Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Moving Isn't Easy

When daughter Anna was in 6th grade, she wrote a fictional account of a young girl moving from Seattle to a small town on the Washington coast, entitled, "Moving Isn't Easy" [Copyright 1982, Anna Marie Blake]. The book was published by her school and I still enjoy reading it. The Dad is no better than a secondary character in the story, the father whose mid-life career change inflicts the traumatic move on the heroine and who responds to her concerns over adjusting to the new environment by telling her she should not feel sorry for herself because he's had to adjust to a new environment and also to a new job. The Dad in the book is not me though, because Anna explains in her author's note that the characters in the book are fictional. I do share in the book's dedication, to Anna's mother and me, "the world's best critics”.

I thought of Anna's book now because son Anthony and his wife Pat are moving from our home today, heading for Oregon, where he is starting a new job. Like the father in Anna's book, Anthony will be adjusting to both a new job and a new location. Pat made a huge adjustment when she left Thailand for the first time in her life, to come live in Seattle, so the move to Oregon will not seem that major to her.

As I was writing this post, Anna called to tell me she is going to the doctor today with her mother's parents. They are living in a retirement home and medical concerns for Grandma may necessitate a move to assisted living. An Aunt and Uncle are planning to sell their house and become renters, also for medical reasons. Moves made for medical reasons do not often offer great promise, while job relocations can hold the prospect for an improved lifestyle.

Hurricane Katrina is forcing lots of people to seek refuge and many have lost their homes and may choose to relocate rather than rebuild. Worldwide, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees continues what will probably be a never ending task. Immigrants face the trauma of adapting, but there are always those who thrive on the experience.

And here at home, my granddaughter is about to make that traumatic move we all begin life with, from floating in the uterus to being born.

Two Questions for Readers - Moving

A recent poll taken in 16 countries asked the question, "Suppose a young person who wanted to leave this country asked you to recommend where to lead a good life, what country would you recommend?" The poll results are briefly summarized at this link. First question for readers: What would your answer be and why?

A second question: What was the most traumatic move you ever made?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hooray for the Little Difference!

During the 1952 Presidential campaign, with Eisenhower certain to demolish Adlai Stevenson, my mom, an active Democrat, bought a record to play on our new high tech record player that plugged into our TV. This 45 rpm format had been introduced in 1949 and looked like a midget with a big mouth, being much smaller than the old 78s but with a huge spindle hole in the middle.

The recording artist was Sophie Tucker, the last of the Red Hot Mamas, and the song was “Sophie Tucker for President”. The thought that a woman would run for President could only be treated as a joke back then, and that is how Sophie presented it, with an undertone of not quite so remote possibility and with a little sexual innuendo. On the record, Sophie set out her campaign agenda to an all male audience and assured them that women were just as capable as men, naming specific capabilities, each of which was followed by a “hurray for [the capability]”from the audience. Sophie climaxed [pun intended] her speech by saying, “In fact, there’s very little difference between men and women”, to which one enthusiastic male then shouted, “hooray for the little difference” [sexual innuendo intended].

This post is prompted by the impending birth of my granddaughter, who will probably be born within a week. I wonder what changes will take place in our world and in America during her life. Her statistical life expectancy would take her to 2085, but good luck and healthy living could take her into the 22nd century. She has one great-grandmother still living, Marigold, who was born at a time when American women not only did not run for President, but were not even allowed to vote for the office. American women did have local voting rights in some States, with Washington State joining the list in 1910, but women’s suffrage was not guaranteed by the US Constitution until ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, 85 years ago this Friday.

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the "Treaty for the Rights of Women”, a comprehensive international bill of rights for women. Almost every nation on earth has ratified this treaty, except for such chauvinistic societies as Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Somalia - and – the United States of America.

Sophie was right, there is very little difference between men and women, at least politically. But her responder was also correct in celebrating the difference. Having children of each sex enables parents to see what the children have in common and also how they are different. But that is also true of children of the same sex. The real lesson of being a parent, or of being as observant of children as their parents are, is learning that every child of every parent is unique, including and apart from their sex. The variety of our individuality is one of the great joys of being alive. Welcome to the world, granddaughter, and Vive la difference!

[P.S. for political junkies. Check out this supposedly humorous post on the difference between Democrats and Republicans and Southerners at the Laugh at Liberals blog, especially the lively exchange of comments to the post.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Over 1,800 American military personnel have died in Iraq. They have made what has been called “the ultimate sacrifice”.

When I started law school in 1962, American involvement in Vietnam was somewhat minimal. By the time I was finishing law school in 1965, our involvement in Vietnam was so extensive that the draft was being used to force unwilling young American men into military service.

Despite 20/400 eyesight, color defective vision, a slight heart murmur and flat feet, at 5-11 and 145 pounds, my country considered me prime meat and classified me as 1-A, notifying me to report for induction after finishing law school. During this same era, NFL quarterback Joe Namath, was classified 4-F, exempt from the draft because of a bad knee, which did not keep him from leading the NY Jets to victory in Super Bowl III in 1969.

I have always remembered my constitutional law professor, Arval Morris, now an emeritus member of the faculty, saying that under the war powers in the constitution, a person in military service could legitimately be ordered to “take the shot”, meaning he could be ordered to charge the cannon of the enemy and throw his body across the muzzle to interfere with the cannonball being fired, thereby allowing his fellow troops a better opportunity to advance on the enemy. Refusing such an order in the heat of battle meant his commander could shoot him dead on the spot.

I was opposed to the war in Vietnam and definitely did not want to take the shot. Using my newly acquired legal skills, I appealed my induction notice long enough to give me time to enter the Air Force Reserve, “recruited” by Reiko’s dad, who had already enlisted as a reservist. Our reserve unit was called into active service in 1968, but we never went to Vietnam, though Reiko’s dad was sent to Korea for a time. Today, without a draft, the military is calling up reserve and national guard units and sending them to combat zones to take the shot, making the ultimate sacrifice.

The Pentagon supposedly was so interested in protecting the privacy of the families of military personnel killed in Iraq that it did not even want pictures of their flag draped coffins to be shown. The real reason for the ban, of course, was to deny Americans the right to empathize with those who made the ultimate sacrifice and with their families. The rule has been rescinded now, not because of a change of heart by the Pentagon, but because of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, as indicated in this interesting NPR commentary on the subject [the first part of the audio talks of the Iraq constitution but then it moves into discussion of the coffin rule].

One mother whose son made the ultimate sacrifice last year in Iraq, is reminding George W. Bush of that every day during his current vacation at the ranch in Crawford. Pictures of all the Americans killed in Iraq, with brief details, are available at the CNN site.

I believe those still driving around with American flags on their cars, supposedly as some indication that they support our troops, would be offering the deepest support if they were displaying flag draped coffins on their cars instead.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dog Days of Summer

By some calculations, today is the last day of the dog days of summer, a 40 day period of inactivity in the northern hemisphere. Though Sense has not been inactive during the past 40 days, it has been underactive, especially in the form of reader comments. Nine postings (not including this one) have only produced five comments and three replies from me.

Growing up as a school kid in Seattle, it seemed like dog days extended until school started again after Labor Day. Summer weekdays meant sleeping in while the parents were off to work, then rolling out and heading up the street to see which playmates had also emerged. Hanging out and loafing around were the main weekday endeavors, until teenage years when lawn and yard work for neighbors generated more blisters than dollars. Weekends meant more blisters trimming the lawn at home, which was holder of the Guiness record for the most lawn edging on the smallest lot. String trimmers replacing hand shears is an under sung glory.

Back then, the impending end of summer, at first prompting a sense of remorse, soon generated a renewed energy, getting ready for school and Husky football to start. I lived far enough from my schoolmates at the now defunct School of the Immaculate Conception [currently being used as temporary quarters by the exclusive Bush School] so that I did not see them over the summer and instead played full time with my neighborhood public school friends. Heading back to school meant renewing friendships with last year mates and meeting any new ones. It also meant meeting a new teacher, who though they all wore the same medieval nun outfits, definitely each had her unique personality. But mostly, starting a new school year was a sign of growing up and progressing in life, all measured by ascending grade levels with some vague concept of lights at the end of tunnels - 8th grade graduation, then high school and nothing much beyond that because that was too far ahead to clearly see.

My underactive desk is covered with notes for possible Sense postings: intelligent design, flu viruses, knocking Republicans, AFL-CIO, energy policy, stem cell research, political log-rolling, Fallujah damage, Afghanistan, the f word in movies, housing bubbles, Current TV, death taxes, the ultimate sacrifice, CAFTA, Karl Rove, privacy, Internet and ICANN, Bush and Africa, Iran, credit cards and other debt, Bush is not like Truman, white Christians, CPB, Reagan bailed out of Lebanon, and welfare myths. As my own dog days end, I expect to post on these subjects and maybe others, and am always open to suggestions from readers of other topics.

You may note I have made two changes to this blog. First I have learned to add images to the posts, such as the picture above of my old school. Second, for faster loading times, I have limited the main page of sense to only show the seven most recent posts.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Exporting America

I just finished reading, a short, clearly written book, “Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas”, by financial commentator Lou Dobbs, the anchor of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. Dobbs has made it a personal mission to speak out against politicians and multi-national corporations co-operating to export American jobs for short term gain while undermining our economy and devastating our middle class.

As pointed out in the book, American politicians accept multi-national corporate campaign contributions and in return surrender American sovereignty to the WTO and enter into so-called “free trade” agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA.. People like Dobbs, who speak against this, are labeled anti-global “isolationists” and “protectionists” by the corporations and their political allies.

What Dobbs actually advocates is a balanced middle road between unfettered corporate greed and isolationism, the negotiation of fair trade agreements that not only protect American interests but also offer a fair exchange for our trading partner nations. Fair trade agreements also look out for the rights of workers in both nations and pay proper respect to the global environment.

Historically a Republican, Dobbs uses a good example from the Reagan years, when soaring gas prices created American demand for the import of Japanese autos. Under the agreement negotiated with Japan, limits were placed on the number of imports allowed. But if the cars were built in America, they were not counted against the limits. The result was Japanese auto makers built factories in America and hired American workers, which was good for America, while at the same time the Japanese auto makers were able to sell more cars in America, which was good for Japan.

Dobbs looks at these issues from the point of view of a middle class American worker. Proponents of so-called “free trade” are told to use business and economic terminology in their discussions, but play down the impact on the American worker. Alan Levenson, chief economist of the mutual fund giant, T. Rowe Price, wrote a three page article in their Spring newsletter about the impact of the trade deficit on the U. S. Economy, and did not once use the words “jobs”or “workers”. It’s as if workers are just assumed to be part of the machinery, rather than the human beings who do the actual work, pay taxes, vote and fight in wars.

In fairness to Alan Levenson, here is an article in which he does discuss outsourcing. Trying to read what he says really makes me appreciate the clarity of Lou Dobbs. Making predictions for “the long term” is one of the tricks of economist spin - they never seem to give much idea of about when we might reach “the long term”. Levenson seems to be saying the American job loss is not just attributable to outsourcing, but also to other negative factors in our current economy. Well that should be a relief to the worker who lost his job - if outsourcing did not take your job, then current deficiencies in the economy might have taken it anyway. And you can expect to get another job - in “the long term”.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Some Iraq Musings

The War in Iraq has been going on long enough for a fictional TV series about it to take the air. The FX network is showing “Over There” on Wednesdays.

Bush could not get John Bolton approved by the Senate as UN Ambassador, so he made a recess appointment not requiring Senate approval and good until January 2007. That should be plenty of time for Bolton to further damage our already tarnished image in the world community.

Money from the sale of Iraqi oil is being administered by the US provisional authorities, apparently in a very slipshod way. Lack of record keeping and fraud by contractors is an under reported scandal, though NPR Morning Edition did a piece on it a few days ago.

Since Bush strutted in a flight suit under the “Mission Accomplished” sign in May, 2003, over 1,500 more US troops have died in Iraq. For some updated critical photos of the Presidential Strut, look here, and use the “next picture” link to see many more on the same topic.

The Invasion of Iraq was never honestly part of the so-called War on Terror. Now the Bush Administration is trying to be less dishonest about that so-called War, renaming it the “Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism”. Selling it to the American people as a War meant we could win it with “shock and awe”, but now it is becoming obvious there will never be a victory as in a traditional War.

A man who has flown under the radar for a long time is Zalmay Khalizad, who is now US Ambassador to Iraq. Revolutionary Worker Online has an interesting article on his background and membership on the US empire building team.