Today being leap day, I took a leap of faith and played a little golf. It was just a bit breezy. I’d call it somewhere between a two-club and a four-club wind, with occasional gusts strong enough to move my pull cart. Only saw one patch of snow, but other than that the course was mostly playable if a tad soggy. I had some winter rust to shake off, the occasional errant shot, but on the last hole I had the wind to my back and caught the drive flush. If I could have, I would have leaped for joy.
February 27, 2016
One of the problems I have with Bernie Sanders is that he is not a Democrat. Maybe I’m old school, but I think if you’re running for president as a Democrat then you ought to join the party, something that, as far as I know, Sanders has yet to do without keeping his fingers crossed behind his back. I remember the days when party mattered. Nowadays a lot of folks change their party affiliation every election cycle. As uncomfortable as the situation is with the Democrats, it doesn’t compare to the goings-on in the Republican Party which, in the immortal words of Lindsey Graham, is “batshit crazy.”
Tensions among conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives have erupted into a full-blown identity crisis, sparked by the specter of a hostile takeover by Donald Trump. Just as Bernie Sanders’ credentials as a Democrat are thin, you could question how much of a Republican Trump really is. His failure to toe the Republican line seems to bother everyone but the voters, who support Trump over an admittedly weak field despite his many lapses from conservative orthodoxy. Many wonder just what it means to be a Republican (or a Democrat) these days. Could be the party’s over. From the chaos of this election cycle a hybrid political landscape is emerging, with social media becoming as important to campaigns as the traditional parties. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where they actually have to govern.
February 26, 2016
Much has been made of young voters flocking to support Bernie Sanders. It’s ironic that the three likeliest nominees -- Sanders or Clinton and Trump -- are all senior citizens. Hillary would be seventy when her first term ends. Trump, seventy-four. Bernie, seventy-nine. I’ve lived long enough to get to the other side of the generation gap. I know that the four years after fifty are very different from the four years after seventy. This needs to be my generation’s last hurrah. To paraphrase JFK, it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. God knows, there’s plenty to do.
February 23, 2016
I think the FBI-Apple battle becomes more understandable when you stop thinking of Apple as an American company. Apple is a multinational firm that just happened to start here. At this point, our government is just another government they have to deal with to do business. In their minds, the Chinese, European, and American governments exist only to suck tax dollars and data out of Apple. Tim Cook dismisses the idea that he should comply with our tax code. Rewrite it, he says, and then I’ll bring those dollars home. Until then, ask not what Apple can do for you ...
February 22, 2016
To quote the Kinks, “It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.” A couple with links to ISIS goes on a killing spree. Their phone may have useful information, but the data is encrypted. Only the phone’s builder, Apple, can create a back door into the phone. Apple refuses, proclaiming their sacred duty to protect customer privacy. They don’t mention that China is their second-largest market. If they let us in the back door, the Chinese government will want the same. That’s bad for business. So ease up, Uncle Sam. Remember, what’s good for Apple is good for America.
The two centers of my life growing up were Cohasset and Hull, where one of my mother’s sisters lived. No Christmas was complete without a trip to my aunt’s house, where I would dive into foil-covered chocolate coins and the box of ribbon candy she always had out. The kitchen was presided over by my uncle, sitting at the table with an ever-present cup of coffee that was never just coffee. Like my father’s, this was a big family. The bond between my mother’s brothers and sisters was forged in the inferno of the Depression, when family and neighbors were all you had. At one point, the state was thinking about breaking up the family because both parents were dead. The neighborhood got together and issued a communal “We’ve got this.” They were just immigrants. There were no rich people on that street. They worked with their hands. Most of them hadn’t had time to master English, but they knew how to stick together and take care of their own.
February 21, 2016
I grew up a short walk from the Cove. Nearby were a few shops, including a bakery. The aroma of fresh donuts mingled with rotting fish. The firehouse was also there back then. A horn blasted out the fire’s location in a code you could look up on a listing we kept taped to the back of a kitchen cabinet. I learned to swim at the Cove. We’d be issued kick boards and sent into the water with orders to kick our way back ashore. If there were jellyfish, we’d have to scoop them up with our kick boards and dump them on the sand. The water was always cold. We didn't care. The ocean called to us, and we could never refuse.
February 18, 2016
Apple refuses to unlock the encryption on a phone used by a terrorist. A hospital pays a bitcoin ransom to get its computer system returned by cyber-hijackers. I understand the concept of encryption, but I couldn’t tell you how it works. Not only can’t I tell you how bitcoins work, I can’t even explain the concept. What I do know is that these new technologies have been co-opted by terrorists and criminals, allowing them to operate in a virtual world that is invisible to governments. So, how much is your privacy worth? The cost seems to go up every day.
February 14, 2016
For centuries, philosophers believed that all creation was shaped by Nature under the guiding hand of the Divine. The design of things held clues to hidden connections. A plant that looked like an eye might treat diseases of the eye. We know better today, yet when I find a stone with a perfectly-shaped heart embedded in it, I pick it up. This idea of the heart as the center of romance is itself a holdover from ancient times. But even as my head says it’s just a stone, well, my heart says something different. I listen and pocket the stone.
February 13, 2016
Neutral ground … mist rolling off the Mississippi … purple, gold, and green … Community Coffee … live oaks gracefully arching over wide streets … secret gardens … Katrina crosses … urban spaces as art canvases … chicory coffee (ugh!) … beignets (uhm!) … the Flea Market … folks sitting out on stoops … children playing … empty house lots … Crescent City… tangles of refinery pipes … bloody good Bloody Mary’s … mystery disks in sidewalks … street bands swinging Dixieland jazz … Jackson Square walled in by art canvases … wrought iron balconies festooned with ferns … Krewe of Cork beads … ginormous potholes … City Park … po’ boys (don’t call ‘em subs) … blackened alligator … snowy egrets … people talking … resilience.
"… before life can peep through, even as a flower, or a stick insect, or a beetle, it has to have some kind of unofficial assurance of nature’s stability … that nature is steadfast and continuous. … It is with the coming of man that a vast hole seems to open in nature, a vast black whirlpool, spinning faster and faster." Loren Eiseley, "The Firmament of Time"
February 10, 2016
The results of the New Hampshire primary are official. Both major parties are the subject of hostile takeover bids from candidates bypassing “the establishment” to appeal directly to frustrated and angry voters. We haven’t seen this much populist fervor since the 19th Century. Neither major candidate is into modest proposals. Trump wants to build a wall across our southern border while Sanders wants to tear down Wall Street. And that’s just for starters. Both vow to tear up the existing social contract and start over. Meanwhile, the old guard has been caught completely off guard. Where it stops, nobody knows.
February 8, 2016
Edmund Burke said, “The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth.” Well, as Frasier would say, “I’m listening.” You say you want a revolution? Recent history suggests that unless the Democrats capture BOTH the House and the Senate, there will be no revolution. Still, there’s no denying Sanders has tapped a nerve and energized young voters. I’d like to know more about how he could win and how he would govern, but there’s no question it would be an interesting four years. We may not get a revolution, but it sure as hell would be a change.
February 7, 2016
John F. Kennedy inspired the nation with his energy and rhetoric. I remember being ready to join the New Frontier. I also remember that by the time Kennedy went to Dallas, he was feeling the political heat. The New Frontier was mired in Congress. When Lyndon Johnson took office, he was seen by many as a political hack. What did he get done? Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, The Civil Rights Act, and increased environmental protections. So who was more effective as president, Kennedy or Johnson. It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one worth debating.
February 5, 2016
Last night’s debate left me thinking the Republicans may actually have a chance, assuming either Trump or Rubio gets the nomination. It’s those transcripts of Hillary’s speeches to Goldman Sachs. We know they will eventually get out. We know there will be sound-bites making it easier to portray Hillary as a stooge of Wall Street. Why else the reluctance to release them? That won’t change any Republican votes, but it could curb the enthusiasm of Bernie’s supporters if Hillary wins the nomination. A fired-up Republican base against a lukewarm Democratic base spells big trouble for Clinton. So yeah, I’m nervous.
"All that is God's, hallowed be His name, must have its counterpart,
its backside of evil and negation."
George Steiner, "The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H."
''If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.''
Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising