Thursday, October 31, 2013

If Obama Doesn't Know, Then Who Does Know What's Going On In the White House?

In the last few days I've been wondering who's running the White House. If you are old enough to remember when Pres. Jimmy Carter was attacked for being a micro manager, you may be surprised to find out that Barack Obama hardly seems to manage at all.
In 2012 the race was between Obama and a spoiled rich kid who thought 49% of the American people were losers. I voted for Obama, so feel free to blame me for the situation today.
In the last few days Obama has told us he didn't know anything about tapping Angela Merkel's phone. It came as a surprise to him, he said. Wow, that made me feel comfortable.
He also has not claimed responsibility for the horrible Obama care website. He says "the buck stops here," but then gives a lot of reasons why he left it up to other people.
The whole NSA thing seems to be a mystery to him. How did we end up being hated around the world for sticking our nose into everybody's business without the president knowing?
I still can't figure out why Putin is running our policy on Syria.
It isn't that the Republicans aren't a troublesome lot (and that's putting it nicely), but some of the responsibility for this whole mess has to fall on the man we elected president. It's too bad nobody's telling him anything, because then, maybe he could fix things.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hungary:The Once and Future Anti-Semitic State

Since the 1930s, Hungary has been an anti-Semitic state. During World War II, the Hungarian fascist equivalent of the SS was the Arrow Cross, a group that loved sending Hungarian Jews to concentration camps.
When the Russians took over Hungary, they didn't spend a lot of time reeducating the Hungarian people on their attitudes towards Jews. Russia was not as anti-Semitic (hard to believe, huh) but it wasn't an issue of importance to them.
My daughter is the granddaughter of Hungarians who are Holocaust survivors. I once took a trip with them to Budapest and heard stories of cabdrivers who would  refuse to carry Jews in their cabs. People like Tony Curtis gave money to rehabilitate the synagogue in Budapest, and George Soros bought the best restaurant there. But it made little difference. Hungary was too attached to the practice of hating Jews.
Since 2002 Hungary has moved to the right and become more authoritarian under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The far right Jobbik party  controls nearly 20% of Parliament and has a nationalistic anti-Semitic platform.
Things are not getting any better, even though Ivan Fischer, the conductor of  the Budapest Festival Orchestra, recently premiered an Opera called the "Red Heifer" which is a rebuke of antisemitism.
Hungary's attitude is a stain on Europe. Allowing Hungary to participate in European integration, is to let the camel's nose under the tent. If the Europeans don't address this serious problem there is a lot of trouble coming down the road. I've always been surprised at how easy it is to revive antisemitism. For some reason "it's the gift that keeps on giving." I'm a goy, but for me antisemitism is the most frightening concept I can think of.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our "Shameful" Congress

When my grandfather Whitney returned from the Civil War, he became a Republican. He was a carriage painter from Mexico New York who believed that all men were created equal. So, ever since the Civil War ended my family was Republican.
I emerged from Syracuse University's Maxwell school of Citizenship and Public affairs with a PhD and a different attitude. While I'm an independent, these days  voting Republican would be like joining in with those who don't care if they damage the Republic, as long as they get their way.
John McCain, who has proved to me he cares more about America then in feathering his own nest, said the shutdown and fight over the debt ceiling was a "shameful" incident in congressional history. He, of course, is right.
The last 20 years have shown how difficult it is to run a Federal system in a gerrymandered world. Republican primaries in safe districts involve proving who is the biggest wacko.
The days when the leaders of both parties decided the future of our nation over bourbon and branch water seem like a mythical trip down memory lane.
We didn't need the world wondering whether we would destroy the economic system by defaulting. We resemble a banana republic attached to a political system with which we were justly proud. Pretty soon, I assume we won't be the world's reserve currency. It will be harder to borrow to pay for our massive debt. The tea party, which seems to want a world in which minorities are second-rate citizens and the poor are starving on the streets, can take credit for diminishing the United States.