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.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top Concerns Report 2005

On the last day of 2004, in lieu of a list of the top news stories of the year, I posted my Top 10 Concerns for the year, indicating how I thought the Bush administration was leading us in the wrong direction on virtually all of them. I said I expected these concerns to be under discussion here at “Sense from Seattle” during 2005. In his posted comments, John from Phoenix added two concerns to my list and expanded on one other.

Here is my report on what happened during 2005 in the areas of concern and what discussion took place in articles here at Sense. Also included are some predictions for 2006. For those interested in reviewing any articles, the Sense index link on the left side of this page lists all Sense postings alphabetical by topic.

On religion and politics, posturing in opposition to gay marriage, which was used by many Republicans in the 2004 campaign, has quieted down some and is being replaced with the Intelligent Design farce. With the two slots opening on the Supreme Court, abortion judicial rulings returned to the forefront. Religious discussion was the fourth most popular topic at Sense during 2005, with 12 articles posted. I expect many Republicans to use their “Holy Trinity” of gay bashing, abortion opposition and undercover creationism in the 2006 campaign.

Civil liberties continued under attack by the Bush administration in 2005, mostly with regard to those imprisoned in the so-called War on Terror. The Courts righted some of the wrongs, but Bush still persists in using the War as an excuse for abuse. The end of the year saw revelations about wiretapping Americans without first obtaining warrants and the Patriot Act likely being scaled back some. These issues were little discussed at Sense. They will probably become 2006 campaign issues and receive more discussion here next year.

“The End Justifies the Means” continues to be the defacto motto of the Bush Administration and was discussed here many times in the 29 articles (most on any topic) on the administration that appeared on Sense in 2005, and will likely be discussed again during the coming year.

Disdain for science by Bush and his followers was rampant in 2005, with such examples as the intelligent design farce, outright rejection of global warming, foot dragging on the morning after pill, etc. Sometimes discussed in passing, the topic of Science is not even included in the Sense index and deserves better coverage in 2006, since the attacks will continue.

That disenfranchisement of black inner city voters is part of a larger racial divide in America was dramatically shown by the Hurricane Katrina story, which continues to receive fairly good coverage in the mainstream media, so was not much discussed here, with only two articles indexed under race, though there were ten under the topic of elections and eight on politics. I will be looking for stories on black disenfranchisement during the 2006 campaign. The Katrina aftermath story will continue for 2006 and many years more. I have much to say about racial issues in America and am only waiting for my trigger finger to succumb.

The media finally started to stand up to Bush in 2005. As the polls began to show Americans strongly disapproving of Bush, reporters learned that most Americans want them to ask better questions. A Republican effort to politicize the public broadcasting media was thwarted with a deserved backlash. Six 2005 articles on journalism are included in the Sense index. I expect the public mood for tough questions and honest answers to continue into the 2006 campaign, while Bush and his Republican followers try to give evasive and deceptive answers.

My legal experience draws me to matters involving the judicial system, a topic discussed under 9 articles at Sense in 2005, plus an extra one on Bankruptcy. With the opportunity to make two Supreme Court appointments, Bush toned down his general attacks on so-called “activist judges”. The attempt to undermine the Courts in the Schiavo case was another defeat and backlash for Bush people. The Alioto confirmation hearing in January may generate more opposition to the appointment than did the Roberts hearings, but he will probably be confirmed. During 2006, we should begin to learn more about our new Chief Justice also.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was the poster child for the Bush environmental degradation movement in 2006. Environmental issues were discussed in six articles here during the year. The systematic attack will continue in 2006.

The public began to see the disconnect in the Bush political discourse during 2005, a subject covered here under the topics of politics and the Bush administration. In response to the polls they say they ignore, Bush advisors counseled him to appear more responsive, but it is so against his nature and he is so lacking in ability that this will continue to fail and cause backlash in 2006.

Bush is still acting like the contemptuous bully of the world, though the quagmire in Iraq, the second most discussed issue at Sense in 2005, with 22 postings, has exposed his weaknesses. His strutting and posing will continue in 2006, but less frequently and with a limp in his false swagger.

The second most discussed topic at Sense in 2005, was one that was not even on the 2004 list of concerns, perhaps because it cuts across many topics. Congress was indexed in connection with 14 articles. With the mid term elections in 2006, Congress should continue to receive plenty of attention.

A final concern not on the 2004 list, Wal-Mart, earned a dishonorable mention in 2005, with six Sense postings. Labor issues, which are a big part of the Wal-Mart concern, along with the downside of globalism, received five discussions of their own. The related topics of immigration (two Sense articles in 2005), corporations (five articles) and globalism(not indexed, though four articles are indexed on economics) deserve more coverage here in 2006.

Best wishes to you, America and the world for a better 2006.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ho Ho Ho, Hosanna and Humbug

Let’s be honest. The biggest impact of Christmas in America is economic. The Santa man, “Santa Closet” to my two year old grandson, takes the credit but he doesn’t pay the credit card bill. Christmas sales account for about 20% of annual retail sales in the USA. The holiday season is the time advertisers dust off those once a year commercials for everything from diamonds to my favorite - Chia pets.

Much of what we think of as the Christmas story of the Bible is in fact later acquired tradition with little or no basis in the books of the New Testament. The essence of the celebration, that the Redeemer comes to earth in humble circumstances to live among us, teach us and ultimately save us for eternity is so inherently powerful one wonders why people ever started confusing the story with irrelevant embellishments. I suspect some people do not want to accept the truth of what Jesus taught, and they have throughout history encouraged appropriation of the story to distort and undermine its simple message.

Critics point out the hypocrisies of Christmas in practice, the rampant commercialism and gifts given out of obligation instead of love. Dickens probably did the best job of capturing the legitimate power of Christmas on a personal level when he wrote,”A Christmas Carol”. Ebenezer Scrooge came by his own route to understand what Christ taught, that loving others as you love yourself is essential.

The best part of Christmas is being with those you love.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One Hundred Thousand and Counting

Bad poll figures have now caused Bush to peek his head out of the protective bubble and give one of his ongoing Iraq occupation pep rallies in front of a crowd that was not pre-screened for supporters only. He even shocked the media by agreeing to take a few (five as it turned out) questions from the audience. The first question asked by the audience was also the question I asked in the first posting I made after introducing Sense last October, “How many Iraqis have died?”

The woman interrogator had more courage than all our mainstream media who have failed to ask that very basic question. Reporters with access don’t ask Bush why he does not take questions from the real public, maybe because, as this lady demonstrated, the public often asks better questions than the reporters, with resulting embarassment to both Bush and the reporters.

I admit I was surprised that Bush actually had an answer, “Thirty thousand, more or less”. I knew he did not really care, a point proven by his failure to offer even a passing token of dismay, but I thought his lack of concern would mean he did not even have a vague idea of the number. What about the number Bush gave, where did it come from? The US does not keep any official tally and the White House said Bush got the number from the media. The hardworking media then checked and verified - "yep, that is the number we have been reporting, though we don’t report it very earnestly, nor very often."

The most popular media source for the Iraqi civilian death toll seems to be the web site Iraq Body Count. Visiting the site, I note a prominent opportunity to make a secure donation via Pay Pal, but with no prominent mention of where the donations go. Further digging shows the donations go to support the work of the web site, but I did not notice any accounting report of the donations received and the costs of the site. So how does the web site get its data? They get it from media reports. The IBC site does seem sincere, but its methodology, compiling data from media reports, does not justify its prominence as a source, nor make a compelling case for financial donation.

The scientific study I wrote about last October still seems the most credible to me. Its methodology was later respectfully questioned by an American pathologist and his questions were credibly responded to by the study authors in this correspondence. Here in the Puget Sound area, an organization of Americans who share the concern of the first Bush questioner, “100,000 & Counting”, shows that just as most Americans believe the American death toll in Iraq is unacceptable and must stop, many Americans also believe the true Iraqi death toll is much more 30,000.

Victims and Perpetrators

Somewhere in heaven a newer resident excuses himself from the eternally blissful proceedings and heads over to a small empty chamber where he seats himself in an ethereal recliner and turns on a celestial supreme definition television. Using on screen menus, he tunes in a terrestrial channel - Earth, America, California, San Quentin, and views another chamber, the one labeled “death”.

Still a novice, he struggles to overcome his impatience as a nurse fumbles several minutes with a syringe. He reminds himself that a half hour devoted to viewing this capital punishment, which some earthlings claim is for his benefit, does not diminish eternity. The ritual ended, he turns off the TV and returns to the main proceedings. Noticing his return, a fellow newbie asks, “How did it go?”, to which the TV viewer responds, “Mission accomplished”, and then they try to high five, laughing as their hands pass through each other.

Later, a man who came to heaven two thousand years ago pulls the “vindicated” one aside and asks him how he feels about the ritual he watched. Admitting confusion, he answers that he doesn’t know how he feels. The ritual actually seemed senseless to him, primitive, irrelevant and happenstance. He admitted to wondering why earthlings see it as so simple - victims are good and criminals are bad. Even as a newbie, he noticed that heavenly residents include both victims and perpetrators, and he had even heard that some of both kind might never make it to heaven.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Give Peace a Chance

This morning, Seattle time, Dr. Mohamed ElBardei gave his lecture in Oslo as part of his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. ElBaradei is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency who withstood powerful attacks by the Bush Administration in the lead up to the Iraq invasion, pointing out there was no evidence in support of the Bush allegations regarding Iraq nuclear weapons.

In his lecture, Dr. ElBardei set out his vision for a more peaceful world, with secure international regulation of nuclear technology to prevent increasing the nuclear arsenals in the world, with safeguards to prevent such weapons coming into the hands of terrorists, with reductions in current nuclear arsenals and with the alleviation of world poverty by the application of a small portion of the money being spent on military and war.

The 26 minute lecture, which was delivered in excellent English, can be viewed with Real Player at the Nobel Prize site, and the text can also be read in English at that site. Watching the video, which includes many views of the audience of dignitaries, to get an idea of the overall tone and presentation, and then reading the text of the lecture to better see the points made takes about one hour. Please consider doing your part to give peace a chance by spending an hour on this, either now or at some more convenient time this week. It is encouraging to hear such thoughtful and hopeful words from this man who has dedicated his life to the peaceful betterment of mankind. Perhaps in 2009 America will have a President who will be wise enough to work with the IAEA, rather than undermine the work it does for peace.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wild Blue Yonder

Forty years ago today I enlisted in the United States Air Force. It was the 24th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I commented on that at the time, but the Japanese attack, having come less than a month after my birth, seemed so long ago then that the date connection was no more than a coincidence. At age 64, the passage of 40 years does not seem as long as the 24 years did in 1965. Time and history work like that.

The day after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt famously referred to December 7th as “a day which will live in infamy”. After the attack of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush said nothing about that date being destined for perennial significance, though he has not since hesitated to use the date as a supposed justification for whatever he does not seem able to otherwise justify.

What Bush did say in his first post attack speech was, “The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” At the time, many commentators noted and praised the reference to those who harbor terrorists. I doubt many commentators envisioned that four years after the attack, no one involved in planing the attacks would have been apprehended and no particular effort would seem to be underway to do so. Nor could many have believed we would have invaded Iraq using in part the harboring justification, which the Bush Administration would continue to push on the American public in spite of the fact there is no credible evidence in support of that premise.

The Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending the War in the Pacific less than four years after it started. There was no insurgency. The Iraq quagmire continues. The Bush administration, staggering under overwhelmingly waning support from the American people, continues to try to re-frame the language used in discussing this debacle. They want to replace “insurgents” with “enemies of the legal Iraqi government”. They now claim to have a “strategy for victory”. In the War against Japan, it was clear who the enemy was, the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan, and victory from day one meant the unconditional surrender of Japan. The so-called War on Terror is not a reality, as pointed out here in Terrorism Is a Tactic, in November, 2004.

December 7, 1941, is a day that has lived in history. The War that was declared and the resulting occupation of Japan are seen as having been necessary, well handled and for the betterment of the world. What will be the assessment in 2069 of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq? I doubt history will treat it favorably.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Top Gun Shot Down

One of what may turn out to be a parade of primarily, if not exclusively, Republican members of Congress has resigned after pleading guilty to accepting huge bribes from defense contractors to steer government business their way. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the disgraced California representative, a former Navy pilot, claims to have been the inspiration for the “Top Gun” movie role played by Tom Cruise.

This is part of a huge investigation into the machinations of high roller lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose aide Michael Scanlon, formerly an aide to Tom DeLay, has now agreed to be a witness for the prosecution, thereby boding ill for those who have been involved in the briberies about which he will give evidence. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has correctly labeled the attitude of many of the Republicans in control of Congress as a “culture of corruption”, and recently quipped that there may soon be enough of them in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth to constitute a quorum. She also has called for a Congressional investigation into possible National security implications of this corruption.