Thursday, July 20, 2017

California Infernos

There is nothing anyone can do to change it, to stop it. We can fight it, and the fire fighters do so with skill, daring, courage and a danger to themselves, but still, it chews the dry brush into a soft ash.

Lightning starts most of them. The drought to hurts and so does an ill wind called Santa Ana or Chinook or other local names. It flows quickly from the mountain tops and reminds us of our vulnerability. The tears of loss and smiles of safety on the same face parallel our conflict and appreciation of nature.

The stories of neighbor helping neighbor, confirm our desire for community. There are hundreds of stories not only of crushing flames and charred places, but stories of hopes and wishes shattered dreams and shock.

In times of such destruction, values change rapidly. The acquired stuff of daily living is no match for the loss of a treasured family picture or the ache of not knowing if a pet survived.

There is never a quick end to tragedy. No easy answers to the wailed questions of why and no relief when cries have run out of tears.

It is not possible to hold each hand of so many so hurting from these fires. All we can do, in this human family, is to be aware and to care. There is something powerful in that, and it heals.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Congress?

The obstreperous of Washington continue to be obstinate, egotistic, and alleged representatives of what was once a country of compromise. The greatness of our democracy is its ability to come together, to reason, to legislate for the common good and the good of the whole.

Each side is playing with the lives of citizens. The idiocy of brinkmanship ended when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Each member of Congress should look at their back yard for the pork they authorize to ensure their reelection. Yes, we need to raise revenue on all economic strata, and it needs to be done with civility and fairness.

To some of Congress, compromise is a sign of weakness and a betrayal of the ad hoc groups that put them there. In their zeal, few realize that the foundation of beneficial legislation is cemented with courtesy, not confrontation and with compromise, not conflict.

The absolutists of all political philosophies cannot see a future beyond their own beliefs and are seemingly willing to play with the stability of the country because they will not be affected by any of their actions.

Congress is immune. It has its financial security. It has its health system. It has its perks and pleasures, and it has become an elite club of spoiled rich bureaucrats.

America’s future is being fractionalized, and there are no statesmen or stateswomen in Congress to counter the iconic, the myopic and the temporarily powerful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

John McCain

Bravo to Senator John McCain!

He suggested last night that republicans should work with democrats in passing a bipartisan health bill.

Finally someone has had the courage to break the partisan deadlock.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Health Bill

Ah, It’s Monday, again and again, Congress is delaying a vote on the health care bill. The votes are not there. Senator McCain is recovering from surgery, so the vote will be delayed until he gets back to Washington.

Skullduggery seems to be the operative word to get this bill passed.

Check this; some are calling it the Polar Payoff. To get Alaska’s Republican senator to vote for the bill, the newly written legislation sends multi-millions more to Alaska. It seems that the bill’s provisions only apply to Alaska to get the money.

How about this one, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has included a provision that would allow insurance companies to offer a simplified plan that would require ill people to pay more than healthy ones.

Whatever happened to representative government? Are we so calloused against the indigent, the poor, the weak, the elderly, the needy that we cannot see a way to help?

Do we care more for bombers, weapons, defeating our fears, then we do for hungry children, the elderly and the ill?

Look, we are all going to die of something someday, but does it have to be accelerated by congress?




Thursday, July 13, 2017

The bane of Noice

Noise! You know the kind that spills onto your sanity and disturbs your inner peace because it grates upon the divine din of your connection to the Universe. What triggered this was a walk with my spiritual advisor, a nine pound Yorkie and Shih Tzu mix. We were both listening to the welcoming warble of nature when an overbearing truck shattered the tranquility of a peaceful walk.

 She cringed, and I turned my hearing aids down.

The world today is filled with noise. It used to be filled with melody and the music of nature. It used to have harmony and tonal pleasantries, with the profound interstitial presence of quiet. It now has the unfiltered and the unadulterated noise of shouts, argument, discords, and the screeches of contentious life, punctuated by the grind of motors, horns and mechanical equipment.

I’m not sure how noise usurped the thing we once called “peace of mind,” but it did, and we suffer its loss with every fleeting moment of quiet that instantaneously reminds us of our natural state.

Occasionally, I get to re-experience the calm that comes from quiet. Meditation often leads to that experience. It is an excellent calming balm that holds me in a moment of peace.

I know there is more, I just must stay quiet long enough to get there.

Global Civility

I’ve been wondering lately if the world has been flooded by some alien ray that eliminated civility from humankind.

I look at the contention stories permeating the global and even the local press in all regions of the world.

Wouldn’t you think that all people alive today would have some experience of or observation of hate, prejudice, violence or anger and not like it or want in or near their lives?

The poor attack the poor because they see what they don’t like in others in themselves and can see no way out of what they don’t like.

The rich belittle the rich because others have more or less than themselves and they live under the illusion that success, security, and safety is having more.

Democrats criticize Republicans because that’s what those out of power do even though partisanship relinquishes their elected responsibility to seek the greater good for the whole.

Religions contend with other beliefs saying my way is the only way to worship the one God of All That Is.

The old besmirch the young because that’s not the way they did it and they can’t remember their youthful enthusiasm for the zest of life.

The Young disrespect the elderly because they see their passage in the old and cannot accept vulnerability and decay.

Race diminishes race because few understand the sacredness of culture, traditions, and family is the same for all.

This stuff has been going on since the beginning of humankind.

Perhaps it is just remembering what civility is and then practicing it because it is the right thing to do.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

McConnell's Gambit

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is a shrewd politician. He has now said he will extend the Senate’s legislative session by two weeks into their scheduled August recess. His purpose is to get the Senate to pass the Health Care Bill.

In my opinion, his real purpose is to pressure reluctant Senators to vote for the bill so they can get home to SCHEDULED family vacations, events and personal time, so precious for many national politicians. Those of us who are parents know you don’t want to disappoint or break a promise to the kids.

It’s a cruel way to try to get your way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Congressional Term Limits

There are always new reasons why people don’t trust what politicians say.



Back in 2012 when Markwayne Mullin was running for an Oklahoma House seat, he promised his voters he would serve no more than six years in Congress. He further amplified his words by signing the U.S. term limits pledge and promised to co-sponsor and vote for term limits legislation in the House.

The other day Mullin announced he would seek a 4th term in 2018.

Without realizing it, Congressman Mullin has become the poster child of why we need term limits.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Same Old - Same old..

Here it is Monday morning and a new work week begins. We’ve finished with our Independence celebration week. We’ve had the President return from his travels in Europe, Poland, Germany and the G-20 summit, his meeting with Russia’s Putin and a few awkward moments in the limelight.

For those who support Mr. Trump, there will be accolades and ribbons for his demeanor and actions. For those who don’t like him, there will be criticism. Politically nothing has changed. Congress, returning from the 4th of July recess, is working to replace Obamacare. The Republicans don’t have enough votes to do it alone, so some are suggesting that working with the Democrats might be a way to get a compromise bill passed. Other Republicans think that is a bad idea.

So, nothing has changed. Contention is the rule, the method, the modality, the prevailing model for the House and Senate to legislate.

One side or the other is not alone to blame. They all are suspect, they all are not working in the best and greater interests of a diverse American people. Governing takes courage. Legislating is sacrifice and compromise. It’s hard work.

Contention was also the rule during the continental congress in Philadelphia, but they, in their divine guidance and founding wisdom, found a way to compromise and we got our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our system of government. A Republic! A nation governed by the rule of law.

Is 21st-century mankind so different? I suspect what we are missing is divine guidance.




Friday, July 7, 2017

Spies - nothing new!

People have been spying on people since the biblical times. I wonder why we are so surprised when a country or a company detects that an individual or a group of individuals are soliciting information for another country or company.

Every country does it to someone. We are in the information age and information can give one an advantage in diplomacy, in politics, in business, in war, in manufacturing and even in sports by learning the signals of an opposing team via binoculars.

The notable spies of history: Nathan Hale, Belle Boyd, Mata Hari, Alger Hiss, the Cambridge Spies – Burgess, Blunt, Maclean and Philby, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Aldrich Ames, Giacomo Casanova, Klaus Fuchs, Major John Andre, and Richard Sorge.

Some specifics from the People’s Almanac:

"Moses ordered Joshua to lead a band of 11 spies into the land of Canaan.

In 334 B.C. Alexander the Great intercepted the outgoing mail from his soldiers and spying on them.

In 878 A.D. England’s King Alfred the Great disguised as a wandering poet-singer sang through the Danish military camps and got enough information to defeat the Danes at Edington."

During the “cold war,” it was a touch more dramatic to catch a spy in either the United States or in the then Soviet Union. Not so today.

In Many ways, spies are disguised soldiers. They gather and disseminate information for the advantage of their country. It is barbarically interesting that because spies do not wear the uniform of their country, they can be summarily executed. Fortunately, businesses do not have the right to terminate a life. There are probably some company individuals who would like that option to keep their proprietary information intact.

Spying not much different from voyeurism, Peeping Toms, table listening or eavesdropping. The information may be less threatening to national security, but it is spying nonetheless.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Nuclear Dilemma

I have a friend who is currently in Japan gleaning information for a book on the effects of the Atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki toward the end of the World War II. I had hoped to be there, but it didn't work out this time.

I have another friend who has invited me to participate in a community discussion in Vermont on what individual communities can do to lessen the nuclear risk in their communities and subsequently the communities of the world. I will attend.

The opponents of nuclear power in Japan call themselves the Hydrangea Revolution. Tens of thousands rally against the restarting of nuclear power plants in Japan. So far it hasn't worked for the government of Japan has authorized the re-starting some nuclear power facilities.

The Hydrangea flower is composed of many tiny flowers to create a large blossom that appears as beauty and fragrance in the collective of its totality. Its components are tiny, but the effect is large.

It is a lesson for the human collective. We are ineffectual alone, but we are powerful as a collective. There are other metaphors of equal meaning, but this will suffice.

Perhaps the effect could be global if we continue to spread to the world’s people that the danger at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant is a continual poison to the Pacific Ocean and the earth. Those in power, both in Japan and in the rest of the world continue to ignore the danger for whatever reason.

Albert Einstein once said, “the splitting of the atom has changed everything, except man’s way of thinking, and so we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

He was no doubt talking about the bomb, but there is little difference between radiation from a bomb and radiation from an accident or a natural catastrophe that exposed lethal radiation. Did we not learn from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island?

My friend, Akio Matsumura has been trying to call attention to this potential danger for many years.

One of his blogs put it this way:

 “People are demonstrating against the system of secrecy and backroom influence that steers Tokyo and the rest of the country. TEPCO has influence over policy makers, media circles, and elite scientists. Together these three groups hold enough power, influence, and expertise to say what goes for truth in Japan, even if it is not what is correct. Because of this collusion, freedom of speech has waned in Japan. We Japanese traditionally hope more to save face than speak out against an issue. But now we see that inaction begets oppression. And thus people are speaking out.”

Akio concludes his blog with this statement, and I agree. “ It is time for each member of the media to ask basic questions of the Japanese government and its companies and shed light on the true situation there.”

It is time for all of us to ask those questions of our leaders. Let us all be the human flower of many blossoms, not the wilted collective that deemed itself powerless against perceived authority.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Memory of Walter

I was at a 4th of July party yestrday and someone mention Walter Cronkite.

I first met Mr. Cronkite in Vietnam in 1968. He was there on his quintessential visit that led him to declare to a nationwide audience that the war could not be won. The disclosure led President Lyndon Johnson to say to staffers that "if I've lost Cronkite, I have lost the nation"

I was a CBS affiliate reporter assigned to Vietnam in January and February of 1968. My cameraman and I were headquartered in the Hotel Caravelle in Saigon, and from there we would hitch rides with military units to interview and tell the stories of local servicemen and women fighting and serving in the various theaters of battle throughout the country.

One night after several days in the field we came back to the hotel in Saigon to ship our film back to the states through the courier pouches of our network, CBS. We were having dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant; a couple of tables away sat Walter and his producer Ernie Leiser.

I waited until they finished dinner and I hesitatingly walked over to Mr. Cronkite’s table to introduce myself. Walter was gracious, courteous, inquisitive and offered help in the filing of our stories.

He thought for a moment and said to me, “didn’t you recently do a story we ran on CBS news about a train wreck and explosion in Indiana.”

I said yes. I was thrilled. Mr. Cronkite remembered.

Go ahead two years and circumstances found me reporting for the CBS Owned and Operated Station in New York. Walter’s office was in the same building.

I would see and talk to him in the hallway, and occasionally we’d ask him for a comment or interview on journalism or the passing of a colleague. He was always accommodating.

Eventually, we both left CBS.

Several years ago I was working on an independent documentary about the Nuremberg war crime trials. I called Walter’s office to request an interview with him since he was a UPI pool reporter covering the trials in 1945. Through his secretary, he agreed to the interview.

A few days later I arrived at his office at the CBS headquarters in New York, Walter got out of his chair, shuffled over to me for his step was then frail, put both arms on my shoulders as he stood in front of me and said: “Old friend, how are you?”

Great men exist, and I was fortunate to know one and admire one.

“That’s the way it is.”


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The 4th of July

Today is the 4th of July. A day we celebrate our independence from the Crown of England.

Today is a day to be American. Today is a time to drop the other names we have adopted and become and are often un-American for labels tend to distance our hearts from the one-ness we are.

We need to drop the labels of liberal, conservative, right and left, democrat and republican and become again what we once were, patriots laboring in the creation of a nation. America is not yet done in being that shining example of what can be when all are represented equally.

America is an amalgam of beliefs. Being an American means tolerance for all opinions, courtesy of listening, facts in a debate, compromise on the issues of national importance and always putting the country ahead of partisan wants and doled local pork that benefits only a few to the detriment of the greater good.

If we truly want to celebrate our nation, our independence, we must do so every day. First, we need to give thanks for what we have created and then we need to get back to the founding basics: honor, integrity, dignity and truth.

Being a democracy is not easy. We have to work at it. All of us from the President on down.


 
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