Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Departure

     Yes, the blog is about politics but, I choose to invoke a little known clause in the smart-ass writer’s handbook that stipulates any big story is fair game and the death of Robin Williams is reason enough for such a departure from the norm. Who would have thought we would ever find ourselves pitying a man like Robin Williams; someone so full of life and one of the very few for whom superlatives like “genius” aren’t quite adequate to describe? Yet, we should all feel a bit of pity and sadness for his suffering in battling depression.
     I have always been dubious about how we mourn celebrity deaths. After the deaths of Princess Diana and John Kennedy, Jr, the snarky cynic in me just couldn’t see why so many people openly wept for people they only ever saw on TV. I wonder how can you mourn for people who would probably have you escorted away by security if you showed up at their door? However, with the death of Robin Williams, the lesson has finally hit home. Now I get it.
I clearly remember the night I saw his big break on Happy Days and was just blown away. I thought in my little ten year old brain, “Wow! Who IS this guy?” (Didn’t we all?) He has been a fixture of American entertainment ever since. 
      In his passing, there are lessons here for us all. If a man like RW, who made so many of us so happy and breathed energy and a passion for life into the characters he portrayed, can suffer terribly from depression, then literally no one is immune from it. If someone we know is suffering, we have to do everything we can to support them. Honestly, is there anyone reading this who wishes they couldn’t turn the clock back to a week ago, throw their arms around him tell him how much he is loved? How much he means to us?

     I am not sure if I have ever been this moved by the death of anyone outside of immediate family and at the same time I am conflicted: should I cry like a baby that he is gone? Should I remember some of his best bits and laugh my ass off? Should I tremble with fear that depression could fell such a heroic soul? One thing is certain: there was never one like him before and there will never be another. Rest in Peace Robin Williams and thanks for all the laughter.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Last Battlefield of the Cold War

    According to Washington, the Cold War officially ended in the early nineties, but is that accurate? Few would argue that the Korean War was not a theater of the much larger conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Tensions were high around the world as the Sino-Soviet backed North and the Western-allied South went after each other in a war that still technically goes on to this day.

     The talks going on in Korea are encouraging, but who are the real players? Do the two Koreas have anything to offer? Are they truly masters of their own destiny or are they really only pawns in a much larger game, the same one that began in the early fifties?

     China still wants a buffer between her and America's ally on the peninsula and America wants to keep as much of a presence in the Far east as possible, given China's rising status. Until the two Koreas have the courage to chart their own course, without bowing to pressure from Washington and Beijing, the scar that divides the Korean people along the 38th parallel will never heal.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Slow News Day? Try Going to Church.

     It can difficult for a writer to find something fresh to write about. Top stories in the US right now include the bad weather in New England and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's bridge woes. Not quite earth-shaking stuff, really. But, if you are a reporter looking for a whiff of scandal to write about, religion always has something to offer. This week's news included torrid tales of sex, money laundering, another immaculate conception, and murder in the clergy. I always used to wonder what they got up to during the week. Check out the stories and I'll save a pew for you this Sunday.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Al Queda Redux

    More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks and despite losing it’s leader, Al Qaeda remains and is experiencing a resurgence. Rather than being a small group of radicals in hiding, the terror network’s franchises operating in Iraq and Syria, Al-Nusra and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,) are serious players in the war-torn region. In fact, this resurgence of Al Qaeda  is so alarming that the US is sending more drones to the region in response. Oddly, you might have missed this story if you were relying on some of our major newspapers. Congratulations are in order for Liz Sly of the Washington Post, for her story on January third. USA Today also did a piece that deserves a look as did the Chicago Tribune, (although the story was at the very bottom of their World News page.) 
     The Atlanta Journal’s home page has no mention of it today, but at least we can rest easy knowing Honey Boo Boo is recovering after her family’s auto accident. Likewise, the editors of the Austin American-Statesman chose to report the critical Velveeta shortage. 
     Some may have at this point grown tired of the situation grinding along in Syria, but any success of ISIS and similar factions there potentially threaten our NATO ally in the region and it isn’t hard to imagine US advisers and technology soon winging their way to Southern Turkey before Washington will ever let that happen.

Related reading:

The Strengthening Islamic Group ISIS Could Hold the Key to Peace in Syria

Friday, 11 October 2013

Pick Your Poison: Is Assad the Lesser of Two Evils?

     Never thought I'd be saying this, but have we been too hasty to condemn Bashir Assad? In the early days of the war, like so many others I was all for sending air support and aide to the Syrian rebels. Perhaps, if the west had intervened sooner deposing Assad in favor of a democratic government and benevolent leadership would have been possible. Now... I'm not so sure.

    The true nature of the conflict is only now revealing itself. The picture that is formulating is not for the politically squeamish. Although so many in the west want to believe Assad is a raving jack-booted thug, his interview with Charlie Rose a few weeks ago did nothing to indicate this. Rather, he acquitted himself as someone who, calmly and rationally articulated his views that are unpopular in the west, but the substance of which seems to be more reliable every day.

     When he responded to allegations of his use of chemical weapons, Assad alleged the rebels had attacked his troops, not the other way around; that they have a chemical weapons "Really? Never heard that before," I thought. A quick  internet search revealed that, yep, sure enough, Turkish authorities arrested rebels possession of a small amount of Sarin gas near their border back in May of this year and the number of those who believe Assad might actually be right is growing.

     Assad was also making claims of an Al-Qeada link to the rebels since at least April of this year but, only now have the western media begun to explore this possibility. Evidence of the link seems to grow stronger every day and just today, reports have surfaced alleging that Syrian rebels have massacred civilians back in August while Assad has recently agreed to the destruction of his chemical weapons.

     We can discuss at length how western intervention will needlessly anger the Russians and the Iranians, cost billions of dollars, and may further destabilize the region. Had we intervened early enough, perhaps the west could have disposed of a despot while avoiding the prospect of an Al-Qeada-tainted alternative, but that ship has sailed and after two years of inaction, we must consider the two complications that have emerged that throw a spanner  in the blind drive toward western intervention: that Assad is more rational and credible than previously thought, and at the same time, more proof surfaces every day that suggests the rebels may be a more desperate and unsavory lot than we initially believed.

 At this stage, the way forward revolves around the central question: do we back the rebels and guarantee chaos-or is the world better served with the devil we know? Pass the brimstone, please.

For further consideration:

Rebels Arrested With Sarin Gas
US declares Jabhat al-Nusra, a group in Syria with alleged al-Qaida links, as terrorist body
Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War 
Syrian Rebels Pledge Loyalty to Al-Qaeda
Syrian Islamist rebels killed or kidnapped hundreds of civilians, rights group says
Syrian Rebels Accused of Massacring Civilians
US, Russia Commend Assad For Complying With Agreement