Monday, August 25, 2014

MARTYRS TO THE INFORMATION AGE



The recent brutal death of journalist James Foley, beheaded by ISIS, brings into focus something reporters have known for years, but not done a very good job of educating the rest of us.

It’s a brutal world out there for reporters in many places.  Right now, Syria is the most dangerous country on earth..for reporters trying to get their stories out.

A few years ago it was Iraq, before that the Balkans. As the news changes, so does the place of greatest danger..but the risks of being a journalist never cease. 13 have been killed, so far, next door in Mexico, most covering the drug wars there.

Since 1982 when the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) began keeping records, over 1070 reporters, photographers, etc have been killed. These are “confirmed” KIAs..so many others are merely “missing”, 39 in fact, with over 20 in Syria this year alone.

And that doesn’t count the more than 200 in prisons and jails all over the globe.

In 2009 and 2012 74 journalists died worldwide practicing their profession…for you. These were  the worse years ever. Not that 2013 was much better; only 70 died then.

As freedom is not free (ask any Gold Star family),  freedom of the press is not free. People die supporting it, practicing it, improving it.

The Information Age comes with risks and cost, not the least of which was so dramatically and tragically demonstrated by James Foley.

Once in a while, please remember him…and the many others..as you watch, read, or listen.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 18, 2014

MEDIA MATTERS



There are days when I wonder if any of our local reporters ever paid attention in 6th grade English class (or any other English class for that matter.)

The grammar mistakes they make seem to be getting worse and more numerous. (Let me concentrate on TV, my field, but let me assure you these pop up on radio and in our newspapers as well.)

Here’s the most numerous one:  “like I said earlier…like the mayor said.” No, it’s “AS I said earlier.” You can like me on Facebook, but for comparisons, etc..it’s “as.”

Or “he left the burning car quick.” No, adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs. “He left the burning car quickly.”

Or  “When me and my photographer arrived”.  Me arrived? Try “when my photographer and I arrived…”

Other mistakes involved bad journalism: the station that, while promoting its lottery report has the anchor say..”you can’t win if you don’t play.”  That’s a commercial for the lottery, and reporters/anchors aren’t supposed to do commercials---for sponsors or not.

On the constant failure to use alleged properly..as in convicting someone by your story..”the twin brothers had porn in their home.”  No, they had alleged porn in their home.” Or “Police say they had…” It is so easy to forget the presumption of innocence and local reports do it often.

Our lack of national and world news on local newscasts is another matter, not grammatical but perhaps far more important.

When Robin Williams died, his death not known in time to make the 6:30pm network news, our 10pm Fox newscast had a perfect chance to tell its viewers this “new” news, but instead led with a story about a S. Kentucky couple charged with keeping a too dirty home for their kids..one I saw on 27 at noon.

If you want to get the world (and US national)  news before bed, watch the BBC news on KET at 11pm. It's excellent.

Of course, NPR news is there much of the time; hopefully their people don’t make the simple mistakes of our local folks outlined above.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 11, 2014

WHEREFORE IF YOU HAVE DONE THIS TO MY BRETHREN:



Yazidis???

Who knew???

But this ancient, pre-Christian religious group has been much in the news this past week..as the terrible Islamic State army tore thru more of Iraq, threatening this sect with death on a craggy mountaintop.

President Obama did the right thing, the thing Americans have always done to help those in dire distress. He ordered food and water sent to them, as he ordered airstrikes on the fanatical group besieging them. (Already several thousand Yazidis have made it safely out of harm’s way.)

And the president used the presence of our consulate and 150 military “advisers” in Irbil, a major Kurdish town the Islamic army threatens, as justification. But “no boots on the ground.”

I hope it works out that way. The lessons from Iraq (and Afghanistan and Viet nam) are not hopeful. And, BTW, those military advisers are trained, with weapons, and if fired upon will fire back..actually, aren’t they “boots on the ground?”

It isn’t much of a stretch to point out it was President Eisenhower’s sending of “military advisers” to Saigon, after the French were defeated and left, that began our long running escalation of the war in 'Nam…and our defeat. We’ve never learned the lessons of Vietnam, and so have been destined to repeat our mistakes.

And yet, could we have done anything else but help these poor people..in any way we can? No, and it looks like the Brits and others will soon be sending aid as well.

The Yazidis.

Who knew???

THEREFORE HAVE YOU DONE IT UNTO ME.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A GOOD OLD KENTUCKY BOY CAME HOME RECENTLY

A bit late, but nevertheless welcome.



19 year old Pvt. Randolph Allen of Rush was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, 70 years after he died fighting for us on a tiny dot of an island in the Pacific. Full military honors were accorded him, as family members stood by---not one of whom ever knew him.

Each year the military finally identifies the remains of our finest who have been missing in action..as he was..maybe 80 a year. But there are 84-THOUSAND GIs still missing from past wars..and at 80 a year, we may get the last of them buried by the year 3064.

We don’t think of that when America goes off to war. We are too “het up” over WMDs and Osama Bin Laden often to  think of the long view—or 84,000 families who will not have closure for years, if ever.



We know, now, the WMDs were lies..and the reports that bin Laden was in cahoots with the Taliban in Afghanistan was wrong also (but it didn’t stop us from going into our longest war ever—then.)

Now, it’s different.  75% of us think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were failures, according to a recent poll.

While almost all of us think WW2 was justified, we have also just discovered  it will take another $420 M to get the Paducah atomic plant  cleaned up from contamination and, maybe, ready for a less warlike future.

Wars have a way of getting out of control, dollar-wise and moral-wise. Pres. Obama confirmed what we all knew, the US tortured people—a violation of our own laws, while the “government” spied on our Senators. We know they are spying on us but we kinda thought maybe Senators were different. They were supposed to be under an agreement between them and the “government” but the government broke the agreement and then lied about it to the Senators…and us.

Things just happen differently in wartime. We may try to be the same honest, ethical people, but we aren’t.  We need to be reminded of these things (and a lot more, such as we are still finding munitions buried in WW I) when we are in the throes of patriotic fervor and ready to march off to war.



Putin’s action in the Ukraine are wrong and dangerous, and could lead to war..that’s just one of a half dozen places I have heard public officials say we should consider going to war---this year.  Let us, instead, consider the many, and long range consequences of war before we act—consequences neither Israel nor Hamas apparently took into consideration before rushing into their current, tragic entanglement.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT

My name is Andy D. Smith, a good old American name, and why not, my family has lived in Southern Mississippi for over five generations.

I am named for a forebearer who led our family’s immigration to America. He was Anders deGroot Schmitt, of Dutch extraction, a Boer who lived in what is now South Africa. Liking America, he Anglicized our name.

When the British won the Boer Wars, we had no desire to live under their occupation, and especially under their religious beliefs, that of the Church of England. We were of the Dutch Reform faith, even a conservative branch of that conservative faith. It preached “the white man’s burden” if you will…that we had an obligation of charity towards them but not one of equality. Our theology and our preachers constantly reminded us the black man was not our equal. Since England had abolished slavery early in the 19th century we knew it was but a matter of time before our beliefs and English law would conflict.

We, my ancestors, set about finding a new land. They had read many of the tracts and speeches of your Southern preachers, of several denominations, who held as we did on this matter of so-called  equality…even after your Civil War.  Anders..Andy..led several families to Southern Mississippi around the turn of the 19th century and we settled in 3 small towns there. More families came later as we established farms, and then stores to sell our produce, and later general supplies and other items.

Our farms and  stores are all ”closely held.”  Only family members may hold stock in them, no stock may be sold or transfer to an outsider and all transactions must be approved by an extraordinary majority of family members. Those who marry into our families are required to sign documents agreeing to these terms.

We are small, a half dozen general stores, in a rural area of Mississippi, which may explain why your dept. of Justice didn’t discover us until a few years ago. They charged us with discrimination and violation of the Civil Rights act because all our store staffs are white. (Black customers are most welcome, but we do not employ them on our farms or in our stores..all work is done by family members and our children learn that “menial” chores led to better things in time.)

We have filed a brief under the so-called “Hobby Lobby” decision asking the DOJ charges be dismissed. It could hardly be clearer..we are closely held as a business, and our deeply held religious beliefs forbid hiring blacks or having anything but the merest social contact with them.

Your logic in “Hobby Lobby” is clear. You must allow us to continue as an all-white business.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 14, 2014

AND MERCI BEAUCOUP TO YOU, LA BELLE FRANCE

Today, Monday July 14 is Bastille Day in France..their Independence Day when the people rose and stormed the bastille…the Paris  jail of that day(really a fort which symbolized the oppression of the government then.)

The Bastille fell and France was free and independent..at least for a while.



We triggered Bastille Day…We being America and our own Revolution of 1776. And we were lucky. The colonies escaped the bloody repressions that followed in so many countries that revolted against royal and dictatorial governments. France was free after the bastille fell..but only for a short time. Dictators followed (Napoleons 1,2,&3 among them..and the guillotine..but in the end France, too, was free..and marks that day of the original revolt each July 14.

I celebrate it too. In many ways France is my second home. I have visited there a half dozen times, thanks to Lexington’s Sister Cities program. (An international citizen to citizen program started by Pres. Eisenhower which works thru “twining” cities..in our case Lexington and Deauville, France.)



America owes much to France..and I mean a lot more than culture, art, wine, fashion, food..we owe our existence. I have heard all the jokes about..”For Sale, One French army rifle, dropped only once.” But the truth is if the French Navy had not prevented the English fleet from reinforcing or  relieving Cornwallis at Yorktown a bloody battle would have ensued. As it was, caught between Washington’s army and the French fleet, Gen. Cornwallis did the correct thing, militarily, and surrendered. America won; Vive La France!

And then there’s the Statute of Liberty.”.the greatest gift one nation ever gave another.” 



A recent book, “Liberty’s Torch” proves this was more the work of one man, the French sculptor Bartholdi, whose vision, artistry, and determination, kept both nations at it until the deed was done and Miss Liberty stood proudly in New York harbor.

I have teared up coming home from abroad seeing her..and what she represents here—to America.
  
This day, Bastille Day, she stands as the symbol of France..the symbol of Liberty, proclaimed to the world by our two nations, and our hope for abiding friendship between our two peoples.

I'm just sayin'... 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A WORTHY ANTHEM FOR A GREAT NATION

When composer/conductor John Williams opened last Friday’s broadcast of “A Capitol Fourth” on NPR and WUKY-FM, he offered his “new arrangement” of our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.”

In that spirit I’d like to offer my own arrangement---get rid of it.



First, as written, the “Banner” is UNsingable by 90% of Americans. Those high notes, much too high notes (Williams reworked them into a lower key I think) are just too, too much. We either mumble through them, or pass altogether while the counter-tenors and altos have a field day. What good is a national anthem that citizens can’t sing? It’s supposed to rally us, not cause us to cringe as those near us try to sing it.

Second, it’s music is an old tavern drinking song..an old ENGLISH drinking song. That’s right, good old F. S. Key penned his poem of defiance to Great Britain and then used a Brit song for his music.  Lotta sense there.

Third, it celebrates just one event in America’s long and storied history..the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814…(part of the War of 1812 most historians would like the US to forget, ‘cause we lost it. Our history books pass over how the Brits burned Washington---we lost our National Capital in this war and we want to observe it in song?

Fourth, if this music deserves to be our National Anthem why did it take until 1931 for Congress to pass a resolution making it so???  118 years we had no such anthem, while using “Hail Columbia” and “My Country Tis of Thee” (a much worthier song) and others as stand-ins for a National Anthem.

Congress got it wrong in ’31…no surprise surely..but now that Mr. Williams has suggested a “new arrangement”, why not start all over..find a better song, at least one that most of us can sing…before we shout “Play Ball.”

I'm just sayin'...NOPE...not singin'...