An Immigrant Heritage

If I’m given the chance, I’m unsure if I would vote for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for president. I don’t know enough about his politics. They seem deeply conservative, and I’m annoyingly moderate.

He seemed to say some stuff many here in the U.K. disagreed strongly with when he visited recently. However, I am willing to hear more from him. I’m always willing to listen to every reasonable candidate of any major party, and as a governor that by definition makes him “reasonable.”

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

A separate – and disturbing – issue has been the mockery directed at him on social media (and even in some U.S. mainstream media) for his apparently not being “Indian enough” or even attempting to be “white.”

Continue reading

I Made Clauda “Lol”

Drove up to London yesterday and will be driving back to Wiltshire later. It will be a busy non-writing day overall. It’s shaping up as the sort of one I’m always of seriously two minds about, because a non-writing day is, fundamentally, a non-productive day in any novelist’s life.

Free Stock Photo: A cup of coffee with a stack of books.
Free Stock Photo: A cup of coffee with a stack of books.

But if you drop by regularly, you know I like if at all possible to find a few moments to post something every day. I like this site to be “alive,” and, as you also may know, sort of like a “daily journal”. In that sense, I feel this is worth sharing.

Continue reading

CNN Urges One Thing, But Your State Department Urges The Opposite

Over the years, I’ve been to some “problematic” places. You may have been, too. We know most people one meets in the world are fine.

Enter CNN’s Anthony Bourdain. An American, he has just been to “back to Beirut.” He says he loves the city:

Screen capture of the CNN web site.
Screen capture of the CNN web site.

And it’s wonderful he loves it. Certainly he’s not alone. At one point, he even declares:

It’s a place I’ve described as the Rumsfeldian dream of what, best-case scenario, the neocon masterminds who thought up Iraq, imagined for the post-Saddam Middle East: a place Americans could wander safely [Note: emphasis mine]….

But is it really that? Images whizzing by of dinner dishes, attractive people smoking (and of course looking “cool” while doing so), clubbers, and assorted glamour gloss (even bomb damaged buildings are made to seem “trendy”) is to be expected: CNN wants us to watch and hold our attention. But especially relevant for some prospective destinations is obtaining hard information beyond its “thrills,” “hipness” and “happenin’ness.”

Because YOU are NOT being paid to go there.

Continue reading

“There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never.”

Following the murders of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina, old social media photographs of the white supremacist arrested for it naturally surfaced almost immediately. In one, he’s wearing jacket patches of the apartheid South Africa flag and the white minority government Rhodesia flag. In another, he’s posing on a car displaying the Confederate States of America emblem.

His embrace of the latter has revived arguments inside the U.S. about the post-Civil War tacit understanding under which the United States became one country again:

Screen capture of Vox.
Screen capture of Vox.

That Vox piece is the sort of thing that leads one to wonder if supposedly well-educated members of the media have ever read a serious history book?

Continue reading

In Your U.S. Passport: Place Of Birth

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 2002 law compelling the Department of State to allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to have their passport note their place of birth as Israel. Although President Bush had signed that bill into law, he refused to carry it out. President Obama continued that refusal.

The Constitution states (in Article II, Section 3) that the President “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” From those words it has essentially evolved that it is not Congress – the legislative branch – that is mostly responsible for carrying out foreign affairs. The voice of the country diplomatically comes mostly from the President – meaning from the executive branch.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe with borders.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe with borders.

Sometimes presidents sign contentious bills into law simply to direct a matter into the courts for constitutional clarification. Apparently some 50,000 U.S. citizens have been born in Jerusalem. After that 2002 law was allowed on the books, birth there and the passport terminology for its location was almost certainly going to end up in court when the executive branch State Department, following the policy course set by both Bush and Obama, naturally declined an “Israel” request by someone who was also willing to sue over it.

Continue reading

Our Reality Is Fragility

Somehow I found myself in an argument over the phone on Wednesday evening with a member of the family in the States with whom I’ve argued vehemently quite a few times before. I had thought we’d by now put that sort of behavior behind us. Apparently, though, I’d “triggered” something in that individual and all hell broke loose from that side of the Atlantic.

The phone was slammed down on me. I can’t go into why and I really shouldn’t anyway. Suffice it to say we have all probably had something like that happen in our lives at some point or another.

Continue reading

Spinning Out Of Control

I’m sure some of you reading this were born in the late 1980s and 1990s. The era of which I write about in the novels is therefore in a real sense “history” to you. It pre-dates either your consciousness of the wider world…. or even your birth itself! ;-)

Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]
Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]

It’s trite to point out that one can’t hope to begin to understand the present without understanding the past; yet it’s absolutely true. And trying to appreciate the human outlook of any “past” is a vital aspect of that effort. This article in Die Zeit about Germany’s attitude and approach to the world since 1989 could in large measure apply elsewhere in Europe as well as to the U.S.A.:

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall … we’ve woken up and it feels like a bad dream….

….Crisis has become the new normal. The years between 1990 and now were the exception.

The psychological repercussions of this fundamentally new situation on Europe’s political elites are both brutal and curious at the same time. Those aged 45 to 65 currently in positions of power have only known growing prosperity, freedom and cultural sophistication. They were, and to a large extent still are, predisposed to exert themselves only modestly, act responsibly and expect that they could enjoy the fruits of their labor. And suddenly history has unceremoniously grabbed them by the scruff of the neck. Do we really need to fight now? More than ever? And what does our cardiologist have to say?

I’m sharing that article and writing this post because that piece hit me hard. I fall into the “early part” of that age group; but I was certainly not “powerful” in 1989. (Nor am I now!) Speaking here only for myself, of course, I also vividly recall the post-fall of the Berlin Wall atmosphere: it fills my novels and is meant to do so.

Continue reading

The Duke

No, not *that* “Duke”. Sorry. I mean this one:

"Wellington," by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]
“Wellington,” by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve had it since Christmas. I thought I’d finally give it a read. Uh, it’s not War and Remembrance, of course. (Thank God!)

To French followers, please do not be offended. I have already read lots about Napoleon. ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend, wherever you are in the world. :-)

UK General Election 2015: No One Saw This Coming

Well, if this holds this is a HUGE surprise. And it looks like it will. BBC News:

After weeks of chatter about an election too close to call, it wasn’t that close at all.

David Cameron will be continuing as our prime minister.

A few points that non-British might be interested to read. As you know, this is not a politics blog. However, given what it is about, naturally a bit of the political is inescapable now and then; and a general election result like this one would perhaps reasonably constitute a “now and then.”

Continue reading

Politically Speaking…. Let’s Not

As you may know, there will be a British general (meaning United Kingdom wide) election on May 7. We will shortly find out if Prime Minister David Cameron (who heads a coalition government led by his Conservatives allied with a smaller “centrist” party called the Liberal Democrats), will run the British government for another five years, or if there will be a new prime minister (who would most likely be Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband). Currently, polls seem to indicate that it’s “too close to call.”

View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]
View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]

I don’t vote here in the United Kingdom, although I hope to someday after I become a British citizen. However, as a taxpayer, I feel I’ve got a right at least to a modest opinion. But I’m not sharing that here, and you probably don’t want to hear it anyway.

Continue reading