Monday, January 31, 2011

An elequent plea to finish our job in Afghanistan

Many of those reading this blog will disagree and want us out of Afghanistan ASAP,  but this eloquent plea and the link to the column is very worthy of  your consideration.  James Frasche has his own backgrounder and page on The Muftic Forum website ( . His 30 years of a love affair with the people of Afghanistan and his "hands on" experiences put him is a unique position to write from this perspective. He has emailed a summary of the column he wrote with  a link to the Vail Daily on January 30, 2011
"I thought you would be interested in my latest column, in the Vail Colorado Daily, on Afghanistan:

We are at a critical juncture in our commitment to the Afghan people, and it is important to focus on the "good news", which generally goes unreported:
- the Afghan people's opinion that their country is moving in a positive direction has trended upwards for the last three straight years. 
- 85% of the violence is confined to four provinces.
- foreign investment, building and construction, school enrollment... so many of the indicators we have been working, waiting,and working for are consistent;y trending up.

For those of you serving our country, thank you! For the rest of us, please stay committed to America's efforts to bring Afghanistan fully back into the world community of nations."


Friday, January 28, 2011

Watching the events unfold in Egypt and Tunisia

As one expert said the other day on a network news show, revolutions are organic. There is not much once one gets going outsiders can do about it but they happen ... was the inference.  We are now watching two unfold this past week. One of the demonstrators in Tunisia was asked what he wanted: he virtually recited the first ten amendments of our US Constitution. We can only hope they get the freedoms they seek and not some Islamist group inflicting another kind of suppressive regime on them. Godspeed brave demonstrators.

Monday, January 24, 2011

If not flamethrowing cable TV shows, what are the alternatives?

I have been asked which cable shows I am shunning. Instead, let me give some of my guidelines I plan to use, and have been using .
We should not tolerate those who use analogies of violence to attack a persons’ positions on issues or  who attribute motivations for political dispositions based on passing and  limited associations. Conspiracy theories  need substantive proof of both what happened and what did not happen. Angry expressions of fear and loathing need to be tempered; passions can be expressed in other ways. The English language is rich; analogies do not need to be expressed in terms of violence and comparison with hated historical figures or practices.
I can tell you what shows I have been shifting to when I find the cable conversation to be offensive:
 CNN and Sunday morning programs hosted by Candy Crowley and Fareed Zakaria;I am a fan of Anderson Cooper
I have also  (as always) listened to Sunday AM network news shows…all of them I can get to before church or Sunday activities turn my attention elsewhere.
Network news: all of them; I am not loyal to anyone in particular. 
Always long time favorites and loyal fan:
PBS Evening News and Friday night public affairs  lineups.
 Where I find my comfort zone on MSNBC:  Morning Joe (MSNBC); alternatives if MSNBC is not in range: Network morning shows. Joe Scarborough’s Morning Joe is particularly valued for its guests of varied political perspectives and ideology delivered in a pleasant, conversational tone. I get up early daily for that one.
For tickling my liberal funnybone in dulcet tones: Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews
Do I listen to FOX? Yes, particularly on weekends though FOX is sometimes tapped on weekdays, too.
Radio:  I am rarely in range of NPR unless I am driving to Denver, but I do take seriously their sometimes different perspective.. 
Printed and web matter: AP News and other wire service  reports delivered by Yahoo; on line with the Denver Post, New York Times;  Bloomberg Business Week News; Time Magazine, Washington Post,  and if time or if my investment banker son emails me  attention to a story, the Wall Street Journal. Blessed be my Amazon Kindle Fire; it saves a lot of trees.   I could not write without GOOGLE SEARCH or Wikipedia. least to get the spelling and dates right and to be able to tap onto the variety of opinions and perspectives on an issue or the actual words used by an original source.  I do not need to be at every DC press conference; the text is usually on line somewhere. 
Always the Sky Hi Daily News on line.
The on line preference is due to the fact that we are often traveling; I have just gotten into the habit and do it when at home, too.  For those who do not know where I live:I am an hour and a half from a major city, high in the Rockies with limited radio reception. Comcast, internet, and Amazon keep me supplied with material. Except for radio, I do not feel isolated.
I read books: Selectively and less frequently, because what I write is so tuned to weekly events. For background: I seek those non fiction written  ones who are in a position to know what really happened, either because they were a participant or a reporter with close hand access. Auto-biographies and biographies  are taken with a grain of salt and their perspectives are fed into a pot of other information. Fiction: historical and spy novels; great histories of past periods, especially  the Revolutionary War and the founding of our nation. I have recently read  biographies of Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin and Lincoln or books about their times, such as “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Fiction: Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” is a recommended recent read; another: “Ironfire”, by David  Ball…an amazing saga of Malta and the entire Eastern Mediterranean 400-500 years ago.  Favorite books: “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks..a sweeping fictional history of the covering the  same era to the current Balkan conflicts…from perspectives of Jews, Muslims and Christians.  This is the story of  both my husband’s region of birth and the Spanish roots of my father’s side of the family.  “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee, describes a similar culture and a similar  town in which I was raised. It described   my childhood neighborhood. My parents were the moderates of the time in their attitudes. I credit them with  passing to me respect for all human beings, regardless of race or religion.   I take the historical references made by James Michener in any of his books seriously though, like any historical fiction, I also try to benchmark what is written  against  history books. My favorite of his: “Centennial”. My father, a native of eastern Colorado, born of a pioneer family early in the last century,  said he got it right. His little known “Poland” gives great background for the history of eastern and central Europe.  If any of these works have anything in common, most are about regions and locations which I have visited in person or have some family and personal ties.  Classics: Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”…which inspired the names of our children, though I Anglicized them. I have never been to Russia, but I feel a strange kinship, perhaps because of my personal experience in Eastern Europe and a love of history and Russia's role in it. 

2014 update:  The challenge is searching for the middle ground and the facts upon which I can draw my own conclusions.  I read two different on line or email postings every day. One  from Real Clear Politics and the other, Politico.  It is not that they are entirely in the middle, but that is the closest I can come.  I do give great credence to fact checkers,especially those in  the Washington Post. I often use all of these for links  to the original report or sources and look at those sources myself. You will see me post those same links to  original reports on this blog so that you can draw your own conclusions . I take most polls regarding issues  with a grain of salt because so much depends upon how and what was asked. I have been in politics too long...writing, conducting, and making use of rely on just one or the other.  Even Gallup has gotten it wrong and others are overtly slanted to one ideology or another. They do it by being selective about who they poll and how the question is worded.  On media, I miss  Chuck Todd's daily rundown; he has a truly great grasp of the political goings on in the country.  I know he got a better assignment on broadcast news, but I miss his insights.  I have become a fan of Michael Smerconish on CNN.  He often comes closest to a good balance between the extremes.

On foreign policy, I have never held any official position but I am a policy wonk since my high school days.  I admit to being a bit right of center on foreign affairs since so much of my early life was conditioned by being a close hand observer of life in the Cold War.  I am a believer in Real Politics, concurrence of self interest, and who holds the power.  The world is not a democracy.  Intervention and aggression are matters  of asking what is in our national interest and smart politics is knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.  I detest chauvinistic  chest thumping and prefer Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly but carry a big stick". I do believe that democracy is the best way for a country to be peaceful and prosperous internally and externally..but that the form of democracy is what Thomas Friedman calls a "liberal" press, free assembly and speech, fair and honest elections.  I believe developing that liberal democracy takes time and doing it at the end of a  barrel of a gun held by a force  inside or outside the country is not the way.  

My knowledge of foreign policy is based upon my own personal contacts, experiences,  and family experiences...all of which are extensive and very grass roots.  I have been married to a refugee from the  Balkans, gone to school in Europe, and our children have similar married to a European and another, an international investment banker, who has many stories to tell. We travel to Europe to visit friends and family nearly every year. The conflict between religions and culture played out in the Balkans has been a fascination, intellectually and emotionally, over most of my life, and flavors much of my writing.

I am by nature a lover of a good debate and it gives me great pleasure to craft a point of view and make a case for it.  I also know that when you take a position in public , someone may disagree and try to personalize it. ...and frankly, I do not mind controversy and I respect well crafted, factual rebuttals. It just inspires me to write more.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Coloradoans will lose if health care reform is repealed

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) summed it up nicely for his constituents in a recent release:
The Patients’ Rights Repeal Act would have significant consequences in Colorado’s second Congressional district by:

·         Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to 127,000 to 335,000 individuals, including 9,000 to 41,000 children, with pre-existing conditions.  These individuals include those who are breast cancer survivors and prostate cancer survivors; those living with heart disease; and those with such conditions as asthma and high blood pressure.
·         Taking away the ability of 2,900 young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday. 
·         Taking away the 50% discount on brand-name Rx drugs from 7,500 seniors who hit the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole;’ and denying free preventive care services under Medicare to 65,000 seniors.
·         Eliminating health care tax credits available for up to 22,300 small businesses.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No easy answers in the wake of the Tucson shooting

The January 19 column exhorts individuals to take responsibility in a number of ways  to reduce the possibility of such incidents Text can be found at and

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Part of the cause of heated discussion of the direction of national politics is....

Let us face it: we like to hear those who agree with us also entertain us and put our closely held beliefs into terms we dare not express publicly.  Just as we react to negative political ads, we also like those who reflect our deepest thoughts in screaming technicolored words.  Like Pogo, we have met the enemy and it is us. The national debate can be cooled if we want it to be cooled.  Flame throwing talk show personalities can become passe instead of vogue if we want it to happen by tuning them out ?   Will politicians have the courage to focus on facts and problem solving instead of demagogic  sloganeering?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking personal responsibility for reducing the temperature of the heated discourse

Want to cool the tone of  national debate? We can begin by turning  off the cable flame throwers. Shun them.  It is an old fashioned method of showing disapproval  of thoughts or acts and it can have a very practical effect..

The reason the shrill and and angry talk show personalities  have found success is that they attract a large number of listeners. They are entertaining, after all.  Audience share in turn generates advertising income.

While the nation has become polarized, so has the media. Media and politicians feed each other.  Polarization begets more polarization, with opinion media giving wings of exposure to political demogogues and with politicians happy to provide more of the  red meat audiences love.

There are very liberal talkers and channels and very conservative ones. There is nothing wrong with  media taking different views on issues and making their bias their brand. When we press their number on the remote, we have a good idea of what will  be their slant on the issues.The arguments may be one-sided, but it is natural we prefer to hear those who agree with our preconceived notions and gut feelings. 

The problem comes with those  who express their views with words that encourage  and even urge angry conflict, sometimes making mountains out of molehills or distorting the truth, ignoring solid evidence to the contrary, and using analogies of violence..  We should not empower them by providing them with a large audience share. .  Turn them off; turn the channel to  others  who do not shout anger to the rafters. Granted, it is easy to turn off  those with whom you disagree; the hardest is to shun those with whom you agree, but who employ a shrill delivery and hyper angry tone .Instead, tune on to  those who provide a serious discussion that includes all sides.  It may not be quite as entertaining, but old fashioned shunning can change the tone of our national debate. .

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