Posts Tagged ‘president’

 

Haiti: What I Remember From Being There

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

haiti-beach.jpgLike you I’ve been watching the coverage of the Haitian earthquake. Each detail makes this sad story sadder. It’s difficult to imagine a spot less able to cope with this kind of adversity.

I have been to Haiti. Strange as it seems I vacationed there with my friend Neal sometime in the late 70s. We spent a week at the Club Med “Magic Isle.”

Even then Club Med never mentioned the country’s name in its promotional material. The club is long since closed, a victim of Haiti’s reputation as the basket case of the Western Hemisphere.

A few weeks before the trip we got paperwork from Club Med. We’d need to take medication before our departure. Malaria was the concern. In most of the country modern sanitation just didn’t exist. Judging by what’s coming out tonight that hasn’t changed.

We flew from JFK non-stop. Back then the airport bore the name of former Haitian president Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. His son, “Baby Doc,” was in charge of the country. This was an iron willed dictatorship which produced riches for a few on the backs of many.

Our bus trip through the countryside passed many streams. All were marked with health warning signs. Still there were people in each of them, mostly washing clothes. We didn’t slow down. My glimpses were brief.

Club Med “Magic Isle” itself was an armed camp. A guard station turned away locals who wanted in. Once a week local craftsmen were allowed to approach on the beach. It was obvious this part of Haiti was not for Haitians!

During our week there Neal and I never left the property.

The club itself was as beautiful as it was underused. About half the rooms were empty–this after being priced well below any other Club Med facility.

The view from my room was of stark mountains. They had been clear cut for charcoal–a cash crop. Haiti’s sister country on Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, had similar rough hills. Theirs were covered in green!

The club was reasonably new when Neal and I arrived. Staff who’d been there for the construction told us the property was totally built by hand. There were no bulldozers or excavators. Hiring locals was much cheaper!

I was conflicted vacationing in this incredibly poor nation. I didn’t think of it before the trip, but it was tough to get off my mind while we were there. I had never been… still have never been… anywhere else with this much poverty. It was everyone. I was unavoidable… except inside the club.

It’s impossible for us to fathom what Haitian life must be like tonight. People who never had anything now have less.

The earthquake is just the first disaster. The next will diseases as dead and decaying bodies rot in place.

It is monumentally sad.

Sixty Minutes Doesn’t Font

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

I’ve got Sixty Minutes on in another window on this computer. There’s something about that show you might know and maybe no one except someone in broadcasting would care to know.

Sixty Minutes does not font!

When someone is interviewed or a locale is shown there are no illustrative words cluttering the screen. I don’t think I miss them.

Are there any other news shows without fonts? At one time neither the president or pope was fonted, but even that rule’s no longer followed!

I’ve watched Sixty Minutes for a long time-back when they were on Thursdays and the open and close wraps were done live (same thing when they first moved to Sunday’s). They never fonted. Of course electronically produced fonts didn’t exist back then, but Sixty Minutes didn’t use ‘state-of-the-art’ camera cards either.

It was also one of the last shows to move from film to video. Film’s a better medium under some circumstances. Unfortunately, Sixty Minutes looked flat on film! The transition to video was for the better.

Stay classy Sxty Minutes. No fonts.

When I Am President

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

When I am President of these United States one thing will change immediately. We’re going to do away with most if not all of the pomp and circumstance.

This afternoon I watched President Obama present the Medal of Freedom to:

16 people who have made a difference in the nation and the world. They come from diverse backgrounds, but have one trait in common. – Voice of America

medal-of-freedom.jpgWonderful. I don’t question the motivation for bestowing this honor… but isn’t there something more important the prez could have been doing on this Wednesday afternoon? Did he have to personally present?

Every time he is up on the dais mentioning a score or more of politicians by name before speaking he is wasting his time, which after all is really my time. He works for me.

Businesses understand this. It’s called productivity. Be productive Mr. President.

Let me be clear–events like yesterday’s Town Hall meeting or a press conference where tough questions are asked and answered–no problem. For this, or any other president, those events serve a purpose.

Maybe we need some official whose only job is to wave and show the flag? Is it too late for America to get a Queen?

Is “The American Game” Rigged?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I am seldom as profoundly affected by an op-ed piece as I was by Frank Rich in Sunday’s NY Times.

What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. It’s the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged — that, as the president typically put it a month after his inauguration, the system is in hock to “the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few” who have “run Washington far too long.” He promised to smite them.

No president can do that alone, let alone in six months. To make Obama’s goal more quixotic, the ailment that he diagnosed is far bigger than Washington and often beyond politics’ domain. What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.

Though President Obama was elected by appealing to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, liberals are now marginalized on the edge. With no one farther left Obama has shifted farther right knowing we’ve no place else to go.

I understand this move to the center as a strategy, but I am left feeling unclean and used. Don’t use me to make your boyfriend jealous.

It’s not just health care that has me bugged. It’s all sorts of national security issues reaching back to policies of the Bush administration that need to be unwound.

To me liberalism is just another name for idealism. Good deeds should be rewarded. Bad deeds should be punished. Governmental rules should encourage good behavior. We continue to do the opposite.

President Obama was nominated and then elected heavily on the backs of people who feel as I do–and he himself made promises to that effect.

There is no satisfaction in this airing of my angst.

Mistrust And Fear

Friday, July 24th, 2009

The TV was on when President Obama walked into the White House briefing room today. He was ‘walking back’ his comment on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.”

Agreed. Here’s my takeaway on this whole thing.

1) President Obama did what our recent president(s) wouldn’t. He was conciliatory. He attempted to dial down the rhetoric. He admitted he’d been wrong in what he had said and characterizations he’d made. He was a mensch!

2) Here is a problem which cuts and separates our society.

There continues to be a racial divide in America. I am not proud to say I have been frightened by young, black men solely because they were young, black men. I am not alone.

Any time I hear a news story about some perp arrested during a ‘routine traffic stop,’ I think: DWB–Driving While Black. There is no doubt there is some… maybe more than some… racial targeting. It is an institutionalized manifestation of the fear I’ve experienced.

A significant portion of black America originally thought O.J. Simpson was framed because he was black and because… well because that’s what happens.

There’s an old joke: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following you. Similarly, just because there is profiling didn’t mean O.J. was innocent. It is too easy and patently unfair to dismiss any incident as being wholly racial just because some are. It’s the other side of the racial paranoia coin.

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market. It is bad for all of us.

More than likely Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley (the Cambridge, MA police officer involved) came into this confrontation already primed. Tensions and tempers flared. Neither could find the easy way to get out with their dignity intact.

If this incident opens up a national dialogue it will have been worth whatever discomfort these two men have endured. We need that dialog.

The Repositioning President

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

obama-in-egypt.jpgEarlier this week Jon Stewart did a bit about President Obama’s date night in New York City. He said the Obamas were the most glamorous couple in the world. Probably so.

I find myself interestingly tantalized by the president, his policies and his persona. There are things he’s done I fundamentally disagree with, yet I still think he’s doing a great job. Even I’m puzzled by that.

I wish he’d: Release the Iraqi prison photos. Shut down Guantanamo. Prosecute Bush-era wiretappers. Restore the rule of law to the ‘enemy combatants’.

Don’t hold your breath. He ran as a liberal. He’s governing as a moderate.

I once got to shake Bill Clinton’s hand. It was in the White House. There was no mistaking Clinton as the most powerful man in the world. Seriously–that aura just oozed from him. I watched Obama on TV today and he makes Clinton look like some political wannabe.

Maybe I’m willing to look the other way on some of this presidency because of how he’s repositioning us to the world. It’s possible America’s returning to a position where the world respects and envies us. That would be nice.

White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

We are on the sofa. We are watching C-SPAN. I have never watched C-SPAN wth Helaine before. It is the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. C-SPAN had a camera in the lobby as the glitterati arrived.

Unlike E!, Bravo or more entertainment oriented channels C-SPAN shows the video with no commentary. I actually like that.

Lots of Hollywood types. Denis Leary, Demi and Ashton, Tyra Banks, Rick Schroeder. “Since when is it Rick and not Ricky?” Helaine asked.

I saw Al Roker with Ariana Huffington… or maybe they were just nearby. Al is still thinner. Al Sharpton was notably thin.

The president walked in to Hail to the Chief. Does he like the tune? He will hear it as much as Rick Springfield hears Jessie’s Girl.

The guy playing clarinet has shifty eyes.

Star Spangled Banner. It’s not often heard as an instrumental. Is C-SPAN signing off? Sorry, old broadcasting reference.

Wanda Sykes is the emcee tonight. Will she be tough to watch like Steven Colbert and Don Imus have been in the past?

Helaine likes the president’s tux.

Helen Thomas is shaking Michelle Obama’s hand. They could do the female version of the Shaq/Ben Stein Comcast commercial.

Bill Scanlon on C-SPAN now reading Tweets from Twitter. No! This is like my parents getting into T-Pain.

Our Nation’s Hate

Friday, April 24th, 2009

obama-poll.jpg

Nearly three million people have voted in the MSNBC poll at the top of this entry. It’s non-scientific in its methodology, but it’s incredibly telling nonetheless. Our country has no center in political opinion. The vast majority of the votes are for the two extremes.

We are a nation divided. I love Obama. I hate Obama. There, literally, is no middle ground.

It’s sad because we’ve come to the point where people are so stridently driven by dogma, they’d rather see their ideas used than see success. That is why to many Rush Limbaugh’s January 21 pronouncement is so upsetting and to others so enabling.

So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail, if his agenda is a far- left collectivism, some people say socialism, as a conservative heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?

I have often said I’d use the Psychic Friends Network to forecast the weather if it worked. Rush’s words are the antithesis of that thought.

This morning I got an email from someone I don’t recognize.

News Alert:

The US Navy has stated that the Navy seals could have acted faster and rescued the captain of the Maersk Alabama last week, but had to wait until the White House could confirm that none of the pirates were related to Obama.

That quote comes from a forwarded email nestled within the one sent to me. The sender, the unknown Andre Lefebvre, adds:

That S.O.B. will destroy this country.

You just watch.

One morning, very soon, everybody, in the U. S., will wake-up and find out that they have lost all of their rights and it will be too late to do anything about it.

As far as I can tell the “facts” in the email are absolutely made up. There is not a shred of truth to it. But, to the sender it doesn’t make any difference because it’s just ammunition in an ideological war.

The exact actions the president takes on any given day are much less important to this person than the overall political bent. And, I suspect, he’d say what he said even knowing it was false because it might injure his enemy–Obama.

This country needs to be righted economically. Then we have a whole lot of healing to do. The vitriol and hate from right-to-left and back again isn’t healthy.

Thanks to my friend Woody who sent along the MSNBC poll not realizing it would produce this.

Torture and Spying

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I was upset to read the prisoner torture memos which came out last week. I suppose I’m not totally surprised. It’s still upsetting.

I am equally upset the Obama administration won’t pursue those responsible.

To summarize, in order to legitimize what was otherwise cruel and despicable acts which violate our laws, treaties and nearly everything this country stands for, Justice Department attorneys redefined black as white, day as night, light as dark. The letter of the law was wholly removed from the spirit. It was a c-y-a ruse and those responsible should justify their actions under penalty of the law.

President Obama said he doesn’t want this type of examination, so it probably won’t happen.

The same thing goes for internal eavesdropping by our spy agencies. Those responsible should be held responsible.

A lot of people probably find my thinking naive, but I believe we must live by certain moral parameters. If our enemies force us to abandon these moral guidelines we have already lost.

This is a day filled with disappointment.

The Pirate Problem

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I couldn’t get enough of the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama. I’m sure I’ve read ten different stories–maybe more. There’s not a lot of detail yet, except to say Navy Seals are well trained and Capt. Phillips, who offered himself to save his crew, is a genuine hero.

There are more potential heroes than there are opportunities to be heroic. How long did Sully fly and Phillips sail before they were tested?

My suspicion is by the time the pirates were shot we had that lifeboat ‘wired.’ we could hear their conversations. We could probably sense, through heat detection or some other pasive method, where the pirates sat long before they became visible. The boat was already under tow with the line slowly shortened. The pirates were moving closer-and-closer to the American ship.

There has been some discussion recently about whether the president has the cojones to aggressively defend our national interests. The naysayers won’t admit this was a sign… but it was.

On shore, pirates now unhappy they are not the only ones capable of threatening violence, have put us on notice they’ll be more cutthroat from now on. False bravado. Hopefully they’re really wondering how much money it’s worth to be dead.

At the moment in the Indian Ocean crime pays. That’s got to be reversed. The reversal doesn’t have to be 100%, just enough to scare the pirates. These are not religious zealots looking for a reward in the afterlife. These are just street gangs at sea.