Monday, October 30, 2017

Friendship Abides

A delegation from France was in Lexington over the weekend, not to buy race horses, or try to sell us something from there, but just out of friendship for America and Lexington.
These were students, businessmen and women, teachers, reporters, civil servants, retirees---similar to Lexington delegations which have gone to France, too---for the past SIXTY years.
All part of the Sister Cities program, founded by President Eisenhower.  Lexington was the 2nd city to join that program, and we had the good luck to be “twined” with Deauville---a seaside resort in France’s horse country. It worked so well that we became “twined” (which is what the Europeans call the program) with other cities in horse areas around the world—in Ireland, England, and Japan.  (Studies are under way for new sister cities in Spain and South America as the program grows.) The city staffs and funds an office to manage this program (which also includes sending high school and college exchange students to study abroad in our sister cities.)
Adults, such as my late wife and I, paid our own way in the city organized, economical group trips there...and local Sister City committees showed off those areas, had us stay in their homes, and get to know them much better and more personally than many commercial tours.
That may be at the heart of the program. We met a fine couple in Deauville and ended up touring “their France” for several weeks. They stayed with us when here. Fine, close, and lasting friendships followed...and exist to this day. I had not seen some of my French friends for ten years, but when invited to lunch with them by my longtime councilmember, Bill Farmer who now heads the council committee overseeing this program, it was as if we had only parted the week before.
If such a program interests you, or your children  (I really regret that mine have never taken part in this endeavor) get in touch with the Sister City office at city  hall.
In this world of so many conflicts, bringing people of different cultures and history together is important...for once you get to know them, as 60 years of Lexington’s relations with Deauville, France proves...
Friendship Abides!
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 23, 2017

We Are All "Downstream"

As I write this only 10% of Puerto Rico has had power restored...and this a month after the island was hit by a strong hurricane. While some of Puerto Rico’s problems restoring power are unique to its geography and economy, the absolute need to get power back on quickly after a natural emergency is well known. Almost all other relief efforts to save lives depend on power. It is a given in our modern society.

And so the drive to get the lights back on means getting poles back upright, downed lines restrung, generators working again, etc.etc.etc..and quickly.  Which overlooks any problems that area had with power lines before the disaster struck---the overwhelming need is to get power restored quickly.

Had the lines been underground far less damage would have been done; far less power would have been lost, and restoration would have been done faster.
But we forget all this in the immediate pressure to restore power.

What is needed is to resurvey what might have occurred had the lines been buried...and IF, as I strongly suspect, things would have been MUCH better with most lines buried, we need to invest in doing that before the next disaster hits.

This is NOT just a problem for Puerto Rico. I can think of at least 3 cases in Lexington---in recent years-- where similar natural events occurred, costing us power, where restoration, at considerable expense, was NOT followed by burying the lines...and that cost all of us power outrages again, and again.  Yes, burying lines is more expensive than restoring the traditional above ground poles—for the utility. But what about the overall costs to homeowners and business and government that future outages entailed, when lines aren’t buried after the first disaster? Those costs never seem to be factored in.

I am  willing to bet that the total costs of restoring power traditionally in those 3 recent events exceeds the costs of burying lines...but no one seems interested in figuring our whether my “bet” is right or not.
Well, someone should.

We are all “downstream” when power goes out...and we need to be interested in the fastest, best way to get the lights back on, not just quickly but for the long run.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Few Discordant Notes

Over a decade ago, when flag burning was the popular form of protest by some groups, a US senator stood up for their right to do this. Didn’t agree with them, but he opposed a flag desecration law, saying the burnings were a constitutionally-protected form of protest.
That senator was Mitch McConnell.
I thought of that Sunday when I attended the 25th anniversary concert of the Lexington Brass Band, who always opens its first concert of the season by playing the National Anthem.  This year they used a lousy new arrangement of that old song, but I and the audience had no problem standing. No one took a knee, but I thought about how much more of a protest was burning the flag, rather than not standing for it. How much we have changed—and not necessarily for the good.
(BTW, there was no flag visible at the Opera House, so most of us faced the conductor with a hand over our heart. While we had been encouraged to sing, few did. It’s bad enough, and hard enough for most people to sing the regular arrangement, let alone a new one we didn’t know. Here’s for making the much more singable “America” our anthem instead.)
And speaking of changes, not for the good...what has happened to the presumption of innocence???
Harvey Weinstein is but the latest (and not the last) to be lashed by this truly UN-democratic change in our national attitude. Yes, a number of women have made serious allegations of reprehensible conduct against him. Yes, he has acknowledged some “bad conduct” but nothing criminal. And our criminal system requires people to be charged with a crime (he hasn’t been) and then convicted (he hasn’t been) before we, the public, visit retribution upon the now CONVICTED person.
That didn’t stop the firm he founded from firing him, nor did it stop the Academy that hands out the Oscars from throwing him off its board.  This may be great PR for those two entities, but it is a blow against the principles of freedom we were taught make America great.
If he’s guilty, and its provable, it will come out. There is no need to rush to judgment, destroying historical rights in the process.
And speaking of a rush to judgment, The NCAA took several years, and an admission by North Carolina that it did, in fact, offer fraudulent courses for 20 years without proper “institutional control.” That usually means severe penalties from the NCAA. Not this time. Why? By some convoluted logic the NCAA held that while...yes, many athletes were allowed, even encouraged to take this easy course, since the general student body was also allowed to take it, this meant there was no special treatment given the jocks!
The NCAA will rue the decision in years to come. Now, colleges are free—yes free free free to favor jocks, just as long as they also favor run-of-the-mill students as well. More NCAA penalties are going to fall, as they will be built on the quicksand of this latest Tar Heel decision.
(If UK is smart, for example, it will make sure some “regular” freshmen students stay in the ornate Joe Craft lodge, as well as all the new “one and done-ers.” The NCAA said the lodge just for jocks was illegal years ago; this new decision seems to allow UK a fighting chance to get its luxurious dorm for jocks reinstated—another perk for Coach Cal to load up his team with “one and done” stars...while the national championship banner stays away from Rupp Arena for another year.)
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Swords Into Plowshares

We have had a lot of damaging weather activity all over our world recently...hurricanes in the Gulf, earthquakes in Mexico, cyclones (that killed many more than all our storms) in SE Asia, mudslides in Europe and China, volcanoes in Indonesia and elsewhere...yet each time the medical and humanitarian relief efforts have to be organized anew; as if these events weren’t going to happen.
But they are, and will continue to happen. Why aren’t we (the human race) better—and more consistently —prepared?
Whatever happened to the SS Hope?  Remember the world’s first, peacetime floating hospital—that went where it was needed, whether the outbreak of some disease, or just aiding people in poor areas, or sailing to where a disaster had occurred?  She was retired in ‘74, and not replaced. Why not?
We know these natural disasters will continue to happen, along with outbreaks of new disasters (Ebola, Zika, etc.) Why isn't the world prepared for them?
We have many ships in mothballs or dry docks that could be SS Hopes...only a lot more, and stationed around the world so no matter where a natural or man-made disaster threatened, they could get there quickly; with experienced disaster staffs, supplies that are needed quickly, and begin setting up the recovery efforts—calling in more aid when needed...all with experienced hands who can quickly evaluate the situation and let the world know what was needed, how much, how soon.
Let the UN or various regional organizations set up such ships, as well as ground forces—trained, and ready from past efforts to move when disaster strikes. Let contracts be made with all nations to co-ordinate these efforts with those of national relief agencies in each country so red tape can be cut ahead of time when the disaster strikes.
Surely the examples of the past few months strongly indicate the need for such an approach; as well as the fact that such pre-existing capabilities would be more efficient than recreating recovery efforts each disaster anew, with a lot of attendant waste.
Surely mankind can see, and establish, these permanent agencies for universal help, and soon.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 2, 2017

DON’T WE EVER LEARN, (part number AK 47)

Once again America is rocked by a tragedy caused by guns...innocent people dying needlessly.
The media must and will ask the NRA for comment, and, I suspect, we will be told again that “guns don’t cause deaths, people cause deaths,” and there is certainly preliminary evidence that another deranged person is responsible.
But this deranged person had 10 rifles with him, according to early reports. 10. All legally bought I’m sure. Probably all the AK-47 types that were once outlawed...until the “sunset provision” of that law expired and our chicken-livered Congress refused to extend it.
Look, folks, it takes, a finger to pull the trigger, and two, a trigger to pull.  It is much easier to legislate guns than to legislate intentions, especially of people with no police record, or incidence of mental health problems. (assuming the state where the mental health problem occurred even passed on that information to the appropriate agencies, which they often don’t.)
So to head off Las Vegas 2 (and Columbine 2, and Virginia Tech 2, and...) we need federal legislation. Bring back the ban on assault weapons, extra large magazines, end the gun show loop hole, improve mental health reporting...and several other practical items we can do, without violating the 2nd amendment—and which must be done now before Las Vegas 2, etc. etc. do they WILL.
Ask Congressman Andy Barr (and those who may run against him) and Senators Paul and McConnell how much longer they will kowtow to the NRA, while country music fans die because of their lack of backbone.  Ask them NOW.
A word or nine about the PBS Series on Viet Nam...(about which more at a later date.) I watched it all, learned some new things, learned the depth of Nixon’s law breaking and treasonous conduct...all the time seeing parallels between ‘Nam and what we continue to do in Afghanistan...our “longest war” (which like ’Nam was never declared by a Congress that failed to live up to its oath to support the Constitution.)
While the series was on, I came across this quote from Stephen Vincent Benet (author of John Brown’s Body and The Devil and Daniel Webster—both worth your reading).
Here it is...(you should have included it, Ken Burns)... "We thought because we had power, we had wisdom.”
I'm just sayin...