Still a chance for Korea negotiations?

May 25, 2018

Seems like there are hints that the scrapped summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea could be salvaged.

And it seems like it could be a good thing. I mean the longer they talk maybe the longer we avoid a disastrous turn of events.

I often suggest that we (the U.S.) should remain relatively quiet but let it be known that we will do what is necessary to deal with the threat of a nuclear-armed and belligerent North Korea.

Just what our options are in that regard perhaps only our military knows for sure. All are fraught with peril.

North Korea could wreak havoc with conventional artillery and ground forces alone, even without nuclear weapons. And the Chinese could get involved — I suppose the majority of the population does not remember how that played out for us so long ago in places like the “Frozen Chosin” on the Korean Peninsula where our troops faced the Chicom hords, bugles blowing in eerie twilight human wave assaults — communist Chinese soldiers being expendable in the eyes of their leaders, just so much cannon fodder.

I am of course going on historical knowledge — I was but a small child at the time.

If we were to attack North Korea we could ignite a chain reaction that could bring China and Russia into the conflict.

(While Russia does not have the communist connection anymore with North Korea, and while for a time the new Russia broke off relations with North Korea, currently Russia has close ties with North Korea — probably so they can mutually defy the U.S., and because the dictator Putin of Russia apparently loves his fellow strong man Kim. And Trump might be jealous. I don’t know.)

Ultimately, though, we have to stand up to something. But in the meantime it’s best we talk. We should continue behind-the-scenes talks with all parties, including China.

I don’t think Trump is very intelligent (wealthy, perhaps, and that is in question, but it does not take intellectual intelligence necessarily to be a successful financial bamboozler, just guile). I think he is in over his head on this international relations thing. Even so, he could have fool’s luck if he were to continue to talk (not threat so much). In some crazy way, his unorthodox approach may have at least created new opportunities for negotiations.

Egomaniac that he is, one would think he would see how great it would be to make peace (lastingĀ  peace) with North Korea after decades of a perpetual state of war (albeit one on hold) for, what? six decades? since the truce that ended hostilities in the Korean War. Trump longs for that Nobel Peace Prize.

p.s.

Another thing would be to encourage the ongoing negotiations between North and South Korea. Did not Kim cross the bridge into the south to shake hands? Maybe if we got out of the way the two Koreas could settle their differences and we would be off the hook for defending South Korea. And remind me: why are we on the hook?

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Trash talk spoils the summit between U.S. and North Korea…

May 24, 2018

So the much heralded Trump-Kim Jong Un summit (the U.S. and North Korea) has been cancelled by Trump.

It seemed like a good idea if it would do no more than forestall or prevent a nuclear exchange between the two nations.

On the other hand, meeting with the North Korean dictator, who by all reports lets his citizens starve while he gets fat and who kills of military officers who fall asleep while he is talking and who murders his own relatives who he sees as threats, could be seen as Neville Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler. In fact, Trump had already been saying complimentary things about Kim, after saying uncomplimentary things about him, and before returning to saying uncomplimentary things.

The main excuse for the cancellation were negative remarks by North Korean officials in regard to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence making comments to the effect the crisis between the two nations might end like Libya — you will recall that Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nukes but was ultimately killed by his own people. I guess Pence won’t get any awards for his prowess in diplomacy, and there goes Trump’s Nobel Peace prize.

I don’t have much more to say about all of this at this time other than too much trash talk (or any at all) by both sides accomplishes nothing positive.

For the U.S., better to say little to nothing but make sure behind the scenes it do everything to protect itself. All the North Koreans need to know is that we (the U.S.) will do what we have to do to protect ourselves, which would have to include the possibility of a preemptive strike. And when you have someone threatening you with annihilation, certainly a preemptive strike would be warranted, and in fact necessary.

That is not to say there is no room for diplomacy. In fact diplomacy I would think is preferable to tough talk which can lead to unwise actions when one has backed one’s self into a corner. I dare you to cross that line — the line is crossed. Now what?

But again, trash talk, like to professional boxers before a match yelling insults at each other to whip up interest in the match, is not diplomacy.


NFL players should stand for the National Anthem, it’s their job…

May 23, 2018

To me it seems the NFL has every right to fire football players, and in fact should, who refuse to stand for the National Anthem.

And I am not a sports fan, so I really don’t care…I’m just saying.

What brought this to mind is a story I just read that said the NFL is considering imposing 15-yard penalties for taking a knee during the anthem. Really? that’s it?

So here’s the deal: freedom of speech and expression is one thing. But you know in some ways one gives up some of that freedom when in the employ of another. While you are on the job most employers prefer that you don’t run down the company and that you don’t do anything to make the company look bad. Your pay and the company’s profit depends upon the good will of the public.

And then there is the question of patriotism vs freedom of speech. As a fan sitting in the stands — and I, myself, would not likely be in that position — I have every right not to stand. Now I personally would, and do so proudly. But even if I was not enthused about it I might anyway just to go along with the crowd in something that does not hurt me or anyone else, and thereby avoid any unpleasantness and avoid despoiling the occasion for others. Heck if I did not want to be there no one made me.

My father was not religious. But I recall attending a public meeting with him that began with an invocation by a local minister. We all stood, and dad, knowing that I knew his feelings on the matter, whispered to me: “just look at the floor”. Dad was there as a newspaper reporter — I of course just tagged along. I know he did not think much of those invocations but he was there in the capacity of his job. I am sure he thought something like “my employer might not like it if I caused any stir by not going along with the invocation”, but even more so, dad was polite and respected the wishes of others, and he saw no harm in this instance of going along. After all we were not extending our arms and declaring Heil Hitler. Now that would be over the top.

And even though I don’t like our current presidential administration, I am perfectly okay with standing and putting my hand over my heart for the National Anthem, and I would be sincere, not just going through the motions. But in no way would I say “Heil Trump”.

But back to the professional athletes: they have it over the team owners because of their talent and the worth of it. The owners depend upon their talent to draw paying customers. Many of the players are so good that they would be hard to nearly impossible to replace.

I knew this had to be true many years ago now when I read a story about a basketball player choking a coach but not losing his job over it.

It’s too bad that these guys live in a world of adulation where they are often above the law. And worse yet that we go along with it. What does that say about us as a society?

Oh, what about that basketball player (not the same as I just referred to above) — I know his name but why bother? — who was at a motel and allegedly raped a female concierge and faced no penalty for it?

What an example they set for young people trying to figure out right from wrong and how to survive in this world.

But anyway, although I am not often where I am called upon to do so, I will always stand for the National Anthem and the American Flag.

p.s.

I realize most or all of the kneeling players are black and are protesting the shootings of black people (in mostly seemingly clearly unjustified circumstances) by the police — the Black Lives Matter movement — and I am not sure but that they should or do have every right while not involved in the actual game day event to make their feelings known. They or no one else must give up their rights under the First Amendment. And of course it is not up to me to decide any of this. I just do a blog and let my opinions fly.


Put up or shut up on Trump, and remember, he can still be impeached…

May 22, 2018

While a president is not above the law, a president of the United States has a distinct advantage. Accused of a crime or crimes the president can go after the accusers with the power of his office. You or I cannot effectively do that.

Of course even then the president depends upon some backing from loyal followers or at least indifference among enough of the public.

And so President Donald Trump is going after the prosecutors, well not actually prosecutors at this time, but the investigators who could make everything into a prosecution.

It’s being at least implied, or by some alleged, that Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians to subvert a free and democratic election in this nation, and that furthermore Trump has sought to or actually obstructed justice during an ongoing investigation of the whole thing.

This whole story is simple and complex at the same time. For sure, half of it is nothing more than normal politics, but the other half is about the stability of our democracy and the survival of the rule of law in our nation.

But I think (and possibly, who cares what I think?) it would be better for us all if this whole Russia and Trump obstruction of justice case was wrapped up. If there is something there, let the authorities bring charges, if not, let’s just move on. Trump is president and apparently became so under the requirements of our constitution. Sure the Russians may have contributed to the normal confusion and the spread of misleading and outright false propaganda that flies around in almost all elections, and the Trump campaign may have had some dealings with the Russians, but I have seen no evidence that it really changed the outcome and I would imagine that would be hard to impossible to prove anyway.

The fact is there is no requirement that voters have any level of intelligence or that they take it upon themselves to go through an objective analysis of the issues and arguments in a campaign and to try to determine what they read on the internet or hear on Fox News (to be fair, or anywhere else) is credible.

So this post is light on details of the issue I am writing about, but if you are informed you already know all about it and I think you can get my drift.

So I say as far as the legal threat against Trump — put up or shut up.

I am definitely not a Trump supporter and never could be. But we live in perilous times. For one, Trump is set to meet another crazy man (other than himself), the leader of North Korea, who threatens to blow us up with nuclear weapons (although that meeting might not come off). At the same time our country is being subjected to gun madness, with kids not even safe in school. And we still face the threat of world-wide terrorism. And although it is said we are in boom economic times, with the reality of the global market and ever-increasing technology distinguishing jobs, well we have a lot on our plate.

Again, if there is a crime or crimes — prosecute.

But let’s not come to a standstill over partisan-tinged investigations of crimes real and imagined.

p.s.

I forgot to mention. Our framers did give us an out when the wheels of justice move too slowly or not at all. It’s called impeachment. Impeachment is based on law but it is for sure political, but it is constitutional. The president has great powers in that the justice department is part of the executive branch of government of which he is the leader. But the congress, which would unlikely act if it did not think the will of the people warranted it (they want to stay in office), can bring impeachment proceedings against the president and remove him from office if convicted in the Senate.


Solving problems with guns is in the American psyche

May 20, 2018

When you are a teenager everything is a crisis, everything is played out as a drama. Fortunately most people grow up, get a little wiser, kind of like “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”, as the song goes (by Bob Dylan).

But a young man at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas played out his teenage drama in deadly fashion on this just-passed May 18, leaving 10 dead and 13 wounded (the latest count).

In recent years high school mass shootings have become a thing, a phenomenon of the times. So much so, it is reported by various publications, that modern highs school students expect it — it’s just a question of when and whether they will be a victim.

That seems absurd and so wrong. Yet collectively we seem to be helpless. We don’t know what to do or how to do it in order to change this.

And there is no easy answer I am sure.

I had thought that banning assault-style rifles and the like would be a good start — and it might. But in this case the shooter used a more ordinary shot-gun and a hand gun. And heck, I suppose one could use a knife on a rampage or other weapon and get almost the same result, depending upon the circumstances — probably would not result in as many casualties.

Even so, it still seems that we should ban assault weapons and have much stricter regulation on all firearms. In this case, the shooter is said to have used guns owned by his father. Should there be strict liability on gun owners? Should there be an age limit on those who purchase, possess, carry, and/or use guns?

We of course have our Second Amendment in the United States, which has been interpreted as giving all the right to possess firearms with few restrictions — but not without restrictions.

The Houston, Texas police chief has been quoted as saying that he has “hit rock bottom” in his frustration with the inaction on gun control. He said in a Tweet that he believes that possessing firearms is not a God-given right.

And then there is the Lt. Governor of Texas who came up with the brilliant notion that the problem at the Santa Fe high school was that there were too many doors (for access I guess) to the high school. For that he was lampooned for calling for “door control” instead of gun control.

But this is not a joke. Stepped-up school security seems as this point the only readily available measure — others will take longer to figure out.

And what was the motive of the shooter? We don’t know (yet).

There are reports both that he was a bully and that he was bullied. I suppose both might be true. If I read it correctly, he pursued a romantic relation with a girl who rebuffed him repeatedly and ultimately embarrassed him in front of a class in order to repel him. She was among his victims.

He is said to have been on a high school football team. It was also reported that one student said he was not very athletic, even so.

Most strikingly he had a Facebook page on which he warned of the carnage to come (at least from what I have read). He also posted photos of various symbols or insignias representing disparate causes, everything from peace to Nazism to communism to anarchism. Even though these various things seem to run counter to each other, I have noticed that among the young and among the ignorant they don’t — and maybe the idea is that they just represent rebellion in general.

As I mentioned at the top, I think almost everyone in his or her life goes through a mixed-up period, usually in the teenage years. Most of us get over it (well maybe not completely), this young man has not.

And finally I offer this about growing up in America in my own life:

— I grew up watching shoot’em-up westerns in the 1950s and early 1960s on TV. The good guy always won out by killing the bad guy or guys with his handy six-shooter or in the case of the Rifleman (Chuck Conners), the apparently 19th Century version of a rapid-fire assault weapon. Those westerns have been replaced by violent action movies with the same basic scenario and modern video games, with death and destruction as the theme.

— While I did not grow up in a hunting family, I had friends who fit into that category. I attended a hunter safety course with one and got my first taste of firing a rifle. And I went on a so-called deer hunting trip with another. Never did see a deer. But we happened upon a squirrel that ran up a tree and an adult deer hunter came along and my friend and him took turns blasting away at the creature. I don’t recall that they hit it. So I got my taste of the gun lover’s life.

— Being a boy I suffered through the age-old rite of being the victim of bullies (being a bully is also an age-old tradition, but little peaceful and weak me could not have done that — could I?). On my first incident of facing a bully in high school I did not fight back, for had I, I am not sure I’d be here today. He was huge, and I so small. As it happened not so long after that the bully drowned in the river. I will not admit here whether I was sad about that — but I should have been. He was a human being with his own problems I am sure. There were other incidents with mixed results, but on two occasions I fought back, survived, and felt better for it. But I’m like the gambler — know when to stand, know when to run (as in the Kenny Rogers hit, written by Don Schlitz).

— And then I will never forget that day in gym class when we were given a presentation by two Army Green Berets just back from Vietnam. They told us all about the joys of killing the enemy and setting up Claymore mines that spew out nails in deadly fashion. I don’t know what my classmates were thinking. I was confused.

— And then I joined the army, but not for the joy of killing. I had other reasons that make no sense now — never did really. I did not go to Vietnam. I went to Germany, where we played war. All the fun without the deadly consequences.

As a nation, guns are in our psyche, you add that to the need to project masculinity (mass shooting seems a male trait so far) and fight off bullies real and imagined and finally you add the possibility of instant worldwide fame via the internet and perhaps you have some of the explanation for this trend in mass shootings.

And I have no easy solution to this madness.

p.s.

Girls of course can be subject to bullying too. And the U.S. is not alone in its appetite for death, but we just happen to have a steady supply of weapons to carry it out.

 

 


(Updated info) Death toll continues to rise in still another multi-death high school shooting; is this really the price of freedom?

May 18, 2018

NOTE: I have updated some of my info from the original post, but this in no way is meant as an original narrative of the news, rather it is my personal commentary based simply on what you the reader of this have available to yourself.


The death total has risen to at least ten now in a Texas high school mass shooting. In addition, there are at least ten wounded.

It happened this morning (5-18-18) in Santa Fe, Texas.

But this is almost not news or at least if you consider the statistic put out by CNN, an average of one high school shooting a week so far this year. That statistic I guess is a bit misleading in that it includes shooting of all types, not just mass killings. Even so, that seems little comfort.

And of course all these shootings and mass shootings do not take place at high schools — they take place at concerts and churches too and anywhere really.

And nothing is done. There just is no will to enact reasonable gun control legislation. While it is true that legislation alone would not likely solve the problem, it would seem to me it could help and it would be a prudent step.

Now the word is that the weapons used were a shot gun and a revolver, rather than the more common weapon in these things, rapid fire rifles or other such high powered weapons, designed more for military use than hunting or self-defense.

A student has been arrested, and it is reported his weapons belonged to his father. And yes, gun control, save a confiscation of guns, would not prevent things like this — and I definitely don’t see a confiscation as legal or called for. It is hard to protect against every contingency.

Reports are also that explosive devices were found in the area. We have to wonder from where this evil stems.

For now increased security seems the best bet.

My children are a long time out of high school but in today’s atmosphere I wonder if I in good conscience could send them to a school. Of course we are all vulnerable just being out in public. That has to be considered too.

It looks as if schools will have to be made into some kind of fortresses where all will have to pass through metal detectors and maybe be searched, electronically or physically, before entering, whether they are in the urban environment or out in the country — shootings know no boundaries.

As was noted ironically or satirically in an opinion piece I just read: “This is the price we pay for freedom”.

I don’t buy that. We can continue to be a free nation and at the same time use some common sense, and I am not talking every man, woman, and child packing heat and everyone having to duck the crossfire. That is not civilization.

We’ll see how this latest story out of Texas develops and if it gets worse.

p.s.

And since beginning this post it got worse as you can see by the update that at least ten are now listed as dead (and I suppose there could be more fatalities).

President Trump was quoted as saying “this has gone on too long (mass shootings)”. Now the question is will he do anything. He prides himself in being a man of action not tied to conventional norms — so do something. Of course the gutless congress has to join in. Whose afraid of the NRA? Answer: congress and state legislators for the most part. If I had to discard all my principles for a job I would hope I’d have enough self-respect and pride to leave it.

 


Immigration, the problem few want to resolve…

May 18, 2018

If I’m paraphrasing him correctly, Tom Sullivan on his conservative-minded radio talk show the other day said that neither Republicans nor Democrats really want to do anything about the immigration issue, rhetoric aside.

He and/or at least one of his callers suggested that the Republicans like to have illegal immigrants for their labor and Democrats like the votes (I guess among potential voters or possibly relatives of or people sympathetic to the cause of those who are undocumented).

And I am sure Sullivan realizes that some people really do have sincere feelings on the issue, but at the same time I think he summed it up pretty well.

As for my own personal view on immigration — I don’t feel that I really know for sure that there is a problem. I hear and read conflicting reports, but I fail to see the emergency at our borders — and I spend some time on them in my job.

I have never understood why the authorities, ICE, or whoever, do not simply crack down on those who hire undocumented workers. I know they do from time to time but it should be constant and widespread.

At the same time, apparently there is a demand for labor, and if it can be shown that only those from outside our borders can or are willing to perform certain tasks then it should not be so hard for them to get legal status.

I am sure a large part of the problem is that neither I nor most people have any idea of what immigration regulations are and why they are.

As far as the plight of children brought over the border and then raised here only to face deportation I think that is ludicrous. Most of them, if raised here most of their young lives, would not fit in back in the country of their birth any more than those of us born here in the USA would fit in to their country. Those children should be given a reasonable path to full citizenship, which is not to say that the authorities cannot or should not crack down on the practice of bringing children into the country to get an unfair toehold.

Not all Hispanics support loose immigration standards, especially if they had to go through the more rigorous requirements, although I imagine many take umbrage at denigrating racial remarks against undocumented workers. Lumping anyone or everyone into one category on the basis of race and skin color and religion is ignorant.

(The undocumented immigrant population of course is not solely Hispanic, but that is the group that seems to get the most attention.)

It is my personal feeling that many employers, be they individuals or large firms, like to have an available pool of undocumented workers, and even though they feel these people have the skills and attitude they need for the jobs they have they don’t want to make it all official because they feel workers are more docile and less likely to complain and demand their rights if they face the threat of deportation.

What we really need is an honest look at immigration. But it is not in the interests of the powers that be to take that honest look. They would rather use immigration as a political football or not talk about it and take advantage of a more docile and economical labor force.

And I continue to think that native-born or legal citizens can handle any and all work available, which is not to say they will. But in the end people tend to do what they have to in order to survive.