"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“His Own Epitaph”: Edward Snowden, A Man Without A Country

We woke this morning to find that Edward Snowden (Mr. Around the World in Rrrrrrrrrrr! [sound of a screeching stop]) has been offered asylum first in Venezuela, and then in Nicaragua. Perhaps the only person entirely happy about this result may be John Logan, author of the next two James Bond films, who may now be inspired to include a scene of a world-famous leaker meeting an untimely fate at the end of a bejeweled thong on the sun-struck beaches of Playa El Agua.

If Snowden can make his way to the Americas (hardly a given), we may learn the answer to one of the burning questions of the moment: what have you been doing all day, Ed? The possibilities of his treatment at Sheremetyevo airport range from detention-lite to a pleasant sterility, the sort of environment that George Clooney might have appreciated in Up in the Air. After almost two weeks, one might expect Snowden to have cleaned up his email folder, finished everything he’s downloaded to his e-reader, and finally got his fill of Diamond Mine.

Should he be scrounging for something else to read, he could do worse than to locate The Man Without A Country, a short story that was published in The Atlantic in December 1863. Written by Edward Everett Hale, the author and clergyman (and not his uncle Edward Everett, the author and orator, or Edward Everett Horton, the comic actor), The Man Without a Country tells the story of a young Army lieutenant Philip Nolan, who becomes friends with the nefarious Aaron Burr. When Burr is indicted for treason for ham-handedly trying to seize part of the Louisiana Territory for himself, Nolan is tried for treason. During the proceedings, he loses his temper, and renounces America. “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” he shouts, and the judge sentences Nolan to his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

And so it happens. Nolan spends approximately fifty years aboard various vessels, never allowed to return to US soil. No one is allowed to speak to him about the United States, nor is he allowed to read anything about the country. Over the years, he repents his angry comments, and one day advices a young sailor to avoid his mistake: “Remember, boy, that behind all these men … behind officers and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother … !” At the end of the story, a dying Nolan invites an officer named Danforth to his room. It has become a patriotic shrine, with a flag, pictures of George Washington and a bald eagle. Danforth tells Nolan everything that happened to America since his sentence was imposed; the narrator confesses, however, that “I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this infernal rebellion,’’—the Civil War. When Nolan is found dead later that day, they find that he has written his own epitaph:

In memory of PHILIP NOLAN, Lieutenant in the army of the United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserved less at her hands

Treacly stuff, in a way, yet quite moving in its sentimental power. The story was a Civil War story, designed to use sentiment and argument to show what the country as a whole, as opposed to the individual states, had achieved. I’d love to hear what Snowden thinks of the tale a few years from now, although generally speaking, those who possess the audacity to commit a great deed seldom have the audacity to reconsider it.


By: Jamie Malanowski, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 6, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Sense Of Hopelessness”: The George Zimmerman Trial Is The Worst Fear Of Every Black Family

The Trayvon Martin case has been nothing short of heartbreak from the very beginning. Regardless of what anyone believes about Trayvon’s past, his innocence or George Zimmerman’s, the fact remains that a teenager is dead. I honestly didn’t think I would get emotionally broken up more than I was over the story that Rachel Jeantel’s friendship with Martin stemmed from the fact he was one of the only people who never picked on her. The story painted such a tragic picture of friendship and two people whose lives will never be the same.

Then came this week’s testimonies and reactions from Trayvon Martin’s parents to leave me – and so much of America – floored. On Friday morning, Sybrina Fulton took the stand to talk about her son. As part of her testimony she had to identify her child’s screams in his finals seconds of life. Later in the day, Tracy Martin had to sit in court as the medical examiner, Dr Bao, explained how Trayvon died in severe pain and was alive for minutes after getting shot in the chest.

Essentially, Friday – almost as much as the day Trayvon was shot – was any parent’s nightmare. Trayvon’s parents had to come face to face with their son’s murder while Fulton got questioned over whether or not her son actually deserved to get killed. Tracy had to sit in the same room as the man who shot his son in the chest, unable to retaliate or let the rage he has to be feeling out.

Yes, this is the worst imaginable day for a parent. But it’s one the parents of an African-American child has been conditioned to accept as a possibility.

I have a son who was born in October, a couple of weeks before the prosecutor and defense met in court to argue if Martin’s school records should be admitted so the case was in the news again. As I watched more details about the case emerge and the argument that a child’s prior school record may be used to justify his death, I would feel a sense of hopelessness.

There are always fears about being a parent, but raising a black male in America brings about its own unique set of panic. Growing up, my parents and older siblings made sure to warn me about places where I’d be profiled and could face danger as often as they warned me about neighborhoods known for crime. But in the end, no planning or words of advice can save me or my son from getting wrongfully gunned down while trying to buy a bag of candy.

While most parents are up at night wondering how to protect their children from the uncontrollable like drunk drivers or muggings, Trayvon’s parents, my parents and parents of black males across the country are also living in fear that their children won’t come home because someone thought they were dangers to the community.

So there they were, two parents of a black male, sitting in court living out the culmination of that fear. And the realization that the man who shot their child could get off for killing him. To make things worse, they had to hear the defense question their parenting, whether or not Fulton actually knows what her son sounds like and field online reports that Tracy may not have been the best parent.

Since Martin’s death, the boy these two people raised, loved and saw for his beauty as a young male has been portrayed as a thug. A violent kid. A pothead who couldn’t behave in school. Someone who, according to the defense, caused his own death.

It’s all just excruciating to watch. My heart breaks for Trayvon’s parents and watching them in court this week has brought all of my fears of being the parent of a Black male to light. We’ve watched them look at a picture of their son’s dead, bloody body sprawled out on the Florida pavement. We’ve watched Trayvon’s mother struggle to compose herself while hearing her son’s last screams.

As my son gets older and out into the world, I’ll always have the memories of Trayvon and his parents. And the fear that one day, America will put us through what the Martin family is enduring.


By: David Dennis, The Guardian, July 7, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Un-Patriotic Paradox”: How Could We Blow This One?

I just finished a five-month leave from this column, writing a book with my wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and what struck me while away from the daily fray is a paradox that doesn’t seem quite patriotic enough for July Fourth.

But I’ll share it anyway: On security issues, we Americans need a rebalancing. We appear willing to bear any burden, pay any price, to confound the kind of terrorists who shout “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and plant bombs, while unwilling to take the slightest step to curb a different kind of terrorism — mundane gun violence in classrooms, cinemas and inner cities that claims 1,200 times as many American lives.

When I began my book leave, it seemed likely that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut would impel Congress to approve universal background checks for gun purchases. It looked as if we might follow Australia, which responded to a 1996 gun massacre by imposing restrictions that have resulted in not a single mass shooting there since.

Alas, I was naïve. Despite 91 percent support from voters polled in late March and early April, Congress rejected background checks. Political momentum to reduce gun killings has now faded — until the next such slaughter.

Meanwhile, our national leaders have been in a tizzy over Edward Snowden and his leaks about National Security Agency surveillance of — of, well, just about everything. The public reaction has been a shrug: Most people don’t like surveillance, but they seem willing to accept it and much more as the price of suppressing terrorism.

Our response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and international terrorism has been remarkable, including an intelligence apparatus in which some 1.4 million people (including, until recently, Snowden) hold “top secret” clearances.

That’s more than twice the population of the District of Columbia. The Washington Post has reported that since 9/11, the United States has built new intelligence complexes equivalent in office space to 22 United States Capitol buildings.

All told, since 9/11, the United States has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security, according to the National Priorities Project, a research group that works for budget transparency. That’s nearly $70,000 per American household.

Some of that money probably helped avert other terrorist attacks (although some of it spent in Iraq and Afghanistan may have increased risks). We need a robust military and intelligence network, for these threats are real. An Al Qaeda attack is an assault on the political system in a way that an ordinary murder is not. And overseas terrorists do aspire to commit mass murder again, perhaps with chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, and our government is right to work hard to prevent such a cataclysm.

But there are trade-offs, including other ways to protect the public, and our entire focus seems to be on national security rather than on more practical ways of assuring our safety.

The imbalance in our priorities is particularly striking because since 2005, terrorism has taken an average of 23 American lives annually, mostly overseas — and the number has been falling.

More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism. Twice as many Americans die of bee or wasp stings annually. And 15 times as many die by falling off ladders.

Most striking, more than 30,000 people die annually from firearms injuries, including suicides, murders and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American children are 13 times as likely to be killed by guns as in other industrialized countries.

Doesn’t it seem odd that we’re willing to spend trillions of dollars, and intercept metadata from just about every phone call in the country, to deal with a threat that, for now, kills but a few Americans annually — while we’re too paralyzed to introduce a rudimentary step like universal background checks to reduce gun violence that kills tens of thousands?

Wasn’t what happened at Sandy Hook a variant of terrorism? And isn’t what happens in troubled gang-plagued neighborhoods of Chicago just as traumatic for schoolchildren, leaving them suffering a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder?

I don’t see any glib solutions here, just a need for a careful balancing of risks and benefits. I’d say that in auto safety, we get it about right. We give most adults access to cars, but we regulate them with licenses, insurance requirements and mandatory seat belts. In the case of national security and terrorism, I wonder if we haven’t overdeployed resources.

In the case of guns, we don’t do enough. Baby steps, consistent with the Second Amendment, would include requiring universal background checks, boosting research to understand gun violence and investing in smarter guns. A debit card requires a code to work, a car requires a key — and a gun, nothing at all.


By: Michael Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New york Times, July 3, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Listening To The Radicals”: The GOP’s Future, Move Right And Move White

It’s an eternal verity of American politics: the Republicans are the party of big business. Democrats since Franklin Roosevelt have sneered it as a putdown, to which many Republicans respond with no shame, yes, we are, the business of America is business. And business, in Washington, means chiefly the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the two beefiest business lobbies in the city. But funny thing—the chamber and NAM support the Senate immigration bill that the House Republicans are going to kill. In addition, some prominent evangelical groups are pro-reform, too. Which makes me wonder: if the Republicans are no longer listening to these people, then to whom precisely are they listening, and what does that tell us about what kind of party this is becoming?

The chamber, NAM, and the evangelical groups have been in on the immigration discussions from the start. A great deal of the hard work here was done by congressional negotiators in conjunction with the chamber and the AFL-CIO, working through different categories of workers (high-skill, low-skill, guest) and arriving at language and numbers that suited all the interests at the table. Each of these groups has done the kind of outreach to its members that is vital in the case of big and controversial legislation like this. The Evangelical Immigration Table, a project of World Relief (which is an arm of the National Association of Evangelicals), persuaded pastors across the country to support reform.

There was a time in this country when the linked arms of those three groups would unquestionably have been joined by most Republicans on Capitol Hill. But that was long ago. Now the GOP is a different animal altogether.

And so the Chamber of Commerce—the Chamber of Commerce!—is a bunch of sell-outs. This isn’t the first time, by the way, that the chamber and the GOP have been at odds. The chamber has long supported substantial public spending on infrastructure. You might have thought that the fact that the chamber was for it would bring Republicans along. But these Republicans don’t listen to the chamber.

Instead, they are listening to the Tea Party. Back in 2010, the press tried to tell you that Tea Party people just cared about economics, but that’s dead wrong. As Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson showed in their book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, immigration is a huge issue to Tea Partiers, and along precisely the immigrants-are-freeloaders lines you’d expect. Remember when Mitt Romney’s attack on Rick Perry over immigration worked so well? This is why.

And more disturbingly they’re listening to the likes of Peter Brimelow and Steve Sailer, two crackpot haters of nonwhite immigrants who’ve been at it for a couple of decades now. Now I can’t say for sure of course how many Republicans are reading their unhinged website, where one contributor recently dismissed the Evangelical Immigration Table as “Soros-funded,” an imprecation that in right-wing circles is about as ominous as you get and is meant to be read as “can’t be trusted.” But I can say this: the defeat in the House of immigration reform, on the explicit political grounds that “we” (the GOP) don’t “need” Latinos and can win in the future by just riling up the white vote—which is in fact the argument now—represents a mainstreaming of Brimelow and Sailer that would have been totally unimaginable a decade ago.

Business groups, like everyone I talk to who is pro-reform, hold out hope. But it’s a shaky kind of hope, as evidenced by one conversation I had yesterday with a source close to business groups. This person thought the odds of success in the House were “about 30 to 70.” Later in the conversation, he termed himself “optimistic.” If that counts as optimism, that tells us something. The key thing, this person said of the House Republicans, is “just getting them in the room” with senators in a conference committee.

He did correctly identify the hard part. But getting to the conference stage means that the House has to have passed its own bill, and one containing a path to citizenship that isn’t strewn with poison pills that make it impossible for the other side to support. And that’s the huge if.

What we are watching here is absolutely historic. The process by which the GOP has gone from “we must get right with Latinos” to “who needs ’em” has been … well, not quite astonishing. Depressingly unsurprising, actually. But amazing all the same. If immigration is killed for the reasons stated, then the Republican Party has consciously made the decision to become a quasi-nationalist party. They’ll probably never sink to the level of a Le Pen or a Haider (I added that “probably” upon re-reading; you never quite know with these people). But they will have killed immigration reform twice in six years, opposing not just the usual suspects like La Raza but America’s top corporate interest groups. And they will have staked out their bet for their future: move right and move white. And this will be the year it all took hold.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 3, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“To Dude Or Not To Dude?”: Rick Perry Wants YOU To Want Him To Run For President

In San Antonio on Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will share his “exciting future plans.” Not to be confused with his past plans, I guess, or his not-so-hot ones. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure these don’t involve accepting the $90 billion or so in federal money to expand Medicaid that would insure a million more Texans in a state that’s first in job creation but second in the number of children without health insurance.

When I asked a few Texans what they figured their governor would announce, though, I did get some exciting replies: Secede from the union? Change the part in his hair? Break in some new boots? And those were the Republicans, who have nothing but praise for their longest-serving governor — just as long as they’re speaking for attribution.

Perry did succeed in turning his state’s governorship from one of the weakest in the country to one of the strongest by applying a strict personal loyalty test to those he appointed to every seat on every board.

As a result, he’s always been more feared than loved. But after his bellyflop of a presidential run, some of his power to intimidate seems to have worn off. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus — a Republican, of course — publicly criticized Perry’s remarks about Wendy Davis, the state senator who successfully filibustered an anti-abortion bill, as damaging to their party.

I think Perry was actually trying to pay Davis a compliment. ““Who are we to say,” he asked, “that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t lead successful lives? Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She’s the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential, and that every life matters.” Which I took to mean that had her single mom chosen not to have her, the world would have been deprived of her intelligence and fortitude.

I’m not surprised, however, that Texas Republicans are telling pollsters they don’t want Perry to run for president again in ’16:  Just 18 percent of Republican primary voters want him to go for it, while 69 percent say they hope he doesn’t.

Even among Texans, he’s the sixth-choice Republican presidential candidate right now, after Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan. And though his job approval rating in the state has improved substantially lately, more still disapprove than give him a thumbs up, and 60 percent of respondents in a recent PPP poll said they do not think he should run for a fourth term as governor, either, compared to the 30 percent who say he should.

That doesn’t mean Texas is likely to turn blue any time soon, however, because it’s still an awfully conservative state — and one that’s gotten more so in recent years, with Obama taking 44 percent of the vote in ’08 and 41 percent in ’12.

Longtime Democratic consultant Marc Campos, of Houston, who calls Perry “Governor Dude,” is less sure than some others in the state about how the governor will come down on the question of “to dude or not to dude” for a fourth term. “Oops means oops,” Campos jokes, referring not only to Perry’s inability to remember the name of the third federal agency he’d vowed to cut, but also to Perry’s presidential chances if he does run again in ’16.

Yet Campos assesses his own party’s chances of taking the governorship next year no less realistically, quoting Rocco Lampone’s line in “The Godfather Part II” that shooting Hyman Roth would bedifficult, not impossible. It would have to be a hardly-any-room-for-error type of campaign,” he says, and darn well funded.

As the Dallas Morning News’s Wayne Slater points out, Davis has doubled her name ID lately, yet is still unlikely to prevail over Perry, who won by 13 points in ’10 as the least popular Republican on the ballot. Though 38 percent of Texans are Latino, turnout continues to be a problem, with Hispanics accounting for more than a third of the population, yet only about a fifth of the vote. And the recent Supreme Court decision undermining the Voting Rights Act clears the way for a Texas voter ID law that Democrats fear will further suppress turnout.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose twin, Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, would have the best chance of besting Perry if he does run again, according to a recent poll, told me that “realistically, our window” for turning Texas blue “is eight to 12 years.”

Perry might actually speed that process along if he does decide to run for re-election, and the state’s Republican attorney general, Greg Abbott, opposes him in a primary. If that happens, Castro says, it will be expensive, brutal, and “a replay of what happened to the once-dominant Democratic Party” in Texas in the ’80s, with more infighting than punches thrown at the other party.

No one can say that Perry suffers from a lack of confidence, though, and it wouldn’t be like him to worry about that. Just before he was elected to his third term, Perry told me that walking away after only two would have been “like Van Gogh walking away when he’s two-thirds finished with a masterpiece.” On Monday, we’ll learn if he feels any brush work remains undone.


By: Melinda Henneberger, She The People, The Washington Post, July 3, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Rick Perry | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: