Terror: we are reaping the whirlwind…

October 23, 2014

In regards to the Canadian terror attack which saw a Canadian military ceremonial guard at the nation’s war memorial gunned down and others injured and in regard to another military member murdered a day or so previously, it seems to me we have a number of things working here:

We have terrorism, whether officially coordinated or not, we have the modern desire for instant fame among nutcases of the world, utilizing our instant and constant mass communication in the internet age, and then we have alienated youth — I say the last in regards to reports of both Canadian and American youths (and others from the Western World) joining the ranks of Islamic terrorists.

I don’t always catch whether these youths have Middle Eastern backgrounds or whether they are just your ordinary mix of European and other blood youth yearning for something meaningful in life or some sense of belonging or something to believe in, no matter how misguided.

Whatever, this all plays into the hands of Islamic terrorists. Our society has been weakened over the past many decades by a mixture of greed for money and material things, a welfare state that encourages sloth, and a sexual revolution that while delivering freedom to the so-called “weaker sex” also has all but done away with societal mores that did something besides take the fun out of things.

A sense of family, responsibility, and a sense of belonging to a society is missing.

We are reaping the whirlwind.

We need to look inward and get our act together in order that we may fight back against those who would impose their own selfish will upon us.

And poor peaceful Canada. Welcome to the world Canada.


Money and time better spent on Ebola research than on getting customers for insurance companies…

October 18, 2014

The list of people who could have come into contact with Ebola in the United States has grown exponentially, what with the up to 100 original people who might have somehow been in close proximity to the man from Liberia who died from Ebola in Dallas, and then the two nurses who treated him who are now suffering from Ebola, and from the nurse who despite the fact she had symptoms (conflicting stories as to when she first experienced them) took it upon herself to fly from Dallas to Cleveland and back, and a lab technician who is on the watch list who took a Caribbean cruise. I mean no one actually knows what the true number is, but it began maybe at 50 then 100, and now well over that — at least several hundred or more.

(UPDATE, 10-19-14: the lab technician who took that cruise is just now reported to have tested negative for Ebola. Well that’s good news. And now more good news. A Spanish health care worker who was the first reported to be infected with Ebola outside of West Africa has reportedly had a full recovery.)

And the public has every reason not to believe reports from government and health officials are credible after they first assured everyone that there was virtually no risk of Ebola spreading in the U.S. because they had the knowledge and technology to stop it in its tracks, but later admitted mistakes were made and there are a lot of unknowns about Ebola.

Republicans, who will always tell you government can’t fix anything and who decry big government trying to run people’s lives, demanded that President Obama appoint an “Ebola czar”. So he finally did.

He appointed some guy named Ron Klain, a lawyer and seasoned political operative. While some, including me, are skeptical about appointing a non-medical person, at least one medical professional on the front lines welcomed the move, saying another doctor was not needed, rather someone who knew the ins and outs of government was.

And maybe so. Let’s just hope he will get things done, things coordinated, and not just play the role of spin doctor.

I for one would rather see government spend millions or billions on medical research than on programs to help insurance companies get new customers (Obamacare).

Let’s hope the government and medical professionals get their act together in the fight against Ebola.

Except for the very few infected people (well two?) so far in the U.S. and the poor and late Mr. Thomas Duncan, so far it is more of a scare near Halloween time, kind of like the great Tylenol scare of 1982 (seven people were poisoned via tampered bottles) or the great Cranberry scare of 1959, also this time of year (in that one no one died and there was no real danger, but people were advised not to eat cranberries due to a pesticide scare).

The potential of course is far worse. While we should not panic, our government and medical professionals on this case should work like they’re in a panic maybe.

And please,  just tell us the truth. If we lose confidence in the professionals then the zany conspiracy mongers and reactionary it’s-all-Obama’s-fault types will hold sway.

——————

CORRECTION:

In a previous post I wrote that Duncan came through the Dallas airport a day after me. Actually he was there before me. He was also at Dulles Airport outside of D.C. Once someone travels with a contagion, knowingly or not, the potential for its spread grows exponentially, of course. I think it is not for sure whether he had symptoms before coming into this country. One report suggested he lied to authorities about it.

 


Was George W. Bush right after all with his war on terror?

October 11, 2014

I almost choke while asking this question but: could George W. Bush have been right all along to declare a war on terror? With the threat of what seems like the most diabolical enemy ever, at least in modern times, that is ISIS, with its beheadings and mass killings, it seems we need to confront this and do it now. I’m beginning to miss the good old days of the Cold War when it seemed there was less violence.

But then again, there was Korea and Vietnam and other hot wars. There is always war. But the Cold War with the two super powers did seem to keep some things in check.

Mostly it was just two super powers, the U.S. and the now defunct Soviet Union, threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear missiles, meanwhile each controlling or having hegemony over their respective halves of the world.

But America has grown soft in its wealth and luxury (financial crises notwithstanding).

Presidents cannot even think of asking or urging Americans to really sacrifice.

In a previous post I said something to the effect that there is no value in shedding any more American blood in Iraq, or did I say the whole Middle East? No difference. I don’t think there is, either way, especially since this nation quit fighting wars to win after World War II.

Well actually I would consider Korea a sort of win in that we did push the communist forces back across the 38th parallel.

I don’t believe in the concept of “limited war”. I don’t think you can limit war. You either fight to win or you end up losing. But fighting to win can be a major investment and a major risk. Victory is not guaranteed. So you have to pick your battles.

Right now the forces of ISIS do indeed seem to pose a threat to the whole world. So it would seem that it would be worth it to go at it with them head on. But President Obama is fighting back only reluctantly and in a limited fashion for now.

He has committed air power in Iraq and finally into Syria, after initially backing down from his promise to not let the Assad regime cross a red line — and actually that is separate from the current threat by ISIS, except related in that all of it has to do with an ongoing civil war in that nation that pits disparate forces against Syrian strong man Assad and each other — all very complicated.  Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the power vacuum and confusion in Syria, and of the weakness and internal struggles in Iraq. ISIS (a split-off from the more familiar Al Qaeda) is the real threat now (and I guess there are other similar factions, but let’s not get into that). This group of thugs appears to want to take over the Middle East and then maybe the whole world. And with modern transportation and technology this is a serious threat.

Obama seems to think that only our air power alone in some limited fashion is the best way to go, and let indigenous forces, on our side (do they even exist?), do the ground work. We tried letting the South Vietnamese ground forces do the dirty work once upon a time, but they wisely decided that it was better to live and let the other guys die (that is Americans). And I apologize to the families of any South Vietnamese soldiers who did give up their lives. I’m just talking the big picture. But we soon found out we had to commit our own forces in Vietnam, for it was really our war (we had chosen to make it our war already).

I doubt the American public, although spooked no doubt by the beheadings and massacres inflicted by ISIS, is in the mood to commit large numbers of troops in the fight at this time. And the public is never asked outright to pay for war, it is all but hidden in special appropriations. I think it must be hard to wage a successful war when you have to almost secretly fund it.

Enemies of the free Western world have only to look to the history of the past few decades to see that America has lost its resolve to fight battles and win.  An example. In the first Iraq War we did not defeat Saddam Hussein in that we did not go all the way to Baghdad and arrest and hang him then and there. In the second war with that nation, we finally just left without actually finishing the whole job (although the Iraqis themselves did hang Hussein), only to have problems flare up all over again.

And, according to Wikipedia, we lost almost 5,000 American troops between 2003 and 2014 in Iraq, and of course thousands were severely maimed or wounded. And still we left without finishing the job it seems. It could well be argued that we should not have gone in there in the first place, but the fact is we did and we put a major investment into the job. Talking dollars and cents, what is the figure? More than a trillion dollars spent on the project over the past decade.

I think it is a crime to commit any forces, be they air or ground or both, if you do not have the resolve to do what is necessary to win. I think that is more of a crime than choosing to go to war for questionable reasons. The justification of wars can always be debated. But there is no justification for asking or forcing people to die or be maimed for life for no reason.

We need to confront the threat of ISIS (and other such groups). Military strikes might not be the answer or only part of the answer. We need to go after the economies or economic entities or people who support our enemies.

But again, as to military action, we need to have the resolve to fight to win. If we can get by with a limited response, well good. But we have to be willing and able to be in for the long haul.

P.s.

And whatever action we take it should be in our own interest. I mean we lead the free world, but we always have to look out for ourselves first.


A trip to Spain part of my hiatus from blog posting; it helps to know the language…

October 6, 2014

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything on this site and so much has happened in the world.

And in my life, the biggie is I spent two weeks in Spain. I went over there with a couple. The man was born there and the woman is Hispanic, being of Mexican descent. And one of their two sons was with us too.

And now I’m back at work in the real world, not the imaginary world of being on vacation and living as if I was on permanent vacation. I also attended the wedding of a niece in Southern California. The party continued…

But like I say, I’m back at work now. I’m an over-the-road truck driver (well for the past 20 years; I had another life before that). I do mostly California and Oregon, some Washington State and Arizona, and other places occasionally. I did do coast-to-coast for a short time. But this is not really fun travel.

For instance, I’ve whizzed by Pasadena on the 210, hundreds (thousands?) of times but save for maybe years ago in a car briefly, I never really saw it. Got a chance to when I went to the wedding, although for the record the actual wedding was held in Manhattan Beach. Both places are beautiful — just get off that darn freeway.

And Spain. I need to devote a whole separate post and more to it. But I will say here that I fell in love with Spain. I once saw a documentary in which author James Michener said he first discovered it as a young man when he was in the merchant marine and fell in love with it. Now I know what he meant.

Like I say, I need to devote a whole piece or more to it, but I will say here that we landed at Madrid and then rode a bus. At first it looked a lot like the area south of Chico, Ca., not far from where I live. Kind of a dry brown, but nothing wrong with that (the ongoing California drought notwithstanding), and then for a time we were in hills, even saw some pine trees as I recall. I was suffering from jet lag I think. And then we pulled into the colorful or picturesque town of Soria. We changed buses there. Had some time to eat at the café at the bus stop. That’s where I discovered the food in Spain is darn good. And the wine cannot be beat, although at that point I had a beer — the wine came later, and a lot of it. The beer was good too. Now I cannot recall exactly what I had but it was all good. Also found out that a lot of places, including the one I just mentioned, have something called the “menu” inside the menu. You get to choose maybe three different dishes for your meal. And it is often not terribly expensive.

When I write later about all of this I will tell about the seven-day fiesta I attended and a trip up through the Basque country.

Back home here I think some people have been surprised to hear from me that Spain is not all one look or topography, or even people. It has a variety. Many Americans pay little attention to anything beyond their own nation or community. What a shame. Hey I love the good old US of A and was glad to return. But I am interested in the rest of the world too. Would love to return to Spain.

It always helps to speak the language (although certainly not a requirement). I could have enjoyed that 2 1/2 years in Germany, home to some of my ancestors, a lot more when I was young and serving in the army had I known how to speak German or at least had some minimal fluency. Ironically I learned a lot more German later, although I never have become anywhere near fluent.

I was able to put my limited Spanish to good use and became convinced that I need to really knuckle down and work on it. I have considerable opportunity — well in a way. In my line of work I deal with Spanish speakers frequently. Again not a requirement that I speak Spanish, but it helps and I rather enjoy it anyway. So since I returned, fresh from being immersed in the language for a couple of weeks, I have used it with success on my job. I mean I use it more as an ice breaker. But I have been in situations in which I almost had to have some knowledge of it to get my truck loaded or even unloaded properly and in a timely manner.

And since a large proportion of the wedding crowd were from Mexico, my limited Spanish came in handy there too.

(And fresh from being immersed in a world where they speak a language I am not fluent in, that in fact often I don’t understand a word of, especially when spoken rapidly or in an unfamiliar accent, I can empathize with non-English speakers in the English-speaking world. For some reason though, immigrants here in the USA seem to often pick up our lingo rapidly — necessity does wonders I suppose.)

Some quick observations about Spain. The people there seem to eat well, drink well, and seem to enjoy each other’s company (it was fiesta) and they love their children and love to have them around. Even when the adults were sitting in the plaza with their drinks the children were playing nearby or among them. And the whole time among the throng of people I never saw adults having to constantly scold their children or for that matter scold them at all (well maybe once) — not saying that does not happen. I mean I am talking about human beings here. Just my observation.

One of my hosts said the difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanics is that while the non-Hispanics (actually she was I believe referring to the typical Anglo-Saxon American I think) can’t wait for their children to leave home, Hispanics don’t want them to ever leave. I really don’t know about that (might depend upon the kids).

Oh, and the natives seemed friendly. I would really like to return to Spain.

For now I have to accept the fact I am back in reality and it is not easy.


Getting into grammar…. or in to vs. into

September 7, 2014

I admired my father but at the same time I am glad or at least comfortable that I am not him or not a carbon copy of him — but I do wish my command of grammar was as good as his. I’m fairly sure he did not make mistakes in grammar (well maybe, I mean who is perfect?). I imagine that is because he was a good student in school from an early age, and remember, they used to call it “grammar school”. Nowadays it’s free-form, anything goes, at least so I am told, and certainly the writing one sees everywhere suggests that.

What prompts this mention is my nagging concern that I probably confuse the uses of “in to” and “into”. My dad always picked up on misuses of those two combinations of words. I’m not going “into” an explanation of the proper use here (you’re on your own on that), except I believe it would be correct to write: “The man turned himself in to the police”, that is if you mean someone gave himself up to the police. And I think that is where dad spotted the misuse in newspaper stories. For if you were to write: “The man turned himself into the police”, you would be describing some type of transformation of character. I mean the man was just an ordinary citizen (or maybe a criminal) and then by his own doing he becomes “the police”.

But the other day I was sending a message to someone remarking about my concern over this usage, that is to say whether I even have it down myself. And then just awhile ago I was trying to look for some guidance on the computer when stories popped up about someone turning himself in to the police, and sure enough, even though it was the same story, that is about the same person and the same incident, some accounts used “in to” and others “into”.

Now probably in this instance there would be no confusion in meaning, but without some type of standards in grammar there can be all kinds of confusion. And when you read something with poor usage and you realize it as such, don’t you automatically question the reliability or credibility of the source?

I may not be as good with grammar as I should be, but I believe in it. And that includes punctuation, but let’s not even go there.

One more thing. I knew English instruction was going downhill when my eighth grade English teacher remarked about herself: “I never was good at spelling”.

P.s.

Besides not being a top grammarian I sometimes purposely violate rules as a matter of style and practicality, and that is always good for an excuse.


Does big money buy influence in politics? Duh, I think so, but participation in the process by voters could override that…

September 4, 2014

Are big campaign contributions nothing more than bribery?

I would think they often are. I mean would anyone think that big donors are just exercising some form of altruistic public duty, promoting democracy? I mean don’t most of them expect something for the dough they are shelling out? Seems like a silly question to me.

But I can’t forget that in a class on state government I took at Chico State University (California) the instructor posited that it could simply be that money buys access, not necessarily votes on legislation — I don’t mean that was his actual position, he was just saying what one argument is. Same difference to me anyway. I mean the politician won’t even listen without the offer of money. The regular guy has no chance.

And just what does “buying access” amount to? Does the politician simply sit there and listen with an open mind and with the 50/50 chance that he will agree or not agree with the donor? Please. That is not to say that in some instances the politician does not reluctantly have to go against the donor’s wishes because of some overriding political concerns and conditions.

But I think the late Charles Keating Jr. of the infamous Savings and Loan Scandal had it right when he said this:
(From the LA Times)

In 1989, Keating addressed the intentions behind his massive political donations to the senators, delivering one of his trademark outrageous comments:

“One question, among many raised in recent weeks, had to do with whether my financial support in any way influenced several political figures to take up my cause,” he said. “I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.”

————

At least he was honest about that. (Keating died last spring at the age of 90.)

But I would not say that politicians should not be able to accept large donations from individuals or even corporations. If those are the people they want to represent and if money talks, let them be seen for who they are. Let’s just hope a free press informs us of and reminds us about all that.

Maybe because we don’t have strong party politics, supported by local precincts — it’s more individual politicians chasing down high rollers — the broad mass of the electorate is all but frozen out in influence over who runs, who gets into office.

The common people by and large do not involve themselves in politics, the majority don’t even register to vote.

And we wonder why our leaders do not represent us.

I don’t have any real proposal for leveling the playing field, except for keeping informed and voting and sometimes even writing to your representatives. It’s pretty easy to do nowadays with computers. I think they have to pay some attention to their mail (to include email) because I think they still have to get the most votes to get into office.

Sure, your individual crank correspondence all by itself won’t likely carry much weight and may not even reach the pol him or herself, but concerns expressed in a reasonable manner may often coincide with the sentiments with others — and there can be power in numbers.


Both sides wrong, but free Palestine now…

July 28, 2014

I’m not big on the UN but if there ever was a place for it I would say it is in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel killing thousands of of women and children and others is just plain wrong. And so is Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Both the Israeli and Hamas leadership are wrong. And the Palestinian people themselves seem to be following the wrong leadership or maybe they have no choice.

So far more than a thousand Palestinians have been reported killed (and of course there are the wounded) and less than a hundred Israelis.

The current flare-up in the decades-long conflict is blamed on Israeli soldiers killing a couple of Palestinian youths and then a seeming reprisal with the kidnap and murder of several Israeli youths — and the true circumstances  of any of all this is of course only known to those involved and still alive.

But whatever the case, the UN should step in full force. And the United States should use whatever influence it has and demand once and for all that Palestine become a free state separate from Israel.

Hamas probably does not represent the best interests of the Palestinian people. Any organization that would do things that they know will only lead to the death of their own people and on such a large scale is evil.

Israel is definitely caught in a bind. It does have to defend itself. But somehow killing women and children, even as they lie in hospitals (even if Hamas essentially uses the as shields by placing missile launchers in adjacent areas), cannot be moral or right.

Why Palestine cannot be a free state is beyond me.

The United States should demand Israel come to terms with the Palestinians once and for all or it should wash its hands of the problem and Israel.


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