Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

An Exaggerated Sense of His Own Importance

Dear Mr. President:

I hope this finds you well.

I hope this finds you, actually.

I hope you’re as much of a relentlessly temperate man as my observations of you, these last six years, suggest that you are. (Considering that the legislators with whom you work have been statistically proven to be more do-nothing than the actual “Do-Nothing Congress”, and considering the legion of people who would take issue with you if you commented that the sky was blue … you might be the most patient President who ever lived.)

Since I don’t wish to test that patience, I’ll try to cut right to the chase.

Can I make a tiny request?

If you do decide to send US military personnel back into the frightening cauldron that is Iraq – more people than just 300 people with the disconcertingly familiar moniker of “military advisors” – may I ask that you don’t do it lightly?

It would be a welcome contrast to the last time the US sent military personnel there.

I see what you did with Syria, last year. Rattled the sabers nicely, got everybody over there good and jumpy. Really had a few of us genuinely jumpy too, got us suspecting that US military involvement in the Syrian civil war was imminent. To the point that it convinced otherwise scary people to give up their scary weapons when nothing else had convinced them to do so. Made me freshly impressed – even made me embarrassed that I’d seemed to underestimate your capacity for the ol’ Head Fake, the concept of the diplomatic “made you look”. Anybody who conducts a lengthy political career anywhere near Chicago, as you did, has to be at least a little bit good at political negotiation. I was gently reminded.

The present Congress appears not to be capable of doing much of anything, never mind pass a resolution about a contentious issue such as this. If the Republican-controlled House passes something, the Democratic-controlled Senate slaps it down, and vice-versa. So, in this era of the unitary executive, I guess the decision ultimately is yours.

I suppose that these factors should make me a bit more relaxed – not in a Constitutional-scholar way, and certainly not in a future-terrifying-President way, but in a living-in-the-moment way.

If I were a Constitutional scholar, I would really rather seat the ability to send this nation into combat with more than just one person. I would like at least the illusion that a group of people had gotten together and debated and then decided. I’m not totally convinced that our legislative branch represents its actual individual constituents – ya know, the ones that physically go to the polls to vote, rather than just sending campaign contributions and paying for TV ads. But it would be a more comfortable illusion than the “l’etat, c’est moi” alternative.

If a future unitary executive turned out to be a loon or a sadist or a sociopath, I assuredly wouldn’t want wartime to exist on her or his say-so alone.

Living in this moment, and using the evidence provided to me by what’s left of our journalistic Fourth Estate, I observe that your style appears to be, “let everybody have their say, and then if the decision really is mine alone anyway, do what I think is wise”. Selfishly, I tend to gravitate toward that, perhaps because it’s been my style, too. You don’t come off, most times, as an autocratic fellow. And even though I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely every decision you’ve made as President since January 2009, and even though sometimes I think you actually have let people yammer on for far longer than they deserve, given their relative standing in the world, without hauling off and verbally smacking them on the back of the head … my political leaning and my admiration for temperance has caused me much more often than not to be on the same page as you are.

So, by all means let pundits and politicians dive in front of the nearest TV camera and try to convince you (or at least everyone else) to send soldiers back in to Iraq. I would hate to think that the President of the United States has time to watch every Sunday-morning chat show and every prime-time cable news channel commentary program, and anyway they’re probably not displaying any opinions you haven’t already heard and considered and damn sure they’re not always offering too many actual immutable facts.

I’m sure you know what it looks like when the mass media gives a platform to people who, twelve years ago, had advocated for US military action in Iraq on the basis of evidence that was later discredited, or had predicted outcomes that did not occur (ignoring thirteen hundred years of historical record), and in doing so had revealed themselves or their organizations to have been paying attention to the nicely corrupting influence of the military-industrial complex rather than to the memories of their history classes (or a relatively easy trip across their study to a damned encyclopedia).

I’m pretty confident that you do look at the occasional video clip and shake your head and allow one of your measured chuckles to emerge.

As long as we’re all (including your critics) pretty lathered up over the recent revelations of stupidity within the VA, and all reflexively expressing Support For Our Troops, I hope we can all keep in mind the inevitable effects of sending soldiers into combat. Win, lose, or stalemate, soldiers are humans, not “Iron Man 2” automatons, in spite of how we dress them nowadays – and the horrors of war are of a sort that I cannot imagine, and that Hollywood movies apparently don’t come close to simulating accurately. People return from combat damaged somehow. If we’re going to inflict that on them, we’d better be damn sure it’s for a good and achievable cause.

I’m not making this request based on any information about how possible it may be to land US military boots on the ground in Iraq and be able to make a spit of difference in what’s going on there now, or what has been going on for more than a century. You have access to more Intelligence than I do. And while I fervently wish that no more innocent Iraqis die because of a relatively small but violent bunch of militant insurgents running around with pickup-truck-mounted machine guns and IEDs, and an official Iraqi government that seems unable to get its act together for whatever legitimate reasons … that’s not my main impetus either.

I am, instead, making this request based on two major things.

First, I’m responding to squishy, bleeding-heart-liberal concerns like “war is awful and we ought not get into it lightly”. And second, this past week I have had a bellyful of the fear- and war-mongering and “we would’ve won this thing if we’d just have stayed longer, kinda like forever” of Senators McCain and Graham, Messrs. Kristol and Wolfowitz, and especially our most recent former vice president, whose Wall Street Journal op-ed piece revealed once and for all a roiling, bitter case of psychological projection. (Just about the only thing missing from this week’s bouquet of unwanted advice is the former half-term governor of Alaska supposin’ that we ought to send in our armor-plated kids to baptize the heck outta those bad guys with guns, you betcha.)

Speaking of unwanted advice: mine. You’re a busy man (he suggested, with understatement on a Biblical scale); it’s likely that you’ve got more on your plate than “read this blog post”. So I suppose I can hope that someone else inside the White House is expressing this gentle request:

Think hard. Support our troops in deeds, not just words. And don’t cave, on some third-rate media pundit’s say-so.

Sincerely (and I mean that),

Your friend, the fourth-rate blogger,



June 21, 2014 Posted by | current events, government, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smug Year-End Review

Well, everyone else is publishing one of these 2010 retrospectives, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t muddy the waters as well.  I shall call this: “Superlatives of 2010!!!!”  With just that many exclamation points.

Feel-Good Story of the Year (Which Every Media Outlet in America Instantly Recognized as a Hanging Curveball): The “Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Los mineros de Chile!” chant at the rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners in October. My only question is, did anyone follow up with a conversation about mine safety regulations? Hello? … Hello? …

Global News Story of the Year, Nominee #1: collapsing economies. US, almost, a while ago; Greece and Ireland this year; and this cannot be over, can it? Note to self: do not forget about the numerous national economies which have NEVER been in good shape, the ones in which they don’t even have a decent water supply, or the ones in which the local government leaders think it’s in their best interests to step on their own people’s figurative necks.

Global News Story of the Year, Nominee #2: the weather. Jeff Masters, founding meteorologist of Weather Underground, said, “In my 30 plus years of being a meteorologist I can’t ever recall a year like this one as far as extreme weather events go, not only for the US but the world at large.” For local confirmation, please chat with my friends in Delaware, who had no idea what to do with 28 inches of snow arriving in one shot; or chat with my mother about the five and a half feet of water that visited her basement this spring, and she lives nowhere near an actual river or body of water.

Organization That Produced the Loudest, If Not the Greatest Number of, Faintly Dangerous Attention-Getters: the Tea Party. Honorable mention: the NBA.

The “You Do Realize What You’re Saying, Don’t You?” Award, Nominee #1 (of a frighteningly large number): Sharron Angle, Nevada senatorial candidate, for this badly veiled threat: “I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies. They’re saying: My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?” WE turned around pretty quick at that one.

Most Dispiriting Discovery, Nominee #1: This was the year in which President Obama discovered that, in spite of his wish to instill Change, Washington politics are so spectacularly entrenched that compromise (ya gotta give a little to get a little) can indeed feel like getting screwed over (ya gotta give a little to still get nothing out of your opponents…!).

Most Dispiriting Discovery, Nominee #2: Christine O’Donnell.

Best News, Nominee #1: The official pullout of US combat troops from Iraq. Now if only we can figure out what to do in Afghanistan. Hint: same thing. There’s a reason they call Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires”. Just ask the Soviet Union.

Best News, Nominee #2: the trade of Randy Moss from the New England Patriots to the Tennessee Titans. If you’re a Patriots fan, anyway.

Most Conveniently Ignored Building: the Islamic mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. –The one that’s been there since the 1970s.

The “Where Are They Now?” Award: victims of the earthquake in Haiti, all the way back in January. Right about where they were, I think.

Easiest Easy Decision Made Difficult: the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Yet another example of institutionalized discrimination finally dealt with, in some respect. And check it out! A political campaign promise is actually fulfilled. And who knew we’d actually be thanking Joe Lieberman for his work on something?

Biggest Event Planner Disappointment: Opt-Out Day. Mass protests of new (and fairly “oo! get your hands outta there!” personal) TSA airline-travel security measures were planned for the biggest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving. Reports seemed to indicate that a lower-than-expected number of people loudly refused to submit to either the patdowns (easy there, sailor) or the full-body scans which didn’t constitute porn but didn’t exactly remind people of Victorian portraits either.

Most Dangerous Decision: The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision made in Citizens United v. Federal Election commission: essentially, government cannot restrict spending by corporations for political campaigns – because it is the corporations’ First Amendment right to support candidates as they see fit. Which is to say, officially, money is speech.  What about people who don’t have much money?  …Yeah, I thought so.

Least Perceptive Public Relations Statement: “I want my life back,” said BP CEO Tony Hayward, lamenting the amount of time and effort it was costing him to deal with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by an explosion at one of BP’s offshore drilling rigs. Well, he got his yacht races back pretty quickly. The wildlife being killed by that oil spill could not be reached for comment, but it probably wanted its life back too.

Most Unfortunate Irony in a Public Statement: “We…insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved.” This, from Pope Benedict XVI, while issuing an apology for years of sexual abuse of children by priests … an apology which marked the end of the Roman Catholic Church’s Year of the Priest.

Simultaneously Best and Worst Way to Leave Your Employer: Airline flight attendant Steven Slater grabbing two bottles of beer and sliding down the emergency chute after being abused by a passenger.  If you have to burn a bridge, make sure it’s a bouncy fun one.

Scariest Excuse for a State Governor: Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Virginia, Minnesota and even Massachusetts offered occasional faint competition this year, but honestly, if you heard this lady give a speech, she was both ominous and incompetent simultaneously. Extra points awarded for seeming to be just plain heartless and mean.

The “Still Out There” Double-Meaning Award: North Korean “dear leader” Kim Jong Il.

The “Can’t Decide Whether I’m Behind Him or Not, And Feel Like I Should Know” Award: Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

The “Hope Springs Eternal” Award: Virginia Thomas, wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something,” she said in a voice mail left for Anita Hill, asking Hill to apologize for accusing Justice Thomas of sexual harassment nineteen years ago. (In the process, Mrs. Thomas probably said more than her husband reportedly has said from the bench in his entire Supreme Court career.)

False Equivalency Award: George W. Bush. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do,” he (or someone) wrote in his new memoir, Decision Point, saying he still feels badly that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. Not as sickening a feeling as that endured by any father or mother of a US soldier who has been killed in Iraq since 2003. But undoubtedly sickening.

Musical Instrument of the Year: World Cup vuvuzelas.

Second Most Recent Example of a Coddled Professional Athlete Drawing a Pass for Behavior That Would Spell Permanent Ostracizing for the Rest of Us: Tiger Woods.

Most Recent Example of a Coddled Professional Athlete Drawing a Pass for Behavior That Would Spell Permanent Ostracizing for the Rest of Us: Michael Vick.

Best AND Worst Marketing Ploy: LeBron James spending an hour on ESPN before declaring, humbly, that he was “taking [his] talents to South Beach” and the Miami Heat.

Best Sporting Event Audience Participation Moment: fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, greeting LeBron James upon the occasion of the Miami Heat’s first 2009-10 regular-season visit to James’ former home court.

Best Early-Season Sports Result: best record in the NBA as of December 25 belonging to, not the Miami Heat, but the San Antonio Spurs. Somewhere in Texas, Tim Duncan is chuckling quietly.

Team You Kinda Had To Root For, Even If Very Few of the Players Are From That City: The 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Sporting Event in Which the Players Were Believeable When They Said They Were Thrilled to Be There: the NHL Winter Classic, Boston Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers, at Fenway Park. (Anyone remember that?)

Most Briefly Yet Forcefully, and Least-Deservingly, Vilified, Semi-Pro Athlete: John Shuster, inconsistently successful captain of the struggling US Olympic curling team at the Vancouver Games in February. Happily, most people once again think he’s somehow related to a guy named Simon, if they think of him at all.

The Actress Wisdom Award (Zero-Irony-or-Sarcasm Division): “Your face tells a story – and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office.” –Julia Roberts, saying no to Botox.

And Still My Favorite Public Person, When Push Comes to Shove: Michelle Obama. Asked what accomplishment she was most proud of after her first year at the White House: “My kids are sane.”

Least Meaningful Controversy: Conan O’Brien vs. Jay Leno.

Latest invention that I don’t have the grit to try and figure out: Kindle. I like turning pages with my own darn fingers anyway, thanks.

My own personal arts-related discovery of the year: the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Look these people up on YouTube and have a giggle.

Famous Persons No Longer With Us (some of whom I’m embarrassed to say I’d forgotten about till now):

Manute Bol, absurdly tall basketball player. Robert Byrd, US senator from West Virginia; Ted Stevens, US senator from Alaska. Richard Holbrooke, US diplomat. Lena Horne, jazz singer. Dame Joan Sutherland, opera singer. Irvin Kershner, director of (among other things) The Empire Strikes Back (nerd alert). Leslie Nielson and Peter Graves, two thirds of the cockpit crew of the movie “Airplane!”. Mitch Miller, a bandleader whose Christmas album was the first record I ever wore out (age about 7). Elizabeth Post, he reported politely and with perfect etiquette. J.D. Salinger, author (this news was just sad, and all). Daniel Schorr, truly intrepid journalist. Jean Simmons, an actress I should have paid more attention to before. John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach, at age 100. Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian Olympic luge competitor who died violently at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Mosi Tatupu, New England Patriot running back. Don Kent, legendary Boston meteorologist. John Henning, veteran Boston political reporter. George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, of the New York Yankees. Pat Burns, former hockey coach of both the Boston Bruins AND the Montreal Canadiens. Jill Clayburgh and Tony Curtis, actors. Elizabeth Edwards. Bob Feller, Hall-of-Fame baseball pitcher. Billy Taylor, jazz pianist.


Hardest, Strangest Words To Type: any sentence beginning with “George N. Parks” and ending with “passed away”. While the untimely passing of a college band director may not qualify as a national or international news event … well, perhaps it might, actually, within certain contexts. Click upon this link or paste it into your web browser and read an article that describes why we may have lost a larger contributor to American music than we even may have thought: http://artsedresearch.typepad.com/blog/2010/09/george-n-parks-1953-2010-a-life-in-context.html

And then read this article – it’s perhaps a bit less strictly scholarly, definitely more personal; but another very apt description, from UMass drum major Aaron Staluppi … the same view, from a different angle: http://halftimemag.com/articles/11-2010/11-2010-behind-the-baton/starred-thoughts-about-george-n-parks.html


My current Facebook status says, “Happier New Year.” May 2011 be so. We live in hope.


P.S. And check it out. Not a single Fox News reference. I am the very model of restraint. Clap for me.

January 1, 2011 Posted by | band, baseball, blogging, celebrity, entertainment, Facebook, Famous Persons, football, GNP, government, heroes, journalism, literature, marching band, media, movies, music, news, politics, science, science fiction, social media, sports, technology, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments