Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Queen Bess

Atlanta, GA – Elisabeth Warren is a Senator whose recent political life has been filled with controversy, blaming, and Interest to the general public. She is, perhaps, the most liberal person who has been put forward for the 2016 Presidential Election.

The Senior Senator from Massachusetts, she defeated Scott Brown in a hotly contested race in 2012. Brown claimed she had lied when she had said that she was of Indian Descent. Apparently, it was the reason she got her professorship at Harvard. However, attempts to find proof she was of Native American Descent promptly turned up nothing.
But this time, she is not in the news because of whether or not her ancestors were members of the Cherokee and Delaware tribes. She has said constantly she is not running. But the emphases may be put on the word “is.” Or, in the actual statement, “am.”
The woman is to the left of Hillary Clinton, which is saying a lot, as everybody knows Some have even suggested that she should run to solidify the youngest parts of the Democratic Party, where some think Hillary Clinton is too far towards the center for comfort. (Doesn’t everybody that is in politics too long seem to drift to the center?)
She is the first woman ever elected to the US Senate from her state, and so you might say she is already a progressive.
Her first bill would have allowed students to borrow money from the federal government at the same rate as the banks do, saying that students should get the same deal. She had run on a platform that included attacks on Wall Street CEOs, saying they had wrecked the economy.
According to the Washington Times, she seemed to suggest at one hearing that, due to the rise of worker’s productivity over the years, the minimum wage should be at least $22 per hour. (By that logic, taken far enough back, it could be over $100, but Warren is not ready to take it that far.) Enough said on Warren. As one last note, the media is swooning over her, and the Unltra Liberals would love nothing more than having her in the White House, and Hillary Clinton, like I said, has been in politics a long time. These are not predictions, but they are facts.

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Supreme Debate


Atlanta, GA – As everyone knows by now, the election of 2016 is within a few days. (Plus or minus about five hundred, but anyway, its closer than the one in 2020, which is why we are not talking about that one yet, but don’t worry, its coming.) And the issues that are expected to be on the table then are already being aired out.
But a new one is emerging that is rather intriguing. The Supreme Debate. The Supreme Court, that is. Now the Supreme Court has been the focal point of much political jockeying, satire, and hatred in years past. Jackson tried to overrule it, Roosevelt (FDR) tried to stack it and put more justices in, and people are always “hating on” it for this or that. 
But be that as it may, the Supreme Court is here, has been since the constitution was written, and is not going anywhere anytime soon. So the issue remains for 2016, for whoever it is that takes the Oval Office then, (Hillary Clinton, or someone who is currently a state dog-catcher) wil have the privilege of being the one who gets to make the appointments as the vacancies, which are certainly coming, emerge.
It may be to some a minor issue who sits on the court, and indeed, in most election years the argument takes a back seat. No presidential election has ever hinged on who the candidate is planning to appoint, if and when one or more of the justices vacate their seats. And this coming race probably will not be much different, either.
But the issue should have some preeminence in the conversation, not least of all because of what the courts have done in recent years. Overturning Roe v. Wade is only part of it. There are all sorts of debates that will be or can be ultimately decided by the Court, and some of them are quite pressing. Is same-sex marriage constitutional? Should private citizens be allowed to give as much money as they want to elections? Should we have to have a license to get a handgun in the city? What about immigration? There are things there that are up for debate in the Court.
There are many issues that could be mentioned, but perhaps one of the most talked about ones will be The Affordable Care Act. (Obamacare.) They ruled before that it was constitutional, but that was basically on a technicality, and while there are cases now in the docket, and soon to come up, it is a well-known fact that often more than one case is often needed to air out all the issues, and it is very possible that if the makeup of the court changes after 2016, they could revisit this and other issues, and possibly overturn previous decisions, which can always lead to exiting headlines.
And the idea of the court being shaken up is not farfetched. It is an aging institution, none of the judges are under sixty, while some have reached their seventies or even eighties. And even if the will is there to carry on, the strength may soon not be.
Yes, it is still a little while until Election, 2016, the winners from 2014 have not even taken their seats yet. But it is not too early to talk about the oncoming Supreme Debate.

Andrew C. Abbott

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tide or Typhoon: Are the Republicans Hip, or just an Anomaly?

Atlanta, GA – The Republicans are still riding high on the fact that they just did was statistically likely: beat up the lame duck president’s party during the midterms. And some are calling it a Republican wave.
It was. But what kind? Was it just like the running in of the tide, where different waves are always coming in and going out just as quickly, or more like the typhoon, which hits the beaches, and might, for a moment, look like any other wave, except for the fact that it keeps on coming. Marching up the beach in a surge of white water, it overruns everything in front of it, and keeps on going, far inland.
In Louisiana, we might get some clues. There, Democratic Senator Landrieu won a plurality (more votes than anyone else, but less than 51%) on election night, over a month ago. But the laws of her state demand that, if no candidate gets a majority, then there is a runoff. That will happen tomorrow.
In the state, there were no primaries, so Landrieu was facing a slew of opponents, many of them conservative, keeping the Republican Frontrunner down, she did come out ahead. But not for long.
Without everyone else to take votes from him, Cassidy, her main opponent, began to rise swiftly in the polls as the election runoff, scheduled for Saturday, came closer.
Landrieu became in miniature, a picture of the Democratic Party themselves. Abandoning her party’s hardline principles, she ran to offer a bill in the senate that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. Cassidy, over in the house where he currently works, rushed to do the same thing. Cassidy’s bill passed, Landrieu’s did not.
Her apparent last hope running out, everyone has now abandoned her. The Democrats from across the country that were so eager to help in November have disappeared here in December. She is left to run out this final race alone.
The numbers against her are telling. The last of the Democrat White Voters in the Deep South are dwindling. The last hope of the Democrats is that Landrieu win, and prove they have still “got it.”
But it is not likely. If she were to, it would be a harbinger that the Republican win in November was just an anomaly. A statistical blip, a bit like when country wide internet usage goes down over the weekend. But instead everything points to a Landrieu loss, and, for now at least, the Republicans are on top. The numbers we saw before were accurate. The white support for the Democrats is still falling apart. Even if 95% of blacks in Louisiana were to vote Democrat on Saturday, Landrieu would still not be put over the top.
Admittedly, it is a bit early to say that the Democrats are out. Landrieu has not lost yet. The Republicans are not yet at 54 seats in the senate. But the odds for her are certainly going downhill right now. She trails Cassidy now by around 24% in the polls. And there is a 95% chance, by the numbers, that she will lose.
That is bad news for the Liberals. If Landrieu loses, from the Carolinas to Texas, not a single legislative chamber, US Senate seat, or governor’s mansion will be theirs. Merry Christmas Democrats.
Andrew C. Abbott

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why the Ferguson Protests Are Going To Die


In Ferguson, the unrest continues. And the flames are still being fanned. Al Sharpton continues to call for justice, saying the prosecutor may have won the first round, but “don’t take your gloves off.”
Yet amidst all of shouting, burning, marching, demands for justice and the up cropping, suddenly, of many different groups, with all sorts of names like “Voices for Justice” the protests are still dying. The reasons of course, include the usual reasons protests die. People get bored. People have jobs and lives. But as the protests continue to splinter and become further and further from what the original issues were, there is another reason that the Ferguson Protests, and the other protests around the country coming out of them, are not going to survive: They are too small.
The fact that thousands of people are in on the protests doesn’t matter. What does is the message. And it is that the black are fighting the whites again. Whatever may have been the original story, it is now being portrayed as a larger debate about black v. white. It shouldn’t be. It should be good vs. bad. And the whole country would be running to join them. (Not the violent ones, the mentally sane ones.)
Americans hate injustice. We have fought wars over it. And Americans would be more than happy to fight this war too. Nobody likes it when people get shot unjustly by police officers, or anybody else for that matter. No matter what the color of the victim. But the moment you say that this is a “black issue” you just lost the majority of the nation. Not only the whites, but also the Asians and Latinos.
But it is not a black issue. It is an American issue. Whatever the truth about Mike Brown, there are problems with the system, as in every system, and this could have started a larger debate that could have begun to fix some of them. But instead these protests are going to fizzle out and die, and another excellent chance to reform and renew will be lost.
In America, on the streets, from New York to California, in many places, the cities are already quiet again. It flamed up and died down and is now nearly over. There may be some that hang on for weeks, maybe even months now, but the majority of it, at least for right now, is all over.
A great chance to fix things was just wasted. The main lesson of the Mike Brown Debate was this: black vs. white is never going to hack it. Good vs. bad will. Because good doesn’t have a color. Everyone will sign up to be on the good side.


Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Burning Down Ferguson Is Not Going To Help

“If you burn down buildings, you achieve what? A fire. But you don’t get justice for Michael Brown.” -Al Sharpton


Last night, the grand jury (which included 3 blacks) decided that Darren Wilson (white) had committed no crime when he shot Michael Brown in apparent self-defense last summer. The young black man that everyone had said was gentle and loveable, the police officer said was more like “Hulk Hogan” and that he had no choice but to shoot in self-defense as Brown repeatedly punched him. Because of that, supporters of Brown began to burn down Ferguson.
At least 80 people were arrested, fires were started and hundreds of shots were fired. So far no one is believed to have died, and the national guard has been called in. At one point over a thousand protestors gathered in one area. Police fired pepper spray and irritating gas. At another time protestors charged a barricade manned by police in riot gear and knocked it over.
Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is not far off from the court house where, over a hundred and fifty years ago, another important battle was fought about human rights. In what one Supreme Court Justice called the courts’ most embarrassing time, it was ruled that Dredd Scott did not have the right to be a free man, no matter how many Free states he had passed through. It was, to say the least, a terrible decision, and inexcusable.
In front of the court house where the decision took place, in modern times, protestors, (who included whites) burned an effigy while calling Wilson to be indicted.
Back then, there were many fiery attempts at increasing human rights. Some were moral but not legal. Which was alright. But some were neither. More than once slaves were not content to run away or simply resist those who were attacking them. They became violent.
Such as Nat Turner in 1831. He and his men killed around 60 men, women, and children. Turner himself killed a woman with a blow to the head from a fence post. Her crime was being white. Of course, this is much more violent and terrible than Ferguson, and these men were slaves, but there was no need to go around killing white children. Racism is inexcusable. But so is angry violence that does not accomplish anything.
The rebellion only lasted two days. Turner was executed, and mass hysteria began Slaves were treated worse than ever. The little support for abolition of slavery there was in the South evaporated. Those that held the views were seen as wanting the whites to be killed in their beds. The slaves put their cause back by years.
Last night the city was already so scared of the protestors that they called in the national guard even before the decision was announced. The constitution gives the right to peaceably assemble. Emphasis on the word peaceably.
The jury, in the proper sense of law and order, decided not to indict. That, in itself, is rare. Very rare. In 2010, the last year for which we have data, 162,000 different times prosecutors asked for indictments. They got all but 11 of them. It appears Wilson case was very, very good. After all, there is an old saying that a grand jury will “indict a ham sandwich.”
The reason for it all. Wilson and Brown. Officer Wilson, who claims to have
shot Brown is self defense was cleared of all charges yesterday by a Grand
Jury. Wilson reportedly will be retiring from the force in the near future.
Brown's family is calling for calm in the middle of the riots.
But be that as it may, the people in Ferguson are not doing themselves any favors. Troops are now being sent in. To show how little the protestors were already trusted, you need only look at the images of buildings being boarded up before the announcement, and the barricades being erected before the night began.
Protestors, apparently, at least about these sort of human rights, do not have any respect any more. No one is paying attention, except to perhaps hope that they don’t burn down their house. As proof, in the over one hundred days since the shooting they have protested constantly, looted, stolen, burned effigies, and staged a “die in.” None of it helped. They didn’t win their case.
The fact that anyone, including Michal Brown -whatever he may have bee- died, is tragic. But, as the president is fond of saying, we are a nation of laws, and attacking someone is against those laws. Apparently, Brown was in the wrong. And burning down buildings is not going to help. Racism is a terrible thing. But so is attacking people because someone else won a case in court.
Violence, we are taught in grade school in “anti-bullying” classes, never accomplishes anything. Until human rights protestors remember something every school kid is supposed to know by heart, they won’t accomplish anything either.

Andrew C. Abbott 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The tale of two walls


In 1999, a Turkish comedy was made named Propaganda. It tells a story loosely based on something that happened in 1948. An officer is ordered to put up a wall along the border between Syria and Turkey. But that border runs directly through the center of his town. The officer puts up the wall anyway. He quickly tears the town apart. He splits up lovers, parents and children, brothers and sisters, neighbors and employees from the places that they work.
In 2014, another comedy was written. This time a wall was not put up, but rather torn down.
On Thursday, in a prime time speech, Barak Obama released his new immigration plan that has been looming for months if not years on the political horizon. Recent efforts for overhaul have failed, including the bipartisan Gang of Eight proposal, released within days of the Boston Bombing, which was unable to muster enough support to get out of congress.
The president promised that if congress did not fix immigration soon, he would sign an executive order doing it himself. He did add, however, that if congress ever does decide to act, their action would take the place of his.
The president’s plan, as outlined in his speech, calls for the granting of “deferred action” to the parents of undocumented immigrants, or illegal aliens, that have either come here since 2010, or been here legally for five years, or are actual US Citizens. A background check will also be done, and criminals will still be deported.
This group could comprise up to an estimated 5,000,000 people. That is still, however, less than half of an estimated 11,000,000 illegal aliens that are here in the United States right now. The president also promised that the border would be tightened, saying that if someone was planning on coming here illegally in the future “your chances of getting caught just went up.”
The president, in his speech reminded everyone that America is a nation of immigrants, and that the scripture bids us to be kind to the neighbor that is within our gates. And to congress, Obama said, if they disagree, or if they doubt his authority to sign this executive order, he had three words. “Pass a bill.”
The Republicans, the up and coming majority party in America, the party that just took over the senate and by the numbers has every chance of winning the White House in two years, are not happy. Not happy at all. They warned the president not to take any drastic action that might “poison the well” before they could get to Washington. Now he may have done just that. Obama urged them not to make this single act of his a deal breaker on cooperation. But the Republicans are incensed.
Barak Obama has just dealt his party another blow. Of course, they must back the most recent actions of their president, but that does not mean they have to like it. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, has already said he is against this move. And a lot of other people are to. The supposed best hope of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, now has to back another unpopular move by Barak, and so hurt her name even more. But even more important than Hillary's name is the damage that this most recent executive action may do American industry and jobs.
In America, now, we have around 5,000,000 new faces that can come out of the shadows. One of the largest sudden granting’s of authenticity in this way, of people that already live among us, perhaps since Ancient Rome. What that means for our economy, for our way of life, and how America views itself and is viewed by others, is, of course, yet to be determined. But this is, in effect, the tearing down of a wall. And the effects of that demolition, for good or for bad, will be jarring. Massively jarring.

Andrew C. Abbott

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Bombs of Iran

Tehran, capitol city of Iran, at night
Iran and America have sat down, again, to talk about atomic bombs.
An atomic bomb is a dirty business. From Albert Einstein’s little equation E = MC2 (and of course a few other things added on, it’s not really that simple) a bomb can be created through a lot of hard work and with a lot of money and manpower. When you blow it up, all you see is a blinding flash of light, and then you are dead. Of course, that is if you are lucky. If you are close enough to the blast sight, the “Ground Zero” where the actual bomb is, there is not even a flash of light or an explosion, you are just dead. For those further away, things are even worse. If you do not get “disappeared” on explosion, you get a living death, a horrible torture as you die slowly from the effects.
Officially Iran does not have one of these atomic bombs. And officially they do not even want to make one. They claim to only want to use nuclear power as a source of energy for their civilization. Russia is mixed up in the works, (of course) having recently announced they will be building power plants there.
It takes many, many nuclear centrifuges to build a bomb. Estimates as to what Iran has in that way, (assuming, as no one knows otherwise, that they do not already have a bomb) range from 8,000 to 19,000. At the high number, it would take them about a year, barring any of what former Speaker of the House and Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich called “planned accidents” (scientists turning up dead, things getting blown up, etc. that slow down the production) to create a bomb. At the low number, it could only take about five months.
The Iranians sit a place that would be uncomfortable for anyone. ISIS is not exactly on the other side of the globe where they are, and upheaval, even in their own country, and especially in those surrounding them, is not uncommon. More like expected. To make matters worse for them, sanctions have been heaped on their heads in recent years by the West, and especially America, hurting their economy.
Israel is also nearby. A country attacked and buffeted constantly, just recently by the horrible attacks on the synagogue, Israeli operatives would not think twice before helping those unplanned "accidents" along.
Of course Iran is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and not known to be one for moderation. It does not sit very high on the list of "Human Rights Lovers" of the world.
In the last presidential election cycle Iran chose Mr.  Rouhani, who many people were happy about because he was perceived as a non-radical, and willing to play ball. But he is not the head man calling the shots.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme head, and it is up to him, ultimately, what deals are signed.
Of course, Iran is a country at the fringe of the world power. They certainly were not at the G20 last weekend when all the big boys and girls showed up for the prom. They are not a major dealer in power in the world. And they know that. And while Iran says it does not want a nuclear bomb, which not everyone believes, they also must know that a country with a nuclear bomb, and the power kill millions of people within a few seconds is someone you have to pay attention to.
It does not mean they would be constantly reminding everyone of it. Nor that they would fire it at North Korea because they took some of their people hostages, if that were to ever happen. But it would have a more restraining effect. Sort of like an old Western saloon, where all the men respected each other, because they were all wearing six shooters. Just think of this as a sort of improved revolver, kept in a bigger holster. Of course, a six shooter in the wrong hands could prove deadly. In the old West is was the cause of more than one massacre. An atomic bomb in the wrongs hands could be incalculably worse. We have seen big weapons in the hands of the wrong men before.

Andrew C. Abbot

Monday, November 17, 2014

War and Peace: Count Tolstoy's Tale

"Pierre did no see these people as individuals; he saw only their movements."

Greensboro, NC – Reading the book alone felt like a massive literary accomplishment. The book has more pages than the Bible. At the seventh longest novel ever written, the tale is not a "quick read" in any sense of the word. For Count Leo Tolstoy, writing War and Peace over the course of nearly a decade, he probably did a dance when he finally wrote the words “The End.”

War and Peace is the story of five families, beginning in 1805 with the rumors of war, and Napoleon, and great events. But the story is not just about that. Although the great currents of the story sweep across Europe, with scenes taking place in councils of war and palaces, there are also scenes in card rooms and garrets and tents and fields.
The tale does have the great ministers of the world, and the kings and generals and counts, but it also has young men trying desperately to make their way, bad men trying to stop them, and men who are trying decide whether they want to be good or bad.

In the pages of the book, between the great charges from the cavalry, the cheating at cards, the dueling, the attempts of men to reform themselves, you will meet skillfully crafted characters. The young Pierre, entitled to become the next count Bezukhov, if his uncle does not cheat him out of it first. There is Natasha, trying to decide between three men. And  Prince Andrei, who does not hate his wife, nor love her, and does not want to die in battle, or really to live either.

There is Dron, the ignorant peasant man who knows nothing but following his master. But what to do when the peasants want to revolt? There is Mac, the Austrian General, "Unfortunate" who cannot win a battle. And there is "Uncle" the lovable hunter who plays the guitar.

There is the tragic, as Napoleon makes one of the two great mistakes of his career, and marches into Russia. The characters, the good, the bad, the unknown all join arms to fight him and one by one the Princes and Generals of Russia are killed. There is the humorous. General Kutuzov takes a nap rather than fight the battle, saying that sleep is more necessary. And the down right mad, as Pierre attempts to get himself killed.

Moscow is burned to the ground, and a new side of human nature is shown. That side trying desperately to survive. Some kill. Others pillage. Some wonder aimlessly about, while others flee, and others again try to fight. As panic sets in, people abandon their homes, and even their children.

Amidst the Princes and Princesses, the Counts and Generals, Senators and Merchants, all going out in concentric circles of power from the great thrown of Russia, and the two emperors, the Tsar Alexander and his wife, you find in the high as well as the low in Tolstoy's tale the same problems, with money, with vice, with their children, and the need to find a purpose in life.

The question of a purpose in life torments many of the young as well as the old in the book. Some attempt to drown the question in liquor, one by suicide, some by joining the army, another by marriage, and some by even joining the masons. Some try to find it in dancing, and some in signing, Princess Marie tries to find it in giving alms, and the old count Bezukhov tried to find it in extreme unction. Yet at the end of the tale, those that survive and thrive, realize, in Tolstoy's words, that the only peace is found in God. And that He is the only answer to the questions which drive more than one in the tale nearly mad.

Throughout the book Tolstoy constantly takes field trips out of the story to present us with his views of philosophy and history, some of which are enlightening, others of which are interesting, and some of which are downright odd. Such as his belief that generals do not control armies, but they control themselves, and not a single order has ever been carried out by a soldier from his general.

But when Tolstoy is in the story, which is usually, he is superb. Whether he is describing one of the many battles, or one of the many balls, (they rival each other in number) or a hunt or a debate in the senate or even a quiet talk by two girls and two boys by moonlight about the philosophy of dying, he can tell a tale so that you can see it. Often a rare gift.

The book is called War and Peace. But in the end, when all the loose ends are tied, all the careers are made, the marriages have finally happened and the smokes of the battlefields have at last cleared, you feel that there is more war than peace in this book. From the beginning, when rumors of war are flying across Europe, to the end of the tale, at the great manor house at Bleak Hills, with the princes and counts discussing talk of Revolution which is goring throughout Russia, we find that war never ends. Napoleon is gone, but death and unrest and horror march on.

The tale, at times, can remind one of a history of a country, which in a way it is. There are rises and falls and intrigue and betrayal and base treachery by old friends. When you finally close the book in the end, you will not remember all the names. You might not be able to tell Denisov and Dolokhov apart. Or to remember who shot who and who married who. But that is not, in the end, what Tolstoy was trying to get across. The ending lesson of the story seems to be this: Yes, war will always be here, only interrupted by occasional flashes of peace. But in the end the only peace we can ever have is the one we find within ourselves. And there is only one way to do that.

Some of the counts and soldiers and generals in this epic tale spend their whole lives finding peace, and some of them never discover it. But Tolstoy teaches us where to look when, in battle, Prince Andrei, lord of Bleak Hills, is knocked from his horse by the French. As he tells his friend, look up. "How did I not see it before? The sky?" It is so vast and great. How could there not be a God to create all this? And how could he create without meaning?

Andrew C. Abbott

Friday, November 14, 2014

The G20: Class Picture of 2014



























It starts this weekend, in Brisbane Australia. A talk between the most powerful people in the world about how, in the next five years, they will raise the GDP of planet earth by around 2,000,000,000,000 dollars.

Every year, the nineteen member countries of the G20, (the head of the European Union is also invited) send their leaders to the country of the current sitting president of the G20. Millions of dollars are spent on their transportation, their housing, and their security, to choreograph a series of talks, the outcomes of which are nonbinding, and there is no way for any country to hold the other countries to their agreements here.
The nation members of the G20 (group of 20) make up around 85% of the GDP of the entire planet.
The presidency of the group is rotated between the heads of the countries that are a part of it. The president’s country hosts the summit. And it is also his/her job to run the biggest event of the summit. That year’s class picture.
This year’s picture will show Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin. Barak Obama, the more powerful of the two, yet also the one more disliked by his own country. He comes to the table as a lame duck president, running out of time. Putin comes to the table still trying to prove his power, or at least remind everyone of it. Instead of boxes of Russian chocolate for the other leaders, Putin brought 4 warships to the summit, which are in international waters outside of Australia.
Narendra Modi also is coming. The brand new head of India, he formerly was one of those people that everyone shies away from at dinner parties, so much so that America refused, some years ago, to even give him a visa. But he comes now like a rock star, head of a country with over a billion people, his country alone has about as many people in it as the Catholic Church.
Another of the people that will be there is Angela Merkel. The first female head of Germany, her country’s usually close relationship with America has been somewhat strained of late after news that America was, for a period at least, intentionally or unintentionally, spying on her cell phone.
There will be many other leaders there from all parts of the world. The city of Brisbane is nearly in lockdown as hundreds if not thousands of security forces descend on it from every major nation in the globe to be sure the lords and ladies of the modern age are protected.
The last leader of interest, but certainly not least, is Prime Minister of the host country of Australia, Tony Abbott. Age 57, he is  himself a former boxer. Vladimir Putin is a fighter himself, and Abbott has said in the past he would like to fight him…Maybe someday.
And while there will probably not be any actual physical punches thrown, amidst all the waving, smiling, and picture taking, the leaders of the world are officially meeting about economics. But many hours are left open for already planned private talks. With so much power in one city, sparks can, and often do fly.
Grab some popcorn; this could be an exciting weekend.

Andrew C. Abbott

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I: COMET


Johnston City, TN – In Isaac Asimov’s famous book “I: Robot” we read of the one unique one. The one who doesn’t go with the flow of history, but instead makes some history of his own. Like an explorer or a scientist, trying something new.

At 7:00 AM, on the twelfth of November, a comet may just break out of the mold of all comets in all known human history. Before now, every comet that has stayed in the sky, flinging its own happy way through the vast darkness of space, has been left alone. Free to do as it pleases, go as it pleases, and eventually disintegrate as it pleases. But now one comet, lucky or unlucky, with the unassuming name of 67P is about to be invaded by human technology.
The three players in this script are firstly: the comet. Named 67P, or lengthened to 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, (for whatever reason) was discovered in 1969, the same year as mankind’s greatest space achievement so far, landing on the moon. A massive chunk of ice and dust and ancient rock, it takes 67P about six and a half years to orbit the sun. This comet never gets hotter than -45 degrees. Coolness will be needed during the night and morning, as the scientists try to finish out the mission, began now over ten years ago, of landing their robot on 67P’s surface. They will face a series of decisions, each one with a go/no-go answer. If all of them come up go, ad 7:00 AM, the last one will be reached, and the point of no-return crossed.
The second player is the Rosetta space ship. Launched ten years ago, it follows in the footsteps of seven other  unmanned crafts that have been able to rendezvous with comets. It will be the first one, if successful, to land something on it.
The Comet 67P
This something is the third player. The Philae lander will approach 67P at about 2.2 MPH. When it touches down, there will probably shouting form the scientists, but the gravity on the comet is so weak, because of its amazingly small size, that the Philae lander will have to anchor itself to the rock, which is still going to be hurtling through space like mad, with a harpoon. The Philae will then take samples of the comet, to help us learn more about it.
This endeavor has been called about as hard as climbing mount Everest. Everything has to go just right. Nothing can be done wrong, there can be no errors. If there are any, then the equipment, after its long flight out, could easily be smashed to pieces or destroyed, and we would then have to wait perhaps another decade, perhaps more, before it can be tried again.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring things about the odds for this project is the space ships’ name. Rosetta. It was named that after the famous Rosetta Stone, the stone upon which was found the clues to unlocking hieroglyphics. For a long time discovering the answers to the hieroglyphics was thought to be nearly if not completely impossible. Yet it was done. In Asimov’s book, I: Robot wanted to break out of the harness and do his own thing. Now an attempt is being  made on I: Comet, to harness, it, its information, and its history, for science.

Andrew C. Abbott

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lame Ducks Take Their Last Lap

Johnston City, TN – At 2:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time, on November 12th, the long break for congress will be over. And the Democrats, beaten, mocked, and all around whipped will have to drag themselves back into the honored halls of congress, to make their final speeches, attend their final parties, say their farewells, and generally be what is known in the political sphere as Lame Ducks.
Kay Hagan will be there, the senator who lost to a man who didn’t even need 50% of the vote to beat her. Senators from states where Democrats are supposed to win, according to the numbers, will not be coming back either. In the house, on the other side of the building, the Democrats were already down, but they could have made the difference smaller, but instead, the Republicans return with a majority larger than since before Barak Obama was born.
Of course, not every Democrat has been kicked out of congress. They were not all up for election, after all. Harry Reid will be back on the day when all the new members will be sworn in, but he will come, no longer as one the most powerful men as Washington, but instead he will the minority leader, the man who has, at times, little else to do but give press conferences on why he thinks those in power are goofing things up.
The Lame Duck Session, which still has months to go, is going to most likely be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. The president would no doubt like to have a new attorney general very soon, but whether that will happen is uncertain, as men such as Ted Cruz have already voiced they want the president to wait. The president said Friday he would like to try working with the new congress, when it comes in, stating he does not care if ideas are Republican or Democratic, but rather if they are good.
Of course, the words are good, but men such as John Boehner (speaker of the house) are warning the president not to poison the well before the new “class of 2015” can arrive on campus. Barak Obama won't commit to not doing that, already threatening to take action by himself on immigration, without even giving the new kids a chance.
This 113th congress has been known by many as the do-nothing congress, with gridlock, stop-gap measures, and arguments at every turn. That will probably not change as these men and women go out and the youngsters come in.
There will undoubtedly be photographers chasing officials around trying to get great shots of them peering off into the sunset in the days and weeks to come. There will final toasts at dinner parties and cameras flashing every time someone waves goodbye, the photographers hoping the images reach the front page the next morning.

It is out with the old guard, in with the new. Everyone is holding their breaths now, hoping that old guard does not set the house on fire as they leave. But they probably won’t.

Andrew C. Abbott

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Republicans and Minorities

Johnston City, TN – For over a generation now, many have called the Republican Party the party of the middle age, middle class, white man. Tuesday may have begun to change that. For the first time since Reconstruction, -which ended in the 70s, (in case you were wondering, that was the 1870s) a black man was elected to the senate –Tim Scott- with over sixty percent of the vote. And he was a Republican.

Interestingly enough, the state where he won, South Carolina, was the first state to succeed, just before Christmas, in 1860, to start the Civil War.
The Republican Party has become more diverse since Strom Thurmond, the senator who holds the record speaking the longest time on the senate floor, joined it in the 1960s in protest of the Democratic Party’s emphasis on Civil Rights. Strom Thurmond, famously against integration for at least the greater part of his life, was himself, not only from the same party that has now elected Tim Scott, but from the same state, South Carolina.
The Republicans have had trouble, historically, attracting minority votes. Even their recent attempts to pass laws requiring more ID required at voting places were pointed at by many as attempts to block minorities from voting, which historically vote Democrat. But in Texas, where the minorities were supposed to help beat Greg Abbott, the gubernatorial candidate for the Republicans, he won by over a million votes, and 40% of the Latino vote.
A simple look at those who are expected to be front runners for the Republicans in 2016 shows diversity, including Ted Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, as well as other such minorities as Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio.
The Republican Party has definitely become more diverse in the years since Strom Thurmond spoke for almost an entire day on the senate floor in an attempt to block desegregation. The Republican Party is not the party of the old, or of the white. It is a party for all.
We should never forget, as well, that the Republican Party was, after all the party of Lincoln.

Andrew C. Abbott

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Day the Magic Died?

Johnston City, TN – For the past twenty-six years, Republicans have been throwing everything they have at two people. They have brought out the tabloids, the special investigations, and written the books. Articles and documentaries have been made, people have been hired to dig up dirt, and lawsuits and mud slinging have happened both before and after an attempted impeachment proceeding of the only one of the Clinton Couple that has yet to hold the presidency.

But the Clinton’s have always survived. From Whitewater to Benghazi, from Monica Lewinsky to Hairgate and Travelgate and so many other gates you wished somebody would finally find a better ending to slap on the name of a scandal, the Clintons have always managed to keep their heads above water, if sometimes just barely.
But there is speculation on some fronts that the years of public life are finally beginning to take th 
eir toll on the “Comeback Couple.” There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton would like to be president, she did eight years ago, and that is not enough time for an ambition so large to simply dissipate. But there are whispers, even among Democrats, that people are tired of her, and that some new face might be needed to give the Democrats, after such a loss, a new lift.
There were no Clintons on the ballot, two days ago, when the Republicans swept the Democrats in what some are calling a “massacre.” But the Clintons did pour themselves into the campaign. Bill and Hillary campaigned in at least twenty-five states for more than thirty candidates. Much more than Barak Obama, about whom this election became a referendum. And yet with both the Mr. and the Mrs. Throwing everything into it, nothing happened.
Their magic wands did not sweep away the Republicans, their fund raising did not add the needed boost. Their speeches were good, and people were no doubt listening, but they were unconvinced this time.
Admittedly, people were not voting for Bill and Hillary, they were voting for people whose names nobody really knows or will remember in a few years, and there was nothing like the name recognition of the Clintons in any of the races.
But the fact is the Democrats lost, in the end, because they were the ones already on top. And they were on top when things were bad. They had been the majority party. And the Clintons were a part of that majority party. The Clintons have been at the top for a very, very long time. People still love them, when they speak they still draw crowds, but they are, undoubtedly, old.
Hillary is sixty-seven, Bill is sixty-eight. They left the Whitehouse a decade and a half ago. They no longer can hold court there, and now neither even holds any official public office. They are still massive with name recognition, but that might be one of the very things that hurts them, in the end.
The magic may finally be giving out. Some are still calling them the saviors, but like an old king and queen in a novel, they are old, and their friends are old. They are being more and more relegated to watching the young dancers, then actually being in the dance. The drama is playing out, but try as they might, they cannot influence it.
There comes a time in all of these tales when people realize there are many young and vibrant youths waiting in the wings, just as these two once were. And it will happen, eventually, we can never say when, when some obliging, gentle but firm hand will lead the two off of the stage and back into the private chambers. They will be applauded, but there will be a sense of relief that a new act is opening up, with new characters. The magic must fizzle out and die, as the magic always does.

Andrew C. Abbott

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Red Storm Rising

If a patient with a terminal illness is given an over 75% chance of dying, he might as well pack his bags and hit the beaches. That is what the Democrats were no doubt prepared to do last night, as, right off in the night, they began dropping quickly. Soon, before all the numbers were even in, the probability, according to FiveThirtyEight, was 100% that they would lose. They did. Badly.
Not only were Democrats again unable to take the house, now they lost the senate, and so far at are at least two seats down there, while there will be a runoff on December 6th, in Louisiana, where neither Democrat nor Republican won a majority of the vote due to third-party candidates.
From Texas to West Virginia, Americans said no to Blue and yes to Red. Harry Reid has lost control as majority leader of the senate, and his party is no longer America’s majority party. Barak Obama came to the midterms in a state of denial, both he and vice-president Joe Biden saying repeatedly they were going to win. Now they have some explaining to do, and fast.
For the Republicans, things are looking up; not eighteen months ago it was not uncommon to hear that they were in their last hurrah. Editorials in major newspapers said they were fast becoming nothing but an opposition party. And while it is true they have not won a presidential election in ten years, riding on winning an election that was basically a referendum on Barak Obama and the Democrats, coupled with the fact that no Democrat non-incumbent has ever followed another Democrat to the presidency, things are looking up for the 2016 cycle.
Last night’s election may have had, at times the feeling of the political super bowl, with around 50% of Americans saying they were watching it closely, unlike the super bowl, however, after which everybody goes home, now the legislatures have to actually get to work.
Just what they will be doing with their new power is difficult to say about the Republicans. There is talk about working with the president. But every one of them must know that working with a president this unpopular is bound to make them unpopular as well. Rand Paul, (R.–KY) said that they will send bill after bill to the president until he gets weary of it.
As for Mitch McConnell, the projected new leader of the senate, he gets to deal now, not only with president Obama, but also such young senators as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio (FL) and Ted Cruz (TX), all young  Republican Presidential hopefuls, none of whom want to hurt their chances or give too much help to anybody else’s.
Figuratively, the Democrats died last night, and the Republicans were born again. For the Democrats, with all of the results not yet in, the news can only get worse. For the Republicans the news couldn’t be better. After this new regeneration, as after every regeneration, a new man gets up and walks away. It is now up to these men and women, these new and returning senators, along with their colleagues from the house, to decide what sort of man he will be. And what he will do with the power he has now been given.

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Barak Obama is on the ballot

Johnson City, TN – In 2012 Barak Obama told voters that it was to be his last campaign. And while this year, President of the United States of America is not a position up for grabs, Mr. Obama is still very much on the ballot, although many Democrats wish it was not so.

The man has gone from rock star to rock bottom in a period of eighteen months. And while the most expensive midterms campaign in history went on, the president was forced to sit a great deal of it out with some Democrats declining to be photographed with him, and one even declining to say whether she had voted for him or not.
The truth is however, Barak Obama cannot get away from the fact that he is a Democrat -the most powerful and most well-known Democrat, at that. He is basically the face of the party. And yes, this is an election about him, his policies, what people think of them, and how they will be implemented. The proof can be found in his weekly addresses, posted to the blog of whitehouse.gov, in which he says repeatedly that the Republicans are the ones blocking all of his plans. So obviously the Democrats are on board with the president, whether they want their pictures taken with him or not.
That the president is unpopular no one can deny. Over half of the nation disapproves of the job he is doing. As a result of this, the Republicans have a now better than 3 in 4 chance of winning the senate, and the Democrats would have gain several seats to take the house, while even there the odds are against them, with it being statistically more likely that the Republicans will actually gain seats there rather than lose them. The Republicans would need to gain only 13 seats to have the biggest margin of power since 1945.
The Democrats, with Barack Obama tied like a millstone around their neck, are down on the mat, according to the numbers. Numbers are not everything. True. There have been many ring fights where those down for the count came up to give the knockout blow. But usually that only happens in the movies.
The more likely thing, according all the experts, the calculators, and the algorithms, is that the Democrats are about to tap out of this one.

Andrew C. Abbott

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Midterm Elections, Tomorrow

According to FiveThrityEightPolitics, the likelihood that the Republicans will take control of the senate is over 75%.

For the Democrats, all the way down to the wire, the news isn’t good. At all. On the eve of the elections new reports came in suggesting that they may have the information on where James Foley, the journalist now famous due to his tragic beheading by members of ISIS, was, but did not attempt to use it until too late.
It has been like that all the way along, ever since election night, 2012, things have steadily gotten worse for them. In theatre we have both the comedies and the tragedies. In the comedies everybody lives, and everyone is happy. In tragedies everything goes wrong, and everybody dies. What started out as a huge Democrat Victory, a near comedy, with Obama pummeling his opponent and taking a second term, has ended out its two year run as a looming tragedy, with bad news on every hand, approval ratings through the floor and bad news through the roof, from broken websites to resigning cabinet members, one of whom was voted in contempt of congress.
There are 36 senate seats in play, and a number of them are a tossup. The Republicans are ten seats down, but would need to only gain six seats to flip the senate, while they already hold the house, and are not expected to lose it. While every one of the 435 house seats are up in the air, as it is every two years, most of them land repeatedly in the hands of the same party that threw them up.
Of course, while in some ways numbers can mean everything, this is politics, and numbers can also mean nothing. There is no certainty in this game. Anything can happen. The Republicans could gain ten seats, or lose ten. The rules do not preclude it.
Tomorrow the long campaign, which was the most expensive midterm campaign in history, will be over. We will know if Americans want the Democrats, or if they are ruing their decision of two years ago. Either way, the Democrats certainly did write a comedy. A comedy of errors.

Andrew C. Abbott