Archive for the August 2008 Category


Astonishment at the antics of American politicians does not come easily to this old geezer of ancient vintage. However, the events of the past two days have caused this old gaffer a full-fledged case of complete astonishment.

On July 29, 2008 Barack Obama held a rally in the town of Springfield, Missouri. That city is a pleasant place which has no distinction other than the fact that it is located near the borders of the great states of Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. During the rally, Senator Obama remarked that, among other things, he did not look like the pictures of presidents that are printed on our currency. I took no notice of that announcement because I believe that I have no resemblance to the pictures on the currency of the United States. But John McCain took great umbrage to the remarks of Mr. Obama and McCain and his handlers flew into a bit of a fit.

All of this flowed from the innocent remark that Obama’s face did not resemble the faces of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

Almost immediately, they produced a television commercial with what they called “true celebrities” and dismissed, for example, Obama’s speech to 200,000 Berliners saying that it gave him no right to call himself a celebrity. My recollection is that Obama on no occasion ever made a claim that he was a celebrity. Quite to the contrary, Obama is saying that he is the son of a Kansas farm girl and was raised largely by his grandmother after the father deserted the family at Barack’s age of two. Obama has worked very hard to dispel the idea that he is an elitist. He is much more at home playing basketball with a bunch of ditch diggers and auto mechanics. No claim was ever made in the Springfield meeting that Obama sought celebrity status. Yet McCain and his handlers insisted that by saying that he did not resemble the faces of the people pictured on American currency, Obama was playing the race card. I am astonished that they would make that conclusion as well as by the course they took in their commercial.

My astonishment rose from the fact that they were able to use Britney Spears and Paris Hilton as their measure of true celebrities. Those two self promoters are the stuff of The National Enquirer, a newspaper that is found at the bottom of the stacks of newsstands. One of the reasons that we watch Chris Matthews on MSNBC is that he has long since decided that any mention of those two overindulged “celebrities” would be completely banned from his program. I am told that Britney Spears has even been threatened with confinement in a psychiatric hospital. Being confined to a mental hospital would hardly seem an appropriate qualification for a genuine celebrity.

If John McCain is using Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in his presidential bid, it would be safe to assume that his campaign is in desperate shape.

My astonishment at the alleged reference to the race card brought me face to face with my own case of celebrity, which I now suspect may become an issue of notoriety. On the same day that Senator Obama is alleged to have played the race card, the federal authorities in Washington announced the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is the oldest Republican in terms of service in the United States Senate.

The indictment alleges that Senator Stevens accepted the rebuilding of his vacation home with all sorts of gadgets to make it more luxurious. It also alleges that he got a very favorable deal on a Land Rover furnished by the contractor. Senator Stevens overlooked reporting the gifts, which is required under penalty of prosecution, when he signed his name to a form having to do with gifts to politicians of senatorial caliber. You may recall that Senator Stevens is an advocate of the “bridge to nowhere,” which was a bridge costing hundreds of millions of dollars that would serve an island in Alaska with a population of only perhaps 50 people. Senator Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, became so angered by the bridge to nowhere that it may never be built. I believe that Senator Coburn is usually an insane man, but in this case I trust that he is on the right track.

But the issue of celebrity with respect to Senator Stevens goes much further and involves your old essay writer. From March of 1966 until September of 1969, the Carr family occupied a residence on Jordan Road in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1968, Senator Stevens was first elected to the American Senate and bought the house immediately next door to my house. For nearly 40 years now, I have let it be known that I owned the house next door to Senator Stevens’ residence, which makes me, in my own estimation, a true full-fledged celebrity. It might also be noted that in the years in question, I was a lobbyist for AT&T who had the great and good fortune to live next door to a United States Senator. In point of fact, I never saw Senator Stevens or his wife or any of the children who resided in the home next to my own. Occasionally two boys, who may or may not have been the sons of Senator Stevens, played a raucous game of basketball in the back yard, but they were never introduced to anyone. There was a sense of foreboding about the Stevens house.

Washington is a town of “out-of-towners” whose desire to make friends in Washington soon becomes obvious. But in the case of Senator Stevens’ house, none of my neighbors had ever visited or associated with the residents of that house. But nonetheless, among my fellow lobbyists I did nothing to discourage the idea that I was close to Senator Stevens in view of our residences on Jordan Road. Now, however, with the indictment of Senator Stevens, I suspect that my celebrity status has begun to slip and that it will be necessary for me to conceal my “non-involvement” with him to avoid a case of notoriety.

But there you have a case of celebrity turning into a case of notoriety. Since the indictment, I no longer introduce myself as the former owner of a house next door to the Stevens residence in Washington. Senator Stevens has demanded a quick trial, which apparently will be held some time in September. If the trial is held in Washington, as opposed to Alaska, I suspect that Senator Stevens will be a full-fledged case of notoriety and my status as a celebrity will go down with the sinking of the Stevens warship. But such are the ways of Washington. Harry Truman said that if you want a good friend in Washington, you should buy a dog. I can tell you from personal experience that Senator Stevens had no dog in Washington, so perhaps he brought this on himself.

If John McCain has the backing of Senator Stevens, as well as the backing of celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, perhaps he will win the forthcoming election in a runaway.

August 5, 2008
Essay 330
Kevin’s commentary: I am afraid that this website has done nothing to reduce Pop’s notoriety. The site has had 1,334 unique visitors since its inception — not a terribly terribly high number, but still not bad! 139 people have taken the time to visit the About Ezra page, to boot. About seven people come read essays every day — I’m not sure this is sufficient to qualify as a celebrity or not; perhaps I need to do more advertising. I wonder if Ted would endorse this website?


Those of you who are familiar with the nuances of American southern speech patterns will instantly recognize the term “uppity.” It is used most often as an adjective with the nouns that follow being “colored folks,” “blacks,” or, even worse, the vulgar term that rhymes with bigger. My uneducated guess is that when the term “uppity” is used, it applies about 90 to 95% of the time to people of Afro-American parentage.

David Gergen, who was a counselor to both the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, and who has southern roots, recognized the term “uppity” instantly. In comments broadcast on August 3, David Gergen explained that the term was used always in a derogatory fashion. Gergen, who is apolitical judging by his having served both the former Bush administration and the Clinton administration, can hardly be accused of bias with respect to the current political campaign. It is Gergen’s belief that the McCain campaign is not only playing the race card but is accusing Obama of being uppity as well.

I am familiar with that term and recognize that it has to do with anyone who attempts to rise above his station in life. In the instant case, we are being told by the McCain campaign that for Obama to meet with the President of France, the Prime Ministers of Germany and England, and the Presidents of Israel and the Palestine Authority as well as King Abdullah of Jordan, is a case of being uppity. When other American senators, all white, meet with all of these authorities, they are never accused of being uppity. They are seen as merely doing their jobs. But with Barack Obama, a different measurement is applied and he is considered to be uppity as a mere United States Senator calling on, for example, the President of France. The ultimate facts in this case are that Obama is a black man who also happens to be a Democrat, which stirs great anger in the souls of unreconstructed southerners.

Southerners are not the only ones to share these feelings. McCain’s campaign is, unfortunately, now being run by the same people who in the year 2000 accused McCain himself of fathering a black child. The fact is that he simply adopted a Bangladeshi child whose complexion was quite dark. But these are the people to whom McCain has, unfortunately, turned over his campaign.

In the last week or so, after the conclusion of the Obama trip abroad, they have accused Obama of trying to be a celebrity. Apparently being a celebrity is a great sin to those who are running the McCain campaign. To prove their point, they have cut a commercial featuring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who they claim are two true celebrities while Barack Obama is just an ordinary uppity Senator from Illinois. This has not gone unnoticed by observers on the American political scene. Yesterday in the closing remarks that Bob Schieffer offered to round out his August 3rd Face the Nation broadcast, Bob Schieffer, who also has southern roots, used the term “tarts” to describe the two females in the television commercial. “Tarts” is a term not often used these days but in point of fact it is a synonym for prostitutes. Are we to view this commercial and conclude that because these two “tarts” seem to favor John McCain, he should get my vote as well? I assume that the McCain campaign paid these two young “tarts” to show their picture in the commercial. It might also be observed that prostitutes accept money for their services as well.

McCain says that he is proud of this ad, but his 95-year-old mother says that he should be ashamed of it. This old essayist agrees with McCain’s mother as it relates to this commercial. Paris Hilton’s mother also disapproves.

I regret that the campaign has now taken a turn toward the unseemly. John McCain used to be considered a brave and honorable man. It is regrettable that he has lent his name to this campaign which is now being marked by vitriol. However in the final analysis, it should be remembered that the word “uppity” is merely the adjective that is used in most cases to precede the noun that follows, which makes it a loaded term. David Gergen and Bob Schieffer recognized this instantly, as did I.

My first recollection of the American political scene took place in the election of 1928, when Al Smith, the Governor of New York, was running against Herbert Hoover. Smith was a Catholic and I regret to say that the same forces who united to bring us the good and great Herbert Hoover were very much the same as those today who accuse Obama of being uppity. I regret to say that in 80 years it seems we have made very little progress in tolerance. For my own part, I simply hope that there will come a time when the Constitution will be fully honored and men and women may compete for the presidency without the age-old prejudices. Hope springs eternal.

August 5, 2008
Essay 331
Kevin’s commentary: It’s astounding that they’d even consider using that word in a campaign against a black candidate. It just seems extraordinarily short-sighted — how on Earth is that ever, ever going to help?

I attended a big conference the other day where Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, asked the audience how many women there had been labeled “bossy” at one point or another in their lives, and about two thirds of them raised their hands. She asked the same question to the men in the audience and almost nobody raised a hand.

All this reminds me that I personally have it really lucky. I’m a white male in a country which has historically been controlled almost exclusively by white males. I am this country’s “default” insofar as there is one of those, and discrimination hasn’t ever hurt me. It frustrates me that attitudes have been so slow to change.


I wish this essay were about the song “Georgia on My Mind,” with its wonderful recordings by Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, and Louis Armstrong. But as it turns out, the Georgia on my mind is a European country under the domination of the Russians which now intrudes into all of our thoughts. Perhaps I can put my sentiments into a single sentence. That sentence would embrace cowboy talk and a slightly vulgar maxim having its origin in the United States Army. My thoughts are that our beloved President is “fixin’” to put America’s ass in a sling. The sling will be provided by Bush’s great and good friend, Mr. Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia who takes great delight in the recent ascendancy of his country and who also enjoys sticking it to his friend George W. as often as possible.

Georgia, as you know, is a pipsqueak country located at the foot of Russia and until the 1980s was completely under the domination of the Soviets. As a matter of information of no great importance, the original dictator, Josef Stalin, was a Georgian himself. In recent days, Georgia has fashioned itself into a democracy under the leadership of its President, Mikheil Saakashvili. Mr. Saakashvili is a bit too big for his britches. As the President of Georgia, he seems to envision himself as a leader in world affairs, not to mention a genius in the field of battle. Vladimir Putin of Russia regards Mr. Saakashvili as no more than an overgrown twerp leading a country that used to be a simple province of Russia.

Mr. Saakashvili, in his role as a great leader, has even hired an American lobbyist named Randy Scheunemann. Mr. Scheunemann’s services do not come cheaply in that Mr. Saakashvili paid his lobbyist $800,000 to lobby the United States on behalf of the great state of Georgia. It must be obvious to everyone in the world that a president who can hire an $800,000 lobbyist is to be taken seriously at all times.

In recent months, George Bush, our cowboy President, has taken it upon himself to appear in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, to laud Mr. Saakashvili’s leadership of this great democracy in the heart of what used to be the Soviet mainland. It is apparent that the President of Georgia has made a fundamental mistake in that he has concluded that praise coming from George Bush represents the backing of all of the leaders in the so-called western world. That is a blunder of the first order. The cowboy president merely reads what is put before him without comprehending what he is really saying.

Condoleezza Rice, our Secretary of State, even made a trip to Georgia to remind President Saakashvili that words of praise did not mean that he was free to provoke the Russian bear. Clearly, the President of Georgia dismissed the warning from Condoleezza Rice as the meanderings of a school teacher or head mistress.

And so it was that Mr. Saakashvili bragged to the world about the democracy that he was heading, believing that he had the full armed support of the western world. Mr. Saakashvili was mistaken in every respect of that belief.

Earlier this month (August 2008), Mr. Saakashvili set out to take over the province of Ossetia, which had been in dispute between his country and Russia for some time. He made an unimaginable blunder in that he used fire power in his effort to take over Ossetia. The Russians were poised to take advantage of such a blunder. They poured troops and tanks into Georgia not only to validate their claim to Ossetia but also to overthrow the government of Mr. Saakashvili. The President of Georgia has not yet been overthrown but all things being equal, it is clear that he is impotent. His recent statements make it clear that he had the belief that western powers would come to his aid even though he was the aggressor in trying to take over the province of Ossetia.

Now that the Russians have eaten his lunch, he is asking why his allies weren’t there when he needed them. The facts of the matter are that when you are a pipsqueak country and you reside in the neighborhood of the big black bear, one should praise one’s democracy only modestly and should not poke the bear in the eyes by invading a province that was in dispute between Georgia and Russia. Even Condoleezza recognized this fact and warned Saakashvili to lay off. He didn’t do that.

Russian forces are now in Georgia and have made it absolutely clear that they will go home whenever they find it convenient. On August 15, 2008 Condoleezza Rice made another trip to Georgia to get the President to sign a ceasefire which effectively would curtail his misadventure into Ossetia. She hoped that this would cause the Russians to go home, but no luck. The Russians merely admired her handwriting and said, “We are staying until we are ordered to go home.”

Now the scene shifts from Tbilisi to the Rose Garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. On several occasions since this flareup with the Georgians and the Russians, Mr. Bush, our beloved President, has appeared to announce to the world that Russia has damaged world relations and we should all think less of the Russians for that reason. The Bush administration has even cancelled a joint exercise with the Russians on a naval maneuver which means absolutely nothing.

But Bush and his Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, have loudly proclaimed that this is a watershed in the dealings between our two countries and that the damage has been done by only the Russians.
Mr. Bush has worn a path in the Rose Garden with his continual announcements of how badly the Russians have treated our relationship. The Russians seem not to have noticed or to care. On her most recent trip to Europe to take the ceasefire agreement to Saakashvili, Condoleezza Rice went to Paris and then to Tbilisi, but she scheduled no stops whatsoever in Moscow. An observer such as myself has to wonder why it is that the United States drew a pledge to stop activities in the current war only from the Georgians. Apparently the Russians had not much to do with it. In any case, Mr. Bush is about ready to wear out the lectern in the Rose Garden with his frequent poundings.

Pounding is about all that Bush can do because in his years in office, Bush has squandered the American military in terms of lives and endurance in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every observer has to know that Bush’s threats are completely empty because he has nothing to back them up. And so it is that he assaults the lectern in the Rose Garden while the Russians stay in the great state of Georgia.

There are two other thoughts that need to be expressed here in that Mr. Bush wishes to have an anti-missile defense shield, supposedly to stop missiles from Iran across Europe. The Russians believe that the installations for the defense shield are nothing more than emplacements for bombardments of Russian territory and they are deeply and genuinely angered. This past week, when Bush announced that he was going to place some of his anti-missile defenses in Poland, the Russians responded by saying that this might encourage them to give the same treatment accorded the Georgians to the Poles. The Poles have suffered under both the German and Russian occupation of their country, and I am certain that this will give them great pause. In any case it is another instance of Mr. Bush putting America’s ass in a great sling.

Then there is the thought that Russia supplies a heavy proportion of the natural gas and heating oil used in the rest of Europe. Last winter, when there was a dispute between the Russians and the Ukrainians, the Russians found it quite easy to turn off the spigot. One should notice that the Germans, the Swiss, the Austrians, etc. are in no hurry to register their displeasure with Russia over the Georgian matter. In this instance we are out there alone and the Europeans have no desire to freeze this winter merely to accommodate a clown like George Bush.

And so it is that George Bush is wearing a path all around the Rose Garden while he makes these terrible pronouncements about the Russians. He has even accused them of “bullying and intimidation.”
If there was ever a case of the pot calling the kettle black, as in the instance of bullying and intimidation, our cowboy President is exhibit number one. I suppose that George Bush also supports the contention of his candidate in the Republican nomination, John McCain, that says that no civilized country invades another. Do Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush forget that we invaded Iraq? In the final analysis, it seems to me that the Russian bear has listened to the fulminations of George Bush and as a result has decided to urinate on Mr. Bush’s leg while he gazes into Bush’s eyes to see the effect upon his soul. When the Russian bear decides to retreat to its embassy on Sixteenth Street in Washington, he will leave a bear dropping on the north portico of the White House. Unfortunately Yale and Harvard did not teach our beloved President that you provoke the Russian bear only at your own great peril. And now that the bear has been provoked, the fearless leader of this country has announced that he is prepared to go on vacation. I suppose this proves that stupidity never stops.

August 16, 2008
Essay 333
Kevin’s commentary: I’m often surprised how relevant Pop’s older essays can be. I’m publishing this one on March 1st, the same day that Russia approved troop movement into Ukraine. The more things change the more they stay the same. At least Obama is a little more competent, and they’re talking about shutting Russia out of the G8 instead of just canceling some ship exercise.

Still though, the fact that these guys have a seat on the security council is good in that we won’t start a third world war, but bad in that the UN’s hands are pretty tied.