Archive for the ‘News and politics’ Category

Modern Patriotism

Posted: July 4, 2016 in News and politics

It’s been awhile since I’ve been inspired to write at length about anything. Yesterday’s Kitsap Sun Opinion page included a column somebody decided to headline “Patriotism as it is now”.
Robert Reich seeks to distinguish “exclusive patriotism” from “inclusive patriotism”. As he describes the “traditional” patriotism has “… ideals we share in common: democracy, equal opportunity, freedom, tolerance and generosity” i. e. “inclusive patriotism.

He goes on to expand on these ideals, then he presents “By contrast, we’re now hearing a strident, exclusive patriotism. It asserts a unique and superior `Americanism’ that’s determined to exclude others beyond our borders.”

Robert then gives us the supreme example of the most famous proponent of exclusive patriotism, Donald Trump. His idea is to keep certain ethnic and religious groups out.

While I agree that our best “traditional” ideals are inclusive, tolerant, free, generous, I see this as a continuous struggle with the evil opposites that creep up from the corrosive alternative.

In an attempt to understand the meaning of liberal and conservative, I am often challenged to distinguish one from the other. These kinds of patriotism fall into one of the other classifications, liberal or conservative. But, if Mr. Reich’s description of traditional values falls into a conservative ideal, and the “new” patriotism fits into a “progressive” (dare I call it “liberal”) then isn’t he giving credence to allowing conservatives to be the rudder (in my “Ship of State for the 21st Century”) and the progressive be the propeller (“screw” in maritime terminology) needing the guidance of the “rudder”?

Many years ago there was a semi-political cartoon series “Pogo Possum”. Probably the most famous utterance by the subject is “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Doesn’t that apply very well to Mr. Reich’s observation that “Exclusive patriotism tells us to fear foreign terrorists in our midst – even though almost every terrorist attack since 9/11 has been perpetrated by American citizens or holders of green cards living here for a decade or more.”?

We were witnessing a particularly humorous event on the news this evening. John Boehner was excoriating the Senate Democrats, imploring them to “get off their asses” and vote for the homeland security funding bill. What’s humorous is: six months ago the Senate Republicans were a part of the “party of `no’”. Extreme partisans can vilify John by saying what he is doing is “evil”. Six months ago Harry Reid would be declared spot on for saying the same thing about Senate Republicans.

Of course the tables are turned. The R’s “control” both House and Senate. (Putting control in quotations is understanding that this “control” is limited, because the other side has certain procedural controls in the game.

So, let’s take a sport – I like baseball, but this could be applied to just about any team sport. The offensive team has one main member, the batter. His job is to hit the ball, that is hurled at the strike zone by the pitcher, and get on base or run the bases. Let’s compare the curve ball to the political “lie”. Oh my, that pitcher “lied” to the batter by pitching a curve ball. He lied to the batter! The ball was supposed to go high, but it went low. Do we say the pitcher was evil for “lying” to the batter by throwing a curve? There are many more strategies used in baseball by the defense to overcome strategies by the offense.

At this point I have to interject the inadvisability of lying with impunity. The liar is not trusted when his lies are detected. The latest scandal of Brian Wilson, the NBC reporter who was released by NBC news for his lying about an event in the middle east. Will Brian ever be trusted again? There is a certain moral code regarding journalists that injects a credibility into the reporting of the news. But, if we simply limit the comparison between politics and sports, we can come to accept deception as a necessary element in doing the job. Once we understand that some people make things up (lie) we can coexist by not trusting what they say. We either accept or not their lying. We shun or socialize with them. Socializing with them removes the stigma in the interest of trying not to achieve teaching them a lesson (which won’t work with the pathological liar). If we shun them we close off any chance of reaching them and avoiding the tendency of evil to fester in the soul of the liar, and result in some catastrophic evil. But, this social commentary is digressing from the subject of politics as a sport. How do we know the politician is lying? No, not when his lips are moving. Try Factcheck.org. While I think the staff sometimes nitpicks, it is a good source to determine the validity of politician’s utterances.

Of course there is the element of cheating. Some people believe that cheating is only bad if the cheater either gets caught or doesn’t, you pick – one is the cynical approach and the other is the realistic. It is pretty much in the court of public opinion whether the cheater is punished, even though there is a system to detect and punish the cheater.

As I’ve long believed, companies whose workers are unionized thrive; while those who don’t don’t. Case in point: I once worked for Airborne Express. A coworker proudly announced, “We aren’t unionized. Airborne couldn’t survive if we were.” Not being particularly astute to the workers’ rights I didn’t have a response. Sometimes I feel like the “watcher” in the series “Highlander”. The “watcher” character didn’t have an active roll but did offer counsel to the main immortals. I don’t even try to offer unsolicited counsel. I prefer to follow Dale Carnegie’s idea that “you can’t tell anybody anything. You can only seek to inspire…” At least that’s a paraphrase of what he said. But I digress. The point is: there are two other thriving shippers, Fed Ex and United Parcel Service. And, guess what: they both thrive and are union. And where is Airborne Express these days? It was bought out by another multinational and you don’t see their (DHL) delivery trucks around here any more. So, today I see an article in a side-bar on page A8 of today’s Seattle Times, “Strike vs. Amazon” that the Amazon.com workers in Germany (unionized) are striking for more wages. That would seem to indicate that unions are somewhat strong in Germany (I’d have to check that one out) and, guess what is the strongest economy in Europe? You guessed it: Germany. I googled “unions in Germany” and, boy did I get an education… just by reading the citation headings. One could do a study on the subject by following the links. Another article in today’s Seattle Times tells of the newly elected Seattle City Counsel who proudly proclaims she is a socialist! She addressed a union gathering and advanced an idea she has had for quite a while that the government should use eminent domain and take Boeing and sell it to the workers…

Reading a column in the  July 26, 2011 edition of the Kitsap Sun headlines “The New Party of Ronald Reagan” I am filled with a new introspection of an issue of economics that has been formulating in me for years.

I am reflecting on a short conversation I had with a certain bus driver many years ago at the outdoor part of the then Cafe Destino. She made the point that the good or bad that occurs during an administration’s years are the results of policies of the previous administration. If she is right, then logic would seem to dictate that the economic meltdown during George Bush’s administration might be the result of policies of Bill Clinton’s administration. One of the bragging points that Bill often talks about is his balancing the budget. So, did balancing the budget result in the economic woes that came about in the next administration?

We can have some measure of certainty that the current economic woes are brought about by how Dubya mishandled the economy in his administration. I often remember the political cartoon published early in Dubya’s administration showing a relay race. The runner who is finishing his part of the race hands off a sputtering torch named “economy” to the next runner. Of course the finishing runner was Bill Clinton and the new runner was Dubya. Sometimes I think political cartoons are dead on, in terms of accuracy… especially years later after the ensuing turns of events.

I hope I can see the bus driver sometime in the future to exchange reflections.

It is a common weakness for us to agree with polling results if they agree with our beliefs, and point out the weaknesses of polling methods if they disagree. When informed with the actual questions and the interpretations of polling data that are the results of responses to these questions we see through some faulty conclusions.

So, how can we improve polling to give us better guidance from their results? I propose weighing responses by results of a short quiz on relevant facts that determines the knowledge of the respondents. A high score on the quiz would give the response a greater numerical value than a score that reflects a woeful ignorance of the facts.

To make the polling data more useful all information, including the actual questions posed in the quiz, should be included. I’m sure our lawmakers, as well as the public at large, would appreciate a better reading of polls to guide their decisions.

Some infamous polling results include the reported 70% of Americans agreed with the Iraq invasion when it was being considered, and the slim majority of Americans who don’t like Obamacare. Of course the latter doesn’t delineate between those who don’t like it for different perceived failings (i. e. some prefer a single payer system).

A recent video showed how little some respondents knew about Obamacare (including the fact that Obamacare is the same as the affordable care act). Respondents said they liked the affordable care act, but didn’t like Obamacare. And when they were asked whether they liked certain benefits included in Obamacare, they universally responded they did. This was an exercise on The Jerry Kimmel Live show.

If anyone out there remembers the phrase “The rich get richer…” you might remember where it comes from. There is a song (I think it was written by Cole Porter) that says “The rich get richer and the poor gets poorer… In the meantime, in between time, ain’t we got fun?” But go further and you’ll find it was a main theme of Communists (or was it the unions?) in the 20’s and 30’s. OMG!!! the pinko MSM is repeating commy propaganda!!! Can you dig it? Oh, I guess I should tell you how this popped into my head. I was reading a piece “Updated Study (headline:) Top 1% take record share of U. S. Income”. But wait, there’s more. This is a reprint from a N. Y. Times article by Annie Lowrey. I caught it at the very bottom of page 1 of today’s Seattle Times. When the Seattle Post Intelligencer was a competitor to the Seattle Times, the former was considered the liberal and the latter was the conservative.

Ok. So I’ve only been awake for a little over an hour and I’ve had my first cup of coffee. What I am reading in an article posted from MSN News “1 hour ago” (this being 12:15 PM) is Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavlov is proposing that Syria transfer control of their chemical weapons to international control within Russia for destruction. My immediate reaction is OMG! Then I think is this a ploy by Russia and Syria to delay an attack proposed by the Obama administration; this being advanced by the MSN News article’s author.

As I absorb the ramifications of this development I am just overjoyed at the possibility of sparing Obama the embarrassment of being the first U. S. President to be rebuffed by congress in his attempt to get their approval for a limited attack on a sovereign nation for humanitarian or any other reason.

I am anxious to read or hear other analysts make observations. My views are frequently altered by opinions that seem reasonable.

Back Page Surprise

Posted: April 27, 2013 in News and politics, Security

“Syria likely crossed line on nerve agents, U. S. says” is the headline of an article on page one of today’s Seattle Times. The stampede has begun to get involved militarily as the “red line” has obviously been crossed. Leaders from both parties in congress have called for action…

But, not so fast. On the back page near the end of the article is a huge caveat. “A person familiar with the issue, who asked not to be further identified, said that only a miniscule trace of a “byproduct” – a toxic residue left behind after use of a nerve agent, and which he did not identify – had been found in a soil sample.

“The found trace amounts of a byproduct in soil, but there are also fertilizers that give out the same byproduct,” the person said, “It’s far from conclusive.”

This the same kind of misgivings that, if heeded, could have kept us out of the Iraq debacle.

At this point let’s pause and look at who wrote this and for which news agency it comes. The byline is “By Anne Gearan and Craig Whitlock The Washington Post”. Is this a unique source? Let’s google the phrase “miniscule amount of sarin”… Whoa! This is going to take awhile…

The very first (top of the page) link is Sarin bomb – Car Forums and Automotive Chat. Even though its from a post dated, 05 – 25 – 2004, it is by Scott Ritter. Hmm. That’s a familiar name. Oh, THAT Scott Ritter

• Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and is author of ‘Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America.’

And it does have some relevant information… and there is a link to none other than The Christian Science Monitor. That’s a pretty reliable publication, in case anybody asks you.
One can get a wealth of information via Google, so do so before you jump on the bandwagon. I would offer this precaution to congressmen who are quick to urge the administration to make bold military steps… as long as other peoples’ family members go into the valley of death and destruction.

This whole debacle about the “false(?)” arrest of the part time Elvis imitator, Paul Kevin Curtis, leaves a bad taste in my mouth (mind). In an article from Los Angeles Times and Associated Press and printed in today’s Seattle Times, it appears the only evidence the authorities had against this suspect was some letters (contents not divulged) and social media postings. Entering “Paul Curtis” and “Paul Kevin Curtis” both in the search window of facebook, and google turns up many hits. All of these sources taken together give us a good picture of the whole mess.

What bothers me the most is the way authorities use even the most innocuous leads to try to build a case for reasonable suspicion… or whatever criteria they use to arrest somebody. This leads to a precautionary admonition. Be careful what you post! If that sounds paranoid… welll… as the pundit once said, “Even the paranoid have enemies”.

The item that caught my eye this morning was about a man who was freed after 20 years in jail. The link: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51281108. I also posted some of my thoughts with the other link to the story on facebook.

It seems the D. A.’s office had instituted a “conviction integrity unit” to look into convictions that look wrong after new evidence is discovered. The story (as reported and its link posted on my facebook page) is pretty interesting. In my view it shows a challenge to a prosecutor’s office to be diligent in deciding when a case should go to trial. The evidence was apparently not available to the prosecutor’s office when the case was sent to trial, according to reports. It appears the witness that picked Ranta out in a line-up said he did not recognize Ranta but selected him after a detective told him to “pick the guy with the big nose.” Harrumph!

What I find equally abhorrent is how “A jail house snitch and his girlfriend, both of whom fingered Ranta as the shooter, also admitted to prosecutors that they made up their story to secure a favorable plea deal.” This kind of plea bargaining might save time and money but it surely seems to go against the interests of justice. With only what I read in news accounts of a trial I am usually skeptical of cases that hinge on a witness who testifies to get a better deal in their case. I expect corroborating evidence would be necessary for a good case. One might ask if the corroborating evidence is strong, then why use the “snitch”. All that is for a jury to decide, I guess.

“12 Angry Men” is another great study in jurisprudence. My feeling is “art imitates life”; and sometimes the reverse. That’s why the liberal arts part of my college days has become more important ,in my retirement years, than what I learned more directly useful to get (and keep) a job.

The prosecutor in the news story should be lauded for instituting the “conviction integrity unit” at the risk of losing his job. He is up for reelection. He belongs in Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” or Kennedy’s daughter’s sequel “Profiles in Courage for Our Times”.

Oops! I just read certain cogent parts of the Wikipedia article about the book and, as the woman TV reporter in “Hero” (played by Gena Davis) stated with such great articulation in the acceptance speech for the “silver Microphone” award, there is more to the story than what we read. I will have to stop now before this extends into a major digression.