You probably remember--I know I do--the news a few weeks ago that the government, through the National Security Agency, was tapping every telephone in America.
The President already knew, of course. I could imagine him listening to cozy clips of an evening--a love affair, a stock tip, whatever. But maybe he got bored.
Now, the Washington Post reports, the president is going to ask Congress to pass a bill which would limit his own (well, the NSA's ) authority to tap.
(Pardon me for a moment while I recover from the thought of asking Congress to pass anything!)
Couldn't he just do it himself? He seems to think not. Meanwhile, the taps are tapping. Isn't this a funny place?
Monday, March 31, 2014
Sunday, March 30, 2014
I suspect that few things are harder for the leaders of democracies than fighting or preparing for wars. Our president, Barack Obama, has no experience at preparing for them, not much at fighting them. That may be changing.
Vladimir Putin of Russia seems to have conquered Crimea. How much further his dreams of reconstituting the old Soviet Union go remains to be seen. If it's any distance at all, the West will have to do something about it, probably fight.
How eager a warrior Putin is, we'll have to see.
We'll have to see about ourselves too. Let's hope we're ready.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
I was a little child when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria. It was only from reading later that I learned he justified his conquest by saying it was really one country anyway, the same language and so on. Vladimir Putin could use the same arguments, I suppose. The headline in the morning paper has him saying Crimea is part of Russia.
The easiest time to stop Hitler, probably, would have been early, but nobody wanted to. Leaving it to later cost millions of lives.
So should the West go and hit Putin hard now? I can't imagine it--drop atomic bombs on a country that could drop them back? I can't imagine a Congress that would put its job on the line to do that.
Assassination--as in Osama bin Laden--might work but it's doubtful—he's too well protected.
If Putin really sees himself as the new Stalin, really wants to reconstitute the vast old empire, the rest of us face some very hard choices. We should start thinking about them soon.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It's election time – or at least the beginning or it. Early primary voting started on St Patrick's Day in Washington. You first class citizens are electing Congressmen and Senators; we second class citizens here in the District of Columbia are electing a mayor and some city council members. That's about all that you real Americans let us elect. Well, we have one non-voting representative to Congress. That word, non-voting, says a good deal about that.
Most of us bear our deprivation silently but some bleat protests. It is a sad thing in a democracy to bleat to no avail.
The District Board of Elections has published a Voter Guide full useful information--where to vote and when, a good list of the candidates with their bios, and so on. But there is room in it for fantasy too.
Some candidate bios list people--real or not, I don't know--running for imaginary offices. "Senator" is popular. Those candidates have little bios, just like the City Council guys except that, of course, they are running for imaginary offices.
Wow. Maybe you should visit here and run. Can't hurt much to lose, though I have no idea what you get if you win. All in your fantastical mind, I suppose.
It's happening now. It's March. Time for Madness.
Watching a baseball game outdoors in God's sunlight is really my favorite sports fan pastime, but every year I get somewhat caught up in the big national basketball tournament which hovers over our television sets. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is its name and it surely is national with seventy-some teams.
To be fair, the basketball is pretty damn good. Florida, Arizona, and the other high seeds are absolutely worth watching. Some of the teams are chosen by experts--no problem there--others are in because they won a conference. That can be tricky--not so much if they won the ACC, say. But then there's my old school, which plays in the Ivy League and is much more noted for--ahem--scholarship than sports.
My Old School--don't want to embarrass anyone by using names--MOS played well enough to win the Ivy. I'd bet a dollar to a c-note they lose in the first round of the NCAA.
The Washington Post notes they are playing in their third tournament--but mentions nothing about winning. How could they; the Post ain't fiction.
Still, good luck, guys. You'll need it.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Hitler cleverly invaded, one at a time, a series of countries his Germany could conquer--Holland, France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Poland and so forth. The list is long – too long. By the time he invaded the Soviet Union he'd lost that perspective or simply gone bananas or something. Russia was much vaster than Germany in area and population. There was no way a small state like Hitler's could compete with it.
Now here's Putin. Can his Russia conquer Ukraine? Probably. The rest of Europe if we and they unite against him? Probably not.
The great mistake, as Hitler's early victims proved, would be to let him get started.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Wire stories today report Russian troops giving Ukrainian troops an ultimatum--surrender or we'll open fire. It makes you wonder whether history really does repeat itself, at least sort of, some of the time,
Once upon a time, before and after World War II, we didn't have lots of countries in that part of the world, just one great big one, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR for short. It was mighty, a nuclear power like the United States. Many feared the two would have a nuclear war and destroy the planet. We didn't.
The Soviet Union dissolved in 199l; the big war never happened; and all those other countries that existed before it swallowed them—Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and so on-- came back to life.
What happens now? I have no idea. Russia, we know, has nuclear arms. Ukraine may too.
All we really know for sure is that the game goes on. The stakes could be very high and I really don't want to play.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I wrote here earlier this week about a bill the Arizona legislature passed which would have allowed businessmen and women to deny service to gays if the denial were based on sincere religious conviction. The governor, conservative Pam Bewer, vetoed the bill, whicih means, as you might have expected, that the argument goes on.
The notion that you can deny me--or I, you-- some service based on our religious beliefs is troubling The heart of the trouble is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....." In other words, we are all free Americans and your religion can't tell me what to do.
But freedom of religion cases are pending in at least four other states. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next month over whether businesses should be allowed to refuse to give their employees contraceptive coverage.
In other words, the beat goes on.