Thursday, August 30, 2012

AUGUST 29, 2012

The Republican convention will approve a platform.  It will get a lot of publicity--where the party stands on this issue or that.  But what does it really mean?  Not much.

Abortion is an example. "A moral and personal issue on which Republicans disagree," the 1976 platform says.  By 1980 the GOP seeks a constitutional amendment protecting "the right to life for unborn children."  Twelve years later the platform calls for appointing judges who oppose abortion.  I'm not sure when rape and incest became a part of the discussion.

But the basic rule is pretty simple when it comes to a party's platform.
 Conventions adopt them.  Candidates may run on them.  Or not.

A new president can walk into the first policy meeting in the Oval Office, throw the plarform into the waste basket, pull his own list of must-pass stuff from his pock
et and say, "Okay, guys, this is what we're gonna do."

That's politics. That's life.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Saturday, August 18, 2012

AUGUST 17, 2012

     The Washington Post reports today that thirty-eight American soldiers killed themselves in July, the most since the Army started releasing that number in 2009. The story says suicides will add up to about 200 active duty troops this year more than any year in the past decade.

     Why? No one can be sure, but one thing we do know. When I was covering the Vietnam war in the 1960s, we still had the draft. Most draftees served one tour in combat--it was a year--and then went home. Now the Army is all-professional.  It's not uncommon to read stories about troops who've served four or five tours.

     The Army, the Post says, had hoped that fewer combat deployments would lower the suicide rate. That seems not to have happened. "There is significant disagreement among mental health experts," the Post writes, over how to deal with this. Yes--I remember writing a similar column a year or two ago.

     The irony is, of course, that there are a couple of easy solutions the government seems not to like.   One--bring back the draft, so that soldiers see one war tour, not four or five.  But the government hasn't done that and seems not to want to. The other is to bring the troops home--no war, fewer suicides, surely.

    "All we are saying," as the crowds used to chant during Vietnam, "all we are saying is, give peace a chance."


Thursday, August 16, 2012

AUGUST 16, 2012

I'm glad the Republicans are going (I suppose) to nominate Paul Ryan for Vice President.  The Congressman is an articulate spokesman for a lot of the Far Right's more extreme economic positions.  His candidacy will offer a good measure of how Americans feel about them.

Abolish Medicare?  Medicaid?  Turn Social Security into some sort of a voucher system?  I don't know, in these early days of his candidacy, exactly how all those proposals would work;  a campaign would probably tell me. Candidate Ryan will, it's fair to assume, be debating Vice President Biden, himself an articulate man.  Such an exchange would help explain all this, offering opposing views of the issues.  We would learn from this.

I think economics is an area in which many Americans have strong opinions but not a whole lot facts to go with them.  So debates will help.

Abolish Medicare?  Sounds like a bummer to me, but a good campaign could tell us for sure, don't you think?  Let's find out.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AUGUST 14, 2012


    A story in the paper this morning wondered what the U.S. should do about Syria.  My first answer was,"Nothing. Let the Syrians worry about Syria." But maybe that's not true in these modern times.

     A hundred or so years ago, countries like Syria were colonies. The colonizing powers were responsible for food, law and order, etc.
 Then we had a period of Great Power wars.  There were a few countries to a side--Germany versus Britain, France and eventually the U.S in World War I.  We had same lineup in WWII except the Soviet Union joined with the Allies; Japan, with the Axis.  Then came the Cold War, which ended when the Soviet Union imploded into all the smaller countries it had been before.

     We tottered through all that without actually blowing up the planet, though we and the Russians might have managed had we really tried

      Now, I don't know.
 Alliances work.  History shows that.  But how to form them, how to know which ones will last?  How to know if the bedfellow you choose is good or strange?  Remember when the Russians were fighting Afghanistan, we supplied the Taliban, who were allied with Osama bin Laden.  Good questions.  Anyone with answers, please speak up.     


Monday, August 13, 2012

AUGUST 13, 2012

     American politics keeps getting weirder.  So, it shouldn't have startled me over the weekend when the presumed Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, introduced his running mate--the guy who would be vice-president if they won--as "the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan."  Hunh?  I thought.  Have they switched jobs before they've even won?

     Ryan gamely began orating, though I'd love to know what he was thinking--Is Mitt out of it already?  Whatever.

     Within a couple of minutes, of course, Romney had clambered back on stage to say no, of course it was a slip of the tongue.  He would be the boss; Ryan, the number two.

     I took a deep breath.  We were back to the accepted order.  But was that good?  Maybe Ryan would be a better president.  If you're for a job, shouldn't you at least remermber its name?  Anyway, maybe Ryan could run as a write-in. You think? 



Saturday, August 11, 2012

AUGUST 11, 2012

      I began to worry that I wasn't smart enough to watch the Olympics when one game in some obscure sport--beach volleyball, maybe, on an indoor beach--ended with an apparent winner.  But the officials decided it was a tie and ordered a tie-breaker, which produced a seeming winner too.  But then the officials ordered a second tie-breaker.  They accepted that one and it was over.  A victory for truth?  Beats me.

     Parts of the Games were beautiful;  no one could argue that.  Parts were grand fun as when tiny Croatia whipped the U.S. at some sport so unfamiliar to me I can't remember which it was.  A friend solved one mystery:  why did none of these handsome, muscular men have chest hair. Catches the wind, I was told, can slow you down some fraction if a second. Well, that's what she said.

     Anyway, it's ending.
 It will be hard, I think, for the finale to match the opening when the Queen and James Bond exchanged hellos.

     So there I was in front of the TV just now
watching a baseball game and hearing words I've known for years--ball, strike, double play.

     Familiarity is sweet sometimes.      

Sunday, August 5, 2012

AUGUST 5, 2012

          The headline in the Washington Post today reads "Mars rover on course for risky landing on Monday."  Well, risky for the steel and aluminum and whatever else the rover is made of.  Not risky for people;  there are none aboard.

     The United States doesn't have a manned space program just now. We used to, you remember, if you're old enough, Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon and those who followed them.  We were all sure then that it wouldn't end with the moon, that men would walk on Mars.  Maybe some day. Probably not while I'm still here to see it.  Self-pity?  Oh, I think so. don't you?

     Countries have to choose, of course.  Education, health, defense, and so on.  Space needn't, probably shouldn't, be first.

     I'll bet I still have a copy of the late Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles around somewhere.  I think I'll look for it.  Science fiction, of course, but good, exciting stuff.


AUGUST 4, 2012

I think I almost know how to score water polo, though I'm not sure how many are on a team. The Olympic Games only run another week or so. If there's a test at the end, I may flunk.

Still, it's a nice change.  My TV set has one daylight position, except for the occasional baseball game. The position is, as you will have guessed, off.

Some of the athleticism is extraordinary.  There was a picture of gymnast Gabby Douglas in the paper the morning after she won gold.  She seemed to be higher in the air than she was tall.  A four-foot something woman, say, parallel to the ground and six feet above it.  My armchair, old like its owner, just won't rise to that.

I've been watching this weekend too.  The longer races--a thousand meters and up--are still to come.  The cameras usually offer intense glimpses of stress and exhaustion.

If only we could get some of this intensity into the presidential campaign.

'Twould be a nice change


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AUGUST 1, 2012

     We noted recently that the U.S. House of Representatives was to vote on a bill to ban late-term abortions in the District of Columbia. They did vote and the bill, which would have banned abortion in the District except to save the life of the mother after twenty weeks of pregnancy, won 220154.  But, this beingWashington, that means it lost.  Under House rules it needed a  two-thirds majority to pass under the suspension of normal rules in effect at the time.

   Nobody said House rules were simple.

    We have two good issues here, and anyone can argue either side of either one.  Abortion?  My own feeling has always been, if you don't approve of it, don't have one.  Lots of people, for religious or other reasons, don't.  They certainly have every right to follow their convictions.

    On the other hand, I see no reason why 435 visitors (Congress, that is) can decide this issue and the people like me who live here have no voice, no vote, in a decision which basically affects only us.  Seems perfectly undemocratic to me.

Freedom for DC! Now there's a slogan.