Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing the Torch

We all expected Senator Edward M. Kennedy to die because of his virulent cancer. That's not a surprise. What is a surprise is how emotionally some of us reacted. To me, it's the end of an era and the knowledge that I belonged to a generation that truly involved themselves in the running of their country. I'm no longer the idealist I used to be, but I do know that the Kennedys believed in "service" as we did. None of them was perfect, but they believed in service and they served; they lost three brothers at an early age, in service to their country and the fourth who served a lifetime in the Senate with dignity and integrity. That's called "public service."

It is said that "to whom much is given, much is expected" (something like that).

The Kennedys fulfilled that promise and now that the first generation is mostly gone, I will be watching with much interest to see who emerges from the second.

Rest in Peace, Ted. You did your job well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Israel and Iran

In an interview on CNN with Fareed Zakaria, Sunday, 08-16-09, Michael D. Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., made a statement that Israel “will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.” Pressed on his use of the word “introduce,” he repeated it numerous times, ending finally with the words “introduce or deploy.”

Really? But isn’t Iran located in the “Middle East?”

Why, then, is Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, going around saying that Israel will strike Iran before the end of the year? He has been trying to drum up support for this position from Europe recently, likely because the Obama Administration has been slightly cool to Netanyahu’s hawkishness towards Iran, since the June 12 elections made it abundantly clear that Iran is not just a group of bearded, theocratic clergy with a frightening figure head, but a nation of young moderates who are not happy with their current regime.

Perhaps I have a fairy tale mind, but I strongly believe we must not interfere with Iran; we must act with reason and restraint and proceed just as Obama is proceeding. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will eventually be overthrown by the people of Iran and the resulting government will not be tainted by U. S. interference. Reigning in the aggressive and militant Israelis will be a far greater challenge.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I am such a fan of the BBC presentation of Merlin, seen on NBC in the U.S on Sundays. It is an offbeat (and upbeat) modernish presentation of the ancient legend of Camelot, of course, with a couple of cute young dudes playing the roles of Merlin and Prince Arthur in their late teens.

King Uther, Arthur's father, does not allow sorcery in the kingdom and consequently, Merlin is obliged to keep his extraordinary gifts a secret at least for the moment, or he will be tried for witchcraft.

In the meantime, he is the prince's servant, but it is a gratifying relationship in which the two young men find themselves, as Merlin has promised to protect Arthur as the heir apparent to Camelot. This, from the mouth of a friendly dragon upon whose advice Merlin relies greatly.

This is a sweet and endearing fairy tale the whole family can watch, so atypical of the normal blood and guts fare our kids are expose to.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lessons from Obama

I am not a FOX fan, but I give credit to Bill O’Reilly for speaking up in last weekend’s Parade Magazine. The article, entitled, “What President Obama Can Teach America’s Kids” was a fair and unbiased commentary on beating the odds.

Obama’s tough childhood, says O’Reilly, can teach all of us, but especially children, that success and stability are not dependent on a fairy tale childhood or the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth rearing. Obama can teach by example how five lessons brought him to where he is: forgiveness (of the father who abandoned him), respect (towards the family that raised him), persistence (no excuses), hard work (not giving up), and faith that in America anything is possible (the greatest lesson of all).

Thanks, Bill. It’s nice to see you off your FOX rant for a change. Try it again sometime

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


With news that the two young American journalists have been "pardoned" by the North Koreans, and are at this moment, by all accounts, traveling home with former President Bill Clinton, I feel only gratitude that we have finally evolved to a level of diplomacy.

Diplomacy does not translate into "weakness." Diplomacy means that humans can communicate by means other than violence and that discussion, and yes, even concession can bring about one's ultimate goal without shooting or bombing or otherwise dismembering your opponent.

My father learned this tool at an early age. He used to say, "talk to the man at the top; he has to put his pants on one leg at a time just like you do." In other words, no matter how powerful the man, the country, the agency, the club, the school, the territory, there is a man or woman, a human being in charge with whom one can speak. This is how big business is conducted: the "good ol' boys" as we used to call them, are men who put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do. Make a deal with the man at the top and you've made a business coup in behalf of your own company.

It is apparent that Al Gore, Bill Clinton and more than likely President Obama, learned this rule, too and it saved the lives of two hard-working young women. For that we are grateful. Diplomacy = talking with other humans. That's all that high-falutin term means. Isn't that disarmingly simple?

Gettysburg Cyclorama

When we were in Gettysburg, we visited the Gettysburg Cyclorama at the Gettysburg War Memorial. This was an incredibly moving experience for both of us and one of the highlights of our trip east.

Briefly, the cyclorama is a series of paintings begun by a French artist named Paul Phillipoteaux back in 1882 or almost 20 years after the actual battle at Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) took place. The aggregate works are presented in a 360 degree panorama with lighting, living plants and shrubs and other special effects creating a three-dimensional illusion of immediacy that translates into eerie reality.

One can "feel" the cold and grey dawn after the final battle, followed by a subtle red which imbues the sky and is reminiscent of the blood that has been shed. This is followed by a mist moving swiftly across the sky as the smoke from the now silent cannons rises above the dead and wounded.

The statistics are brutal: over 51,000 combined casualties, 569 tons of ammunition expended, 5,000 horses killed.

The exhibition is so real and so heart-breaking, one is filled both with horror and pride: horror that man can bring such havoc to his brother; pride that courage and sacrifice were just as evident on that long ago battlefield.

This is unequivocably the single most powerful memorial of the Civil War that I've ever witnessed.