June 29, 2016

100 Words -- Christy Sheats

The NRA tells us good guys need guns to protect us from evildoers. Maybe they were thinking about Christy Sheats, a staunch advocate of the right to bear arms. True, she had a volatile personality. A previous employer called her troubled. Houston police went to her home fourteen times in four years. She also had a .38 pistol, which she used to kill her two daughters during an argument. So here’s my question: Who protects us from the good guy with a gun and a problem? How many more innocents will be sacrificed on the altar of the Second Amendment?

June 25, 2016

100 Words -- Bregrets

There’s a lot of finger-pointing in Great Britain over who lost the European Union. Many Brits who voted “Leave” are now all, “Wait … what, you mean I voted ‘Leave’ and now we have to leave the EU? That’s not what I meant. How about a do-over?” Europe’s response? “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” They intend to make Britain pay dearly for the divorce. And if the Brits hold another referendum and vote to remain in the EU, the Europeans will no doubt drive an even harder bargain. Well played, guv, well played.

June 22, 2016

100 Words -- Brexit

Tomorrow’s referendum in Great Britain -- whether to remain in or exit from the European Union, the Brexit vote -- had its origins in a long-festering ideological schism within the ruling conservative party. Sound familiar? That smoldering spark has become a raging political inferno, fanned by Boris Johnson’s populist Britain-first rhetoric and an anti-establishment sentiment among voters. Hmm, that sounds totally familiar. Europe hasn’t helped its own cause with its dithering response on debt and immigration. Now it’s another do-or-die moment. The current betting is that Britain will remain in the European Union. The surer bet is that nothing will be settled.

June 16, 2016

100 Words --Bad Company

“The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule,” by Igort, graphically detailed the horrors perpetrated by the Russians against Muslim Chechens. Now there’s a new report on CIA secret prisons in Afghanistan. One incident involved a prisoner left to freeze to death in a cage called the Salt Pit. The Russians would routinely leave prisoners naked and alone in deep pits for days. Not the kind of company we should be keeping. We can tell ourselves it’s been fixed, but memories are long in certain parts of the world. We’ll bear this stain for a long time.

June 13, 2016

100 Words -- The Uncertainty Problem

What do you get with someone who is a devout Muslim with tenuous links to ISIS that have been investigated by the FBI, who has mental health issues and engages in abusive behavior, and who regularly makes racist and homophobic statements? The worst mass killing in U.S. history? Maybe. Or you might get nothing. That’s the problem. Without more to go on, there’s no way to predict what might happen. Now add one more factor: that person buys a semi-automatic weapon and a shit-ton of ammo. You’d think that might raise a flag, but it didn’t. Whose fault is that?

June 12, 2016

100 Words -- Where There's Smoke ...

In a classic “pot calling the kettle black” moment, Donald Trump will be telling America why he thinks Hillary Clinton is too crooked to be president. Spoiler Alert! The speech will be largely based on a book entitled “Clinton Cash,” by Peter Schweizer. Here’s the gist of it. Say a group of businessmen in one country make a deal with another country. Say those businessmen contributed to the Clinton Foundation. Say the deal needed approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Bingo! The Clinton’s were bribed by the contributions and (money for speeches). No smoking gun. Just a lot of smoke.

June 11, 2016

Unfinished Business

The recent California primary made history, clinching Hillary Clinton’s bid to be the first woman nominated for the presidency. I can’t help thinking back to an earlier California primary that also reshaped American history. The year was 1968 and three men were locked in a tight race. The winner in California, Robert F. Kennedy, was a passionate advocate for racial and economic justice, his campaign fueled by young people looking to remake America. Eugene McCarthy was more of an academic, running on an anti-war platform. Hubert Humphrey was the vice-president and the establishment favorite, but he was saddled with a war he refused to disavow. Kennedy’s victory in California would have been a major setback for McCarthy, likely setting up a dramatic convention fight with Humphrey for the nomination. It’s the way a lot of Sanders’ supporters were hoping things would go this year. We never got to see it, though.

On the night of his greatest victory, Kennedy was gunned down, the first American casualty of our deepening involvement in the Middle East. As he lay dying, Kennedy whispered, “Everything’s going to be okay.” If only it were so. The country has been though a lot since then, and in many ways the business of the 1968 campaign is still unfinished, the struggle to define America still ongoing. We have another chance this year. Perhaps it’s true that history first plays as tragedy then as farce, but this is the only history we have. The choice is still fundamentally the same. Do we want an America where social progress matters, or will we again let fear and false promises govern our choice? It made a difference then. It will make a difference now. 

June 5, 2016

100 Words -- Bad Moon Rising

I’ve gotten old enough to live in a world I no longer completely understand. Change once seemed good. Now it’s just mystifying, slightly alarming. What felt like progress in the 50s and 60s now feels like a juggernaut on the verge of spinning wildly out of control. I feel a doom coalescing like mist in the night, a worry condensing into the certainly that we are no longer masters of our creations. Maybe it’s always like this when you get older and the shadows lengthen, and the rising sun is now a setting sun, and there’s a bad moon rising.

June 3, 2016

100 Words -- The Little Book Of Horrors

I liked the book because it had a nice heft to it. I liked the smell of the paper, the way a page felt in my hand, the artwork. It’ll be magical, I thought. But you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I began reading and was plunged headlong into unspeakable torment and mass starvation -- man’s inhumanity to man limned in spare words and lines. It happened in Russia, but every country has an equally dark chapter. There are always those who are killed for their otherness. There are always those who are willing to do the killing.

“The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule,” by Igort.