Edwin Starr’s Powerful Song Still Rings True

During the height of the Vietnam War, when even Walter Cronkite was beginning to question whether we should be there, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong penned a song simply called “War.” The lyrics are magnificently belted out by Edwin Starr as the song vaulted up the charts. While there is repetition, I have included the entire lyrics below for your emphasis.

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Uh-huh
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y’all

War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

Ohhh, war, I despise
Because it means destruction
Of innocent lives

War means tears
To thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives

I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing
But a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Ooooh, war
It’s an enemy to all mankind
The point of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die
Aaaaah, war-huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
War, huh
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Uh-huh
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y’all
War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War, it’s got one friend
That’s the undertaker
Ooooh, war, has shattered
Many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled, bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious
To spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life
It can only take it away

Ooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

Ooooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
You tell me
Say it, say it, say it, say it

War, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Stand up and shout it
Nothing

I have a simple thesis which is echoed by our valiant troops. Exhaust other means to address a problem before we commit our young men and women to die. If we commit our troops, make sure we know what the end game looks like along with a strategy that is flexible to meet the changing demands. And, we need to make sure we equip our troops to the fight that is needed. Finally, let’s spend as much money as needed to help our troops when they return, both mentally and physically.

War is an ugly thing. I am not a fan of chest beaters with no answers to complicated problems. I am also not keen on people creating bigger problems than they are to win elections. If we must fight, let’s do it for the right reasons where we can make a difference. We seem to fail to learn this lesson. Here is a simple question for any chest beater – what do you propose to do and how can you guarantee that will be successful and not cause other problems?

Huge distinction – discriminated against vs. freedom to discriminate

There has been a concerted effort with Religious Freedom Acts to allow people to discriminate because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Today, I saw a reference to the Supreme Court Ruling against Abercrombie and Fitch because the company denied employment to a woman who wore Hijab, (a head covering) per her religious beliefs. The reference tries to equate the two issues – if this person can get a ruling for her religion, the government is discriminating against another religion by requiring its members to serve someone who is doing something against the member’s beliefs.

This effort to allow discrimination has gone one step further in some states like North Carolina, which have passed bills to allow magistrates to opt out of marrying same-sex couples, if they had sincerely held religious beliefs against such marriages. In North Carolina, this law was vetoed by the Governor, but the Senate has overturned his veto and the House is considering it. Other states are further down the path on this issue and have passed laws to permit such unfair discrimination.

People who are making this argument are missing a very important point. Per the Supreme Court ruling which upheld our constitutional rights, no one should be discriminated against for their religious beliefs. Yet, it is not OK to discriminate against someone to honor your freedom of religion or any belief for that matter. When your freedom infringes in a discriminatory way on another person’s rights and freedoms, then that is not just. Giving you the freedom to unfairly discriminate is not in keeping with the constitution. This is a key basis for why the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, as African-Americans were getting unfairly discriminated against by white business owners and government officials.

This last part is key as the efforts to tell magistrates they can choose to not uphold a law is unconstitutional. A simple exercise can demonstrate this. During the height of the Jim Crow era, there were some ministers who used the bible to placate their parishioners, saying it was OK to treat African-Americans differently. These parishioners also had sincerely held religious beliefs, as their minister said it was OK. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act which gave equal rights to African-Americans, white officials in some southern cities imposed a rigorous test on African-Americans to earn the right to vote, a test whites did not have to take. This selective testing was deemed unconstitutional by the Voting Right Act, which was passed a year later.

Every state that is considering passing a bill or law like the North Carolina one or has already done so, needs to accrue about $1 million for legal fees. Why? Any law which memorializes unfair discrimination will be taken to court and it will be overturned as unconstitutional. So, that is my strong advice to our legislators and similarly minded folks in other states  – don’t waste taxpayer money fighting an unjust bill – just don’t pass it.

Our forefathers got it right when they separated church and state. Our forefathers and their parents left countries where religious persecution occurred. And, for some that do not believe this assertion feeling our nation was ordained by God, they may find of interest that several of our forefathers were Deists in faith. The main thesis of a Deist is God created the world, wound up the clock and let us live out our lives. That belief is inconsistent with God ordaining our nation. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Surveys are not alike in accuracy or intent

While it is not a new phenomenon, survey results are often touted without clarity around the accuracy and veracity of the survey results. Some surveys are not worth the paper they are written on or cyberspace they waste, while others are more marketing pitches than they are surveys. In other words, the survey is a ruse for the organization to tell you what they think.

Last year, I received a survey from the ACLU around voting and the election process. While I eagerly opened this up as it is a concern of mine, I was highly disappointed in the leading questions, that made the survey biased. The topic deserved better treatment than it was given by the surveyors. Last month, I received a survey from the Republican National Party which wanted my input on the key issues facing Americans. This survey was quite biased and leading with its questions and overlooked some of the major issues and concerns for Americans.

It was accompanied by a transmittal letter that was even more biased. Yet, the survey was not the intent of this package. The intent was to tell me what to think with the leading questions. To illustrate my point, here are a few examples from the cover letter:

“Obamacare is a political, administrative and logistical nightmare that is creating havoc and proving excessively costly and harmful to millions of individuals, families, and businesses. Do you fear Obamacare….is going to destroy America’s health system?…”

“Do you think our Republican leaders in Congress should be aggressive in forcing the Obama White House to work with them to create jobs, cut taxes and regulations, end economic uncertainty and make Americans more competitive?”

I could go on, but the cover letter was replete with comments like this before you got to the survey. The questions were not much better leading you to the conclusion that everything the President did was wrong and the Republicans had all the white horses and answers. Also, issues like climate change and eco-energy were not discussed in detail. Issues like poverty in America were not discussed. Issues like investing in our crumbling infrastructure was not discussed. An amendment to not equate money with free speech was not discussed. And, so on.

To further this point, I had to list myself as “other” as while the survey had “Independent leaning Conservative” they did not have “Independent” or “Independent leaning Liberal” as choices. I completed the survey and noted several times where the survey was asking biased questions. To me, the survey had little to do with getting feedback, although I am sure the conservative bent feedback will be used. To me the key goal was to market to the recipient with the simple message – Democrats bad, Republicans good.

That is unfortunate as a survey that asks good questions about our concerns would be relevant. Yet, when you spoon feed people biased information, even reasonable looking surveys have to be taken with a grain of salt. Obamacare is a great example. It is working pretty well on a number of fronts, yet it could be improved. Yet, most people, pundits and politicians do not know what it is. I received a canned response letter from Congressman today who gave me campaign rhetoric on Obamacare. It was such a disappointing letter, I responded with my disappointment and concerns giving him additional facts and reputable resources of information.

We need truth seekers to help find and disseminate the truth. Unfortunately, we will only be getting the party’s version of the truth, so we must look beyond them for answers. When our leaders govern with campaign rhetoric, they will have a hard time solving our problems. So, please look at the source of survey before giving it any veracity. Many surveys do not deserve the attention they get.

The missing joy of Saturday morning cartoons

Maybe it is because I am now age 56 and my kids are no longer little, but there seems to be something missing in the lives of children. With endless cartoons 24×7, the joy of watching them has been diffused, so that Saturday mornings are now somewhat lacking. If you were like my siblings and me, we arose early on Saturday to a morning of cartoons, which seemed extra special. Our parents would know what we were doing and would sleep in, as they knew these opportunities occurred only once a week.

Our Saturday mornings would actually start sans cartoons with an eye-opening episode of “Our Gang” complete with Darla, Alfalfa, Froggy and Spanky. I was keen on “Archie,” which was titillating for a young adolescent boy, as we would pretend we were in high school along with Archie, Veronica and Betty. “Scooby Doo” was always a thrill and we would pull for little old me, “Underdog,” to fight the bad guys.

Yet, my favorite cartoon bar none, was “Jonny Quest.” I loved this show and felt so very worldly watching Jonny, Hadji, Race and Doctor Quest travel to foreign lands and end up fighting the evil that found them. Of course, who can forget Bandit. I also was found of the “Bill Cosby and Kids” show, which was wonderful. Even though my memory of him is now tainted, he is and was a great comedian. “Superman” and “The Lone Ranger” were also two that I enjoyed, but they were more throw ins compared to the others.

This is also where “Schoolhouse Rock” was created. Seeing those little snippets on the hour was marvelous. We always regretted not switching the channel in time, if we one of our shows was not on ABC. Yet, we did buy the whole series on DVD for our kids, so we no linger miss “Unpack your Adjectives” or “Figure 8.”

What were some of your favorites? Also, were you allowed to have a bowl of cereal in front of the TV and what was in the bowl? Did you have a favorite “Schoolhouse Rock” song?

But, how could you let that happen?

It is not uncommon when a tragedy occurs, where politicians want to come across as great stewards, by asking “but, how could you let that happen?” The tragedy could range from a child under social services being maltreated by guardians to a train catastrophe, where safeguards that could have been in place are not. Yet, it also is not uncommon for part of the answer to the question to be from an overworked and underfunded department, who is overwhelmed and doing the best they can with limited resources.

I recognize budgets are important, but we seem to reconcile budget cuts on areas that can least afford it. These underfunded departments are ticking time bombs. For example, a social worker should ideally have about sixteen clients, more or less, depending on the complexity and coverage area. Yet, with budget cuts, you may hear of social worker in social services with 160 clients, a tenfold increase. The social worker cannot do an effective job with that many clients and something will slip through the cracks. “But, how can you let that happen?” will be asked.

Or, a train will crash or a car part recall will be handled poorly, because the Department of Transportation is so underfunded to make sure procedures are in place. Just today, Congress called the DOT on the carpet for not handling the announcement of the Takata recall very well. While Congress was not incorrect, a department of eight people was doing the best they could with all the things on their plate. Underfunding the DOT and the Highway Trust Fund worries me, as we will have more and more incidences occur where bridges collapse, poor roads will cause significant accidents or a train will derail. Our Congress has kicked the can down the road 33 times on funding a long time plan to address our infrastructure deficiencies.

This is basic stuff and does not even include preparing for natural disasters and the impact of climate change. To give an example, the Army Corp of Engineers told the US government in the early 2000s, that the city of New Orleans could not withstand a direct hurricane hit and the levees would give. That was before Katrina. Yet, nothing was done in advance. We have a water crisis that will continue to get worse if we do not plan ahead. These water crises will affect more than just California, Texas and Oklahoma. And, the water crises will be exacerbated by climate change, which will cause other problems, as well.  Yet, we do not want to openly talk about it and we have one political party who wants to deny a problem exists, that the rest of the world is dealing with.

Failing to plan ahead is planning to fail. And, we will see a lot more of these failures in the future. But, how could you let that happen will be asked when those failures occur.

My little girl with sunglasses is graduating

Little girls are made for sunglasses and hats. I think most parents have a picture of their girl wearing glasses, a hat and a grin with her head tilted slightly askew, to say without saying it, “Look at me!” We are no exception to this rule and have several of these shots. She has been a charmer from day one and this Dad is hopelessly smitten.

The little girl with sunglasses and hat is turning eighteen soon and will be graduating high school heading off to a college about two hours away. She has grown into a lovely young woman, both inside and out. She likes to wear her hair short and knows precisely who Audrey Hepburn is. She loves Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, but only the ones where Hercule Poirot is the detective. She likes his quirkiness more so than Miss Marple, so she has distinctive tastes.

She cares. She cares about the environment and the impact not treating it well has on us and our animals. She cares that some students do not offer teachers respect in the classroom, seeing much behavior as juvenile. She also cares when some teachers say things they should not say in gest. She cares about good theatre and has acted in a couple of plays – she regrets not more. She has always seemed to carry herself older than her peers. She cares about unfairness and sees me lament about leaders not being honest with their constituents. And, she cares about her brothers and gets along well with them and their friends, with her laughter being a joy to hear.

My wife bumped into someone who she found knew our daughter. Realizing who our child was, she raved about how kind and reflective our daughter is. Parents beam when we hear these remarks. Our daughter is interesting and asks interesting questions. She will ask without prompt, “Dad, how was your day?” She may have learned this from her mother, as her mom would rather you talk about yourself, more than she does. Yet, she seems sincere when she asks.

I will miss our car rides to school. Sometimes we solve the worlds’ problems and sometimes we sit in silence until a visual or audio prompt comes up from the car radio or drive. The best conversations are the small snippets you steal away in moments like that. But, just wishing her well in some manner as she exits the car, matters most. I am there for you. We have a few more of these left and then they will be gone. They will be replaced by moving her in to college, phone calls, texts and visits.

She will do wonderfully. I am excited for the next part of her journey. And, she just got a new pair of prescription sunglasses, so Audrey Hepburn beware.