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August 20, 2016

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Quartz Posts Commentary On Saying “I’m Sorry’

August 20, 2016

This is just a nice read.

This has been a week for saying sorry. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized for being less than candid about being allegedly robbed in Rio. Donald Trump apologized, through gritted teeth, for sometimes saying “the wrong thing.” The Clinton Foundation apologized, sort-of, for receiving foreign donations from sometimes questionable sources. And the US State Department said, well, it wasn’t really a ransom, but, um, yes, we did withhold that $400 million for Iran until we got our hostages back.

But is public contrition a good sign? Not necessarily. As the Harvard Business Review noted in 2006, “leaders will publicly apologize if and when they calculate the costs of doing so to be lower than the costs of not doing so.” Japan’s famously elaborate corporate apologies are, as Bloomberg’s William Pesek wrote last year, “more about distraction than accountability,” a kabuki performance in which all those solemnly bowing executives “feign taking responsibility for crises, before returning to business as usual.”

So if there are more apologies, it’s probably not that people are being more honest about their failings, but simply that the cost of apologizing is going down. Tech startup mantras like “move fast and break things” or “fail fast, fail often” have permeated the broader culture. Failure is celebrated as a sign of strength. The cost of lying and being caught out or even publicly shamed is also plummeting, as both US presidential hopefuls and British Brexiteers have been learning to their delight.

This year happens to be the 40th anniversary of Elton John’s “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” In the public sphere, at least, it’s on the way to becoming the easiest.

Janet Guyon and Gideon Lichfield

Syrian Boy Is Proof Obama Administration’s Squishy Policy Is Wrong

August 19, 2016

syria-boy

The one area where I know President Obama was not as agile, resourceful, or demanding so to meet a crisis head-on was in Syria.  On this blog I called for a no-fly zone and placed myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of John McCain.  I strongly advocated for a strong military response to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Assad.

No one wants war, and Obama clearly did not want history to write that he started one.  But there comes a time in international affairs when there is no more room for debate, and a strong response has to be made.  There comes a time when history weighs down on our world leaders to not shy away from the actions that need to be employed.

Military responses are not the first step that should ever be taken to sway or move our opponents.  But the bloodshed and carnage that has been allowed to continue from the Assad regime clearly demonstrates they are not mindful of international opinion.  It is clear that a more determined way to make a point needs to be registered.

If I were advising the president I would state a full scale strike on the flying assets of Assad needs to happen.  The military means that the Assad regime uses to barrel bomb and murder their own civilians needs to be rendered useless.

Our nation has the means to effect change in Syria.

But we sit idly by and make polite diplomatic exchanges that has led us to the fifth year of a most nauseating war which has left hundreds of thousands dead.  The NATO allies seem impotent, the United Nations seems unwilling to engage Syria, and the United States looks to be sleeping.

As current readers know I am plowing my way through The Glory And The Dream by William Manchester.   I am now past WWII with the riveting narrative. While watching BBC news coverage of the Syrian child pictured above my mind kept asking would it have been wrong during the Holocaust to try to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz?  Would it not have been the correct thing to do to stop the atrocities?  The American public had a deep streak of isolationism but is it not true that a president is elected to lead and show why others must follow? I understand that our military had to mass produce so to be ready for the war that would eventually come, but did we not have a moral calling to act on the knowledge we had about extermination and do something?

I want leadership in the last months of the Obama presidency to make it known to the Syrian government that the time has come for an end to the slaughter of their citizens.

Get our military might to create deep craters in Syrian runways and obliterate their aircraft.  We need not send in land forces to make this happen.  But we can change the dynamics on the ground for the rebels and create safer days and nights for children like Omran Daqneesh.

NBC Losing Viewers In Droves During Olympic Coverage

August 19, 2016

I always enjoy knowing how the ratings are for major events that play out over television.   So you might expect me to be curious how the Olympics are faring for NBC.  I am rather stunned by the news this morning.   Overnights have been mixed since the start of the games but the degree to which they have fallen off is hard to fathom.   While I love the winter games every four years and watch hour after hour of coverage I have not watched anything other than the opening ceremonies from Rio.  Apparently many feel the way I do.  But for a nation that thrives on sports the lack of viewers is befuddling.

NBC’s prime-time broadcast Wednesday delivered 20.7 million total viewers. That’s a 14 percent decline from Tuesday night, a 21.5 percent decline from last Wednesday, a 29 percent decline from the same night during the London Olympics in 2012, and a 16 percent decline from the same night at the Beijing Games in 2008.

The Story Behind The Hitler In Disguise Photos

August 19, 2016

image

This is rather fascinating.

The full account is well worth a read.

The images obviously appeared in The New York Times in 1944. The National Archives and Record Administration confirmed via email that they credit to the images to the newspaper. According to official records, the OSS made a habit of accruing photographs of prominent people, often from commercial sources. The Senz series is stored in a box along with images of photographs of military and civilian figures from over seventy-five countries, including Josef Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.

It seems most likely that it was the New York Times that commissioned the images from one of the day’s foremost experts on faces. Since then, thanks to the internet and an insatiable hunger for World War II narratives, the story has taken on a Hollywood sheen; Senz is the glamorous makeup man called upon by the most secretive forces of the United States government to play a role in bringing a monster to justice.

How Donald Trump Skipped Out On A $30 Million Tax Debt

August 18, 2016

Score one more for The New York Times in alerting the nation to the news we need to know about Donald Trump.  I wanted to post this yesterday but events here did not allow me to get this up on my site.   The Village Voice has put the story in a must-read article–a portion of which I post here.

The New York Times has a scoop today about how presidential candidate and racist catcher’s mitt Donald Trump managed to virtually skip out on a massive $30 million tax debt. And it may have something to do with his longtime pal Chris Christie.

When Christie took office in 2010, Trump had been in a years-long battle with the state of New Jersey over taxes owed by his famous, and none too profitable, casinos in Atlantic City. For six years, authorities in the state “had doggedly pursued the matter,” even as the casinos filed for bankruptcy. Twice.

From the Times:

After the Trump casinos filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 for the third time, state officials noticed the company had not been filling out the required schedule for the minimum tax assessment. The Trump casinos had reported losing money and paid a little more than $600,000 in state income taxes in 2002, and only $1,500 in 2003. State auditors determined that the Trump casinos should have paid $8.8 million in alternative minimum taxes for those two years, according to court records.

But the state’s “dogged” fight became markedly less dogged when Christie came into office. The “tone” of the litigation began to shift, the Times says, and settlement offers started to come up. In the end, the state agreed to accept just $5 million to retire the $30 million debt.

Christie and Trump have known each other for over a decade. Trump appeared as a guest at Christie’s 2010 inauguration, and the men occasionally go on “double dates” — which is apparently a thing adults do — with their wives. Christie has become a reliable Trump surrogate on the campaign trail, even after a Republican primary campaign in which the governor repeatedly declared Trump unfit for the presidency. He’s never looked all that comfortable in the role, however, as evidenced by his now-infamous televised endorsement, during which Christie stood behind Trump with a facial expression that evoked a bad mushroom trip.

If Trump’s deeply discounted tax bill was the result of political connections, it wouldn’t be the first time The Donald had managed to secure preferential treatment by currying favor with people in power. When Trump University was facing a fraud investigation in Florida, then–attorney general Pam Bondi got a $25,000 donation from the developer, and the case promptly disappeared.

Sidewalk Poetry In Madison Comes Home

August 17, 2016

Today a poem was placed into fresh cement in the sidewalk in front of our home. In 2011 I started championing this project for Madison. I have also always recalled the words from Chris Rickert who found local poets being showcased this way to be a sound idea.

From the start I said this was a great way to lift the spirit of Madison, one step at a time. (Bad pun!) Placing poetry into the sidewalk is a grand way to show this city is unique and set apart due to the make-up of our residents, the diversity of our thoughts, and the loftier goals we seek to attain.

The cost for these poems around the city (and six new ones this week in the neighborhood where I live) is minimal. Once the street reconstruction project was announced, along with poems to be placed, James and I worked to make sure one was pressed into cement at our home.   We really wanted the poem about water to be here as the lake is most special.  I snapped some photos of the project being completed today. The poem faces Lake Monona as walkers read it. I have also included a photo of the poet. 

Wisconsin, like water

freezes hard, so thick you can

cross it in winter

every inch

cracking, cries in springsplintering

lakes don’t quiet change

their states

rises from every mouth, convergence

of neighbors’

mingled breath.

Wendy Vardaman

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