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Archive for May 2011

Racism of the future?

Good evening, Netizens…


I have always had a somewhat unusual approach to racism perhaps because I may never truly know what racial mix makes up my background. Of all four sons my mother bore, I was the only one who had dark brown curly hair and hazel eyes, and the name of the man who fathered me with her went to the grave when she passed away several years ago. If one were to look at my son, who still lives in the Midwest, they would most certainly see the similarity between he and I, so much so that it startled my wife when she first met him. At least he knows the names of his father and mother, but not much of the genealogy.


Perhaps if the truth were known today, I am your basic Heinz 57 variety: a little of this, a little of that and after 65 years of living, who is stopping to check the racial makeup as it passes me by. Along the torrid pathway I've trod through life, mostly because of my lifestyle and wanderlust, I've become emotionally attached to a wide variety of peoples from all races, religions and cultural backgrounds. Ye Gods, everything from ethnic Chinese and Japanese in the Bay Area to Native Americans living in the deserts of the Southwest with even a Cajun down south to a Basque who worked in a second-hand store in Portland working each day restoring old tools and equipment to newness. I never considered their individual racial backgrounds; all I could do was marvel at how unique each of them were in their own ways.


After all, I didn't have much of a heritage, save that of my mother, to tell people about my racial background. I simply grew to accept myself for who I was, and moved on forward.


In this morning's David Horsey cartoon, Mr. Horsey suggests there is a future to racism that most people never have stopped to consider. Perhaps with the advent of a new generation of people crammed together like dominoes in a box perhaps those ugly racial lines that have separated us, each from the other, and eventually those hideous lines will disappear entirely someday. Each of us will have some traits from the various cultures that have touched our lives; perhaps the discord and strife of the past, both recent and far, far back in history, will simply fade away.


This has been one of the fondest hopes I have ever entertained for humanity, and perhaps just maybe in my lifetime I'll see it fulfilled. I believe that is called optimism, but I am holding out the hope that we someday will heal our rifts, unlike David Horsey's cartoon.


Of course, your thoughts and optimism may differ.




Are the good times really over for good?

Good morning, Netizens…


Scared of the current economy? This morning's David Horsey cartoon speaks volumes about one of the key components of the current employment situation in our country.


There is hardly a day that goes by but what I remember the number of former manufacturing plants that once were the mainstay of our economy back in the days when our national economy was more robust. Those plants simply put are not there any more; most either closed their doors, victims of poor management or the economy, while the majority simply moved their manufacturing plants to some foreign country where they didn't have our fixed costs, including our middle-class wages. Why pay $10 an hour when $3.00 will do in Mexico?


Everyone acts as if those jobs are coming back really soon now, but I don't think so. The voters of this country have not spoken up yet, demanding that this policy be deemed unacceptable. If the mega-corporations want our tax breaks, they need to be responsive to our population rather than those of other countries.


The grim reality is a select few at the top will make more money than ever, a big majority will be working harder for less pay, and a significant minority will be underemployed or permanently out of luck. That grim economic outlook, as stated by this cartoon, appears to be straight-up and truthful. It does give everyone cause to be scared, and be damned what the opportunistic politicians are saying about our “recovery”.


Of course, your results may differ.



The lessons of Joplin, MO for Spokane…

Good afternoon, Netizens…


Having watched the news regarding the F4 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, and given the number of times I have chased tornadoes through Tornado Alley, my heart is heavy with sorrow for those who died or were injured during this record-breaking multi-cyclonic storm. Unfortunately, storm chasers never truly had an opportunity with this storm as most storm chasers with any brains to back up their nerves of steel would never chase funnel clouds in the dark, which is when the storm reached its peak.


It would be redundant of me to cite Joplin's statistics, as the national news media have already smothered our senses with news overload regarding a city in Missouri some of us may have never seen. Suffice it to say people in Joplin are living in a chainlike web of sorrow and pain tonight, and it is not over by a long shot, as they are currently under a tornado and severe thunderstorm warning once again.


However, it stands to reason there are some lessons which Spokane could learn in the aftermath of such a horrific storm, despite the fact Spokane only rarely has tornadoes, and as far as I can tell, has never seen an F4 storm.


First, do we even have emergency sirens? Granted, we probably do not have enough danger of tornadoes to mandate having workable sirens mounted throughout the city. However, such devices could easily be part of a more generic set of warnings. Perhaps we could even sound the sirens to let the public know of unforeseen hazards, such as train wrecks or other dangerous situations. If nothing else, using city-wide sirens as a storm warning might buy unknowing citizens of pending hazardous weather by encouraging people to turn on their radios and televisions for the latest news updates and thus to take immediate shelter.


Awareness of weather threats should be taught early to our students in the hopes they will always be aware of dangerous weather. I will never forget the day about ten years ago a tornado manifested itself in North Spokane while I was sitting in a former Denny's Restaurant. The funnel appeared to be making a bee line for the restaurant, and to my utter chagrin, most of the restaurant staff and patrons eagerly ran to the windows to get a better look. It was fortuitous that the storm went back aloft, for had it not done so, the statistics could have been terrible. Education and awareness is everything.


Duck and cover is not dead yet. In the Midwest, throughout most of Tornado Alley, students are still taught the old-fashioned “duck and cover” drill, a hallmark of the Cold War Days when we lived in fear of an atomic bomb. In Spokane we only average three or four tornadoes per year, and only a few of them ever achieve even an F2 category. Still, having school children aware of duck and cover might make the difference between life and death should a tornado strike.


These are just a few things, idle speculation on my part, that we could stand to learn from the meteorological depravity that hit Tornado Alley in the last few weeks. Of course, your results and opinions may differ.



Gimme old time religion…

Good morning, Netizens…


With the morning news that Oops!! the Reverend Harold Camping, who predicted the end of it all on May 21, he now states that his calendar got screwed up and the date of the Rapture will fall on October 21, instead. This brings me back to the vision(s) we have of Biblical statements, mostly relating to the Old Testament in the case of David Horsey, cartoonist, for example.


Parts of the Old Testament, which includes the Pentateuch, is a favorite source of theology for some old-time religious beliefs, some of which David Horsey has cited in this cartoon. Far be it from me to wade into the middle of the dialogue between Biblical scholars! However, as David Horsey's excellent cartoon suggests, the Old Testament has some pretty interesting restrictions upon modern-day living.


Can you imagine what would happen if we had to actually had to live with the statements contained in the Old Testament? Say, come to think of it, we could all have multiple wives, now couldn't we? We could even behead those in advertising so regularly lie to us. I could easily come up with more sweeping changes that would come about if we adhered 100% with the restrictions in the Old Testament. Say, couldn't we have fun?


Of course, your beliefs and decisions may differ from this vision. Nonetheless, it is an interesting thought.



Where college graduation leads us…

Good morning, Netizens…


Back when I attended college, wise students could economically survive obtaining a four or eight year college degree, and if they were truly astute, with little debt left over when they set forth into the job market to find employment. Modern-day kids, unfortunately, face megatons of debt in order to accomplish that same goal, and even worse, the job market is not robust enough for them to find gainful, meaningful employment in some cases.


Cartoonist David Horsey depicts one of those scenarios this morning, one that I am reasonably certain are taking place every day. If you stroll into a fast food restaurant, you are apt to encounter everything from college graduates to septuagenarians for whom retirement consists of flipping burgers for a secondary income after Social Insecurity.


What is truly disheartening is the number of students who actually attain advanced college degrees are steadily on the decrease, but at the current prices, who can afford a college degree? Of course, your results may differ…



We’re still here…

Good morning, Netizens…


The fact that you are reading this Blog this morning is but one piece of evidence that Harold Camping's prediction of the Rapture arriving at 6:00 PM yesterday did not work as planned. Perusing the news sites early this morning, I have not read any estimates of how many of the faithful actually had their celestial bags packed and ready for departure, although history is filled with various other predictions that the end was about to arrive where it never happened.


Who could forget the episode of the Hale-Bopp comet when 39 members of the Heavens Gate cult committed suicide in order to reach an alien aircraft which was supposedly following the aforementioned Hale-Bopp comet? These people believed by ingesting a mixture of phenobarbital mixed with applesauce or pudding, all washed down by vodka, they would hitch a ride on the alien craft following the comet. Sadly enough, they died under horrific circumstances and none of them ever returned to this sphere to tell of their ride with the aliens.


The Bible, which tells us what little is known about the Rapture, when Jesus Christ will come back to earth to claim his faithful and take them into heaven for eternity. The Bible also tells us that no one will predict when that time is nigh, which leaves people like Camping wasting their time, and every generation seems to have someone eager to predict the end of time. My personal version of the Rapture is that Jesus is coming, but boy, is he ever mad at the way we on Earth have laid waste to our lovely planet, wasted our human resources and ignored the lessons he sought to teach us all about love, life and laughter.


So, in retrospect, Harold Camping probably will issue a lame excuse for how his misjudged the date the Rapture was to take place, and for yet another day you will have to tolerate this funky, grumpy old man peering into the Virtual Garden, watching the ghosts dancing around the Virtual Ballroom and speculating about when our time will come. It is purely speculation, and I make no certainty about my vision of the end; simply that someday it will come.



Doug /Floyd is retiring…

Good evening, Netizens…


As I told Jeanie earlier this afternoon, on June 30, the end of next month, we will both have a reason to make special note of the day, for that will be Editorial Page Editor Doug Floyd's last day at the Spokesman-Review before his retirement. According to nearly everyone I have spoke with, Doug has been working for the SR for over 40 years which, by itself, is quite an accomplishment, given all the changes to the newspaper he has seen take place during that time.


According to Doug and others I have spoken with in the recent past, the art and trade of newspaper journalism has never ceased its technological march, from a bastion of typewriters in the news room years ago with huge print presses that vibrated the sidewalks out in front while devouring printer's ink to modern-day computer software. This brings us to the question, what of the future? In his own way, Doug Floyd is a quasi-historian of the newspaper business, as he has seen all the changes unfold in his years as a journalist.


Jeanie, and her father before her, both have enjoyed a close working relationship with Doug over the years, and I am hopeful Jeanie will jump in and tell us all more about her father who, like Doug, once worked at the SR long before computer technology began revolutionizing the business of putting out a daily paper. As Doug quickly pointed out in our conversation, computers and all that implies will never change journalism; only the method(s) by which we create things people want to read.


Fortunately I have learned a great deal from my association Doug Floyd, simply through my involvement with this blog.


However, given the rapid evolution of the Kindle and other alternatives to traditional newspapers, who can tell what the newspaper, much less the blogs of tomorrow will resemble?



The faces of the faceless bureaucrats…

Good morning, Netizens…


Now that I have arrived in the throes of Social Insecurity, and having waded my way through all the garbage it takes to acquire health care insurance on such a feeble premise as the government says is the future of Social Security for people old enough to retire, I believe I have a better platform from which to view this morning's David Horsey cartoon on how the government may change health care. However, as Horsey suggests, if the Republicans have their way, won't we be substituting one group of faceless, uncaring bureaucrats for another?


Dealing with the insurance companies is no piece of cake, as my past experiences have rather brutally shown me. If we collectively allow them to rule our lives, they can deny us protection at any time of their choosing, and there is very little you or I can do about it. Of course, as any veteran can quickly tell you, dealing with the stream of endless bureaucrats at the VA is not a lot better, despite what the government solicitiously says about how it treats veterans.


Of course, I am also quick to point out dealing with the State of Washington entails just about the same number and diversity of faceless, uncaring bureaucrats.


Given the choice between dealing with the bureaucrats of the government or the bureaucrats of the insurance mega-corporations, which would you rather deal with? It does seem to be an interesting question, doesn't it? David Horsey may actually have this one pegged. Of course, your results may differ depending upon when and how you have sought and needed health care.



Three decades ago this date…

Good morning, Netizens…


Where were you when Mount St. Helens blew its stack more than thirty years ago? I've always wondered how the Seattle PI got some of its breathtaking photographs of the early stages of the volcanic eruption, and in retrospect now I know it was a staff photographer who was sent by plane to get pictures, and thus cemented a place in journalistic history for himself.


As for me, I was deep in the heart of the Yakima Basin doing some software research for a client and about to head home via Ellensburg, Moses Lake and back to Spokane. It was just before dawn, as I recall, and I was driving in the pre-dawn light on an otherwise innocuous Sunday morning, and although I was aware that St. Helens was active, nothing could have prepared me for how I was to spend the rest of my day once the mountain came to life, erupted and changed the lives of so many people forever.


At 8:32 AM PDT the mountain literally blew its stack, and my only initial awareness of it was when a boulder, about half the size of a Volkswagen, bounced off the Interstate highway about a quarter-mile ahead of me, and when I slowed my truck down to figure this event out, as I turned I could see what others have called “the cloud” which told me that St. Helens had popped its cork, and I needed to get out .. FAST.


By the time I pulled into Ellensburg in the beginnings of the ash flow, and remembering a trick an old friend of mine once told me about volcanic ash, I stopped at the 7-11 and bought nearly their entire supply of women's pantyhose. In retrospect, that was the only trick I used, one that allowed me to keep driving through the ash clouds, and eventually make it back home. Had I not known the trick of stuffing pantyhose or nylons down the throat of my carburetor, or better yet, known of a few side roads around the various roadblocks the Highway Patrol erected along the Interstate, I probably would have been stranded, as so many people were, somewhere along the road for days, perhaps even weeks.


As fate would have it, my poor red Ford pickup suffered considerable damage despite my intrepidity and cleverness, and by the time I pulled into my Stevens County residence later that day, all the paint on the front of the cab was gone, leaving bare metal, the chrome on the front bumper was badly glazed, as was the windshield, all the victims of the ash I had driven through making my way home.


Today, three decades ago, touched a lot of lives, and in my reverie this morning, I cannot help but wonder about how things could have been different. So, looking back those many years, where were you when you first realized Mount St. Helens had erupted?



Is texting communications?


Good afternoon, Netizens…


If you are a fan of text messaging, you might as well ignore today's cartoon by David Horsey, or for that matter the personal muttering that accompanies it, for I do not use nor even appreciate text messaging for a number of reasons, including the obvious intention of this cartoon.


The first and most obvious objection I have to instant text messaging (and all its various flavors thereto) is the moment, which begins the minute you begin using it, is that it is not at all instant. Sure, I have seen kids with their fingers flying across infantile keyboards like a jackrabbit on the way to the cabbage patch, but for the majority of us doddering ancients with feeble fingers and arthritic joints, texting a simple message to someone can take forever. If you were to say to your dearly beloved Aunt Tillie that you loved her dearly and wanted her to move in with you, the spouse and all ten kids, aside from gulping at the thought of yet another mouth to feed, it would take less than a minute. However, putting that thought into a text message might take half an hour, perhaps longer depending upon Aunt Tillie, that is.


God forbid, whatever has happened to our ability to communicate without an electronic device hanging on our arm?


Worse perhaps than our increasing, growing dependence upon these devices by which we can text back and forth, most of the modern-day gadgets thinly disguised as cell phones come with a complete list of various other functions; distractions is more an apt phrase. You can play all manner of games, both offline and on, browse the web with all the madness that entails not to mention join the legion of macabre members of various online communities, such as Facebook. Once again, the online communities that ostensibly were for people to communicate with one another have turned out to be pillars of advertising for the various companies and agencies to sell more crap to people who already have more crap than they can realistically use.


In my lifetime I can recall the delightful hours spent sitting in the shade of the front porch rocking in the swing and talking with the “folks”. Neighbors would casually drop by and more information was freely exchanged. Back then we didn't even need e-mail to exchange information. You would sit there in tranquility in the shade of the honeysuckle bushes and talk softly until the sun began to sink in the west. Life was far more simple then; we had fewer distractions and hence better communications.


Of course, your results may differ.



A moment of reverie…

Good morning, Netizens…


Quite frankly, I was both deeply touched and somewhat surprised at the responses to my message last week about the late Reverend David Wilkerson. Having studied his life and studied his book, Cross and the Switchblade in theology school, I could not help but admire the exemplary life he led. His story all began when he was a minister of several small, rural Pennsylvanian churches. After reading a story in Life Magazine in 1958 about seven young gang members charged with murder in New York City, he felt so moved by his compassion that he left for New York where he began his street ministry, and in following years, founded a church in Times Square which has continued until modern times.


Yesterday, Thursday, was National Prayer Day, observed across this country. In a moment of quiet introspection, if not compassion, I remembered the remains of Osama bin Laden drifting somewhere in the ocean's currents, and said a quiet prayer for world peace and healing of our sometimes-broken culture.


For my Bible reminds us in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”



The one fact that matters: bin Laden is dead…

Good morning, Netizens…


Cartoonist David Horsey depicts the press conference held in the White House Press Briefing Room. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan began adding details about the raid before the true facts were known, before the debriefing of the Navy Seals involved in the firefight was complete, and thus a lot of facts were distorted and went downhill from there.


Then CIA Director Leon Panetta jumped the gun in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams when he said a photo of Bin Laden’s body would definitely be released. That step was, at the time, being hotly debated in the White House and the eventual decision went against making the death photo public.


Yes, the talking heads of television news said far more than they should have said in their haste to bring the news of Osama bin Laden's demise to the public. They simply couldn't keep their mouths shut until all the facts were known, and thus the initial story was more than a bit off.


Whatever the details, the facts remain the same: Osama bin Laden, the perverse mastermind of the 9/11 attack that sent this country on a decade-long descent into war and worry, is now swimming with the fishes. Of course, there are people both here in the United States and across the globe that still do not believe that OBL is dead. They believe what they want to believe. Having a picture of his corpse will change nothing.


Those of us who prefer reality to conspiracy theories there are no longer any doubts. Osama bin Laden is dead, and all it took is logic and patience to find that out. Of course, your results may differ.



Bin Laden’s last moment on earth…

Good evening, Netizens…


Osama bin Laden's last moment.


Here Osama bin Laden is confronted with a nightmare I am certain he never considered in his “perfect” world, when the Evil Empire he has portrayed the United States as being suddenly leaped up from the ashes of the World Trade Center to bring him down at his last moment. Cartoonist David Horsey could not, in my opinion, have better portrayed the look on bin Laden's face. Fortunately, we appear to be rid of bin Laden forever.


However, before you join any of the throngs of people across the country who are eagerly celebrating bin Laden's demise, perhaps there are some other facets you should seriously take into consideration. For example, what happens to al-Qaida now? Sure, the Navy Seals did a respectable and thoroughly professional job of eliminating bin Laden from the list of known terrorists around the world, but does that mean that al-Qaida is dead and gone? Not only no, but hell no. The al-Qaida terrorist network extends around the world, has offices in several countries other than Pakistan and Afghanistan, and all we have done by eliminating bin Laden is make the rest of them mad as hell and looking for payback.


A logical mind, when confronting the manner in which bin Laden was living in his million dollar home in Pakistan would ask how events of the last two days might effect political relations between the United States and Pakistan. All this time we have been told by our so-called allies in Pakistan that he was living in a cave on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yet nearly every time U.S. Armed Forces got word of where bin Laden might be hiding, the minute we arrived in force, bin Laden had vanished. Was it a coincidence that the first time we did not relay information about bin Laden's suspected location to our allies, keeping the government of Pakistan in the dark until after bin Laden was dead, suddenly we had success. How coincidental was that? My opinion is it was no coincidence; someone high in the Pakistani government was keeping bin Laden well-informed. Cut off the military aid to Pakistan for starters.


The same logical mind might also ask what the other members of bin Laden's inner circle of advisers who, it does seem, have been living in huts and caves for the last ten years or so might think of bin Laden's most recent opulent residence in a million dollar home. Perhaps we should circulate pictures of the inside of his residence throughout the world, so his former associates could see how “the other half” lived.


It was a good day for America; it was a terrible day for bin Laden. It is no time to sag on our laurels in self-congratulatory chants of USA! USA! It is time to remain vigilant, and to always remember those who died in the World Trade Center.



Osama bin Laden killed in Pakistan…

Good morning, Netizens…


Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by a U.S. Navy Seal Team Six in Pakistan and, in keeping with Muslim tradition, his remains were buried at sea. No one has stated where bin Laden's body was buried.


“Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama said in a dramatic announcement at the White House late Sunday night.


Former President George W. Bush, who was in office on the day of the attacks, issued a written statement hailing bin Laden's death as a momentous achievement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” he said.


A jubilant crowd of thousands gathered outside the White House as word spread of bin Laden's death. Hundreds more sang and waved American flags at Ground Zero in New York — where the twin towers that once stood as symbols of American economic power were brought down by bin Laden's hijackers 10 years ago.


Thus we bring to a close the life of the most sought-after terrorists around the world. Unfortunately I cannot say “rest in Peace” for in my opinion bin Laden did not deserve that accord. Of course, your opinion might differ.



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