Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lester, Oh Lester -
You make me feel so


Matthew Yglesias
August 28, 2013
At a recent Washington meeting I heard a chilling phrase: Obama had “no good options” in Syria. Obama’s good option would be to reread his administration’s official National Security Strategy, which sagely argues that “[a]s we did after World War II, we must pursue a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests.”

In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 19, 2011. This is exactly what we shouldn't do in Syria., Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images,
I was in a meeting recently in Washington with a whole bunch of important people, when I heard a chilling phrase: Obama had “no good options” in Syria. It’s become a cliché. Aaron David Miller in a CNN commentary said there were “no good options” for dealing with the situation. Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast wonders if bombing Syria is America’s “best bad option.” This is how Washington talks itself into a war that has little public support and scant basis in facts or logic. It’s completely unclear how much military strikes will weaken Bashar al-Assad’s regime and also completely unclear to what extent a weaker Syrian regime serves American or humanitarian interests. Military engagement has potentially large downsides and essentially no upsides. But we can brush that all under the table with the thought that there are no good options, which makes it OK to endorse some shoddy ones.
Except, in this case, it’s total nonsense. Obama has an excellent option. It’s called “don’t bomb Syria.” Don’t fire cruise missiles at Syria either. Or in any other way conduct acts of war. Condemn Assad’s violations of international humanitarian law. If rebels violate international humanitarian law, condemn them, too.
Work at the United Nations to get wrongdoing punished. Insofar as geopolitically driven Russian and Chinese intransigence prevents that from happening, accept alliance politics as a fact of life. The government of Bahrain has killed dozens of protesters since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, and America has done nothing. We haven’t cut aid to Egypt despite massacres there, and while it’s at least imaginable that we might cut aid at some point, we certainly won’t be greenlighting any cross-border attacks on the Egyptian military. We don’t have to like it when our friends in Beijing and Moscow block our schemes, but there’s no need to be self-righteous about it.
Obama’s good option would be to reread his administration’s official National Security Strategy, which sagely argues that “[a]s we did after World War II, we must pursue a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests.”
In this case, the relevant rules are in Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which  states that all countries have an “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense” in the case of an armed attack. Bombing Syria would not be an act of U.S. self-defense. Nor would it be an act of collective self-defense in which the United States comes to the aid of an ally. Beyond individual and collective self-defense, military action may be legally undertaken at the direction of the Security Council. In this case, direction will not be forthcoming, which is what makes Obama’s choice easy. He needs to stick with the pursuit of a rules-based international system by, in this case, playing by the rules.
This is a good option.
What makes it a bad option in the eyes of many is the reality that following my advice will lead to the deaths of many Syrian civilians. That is truly and genuinely tragic. On the other hand, it is by no means clear that bombing military institutions will reduce the number of civilian casualties. Historically, military intervention on the side of rebel groups has increased the pace of civilian deaths, not decreased it. 
More to the point, if you put arbitrary framing issues aside, the United States stands by and does nothing in the face of human tragedy all the time. Millions of desperate people in Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere would love to escape dire poverty by moving to the United States to work, and we don’t let them. Nobody in Washington is doing anything about the ongoing civil war in Congo.
One way to look at this—the heartless way—is that the United States is really good at being indifferent to foreign suffering, and that in the case of Syria, we have a pretty strong reason for indifference.
Another way of looking at it—the bleeding-heart, correct way—is that Americans ought to care more about the lives of people outside our borders. That we ought to be more open to foreign immigration and foreign trade to help bolster foreign economies. That when the Office of Management and Budget does cost-benefit analysis for regulatory measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it ought to consider the impact on foreigners. That both as individuals and as a government we ought to do more to support charities such as the Against Malaria Foundation or Give Directly that save 10 times as many innocent lives or more than humanitarian military interventions.
To be clear, the mere fact that bombing is rarely an optimal or cost-effective way of helping foreigners is not a reason to avoid doing it. The reason to avoid unilateral bombing campaigns is that the pursuit of long-term peace requires the United States to play by the rules. But if reading the news or watching television and thinking about the poor Syrian civilians is leaving you so conscience-stricken that somehow allowing the civil war to continue is intolerable, then think about all the other suffering you aren’t seeing on TV. Try doing something to help some of those people. President Obama himself needs to consider that his and his senior staff’s time and attention are one of the scarcest and most valuable resources on the planet. He needs to be spending that time wisely. If he finds himself pondering a problem for which he thinks he has “no good options,” that means he ought to move on to something else—to problems for which he does have good options but where the issue itself is languishing in obscurity. But for an unsolvable problem like Syria, the good option is the sensible one: Do nothing, and don’t start any unnecessary and illegal wars.
Matthew Yglesias is Slate's business and economics correspondent. Before joining the magazine he worked for ThinkProgress, the Atlantic, TPM Media, and the American Prospect. His first book, Heads in the Sand, was published in 2008. His second, The Rent Is Too Damn High, was published in March.

Charlie Cobb Jr - Another Angel of the Civil Rights Movement

I met Charlie Cobb Jr, when I was 17 years old. I had just graduated from high school and was working at a place called Bookazine (in Greenwich Village). Cobb and others associated with Drum and Spear Bookstore would come up from Washington to purchase books. I had no idea this soft spoken gentleman and lovely individual was changing America. Many years later I feel blessed every time our paths cross or I simply read something he has written. See below. I'm looking forward to reading his forthcoming book.


I remember when I had to raise my hand in class in order to obtain permission to go to the bathroom.
Once in high school I had a terrible lunch. My bowels had no time to salute the flag. I was in French class...I had to go. I bolted out the door - out the room - and ran down the hall. Chemical warfare for anyone who stuck their head near my stall.

Who came up with the idea to bomb Syria?  Why?  Why now?  When Sarah Palin sounds smart about a conflict that should tell us something. Maybe Allah should solve this one.  The only problem with that logic is - who has next?  America standing against the world playground fence and looking like a nerd with no game - is not the neighborhood I want to live in.

Asking for "permission" to go to war - or asking for Congressional approval is like having slow Internet service these days. Or it just permits Syria to do what I once did when I was a child - hide the bad things under the bed so your mother can't see it. Chemical warfare in these times might be more humane when it comes to fighting wars. Today's wars target citizens everyday. Suicide bombers and young kids running around with guns instead of school books is the type of fumes the world is gasping from everyday. Chemical warfare reminds me of those old days when we were soldiers running across the landscape and hiding in foxholes. How long has the fox been gone?  How many corporations are daily killing people slowly with chemicals  but without the big bang?
        (for H)

Sometimes I wonder
what you are doing
or not doing -

Then the sun comes
out and I want to touch
the light which is you

Feel the warmth
that is you

I want you to come
down from the sky
and lift my love

my life

I want you to
end the darkness
of our separation

   - E. Ethelbert Miller

Friday, August 30, 2013

I discovered another sweet spot in the city yesterday - Ted's Bulletin located at 1818 14th Street.
Here one can celebrate the return of the diner. The say "Family Restaurant" on their window. The stools however can make one feel as if it's Film Noir if you keep you fedora on. I had breakfast with my friend Diane; after we drove around and saw other coming attractions to 14th Street.

Lady Diane photo by Ethelbert


Hello, everyone --

President Obama was just two years old when Dr. King, along with hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks, inspired the country at the March on Washington. The President is a full generation removed from the heroes who marched across the bridge in Selma, who boycotted the buses in Montgomery, who integrated the lunch counters in Greensboro, but they inspired his commitment to public service.

And if his presidency is a symbol of the progress we've made as a nation, his speech yesterday -- a full half century after the March on Washington -- was an impassioned call to continue building on the work of the civil rights movement.

It was quite a moment. Take a minute to watch the video, then share it with your friends.

We too often forget that when the crowds converged on the National Mall 50 years ago, they were marching for jobs and freedom. The speakers talked about rolling back oppression, but they also demanded equal access to opportunity and a fair shot at economic success.

We have made great progress, but these goals remain just as relevant today as they were in 1963. Every American deserves to feel the pride of a hard-earned paycheck and the opportunity to achieve their dreams, regardless of who they are or where they are born.
As President Obama said, "The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn't bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency."

Watch now:

Thank you -- and here's to our continued progress over the next 50 years.


Valerie Jarrett
Senior Advisor
The White House


Don't let anyone put a foot in your head.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I just finished reading THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC by Julie Otsuka. I highly recommend this book. I learned so much...there is still sadness in my eyes.

Sometimes just seeing a special friend makes living so much fun. Much going on 50 years after the March on Washington. Yesterday I went to a program that honored the special relationship that  Blacks and Jews had during the Civil Rights Movement. Susannah Heschel was one of the speakers. She spoke about her father's relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I recommend the book she edited - Abraham Joshua Heschel - Essential Writings published by Orbis Books. Whenever Susannah and I get together there is much laughter...

E.Ethelbert Miller and Susannah Heschel photo taken by Aaron Jenkins

Tricycle Daily Dharma August 28, 2013

A Powerful Motivation

When I think of the Buddhist precepts, which are ethical precepts, they are all about relationships. I’ve boiled them down to one: vowing to live in a way that is not at the expense of other beings. In a sense it’s very grand and impossible, but it’s also a really powerful motivation.
- Alan Senauke, "Wrong Mindfulness

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Aaron Jenkins, E. Ethelbert Miller and Tope Folarin


The first E-Forum was a huge success.  Yesterday Aaron Jenkins and Tope Folarin sat down together and talked about being black men. One would have thought these guys had been lifetime friends. What wonderful chemistry and an evening of conversation at Busboys (5th and K Street, NW). The topic was "Black Men and the Rebuilding of Our Nation." I wanted them to discuss what it meant to be a black man in America today. What are the streams and rivers we need to navigate? What oceans must we cross? What power do we need in order to build? Where are our blueprints? I asked Aaron and Tope personal as well as political questions.

Here are a few:

How much different are you from your father?
What is the difference between your father's world and yours?

How much does place define a black man? City? Region?
Are there places in the US where you would not live?

As you were growing up where did some of the major lessons about race come from?
Did they come from home, the streets, school?

As black men how important is the issue of abortion to you?

What are your view on gay marriage?

During the last several years how has technology changed your life?

When you attend movies, do you see yourself on the screen?  Are there any black actors
who have influenced you in terms of style and mannerisms.

What author has influenced you the most?

Aaron Jenkins and Tope Folarin photo by Ethelbert

E- Forum photo by Ethelbert

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Holly Karapetkova photo by Ethelbert

I just returned form Winchester, Virginia. I gave a poetry reading with Holly Karapetkova at the Shenandoah Arts Council Gallery. During the reception a woman gave me a CD of Mantra Mountain
by Lama Tashi. It consists of Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Chanting with Western Voices and Instruments. The woman told me she loved my poem " Buddha Weeping In Winter." All I could do was bow and offer thanks.

I wrote this poem many years ago. It's also the title poem of the book I did with Ms. Don Mee Choi that was published by Red Dragonfly Press in 2001.


snow falling on prayers
covering the path
made by your 

I wait for spring
and the return of love

how endless
is this whiteness
like letters without

The Whites

It was after we had stopped
paying attention to them that we
started to live our lives.

We had wasted centuries
and too much history.
It was as if a storm was over.

The air now fresh. We turned
our clear minds back to our
imaginations and dreams.

We removed our skin and color
and placed it like old shirts
on a bedroom chair.

Soon no one noticed it.
We closed the door to our rooms
and went outside to eternity.

A new universe was waiting.
Blackness was now a destination,
an idea whose time had come.

  - E. Ethelbert Miller

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tricycle Daily Dharma August 24, 2013

The Practice of Everything

In reality, everything is potentially a means to awakening. It is simply a matter of seeing this and knowing how to apply each thing in each particular case. Bodhisattvas practice skillful means to help all beings without exception to awaken. There's nothing that can't be part of a program for awakening. Everything is practice.
- Norman Fischer, "Revealing a World of Bliss"


A beloved friend started chemo last week. Above is my head tribute to her. Love you madly B.



Bob Shacochis

Back in June the writer Bob Shacochis and I sat together at a table in Bennington cracking jokes.
I love the guy. He promised to send me a copy of his new novel once it was published. Well, the big book came yesterday - The Woman Who Lost Her Soul. This is Bob's first work of fiction in over twenty years.  This is his magnum opus. How will I ever get to finish this book before Bob arrives in Washington for his book party? His publicist informed me that it will be held on September 18th at the Tenley Friendship Library. I plan to be there. What about you?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tom Hayden on Prisons
HW Logo
Hurston/Wright Foundation
Invites You to Our
Literary Salon Celebrating
Richard Wright's
105th Birthday
Richard Wright Typing
Writers, readers, poets, and lovers of words please join us for an evening honoring one of our namesakes - the great American author Richard Wright.
From 6pm to 8pm
Pepco Logo 702 8TH STREET, NW
Washington, DC 20068



Citizens marching in the August 28, 2013 will experience a special moment in history after the August 28, 2013 March concludes on the National Mall.  Today it was announced that President Barack Obama has chosen to speak to the nation on August 28, 2013 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  This will make the August 28, 2013 “March for Jobs and Justice” extra special.  On August 28, 2013 at  8:15 am we will gather at 600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C.   From there we will march to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear the President speak from the very spot where Dr. King delivered his speech “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago.  America ”Our time [August 28, 2013 at 8:15 am] has come”!  Join us!
AUGUST 27, 2013
With panel discussions, featured speakers, and open discussion groups this is as unique and ambitious a conference on civil rights that you have ever attended. On August 27, 2013, attendees to the “Marching Forward By Looking Back” Conference on Civil Rights will leave with a more comprehensive understanding of the problems and solutions that will allow us to make the progress that Doctor King dreamed of 50 years ago.
The Center For the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws
18 Grove Place
Rochester, New York 14605
(585) 271-6780 


Yesterday evening I had a chance to walk around inside the new YMCA ANTHONY BOWEN located at 14th & W Street. The official opening is in a few weeks. This place is cool and everyone should think about becoming a member. Oh, if I was only younger. Inside the Y is a new mural by
Andy Shallal. When I arrived he was explaining his mural to power couple Kenneth and Danielle Vogel. Kenneth writes for Politico and Danielle runs Glen's Garden Market. Soon we were all following Andy around the Y as if he was a politician; he gave us a wonderful tour of the place. I wanted to remind him that the word mayor had Y in the middle.

Andy's new mural photo by Ethelbert

Andy's new mural photo by Ethelbert

Thursday, August 22, 2013


My good friend John Parks sent me a copy of his new book - Occupy D.C.: A Photo Essay In Black & White. What Parks did was document one day (October 11, 2011) of a protest. Because all the pictures are in black and white it makes the events seem like they might have been held during the last century and not this one. Parks shoots like a journalist with a camera. Since almost all of the photographs feature protest posters there is a considerable amount of text in a book where the pictures have no captions.

Occupy D.C. comes with a very informative introduction. In one page Parks provides the reader with a historical overview of the Occupy Movement. How quickly we can forget what the original intent of this movement was. The Parks picture on page 3 opens the book in a very interesting manner.  All the individuals in a crowd are looking to the right, as if waiting for the reader to turn the page and become part of history.

What becomes obvious about what took place in 2011( and is captured by Parks) was how grassroots everything was. The protest signs are mostly all handmade. This is something I felt people had stopped doing. I recall how years ago when protesting against apartheid in South Africa, one was given nicely made signs - probably donated by a union. This made the entire event to be more a staged rehearsal and protesters nothing more than actors.

My favorite poster/picture in the Parks book is on page 103. A sign is held that reads:


Turning the pages in Occupy D.C. also makes one aware of how absent African Americans were in this protest. But maybe the importance of race is present by the fact that John Parks is an African American photographer. Is he Crispus Attucks with a lens?  Parks does photograph a man holding a quote by Benjamin Franklin (see page 109):


Reviewing the pictures taken and compiled by John Parks one sees the book as being a response to one of the posters that appears near the closing pages. It reads:


Yes, this is what we should remember at the end of day when we stop and look at the world in black and white. Thank you John Parks for taking these pictures on October 8, 2011. It was a day when people did not turn their backs to the camera. It was a day they didn't look away. It was a day when people understood the history of struggle and upheld the glowing images of freedom.


Hello, everybody --

Michelle and I know exactly how tough it can be to pay for higher education. By the time we finished paying back the loans we took out to go to college and grad school, I was on my way to being a U.S. Senator.

I believe that anyone who works hard should have the same opportunities that our educations gave us. That's why, as President, I've made it a personal mission to make higher education more affordable -- and why I'm going to be visiting school campuses later this week.

Learn more about why this is the time to take action.

The facts are clear. Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled. At the same time, many state governments are actually reducing their support for education, and many middle-class students are getting stuck with the tab. Today, the average student taking out loans to pay for education graduates with more than $26,000 in debt.

Just tinkering around the edges won't be enough: To create a better bargain for the middle class, we have to fundamentally rethink about how higher education is paid for in this country. We've got to shake up the current system.

That's why, starting Thursday, I will be embarking on a bus tour to offer my plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families. My plan includes real reforms that would bring lasting change. They won't all be popular with everyone --including some who've made higher education their business -- but it's past time that more of our colleges work better for the students they exist to serve.

Over the past four and a half years, we've worked to put college in reach for more students and their families through tax credits, improving access to financial aid, and new options that make it easier to repay those loans.

But if we're going to keep the doors of higher education open to everyone who works for it, we need to do more -- much more. And that's exactly what I'm going to be talking about this week.

So learn more here, then help to spread the word:


President Barack Obama

Tricycle Daily Dharma August 22, 2013

The Reality of Love

The problem with interpersonal love is that you are dependent on the other person to reflect love back to you. That’s part of the illusion of separateness. The reality is that love is a state of being that comes from within.
- Ram Dass, “Tuning the Mind”


Hi, Ethelbert —

Just wanted to send a quick note to say how glad we are to have you on this year's Fall for the Book schedule! It's a milestone year for us—our 15th festival—and I think we've got one of our best line-ups yet, as I'm sure you've seen, with headliners including Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry, activist and author Ralph Nader, poet Sonia Sanchez, Oprah Book Club author Cheryl Strayed, and then thriller writer David Baldacci. A nice mix even there, I think, not to mention among the nearly 150 other writers and presenters appearing September 22-27. 

I'm hopeful that you might give a shout-out to your own event on your blog—and maybe to any other events that catch your eye on our schedule at

I know you have a great interest in politics both domestic and international in addition to your interest in the literary world, so I did want to call your attention to one special exhibition and appearance below:
SEPT. 22-27
Photography Exhibition: If You Knew Me, You Would Care
Center for the Arts Lobby, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Rennio Maifredi’s photographs from the collection If You Knew Me You Would Care—a collaboration between Maifredi and women's rights activist and Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi—offer portraits of women from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, women who have overcome the adversity of survived war, loss, and more to emerge with hope for the future. The exhibition is on view throughout the festival, and Salbi will offer a gallery talk, with stories behind the portraits, on Friday, September 27, at 11 a.m. Sponsored by New Century College and African and African American Studies.

Please do let me know if there's anything else I can send your way. And thanks for time and attention here!

Art Taylor, Marketing Director
Fall for the Book, Sept. 22-27, 2013

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

Egyptians today are being given a choice between a military that seems to want to take Egypt back to 1952, when the army first seized power - and kept those Muslim Brothers in their place - and the Muslim Brothers, who want to go back to 622, to the birth of Islam and to a narrow, anti-pluralistic, anti-women, Shariah-dominated society- as if that is the answer to Egypt's ills.

         Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, August 21, 2013.

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013
Manning Sentenced to 35 Years
Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. He faced up to 90 years in prison.
After my talk at the Institute of International Education yesterday, I walked over to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library on G Street. I wanted to see their new Digital Commons. All I can say is - Wow.  This library has moved into the 21st century big time.

Photo by Ethelbert

First floor of King Library photo by Ethelbert