Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back To Iraq

Back To Iraq

On last Thursday evening I was heading back home from Richmond after attending the funeral of a close cousin. We had the radio tuned to WTOP, since my wife somewhat tires of the driving beats emanating from my IPOD. I wasn’t paying much attention to the news, because I knew already what was happening…..or so I thought. Ebola...Israel...Gaza...Central American kids crossing the border...missiles...rockets...ceasefires….misfires. You know, the usual fare. Suddenly...the President breaks in, and it catches my attention.

When he starts with “My fellow Americans….”, you know it’s not going to be good. It was almost as if history was repeating itself...yet again.
I was on active duty with the Army when we initially went to Iraq, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I was just retired from active duty when we went to Iraq again, after the events of 9-11, looking for weapons of mass destruction. Now here we are again.
The President authorized air strikes to stop our new found enemy ISIS or ISIL or Al-Qaeda Part Deux! That part wasn’t very surprising. The surprise was that this was also going to be a humanitarian mission. It seems that our new found enemy also has corralled about 40,000 people onto the top of a mountain, and if they tried to escape, they would be raped, or killed, or worse. What??? When did all of this happen?

It seems like we started out looking for 200 missing school girls in Nigeria...did we ever find them? Then we were trying to stop folks from fighting in the middle east...has that worked out yet? Then we were stopping kids from crossing our borders…are they still crossing?  Then we had this thing with Boris Yeltsin! Now we are dropping food and water to a bunch of folks that, until the President told us about them last week, I had never heard of.

The folks, stuck on the top of the mountain are the Yazidi people. With the help of Wikipedia I did find out that the Yazidi people are a Kurdish speaking, ethno religious community who practice a religion linked to Zoroastrianism and early Mesopotamian religions. They primarily live in the Nineveh province of Northern Iraq, but they have also migrated to Europe, especially Germany. They do believe in God as Creator of the world.  Seem harmless enough….but they have been targeted by ISIS, in its campaign to purify Iraq and neighboring  countries of non-Islamic influences.
Now we will never know the reason why one group of people hate and want to kill another group. History is full of anecdotes about conflicts between groups since the book of Genesis. I do agree with President Obama that we should help the Yazidi people, and get them to a safe place. I am not sure how hellfire missiles will do it, other than kill members of ISIS, but maybe it will work. Already, some of the Yazidi people have escaped their mountain entrapment due to U.S. intervention.

But, this crisis brings up many questions. One of them is how did ISIS come to power, even after the US had fought in Iraq on two separate occasions? Why is the government of Iraq still unstable...long after the notorious Saddam Hussein was vanquished? One question that really bothers me is...why did the Iraqi military cut and run when they had to face ISIS, even after being trained by U.S. soldiers?  When they abandoned their posts, they left U.S. weapons and tanks to be used by ISIS, which they have taken full advantage of.

I do not see this as being a short term intervention. I hate to say it, but I think that our role in Iraq will increase before President Obama leaves office.  I don’t think that it is something that he wants to happen, but I think that the world situation may dictate it, and he will have no choice. I really hope that I am wrong.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Art of Losing

No one likes to lose. Especially if the loss is unexpected. Frankly, to be truthful, I really did not expect to lose my central committee position on last Tuesday night. I was buoyed by all the endorsements that I had received, and encouraged by the phalanx of people who assured me that, "oh you don't have anything to worry about...you of all people are going to make it!" 
And I campaigned...sort of...for myself and for the slate that I was on. I challenged the Progressive slate, and tried to emphasize the experience and wisdom of the Democratic Victory slate. After all, there were folks on the Progressive slate who had never even voted......at least according to rumor. In the end though, it did not matter, the voters of Howard County spoke, and the central committee was forever changed.
As the returns came in, and it looked as if the Brown/Ulman team would handily win the gubernatorial nomination, the concession speeches started coming in. Doug Gansler was visibly upset that his spirited campaign had come to an end. His halting words showed a man who was disappointed but still proud.Heather Mizeur was still smiling during her speech. Maybe she knew that she had shaken up the system, and stirred up the conversation. The first gay candidate for governor gracefully exited the stage. Even Jon Cardin's concession speech prompted a reporter to comment that she had never heard more gracious words from a defeated candidate. The former front runner had been bested by Brian Frosh for attorney general. It was then that I realized...there is and art to this losing thing.
I did not officially find out the central committee results until the next morning. I not only lost my elected position on the committee.....I lost it rather badly. Our slate was decimated. Out of nine candidates, only four made it through. Besides me, among the losers was Michael McPherson, the chairman.  Mike is the backbone of the party, and he was shown his "walking papers." 
Theories abound as to how we lost. We were outspent, outpoliticked, or maybe because of some other more nefarious reasons. But the voters kicked off a ton of experience from the central committee on primary day.
So...hurt feelings aside, good luck to the new central committee. You're going to need it!

Monday, June 9, 2014


I can only imagine the amount of frustration that the Obama administration must be feeling. The President and his administration is criticized at every turn, and for everything that they try to do. He inherited two wars and he is bringing them to an end...yet that is not good enough. He has provided a path to healthcare for those who could not obtain it….yet that is not good enough. He weathered the Veterans Administration fiasco, which resulted in the resignation of General Eric Shinseki….yet that is not good enough. But...the most frustrating event of all is that he brokered the release of an American prisoner-of -war…..and there are echoes ringing for his impeachment.
Now...let me take a breath and ask….what has he done wrong? Most folks who know me will know that I am an Obama supporter through and through. Yet, I still don’t think that I am blind to the fact that even people that I greatly admire, can make mistakes.  In private conversations with friends I have said that the president and his staff have made blunders during his time in office. But seeking the freedom of SGT Bowe Bergdahl was not one of them.
No doubt, there are questions surrounding his disappearance. His “battle buddies” have essentially “ratted him out” and called him a deserter. And if he is a deserter, he should face the full extent of the law and be punished for it under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). If he collaborated with the enemy, he should also face punishment. But the administration did not make a mistake is seeking his freedom. When the country has an opportunity to free a prisoner of war...there is really no choice.
The trading of prisoners is a common thing during wartime, and I am doubtful that the trade of the five Taliban terrorists, will result in more American being captured, and held for ransom, at least I hope not. As for trading things to get results…..we traded arms for hostages back in the Reagan administration. (Anybody remember Oliver North?)
So despite strong headwinds, Mr. Obama continues to hold his head high, and he continues to be our president. Maybe sooner or later, he’ll do something great.

Early voting starts this week!! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Good Look at the Central Committee

A Good Look at the Central Committee (HoCoPolitics)

Hello folks, yes I’m blogging again. My blogs tend to be political in nature, but I have been silent for quite a while primarily due to a lack of time, because of  a more than busy schedule and because there is just so much going on. By the time I form an opinion regarding one event, something even bigger comes along. Can you say, overwhelmed! So what could possibly jolt me out of my blogging malaise?
Well, what has inspired me to blog again is a group of folks near and dear to my heart. The Howard County Democratic Central Committee (HCDCC). I have had the unique privilege of serving on the central committee since 2009. I started as an alternate member, to fill a vacancy. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, I was duly elected by the people of Howard County. Although elected as the number twelve person out of twelve positions…… I got in. (Thank you Howard County!) During my tenure on the committee, I have met all of my required obligations to promote the principles and values of the Democratic Party. I have a more than 90% attendance record at local and state meetings, and I attend (almost) everybody’s political event. I have also learned a lot about the history and the makeup of the party, as well as how to be a good Democrat from one man, Michael McPherson.
So, I was a little concerned when I saw Bill Woodcock’s (The 53) blog when it came across my Facebook newsfeed. Although I do appreciate Bill’s grouping me in as a “great candidate”, I could not disagree more with his description of Michael McPherson as being “sadly out of touch with the times!” Actually Mike is probably more in touch with the times than the average person. He has more computer savvy than most people. Mike puts out the party monthly newsletter as well as maintains the website for the HCDCC. He’s always up to date on current events, and can speak on current policy better than any politician that I know.
Part of the job of the HCDCC is to recruit qualified candidates for office, and I have been present at meetings when these candidates seek Mike’s opinion and sage advice. The 53 mentioned that his Democratic activism goes back to the 1970’s….but it even goes further back than that.  To have that type of resource to tap into for the party is invaluable, in my humble opinion.
I have also heard the argument that the HCDCC should give up the office on Oakland Mills Road. I never knew that was even a problem until recently, but I wholeheartedly disagree with giving up that space. If we lose the office, where would the HCDCC meet to hash out ideas? Where would folks come to pick up yard signs and information about candidates….on a regular basis? Where would we organize volunteers who would like to work the polls, and canvass neighborhoods? Where would we send out information to new Democrats? Besides, there is a treasure trove of HCDCC history in that space. Where would all of that go?
I ‘m not sure why Bill (MM) is calling the central committee “stagnant”, because for an immobile committee, it certainly keeps me busy.  In the time that I have been on the committee, I have had the privilege of serving as deputy treasurer and I now serve as vice chair. I was also chosen as a presidential elector from the State of Maryland for Barack Obama due to the committee’s recommendation.
Besides that, I believe that the committee, through Mike’s leadership, continues to keep Howard County “blue.”  The June 24 primary is coming up quickly, and we will need a strong slate of central committee members. I am not really making recommendations.....by my dream team for the central committee would be:
Bill Adams
Jonathan Branch
Bryan Coster
Ethel B. Hill
Willis Gay
Melody Higgins
Michael McPherson
Patricia Thomas
Nayab Siddiqui
Kim Pruim
Josh Friedman
Candace Dodson Reed
I feel that this would be a great group to keep the HCDCC moving forward. They have all demonstrated leadership and dedication to varying degrees.I will agree with MM on one point though. The choice is yours….. so choose wisely.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Two Launches and Damage Control

Last week I had the pleasure of attending two kick offs for local political offices. On last Wednesday (October, 23), I attended the kick off for Guy Guzzone's state senate campaign in the Great Room at Savage Mills. The room was filled for the well-liked Guy, and he noted during his speech that he has amassed over one hundred sponsors already. Without another Democratic opponent, and no Republican filings as of this date in District 13, the road looks rather unobstructed for a Guzzone senatorial victory.

I also attended the campaign kick-off for Courtney Watson in her bid for Howard County executive on
October 24. Like Guy's event, it was very well attended, and I was greeted by most of the same people who I had seen the night before.....which is definitely not a bad thing. HoCo luminaries  such as Ken Ulman, Calvin Ball and Ed Cochran were in attendance, so I felt like I was in good company.It was held at the club house in Maple Lawn.  Courtney's path to the county executive offices in Ellicott City  is not as unobstructed as Guy's transition over to the Senate. Allan Kittleman is the Republican challenger to the county exec seat, and the current state senator is not to be ignored. Allan is virtually everywhere. He is even appearing at venues that are typically dominated by Democrats. I have seen him pressing the flesh at Frank Turner's campaign kickoff, greeting folks at Highland Days, and serving enchiladas at the annual "Men in the Kitchen" event, sponsored by the Howard County Center of African American Culture. I think that it will be a spirited campaign between Courtney and Allan. Courtney is a shrewd politician, and I think her accomplishments, as well as the Ulman legacy will play in her favor. But....November 2014 is still more than a year away.

Now, all that noise  in the background,that I am trying to ignore is the Gansler campaign trying to conduct damage control. The latest is Doug's appearance at a beach party in Delaware, where his son was playing DJ. There may, or may not have been teenage drinking going on. But the great question is, should the AG of the Free State have done something about it, what, if anything, should he have done about it and my question is should he have been there in the first place? I thought this latest incident would just pass over.....then I saw the  distinguished panel  of journalists and politicians on "Meet the Press" discussing Gansler's travails, and I thought  that his campaign for Maryland governor's mansion may be in deep trouble.

In Doug's case, the  Democratic primary is still a few months away, so maybe his damage control campaign will bear fruit. In the meantime, the Brown/Ulman group remains quiet about Gansler's troubles....and continues to rack up powerful endorsements. The latest polls are tipping in favor of the Brown/Ulman team, but ...like a Redskins vs Broncos football game...it's not over until it's over.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just a Little More Weird!

To say that the atmosphere in the nation’s capital has been “weird” for the past couple few weeks is an overwhelming understatement. The strangeness, to me, began with the senseless and tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Out of nowhere, and purely unexpectedly, 13 lives were snuffed out. Then on last week a young lady drove down from Connecticut to try breach the White House barrier, be chased down Pennsylvania Avenue, and have her life ended beneath the ever watchful dome of the Capitol building. And if it could not get any weirder, someone stood in the center of the National Mall on last Friday, poured gasoline all over their body, saluted the Capitol Building (according to the Washington Post), and set himself on fire. Despite efforts by passing joggers, he was burned beyond recognition.
Now when you add 80 plus year old World War II veterans “crashing” through barriers to see the WWII Memorial, tourists climbing over barriers to see sites closed because of the shutdown, and Federal employees protesting or camping out on the Mall because they are on furlough…..DC seems to becoming a very bizarre place.
The common denominator, with the exception of the Navy Yard shooting, seems to be the closing of the Federal government. The government has been shut down since October 1st, because of the failure from the do-nothing Congress to pass a budget. The excuse is , of course, changes have to be made with Obamacare. It is as if this, supposedly, intelligent body of lawmakers does not realize that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. But I digress.
The original focus of this blog was to give some thought on the incident that happened last week when the young lady was chased down Pennsylvania Avenue, after trying to crash the gate of the White House with her car.  It seems that she was stopped at the Capitol, but she gunned her car into reverse, running into a Capitol police car, and giving them chase around the Peace Statue, then into a barrier that protects the Capitol building.
From eyewitness accounts, when her she was stopped at the barrier, a child was retrieved from the car, and “that’s when the shooting began.” The young lady was subsequently killed, but the thing that bothers me, except for using the car as a potential weapon……she was unarmed.  No weapons were found in her car. She never fired a shot at the pursuing officers.
Now I understand completely the argument that the car could have been a bomb, and maybe the officers did not have time to evaluate her intentions. In this age of terrorist attacks, and movies about terrorist attacks,especially against DC, who could blame them. The mental health argument has also been used, and the “fact” that she had post partum depression. (But the child was over a year old…..) Anyway, I can understand why the family would have a lot of questions. I expect to see a lot of legal action as a result of this incident. And, not surprisingly, her sisters have acquired a lawyer.
My intention is also not to be critical of the Secret Service agents or Capitol Police. Yes, I do wish that they did not have to kill this seemingly confused woman. But they do have a mission to protect the White House and the Capitol. And, not unlike me, they are furloughed federal employees, who have to show up to work every day…..and have no idea when they are going to get paid. They are just a small sample of the hardworking people caught up in this government shutdown.
My closing thought is, could the shutdown be making the Washington area a little more dangerous……or just a little more weird?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Long?

One of my favorite comedians in my formative years was Richard Pryor. And while his routines were as “blue” as can be, he did have one routine that ended with the phrase…”How long will this bull____ go on?” That seems to be my mantra for the government shutdown on October 1st. I  have tried to understand and rationalize the reasoning for the sequester that  recently occurred….and could not reach a reasonable understanding. Now I am trying to wrap my mind around the reason and cause for our current predicament. Once again, to me, it makes no sense.
I know all of the mechanics of the shutdown, and the intractable politics of it. But to shut down the most powerful government in the world, because some in the Congress do not want to provide universal healthcare coverage…..this is far beyond my ability to comprehend. What must our neighbors in Canada think, and what must the rest of the world be thinking.
We all realize by now that our current Congress is dysfunctional. Paralyzed for all intents and purposes due to a deficit in leadership.  President Obama has attempted to compromise as best he can on all issues. But it’s hard to play the compromise game, when the goal posts are constantly being moved. So the last gesture by the House is to fund the government…but delay Obamacare for one year, or delay the individual mandate. Of course the Senate rejected it. Why should the Affordable Care Act be delayed any more than it is? We have been preparing for this for well over two years, so anyone affected by it should be on board by now…one would think.
But the Congress dragged  its feet last night, and purposely allowed the government to run out of money for one reason, and one reason only. Because they can do it. It would be easy to state the obvious reason, they want to see President Obama fail…but they also shut down the government under President Clinton’s watch. They not only want to see Obama fail, they want to see Democrats fail.
My overriding question …. is this why we elect officials?  Is this the reason that we send people to Congress? Just so they can continue to frustrate us. Just so they can not listen to us, and get over run by a small faction like the Tea Party? If we learn nothing else from this debacle….it should be that it is very important who we vote for, and who we elect to represent us.  We need to elect people from both parties, who can work collaboratively, no matter the difference in political ideologies.
Overall,  in my opinion, shutting down the government is just plain…stupid. The loss of money to keep the government shutdown is astronomical. The inconvenience and potential suffering it will cause is extraordinary. And all because the majority party in the House does not like Obamacare…..that’s just incredible. We are the United States people….we are better than this.
How long……….?