Prime Minister Abe at Pearl Harbor

I listened to Abe’s entire speech tonight. It was a sincere moving tribute to the men who died in the attack while defending our country, to their bravery in defending Pearl, to the families left behind, and recognition and gratitude to a country big enough and morally strong enough to help the defeated build democracies from the ashes. There was nothing hollow, insincere or contrived about it. Neither nation has ever “apologized” inasmuch as “I’m sorry” or “We messed up” is a shallow, trite slap in the face to the many millions who died so horribly in that war. I have no use for people who carp “He didn’t apologize,” obviously having neither heard nor comprehended what Abe, and then President Obama, actually said. Words are inadequate. What counts is not what we said but what we did, and Japan and America have proved exactly that.

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“Around the corner” in the Mideast?

We had a Facebook discussion yesterday on the mistakes of 9/11, who “started it,” and whether it’s going to go on forever. Here was my prognosis:

I think, in some very unpredictable future, the Mideastern people themselves will get sick and tired of being pushed around, raped, murdered, incinerated and told what to do on pain of death by every warlord in the region (and by some foreign powers). At that time, they will, somehow, have to forge a better way that works for everyone instead of dividing and fighting. I call that “democracy” but they can call it anything they want. Democracy cannot be imposed, forced, rushed, or peddled like snake oil. It has to be chosen freely, and that is one thing no foreign power can do for a people. They have to do it themselves.

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“The Media”

[] “WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four in 10 Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. This ties the historical lows on this measure set in 2014 and 2012. Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans said they trusted the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio.”

Trusted the mass media is an oxymoron:

“The media” is a catch-all term which includes an unholy gamut from NYT, WaPo and WSJ all the way down into the subterranean morass of People magazine, and National Enquirer. This means nothing, however, to people who think “vetting” is a recreational activity for cats and dogs, never fact-check, and believe everything they read.

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GMO Foods

Facebook today, on the rebuttal proposition that we do not have a right to know what’s in our food and how it’s produced.

Bernie on GMO

Correct, no scientifically vetted evidence has been produced that GMO foods are harmful, or will prove to be over a long period of time, but as an argument against GMO labeling this is a red herring.

Some of the arguments below [other comment posts] could have come straight from ConAgra or Monsanto. The comment below that “every natural food we eat is genetically engineered through millennia of selective breeding” fails to acknowledge how many results of natural cross-breeding, cross-pollination and radiation-induced genetic modification don’t make the evolutionary cut. Most of nature’s experiments went the way of the Ford Pinto than survived.

Consumers have a right to expect to be informed where their food comes from, how it is grown and fertilized, and if it is GMO should that be a concern to them. The industry rebuttal is that it is none of our business, that “we know what’s best for you,” and “we’ll decide what you need to know because printing a label is SO expensive and competitively disadvantageous.”

I don’t particularly spend time reading labels at the market because the huge issue for me – at this time – is the industry’s astoundingly resolute stance that where our food comes from and under what conditions it is produced is “proprietary.” I support food labeling laws but IMHO the only thing these folks listen to is profits. Buy the brands and foods that you trust and boycott the rest, as individuals, if not in some more organized fashion.

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Orlando: Terrorism and Media Confusion

I share the sorrow, outrage and concern of the nation on the infamous event of this week. It was not the first, and will not be the last. It is said to be the largest lone-wolf massacre to which propaganda from so-called ISIS  has been linked, but it was not the largest. We won’t forget the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, nor the Twin Towers attack on 9/11/2001. Unsurprisingly, the nature of terrorism and the Orlando terrorist has been a subject of great speculation on Facebook this week. The killer could have turned to professional help and counseling, but he chose to turn against the world’s innocents instead. Our thoughts:

Media confusion: “Did Islamic State claim responsibility for latest attacks too soon?”
Re: “I’m wondering now if this was not really a terror thing but a combination of things played out by a truly troubled soul who just happened to be a Muslim and he adopted that mantra.
His ex-wife said he turned mean and crazy after -> becoming radicalized by personal contacts and “Islamic State” content on the web. A nut case may have more than one reason for turning killer.
It was a terror thing. The other things killed no one.

All good points you raise, but yes, people need to understand that it really was a terror thing. The other factors, known or conjectured, include: religious conflicts, sexual identity issues, psychotic behavior including wife beating and verbal abuse, and probable rejection issues at Plunge and on the gay dating sites for all of his obvious psych issues.

I’m asking your help in stressing that none of these “other things” in any way ameliorate, mitigate, dilute or minimize the terrorism aspect, as has been so often implied in media coverage. They do not change the fact that he murdered forty-nine people. As I said, the non-violent psychological aspects of his many problems did not harm anyone. And I know you already know that. No, it is not simple, but when you rank the laundry list by impact, as callous as this sounds, only one of them affects the country. He turned killer.
What I see on the media suggests the problem is that people tend to confuse and intermix the crime and the motivation. In criminal court, the crime is the crime, unless there are applicable and predefined special cases like insanity. Motivation is sometimes but not always considered in determining the severity of the sentence if there is a conviction. Societally, I think that’s a good way to look at it too.
A much simpler case, something that happens somewhere every day: a person has way too much to drink and is verbally rude and abusive at a party. People say, “That’s the liquor talking.” Trust me, it’s not.
More on media confusion: “Did Islamic State claim responsibility for latest attacks too soon?” We need to STOP glorifying the terrorist by sanctioning some question of “who was responsible” for an act of terrorism or claimed to be. The individual committing it is responsible. Instead of leaving open the notion that lone wolf terrorists are superheroes making a statement for God or Allah (which they are not), we need to start presenting them to the public as the highly screwed up mental cases they really were.
As I think more about the “claiming responsibility thing” I see it as presumptuous, and even preposterous. I have never been a fan of “shaming,” but perhaps this is a case where it’s appropriate.

Go out in a blaze of gunfire, see your every dirty little secret splashed across front pages, your family hurt and disgraced by you. See whatever dignity and tortured conflicts you had publicly ignored, deprecated and even trivialized, for you chose to turn into the worst animal of all. Whether a crazed so-called “Islamic” terrorist, or those Ku Klux Klan creatures who firebombed the church in Birmingham in 1964, murdering nine innocent and defenseless little girls, you are a terrorist who decided to take down the innocent as you turned away from the human race.
~~ Alex, June 15, 2016


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Supreme Court: Same-Sex Marriage a Right

I never thought I’d live long enough to see this hoped-for day. Congratulations to all American couples who finally won legal recognition for a universally cherished legal and moral right. has argued for same-sex equality from 1995 until the recent time where we were just one more small voice in a national “yea” for equality for all.

Not to quibble excessively about something we’d looked forward to for half a century, but there was something disturbing about the 5-4 split on the court.

As reported in the New York Times analysis:

Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

We’re left with a stronger impression that marriage – any marriage, heterosexual or same-sex – is deemed a privilege granted by the States, not a right. We urge fellow Americans to consider that if a “right” can be imperially granted, a broad swath of individual rights not explicitly enumerated in our great Constitution may be deemed “privilege” that can be taken away. We (all Americans) must defeat the notion that rights can be compromised under the uncertainty and inequity of popular or regional votes.

news photo:

Same-Sex Marriage a Right - SCOTUS

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Charlie Hebdo

The terrorists who assassinated staff at the offices of the satirical Parisian magazine “Charlie Hebdo” also attempted a hostage situation at a kosher supermarket outside Paris, where they were shot dead by police within the last few hours.

Much attention has rightly been paid to the acts of terror themselves, and to the increasing threat to free speech in Europe and beyond, and to the absolute necessity of fighting by whatever means, if necessary, to preserve that right. But there is a finer shade of question to these awful events, France’s “911,” which as yet has received scant examination.

We must ask ourselves what we might expect if a satirical cartoon “intended to highlight public issues” ridiculed and disgraced the Christian Jesus with a humiliating and mildly pornographic image. In some parts of Europe and America, the lynch mobs would be still be assembling. It’s not a question of free speech – of course we are free to speak plainly in the western world – it’s a question of matching the message to the issues. While I admire Charlie Hebdo’s courage in the abstract, their implementation was very junior-high-school and puerile. It was a gratuitous slap in the face to the majority of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world who live in peace for much the same values as we do. None of this in any way mitigates or ameliorates the terrorist attack of Charlie Hebdo offices, and I am glad those terrorists were shot dead. But it is worth thinking about.

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Taking Back the ‘Redskins’ label

Patent office cancels Redskins trademarks

The U.S. Patent Office has canceled trademarks belonging to the Redskins football team, saying they are offensive to Native Americans.

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'”

Might we fancy ‘Redskin’ as a neutral or even positive label just because we always have? Think about history. We can recall usage as defamatory pejoratives, in funny popular songs like “Please Mr. Custer,” as stereotyping generalization, and as an epithet. We can’t recall one case where a speaker used the word in high praise and tribute. In America, we’ve already “taken back” the N word, G word, Q word and many others. I say, time for Native Americans to “take back” the R word.

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Good show, America, what’s happening to us?

Recommended reading, from Bill Moyers:

Study: Politically Engaged Liberals and Conservatives Don’t Want to Be Neighbors

Me: Well now, there we have it, don’t we?

We invite our neighbors belonging to the “other” Party over for drinks and BBQ, and we smile sweetly and thank them ever SO much for coming, just as if they were “real” human beings. And then we trot down to the polls and vote to expropriate their property, curb their speech, deny them civil rights and liberties, jail them on trumped-up charges in Soviet-style courts, steal their privacy, and then we scratch our heads and wonder why we all demonize each other. Good show, America, what’s happening to us?

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DIY Health Examinations

My TV happened to be tuned to a medical discussion show. I caught a panelist who appeared to be arguing that women performing their own breast self-examination is over-rated. His reasoning seemed to be that if everything appears to be fine, it inspires overconfidence, so people won’t go to the doctor.

I took flying lessons in the 1970’s. Preparing for a short training hop in a twin-engine Cessna from Hayward, CA, local weather was lousy. My flight instructor and I phoned Oakland Air Traffic Control with our instrument flight plan, and we asked about Oakland field weather there. The controller replied that their airport was operating under Visual Flight Rules, visibility two miles, ceiling 1000 feet.

We asked if he’d looked out the window lately. “Just a minute,” he told us. On returning, he replied, “I’ll be damned. It’s raining!”

Looking at the night sky with binoculars is not the same thing as the Hubble Space Telescope. Self-examination is not the same thing as an MRI scan or a visit to Mayo or Johns Hopkins. But nobody argues you shouldn’t look out the window when you can just get the weather from Channel 5 meteorologists.

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Driverless Cars: Who Gets the Ticket?

Slashdot reports: “Driverless Cars Could Cripple Law Enforcement Budgets.” If a car can drive itself 700,000 miles without a ticket, some fear this lucrative government revenue source could dry up. But, if a car DOES get a ticket. who should pay it? Some say the human operator should pay it. Google says the company that made the car should pay it, since automated systems should not fail.

Nonsense. Ask the commanders and crew of the Apollo missions. My reply:

Google is wrong. In matters of collision avoidance, safe navigation and busting regulations, one human is always designated as captain of the ship, pilot in command, or driver of the car. He or she is responsible for monitoring even the most highly automated systems, and for overriding them if necessary. Saying the company manufacturing the vehicle should get the speeding ticket is like saying Smith and Wesson should do the time in homicide convictions.


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Nature: Optical detection of radio waves through a nanomechanical transducer

“Many applications, from medical imaging and radio astronomy to navigation and wireless communication, depend on the faithful transmission and detection of weak radio-frequency microwaves … signals can be transferred directly into standard optical fibres rather than copper wires …” From the Nature journal. In Computers & Technology.

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Zimmerman Trial

“Stand your ground” means if someone wets their pants, literally or figuratively, someone else can end up dead. This trial was wrong on so many different levels. “Different mindset down there” is an understatement. This could have political ramifications for a generation, and should.

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“You know who you are”

From BBC: “In Sonning Common, near Reading, in 2003, an unidentified motorist – you know who you are – collided with and knocked down the sign reading, Sonning Common welcomes careful drivers.”

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“Repairing the Social Safety Net”

The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, in “Call That A Budget?” commenting on the part of Paul Ryan’s draconian Tea Party budget proposal ingenuously called “Repairing the Social Safety Net” :

But when Ryan explains that he’s doing things like cutting Medicaid in order to help “the less fortunate get back on their feet” one hears echoes of Judge Smails, in “Caddyshack,” explaining that he sentenced young criminals to death because “I felt I owed it to them.”

Read more:

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Pink Slime

No matter how medically safe “pink slime” may be, it’s disgusting. The consumer, not the meat processor plant, must be the final judge of what’s food and what’s chemically processed byproduct. The fact that “pink slime” has been quietly pushed to market without prominent WARNING! notices is even more disgusting.

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Syria, Russia, China

Even the King of Saudi Arabia seemed baffled at the recent United Nations resolution veto by UN members Russia and China.

After all, the Assad regime in Syria is not only killing its own citizens who are engaged in massive protest demonstrations across that country, it is now engaged in the indiscriminate shelling of entire cities, such as Homs, suspected of harboring those unsympathetic to the regime.

The king of Saudi Arabia inserted himself directly into the Syria crisis on Friday, castigating Russia and China for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution over the weekend aimed at ending the Syrian government’s deadly repression of a nearly year-old uprising.” — New York Times

In today’s airing of the Charlie Rose Show, taped last night, Charlie Rose and guest Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, both commiserated over the veto votes but both agreed that China “probably would not have” vetoed the resolution had its ally Russia not done so. Their reasoning: China, casting about for alternative oil sources, has much looser ties to the Syrian regime, whereas Russia is formally allied with the Assad regime and has supplied it with tanks, armaments and ammunition which is being deployed against Syrian citizens.

In Putin’s Russia, we hear reports the state media has begun reminding Russian citizens once again that “protest” equals “terrorism.” Russia is undergoing its own more modest version of civil demonstration, against the Putin cult of power and rigged elections. Putin is anxious to contain any spread of political conflagration and to avoid unfavorable analogies to the “Arab Spring” developments.

In Sichuan Province in China, international news media report that China has completely sealed off entire counties in the region to prevent people or information from flowing in or out. Ethnic Tibetans in the province have renewed protests against repression, and three of them, so far, have set themselves on fire.

Any differences in the perceived bluntness of the two vetoing superpowers notwithstanding, it is a good time to remember that the more totalitarian the regime, the more it must of necessity fear and suppress freedom of expression.

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David Brooks on Republicans at Disney World

Watch Shields, Brooks on Iowa Debate, ‘Rattling Sabers’ Over Iran, Iraq War’s Legacy on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If you didn’t catch the remarks of David Brooks on PBS NewsHour on December 16, or again on Charlie Rose last night, it’s in the embedded PBS news clip, and I excerpted the transcript below:

What’s been interesting to me is the structure of the whole thing. The Democrats want to give the Republicans a tax break — tax cuts for the American people, and the Republicans are saying, no, no. We want more.

It’s a bit like a parent going to a kid and saying, we’re going to take you to Disney World. And the kids say, we will agree to go to Disney World if you give us an Xbox and an iPhone. And the parents say, no, but you will love Disney World. Give us the Xbox. And then they say, okay, we will give you the Xbox and Disney World.

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