The National Security Administration has been telling us, through a leaker named Snowden, how it can tap all our telephones, learn and reveal all our secrets, and so on. We ordinary folk can't do much about the government's snooping into our lives, but foreign countries maybe can and at least two--Germany and France--have complained about it.
They say the U.S. National Snooping Agency has eavesdropped on some thirty world leaders and they want it stopped. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We want...something that is in line with the spirit of an alliance." Well, yes, you don't normally spy on your friends, do you?
Trouble is, our master spies like their jobs. Told to stop, they'd probably target the White House and produce a bunch of fake stuff designed to show they had.
I think the only real solution is to recreate the Soviet Union, which expired in 1991. It'd be expensive, but I"d rather have the NSA (National Snooping Agency) spying on them than us, wouldn't you? Of course, they'd probably do both, just wouldn't tell us the part about spying on us.
Monday, October 28, 2013
There was one story, a fourteen year old student in Massachusetts, charged with stabbing and killing a teacher, dumping her body behind the school. Another, a twelve year old in Nevada shot two classmates, killed a teacher and then himself. And another, a seven year old killer. Another, police kill a boy playing with a toy assault rifle. Another--well, I could go on and so could you.
It's sad, of course--children killed, children as killers. But I think the truth is, in the country we have chosen to live in, it's inevitable. We have chosen a country in which it is relatively easy to own and use a gun. We want this. You can blame it on our past--taming a large place full of wild animals--but other countries have violent pasts too and much more peaceful presents.
The National Rifle Association is an excellent lobby, but that is partly because it is lobbying for the kind of America most of us seem to want. I hope we're happy with it. I'm not – not by a long shot, but I'm just one guy.
The Republicans have once again proved an old political saw--if you do something foolish and people know it was you, they'll probably blame you for it. The something foolish was of course the government shutdown. The evidence is a Washington Post/ABC News poll
The Post story is headlined, "Poll finds major damage to GOP after shutdown." Two in three Republicans or independents who lean toward the GOP have a negarive view of the shutdown. Overall, eight in ten disapprove. Dissatisfaction with Congress went up--well, how could it not? Approval of Congress, the poll says, is now 12%.
Clearly, the Grand Old Party made a Grand Old Mistake here.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Well, it's over and the world did not come to an end. Some of us, in fact, had trouble watching it--it was hard to spot. The mailman kept coming to my building; cops were on the streets, directing traffic, whatever; nobody told the Army to go home; the banks stayed open, cashed checks, took deposits and all that.
Still, it was a sort of shutdown I guess. President Obama was certainly right when he said we don't need those. He was right too when he noted that pricky partisanship in Congress--not just between parties but among factions seem to be at an all time high and is one of the reasons we get into these messes.
The radical Republicans come to mind, of course, and some of them must have thought they'd won something at first. They didn't except maybe new lustre for not understanding very well how the game is played.
So will things improve? The president listed three areas in which he hoped Congress would act--the budget, immigration, and a farm bill. What they do next should tell us how much, if anything, Congress has learned. Don't be too optimistic. I'm not.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
From: Ann Hawthorne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Subject: OCTOBER 16, 2013
To: "Wittenberg, Holly" <email@example.com>
I guess the shutdown isn't total yet. There are still bursts of hot air coming from the Capitol, and I haven't seen any furloughed Army guys--probably in jeans rather than in uniform but with rifles and canteens and all that stuff--you know.
But if you're looking for who'll get blamed, it's probably not too early to bet on the Republicans. Their problem is that their leaders, like House Speaker John Boehner, can't control their party's wacko wing, which really wants a much weaker and different America.
Kill Obama's health care bill, of course, but go further--weaken Medicare, for instance, by making it a voucher system. I don't know what that would be, exactly, but I'll bet serious money I'd like it less than what I have now.
The results of their extreme views, if the country gets to know them, would probably be severe losses for the GOP in the next election. Not a certainty, but a good bet. Hope I'm around long enough to see how it turns out.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I grew up before baseball really had playoffs. The two league champions (pennant winners, we called them back then) met in a best-of-seven World Series and that was that. Now there are two rounds in each league (and the leagues are bigger, of course; just eight teams per league back then). Anyway, we're down to the semifinals this year and they look like good fun.
In the National League it's the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles (Brooklyn in the old days) Dodgers and it looks like a fine tussle. Some distinguished ghosts will be watching: for the Cardinals, Stan Musial, maybe the best player ever; his outfield mate Enos Slaughter; Marty Marion, a peerless shortstop, well, I could go on. For the Dodgers? Just the ghosts that helped integrate the sport would be enough--Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe--if you're old enough, you remember them..
In the American League we have the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. One name is enough to stir memories--Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter--the last man to bat over .400 for a full major league season.
Well, I'll stop. Why this column? Well, it's October and I sure enjoyed typing out all those names.
There is some news the Wall Strett Journal this week on where the Tea Party may be headed. It's in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll quoted extensively by E.J. Dionne in his Washington Post column today.
First, some other numbers. The poll shows up slightly, at 47%, positive opinions of President Obama. By that same number, 47% to 39%, people preferred a Democratic Congress to a Republican one.
Positive feelings toward the Tea Party, meanwhile, fell to 21%, down from 34% in June, 2010. Another straw in the wind--the poll asked respondents to choose between "government should do more to help meet the needs of people" and "government is doing too much." In 2010, 45% said do more; in the latest poll,, 52% did.
Polls aren't cast in concrete of course, but this one does seem to point to hard times ahead for the Tea Party.
Friday, October 4, 2013
"I've got an idea," the little boy said. "If we all get together, we can shut down the playground."
The other little boys – and a few girls - thought that sounded like fun, so they got together and made a plan--so many to close this gate, so many for that one, so many to make sure no one used the slide and so on. Not very democratic, of course, but it worked. Playground closed.
"This is neat," they said when they'd done it. "We need a name for our gang." "I've got it," said one, "Let's call ourselves Congress."
The U.S. government is still shut down, though so much other weird stuff is happening here that Washingtonians may have forgotten about it.
Weirdest of all may have been when a car rammed a barricade near the White House then headed for the Capitol. Police opened fire--well, you do, I guess, when national landmarks and the First Family, Congressmen, and regular people are threatened. The driver of the car, a dental hygienist from Connecticut named Miriam Carey, was shot and killed by police. A one-year old baby, also in the car, was unharmed. Good luck, surely, not aimed fire.
Police say nothing about the incident or about Carey suggests any sort of terrorist attack or anything like that. What does it suggest? I have no idea. Nor, apparently, has anyone else, but you might want to stay out of town until the crazy season passes.
I don't, of course, know when that will be.