Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Quit Saying "Terrorist"

I'm getting really tired of this.  A young man who (from the news coverage) came to this country, got a green card, and lived here quietly for several years, recently decided to drive a rental truck through a group of walkers and bicyclists in New York City.  He killed 8 people and injured several more.  From the note in Arabic which he left in his truck, it's pretty clear that he bought the Islamic State line, and was radicalized in the last few months.  So he's a terrorist.  Oooh, cringe in terror.

And yet, the 64 year old white man who set up a sniper post in a Las Vegas hotel and killed 58 people attending a country music festival, and injured over 500 others - he's not a terrorist.  This is pretty obviously because the news media buys the racist line that you are only a terrorist if you have brown skin, were not born in America, and speak Arabic.  If you're white, you can't be a terrorist.  Is that racist?  Yup, it is.

This is baloney.  High grade, all beef, thinly sliced baloney.  Can we please call people who kill other people, for whatever ridiculous reason, what they are?  They are criminals.  It is a crime to kill other humans.  It's been a crime for so long that it's even in the Ten Commandments - Thou shalt not kill.  I might add it is also in the Quran.  Every major religion prohibits killing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Weather and Climate

The sky is brown today.  The light coming in through the windows is orange.  I'm staying in the house because the smoke particles in the air are bad for my asthma.  Forty or so miles north of here, the Napa Valley is burning.  Twenty or so miles west of the Napa Valley, Santa Rosa is burning, along with a big chunk of Sonoma County.  There are 22 fires in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Yuba, Solano, and Nevada counties.  The burned area totals at least 170,000 acres; 21 people are identified dead and 670 reported missing; up to 3,000 homes and businesses have burned; and the fires are still not under control.  Much of the burn area has no electricity, no phone service, and no Internet.

How did this happen?  Even for California's fire season (in other words, October), this is bad.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Y'all get paid way too much"

This post is actually about 45's proposed tax code changes.  I'll explain the title in a little bit.

I started this morning listening to Michael Krasny and his guests on KQED Forum discussing the "largest tax overhaul in decades."  I listened for several minutes to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute spouting every Republican talking point I've been listening to since the early 1980s about the way tax cuts will free up capital and spur growth and lots of American jobs.

This is bullshit.  Living through the last 4 decades, I've seen the country grow when taxes were up and slump when taxes were down.  Over my lifetime, the most prosperous period in our history was the late 50s and early 60s, when the top individual tax rate was 90%.  Mr. Bruce Bartlett, who worked on the Reagan tax code reform with Jack Kemp in the early 80s, has just written a thorough and detailed explanation, in the Washington Post, of why the Republican "line" is ridiculous, doesn't work, and never has worked.  I recommend the article to the interested.

Based on my own life experience, though, I believe there are other reasons lowering taxes will not lead to investment, new jobs, and growth.  Here's where the title comes in.  I heard that comment, from a senior executive of Bank of America, in the early oughts, shortly after the merger with Nationsbank.  The executive was from Charlotte, part of "new management."  I don't recall his name. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Free speech??

I've written on this before, and I just updated several posts with the tag Free speech to make them easier to find.  And after Charlottesville, and the mess in Berkeley on Sunday August 27, maybe it's time to restate my views.

If Nazis don't have freedom of speech, I don't have freedom of speech.

Full disclosure:  I don't like Nazis.  I'm a history buff; I've read numerous books on World War II, including twice through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  I have a very clear view of who the Nazis were and what they did to people they considered "inferior" - which included everyone except white men of "Aryan" (which meant German) descent.  They considered women inferior beings suited only to produce more Aryan male babies.  I shouldn't even have to mention what they did to Jews - and yes, the holocaust actually happened.  There may even be a few American World War II vets still alive who remember liberating those concentration camps.

I've seen no evidence that the people who call themselves Nazis today, in 2017, are any better than the ones in Germany in the '30s and '40s.  They claim to want a "whites only" nation.  They show up armed at public rallies and beat up people who disagree with them.  One of them used a car to kill an unarmed woman in Charlottesville, and injured 19 more unarmed people.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

We're Losing in Afghanistan

I just heard yet another newscast quoting Donald Trump as complaining, "We're losing in Afghanistan."  This impelled me to draft a post about why we are, of course, losing in Afghanistan.  When I searched my blog, I realized I wrote that post in January 2015, and as I reread it, I see it makes my points pretty well. 

Briefly, a formal army cannot defeat a guerrilla insurgency fighting on its own ground, with any kind of support from the local population, so of course we're losing in Afghanistan.

For the full argument, with historical detail, I refer you to this post:

Losing the Wars

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Suicide

I'll start this with an article in the East Bay Times on Saturday, July 8:

Man hangs himself from Lake Merritt bridge in apparent suicide, police say

It's a very short article.  It didn't appear in the San Francisco Chronicle, my usual paper.  This is the significant sentence:  "Witnesses said a woman ran up and down the bridge screaming for someone to stop him before he jumped."

Four days later, at my gym after a water aerobics class, I found myself sharing a hot tub with the woman who ran up and down the bridge screaming.  

For the purpose of this story, I'll call her Ethel, which isn't her name.  She's an older African American woman who works in San Francisco and exercises regularly at the Oakland gym, and one of her exercise habits is a daily walk around Lake Merritt, a course of a little over 3 miles. We chat regularly in the locker room.  After climbing into the tub, she told me flatly that she'd seen a man kill himself on Friday evening.  I asked her to repeat herself a couple of times, partly because the jacuzzi makes a fair amount of noise and partly because I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

What Those Words Mean

All languages change over time, of course.  if you don't believe me, take a look at Shakespeare's plays (400 years or so) or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (more like 550 years).  But the English language (and several others) are morphing as we watch, particularly in the political arena.

Take the most obvious:  President Trump's continual use of the phrase fake news.  It should be obvious to anyone who isn't part of his base that when he says fake news, he means, something I don't like.  It doesn't necessarily mean the news isn't true.  It just means he doesn't like it.  Careful observers may immediately start looking around to see what recent development he's trying to distract us away from.

He isn't the first American to do this; he's just the most recent, and the loudest.  In the 1950s, when I was growing up and just learning what "the news" was, people would often use the word Communist to describe someone whose opinions they disagreed with.  It didn't mean the person was an actual member of the Communist Party; it meant they disagreed with the speaker.

This usage isn't, of course, limited to Americans.  My classic example, before Mr. Trump came along, was Bashir al-Assad of Syria.  It's been much too clear since that whole mess started that when he says the words jihadi or terrorist, what he means is someone who doesn't think I should be running Syria.  His definition includes a lot of people in Daesh, who actually are terrorists; but it also includes the ordinary Syrians who turned out, unarmed, six or so years ago, to ask him peacefully to step down.  President al-Sisi of Egypt also appears to use a variant this meaning from time to time - terrorists are people who don't think he should be running Egypt.

Other misconstructions of the word terrorist include Mr. Trump's version, which means Muslims with brown skin, and Saudi Arabia's, which roughly means Iranian, or possibly merely Shiite.  President Erdogan of Turkey also competes in this - his terrorist translates to Kurd, and secondarily to any Muslim who isn't Sunni.  Given that Turkey now houses the largest single population of refugee Syrians (possibly over 2 million by now), many of whom are Alevis (a variant of Shia Islam), this may cause trouble some day, but so far the situation is peaceful. 

This usage seems specific to prominent political figures, so the next time you see a prominent political figure say something like, "Obamacare is a failure", ask yourself what they really mean.  The LA Times just did exactly that.  What the Republicans mean by "Obamacare is a failure" is that they hope you'll believe them and not ask questions about it - which is basically what all these misstatements mean.  Believe me and don't ask questions.  We always need to ask questions.