Saturday, January 16, 2016

Migration, a Problem in Its Infancy

Counting the dead. We’re extraordinarily good at counting the dead, we warlike nations. Every drone-strike has its body-count and we’re pretty good at counting losses on both sides, whichever those sides might be.

What we’re not so good at is keeping tabs on the displaced and those whose lives have been unalterably affected by chaos. Our boys come home, if they come home, to dysfunctional medical and psychiatric care—a lost generation, as the women and men of Vietnam were lost. In those far away war-zones the losses run deeper and the damage runs closer to the bone.

Iraq was a nation run by a ruthless dictator, no doubt. But the parks were open, the ice cream vendors sold their wares and family life had regularity, no matter the constrictions. Syrian children went to school and Afghan tribal communities went about their daily lives.

All gone now, the mirage of democracy traded off for car-bombs, suicide bombings and families shuttered away in what’s left of their homes—listening, fearing the skies, wondering how and when and who will next fall victim. The question is not whether they have survived, but if there’s anything left worthwhile to live for.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Headlines That Make Me Nuts

No rest for migrant-weary Europe in 2016 as desperate refugees flood continent

That from CNBC News, to herald the beginning of 2016.

Well, I must say my heart goes out to those Europeans who face another wearying year ahead. My god, it must be tough sustaining oneself in such a ‘flood’ as to threaten the continent.

A million migrants have come in 2015, according to reports. “By gad, sir, that’s one in every 750 Europeans and soon we shall be quite inundated.”


Monday, December 21, 2015

The Ominous Omnibus, a Favored Washington Vehicle

"Fiscal fights fade as Congress backs huge omnibus budget bill"

Noun: A vehicle carrying many passengers; used for public transport.

In this particular case, the ‘vehicle’ drives off with your tax money and leaves you standing at the curb, required to reach deep into your pockets to pick up the tab. Requirements:

A bill that must be passed, a deadline too short to consider the details and an up-or-down vote without discussion are the preferred ingredients of this legislative stew. The carrot is favored funding for each legislator's personal district and the stick is time run out. Salt and pepper to taste.

Congress whizzed this high and inside fastball past the public just in time to adjourn itself for the Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Defining American Conservatism

It’s interesting to me to look up the definition of ‘conservative.’ I would have expected one definition at least to be ‘someone who conserves.’ But alas, that explanation fails the current list and I find instead:

Adjective: Believing in or supporting tenets of the political right: "The Conservative authoritarians who were more inclined to violence."

Noun: A member of a Conservative Party.

Wouldn’t one at least expect a throw-away to those who care about the planet, or possibly those who seek to maintain (conserve)—at least in the American context--our freedoms, willingness to welcome the poor and disadvantaged of the world and possible support for the upward mobility for which all citizens strive?

Nary a word in that context.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas for the Homeless—a Cardboard Bed

Every once in a while an article comes across my attention that simply astounds me with its approach. So it was when I opened a recent Guardian piece by Tash Reith-Banks, titled Creating cardboard beds for a more comfortable Christmas on the streets.

Indeed. A more comfortable Christmas, sleeping on cardboard.

But is it possible to make a difference to the lives of homeless people without fundraising or investment? Psychology graduate and former primary school teacher Elliot Lord has set about doing just that. Having worked on conservation and sustainable living projects in Ecuador and then with refugees in northern India, Lord realized that his home city, Wolverhampton, would benefit from some development work. He moved back to Wolverhampton and started Our Own Future, a community organization dedicated to creating opportunities for those who lack them and to solving social problems.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The US Obligation to Its Overwhelming Power

It’s great to be the most powerful nation in the world, but certain obligations come along with the gun-belt and six-shooters. That fact is most clearly evident in the recent terrorist acts in Paris and the ongoing migrant catastrophe in Europe.

A pretty good definition of obligation is “the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force.” Military primacy qualifies, as it’s about as powerful a ‘social force’ as you can imagine. Both the Paris attacks and migration chaos are social forces writ large. Both trace their origins to the long trail of pandemonium in the Middle East and Africa and neither France nor the EU are major players on that stage. It has been and remains primarily a US show.

But the blow-back has been far from equally shared. Europe struggles with millions arriving on their shores, while America’s president can’t find the political means to accept even a scanty ten thousand. Meanwhile, millions more will be coming to Europe because it is the nearest refuge. Geography is trumping all else, while President Obama chastises Europe for not doing enough.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

America’s Short-Tail Diplomacy in a Long-Tail Game

My convenient definition of ‘short tail’ for the purpose of this article is politics and ‘long tail’ is statesmanship. Politics usually (and far too often) shoots from the hip and statesmanship is the long and tedious work of looking way down the road for mutual agreement and benefit. True statesmanship is rare in the modern diplomatic world. Much to my surprise, Secretary of State John Kerry has shown himself (for me) to have this talent.

I understand that Americans are not much interested in International Diplomacy. We are a bread-and-butter, jobs oriented society and as long as we can plunk down the monthly payment on a late-model car, we’re happy campers. Our focus outside our own borders stops at gas prices and preventing another terrorist attack. From this perspective we are more an island nation than a world power of unprecedented strength.