Saturday, October 21, 2017

What lasts

While Americans are distracted by this or that superficial issue, bigger things are happening-- things that will impact our lives in more significant ways than whether football players take a knee instead of stand for the anthem. Seriously, if football players are the new arbiters of justice in the United States, why aren't they out giving speeches, leading marches, running for political offices after retirement? We really look to them for guidance on the culture? If we don't, then who cares if they take a knee? I get it that it's about the fans, about a movement, but it's so superficial-- like a lot of what is going on. Maybe the fans need to look at other issues that more directly will change how American life is lived. 

There are a ton of them but one dear to my heart is the environment. A lot of what an administration does won't last past the next one coming in. There are exceptions-- war is one because lives are lost. Another is the environment, how we protect or don't our lands. Land once taken and mined or built upon by homes will not be restored to its natural state.

Past generations understood this and were generous. It didn't come without conflicts even then. Today, we benefit from their foresightedness as we hike or  stay in a national park or monument. Places like that are restorative and instead of being set aside for the wealthiest, they are for all Americans. I have to think it's one of the things that has set us apart-- that we never forget the land... or we never did.

I read a couple of pieces this morning that were upsetting. Links to follow.

Running for office, I knew that Trump didn't have a clue about the importance of the environment for healthy living. How could he when his world involves big cities, resorts, and golf courses! The thing is we haven't had many presidents who did get that the land matters. Parks can't lobby. They don't pull in the big bucks for those expensive political campaigns. Is it possible to someday have a real environmentalist run for political office-- one who wasn't using it to destroy legitimate business interests? One who could see how nature restores our soul as individuals and as a nation? Just knowing the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone is there matters to those of us who may never get there. We know it's there.

To see more lands protected in the future seems unlikely as we have a nation that is more and more being governed by two political extremes-- which is why nothing is happening on the major issues of our day. 

Even the media is divided that way, which is why I found these articles in The Guardian, a large newspaper that operates from donations to keep its words available for all. Is that even possible in the US these days? Yes, the Guardian is left leaning, but it covers a variety of topics that unfortunately most Americans hear nothing about while they are distracted that the President said what to who. 

In the meantime, a lot is happening on taxes, environment, immigration, health care, and many Americans only know the latest count on how many football players took a knee-- whether to be pleased it's happening or upset. 

While I agree that much is wrong in our country, I think the worst of it is how easily we are distracted by minutiae. It serves the purposes of some-- just not of most of us.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

from a friend

Jim and I go way back-- as to grade school and then all the way through high school. I used to pick berries and beans on his parents' farm. Jim, a 74 year old Marine veteran, Eagle Scout, and retired RN, is living his dream with lovely wife, dog and cat in rural NW Washington state. He has a different take on many things than I do, which is why I suggested I'd share his email on what's going on with our country. 

If any other readers want to post what they feel about current events, please let me know as I think real communication is made up of listening to the other side. We don't have to always agree, but it's being willing to listen to each other that leads to dialogue.


Boy, what a week.  59 dead counting shooter, an apparently normal really rich white guy on no one's radar, and 500 wounded.  Gun control?  WH stating the ever present obvious, 'this isn't the time', is as predictable as the tides.   

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico, a real American Territory (all there are American citizens) is being utterly destroyed by the biggest hurricane ever to hit the Caribbean.  It's an island, surrounded by water, big water, you know the place.  Back in the real USA, the leader, by our odd election system, has mercifully been drawn away from kicking around the littlest kid on the playground who might want some of the same toys, all while getting a golf trophy to share with the hurricane victims.  It gets better.  

Upon eventual arrival, he gave an eerily similar speech to GWB's classic, 'you're doin' a hell of a job, Brownie.'  Mr. Brown was the FEMA director while Katrina was drowning New Orleans a few years ago.  Thousands died while costing X, compared to 16 costing Y.  Maybe more if all the usual results of prayer are consistent with the same results as always.  Being first and foremost a business guy with not quite enough stuff yet, he does what amounted to an On Air cost vs. profit analysis and announces to the entire planet the net results.  Puerto Rico, you're screwing up the budget and here's the numbers to prove it.  

Interesting way to begin a tour of the utterly destroyed island, perhaps without historical precedent.  Later filmed and broadcast live to the astonished, yet ever less surprised dwellers of our land and planet, he is shown throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd with no reason to tidy up for dinner because there may be no dinner or water to wash it down with.  Of course the televangelists are raking in the bucks because they have direct access to the King of Kings. 

Within literally minutes of the slaughter in Vegas, the Speaker, twitching like a meth head, proclaimed the usual 'not the right time', but boy, do we have a tax plan!  In the meantime. let's gather together and pray, all the same stuff that hasn't worked throughout  all of human history. There will always be defenders of the king, of course, I read history and there is nothing going on to be surprised about.  Suggest reading Charles Dickens' classic Tale of Two Cities.  

And then the Secretary of State called Trump a moron, adding a commonly used descriptive adjective to spice up moron.  Of course the congress has more important things to consider, such as removing the work place protection for LGBTQ people, further hassling women on women's only issues and deporting young people to countries they never knew. 

This is so similar to the movie West World, where the theme park robots went crazy and started killing the patrons, that it made me wonder if I was in a nightmare.   I realized it wasn't just a bad, yet predictable, dream when Tom Petty's iconic song, Don't Have to Live a Refugee, announced his passing at age 66.  Now that was sad.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

what we can count on

One of the frustrations in writing anything about what is happening is how quickly the 'truth' changes. So I wrote about how fast the police got to the shooter in the piece below-- except now it turns out the security guard was shot (maybe) before the guy began spraying the crowd. The timeline is being questioned as I write this. The reasons why the guy quit shooting equally so.

That sort of thing is what has made me debate even writing on events. 

It's not even safe to write about historic events considering how often what we have been taught isn't exactly how it was. 

Some say there is truth. I don't doubt that. The hard part though is figuring out what it is. Dates we can probably trust, but the reasons behind what happened-- not so much.

One thing we can count on-- nature to make things better. This photo from Yellowstone NP in July.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

a hole

Here we are again with another senseless taking of lives. It happens around the world but not with shootings like we experience here. These tragedies impact all of our lives-- it's why they are done. We can so easily imagine ourselves there as they are attacks on the American way whether in school, at a political event, a movie, a nightclub, a marathon, playing baseball, or a music festival. Any of us could have been there. In three locations of mass shootings, I have been where they later happened. Violence in the US is not actually as common as some suggest but in some ways, it's worse-- it's random and unpredictable.

I think we all are more cautious and react to loud noises when out in a way we didn't before this idea of shooting at strangers began. The first one I remember was Texas 1966 with a sniper. He killed 17 and wounded 31. If anyone did something like that before, I don't remember. I found an article on the 10 deadliest mass shootings and what they knew about the why behind them-- except do they ever know about the why when it's someone who is not acting logically by any normal sense of human behavior. 

That chart does not include the three places I've been that later such shootings happened. Their numbers weren't large enough. Here is a more complete chart but two of the places I've been that one time proved deadly are not there (which means this chart is not complete either)-- [US Mass Shootings 1982-2017]. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is just too easy. Hundreds, thousands of times, we'd be at that mall and nothing would happen and then... 

Shootings aren't the only way we've had someone decide to kill others: [from 1983 to 2002, there were 36,110 bombing incidents, 5,931 injuries, and 699 deaths] -- some homicides-- some connected to accidental explosions before they could be a homicide. 

There are more murders still by knife or physical assault (out of 11,961 murders within the U.S. in 2014, 660 were committed unarmed, 1,567 were committed with knives, 248 guns). Of course, the knife killings are usually domestic, the person knew their killer, but as we recently saw in Marseilles, that's not always the case. Someone strong and good with a knife can rapidly kill many people, but it cannot do what the gun or bomb can do and that's a simple fact.

Looking at the statistics, reading the newspaper daily where some husband was angry that his wife was going to leave him and shot her and himself dead-- sometimes their kids, reading what's going on in some of our biggest cities (Chicago in 2016, 762 gun murders, 3,550 shooting incidents, and 4,331 shooting victims), it's easy to see how people want guns eliminated. 

Actual statistics for gun ownership are hard to come by.  With it is estimated 300 million guns, some families, like mine own quite a few, and others have none. So actual gun owners can only be guessed at. Their numbers have risen since Sandy Hook. It used to be one-third of Americans owned all the guns. Now, it's thought it's closer to 49%. Still a minority.

Some blame the NRA for the fact that there are not better background checks; limitations on the selling of devices that turn a legal semi-automatic into a illegal fully-automatic; more licensing of who can own a gun with strict rules regarding mental illness of the dangerous sort; banning of sales of extended magazines. 

While the NRA does prove to be a powerful lobby for gun ownership rights, every time prominent people lobby for taking all guns, the slippery slope mentality sets in and Americans, many who don't own a gun, become defensive of their right to do so.
"After San Bernardino, our business went up probably 50 percent," John Lamplugh, who has run gun shows in Maryland and Pennsylvania for more than three decades, said, referring to the recent shooting in California. "It's either two things: They're scared and need to protect [themselves]. Or they're afraid that [the government is] going to take it from them. There's the two things that drive our business."
The thing is this country is not giving up all their guns. It's not even feasible to think it could be done as Chicago has strict regulations on guns and hasn't helped them stop gun deaths. The government might get legal guns but murders aren't legal happenings. Those who want to own guns will still attain and use them.  It's not actually possible to even get all the semi-automatic guns where it is believed there are as many as 30 million out there. Such a gun can be deadly enough as it was in Orlando in the nightclub shooting, but the shooter must pull the trigger each time-- the advantage the killer has is accuracy. 

I used to argue that there is no need for these guns but then I have one-- a Marlin 22 WinMag which is like a .22 except it is a little more powerful, can shoot farther, and I can get off more shots at that coyote trying to kill my sheep than with my old bolt action 22 LR. It turns out semi-assault rifles (.223 and larger) are now legal to shoot deer-- all of which makes it tougher to get rid of them as hunting is one of those rights Americans mostly agree upon.

After Sunday night, the late night comedians, left-wing pundits, and Democrats immediately and predictably demanded something be done-- anything. Listening to a clip of Colbert, he sounded like he didn't care if regulations would stop the next shooting. He cares about his ratings (and they're way up with his attacks on Trump). He knows what he is saying is what the left wants to hear.

One regulation seems logical is to make illegal to sell, buy or own the tool that changes a semi-automatic into functionally a machine gun. BUT that would not have stopped him being maybe even more successful with precision shooting of a semi-automatic where instead of spraying bullets, he could have targeted individuals with his scopes, using a gun that is more accurate. 

Since I just read that shooter had been prescribed an anti-anxiety med, which is known to possibly make someone more aggressive, had that doctor done any evaluating of his condition before he gave him the prescription? If we can catch these mentally deranged shooters before they do it, if we can prevent their buying any guns; if we could confiscate their guns as soon as we got a diagnosis, that would help-- but most have given no warning ahead of time. If someone is a psychopath, they are good at hiding what they are.

The positive thing about this latest tragedy is the police and their quick reaction in the venue. The security at the hotel was at that door within 11 minutes of the first shot being fired-- maybe brought there by the windows being broken out. That person was shot but will survive. The police arrived and the killer sprayed the hallway with shots but then no more were fired-- other than the shooter killing himself. We should all give credit to police, who run in when we run out. Stop lumping them all in with the few bad apples. They are all that stand between us and more carnage at the next event. 

I'd love to say there'd be no more such events. Of course, there will be. Hate and mental illness are out there and just looking for an excuse to hurt the world for what they perceive as its wrongs. It reminds me of a line from the movie, Tombstone. 
Wyatt asked Doc-- what makes a man like Ringo? Doc answered, "A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it." 

I'd say, whether these mass murderers use a religious excuse or don't, that's the case with them. It has nothing to do with the purported evils of our culture. It's about them. How do we find them before they hurt someone who had no such hole?

Friday, September 29, 2017

lessons to be learned

Karmic irony for the librarian who rejected the gift of Dr. Seuss books because they were cliched and stale-- photo taken before they became stale apparently.

Lesson to be learned-- check our back file before making our opinion public. Come on-- from whichever side of the partisan divide you are on, this is funny, isn't it? In the ironic sense at least lol

Monday, September 25, 2017

exercising my own self control-- sort of

If you visit Facebook, you know it's a hotbed of political and partisan rage-- both sides. I wonder sometimes why I go there as it has as many negatives as it does positives for me right now. I know why I have gone with friends there, where I want to know how they're doing. Does the good though now outweigh the negatives?

When I read someone's political rant, I am tempted to reply with my own take on whatever it is. Currently, it's about highly paid athletes angry at our country, Trump and deciding they need to make a political statement right before playing a game. Do they believe the owners pay them those exorbitant salaries out of their own wealth? Do they not understand ordinary people pay for tickets and subscriptions, often fund those coliseums out of tax revenues. And then are angered to be forced to watch them disrespect their country. The disconnect sometimes is unreal for how people don't connect actions to consequences.

Yesterday, at FB, I did reply to a liberal friend I use that term loosely as it's someone I don't know but on my friend list. I believe the person to be a liberal, not a left-winger and see him as someone who wants what is best for the nation. So I took the time to reply on a political issue and what a mistake. Someone else came in and took me to task for writing a lecture. See, I thought it was a discussion but to that person it wasn't-- at least not on my end. Once again, I thought, why did I reply to anything there. People really don't listen. They are there to vent and their friends then can vent with them.

So, this morning, I nearly did it again before I thought-- what am I doing and what will this change anything? It won't for the one who posted accusations of bigotry for anyone who didn't support the athletes taking a knee and understand how they have been wronged by being black in this country. Exactly, what she personally knows about that abuse, I have no idea. Does the abuse extend to the millions they get for playing professional sports? Maybe it does-- gladiators, dontcha know. Replying to her would've just gotten me another attack and for what gain?

Anyway, just because I didn't post my reply there didn't mean I had to lose it... Here it is and if you want to vent-- on either side of this, feel free.
I think the athletes have every right to do it. I also think the ones who go to their games have the right to stop going. Trump wasn't the first to condemn their action. If you know any conservative friends, you know that. Not standing began the summer before Trump was even his party's nominee.
Currently, left wingers are making it all about Trump, as another way to impeach or throw him out of  office. It was in the beginning, however, about claims the police are slave keepers. That the military and police are only there to serve the masters. The attack on the military is slowly being added, but one campus leader suggested veterans should not be admitted to four-year colleges-- maybe they can go to community colleges or trade schools. When the police are the bad guys, the military will not be far behind as part of those who keep order.

I see an opposing rage over this from my conservative friends. This is especially true of those with family in the military as they take not being willing to stand for the flag as attacking the ones who fight for it.

This is becoming one of those-- if you don't agree with 'me' whoever 'me' is, you are a bad person/communist/Nazi/bigot/destroyer. It goes right beyond I hate Trump to I hate anybody who doesn't think he's evil. Hillary, of course, is going around the country trying to stir up more rage-- like we needed it. She said the other day any woman who supports him 'disrespects herself.' She, the wife of Bill Clinton, said that...

The players make a LOT of money off those who buy high priced tickets or pay for sports channels and many of them are Republicans. The Repubs have every right to say not going to watch or pay for their disrespect-- and I'd suggest those who approve of kneeling start buying tickets, if they didn't before. Put their money where their mouths are and keep those players in the gold (and the team owners). I just read that the Pittsburgh coach gave Villaneuva a bad time because he didn't kneel with the rest of his team-- in other words, go with the group whether you agree or not. 

Trump doesn't help any of this, of course, as he stirs it up when he could just ignore it. His lack of emotional maturity (at the least) and the stupid tweets raise the temperature.
I'd like to see blacks talk about black on black violence, like in Chicago but what we saw was condemnation of the police, the ones who protect us all, that includes minorities. Yes, there have been police who used violence inappropriately but out of how many stops and arrests? [Police violence against blacks rare.] But hey, let's not let facts get in the way of a righteous rant...

Before I decided to stop reading anything political at FB, I read a good comment that asked, for these rich, young black athletes, do they go out into the community and try to make a difference for young blacks who need inspiration to go to college and get good jobs? Many of them may and it could make a difference for the next generation.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

missing self control

As I have frequently said, I am a moderate. Being a moderate does not mean I have no opinion. It means mostly I don't fit in a box. Where I suspect I agree with a lot of liberals and conservatives, is with Trump's tweets. Something is really wrong with a man who tweets without thinking when he's got as much power as he has. 

There are days when I won't mind seeing him impeached and Pence installed. It's not because I will like Pence's policies. I won't. But good grief, does Trump have no self-control at all?!! It doesn't seem like it where it comes to Twitter. Somebody should take it away from him, cancel his account, do whatever it takes to stop this endless reign of stupidity.

Liberal or conservative, who can disagree with that. I get it that left-wingers are constantly tweaking him. But a mature person lets that kind of thing go. He's not a mature person and by his age, that's sad. I think he had a lot of things right about policies. His emotional neediness though destroys his own best intentions. I keep coming back to one word-- sad.

Frustrating me is not just the danger of a loose mouth on a President, but also how it impacts our culture with bringing out the worst in others. This is spiraling downhill. I recognize, some of this is around the world, a time of transition and division and it's not just the US. The thing is Trump could do a lot to make it better here. He's not even trying. 

I put up the picture for something uplifting. I think we all need that right now :(