Back to The Power to Harm

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

It was sometime in 1992 or 1993 that an article in a national news magazine caught my eye. I could not believe the couple of paragraphs devoted to a scandal that started in Wenatchee, Washington. You can read the whole sordid story in Wikipedia if you google “Wenatchee the power to harm”.

So why, via my thoughts, do revisit this 21 years later? An article detailing incompetence and mischief in Wenatchee, on page A12 of today’s (Wednesday, November 6, 2013) by Bloomberg news reporter Brian Chappatta brought memories of horror at the gross injustices perpetrated on citizens of Wenatchee. Only when a local woman suspected there was something really wrong going on and mortgaged her home to engage a Seattle lawyer to take the case of a Wenatchee reverend and his wife. As I observe apparent gaps in the legal system over the years I am reminded of this and, up to now, googling “the power to harm” simply doesn’t get you where you want to go. So, the phrase I invoked get me there and opened a really better source than the original Seattle PI series on the subject.

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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.

What Seems Irrational

Posted: April 29, 2013 in Economy, Politics

I’m sorry, I just can’t help being skeptical of claims that the anti-tax bunch are raising against the proposed federal law to enforce the sales tax for on-line sales is irrational on their face. But, wait a minute. The same argument we have been making during the first Obama term, that the R’s agenda to make him a one term president is what was the real agenda for their apparently nonsensical arguments. Now, they would have us believe that is no longer an issue. But, keeping a Democratic president from being in office as the economy recovers and revenues begin to flow to local and state coffers – enabling much needed jobs – is a real possibility.

If you want an example of a totally irrational argument, try labeling the bill the “Let the People in Alabama loot the People in New York Act.” Nobody in New York will pay a single dime to the people in Alabama if this bill passes into law. The only people who will pay are the people in Alabama, when they purchase something from a business in New York. The closest issue that has any traction at all is the claim that it will cause undue hardship on companies that have on line businesses. I could see that if it were a real small business, but a well written software application would make the inconvenience minimal.

So, forget it anti-tax zealots. You’re losing! Join with us in spurring rational revenue raising to get this country going again. The number of critical infrastructure projects left undone are legend. You just can’t keep cutting from the poor and disenfranchised until you have enough money to do what is necessary. And instituting tolls to pay for each and every improvement is not an option. That’s the only way you can make those who use a service or improvement pay for itself.

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”.

Budget Complexities

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Costs of living

Imagine trying to handle a budget when one of your service’s billing department won’t tell you how much and when you have to pay to keep the service from being disconnected. It is that sense of uncertainty that makes your job way too complicated.

This is what I am faced with as I try to juggle my payments to Comcast (which I think is too expensive for what I need) and other more essential expenses… like electricity, rent, water, etc. To call it a conundrum is to add further complexity to the, often untenable task at hand. I thought I had gotten a definitive answer a couple of months ago only to be give a “shot across the bow” the other morning; when I was awakened from a sound sleep to a billing agent for Comcast. She proceeded to warn me of impending disconnection if I didn’t make a payment right away. Trying to maintain some sense of order, I went to my desk planner and tried to revise my budget for the next several weeks. I ended up making a commitment that leaves another, more essential item unpaid. But that wasn’t good enough for her. She demanded more in the following weeks to bring my account current. This is the kind of tactics that make me very angry at this company.

Reading about the millions of dollars provided to ex presidents for benefits above and beyond what is made available by law evokes a sense of disparagement. But, why do perks to former presidents bother me? Is it a sense of moral outrage? Is it because of the principle of federal austerity that is prevalent in today’s economy? A case could be made for the latter. But I don’t get upset at the millions of dollars spent for “worthy” causes. Yes, I am (in the words of a former ship-mate) a “bleeding heart liberal”. I believe in the general principle articulated by President Obama, of helping those (only) if they are unable to help themselves. Ok, that’s not original, but appropriate when seeking to explain the expenditures for entitlements. Am I bothered by expenditures of billions for other ex-public officials? I would wax philosophical about them worth every penny given to them. I have another possible explanation. It is consistent with my state in life. I just wonder if it is a common position with other harsh critics of what seems to be excessive spending for those who can help themselves. That state is of continuous financial difficulties. I admit I am a poor handler of money and spend what I have rather than save it; even when I should be saving some towards a looming charge.

Perhaps those who squawk the loudest are those who just want more for themselves… let’s call it for what it is, greed. They would deny others what is given to them. I have to believe that, according to the news item, the amounts seem excessive… until you rationalize the expenditures. The most questionable expenditure, in my view, is $442,000 for office space. Isn’t that office used mostly, if not all, for his foundation? Could somebody make the case that it is unfair for the tax payers to shell out public funds for a private operation? Welll, maybe it would be; but how about all the taxpayers dollars spent for facilities for the wealthy. Or are airplane owners (for which public funds are expended for supporting their hobbies) due the moneys spent? There are lots of rationalizing involved when you get into public spending. Unless somebody raises an objection (the only way for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing) a lot of public money goes for causes better financed by private sources.

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.