Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Decision Time in America

I voted

Donna and I voted on Saturday, October 27 here in Baltimore, on a warm fall day before Superstorm Sandy hit. We waited for three hours in a long line. Ironically, we voted at the League for People With Disabilities at 1111 East Cold Spring Lane, where my father had worked as head physical therapist for 16 years, so it was an emotional return for me to that building where I had spent some time either waiting for my father to drive my Mom and I home to Owings Mills -- I was attending nearby Loyola College and my Mom was receptionist at Glens Falls Insurance on York Road -- or the summer of 1969 when had a job stuffing there envelopes with Baltimore Colts tickets for season ticket holders! Not that I really recognized the League -- the outside was pretty much the same, the original building, with its datestone "1963" when they moved there from their former headquarters on Greenmount Avenue but the inside evidently vastly remodeled as far as I could tell, though the building was mostly off limits for the voters, the area where the PT department had been seemingly quite changed.

League for the Handicapped Baltimore

It was a good natured line of mostly African American voters. There were a lot of campaigners out in force for question 6 on the ballot -- for same sex marriage, and a young black guy in front of us requested for a lawn sign from one of the campaigners. I voted for question 6 and made sure first and foremost that I voted for Barack Obama for President and Joe Biden for Vice President. The country does not want to go backwards, and Obama and Biden are the progressives in this election. It's hard to know what Romney stands for. He has been on all sides of so many issues. His Vice Presidential pick, Paul Ryan, is easier to categorize: a right to lifer and a Tea Party budget guy. Romney chose him to please the Right Wing and the pick might have backfired. We will soon know in a few short hours. I just hope that the election does not go once again to the Supreme Court as it did in 2000 when the Court threw the election to George W. Bush with all that entailed -- an unwanted war in Iraq and the economy in the tank. Obama and Biden are correct in warning that those sort of policies, including the idea once again of "trickle down economics" would be a serious mistake for the nation. The United States deserves better and will get better if Obama gets the four more years he has earned! On MSNBC last night I watched Obama's last campaign speech, broadcast from Des Moines, Iowa -- it came on around 11:00 p.m. Baltimore time. Barack Obama was introduced by his wife Michelle who spoke well and movingly. Barack gave a rousing speech with a tear in his left eye. I have to admit I had tears in my eyes as well!

Fabulous Decision

Police frisk us
in Democracy Plaza.
We've nothing to declare.
Just our vote.

Christopher T. George
Election Day, November 6, 2012

In the higher echelons, the decision will echo and re-echo, for better or worse. Americans, make your choice well!!!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bain of America: Capitalism and the 2012 Election

Mitt Romney Logo
Obama round logo
President Barack Obama has been taking some grief from his own supporters for criticizing likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for killing jobs and making money while Romney was head of the "Venture Capital" firm Bain Capital. This is something though that Romney has partly brought on himself by emphasizing his experience with Bain and for hardly ever mentioning his time as the moderate governor of Massachusetts, where he was behind a state-wide health insurance law that later became the blueprint for Obama's nationwide health care law, the Affordable Health Care Act, better known by the pejorative term Republicans love to use, "Obamacare", and that each would-be Republican presidential candidate in the GOP primaries vowed to kill if they'd become president.

Romney himself has crowed that he actually created jobs rather than killed them while was at Bain so perhaps the criticism is fair. But Obama supporters such as Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. have all expressed misgivings about the approach since it leaves the President open to the charge that he is against Capitalism. That is a very fair point.

Romney does not like to talk about him being governor of Massachusetts but that should not stop Obama and the Democrats from talking about it. In fact, the whole of Romney's working life and character should be fair game, just as the whole of Obama's career and time as President should be fair for the Republicans to talk about. Let's talk about Romney's time as a businessman, his time as governor, and as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City in Utah. Talk about the issues and who is best to lead the United States from 2012 to 2016. Mitt Romney is not Darth Vader but neither is Barack Obama. They both seem to be decent family men who happen to think they each would make the better leader for the next four years. The election promises to be a tight one. Let's make it a fairly fought one!

I have nothing against Mitt Romney. I just don't think he would be very good for the country. I don't think his business experience necessarily qualifies him to run the country. More trickle-down economics? Wasn't that tried under Reagan and found that it didn't work? Austerity? Nobody wants it. I just think that Mitt Romney is a somewhat boring stuffed-shirt kind of guy, not particularly interesting, and wrong for America at this time.

Sorry, Mitt. And while I have you on the line, Mitt, a crazy thought: your logo, my friend, keeps reminding me of Alfred Hitchcock's logo from his 1960's television show, "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"!

Alfred Hitchcock logo

Clerihew on the 2012 Election So Far

Barack thinks his rival's time at Bain presents a fair target,
making money at others' expense, the way of the market.
Others say it gets to the root of what is the US of A
-- in the Fall election, who will get the final say?

Christopher T. George

American Battlefield

Military Cemetery

Rows and rows of stone markers,
rows and rows of the same flag:
so many stars, so many stripes.
Only the names and dates differ.

Christopher T. George

Photograph from Americans for Battlefield Protection. Find them on Facebook.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Obama's Wily Maneuver on Same-Sex Marriage


Motor scooter Obama
I sense that President Barack Obama made a very wily move in the effort to get himself re-elected by coming out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts. I don't think it's any coincidence that the announcement came almost exactly six months before the November Presidential election. Nor any coincidence that his statement came just before he was to attend a lucrative fundraiser with Hollywood stars hosted by actor George Clooney. Nor that the statement precedes a commencement address that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is scheduled to deliver on May 12 at Liberty University, a bastion of higher learning for evangelical Christians in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. Will Romney take the bait and make some remarks about marriage being only between a man and a woman? It is also pertinent to note that recent polls show that 50% of Americans support marriages of gays and lesbians.

Hooray! Obama has reinvigorated his base with this declaration of support for the rights of gays and lesbians as also, at long last, he is talking tougher on foreign policy and about the intransigent Republican-dominated Congress, particularly the Republican majority House of Representatives. Although there was some suspicion that Obama's hand was forced by remarks in support of same-sex marriage by Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday's "Meet the Press." But Biden's remarks were pre-recorded on the Friday before the airing of "Meet the Press" and not an ad-lib. It seems likely therefore that this was not another case of "Loose-Lips Biden" but rather that the two statements were calculated to be made at this very strategic moment.

In contrast, Romney has had a hard time courting the Republican base. Evangelical conservatives are lukewarm on him, partly because of his Mormonism, and they probably would have preferred Rick Santorum or some other rightie with better religious and conservative credentials. In fact, due to his discomfort with those right wing social issues, Romney would rather be talking about the economy and not social issues at all, because he knows he has an advantage in economic areas... or at least his advisers seem to think that's where he is strongest, emphasizing his business and management experience at the expense of putting a spotlight on his background as the moderate governor of Massachusetts where he passed into law a health care system that critics label "Romneycare" and that served as the model for Obama's health care mandate excoriated as "Obamacare" by conservative critics.

At last, Obama is standing for something. A very wise move because I do not believe the "Hope and Change" battle cry of 2008 will work this time. He has not exactly delivered on that pledge of bringing "Hope and Change" to Washington and the nation.

It's also good because it's not clear what Romney stands for other than he wants to replace Obama and can sing "America the Beautiful" badly. He seems to be an awkward cipher of a businessman. The same man who flunked the chance to stand up to right-wing radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh over the broadcaster's disgraceful remarks about Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke after her testimony to Congress when he called her a prostitute, and who condoned the hushing up by his campaign of Richard Grenell, an openly gay spokesman on foreign policy, leading to that aide's resignation less than two weeks after he had been hired by the Romney campaign. (A source told CNN that "Grenell was told on several occasions not to speak on the campaign’s conference calls with reporters. . .") Similarly, Romney did not correct a member of public who recently asked him a question and remarked that President Obama should be tried for treason -- his whiff on that being in stark contrast to John McCain's reprimand to a woman during the 2008 campaign who impugned Obama as a terrorist. It's not certain what Mitt Romney stands for. He has demonstrated time and time again that he has no backbone. Arguably he does not deserve the chance to be President of the United States. Is the cover of the latest cover of the New Yorker a portrait of Romney?

New Yorker Cover

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Joseph Kony

Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has been in the news recently because of the video gone viral, “Joseph Kony 2012.” This terrorist leader has been on the run for years, one of the worst and bloodiest men in Africa, known for atrocities throughout Uganda, Ruanda, and the eastern Congo, yet he seems to lead a charmed existence that has kept him out of the grasp of justice.

The following poem of mine placed third in the October 2006 Interboard Poetry Competition (IBPC) representing Writer's Block--

Joseph Kony

The Lord told me, "Raise a children's army."
So I formed the Lord's Resistance to fight
the oppressors in Kampala. My boys burned
village huts, killed, cut off people's ears and lips,
-- now their mouths stay open, the better to pray
and their ears strain to hear the Lord's words.
Some ask why we did all these things. Why does
a leaf fall? Is it not because God wills it?
When my children pounded babies in wooden mortars,
dare you question it was the Lord's request to me?
Now some name Joseph Kony a war criminal. Yet,
the way of my people, the Acholi, is to forgive, to invite
all to the mataput, to share a roasted
sheep. I will quit the jungle with my sixty wives
for nothing less than full amnesty, the shared meal.
I will emerge from the jungle shadows,
an old lion bringing the wisdom of my Lord God
to the young lions to tell them to let the holy oils anoint them,
a stone sewn into their garments
so a mountain projects to shield
them and all bullets bounce off.
And I will sing in praise
of the Lord of the limping and the lost,
Lord of the empty basket,
of the water turned to blood,
of the severed lips and ears -
the butchered lamb at the feast.

Christopher T. George

Judge’s Comments:

Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning couldn't have foreseen that the dramatic monologue would be put to such use, but that's what the tradition is all about; you take the best from the past and you ring changes on it. Here, a blood-drenched man speaks his mind, and we despise him, yet we understand him. A poem is not going to work unless the reader can say, "Well, yes, I guess I've felt that way myself." We say that after reading this one and then we flinch, not at the subject but at ourselves, at these beasts and angels we call humanity. --David Kirby

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thoughts on the Oscars 2012

The Oscar crowd were obviously glad to see Billy Crystal back as M/C, warm smiles all round. Back in the comfort zone after Ricky Gervais's stunts at the Globes. Something tells me that Ricky won't get an Oscar nod any time soon unless he cleans up his act. Billy's opening segment was well done but similar to what he has done at previous Oscar ceremonies, skits inserting the comic into the various leading nominated movies. Amusing and went down like ice cream. Acceptable. Just what the Academy ordered.


The stunt pulled by Sacha Baron Cohen appearing on the Red Carpet in his role of the bemedalled, long-bearded Gadaffi-like dictator in shades to promote his upcoming movie was edgier, particularly as the comic contrived to spill the ashes from a golden urn allegedly containing late North Korean Kim Jong-il's ashes on Ryan Seacrest's tuxedo. That will provoke protests from the North Koreans I should think. Ugly. The Oscar organizers were probably wise to have first said no to Cohen's proposal to appear in costume and should not have caved. They only left themselves open to such an incident.

Sacha Baron Cohen Sacha Baron Cohen, promoting his upcoming film, "The Dictator," attended the Academy Awards carrying an urn of what he claimed to be "Kim Jong-il’s ashes."

As expected, "The Artist" and "Hugo" swept many of the awards and Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") edged out Viola Davis ("The Help") for Best Actress in something of a shock. It was nice to see Octavia Spencer from "The Help" for Best Supporting Actress, about which she was entirely overcome. A bit of real emotion among the artificial. Jean Dujardin, whom some are calling the French George Clooney, won for Best Actor for "The Artist."

Meryl Streep, with her win as leading actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," has become the third actor to win three Oscars. The others are Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman, and Walter Brennan, who each won three. Katharine Hepburn won four. The win by "The Artist" as best film is the first win by a silent picture since "Wings" in 1929.

It will be interesting to see if Dujardin can go on to have success in English language "talkies." I bet with that million dollar smile, he can do it.

I thought the decision to have chamber musicians in the balcony to add spice to introduce the segments was interesting and different.

I have some more thoughts about the movies in general and this year's crop on my blog over at Eratosphere at "My Left Foot . . . . and Smelly Dog." Check it out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

. . . and nothing but the truth

Tower of London Traitors Gate

The above view, taken from an early twentieth century postcard, shows Traitors' Gate at the Tower of London, through which visitors to the London tourist attraction are told, prisoners were escorted from the waterside of the River Thames and up the steps on their way to imprisonment in the Tower and possible execution.

Among the prisoners that the doughty black and scarlet-clad Tudor uniformed "Beefeaters" or Yeoman Guards at the Tower inform tourists were led through the gate were Henry VII's second wife Anne Boleyn, who would be executed at the block within the grounds of the ancient Royal castle, and, at a later date, her daughter, the future great Elizabeth I of England, the "Virgin Queen." Stirring history indeed!

Unfortunately, though, it isn't true that those pathetic prisoners, traitors, ex- or future queens and courtiers who has lost favor with the monarch, came that way, according to Dr. Geoffrey Parnell, former historian at the fortress. Dr. Parnell also says in an article in the latest issue of Ripperologist that the location of the block where Anne is said to have lost her head is wrong as well. Oh dear.

Not only that but the famous story that countless visitors have been told over the decades that the famous ravens of the Tower of London have been there for centuries is also a manufactured myth maintains Dr. Parnell in his article, "Riddle of the Tower Ravens Almost Resolved," in Ripperologist 124. Any evidence that ravens have lived at the Tower for centuries is either meager or non-existent. Indeed, the likelihood seems to be that the ravens were given to the Tower by a Lord Dunraven in the nineteenth century. Yes, you read that right, Lord Dunraven. Nonetheless, as Dr. Parnell says, "Visitors to the fortress are told that as long as there has been a Tower there has been a contingent of ravens within the walls" -- the supposed hoary legend being that if the ravens ever left the Tower it would fall.

Dr. Parnell, says, "It is clear that even today much of the popular history on offer at the Tower owes more to the nineteenth-century story telling than historical research." But it makes for exciting and exhilerating history to tell it that way, doesn't it?

As for the story about the Traitors' Gate aka "Watergate", that seems also to be a nineteenth century invention as well.

Dr. Parnell writes: "visitors are shown the stairs leading down to Traitors' Gate and told that the future Elizabeth I of England stopped and protested her innocence on the steps as she entered the fortress as a prisoner during Mary’s reign. In fact the stairs were introduced in 1806 when the waterfilled basin was remodelled and partially infilled. In any event it is known from contemporary accounts that Princess Elizabeth landed at the Privy Stairs towards the west end of the Wharf and that she entered the Tower via the bridge at the Byward Barbican."

Dr. Parnell tells us, "I have studied Tower documents of all sorts for over thirty-five years and I have never come across any official reference to the transportation of state prisoners through the 'Watergate' and up the stairs leading out of the back of the water-filled basin beyond. In fact, the extant basin and stairs were only laid out in 1806 while references to the earlier arrangement (now buried beneath Water Lane) dating from the reign of Queen Mary in the sixteenth century refer to women inhabitants of the castle damaging the stairs by battering their washing on the steps while others laid excrement."


Seeing as it is Presidents Day. I cannot finish without addressing the old story of George Washington and the cherry tree. Of course, the story is part and parcel of the whole mythos about the first American president, and it goes as follows: as a boy, George cut down one of a cherry tree on his father's land. When confronted by his dad, he said, "I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie!"

George Washington and the Cherry Tree
The tale, as it was intended to when it was invented, makes Washington sound like a very virtuous person. But the story seems to have been totally made up from whole cloth by a Parson Weems in the early nineteenth century. As you can see, the nineteenth century, with its cloying romantic notions, has much to answer for!

Here's the lowdown on Weems and the tale about wee George and the cherry tree from "The Moral Washington: Construction of a Legend (1800-1920s)" by Adriana Rissetto:

"The story of Washington and the Cherry Tree, a tale which still lingers through probably every grammar school in the U.S., was invented by a parson named Mason Locke Weems in a biography of Washington published directly after his death. Saturated with tales of Washington's selflessness and honesty, A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits, of General George Washington(1800) and The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen (1806) supplied the American people with flattering (and often rhyming) renditions of the events that shaped their hero. Weems imagined everything from Washington's childhood transgression and repentence to his apotheosis when 'at the sight of him, even those blessed spirits seem[ed] to feel new raptures' (Weems, 60). According to historian Karal Ann Marling, Weems was struggling to 'flesh out a believable and interesting figure. . . to humanize Washington' who had been painted as 'cold and colorless' in an earlier, poorly-selling biography. While it is likely that some readers of the time questioned the authenticity of the tales, Weems' portraits soared in popularity in the early 1800s."

On my blog over at Eratosphere, I blogged last week on "All About Mitt... and What the One Hand Doesn't Know the Other Hand Is Doing." Check it out. Also don't forget my new War of 1812 blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine for Whitney

Smithsonian Roses

Whitney Houston had an angel voice, for sure;
abuse, a drug like a brutal man, demands more.
Now with the angels she sleeps
and her fans and friends weep.


Never more hungry
all desires satisfied
oh, what ecstasy!

Having hands to love
we should all be so lucky
feel that loving touch

Their mother aches
while the husband holds
the kittens aloft.*

Is it just a glitch
are we really in the ditch
feel free speak up

Twiddle your thumb
I will eagerly await
your sweet tweet

to give your love:
too much unhappiness
exists in the world right now; be

We share
all our passion
for poetry, kindness:
we long to see both spread throughout
the earth.

That high
won't last, my child
-- not any high that is
artificially induced.
Get straight.

Christopher T. George

The Fab Four

* These poor little babies are orphans.

witters on the My Liverpool forum wrote:

I wonder what these little kittens think, I'm up at all hour's at the moment.
We look after them for a local Rescue centre.
They are called the Fab four yes John Ringo Paul and John even though one's a girl.
They were dumped at the gate.
My husband is holding them in the pic.

Thanks to witters for allowing me to use her photograph, and congratulations to witters and her husband for the outstanding work they do to rescue and care for such cats.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baltimore in Winter

Purple flamingo in Baltimore snow

Purple flamingo in Baltimore snow last year.

Bird City

The Orioles play
in orange 'n' black,

and tho' Ravens are black,
our team wears purple.

Folk got purple flamingoes
on their lawns and porches.

My Gloves

I am wearing black gloves,
one wool and one leather;

they keep me warm
as snow sifts down.

I may remove one
if I feel the urge

to write a poem.

Christopher T. George

Flattened glove 3
Flattened glove in a Baltimore gutter.


Lord, are we finished with winter?
Daffodils dance near my D.C. office,

herons repair their nests by
the Anacostia River, getting ready

to rear a new crop of youngsters.
All of Mankind longs for Spring.
Will you give it to us, Lord?

Christopher T. George

Filthy Baltimore Snow Feb 20 2009 f
Filthy Baltimore Snow Feb 20 2009 e
Filthy Baltimore snow, in February 2010.
All photographs by Christopher T. George.
As some of you may recall, I broke my left ankle
on February 1, 2011, so February snows are not
a pleasant memory for me! See my blog posting
of March 9, 2011, from which I reprise the

Baltimore snow Jan 2011 B

Baltimore snow Jan 2011 A

Donna's purple flamingoes in the snow

Winter Breaks

I negotiate our brick front
steps on my crutch, notice
the blond ragged stubs
of the white dogwood, snapped

by the weight of January's
heavy snow, clear proof
that I am not the only
victim of winter, here where
I slid and crumpled down

the black-iced steps, splitting
my distal fibula like a twig.
Oh, dogwood, oh, soul-mate,
I'll miss your bridal blossoms
we lost in that thundersnow!

Getting Dopplered

My shin gored by the bull of winter,
left leg still blown up twice its size
where I fractured my distal fibula,
I go for a doppler to rule out DVT.

The gell freezing cold as the day I fell,
she says, "Usually we have it warm."
Great to hear! From my groin to my toes,
she thrusts the doppler probe

close to the family jewels.
"Ee-ooh!" I cry.
"I know!" she says.
"No! You don't!"

Christopher T. George

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Battle of Long Island

The Delaware Regiment at the Battle of Long Island, 27 August 1776. Domenick D'Andrea for the U.S. National Guard (public domain).

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, fresh from his triumphs in the GOP primary in Florida and the Nevada caucus, leaving former House speaker Newt Gingrich in the dust on both occasions, said the following yesterday:

"We are the only people on the Earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. It was FDR who asked us to do that, in honor of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far-off places."

A short piece in today's Washington Post finds fault with this statement on several bases.

First of all, the writer, Glenn Kessler, expresses amazement that Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, doesn't remember seeing athletes of other countries besides those of the United States putting their hands over their hearts during the playing of their national anthems. Maybe he has a short memory!

Second, there is no evidence that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself said that Americans should put their hands on their hearts during the playing or singing of the national anthem. True, the U.S. Flag Code does call for citizens to place their hand over their hearts both during the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." But that comes from a directive at the time of World War II in 1942 when the United States was at war with Nazi Germany.  It was felt that the old salute looked too much like the Nazi salute! Get those hands down.

According to Kessler, who had an email communication with Richard J. Ellis, a professor at Williamette College, and author of To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance, there is no evidence whatsoever that FDR himself asked that Americans put their hands over their hearts during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance. So those are the facts, my friends. For more go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker.

I was reading yesterday on the Maryland State Archives website about the origin of the term "The Maryland Line" for the Maryland troops of the American Revolution.  Here we come across more myth and misinformation.  Read on. . . .

The legend is that the first U.S. president, General George Washington, conferred the name "The Maryland Line" because of his gratitude for the bravery of the 400 Maryland soldiers who protected the rear of his army at the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (aka Battle of Long Island) in August 1776, when they saved the American army by themselves taking grievous losses while his troops withdrew across the Gowanus Creek ahead of a massive army of Redcoats, saving General Washington's bacon and likely that of the nascent United States as well.

In fact, according to Ryan Polk, Research Archivist at the Maryland State Archives in a 2005 article, "Holding the Line: The Origin of 'the Old Line State'", while it does seem as if the name "Maryland Line" was indeed a name conferred on the Maryland Troops for their bravery and does date first from the time of the Battle of Brooklyn, there is no evidence in anything that Washington wrote to prove that he came up with the name. I had suspected that the name might also have some relationship to the a nickname for Maryland as "The Old Line State" which I had thought had to do with the Mason-Dixon Line, which of course is the dividing line between Maryland and Pennsylvania and also the technical divide between the rebel "South" and the "North" in the Civil War.

However, Mr. Polk writes: "Though the first use of the name remains elusive, the history of the name does not support a relationship to the Mason-Dixon line. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon finished surveying their boundary line by 1768. No hint of the name appeared before the Maryland Line fought in the Battle of Long Island on 27 August 1776."

So there you have it my friends, Just the Facts, Ma'am!

Your App Doesn't Love You

I stepped out of the cab into a river
of cold storm water this morning;
now at lunchtime, sun, brisk breeze,
the yellow blossoms of daffodils nod.

I walk up the hill toward the hotel,
see cops with dogs, reminder of
the Jihad-fearing times we live in--

over the trees, the white dome
of Thomas Jefferson's memorial;
the Post prints his hand-written
list of slaves he owned; beyond--

the monument to Martin Luther King
lies hidden across the Tidal Basin.

Christopher T. George

* This poem was written at the end of January.
A couple of hours later around 3:15 pm, I
received an email to say that the Secret Service
were closing off 12th Street and that we better
leave. Don't know what it was about... maybe a
visiting dignitary or Biden going to meet someone?

War of 1812 Talk by Christopher T. George

BRITISH REAR ADMIRAL GEORGE COCKBURN ATTACKS HAVRE DE GRACE – MAY 3, 1813 – NEW FINDINGS, Wednesday, February 8, 2012, 7:30 P.M. Historical Society of Harford County Headquarters, 143 North Main Street (at the corner of Main and Gordon Streets), Bel Air, Maryland. Sponsored by the Archeological Society of Northern Chesapeake (ASNC). No Charge. http://www.harfordhistory.net/.  Note: Archeological Society meeting starts at 6:30 P.M.

Also see a new blog I have started at http://chrisgeorgewarof1812.blogspot.com/

And a new entry on my Jack the Ripper blog at http://blog.casebook.org/chrisgeorge/ -- I am on TV tonight in Canada.  Check the blog out!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recreating a Historical Character

Time-Travel with Emily Dickinson

written and performed by MiMi Zannino

March 2012 Performance Dates - Free to All

March 10, Saturday, 3 pm, Federal Hill Library
1251 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21230
Enoch Pratt library phone: 410-396-1096

March 31, Saturday 2 pm, Govans Library
5714 Bellona Ave, Baltimore, MD 21212
Enoch Pratt library phone: 410-396-6098

For more information: call 443.528.6464
or email: MiMiZannino@gmail.com

My friend and fellow poet Rosemarie ("MiMi") Zannino will be presenting a one-woman show on  poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) at two local Baltimore libraries in March.  I will be advising MiMi on the project but she did not want me to see the script beforehand but asked that I see her presentation first.  It should be interesting.

I suppose in a way I have mixed feelings about actors playing historical characters.  First of all, as I mentioned to MiMi in a recent telephone conversation, any director or writer coming to a historical project is going to bring their own point of view to the portrayal of past events. Just the mere distance in time means that as much as directors and screenwriters try to capture the past, they may or may not do so, and today's political and sociological whims don't help in the effort.  While hopefully whomever mounts such a portrayal of a historical figure will attempt to faithfully portray the character and the events in which they were involved as they happened, it is likely that the artist is going to at least bring their own flavor to the portrayal or, in the extreme, give a distorted view of the person and the occurrences. 

There are two current films that come to mind that provide portrayals of larger-than-life characters: Leonardo Di Caprio as the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar and Meryl Streep's portrayal of former British Prime Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady directed by Phyllida Lloyd (previously known for Mamma Mia). 

I have seen J. Edgar but have not yet seen The Iron Lady.

Both portrayals have been slated by some critics as being more "impersonations" than fully rounded portrayals.  Indeed, The Iron Lady has been described by many as being a poor movie despite the fact that the actress has been praised for her performance.  Noticeably also, in the Academy Award nominations announced on Tuesday just before President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address (the President was not nominated for an Oscar!), but Streep was nominated but DiCaprio pointedly was not.  I am not surprised by this, because although I thought J. Edgar was an interesting film, it was by no means a great one. 

Part of the trouble with J. Edgar is that, as director, Eastwood was trying to cover too much territory in following Hoover for over a half century from the Red scares of 1919 right up to the time of his death in 1972 -- the FBI man just missed out on Watergate -- Hoover died on May 2 and the "Plumbers" break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate, ordered by President Richard M. Nixon, took place six weeks later on June 16.  Given that Nixon and Hoover were both notoriously suspicious men who nursed grudges, it is intriguing to wonder, if Hoover had lived longer, what the FBI director could have done to discredit the president over the scandal.  Might Nixon might have been forced to resign earlier, or would Hoover have just blackmailed Nixon?   

In any case, because of the need to cover so much of Hoover's long career, as a result, J. Edgar doesn't quite hold together.  I also felt that Eastwood was trying to tiptoe around the issue of Hoover's relationship with his longtime associate Clyde Tolson.  The director more hints at the homosexual nature of the relationship than actively explores it. 

In terms of the Streep portrayal of Thatcher, who unlike Hoover, is still alive, a number of the former British PM's political associates have slammed the film as being an "insulting" portrayal of the British leader.

As for Emily Dickinson, the Amherst, Massachusetts poet, long regarded as reclusive and virginal, famously characterized as "The White Lady" based on a portrait of her, has undergone somewhat of a revisionist reappraisal in recent years with feminists and others seeing her as much more activist and engaged in her New England society than previous treatments of her have conceived.  It will be interesting to see how MiMi Zannino approaches her.

Meanwhile, yours truly is due to provide the voice for Sir Charles Warren in Erie, Pennsylvania director Justin Dombrowski's Ripper script, "Autumn of Terror." Initially, this will be a play for voices preliminary to doing a full-scale film of the project.  Justin tells me: "Think of it as a project to build up a visonary medium for when it will be optioned out."

Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Whitechapel Murders of 1888.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newt and the Bomb

The Conspiracy Theory of History. . . .

Which would be worse: Newt Gingrich becoming president of the United States or Iran getting the Bomb?

Of course, U.S. presidential history is replete with examples of scare tactics being used by political opponents.  In the 1964 election, Lyndon B. Johnson's operatives famously employed the TV commercial showing the girl counting from one to ten as she pulled the petals off the daisy followed by an image of a hydrogen bomb exploding, intended to discredit Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and to imply that a Goldwater presidency would put the nation in peril.  Similar fears were expressed by the Left about Ronald Reagan, who did go on to beat Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1980.

“Daisy ad” made for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign.  It was broadcast on September 7, 1964.

At the NBC debate last night, Mitt Romney tried to discredit former House Speaker Newt Gingrich implying that he is erratic and unstable and that he himself would be the clear choice for GOP voters and the country -- the "stable" and "safe" candidate.

What was amazing about the debate last night was that you had two candidates pretending to be what they are not.  Romney insisted that Gingrich served for years as a "K Street lobbyist" while Gingrich kept saying that he acted as a "historian" for housing finance agencies Fannie May and Freddie Mac, which were complicit in the 2008 housing crisis and subsequent financial collapse.  Gingrich released a copy of one year of his contract with Freddie Mac prior to the debate which clearly shows that he was a "consultant" and that he earned $300,000 in that period.  Many might argue that consultant equals lobbyist.  Similarly, Romney is running away from his record as CEO of Bain Capital which was responsible for people losing their jobs let alone pretending that he is a staunch conservative when in reality he was the moderate governor of Massachusetts, and enacted a version of health care that is virtually identical to and was used as a model for the national health care bill passed by Barack Obama.

Clearly many Republicans are afraid that Gingrich will get the nomination and wish that his rise be stopped.  The trouble is that the bumbling Romney may not be capable of stopping him.  Attempts to do so, as shown in South Carolina, may only fire up the Republican base more.  Perhaps with the rise of the Tea Party the age of smoke-filled rooms has passed.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, as reported by NBC, at a rally, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was faced by a woman who said that Obama is a "practicing Muslim", a charge that Santorum refused to deny, which does him discredit.  At least in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, GOP presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain had the good grace to deny a claim by a supporter that Obama was a "terrorist."

The Florida primary is coming up in a week's time.  Will Gingrich continue his surge or will Romney have damaged him enough to win?

What would Gingrich be like as a president?  My fellow football (soccer) fans might appreciate this analogy.  What if Mario Balotelli became president of Italy?  Think about it.

the candidate's
past: he's someone else now
-- a new person. . . not the same old

Christopher T. George

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Rebel State Speaks Its Mind

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston harbor, April 12, 1861 (Currier and Ives print).

The state of South Carolina prides itself of having chosen every the Republican presidential candidate since 1980.  South Carolina is also of course where the Civil War began 150 years ago this April, when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, igniting a bloody four-year-long Civil War.  Yesterday in South Carolina, Republicans chose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich from neighboring Georgia as the winner of the state's GOP primary. 

Was this a seismic event or just a blip in the inevitable route march of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to the nomination?  Romney was beaten by a landslide, 40% to 27.9%, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum lagging behind.  No doubt Gingrich's victory was made larger by the good debate performance he showed in the CNN debate in Charleston on Thursday night, right from the get-go with the opening question when he was able to blast CNN moderator John King for the inaptness of asking the candidate about the charge by his second wife that he had asked for an "open marriage" and Gingrich was able to take a sizeable hit at the media, which fired up the conservative audience.  The canny former House leader thanked King for a great debate at the end of the event.  "Thank you, CNN, you sleazy, slimy media you!"

Meanwhile, at the same debate, Romney fumbled an answer about when he will release his tax returns, giving the impression that he has something to hide, although on Fox this morning he did say he will release his 2010 tax return and a partial 2011 return... well, that's just only one full year and fails to include all the years that he ran Bain Capital that some observers think he should be releasing to satisfy his critics.

The "Republican establishment" (whatever might be) is said to be worried about the rise of Gingrich, feeling that he would be unelectable in the Fall. Commentators on the Sunday morning political talk shows puzzled over what exactly that establishment is.  It is true though that many of the Republicans who served in Congress with Gingrich in the 1990's have expressed doubts about him, saying that even though he engineered the Republican takeover of Congress during the Clinton administration, he proved to be a poor and unpredictable leader.  From my point of view, it looks to me as if Gingrich at least stands for something, although conservative values that I as a liberal Democratic voter do not hold, whereas it's hard to know what exactly Romney stands for.  Because Romney has chosen not to run on his record as governor of Massachusetts, he has left himself open to criticism that he is a hard-hearted capitalist and a man who does not hold the conservative values that Republican voters today say they admire.

See the following video, where Romney backer New Jersey governor Chris Christie pushes back hard about what he claims to be Gingrich's character flaws and lack of executive experience:


Friday, January 20, 2012

Spitballs.... Great Political Theater!

CNN's Southern Republican debate last night in Charleston, South Carolina, began with fireworks as host John King attempted to get former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to address a televised claim by his second wife that he had requested an open marriage, and Gingrich heatedly attacked King for what he described as the despicable act of beginning a Presidential debate with such a scurrilous charge, much to the delight of the audience.  It was great political theater and couldn't have played better into Gingrich's hands, combined with Newt's master stroke of releasing his tax returns. Meanwhile, nominal Republican front runner Mitt Romney has refused to disclose his tax returns and badly fumbled his response to King about when he might do so.  This once more reinforced the idea that Romney is a bumbler.  Mister Vanilla Ice Cream.

Last night's debate performance and the associated political theater will put Gingrich in a good position to win Saturday's South Carolina primary, considering that he was already rising in the polls based on a likewise solid debate performance in last Monday's debate.  Romney's candidacy meanwhile received another blow when it was announced early yesterday that a final count of votes in the Iowa caucus of a couple of weeks ago shows that Rick Santorum and not Romney had won the vote, although by an extremely narrow margin.  Whoops.  Also with Texas governor dropping out yesterday and backing Gingrich, the momentum has seemed to go to Newt.

Romney might still go on to win the Republican nomination but Gingrich will certainly have given him a scare.  Coming as he does from the South, from neighboring Georgia, the ex-House Speaker might have been expected to have an advantage, as almost a favorite son, just as Romney was anticipated to have an advantage in New Hampshire, right next to the state of Massachusetts where he had served as governor and instituted the "Romneycare" so controversial today among the Republicans he will need to win the presidency.  Whether any Gingrich surge and possible win in South Carolina will vault him to the nomination remains to be seen.  There's a long, long way to go, it seems.

MSNBC’s Bill Press has stated, “Newt is a GOP Suicide Bomber.”

See http://AmericaNeedsMitt.com/blog/2012/01/13/msnbcs-bill-press-newt-gop-suicide-bomber/


In honor of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, I have begun a new blog on the war at http://chrisgeorgewarof1812.blogspot.com/.  There I intend to share news of upcoming events on the War of 1812 including speaking engagements in which I will be featured as well as my views on the conflict.  It is one of the most significant events in the history of the United States but a war that has been woefully overlooked. Hopefully we can remedy that in the next three years.

Christopher T George presenter Star Spangled Banner Flag House Symposium 2001
Not a new line-up of Republican candidates but Chris, right, as a presenter at the "Flag Making in the Early Republic: The Fourth Annual Symposium" hosted by the Star Spangled Banner Flag House Association, Inc., March 31, 2001. From left to right: Marilyn Zoidis, Sally Johnston, Stephen W. Hill, Fenella France, Earl P. Williams, and Christopher T. George. Photograph by Richard R. Gideon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mitt Marches on to the South. . .

Abstract swirls 6

Romney won, but will there be buyer's remorse
-- can the candidate stay the course,
is he the nation's bright new up-and-comer,
or will there be four more years of Obama?

Yes, a handy win for Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire GOP primary yesterday. With 92% of the vote counted, the former Massachusetts governor received 39.3% of the vote. Libertarian Ron Paul coming in second with 22.9% and fellow moderate Jon Huntsman finishing third with 16.9%.  Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a distant fourth with 9.4%, similar to Rick Santorum with 9.3%, and Texan governor Rick Perry who is concentrating his campaign on finishing strongly in the South, with a measly 0.7%.

The New Hampshire win sets up Romney nicely for the South Carolina primary on January 21 and the Florida primary at the end of the month.  Reportedly Winning Our Future, the pro-Gingrich Super PAC has bought $5 million of  media commercials to attack Romney in the Palmetto State with money donated by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  And Gingrich is the man who accuses Romney of sleazy politics and of attacking him with unfair Super PAC commercials.  Ugh.

Most pundits seem to think that in South Carolina, as in Iowa, the conservative candidates, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum, will divide the vote enabling Romney to win again.  If that happens, he might be on cruise control to the nomination going toward the Republican convention.  The question might be what Ron Paul will do.  He has little chance of winning the GOP nomination given his extremely conservative policies and ideas.  If, in the general election, Paul decides to run as a third party candidate, it could damage Romney's chances of winning the presidency.  Stay tuned.

A casino owner's super PAC keeps Gingrich afloat,
enables Newt to attack the Mittser's throat
with commercials that treat Romney with disdain.
Which of these two candidates will remain?  rolleyes

Michele Bachmann. . . flaky, nutty, choose your word,
and still the gal from Minnesota persisted, undeterred.
It was a short, comic run -- a quite entertaining one.
If Sarah Palin had stood instead, would she have won?

You might enjoy the following hilarious video parody of the Republican debates if you have not seen it:


My friend, the Aardvark, has no opinions on politics.  Let me know what YOU think. . . .

Abstract swirls 5

Abstract swirls 2

Abstract swirls 1

Meeting Dave and Steve at the One World Café

Three poets, survivors from the Sixties, meet for coffee and more.
Earlier, on my sixty-fourth birthday, an Ethiopian Evangelist tries
to save my mortal soul -- he offers to murmur a prayer for it.

The retired mailman, the ex-prison worker, and the still-slaving
editor (me) discuss the economy, how saps these days can't afford
to entirely retire: it's each man or woman for him or -- er -- herself!

I grunt down the path with an overloaded garbage bag.
A young female student offers to help. Doesn't she know
that I regularly struggle up and down the three flights

of our Baltimore walk-up apartment house?
A boy becomes an adult, becomes an elderly man.
Order me a drink -- make it a double. Boats against the current.

Christopher T. George

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitt Romney's Most Genuine Moments

New Hampshire

Sign in a New Hampshire restaurant: Oh, yeh?

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney's most genuine moments are when he is caught off guard and speaks unscripted.  As when he said that "Corporations are people" or offered the $10,000 bet to fellow candidate Texas governor Rick Perry.  Or, most recently, on the eve of today's New Hampshire Republican primary, when he said at a breakfast meeting with business leaders, "I enjoy being able to fire people who provide services to me." He was talking about about firing insurance companies but it sounded too much like he received enjoyment from firing employees.  Just the wrong thing to say when Americans are hurting from high unemployment.  It is very revealing that at a moment when he would be expected to feel most comfortable, around businessmen such as he has been for much of his life, he would say such a thing.

All these unprovoked remarks show that Mr. Romney, a multi-millionaire, is realms away from the average American voter.  Not only do many of his own Republicans feel uncomfortable with him but he is proving himself so with a broad swathe of Americans as well.  So the question remains whether a Romney coronation is inevitable as the Republican nominee let alone the Republican who will deny President Barack Obama a second term in the White House.

Another significant moment occurred on Sunday morning during the "Meet the Press" Facebook Republican debate when fellow candidate Jon Huntsman, answered Romney's criticism during the debate of the night before that he had worked for President Obama as U.S. Ambassador.  The former Utah governor made the salient point that he, Huntsman, would always put the nation first and that the type of Romney's criticism shows what is wrong with the country today.  Huntsman followed up his riposte to Romney and the Massachusetts man's gaff about firing insurance companies (read people) -- when he told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire yesterday, "Governor Romney enjoys firing people; I enjoy creating jobs."

It remains to be seen what traction Huntsman can get. Thus far he has seriously lagged in the polls.  Is he too moderate for the voters in Republican caucuses and primaries?  He didn't campaign in Iowa and has put all his efforts into giving a good showing in New Hampshire.  But can he be a valid alternative to Romney when it seems as if many Republicans are looking for a conservative alternative to the former Massachusetts governor?  One thing that could benefit him is that unlike in other states, Democrats and unaligned voters can vote in the Republican primary.  It will be fascinating to see how the Republican candidates do in today's primary.  Stay tuned, playmates.

The first few shots photographs that appear below are not of New Hampshire.  They were taken on a recent evening looking into the window of the Thunder Grill, Union Station, Washington, D.C., one of my favorite watering holes.  Oh, yes, and it is my sixty-fourth birthday. Why, happy birthday, Chris.  Enjoy that Harvey Wallbanger.....

Thunder Grill 5

Thunder Grill 4

Thunder Grill 3

Thunder Grill 1

Harvey Wallbanger

Harvey Wallbanger 1

Have another drink, Chris.  wink moving

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Will They Learn to Love Mitt.... Or the Tale of the Activist Judges

So former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney squeaked through as victor of the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses held on Tuesday evening by a mere eight votes over conservative former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.  Romney won 25 percent of the vote, with a total of around 30,000, an almost identical percentage and number of votes to what he received four years ago when he finished second to the eventual Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona.  Clearly, Republicans don't love Mitt, and the idea that he is the obviously ordained GOP nominee for President in 2012 took a severe hit.  A big hit for Mitt.  Hmmmm.  Now if he fails to win in New Hampshire in that primary to be held next Tuesday or else only wins by another squeaker, in the veritable backyard of Massachusetts where he served as the moderate leader of that state, I predict that his candidacy will be in real trouble.

Meanwhile, former 1990's Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, renowned for his showdowns with former President Bill Clinton, took a major hit from attack ads from the special interest PAC groups supporting Romney, and he is as mad as hell about it.  As Howard Beale (the late Australian-born actor Peter Finch) yelled in the 1976 movie Network written by Paddy Chayefsky, "I' m as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" 

The ironic thing is that when Gingrich was riding high in the polls a few weeks ago, before those attack ads hit him, he was railing against "activist judges" or, as conservatives like to put it, judges who "legislate from the bench."  They mean, of course, liberal judges who rule favorably for progressive causes.  But what could be more activist than the conservative court ruled by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts?  In fact, it was Roberts and his colleagues who ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010 and made it possible for Super Pacs to operate without any oversight and without answering to the public, the very thing that torpedoed Newt's campaign in Iowa.  Newt might have to do another flip flop--on his thinking on the judiciary.  How about it, Newt?

I understand that at upcoming at the end of March, the Roberts Supreme Court has scheduled three whole days for the justices to contemplate President Obama's health care initiative.  Such a block of time to be taken by the justices to contemplate one legal matter. is almost unprecedented.  Of course, the Obama health care law is being challenged by conservatives all across the country so it was going to land up in the nation's highest court sooner or later.  Will Roberts and his conservative allies on the court be able to help the Republicans to dismantle national health care?  Serious questions have arisen, for example, over whether Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from the deliberations. Liberals point out that his wife Ginni Thomas’s ties to a group opposing the health care law.  Questions have also been raised by conservatives in regard to the possible participation in the discussions by former Solicitor General and now Justice Elena Kagan.  Her role as Solicitor General in litigation challenging health care reform legislation has been questioned, and right wingers say that as a result she should recuse herself from the upcoming deliberations. See http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/groups-suggest-elena-kagan-clarence-thomas-should-be-recused-from-health-law-decision/

Romney for President? 

Mitt Romney man doesn't excite anyone, Republicans or anyone else.  The man looks and sounds like a storefront mannequin.  His assertion that he has business experience and thus knows how to fix the economy is complete hogwash.  The best economic minds don't have a quick fix so Romney as a former corporate executive surely has no fix either.  This is the same man who several months ago declared that "Corporations are people too!" 

Activist judges?  How about instead, activist citizens to take our Democracy back?!!!

Elsewhere, I have written some thoughts about the prospects of Rick Santorum becoming the Republican nominee for President in 2012.  Go to my blog at Eratosphere at http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/blog.php?b=131

Also check out my Jack the Ripper blog for some discussion of "A Bit of Graffiti and a Few Letters." Go to http://blog.casebook.org/chrisgeorge/2012/01/04/a-bit-of-graffiti-and-a-few-letters/