Sunday, July 5, 2015

Stupidity award of the year

Last week a letter writer to the Morning Call criticized President Obama for singing “Amazing Grace” during his South Carolina eulogy.  The writer said she was ashamed that Obama would sing a song written by a slave trader.

That’s the whole point, you idiot.  
“I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.”

If ignorance ever goes for $40 a barrel, I want drilling rights to that woman’s head.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Jim Webb

I can’t name all of the Republican presidential candidates, and I don’t feel bad about that.  What is amazing to me is the number of Democratic candidates.  There’s Clinton, of course, and Sanders.  And now Jim Webb.  And the guy from Maryland whose name slips my mind.  And Lincoln Chafee, whom I didn’t even know was a Democrat.  Did I leave one out?

I’ve always wondered why people who have no chance to win run for President.  Jim Webb was an excellent senator, and I like his politics, but he has no chance whatsoever.  On the other hand, Clinton could mess up badly, Sanders could say something stupid, and a path open up.  Maybe that is Webb’s hope.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The No Fly List

One of my ESU students wrote a very good paper on the “No Fly list” maintained by the Transportation Safety Agency.  I was amazed at the arbitrariness of the list, the impossibility to find out why a person was on the list, and the lack of procedures for getting off the list.

Now, thanks to an American Civil Liberties Union’s five-year-long lawsuit, a federal court has recognized that the freedom to travel by air is a fundamental right.  

Last October the government notified seven ACLU clients that they were no longer on the list.  Previously the government would neither confirm nor deny an individual’s presence on the list.  

Unfortunately, my ACLU magazine did not say which federal court made the ruling.  The article also noted that the government has not followed the court’s instructions for contesting inclusion in the list, and the lawsuit is continuing.  

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Print journalism

Last night I posted an item about how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing cigarette smoking in the rest of the world, going so far as to invoke trade agreements to overturn national laws that discourage smoking.  

Today a number of major health-related companies, including the Health Care Service Corporation, the Steward Health Care System of Boston, the Indiana University Health System, and Anthem, one of the biggies, were upset to learn what the Chamber of Commerce is doing to promote smoking, a habit all of them are fighting.  Today’s article in the business section indicated that changes are coming in response to that article.

Obviously officials from those companies didn’t read my blog.  They read the article in the New York Times, same as me.  They did not see it on Fox News, or MSNBC, or the Huffington Post, or Slate.  They did not see it in a video onYou-Tube. 

The information in that Times article took time to research, involved funding, needed support.  Even regional newspapers devote reporter resources to in-depth stories.  The Allentown Morning Call explained the Wolf veto the the Republican “Corbett” budget.  The Lehighton Times News has done a good job on the Homanko case in which a police officer, acting like a cowboy, caused the death of a friend of mine.

I get so tired of people who announce:  “I get my news from the internet.  I don’t subscribe to a newspaper.”  When newspapers are gone, and they do seem to be going, the American public will be even dumber than it is now.  A lot dumber, if that’s possible. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Please smoke

One of the reasons I opposed the recent fast track Trans-Pacific Partnership was because it allows countries to challenge national laws if those laws “restrain trade.”  For example, let’s say Australia passes a law to discourage cigarette smoking.  

A Ukrainian, Taras Kachka, could then argue that cigarette companies in the Ukraine were losing business because they couldn’t sell as many cigarettes and bring suit against Australia.

Oh, wait, that is really happening.  Even worse, Mr. Kachka was representing the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is using international trade agreements as a way to fight anti-smoking laws all across the globe.  Americans are working to ensure that Chinese, Jamaicans, and Indonesians have a right to lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease, as long as it sells cigarettes.

I get tired of people praising capitalism.  Capitalism has no morals.  It has no conscience.  If something makes money (fracking, coal-fired plants, automatic weapons), then it is a good thing.  After all, the Gross National Product depends on goods bought and sold.  If those goods cause cancer, hurt people, wreck the environment, so be it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wikipedia in print

I’m not sure if it qualifies as an art project or insanity, but for the past three years Michael Mandiberg has been printing out all the entries in Wikipedia.  It comes to about 7,600 volumes, and it is exhibited at the Denny Gallery on the Lower East Side in New York.

The contributor index alone runs to 36 volumes.  

The entire set will cost about $500,000.  A single volume will be available at for $80.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Confederate flags

Here’s what John Oliver said about the Confederate flag:  “The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.”

I’ve thought that for years.  When I see a pickup with a confederate flag decal in front of me, my reaction is “leave plenty of room, racist idiot driver ahead.”

On the other hand, when I read that the Gettysburg National Park will stop selling Confederate flags in the gift store, I think that is a mistake.  We did have a Civil War.  It was the bloodiest war in U.S. history.  We ought to be able to acknowledge that the losing side had its flag, just like we ought to acknowledge that the losing side in the American Revolution flew the Union Jack.  I assume that the Brandywine Battlefield visitor center sells both the early version of the American flag along with the Union Jack.