Posted by: SWL | September 10, 2014

Media Focuses on Wrong Aspect of Ray Rice Video

For two days I’ve been hearing news anchors debating whether the NFL Commissioner knew about the video of the Ravens’ Ray Rice shoving his then girlfriend (now his wife) against the wall of an elevator. (Actually, most of the anchors were convicting and condemning as if they knew every detail of the situation.)

Domestic violence is an issue that does not get enough attention. The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens did not treat this incident as seriously as they should have. But they were called out for that, have apologized and fired Rice.

That aspect of the incident is over and done. Anything else is a law enforcement matter and/or a problem for the Rices to work out, hopefully with professional counseling.

The media missed the point almost entirely. A question that should have been explored with experts is why Janay Rice married a man who treated her so poorly. But I guess that is a private matter between her and Ray. But general questions of why so many women stay with abusive men and often recant abuse accusations could have been debated. Discussions of these aspects of domestic violence would educate viewers, which is more helpful than speculating who knew what when.

Posted by: SWL | September 5, 2014

2014 NFL Season Opener: Packers-Seahawks

Flying the Packers' colorsThe NFL officially opened last night with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Seahawks in Seattle.

For some reason, I’ve had a difficult time building enthusiasm for football – college or pro – this year. Last year I rearranged my schedule to be sure I could see all the Forty-Niner and Packers preseason games. Last month I caught only 2 of the 5 broadcast in our area.

Of course, preseason is a bit boring. Most of the first-string plays only the first quarter, and generally plays cautiously to avoid injuries. During San Francisco’s first home game in their new Levi’s Stadium, I decided that QB Colin Kaepernick needs to stay healthy because I was not at all impressed with any of the 3 QB’s vying for the #2 spot. (On the other hand, Denver has some good potential back-up for Peyton Manning.)

Candlestick Park 2013

Candlestick Park 2013

Last year’s excitement may have been caused in part by anticipation of attending the season opener between San Francisco and Green Bay (my fave team and my
Candlestick farewell logo (2013)

Candlestick farewell logo (2013)

spouse’s) to say farewell to Candlestick Park. Between the cost and the distance, we’ve only attended 4 games in the last 15 years. Even with a monster headache that day, it was exciting to see last year’s game in person.

But there are positive things about watching the game at home. Last night it was great not having to fight the crowds to get back to my seat with a freshly made bratwurst!

The only disappointment of the evening was the final score! It wasn’t a big surprise – playing the reigning Super Bowl champions with most of the offensive line out with injuries is tough. Hopefully those guys are healthy very soon.

Thousands of children from Central American countries have poured over the US border this year – already about 20,000 more than in 2013. There are reports that many of these children have health problems, from head lice to worse. Cities near the border are protesting the Department of Homeland Security busing these illegal immigrant children to their areas.

So what is President Obama doing? So far, very little. Administration officials appeared on the Sunday news talk shows, but offered only vague answers.

The President will be going to Texas this week for a fundraising event, but will not visit any location on the border to see the situation for himself.

Democrats ridiculed President George W. Bush when he flew in Air Force One over the areas with damage from Hurricane Katrina. They insisted he needed to visit New Orleans in person.

How come no one is urging President Obama to see the conditions on the border with his own eyes?

This Independence Day, the US is fractured, deeply divided along political and social lines. Politicians, judges and special interest groups want to help (or cater to or placate) some citizens in ways that often infringe on or openly oppress the Constitutional rights of others. The only independence we see is the promotion of the idea that we can each be independent of any person or government entity having any control over our lives – which of course, is fiction. (The IRS, a boss, teachers/professors have control over portions of your life, just to name a few.) We have taken our cherished ideal of independence so far to the extreme that Americans are now having trouble living together.

Maybe it is time to look back at what the first Americans were fighting for, and what their concept of our new government looked like. There are many places where you can read quotes from our founding fathers*. Here are three that stood out to me as I read through many quotes today.

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
John Adams, US president

“To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness, which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government – and all the blessings which flow from them – must fall with them.”
Jedediah Morse, founding father

“I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”
Benjamin Franklin, founding father

Enjoy your Fourth of July activities! God bless the United States.

* Founding fathers’ quotes:

Posted by: SWL | June 25, 2014

Meriam Ibrahim Freed, But Back in Jail

The news a couple of days ago was that charges of adultery and apostasy from Islam against Meriam Ibrahim had been dropped after her lawyers appealed to the court in Sudan. (I am guessing that international pressure, more than the lawyers’ legal arguments, won her release.)

Reports today are that she and her family have been detained after allegedly trying to leave Sudan with invalid travel documents.

The US State Department apparently is now working to get her to the US legally. Hopefully this issue can be resolved quickly. Meriam’s husband, Daniel Wani, and their two children are US citizens.

If you have not yet contacted Congress, the White House or the State Department about this issue, click on the appropriate tab above and call or e-mail, asking them to use US diplomatic power to keep the pressure on the Sudanese government. Thank you to all my readers who have already supported Meriam with a phone call or e-mail.

We must stop passing along the lie that the religion of Islam is peaceful. There are many peaceful individual Muslims, but the practice of the religion by clerics and governments is violent and often deadly.

An ongoing incident is definitely the most outrageous in the past few years. Meriam Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother. Meriam says Christianity is the only religion she has known/practiced, although Sudanese law considers anyone born to a Muslim father to be a Muslim.

In 2011, Meriam married Daniel Wani, who is a Christian with duel Sudanese and American citizenship. (Daniel fled the civil war in southern Sudan when he was young, but later returned to the country.) They have several businesses south of Khartoum. They have a son, Martin. While Meriam was pregnant with their second child, she was put on trial for apostasy. Since Sudanese law does not recognize Christian marriages, Meriam’s marriage was annulled by the court and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery. She was told she had two weeks to renounce her Christian faith or be sentenced to death by hanging (after the lashings). When she refused, she was put into prison with her 20-month old son, who has become ill from the poor conditions. The death sentence will be carried out after she has weaned the baby, born at the end of May. The Sudanese state would take custody of the children, whom they consider Muslim; the law says Muslim children cannot be raised by a Christian man. (Daniel Wani has not been allowed to visit his family.)

Instead of helping an American (Daniel) to get his wife and children out of Sudan, the US State Department demanded DNA evidence to prove this is really a family!

Islamic Sharia law was made the law of Sudan in the 1980s, an act which renewed the rebellion in the southern part of the country which was mostly animistic or Christian. The southern region became an independent nation in 2011 through much international pressure.

Only occasionally have I written asking that you contact Congress concerning an issue, usually trusting your intelligence and conscience to guide you. But today I implore you to contact your members of Congress, asking them to direct the State Department to use US diplomatic power to “persuade” the Sudanese government to release Meriam Ibrahim (the wife and mother of American citizens) immediately. This is not theoretical or a potential problem – there is real danger that Meriam and her children could all die. Young Martin is ill. If Meriam dies from the lashings, her baby will die also. Even if she survives, she could be so injured that her body does not make the milk needed to nurse her baby.

Please communicate your concerns over this issue to your government; the White House can be contacted through the same website as Congress.

You can also sign an online petition here. Be advised that the site takes a long time to load.

Posted by: SWL | June 9, 2014

Miss Nevada is New Miss USA

Nia Sanchez, reigning Miss Nevada, was crowned the new Miss USA Sunday evening in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sanchez, from Las Vegas, is a fourth-degree black belt in tae-kwon-do. When asked about the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses, she spoke about the importance of women knowing how to protect themselves.

Sanchez will represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant later this year.

Posted by: SWL | June 6, 2014

70 Years Ago D-Day Changed Course of WWII

D-Day – June 6, 1944. In the early morning hours, an assault force of US and British troops crossed the English Channel. Leaders of these military forces had developed a high risk, and likely high casualty, plan to reclaim France for the Allies.

Looking toward Gold Beach

Looking toward Gold Beach

The beaches where the invasion forces would land were backed by bluffs. And atop the bluffs were German bunkers. Hours of Allied rocket fire had done little to lessen the potential for the Germans to defend their territory.

German bunker overlooking Omaha Beach

German command bunker

Adolph Hitler’s military leaders had been anticipating an Allied invasion farther to the east, where the English Channel was the narrowest. Although they were surprised on June 6, they still inflicted massive casualties on the first wave of Allied soldiers to come ashore. But the determination of the Allies, along with a bit of help from folks in the French countryside, made D-Day the turning point of World War II.

The French, and by extension most of western Europe, owe their freedom to the men who came ashore in Normandy. My daughter and son-in-law recently returned from a tour in Europe where they had about six hours to see as many of the D-Day sites as they could. They mentioned that in many of the villages along the coast, streets carry the names of military generals who directed the invasion. Time dims memories. As the French who experienced this piece of history pass away, I hope the next generation will understand what happened and be grateful.

Just as important, I hope that as the last of our WWII veterans pass on, Americans will continue to appreciate that we have had few attacks directly on American territory. Many people complain about the US providing military assistance to other nations. But as we help keep the peace overseas, it lessens the possibility that the enemies of our friends will become powerful enough to challenge us on US soil.

If you have the opportunity on this 70th anniversary of D-Day, express your thanks to a WWII vet.

General Motors announced more auto recalls today – after announcing others just yesterday. So far this year, GM has recalled over 15 million vehicles worldwide (about 14 million in the US) for various safety reasons. That is more vehicles than GM sold in 2013!

Yesterday’s recalls covered over a million vehicles with seat belt issues, another million with transmission shift cable defects, plus smaller numbers of vehicles with various problems. Today the company issued a recall for older model Chevy Aveos and Optras at risk of dashboard fires.

American taxpayers lost money when the federal government sold the GM stock it received for the bailout money invested in the company. Several people lost their lives when the ignition on Chevy Cobalts suddenly turned off, causing drivers to lose control of the car. It seems like America would have been better off if the government had not given GM a financial bailout. Apparently the federal funds were not used for safety engineering.

The strength of the American spirit was on display today during the Boston Marathon. The second-highest number of runners in Marathon history included some of those injured in last year’s bombing near the finish line and many who were unable to finish the race after the bombs exploded. City officials had vowed that incident would not stop the annual 26K race. Security was tight and no problems were reported.

For the first time in three decades, an American won the men’s race. On his race bib, Meb Keflezighi had written the names of the three people (Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard) killed by the bombs and MIT security officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the suspects during the manhunt.

News outlets reported last week that General Motors will ask their bankruptcy judge to disallow any lawsuits connected to crashes of defective cars occurring before the company exited bankruptcy protection.

In the bankruptcy deal overseen by the Obama administration auto task force, GM was shielded from liability for incidents occurring prior to exiting bankruptcy. But GM agreed to assume liability coming from incidents after bankruptcy, even if the vehicles were manufactured prior to bankruptcy. So if you were seriously injured in an accident because your Chevy Cobalt ignition switch unexpectedly turned the car off the week before GM entered bankruptcy, you cannot receive any compensation. If I have a similar accident tomorrow in a 2007 Cobalt, I have legal standing to sue GM. Fair?

There is evidence that GM officials knew about this ignition defect in Cobalts and Ions 10 years ago. Some legal experts say this negates the liability protection. If GM knowingly sold cars with parts that were likely to fail, there shouldn’t be any limits on consumers seeking compensation. Maybe the compensation won’t be as much as might have been awarded a decade ago, but the ability to file a lawsuit should not be terminated.

Financial bankruptcy can be solved, moral bankruptcy is more difficult to overcome.

This afternoon President Obama issued a statement concerning the political crisis in Ukraine.

Some background for those who may not have been following this situation:

Some months ago, the Ukrainian government announced it wanted to form closer ties to the Russian government, rather than the European Union. This sparked protests in the capitol of Kiev. For the last several weeks there have been violent clashes between government and protesters. Protesters prevailed with the Ukrainian president fleeing to Russia.

Over the past week, a new Ukrainian government of sorts has been formed, with the parliament passing a large number of new laws. Those in the eastern part of the country, the majority of whom are ethnically Russian, have questioned the legality of this new government without elections or a new constitution.

Today there are reports that well-armed soldiers have moved into the Crimean region of Ukraine. These military forces are believed to be Russian. Crimea is a peninsula in southern Ukraine that juts into the Black Sea, a strategic area with the Russian shore not far across the water. Ukraine and Russia have a bilateral agreement allowing the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet to maintain a base in Crimea.

So President Obama made a short statement, in which he said, “There will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Back in the Cold War days, or even through about the year 2000, that might have been enough warning to make Russian leaders hesitate. But the US warned the President of Syria to stop killing his citizens without any real consequences when he did not comply. Our President has danced around Afghanistan’s President Karzai concerning our military presence in his country. Mr. Obama’s election and re-election campaigns had strong components concerning ending/having ended the Iraq war. Clearly the US leader does not want to be involved in international conflicts. I do not think Russian President Vladimir Putin is worried.

Putin is an ex-Soviet KGB agent who has said the break-up of the USSR was the worst occurrence of the 20th century. He has engineered elections in Russia. After his first terms as president were over, his hand-picked successor was elected and Putin moved into another high-level office. When the new president finished his term, Putin was elected again. He has essentially been in power for 15 years.

Ukrainians have one of the lowest annual income rates in Europe. Putin likely wants to keep Ukraine dependent on Russia, and linked politically, to maintain a physical buffer between Europe and Russia. Putin is still thinking in the Soviet style; US diplomats and President Obama need to recognize that.

Even without Russian intervention, Ukraine would remain unsettled. It seems to be going through independence growing pains, just like the southeastern European countries freed from Soviet domination. Ukraine is just 25 years slower in reaching that point. In the former Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia) and Yugoslavia (now Macedonia, Serbia & Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Kosovo), the break-up into smaller political units was driven largely by different ethnic groups all wanting to control the government to control their destiny in the post-Soviet era. It was certainly understandable, although the fighting, lives lost and United Nations intervention in some areas should have/could have been avoided.

Hopefully, Ukraine will not need an outright civil war to solve its conflict. With the western area of the country wanting to align with Europe and the eastern region culturally tied to Russia, it will be a difficult task. In some ways it seems problematic for countries of the world to continue to break up into smaller and smaller nations because of ethnic/cultural differences. But if that can avoid armed conflict, it may be the best solution here. (The difficulty with all these small nations is that many do not have enough landmass to have the natural resources to take care of their people.)

Most conflict in the world comes from ethnic groups fighting over territory and power, or countries trying to annex the land of neighboring nations. It is interesting that the ethnic aspect has not really been an issue in North America (aside from some Latinos saying the southwest area of the US should be given to Mexico). I suppose that’s because all our ancestors, except the Native Americans (“First Nations” in Canada), came here from somewhere else. In the US, ethnic groups do organize politically seeking to gain advantages. (That’s o.k – that’s how our system works.) There are also many other groups organized around industry, causes or lifestyles that do the same. Many of these groups work with others when it is in their interests. Our democratic-republic form of government allows this way of working together without having to draw sharp lines between groups.

But US groups (whatever the basis for association) are becoming more selfish and demanding. If special interest groups become less inclusive, as the European and African ethnic groups are by biology, we may find ourselves with more conflicts in government. So far the US has been able to accommodate the rights of a large number of ethnic and special interest groups. But lawsuits demanding special consideration are tying up the federal courts. And the recent debate over Arizona legislation points out that we have reached a point where the rights of one group conflict with the rights of another. How we solve this dilemma will determine whether the US can continue to be a peaceful country or if we take many steps backwards and end up with periods of violence in various regions whenever some group does not like the actions of another group or the government.


Posted by: SWL | February 27, 2014

Ski Halfpipe Gold Medalist Returns Home to Reno

Olympic gold medalist David Wise returned to Reno today. Wise won the ski halfpipe event at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia last week. He was met at Reno-Tahoe International Airport by a large crowd which included Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. Sandoval declared that tomorrow would David Wise Day in Nevada.

(Sierra at Tahoe Resort in South Lake Tahoe will honor Olympic athletes from the area on March 15, including gold medalists Jamie Anderson and Maddie Bowman.)

Sochi Olympics logo

Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo and head of the world’s most powerful drug cartel, has been captured in Mexico. Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel has terrorized residents along the Mexican-US border for years. They are notorious for their brutal executions of anyone who does not obey their orders. Some people have been tortured and killed just so Guzman’s men could steal their vehicles.

Guzman was arrested once before, but was able to escape in 2001. So the US government wants him extradited here so he can be confined in a super-max prison until trial. But the Mexican government seems reluctant to do that.

Reports are that the cartel already has new leadership and continues smuggling drugs into the US.

Yesterday a television commentator said that if drugs were legalized there would not be cartels like Guzman’s. What a simplistic idea! Guzman is one of those people who are sometimes called “evil personified”. He does not act that way just because drugs are a source of income for him. Does this commentator think drug lords would just get legitimate jobs if drugs were legalized? There is evil in the world, some people are always trying to find ways to gain power, money and/or prestige, and seem to enjoy hurting others.

If drugs become legal, there are always other items that can bring big money on the black market. The world’s black market economy is not based just on items that are illegal. Scarce items or those that are hard to obtain because of government over-regulation are traded under the radar too. In the late 1970’s I lived in Arizona and lots of Americans were traveling into Mexico to obtain the then-popular drug laetrile, which is illegal in the US.

Guzman’s capture may bring a bit of relief for Mexicans along the border. But US Drug Enforcement cannot relax. The Sinaloa cartel is still at work.

Posted by: SWL | February 18, 2014

NBC Coverage of Sochi Olympics Disappointing

I am blessed to work from home, so for the most part, I have been able to arrange my schedule around television coverage of the Winter Olympics. Our small rural cable system does not carry NBC Sports Network, which has live coverage of most events, but that allows me to get some of my work done!

With the Olympics more than half over, I have to say that I am disappointed in NBC’s coverage of the events. We are able to see more coverage on the three NBC networks on our cable system than for previous Olympics, yet I feel like I am seeing less of the action. Some of that may be due to the half-a-day time difference between the US and Sochi, Russia. NBC has taken advantage of that to edit their coverage with surgical precision.

The evening broadcasts especially, are very choppy. For some events (figure skating, bobsleigh, halfpipe, freestyle), the only athletes featured are most (but not all) of the top finishers and any American athletes. On the other hand, the alpine skiing events receive a great deal of time, and athletes qualifying for the finals are shown.

I would understand if time was more limited. But NBC has the ability to broadcast as many hours of coverage as they want. Weekend coverage on their main network could begin at noon instead of 3 pm. And they could cut some of the non-competition stories. I enjoy hearing about the local culture, but virtually all the pieces have been about famous landmarks or institutions in Moscow or St. Petersburg, which are hundreds of miles from the Olympic venues. Tonight there was a story about the 80 cats living in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum! There have been very few minutes given to life around Sochi. I learned more about the widlife of the area from an Animal Planet show about the region’s Caucasus Mountains.

I like to watch everything except hockey. Considering that footage on all NBC networks except NBCSN is tape delayed, I find it frustrating that they show different sports on different networks at the same time. I have been passing up the fast-paced sports on NBC in the late afternoon for the precise, strategic curling matches on CNBC. Then I get my daily dose of speed during the evening broadcast. But I would prefer to watch everything.

Speaking of speed, what do you think of the new halfpipe skiing event? It looks a bit strange to see skis in the halfpipe instead of snowboards. I did not think the skiers would have as much mobility and flexibility as the snowboarders. That presumption was proven false with moves similar to those seen in the halfpipe snowboard event. The first Olympic gold medal for halfpipe skiing went to a Nevadan, David Wise of Reno.

Unfortunately, Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley (an hour from Reno) fell in the final runs of the Giant Slalom. And Nate Holland of Truckee, CA (half an hour from Reno) was not able to qualify for the finals in Snowboardcross. That’s a sport where you can’t take your eyes off the action for a second without missing something!

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