Thursday, September 26, 2013

SEPTEMBER 26, 2013

      It's that time of year again--fiscal ones ending and starting, Congressmen making bizarre threats about how much government will be left, and so on.

     Some Republicans are demanding that Congress kill the president's health bill, usually called "Obamacare."  That won't happen.  The Republicans could vote to kill it in the House, which they control, but not in the Senate, which they don't.  And even if the Senate yielded (fat chance!), President Obama could still veto the bill.

     The Republicans can threaten to shut the government down, but there are problems with that too?  Who pays the Army?  Can we go to war?  All these questions are complicated by the fact that the Congressmen are not simply trying to do what's good for the country, they're trying to gain political advantages for their political parties and for themselves too.

     Still, it can be fun to watch.  The country hasn't crashed and burned yet.  So enjoy?  Or maybe not?  Your call.   Unless you're sitting in Congress there's nothing you can do but watch, is there?


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

      Can we expect new gun control legislation because of the Navy Yard murders?  Most unlikely.  Don't hold your breath.

     The Washington Post runs a series of polls on the issue today;  they show support for gun control is shrinking.  60% supported it in 1989, the polls say, 34% opposed it.  Now 52% favor it, 45% oppose.  And 51% in one recent poll said having a gun made the home a safer place.

     Politically, chances seem dim.  Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says, "We don't have the votes. I hope we get them but we don't have them now."

     Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would like to see "the current background check law redesigned to capture mental health events in a better way."  But again the Democratic leader of the Senate says, "We don't have the votes."

     Again, gun control backers, don't hold your breath.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SEPTEMBER 17, 2013

      Mass killings in America are not so rare. The Navy Yard shooting yesterday seems not to have been a plot by some political group or ideology, but just mass murder by a nut with some guns.

     President Obama, during his term, has had to cope with mass killings in Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown.  Well, "cope" is the wrong word, of course.  No one, not even a president, can bring the victims back.  All we can do is offer sympathy, try to ease the families' pain.

     You can make an argument that stricter gun control laws might lessen the number of these awful killings.  The British don't have them, nor the French, and gun control is stricter there.  But the fact is, we don't want that.  Gun control loses in Congress;  there was a story the other day about a couple of state officials who were for it being recalled.

    That's who we are;  that's how we choose to live.  It's hard to imagine us changing.  The occasional massacre by lone gun-wielding nuts is apparently part of a price we are willing to pay.

      I just don't understand.          



Saturday, September 14, 2013

SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

      I've written before about my dislike of the idea that the U.S. should be the world's policeman, committed to trying to enforce peace and civilized behavior in places like Syria.  So I was touched by a story in today's Washington Post from Norfolk, Virginia, where there's a big naval base, talking about the sad state of the sailors who come back from such tours.  "They're drained when they come back," one Norfolk man says, "They tell us all the time about how tired they are."

     Another Norfolk resident, "My heart goes out to the people dying over there," says another, "but we've got to look out for our boys.  We're stretched here." And we all remember stories about how suicides among career military people are up significantly.

     And yet, and yet....Richard Cohen, a columnist I respect, writes in the Post the other day, "The inescapable truth is that the world needs a policeman.  The inescapable truth is that only the United States can play cop....A further inescapable truth is that evil exists and must be fought."

     So is it a job we can decline or one we must accept?   Maybe we need an election to answer that question.

Monday, September 9, 2013


     Ever think your kid might grow up to be a cop?  Easy enough in America--Chicago, say, or Detroit.  But in Britain it's a different game.  The police who protect Buckingham Palace are supposed to protect the Royals, not stalk them.

     And yet, and yet....two days after the cops nabbed one intruder, they thought they'd caught another--except that he turned out to be Prince Andrew, second son of Elizabeth II, who reigns over the whole country.  To understate it: Ooooooooops! 

     The fuzz sent an apology to Andrew, aka the Duke of York.  He replied--these Royals are smooth, "I am grateful for the apology and look forward to a safe walk in the garden in the future."

     The newspapers loved it of course. "PRINCE ANDREW HELD AT GUNPOINT" brayed the Daily Express.

     I don't think America will compete, do you?  The Secret Service busting Sasha or Malia?  Nah, no way.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


     Well, finally an argument in the Washington Post for not attacking Syria. "Syria," a headline warns, "could stall Congress's work."

     Of course it could.  Congress has many important things to do.  It comes back to work (or whatever you call it) this coming week.  And, oh boy, is there stuff to do:  find agreement on federal spending, raise the limit on the national debt--some, but how much?, consider immigration reform and a farm bill which leaves out money for food stamps, and so on.  But no, the Post says, they're going to take up Syria first.

     That's complicated because President Obama seems to believe he can bomb Syria--or, presumably London or Miami Beach--without permission from Congress. The Constitution (Article 1, Section 8)  says the Congress shall have the power "to declare war."  But maybe bombing isn't war?  Sounds funny to me.  When Hitler bombed London in World War II both sides thought it was war, that's for sure.

     But this president disagrees, I guess.  Tough on the Syrians.  Tough on us and what we thought our country stands for.  



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fwd: SEPTEMBER 4, 2013

      Some politician--I can't remember who, but he'd probably just lost an election--once grumbled, "The voters are a lot smarter than we think."  Mr. President, that's still true.  The latest proof is a poll in today's Washington Post. It says, please (well, I added that), don't attack Syria.

     Here's the key question: "The United States says it has determined that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the civil war there. Given this, do you support or oppose the U.S. launching missile strikes against the Syrian government?"  36% support it;  59% oppose.  That's a pretty substantial margin.

     Why should the president ignore it?  We are not allied with any of the factions in Syria.  We have not been named the world's policemen by the United Nations or anybody else.  We have learned recently that intervening in Third World troubles--Iraq, Afghanistan--sometimes makes us wish we hadn't.

     This time, sir, couldn't we just stay out and see how that works?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fwd: SEPTEMBER 3, 2013

This is a story about an extraordnary event and the extraordinary woman who achieved it.  It teaches us, I think, that if you want to accomplish something badly enough, maybe you can.  She did, anyway, and is an example to us all.

The woman is Diana Nyad.  What she did was to swim nonstop from Havana to Key West, Florida.  It's about a hundred miles.  It took her about 53 hours--yes, more than two days.

This was not a  success that came easily;  it was her fifth attempt.  The first four, obviously, failed.  The most amazing thing, perhaps, is that she never gave up.  Her success, that fifth attempt, came when she was 64 years old. Yes--in an age where youthful athletes seem to get the most attention, she was 64.

So the lesson, I guess, is, if you want something, don't give up.  Yes, again, she's 64.