Monthly Archives: July 2015

Fallacies

russian_roulette

Pundits are writing: How can Hillary be a credible advocate for the middle class? How can she understand everyday people’s problems when she is so immensely rich and vacations in the Hamptons and mingles with all those multi-billionaires? It’s like saying: This doctor looks so healthy. How can he possibly understand and cure sick people when he is not sick himself?

Another thing I would like people to explain to me is the gay “pride” concept. Sexual orientation, like gender, race and eye coloring is something that one is born with and not a question of choice. It certainly should be accorded equal protection under the law. We do not say we are proud to be tall, or curly haired or left handed. Maybe the “pride” in gay pride is a reaction to and over-correction for centuries of ostracism and persecution.

I also do not comprehend all the uproar about Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane president and CEO of the NAACP who turns out to be white. What is so reprehensible about a person who wants to identify as black and to celebrate black identity? We always say that we need to start a “conversation” about racism. Rachel did not talk about it. She acted. Let’s hear it for Rachel Dolezal.

Contrast this with Dylan Roof in Charleston who sat for an hour in a black church, was welcomed by the congregation and then got up and shot 9 people because he wanted to start a race war. The southern States came together and immediately took action. They removed the confederate flag from public buildings. It took this horrific action to galvanize them.

But how many deaths will it take before we get the same kind of response to the damage caused to our psyche, our families, our society and our reputation in the world by so many individuals running around with guns and shooting people in schools, churches, movie theaters, military installations and everywhere they please.
How many more mass shootings will it take for the American people to wake up to the menace of guns?

(Editor’s note: This post was written before the recent murders in Chattanooga and Lafayette)

Guns in the home are not a protection. Guns in the home are an invitation to violence and death. Children die in accidents. Suicides are made easy and quarrels degenerate into killing. Guns do not protect. Guns kill. Let us get rid of guns like we got rid of the confederate flags.

Charlie Rose Interviews Vladimir Putin

roseputin

Vladimir Putin was recently interviewed by Charlie Rose at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. Putin was in his home town, amid the splendors of Tsarist Russia, very much at ease and in an expansive mood. He, Charlie Rose and other invited guests were seated on an elevated platform facing an audience ready to applaud his every utterance. He was speaking directly to them. Charlie Rose, on the other hand, had to turn sideways to ask his questions. He was not comfortably ensconced at his usual round table.

Putin used this forum to talk about Ukraine at great length. He put his own spin on the situation there and to anyone who had not followed the events as they happened, he might have sounded totally believable. Putin prefaced his remarks by explaining that Russian ad Ukraine were one people speaking the same language, sharing the same origins, ethnicity and history. According to him, Ukraine was directly responsible for creating the current situation by refusing to honor a treaty with Russia. According to him, the Maidan popular revolt, which he called a revolution, was to blame because it lead to the coup d’état which ousted President Yanukovych and resulted in the discontent in Donetsk and Lugansk. (Applause!).

Regarding U.S.-Russia relations he noted that the U.S. likes to impose its own standards everywhere. He also cited the American unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty. Putin likes to use the phrase “our partners” when speaking of the US and the West, but he obviously has no interest in partnership. Regarding sanctions, Putin explained that they have made Russia adjust to the new realities and rethink some of its policies. He cited the 108 foreign countries attending the economic forum and the 200 investment agreements signed.

Asked what Russia intended to do about Syria , he quickly seized the ball and ran with it. What a superb occasion to explain that Russia does not interfere in the affairs of sovereign states and that the fate of Syria was in Syrian hands. He lost no opportunity in pointing out that the current disaster in the Middle East was the direct result of the American invasion of Iraq and the West’s destabilizing of Libya. There were no jihadists there before the so-called Arab Spring. (Alas true! Thank you George W.)

Putin has a black belt in Judo. I am awarding him a black belt in verbal combat. He is so glib and plausible that I have to remind myself that this amiable man who does not shout or pound the table (he did not have one) is actually all the more dangerous because of it. I had a hard time withholding my admiration at this performance.
Putin is not afraid to say anything he pleases and Charlie Rose was entirely too polite in letting him get away with it.
He did not do his usual pouncing and pointing out how events contradicted his statements. Someone like the late pugnacious Mike Wallace might have done a better job.

When Rose used the word aggression, Putin retorted that Russia was not aggressive, it was persistent.
Charlie Rose was visibly impressed with Vladimir Putin.

So am I, though for different reasons.

The Joys of Group Travel

Pope John Paul II And Pope John XXIII Are Declared Saints During A Vatican Mass

Group traveling seems like such an attractive solution when you have reached a certain age and are happy to delegate all the burdensome aspects of a trip. Isn’t it nice when someone else takes care of bookings, transfers, organized visits and other tiresome details? Sounds good, right? The trouble is that I never learned the trick of sticking with my party and have accidentally strayed more times than I can count. It seems that I don’t care for being herded along in a group. It feels like being tied to a long rope like a kindergartner on an excursion. So I somehow manage to detach myself. (by the way, I also don’t like name tags.)

The first time I strayed was in 1967, The American Library Association had organized a four-island tour to Hawaii for which I signed up. On Maui, our bus stopped for lunch at the Sheraton. I was so enchanted by the beach that I decided to go for a quick swim after eating.
Unfortunately the bus left without me. The hotel found out where it was and I had to take a taxi to rejoin my companions. Lucky they hadn’t left for the next island!

Another time was on a trip to Tahiti with my daughter. We were on a cruise ship. One day they scheduled a bus trip to some attraction (I forget what it was) and on our first stop we were having such a good time admiring the display of crafts that we did not notice the bus continuing without us. We decided to walk to a beach to swim and relax. We eventually rejoined the ship on our own.
Two other misadventures occurred during a group tour to Italy and Sicily. After a visit to Pompeii I had lingered a little and lost sight of my co-travelers. I walked and by some miracle arrived at the place we were supposed to reassemble. On the same trip, I was overwhelmed by the crowds at the Vatican and felt I might be swallowed by the sea of tourists. To be sure I didn’t lose my group, my entire attention was directed at the guide with the yellow umbrella. As a result I had no eyes to spare for all the splendors.

On a Dnieper river cruise, we visited some very interesting Ukrainian towns. One day we took a little boat to see a village where we were greeted by small children in colorful garb. Many beautiful crafts were on display and again I lost track of time. Suddenly I looked around me and none of the faces were familiar. Fortunately I remembered where our little boat was moored. The crew was still there and I asked one of them whether he knew where the group had gone. Thank God for cell phones. He got busy and presently he was leading me some distance to a building where everyone but me was having lunch. Whew!

Here is one more example of my talent for getting lost. This was in Poland on a tour celebrating a Chopin anniversary. We had many concerts everywhere. One evening in Cracow we attended a klezmer concert. We were traveling in several little vans. Cracow is a very
old city and many of the streets are too narrow for big buses. I enjoyed the concert immensely. Walking back at night, I somehow lost my way and could not remember where the vans were parked. I stopped some people on the street and asked where I could find a taxi. They gave me directions and I was lucky to find one. Fortunately I also remembered the name of our hotel and had visited an ATM that morning so I had local currency. When I got to the hotel the others had just arrived and no one ever knew that I had been missing.

Nowadays my travels occur vicariously via the big screen and high definition technology. I can revisit all the sights at leisure and remember, rediscover or simply see for the first time what I had not seen then. In fact, I saw the Vatican this way in much more depth than when I was there. Of course some things are missing: the sounds, the smells of a different place and the feeling of “being there”. Those are some of the trade-offs we make. The thing is to make the most of where we are and what we can do. Happy traveling!