Archive for April, 2009

The Persistent Professor

April 30, 2009

Man oh Manischewitz!  President Obama just wrapped up his press conference and I feel like I just got my Masters degree and my Ph.D in about six subjects, ranging from government to economics.  Was he ever hot tonight, or what?  I mean that in the total sense of his role as professor, as teacher.

It has been too long since our leader spoke to us to enlighten and educate us.  Of course, that presupposes that a leader understands the issues in the first place and then has the skills to communicate them to us.  We know all too well that our President’s predecessor possessed neither ability.

On this, the hundredth day of President Obama’s tenure, may I voice my appreciation and gratitude that we the people had enough sense to elect him?  He is even better as President than he was as a candidate.  I feel privileged that this President treats me like the human being that I am, an effort that shows respect, humility and value of each and every one of us.  We elected the right person for the times, the circumstances and most of all, for the spirit of America.

Thank you, Barack Obama.  I wish you continue patience and persistence.

Only The Beginning

April 29, 2009

So here we are today marking President Obama’s first 100 days in office.  This delineation of three plus months is an artificial construct, probably devised by the media to pigeonhole administrations for comparative reasons and attract headline hungry readers.  At any rate, I celebrate President Obama’s tenure so far.  Here is what my cousin Roselie had to say about this, after she took a long, deep breath:

Probably just scratched the surface.  Too much to do.   Let’s see:  there is Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Taliban, the Taliban in Pakistan, Pakistan’s nukes, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iran, bin Laden, Israel, Cuba, N. Korea, immigration, Mexico drug cartels, guns, unions, trade inequalities, homeland security ,the economic disaster, no health care for half the country and the other half has inferior health care, our bridges, roads and infrastructure are crumbling, our education system stinks, and now a new take on torture. No wonder Larry Summers fell asleep. We do not need one president, we need TEN. Oh, yes, now there’s the swine flu.

A few things we must remember.  First, on the domestic front, no legislation has yet been passed on the bulk of President Obama’s policy agenda.  The stimulus package is really the only enactment we have had so far.  Also, because we were in such dire straits, i.e. imminent bank collapse, housing foreclosures, soaring unemployment rates, a total credit freeze, etc., many of President Obama’s proposals as a part of that stimulus package had to be devised quickly.  This, no doubt, left a lot of room for imperfections in the legislation.  At the time though, the trade-off of speed for content was the better of the two evils.  So perfection will not result, but help is definitely on the way:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/opinion/05friedman.html

Even though there will be many hiccups along the road to recovery, I am most impressed with our President’s behavior and demeanor during this time.  We all know how smart he is just as we recognize the extremely long hours he puts into his job.  We are certainly not out of hot water yet.  Nevertheless, have you noticed how President Obama’s cool, take-control attitude and total transparency with the American public has quelled a bit of our own anxiety?  Even with our plate so full of pressing problems, who could have imagined that piracy and a swine flu epidemic would be the next items on our agenda?  President Obama has dealt with these “surprises” just as well as he handled the already existing ones: with careful analysis, aplomb and calm.  These were  characteristics that our previous President never embodied.  Bush was simply a caretaker, subject to the fantasies and corruption of his cronies.  The phrases “phantom presidency” and “non-engagement” come to mind.  Bush absented himself from the often complicated  affairs of running a nation by a blind adherence to a few points of rhetoric.

Not my Obama.  For our own country, he has literally jumped in to what have very well might have been an abyss, and has come up with much-needed programs.  While some might call these innovations, like universal health care, others recognize these policies for what they are: basic human rights.  President Obama’s philosophical tenets underlie all of his actions.  This holds true for his foreign relation precepts as well.

Thank goodness there have been no international catastrophes yet to deal with.  However, President Obama has made his ideas clear on that front as well, and E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post clarifies this when he writes of “The Obama Doctrine”:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/15/AR2009041502902.html?nav=hcmoduletmv

Although Dionne uses the piracy incident as a basis for extrapolating President Obama’s foreign policy, the greater message is understood.  I especially like the last paragraph:

The Obama Doctrine is a form of realism unafraid to deploy American power but mindful that its use must be tempered by practical limits and a dose of self-awareness. Those are the limits that defenders of the recent past have trouble accepting.

This “Obama Doctrine” is equally relevant to our situation at home as it is to our relations with foreign nations.  Fareed Zakaria, in his piece in the Washington Post, summed up nicely why President Obama’s short stay in the White House has been successful:

The Secret of Obama’s Success

No American president in modern memory has faced a learning curve as steep as the one Barack Obama has encountered. When Obama began his quest for the Democratic nomination three years ago, the Dow Jones industrial average was 14,000 and the world was in the midst of a great economic boom. By the time he took office, America’s financial industry was in chaos, credit markets were frozen, housing values were plummeting and the economy was undergoing its worst contraction since the Great Depression. Add to that Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and you get an extraordinary set of challenges.

Yet by most measures, President Obama’s first 100 days have been successful. The economy remains weak, of course, but he has put forward a series of initiatives to stabilize the capital and housing markets, proposed longer-term programs to create sustained growth, adjusted America’s military priorities in Afghanistan and Iraq, and begun a process of reaching out to the world and changing America’s image.

Many commentators have focused on his calm leadership style, his deliberative methods and his tight teamwork. That’s all true, but there is a larger explanation for the success so far. Obama has read the country and the political moment correctly. He understands where America is in 2009 and that, as polls show, it is a more liberal country than it was two decades ago.

Conservative commentators have made much of a recent Pew survey showing that public reaction to Obama has been more polarized than to any other president in the past four decades: Democrats really like him, and Republicans really dislike him. But the poll’s most striking statistic was how few Americans self-identify as Republicans. For the past year that rate has hovered around 24 percent, the lowest in three decades. It’s not so much that the Republican base has shrunk, as Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz points out in a recent essay: the Democratic base has expanded. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the Democratic base was 30 percent of the electorate; swing voters made up 43 percent and Republicans 27 percent. Last year, Democrats made up 41 percent, swing voters dropped to 32 percent and Republicans 27 percent.

Because party loyalties tend not to shift quickly, an 11-point rise for the Democrats is astonishing. Abramowitz argues that since these changes are largely rooted in demography–particularly the growing nonwhite population–they are likely to persist for a while.
Obama has also figured out how to utilize the moment. Rahm Emmanuel’s aphorism — never let a crisis go to waste — has proved a brilliant political strategy. By combining short-term stimulus spending with long-term progressive projects, Obama has confounded the opposition. Senator Judd Gregg was on CNBC last week trying to explain that while he fully supported government spending for 2009 and 2010 to jump-start the economy, his concerns were about 2011 and 2012. That’s a complicated case to make to the electorate.

Just as important, though, is that Obama has not overinterpreted the moment. He has steered a careful middle course on the bank bailouts. The most spirited critiques of his policies have come not from the right but from the left–in the clamor for nationalization. He may or may not have the policy right, but he certainly has the politics right. The country remains generally suspicious of big government and comfortable with free markets and private enterprise. The old Democratic hostility to big business doesn’t resonate so strongly anymore, since the new Democratic coalition includes fewer working-class whites and more college graduates. Obama has handled the public’s anger well, giving voice to outrage but not enacting populist policies. He quietly announced last week that he will not reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to impose new labor and environmental standards.

On the torture memos, Obama has made clear (after some hesitation) that he does not want to criminalize a policy disagreement. On Iraq, he has hewed to a centrist course, but still one that draws down America’s military presence. On Cuba, Iran and Syria, his overtures have been modest and preliminary. In almost every arena, he has pushed the envelope to change policy, not worrying about the inevitable opposition from the right, yet always in a sober and calculating manner.

Globalization, immigration, more working women and college graduates–all these have changed America over the past two decades. In a detailed study for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin point out that 67 percent of Americans now view the term “progressive” favorably, a 25-point increase in five years. This doesn’t make us a European country — 67 percent also think favorably of the term “conservative” — but it does suggest that things are changing. Obama’s success derives from his understanding of this shift — and his readiness to act on it.

Finally, the next 100 days, and the next after that, and the next, will  be harder.  The academic process of devising new policies and programs includes a certain intellectual and emotional high.  The actual execution and management of those strategies will encompass much controversy and opposition.  That is what is ahead for President Obama.  This does not even take into account any issues that may arise out of the blue, like piracy and the swine flu.  One never knows what is on the horizon.

But if anyone can do it, he can.  So three cheers for the last three months, and a huge dose of confidence and support for the next.  Enjoy the slide show of the most sane, productive and hopeful leadership we have had in a very long time:

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1893255_1874076,00.html

I fervently hope for our President’s vibrancy, effectiveness and downright common sense to prevail for the next 2820 days (yes, TWO terms).  His honesty and decency shown on the campaign trail has remained intact and shines in his role as President.  Above all, I want him to be stay safe. With awesome respect and gratitude, I thank you, Mr. President.

The Spectre of Specter

April 28, 2009

Holy cow!  Hot off the press and just across the wires is that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania will run as a Democrat in his 2010 re-election race.  This is quite significant because, well, of course, the shock of a long-term Republican switching parties is always delicious.  Also though, a victory for him would mean the 60th vote (assuming that Al Franken finally gets seated in the Senate — yeah, right!) to break possible filibusters.  Talk about consensus!  Oh my!  This is earth-shattering news.

Specter’s defection is a solid “period” on the successful conclusion of our President’s first 100 days in office and, I daresay, an ominous omen to the GOP for the next 100.  Once an entity, like the Republican party, abandons its precepts that are necessary for a fully functioning nation, it will discover that its members will likewise abandon the sponsoring party.  The GOP has not only lost sight of what they stand for but also has an empty agenda for the future.  Do tell what your thoughts are on this.

Please come back and visit with me tomorrow as we celebrate President Obama’s first few months as our leader, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

POSTSCRIPT

One of my ladies from Maine, Senator Olympia Snowe, calls it like it is on the state of the GOP.  Now, if only she and her colleague Susan Collins would also have the convictions to step away from their political party, that has become so obsolete and ignorant of what our country and people need, and advance the cause of humanity by associating with a party that has historically been and currently is in tune with the people.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/28/snowe-gop-has-abandoned-p_n_192368.html

The Writing Is On The Wall

April 26, 2009

The writing is on the wall.  It is self-evident that we immediately need to establish a commission to further investigate our torture policies in the Iraq war and perhaps take punitive measures against those responsible.  This commission must be nonpartisan, not bipartisan, because we all know that there is no such thing as bipartisan.  Mr. President, I am sorry if this process will detract  and derail you from your forward looking agenda; the fact is we can not move ahead unless we deal with what came before.

The usual, wonderful suspects all wrote intelligently, factually and convincingly today on this issue.  You know who they are, i.e. Frank Rich and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, Steve Weissman of Truthout, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (I will include links to these articles at the end of this post.).  The general take seems to be that the Bush administration carried out their torture practices, after having gotten a “legal” opinion from the Department of Justice, in order to justify the Iraq war.  If ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein could be established, then our foray into Iraq, and our commitment to the over-generalized, all-encompassing fuzzy War on Terror would have been based on solid reason.  Twisted, and oh so backwards; a veritable “back-fill” of convoluted and manufactured logic.

But that is history.  The one burning question I have is: why did Bush and his cronies push so hard to enter a war with Iraq?  Could it have been because of oil?  After all, Iraq sits on a significant chunk of the world’s oil resources.  Could it have been because Cheney, in wanting to secure huge profits for his company, Halliburton (which did reap a ten-fold profit increase during this time), was so personally single-minded?  Could the reason for entry into this war have been Bush’s attempt at going one better than his Daddy did in the Gulf War and nab Saddam Hussein?  I need to find the answer to this question of purpose.

I may be delusional in trying to discover a rational basis for the Iraq War.  I do know that the attacks of 9/11 were atrocious and retaliatory measures were called for.  However, those attacks were used by the administration, coupled with a campaign to abuse and play on America’s fears, to fulfill their own agenda, whatever that may have been.  To justify our presence in Iraq would have given the Bush administration the votes and, following naturally from that consensus, further approval to use their time in office for personal and/or ideological selfish aims.  Our shock, anger and fear after 9/11 was so raw and painful that of course we were susceptible to our leaders’ wishes.  After all, they were our leaders, right?

Wrong.  This is the real frightening aspect of the mess that needs to be cleaned up now: distorted visions of truth and justice must not be used to fulfill personal vendettas and ideologies.  Thus, President Obama, no matter how decent he is in his wish to fix  America’s plethora of problems, must face this stain on our recent past and take whatever action is necessary to cleanse it.  I know, I know.  Multitasking can be a bitch.  But when President Obama released these ten telling memos to the public a couple of weeks ago, the chances were that the outcry would only escalate.  So it has.  The President is an intelligent workaholic; he will now need to move his multitasking skills up one more notch to include a serious investigation into our torture practices. Plus, if our President chooses not to proceed with this investigation, it would be not only a blocking of forward progress, but also a repudiation of our founding principles and laws that would invalidate our entire 200 year old existence.

As lucky as we have been since 9/11 in that there have been no similar attacks on U. S. soil, this luck will inevitably fail.  If and when an attack occurs, it still shall remain an abomination to our laws to use illegal tactics to gain information or retaliate.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Never have and never will.

President Obama’s tenure is his alone, but the United States of America is, philosophically and ideologically, an ongoing entity that knows no artificial time constraints between administrations.  It is a wonderful continuum based on the phenomenal articles of our Constitution that can not be broken by any current person in power.  Our first loyalty is to this country and the ideals on which it was founded.  Then, and only then, may we subscribe to personal political loyalties.

Mr. Obama: the writing is on the wall.

For Your Sunday Reading:

http://www.truthout.org/042509A

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-torture-moment_b_190687.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/opinion/26rich.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/opinion/26kristof.html

From Hero to Goat

April 25, 2009

Alas.  The American ethos has reared its sometimes ugly head once again.  Within the short span of one week, Susan Boyle and Bo Obama have gone from heroes to goats.

Word in the cyber world has it that Ms. Boyle got a makeover, eyebrow wax included, donned designer duds and even  succumbed to the pressure of being a star by having public hissy fits.  One reader, from England,  even left a comment on this site’s post “Divas and Dogs” that he personally witnessed a meltdown by Ms. Boyle in a shoppe.  ‘ Tis truly a cruel world that builds up its heroes to the point that they inevitably must change to sustain their hero worship.  Of course the real effect is to chase away all the adoration that came before.  Not very fair either.

In the case of Bo Obama, the transition from hero to goat is much more understandable, given that he IS a dog.  Now you all know how much I admire, respect and generally adore the Obamas.  But in all honesty, our President and his Lady O. are products of  well-heeled, ivy entrenched educations and, being such productive and successful members of the community, have very strict guidelines about raising a family.  In bringing up their children, Barack and Lady O. expect the same adherence to values as they do from the world at large.  You might characterize their demeanor as “tightassed”.  This is all well and good because children actually flourish when various rules and parameters are in place.

However, as if children aren’t surprising and shocking enough, now the Obamas have brought into their family a dog.  If you ever thought that children do unexpected things, multiply that silliness and shock value by a factor of ten to understand the behavior of dogs.  Last week at a “press conference” with children, Lady O. took many questions on Bo.  Exhibiting real surprise, she commented that one night, after the family was in bed at 10:00 P.M., suddenly they heard Bo barking.  They all got up because they thought that Bo’s vocal exercises meant that someone was there (What?  Didn’t the Obamas know that the Secret Service would be way ahead of the game if someone WAS there?).  Not surprisingly, no one was there, and Lady O. could not put two and two together  as to why Bo was barking.   She stated to the children in the audience, “Can you imagine a dog barking at NOTHING?”  My dear Lady O.: that is the crux of the matter, i.e. most of the time THERE IS NO REASON for any of the many crazy dog behaviors.  Bad boy, Bo:  you woke the family for absolutely no good reason.  I am still chuckling about this media event.

All in all, Susan Boyle and Bo have had very short shelf lives as heroes.  Perhaps now that reality has somewhat settled in, we can admit that the lesson to be learned is NOT to elevate people and dogs to hero status in the first place.  Disappointment will always result.  Instead, appreciate what they have to offer and go with the flow, even if that requires us to alter our initial opinions of their circumstances.  “Everything in moderation” will prevent the fall to goat status.

Get Smart

April 24, 2009

It is Friday again, and you know what that means: assigned reading and listening for the weekend ahead.  If I don’t take responsibility for your enlightenment, who will?

This issue of torture is riveting because how we treat our enemies is, in a nutshell, the measure of who we are:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-atran/the-moral-measure-of-a-ci_b_188579.html

This torture dilemma is wrapped up in the dual questions of transparency/accountability and the possibility of prosecution, is in the forefront of the news and we all need to educate ourselves on the merits of taking steps to expose and possibly punish those responsible.   One thing is for certain:  Americans do not like any circumstance that is long, drawn-out and emotionally taxing and draining.  We are an impatient people, whether the specific issue at hand is a war, a recession or a scandal.  Furthermore, Americans, when faced with an obstacle, want to take immediate steps to remedy the situation.  Whether or not immediate action is wise, practical and useful is of less importance than just making the problem go away right now.

This is exactly what we are faced with on the torture issue and the question of whether or not the Justice Department should take the inquiry and possible prosecution up to the highest levels of government.  On one hand, we have those that say it is in the best interest of national security to avoid such public transparency.   Even President Obama himself would prefer to put this issue to bed now and focus more on the future rather than the past.  On the other hand, we have those who, knowing that these policies were immoral and illegal, insist that the very groundwork  on which this country was founded is on the line.  The Iraq war and its accompanying POW practices were illegal and for the United States NOT to prosecute the top people who condoned these practices is an illegal act in and of itself.  Our national security and international reputation actually suffered substantially from all this blatant nose-thumbing at national and international law.  Therefore, to go after these criminals would not hurt us further; quite the contrary.  We MUST prosecute the guilty to in fact redeem ourselves and return to those founding principles of our Constitution.

Here then, is an Op-Ed piece supporting the side that wants to put this torture issue behind us, without further investigation and possible prosecution of officials, i.e. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinion/23iht-edcohen.html

I do understand Roger Cohen’s viewpoint.  Yes, our government, media and Justice Department all failed in their oversight of the tactics used during the last seven years with regard to the war in Iraq.  Cohen believes that these checks and balances are now back in working order.  He feels that Obama’s decision to “out” the offending memos is enough for us to assume the correct path.  Sorry: unless this process is taken to its natural conclusion, that being accountability and prosecution, enough is NOT enough.  I am a big believer in consequences.  Atrocious acts WILL happen over and over again unless the resultant consequences are appropriate, steep and effective in dissuading future copy-cat behavior.  To refuse to fully investigate and if necessary, suffer consequences, would be a repudiation of everything that is the United States of America.

On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of individuals who want this investigation to go as high up as necessary.  Paul Krugman today had an article in the New York Times focusing on the “soul” of America:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/opinion/24krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Read his words carefully.  You would have to be a horse’s ass to deny Krugman’s last thought that to prevent further invesitigation is to deny our future:

“We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.”

A few other events of relevance  must be cited.  On the MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show earlier this week, she had a true coup of an interview with Philip Zelikow.  He was on board at the Office of Legal Counsel at the same time as Jay Bybee and John Yoo.  However, Zelikow took the opposite position on torture: he deemed such practices as water-boarding to be illegal.  Gutsy.  Of course, his memos have since disappeared.  Please watch the following video from Maddow’s interview with Zelikow:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#30335366

Then today, Zelikow had his own say in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/opinion/24zelikow.html?ref=opinion

Finally, President Obama, on April 15th, had a sit-down debate on the torture issue, listening to both sides.  Keep in mind that we are dealing with not only transparency of this issue, but also the content, and if this content demands prosecution.  Unlike John Boehner, who accused Obama of being unpatriotic because he released these memos to the American public, this panel assembled by Obama dealt with the whys and wherefores of future prosecution.  What kind of idiot is this Boehner?  No matter how illegal these acts were, Boehner believes that the public should have remained in the dark.  Does he not care at all about the content and substance of what went on, or is it all about covering up?  Has Boehner ever commented on the sheer illegality of these torture tactics?  No.  The content of the memos is not a worthy issue for Boehner;  it is the publication of the memos, informing the public, that is the total issue for him.  All looks, no substance.  But hey, he has a real nice tan.

Anyway, on one side of this debate were Leon Panetta, current CIA chief, and the immediate four previous  CIA heads.  These men were in favor of not prosecuting.  On the other side of the debate were Defense head Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and White House counsel Gregory Craig.  I must tell you, I have been most impressed with the thoughts and actions of Robert Gates during these first few months of our new administration.  His comments at this particular meeting were wise because they were so simple and true.  Gates said that the publication of these memos that rationalized the legality of these torturous acts were “inevitable.”  How true; how prescient.  Remember: it is usually the cover-up, not the initial deed, that slams shuts the door on the acceptance of consideration and sympathy in any scandal.

At any rate, the forces on the side for public awareness and follow-up investigation won the day.  The phenomenal aspect that I am in awe of though, had to do with the way President Obama handled this meeting.  First, he gathered members of opposing camps so that he could have a fair and honest overview.  Then, once he made up his mind, he dictated a memo right in front of all the participants.  I guess we know where exactly the buck stops.  We actually have an actively engaged, interested and responsible leader.  Glory be!  The link below is a much more detailed account of this meeting.  It was the lead article of the Washington Post today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/23/AR2009042304718.html?nav=hcmodule

Finally, we must remember that the final decision to go forth in this investigation and possibly bring those guilty parties to justice is solely within the power of the Department of Justice, not President Obama.  So far, all our President has done in this matter is to fact find and release that information to the American public.  Imagine!  The outrage and accusations of “traitor” that have befallen our President are, above all, the ultimate violation of our Constitution.

So please forgive me for all this assigned reading.  If you value your freedoms and your right to speak and act on them, you owe it to yourself and your country to “get smart”.

A New CD, Baby!

April 24, 2009

Tis here!  Tis for sale!  Tis for your consumption!  Tis for your absolute enjoyment!

My daughter Maribel has released her new CD, “The Great Migration”, to rave reviews:

http://oliverdiplace.blogspot.com/2009/02/ali-marcus-great-migration.html

http://womenfolk.net/archives/2009/ali-marcus-the-great-migration/

http://alimarcus.com/press.html

This is her first CD  performed with a band, and they add depth and fun to the production.  All in all, it is a polished undertaking, but also easy listening.  As I have always held, Mirabel’s poetry will lure you in to each song and make that experience linger a whole lot longer than just the duration of the song.  While her singing and instrument playing have made tremendous strides over the last four years, her lyrics will grab you by the heartstrings and evoke a finer day.  My favorite, of course, is “Minnesota” because the lyrics are about children, peace and taking a stand.

Here’s where you can buy the new album:

http://cdbaby.com/cd/alimarcus3

If you want a little fun, entertainment and peace in your life, invest in this CD.  The rewards will be tremendous.

Much love,

Mirabels’s Ma, Yo Mama

POSTSCRIPT

OMG!  It just dawned on me:  the true “great migration” is the values we pass on to our children.  I may be slow on the uptake, but the truth does eventually present itself to me.  Go Mirabel!

Divas and Dogs

April 23, 2009

Last week, two phenomena totally occupied our attention: a diva and a dog.

Susan Boyle, a 47 year old Scottish villager and a contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent”, stunned the world with her musical performance.  The world reacted by viewing her video on You Tube close to 15 million times.  Bo, the Obama’s new dog, also garnered the nation’s attention, with well-known columnists all adding their opinion on the worthiness and values and importance of living with a dog.  The list of writers who felt the need to comment on Bo was astounding, as was the Op-Ed pages of the nation’s leading newspapers and websites that published their thoughts.  Why did these two events create such a  heartfelt outpouring all over the world?

The answer lies in purity of purpose.  Susan Boyle is a quiet, shy woman who has spent her life taking care of her mother.  She has never married, never even been kissed, and lives a sheltered life in a quiet Scottish village, doing charity work and performing karaoke at the local pub.  Her life seems to be stripped of the hustle and bustle of daily living as we know it.  She appears to be possessed of no ulterior motive, no hidden agenda, other than the fulfilling her mother’s and her own dream of becoming a successful singer.  That is the purity of purpose that hit us so hard in our hearts and minds.  Whether her situation was defined by geography or life choice, Ms. Boyle had this one opportunity to show the world her talent, and sure enough, that talent set the world on fire.

There have been other instances where hugely talented people have been plucked out of obscurity and soared on the wings of fame and recognition.  The Indian mathematical genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan, who lived from 1887 to 1920, was one of those people.  He was from a very small town in India and by the age of 13, he had mastered, to a great degree, advanced mathematics.  Around the age of 25, he found his mentor in G. H. Hardy of Cambridge, who brought him to that university.  The body of his work was brilliant.  Unfortunately, he died an early death from tuberculosis.  His story, just like Ms. Boyle’s, was riveting.

Bo’s story is similar in that it is also based on simplicity and core values.  It is rather a unanimous consensus that a dog is one of the most soothing, unconditionally loving events that can happen to a human being.  Have a look at this week’s “The New Yorker” cover:

http://andrewleefielding2.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-yorker-cover-42709.html

With the White House in the background, we are reminded it is a symbol of  everything that is frenetic and stressful.  Then in the foreground is Bo.  There is nothing else around him.  That is because he is the uncomplicated symbol of joy and friendship, plain and simple.  In our complicated lives, it is so soothing to come home to a completely accepting, loving buddy.

My oldest friend this week lost her 15 year old Labrador Retriever, Midnight.  I have never heard of a Lab living that long, so I take my hat off to my friend for caring and loving Midnight so well.  Midnight was the first of my friend’s three dogs.  My friend was always a bit cautious in life, but I noticed that after she brought Midnight into her life, she became more laid back, more accepting and her degree of rigidity thawed.  This wonderful dog just seemed to melt away life’s stresses.  It is often thought that the dog is man’s servant and the human is the dog’s master.  I beg to differ with that.  The dog is the master, and the owner is his servant.  And that is precisely what makes living with a dog so meaningful, healthful and therapeutic.  The best we can do is to give these pets the best life possible while they are here on earth with us.  Their effects on us will outlive their own lives, and their memories will always be with us.  Their main goal, besides eating, is to love us, which is so pure an objective that we respond with awe and fulfillment.  It is we humans  who are eternally grateful to them for their pure faithfulness.  Here’s to you, Midnight:

Ms. Boyle and Bo showed us, on a gut level, how rewarding — and unfortunately, often rare — it is to be of a single purpose.  Life in general does not usually allow us to be so  pure in our goals, what with constantly juggling the demands of every day life.  So when events, such as Ms. Boyle’s performance and Bo’s adoption, comes across our radar, we take a deep breath, contemplate the moment’s significance  and appreciate what really matters.  If we can use those moments to add perspective to all of our other moments, we are much better off than before.

No Surprise Here

April 20, 2009

When Hamid Karzai said he would tell the clergy to “revise” the marital rape law, did I say in my post of last night, “Run Like the Wind”, that he is living in a fantasy world?  Did I mention that to turn over civil law to an extremist sect will have no good ending?  You bet I said those things, and look what is reported today in the lead article in the Washington Post:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30299557/

Yuk!  It is beyond belief that this madman first of all signed into law, admittedly WITHOUT READING ITS ARTICLES FIRST, this discriminatory and abusive policy. Then to add insult to injury, he turned over the revision of this law to the very group of extremists that perpetuate this sexual injustice. What do you think are the chances that this revision will actually take place? Such cowardice from Karzai and Zardari (in Pakistan).  Bottom line: Karzai is intimidated and scared out of his mind by the Taliban, who killed his father in 1999.  Zardari, the husband of the slain Benazir Bhutto, would not have even dreamed of being the President of Pakistan had it not been for his wife.  And what of religion?  This is yet another example of the using “God” to persecute people, of yellow-bellied men hiding behind religious dogma.  It is their inherent weakness that is the real culprit.

Where are you world?  It is time to speak out.

Run Like the Wind

April 19, 2009

I apologize for bringing up yet once again President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.  After viewing the video below, I am still dumbfounded.  When asked about the Shariah law that he signed off on last week that allows marital rape, and please, correct me if I am wrong, I believe that I heard Karzai say that this particular law will be revised “BY THE CLERGY” to be in accordance with the Afghan constitution. isn’t that like asking the Nazis to rule on religious freedom?  He admitted to actually NOT reading the law before he signed it.  Additionally, the journalist Zakaria then questions Karzai about the upsurge in the Taliban.  To save my life, I swear that I can not make hay out of his response.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/

It is apparent to me that Karzai doesn’t know his ass from his elbow.  No?  This is NOT a language problem, but a disconnect of a few key phrases that, when stringed together, make no sense at all.  Perhaps too much opium intake?  He could not make any of his thoughts coherent, but nevertheless, wasn’t he the picture of sartorial splendor?  His words were bullsh**, but he sure did look good.

Heaven help us.  This is the country we are depending on to quash Al Qaeda and capture bin Laden?  If Karzai is our best bet as an ally in fighting terrorism, we need to run as fast and as far away from Afghanistan as we can.