Colbert v Rumsfeld

Two worthy opponents sparred Monday night. Comedian Stephen Colbert is famously good at skewering his subject (will anyone ever forget how he demolished George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner?) and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is very adept at avoiding awkward questions, turning the thrust back at his questioner. (In response to a soldier who who asked why they had to dig through rubble to find armor for their tanks, Rumsfeld replied, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have.”

Last night on the Late Show Rumsfeld told his host, “If it’s a fact, it’s not intelligence.” Watch Colbert put Rumsfeld on the spot:

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Yea! The world just reached an agreement to combat climate change!

Finally! A “monumental triumph,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Nearly 200 countries agreed to combat climate change after two weeks of tense negotiations and more than of 20 years of debate and dispute and failure to stabilize, let alone slow, global warming.

Climate change “requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries,” because it “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” reads the agreement. The cap it sets on global warming is below 2˚ C., which is still not enough, according to many scientists.

This agreement won’t save the planet, not even close,” climate activist and advocate Bill McKibben wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. It doesn’t include, for example, a specific timeline for phasing out fossil fuels.

But it is a giant step forward nonetheless. It is “the best chance to save the one planet we’ve got,” President Obama said in his remarks to the nation on Saturday. 

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When the cornucopia is empty

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we prepare to celebrate that most American of holidays. Most of us will enjoy children and grandchildren, in-laws, extended families and dear friends. Most of us will sit together at tables heaped with the traditional roast turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry and other relishes, a token green vegetable, pumpkin and apple pies— well, you know, more than we can possibly eat.

IMG_0834Most of us, but not all of us. I was asked to write about hunger in America— a sobering experience. I met people at food pantries and soup kitchens; saw others lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for a lunch bag; and visited people who depend on Meals on Wheels for both sustenance and brief human contact.







 As We Celebrate Thanksgiving, Many Still Go Hungry

On the farmstands, harvest colors of crimson and gold compete for attention. The leaves boast their last, gorgeous hurrah, and the bounty of the fields compensates for the lengthening nights and intensifying chill. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it anticipation of warm reunions with friends and family and the traditional groaning board.

But not for everybody.

Continue reading at Women’s Voices For Change

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Filed under American Society, Food, Income and Wealth Inequality

Fear and Hate in America


The fallout from the jihadist terrorist attacks in Paris continues to proliferate. Its poison has infected and inflamed the governors of 26 American states. These executives, all Republican, proclaimed they will not allow any refugees from the Syrian battlefields to take refuge in their states lest a terrorist be lurking in their midst. The Deep South, Texas, most of the Midwest, four states on the East Coast and four Western states all barred their doors.* Another five** haven’t denied the refugees safe harbor, but they want increased screening to deny entry to terrorists in disguise.

Although in fact governors do not have the authority to bar groups of people from their states, they are able to impose hardships on them. They can lock them out of state-funded English and job-training classes, for example.

Ted Cruz, Republican presidential aspirant from Texas, would admit only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Really? Who engineered and carried out the Newtown School and Charleston church massacres, the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, and the many other shootings, bombings and bloodbaths on American soil? Not to mention the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists — the list goes on and on.

Americans love freedom and democracy, but American history is rampant with shameful episodes of hatred and violence against the despised Other. (Xenophobia is not limited to America, of course; no nation is exempt.) Given the loathing of the majority of elected officials for President Obama and now the revolt of the governors, will America ever again welcome the wretched refuse of distant shores, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

Has the golden door slammed shut?


*Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

**New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North and South Dakota.

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Filed under American Society, ISIS, Islam, Politics, Race

When refugees were welcomed

 Duy Linh Tu, a professor and director of digital media at the Columbia School of Journalism, remembers arriving in the U.S. with his family and nothing else:

I came to the US with my family as refugees after the Viet Nam War. When we arrived, we had nothing except for the kindness of strangers. Members of a Lutheran church in Avon, CT took in the five of us while others from the congregation helped my dad find a job, my mother night classes so she could get her nursing degree, and our family its own apartment.

Now, to read this nonsense that certain politicians don’t want to take in Syrian refugees is both infuriating and heartbreaking. When we lost our home in Saigon, and as the Viet Cong were rolling over Viet Nam, there was no other place my parents could imagine coming to. America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Huddled masses and all that.

How far have we fallen? The story of America is the story of immigrants. When did we become a country that refuses to protect the most vulnerable? When did we become a place that closes our doors to those who yearn to breathe free?

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Paris yes, but why not Beirut?

Beirut 2015Signs of sympathy and support were seen and heard round the world, at least where Europeans or their descendants live. But where were their expressions of mourning for Beirut, where two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 46 people and injured more than 200 hours before their ISIS henchmen hit Paris? Because its people are mostly brown? Ignoring them certainly won’t win friends and sympathy for the West.

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Weep for Paris

WeepForParisPray for Paris.

Pray for all of us.

We grieve and we rage. As we did for Madrid and London and New York. And Beirut and Sbrenika— how many more? When? Where? How? Who will be next?

They have not taken away our resolve, but they have succeeded in terrorizing us.

This is not new— some of us remember the fear of a nuclear attack (knowing what we did to Japan) or the skyjackings and hostage-taking. But the danger was not so immediate, not so personal.

There was no Facebook, no Twitter. No agonized cries, no bloody visions, no harrowing, personal accounts confronted each of us all over the world, directly and instantaneously, as the terror played out.

There are no good old days. Evil and hatred, anger and vengeance conspire to redress old wounds, and the blood-letting doesn’t stop.


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Filed under ISIS, Shooting