Category Archives: News

Top 10 News Stories of 2011

You might disagree with me–feel free–but here are what I think were the most important news items of the year:

1.  The secession and independence of South Sudan

Whenever a group of people are free to run their own state, it is a remarkable and praisworthy event.

2.  Earthquake and tsunami in Japan

It was a horrible disaster with a terrible aftermath.

3.  The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleman

What can I say?  I love the United Kingdom and the Royal Family.

4.  The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.

5.  The end of the space shuttle program in the United States

It is a sad conclusion to an exciting program.

6.  The death of Christopher Hitchens

He was a brilliant man with fascinating views and superb communication skills.

7.  The end of the Iraq War

It was a war that should never have happened.  One can only imagine what the ruture holds for Iraq.

8.  Protests and revolutions in the Arab world

I am totally for power in the hands of the people.  We must wait to see what happens over the next few years.

9.  The death of Vaclav Havel

He was an amazing man who loved freedom.

10.  The 1000-for-1 prisoner swap between Palestinians and Israel

It shows once again who is truly for peace in the Middle East.

Occupy Wall Street–My View

What do they want?

They don’t like Wall Street?  It is just a street–with buildings on it.

They don’t like corporate greed?  Then boycott the corporations that are the greediest.  Turn public opinion against them, so that everyone will stop trading with those corporations.

What good does hanging out in a park do?  Oh, well, they do have signs. . . .

They don’t like banks?  What do they want the banks to do–pass out all their available cash and close down? 

By the way, how many of them are wearing Nike shoes?  How many are communicating with iPhones?  How many of them got to the protest in planes, trains, and automobiles?

They don’t like rich people?  Everything around them–everything that is making their protest possible without terrible discomfort–was provided one way or another by rich people.

They prefer poverty?  If you don’t like wealth, it is the only alternative.  However, if they love poverty, then why did their kitchen staff complain about the homeless people and squatters who were coming over to the park for free food?

They’re against economic inequality?  Is that something that you can really change?  Can you take a truly poor person–a person with little talent and little motivation and somehow make him equal to a person with tons of natural ability and tons of drive?  You could give person A a one-time million-dollar grant, and he will probably be poor at the end of a few years.  You could take away all of person B’s money, and he will probably become wealthy again in the same time frame.  That’s just how it works.  I’ve seen it in my own family.

In between are people who are just average, just getting by or maybe what my parents call “comfortable.”  That seems normal to me and the way it always will be.

They don’t like government bailouts?  Neither do I.  They should join the Tea Party.  They should vote for Ron Paul.  They should protest at the Capitol in Washington, D. C.

They’re just angry?  That’s not very productive.  Going out and accomplishing something is a better idea.  Why not open a bank that trades fairly?  Why not put people up for election that agree with them, so that laws can get changed?  Why not find more ways of earning more money and being content with it?

Do they even have consistent objectives?  Some have expressed concerns about crime and the need for more police onsite.  Others have expressed concerns about being shut down and are paranoid to see police around.  Some want to re-enact Woodstock and just get stoned and listen to music.  Others want to send a serious message, although I’m not sure what it is.

Texans Fight Groping at Airports

Texas was almost the first state to outlaw inappropirate touching by TSA agents at airports.  Their House of Representatives approved the bill to limit the TSA agents and to enforce criminal charges against them, but the Senate voted against it, apparently after being pressured by the federal government.  The U. S. Attorney vowed to cancel all flights from Texas if the law were to pass.

So much for states’ rights!

If a group of protestors have their way, the governor and the legislature will revisit the issue.  I love to see the people trying to take back the powers that the Constitution said were reserved to them.  I love to see the people exercising their rights.

I doubt that Texas or any other state will actually pass such a law.  Too few politicians have the courage to do such a thing.  However, I wish that they would.  How else are fed-up people going to put a stop to this abuse of power by the TSA.

In 1984 Big Brother spied on people.  He wasn’t even so evil as to grope their private parts in public.

Under the Holy City

In light of recent discussions about Israel and the so-called Palestinian people, I read this article about the tunnels under Jerusalem with great interest.  Not only is there documentary evidence that Jewish people lived in Jerusalem for thousands of years, but the tunnels under the modern city offer tangible proof.  As with everything in Israel there are arguments–arguments about where excavations can take place and how, and about who can do them.

Regardless, the tunnels are there, and thousands of people have seen evidence of a Jewish civilization there from at least the time of Christ, just as biblical and extrabiblical texts indicate.

My point is that, no matter how you view Israel, it is historically accurate to refer to that territory as the ancient homeland of the Jews.  It is wrong to regard them as invaders or occupiers.  The Jewish people are not like Belgians invading the Congo or like the Spanish invading Aztec and Inca lands.  They are like the freed slaves of the United States who went to Liberia.

There is no denying that Jersualem is also important to Muslims.  It is also important to Christians and Druze adherents.  There is a Baha’i Temple there, too.  That is why it is good that the government of Israel grants access to people of all faiths to their holy places.  Jews may pray at the Western Wall, Muslims my pray at the mosques above it, and Christians may go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Juan Williams, Victim of Tolerance

     In our climate of “tolerance” and “diversity” it does not surprise me one bit that NPR fired Juan Williams.  What the words really mean by those who tout them with the most intensity are intolerance and conformity.  Juan Williams did not conform.  He did not toe the party line. 

     I used to listen to NPR regularly.  At one time it was my best source of news.  However, I used to get so angry at their leftist slant.  Listening in the car, I used to yell at my radio (nobody was with me, usually) and even slap myself on the head.  The reporters and announcers rarely expressed opinions directly; they knew better than that.  It was their word choice and the way that they selected which stories to present and waht “angle” to use in presenting them.  It was all very subtle, but it was clearly and cunningly designed to persuade listeners that the leftist view was not only the right one but also the common, widespread view across America. 

     Make no mistake on this.  Comparing FOX News and NPR is not comparing a biased news network with an objective one.  It is comparing a somewhat right-leaning network with a left-leaning one.  As Bernard Goldberg wrote in his incisive book Bias, the folks at NPR do not recognize their bias because they only hangout with East and West Coast elitists; thus, they sincerely believe that their views are what “everybody” thinks.  They regard themselves as holding the “objective” view, because all their martini-sipping friends agree with them.

     It’s not as if Juan Williams is a raving conservative.  His views are generally left of center–so much so that I have gotten really annoyed by comments that I have heard him make during appearances on FOX.  I  suppose he must be classified as a centrist or moderate.  Or perhaps he is a liberal who refuses to march in lock-step with his politically correct comrades.

    Juan Williams is a smart man.  He is great to listen to, even when I disagree with him.  The folks at FOX are smart, too.  They have hired Williams.  I am sure that they will reap the benefits, too–with higher ratings and higher income from advertisements.  Good for them.  NPR’s loss is their gain.

     Meanwhile, people can choose not to listen to NPR now that they have shown their true colors.  People can, and many have, demand that our Congress cut their funding.  Why should be pay for intolerance and conformity to one view?

A Crime Is a Crime

     I do not know when I have felt more horror and disgust than I do at the moment.  I just read about a young man named Tyler Clementi who apparently committed suicide after his roommate allegedly recorded and broadcast him in a passionate tryst.

     The roommate and another student have been charged with invasion of privacy.  If they are found guilty, then I hope they receive the maximum penalty allowed.  Young people have got to learn that doing such a thing is far from appropriate.  They need to see that it can lead to such despair that a person feels driven to take his own life.

     And I don’t care about Clementi’s sexual orientation.  It’s not relevant.  What was reportedly done to him should not be done to anyone.

     And it was not a hate crime.  It was a crime crime.  It would be just as bad if it were done to a heterosexual person.  It was terrible, and putting the word “hate” on it won’t make it worse than it already is.

September 11

     I purposely avoided the subject of September 11, but now I feel compelled to write something.

     Mostly I want to honor the memory of those who died and to extend heartfelt condolences to the survivors.  I knew none of the victims of those attacks, but I certainly felt shock and horror at what happened to them.  The closest I got to the situation was that a young woman who had been in our youth group at church was working in Manhattan as a nurse.  Her hospital took in those who were injured at the World Trade Center.  I also have a friend who is a police chaplain in another state, but he went to New York City to provide counseling to rescue workers and their families.

     Americans should feel nothing but sadness and disgust over what happened.  I cannot tolerate anyone’s saying, “It was a terrible thing, but. . .”  There are not buts.  There simply aren’t.  There is no justification for what happened.  There is no excuse.  And there is no way that a person with a conscience or any kind of moral compass can blame anyone except for the men who planned and the men who carried out those atrocities. 

     Whatever the United States has done wrong is what it is.  I won’t claim that the United States is perfect.  I won’t claim that there is no cause for anger from other countries and from individuals in other countries.  I am sure that many people have legitimate gripes with the United States, and they should be heard.  However, they should not, no matter what, make themselves heard in the way that those men did on September 11, 2001.  In fact, the people that they represented lost all right to be heard when they attacked our country and murdered thousands of innocent American citizens and residents.

     (Some of the people who are soft on the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks oppose the death penalty for even the most horrible of serial killers.  They wouldn’t allow a monstrous killer to be put to death peacefully, but they think that the September 11 terrorists were somehow justified in what they did to unsuspecting, innocent people.  Shame, shame, shame!)

     I’m sorry for the controversies that have been linked to this nightmarish event.  I do not want to say much about them.  I think that they distract from what we need to focus on.  Massive crimes took place on September 11, and we need to do everything we can to see that justice is done and that such crimes do not, as much as we have the power to prevent them, happen again.  We, as a nation, have done a good job of it, so far–not a perfect job, but a good job.

     I will make some general comments about Islam, since it is relevant to this date and to the attacks. 

     The religion of Islam is what it is.  People are free to accept it or reject it.  People have the right to freely discuss its good points and its bad points (although in some places that right is not recognized).  It behooves everyone to learn about Islam, its beliefs, its history, and its relationship to the political landscape of the world.  I won’t go so far as to call it a “religion of peace,” but I will say that it does not deserve general, categorical condemnation.

     Muslim people are like everyone else.  Some of them are decent people, and some of them are not.  Some of them practice their faith more fervently than others, and there are several different sects and divisions among them.  Some of them only want to live their lives in peace, while others have one kind of agenda or another.

     Having said those things, and meaning them sincerely, I have a few other comments.  Despite what a lot of people say, there does seem to be a problem with the religion of Islam itself and with the teachings of the Koran.  I’m not getting that from any special knowledge that I have myself but from the radical imams themselves and from the terrorists themselves.  I am not offering my own interpretations of Islam or of the Koran.  I am only considering what I know from news reports about female genital mutilation, executions by stoning, lashings, and the general oppression of women and of homosexual people in Islamic states.  To say that Muslims who believe in and practice such things are just a small minority is a bit disingenuous.  They might not be in the majority, but we are talking about entire nations here.  We are talking about people with vast influence, power, and wealth.

     You can say, “Yes, but that it not true Islam.”  I would ask you by what authority you make that assertion.  If very devout Muslims are saying that it is exactly and precisely true Islam, who are you to say that it isn’t?  I have heard a few Muslim people claim that it is not true Islam, but I really do not see them doing much officially to declare those people heretics or to unevically condemn them as bad Muslims or to prove to them from the Koran why they are wrong.

     If it is true that terroristic and oppressive factions of Islam are a tiny fringe, then it should be very easy for the huge majority (in a religion that boasts over 1 billion people) to stop them–to stamp out the evil that is done in the name of their God.  Is there any evidence that they are doing so?  I have asked people to name names.  I have asked people to cite sources that prove that any Muslim person or Muslim group is taking active steps to root out terrorism and violence in the Muslim world.  So far, I have seen no such evidence. 

     I will grant that there are peace-loving, moderate Muslims.  However, they seem pretty passive to me, or at least very ineffective.  Otherwise, women around the world would not be forced to cover themselves completely, would not be lashed for being accidentally in the presence of a man, would not be forced as young girls to have their clitorises excised, would not be stoned to death for “adultery,” would not be forbidden to drive a car or attend a university.  Otherwise, buildings would not be rammed by airplanes, subways would not be bombed, and ships would not be highjacked.  In other words, the millions of moderate Muslims would use the strength of their vast numbers to put an end to these things.

In the News

I suppose the moral of the story is that you should never give up hope.  A man in Texas finally got his gun back after it was stolen twenty years ago.

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President Obama appeared on The View.  I didn’t watch it because. . .well, because I am a man.  What I want to know is why the President of the United States is acting like the president of a garden club by going on a women’s talk show?

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Mark Twain said that the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.  Reports of Sogen Kato’s longevity were greatly exaggerated.  He was thought to be Tokyo’s oldest living man, but he didn’t even make it to 100.

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I’ve heard it said that life is too serious to be taken seriously.  Some folks in California certainly think so.  They have had a bit ot fun with a statue of a surfer.

The Unhelpful Media

     The news media are supposed to provide information to the public.  That is their stated objective and the role that they have fulfilled for a long time. 

     However, it is not helpful when they present a case for a certain viewpoint rather than reporting the news to inform the public.  Nowhere is this unhelpful approach more evident than in the way that violent acts are reported.

     This article catalogs and exposes the attempts by media to paint all violent acts as stemming from rightwing politics.  I remember most of these incidents vividly and how various media outlets and personalities tried to paint them as examples of rightwing extremism leading to violence.  Later the facts came out, but I saw few if any retractions or corrections.

     Meanwhile, the media fall all over themselves trying to avoid reporting that Muslims are responsible for violence, as in the Fort Hood attack.  I remember that day how I  realized that it had to be a Muslim person who did the shootings, because the news outlets were not releasing his name or his identity for hours.  They apparently were coming up with a way to spin the story, and they did come up with some very clever versions.  Had a non-Muslim person done it, the media would have immediately splashed the person’s name and picture across their front pages and would have associated him with the Republican Party, George W. Bush, and fundamentalist Christianity.  Anyone who denies it should look over the list of stories where they did just that.

Joe Stack Was Not a Wingnut

     I want people to understand one thing very well:  Joe Stack was against capitalism.  He was no conservative, no rightwinger.  So if you think that he was, please learn the truth.  If you have read or heard editorials suggesting that he was just another wacko on the right, pay close attention.

     In this part of his manifesto, Stack railed against business:

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthikable atrocities (and in the case of GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. . . .It’s clear they [government leaders] don’t see a crisis as long as dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.”

     And a bit further down, he attacks religion:

“The intent of this exercise [reading the tax code in a group] and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.”  [He was referring to income tax exemptions given to religious groups.]

     Futher down, he attacks business again:

“Her [a neighbor of his in college] husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.  Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because his incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. . . .I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.”

     And again:

“The rates [in Austin] are 1/3 of what I was earning before the [economic] crash [in LA], because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies  who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages. . . .”

     He was no fan of George W. Bush.

“The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.”

     At the end he extols communism and lashes out at capitalism.

“The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  The capitalist creed:  From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

     Joe Stack was neither a liberal, nor a conservative.  He was anti-business, anti-religion, anti-government, and anti-union.  If you read the full text of his “suicide note,” you might see your own viewpoints expressed in it, whatever your political persuasion might be.  Slack seems to have been a nut, but he was certainly not a rightwing nut.