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Monday, February 23, 2015

Giuliani

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE BERGEN RECORD ON FEBRUARY 24, 2015


("Who Loves America?")


Do we not have a mandate to challenge a society that denies basic health care to millions, that incarcerates rather than corrects, that has sympathy for its soldiers at war but little room for them at home, that seeks to diminish rather than elevate the lives of illegal immigrants, that loves its guns but ignores its consequences?

Do we not have a mandate to challenge those among us who bend truth to fit their narrative, who distort and deny, who pretend and prevaricate, who leave science and knowledge to others, who have failed us but are somehow now entrusted with leading?

What is love for our country? It is love for the idea of democracy but not for every idea in a democracy. We fight for our freedoms but it does not mean each of us is free. We believe passionately in our potential for greatness, but it does not mean we are great.

We are a country with many flaws, with ever evolving dilemmas, lurching from one crisis to the next, trying to put out each small fire before it becomes a conflagration. We are constantly on watch, on guard and we must be diligent to protect what is best and protest what is not.

It is presumptuous and disgraceful of the former mayor of New York to question the President's passion for our country. Mr. Obama has suffered fools before and will surely hereinafter, but there is a line that Rudy Giuliani has crossed. Saying stupid things just to get applause has never seemed crueler. Shame on him.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Modern Face of War




So this is what it boils down to after all the missteps, the miscalculations, after we invaded under false pretenses, after we announced mission accomplished, after we stayed far too long and strayed  far afield, after all the blood has been shed and the instability has taken root,, after the seeds of hatred have multiplied and the images of brutal vicious death have been mockingly thrust upon the screen as a warning to us and as a cry for jihad, after all this time and all of this effort we are now left to consider a new strategy: out tweeting the enemy.

We are losing the battle of the minds. In the 21st century this turns out to be more critical than the fight in the trenches, for there no longer is a foe who stands before us in military garb announcing its intentions. Now everything appears in shadows, in hints, in momentary flashes of light and long stretches of darkness.  Now, borders and boundaries of allegiance have disappeared.Now it seems that nothing can be won by way of the conventional. Now it is all in promotional videos and slick advertising, as the campaign shifts from the battleground to the editing room. We no longer require generals, we need advertising executives.

It is a treacherous and dangerous time and it appears that we are always one step behind. We must learn a new language and a new way of thinking. We are facing a flexible foe, one capable of understanding the psyche of those it seeks to attract far better than we do in our ponderous, plodding fashion. We are last century's conventions.They are today's realities. 

For now we must stop doing the math in bullets and bombs. Our attack now lays on the internet. This is the modern face of war.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jon Stewart

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SECTION OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ON FEBRUARY 12, 2015




Several million among us are about to get a little stupider. Jon Stewart has been able to inform and advise, teaching us while he ruminates on the absurdities that attack his senses, and by extension our own.


For a generation who barely knew of Brian Williams, Mr. Stewart's surprise announcement was a mini-tragedy. There will soon be another host of The Daily Show and maybe even one as witty and acerbic to fill the void. But there can never be another first to expand the concept of the manner in which our views are formed and our shortcomings are exposed. 


Presenting the news with humor, always poking and prodding, searching for the truth beneath the facade, those are the gifts bestowed upon us for the last 15 years by Jon Stewart. We have accepted them with the belief that they would remain with us far longer. Mr. Stewart's vast talents will be greatly missed.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pete Carroll, Village Idiot?

("Seahawk's Final Play Call Roundly Criticized")

This was the mother of all "Monday morning quarterbacking" calls. This was the one that provided the brightest of lines in the biggest of moments between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

But what were the odds that this selection would be so monumentally unsuccessful, not only failing to accomplish its mission, but snuffing out the chance of success, not merely an incompletion but an interception?  Russell Wilson had not thrown a pass into the opponent's hands all day, had only to get the ball one yard to a receiver, and even if the airborne 12.5 pounds of pressured football fell harmlessly to the ground, the clock would stop and there would be ample time for two more attempts at glory.

In the first half, the Seahawks had a choice to make in the waning seconds between the certainty of field goal and the mere hope of a touchdown. If the play failed, there was the thought  hanging menacingly in the air that no points would be put up on the board. But the touchdown was scored, and those watching surely praised Coach Carroll for his daring and his determination not to let the pressure of the moment make him less willing to trust his judgment and instinct.

His decision in the final moments of the Super Bowl seems a horrendous miscalculation only because everything went as wrong as it could. There was probably equal chance that a hand-off would be bobbled, or an exchange between quarterback and center muffed, or even that Lynch would fumble as he struggled to break into the end-zone.

It will most likely forever be known as The Call, as though the coach decided to bring in the water-boy to do an end around. But it was probably statistically rational and fundamentally not nearly as absurd as history will suggest.

Did Pete Carroll freeze at the most crucial moment of the most crucial game?  Did he turn from genius to village idiot in the blink of an eye?  No and hardly. But he will forever wear a dunce cap in the eyes of the many millions who find truth only in results.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Case of the Actual (Not Manufactured) Health Issue

We have seemingly emerged from the mass hysteria relating to a virtually non-existent threat of a widespread Ebola epidemic in our country. 14th Amendment liberty rights of some were trampled in the frenzy. Now we are faced with another, wholly different set of circumstances and individual rights questions regarding a much more real outbreak.

This country's first state law requiring vaccination was enacted over 200 years ago in Massachusetts in response to the smallpox epidemic.

More than 100 years ago, in the case of Jacobsen v Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the US Supreme Court held that states could enact reasonable regulation regarding mandated vaccinations in order to protect public health and safety. Liberty for the individual was not absolute in all circumstances, but was qualified by overriding concern for the common good, for the welfare of others.


It was left to each state to fashion regulations within these constitutional parameters. Many states enacted legislation which provided exemptions from mandatory vaccination predicated on sincerely held religious beliefs or philosophical opposition.


The question that must be answered in this instance  is whether "the very concept of ordered liberty precludes allowing every person to make his or her own standards on matters of conduct in which the society as a whole has important interests" (Wisconsin v Yoder, a 1972 Supreme Court case deciding whether compulsory education beyond 8th grade on certain members of  the Amish community was constitutional).

As measles, a disease whose presence was virtually eradicated through the widespread use of vaccine reappears, the question posed is whether the "herd" can be jeopardized by those within its midst.

This matter, as opposed to the faux crisis of several months ago with it wild pronouncements and unwise decisions, is one of critical importance that can and should be the subject of vigorous debate.

Tiger's Latest Role

((A Fading Titan, Cheered On With Pity")

We are now face to face with the latest role being played out on a very large stage by Tiger Woods.

He has been hero, able to conquer all those who stood in his way as much with the strength of his will as the power in his shots.

He then took on the character of the villain, making a mockery of our willingness to idolize him. In this iteration he became more pariah than phenomenon.

Now, he appears as the duffer, someone whose mortality has not only shown through the cracks but emerged full blown. This is the version that elicits the sympathy the hero never needed and the villain never warranted. He is now merely a member of our foursome, neither a god living on some remote planet. nor evil incarnate. He has gone from Superman to Everyman.

Many now harbor the not so secret desire to see Superman's cape suddenly emerge from beneath the ragged exterior of this faux Tiger, As this final act plays out we can but wonder, worry and wait to see whether Tiger has anything left in his tank.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Smart Guns and the NRA

("Smart Guns Save Lives, So Where Are They?")

While I applaud Mr. Kristof on the sentiment expressed, history teaches us that the NRA is immune to emotional appeals. In the immediate aftermath of Newtown, and the deaths of twenty young children, surely we believed that change would have to follow. There is scant evidence to suggest that anything is different.

The NRA will blame negligent parents, random bad luck, or figures that support the premise that more children die from a range of other causes not aggressively attacked by the left wing. The NRA will be portrayed by its advocates, as always, as unwarranted scapegoat for the failure of others.

The sad truth is that unless the bottom line is improved for their clients, the gun lobbyists will find no predicate to support legislation that will save lives. Death is no match for financial gain.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Climbing the Dawn Wall

THIS POST APPEARS ON SUNDAY JANUARY 18, 2015 IN THE LETTERS TO THE SPORTS EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES


“Pursuing the Impossible, and Coming Out on Top,” Jan. 15:

Climbing the Dawn Wall is the perfect physical metaphor. The 19-day ascent captured our attention and imagination in a way few if any conquests have in the world of sport. In its highest and best form, sport elevates not only the participant, but also all those who witness the achievement and absorb its message.

Inch by inch and day by day, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson demonstrated that the human capacity is far greater than we perceive. The relentlessness of pursuit, the unwillingness to contemplate defeat, the sheer and utter determination to accomplish what could not be done, such is the message that emanated from the Dawn Wall.

Within each of us is an impossible dream that we have now been shown may not be out of reach if only we dare to believe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Brogate

("Not Embracing Christie's Love of the Dallas Cowboys ")


As if Bridgegate wasn't bad enough, we now have Brogate. A covey of very rich, very white guys high up in their palace man-hugging a victory for their team from Texas. Only someone forgot to remind Governor Christie he was a  Springsteen loving Jersey boy.


Forget how poorly he governs his state, how the unemployment numbers are high, the educational figures are low and his botching of the Ebola quarantine issue a disaster. Forget his rudeness to those who question his Supreme Being. Forget that he has all but abandoned his state (to aBrogate) even before his official announcement that he is running for king in 2016.


Moving cones on the George Washington was a mere traffic offense compared to this latest fiasco. 15 yard penalty on the man in the orange sweater for unsportsmanlike conduct and bad judgment in attire and loyalty.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Interview

Kim Jong-un might want to reconsider his position on the release of "The Interview." For a deranged despot, he seemed a pretty likeable fellow. In fact, the actor portraying him was darn good in his role.

The movie itself is another story. It was destined to be one more in a long line of very forgettable movies good for a momentary laugh and then quickly headed for extinction. But not now, not after it became the center of an international imbroglio.

Maybe the masterminds behind this story were not the desperate government of a tyrant but the publicity gurus at the studio. Maybe, this was all a brilliant plot by Sony to give life and length to this film. Maybe there is a movie to be made about the secret tale behind the movie that wasn't and then was.

Or maybe Kim Jong-un just hadn't gotten a chance to watch the picture, and made a hasty ill conceived decision.  For only $5.99 he can get it on demand and let us know what he really thinks. We'll be awaiting his review.