Madam Secretary – BONUS POST

“… the United States lost interest in the region, leaving behind thousands of militant people with few jobs but many guns.”
No, not North America.

1990’s Afghanistan, according to Madeleine Albright. And as is well known, plenty of other decades and places.

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Madam Secretary, A Memoir” by Madeleine Albright with Bill Woodward, published in 2003.

Albright was born in May 1937. She and her parents fled their native Czechoslovakia for England the following year. They moved back after the war. In early 1948, Communists took over Czechoslovakia, while she was sent to boarding school in Switzerland. Meanwhile, her father, a high-level diplomat, moved to the Czech embassy in South Asia to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir. Her mother, brother and sister made their way to the United States. They were eventually granted political asylum.

Albright married a journalist from an “economic royalist” family with extensive real estate and corporate holdings. “We continued to go to Georgia… Colorado… Virginia, where we added land wherever we could…” She built a high-powered career, beginning as a volunteer for political causes that required frequent global travel in the late 1980’s. “But my American passport made all the difference. I was able to meet with dissidents, then board a plane and leave. I didn’t have to make the choices they [Czech citizens, when they were a Soviet satellite] had to make each day of their lives.”

Albright served as UN ambassador in president Bill Clinton’s first term. She switched to secretary of state in the second term. In spring 1997, there remained numerous nations suffering continuous and continual political crises that arguably necessitated military intervention– despite the end of the Cold War. Albright represented the United States government in talks that resulted in an increase in the number of NATO members from sixteen to nineteen through adding Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary because they were approaching democracy sooner than other political territories.

Albright claimed that economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Libya actually motivated Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi to turn in the two suspects (traced to Libya) for trial, in the terrorist bomb-attack on Pan Am flight 103. However, around the same time, sanctions in the form of a trade embargo, failed to change any of the cronyism and corruption practiced by Fidel Castro of Cuba. Apparently, he wasn’t in a power struggle, and wasn’t afraid that his worldwide reputation would be tarnished by treating his country’s citizens worse than usual.

As for North Korea, in June 2000, president Clinton visited leader Kim Jong il in the capital Pyongyang for a summit meeting that resulted in reunions of South and North Korean families who had been separated for more than fifty years. “North and South Korean athletes marched as one during opening ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic Games…” Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about Albright’s trials, tribulations, and triumphs in trying to achieve world peace. Here is a parody that briefly describes a high-level, foreign-service position.

JOB OF A LIFETIME

sung / spoken to the tune of “Once in a Lifetime” [the long version] with apologies to Talking Heads (Brian Eno, Christopher Frantz, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth.)

And you may find yourself
living in a luxury hotel.
And you may busy yourself
flying all over the world.

And you may kid yourself
behind the scenes of a large cease-fire agreement.
And you may seat yourself
in a situation room
with a complicated plot.
And you may declare to yourself, well,
There’ll be no nuclear war here!

Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Attending meetings, writing reports
while shenanigans abound.

Picking your battles again.
Tribal fighting never gone.
Job of a lifetime, though shenanigans abound.

And you may mutter to yourself
How do I word this?
And you may ask yourself
What happened to that peace-keeping mission?

And you may lament to yourself
This is not in my country’s best interest!
And you may think to yourself
Good luck with that civilian administration.

Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Attending meetings, writing reports
while shenanigans abound.

Picking your battles again.
Tribal fighting never gone.
Job of a lifetime, though shenanigans abound.

We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.
We need more global cooperation.

Conflict Resolving and troubleshooting.
There is conflict all over the earth.
Visit the conflict, minimize the conflict.
Resolve the conflict, all over the earth.
Conflict resolving and troubleshooting.

Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Attending meetings, writing reports
while shenanigans abound.

Picking your battles again.
Break the silence on war, there is conflict on the earth.
While the media cut you down.
Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.

Picking your battles again.
Tribal fighting never gone.
Job of a lifetime, though shenanigans abound.

You may wonder to yourself
Who is that foreign minister?
You may mumble to yourself
What is the world coming to?
And you may sigh to yourself
Who is right? Who is wrong?
And you may growl to yourself
Arrgh! What is going on?

Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Attending meetings, writing reports
while shenanigans abound.

Picking your battles again.
Tribal fighting never gone.
Job of a lifetime, though shenanigans abound.

Trying to do your best
while the media cut you down.
Attending meetings, writing reports
while shenanigans abound.

Picking your battles again.
Tribal fighting never gone.
Job of a lifetime, though shenanigans abound.

Witnessing history all the time.
Witnessing history all the time.
Witnessing history all the time.

Thank goodness that war is over.
This treaty has too many loopholes.
And another disaster.

Promote democratic values worldwide.
Promote democratic values worldwide.
Promote democratic values worldwide.
Promote democratic values worldwide.
Promote democratic values worldwide.
Promote democratic values worldwide.

Trying to do your best.
Witnessing history all the time.
And the refugees come.
And here come the refugees.
Lost in translation.
Trying do your best (Witnessing history all the time.)
We need more global cooperation…

Do It Again

DO IT AGAIN

(regarding the impeachment trial, of course)

sung to the tune of “Do It Again” with apologies to the Beach Boys.

It’s nostalgic when I
confer with old friends,
like the Constitution
and the Trump we knew
when his behavior was bad and mean
and the court was the place to go.

Legal logic and
waves of questions,
the Washington crowd and
beautiful drama,
warmed up lawyers. Let’s
get together and do it again.

With reams of evidence the latest case looks good.
The Dems can’t help but take a parting shot.

Time to move on.

Move.
Move.
Move.
Move.
Move.

Mm hmm.
Mm hmm.
Mm hmm.
Mm hmm.
Mm Hmm.

Well, I keep looking at

all the things we’ve Tweeted and posted
and all the

zingers we’ve missed so let’s get
back together and do it again.

Counsel Counsel Counsel…

COUNSEL CHAMELEON

Sung to the tune of “Karma Chameleon” with apologies to Culture Club. This is the song Trump is singing now.

There are a lot of pesky laws in my way.
I lose more legal guys every day.

I don’t want a conviction.
But it’s clear I don’t know
how to sell
all my fictions.
It’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon,
it’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.
Nothing is easy ’cause my lawyers don’t like my schemes.
But it’s free speech! But it’s free speech!

I’m allowed to speak my mind anytime.
And if my props obey, it’s not a crime.
You know my hate is an addiction.
What I say is never wrong.
Don’t think I’m gone, gone forever.
I will return, I will return.

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon,
it’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.
Nothing is easy ’cause my lawyers don’t like my schemes.
But it’s free speech! But it’s free speech!

The Constitution allows some lenience.
I upheld it, at my convenience.
The Constitution allows some lenience.
I upheld it, at my convenience.

I don’t want a conviction.
But it’s clear I don’t know
how to sell
all my fictions.
It’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon,
it’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.
Nothing is easy ’cause my lawyers don’t like my schemes.
But it’s free speech! But it’s free speech!

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon,
it’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.
Nothing is easy ’cause my lawyers don’t like my schemes.
But it’s free speech! But it’s free speech!

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon,
it’s touch and go.
It’s touch and go.
Nothing is easy ’cause my lawyers don’t like my schemes.
But it’s free speech! But it’s free speech!

Counsel counsel counsel counsel counsel chameleon…

Our Leaders Are Like Teens

OUR LEADERS ARE LIKE TEENS
sung to the tune of “Only In My Dreams” with apologies to Debbie Gibson.

The powers-that-be are keeping secrets.
We need to end their gravy train.
We’re losing our democracy,
in shrill-whining-Debbie-Gibson pain.

We must return to basic civics,
and regulate again.
Bring back laws on guns and Wall Street,
and cut how much we spend.

Yes, our leaders are like teens
with their social schemes.
They manipulate the scenes.

We need a lot more governing.
Not more polls. Not more Tweets.
Now we see our world come tumbling down.
Now all they see are Party seats.

Congress has to get the tough votes,
and go back to how it used to be:
The good bills got enough votes.
We’ll know again how it feels to be free.

Yes, our leaders are like teens
with their social schemes.
They manipulate the scenes.

Yes, yes, yes, yes our leaders are like teens
with their social schemes.
They manipulate the scenes.

Yes, our leaders are like teens
with their social schemes.
They manipulate the scenes.

Yes, yes, yes, yes our leaders are like teens
with their social schemes.
They manipulate the scenes.

Yes, yes, yes…

Precarious

PRECARIOUS

sung to the tune of “Aquarius” with apologies to the Fifth Dimension.

When the boss was in the White House
and his cult confronted cops
then violence guided their protest
and hate did steer his props.

This is the dawning of the age of Precarious.
The age of Precarious.
Precarious! Precarious!

Scare-tactics and grandstanding,
hypocrisy, mistrust abounding.
Only falsehoods and derisions.
Hyper-hostile party divisions.
Economic devastation
and government’s deliberation.
Precarious! Precarious!

When the boss was in the White House
and his cult confronted cops
then violence guided their protest
and hate did steer his props.

This is the dawning of the age of Precarious.
The age of Precarious.
Precarious! Precarious!

As the votes got counted through the night,
can’t wait to inaugurate
to be the bearers of the new world order.
Only time will tell our fate.

We’re in the clutches of the age of Precarious.
The age of Precarious.
Precarious! Precarious!

Scare-tactics and grandstanding,
hypocrisy, mistrust abounding.
Evil, evil machinations,
germs-and-bullets consternation,
wrong-headed in policy courses
guided by historical forces.
Oh dear, us. Precarious.

Outsider in the White House

The Book of the Week is “Outsider in the White House” by Bernie Sanders with Huck Gutman, published in 1997, with an afterword added in 2016. This was a combination bragfest / rant of a political-career memoir.

In 1981, Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He was a member of the Independent party. The then-board of aldermen (equivalent to a city council) consisted of eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Citizen Party member. They outvoted him at every opportunity. Nonetheless, he was able to get rid of sweetheart contracts, and establish:

  • competitive bidding;
  • a Little League;
  • a tree-planting initiative on city streets;
  • a summer concert series;
  • a Progressive Coalition that helped get board-of-aldermen candidates elected, who would help him. [In 1982, three of six Wards of Burlington won their elections. But the Coalition never did get a majority on the board];
  • community-oriented entities (such as the Burlington Women’s Council, and a Youth Office that included a Teen Center, to implement local initiatives such as Operation Snow Shovel); and music and cultural events.

Sanders improved city services in law enforcement, firefighting and sanitation. He secured programs for TRULY affordable housing (unlike in New York City). Although he was the mayor of a city, he delved into the foreign-policy issue of then-president Ronald Reagan’s wasting of taxpayer dollars in Latin America. For, those dollars could have been better spent taking care of U.S. citizens in his city.

In 1988, Sanders ran as an Independent candidate from Vermont for the U.S. House of Representatives, against a Republican and a Democrat. He nostalgically reminisced that they ran “… civil, issue-oriented campaigns. The debates were respectful and there was no negative advertising, no desire to ‘destroy’ the other person.”

As a Congressman in the 1990’s, Sanders attempted to legislate raising minimum wage, and blocking the elimination of a subsidy for home heating for the poor. He actually sponsored legislation to:

  • help dairy farmers in his state;
  • block a raise in pay (compliments of American taxpayers) given to the Lockheed-Martin board of directors and CEO;
  • create more affordable housing; and
  • stop insurance-company discrimination against the poor.

In 1996, Sanders wrote that Republican leaders went hog-wild in bashing: gays, immigrants, affirmative action, abortion and welfare. On that last issue, they made serious cutbacks which resulted in savings that were STILL less than an increase in military spending of about $60 billion over a six year period.

Sanders considers himself a socialist. His political philosophy toward economics seems to harken back to a 1940’s term that ought to be used more often–a label given to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: “NCL” or Non-Communist Left. Sanders wrote not one word about his views on any Soviet dictator. There was no indication whatsoever that he espoused the political system of Communism.

Schlesinger summed up NCL thusly: “The welfare state, I observed, did not at all mean direct government control over the economy. It was perfectly compatible with the free market. It meant simply the establishment of basic national standards of living for all citizens… The electoral process offered the means by which noncapitalists– farmers, workers, intellectuals, minorities– could invoke the state to defend themselves against capitalist exploitation.” Such process “… brought about a relative redistribution of wealth that defeated Marx’s prediction of the immiseration of the poor…” which leads to class resentments that boil over into violence when dissatisfaction reaches critical mass.

Read the book to learn more about Sanders’ political career. The following parody sums up Sanders’ description of the American political culture of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, just as the original theme song from the TV show “All in the Family” fondly recollects American popular culture of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS

sung to the tune of “Those Were the Days” with apologies to the Estate of Gene Raskin.

Boy, the way Bill Clinton played.

Bills for war, tax cuts and trade.

Guys like Bush, they had it made.

Those were the days.

And you were told what you were then.

The Apprentice, Idol, Seinfeld, and Friends: made us long for a man like Ronald Reagan a-gain.

GOP smeared the welfare state.

Social media squelched real debate.

Gee, our online lives ran great.

Those were the days.

Message in A Black Hole – BONUS POST

Message in A Black Hole
sung to the tune of “Message in A Bottle” with apologies to The Police.
A song Trump is singing now.

Just a castaway, but I don’t want to concede, oh.
With more votes, I’ll get back in the lead, oh.
More lawyers than anyone could bear.
I haven’t any shame so I don’t care, oh.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole, yeah.
Message in a black hole, yeah.
Years have passed since I’ve won the globe
but I resist liberals’ every probe.
I hope my supporters can keep me in power.
I can win again and
I can break those Dems.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole.
Message in a black hole.
Oh, message in a black hole, yeah.
Oh, message in a black hole, yeah.
Rallied this morning.
You know what I saw.
Lots and lots of ballots in states that I adore.
Seems I’m in love with being loved.
Lots and lots of lawyers.
I can’t stand being snubbed.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole, yeah.
Message in a black hole, yeah.
Oh, message in a black hole, oh.
Oh, message in a black hole.
Sending out an SOS.
Sending out an SOS.
Sending out an SOS…

The Truths We Hold

The Book of the Week is “The Truths We Hold, An American Journey” by Kamala Harris, published in 2019. This autobiography comes from yet another female in politics who deserves bragging rights. Her passion for justice and common-sense, early-intervention approaches to helping at-risk populations has made a difference in countless lives.

Born in Oakland, California in 1964, the author considers herself “black” although her father was from Jamaica and her mother, from India. Her parents divorced when she was five. She, her mother and younger sister moved to Montreal when she was twelve.

Harris acquired the power to put someone behind bars simply by signing a document, when she became a prosecutor in Berkeley, California. Upon getting elected district attorney in San Francisco, she co-founded a program– Back On Track– that helped first-time law-breakers escape the poverty cycle by helping themselves through: job training, community service, classes that taught GED tutoring and parenting and money management, and drug testing and counseling.

For the first two years of Back On Track’s existence, the recidivism rate among first offenders dropped from 50% to 10%. That turned out to be far less expensive than prosecuting and jailing or imprisoning such people. The program was duplicated in Los Angeles.

In 2010, at a little after 10PM on election night, the San Francisco Chronicle announced the alleged elected attorney-general of California. As is well known, though, newspapers are hugely influential and wrong all the time. But election coverage especially, is emotionally charged. At 11PM, Harris’s opponent, thinking he was the winner, gave an acceptance speech. Weeks later, Harris won the race.

Harris’s was the first state to implement the mandatory use of body cameras for its law enforcement agents. On a different issue, the attorneys general of all fifty states were involved in settlement talks for the subprime mortgage crisis. The big banks were offering literally– a little bit of compensation proportional to the disastrous losses of the residents of respective states, who were behind on their mortgages. Even reasonable reimbursement would not make anyone whole again because bad loans led to adverse subsequent events: joblessness, homelessness, relocations, major life disruptions, suicides.

California had had the highest number of foreclosures of any state (and various victims– not just homeowners– had red ink in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the aggregate). By rejecting the banks’ initial, insulting offer– Harris infuriated both the banks, and most other states’ negotiators. But she inspired grass-roots organizers of homeowners, activists and advocacy groups to push for “…justice for millions of people who needed and deserved help.”

Read the book to learn about: the exciting conclusion of California’s mortgage negotiations saga; Harris’ opinions and actual professional doings in connection with major modern social issues such as immigration and healthcare, and her mother’s cancer care– along with other personal information.

ENDNOTE: Unfortunately, Harris’ running mate, Joe Biden, appears to be less sharp than she is at this time. Here’s a parody that briefly describes his woes:

LAWYERS, LAWYERS AND LAWYERS

sung to the tune of “Lawyers, Guns and Money” with apologies to the Estate of Warren Zevon.

I served some global patrons

the way I always do.

How was I to know, they were with the Russians, too?

I was caught on video bragging.

I hope you take my case.

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers.

I’m trying to save some face. Hah!

I’m an innocent candidate,

but somehow I got caught.

Now I’ve been betrayed

by those who have been bought.

Yes, those who have been bought.

Well, those who have been bought.

Now I’m hiding in my basement.

I hope to stay in the race.

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers.

Save me from disgrace.

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers.

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers.

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers. Hah!

Send lawyers, lawyers and lawyers. Ow!

Taking in the Masses

Taking in the Masses

sung to the tune of “Grazing in the Grass” with apologies to Hugh Masekela
and The Friends of Distinction

Sure is scandalous, taking in the masses.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

What a job just hushing up scandals of the past.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

There are too many politicians who go free while
taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

The family members making out besides the appointees.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

And the pundits’ lies and smears stinging like bees.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

And the claques, flacks and sycophants always eager to please.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

Everything here is so opaque you can’t see it.
And everything here is so fake but some believe it.
And it’s fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake.
Can you rig it?

I can rig it, he can rig it, she can rig it, we can rig it, they can rig it,
you can rig it.
Oh, let’s rig it. Can you rig it baby?

I can rig it, he can rig it, she can rig it, we can rig it, they can rig it,
you can rig it.
Oh, let’s rig it. Can you rig it baby?

The family members making out besides the appointees.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

And the pundits’ lies and smears stinging like bees.
Taking in the masses, yes, baby can you rig it?

Everything here is so opaque you can’t see it.
And everything here is so fake but some believe it.
And it’s fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake, so fake.
Can you rig it?

I can rig it, he can rig it, she can rig it, we can rig it, they can rig it,
you can rig it.
Oh, let’s rig it. Can you rig it baby?
I can rig it, he can rig it, she can rig it, we can rig it, they can rig it,
you can rig it.
Oh, let’s rig it. Can you rig it baby?
I can rig it, he can rig it, she can rig it, we can rig it, they can rig it,
you can rig it.
Oh, let’s rig it. Can you rig it baby?

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT TO SAY THE DISEASE OF COVID IS FAKE. BUT POLITICS AND PROPAGANDA HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FAKE.