Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 400

 

Welcome to the 400th volume of Opinion in the Shorts (aka OITS). I published the first on November 25, 2008 – about 3 months after starting my little corner of the world. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve included a short self-perspective in each section.

Next milestone – Only 5 to go to post #2,200.

This section evolved into a potpourri of thoughts. Because it is more applicable and interest to wider readership, I moved this section so it can serve as a lighter opener.

The lengthy stretch of rain, storms, tornadoes, and record flooding in the central US has been devastating. For those who are able and willing to donate, I urge you to do so to the charity of your choice. Here’s a link to Charity Navigator a site rating organizations on performance, financial health, accountability, and transparency.

A few days ago, at least 18 tornadoes hit Ohio – the closest about 40 miles from me. Fortunately, the people we know in that area are OK, but others lost their homes or suffered repairable damage. FYI: Ohio typically averages 3 for the entire month of May.

After seeing images of a long line of people on the final ascent of Mount Everest, I said, “I don’t get it.”

Last week ended with a 3-day weekend for Memorial Day. The Sunday sermon by one of my pastors was one of the best I’ve ever heard about this holiday. For those interested (and having 18 minutes), click here.

I recently learned that my state (Ohio) is ranked #6 in most Bigfoot sightings. Stephen Colbert recently asked a very pertinent question – What is the plural of Bigfoot?

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This blog initially focused on sports and politics – so this section was an extension of the initial roots. For a long time, this section opened OITS.

Emphasizing improving the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was one of the reasons Democrats gained control of the House this past December. I’m still waiting, and failing to pass such a bill through the legit process (as opposed to force feeding) will work against Democrats in the 2020 election.

For the second time in a week, a House Republican blocked the passing of a disaster funding bill. One person having the ability to block a bill is one reason Congress has a low approval rating.

Bottom Line: Special Counsel Robert Mueller explained he was the fact finder, and Congress is the jury. In that light, while Democrats are foaming at the mouth aiming for political gain. Republicans are spineless, protectionists of their own kind. Then again, if the situation were reversed, the roles would be reversed. Members of both sides of the aisle march to their party-first mantra, followed by preserving their own seat. Contrary to popular opinion, “country” is no higher than third on their priority list.

Earlier this week the news reported President Trump contradicting the National Security Advisor. Hello – he not only frequently does this to his advisors and experts, he also frequently contradicts himself. No wonder he is “the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.” (Jon Voight) … but a great American orator responds

I just watched a report on CBS citing three studies/organizations supporting what I about to state.To those citing the current tornado activity as proof of climate change, to those condemning President Trump for ignoring climate change, and to those blaming Obama for everything & anything, current research shows there is currently no link between increased tornadic activity and climate change. That doesn’t mean the existence of an undiscovered link or the absence of any link. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (an “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change”), states in their opening sentence on their page about tornadoes and climate change: The link between tornadoes and climate change is currently unclear.

To lead you into this week’s satirical headlines, The Onion provides a history of robocalls.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

The Onion has had a place on this blog for a long time. Long-time readers probably remember The Onion’s Satire Bits – a midweek dose of satire that ran for 134 weeks. That’s where the combo challenge started.

Showerhead self-conscious about single jet that sprays sideways
Boss encourages employees to take short mental breakdowns for every hour of work
World populace actually fine with rich people dying on Mount Everest
Businessman mortified to discover he’s been wearing suit backwards all day
Lowe’s reveals new table saw with attached ice chest for storing cut-off fingers (Click for the image)
Struggling single mother seriously considering putting baby up for audition

(My Combo) Mortified boss struggling putting self-conscious rich people on table saw

Interesting Reads

I’m not sure when this section first appeared. However, early OITS editions occasionally contained linked articles. Over time, articles switched from politics and economics to a collection of wide-ranging topics.

Linking democracy and dissatisfaction
Descartes laws of nature and theology
Getting pandas from China
About Portuguese citizenship and Jews
Virgin birth by an anaconda
(Photos) Waterfalls in black-and-white
(Photos) A collection from a river and streams theme

To send you into the weekend, here’s another one from Bonnie Raitt (since many appreciated her appearance last week). In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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On a Book Review – Fascism: A Warning

I recall seeing former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on various talk shows promoting this book. Once I decided to use the public library during my stay in Alabama, this book was at the top of my list – especially after reading Prague Winter a few months earlier.

Fascism: A Warning was not available on my first trip to the library, so that’s when I read Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs. Not long thereafter, I reserved the book I wanted.

Published by Harper-Collins in 2018, Fascism: A Warning contains 254 pages within 17 chapters, plus acknowledgments, endnotes, bibliography, and an index.

Throughout the book, she shares her personal experiences with Fascism that started as a child during WWII in her native Czechoslovakia – a country for who her father served as a diplomat – a country with a proud democracy – a country later controlled by Nazis – a country that would become part of the Communist bloc – a country that would regain democracy as part of the Velvet Revolution in late 1989.

Her personal history involves being born in Czechoslovakia, living in Serbia, living in exile in England during WWII, returning to Czechoslovakia, and fleeing to the United States. Reading Prague Winter helped me understand life during the 1930s and 1940s – as well as the loss of family members in the Holocaust.

To introduce the topic (Fascism), Albright shares discussions with and thoughts by students in her classes at Georgetown University. Because of my past-life as a teacher, I know the importance of this by dealing with prior knowledge and misconceptions very early in the learning process. Her definition of a Fascist is the following:

Fascist: Someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, someone who is utterly unconcerned with the Rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.

After the introduction, the next four chapters center around Adolf Hitler (Germany) and Benito Mussolini (Italy) – their rise to power, their styles, their relationship, and their demise. General Francisco Franco (Spain) is embedded. If you recall this post past I did as a Final Jeopardy question (about Fascism), I based the list primarily on the first five chapters of this book.

The Chapters 6-14 focuses on past leaders as Joseph Stalin (USSR) and Slobodan Milosevic (former Yugoslavia); plus modern leaders as Hugo Chavez & Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) with past leaders Juan & Eva Peron (Argentina) and Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) are integrated into the chapter. Vladimir Putin (Russia), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and the three generations of Kims in North Korea (DPRK) have dedicated chapters. Jaroslav Kaczynski (Poland) is integrated in the chapter about Hungary.

While a separate chapter focuses on President Trump, different US Presidents (starting with FDR) appear throughout the book. Madeleine Albright is perfectly clear that she is not a fan of President Trump, his agenda, and his tactics. She continues to believe in the strong light of liberty and democracy along with having a strong faith in the United States. (For the record, President Trump has praised at least four of the leaders listed in the previous paragraph.)

Chapter 16 examines if Fascism could become dominant in the US. After all, aspects of US history have events paralleling Europe. For instance, a Nazi movement in the US existed in the 1930s and 1940s.

In Chapter 17 (the final chapter), Albright focuses on connecting the dots by looking at the present world through the lens of the past and her experiences as a diplomat and a human. She unquestionably sees the growth in modern-day Fascism as a threat to international peace.

This is the third book I’ve read by Madeleine Albright, and like the others, it’s an easy read and meant for the general public. As with her other books, the reader’s political view will impact her words and their conclusions. Bill Woodward co-authors all three books with Albright.

For me, this book has a scary side – but I also see a hope. Then again, humanity as a way of not learning from its mistakes. Thumbs up to Fascism: A Warning.

On a Beach Walk: No. 43 (Frontier)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I look at the water and see only water – yet only a small portion of a vast collection that makes our planet blue. In the distance is a line where the water meets the sky – the horizon – the place where the known meets the unknown – the horizon – the boundary separating dreams and reality.

At one time some stood on shores looking over the water and wondering what was beyond that line. Seeking beyond the horizon was the next frontier. In our own way, we still do that.

I look above at the clear blue sky and it is easy to think about what is beyond that blue window. Thinking about last night’s clear sky and plethora of lights causes anyone to think about the vast frontier we call space.

It is easy to imagine how some in humanity saw the stars as mere lights attached to a dome surrounding us.

The frontier of the open sea. The frontier of a new land. The frontier of the air. The frontier of the heavens above. The frontier of the water below the surface. The frontier of what we cannot see with the unaided eye. These were all regions of the unexplored – an uncharted territory – the unknown – a frontier.

The frontier – a line separating the explored and the unexplored. Frontier – a region leading to the next advancement in knowledge. Vaccines, medicines, electronics, robotics, microtechnologies, and so much more were part of a frontier at one time. Yet as knowledge increases, the frontier also expands like an infinite bloom.

Galileo changed accepted thinking of his day because he explored a frontier with the telescope. Today, the Hubble Telescope takes us far beyond what Galileo imagined. In that same time period microscopes started to take us into the world of the small. Now today, electron micrographs take us to the very small. Atomic force microscopes are capturing the view of atoms and molecules – all journeys into a distant frontier.

Those who explore frontiers are heroes. Some gain fame – others not. Think of the explorers who reached into the New World from the Old World. Think of wilderness explorers as Lewis and Clark going into the wilderness of the US western frontier. Think of astronauts going into the unknown of space. Think about all the scientists involved in the many increments leading to a new, important breakthrough to which only a few a credited. Think of all the people who stretch themselves beyond the boundaries into an unknown world.

Curiosity to explore in order to learn more in a new frontier is naturally human because we want to know more about ourselves and our place in the world. The urge to know is emotional because exploration is in our DNA. Yes – we want to know – and yes, personal growth is also a journey into a new personal frontier.

Frontier – that next advancement in knowledge comes from the abyss of uncharted territory. Frontier – that extreme limit of our understanding or achievement. Frontier – that region that is only marginally explored.

The many steps on this beach is my frontier because each day is different on this long stretch of sand. Each day is a different thought because the beach changes daily. Each day is a frontier for me because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Tidbits of a Conflict

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As part of the old Austria-Hungary (which lost WW1), Yugoslavia (“Land of the Southern Slavs”) formed in 1918 as a union of multiple republics. After WW2, Communism came to Yugoslavia. During his 30+ year resign, Josip Tito held the republics together. In the years following his death in 1980, the union began to crumble.

In 1984, the world learned about Sarajevo, the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics. From 1992 to 1996, a bombing siege destroyed many of the Olympic facilities. It was during this time, we watched the news to hear unfamiliar names and places.

Most of us probably knew little about names like Milan Martić and Slobodan Milošević and places as Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and more. Besides, we probably didn’t know enough to understand what happening.

The conflict in the mid-1990s is known by a variety of names – most depending on one’s perspective – The Croatian War of Independence, the Homeland War, the Greater-Serbian Aggression, the Patriotic War, the War in Croatia, the Conflict in Yugoslavia, and I’m confidence there are more.

A conflict involving Communism and democracy – centralization and decentralization – nationalism and ethnicity – Christians and Muslims – the battle for power and control.

A five-year battle involving over 20,000 killed from battle and genocide, 500,000 refugees, 200,000 displacements, 180,000 housing units destroyed, severely damaged infrastructure, and a crippled economy.

The tour took a side-trip into a small town that where we could see some physical effects remaining today – bombed buildings (some being restored, others not). Houses with numerous bullet holes while their neighbors were bullet free. A small park with military equipment.

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From what we’ve seen and heard from others Croatia is a beautiful country and a wonderful place to visit. Yet, our relatively recent memory reminds us of a time that wasn’t that long ago.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 399

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I did not see the rollover, but my little corner of the world reached reached 400,000 views late Sunday night/early Monday morning … and the next OITS is #400! Thanks to all!

Before I start posting about the recent cruise, my notes suggest I still have a three tidbit posts left about Eastern Europe – so there will be a post this Saturday.

I’ve been a St. Louis Blues (hockey) fan since their first season (1967-68). Needless to say, I’m thrilled that they made the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the 1969-1970 season. Go Blues!

Last week I mentioned the latest seasonal ice cream flavor from Graeter’s: Malted Pretzel Ball. Here’s the scoop. (Response) It is an ice cream with malted milk balls within it. My one scoop had about 5 balls. Each ball was crunchy with a hint of pretzel. The ice cream itself was very creamy – typically Graeter’s – but the flavor was very basic and not malty. It was good and I’m glad I tried it – but on my next trip to Graeter’s, I will be having something else.

Although John Dickerson and Norah O’Donnell have moved on to different assignments within the network and a new morning team is in place, I still prefer CBS This Morning as my morning news show. I enjoyed the tributes the show did for each of them. I’ve linked the video to each name: John and Norah.

For the record, I did not watch the Game of Thrones finale. Then again, I haven’t the first or any episode.

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For a person who claims to be the most transparent administration in US history and that he has nothing to hide, so Mr. President – Why do you prevent the release of information and block people from testifying?

Given the craziness in current politics, I yield to a great American orator who provides a simple, perfect explanation. Click here for a short explanation if and only if you are curious.

To lead you into this week’s satirical headlines, The Onion explains the top reasons to consider a road-trip for your next family vacation.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Biologists capture rare photo of two mutually beneficial species exchanging business cards
Breaking News: You still have to go to work in Heaven
Random uncle’s wife crying a bunch throughout Grandma’s funeral
Horrified authorities discover one-day-old funnel cake abandoned in dumpster
Bugs Bunny explains how LeBron helped him get sober for role in Space Jam sequel
Excited archeologists hit mass grave jackpot

(My Combo) Excited Bugs Bunny explains how Heaven works to crying LeBron abandoned in dumpster

Interesting Reads

Social media and political discourse
Bridging the religious-secular divide
Therapeutics and Cannabis
Same-sex marriage across the world
Palestinian cuisine
Murals and the Sudanese revolution
(Photos) World Beard and Moustache Championships

To send you into the weekend, here’s the great Bonnie Raitt. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On a Book Review: The Mighty and The Almighty

One afternoon while in Alabama, we went to the public library. I knew the book I wanted wasn’t available, so I browsed. When I saw this one, I knew this was for me – The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs by Madeleine Albright.

This book by the former US Secretary of State focuses on the success and failures of US foreign policy in the Middle East after the horrific events of 9-11 – but with a definite eye on religion. We know presidents intertwine politics, religion, and policy, but what about if they proclaim a special relationship with God that is derived from God? What are the religious forces acting on the political?

The Middle East is the home to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Three faiths descending from the same genealogical tree – three faiths claiming the importance of obedience – three faiths with a religious fundamentalism driving the narrative while not representing the majority in that faith.

Published by Harper-Collins in 2006, The Mighty and the Almighty divides its 352 pages into three sections (plus endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index):

  • Part I (seven chapters) examines “America’s position in the world and the role played by religion and morality in shaping US foreign policy.”
  • Part II (ten chapters) focuses “On relationships between Islamic communities and the West” with dedicated chapters on Iraq, Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Jihads, Israel & Palestine, and more.
  • Part III (two chapters) are “Personal thoughts about how US foreign policy and religion can intersect.”

Two particular chapters caught my attention because they can stand alone as important reading for anyone. Chapter 4 focuses on Madeleine Albright’s personal belief system. It’s very personal, edgy, and sprinkled with quotes from leading authorities supporting her point. There were times I even laughed. One doesn’t have to agree with her on every aspect, but this chapter helps readers understand her.

The second, Chapter 8, should be required reading for every non-Muslim because it provides a condensed view of Islam – a religion that most people know very little about, therefore hold many misconceptions that reside at the core of decisiveness.

The 2006 publishing date was during the George W Bush presidency, The Mighty and the Almighty offers readers a chance to look back at the early years of the post 9-11 world through the lens of what we know today. Throughout the text, Albright offers personal insights from a diplomatic perspective, as well as supportive quotes by prominent people.

There are times when she is critical of the Bush administration – so I’m confident this bothers certain partisan readers who also won’t notice the times when she praises President Bush. Christian conservatives won’t like this book because it does not reinforce their worldview and Middle East perspective.

While well-written, absorbing, and easy to read, The Mighty and the Almighty is insightful about the complexities of foreign policy. After all, foreign policy diplomats have a toolbox of available tools to use such as diplomacy, economic incentives or sanctions, law enforcement, military action or support, and using intelligence to gain more information about the situation.

Anyone looking for excruciating detail will be disappointed because Albright wrote this book for the general public – not experienced, well-informed diplomats. How much detail can a 14-15 page chapter about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deliver? However, for most of us, there is enough information woven together that explains the situation’s complexity.

Perhaps her dedication says it all: “Dedicated to those in every nation and faith who defend liberty, build peace, dispel ignorance, fight poverty, and seek justice.”

To Madeleine Albright and her book – Thumbs up to The Mighty and the Almighty.

On a Beach Walk: No. 42 (After the Storm)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The past few days have been warm, but the strong winds and threat of rain kept my feet off the sand, therefore moving my walks to the treadmill, the city trails, or even the back of the building.

The storm front passed bringing a cold morning with gloomy skies. By noon, the sun accompanied a blue sky and a normal breeze – so the sands called me to walk.

Ahhhh … I missed my feet being here.

I go to the west without knowing my final destination – but it is into the wind. The air is still brisk, so I’m dressed accordingly. I laugh when a gentleman passes by because we are both in shorts – but he is shirtless while I feel comfortable with three layers and a hat.

More debris is present on the beach today. Not only brought ashore by the turbulent water, but the dredging project at the nearby channel exacerbates the litter. I watch for shiny metallic bits to avoid.

The sand is extra smooth from the winds and the roaring waves of recent days. The sand at the waterline is how I like it – firm and with minimal slope.

The firmness makes walking easier as more energy transforms into forward motion. There’s no forced lifting from sinking into the muck.

The relative flatness allows the water to glide ashore, then gently wash over my feet, then back to the sea. The slow retreat allows time for the sandpipers and sanderlings to forage for food in the freshly washed sand.

The sea foam slowly returns to the water as it adheres to the shore as legs of a full-bodied wine clinging to the inner sides of an oenophile’s glass.

Human presence on the beach today is sparse. Besides shirtless guy, I see only four fishermen on my trek and a handful of others. Turns out this is my first walk of the year to the point with the and the channel – about 2 miles (3.2 km) before turning for the return trip.

Although the morning conditions limited me to the fitness room, I still smile. My hands are cool – but not cold. I clothed with the shorts, three layers and a hat. What a beautiful day to return to the beach and my walking routine.

After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.