December 30, 2015

100 Words -- Trump vs. The Other Clinton

Donald Trump has launched a preemptive strike against Bill Clinton. Trump will tell us what already know: Bill Clinton was an inveterate womanizer. The idea is that if Bill Clinton was a womanizer, then Hillary can’t be talking about Donald’s sexism. Well, if Trump wants to go there, let’s talk about the other pyscho-sexual elephant in the room, or am I the only one who thinks that Trump repeatedly calling Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break “disgusting” falls somewhere between odd and disturbing? So Donald, how did that potty training thing work for you? Got something you’d like to share? We’re listening.


Thin Ice




December 21, 2015

December 20, 2015

100 Words -- A Winter Memory

Growing up in the 50's and early 60's, you never had to wonder what kind of winter it was going to be. It got cold and stayed cold.  Back then, we drove manual transmission cars. At night, we were supposed to park the car in neutral. One evening I forgot to do this. The next morning, the transmission was frozen solid. My bad, my problem to fix. This meant sitting in the freezing cold, holding the clutch down while the engine warmed up. After what seemed an eternity, the transmission thawed to where I could work the gearshift. Lesson learned.

My father in balmier days.

December 17, 2015

December 16, 2015

100 Words -- Bombastics Away!

Ted Cruz believes precision carpet bombing is the answer. Don’t bomb the city; bomb where ISIS is. How freaking hard is that? Bomb the hell out of them, like we did in Iraq, and then send in 150,000 American troops to mop up. Uh, not exactly. Cruz talks up the Kurds. Marco Rubio wants a Sunni force. But wait, isn’t that Obama’s plan? Anyway, what we really need is to win the social media war. Shut down the Internet! Break those mean old encryption algorithms! Gee, that sounds like a job for the CEO’s in Silicon Valley. Paging Tony Stark!


December 15, 2015

100 Words -- 'Tis the Season!

A lot of folks complain that they aren’t allowed to refer to Christmas as well, Christmas. Call it what you want, just understand that why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 -- scholarly research favors a springtime birth -- is still debated. Some argue it was to overlap pagan holidays celebrating the winter solstice. Others cite the belief that Christ was crucified the same day he was conceived: March 25. (Creepy, but the math works.) Either way, December 25 wasn’t official until the middle of the 4th Century. So call it Christmas. Call it the holidays. It’s all good.


December 13, 2015

December 12, 2015

Entanglement

Two things to think about. Then a question.

First, I have read that every time we shake hands with someone there is an intermingling of sub-atomic particles that goes on at the point of contact. Second, there is a property in physics called entanglement, which posits that once two subatomic particles exchange information with each other they are aware of changes in each other no matter how far apart they are.

Question: If two people shake hands are they at some level intertwined -- entangled if you will -- forever, even after their dead? For all eternity?


December 9, 2015

100 Words -- Paranoia Overriding Reason

Tom Brokaw spoke out last night against Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country until further notice. Brokaw was blunt in his condemnation of “paranoia overriding reason,” moving in his reminder of the sacrifices Muslims have made to protect this country. We haven’t had a moment like this since Walter Cronkite came out against the Vietnam War. In that case, the country was ready to hear what Cronkite had to say. And he had a moral authority that few since could claim. I am glad that Tom Brokaw spoke out. I just wonder how many were listening.


December 6, 2015

Morning Frost



100 Words -- Pass the Sang Froid

The British admire grace under pressure. Americans aren’t so big into that. Mass hysteria is more our style. We’re rushing out to buy handguns and rifles in record-breaking numbers. The odds that someone with a handgun will be in the right place at the right time to kill a terrorist are actually pretty small. What’s more likely is that many of these newly-purchased weapons will eventually be involved in an accidental shooting, a suicide, or a domestic dispute. Some will find their way into the black market. One thing for sure, any would-be terrorists will have no problem buying weapons.


December 4, 2015

100 Words -- Fear Itself

Franklin Roosevelt began his presidency with this rallying cry: “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unjustified terror.” Well, that was then. Today’s politicians embrace fear. They stoke it, hoping to turn terror into votes. They see what we have become. They see that our star-spangled banner no longer waves over the home of the brave. They see a people grown fearful, armed to the teeth, angry at the world. They make speeches not to appeal to our better natures but to our fear and loathing. And too late, we see we’ve become what we hate.



December 3, 2015

100 Words -- History Lesson

Just got my winter reading, “To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914 to 1949,” arguably the worst 35-year run EVER. Checked out a review of the book, wherein the reviewer nutshelled what author Ian Kershaw believes were the four main forces pushing the continent towards war: (1) ethnic-racist nationalism; (2) irreconcilable demands to realign national borders; (3) acute class conflict; and (4) a protracted crisis of capitalism. I’m looking at this list and thinking about the current state of affairs and going: “Check, check, check AND check.” Then I think about giving the White House keys to Donald Trump. Check, please!


November 30, 2015

November

I think anyone who grew up near the ocean has a special affinity for Melville's Ishmael when he talks of a "damp, drizzly November in my soul." It's not quite the same anywhere else. The land always holds the promise of sanctuary. The sea offers only an endless horizon that bends towards the abyss of infinity.

100 Words -- Thermal Inertia

The irony of the current climate debate is that both believers and disbelievers want to downplay the inevitability of a climate meltdown. “There’s always hope.” “It’s not happening.” But in our collective gut, we know we are nearing a point of no return. And thanks to something called thermal inertia, even if we never pump another molecule of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- like that’s going to happen -- the oceans would continue to warm for another half century. We’ll have to fight like hell to stay even. We sure as hell can’t take another fifty years of business as usual.



November 19, 2015

Dogwood in Autumn



100 Words -- Enemies Foreign and Domestic

Certain politicians won’t look you in the eye when confronted with the sacrifice of our children at the altar of the Second Amendment, but they get all steely-eyed when it comes to terrorists. They talk tough about Syrian refugees but turn a blind eye to the 300,000 domestic deaths from firearms versus the 300 Americans killed by terrorists. They go along when the NRA lobbies against legislation aimed at preventing suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives. From 2004 to 2014, 2,233 people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist applied to buy firearms; only 190 were rejected. Anyone worried about that?


November 17, 2015

100 Words -- The Partitioning of Iraq

Great literature appears prescient partly because it foretells the future but mostly because we fail to learn from the past. In Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Marlowe comes across a French warship. “In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent … nothing happened. Nothing could happen.” Fast forward: 6,000 plus American air strikes against ISIS and what has happened? Nothing. Vietnam taught us that you can’t stop history. The de facto partitioning of Iraq is happening. We can slow it down -- contain it, if you will -- but we can’t unwind it.


November 14, 2015

100 Words -- 11/13

French President Hollande has described the attack on Paris as an act of war. Those words have meaning. One gets the same feeling as after 9/11, when the American people rose up as one and said, “Enough!” But it’s not enough for a single country to react. A global coalition needs to band together to take on this self-declared Caliphate by any and all means. Destroying the Islamic State is not a cure-all. Self-actualized terrorists are here to stay. Rooting them out will take decades.  But sometimes governments have to act in the moment. This is one of those times.


November 13, 2015

Self-Organization


Tree Yearning for Home


We see more clearly
In the lifting veil of dawn
Tree yearning for home



November 9, 2015

100 Words -- A More Perfect Union

The Preamble to the Constitution -- today we’d call it the vision statement -- begins with, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect Union …” It didn’t say perfect … just more perfect. The Framers understood that our government would be a work in progress. They understood that working through the vast differences that underlay our great political experiment would necessitate a willingness to accept solutions to problems everyone agreed weren’t perfect … just more perfect. In today’s heated politics where compromise is a dirty word for some, it’s worth remembering that perfection was never the goal.


October 31, 2015

October 27, 2015

October 25, 2015

A walk in the woods ...



Signs


We search for meaning

In the colors of a leaf

Spring hopes eternal



Autumn in the Catoctins



October 21, 2015

100 Words -- The Tyranny of the Minority

The Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives has thirty-six members. That’s less than a fifth of the Republican House majority of 234. That’s not quite one-tenth of the 435 total members of the House. The House itself is half of the Congress. The Congress itself is but one-third of the government. So we have one-tenth of one-half of one-third of the government waking up every day thinking they should be setting the agenda. As one of my old sergeants would say, the Freedom Caucus is a pimple on the ass of Congress. Isn’t about time someone did the math?


October 20, 2015

100 Words -- From Beirut to Benghazi

Donald Trump has reignited the debate over President Bush’s degree of responsibility for the attack on 9/11. This comes on the eve of Hillary Clinton’s testimony about her responsibility for the attack in Benghazi. In 1984, on Ronald Reagan’s watch, there were three attacks against Americans in Beirut. Hundreds of U.S. servicemen died, and the ambassador to Lebanon was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. In every case, more could have and should have been done.  But neither 9/11 nor Lebanon became political footballs in Congress. Were we that much better as a people back then, or is Congress that much worse?


October 18, 2015

100 Words -- The Real Danger for Gun Owners

You hear a lot of talk about owning guns for self-defense. Here’s something to think about. On average, 9,000 people are murdered every year with a firearm, while 21,000 people use a firearm to commit suicide.  This tells me a gun owner is more than twice as likely to kill himself as to be murdered. (Of the roughly 1,000 murder-suicides per year, the vast majority involve a firearm.) Statistically, the greater danger is NOT a criminal armed with a firearm. Rather, it is the depressed, unemployed, divorced or soon-to-be-divorced gun owner who is a threat to himself and to others.


October 16, 2015

100 Words -- Youth

“Apocalypse Now” was based on Joseph Conrad’s novella, “The Heart of Darkness.” For many years, that’s how I thought about Vietnam, as a darkness that seeped into my heart. Now I see it more through the lens of my youthful eagerness for a great adventure, for “the endeavor, the test, the trial of life” to quote from another of Conrad’s stories, “Youth.” I don’t kid myself about Vietnam, but I do keep flickering the memory of that innocent eagerness to confront fate. “O youth! The strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it … Pass the bottle.” 



… and I remember my youth and the feeling
that will never come back any more …
Joseph Conrad, Youth: a narrative

October 14, 2015

100 Words -- Toddler Shootings

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog notes that there have 43 reported shootings this year involving toddlers 3 years old or younger. Thirteen toddlers ended up dead of self-inflicted gun shots; another eighteen were wounded. Here’s a thought. If you own a firearm and a toddler finds it and discharges a round, then your firearm should be confiscated and your right to bear arms suspended for … well, you tell me. That’s what happens to drunk drivers. The NRA constantly preaches about responsible gun ownership. Well, here’s a chance for them to step up and put their money where their rhetoric is.


Out On Highway 15



October 11, 2015

October 9, 2015

100 Words -- The House Divided

The withdrawal by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from the race for Speaker of the House -- no biggie, just two heartbeats away from the presidency -- is the latest casualty in the civil war between House Republicans. No matter who wins the Speakership, he or she will face a bloc of hard-line conservatives who balk at anything that goes against their “principles.” This gives the Democrats unexpected leverage since their votes are needed to offset Republican defections, further infuriating the hard-liners, who loathe compromise. And round and round it goes; where it stops nobody knows. Really … nobody knows.


October 6, 2015

The Flow


Time drifting downstream 
Yesterday and tomorrow 
Dancing with the sun


October 2, 2015

The Weight

About a hundred years ago, Dr. Duncan McDougall conducted an experiment on a handful of dying people. He concluded that at the moment of death there was a weight loss of twenty-one grams. He believed this was due to the soul leaving the body. By way of comparison, the typical bullet used in an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle weighs about four grams, a bit less than a nickel. The next time you pick up a nickel, heft it in your palm. That’s all it takes to wipe out a soul. Well, that and a person who has already lost their soul.


100 Words -- Putin’s Syria Gambit

Vladimir Putin leapt into the vacuum created by our indecisive policies in Syria. He did so for the usual reasons: buffing up Russia’s creds as an international power and distracting the increasingly restive natives at home. Best case scenario, Putin does our dirty work for us by using his knights to create the illusion of a victory for Assad long enough so others can step in and remove Assad from the board. Either way, some believe Putin’s international distractions can’t hold down domestic discontent forever, that his ranks of pawns grow thin. If true, this may be Putin’s final gambit.


October 1, 2015

100 Words -- Frankie and Kimmie

Pope Francis secretly met with gay-marriage refusenik Kim Davis on his recent trip here. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t disappointing, an unforced error that has left a bitter aftertaste. It serves to emphasize what many long-time observers of Francis have repeatedly noted: he remains very conservative on certain doctrinal issues. Abortion? Women in the priesthood? Gay marriage? These are all big fat “no’s” for the Pope. Francis may soften the edges of these issues, but his welcome in America may wear thin as it becomes clearer that he won’t be making any substantive reforms on his watch.


Autumn Skies

Autumn skies thicken ...
A congregation of clouds
Holds silent vigil.

September 30, 2015

September 29, 2015

September 25, 2015

100 Words -- Biden, His Time

Watching Vice-President Biden and Speaker Boehner chatting quietly while waiting for the Pope, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said something like, “These two guys in a room alone could straighten out Washington fast.” I had an epiphany. Who else has the experience, the relationships with Congress, the everyman’s touch – gaffes and all – that Biden has?  Certainly not the Republican front-runners, who are all amateurs. Hillary’s circle-the-wagons mentality worries me. Sanders is too much the loner. A recent poll suggests the country wants not a revolutionary but a repairman, someone who can make things work again … an ordinary Joe for extraordinary times.


September 21, 2015

100 Words -- Fiorina, Lies, and Videotapes

The “big lie” is a term coined by Adolph Hitler to describe a lie so outrageous that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." With today’s social media, big lies go viral every ten minutes. Donald Trump jump-started his campaign with scary talk of Mexican rapists streaming across our borders. More recently, Carly Fiorina attacked Planned Parenthood based on a highly-edited video featuring unsupported allegations and images of a stillborn fetus NOT connected to any Planned Parenthood facility. Fiorina’s refusal to take back this big lie is her moment of truth.


September 15, 2015

100 Words -- Georgetown

We were in town to see a play at the Kennedy Center. Standing on the terrace looking west towards Georgetown, I remembered arriving in September 1963. Georgetown was still a bit rough around the edges. The gentry had long-ago driven out the poor folk and occupied the hilltop, but down by the river you could still find the sailor bars, as well as newer places like the Cellar Door. It was there I first got well and truly drunk. Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end, but by the 23rd of November the dream was gone.


September 13, 2015

September 8, 2015

100 Words -- Render Unto Caesar

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis found herself caught between Caesar and God. She chose her religious beliefs, but rather than resign she wants to keep her job without having to do the things she objects to. Wouldn’t we all like to have that option? Like any other job, being a public servant sometimes involves carrying out policy decisions you don’t agree with. But being a public servant isn’t like any other job. Davis swore on a Bible “to support the Constitutions and laws of the United States and Kentucky … so help me God.” She can’t have it both ways.


September 6, 2015

September 4, 2015