Reality is scarier than fiction this Friday the 13th

I have never been a big fan of gory horror movies, although I did enjoy Frankenstein and Dracula when I was little. And, The Exorcist and The Omen did cause some chills and entertainment. However, what is most scary to me are stories that could happen or did happen in real life. With that in mind this Friday 13th, the most scary things that could happen are very real and that is being led down poor paths by our leaders.

In no particular order:

– ISIS is scary, but what is most scary to me is our leaders possibly taking their bait and introducing US ground troops. That is precisely what ISIS wants. We have reached a tipping point and that is the Muslim world is saying no more to terrorists like ISIS who have hijacked their religion with extreme views. The fight against ISIS must be a Muslim-led effort with our support and help. ISIS knows this and wants to draw in America, so they can point to another enemy.

– Before leaving the Middle East, I shared with my Senator’s office that signing a letter to Iran with 46 other senators is asinine. These 47 senators endangered America by showing our division to the world. It is more than OK to debate and argue, but to circumvent negotiations over something this important and to disagree with something before you know what it is childish and dangerous. Columnist Michael Gerson, who is one of the best conservative bent writers, largely said the same thing in his column today. A shrewd leader will use this to our disadvantage. Putin has already written op-ed pieces in our papers to sway opinion. Remember this is the guy who controls his media, so he can play us against ourselves.

– But, let’s set this aside for a minute. What do the chest beaters want us to do if this agreement fails? What do the chest beaters want us to do in Ukraine? What do they want us to do in Syria? Our troops have said to people who will listen, we don’t mind fighting, but give us a clear-cut mission with an end strategy. What does winning look like? These folks that want us to get more heavily involved can not define what winning looks like, as to be brutally frank, it may not be clearly definable. There is a two-word term that comes to mind that military personnel use often to describe these situations and it begins with the word “cluster.” I will let you complete the thought.

– At the same time I was including in my previous post about the City of Miami and the three surrounding counties spending $200 million to combat the encroaching sea that is now coming up through the storm drains and flooding the streets, the state of Florida was striking the words climate change and global warming from formal documents. This is akin to the George W. Bush White House marking through scientific papers presented to them striking the same language. It is also akin to the state of NC General Assembly refusing to accept a peer-reviewed scientific paper that said the sea levels will rise 39 inches (one meter) by 2100, the same prediction accepted in Virginia, Maine, and Louisiana. I wish I could handle my problems this easily, by erasing them with my delete key or pencil eraser. Didn’t you know you could hold back rising sea levels with legal briefs?

– The scariest thing in America right now is our leadership and political machinations. No one cares to govern and only wants to grease the skids to get elected or remain in office. Everything is a win/ lose zero sum game, where one party has to disagree with the other party no matter what. For example, Obamacare borrows from Romneycare, a Republican idea which was advocated by Tea Party leadership for the country and is working for the most part, but Republicans have to hate it. Americans generally know what the problem is in large part, but with the election system gerrymandered and controlled by large donors coupled with a specifically uninformed public who does not know when they are being lied to by faux news shows, we do not have much hope for better governance.

Yet, we must try to make a difference. We have to hold our elected officials accountable. We have to ask questions of news experts and pundits regarding positions or statements they have made. We should also be wary of name-callers and labelers. When you hear someone resort to labels, be mindful that the person must not have a very good argument. We must also read, listen and watch more reputable news sources such as NPR, PBS Newshour, The Guardian, BBC World News America, Al Jazeera News to name a few. If we don’t, then everyday may be a Friday the 13th.

 

 

 

 

 

Every rose has its thorns – a few miscellaneous thoughts

With the world in justifiable tither over events in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Ukraine and West Africa, I want to highlight a few news stories, including some of the above, that need some airing.

Guns and roses – the Center for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the top ten states for gun deaths – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, Arkansas, Alabama, New Mexico and South Carolina.  It also noted of the 32,351 gun deaths in 2011, about 20,000 were suicides, the number one gun death cause in all but one of the top ten states. Two statistics struck me. First, homes that have a gun have 3x the rate of suicides than in homes without a gun. Second, the states that have the most lenient gun laws have the highest rates of violent crime which is the opposite of what lax gun law proponents state.

When you add this to the Journal of Trauma and Medicine’s data that we dwarf the civilized world in gun death and child/ teen gun deaths, it paints a picture we need to deal with in a more orchestrated way. The issue revolves around several factors – lack of civil discourse, poverty, crime, entertainment violence, mental health issues, but make no mistake, it includes access to weapons as well. Dealing with this issue like parents should is needed. It is long past due. We should use James Brady’s death as a lightning rod to do something.

Where and to whom you born matters more than it should – The American Dream does not exist for many Americans as we continue to slide in socio-economic class mobility. Warren Buffett says “I was born lucky. I was born a male in a white family.” Buffett notes he had opportunities others did not have. An increasing number of the top Americans have inherited their wealth than earned it, so we have our own brand of aristocracy. But, of the top 400 wealthiest people in our country only one person is of color – Oprah Winfrey.

We have a poverty problem in our country. This is not talked about enough. There are some who believe those in poverty are less virtuous and do not work very hard. That is total bunk. In my work with those in need, I witness very pious people who only have their faith. I also witness people working multiple jobs, but they still lost their home. Yes, there are some sycophants, but they are very few in percentage. We need to help people in need with increasing the minimum wage (the average minimum wage earner is age 28) and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. And, keep the Affordable Care Act as it is helping people in need as well as the economy through enhanced spending of those who now have healthcare insurance. But, let more people know about the subsidies therein, as many do not know they can get a subsidy.

Democrats need a better press agent on jobs and economy – I reported on this last year with respect to jobs, but a non-partisan study was reported on by PBS Newshour last week that indicated the data is pretty overwhelming. The economy and job growth has measurably done better under Democrat White Houses than Republican ones. Even explaining away some of the timing issues, there is clear light of day between the performance of the economy and job growth when a Democrat President is in the White House. Obama takes a lot of crap about many things, but the job increases, economy and stock market have done pretty well on his watch.

Republicans use campaign rhetoric of the “failed stimulus” but per six econometric firms the stimulus bill did not fail. It was just not enough. We have chance right now to do what we should have done four years ago – invest in our sagging infrastructure. Per former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, there is no better jobs programs than investing in our infrastructure. We can still invest while we make cuts in other areas, but we need better roads, improved bridges, deeper ports and better internet and power grids.

ISIS is bad news no matter what religion you are – These guys are thugs and the worst kind of terrorists. To kill innocent people the way they do demeans any religion including the one they blindly profess. The Sunnis that sided with them early are scared of their dangerous bedfellow. Yes, the US screwed up when it went into Iraq under false pretenses. Yes, the US screwed up by bringing all of its soldiers home. But, this enemy of organized, peaceful religion is worthy of the attention of all leaders, including ours,  who want peace in their countries. So, the US and others need to help people who want to live and worship in peace. And, we need to make sure we do it in the right way supporting those who are trying to put down this group in their own countries.

No matter how justified Israel believes it is, it should not be killing so  many innocent civilians – I understand the right to defend yourself. I understand the Hamas may be hiding among the civilians, but Israel’s position is poor when so many innocent children and adults are killed. The more they kill, the worse it is gets. This is not an isolated opinion as the United Nations and Amnesty International are saying the same thing. The violence needs to stop and reconstruction needs to begin. Killing children is bad policy no matter how justified you believe your position.

Putin is punishing the US by denying his people our food – This may be the most inane thing I ever heard. I know Putin controls the media, but people have to eat. And, if they don’t  eat, then this may bother them. Russia has damaged itself in the world economy as its leaders cannot be trusted no matter how many tigers Putin poses with. If I were a business leader, I would be very reluctant to do business with someone who is not trustworthy. Russia could have avoided all of this by letting the Ukraine President, its stooge, sign an agreement with the European Union last fall. Ukraine could have been business partners with both Europe and Russia and everyone would have benefitted. Now people have died and more will still.

Those are the thoughts of this Old Fart. I would love to hear your comments. Many thanks in advance.