Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fwd: JANUARY 29, 2014

     Well, dear readers, the secret is out!  Hamid Karzai, allegedly our ally in Afghanistan, now charges that we are attacking his side, not the supposed bad guys.  I mean it.  I’m not joking.  It was a lead story in the Washington Post this week.

    Seem loopy?  Sure, but a world class nutter like Karzai can believe dippier stuff than that without straining.  Our task is simple:  we acknowledge his brilliant insight as quickly as possible and say we'll quit attacking him and just get out--by Friday if we can.

      And as a parting gesture we could give the bad guys wharever spare bombs, tanks, etc. we have lying around.  Probably less waste than on Karzai's side.

     And when we got everybody home, we could enjoy peace.  Anybody remember it?  I bet we'd like it.    




Sunday, January 26, 2014

JANUARY 26, 2014

This is an election year, of course.  All of the House and a third of the Senate are at stake.  Good fun, normally--trying to spot trends, pick winners, all that.  The trouble this time is that a new poll in the Washington Post suggests the voters' answer to, "Who are you for?" is, "None of the above."

     The poll starts with President Obama--not that he's running, but he is the boss and how people feel about him will reflect how they feel about other politicians.  Obama's aproval record is 46%, up a tad from 42% just after Obamacare made its messy debut.  His previous low was 48%.  For comparison, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were at around 60% at this point in their second terms.

     As for Congress, 27% said they had confidence in Democrats in Congress to do the right thing—but, if you think that's bad, just 17% of the Republicans had that confidence in their Congressmen.

     Looking forward to this fall?  I can hardly wait.



JANUARY 24, 2014

      The miracle, if you subscribe to the Washington Post, was shown on page 3 this week. It consists of two black and white photographs of snippets of the planet Mars--of the same snippet, in fact, maybe two feet or so square.  One shows a jelly doughnut sized rock that wasn't there for photo 1, shot twelve days ago. It's there now.

      Did Martians put it there?  We haven't found any Martians yet and the camera that sent back these pictures has been poking around on Mars for about ten years now.  Was it accidentally kicked into the frame by one of us humans?  Oh, no--we've never set foot on Mars--only our machines have.

     The humans here on Earth who specialize in space, in Mars, have theories, of course. This mysterious rock has a name among these scientists--Pinnacle Island. How did it get where it is?  Well, they think, a nearby impact might have flung a piece of debris into the picture or, more likely, they think, one of Opportunity's six wheels could have flicked it up. Certainly possible, though I'd love to believe in phantom Martians lurking about unseen by our machines.

     The U.S. manned space program is on pause just now.  Too expensive.  We need the money for other things.  Like wars?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

JANUARY 18, 2014

      Many American news media have complained lately about the government's National Security Agency, which spies on all of us, partly at least by tapping all our phones. President Obama has acted now to limit this, though how much is far from clear.

     Obama said the government must now get a court order to tap, though the NSA may well have pet courts which will be happy to issue them.  But the Washington Post says, "Even the most controversial capability, the governments access to bulk telephone records known as metadata, may well be preserved."

     One expert, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the president, "backs away from real reform, which is to end this bulk data collection."

     It's a complex issue.  Lawyers will argue over it for years.  I personally would rather increase the risk of enemy attacks than have my government spy on me.  But many will differ.

Friday, January 17, 2014

JANUARY 17, 2014

    Iraq--you remember them, we invaded a few years ago but they seem to have recovered—now Iraq is asking the U.S. for more weapons in order to fight al-Qaeda linked militants.  Our government, in its expertise, will decide what to do.  The rest of us should probably think about it some too.

     Sometimes we know our friends and enemies.  Hitler was a bad guy.  But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki?  Who knows?  And the problem isn't just weapons--that's easy, might even help business, create jobs.  The problem is that the weapons will almost certainly be accompanied sooner or later by a request for American troops to train the iraqis.  Some of those troops, if sent, will almost certainly be killed.

   We should risk their lives, I think most of us agree, only when the U.S. itself is at risk, which is certainly not the case here.

     It would be useful if the president would explain to us why these ventures are wise, or necessary, if he in fact thinks they are.  This president could do that--he can't run for reelection anyway.  I wonder if he will. 




Fwd: JANUARY 16, 2014

     I don't know what you think of us residents of Washington, D.C.   We're not real U.S. citizens—don't have any representatives in Congress--but in other ways we're probably pretty much like the rest of you.

     So you might be interested in a Washington Post poll that says we favor legalizing marijuana.  Residents who were split evenly on the issue four years ago, it says, are now in favor of selling it for personal use by about two-to-one.  This is true, the poll says, of Washingtonians of every age, race, and ethnicity--from teen-agers to codgers we support legalization by double-digit margins in this new poll.

     But that's here.  The Post says a separate national poll by itself and ABC News shows the voters split evenly, 49--48, on the issue.

     So is the District leading the way here in a second wave toward legalization after Colorado and Washington?  I suspect so but these polls don't prove it.  Alcohol took a while to emerge from Prohibition.  I suspect legal pot will follow legal hooch, but we'll just have to wait and see if this city's new greeting turns out to be, "High!"


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fwd: JANUARY 14, 2014

     It's a lot harder to run for president than it used to be.  That's just true.  You yourself don't even have to want to run.  It's enough if other people think you might want to or hope that you would.  I mean, just consider New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

     If you read anything in a national publication a year or two ago about Christie, it was positive--a popular Republican governor of a Democratic state, colorful, outspoken, reelection assured and lots of murmurs about 2016.  And it was true--he was popular, did win a second term.

     If you look at the stories now, the perspective has changed.  The headline (front page, mind you) on today's Washington Post is, "Beyond the bridge, new trouble for Christie."

     The bridge story explains itself as an effort to paralyze traffic in Ft. Lee, N.J.  Then there's a paragraph or two about promises to a Democratic mayor that were made then broken – and so on..

     There is good and bad in all of us, of course – including politicians.  Okay, maybe especially them.  The lens of a campaign--real or imagined--magnifys warts and halos alike. 

    The first official tally in the 2016 race will be the Iowa caucuses in January of that year.  Wart watching is starting early don't you think?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

JANUARY 10, 2014

      You can't say the news is easy these days. There's a story on the front page of the Washington Post today that's written as if it were bad news:  "Envoy--Karzai unlikely to yield.  Post-2014 Pact at Issue."

     Karzai, of course, is the head of government in Afghanistan.  The story suggests that we and they may not be able to continue as allies in fighting the Taliban, the presumed bad guys.  That would certainly be bad news for Karzai--he might lose his war and therefore his job.  But if we had to bring all our troops back home alive and well, why wouldn't that be excellent news for us?

     It's at least possible that the last good war we fought was World War II.  Maybe Korea--North and South were on opposite sides of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and us-- though I doubt it.  Both Koreas still exist.  Vietnam?  We fought with South Vietnam against the Communist North – and lost.  North and South are now one Vietnam.  What good came of that?  I would say, "None!"

     Anyway that was then, this is now.  President Obama has ended one of the two wars he inherited.  If he can end the other--Afghanistan--he may be worth a spot on the presidential All-Star team.  I mean, we'd be at peace.  When was the last time we were there?       


Monday, January 6, 2014

JANUARY 6, 2014

      There's a wonderfully cheerful headline on the front page of today's Washington Post. "U.S.," it reads, "will not send forces to Iraq."  I wanted in my quiet living room to shout "Hurrah!"  We all should remember that President George W. Bush did invade Iraq, thereby doing no good that anyone could see.

     There are some other countries, of course, that belong on the "None of Our Troops, Buddy" list.  Syria would be my first add, then maybe Egypt.  That list could include lots of Middle Eastern countries, but there is plenty of room for others--Pakistan comes to mind.  Is this some new isolationism?  Okay, so what if it is?

     Back in the 1930s, it was wrong to be an isolationist.  That was because a crazy German dictator named Adolf Hitler really believed that he and his "master race" could conquer the world.  He couldn't, but he conquered a lot of Europe before the rest of the world, led by the Soviet Union and the Western democracies--the United Kingdom and the United States--got together and conquered him.

     There's no powerful nut like Hitler now.  So let's keep our soldiers home.  They could build roads or playgrounds for poor kids.  Beats the hell out of fighting, don't you think?


Friday, January 3, 2014

JANUARY 3, 2014

Well, there they are again, the National Security Agency, the government snoopers who've already confirmed that they can tap our telephones and hack our computers, now announcing that they can probably (and will) crack any codes we might used to hide our secrets from them. 

I can't imagine writing to a girl friend in code, but I"m outraged at these sweaty secret-seekers bragging that they could crack it if I did.  And bragging about it, no doubt, to their equally sweaty colleagues. "Hey, my guy's gonna give her a mink coat if she comes across. What's your guy gonna do?"

This country was founded by people who believed in privacy.  Read the Fourth Amendment (I've reprinted it here in the past) if you doubt me.  Now we seem to have an Agency who thinks their supreme right is the right to snoop backed by a president who doesn't object.

Maybe we need a presidential candidate in 2016 who will promise to put some limits on the official snoopers.  I'm thinking that might be reason enough to vote for him or her.



Thursday, January 2, 2014

JANUARY 1, 2014

      With a new year upon us, we stride confidently or shuffle nervously into the future, depending on how well or badly we think our ever-changing country is doing.

      And it does change--customs and laws both.  Same-sex marriage is one good example. Utah marked the new year by asking a federal judge to block another federal judge's ruling that such marriages are constitutional.  The Supreme Court sidestepped a decision earlier this year but will probably have to rule on it eventually.  And more and more states--though still a minority--are saying it's legal.

     Other changes involve politics, not law.  Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank notes that the two major parties are changing--the Democrats, growing more liberal;  the Republicans, more conservative and religious.   A Pew poll shows 48% of Republicans believe man has not changed since he first apeared on earth, while 43% believe we have evolved.  Four years ago 54% believed in evolution. That's a loss of 11% for Darwin.

     So we do change in our beliefs;  we are not the people we were a generation or two ago. Tracking those changes is one of the things that make being a reporter fun.