Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny. -- Daniel Webster

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Swirl of Events -- Revised

In my area, March is going out like a lamb, just like the old saying.  World events, however, continue swirling.  March brought with it not only unusually cold and active weather, but the worst threat to world peace since the supposed end of the "Cold War".

A full discussion of the Crimean crisis will have to elude this blog, at least for the time being.  There is simply too much to be said.

However, it can be said that the Obama administration veered from heated rhetoric to a surprising meek silence, all within the period of a couple of weeks.  Vladimir Putin has emerged looking stronger.  Pres. Obama has emerged as something of a paper tiger.

If the larger fall-out of the re-possession of Crimea by Russia will be something of an increased counter-force to the rampant, raging greed of Western corporatism, then at least that much good will have come from this event.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Toyota to Pay Huge "Fine" in Settlement with Justice Department

Toyota has reportedly agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department in which the giant auto-maker will pay $1.2 billion in penalties related to the alleged sudden acceleration defect in Toyota vehicles.

The question arises,What is the government doing to prevent such failures in vehicles in the future?  This large a penalty certainly sends a message.  Let's hope auto-makers are listening.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Un-sprung: Revised Post

Spring is coming in fits and starts to my part of the U.S.   Warmer weather is alternating with chilly weather. The ancients might say this augurs for a season of uncertainty, and I'm not sure this is incorrect.

The most serious concern relates to a newly-revived war of words between the West and Russia.  This most unfortunate and destabilizing altercation brings with it reminders of a world gripped by a never-ending cold war with its continuous threat of nuclear annihilation.  While the United States claims it is not considering sending troops to Ukraine, this promise apparently does not apply to the Baltic states as Vice-President Biden warned a few days ago.

It is not clear whether there might have been Western agents provocateurs in the recent Ukrainian up-rising.  A better term might be foreign infiltrators and inciters.  I am stretching the limits of literary freedom to even intimate such a thing, for I do not know.  However, it is my understanding that such operatives have been at work in other countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, in destabilizing activities.

So, one wants to be very careful while at the same time raising legitimate questions.  The questioner in this case is like the interlocutor at a trial, who, at his best, questions and goes on questioning until the truth is known.  Let us keep asking incisive questions and not stop until the truth truly is known.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Russia, U.S. Act Out of Fear

So much can be said about the current stand-off between the governments of Russia and the United States. One thing they have in common is fear.  To hear the rhetoric being batted back and forth one would think we were in 1983 again.

And a question which can be asked is:  Do we know for sure there were no agents provocateurs in the recent Ukrainian uprising?   The use of provocateurs has been seen in other places in the recent past.

With stakes so high we must be willing to ask the appropriate questions, the questions we should have learned to ask from past fiascoes such as Viet-Nam and Iraq.   

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Time for a New Lincoln Brigade?

The book A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White reads almost like a great adventure story, but certainly like a great epic novel -- only better.  Author White enumerates events and elucidates as he writes about the great President.

So much can be said about Abraham Lincoln, and in coming days I plan to share more of what I am reading. One of my major impressions is how clear-thinking Lincoln was.  This undoubtedly came from his innate good sense, but was also heavily encouraged by his avid reading of books, everything from the ancient Greek philosophers to the writers of the Enlightenment and beyond.

It is interesting to compare and contrast Lincoln to today's leaders.  It is not so much a comparison with Pres Obama in this regard, as with a large segment of Republicans as well as the entertainment portion of the media.  Wethus  have now two groups of very loud voices.

First the Republican right seems to speak with a megaphone about how atrocious "Obamacare" is, even as millions of Americans think enough of it to sign up despite major computer glitches.  These Republicans to be living once again in 2010 when a little-understood Affordable Health Care Act was passed and was easy game for critics.   And all this in spite of the fact that Obamacare, as it is called, is hardly more than a facilitation program for private insurers.  Where is the jobs program?  Where is there any meaningful investigation of the Wall Street fiascos of 2008, the results of which are still very much felt on Main Street?  I could go on.

The second very loud group, one with an electronic megaphone, is the media.  The media of today, excepting the Internet which is a story unto itself, is dominated by a few large media corporations whose primary interest is money, and not necessarily the common good.  Thus, we get endless stories of this or that celebrity in trouble, or this or that horrible tragedy, whether a weather "event," or some evil and violent deed.

Thus, it is almost impossible to have the mind of Lincoln, let alone a rational public discourse.  This is not to say that things were any more rational in Lincoln's day.  However, with such a President at the forefront of the government, it became possible to conclude a very difficult civil war.

Today's leaders seem unequal to the task, not necessarily through lack of trying, but from the opposition they face.  I plan to develop these ideas further in coming days.  You are invited to be part of the discussion.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Teachers Win Victories in Oregon

Quick Post --

Teachers in two Oregon towns have won major victories against the corporate education "reform" agenda.  More information can be found at the link below.

Teachers, along with nurses, are increasingly standing together against union-busting efforts and winning victories.  This bodes well for all workers.

It is time for every American to take a stand.  As the old union song asked, "Which side are you on?"  It is time for every American worker, indeed, every American to take a stand for labor justice!

Teachers Victorious in Oregon

Saturday, March 08, 2014

A paean to the new day --

An Hymn to the Morning
Attend my lays, ye ever honoured nine,
Assist my labors, and my strains refine;
In smoothest numbers pour the notes along
For bright Aurora now demands my song.
                        Aurora hail, and all the thousand dyes,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies;
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
              Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display
To shield your poet from the burning day;
         Calliope awake the sacred lyre,

         While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:

         The bow'rs, the gales,the variegated skies

         In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.

         See in the east th' illustrious king of day!

         His rising radiance drives the shades away --

         But oh! -- I feel his fervid beams too strong,

        And scarce begun, concludes th' abortive song.

                  -- Phillis Wheatley (1753?-1784)

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Musical Life

My musical life is continuing -- as a performer and an educator. Primarily, I am an educator. Recently, I was asked to begin teaching at a local Y.M.C.A. This was quite interesting to me, as I didn't know "the Y" had that much of an interest in music. But apparently, exercising one's fingers is just as important as exercising the rest of one's body! Private teaching is also a pleasure. As I reported here recently, I had the opportunity to play for a high school musical. This particular run featured the songs of George and Ira Gershwin. The rehearsal process was very trying to say the least. The performances, however went well. It was edifying to see high schoolers handle roles greatly beyond their years. I questioned somewhat the appropriateness of this, even though it is quite common in high schools. In other words, does playing roles of decadent adults contribute to one's understanding of solid morality? With this particular group of mature young people I think that will not be a problem. However, it may be less mature adults who weren't so well impacted.

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Bill Clinton Warns on Rising Nationalism

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