, made me deeply ashamed and furious. NSA

I hated that I, as one of the people, became an excuse for the inexcusable: all the security programs, the human rights violations, the covert operations, the harassing of journalists were done in my name, for my protection. Rebellion against this situation reminiscent of the worst moments of contemporary history—the Stasis and KGBs of the world and dark memories of the American past—McCarthyism, the Japanese internment camps, the Tuskegee experiment and more—filled me with bitter thoughts.

Yes, terrorism exists and entire societies are at risk. And yes, September 11, 2001, is a date of horror seared on our collective minds, but nothing justified the creeping, day after day, of this lava of suspicion and moral gray areas. We could only watch, appalled, and wait for better days. As a democracy, we knew there was a countdown to the end of the reign of pathetic Bush, evil Cheney and their incredibly nasty flunkies—the Rumsfelds, Roves et al.

So, fast forward to the present administration, to a president we loved and admired and voted for twice. Like those cartoon characters repeatedly banged on the head, we now wake up each morning to new revelations of how the programs of the Bush era have expanded—with improved tools such as drones—the spying is infinitely worse, whistleblowers are threatened, journalists are not allowed to keep their sources or their correspondence private, civil liberties are fast becoming an obsolete concept –our freedoms are trampled in every way. The all-powerful intelligence agencies are intimidating us into accepting that without the massive invasion of our privacy, terrorists running amok will blow up our country tomorrow. (While NRA card-carrying thugs and mass murderers continue killing Americans with total impunity.)

So where do we go from here? We send Bradley Manning to jail for the rest of his life for having leaked to Assange documents showing human rights abuses committed abroad by our military? The CIA, NSA or other alphabet-soup agencies start planning the disappearance of Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who pulled the plug on the NSA spying program on millions of Americans?

Thank you folks, thank you for caring about my safety but I’ll have to say no. The price to pay is far too heavy. If you don’t mind, I’ll keep my privacy. And hope against hope that this too shall pass, that our country remains the land of the free, that we once again become respectful of individuals, of society as a whole, and of other countries.

More democrats should borrow a page from Governor O’Malley

April 24, 2013 4 comments

(I won’t enter the discussion about the sad events in Boston. News coverage, debates and social media have said it all, several million times over.)

Rather, my post today will be about the governor of Maryland and the question, how does he do it? I live in Virginia which I always liked better than Maryland, even when I lived there. The trees see, to be taller here, the sky higher. Also, eight U.S. Presidents were born in the Old Dominion and the state’s history is remarkable. But our politics? Except for the staunchly blue Northern Virginia, there’s not much difference with the politics of, say, Texas—and that is not a compliment.omalley

But drive a dozen miles to the north on the beltway and you find a different situation with Maryland and its outstanding governor, O’Malley. In my book, he falls short of perfection only for being stingy on pardons, but then I don’t know the stories behind his reticence in certain cases. On every other count, he’s my man. First and foremost, of course, abolishing the barbarous death penalty, making Maryland the 18th state without capital punishment. In the meantime, Virginia remains the state with the highest number of executions per population, ahead of said Texas. That is not a fact to be proud of, along with the ugly general picture of this country about the death penalty (all Western countries and many on other continents have abolished it over the last decades), as we remain in the one-third that still applies it and are in the top five countries in the number of executions, along with China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. What can I say, I cringe.

So, O’Malley has managed to convince lawmakers to get rid of it. He has also passed one of the most stringent gun control laws in the country (in contrast to U.S. senators who, for shame, last week refused to vote in favor of miserably watered-down legislation on background checks). He has also helped pass laws allowing same-sex marriage, student aid for children of undocumented immigrants, higher taxes for the wealthiest Marylanders and much more, always in favor of the meek and the humble. He should be held up as an example of what a determined and decent man in his position can achieve. He’s brave and also lucky to be governor of a state blue by definition, whereas Virginia is host to some of the most conservative and raucous Republicans and tea partiers in the country; it doesn’t help that we have a McDonnell as governor and a Cuccinelli as attorney general. (Only a few days ago, the Virginia Board of Health approved measures that are almost certain to put abortion clinics out of business, leaving well-off women to seek solutions out of state and the less fortunate ones to head for back alleys and botched, illegal terminations. Again, for shame!)

Of course, conservatives scoff at O’Malley and insist that he’s cut of the same cloth they are and only seeking to secure a national platform for 2016. Is he now? Well, he already has my respect and admiration, he will most certainly have my vote.

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