Thoughts for Thursday – Conspiracies abound

Water, water everywhere. While the wildfires burn out west and in Greece, I live on the east coast of the United States and we are inundated daily with heavy rain. It feels like a wet version of “Groundhog’s Day,” where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day.

Here are a few random soggy thoughts for Thursday.

Conspiracy theories abound on the web. Yet, every once in awhile justice may be served. Alex Jones of Infowars is trying to stop a trial where he is rightfully accused of spreading a false story that the Sandy Hook shooting story is a hoax. As a result, these poor families who lost a child or adult relative, have to be taunted and harassed by Jones’ followers. This is far worse than the Westboro church that picketed military funerals because of the nation’s stance on allowing LGBT people join the military. Jones is touting free speech, but this man has caused mental anguish because of his blatant misuse of his voice and disregard of any common decency.

The US President continues to claim the Mueller investigation is a “witchhunt,” the same term that President Richard Nixon used to decry the Watergate investigation. So the day after President Trump says collusion is not a crime after repeatedly saying he did not collude, he wants to end the Mueller probe. Help me understand how a thin-skinned man was not aware of a meeting in a building with his name on it where he works and lives, attended by his son, son-in-law and campaign manager to get dirt to throw at his opponent, a favorite tactic of his? After his Putin fawning performance in Helsinki, I am 100% convinced POTUS is guilty of more than just obstruction of justice. This is certainly no witch hunt, says this former Republican and Independent voter.

Speaking of conspiracies, a bona fide real one was captured in the “Pentagon Papers.” While Nixon did his level best to prevent The Washington Post and The Nee York Times from publishing these stories, this conspiracy involved Nixon and his two predecessors (LBJ and Kennedy) fighting a battle started by Eisenhower. These Presidents knew the Vietnam War was unwinnable, but kept fighting it to avoid the disgrace of losing. Tens of thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people) died after we knew the cause was lost. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were fighting for their country, while we fought for a corrupt leader sympathetic to the US. It was not in the Pentagon Papers, but years later it was discovered Presidential candidate Nixon secretely waylaid a peace deal underway, saying he could get better terms. Four years later and after more deaths, peace was brokered. Nixon denied this, but his voice was caught on tape as the South Vietnamese leader was being surveilled.

It should be noted that LBJ knew of Nixon’s “treason” as he called it, but chose not to bring it out, so as not to sway the election. It should be noted that Obama did the same thing when he knew the Russians were trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Both LBJ and Obama were wrong. However, while Trump tries to blame Obama for inaction, he was already touting the election was rigged. He was right – it was rigged to favor Trump.

That is all for this Thursday. Conspiracy theories abound. Most are only that. Yet, when they are true, they are whoppers. Usually the greater the effort to squelch them indicates their veracity.

Let’s Honor our Vets – Avoid Unnecessary Fights

On this Memorial Day, we honor our veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who are no longer with us. And, we should. But, we must honor their sacrifices more by doing every thing in our power to avoid conflict in the first place and fight with purpose and planning when we cannot.

Many soldiers lost their lives in Vietnam, a war which fell out of favor as its purpose could not overcome the loss of life witnessed on the nightly news. And, in what may have been his worse abuse of power, which says a lot given Watergate, President-elect Richard Nixon purposefully and clandestinely derailed the peace process, so it could be accomplished on his watch. Many more Americans died as a result.

Later, we did not learn the lessons of fighting a war without clear mission and follow-up, by invading Iraq under false pretenses. We fudged questionable intelligence to invade and overthrow Saddam Hussein. A former Vietnam veteran and Congressman made an impassioned speech that if we invade, we need to be prepared to stay for 30 years.

We are now 14 years in and it looks like we will remain a while longer. We did not understand what success looked like, trusted the wrong advisors, did not understand the differences between Shia, Sunni and Kurds, and went in with too few troops and inferior equipment. General Shinseki resigned because of his disapproval of these last two reasons and our troops commonly referred to our efforts as a “clusterf••k.”

To honor our troops, we need to avoid fighting battles whenever possible. But, when we do send our troops in harm’s way, let’s make darn sure we have a clear cut plan, sufficient support and follow-up after the battles are won. Allowing the new Iraqi government to fire the police force from the Hussein days and to maltreat the minority Sunnis helped create ISIS.

We owe it to our troops to avoid risk whenever possible and to minimize their use of the term “clusterf••k” to define our modus operandi when we must fight needed battles. As General James Mattis said, if we lessen funding of diplomacy, we will need even greater funding of the military.

Death of an American hero – a real journalist

As many know, Ben Bradlee, the famous editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate story and Pentagon Papers passed away. His funeral service was held yesterday and attended by a who’s who list of journalists and others. Bradlee was amply played by Jason Robards in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which many folks said captured the essence of the man. He wanted to be the first with a story, but he also wanted to be accurate.

He gave the freedom to be reporters to his staff, but unceasingly challenged them to get it right. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were about to accuse the President of the United States with being a crook. So, they better make sure the story was correct. Bradlee asking them to continually verify the facts is what makes the movie version of what they did so compelling. If they got it wrong, it would have been a disaster. But, the fact that about fifty people, including Richard Nixon’s key lieutenants, went to jail showed they got it right. But, the other key was Bradlee backed up his reporters in the face of a mountain of criticism.

We should all have bosses like that. Watching Woodward and Bernstein speak with Charlie Rose about Bradlee, a telling comment came out of which we should remind all journalists and pseudo-journalists. Woodward said Bradlee was often known to say “slow down” encouraging the reporters to take their time to do the homework, do the reporting and tell the story to the public. We need this more than ever, as too many want a quick sound bite report, sometimes on a Twitter feed, which leaves context, depth and accuracy at the train station.

So, we citizens, voters, and readers/ watchers of news need to challenge ourselves to get news from sources that are more trustworthy and offer more in-depth news reporting. We need to avoid the sensational and question things. We need to slow down. We need to be truth seekers. We need to hold our elected officials accountable and ask more questions of them. Truth be told, with so much money in politics, the hypocrisies, poor decisions, and conflicts in interest are rampant and the stories abound. We just need to slow down and pay attention. Thanks Ben Bradlee. *

 

* More on Bradlee can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee#Other_work