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The Mendacity of Hillary Clinton: The VA Edition


Hillary Clinton is not an honest woman. This is not news. She has a quarter century public record of showing her inability to tell simple truths, and hold by them.

The past week, however, gives a clear insight into how that dishonesty could affect policy in a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

Last week, in an interview roundtable with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Clinton stated that issues within the Veterans Administration have “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.”

More from the Military Times:

“Bring in people and just tackle (it) … have an ongoing review of the care that is being given, do more to make sure that every VA hospital is delivering care to the highest standard of the community,” Clinton said. “Because, unfortunately, some are doing a lot better job than others are.”

But she also lashed out at Republicans for “ideological assaults on basic fundamental services, whether it’s the VA, Medicare, Social Security,” blaming them for exaggerating the VA’s problems in pursuit of their real goal: privatization and elimination of VA services.

Even John McCain, a ‘friend’ of Ms. Clinton’s, was astounded by the statement:

McCain also took issue with Clinton’s claim that Republicans have made the VA partisan and want to use it to privatize the VA. In doing so, McCain noted that he worked with her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, to pass a VA reform bill.

“Now Hillary Clinton, in her blind ambition, has injected partisanship into the VA issue and that is disgraceful,” he said. “She owes an apology.”

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was also on the call. “Hillary Clinton really proved she has no idea what she is talking about on veterans issues,” he said.

Simply put, not only is Ms. Clinton’s statement NOT factual, it is downright ignorant.

The advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America hammered Ms. Clinton for minimizing “the deep-rooted problems within VA”. They went on to accuse her of being the one politicizing the issue:

“Mrs. Clinton is clearly out of touch with reality when it comes to veterans’ needs, and despite her self-professed lack of understanding of VA issues, is more interested in defending the status quo and entrenched special interests than in actually advocating for the reforms veterans want,” CVA CEO Pete Hegseth said in a statement.

The reality is much worse than even at first glance. Approximately 60k military veterans have been delayed as long as 90 days from getting simple medical appointments.  The number of Veterans that continue to die because they remain on the waiting list is so extensive, we still don’t have a full accounting of the total number, but it likely numbers in the thousands.

Hillary probably has a short-term memory, because she probably forgot that former Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki resigned for specifically those reasons that Hillary now downplays.

Additionally, government data on these disasters may be a lagging indicator. When researchers study how Veterans themselves feel about their services from the VA, things appear bleak.

It is highly debatable whether the compromise between Congress and the President has had any significant improvement in these issues.

All this is shadowed by two facts of continued government incompetence: 18 months after the Veterans Administration scandal, not a single person has been fired. If that fact itself isn’t amazing enough, consider this:  This past year, the VA paid $142 million in bonus, many to the same officials that are involved in these scandals.

To say things have improved is government spin at its best. An extensive investigation by the Arizona Republic shows otherwise. Though the VA states their wait times have decreased (and data shows just that), they themselves admit their data collection on wait times is flawed, because their system is thoroughly dysfunctional.

Only in government is such gross incompetence possible.

With all these facts and narratives circulating, the former Secretary of State still had the audacity (or is blind ignorance?) to state that these problems were not systemic and were localized to only a few centers around the country. That is an amazing effort of self-delusion.

Of course, Hillary’s timing could not have been worse, with Veterans Day quickly approaching. Knowing that she would take a political hit from this debacle, Hillary does what she always does…she flip flopped, in toto. By Wednesday, Hillary had changed her tune on the VA:

“These problems are serious, systemic and unacceptable,” Mrs. Clinton said at a discussion with veterans in Derry, N.H., a day before the nation marks Veterans Day on Wednesday. “They need to be fixed and they need to be fixed now.”

In a 12-page fact sheet, her campaign called the long waits for care and backlog of benefits claims “government at its worst.”

This is utter mendacity. Simply put, there is no chance that Hillary was ever ignorant of the facts on the ground. The VA disaster was one of the most publicized issues in the summer of 2014, and she had to know the systemic problems existed. Furthermore, nothing occurred in the last two weeks that would have ‘changed her mind’…outside of internal polling from her campaign, that is.

Furthermore, if you read on in that Wall Street Journal report, Hillary’s answer for the corruption and failure at the VA? LESS PRIVATE CARE.

“Privatization is a betrayal, plain and simple, and I’m not going to let it happen,” she said.

That’s right. When faced with gross government incompetence that has led to the deaths of likely thousands of our own military Veterans, Hillary’s answer is…more government.

This is one of many portholes into the future we will receive in the coming year about what a Hillary Clinton Presidency would look like. She is a far left, ideological liberal who ignores facts at her leisure, and will only change her public position when it damages her personally on a political level.  Data and reality have little to do with her policy positions, as we have seen here.

Furthermore, in characteristic that should bother progressives as well, Hillary is very willing to throw overboard any position that can threaten her in the least, even if she stated loud support for the opposite position just days before. She has no line she won’t cross for her own political gain.

A person that displays such mendacity does not deserve to sit in the Oval Office.



GOP Debate #4: Quick Thoughts



Quick observations:

  • Biggest winners? Fox Business. The moderators were not perfect, but did not try to inject themselves too much into the discussion. They asked, for the most part, relevant, policy centered questions.  An infinite improvement over the CNBC debate.
  • Winners: Cruz, Fiorina, and Rubio. Cruz was solid on the points he wanted to get across. Fiorina brought her A game, improved over the last debate. As for Rubio, he had his moments, but overall, this was probably his worst debate; telling that he was still better than most people on the stage.
  • Losers: Kasich, by far. Irritating, interrupting, whining about air time. Jeb was a relative loser, because he couldn’t make a splash. It was probably Bush’s best debate performance, but not enough to change the trajectory of his campaign.
  • Other candidates largely held par. Trump was solid at times. Carson seemed, once again, lost on policy specifics, but that may not matter to his followers. Rand Paul lost an exchange with Rubio over the size of the military, but otherwise had his best debate.
  • Overall, this was a relatively solid debate for all the candidates, and far better than the prior CNBC debate or the lone Democrat debate when it came to discussion of specific policy issues.
  • In the end, this is quickly shaping up to be a Marco Rubio vs. Ted Cruz matchup. Oh, I know, Carson and Trump lead in the polls…but I still don’t believe those numbers are hard, and I believe that they will erode as we approach Iowa and New Hampshire.

My Case For Marco Rubio


I have publicly been very reticent in disclosing my feelings about which candidate I would ultimately support for the Republican nomination.

This was for many reasons. First and foremost, I believed entering this year, this was going to be the deepest and most engaging field in modern history. I believed that we would have a host of Governors leading the pack, because of their extensive executive experience.  And I thought that separating out of the elites from the also-rans was going to be difficult.

I am not sure any of those assumptions came to be true.

Because of a myriad of factors, this cycle has largely been devoid of in-depth policy discussions. The vast majority of news media has been focused on clownish, superficial nonsense that nobody other than the most inane of insiders really cared about. This was especially highlighted by the October 26th CNBC debate.

But as we have progressed through the process, I think several candidates have risen above the fray, and focused on the issues that are at the forefront of the problems that face this country going forward. And I think one candidate so far has stood above the rest.

That candidate is Senator Marco Rubio.

But let me take a step back, and tell you why I have been reluctant to jump on to the Rubio bandwagon.  I am willing to wager that for many that are concerned about him for one reason or another, the complaints sound similar and echo the same worries and concerns.

There are two in particular that come to mind.

The first issue for most was Rubio’s involvement in the Gang of Eight immigration deal.  In 2013, I myself called for rejection of that plan for various reasons that can be read here. Even at that time, I stated that Rubio was making a fundamental political mistake.  Here was a quote about my concern in April 2013:

Furthermore, this will be a moment of truth for several Republicans, most notably Sen. Marco Rubio.  I believe he has been honest in his belief that there is a conservative based solution to this.  And in all honesty, I am surprised he has gotten the security promises that are seen in this deal.  The unfortunate part is that going forward, I am not sure that the security portion of this plan is at all achievable, and even worse, there is no definitive way to prove one way or another if it has been achieved.

The same argument that has been made for a decade stands:  border security first.  The repeat of the 1986 immigration failure cannot be allowed again.  And until that is shown to be the case, I remain a skeptic.

Like many others, my statement was prophetic. The bill collapsed upon its own false promises and flawed logic, and Rubio has taken much of the blame. The Gang of Eight always focused too much on the legalization process, and not far enough on securing the border…exactly backwards of how I see any solution to the immigration problem evolving.

After hearing Rubio speak on several occasions about immigration, I believe he realizes the fundamental mistake he made.  The focus must be on securing the border and verifying the legality of all workers in the country. Only after doing that, can we move forward into a process of providing some kind of permanent legal status for the illegal aliens in the country today.

Thhis will always be a weakness for Rubio, however, because some people will never trust him after this mistake. And I can understand that; his lack of understanding of the dynamics of the politics surrounding immigration in 2013 was surprisingly tone-deaf.  However, I am not a single issue voter, and never have been.  I admit I am still wary about his immigration positions, but I do believe he understands now why any comprehensive bill will fail.  I don’t really believe he would move forward with such a bill, and would hope he focuses on security first, as he has promised.

The second issue for me is one that Rubio may never be able to answer: his relative inexperience. I think his background as Senator has given him a sound footing on foreign policy. Frankly, he has been the most steadfast and eloquent on foreign policy issues on either side of the aisle (Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included). Rubio has shown a level of nuance and understanding of complex foreign policy dynamics that we definitely did not see from Senator Barack Obama 8 years ago.

However, President Obama highlights the fundamental weakness in Rubio’s resume: the lack of any executive experience. Through out the process, my favorite candidates were governors (most notably Scott Walker and Rick Perry, and to a lesser extent Bobby Jindal).  I believe that the history of being a governor is invaluable when it comes to running the government bureaucracy, and with dealing with Congress.

Along with his relative youth (he is 2 years older than I am), this will be a problem for some voters, especially after the executive incompetence of the last Senator-turned-President. However, I think linking Rubio blindly to Obama is a mistake.  The issues, and depth of understanding them, is what will make the difference in the long run.

That said, with both Walker and Perry now out of the race, I clearly believe that despite these small complaints, Marco Rubio is the man to lead Republicans into the future.

When this process started, I often reiterated my three major criteria for selecting a candidate for the Republican nomination:

  1. Could win a national General election competing against Hillary Clinton.
  2. The most conservative candidate that could get elected.
  3. Could expand the base of the conservative movement.

I think in all three respects, Rubio is the man for the job.

His performance in interviews and in debates has been skillful and eloquent. Unlike many his competitors on either side of the aisle, he has an ability to answer questions and turn partisan biased media questions to their favor. Only Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina are even in the same class in this regard.

Here is Rubio, answering Charlie Rose on why it was fair to call Hillary Clinton a liar over some of her Benghazi statements.

Rose was left stunned and dumbfounded, because fundamentally (despite what some liberals would like to parse and spin), Rubio was right. But how many other of our candidates would have been able to make this same argument, and sound so reasonable while doing it?

Liberal journalists are not the only ones that have come face to face with Rubio’s ability to turn negatives into positives.  When Jeb Bush brought up Rubio’s substandard Senate voting record during the CNBC debate…little did Bush know he had fallen into Rubio’s trap:

In many ways, this was the moment in retrospect we may look back and point to as the end of the Jeb Bush Presidential campaign.

As for his ability to win a general election, that is inherently linked to his ability to expand the conservative base. Rubio clearly would provide a generational shift to the face of the Republican party. Put aside that he is a Hispanic American, son of immigrants, born in the 1970s. Many forget that Rubio arose out of the original Tea Party movement, a fiscal conservative at heart first. Rubio would be the most conservative, small government nominee of the Republican Party ever.

But more importantly, Rubio is what many refer to as a ‘Happy Conservative’.  Reagan and even George W. Bush were portrayed as ‘amiable fools’ by the media, but what the media never understood is that ‘Happy’ facade also allowed them to be more liked than their competition. Carter, Mondale, Gore and Kerry all learned that facing a Republican that is simply more well liked matters in a general election. There is something in Rubio’s personality that is lacking in some of our other candidates, an ability to make people like him even if he has a position they disagree with.  Although people often can’t put a finger on exactly what that quality is, subconsciously they understand that they like this guy.

There is no question demographically, Rubio would alter the map as far as the Hispanic vote is concerned. That doesn’t mean he would win the Hispanic vote, but it certainly means he could challenge President Bush’s vote totals among that community, which were close to 40% of the electorate. Rubio likely would do far better among youth voters than Romney or McCain did, because of his own youthful demeanor, not to mention the aged appearance of his competition.

None of this guarantees success in 2016. Hillary Clinton is still a formidable candidate, with the money and political connections to go the duration. The Democrats have some structural advantages that make it hard for Republican to break through; not quite a ‘Blue wall’, but definitely a hill to overcome.

In the current field, there are several candidates that I personally like and admire. But I think when you examine the complete package, Marco Rubio is the best candidate conservatives, and Republicans, can put forward to further the cause. And as such, he will have my support.


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Third GOP Debate


A few quick thoughts on this debate:

  • Jeb Bush got trounced. On multiple fronts. The most spectacular was when he attacked Marco Rubio on his Senate attendance record. Rubio turned it around, and gave maybe one of the strongest answers of the entire night, saying that he was not running against other Republicans, but running for President.  Bush, inadvertently, made Rubio look above the fray, and was lost the rest of the debate.
  • I’m not sure how or if Jeb recovers from this. He really has no case to make any more.
  • Cruz was strong on multiple questions, most especially when he attacked the ludicrous media.
  • Chris Christie had a very strong night overall.
  • Fiorina seemed a little lost in this setting. She needed a strong debate night to keep in the leaderboard, and she didn’t get it.
  • Trump was Trump. At times, he was pretty decent. His closing statement was bizarre.
  • Carson also was himself: nice, calm, but a little lost on actual policy issues.
  • Kasich’s best moments were when he talked about Ohio, but his worst moments were when he actually challenged anyone else on stage.
  • Rand Paul has one foot out the door. So does Huckabee, although he had some fine answers as well.
  • The CNBC moderators were horrid. Not just bad, but bad in epic fashion. One example? John Harwood challenged Rubio’s tax plan, saying it would benefit the rich over the poor, and used a study from the Tax Foundation. The only problem? He was wrong. Here is a tweet from the head of the Tax Foundation:

  • The other moderators asked silly questions, couldn’t control the debate, and were, for all practical purposes, completely incompetent all around.
  • Losers? CNBC and their moderators.  Jeb Bush, who seems totally lost at this point. To a lesser extent, Rand Paul had a poor night. Carson seemed lost again. Trump was Trump.
  • Winners? Definitely Rubio and Cruz. Rubio got an assist from Bush, which helped. Chris Christie had a solid night too.

Reflection on AFP Defending the American Dream Summit


This weekend’s national Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit was my first AFP meeting ever…but it won’t be my last. It was conveniently located in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, but in all truthfulness, I will probably make an effort to go to future events regardless of location.

AFP does a wonderful job of coordinating and educating conservatives on policy issues and grassroots efforts, something that few other organizations on the conservative side have ever achieved.  The only organizations in America that I can really compare them to are the Unions…who have far more money and extensive structural advantages handed to them.  If you have any interest getting involved in grassroots efforts, AFP is as good a place to start as any.

The focus of these type of meetings always resides in its top speakers…and this weekend did not disappoint.  So who were the winners and losers?



Senator Ted Cruz:  He and Bobby Jindal received the most applause and pure excitement of the weekend, hands down. As for Cruz, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the first word, ready to burst in excitement.  Cruz certainly delivered the red meat: on immigration, foreign policy, Hillary Clinton..he hit every significant note that a conservative audience would demand.


Governor Bobby Jindal: This is the third time that I have seen Jindal in person. I have never been enamored with his cadence or talking points.  But I will wholly admit that this was, by far, the best speech I have seen Jindal give. It was targeted, focused, to the point….and moved the crowd.  The crowd was happy to see him at the beginning, but certainly not as enthusiastic as with Cruz. However, by the end of the speech, Jindal had them on the edge of their seats, ready to burst from their chairs in applause.  I think he certainly helped himself here, but considering his languishing poll numbers, it is probably far too little, too late.



Senator Marco Rubio:  Rubio, unlike Cruz and Jindal, decided on a more sedate, policy focused speech.  He talked extensively about education and the need to reform student loans; about the economy, and how the evolution of the modern economy requires that we evolve as a nation as well; and about the American Dream, a common focus of his speeches.  Rubio’s greatest applause lines came when talking about the greatness of America…and jokes about Hillary Clinton (server jokes were aplenty at the conference). Rubio helped himself at AFP, but on the excitement meter, he was certainly one step below the aforementioned.


Governor Jeb Bush:  By far, the biggest loser of the weekend. When he started his speech…virtually nobody applauded, other than the few intrepid souls in the audience like myself that thought it was simply polite. There was no excitement in the audience to hear what Jeb had to say.  The real irony? This was one of his better speeches.  He was correct on policy, and the speech was well crafted. The big problem for Bush is simple: there is no excitement from the base for his candidacy at all, and I am not sure how he rectifies that going forward.

Governor Rick Perry: I was hesitant to put Perry in this category.  I think he gave a fine speech, focusing on the economic revival in Texas, and why it is important to choose someone with a record of success. However, he simply could not rival Cruz or Jindal in excitement, nor could he rival Rubio on policy.  I really want to like Perry, but his inability to get this ‘home field’ crowd excited bores ill for his future prospects.

The name that hovered in the shadows through out the conference, but was barely mentioned?  Donald Trump.

I think even in this hard-core conservative environment, no more than one out of every five people were even open to the idea of Trump.  When people would try to cheer for Trump in one manner or another…the large majority of people simply politely remained silent.  Much like Bush, I can’t see how Trump would ever motivate these base voters.

I think coming out of this weekend, Cruz and Jindal were the big winners, though Cruz is obviously in a better position in the polls to take advantage of that.  Rubio helped himself marginally.  The tenor of the conference was quite clear though: the participants were angry (not furious or out of control, but a feeling of massive general discontent), and they want a conservative voice to fuel the next generation.  Which ever candidate can tap into that is going to have a powerful message going forward.



Regarding Hillary’s Emails…Grab Some Popcorn, A Seat On The Sidelines, And Watch The Show


Hillary Clinton is the midst of a slow, steady series of unforced errors.

The entire email controversy is a scandal of her own making. The original sin was to use a private email server in the first place; nobody in positions of power or in charge of protecting top-secret information can understand the logic of this initial mistake. Then, she compounded the mistake by attempting to hide the data (which was, under law, the property of the Federal government, for any records involving her time as Secretary of State), tried to destroy the data on the server, and then proceeded to lie about it. All of this, for reasons most of us still can’t really fathom.

Hillary, as any good Clinton is wont to do, is responding as predicted: she is blaming the vast Right Wing conspiracy.

Well, not in so many words…but tomato, toMAto…from Hillary Clinton this weekend:

You know what?  It’s not about emails or servers either.  It’s about politics.  I will do my part to provide transparency to Americans.  That’s why I’m insisting 55,000 pages of my emails be published as soon as possible.  I’ve even offered to answer questions for months before Congress.  I’ve just provided my server to the Justice Department.  But here’s what I won’t do: I won’t get down in the mud with them.  I won’t play politics with national security or dishonor the memory of those who we lost.  I won’t pretend that this is anything other than what it is – the same old partisan games we’ve seen so many times before.

There are many things this email controversy is about…but as Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post states…politics really isn’t one of them:

So, sure the roots of the e-mail story are partisan — at least in part. But, to quote Clinton herself: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” As in, no matter how the fact that she exclusively used a private e-mail address and server  — the first Secretary of State to do — came to light, its existence and what she has said about it are now public knowledge and not particularly partisan.

Remember that Clinton turned over the server — and a thumbnail drive that her lawyer, David Kendall, had been in possession of — this week at the behest of the FBI and Justice Department. Neither of those entities are Republican partisans.

Whether or not Clinton sent or received any classified information over the server — she has said she hasn’t although the intelligence community’s inspector general appears to have found two top-secret e-mails —  isn’t a partisan issue. She either did what she said or she didn’t. Whether or not she turned over all work-related e-mails — she deleted more than 31,000 e-mails she described as purely personal and turned over 30,000 to the State Department — has almost nothing to do with House Republicans Benghazi Committee.

You can’t blame Hillary for using this strategy. It has been quite successful for both Bill and Hillary Clinton for over 2 decades: when in a hole, blame everyone, claim victimhood, and wait for the cavalry (a.k.a., the mainstream media), to ride in and blame the opposition for everything.

As a Republican, there is a simple solution to how to respond to Hillary’s mendacity: DO NOTHING.

Let Hillary rail against the evil conservatives for pillaging her unfairly. Let her defend her past statements on the emails (which were largely lies).  Let her continue to make disingenuous statement after disingenuous statement.

Republicans should shrug their shoulders, and say “No comment; the FBI and Department of Justice are in charge of that now.”

Hillary’s best hope is that Republicans will over reach, and try to push criminal charges or Congressional hearings on this matter. Trey Gowdy has done yeoman’s work in demanding full Congressional oversight on these details, but it is now the moment to step back and take a breath.  There is a time and place for these harsh investigative tactics, but this is neither the time nor place. Any maneuver by Republicans will be used by the Clintons as a defense for her lawbreaking. Why give her such ammunition to defend herself?

Gowdy has a hearing planned in October, where Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify.  I almost wish Republicans would delay the hearing, because of the FBI investigation. If the FBI drags its feel, or doesn’t follow protocol, that is certainly a time to step in and take more forceful action. This is not that time.

No, I for one will take the lead of one of my favorites, Dule Hill…grab some fresh buttery popcorn, grab a soft, comfortable spot on my barcalounger, and chomp away while I watch Hillary struggle to answer for her past lies, deceptions, and overall incompetence.



Book Review: Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition



Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition is Nisid Hajari’s addition to the vast historical literature on the subject of the human tragedy resulting from the awkward birth of Pakistan and India. The story is well-known in general terms, but the scope of the massacre and human suffering is often overlooked. Hajari’s work adds significant detail and historical footnotes that give context to the story.

‘Partition’, in modern times, has an echo of heartache and immense loss to Indians and Pakistanis, for good reason.  Even by the standards of a century that included the Holocaust, World War II, and instantaneous losses of life such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo, the numbers involved with this period of India’s independence is outrageous.

Most estimates state that at least 1 million civilians died during the period beginning with the Calcutta riots of 1946, to the end of hostilities on December 31, 1948, and that may actually be a conservative estimate.  Approximately 15 million people left their homes and repopulated to the country of their stated religion, making it likely the largest forced human migration in human history.  It destroyed many of the long-standing inter-religious relationships that existed in India during British rule, including the close ties among Hindus, Muslims and Sikh members for the Indian contingent of the British army, who had worked side by side during both World Wars.  The repercussions continue to echo to this day, as it was the birthplace of the hatred and animosity that exists between India and Pakistan, all the way to the now prevalent nuclear race.

Hajari’s first goal seems so obvious in retrospect, after decades of distrust; but in 1947 there was a real debate that now resonates:  How could two nations (Pakistan and India) who had so much in common, and so much reason to become strategic partners if not allies, become enemies willing to fight to the death?

The answer lies in two areas: one personal, and one religious.

The personal side begins with the dynamic of the four central players involved in India’s independence.  Jawaharlal Nehru with his “high, aristocratic cheekbones and eyes that were deep pools — irresistible to his many female admirers”; the cold and stand offish Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “cheekbones jutted out of his cadaverous face like the edges of a diamond”; Lord Louis Mountbatten, great-grandson of Queen Victoria herself,  “tall and tanned,” the “Hollywood version of a British prince”; and finally, of course, the father of Indian independence and of nonviolent protest, Mahatma Gandhi.

The failure of these four men to understand their rivals and opponents, to misread their intentions at every turn, and underestimate the animosity that culture, religion, economic class, and simple personality conflicts ultimately lead to failure after failure, ultimately leading to the tragedy that became partition.

A quote echoes in my mind from the biographical tale The Pity of Partition by Ayesha Jalal. In the story, Jalal recounts a conversation between her uncle and his close Muslim friend after the riots. “I am a Muslim, don’t you feel like killing me?” her uncle responds solemnly; “Not now, but when I was hearing about the atrocities committed by Muslims . . . I could have killed you.”

This is a reality that each of the central characters in this story never understood…to the detriment of all Indians.

The religious bigotry and hatred that brought upon the violence among former friends, fellow villagers, neighbors, and even housemates has always and will always been a part of the reality of what India is, to this very day. India strives to be a secular country, which attempts to overcome these historic biases in order to create a union that allows more equal access to all. But always, bubbling under the surface, is this animosity.

Partition was a moment when that animosity broke through the surface, for the world to see. Nehru failed to understand Muslims fear of the massive Hindu majority, and his blind idealism blinded him. Gandhi was even a greater idealist, and his waning days, ill and weak, he didn’t have the power to intercede when needed. Mountbatten was the voice of a dying empire, who was more interested in their bankruptcy treasury than the small details that would have made the partition go smoother. And Jinnah, who often takes the brunt of the blame for many reasons (but probably in reality deserves less of the blame than he regularly receives) was arrogant, single-minded, and thin-skinned…all traits that served him ill.  The leaders at the time denied the reality of India and their own personal relationship with the greater nation, at great cost to the citizens of India and Pakistan.

If there is a weakness in this book, it is that Hajari does understate the case for partition, from the eyes of Pakistanis.  Key names in the origin of Pakistan, like Muhammad Iqbal, the philosophical founder of the country, were largely left out. Ultimately this doesn’t distract from the thesis of the book, but it does leave out nuance of the Muslim position that the reader would not have without reading from other sources.

The book is far from perfect, as any book that confronts such a divisive and partisan historical period would be. But in toto, the author does a magnificent job conveying the horror and immensity of the human tragedy that unfolded, and showing how the failures of a few, very mortal and imperfect men, led to not only that tragedy, but decades of distrust and even current hate for two of the largest countries on the planet.

Other recent books, including  Dilip Hiro’s The Longest August, Yasmin Khan’s The Great Partition, Patrick French’s Liberty or Death, and Alex von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer are all fine alternatives, but simply put, none are as enjoyable or thorough as Hajari’s entry.

One question Hajari doesn’t really attempt to answer: whether partition was worth it.  The scale of the devastation possibly makes this question unanswerable, being too much for any single person to comprehend and allocate.

However, India is now an emerging superpower, who has had a female and Sikh Prime Minister, and a Muslim president; whose most famous actors/actresses are both Muslim and Hindu; and whose richest industrialists and business magnates count Sikhs, Jains, and Muslims among them. Pakistan continues to lag, largely because of religious forces, but also has always had immense potential. Both countries are nuclear powers, and thus, deserve a voice on the international stage.  The subcontinent teems with vitality and possibilities.

The question is, as always: did partition serve either country well, or were they worse off for it?

Like most people confronting that question, I will defer to answer; I think that question is far above my pay grade.



First Republican Debate


I have purposefully avoided commenting too much about the GOP nomination race.  I’ve been through enough of these races to know that virtually nothing worthwhile happens in the summer before the primaries. That was compounded this year, with the emergence of Donald Trump to the race.

But the first debate deserves some commentary, so here are my initial thoughts, in order of the Fox News ranking:

1. Donald Trump: Trump hurt himself from the get go. Bret Baier began the night with maybe the most impressive question a debate ever has begun with: would the candidates promise not to run as a third party candidate?

Trump of course would never make that promise…and lost the crowd immediately. This is where being a Republican matters. I still believe much of Trump’s support comes from fringe GOP voters, not voters that make up most of the primary electorate. Tonight was the first example of this discord.

Trump then went on to insult Megyn Kelly (after she asked a tough question about his relationship with women)…and the night went downhill from there.

I have no idea of what effect this will have on his poll numbers.  Who knows what his supporters believe at this point. I can say without any doubt that this hurt his chances among GOP primary voters.

2. Jeb Bush: Jeb is Jeb. He is boring, competent, plodding, unexciting, but steadfast. If milquetoast is what you want, Jeb is your man. He didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself either.

3.  Scott Walker: Walker calls himself boring, and in some ways he is.  I think like Jeb, he didn’t hurt himself at all. He probably helped himself in small ways, repeating his successes in Wisconsin against withering attacks from liberals and Unions.

4. Mike Huckabee: OK, for me, this was a clear disconnect. I didn’t care for virtually anything he said. But there is no question that he connected with base voters at times.

5. Ben Carson: I really liked Carson. He was shallow on policy details, and that will always dog him. But he had, by far, the best closing statement of the night, and that helped redeem him.

6. Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz had a very good night. When he went on the attack against Obama and his abuse of executive power, he was very strong.  Cruz maybe had his best moment when he talked about sanctuary cities, and the bill he wrote in response to the murder in San Francisco.

7. Marco Rubio: Rubio had an excellent night. Like Cruz, when he was able to get to his core issues, he was commanding and, maybe most important, appeared Presidential.

8. Rand Paul: Paul started the night by going after Trump, somewhat successfully.  But then, he seemed combative with everyone, eventually getting into a fierce fight with, of all people, Chris Christie. Strategically, this was a mistake. It wasted time on a candidate that Paul has nothing to gain from, and even worse, he probably lost a winnable argument to Christie.

9. Chris Chrisite: Christie had a solid night, actually. Problem is, he has no chance of rising in the polls enough to challenge the top-tier. He carries far too many negatives at this point.

10. John Kasich: Kasich had a very good night as well. His form of ‘compassionate conservatism’ came over nicely, especially in the question regarding how he would react if his daughters revealed they were gay.  Of course, Kasich did make some factual errors regarding Medicaid expansion in Ohio, and often avoided the central questions asked, but still he came off as reasonable and competent.

Others: I wanted to include the members of the earlier debate. Carly Fiorina, by far, won the afternoon debate. She was personable, likable, and demonstrated a command of the issues. She was also the most effective critic of Hillary Clinton by far. Ironically, her most publicized moment may have come after the debate, in a scuffle with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. That can be seen here, but in short: she took Matthews to the woodshed, and looked commanding doing it.

Sadly, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal had mediocre debate performances at best.  It will be very difficult for them to gain traction as we go forward. The other candidates are, for all practical measures, non-entities.

My overall take?

I think it is very hard to pick a winner from such a broad debate stage. If I forced to choose, I would say Marco Rubio came out on top. He appeared steady, Presidential, with a command of the issues and the ability to attack when needed.

Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee probably helped themselves out to varying degrees. I will really be interested in seeing if Carly Fiorina’s performance gives her any traction. She probably deserves some; I honestly wonder if she would have won the night debate, if she had been on stage.

Jeb Bush was boring and competent, and he will always be boring and competent. Is that enough to win the nomination?

Chris Christie and Rand Paul are just biding time, I think. Neither made a strong case to go forward for too long. Paul at least has the support of a libertarian base to continue onward; Christie really has no such argument to make.

The $60 million question?  How much did Trump hurt himself? I would say he was boorish, clownish, and largely unresponsive to questions…but that didn’t stop him from surging to first place to begin with. I make no predictions about how this will affect his poll numbers; I have long ago given up on predicting what will happen in regards to Donald Trump.

One last point: I was very skeptical of Fox News and their format, but Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace did as fantastic a job as could be expected in this kind of setting. They deserve a lot of credit for running a very enjoyable debate.




Ant-Man: Movie Review



For fans who are not familiar with the Marvel Comic history, Ant-Man seems like a bad joke; a flashback to the heydays of low-quality science fiction B movies.

In fact, Ant-Man (at least in his original iteration, Hank Pym) was always want the integral members of the Avengers. As one of the founding members, and resident geniuses, of the group, Ant-Man was every bit as important to the team as Iron Man and Captain America.

For obvious reasons, Marvel very early on decided to delay a Ant-Man movie.  It is hard enough to get the non-comic book reading public to buy into Thor and mystical objects from space, without having a character that can miniaturize and control ants. That said, Ant-Man is able to deliver as a nice addition to the 2015 summer blockbusters.

The story begins with an introduction of Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas, who we discover was the original Ant-Man). In this movie iteration of the story, Pym was a superhero decades earlier, in an era long before the Avengers. Pym had been a key part of the science team for S.H.I.E.L.D., the global police force, until he feared they would steal his secret technology of miniaturization and abuse that power.

Pym however has been pushed out of control of his own company by his protegé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), as well as his own daughter, Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly). We soon discover that Hope (who, as we find out, has a troubled history with her father) has a coming-to-Jesus where she realizes her mistake too late.

Pym is looking for a new hero to wear his Ant-Man suit, and to defend his life’s work from the abuse from evil hands.  In that quest, he finds his hero in the likes of a petty, convicted burglar, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

The biggest fear for movie producers of these type of films is that they will look cheap or silly. Ant-Man has that problem more than many other characters. As ridiculous as the character’s name is (and they don’t shy away from making fun of the name), the ability for him to control, ride, and use ants could have been ludicrous if done incorrectly. Instead, they make the interaction with the miniature world seem to be exciting, and actually fun to watch.

What makes this movie work however, in ways that Age of Ultron did not, was that this was a much more personal story. We grow to learn who these characters are, and cheer for them to succeed in what ultimately becomes in some ways a classic heist story.  Ant-Man also seems somewhat more lighthearted than any of the recent additions to the Marvel Universe, including Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The stakes here are significant, but can’t compare to the global annihilation in those movies. Thus, it allows the characters just enough leeway to be loose and relaxed, instead of waiting for the apocalypse.

In many ways, I enjoyed this movie far more than Age of Ultron, not that I disliked the latter film. This movie is not groundbreaking at all; people will recognize several very similar plot analogues to Iron Man for example.  But after the dull seriousness of the past few movies (despite their excellence) it was fun to watch Marvel get back to just making a fun movie.

Ant-Man concludes Marvel’s ‘Phase 2′ roll out of new heroes for the new Avengers. The end credits help set up several major characters that will be integral in the coming Captain America: Civil War movies, as well as the ultimate Infinity War series.

Overall, this was simply a nice, fun classic summer superhero movie, that doesn’t prove a game changer, but definitely adds to the ever-growing Marvel Comics Universe.








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