Thursday, December 5, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The interim agreement with Iran to shut down its nuclear program took a long time to get done. As Dafna Linzer at MSNBC notes, it could have been done a lot sooner had we not had a certain president in office.
The sad truth of Sunday’s nuclear agreement with Iran is that it could have come 10 years earlier and with far fewer costs.
It took a Mideast war, an accelerating nuclear program, a crisis with U.N. inspectors and crippling sanctions before the sides started talking.
More importantly, it was the election of President Obama and the return of the reformist leadership in Tehran that made an historic deal between the United States and Iran even possible.
When the United States was attacked by Al-Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, it was by a terrorist organization that was no friend to Iran.
Acting from inside Afghanistan and Pakistan – two nations that border Iran – al-Qaeda’s actions destabilized the region and brought on a swift counterattack by U.S. forces who remain in the region.
Hundreds of al-Qaeda members streamed across Iran’s borders. Many were caught and identified. The most dangerous, including Osama bin Laden’s relatives, were imprisoned. Low-level fighters were returned to their home countries – but not before Zarif secretly shared their identities, finger prints, passports and other information with the U.S. government.
There was other quiet but vital cooperation along the Iranian-Afghan border to stop al-Qaeda, the heroin trade and warlords from smuggling weapons and goods out of Afghanistan.
The Bush administration benefited greatly from all of it but that’s not the impression it conveyed to the American public or the Iranian people.
Iran’s leaders, working through a Swiss diplomatic channel, sent the State Department a lengthy proposal for embarking on negotiations. Tehran’s leaders sought a “grand bargain,” with everything on the table, including restoring relations with Israel, and giving up any interest in pursing nuclear capabilities that could be used for weapons.
If only they had been greeted with silence. Instead, Bush used his 2003 State of the Union address to enlist Iran into what he deemed an “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea.
So rather than find a way to peace and possible reconciliation that could have prevented war, civil unrest, and a winding down nuclear threats, we spent ten years rattling our sabres and stuffing a sock in our flight suit to prove that American exceptionalism is da bomb… literally. We spent ten years being told by draft-dodgers that war is the answer to all our problems and great for the bottom line at Halliburton and BP. Instead we got death and the permanent enmity of an entire segment of the world’s population.
Obama and Rouhani must sell this deal at home, and it will tough for both. The American public still carries the scars of a lengthy hostage crisis that followed Iran’s political and religious revolution and are reluctant to trust a new and possibly vulnerable leadership. Rouhani is under pressure from those very same revolutionary guards who see Washington as the root of Iran’s corrupt past.
Failure going forward would certainly embolden the hardliners on all sides, and push toward conflict, not resolution.
But if the deal sticks – a big if – Rouhani will be the first Iranian leader in more than 30 years who unclenched his fist – delivering his people back into the global fold. Obama may well be remembered as the Nobel laureate who removed the threat of nuclear war through the promise of extending his hand.
It’s long past time that we matured to the point where we realize how incredibly insane it is to think that the only way to achieve peace is through war.
Friday, November 22, 2013
There has already been a lot written about the events fifty years ago today. The media has flooded us with recollections, remembrances, commemorations, and the inevitable resurgence of conspiracy theories and speculation. We can relive that day minute by minute on YouTube, including the soap operas and commercials that were interrupted by the controlled panic from the newsroom as they tried to make sense of the bulletins clattering in on the AP teletypes.
I thought a lot about how to mark this day and put it in perspective: what it means and how it has changed our world. But I keep coming back to what I first wrote on the fortieth anniversary: where I was, what I was doing, and how an eleven-year-old kid’s view of the world changed on that day.
Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip Phys Ed because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, “Kennedy’s dead.” We had a boy in our class named Matt Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened – an errant fatal blow with a dodgeball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.
There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend – Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.
I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.
At the age of eleven, I never thought about being old enough to look back fifty years to that time. According to NPR, more than sixty percent of Americans alive today were not yet born on that day. Today the question is not do you remember JFK, but what did his brief time leave behind. Speculation is rife as to what he did or did not accomplish – would we have gone in deeper in Vietnam? Would he have pushed civil rights? Would the Cold War have lasted? We’ll never know, and frankly, pursuing such questions is a waste of time. Had JFK never been assassinated, chances are he would have been re-elected in 1964, crushing Barry Goldwater, but leading an administration that was more style than substance, battling with his own party as much as with the Republicans, much like Clinton did in the 1990′s. According to medical records, he would have been lucky to live into his sixties, dying from natural causes in the 1980′s, and he would have been remembered fondly for his charm and wit – and his beautiful wife – more than what he accomplished in eight years of an average presidency.
But it was those six seconds in Dealy Plaza that defined him. Each generation has one of those moments. For my parents it was Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the flash from Warm Springs in April 1945. Today it is Challenger in 1986, and of course September 11, 2001. And in all cases, it is what the moment means to us. It is the play, not the players. We see things as they were, contrast to how they are, and measure the differences, and by that, we measure ourselves.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Seventy-five years ago tonight, Orson Welles scared the crap out of his radio audience with a version of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. This is not from that broadcast.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
This is where I’ll be all day.
Bob and I are staying at the Terrace Hotel — that tall building on the right in the background — and he’s judging sports cars. I’ll be with the Pontiac in the “Future Classics” section.
Friday, October 11, 2013
How did the Tigers do?
Friday, October 4, 2013
Today was the first time I was able to put the top down on the Mustang without having to have the A/C on too. The cool/dry season is coming.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
I will be posting most of my Stratford stuff over at my other blog Bobby Cramer.
The reason is two-fold: that’s where I’ve done most of my theatre reviews in the past, and it keeps this place from getting too cluttered with culture. And it revives a blog that goes dormant most of the time.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Via Weather Underground:
At first glance, NASA’s latest find might resemble a classic piece of bubble gum, but the recently discovered planet, GJ 504b, is much too large to roll out of a machine after a quarter and a twist.
How large is it? NASA scientists say it’s four times the mass of Jupiter. The glimmering pink sphere is so massive that it’s the lowest-mass planet orbiting a star like the sun ever detected using direct imaging technology.
But mass is just one component of GJ 504b’s existence that has NASA scientists in awe; GJ 504b also shatters current conceptions of how large planets form.
The prevailing theory, known as the core-accretion model, states that Jupiter-like planets form after a series of collisions between debris create a mass with a gravitational pull strong enough to rapidly attract surrounding gas-rich debris, molding the accumulation of debris into a crude planetary form. But one stipulation of the theory is that it only applies to planets orbiting up to 30 astronomical units (AU) from their sun — 1 AU is equivalent to Earth’s distance from the sun. GJ 504b orbits its star at a distance of 43.5 AU, nearly nine times the distance Jupiter orbits our sun. That discovery has sent scientists scrambling for answers on how GJ 504b could take form.
Isn’t it obvious? It was born that way, and nothing you can do or say can change it.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Lukas Novy says he’s a member of the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” a satirical faith which teaches that a creature composed of pasta and meatballs “created the world much as it exists today,” that pirates “were peaceful explorers and it was due to Christian misinformation that they have an image of outcast criminals today,” and that beer is good. In observance of this faith, Novy, a resident of the Czech Republic, insisted that he be allowed to wear a pasta sieve on his head while being photographed for an official government ID. And he succeeded:
Czech officials ruled that the nation’s religious liberty laws required this result. According to a government spokesperson, Novy’s request “complies with the laws of the Czech Republic where headgear for religious or medical reasons is permitted if it does not hide the face.”
Friday, August 2, 2013
Snowball goes sock-hunting.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I heard this tonight as a piece between stories on NPR, and it took me about five minutes to remember the title and the band.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Tropical Storm Dorian could get close to home.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on the repeal of DOMA:
Look, I’ve been married since I was 19. I believe in traditional marriage.
This was, in his lizard-brain reaction, his way of saying that the repeal has no impact on the laws of Florida and its constitutional amendment passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage.
But Mr. Scott is predicting the next battle for marriage equality. The fact that he is (we assume) happily married doesn’t mean anything other than there is connubial bliss in the Scott household, and his marriage doesn’t have any bearing on the people next door. Equal rights is not a zero sum game. Granting marriage equality to a gay couple doesn’t take it away from the straight people. (Please don’t let’s rehash the slippery slope argument of man on dog marriages. That will only happen when a dog has the ability to comprehend and accept the terms of a contract. Dogs may rule, but that’s not a part of the deal.)
The fact that DOMA is now dead means that states that do not recognize all marriages no longer have much of a leg to stand on in denying spousal benefits when a married couple named Fred and Paul from Massachusetts relocates to Palmetto Bay, Florida. And in a way, Justice Antonin Scalia, in his rant against the ruling, predicted the next shoe to drop. Marriage equality at the state level is coming up next.