Tuesday, August 20, 2013

AUGUST 20, 2013

      Back in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler's Germany set out to conquer the world.  He started by conquering most of Europe.  At one point he seemed poised to invade Britain, which of course is an island.  Hitler began by ordering his air force to bomb Britain into submission.  It failed.

     While the war raged, so did debate here over whether the United States should intervene to help Britain.  Those who argued against that were called "isolationists."  They lost the argument, of course;  the US went to war after Japan attacked us.

      But I wonder these days whether we may not need some new isolationists as fighting breaks out in various third world countries--Egypt, lately.  But you can think of Libya, Syria and others in recent years.
     We've been prudent so far and I hope we stay that way.  But not always.  President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.  I never understood why;  we are still trying to get them out.

     Hitler was special.  He meant to conquer the world and the world needed to kill him.  But now?  These Third World countries?  Diplomacy is fine, even military aid, maybe--equipment that is.

     But troops.  Let's be isolationists.  It'll be good for us, don't you think?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

AUGUST 18, 2013

     I guess it's contagious, this spying stuff.  There's a story in the Washington Post today about how the Obama administration prepared a memo to Congressmen explaining how, or some of how, the National Security Administration's spying on the rest of us worked.  But the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee decided not to pass this goody along to the rest of Congress "in the months before a key vote on the future of the program."

     The administration sent a cover letter along with the memo urging that it be distributed to Congress, but the House Intelligence Committee disagreed and kept it quiet.  One newly elected Congressman, Michigan Republican Justin Amash, said dozens of new members elected in 2010 did not have access to the facts they needed to fully understand the program until they got them from Edward Snowden's leaks.

     A spokesman for the committee said they offered briefings.  Congressmen have crowded schedules;  it's much easier to read something on your own time.

     It's kind of like kids' gangs in grade school.  They love secrets.  Is Congress any more mature?  Good question.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

AUGUST 10, 2013

   I read that President Obama has cancelled a planned summit with Russia's President Putin.   One reason given in news reports was Obama's anger at Russia's decision to give leaker-defector Edward Snowden asylum for a year. Well, different things anger different folks.  I personally would probably have agreed to pay Russia a few bucks to take Snowden for a year.  I mean, is he really the kind of guy you want living down the block?

     But there's another reason why this is, in a funny way, good news.  Nobody thinks it will bring on World War III.  Once upon a time, when Russia and its neighbors were still the mighty, touchy Soviet Union, that wasn't so.

     I still remember, when I was a kid early in the atomic age, a preacher saying, "For the first time, man has the power to destroy God's created order."  We still have it, of course;  nobody is throwing away nuclear weapons.  But the worry that we might blow up the planet is less now, on, I think, both sides.

     And that's genuine good news.  Quarrel?  Sure.  Immolate Earth?  Probably not.  I don't miss the Cold War--do you?


AUGUST 11, 2013

     The government has released a white paper saying that it has the right to tap our telephones, internet activity, and so on.  It's legal, the government says, when the spying is "relevant, a broad standard that permits discovery of large volumes of data in circumstances where doing so is necessary to identify much smaller amounts of information within that data that directly bears on the matter being investigated."  Whatever that might be, of course--a defense secret, a love affair, whatever.

     That's fine with some of
us.  The Washington Post says the House voted against killing the program last month but adds that the vote was close.  I, of course, would have voted to kill it.

     I'd have done so on the general ground that "this is not the America that we agreed to," as someone once said.   I believe that individual Americans' privacy matters more than the government's right to snoop.
 The government disagrees and in that fight it greatly outweighs me.  So it's winning.  I don't see that changing but it should.




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fwd: AUGUST 7, 2013

     I hope I won't miss the old Washington Post.  I won't know for a while--none of us will.  The old Post was a fine, distinguished--your choice of complimentary adjectives--newspaper.  It broke the first news of the Watergate scandal, which led to the only presidential resignation in our history--Richard Nixon's.  It's done a lot of other good stuff over the years too I think the Graham family, which owned it, gets a lot of the credit.  The new man?  We'll have to wait and see.

     One other political note--a couple of networks are planning programs about Hillary Clinton, a likely 2016 presidential candidate.  This has led the Republicans to say:  if you do that, we'll rethink our participation in the 2016 presidential debates. If I were the Democrats, I'd say, go ahead guys--we'll have debates with the Socialist, the Unitarian candidates, any others we can scare up.  I bet people would watch--not as many, but quite a few.  Plus there'd be lots of stories about the Republican wimping out.

     Good thinking, GOP?
 Maybe not.





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fwd: AUGUST 1, 2013

     If you like government shutdowns, hang on.  One is probably coming.  Congress is getting ready for its annual August recess, which Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank correctly describes as a "five-week vacation," unless, of course, they decide to extend it.

     A reward for accomplishment, for hard work well done?  Oh, no. The score on appropriations bills passed is four out of twelve.  Will the others be passed by the time the new fiscal year starts?  No.

     This kind of budgetary mess is fairly traditional in Congress;  I remember them from when I covered it.  But there's a new element this yearthey'd like to kill Obamacare, the President's health care law which is wtitten so as to be phased in gradually.  Millbank quotes Republican Ted Cruz of Texas:  "We will not vote for a single continuing resolution (a parliamentary device for keeping things going at their existing level) that funds even a penny of Obamacare."

     Whether all House Republicans will obey is a question, of course, but if they could it would be a spectacle to watch.  Can a government which is closed for business pay its bills?  Send out Social Security checks?  Nope.  Stay tuned.


Fwd: JULY 30, 2013

      You're used now, as I am, to stories about our government spying on millions of us--tapping our telephones, the internet, and so on.  The government, our president  have not apologized for this, have not, come to that, even admitted it's wrong.  I assume, absent any apology or admission of guilt, that they've kept right on, that if my phone was tapped a couple of months ago before the news broke--thank you, Edward Snowden--it still is. 

     But it shouldn't be, I think, because it's unconstitutional.  The Fourth Amendment reads:  "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

     I haven't seen any such court orders, have you?  Seems to me the Obama government has tried to cover up its spying, keep us from knowing about it.  And sure, they didn't have telephones when the Constitution was written, but I think the word "effects" covers them, don't you?

     Maybe in the next election there'll be a Constitutionalist party.  I'd probably vote for it.  I've about had it with these spies and liars.