Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Why do we care that Karzai is obstructing efforts to sign a long-term agreement with the U.S. that will allow forces to remain after the main pullout end of 2014?  Any illusion we have that we’ll be able to stop Afghanistan from deteriorating into chaos is based on wishful thinking and ignoring lessons from the past.  We should get out totally.  Karzai is bluffing.  We should let him have his way and stop participating in whatever game he is playing.

It’s good news that finally we’ve begun talking with Iran.  Let Netanyahu fulminate.  Let the Saudis mutter and grumble.  Let the hawks threaten more sanctions.  Talking is the best policy.  It may even lead to something good.

Same with the Syrian catastrophe.  Do what it takes to get the parties around a table.  For now Assad isn’t going anywhere and the rebels are divided.  The people suffering are the people.  They’re being killed, displaced, terrorized.  It’s in our interest as well as theirs to slow down the slaughter.

And it’s even the same with the Israelis and Palestinians.  Their talk may lead nowhere, but it is better than the alternatives.  And getting them together is also in our self-interest.

Finally, how about talking between the warring parties in the United States?  Having common sense prevail in this great land of ours may be a bigger long shot than all these other intractable issues.  Good luck to us.

Be thankful, tomorrow and every day!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Later!

On Nov. 22, 1963 I was in the Indian state of Orissa representing our government.  JFK’s election had inspired me to become a Foreign Service Officer, and India was my first assignment.
I was asleep when the president was assassinated, so I heard the news on the morning of Nov. 23.  I cancelled the program we had scheduled for that day and drove to Puri, where my wife and daughter were spending a few days on the beach.  When she awoke she discovered that a note from an English woman had been slipped under the door.  It said, “We are devastated by what has happened.  We feel the loss as if it had been our Queen.”
Like everyone, we were in a state of shock.  We returned to Kolkata, where we lived, and found that the impact of Kennedy’s death among Indians was astounding.  By the thousands they lined up to sign a condolence book in the Consulate, as they did at the Embassy in Delhi and our other Consulates in Mumbai and Chennai.  This public outpouring of grief surprised me.  I knew that in India, as elsewhere, Kennedy connected with people more than any American in memory.  Even so, I was taken aback by the breadth and depth of their feelings.
What is going on here, I asked myself.  What I realized is that while the Indians complained a lot about the United States, with Kennedy as our leader we represented a beacon of hope that they couldn’t find anywhere else.  With Kennedy gone, the outlook for what was possible in the future was significantly diminished.  For millions of Indians it was personal.  A member of their family had died prematurely.
Fifty years later, we could profit from remembering the lesson that John F. Kennedy’s death taught us.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I’m reasonably intelligent.  I stay up to date on what’s happening.  I listen to what people have to say.  Yet, sometimes I’m left puzzled.

I know that affordable health care for everyone is a good thing.  But is the Affordable Health Care Act a good thing?  The pros and cons and charges and countercharges haven’t clarified this for me.

I know that secrecy in government can be used as a cover-up for evil acts.  But are Edward Snowden’s revelations about what my government is doing a patriotic act or is he a traitor?  All of the opinions haven’t helped me sort it out.

Should we or shouldn’t we be taking more or less statin drugs?  Even if they lower bad cholesterol do they really reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks?  Are they prevention or treatment?  The doctors don’t agree/don’t know.  Clearly, any decision I make about what meds to take/not take is a guess.

Republicans are using a Senate rule to hold up the nomination process for many would-be appointees.  There is a way around this tactic that Democrats can use.  If they go down this road will it end up coming back to bite them in the ass when the shoe is on the other foot – to mix a few metaphors?  I’m not sure if they should or shouldn’t.

Concussions in football (and other situations) are not good.  Highlighting the frequency with which players receive concussions (including during practice) has started a national conversation.  What to do about it has elicited an avalanche of opinions and left me confused.

Have a nice day!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sorry/Happy About That!

Sorry that the negotiations with Iran on nuclear issues haven’t succeeded – yet.
Sorry that the talks between Israel and the Palestinians are, it seems, off the rails.
Sorry that the 49ers looked so shitty against Carolina yesterday.
Sorry that Obama’s bad patch on seemingly everything he touches continues.
Sorry that Man U beat Arsenal yesterday.
Sorry that so many people died and are suffering in the Philippines after the cyclone.
Sorry that California rainfall is way below normal this year.

Happy that San Francisco is having another tech boom.
Happy that Juve beat Napoli yesterday.
Happy that “Treme” will begin a new season soon.
Happy that legalizing marijuana is on a roll.
Happy that legalizing same-sex marriage is on a roll.
Happy that the Tea Party lost ground in last week’s elections.
Happy that I watched “Before Midnight” and loved it.

Happy to be able to wish you a happy day!

Monday, November 04, 2013

In Case You Missed It!

Tomorrow India plans to launch a spacecraft that will go where no Asian nation has gone before:  Mars.  Critics point out that since 350 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day and a third of the population lacks access to electricity, there are better ways to spend the more than $1 billion a year they put their space program.

Toronto’s Mayor, said to have been videoed smoking crack cocaine, is fighting back.  He has apologized for drinking too much, but says he is the victim of a liberal media conspiracy and won’t comment on the video because he hasn’t seen it.

There was a partial solar eclipse yesterday, not visible on the West Coast, too early in the morning for most people on the East Coast.  Which raises the question – like the tree that falls in the forest with no one to watch or hear, how real is an eclipse that no one sees?

A missing NYU student was found stuck between two buildings – a dormitory and a parking garage – in lower Manhattan.  So far no one is saying how he got into this predicament.

Experts say that girls who begin puberty early are at risk for lower self-esteem, depression, low academic achievement, obesity and hypertension.  If true, is there any way to delay puberty?  The experts don’t say.

Pot calling the kettle?  Google boss Eric Schmidt says it is “outrageous” if the government has spied on the company’s data centers.