Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bangkok and Chang Mai On a Rope Now Available

The third book in my traveler on a rope series is now available on Amazon.

With pictures and prose, 'Bangkok and Chiang Mai on a Rope' guides you through the two largest, and most visited cities in Thailand. Well-traveled author Larry Stein outlines the planning process that he follows, and documents the details of the trip itself—including specifics about lodging, costs, shopping, dining, and transportation. Stein explains how to do all of this affordably ('on a rope,' not a shoestring) while still enjoying comfortable accommodations, good food, and realistic travel options between destinations.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Patriotism Litmus Test

The old saw is that partisanship ends at the nation's shore.  The teeth cut deepest with issues of war and nuclear proliferation.  Country must come before party.

A simple litmus test for Republicans is would they support the Iran Treaty if  it was negotiated by a Republican president?  Lindsey Graham prefers war to this treaty.  He may be crackers, but he passes the test.  His jingoism is personal not partisan.

Other Republicans do not fare so well.  They are drowning in their palaver about a better deal.  Only Iranian negotiators know if they could have conceded more and obtained acquiescence from their Supreme Leader.  Complete dismantlement of their nuclear infrastructure was probably a bridge too far.  President Bush offered full recognition and many other concessions in return for dismantlement.  He ran into a brick wall.

The UN and related sanctions only covered nuclear issues.  Only those on our team participating in two years of negotiations know whether our partners would have agreed to bargaining on nonnuclear issues.  But it is unlikely that China and Russia care about our hostages, or the Iranian hostility to Israel.

But whatever might have been, with Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Germany and the EU, agreeing to the deal, sanctions, and the leverage they provide, would erode if Congress blocks the treaty.

Republicans have blithely challenged our President's loyalty to America.  They should look in the mirror before casting the first stone, or risk 7 years bad luck.

Monday, July 27, 2015

GOP is Unfit To Govern

Policy points are hard to score on a partisan field.    The president has needed Barry Sander's moves to reach his goals.  At times he has been gang tackled by a majority GOP.    But clearly he has beat the spread, running up the score in the 4th quarter.

The GOP has faced a stout defense.  Filibusters are formidable up front, and the presidential veto is a roving safety ready to stop any bills that break through.  But the highway bill faces no opposition.  It is a routine call stymied by intramural disputes.  Even the smallest municipal government can get it together to fix potholes.  Not the GOP majority, which has tripped over itself all weekend.  The Party is about to be flagged for too much time.

Republicans are even weaker on foreign policy.  They have committed fouls that could get them kicked out of the league of nations.  Trump has lashed out at Mexico, and China, without opposition from other team members.  Governor Huckabee has gone further, in effect, comparing the leadership of our primary allies, France, Great Britain and Germany, to Hitler.

The season is about to start.  The GOP is not ready for prime time.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Is Netanyahu Bad for American Jews?

Support for Israel has always been bipartisan.  Netanyahu, strolling jauntily on the Republican side of the aisle, casting disdain on a sitting American president, changed that. Netanyahu has opened a painful rift in the American Jewish community.

Although we have more than our share of neocons, Jews overwhelming  punched the chad for Obama.    Now we are asked to choose between the natural home for our progressive views and the Jewish State.  Rancor replaces harmony at many Passover Seders and Thanksgiving gatherings.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but the bitter morning always comes.  Anti-semitism and support for Israel are not mutually exclusive.  Nixon was a friend of Israel, and even relied on a Jewish Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.  But the White House tapes feature anti-Semitic rantings.  Nixon was raised as a Quaker.  Be assured that many Evangelicals, the backbone of the GOP, have harsher ramblings and darker thoughts.  Messianic dogma bequeaths support for Israel, but not for Jews.

Evangelicals may thank us for the fire and brimstone of the old testament, but doctrinally deny us passage through the pearly gates.  Heaven can wait.   So can my support for a party of exclusion.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trump's Paper Thin Skin

The Des Moines Register, the largest paper in first in the nation caucus state of Idaho, called for Trump to exit the presidential race.   When you are preaching to the choir, heretics are not welcome.  The Trump campaign  took away press credentials for an upcoming rally.

Trump's, now certifiably. paper thin skin is legendary.  Who can forget, as much as we may want to, his festering feud with Rosie O'Donnell?  We can look forward to a summer of vigorous vitriol directed towards those who dare to question The Donald.

Watching Trump is a guilty pleasure for progressives.  But if somehow elected, Trump would be a bull in China, Mexico, and the rest of the globe, smashing diplomatic settings and valuable relationships.

As a sometimes bridge player, I bid one no Trump.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Republican Candidates: Liars or Lunatics?

Republican presidential candidates are day one divas.  In 2012 Romney promised to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office.  Not to be outdone,  Walker has promised to repeal the Iran Treaty after swearing the oath of office.  Rubio, Cruz and Bush echo those sentiments.

Are they too young to remember "One (is the loneliest number)" by Three Dog Night?  Neither Russian and China, nor our allies, would renege on the agreement.  It is a near miracle that Hillary Clinton cobbled, and held, together the sanction odd fellows.  We would stand alone with useless unilateral sanctions and no ability to enforce constraints on Iran.

If by some miracle,  a Republican president could rebuild the sanction alliance, Iran would have between a 100 and 150 billion dollars and no treaty obligations.  Is this crop of Republicans just spreading  fertilizer?   I hope so.  Better duplicitous than dumb.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trickle Down Ballot

Trump's third party refrain is the Hallelujah Chorus for many Democrats.  Unlike recent independent candidacies, a vociferous Trump effort could tip the election.  Congressman John Anderson's 1980 campaign drew equally from both parties.  Perot's constituency slanted slightly Republican, but not enough to matter.  In counterpoint, Trump's anti-immigrant ditty plays solely to the right side of the stage.  Democrats would score a third term.

A nice dance beat, but some lyrics are disturbing.  Trump voters, some of whom might have tuned out the election, will help Republicans maintain majorities in the House and Senate.  Equally disquieting, if they have the attention span to vote for state offices, Trump voters could secure another 10 years of Republican House leadership.

Over the last 3 cycles Democrats, in the aggregate, have outpolled Republicans in the house, but have little to show for it.  A concerted effort by Republicans captured state legislatures and governerships leading up to the 2010 census.  Districts are fine tuned to lilt GOP.

Democrats need to be heard in 2016 and 2018 state elections, to change the tune.