Sunday, October 31, 2010

The World Series

Here we are again, smack in the middle of the 2010 World Series. I love baseball. It's the quintessential American game. I like footballl and NCAA basketball, but give me the Boys of Summer every time. For human drama on a field of play, nothing else compares.
Now, I need to tell you up front that I'm a Yankee fan of long date, since about 1955. I'm from western Pennsylvania, so the Pirates are always my team of preference. I remember going to Forbes Field with my Great Aunt Ruth on hot summer afternoons. We would take the trolley from Shadyside and walk the last half-mile to the park and drink cokes while we watched the Pirates lose, because in those days, losing was their strong point. Aunt Ruth was a real Pirate fan - Rosie Rosewell and Bob Prince on the radio in her apartment for every game. I learned to love all the Pirates, but most of all Roberto Clemente who was, for me, the very essence of baseball.
And what Pirate fan can forget the 9-9 bottom of the ninth Mazeroski homer that won the 1960 World Series for Pittsburgh -- against the Yankes and against all odds. It was pure baseball magic and I still get goose bumps when I think about it..
But, except for that Series, I was and am a loyal Yankee supporter. When I was a kid, it was the Dodgers who got the support among my friends and I was the outsider. The Dodgers were the New York National League team and since the Pirates were in the National League, too, it was only loyal to support the Dodgers and Duke Snyder, who far more often than other NL teams made it to the Series, only to face the Yankees. That enduring Yankee class is built on hard work, talent and also money, I know, but it produces great baseball.
Well, most of the time. This year, the Yankees had bad pitching and not much better fielding and got beaten by the Giants, who now face the Texas Rangers for the Championship. Even the Yankees can't win all the time. The Series is 2-1 as I write and my guess is we're in for a 7-game affair. Reverting to form, I'm cheering for the Giants because they fly the National League colors. My sister, who loves NASCAR more than baseball, is rooting for the Rangers because they've never won, and because Nolan Ryan and a Pittsburgh attorney saved them from bankruptcy.
There you have it. The baseball World Series is history. It's Americana. It's the Boys of Summer at their best. May the best team win.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Politics - Intensely Intellectual and Personal

Politics. My sister and brother and I have been been engaged politically since we were young teenagers.
On the phone last night, my sister remembered that Mr. Duff was governonr of Pennsylvania when Eisenhower was elected in 1952. She was four years old. I remember sitting on the floor near the large console radio in my grandparents' house in November 1948, when we all thought Mr. Dewey had been elected, only to awake the next morning to find that Mr. Truman had won. I was six years old.
So, it was no surprise that we volunteered as very young Republicans to do our part for the GOP and for America. We were elected to party offices at county and state levels in several states as we grew up and moved because of marriage or work. I served President Reagan as a political appointee. We have folded mailings, called to get out the vote, caucased to try to find the right path forward, fought to be heard and to make a difference. It's in our blood and in our very tissue - politics is important, necessary, honorable, consuming.
And, politics is both intellectually and personally challenging. It often takes guts to hold onto a position that's not expedient, and it's even more challenging to arrive at that position through discussion, reading and thinking. It's personally challenging to be told you are wrong, stupid, standing in the way of progress, out of step with the majority, simply not in tune with the times.  Sometimes those criticisms prove to be correct and one must reconsider one's intellectual position and adapt. Sometimes, knowing defeat will be the endgame, one must steel oneself to carry on when being out-of-step is right, hoping that eventually the world of politics will come around to its senses.
Today, America is at one of those crossroads when everything is being challenged.  Who is right? Those who want to spend us to recovery? Those who want to move government out of the way so the private sector can make the recovery possible? Most Americans, I think, feel that a little of both is needed and on November 2nd, we'll find out which position is uppermost in our national consciousness.
But, one thing is sure - finding the intellectually honest personal position, reading history and studying politics to understand why we are who we are and where we are - those efforts will help us succeed. When the election bluster has died down, it will be those qualities in our political leaders and in our citizenry that will help our country to overcome its malaise.
We cannot and should not all agree all the time. But, right now, America needs all of us to find the intellectual and personal courage to do what is right to try to steer the Good Ship USA into a safe harbor.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Let's Get Off the Obama Bus

I saw the remarks of President Obama about perhaps letting the GOP onto his bus if they win the House in November, but making them sit in the back. I was simply stunned by the arrogance and indecency of the remark.
To put it into perspective, we Americans, Black and White, have been working for more than 60 years to banish the "back of the bus" from our national vocabulary. From President Eisenhower to Rosa Parks to the Reverend King to Bobby Kennedy to all of us, collectively and individually, working, witnessing, praying and making the effort each day to eliminate the sorrow and shame of segregation from our nation.
It is impossible to adequately explain how much pain the President's remarks caused me and millions of other Americans. He low-balled all of us with those cynical words.
For a little perspective - my mother, born in western Pennsylvania, celebrated her 89th birthday this week. When I was a baby of about 18 months, she and my father lived near Fort Benning, Georgia, while he was enrolled at the US Army paratrooper school during WWII. She hired a young Black woman to be my babysitter, and the three of us were together every day. Now, evidently, I was too young to remember, but one day my mother decided to take me and our babysitter to town for some shopping.  When Mother tried to enter the bus, the driver said our babysitter would have to sit in the back. My mother refused. He insisted. Finally, my mother took me and our babysitter and went to the back of the bus so all of us could sit together. In effect, my mother was one of America's pioneer segregation activists, in her own small and personal way.
Mother was outraged and never forgot the shame and anger she felt that day. She passed on to all of her children that same anger and shame and we, in turn, took up the cause. I add that we are all Republicans and we have served as Equal Rights Commission members, local organizers of racial relation committees, and have never forgotten our Mother's courage or determination.
That story may not seem to be very important, but I know it has been repeated many times all over America.
To hear the President trash it and all it stands for in the blood, effort and prayers of millions of Americans of all colors and creeds, is something I never dreamed to have to hear and I hope never to have to hear again.
Decency, Sir, decency. Not only for yourself and your wife and children, but for all Americans of all colors, who are engaged in an effort that it seems you simply cannot comprehend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Donkey at the Bottom of the Well

Here's a French animal story - the French love to use animals to give moral advice - that the GOP might be able to use in this last week before the mid-term elections.

One day, the farmer’s donkey fell into a well.
The poor beast brayed loudly for hours,
And the farmer tried to decide what to do.
Finally, he decided that the animal was old
And the well needed to be filled in anyway,
And it wouldn’t be cheap to recover the donkey, in any case.
So, he invited all his friends to come and help.
They all brought a shovel and started
To bury the donkey in the well.
At first, the donkey realized what was happening
And cried even louder. Then, to everyone’s surprise,
He stopped making noises.
After tossing a few more shovelfuls of dirt into the well,
The farmer looked down toward the bottom
And was very surprised at what he saw.
With each shovelful of dirt that arrived at the bottom,
The donkey shook the dirt off his back and climbed on top of it.
As the farmer’s friends continued to toss dirt into the well,
The animal shook it off his back and continued to climb.
Soon, everyone was amazed to see the donkey jump
Out of the well and gallop off.

Life tries to bury us with all manner of garbage.
The trick is to shake it off and climb out of the hole.
Every worry is a stone to help us progress.
We can all get out of the hole, no matter how deep,
If only we don’t give up and abandon life.
Saving ourselves is a matter of shaking off the garbage.

But, for the GOP, I think the message is a little different.
Don't throw so much garbage onto the Democrats' backs 
that they use it to climb out of their hole and surprise us all
on Tuesday, November 2nd.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bobby Kennedy on Violence

I watched the film, "Bobby" last evening. It is a retelling of the last day in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, before the assassination of Robert Kennedy on 4 June 1968. I must say that I have never been a great fan of the Kennedys, but I have always had an attachment to Bobby, who seemed to me to be the idealist, the orator, the philosopher of the clan, always reaching out to find the best in each of us. In the film, after he is shot, one hears his voice reading the speech he gave in Cleveland on the day Martin Luther King was shot. It is about violence, and last night it was, for me, more pertinent than ever. Here it is. Decide for yourselves.

Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy to the Cleveland City Club,
      Cleveland, Ohio, April 5, 1968
This is a time of shame and sorrow It is not a day for politics I have
saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless
menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of
our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race The victims of the violence are
black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown They
are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and
needed No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain
who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed And yet it goes on
and on.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No
martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders A sniper is
only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only
the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily -
whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by
one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence
or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of life which
another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children,
the whole nation is degraded.
"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal
from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to
lose their cause and pay the costs."
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our
common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept
newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify
killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make
it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition
they desire.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too
often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the
shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad
fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots
have by their own conduct invited them.
Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is
clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a
cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly,
destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of
institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the
violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men
because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a
child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the
This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand
as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I
have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a
single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done.
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he
is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he
pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your
freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others
not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but
with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we
share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but
not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common
desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet
disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.
Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our
fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to
enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own
hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible
truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to
find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must
admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the
misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither
be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great
to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot
vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who
live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short
movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to
live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction
and fulfillment they can.
Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to
teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around
us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind
up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen
once again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Obama's Lack of a Moral Code

People are constantly trying to analyze the President's world view, his guiding principles, to figure out what he really believes and on which principles he acts.
Given Mr. Obama's childhood, which was a mix of Muslim and Christian orthodoxy, and given his admitted lack of a father image to help him set his values, it seems clear that Obama has missed out on what most of us get - a solid perspective on values transmitted from a unitary family, unitary in the sense that its values are not a basket of competing religious and ethical axioms.
Add to this his keen mind and training at Harvard Law and you can make the case that whatever moral certainties may have survived Obama's childhood were most likely swept away by his legal training. For, to be a lawyer is not to take sides morally but to defend the individual against the "law", to make the case that everyone, no matter how offensive, has good qualities and, with correctional guidance, could be saved. And, make no mistake, a legal education sandblasts your moral code and beliefs. To come away from it with a moral vision intact is to be tough-minded in the extreme.
There you have it , a President who is trying to save the world, not distinguish the good from the evil in it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Letter to America about the French Strikes

Dear America,
This post is to make you think - about what it means to be American, what it means to vote, what it means to be really trapped in a bureaucratic state that has over-riding powers and no checks and balances. That's where the European Union is today and we could become the same if we don't defend our liberties and our constitution from faceless bureaucrats.
Living in French-speaking Switzerland, very close to France, and having many friends who are Swiss, French, and English, I have perhaps a perspective that is concrete.
Great Britain does not want to be in the EU. It never has and was tugged along by overt threats from the British left that it would be "left behind" and become a third-world country. Successive Prime Ministers have talked about a referendum to decide about Britain joining the monetary union, but knowing the result would be negative, no one has taken on the referendum as a serious project.
The Trade Union Council, in the 1980s, took up the battle to break Mrs. Thatcher's promise to "privatize" Britain, and she finally broke the TUC. That is the last battle ever successfully waged by a European government that was more interested in privacy and economic freedom than in controlling everything.
In continental Europe, the populations were led by the fear of a bellicose and resurgent Germany to form a union for mutual protection and common economic advantage after World War II. No one could seriously defend the position that Adenaur or de Gaulle were planning to create the EU that we see today. They wanted peace in Europe and economic development after WWII. What Europeans finally got was a centralized bureaucracy to put Washington to shame, with no controls and no one really in charge, just faceless bureaucrats trying to regulate every bit of the ordinary EU citizen's life.
The monetary union followed creating the Euro as the official European currency, but if a vote were taken today in almost any EU country, the Euro would disappear overnight. It has inflated prices, caused poverty to deepen and led to a cynicism about the EU that is rampant and deeply felt.
Switzerland has been threatened, cast as a non-European country even though it is located in the very center of Europe, has a democratic history pre-dating any EU country and has no need of the EU. Why? To force it to join the EU and contribute the money that the EU bureaucrats can't find elsewhere for their unpopular and largely unnecessary projects.
So, where are we? I would say that Europe is being gripped by an invisible set of EU tentacles that will refuse to let it go until the great mass of ordinary European citizens rise up and say, "Stop. Enough is enough. Give us back our countries, our traditions and our separate cultures."
When French workers and union leaders barricade roads to protest against the new government pension scheme, they are venting an anger against all things governmental, a reaction learned over 50 years of an ever more rapidly encroaching faceless ruling elite that can do whatever it likes, without ever having to explain its actions to anyone.
And, even if the EU wanted to explain, who would do it? Nobody because there is no leader, "the Emperor has no clothes."         
So, dear America, guard your freedoms, don't let anyone for any reason tell you that it would be better to abandon them for the higher good - there is no higher good than being free and in control of your life as a citizen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Is America Trying to Do??

I receive lots of e-mails from friends forwarding articles, jokes, serious warnings about the future, and more. And, I sometimes ask myself, why did the author write this? Of course, the humorous pieces are making their point without pounding the table and the serious articles are supporting, or more often attacking, someone or an idea - usually the someone is Obama and the idea is his.
I got a piece this week about the President's supposed remarks about veterans paying for their post-service medical care with insurance. I have no idea whether the words were actually his or not, but the words attributed to the President were so harsh and cynical that I translated them for my husband, who speaks French. His instant comment was, "No president of the United States would ever say something like that." My reaction had been pretty much the same.
Now, whether the words actually came from the President or not, the idea that it is somehow justified to make political points by using American service men and women, and especially those wounded in the service of their country, is for me simply despicable.
There must be a better way to attack Obama. There must be words to highlight his weaknesses that don't cause such pain for the people we support most, our veterans. And, what good does it do to repeat the slurs and increase the anger and sadness in the most deserving of American citizens?
Elections ought to be made of better stuff than this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Chilean Miners

Well, what can I possible add to this terrifically heartwarming story? It's a real, industrial-strength miracle.
But, this morning when I saw a miner who is 63 and has emphysema being lifted up, I also heard that he's been working in the mines since he was 12.
It made me think about all the miners and the other workers who do the dangerous and grunt work of mining, refining and manufacturing that makes our very comfortable lives possible.  We surely don't think about them often or stop to say "thank you" or offer a prayer for their health and safety. But, we all should. They are the real backbone of our modern society - these poorly educated, underpaid, and grossly undervalued workers. And, we "can't afford" to pay them for the risks they take, not only the spectacular ones like the Chilean miners, but also the men and woman who work in areas where toxic chemicals and dust are inevitable and whose health suffers for it. 
So, thank you, Lord, for this beautiful event and, please, help us to remember the men and women who make so much possible for the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Chamber of Commerce Debacle

President Obama has hit America where it hurts this time. We all know about the many good works and local development efforts undertaken by the Chambers of Commerce all over the United States. We know the Chamber supports the thousands of small and large businesses that make America tick. Even my Swiss husband, who's never been to the United States, knows about the Chamber of Commerce. He belonged to a local Chamber in Switzerland when he was active in his business. 
To suggest that somehow the Chamber of Commerce is subversive or bent on overthrowing our country, or even insinuating that it may be in cahoots with sinister foreign interests, is really the last straw for me. And, to add to the insult, Obama and his press secretary finally had to admit that they have absolutely no evidence for their outlandish accusations.
Perhaps if the President had more practical political experience, he would have anticipated the backlash that his comments provoked. Perhaps if he had advisers who actually believe in the integrity of the American people and their institutions, they would have foreseen the political suicide they were letting him engage in. Perhaps if he and they were more in tune with America, they would quit bashing it and all of us Americans, we who disagree with their out-of-step opinions.
But, the truth is that Mr. Obama does not understand us or care about our opinions. He's like the doctor who says, "Take this. It's good for you," when the patient has taken the medicine before and knows it will make him even more ill.
We Americans know we're ill. We know we need to get our arms around the problems we've collectvely created. We know the task will be long and difficult. But, telling us that we're following politicians who are being financed by occult foreign interests will not cure anything. It will only make us more determined to get back to our roots, to re-establish our traditional values and to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The work will not be started by Mr. Obama, because he doesn't see the real problem or any of the jobs needing to be done.
And, he certainly took a step in being left behind last weekend when he attacked the Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Obama and the Generals

Bob Woodward has been on a lot of TV programs in the last week, touting his new book, "Obama's Wars" and the picture he paints of the relationship between the White House, the Defense Secretary, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not pretty. Woodward had access to all the major players, including the President and Generals Petraeus and Mullen. He was free to read memos and to talk to everyone.
What he learned was that the generals have not been giving Obama the full picture about Afghanistan or Pakistan. That is, they won't give him options but present their view as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. This was at least true about how many troops were needed in Afghanistan and what their role would be. Add to this the fact, noted by Woodward, that the President does not like war, has no feel for it, and would prefer to do the minimum at all times, and you have the picture.
Vice President Biden has better relationships with the generals than does the President, he cultivates them on a personal basis, something Obama does not do, and Biden gets options out of them that are not offered to the President. In fact, Woodward says Biden often has the better solutions. In addition, Defense Secretary Gates has the position of power because if the President doesn't like his suggestion, he offers to resign and Obama immediately defers to him.
The result is that Obama and his staff don't have viable options and, therefore, cannot make the best decisions. Woodward says Obama is not a good wartime president and probably does not understand how to be one.
We are all sympathetic to the President's not liking war. Nobody does. But, he made the decision to send more troops into Afghanistan and he did so with incomplete information and no alternatives.
It makes you wonder who is watching out for the US troops on the ground in harm's way and what orders they actually receive. Woodward mentions some of them but you should read the book to get those details, which are also not pretty. I note here only the fact that one of the generals said in a public meeting that he does not know what the goals in Afghanistan are or how we are going to achieve them.
It makes me remember President Truman and General MacArthur during the Korean "war." MacArthur was insubordiate in not following the President's orders and he was fired, even if his opinion was probably the correct one. In 2010, we have the picture of a president whose general officers are insubordinate for not agreeing to give him alternatives and stonewalling when he asks for them. Should they be fired? Probably. But, the President is afraid to do this because he has nowhere else to turn.
If these Woodward disclosures, fully available to the President before publication, don't make you lose sleep, nothing ever will.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

European Terrorist Alert

There have been armed military and police in French train stations, airports and tourist sites, especially in Paris, for almost two weeks now. The alert here in Europe was given after the first bomb scare at the Eiffel Tower. Tourists and workers were evacuated and the entire area was searched for an explosive device. None was found. The same thing has since happened at a very busy Paris train station and again at the Eiffel Tower.  Britain published an alert at almost the same time, as did Germany. It seems that the threat is directed principally at France and Germany.
European news media are reporting that telephone taps have led to two Britains and six Germans, all of whom they say are in Pakistan along the Afghanistan border. That was the reason given for the US military drone attack into Pakistan several days ago. One of the Britains was allegedly killed.
And now the United States State Department is advising all Americans to be careful when traveling in Europe and to avoid tourist sites. 
I haven't heard of any special alert status for the USA, but I suppose there is one.
I was in Europe the last time such an American alert was given for US travelers in Europe. It was in 1991, as the first Iraq war began. People were panicked and fled Europe like lemmings.
This time its feels very different. The French government says it has the situation under control. The Germans are quiet. Britain is advising its citizens living or traveling in continental Europe to be careful and watch for anomalies. Americans interviewed on the streets of Paris are smiling and saying the alert won't affect their plans at all, while military patrols dressed in camouflage gear and carrying what look like semi-automatic weapons are circling behind them.
It seems we've become used to terrorist threats over the last 15 years. That could make it a lot easier for the terrorists to strike. I hope we don't become too blasé.