Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Black Hole we call the Middle East

The modern Sherlock Holmes, with an iPhone and a laptop. His friend Dr. Watson was
wounded in Afghanistan, where the British are fighting today, and the same place the orig-
nal Dr. Watson was fighting when he was wounded, about a hundred and thirty years ago.
In the first episode of the show Sherlock, the modern rendition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes, which portrays Sherlock in the 21st century with an iPhone and a laptop, and written by the same writer as Dr. Who, the first words Sherlock Holmes utters to Dr. Watson when he enters the room upon their meeting are “Afghanistan, or Iraq?” Dr. Watson was an army medic, and with the British army in Afghanistan, where he was wounded.

The original story was of course set in 1881, and although Moffat did change the story a great deal, he did not have to change this. The original Dr. Watson was also wounded In Afghanistan, also with the British army, also fighting armed, angry, radial insurgents.
It illustrates the trouble, in a roundabout Sherlock Holmes sort of way. The never ending war. To pinpoint where it began would require deductive skills beyond mine. We could say the war between Western Armies and Eastern Nutcases began about two hundred years ago, give or take, when Britain decided, along with a few other European Nations, to colonize the world. (Yes the West was not always right, and the East not always wrong.)
But then we would be forced to remember the Crusades, which began about a thousand years ago, and lasted for hundreds of years, with men who considered themselves Christians bringing their version of justice and knightly pastimes to the skulls of any Arab who happen to get in their way on their march to the Holy Land.

Battle of Tours, 732. The guy who drew this probably wasn't there, though.
But of course, the long war of West v. East did not begin then. There was the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, when hordes of turbaned warriors tried to invade France, and were stopped by squares of Frenchmen wielding axes in what must have been an exciting day. That one, by the way, happened on Western Soil, a rare phenomenon in this long fight.
Of course, in the news, now, is not only the fat that we are fighting in the Middle East, one again, but also the stories of ISIS brutality. But the brutality is also not new. When the Arab hordes first began their sweep, the stories were sometimes so terrible as to not bear repeating.
So when quick fixes are offered to this problem, this “Eastern Question” we must remember that there are no easy answers to men who don’t ask questions, but kill indiscriminately because their brains are more twisted than the Mississippi River. ISIS won’t be defeated by a jobs problem or by enrolling them all on healthcare. (Imagine the premiums for a suicide bomber.)

The weapons have changed, the fighting, and where we do it, still has not.
And it should also be remembered that the Middle East is a bit like the old troll motto from those weird children’s books we used to read when the troll would camp out in someone else’s house. “Once in never out.”
We, the West, and been pouring money and arms and lives into the black hole for centuries, and we have nothing but debt, and tears, and tombstones to show for it. At some point, we will pull out of this one too. In four, eight, twelve or twenty years, we will leave.

And when we do, let’s try to follow the last part of that troll motto. “Once in never out” but “once out, never back.”

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

With Netanyahu, Congress is only making it worse

On March 3rd the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be coming to Washington to speak to a joint session of congress, about…practically whatever he wants. Apparently the subject has not been nailed down. But that is no matter, in a house that has had comedians, world leaders, and religious leaders address this body over the centuries, one more leader from some far off country should not be a bad thing, right? It will boost C-SPAN ratings, (that phrase sounded weird just writing it) and might even keep all of the members of congress awake through an entire legislative day, definitely an epic task.

Wrong. People will definitely be awake, but not just because of interest. Tension will be as high as the dome under which the join-session will be meeting-in the same hall where the president gave his State of the Union Speech just over a month ago.
For you see, the president doesn’t want Netanyahu to speak before congress. Congress didn’t ask Obama, they can have who they want, and there is little the president can do about it besides either taking it like a grownup or start an epic pouting period. Or he could just not say anything about it at all, which probably have been the sensible thing to do. But this is Washington DC we are talking about…
A firestorm of argument has been lit off all around the country by this.
But while Obama stalks about making arguments against Netanyahu coming-some good, some not, we must remember that the president of here and the prime minister of there have not always been on the best of terms. Someone in the White House said “there will be consequences” for Netanyahu for coming. Whatever that means.

Some would paint it simply as Barak Obama feeling left out of the loop. He will not be meeting Netanyahu at all when he comes. But there is another, deeper reason for concern about this. Traditionally  speaking, congress asks the White House before inviting people, especially foreign leaders from wild parts of the world like the Middle East.
And this is where the blame begins to fall on congress.
The president is not only America’s number one diplomat; he is the final decider on American foreign policy. And a part of that foreign policy currently is trying to make sure Iran does not build itself a nuclear bomb. As a close neighbor to that country, as one of our greatest allies, as one of our great friends who should always remain so, Israel, and by extension Netanyahu is a part of those ongoing talks, as is our president, of course. Israel and America have been on the same side almost since our great allies’ nation was created less than seventy years ago. But were these talks to break down, and were we to leave Israel threatened with a nuclear bomb due to our lack of good diplomacy, that could cause tension even higher than the capitol dome.

And if all is not well in the strategy room-if Netanyahu and Obama are bickering, even about something as little as Bibi speaking to congress, then our opponents will take note, and notice that we are arguing. Obama and Netanyahu have had problems before, and this only highlights it. When, in the 90s, Saddam Hussein saw internal arguing, he saw it as a sign of weakness, and thought he could start a war. We don’t know what could happen if Iran thought they saw weakness.
And the fracturing is not just on the foreign front, this is not helping things at home, either. On the Keystone Pipeline Bill the senate passed, the president is threatening to veto it. On the immigration action the president recently signed, congress is threatening to overturn it. The Republican Congress and the Democratic President don’t agree on much. Originally both sides said they were going to try to be bipartisan in their dealings with each other, and instead they are fighting on everything, down to whether one of our own allies should speak to congress. Netanyahu coming is only making things worse. This is not some massive piece of legislation; no great moral principle is here at stake. This is just argument almost for argument’s sake.
If congress wanted someone to come talk to them, they should have called a comedian. Then C-Span’s ratings really would have sky-rocketed. Ten people might have watched.

Andrew C. Abbott

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Americans are used to being lied to: We shouldn't be

Atlanta, GA – According to Gallup, more than seventy percent of Americans neither have a “great deal” nor “quite a lot” of trust in the office of the presidency as an institution to tell us the truth. This certainly has not been helped by Barak Obama, especially when he said if you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance. And then when his signature AFA act failed, it turned out you couldn’t keep it. He had known all along.

Or when he suddenly changed his mind on what he believed when it came to same-sex-marriage, for years saying he was against it, until in 2012, he “changed his mind.” It turns out, he had believed in it all along, but had been “feigning” belief to the contrary for votes.

And the office of the vice president? On Tuesday Joe Biden said he knew a lot of Somali taxi drivers in his home town. Turns out nobody from Somali even lives there. And they don't drive taxis there.
And we just yawn. Because Americans not only do not have a great deal of trust in the office of the presidency, but also in other intuitions. More than seventy-five percent do not have a lot of trust in newspapers, where once, what they said, or so I am told by very old people, what the papers said was gospel. (“If you see it in the Sun it is so.”)
And news on television? Well, eighty percent don’t trust that. The courts? Less than a quarter of Americans trust them. The banks? Around three in four don’t trust them. (I wonder why.)The trust in business is even worse. To round out the horribly low amount of trust, more than nine in ten Americans do not trust congress. (Surprise, surprise!)
Great, right? We don’t trust the people we elect, the people we get our news from, or even the public schools, (more than seven in ten distrust them.) Of course, they are not helping matters. Think Brian Williams, or Virginia governor McDonnell, who apparently had dirty dealings while in office that are coming out now; or the governor of Oregon, who just resigned amid scandal.
Even on the really big stories, not everybody feels like believing. Think of the Kennedy assassination. There is all sorts of evidence to suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald did actually kill the president, and none to support that it was aliens, the vice president, or the ghost of King Arthur, (no disrespect intended to that worthy gentleman) but still, many, many people believe to the contrary. Perhaps we have all just been lied to once too often, heard “wolf” cried once too many times, or have finally grow tired of admiring the new clothes until somebody shouts “the emperor is naked.”
We have way too many naked emperors in America, from the highest reaches of government, with men in the Security Councils that lie to us, to congressmen and other politicians who don’t keep their promises. Emperors clothed only in lies.
Yes, trust in America is way too low, and does not look destined to rise anytime soon. It has no reason too. And that is dangerous. If people can’t trust the main news services, then they will go off and fine little rags which proclaim wild theories for everything. Or they might, (and are beginning to) stop voting, tired of the whole shebang.
The answer to the problem is of course, simple and complex at the same time. Tell the truth. Great, problem solved, we can all go play Candy Land now. But of course we know that that is not going to happen overnight. People have reasons they lie. It makes them feel better, it makes them look better, and it helps them get away with stuff.
And when we catch them lying, such as John Kerry about his war record, or Joe Biden about his school one, we still vote for them and theirs. Biden, after dropping out of a presidential race in 1988 for being caught lying, is now vice president, and Kerry is secretary of State.
We make it too easy for them to lie to us, and we let them off way too easy when they do. We can’t not any more. We cannot afford the further erosion of trust in America, in our institutions, and what we stand for.
If we continue to let our trust rot form the inside out due to lies, our moral fiber, and our country as a whole will follow. We must hold those above accountable. Stop voting for men and women who are chronic liars. Stop giving them positions of power. Think of what we did to Nixon, and how, after he was forced our for his lie after lie, presidents seem to have stopped breaking into their opponents headquarters.

Second chances are one thing, we are a nation of that. But eighth and ninth chances are quite another.

Andrew C. Abbott

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We should help Ukraine, right now

Atlanta, GA – The Cold War is supposed to be over. It was supposed to have ended more than twenty-five years ago when the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR began splintering into many different states. But apparently the Cold War ending is a bit like the Ukraine crises ending. It just “ended,” for the second time with a truce, on Valentine’s Day. But the Rebels and the Russians apparently are not feeling the love, as they continue to fight, and the Ukrainians continue to retreat.

And Americans will not support the Ukrainians with “lethal aid.” We will send them first aid kits to bandage their wounds, but not bullets to make some in the enemy.
Neither the Ukrainian army nor the Russian backed and aided rebels will pull back their big guns and rocket launchers from the contested border until the other does so.  So neither does so. Just yesterday, the rebels showed video of them parading Ukrainian prisoners in the streets while the Ukrainians pulled out of the town of Debaltseve, giving even more ground to the unruly terrorist fighters who call themselves “separatists.” Killing continues today.
Sounds like its over? No, the Ukraine crisis is still, unfortunately, far from over. Yes, things have gotten a bit better, they have kicked out their last leader, brought down the corrupt web that surrounded him, and have begun to move back towards being a truly democratic nation, electing a chocolate king in their country as their new president.
And the Ukraine crisis is a bit like the whole Soviet Union-end of the Cold War thing in miniature. Things have gotten better, in a sense, around the world. The Russians are no longer threatening to blow up the rest of the planet with Atomic Bombs. The Red Hoard has been beaten back in many places all over the planet, but it’s not over.
Russia has a strong man in power. Putin is a man who understands power and how to use it, and apparently enjoys doing it. He has been elected to the presidency three times now, and he has been prime minister twice-he likes it at the top.
Putin resides over a country that has no free market, no free press. He and his minions control the information that reaches their people, and with their propaganda tell them what they must believe, or else.
Such men do not reside over free and independent nations. Such men are not elected by democratic nations with real understandings of free press, free trade, free men. Russia has not yet made it out of the red shadow.
With people like Putin and those around him having access to Atomic Bombs in Russia, the cold war cannot truly come to a final end. Things have gotten better, but they could easily get much worse in a hurry.
And Ukraine is a result of that. Ukraine was, according to Forbes magazine, the most important satellite state of the Soviet Union. It is full of natural resources, and was the lifeblood of the old USSR. It was so pivotal in fact, that Adolf Hitler gambled his entire invasion of Russia to invade them. He lost.
Vladimir Putin is one of those men who will not be satisfied. At first he said he wanted nothing more than a trade agreement with Ukraine, then it was just that he needed to enforce peace there, and then he needed a large chunk of its ground, and now he wants an even larger chunk-can we expect then, that he will stop here?
No, it is not a safe assumption. Putin grew up in the time before the Soviet Union fell, a former Communist Party member and KGB officer, why should he stop with just Ukraine unless something makes him? In his long rise in life he has never stopped unless someone made him. And no one ever has. It is high time for that to change.
There has been a lot of talk from many global leaders calling for Putin to stop. Is that what you do in a football game? Call the opponents ball carrier to stop? No, you give him incentives to.
And America still stands idly by, uncertain whether or not to arm the Ukrainians against the Russians. (We are not talking about ground troops, or airstrikes, just weapons.) The argument has been made that we can’t arm Ukraine, weapons don’t solve problems. While weapons may not solve problems, they can often keep them from happening, and the problem to be kept form happening here is Ukraine falling to a new Mongol hoard from the Russian steppes.
For now, the fighting is not too close to Kiev, the capitol, and is not about to fall. But with its army falling back and the west fighting back-with sanctions, Ukraine stands alone in all but words and a few first aid-kits. We can’t let the happen. If Russia’s advance is not stopped in Donetsk and the Crimea, in Ukraine, where will it stop? Probably nowhere. Unless Ukraine makes it stop, and they cannot do that on their own. And that is why we should help Ukraine.

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chief Justice Roy Moore and the rising tide

''During some of my most trying times I always returned to the ring.''-Justice Roy Moore

When I met Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore last year in St. Louis, he seemed to be a man whose time in the spotlight had gone by. He had fought his fight and finished most of what he had wanted to do.
At the time, the controversy around the judge seemed over. In 2003 he was removed from being the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama after hearings, due to his failure to remove a massive monument from the courthouse with the ten commandments on it. But he was reelected nine years later, the ultimate statement of faith from the people of his state that they were still with him. Moore is too old to legally run again, and I expected that he would run out this final term with a good record, but without fireworks.
I was wrong. The 68 year old justice has one last fight to wage, this one on same-sex-marriage.
Moore is a man who has fought many battles in his time. An officer in Vietnam, he has been called “Captain America.” (No, Moore never dressed like him.) He says that in the army, he was so strict on his men he was afraid they were going to kill him, and indeed, threats were made. Captain Moore got out of the army in 1974 with his soul still in his body, but he was not done fighting, and after pursuing an education in law, he began moving around.
He was, for one year, a professional kickboxer. He was also a cowboy in Australia for a time. Moore kept bouncing around the planet, doing this and that, like a Charles Dickens' character. In the 80s, he moved back to the US to get into politics. And that brings us up to date.
Roy Moore refuses to give out marriage licenses for same-sex-couples, and orders all the judges under his authority to do likewise. The Federal Judge, Callie Granade struck down an amendment to the state constitution of Alabama, saying it goes against the US Constitution. The amendment had forbidden same-sex-marriage in the state. With the amendment struck down, Moore still ordered the probate judges not to do issue lisences. THe majority have now deserted him, but some remain on his side.
Moore says that the definition of marriage is between one man and women, and that federal judges cannot change the definition just because they want to. Even the New York Times, after calling Moore a bigot, said he was right.
And Moore is right, at least here. Marriage has always, in Western Culture, been defined as between one man and one woman. There is no arguing that. It simply cannot be denied. Even such eminent magazines as Time would have and did agree not so long ago. And we can plainly see, especially in the great American Comedy, The Andy Griffith Show, what the last generation thought of marriage. Andy telling Opie that he should not hate women, because when Opie wants to get married, if he leaves out women, well, that sort of empties the field.

The TImes said the Supreme Court should not change the definition, even if they want to change the definition to something else. If they must, they can use a new word, but not redefine the old one.
Justice Granade, the one who ruled Alabama
must allow same-sex marriage.
Moore has been called all sorts of names, bigot among them, but one thing that he has not been called, and one he should be, is brave. He is a brave man, and stands for what he believes. Like the kickboxer in the ring, he still will not throw in the towel.
Yes, it may be true, Moore is "on the wrong side of history," that is to say, he will very probably lose his fight with the powers that be. But at least it can be said that Moore is what many people always dream of-someone who represents his people (more than 7 out of 10 Alabamans do not want same-sex-marriage)-but he also says what he believes, sticks to it, and does not double talk.
He does not hate gays; he said in a recent interview that he has gay friends. But he does not believe the courts have any right to redefine marriage. And he also says Justice Granade is not over him, (strictly speaking, she might not be) and so has no right to order him. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled, so Moore’s ultimate fate still hangs in the balance.
Love him or hate him, there are many things that could be said about Moore. But it cannot be said that he is faking it. Pandering to voters, or trying to make his record look good. From his point of view he is simply an old style patriot, standing up to his state’s motto: “We dare defend our rights.”

Andrew C. Abbott

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"We, the minority of the people:" The Democrats and the DHS

The seal of the Department of Homeland security, a department in danger of 
being shut down by Senate Democrats, who plan to blame the shutdown on the
Senate Republicans.

The Department of Homeland Security, or the DHS, the department formed after 9/11 to keep us safe from terrorists abroad and at home, a department with over 200,000 employees, may be closed down in less then two weeks, because the Democrats just can't make a deal.
In 2013, the Democrats were the majority in the senate. And they wanted to pass President Obama’s nominees. But they could not, due to a one sticky little rule called the “nuclear option” which allowed senators from the minority Republicans, such as Rand Paul, is his long talk about drones, to filibuster, or talk a nomination to death, without it ever coming up for a vote.
So the head of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, after that embarrassing moment with Senator Paul, simply had the rules changed. Now he only needed a majority of senators to pass the nomination, which he had, instead of the 60 he would have needed to keep Paul from talking, which he did not have.
Now, the Republicans are in the place the Democrats were back then. They are the majority in the senate,  which they have been for less than ten weeks. When they came in they promised that they would not be shutting down the government, as it was in 2013, causing massive anger across the country. Alright, so the Democrats are determined to do it for them. And though they can't shut down the whole government, they are going after one massive cabinet level department.
The Department of Homeland Security has to be funded, or it will have to shut down, and on the 27th of this month, that funding ends. They will run out of money. Now there is a bill before the senate that could fix this, and quite nicely too, but Democrats do not like it.
Harry Reid, Minority Leader of the Senate Democrats
For you see, the president signed an executive action not that long ago giving deferments to the deportation of around five million undocumented-immigrants, and the “DHS Bill” would not only fund the Department of Home Land Security, it would also attack the president’s immigration action, starting the deportations up again.
As a response, the Democrats are going to go Rand Paul all over the bill, and are planning to talk it to death if it comes up-and here’s the catch, after Democrats say they will talk the bill to death-or if they can’t, the president will veto it-they will then blame Republicans for the shutdown. The people behind that line of reasoning must have missed eighth grade logic.

Rand Paul in his filibuster gave a stirring attack of the president's drone policy until he finally got what he wanted, assurance that the president would not kill Americans because he did not like them. Paul's filibuster was in danger of blocking one nominee for a little while, the Democrats are in danger of closing the doors of America's defense against terrorism.
When the Democrats were in control, they changed the rules of nominees, making it much, much easier for them to pass their agenda. But with the Republicans in control of the senate, and even with Republicans from the House of Representatives telling them they should change the rules, with the support of senators like Ted Cruz of Texas, Republicans in the senate will not change the rules just because they can.
When the Republicans were the minority, even though the Democrats would bring nothing up for a vote, and even though the Democrats changed the rules to help themselves, and even though the Democrats had less votes on amendments in the whole last congress then in the first few weeks of this one, they called the Republicans obstructionists, saying they-the ones without all of the power- were not getting anything done.
Now the Republicans are the majority, voted there by the “we the people,” the Democrats somehow take their own loss at the polls in the midterm elections as a mandate from the nation telling them to keep pushing their agenda,  especially on immigration, even though many even question its constitutionality.
The Republicans had the rules changed on them when they were the minority, and they were blamed for being the bad guys, and they won’t even play the Democrats back at their game now, and change the rules, and they are still the bad guys.
So Homeland Security may go unfunded, America may go unprotected, and the Democrats who are doing this may claim it is the Republicans fault, all because they think that “we, the minority of the people, should still be in control, even when we lose.”

Andrew C. Abbott

Thursday, February 12, 2015

ISIS: Why we don’t need ground troops

“Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” –George Bush, #43

ISIS, undoubtedly is one of the most dangerous, most hateful, most despicable groups in the world. Their acronym stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and they are a group that came from hell, a place they will shortly be returning to.
To help them get there quicker, Barak Obama is calling for authorization from congress for him to send United States Army ground troops to fight ISIS. The president vowed that we will win, saying "I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war.”
Congress is considering the matter.
So far, the fight has been carried out by American and other members of the coalition with an intense bombing campaign with hundreds and hundreds of strikes. The bombings have helped the local troops on the ground as they push back the Extremist Islamic fighters, who are so extreme even Al-Qaeda refuses to be affiliated with them.
There also a little less than two hundred ground troops in the area at the moment from the US, but none of these are fighting, and according the White House, their only roll is in training our local allies in the plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS.”
But now the president wants more ground troops, and this time, not just to train people, but rather to kill members of ISIS. While the thought of more dead ISIS members may be enticing, the president’s plan, and his promise that the US’s involvement will not escalate into “another prolonged ground war” has too many holes in it for comfort.
Firstly, the president’s own record on ISIS. When he first heard about it, if he did think it was a threat, he decided to do nothing. Then he called for airstrikes when it became painfully apparent that this organized group of murderers was indeed, dangerous. But he promised no ground troops. Then he promised ground troops in a training capacity, as they are now, saying they would not have to fight. And now he wants more ground troops, and he wants them to fight.
So each time he has said “thus far and no more” he has done “ far more.” And we all know what happens with “Operation Creep”s, they just keep on creeping. Getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger…
Not too long ago, a horrendous video surfaced showing a Jordanian man burning alive. And recently, it appeared that an American woman died in ISIS’ so called “territory.” As soon as that happened, the calls for ground troops emerged. Perhaps in some quarters, emotion is running out ahead of better judgment.
The argument could be made that we need the ground troops to win the war. But right now, the air campaign is going as planned. ISIS members are dying, their buildings are being hit, their troops are being forced to scatter, and we even drove them out of of Kobani, the small town that many, including myself, said would be the test of the strategy. If we could rout them from Kobani with our bombs and local ground personnel, then we could drive them out of all the land they held. They no longer hold Kobani, and the plan is working.
And to those that would say “but you can’t win a war without ground troops” remember this, there are boots on the ground, they are Iraqi and Syrian and even Syrian Rebels. These are people fighting for their homes, and with the training and weapons we are providing them, and the bombs we are dropping on our mutual enemies, we can send ISIS back to hell.

Andrew C. Abbott 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams: The most entertaining man in America

Atlanta GA, – The news business has changed since 55 year old Brian Williams got into it. The year he got in was the year Walter Cronkite got out.
Cronkite was known as the “Most trusted man in America.” He reported on everything from the Death of Kennedy to the landing of Apollo 11 to Watergate, and everyone believed that if he said it, it must be the truth.
But for the embattled Brian Williams, trust is something he is lacking right now. It started off in 2003, when NBC reported that Williams, not yet the anchor, had been in a helicopter squadron, one of which had been hit. But then, a decade later, on the David Letterman show, Brian Williams said that it was his helicopter that had been hit.
But at the time, nobody raised a hue and cry, until that is, a few days ago, when Williams thanked one of the men in the helicopter, again saying that his chopper had been hit with RPG fire.
Now the hue and cry began. First the newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, interviewing military men from the squadron, saying it was not Williams’ chopper that was hit, but another one. Williams apologized on air, but the pack journalism had begun.  Everybody was on Williams’ case. Soon, people were saying it was not even the squadron Williams’ was in that was hit. Soon after that, the soldiers themselves began to disagree on what exactly happened about twelve years ago.
But now everything Williams has ever said was under scrutiny, and people were as eager to dig up dirt on as they were to call “FOUL!!!” just a few weeks ago during “Deflate Gate.” And they found, or at least thought they found it. The news anchor has made mistakes in the last more than a decade, but now everyone wants to make sure everybody knows about every one of them.
From supposed lies when he covered Katrina, to confusions in Iraq and other stories, the shouting match has begun.
Williams has stepped down, temporarily, saying he does not want to be a distraction while NBC does an internal investigation. Last night, Nightly News aired without him.
Some are even speculating that Williams will resign, and if he does not, that he should be fired. I will say that I myself hope he is not. He has a certain dignity about him that many, even younger viewers find attractive, and the man did make a mistake, there is no evidence to suggest he purposely lied to anyone.
He has been at the top of the rating in viewers for a long time, and is the most popular of the three flagship chairs of CBS, NBC, and ABC. The controversy seems not to have hurt his reputation too much, either. According to YAHOOO! News, on the Nightly News Facebook page, there have been over a 1,000 comments posted, many of which say they will not watch Nightly News again until Williams returns. On Williams’ own Facebook page, it states that likes have gone up over 7% from last week. He now has over 120,000
Illustrating how much he is involved in pop culture can be seen that the interview in which Williams purportedly lied was with Letterman, a comedian.

Williams has an audience of over 9,000,000 a night.
Brian Williams on the Jimmy Fallon show
Yes, the news has changed since Williams got in, if such a scandal had enveloped Cronkite, he would probably already have been shipped off to Elba to live out his last days with a hoard of other actors, newsmen and politicians that have lied.
But in the modern 3 second news cycle, Williams’ job is to take the top news stories of the day and put them in an engaging format that we can understand and know what is going on the in the world without having to read four newspapers, two magazines and visit nineteen websites. He is a bit more like an informed friend reading the headlines to you than the voice of god.
I for one certainly hope he returns soon. He made a mistake, but so does everybody. If he does it again it will be time to think of shipping him off to a mountain top, but for now, the world is a darker and colder place without Brian Williams doing the news.

Andrew C. Abbott 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Why Are Patriots The New Terrorists?

"America used to own the world. Now, increasingly, the world owns America." - Dinesh D'Souza

Atlanta, GA, – Dinesh D'Souza is an Indian born American Patriot who in 2012 and 2014 made widely popular documentaries criticizing Barak Obama. The second one, America: Imagine the world without her, was the highest grossing American Documentary last year.

It should be said right up front that Dinesh D'Souza is not a nut. He is not a terrorist who blows up towers or plants bombs in the Pentagon. He is not Alex Jones, a wild conspiracy theorist who thinks some men in masks somewhere are controlling the world or that Barak Obama was born in a hut in Africa. He is a peaceful patriot simply stating what he believes. But nonetheless, D'Souza is today in jail.
In his book, also named America, D’Souza talks about another man a bit like himself, sometimes a bit of a radical, although, instead of being a radical Patriot he is a radical terrorist.
In the 1960s Bill Ayres started the Weather Underground, which describes itself as Communist; it placed bombs in places like the Pentagon and also bombed police stations. Ayres, according to D’Souza, has never recanted his views, and indeed, Ayres did write a book in 2001 which seems to defend his past actions.
And yet, it may be pointed out that D’Souza is in jail, while Ayres has achieved tenure as a university professor today.
Dinesh D'Souza
Of course, D’Souza wrote his book before he was arrested on a felony charge to which he pled guilty involving some laws on campaign funding. Many influential Republicans pointed out at the time that many people before had broken the obscure law, and none had been prosecuted, and made parallels to the scandal that not so long ago rocked the IRS-targeting TEA Party groups for audits because they were conservative.
In short, it appeared to many, and perhaps not without some reason, that immigrant-American Dinesh D’Souza was target simply because he criticized Barak Obama in too public and too compelling a way.
But to move on from Ayres, no matter about the group he founded, the man is today a seventy year old has been, but D’Souza makes the case that Ayres' ideas have been passed on-to Barak Obama. In the 2008 campaign, it arose that Bill Ayres had apparently had close association with the future president when Obama had been a younger man.
D’Souza spends a large part of his book, as he did in his past documentaries, on Barak Obama, and indicting him not only for the people he is associated with, but also on what the president himself believes.
D’Souza at times engages in scathing attacks for unpatriotic statements by our president, in them almost apologizing for America, and its greatness.
In one chapter, D’Souza speaks of a speech that in the 1850s, before he was president, Abraham Lincoln gave. Lincoln said that the idea of slavery was this: “You work, I eat.” It was the idea of the elitist, the idea of the rich people, that they were owed something by the poor.
Bill Ayres
Supposedly, all of this was supposed to have been eradicated by the Civil War, -the idea that people were owed something. But since then, the idea that America should apologize and pay back people who are owed something has grown. The idea that we stole the lands from American Indians and Mexico as given rise to the idea that we should “give back Manhattan,” and maybe Texas.
But that is the entitlement trap. And, America argues, the same trap as slavery used to have. Now, the poor feel entitled to the capitol of the rich. To sum up one passage “we hitch the band wagon of the ‘entitled’ to the shoulders of the rich. And they have to pull. But eventually, they were going to look back and say, ‘aw, let’s get in the wagon ourselves,’ so they do, and the wagon slows, and then stops, and America fails.”
The old idea was “you work, I eat.” Now the entitlement trap is “they work, you eat.” Instead of the poor owing the rich, now the rich owe the poor, and Barak Obama is perfectly okay with that.
And now we can imagine the world without America, as the title of the book suggests. There was a time, in 1776, when Americans had a fire in the belly, a purpose to live and to do things, and to thrive and work, but that fire is cooling, that fervor is dying. The end, D’Souza says, unless something happens, is coming soon. He believes, as do I, that something can and must be done, and almost nobody is doing it.
Today D’Souza is in jail, and is destine to remain there for several more months, and he also has years of parole to face as well.
America is still the greatest country in the world, but how long can that last while communists are professors and Patriots are in chains? Not long, I fear, not long. When the rich people owe everyone something, and the rich nations owe everyone something, then the world truly owns America.

Andrew C. Abbott

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Joe Biden: The 42 year campaign

“I once knew a woman who had two sons; one became an explorer, the other vice president. Both were never heard from again.” –Teddy Roosevelt

In 2008, before six time senator Joe Biden was vice president, Hillary Clinton said that Biden has wanted to be president since he first “sat down in the senate” in 1973. Well, now he has the number two job, and may be looking for the next step up. Of course, Hillary currently holds the field of potential Democratic Sixteeners alone, merely because she has said she is interested in the job. But honestly, Biden’s chances are not good.

The numbers for him are right up front. Nine vice presidents have followed the president because of death or resignation, but no vice president has won election since 1988, after Ronald Reagan. And he-George Bush Sr., did not win reelection. The last vice president to try to follow was Al Gore, and of course, he lost.
But Biden has another problem that you might not have thought-he is a Democrat. (That's always a problem, but that's not what I'm talking about.) No non-incumbent Democrat has ever followed the president. The only time a Democrat followed a Democrat in history was when the president died. So Biden would be better of if Obama died, but since he is in good health and not going Dallas anytime soon, that tragedy is not likely to happen.
But Biden has deeper problems than just the numbers. But first a bit of background.
Joe Biden himself is a Catholic. (No problem there.) The first of four siblings of a Catholic family, he has some Irish Ancestry. Biden played football in high school and brought a team that constantly lost to being undefeated in his senior year. He also played Baseball. He went to University of Delaware in Newark, which bored him, and he preferred to play around rather than study.
He told a girl at that time who would later become his first wife that he planned to become a senator at the age of 30 and then president.  He married the girl-Neilia Hunter, but she died tragically in a car accident a few years later.
It was while at law school that the first of the charges were brought, in fact in his very first year-he was accused of plagiarizing 5 0f 15 pages of an article. Biden claimed it was an accident. He was not punished although he had to retake a class, and Biden claimed that he had misunderstood the rules of citation. After graduating he began practicing law, and at this time registered as an independent because he did not like Richard Nixon, although there were attempts by local Republicans to get him to join them.
Biden did run for senate, and win in Delaware, and in 1975, Joe's brother set up a blind date for him with a girl Joe had only ever seen a picture of-Jill Jacobs Stevenson, a then married college woman. By the next year, after divorce proceedeings with a husband she had been drifting from for some time, Jill was free to marry, and the next year, at a Catholic Church, the senator had a second wife. They are still married.

And on March 9, 1987, at a train station, is dream became a reality-he declared that he would run for the presidency. In the first quarter, the respected senator raised more money than any other candidate. But then the old problems return. He was accused of plagiarizing, again, and this time in a political speech.

Not long after that, the old incident in law school was uncovered. It was then found that three of his claims about law school during the campaign, among which he had said he was at the top half of his class, were either exaggerated, or untrue. He certainly had gone and graduated, but it had not been the free and easy ride he claimed it had been.

Although it would later be ruled Biden had not broken any actual laws in his lying /exaggerating, he was forced to pull out of the race for presidency, and return to the senate.

At this time, Biden was struck with an illness that left him so in such a dangerous state, that last rights were actually administered by a Catholic Priest. His family said that in the end it was a blessing he pulled out of the race when he did, or he might have died on the campaign trail.

To bring the story to modern date, Biden held his senate seat and tried briefly to run in 2008 for the presidency again, but a gaff on the first day of his campaign derailed him instantly, and he was forced to take the second slot, as Obama needed an old hand in Washington, as Biden was certainly one of those.
While in some ways, Biden seems like a sort of all American boy, he certainly has been corrupted-or at least was in the past. And while the lying and plagiarizing charges are old news, more than twenty years old, in fact, the issues facing him in 2016 could be insurmountable.
But Biden is a man who sometimes lacks that certain “it” of presidential style. Making him look like he would not make a good president. For instance saying that he was proud to have been made president of the United States, before correcting himself and remembering he was only vice president.
Another time, he spoke of how his father liked Barak Obama, but his father was already dead. So he had to amend himself to say his father “would have liked” Barak Obama. The man is now 72. One can only hope for his own sake and dignity, that, if he runs, he doesn’t start plagiarizing in bigger ways, and at a massive rally shout out “I like Ike.” People would notice that one for sure.
Joe Biden is certainly aging, and time is running out for him, as it is for Hillary Clinton. Both of them have to know that 2016 is the last chance for them. Biden has said he will make the announcement sometime this summer as to whether he wants to be president or not. He wanted to all those years ago when he was trying to impress a girl in law school, but over the years the enthusiasm may have cooled.
It hard to say how good of a president he would make, it’s the type of job for which there really is no preparing. But he has looked like a joke so often (I simply said the name at a family gathering in California last year, and the room, full of Democrats, broke into laughter) that his public image would need some serious making over. But its not just the image, sometimes, the reality is too far gone.

Andrew C. Abbott 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Chris Christi

The 55th governor of New Jersey, Chris Christi, the man who is known currently for four things, was watching another football game.

Last time, the controversy was about him watching the Dallas Cowboys in Texas in the box with their owner at their stadium, while the team is far from a favorite in his own state. This time, wearing a red and white scarf, he was watching the other form of football-soccer, and instead of Texas, he took himself away to London.
He has a bit in common with football, you might say. He is known for:

Being tough
Having a scandal recently
Being a bit large
And lastly, he is known for wanting to run for the presidency.

The last one on the list is the main reason, apparently, that he is in London England right now-so he’s not just there for the soccer game, and the main reason he is in the spotlight at the moment. The trip to London is a way for him to prepare himself for the international duties of the presidency.
He recently dined with Mitt Romney, as that player leaves the stage, fueling speculation that Christi could be planning a run himself.
If further confirmation were needed that he is at least considering the idea, one need only look at the fact that he launched his Political Action Committee already. (PAC.) It is called the Leadership Matters for America PAC, and will probably begin by doing polls to see if America wants the man who Jimmy Fallon has styled “the love gov” as president or not. If they feel he has a chance, the next step will be to begin to raise money. And with Romney gone, there are of course more donors to go around.
But when someone decides to run for president, or is at least apparently thinking about it, as Christi is, then everything else they have ever done in their life, comes in to focus, and everyone who ever knew them and even the janitor who didn’t, gets a call, as everybody tries to find the goods.
The apparent goods in Christi’s past might prove to be a bit large, like the man himself. Firstly, his record of being sharply critical of Republicans, despite being one himself, and especially his famous image of him hugging Obama when the president came to investigate the wreckage after Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, have left many wondering just how right-wing Christi really is. So he will have to start upping his credentials with the right wing if he wants the nomination.
But there are other goods that could be even more damaging. The part about him being tough is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes he comes across as almost a bully, if not absolutely one. Shouting at people to “shut up” or calling them idiots. While many no doubt like displays of real human emotion in politics, it could also put other people off.
And his bullying brings us to the other things on the list. Bridge-gate. This is where bullying, football, and Christi all collide, as opponents claim that to get back at political enemies, he had the George Washington Bridge shut down in retaliation for their lack of endorsements for him.
Do what you want in politics, but not actual tackling is allowed. And while the hype is sort of dying down on the issue that the busiest bridge in the world was shut down, (so far it has not actually been linked to him, but people on his team had been fired/asked to resign for it) it is baggage that could easily haunt him in the months to come.
Anyway, Christi is currently happy due to the fact that the team he was rooting for won the match last night, and his trip is being paid for by other people, not himself. He has a long way to go to becoming president, but he is getting ready. When asked last night by a journalist about 2016, he punted the question.

Andrew C. Abbott