Sunday, March 26, 2017
However, if Republicans will work smartly, holding steadfastly to the classic values of individual liberty and collective strength, we can turn this situation around.
The Republican party can use Trump, instead of (the other way around) him using us.
This regimen makes more sense for retaining America's greatness than letting one strong man steal the show just for the sake of gaining advantage over the other party (the party of whines and poses).
As for ole Mitch, he just needs to, at this point in time, do whatever is necessary to facilitate the Gorsuch appointment.
Lastly, here's a word of encouragement for our Speaker, Mr. Ryan: keep up the good work. We can see you have a burden for governing the entire nation of USA, not just the conservative part of it. This is what a true statesman will always do, instead of allowing politics to perpetually trump governance.
In other exhortations: Centrists unite! Save America from the extremists who strive to dominate us from both sides.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The inner workings of our democratic republic were brought into my awareness a couple of days ago as I was listening on NPR to Congressional hearings while mixing concrete for a deck stairway addition to my home.
They say that multi-tasking is not something you can effectively do. I have never believed that, so I try to do it all the time.
On that particular day, which happened to be the first day of spring, it felt good to be outside on a sunny morning in the slowly warming upper-40's fahrenheit air, doing a constructive work in the yard while at the same time tuning into the hearing being conducted by Chairman Devin Nunes of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
While trying to learn about the delicate and bullysome governance of our great nation while getting some work done, I make mental note to self: good luck with that.
So there I was in the morning sunshine mixing concrete and it felt great in our cool early morning Blue Ridge mountain air.
And there was something about the experience that I would like to convey to you because I feel it is important that citizens make themselves aware of some of the issues that confront those men and women whose job it is to govern, and to work productively within in an immense, arcane federal bureaucracy the purpose of which is to keep our nation going.
Maybe its because I'm an old guy now, 65, that the first thing that jumps out in my mind is a deja vu of the Watergate hearings in 1973. As I was hearing our Representatives speak about Mr. Flynn, President-elect Trump, the Russians, FISA, unmasking this or that person, and possible unauthorized dissemination of classified information about a US person, etcetera etcetera blah blah blah . . .
My mind was flashing on the summer of 1973 when I was watching the Senate Judiciary Committee as they gathered info about the White House "plumbers" who broke into an office in the Watergate hotel in Washington. During those hearings there was talk of Mr. McCord, Mr. Mitchell, and John Dean, and there was administrative finesse being displayed by Chairman Sam Ervin.
That was the last time, you see, that I listened attentively to a Congressional hearing.
Of course there is no real relationship between that Watergate fiasco 44 years ago and whatever is going on now with this present wiretapping allegation brouhaha as it relates to presidential politics.
But there was a connection in my mind between these two situations that are so far apart in time.
Perhaps what triggered the memory in my mind was the repetitive mentions of certain phrases being spoken by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. I kept hearing certain answers:
"I can't comment on that." "I'm not going to comment on hypotheticals."
. . . can't comment on individual persons, US persons. . ., can't answer; it would depend on. . ., not going to comment on a news article . . . , not at liberty to talk about communication within the executive branch . . ., I'm not going to answer. . . same answer . . . "same answer."
At one point, Director Comey allowed this personal admission:
"That's not something I can comment on. I'm trying very hard to not talk about anything that relates to a US person."
My first thought was that these two Intelligence Directors were perhaps not as forthcoming as they should be, because, you know, their inquisitors were members of Congress who represent We the People, etc.
But then I realized that these guys are doing their jobs by not just spouting information about the US persons whom they are striving to protect.
My second thought was about how much grace the Congressional questioners were extending to these reticent public officials, by tolerating, without objection, such a continuous string of those "I cannot answer that" responses from Directors Comey and Rogers.
Reflecting on it now, two days later, the conundrum is best represented in this statement by Representative Terri Sewell:
"So Director Comey, I know you cannot discuss whether any investigations are ongoing with 'U.S. persons,' and I respect that. I think it's important, though, that the American people understand the scope and breadth of public, open source reporting of Mr. Flynn's actions that led to his resignation. And while we can't talk about . . . an investigation, I believe that we here at HIPSI, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, must put those facts into the public domain."
As the hours wore on, I came to understand that there is a very delicate balance going on here, in a very complicated world. Irresponsible exposure of information that has been gathered about US citizens would be a violation of (Director Comey's and Director Rogers') sworn duty. At the same time they are duty-bound to protect US citizens, they are duty-bound to investigate people, both native and foreign, respectively.
This is no simple task.
Even though I managed, in the several hours I listened to all this, to mix 1360 pounds of concrete and place it strategically it in the ground in my yard, this labor that I did was far easier, I concluded, than the task that has been appointed to Directors Comey and Rogers.
To those two public servants, I am moved to say: Thank you, gentlemen, for your service.
I did, nevertheless, notice a pattern developing in all this Congressional enquiry that flooded my earbuds as I labored through the day.
The Directors' hesitant refusals to answer all questions were frequently preceded and/or followed up by lengthy statements from the Representatives who were questioning them.
At first, I thought this was just the politicians grandstanding, running their mouths to convince the public of their eloquence in the grave matters of national security.
By the end of the day, however, I had figured out that the Representatives were using the public forum to inject information from their own research into the public record. This too, is important.
I see it as public education, much more important than, say, how bathroom assignments are administered in public schools.
Rep. Andre Carson says "There's a lot at stake here for Russia."
I'm paraphrasing Rep. Carson's message here. He went on to explain . . . This is big money, lots of implications. If they (the Russians) can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what's next? Are we looking at a new 'iron curtain'? . the United States, as leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion. . . At the Republican convention in July, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Trump himself changed the Republican party platform to no longer arm Ukraine. So, the same month that Trump denied Putin's role in Ukraine, Trump's team weakened the party platform on Ukraine, and . . . this was the same month that certain individuals in the Trump orbit held secret meetings with Russian officials, some of which may have been on the topic of sanctions . . . this is no coincidence in my opinion. . .
Now is there something to this, does it even matter, does this amount to a hill of beans in all the gigabytes of data streaming across cyberworld . . . I'm wondering? while mixing my concrete.
And here's another sample of the Committee's exchange:
Rep Frank Lobiando: . . .if you can describe the use of Russia's active measures during the campaign. . .
Rogers: So we saw cyber used, we saw the use of external media, we saw the use of disinformation, we saw the use of leaking of information, much of which was not altered, . . . release of cyber-information
And yet another random snippet:
Rep. Jackie Speier:
"You know, I think it's really important, as we sit here, that we explain this to the American people in a way that they can understand it. Why are we talking about all of this?"
Thanks for asking, Jackie. I understand a little more than I did five hours ago, but I'm just one sand grain on the shores of America.
Meanwhile, I got something done today on the old homestead.
And I must conclude that we've made some progress in our relations with the Ruskies since I was a kid in the early 1960's. Back then, the big question was whether they were going to blow us to smithereens with nuclear bombs!
It seems we've come a long way since then. Maybe our peace-seeking has something to do with demolishing that infamous wall over in Berlin, the one where President Kennedy said "Let them come to Berlin. Ich bin ein Berliner," and later President Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
In this life, there is a time for tearing down, and there is a time for building, and there is a time for listening, and a time for trying to figure a few things out while while listening and while building or tearing down, as the case may be . . .
This has been going on a long time, but now, in modern times, the stakes are higher with all them nukes in the ground somewhere.
Be careful, gentlemen.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Let's all get up and wave to a tune that was a hit soon after your mother was born;
though she was born a long long time ago,
your mother would know;
your mother would know.
And your grandmother
and your father and your grandfather.
Uncle Albert would know it too-- Uncle Albert Schram, who conducted the orchestra last night.
You see him here in the background of this alternative-fact unauthorized photo.
In fact, Albert knows those old Beatles tunes so very thoroughly. He conducted the Charlotte Pops through an incredibly rousing symphonic accompaniment last night. I could hardly believe it.
Take the infamous John Lennon composition Day in the Life piece, for instance. It's on Sergeant Pepper's.
When I first heard that strange finale in 1967, my sixteen-year-old mind didn't know what to make of it.
Whatever it meant or did not mean (we were all wondering), it signaled that the Beatles had turned a huge corner in their musical development, from pop-music fab-four phenom to . . . ???
". . . found my way upstairs and had a smoke. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream, Ohhhh, oh oh ohhhh. . ."
Now in 2017, it means. . .hell, I don't know what it means.
That such a cacophonic cadence as that Day in the Life finale could actually be orchestrally performed was amazing to me last night. All these years, I thought it was just Brian Epstein's or George Martin's studio tricks.
Tony Kishman, the musician who fulfills the Paul McCartney role, pointed out that John, Paul, George and Ringo had never done this with a live symphony back in the day when they were in their heyday. Pretty interesting, I thought. Now their aged Sgt. Pepper's studio wizardry has morphed into this phenomenal "tribute" event performed by an incredibly talented Beatles-tribute band. And however many hundreds or thousands of us geezers were enthusiastically waving our lit-up phones while singing.
"Naa naa naa, na na na naa, na na na nah, Hey Jude!"
"Take a sad song and make it better. . ."
Take an old song, and make it rock again . . . is what these guys do, the Classical Mystery Tour (they call themselves) along with our jubilant audience-participle thronging of us when-I-get-older-losing-my-hair baby boomers. I mean it was, like, so far out man.
Just how many 64-year-olds there were waving their devices and singing Hey Jude in that theatre last night, I do not know. But I can tell you this. A rocking good time was had by all, including the band. Just some good clean fun, y'all.
Tony also said something to us that, as he so poignantly pointed out, Paul had never said to a Beatles audience. "Visit our website."
Haha! Ain't it the truth. Who'd have thunk it, that all this stuff would happen since those halcyon smoky days of yore.
But hey, life goes on. Times change, and most of us get a little stuck in our minds back in that time of unsure discovery when we passed through teendom while wearing bell-bottoms, wondering who Lucy in the Sky was. And if you're have trouble remembering the '60's, it's probably because. . .
Never mind. Beneath the surface, something very special was always going on.
Underneath it all, such a time as that had never happened before, nor would ever again.
But this is true even now; its part of the mystery tour of this life. Our kids will never view it, nor comprehend it, the same way we did. Nor could we see it the way our parents did.
Our parents had grown up in the 1930's with Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and George Gershwin, and that was all well and good and they did their thing.
That greatest generation--who then grew up to fight the Nazis back into their holes back in the 1940's--that generation came back from the Big War, started generating us boomers like there's no tomorrow. And at some point in the '60's, there was indeed some serious question about whether there would BE a tomorrow, because Khruschev and Kennedy almost blew the whole damn world up over those alternative-fact nukes down in Cuba.
When we boomers came along, the old War--the one they call WWII--was so intense, and still fresh in our parents' memory and experience. But it was just history-book stuff for us. As John had sung:
"I read the news today, oh boy, the English army had just won the war.
A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look,
having read the book."
If you don't know what I'm talking about, read a newspaper, or a book, or hazard a listen.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
God does not need any favors from the likes of us mere humans. Nevertheless, if you are like me--that is, if you call yourself a Christian--you can do us all a favor--you can do this nation a favor-- by proving this man wrong.
He opines that we Christians are working ourselves into a fascist movement.
I have respect for this man and his opinion. Chris Hedges is a smart man, a doctor of divinity; he was a good reporter for the New York Times, and a Pulitzer prize recipient. But his assessment about Christians is incorrect. Or at least I hope it is incorrect.
Let us therefore prove him wrong in his analysis of us.
We are not fascists; nor do we want to be.
Let us remind Chris what it means to be Christian. Let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Let us not do to others what we would not want them to do to us.
Let us demonstrate to Mr. Hedges, and to whomever it may concern, that we live and we act on behalf of the man from Galilee who came to bring good news to the afflicted.
Let us fulfill the command of that prophet who admonished us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to give shelter to the those who need it.
Let us visit the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the prisoners.
Let us act on behalf of the healer who was sent to bind up the broken-hearted.
Let us be advocates for the the one who was taken prisoner, the one who came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners.
Let us proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and of his judgement on all of us.
Let us comfort all who mourn.
Let us hunger and thirst for righteousness (not right-wingedness).
Let us be merciful.
Let us love mercy, and do justice, and walk humbly with our God.
Let us proclaim the message of the one who exhorted us to love one another.
Let us heal, if we can, as he healed the sick, the lame, the blind.
Let us speak truthfully, because we shall be made free by the truth.
Let us act honorably, as Jesus himself did on the night he was arrested, when he told Peter to put down the sword.
Let us be bold in our kindness, as he was.
Let us speak confidently about the power of love, compassion and mercy, as he did when he preached on the Mount.
Let us be brave, as Jesus was when he went to the cross rather than betray the redemptive, resurrective mission that had been laid upon his shoulders.
Let us not be haters, nor slanderers, nor liars, nor killers, nor maimers, no adulterers, nor thieves.
Let us love those who see themselves as our enemies.
Let us love those who make themselves our enemies.
Let us not be enemies.
Let us love those who despitefully use us.
Let us love those who abuse us.
Let us love those who accuse us.
Let us not become fascists.
Let us not be deceived by the fascists.
Let us not be used by the fascists.
Let us not be despised by the socialists, nor the communists, nor the jihadists.
Deliver us, Lord, from the jihadists.
Let us project calm on the political waters as you invoked calm on the sea of Galilee.
Let us be Christians who love the Lord and who strive to love all people whom the Lord has brought forth.
Let us conquer death, as you have done, Lord, and then live eternally with you in peace and love.
Let us pray.
Forgive us our trespasses, Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
And Let us not be agents of evil.
We do have a message of mercy for all men and women. We do have a song to sing.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Why the Diagonal, y'all?
Because it's the shortest distance
because what goes up must come
to break up the conformism of these trunkated
because this old tree was just ready to begin its
because its time had come, y'all?
maybe it was just the final
from seed to tall
from spring to fall.
It could happen to us
From seed to fall,
I do believe.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
just tear me up,
stomp on me if you want to
pick me up and throw me 'cross the world.
I don't care.
Go on now,
get on with it.
Watch me like a hawk,
and when I'm at my tenderest,
most vulnerable point,
Take your best shot!
What you do not see
is the One who died for me.
His sacrifice has made all the difference,
and will yet again
when I rise with Him.
So just get along now.
Go find someone else to pick on.
You think I don't see you.
But I do.
And I will.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Just how different the two were can be understood if you read Nora's book about how she left the Soviet Union in 1922.
The world's first communist revolution was imposed on Russia in 1917 by a group called Bolsheviks. Motivated and instructed by the theories of Karl Marx, these insurrectionists developed their tactics and strategies under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin.
A major component of their revolutionary plan was large-scale redistribution of Russian lands, businesses and all other assets. The disruptive effects of that communist reprogramming of an entire nation are glaringly evident in Nora Percival's first-person account.
To read about such things in history books, or in Dr. Zhivago, is one thing.
To read about it from the eyewitness perspective of a child is quite another.
One of Nora Percival's most traumatic losses during that time was the loss of her Mishka bear, a dearly beloved doll that we would think of as a teddy bear.
But a more significant trauma in the big picture of her life was the four-year separation from her father, at the age tender age of three. The disruption and displacement of their family ultimately demanded her mother's life--her mother, the delicate woman whose favorite activity was playing Chopin and Debussy on the piano.
Her father had been a successful factory-owner in czarist times. But his business prowess was a threat to the new regime. The revolutionary government was busy rearranging, according to Marxist-Leninist theory, the entire structure of land use, industry development and job assignment in the Russia of the 1920's. When Papa discerned the destructive program that would be imposed on his business and his life, he felt compelled to act in the best protective interests of his family; he left Russia, to establish a path in which his wife and daughter would later follow. By a round-the-world route, he wound up here in America.
His departure, and the family's suffering and deprivation under bureaucratic Bolshevik tyranny, are the stuff of Nora's amazing story, a truly historic memoir. Her account of the long, torturous trip from Russia to New York presents not only a clear picture of her personal triumph over adverse circumstances, but also a clear picture of the world-wide swell of immigration to America that happened during that era.
This final testament of Nora Lourie Percival's childhood odyssey, penned in the latter years of her 102-year life, is an amazing testimony of her personal triumph. But it is much more significant than a personal memoir. The book presents an historic, though contemporarily relevant, view of that very disruptive era of world history. Here's an authentic, insider account of the tribulations that compelled so many wayfarers to pass beneath Lady Liberty and then embark at Ellis Island to partake of our burgeoning American liberty.
Nora's writerly skills are precise and highly developed, nascent during a perilous youth in which reading three languages had become her best escape from the perpetual ordeal of fleeing post-revolutionary Russia. Having lost her little Mishka-bear, young Nora took refuge in reading. Her lyrical writing reflects an exceptional conversion of that childhood literacy into a phenomenal story in the annals of world history.
You should read it.