A detail seems left out of stories of atrocities against Rohingya in Myanmar…

December 28, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi was in the news some time back as a hero of democracy in Southeast Asia. She had been under house arrest for years by the military government in what used to be called Burma and is nowadays called Myanmar.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize. Today she is described as essentially the nation’s prime minister, although she has a different title, State Counsellor — don’t understand their system of government, but that is not the point here.

The point is that she has come under fire for basically standing by and being silent as the military has reportedly committed atrocities on a minority population of people who live in the country called the Rohingya. Most of the people who live in Myanmar are Buddhist, as is Suu Kyi, and most the Rohingya are Muslim, while some are Hindu.

There is some speculation that she is reluctant to or discouraged from taking action because the military still holds so much power, even though the nation is supposed to be a democracy.

Some have called for her Nobel prize to be revoked. At least a couple of other such honors she received for her work toward peace and democracy have been rescinded.

I like most people I am sure am only hazy on all of this at best. Mostly I have just heard references to her and the Rohingya situation. I know that Pope Francis recently visited the nation and reportedly failed to even mention the Rohingya. I suppose that may have been simply out of diplomacy. A touchy subject.

But now as I conclude this post I will get to the point I really wanted to make all along. I kept hearing reports (I admit I did not read much about it all) that the Myanmar military was committing atrocities on the Rohingya people, including rapes and the killing of babies. But why? Of course there is no and could be no justification for it. But now I have finally read that it was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents. I think that is a rather basic fact that has to be reported along with the rest of the story, even though the military’s response was obviously beyond the bounds of acceptability

And still another story about how religion so often seems to have a role in conflicts between people.

But I do agree that all peace-loving people and nations should condemn the actions of the Myanmar military. As for Myanmar’s civilian leader I realize she may have little choice but to keep quiet, lest she go back under house arrest. But she is a Buddhist too. Does that have any effect on her silence or inaction?


They really are taking our jobs but we have to move on…

December 26, 2017

The government looks the other way in immigration enforcement at times, maybe to keep industry supplied with cheap labor…


Those illegals are taking our jobs is the cry. And it is often oh so true. But there is more to the story but that does not take away from the fact that it is true.

I think the baffling thing about all this is that our own government seems complicit, even while immigration authorities make raids on various businesses from time to time and while unlucky undocumented or incorrectly documented immigrants accidentally come into contact with the law — a traffic stop perhaps. We all no doubt read of at least one incident where a father was picked up and subsequently deported after dropping off his child at school.

But how is it that whole industries, including that of farm labor and meat processing, depend upon illegals (I will use that term not as a pejorative but shorthand)? Those who hire illegals have to know what they are doing, despite the phony documents. And the government must have one outdated computer system if it cannot cross check the names and if it taxes the illegals and then in fact even sends them tax refunds.

The way that it works of course is that the politicians (some) make political hay by waging war on illegals to protect American jobs. But at the same time various companies and industries and lobbyists for interests who use illegals put pressure on and grease the palms of the lawmakers to force them to ignore or go easy on their supply of cheap (relatively cheap) labor.

Meanwhile, the hardworking illegals (no they are not thugs and rapists as Trump declares) have to live in fear of the law and cannot stand up to pressure to work in poor and unsafe conditions for fear of being turned in and deported and separated from their spouses, and their children, who in many cases were born here in the USA and are thus American citizens.

Except to allude to it briefly here I won’t go into the history of farm labor where American citizens and non-Hispanic white people actually used to do farm labor before the LBJ Great Society programs gave them a path out (while it did not necessarily lead them to the promised the land).

But what made me think of all this is some documentaries I watched recently about the plight of undocumented workers taking American jobs. Both dealt with Hispanics.

Basically, the markets have priced many American citizens out of their jobs. Their employers have either moved their production outside the country (sometimes south of the border) or have hired lower-paid workers.

This goes way back. In the 1980s Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota demanded pay and benefit cuts from their union workers who in turn went on strike. Hormel claimed that a downturn in the market for their Spam and other products and competition in the markets forced them to reduce costs. The union workers may have not thought Hormel was being completely honest and besides they had to pay for food and shelter themselves (and when is the last time you saw those prices go down?) and had worked up to a higher living standard than they had in the past (the American way). But after a while the union higher-ups told the Austin local to forget it and go back to work. Many did not and the union was swept out and replaced by mostly poor people from a poor region of Mexico. They needed the work and they saw the ads and they responded.

I think I watched at least three documentaries dealing with three different locales in the nation. At first there is resistance from the local populace. But over time it sinks in that these people are here to stay. And of course with their wages the immigrants pump money into the local economy. And while at times it takes the newcomers a little to adjust, they do, but of course bring their own customs with them and change the landscape of the communities in which they now reside. And that is America, a land of immigrants from various places throughout the world.

It is often charged that they bring crime with them. In a way probably so. Among any group of people there are bad actors. A simple increase in population, irrespective of ethnicity, might have the same effect.

In one documentary a Midwestern police chief said that although it was true that Mexican drug cartels were now doing business in his community, he did not blame it on Mexican immigrants. In fact, he claimed, those cartels were supplying drugs to the already-existing population of white people (as opposed to Hispanics or others) who were suffering from the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic. So the cartels would have shown up anyway.

(Of course I might inject that part of that opioid epidemic is the result of the hopelessness brought on by the loss of jobs and career opportunities that result from the importation of lower-cost labor.)

I’ll just try to wrap this up by saying we should all be realistic and honest about all of this. On the one hand, it is true that industry will do near anything to cut labor costs (that unfortunately is just a part of business) but on the other hand it would seem that industry has some responsibility to the surroundings in which it operates and to the people who pay the taxes to give it support and protection in the world.

Labor unions have lost a lot of clout over the years. They too have to be realistic. They have to be cognizant of business conditions and they have to work with management to make sure that all of their membership are up to the skills and that they perform them in an efficient and safe manner.

I in no way want to disparage union workers but as a non-union over-the-road trucker it often seems that you can spot a union warehouse over a non-union operation pretty quickly. The union operations tend to work more slowly and take a lot of breaks — but that is a generalization of course, and I just came from one where that is definitely not the case.

In working with management the unions need to create a cooperative atmosphere where they can negotiate for good wages and working conditions. But there should be no compromise on safety. And when unions are corrupted they sometimes enter into so-called “sweetheart contracts” that tend to represent the interests of management over the workers.

I was shocked to see how fast meat cutters have to work; it looked mighty dangerous to me.

Our government needs to quit being two-faced about it all. Making raids for show and then turning a blind eye to those who pay someone off needs to quit.

I for one would be for strong enforcement against hiring undocumented workers. With the computer technology we have now neither employers nor government has any excuse for the hiring of people with phony documents.

The enforcement should be against employers not workers. The workers won’t come if they know they cannot depend upon phony documents and employers who turn a blind eye.

And for those in desperate need of work I say why do we make it so hard for them to enter legally?

Part of the reality is that over the years the newer generations in our country have gravitated out of non-skilled and even semi-skilled labor or so-called blue collar work, in some cases for higher-paying jobs and in some cases to simply collect benefits from the government.

Simply putting a cap on the influx of labor might not do the trick. I think that once you over price labor industry finds a way around it — these days automation is the answer it seems, and nearly everything can be automated. And barring that, industry might just move on to something else.

I’ve mentioned this example before but I think it is true. In agriculture when farmers are faced with a labor shortage they find a way to automate (mechanical harvesters for example) and if that is not possible they plant something else, perhaps not as labor intensive. Somewhere in the world the replaced crops will be grown in existing labor conditions.

And I am a trucker and I will haul it to you, that is until they replace me with an autonomous truck.

Christmas is for everyone, devout and not so much

December 24, 2017

My first memories of Christmas include neon Santas. You know when you are only about 3 you are always looking up as the world goes by. I was in the family automobile with my mother looking up through the windows and seeing the representations of the white-bearded jolly old elf in a red suit with white trim on the outside of stores and candy canes all around. That was in San Francisco.

About the time I turned 4 we moved to the Central Valley of California. I remember my brother and sister pulling out the tangle of Christmas lights from a box and trying to get them to work. Back then they were wired all in one line so if one bulb burnt out they all did not work.

Christmas was always about me getting presents until I was maybe 7 (not sure) when I bought my first Christmas presents for others (with my 25 cents per week allowance). I think the first one I bought was a cowboy boot-shaped leather key ring holder for my dad, who liked to talk about cowboys, real cowboys he called them, who he seemed to idolize in some way, and of the horse he rode as a young man. He liked the present of course and that was when I learned it is more blessed to give than to receive (but who does not like to receive?).

I’ve no doubt told this one before but after I was married and we had children I recall we bought a Christmas tree one year and my wife instructed me to trim a few branches off for looks before bringing it inside. I got a little carried away. Kind of like when you asked the barber or the beautician to just cut a little off and you came out looking like you’ve been scalped.

Then there is always the question of do you put the tree in a stand of water to keep it from drying out or does that actually hasten the drying-out process. I’ll leave that answer to you the reader or the experts. Everyone has their own opinion.

As a kid and even now I was and am enchanted about the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus and the visitation of the Three Wise Men and the angel appearing before the shepherds in the field and so on. And this from someone who is not religious and was not brought up religious. Some times I think I mention that too much and might offend people who are religious. Maybe I am quasi-religious. To me Christmas is part of our culture and transcends Christianity. It, after all, coincides with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. That celebration was basically appropriated by the Christian church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who actually may have been born at a time earlier in the year. It’s all about scheduling to get maximum participation.

Seems to have worked. Even many Jewish people in America celebrate Christmas as do other non-Christians.

And Christmas of course has been terribly commercialized but that is something I’ve been hearing since I can remember. Now I will get into territory where I am not at all familiar, but did not Jesus kick the money changers out of the temple? Now this was before Christmas had been established, on the occasion of the celebration of the Jewish Passover I think. But anyway, the money changers were involved in the selling of items for sacrifice to people, poor pilgrims and widows, as it were, who could ill afford their purchases but came to worship and honor the Lord.

Yup, the commercialization of religious celebration has been going on for some time.

I say enjoy Christmas as you like and wish all your joy onto others.

Peace on Earth and good will to all men and women.






At the moment I am neutral on net neutrality

December 22, 2017

So the Trump administration has done away with the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules that required internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all websites on the net equally, not giving any preference to any or failing to offer space to any.

I’ve been hearing about “net neutrality” for a long time but have not fully understood it, or at least the merits of it or problems with it.

Did some quick internet research — something I can do at my whim and my decision and for free (except I pay for the internet service in general, and I do subscribe to one or more on-line publications).

All this information and entertainment instantly at my fingertips whenever I want it is great and a far cry from the way I remember it was (at least for me) maybe no more than a decade or so ago.

But not only is this nice, it is a necessity these days. One can hardly get by without access to the internet. Whether dealing with private companies or your own job or the government you are directed to the internet. You are at an extreme disadvantage without access.

It is nigh on to impossible to be an informed citizen these days without quick access to the internet — print newspapers for the most part have gone the way of the dodo bird or at least are not what they used to be in their old form. Also everything moves so rapidly now that what used to be news is outdated almost before it has been reported.

And you have to keep up with the technology via your own computers to fit into this world for the most part — especially in the work world, and that includes nearly all professions and trades.

So all I am trying to say here is that free and unfettered access to the internet, both by those who read and watch material and those who present it, is a necessity and should be considered a right.

As I understand it, internet service providers do not want to be regulated (well that’s a no-brainer). But the concept of regulating them is basically the same as calling water and power providers public utilities and regulating them as such.

ISPs argue that regulation under the rubric of “net neutrality” will stifle creativity and innovation in the industry.

But those who favor net neutrality rules would say it has not done that to date, and that ISPs left unchecked will act unfairly with their control of what you can see on the internet and have proven so by actions in the past by making access difficult to impossible for certain unfavorable sites for commercial advantage.

I’ll take the easy way out here and say I imagine the answer lies somewhere down the middle, that is a modicum of regulation at the least.

It seems to me there has to be regulation because ISPs control what we have available to us on the internet and in many areas there is little to no competition among ISPs.

Trying to understand how it is all done is difficult to impossible for the lay person — we’re talking technology, jargon, arcane language. I just know I want as much available to me as I can on the internet. Yes, I expect to pay an on-line newspaper for a subscription but I do not want an ISP to decide whether I even have that available to me (it might want me to pay for something it sponsors — this is more likely in entertainment, such as streaming videos).

There is always an argument for un-tethering business from regulation. I at first did not get it when the phone business was deregulated, and that was before cell phones. But can you imagine if we could only purchase and have cell service through the old Ma Bell? It would cost a fortune — yeah that was the high-handed Ma Bell that told my wife and I one of us had to stay home from work all day because they were going to install a phone and could only tell us they would be there sometime between 8 and 5.

And then interstate trucking was deregulated. I’m sure I did not understand that one either when it took place (or for that matter even knew when it took place), but lo and behold I owe that occurrence for my livelihood today as a truck driver. Well okay, that in and of itself did not make trucking deregulation better for all, but it did produce a lot more jobs and openings for new business.

Yeah, down the middle on this one.

On the one hand I don’t want a monopoly of ISPs deciding how and what I see and being able to take unfair advantage in commerce, but on the other hand I don’t want our government to be like Communist China and make all the decisions either. And I don’t want to stifle innovation, the kind that brought the wonders of the internet and streaming video and instant messaging and blogs to me.



Tax bill a tax shift and continuation of living beyond our means…

December 17, 2017

I’ve been too busy working to read as much as I should about the latest version of the GOP tax bill expected to be passed within days but it should be obvious that all it amounts to is a tax shift from one group to another and an excuse to borrow more money.

As I understand it, under the tax bill the federal government would add somewhere between 1.5 and 1.78 trillion dollars to the existing national debit of 20.244 trillion dollars.

Just as with an individual, I would think for the government it would be preferable to pay as we go than borrow. It takes a lot of worry out of things and avoids financial catastrophe. The idea that you will borrow and catch up later is a fallacy. I does not happen. At some point you get so deep into debt that you cannot borrow any more, and then what? You become beholding to someone. You lose your freedom. You become homeless.

(Yes there is such a thing as prudent borrowing, and it is an integral part of our capitalist system — but too few, whether it be individuals or governments, are prudent.)

But governments and businesses seem to find it necessary and possibly wise to borrow money and can successfully do it if they keep things in bounds. For that matter individuals can too but the risk is much higher and an individual will not likely have the resources to fall back on when things go sour.

The United States has such a large economy that it can get away with simply printing more money, based on nothing — neither gold nor silver — except a promise to pay at some future date. As long as people have faith in the dollar and the government’s ability to stand behind it and the belief that all will honor its value then all is well. However, there is no guarantee that faith will always be there. Maybe people will turn to bitcoin or the Chinese yuan.

The idea that lowering taxes on business will spur production and hiring and a larger pool from which to draw taxes is unproven. If it were proven then we would just have low, low taxes already. But people want things and need things, from roads to missiles to defend ourselves, to health care, to law enforcement and courts, to clean water and the list goes on forever. The only way to provide people what they want without raising taxes to pay the full cost is to borrow money. Much more politically expedient than to make hard decisions. The government acts like a family living beyond its means by living on the float — putting off paying bills till next payday and meanwhile taking on more debt. All it takes is one unexpected event and the world caves in. A large nation as ours can get by longer than a family but is not immune from economic calamities.

You might recall the Great Depression of the 1930s (at least by reading history) and the Great Recession of 2008.

We cannot borrow every dime, so what the congress does is shift the taxes from one group to another — may the group with the best lobbyist win out.

It’s all very complex, but from what I have read so far the big shift in the current tax bill is lifting the burden from corporations and rich people and putting it on those down the economic line by either lessening some deductions or credits and starving social programs, most notably health care.

The justification for favoring the rich is that they are who stokes the boiler of the economic engine, they are the job creators whether through their businesses or their investments in businesses.

But the trickle down theory is unproven. The well to do tend to put their money where it gets the biggest bang for their buck and where it is the safest from inlfation, and yes, taxes. Money saved from lower taxes does not necesarilly go into hiring people for high-end jobs. It might go to a McDonald’s franchise or a self-storage compound or fine pieces of art.

At some level the government has some responsibility to all the populace.

But what is taking place is to be expected. Elections have consequences. If we elect people who favor the upper class then this is what we get.

What they will promise you is that if you are smart or clever you will become one of them and not worry about those who must obviously have no ambition and deserve what they get or do not get.

But I guarantee you when things go bad, even those at the top holler for help from the taxpayers — remember the big bank and insurance company bailouts at the end of the George W. Bush administration?

We are all still paying for that, even though I have read it was all paid back. I don’t think so, unless the national debit is just fake news.


Of course what I wrote is a generalization. As to the specifics in the bill being pushed by President Trump, I know very little. It could well be that on an individual basis it may be very helpful to various people up and down the economic scale — the upping of the child tax credit as an example. Wise people no matter what their economic status will determine how to legally get away with paying the least tax possible and thereby shift the burden to some other sucker. It’s the American way after all. As long as the nation can float between paydays we’ll be okay and won’t be Greece or won’t become a vassal state to China (which holds much of our debt).










Gillibrand’s timing is on target in run for president

December 13, 2017

Timing is everything in politics.

With President Trump going recklessly all-in in endorsing a highly controversial candidate for the Senate, Roy Moore, and blood in the water, male blood, from the #Me Too movement, and the general outrage among the sane and I would hope majority of voters against the outrages of Trumpism and Trump himself, the junior U.S. senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, made her play — she is running for President no doubt about it.

Just days before Republican candidate Moore, accused of sexual abuse of women, including underage females (albeit most charges from long ago), went down to defeat to a Democrat in a nationally-watched U.S. Senate election in Alabama, Gillibrand called on the president to resign over both accusations of his own sexual improprieties and his own bragging over molesting women. And days before that she called on one of her own political party colleagues to resign, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. She had been on his side, right up until she was not. She also days before that threw her mentors and supporters Bill and Hillary Clinton under the bus — okay I need to slow down here. Now I am sounding like I am accusing her of being an opportunist with no loyalty but to herself. Don’t know enough about her yet. She does seem shrewd. And she actually did not directly take a hit at the Clintons. In an interview in an almost reluctant-sounding response to a question she indicated that she was wrong not to have called out Bill Clinton for his sexual transgressions as a candidate and in office. Her swipe at Bill to some seemed like biting the hand that feeds (or politically fed) you. But I think she saw that the time had come where women could take a stand and she wanted to catch the political wind that could propel her to higher office. She had already rather swiftly moved from the lower congressional house to the senate and now she sees the presidency on the horizon. She is a politician, and not trying to be simplistic or sarcastic here, but those are who generally hold political office.

Gillibrand’s call for Trump to resign prompted what could only be described as an obscene tweet from Trump who claimed that she had come to him for support and would do “anything” for it. But the tweet elevated her status as a rival to the almighty’s power.

While I still know little about her I have read that she has worked a lot on anti-sexual harassment and women’s rights causes in the military. She says she has done pro-bono work as a lawyer for battered women.

Gillibrand also worked as a defense attorney for the tobacco company of Phillip Morris — well one does have to make a living or progress in her profession.

(And quite frankly I like the idea of someone who has worked on different sides of the fence or in various environments with the idea it gives them a better feel for the issues.)

In general, it is said that as a representative in congress she tended to vote conservative — there are conservative Democrats, and you will recall that Bill Clinton ran as a centrist and appealed to conservatives.

Gillibrand has in the past had a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. Not anymore, as I understand it.

In the senate she has become more liberal. She is after all working next to Chuck Schumer, a leading liberal.

Gillibrand is also going national, which I think tends to pull candidates a little left.

The far-right reactionaries make all the noise and the rest of the populace either just listens or goes about their business and every once in a while gets riled enough or even nervous enough to take action at the ballot box.

Action was taken this week at the ballot box in Alabama.

If Moore had won I was going to write “let’s hope what plays in Alabama stays in Alabama”, but now I have to write “let’s hope Alabama speaks for America”, not necessarily for voting in a Democrat (although fine with me) but choosing sanity over insanity.


As far as whether Gillibrand is worthy to be president or what I think of her stands on the issues (always subject to change I realize) remains to be seen. But at least we have a preview for the run for the presidency in 2020.



Calling Jerusalem the Capital of Israel not necessarily in the U.S. interest…

December 10, 2017

In the New York Times, Opinion Page writer Bret Stephens claims that president Trump’s extending the U.S. official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (rather than Tel Aviv) is just stating the obvious, that in reality it has been all along.

Most of us if we are not Jewish or Palestinian probably don’t spend much time concerning ourselves about this. The modern state of Israel was formed the year before I was born, 1948. The narrative in the news most of my life has been that the Jews are the good guys who only want to live in peace and the Palestinians or Arabs are the bad guys who are terrorists who hate Jews and want to run them out of the Holy Land.

It’s an easy narrative to follow but it is not completely accurate and the story is a lot more complicated than that. I do not claim to know the whole story or to have studied it all intensely. As a political science major in college I did write a paper on the Balfour Declaration or maybe it was on the U.S. support of Israel and contained info on that. But at least when I watched a documentary last night (as I write this) my ears picked up on that Balfour thing.

But before I give a simple definition of it, I will just say that the facts are basically that the Western powers helped Jews or the Zionist cause to recreate a homeland for Jews who had migrated from or were thrown out of the Middle East centuries ago and who faced discrimination and persecution most everywhere they went, but persevered nonetheless. But after Hitler enslaved Jews and put some six million to death in World War II, the Zionists got support for creating the modern state of Israel.

But Jews had already migrated there before the war and were becoming quite successful, much to the chagrin or alarm of the native Arabs or Palestinians as they are called. While the British were supporting the Jews under the Balfour Declaration (that I have not explained yet) they were also concerned about the native people, and the new Jewish settlers disagreed with restrictions put on them by the British. War broke out between and the Arabs and Jews and Jewish fighters began fighting both the Arabs and the British, and they did so using terrorist tactics.

But somehow the story over the years of my lifetime has evolved in the Western press that the terrorists are the Arabs. While that may be true now, what with the Jewish people in charge, it conveniently overlooks how they got to where they are.

The Jewish Lobby pours a lot of money and time into U.S. politics.

Now I don’t know enough about it all to say who really started it all. But what is true is that over the years both the Arabs and the Jews have engaged in acts of terror, but since  the Jews with the support of the Western powers were victorious in establishing the modern state of Israel in 1948, it is the Arabs who continued terrorist actions as well as conventional war.

Palestinians were booted out of their own homes and their homes often destroyed by the Israelis (something that has gone on even in recent times) and some fled the country and masses of them live in settlement camps. I think the line is that at some point or points the Palestinians were offered a deal or deals but they did not want to live under Israeli rule, or did not like the offers and refused.

Oh, yes, that Balfour Declaration. It was a public statement issued by the British during World War I stating their position in support of providing a homeland for the Jewish people. Now why would they do this? What follows (like all of this really) is my interpretation from what I have read:

The British simply wanted influence in the region in general for economic purposes, world trade and such, and for military reasons (which are nearly always associated with economics), and it suited their interests while fighting World War I in particular because they were at war with the Ottoman Empire, which had joined the Central Powers, most notably Germany — and that is as far as I want to go into the complicated WWI history.

Also, in one book I read for that college paper I mentioned, the author suggested the British were not wild about having Jews in their own country (and I do not in any way mean this to be anti-Jewish or anti-Semite as they say), but they did admire their business and survival skills and thought they would be just the people to send over to settle in what is now modern-day Israel.

I would imagine a lot of the support from the United States has to do with the fact that in this country, many Christians, especially fundamentalist Christians, have this belief that the Jews should reclaim the land lost way back when and then once that is done be converted to Christianity. It’s part of the prophesy of the Bible they will tell you.

Also, during the Cold War, the U.S. aligned with Israel or visa versa while many of the Arab states aligned with the old Soviet Union..

And let’s face it, the Jews of Israel have been much more progressive in their economic endeavors and conduct their government along Western lines rather than the competing tribal cultures and the dictatorships of the Arabs. They just fit in with our way of doing things. And most Arabs are Muslim — that has something to do with it too, being as how most of the leadership of the U.S. is Christian, and to some extent Jewish, and has to answer to the political power of a Judeo-Christian society, which has been in the majority.

But getting back to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, well that is big deal because the Palestinians claim it too as a Holy city, they being predominantly Muslim.

And even that Balfour Declaration called for not interfering with the sovereignty of the Palestinians, and there is supposed to be a two-state solution after all these years — Palestine and Israel.

What happens in Israel does not stay in Israel. The leaders of other nations and political factions in the Middle East (and elsewhere) use the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to rile their own populations and deflect attention away from their own corrupt ways. And inevitably the U.S. gets blamed for taking the side of Israel, which for the most part is true.

It seems that the U.S. ought to stay neutral, except to urge Israel to not get in the way of the formation of a totally separate Palestine. That in and of itself would not guarantee peace in that region of endless wars, but only those two peoples can ever resolve their differences and we ought to quit using up our resources there and tend to problems in our own country.

Bret Stephens glibly treats the subject, but then the fact that he is Jewish I think might explain that. It was an opinion piece of course, but you can see why that might be his opinion. I’m not anti-Jewish. And for that matter I am not anti-Christian or Anti-Muslim. I’m just saying…


I reread the column that gave me the idea for this post and realize I may have missed the major point, and it does have interesting observations, so here is the link:



Franken gives ammo to the right but they are compromised themselves…

December 9, 2017

To Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota who announced that he has decided to resign his senate seat over sexual harassment allegations I say goodbye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You were just too full of yourself and never dreamed that every woman you came into contact with did not want a pinch on the backside or a deep kiss from you.

Franken’s politics, from what I know of them, did not bother me. He is a liberal and I consider myself middle of the road but the “liberal” tag does not turn me off. Where and when I grew up “liberal” was not an epithet or, if it was I did not know it. What bothers me about Franken and his kind (Bill Clinton) is that he gives the ultra-conservatives and reactionaries so much ammunition to use against progressive causes.

I’m thinking that Clinton’s sexual antics in office gave the right so much ammunition that the Republicans were able to elect George W. Bush, who if given a chance probably would have been more moderate to progressive. But he was a bit clueless and had to pander to what he called the Republican base — conservative rich people and social dinosaurs.

While the Republicans could take glee in the Franken resignation, they have to answer for their own, including the president and all his sexual bad behavior baggage, a senate candidate in Alabama accused of going after teenage girls, and a few other sexual misfits.

I have this observation about all these high-level guys caught up in the #Me Too sexual misconduct net:

I was a high school boy once, but then I grew up. Well, I admit, it was a long process.

Sadly of course the behavior of these men in the news goes beyond teenage-like hormones into the ugliness of the violation of another’s body and even into sexual violence — or at least the right to equal opportunity in employment.

And of course the righteous are the worst or among the worst. Republican congressman Trent Franks of Arizona has been forced to resign after accusations that he sexually harassed female staffers by among other things by at least implying they should have sex with him to act as surrogate mothers for he and his wife– that is to say staffers indicated that they were not sure whether he meant in vitro fertilization or just plain copulation. He reportedly took retribution on those who spurned his advances. If it is all a bunch of malarkey one wonders why he is resigning. I used the term righteous at the beginning of the paragraph. In reading I found out that Franks was heavily involved in the anti-abortion movement and at least one right-wing Christian group. Being anti-abortion is one thing but seeking to control women’s lives by forcing them to have babies one way or the other as it would seem he was trying to do is reprehensible and disgusting.

So far the major news in the current sexual harassment scandal is coming out of the entertainment, big media, and political world. But it is a problem throughout society.

As a man, I am glad that so many women have now come to realize that they don’t have to put up with sexual harassment and I think that many women are probably realizing that it is just as bad to be an enabler as to be a perpetrator.


In all of this, especially when it comes to the halls of government and politics, one has to recognize that the rules have changed. While out-and-out sexual harassment has always been considered vile, if ignored, sexual high jinx are a part of history and it may be hard to see where one leaves off and the other begins. President John Kennedy, married of course at the time, was known for womanizing while in office, but with the complicity of the press and the norm of the times all that was off limits, at least in the mainstream. And some suggest today that not all he took part in was consensual. In the royal courts of medieval Europe courtesans, women who today might be classed as prostitutes, were often influential. But women today are rebelling against being forced to use sex to take part in business in the private sector, entertainment, or government.






Raging infernos conjure up the wrath of God…

December 7, 2017

I can only think that with all of our technology how helpless we are against wild land fires. The scenes that I just saw on the internet of the raging fires in the Los Angeles area are almost beyond belief — it is a raging inferno that rips through everything in its path — from lowly outbuildings to multi-million dollar homes and it shuts down freeways or portions of them in one of the most populated areas of our nation.

I drive through this area all the time. I was just down near there the other day but fortunately maybe a 100 miles or less north of the fire.

I’ll be on the road tonight (Wednesday evening, early Thursday morning as I write this), but I’ll be going the other direction but we’re having a dry spell now up this way in Northern California. These conflagrations can happen most anywhere (north of San Francisco recently). You can blame it on climate change or God trying to teach all of us sinners a lesson, but they seem to be getting harder and harder to control or stop.

Most scientists seem to agree that man’s pollution of the earth’s atmosphere has some effect in climate change in which these fires seem to burn with such intensity. The naysayers suggest that is like blaming man for living, disregarding corrective measures that would sustain man’s life on earth. The attitude of climate change deniers seems to be that today’s profits on the burning of carbons and such come before conservation measures (I remember reading in school how it was hard to convince farmers in the Midwest to change their cultivation practices during the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, but they finally did). Climate change deniers also suggest that the phenomenon we are experiencing with our weather and fire is just the continuing pattern of the earth’s natural history. Most of us do not have the charts and data in front of us and would be hard pressed to make sense of it if we did. But like I always say I’d take the word of a scientist before I would a politician pandering for votes and money from lobbyists.

But whether you believe in climate change or God (not mutually exclusive), the raging and near uncontrollable fires we are seeing nowadays could not be any better described than something like the wrath of God.




First Amendment should not protect discrimination

December 6, 2017

About this brouhaha before the U.S. Supreme Court about a Colorado baker and cake decorator refusing to do a wedding cake for a couple of guys who were planning a wedding to each other:

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case yesterday (12-5-17) but a ruling is not expected until summer. However at least one professional court watcher’s blog I read suggests a verdict in favor of the cake decorator, with Justice Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote, as has often been the case.

My two cents worth:

On the one hand the cake decorator claims that same-sex marriage is against his religious beliefs, plus he is an artist who decorates cakes and to have the government intrude upon his artistic expression, as well as religion, is a violation of his First Amendment freedom of religion and speech or expression rights.

I could buy that, perhaps, especially if his business was one of those Christian establishments (he is a Christian; I don’t think all of his faith is anti-gay) that by their name and product line make it known who they cater to.

But as far as I know he ran a general cake decorating business and probably falls under the interstate commerce clause if for no other reason his supplies may cross state lines.

With the 1964 Civil Rights Law and other statutes and Supreme Court decisions we outlawed discrimination — no more, for instance, could motels refuse to rent rooms to black people.

And I don’t know all the legal points in this case but a major part of it has to do with legal requirements from Colorado’s own bureaucracy.

So on the one hand you have a First Amendment concern but on the other a civil rights violation.

I don’t think freedom of expression trumps (pardon the use of that word) civil rights. If it did anyone could discriminate on the grounds that he was just engaging in freedom of expression. The high court has held that discrimination on the basis of race, creed, and sexual orientation is unconstitutional.

Not a deep analysis I know. But those are my immediate thoughts.

However, I did notice that the state of Colorado seemed to be rather intrusive on the cake decorator’s business, requiring the respondent to provide anti-discrimination training to his employees. And that concerned me.

I did not want to hash through all the details but if you are interested I provide this link:


Or, if you really want to wade into it all, this brief on the case, which if course is anything but brief: