Sunday, August 22, 2010

A debate mislabeled

The debate over the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City is not over religious freedom in my opinion. It’s more simply about Islamic proponents planning a poke in the eye of America. Right after the 9/11 attacks, then President Bush went out of his way to emphasize that our fight wasn’t with Islam, it was against those terrorist groups who hated America and wished to destroy our country. President Bush included Islamic clerics in the memorial service planned for that attack. His continued statements supported the concept that we were not fighting Islam but instead those who waged terror against us and those nation groups which supported those terrorists.

Even at the end of his administration, Bush continued to emphasize that Islam was not our enemy.

As President Obama begin his term of office, he too continued the same theme that President Bush had begun. At times, there have been statements coming out of the Obama Administration that seemed quite strange to many, such as the statement that NASA’s primary mission was outreach to Muslims. Yet, that too was generally somewhat dismissed as so much, relatively harmless, administration rhetoric.

Yet, now the planned mosque to be built where the old Burlington Coat Factory building sits is controversial. Debris from the 9/11 attacks fell upon the roof of that 13-story Burlington Coat Factory Building, a collateral physical victim, so to speak, of those devastating terror attacks. We lost almost 2,900 Americans in the attacks on New York, the Pentagon, and Flight 93, so yes, there is a sensitivity to raising what some find to be that strange poke in America’s eye, especially as an Islamic outreach effort.

The Pentagon has provided a Muslim prayer room where the Pentagon was attacked by Flight 77. This is a low key effort to provide some comfort to Muslims working in the Pentagon and because our government, in effect, provided this space, and did it quietly, little or no cry has been raised about this prayer room. Would it be more appropriate to say this is a Muslim Chapel?

Flight 93 was downed near Sharpsville, PA, and there’s a memorial planned for the impact where that civilian airliner was crashed. Of course, there too is something related to Islam planned for that memorial. Part of the landscaped memorial is in the apparent shape of an Islamic Crescent. There’s been periodic outcries against having that crescent laid out in the memorial yet that plan seems to go forward.

I personally have not heard any major commentator, except those in the main stream media, mention objections per se to building a mosque in New York, which already has many such Islamic places of worship. Building a mosque where the Burlington Coat Factory stands is more, in my opinion, a strong statement that some proponents of Islam feel they are at war with America’s culture. Speaker Pelosi is raising the temperature over this Ground Zero Mosque by demanding an investigation into those funding the objections to the mosque; she then changed her stance by demanding an investigation into the mosque funding; perhaps she’s starting to do a “flip-flop” of her very own on this topic.

President Obama, of course, weighed in to say that the mosque should be built, then weighing in to say he wouldn’t comment on that topic; too late, sir. But, President Obama seems more than willing to weigh in against what he’s termed the bitter clingers, holding onto to their firearm and Christian religion. Well, what is Imam Rauf doing but holding onto his religion with all his might, and State Department Funding for his mission of outreach to those of the Islamic faith, as he goes forward with his mosque building plans near Ground Zero.

Would Imam Rauf support a plan to build a church, or synagogue, in Saudi Arabia, in Medina or Mecca? He might say that’s different because the Kingdom holds the two Muslim holy cities and that no infidel is allowed in those two holy cities. He probably would say, also, that even planning such a venture is an insult against Islam; I’d give him that. Yet I’m also certain that Imam Rauf would declare that his planned NYC mosque is an effort of outreach to Americans. I don’t understand how that could be, but his words as to his intent, and they are his words, are what they are.

Let Imam Rauf build his mosque anywhere else but on or near Ground zero and the controversy will go away.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Communications and how it’s not happening!

I follow several cable news programs and pay attention to news broadcasts quite a bit. One point that truly brothers me is how inept many TV personalities are when it comes to interviewing people. I was watching a fascinating forum show tonight about the recently enacted federal health care legislation and listened as the host asked leading questions, one after another. Leading questions can be useful if you’re trying to get the responder to answer in a certain direction, but which is not desirable in my opinion.

Another frustrating characteristic of some hosts is to expound greatly about his, or her, opinion and then at long last ask a guest what his opinion is. The shows I’ve seen on cable news networks usually have a profoundly obvious political position or position on the topic at hand. We know their views well.

I was a systems analyst for many years and know well that listening is rated as being 90% of good communications. That meant for me to do my job and discover what my clients needs, I had to listen to them and try and draw out as much information as possible. Most times, there had to be several such sessions with an individual before my thoughts about the needs and requirements were fully understood. That included feedback sessions where I would try and express my understandings and determine where corrections or changes were needed.

Well, that approach, the systems analyst method, wouldn’t work for the typical time-constrained show. Yet, the concept of listening is very applicable. Too often, a host will ramble on about his views and then leave the last little bit of an interview segment for the guest to respond. O’Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, and Brewer are just some hosts who demonstrate that propensity of gabbiness rather than listening to the guest.

What my frustration is that many times the guests have something of value that we, the viewers, might want to hear. But, that something is lost for that moment and might be discovered down the road. Yet sometimes never does come for everything.

The age we live in now is exciting and perhaps even interesting (That old Chinese curse then again!) with the wealth of information available to us. The internet has opened up vast amount of information and raw data, sometimes too vast for many of us. The 24-hour news cable channels also have tended to bombard us with tons of same information, data, opinion, burying us potentially. So, it might come down to knowing what is information, what is opinion, and what is propaganda?

Still, there’s one saving grace and that is the internet itself. While an Olbermann or an O’Reilly might hold down the balance on one side or another, regarding an issue, the internet acts as a counterbalance, lending transparency, exposing propaganda attempts. A recent example was the famed Shirley Sherrod episode, where a fuller accounting of what in fact occurred was made possible via the internet’s many differing outlets.

Still, good interviewing techniques will facilitate better communications and improve our understanding of complex current events. With the federal government seeming wanting to improve its direction of our lives, we need all the help we can get. And, listening remains 90% of communications. So, O’Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, and Brewer, as just some examples, need to listen up and improve their otherwise miserable score in the communications race.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What a mess we’re in?

Really! We’re in a mess? Really! Well, yes and no. I saw a headline on Drudge that indicated the Obama Administration might direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to write off the foreclosed mortgages on their books. I don’t know what that’ll do to our economy but most likely nothing good. Still, that does mean that each of us with a mortgage above water, or without that kind of financial encumbrance, will be paying off someone else’s mortgage; you’re welcome sir.

My neighbor is an over the road trucker, a so-called independent owner operator, and he notices a slacking of business. Of course, to him everything in these United States moves by truck at some point and I can’t disagree too strongly with that. What he says is that truck loads that used to be contracted aren’t right now. For example, the farmer who used to have sawdust hauled to his dairy farm, the wood chips that used to be loaded in Northern Minnesota and hauled down to a landscape supplier, the load of recycled materials that no longer seem to be as common as before. But he still keeps on trucking just not as busy as he used to be. Plus many of his friends also aren’t as busy that they’d like to be. Even with that business slacking, some other drivers refuse to haul a load unless they get “full price” for a load; the dollars per mile for a load.

Some of my other neighbors and friends are not working much at all. Two of them do air-conditioning and furnace installations or repairs. Another person installs and repairs tile and countertops. Another is a plumber. They all say that they’ve been stung by customers being slow to pay, or refuse to pay, for repairs. So, many of them have gone to demanding customers pay by credit card, entered up front. These folks would work hard to complete a job and will work hard to make sure their work meets high standards. Yet, many of their own customers are doing poorly themselves thus the sometime problem of customer payment.

On the other hand, Fannie and Freddie might decide to shell out large globs of money to write off large numbers of foreclosed mortgages. I guess the Obama Administration feels that move by Fannie and Freddie will rejuvenate the economy; nice if true. We also hear news that the July unemployment numbers have gone up, we heard more radio and TV PSAs about how to turn our “huge” loan amounts down to zero. We hear about how our first family is enjoying a well deserved vacation over in Spain and wonder why not spend that money in the Gulf Coast region, still suffering from the aftermath of the BP oil spill; Ok, spending that money in this country would be mostly symbolic, but that’s worth something!

Lastly, we hear how all these many issues are all the fault of “The Bushes,” those of the recent dark and painful past. Then, I recall our national history, how it took about 5-years to go from the Boston Massacre to Lexington and Concord, how it took about 3-years to go from the Boston Tea Party to those same two flash points in our struggles against Britain’s Parliament. So, our new Tea Party only dates from April, 2009, and might that suggest either we need to accelerate whatever comes next or that we shouldn’t be too impatient while waiting for that momentous coming event. Personally, I’m hoping that event is nothing more than a good election, with the will of the people being openly and honestly expressed, and more importantly, without chad drama or a drawn out contest; fair contests, won fairly. Well, one can hope maybe this time that’ll happen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Elections this coming fall.

November 2, 2010, could be a bellwether election, one where we really do throw out those incumbent “Bastards!” Of course, most of the time when “we” say incumbent, we’re really saying those nasty Democrat Party proles; at least, that’s what I mean. There was a time, not too many years ago when I counted myself as a Democrat, a so-called Blue Dog given today’s terminology, but in fact always a civil libertarian and prided myself on voting for the man, not the party. Then a strange thing happened and it became more important, in my view, to vote for the party not the man, depending on who that man was.

Today’s Democrat Party is not the one I used to feel represented my view better than those nasty Republicans, those strange people who liked Nixon. But that’s another matter altogether. Thing is that today’s Republicans seem to have gotten over their “Compassionate Conservative” nonsense somewhat and seem to understand that fiscal conservative views are in the best interests of our country. This does not even address social conservative issues and it turns out I’m pretty much a rock-ribbed conservative on that issue too.

Still, voting for a Republican does not ensure that you’re voting in fact for a fiscal conservative, simply improves those odds quite a bit that you have. My sympathies are with the Tea Party movement, they’re expressed desire to reduce government spending and to do away with much of the collective socialist legislation enacted under our current president; my own views and that’s all I can ever express; really hated to used the word “collective” here but it fit the statement well. But will those Tea Party folks actually affect the Republican Party? Time will tell and I do hope they will.

Yet, what will happen between now and November 2nd this fall? Will there be a national emergency, one that requires swift and strong immediate federal actions? We will voters recognize then the need to maintain our current elected Congressional members in office? Or, will we get that chance? Still, that’s my contribution to whatever conspiracy theories float out there in the internet or gossip.

It comes down to my view that President Obama does not recognize, nor appreciate, what America stands for. Our president has got the words down yet listen to what he says when speaking to a foreign audience; his apologies for our country, his lack of acknowledging the good this country has done in the past 100-years, his seemingly misstatements about what his country represents. So, no, in my view President Obama does not represent anything more than a person who wishes to consolidate power to himself. He speaks about “his” secretary of state, “his” attorney general, his homeland security secretary; these are not “his” officers, they are officers of this country, never “his” in the sense I think he’s using.

So, that’s one small reason why I fear a national emergency this fall because I believe President Obama will do what some might do in his position and that’s to seize total power over this country. That would be one way President Obama would realize his goal of establishing his view of what this country should be; forget about all those old Constitutional “negative” rights; he thinks only about what rights his administration can enforce.

Immigration perhaps?

Senator Grassley of Iowa was given a leaked copy of a draft memo on how the Obama Administration could go about circumventing Congress on amnesty for illegal immigrations. My bet is that the disclosure of this leaked document will raise a minor tempest but nothing too major, perhaps.

However, President Obama has said on a number of occasions that he will not address border security, a current hot button for states like Arizona, until comprehensive immigration laws have been enacted. This approach was done in the Reagan years and it came a cropper. The result was that the estimated 3 to 4-million illegals then present in the USA grew to the current estimate of over 12-million illegals; however some say it could be as high as perhaps 20-million now here illegally.

So, the apparent desire of the Obama Administration for amnesty seems to be the president’s goal. But what do we ordinary citizens think of that goal? Are we for or against immigration or is that even the question?

My personal guess is that instead many Americans want our nation’s border secured against illegal entry before the topic of immigration amnesty is raised. However, others may well disagree, so be it.

Yet, the point Senator Grassley raised is pertinent on whether the Obama Administration should bypass Congress on that issue, perhaps also whether that would be legal in and of itself or Constitutional even.

One topic I’ve not heard discussed regarding the Administration’s desires includes the president’s pardon powers. While I’m not a lawyer, and have never played one on TV, radio, or the stage, my bet is that a president can pardon anyone for any reason relating to federal laws or crimes. And, if a quid-pro-quo was present relating to that pardon, that in and of itself might be considered by some to be a crime; hire a lawyer and ask that question.

Yes, an outcry could happen if the American public doesn’t really like or appreciate a particular pardon. But, the pardon power in the instance of illegal immigration, used on a blanket basis could have the effect of really rocking the public boat and making life in these United States very rocky. I can’t see the most people accepting an act like that and hope it never comes to that. But, I have little respect for President Obama’s understanding of American hopes, dreams, and desires based on his track record since January 20, 2009. Our president seems to feel he knows best and can act whatever he wishes. Certainly having both houses of Congress willing to enact his political agenda, contrary to what many citizens want, especially in regard to federal spending, has allowed President Obama to affect a public swagger that seems unwarranted. At least recent public polling seems to indicate that our president’s popularity has greatly diminished recently.

It seems we really are experiencing that mythical Chinese curse of living in interesting times. Way too interesting for me. So, will our coming fall elections be held as scheduled or not? The answer might be: It depends!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More rants with some few raves!

Now must be the summer of our discontent. It’s somewhat hot here in the great north land of Southern Minnesota along with a sprinkling of foul bugs, horseflies, mosquitoes, and other such creatures. Even the blogosphere seems to have a slowdown. Instapundit has few daily posts, for him that is, Althouse is searching in the hinterlands for subjects for her blog postings, Google news page is bland, and Drudge doesn’t seem to have content changes very quickly right now.

And, lastly, Minnesota Congressional District 2 election news is pretty pathetic and sparse. There are two Democrat party contenders trying to run against Representative Kline, who’s very popular here for several reasons. Yet, Kline is an incumbent and all such stand a danger of being kicked out; alas, even the good ones run that risk and Kline is a good one (My personal opinion, so there!).

One issue that concerns me very much is that the GOP could fall flat on its collective face this fall unless it really convinces voters of the need to change the makeup of both houses of Congress. Minnesota is spared a contest for the senate this year, mores’ the pity. Paul Ryan, a good Wisconsin representative, developed what he calls the “A Roadmap for America’s Future.” Ryan’s effort could become the basis for the 2010 version of Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America. Yet Ryan’s effort seems not to be gaining momentum with other Republicans. My guess, unfounded but still perhaps a great hope, is that Ryan would be more than willing to work with other Republicans and put out a dynamic contract with the voters, outlining how the Republicans want to replace President Obama’s “Hope and Change” slop with positive efforts to boost America’s economy back to a healthy place.

So, again in my very humble opinion, unless the Republicans get on the ball and work together and especially with groups like the Tea Party, or better yet to listen to that group of concerned citizens, we could be stuck with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid; not a desirable outcome indeed. So, does the GOP pull defeat from the face of victory or does it stand tall and listen to the voters, We The People. We want America to stand up, defend itself, defend the rights of all regardless of race, creed, or degree of wealth, and to encourage that great American spirit to get moving and revitalize our economy. Where to start? That’s one of the questions!

Lastly, in my opinion, Congress and the federal government need to stop trying to run and control our lives; look at how unsuccessful it was with regard to the BP oil spill and how much it caused the spill to happen (The Coast Guard failed greatly during the initial days of the oil rig fire and then destruction of the rig itself.) and failed to follow the government’s own guidelines on the spill cleanup. We want the federal government o run our lives, to manage our healthcare, to control our many public corporations? Well, do we?