Sunday, April 19, 2015

THE POWER OF ONE

Sunday the New York Times published an obituary of an obscure doctor in Hawaii—Dr. Irwin Schatz.  Here’s why:

Four years out of medical school, in 1962 he read an article in a medical journal about an experiment being conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service on 600 uneducated black men in Tuskegee, Alabama. About two-thirds of these men had syphilis. The study had been going on for 30 years, and while penicillin had been known as an effective treatment for the disease, it was never used to cure them. Indeed, none of them were ever told what they had.

The study deliberately withheld treatment in order to find out what eventually might happen to them.

Young Dr. Schatz was incensed. He wrote a letter to the study’s author to protest. It was never answered, and so far as is known, was the first and only objection to the study the U.S. agency received.

Ten years later, a health service whistle blower publicized the experiments and Dr. Schatz’s letter was found in their files. By that time, there had been many stories about the infamous and immoral experiments the Nazis had conducted on unknowing minorities  during World War 2. Now the U.S. government found itself in a similar immoral position. The study ended.

Years later, the Mayo Clinic recognized Dr. Schatz’s stand with an award. A citation said “criticizing an investigation which was overseen by some of the leading figures in the American Public Health Service  was an action that was…potentially harmful to his career.”

When Dr. Schatz got no response, he didn’t pursue the matter further..though years later he hinted in hindsight he should have objected more.

There are so many lessons here for us all..including the fact that our government can often conduct itself in illegal and immoral ways..and must be held to account. But perhaps the main lesson is that each of us must decide for ourselves when and whether to take a stand when we think something wrong is being done. It’s up to each one of us.

For I believe, with Martin Luther, who is reported to have said "One with God is a majority.”

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CASUALTIES OF WAR



Truth, it is often said, is the first casualty of war.  Probably true, but justice isn’t far behind.

This week, Justice finally caught up with war, and one of the most senseless and heinous crimes committed by the US in Iraq.

A Washington court sentenced 4 private security firm guards, hired by the US, for shooting randomly into heavy traffic in Baghdad just to clear the way for the officials they were guarding. FOURTEEN civilians were killed, 17 others wounded. An uproar followed over their actions and the wisdom of using private security guards in a war zone.

One guard got life, 3 others thirty year terms.  All said they had acted honorably for the government, us, they served. The judge praised the FBI and Justice department for putting the truth out there for all to see.

The US has continued such use. The 3 guards killed in Benghazi were also private security guards hired by the State Department, and will be an issue in the presidential campaign.

One has to wonder, given our past history, if the guards had been GIs would they have been convicted of random shooting of civilians??? Would our government have investigated their conduct and put the “truth” out there for the world to see?

The truth continues to escape us elsewhere

Despite promises of openness and transparency, the Obama government continues to try to hide its work. An independent report, just issued, says the government has broken its own rules on drone strikes..UNnecessarily killing civilians. And this doesn’t even go into the fact that the US is acting as judge, prosecutor, and jury when it makes decisions on drone strikes..some of which have killed American citizens abroad.

Congress needs to start a thorough investigation of our use of drones in wartime.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 6, 2015

“BACK DOOR” INTO OUR PRIVACY



Journalism observed First Amendment Day in March (birthday of James Madison who wrote the Bill of Rights) with renewed calls for more open government at all levels

Obama campaigned on that theme but has often backtracked during office. His administration, in many ways, has been much more closed than previous ones, and has taken more reporters to court to try to force them to reveal sources than ever.

(Reporters are under fire in many nations, 20 are “missing” in Syria alone..but it hardly benefits a nation that prides itself on democracy that there are so many challenges to the practice of journalism and the First Amendment here.)

Perhaps the tide may be turning...in part because we now know a fraction of  just how much our government has been secretly snooping on us...on our phones and e mail,. And yes, on our regular postal mail itself.

Even conservatives are alarmed. Ky. Rep. Tom Massie, perhaps the most conservative member of our delegation, is co-sponsor of a bill (with a Democrat) to bar the federal government from a so called “back door” snooping into even more of our private electronic matters. The FBI and other agencies are after internet companies to build a “back door” into encrypted cell phones, e mails and other devices. Such a back door would let  the government listen in or read our words without us, or the companies knowing. Many firms have opposed this, but the government is after legislation in Congress to force them to set up such “back doors.”

The FBI says it will help them fight crime and terrorists. (Everything these days seems to help us fight terrorism, as a way of getting it passed!) The new FBI director asks if we “have become so distrustful of government that we are willing to let the bad guys walk away?”  Yes, because the government thru its own actions over the last decade has proven it is not worthy of our trust.

The Patriot Act, totally misnamed, was passed by a Congress fearful after 9/11 and loaded with activities that have seriously infringed on our traditional liberties. It is up for renewal this year and should be seriously overhauled and amended.

Rep. Massie’s bill is needed..but it’s  just one of many things needed to redress the excesses of the so-called Patriot Act. Let’s hope it passes.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

NO NO! HELL NO!!



The new president of Afghanistan, the 2nd elected in rigged elections, is in Washington to see Obama, and urge the US to keep not the 10-20,000 troops we have committed to (for security and training purposes) but to raise the number to 350,000.

His reasons will probably be that his country can not fend off the Taliban without much more help.

We should say NO to this, and quickly…but don’t hold your breath with this Congress.

One, we should never have gone into Afghanistan in the first place. Remember the lies the Bush administration told us about WMD that got us into Iraq?  More lies were told to get us into Afghanistan...that the Taliban were in cahoots with Al-Qaida and also responsible for 9/11. It wasn’t true. The two groups had different religious views and political goals at the time, and the Taliban was NOT involved in 9/11. (Later the two grew closer because of opposition to US troops in Afghanistan.)

Two, we spent billions there...wasted more billions according to our government’s own reports..then “abandoned in place” additional billions of equipment the Afghans could have used…are we to repeat this again? That money could have been spent on roads and schools and better water, etc in this country.

Three, that country is corrupt in a way we will never understand here...not even in Kentucky’s most corrupt counties. Tribal leaders, local warlords control much of the country, each exacting tribute (kickbacks) even as public officials do the same. You pay to get even the slightest matter done. Shall we keep encouraging this?

Four, its relations with its two powerful neighbors, Iran (!) and Pakistan, will almost surely continued to be more important to it than its relations with the US..and more long range, often contrary to our goals..no matter what their President says.

Five, it is the world’s largest source of heroin and that will continue. Indeed, GI's had to look the other way as they passed field after field of poppies, knowing the result might well be that, back in the States, the drugs produced in Afghanistan, would take the lives of members of their own families. What a moral morass! There is no need for the US to continue to support it.

These are but a few of the argument, as I see it, for NOT increasing our troops there. If you are so inclined, let your views be known to Congressman  Andy Barr and our two senators.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 16, 2015

To Err is Human



And yes, journalists are human...but their occupation is to deal with facts and figures, with information the rest of us need, so there are important reasons why they should not be as error prone as the rest of us mere mortals.

However I wonder.

The New York Times, in the lead sentence of a recent Sunday story made the same mistake that several Lexington TV stations make almost daily in their reports.  CBS on the evening news had another similar error, very popular with Lexington journalists.

They are having bodies “drug” across floors, instead of “dragged,” for example.

And one local  sports reporter insists on doubling up on his subjects, half a dozen times a cast:  "The Wildcats, they…Coach Cal, he...Ashley Judd, she…”

And as for geography, well...back to school, or consult the newsroom atlas (assuming there is one.)

Vanuatu is a  nation, composed of a string of islands, much as the Bahamas. Only it’s in the far South Pacific, not just off our shores. When Cyclone Pam (a tornado over the ocean) hit Vanuatu with Category 5 winds recently, NBC’s evening news  located it “just east of Australia.”  Just East is about 1300 miles!  A Fox News report described Vanuatu is one of the islands near New Zealand, also about 1300 miles away.

Does that make Boston “just East” of Lexington?

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

BOPTROT REVISITED



The AT&T bill causes all my suspicions about Frankfort to be strengthened. I have no evidence, but I strongly suspect some money changed hands here..if not a direct buying of votes  (illegal) than just the massive spending AT&T did to get this bill passed.

A small army of lobbyists, more than 30..a half million spent in their expenses, and at least $60,000 in direct contributions to various campaigns over the last few years..to get a bill passed allowing the carrier to drop landlines in certain circumstances..even tho the AT&T top official said they wouldn’t do that and haven’t done that in other states where similar bills have passed.

The governor has promised to sign it..all in the name of “progress”..to get better, hi-speed broadband services throughout Kentucky. Now, we need such service, and right now, we are deficient in it.  Whose fault is that?  AT&T and other carriers. There is money to be made in providing such service so go ahead and provide it. Besides, these new digital services come with higher bills than plain old vanilla landlines.

In the 90s, money changed hands to get bills passed. Deals were made, kickbacks offered—or extorted and the whole mess smelled so badly, the Speaker of the House went to prison. It was called the BOPTROT scandal. Reforms were passed..but since then every single major one of those reforms have been either diluted or  undone by new legislation.

The stage is ripe for a new BOPTROT scandal. Is the AT&T bill it? I don’t know; I have no evidence-so far. Pity, the press corps in Frankfort has also been diluted and we may never know because there are now fewer investigative reporters there to figure out if a new BOPTROT has, in fact, occurred..now..or in the future.

Where are you, 4th Estate, when we really need you???

I'm just sayin'...