Am Proud Of President Obama Visiting Mosque This Week

Readers of history know that Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered in part for authoring the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  He even wanted this mentioned on his tombstone.  That most important writing helped move Virginia from having a strong state-established church to a place where the noble idea of freedom of conscience and separating church and state were demonstrated as the ideal.  It was in this legislation  that Jefferson specifically mentioned Muslims when describing the broad scope of protections he intended.  The purpose of writing about Muslims  was to show how broad and complete our nation’s religious liberty was to extend.

It is not up for debate if Muslims have a right to practice their religion or seek elective office anymore than one can question a Methodist or Episcopalian.   American Gospel by Jon Meacham which has earned high praise on this blog, and a book which is proudly kept on my shelves, digs into this issue and is most worthy of your time.

The reason this all percolates up for discussion again is that this week President Obama will travel for the first time as leader of this nation to a mosque.  The only fault I have with this trip is that is did not take place years sooner.

Obama will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, located in Catonsville, Maryland, to “celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life”.

At a time when there is far too much bigotry, xenophobia, and outlandish nationalism there needs to be a strong source of common sense to stand up and speak out.  Much akin to Lady Diana holding babies infected with HIV so too can Obama transmit a message of tolerance and place facts over the shouts and invectives from a certain demographic in this country.

The level of disgusting attitudes against Muslims is not in question.  Public Policy Polling found that among the GOP in Iowa this caucus cycle the voters were simply unhinged on this topic.

Do you think the religion of Islam should be legal or illegal in the United States?  49% Legal…….. 30% Illegal ……… 21% Not sure.   Clearly civics has not been taught in Iowa for a long time and certainly not taught in a manner designed for an enlightened citizenry.

The anti-Muslim sentiment needs to be brought under control and the best way to achieve that is to have strong leaders make moral and well-reasoned arguments as to why bigotry is wrong.  More and more we need to stress to the conservatives what one of their own stated.

President Bush (43) summed it up precisely.  “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.”

That again will be the required tone and theme of President Obama this week as he visits a mosque.

Butterfly–Not Moth–Update

It is a butterfly and not a moth.

I thought perhaps a fast update regarding the guest in our home is in order.  Readers might recall the day of the billion dollar lottery drawing this little guy showed up on a window in our home.  There was no way I could place it outside in the cold so it has become a part of our life here.

New flowers were bought this weekend with pollen makers aplenty.

I have been using a plastic orange peeler by dipping the end tip into a very heavily sugared water solution and then pressing it close to the butterfly’s face. The proboscis extends and soaks up the thin residue.  I think it is doing fairly well, considering that this is January in Wisconsin.  Today it fluttered out of the dish and up to the window when the sun was bright.   At dark and as cold settles in it is back to the flower.

I am told that if we had a real pet there would be a very spoiled animal here.  I think there is some merit to that thinking.

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Soviet Union Math Problem

Would you believe that the horror-filled Joseph Stalin was scared of air travel?  Today on Book TV it was noted that Stalin’s only time ever in the air was when he flew to Tehran for the Big Three conference with FDR and Churchill.

So here is my thought.

His internal enemies should have just created a seat that was camouflaged so not to reveal that it was easily jettisoned.  If a plane is flying at 20,000 feet and an object weighting 198 pounds falls…how long before a new leader is taking power in Moscow?

Ok—too much coffee here!

My Predictions For Iowa Caucus Night 2016–Midwestern Values Will Be Key

After the political events that have taken place since June 2015 it might seem the highest state of silliness to venture out with any predictions for the Iowa caucuses taking place Monday.  But to counter the point of view about just sitting back and letting the storm rage and then look at the damage once the winds calm is the fact that every election cycle I have offered predictions.   I certainly have missed many by a longshot, but also to be fair have called my share, too.

But this year I do feel more of a sense that I am flying by the seat of my pants.  After all, the way one always has been able to view political campaigns and the candidates who stepped up to offer themselves as public servants has been tossed about like play toys in the tub of a two-year-old.  How does one place common sense into the mix when an electorate applauds following a candidate who verbally beats on a prisoner of war?

I have had to adjust some of the lessons from political history in light of the characters and antics this cycle but there is one thing that I can not so quickly dismiss.  That would be the values of a Midwesterner–something that seems not to be a talking point when trying to explain what may happen Monday night in Iowa.

How much bombast, bluster, and bad manners can be heaped into one campaign?  That behavior may bring entertainment oriented citizens to a rally but will that also drive people to actually support such a candidate in a caucus where you need to stand with neighbors and make a public showing?  At the end of the day there is–I strongly suggest–something about the people of Iowa that will resemble the iconic images of corn fields and small towns more than the large jet carrying a rude candidate with an egotistical attitude.

At the end of the day in Iowa the values of the heartland will overcome everything else when it comes to Donald Trump.

There is no doubt that Ted Cruz is irksome and falling behind in the polls.  But over the weeks it is also clear where evangelicals stand when it comes to his popularity.  Add a tight well-funded campaign and what many have described as a great operation aimed for getting their caucus voters out on Monday night and I place him as the winner among the Republican contenders.

Marco Rubio is better suited for the vice-president slot given his demographic profile, and the fact there is still not a state where anyone can reasonably suggest he can actually win.   Rubio was at his best when months ago he reached for the heights of political imagery rather than resorting to the dark harsh language in an effort to compete with the Cruz types.   With huge ads buys Rubio has made an impression on Iowa along with his being a fresh face.  On Monday night Rubio who has seen his numbers lift in the polls will feel the results as he finishes in second place.

In what will be the major headline on Tuesday morning Donald Trump will finish in a very tight-placed third position following Rubio.  My reasons for making this prediction that would seemingly fly in the face of so many polls has to do with something that is often written about on this blog.  The lowest common denominators are often the headline makers–and that has surely been the case with the huge Trump rallies.  But at the end of the day serious minds will prevail.  I am not at all confident that the huge throngs at the rallies will be caucus-attendees.  I also question how much political infrastructure has been placed into the state to turn out the vote.  I also feel that small town Midwestern values will trump Trump.  I have failed over the past months to understand how deeply mere entertainment has disrupted the campaign for the Iowa vote, but my head does not feel the same lack of political maturity will show up at caucus sites.

On the Democratic side there is  tremendous amount of energy and glee over Bernie Sanders.  But the youth vote will not materialize in the amount required to allow Sanders the first place win.  Mark my words, campus turn out sites will not match expectations from the Sanders campaign.  More importantly rural areas will not be kind to Sanders.  Too many Democrats seek an actual victory in November and so will consider the pragmatic route the best one to take on a cold and perhaps even snowy night in Iowa.   Hillary Clinton wins Iowa caucus.

As always, given my feelings about gambling, please no wagering on my bets.

Have fun Monday night listening as the returns roll in from the rural sites all over Iowa.

Bringing Ted Cruz To His Knees

There is no way to hide my utter disdain for Ted Cruz who worked to undermine government operations so to boost his own public stature.  His slide to failure with his bid for the White House is the tonic this nation needs to see after the Capital Hill antics Cruz used to make a name for himself.  It is no wonder I think him very much akin to another disgraced senator, Joe McCarthy.

I still think Cruz might very well perform better on caucus night than some are projecting–due to evangelicals and what I predict will be a lower number of voters as opposed to rally supporters who show up for Donald Trump–but when it comes to the national bid for the White House this sick puppy is about to be sent packing.  There is every reason for a sensible observer of politics to smile this morning as Cruz is being brought to his knees by the Republican Party.

Without Trump onstage Thursday night, Cruz had his worst debate of the cycle. On Friday, he awoke to a blistering headline on the state’s largest newspaper—Rough Night for Cruz, blared the Des Moines Register—and fresh provocations from Trump, who has taken to calling “Canadian Ted” an “anchor baby.” The lead Cruz enjoyed in the polls in December and January has evaporated. With just three days until the first votes in the presidential campaign are cast, a campaign that observers once saw as the prohibitive Iowa favorite is suddenly limping toward the finish line.

Out on the trail, the mojo is gone. Cruz spent much of Friday dropping in on remote villages in rural northwest Iowa, home to few caucus-goers and even fewer undecided voters. He began the day in Ringsted, a hamlet of 409 near the Minnesota border, where he had to fend off questions about his controversial ethanol position in a bar with cinder-block walls and Chivas Regal on tap.

At his next stop in Fenton, pop. 279, a van plastered with “Ted Cruz Can’t Be Trusted” parked outside his retail stop in a local restaurant. Cruz campaigns gamely, offering selfies for grandparents and fist-bumps for gradeschoolers. While supportive, his crowds were modest and restrained, more befitting a summer flirtation than a surging favorite.

Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China

One of the books I am juggling this winter takes place in China during 1976.    It is one of those books about history that can be read a chapter on Monday and Friday while another book about some other historical event can be read a couple other days a week, and still a third on the remaining days.  I love to juggle books and unlike fiction where one needs to be more mindful of the characters so not to lose track of the story, works of history can be piled and read over time.
Which brings me to Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China.
I was a freshman in high school the day Mao died, and I recall it quite well.  PBS devoted their evening programming to a documentary on his life and Chinese history.  It was fascinating and left an impression on me.  The drama on the world stage was also a welcome distraction from the world of crazy that I was experiencing as a freshman.  (To read about that story consider my book, Walking Up The Ramp. which according to  Jeb Bush last night in the presidential debate is more expensive than his–by about $8.00)  To sit in our living room and travel back over Mao’s life remains one of those memories–and one of those events–that shaped my life-long yearning to know about places and people around the world.
So it comes easy for me to flip the pages of James Palmers’ book which places the God-awful and horrific earthquake that will decimate the industrial city of Tangshan in the summer of 1976, along with the deaths of  Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai into one epic sweeping fast-paced narrative.  The book is only about 250 pages of text and that includes the devastation of the earthquake that kills more than a half-million people.  With a summation of how China came to the end of the Cultural Revolution as Mao lies in his bed dying Palmer also gives sense as to how China emerged on the world stage ready to be potent in the decades to come.
This is not a book for someone looking for a week of vacation fun on the warm beaches of Cancun.   But for a lover of history who desires a fast and factual account of one year in the life of a place most will never venture to–and yet wanting to know more about a time worth recalling– this book will be a hit.

Lets Say Goodbye To Some GOP Presidential Candidates

As much as I love politics there was no way I could watch the kiddies debate last evening.  There was no way I could justify my time being spent watching Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore stand behind podiums pretending they had a chance at being more than a laugh line.

We all know that was the last debate before the Iowa caucuses but more importantly for everyone who cares about the party nomination it is also the last time those four jokers will appear on any presidential debate stage.    Within 10 days or less all of them will be gone from the presidential trail as they pull the plug on their campaigns.

Well, not every campaign.

Since Santorum is opposed to pulling life support we will just see him carry a jar with his campaign inside–akin to the fetus he lugged home from the hospital to show his kids after his wife had a miscarriage.

Huckabee entered this race for the dollars it would allow him to earn with future business deals while Fiorina wanted to see how many times she could undermine her own gender in one campaign.

And there is no earthly reason why Gilmore entered the race.

But thankfully they are all soon to be asterisks.

The New Yorker Cover “Bad Reception”: U.S. Presidents Frown On Donald Trump

Simply the most consistent magazine for covers that make a compelling point.  Please note that JFK is opening antacid tablets.