The hapless passenger might have used bad judgment but United Airlines was horrid in its violent action; we need better, safer police procedures…

April 13, 2017

I’m not a frequent flier but for the past three years I have taken vacations via the airways and plan to take another one this year. I now have a heads up on which airline NOT to use — United Airlines.

And of course I am referring to that horrific video of a passenger being dragged off a plane and bloodied and injured in the process (including a broken nose and loss of two teeth) for failing to give up his seat for United employees. A story said he will be getting some “reconstructive surgery”.

The victim is Dr. David Dao, 69, originally of Vietnam, but living in the U.S. for decades. He was trying to take a flight from Chicago to Louisville in order to get back to his home.

So anyone reading this has likely seen the video that went viral on social media.

And of course there is always more to the story — some of it true and some not and often we never get the full story or never even try.

Sometimes I think videos with their limited-in-time view and tunnel vision are unfair and inaccurate even if they are a live shot of an incident. But in this case I don’t think one needs to know more, that is none of us general observers.

Airlines routinely as a business practice over-book their flights to try to ensure they have a full (and profitable) load and when they wind up short of seats bump passengers off. In this case the airline apparently needed to move some of its crew members and bumped paying passengers off with some type of incentives — free flying miles, whatever.

But the incentive it finally offered Dr. Dao, who refused to leave on his own, was violence.

The airline was way wrong in how it approached the matter. But maybe so was the passenger. I can certainly almost feel his frustration myself. But I kind of see it like that whole Black Lives Matter thing (and I don’t mean to make light of that). On the one hand, you have over-zealous police (or worse I know) and on the other hand, you have someone with the poor judgment to challenge police (airport police in this case). I mean if the victim is in the right, better to play it cool and fight it later. Stay alive and/or uninjured and live to fight another day.

And yet, even if the airline was within its rights it is incredible it would have such poor judgment or such a poor attitude as to commit such an affront to public decency and customer relations.

There just had to be a better way to handle things, even if it would take time. A calm negotiation by airline officials (they would not have needed to call police probably), it would seem, would have worked far better. The reports I read indicate that the airline had upped the ante in inducing others on the flight to give up their seats. So pay this guy more and save face, save the ultra-bad publicity of manhandling and seriously injuring a paying passenger and the falling stock prices (that resulted) and the untold loss of future potential customers who see that the skies of United are not at all friendly.

In one story, an expert on such matters said that among the mistakes the airline made were that it should have bumped the customers out of their seats before they got on the plane and that by calling in the airport police, a third party over which it ceded all control, let the whole thing get out of hand.

I was not there and did not see exactly how it went down even though I watched the video or videos. But one passenger said that while the uniformed police were calm and polite at first another man in plain clothes but with a badge came in and simply told the passenger to get off and then grabbed him — not at all diplomatic.

And then there was a story that contained some hint of character assassination of the victim, that he allegedly had been in trouble with authorities in the past. Well first of all that may not be true and second of all I don’t think it pertains here. As far as I know he was a paying customer and had not done anything to warrant being removed from the flight. Instead the airline decided it was more convenient for it to yank him off so it could get some crew members to where they needed to be.

Apparently this process of bumping passengers for the airline’s convenience is not unusual and most fliers are aware of it. The man would have used better judgment to comply as other passengers did for his own sake.

But the violence inflicted on an airline passenger by United is unforgivable and unacceptable.

The CEO of United initially refused to apologize and in fact lauded his people for acting correctly. But under pressure he relented and offered what some called nothing more than a forced apology after the public outcry.

Yeah, I won’t be flying United.

p.s.

Maybe in using the Black Lives Matter thing I was conflating one problem with another but I just meant two wrongs don’t make a right. It is generally in one’s best interest to comply with lawful authority and hash the rights and wrongs out later (realizing in racial incidents that has not always been possible). There have been some accusations of race in the United incident because the victim was Asian. But a lawyer he has hired said he did not see a race aspect here.

….And more. I thought about self-censoring myself and deleting the reference to Black Lives Matter because just after posting this I saw another viral video of a white police officer in Sacramento earlier this week accosting a black man for jaywalking. I watched the video, and as a I stated earlier, in videos you usually just see a limited vision in time and space as to what went down. The way it was presented it seemed a cop admonished a black guy for jaywalking and then for some unknown reason pushed the black man to the ground and began beating him. I think, I only think mind you, what basically happened is that the officer seeing the guy jaywalking in traffic saw the danger he posed to himself and others. And then the black guy might have made some comment (but I did not hear or see) and then the officer felt challenged and ordered the man down on the ground. Would you expect to be told to lie down on the ground for jaywalking? It’s too much for me to sort out but I am perplexed why all this is happening. In the meantime, when a cop orders you to do something I think the best judgment at the time is to comply. But we need to straighten all this out. I’ll confuse the issue more. A follow-up story said the victim in the incident I just mentioned had similar encounters with police elsewhere. Still, we need to get this all worked out. So anyway, I left the reference to Black Lives Matter in. I think all of our lives are threatened when lawful authority becomes the adversary to the citizenry as a whole, no matter what our color.

 

 


Foreign policy: keep them guessing has its merits but the American people have a need to know…

April 12, 2017

I was surprised to hear that after the Syria missile strike ordered by President Trump on a Syrian airfield from which airplanes that dropped chemical weapons operated that the base was still operable and that in fact planes took off and some reports said bombed places where victims of chemical attacks were being treated.

Billions of dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles and the base was not destroyed? What is up with all that? I guess the idea is that it was just a message. An awful expensive message.

But it was a message, as is the fact that a U.S. naval task force is steaming toward another troublesome area, the waters off North Korea. Trump is trying to send a message to Kim Jong-un, the nutcase in charge there, too.

All of this is dangerous maneuvering and many wonder if the president really has a plan.  Actually I think most of us fairly well know he has none — he just does stuff off the cuff, on a whim, maybe by intuition (gut instinct).

The bad side of no plan is that things can go terribly wrong and just get worse from there. But the good side right now I think is that it is keeping our adversaries off balance.

But there does need to be a plan, a method to all this madness.

And then there is a the question as to whether Trump should have gotten congressional approval for the strike on Syria.

It seems like the technical answer is yes. And further moves would certainly seem to need congressional approval. But President Obama found that congress, especially the opposing Republican party, was good at criticizing him for not acting but was unwilling to back him when he proposed to do so. Actually Obama claimed that he would not need approval, he just preferred it.

So waiting for congress to act — good luck. They don’t want to be blamed for anything, just complain.

Most of our recent actions in the Middle East are working off the George W. Bush war on terror resolution that congress approved (a catchall for perpetual war). But since Trump was not striking at ISIS or other terror groups but the Assad regime of Syria, it would seem that it would not apply.

But in my adult life congress has seemed to abrogate its constitutional duty to be the one to declare war, deferring to the president.

I would have to do some good research to really address that issue. And I have not at this time.

Make no mistake, with Trump at the helm we are in a precarious position.

If there are more actions in Syria it could easily lead to more reactions and then things could really get out of hand.

The same and more so with North Korea.

I do see some hint in the news that a new tougher stance by the U.S. is being welcomed by the world that, whether it admits it or not, depends upon our lead or protection from the forces of tyranny and evil. Whether we are worthy or up to it, sometimes seems in question. But they are looking to us.

””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

And after originally posting this I read now that China is warning North Korea not to do more nuclear tests and that the Chinese leader has spoken by telephone to President Trump. At the same time Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting Moscow and the Russians are telling him not to make them choose between the Assad government in Syria and Washington. And they are needling him a little about the apparent confusion or mystery inside the Trump administration as to what the U.S. foreign policy should be. I guess in other worlds before you tell us what to do make up your own mind as to what you want to do.

I am of course on the side of the U.S. but I can see what we have here diplomacy wise at the moment is experience (Russian government) vs. inexperience (Trump administration that has turned its back on the diplomacy establishment). But what is, what is, and I’d advise our people to calmly stand their ground. In my lifetime when pushed, the Russians have blinked — but it can be an unnerving experience in a crisis (what the with the capability of mutual destruction via nuclear bombs).

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

But the president and congress need to work together and the American people, who will pay in blood and money, need to be informed as to what our policy is. And if the public does not approve, well its feelings should be reflected through congress, and the president should be strong but not a dictator.

 

 

 

 

 


Syria, North Korea: our actions may put us in peril, but inaction has already…

April 9, 2017

Is the United States the world’s policeman? That question or proposition is often put forward and certainly President Trump’s Syria strike brings this issue up.

My thought is: yes and no or sometimes.

I think we are almost forced to be at times because we are the world’s super power, and as tough as the responsibilities come with that position I don’t think we would want to lose that position. Like I always say, if nothing else, we have too many enemies who would do us harm if we lost our power.

It is not or should not be up to the U.S. to run other nations or meddle in their affairs in general, but there are times…

President Bashar Assad of Syria was warned many times not to defy world norms and use poison gas (on his own citizens no less), after having done so more than once. He even supposedly took the U.S. and Russia up on a deal to get rid of all of his poison gas stockpiles. He reneged. Or more accurately, he lied. He played a con game and did not get rid of it all. And he used it again against his own people a few days ago.

(While some claimed others did it and the Syrian government is being framed, the general agreement seems to be that the evidence is clear it was the Assad government.)

And President Trump, who had just said he wanted to work with the Assad government and not entangle the U.S. further in Syria’s civil war, apparently saw Assad’s treachery as a game changer, something he could not ignore. Cynics (and sometimes I am one) might argue that Trump just saw an opportunity to wag the dog and change the subject on various pieces of bad publicity plaguing his new administration. I think both suppositions might have merit.

But one dependable liberal pundit I often listen to claimed that with the strike against Syria, and the meeting with China’s leader, as well as other world leaders, Trump in the last several days has in his words: “become president”. I don’t think he meant Trump is necessarily correct in his actions, just that he has been faced with the pressures and is dealing with them and has sent a message.

And one high-level player I listened to observed that diplomacy is preferable but sometimes you have to back it up with power. Trump did that.

We now have a naval task force steaming toward the waters off North Korea.

This is where the danger to the U.S. really lies I would think (although it is in Syria too).

The crazy man with the nukes in North Korea, Kim Jong-un, must be held at bay (or deposed of). How to do it? I don’t know.

Maybe, just maybe, he has gotten the message from the Syria strike. Most speculators doubt it, though.

Doing something could put us in peril. But doing nothing all these years has kept us in peril.

Oh, one more thing, a caller into a talk show said that the world is in danger because of three crazy men: Assad of Syria, Jong-un of North Korea, and Trump of the U.S.

While I tend to see his point, all I can say is that for now Trump is our crazy man.

p.s.

I intend to write more on this within the next day after I do more reading and see more points of view. All of this was based on my own immediate thoughts and what I heard on NPR and some other sources.

 

 


Maybe there ought to be tax incentives for stay-at-home parents…

April 3, 2017

Just read a story whose headline suggested millennials may be more amenable to the now old-fashioned concept of women staying home and taking care of the children. There were a lot of survey statistics and those always confuse me because sometimes they don’t seem to paint a clear picture in my mind, but that is not really important to what I want to say.

I think the story was basically trying to say that maybe some of the younger generation (younger than I) are seeing the problems of raising a family with two people occupied with work outside the home and that in some cases young men have grown up to see their fathers struggle with the fact that men have lost their dominance in the work place and often their role as main bread winner.

And I think there was a statistic that said couples without kids on the whole enjoy life better than ones with kids, that is if they both work.

In a little more than a hundred years we have gone from the extreme of women almost being forced by custom and law to stay home and rear the kids and in many cases having no right to own property to near equal footing in the workplace (except still maybe not in pay — and that is a hard one to figure), or maybe in many cases women are surpassing men in the workplace. It often seems easier for women to get a job than unemployed men.

I don’t personally make surveys, and like I said, stories that throw a bunch of statistics at me, especially ones that in some cases seem to contradict each other, muddle my mind. But I do know what I have seen in my life (1949 to present).

In my lifetime my own mother mostly stayed at home. However, she was older than most mothers by the time she had me. She had worked out of the house from time to time when she was younger, even after she had her first child. But that was seasonal work, such as working in a fruit cannery.

(And actually, when I was in high school mom returned to seasonal work. She worked in a peach cannery and then a prune processing plant.)

But in my childhood it was more like the old sit-com Leave it to Beaver.

Mom prepared three meals a day, mostly from scratch — a lot of baking and frying and boiling on the stove. She nursed us when we were sick. She read stories to me,  made Kool-Aid and cookies for me and my friends, was a Cub Scout den mother — oh yeah, she fed and cared for the family dog, supervising its periodic bath in the backyard. Mom did all the grocery shopping. And sometimes the family car was not available. As a toddler I recall riding my trike next to her while she carried two bags of groceries under her arms several blocks.

Did mom like the arrangement?

Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe not all the time.

I know she wanted to be able to work outside the house, partly for variety but mainly to add more income to the family budget. She envied women who had jobs — she envied two-income families.

As far as I can recall (and I would have never known for sure), most of the mothers of my classmates did not work outside the home — this was in the 1950s.

Of course the biggest difference between then and now is that almost all of my classmates had a mother and father at home. By the time my own daughters went through school they were an oddity in that they had both mother and father at home.

We live in a far different world now than when I grew up. For most households it seems people have found having both mom and dad work is a necessity in order to provide a roof over the head and food on the table. Now that might not be true for high-paid professionals but then they want to keep up with their peers in lifestyle.

Of course what I said about having both mom and dad work obviously does not apply if it is a single-parent household and there are so many now. And there are so many single mothers, the result I would say of a breakdown in society.

I don’t think we want to or even can go back to a time when most women stayed at home to rear the kids, society has moved on, but certainly there are advantages.

It of course does not have to be mom who stays at home. There are cases when dad stays at home. But whoever it is, if that person can cook, and especially if that person can go beyond opening cans or microwaving frozen dinners, oh what a savings in money and if balanced meals — including fresh fruits and vegetables — are served, oh what a possible boon to health. But even if the stay-at-home person primarily warms up prepared meals that would still be a major savings over fast food or restaurants or delis.

And of course having one spouse able to stay at home and do all the other chores on the home front, cleaning and watching the kids and so on, is both a savings and a relief from the stress of the work world  and would seem to promote a happier household.

We need paid maternity and family leave and probably tax incentives to allow one spouse to stay at home. In some cases, I don’t know, spouses might trade off.

I have to say, in the past it seemed rather natural that women took care of the house and kids — it’s kind of a biological thing, wouldn’t you say? But modern conveniences have lessened some of the workload around the house. And our society has liberated women from the slavery of the past — and no one, man or woman, should want to return to that.

So all I was really trying to say is that there can be major advantages to having a stay-at-home mom or, for that matter, a stay-at-home dad. I had not really thought about the tax incentive thing previously, but now that I did — yeah why not? I think it would be good for individuals and society as a whole.

P.s.

While I in no way want to criticize single mothers, I don’t think we should encourage this situation. It takes two to tango and we need to find ways to encourage living up to responsibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 


As the spy vs. spy circus continues, America is ever more vulnerable to attack for its lack of leadership

April 1, 2017

If ever the United States was vulnerable to an attack it is now. We have an incompetent administration in Washington headed by an incompetent president who tries to cover up his inadequacy by middle-of-the-night tweets and threats to his enemies, who now include legislators within his own Republican Party.

His so-called cabinet and staff are busy infighting, and the whole crew from the boss on down is enmeshed in some bizarre Russian spy and election sabotage scandal and so far totally unsubstantiated allegations by President Donald Trump that the previous president, Barack Obama, was using the government to spy on and sabotage the Trump election campaign.

I mean no one ever did see McCarthy’s list of known communists (early 1950s) in the government that he talked about and through which he disrupted and ruined lives and careers before he was shown to be a mad man — and not to say there were not spies and treason then and now, but we need proof, proof that is specific and real and that is public. We are getting little to none of that so far.

It all seems a jumble to me, and possibly all blown out of proportion on all sides. So far all I can make out is that it is possible that in the process of trying to find out what the Russians were up to the Obama administration got some Trump campaign contacts with Russians, or contacts, innocent or not, involving people somehow connected to Trump in their nets.

It almost seems like that (and you have to be a baby boomer to get this maybe) funny cartoon that appeared in Mad Magazine, Spy v. Spy. Both sides were tripping all over each other. Or maybe it was like that episode on the television show MASH where two Keystone cop-style American intelligence types (Col. Flagg was one) were stepping over each other in a competition between our myriad of intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile the world goes on without the United States in the forefront. President Donald Trump is making us a second-rate country.

Instead of the United States leading the free world, it is now left up to maybe Germany (Great Britain being mired in its own self-inflicted Brexit problems), with maybe China as the leader of the not-free world and ISIS as leader of world terror.

If this crew can’t even get a bill through congress with GOP majorities in both houses and supposedly an electorate behind them (but not so much maybe), if they can’t handle something within, how in the heck could they handle something from without?

It is observed that crises often can bring a nation together but one has to wonder if that would hold true in the United States today with so much disunity and distrust and with no leadership to look up to or depend upon.

We must remember that Trump was elected by a minority via a quirk in our voting system known as the Electoral College. In reality he has no mandate. He may have hardcore supporters, but one wonders how long they can hold onto the myth that their man is some kind of wonder hero who can transcend politics and the realities of a complicated world. He just recently, by his own admission, discovered that the health care issue is complex.

p.s.

I wanted to say something about Trump’s directives that the U.S. do an about-face on climate change and environmental regulations. But that is part of the danger of extremism politics on the right and left. It’s regulation overkill vs. pragmatic and responsible stewardship of our planet — we have to come to common ground for survival.

(And I just want to add that I am definitely not a climate change denier. I defer to the consensus of the scientific community and I have read nothing to the effect that there is any real doubt that man-made actions are contributing to the change of climate and destruction of our atmosphere. However, I also know one can get carried away with it all. I live in California, and when we have a drought, the blame is put on man-induced climate change, and then when it is followed by an extremely wet cycle, same thing. Well that dry and wet cycle has been the pattern since I was born in 1949, and while I have not looked up the climate records, I’m fairly sure that cycle has been fairly consistent through the centuries.)

Also, giving the military a freer hand in our ongoing wars sounds good to a point, but do we really have any strategy? Allowing continuous loss of lives of both our soldiers and innocent civilians is criminal outside of a clear and convincing written out strategy that sets forth the purpose and goal of our actions. I mean civilians will be killed — war is hell.

While I realize the nature of our modern wars (since World War II) has changed, I still believe we should only fight wars when it is clearly a matter of self-defense or to put it another way, our nation’s survival (we were originally interested in the Middle East because that was our main oil supply point — we overthrew governments to protect it and keep the Soviets out — and we complain that the Russians today are meddling in our politics?), and when we do so, we should only fight to win. Our history shows endless stalemates cost us needless bloodshed and cost us money that could be used in a much more productive manner — providing healthcare for all?

I kind of thought that is (most of it) how Trump feels more or less, from what he said in the campaign. Problem is, most likely he does not know how to get there any better than anyone else. I should say he has not a clue.