We all remember the legend of Pearl Harbor, the surprise attack on America on December 7, 1941 “a date that will live in infamy” by the Japanese fleet that triggered U.S. entry into  WWII. But more misty in time was the sinking of the RMH Lusitania by a torpedo from a German submarine, on May 7th, 1915.More than 1100 people were lost in that sinking, including 120 Americans. The mighty Lusitania, queen of the British Cunard fleet, and holder of the Blue Riband (fastest to cross the Atlantic), went down in just 15 minutes, not far off the coastal town of Cobh, Ireland (near Cork). Many bodies, and survivors, were brought ashore at Cobh, and some were buried there. While WWI had began the year before, and it would be two years more before the U.S. would enter the war, the sinking of the Lusitania was the trigger that brought public opinion in the U.S. and Europe firmly against the Germans.

We happened into Cobh a couple weeks ago, on May 7th, 2015, by happenstance, and came to be witness to the ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of her sinking. As we stood at the entrance to the Titanic exhibit at the pier where the last passengers boarded her on her fatal first Atlantic crossing, a crowd formed in front of us, and a cordon of Irish sailors assembled. Soon a motorcade pulled up and the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins (a poet and scholar known as the old leprechaun) got out and inspected the sailors and laid a wreath at the monument in the town square to those lost on the Lusitania.. He next moved to a seaside pavilion, where speeches were given by him and the ambassadors of Great Britain, the U.S. and Germany, as a form of remembrance and reconciliation. The President of Cunard also spoke. Then, at exactly the minute the German torpedo hit the Lusitania 100 years before, all the mighty horns of the gigantic new Cunarder docked nearby, the Queen Victoria, sounded, and the band struck up.playing Navy hymns. There was not a dry eye to be found. My own Vicki, our friend Lydia and I lunched at the hotel across from the pier, where Lusitania survivors had once been brought, then moved on with our driving trip through Ireland.

It was a moment of history, and a somber cautionary  reminder (World Trade Center) of the fearsome triggers that can bring a  nation to war.

P.S. The village was known as Queenstown, after a visit by Queen Victoria in 1850, until the 1920s, when her old name, the Cove of Cork was Gallicized into Cobh. .P1010185Queen Victoria at Cobh, IrelandMay7, 2015 .   P1010184

The Patriot Act is up for renewal on June 1, this year. It must be reformed to protect Americans against the bulk collection of private communications, and other transgressions of our rights. We do not need to give up all our rights to privacy for the protection of the nation. Congressman Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act says himself that he and his committee never intended the act to provide for the bulk gathering of the private communications of all Americans. I have written an email today to President Obama at the White House asking that the Patriot Act be reformed to protect American privacy.

How about you?

Here’s what the ACLU has to say about this issue. By the way, that’s what Edward Snowden was trying to say when he gave up much information about this to journalists, and that’s what America’s newest, besets comedian journalist, John Oliver, explained in his show on Sunday when he ran his interview in Moscow with Snowden. Oliver ought to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for helping make this issue transparent for the American people.

What You Should Know

On May 26, 2011, Congress passed a four-year extension of three expiring Patriot Act provisions without making much-needed changes to the overly broad surveillance bill. The extended provisions are set now set to expire on June 1, 2015. Despite bills pending in both the House and the Senate to amend the three expiring provisions and other sections of the Patriot Act, Congress decided instead to move ahead with a straightforward reauthorization.

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More About the Patriot Act
» A Primer
» Myths & Realities
» Section 215
» Talking Points
» Community Resolutions
» Resources

Reclaiming Patriotism: A Call to Reconsider the Patriot Act
Despite the many amendments to these laws since 9/11, Congress and the public have yet to receive real information about how these powerful tools are being used to collect information on Americans and how that information is being used. All of these laws work together to create a surveillance superstructure – and Congress must understand how it really works to create meaningful protections for civil liberties.

The ACLU’s recent report, Reclaiming Patriotism, provides more information on parts of the Patriot Act that need to be amended. The three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act give the government sweeping authority to spy on individuals inside the United States, and in some cases, without any suspicion of wrongdoing. All three should be allowed to expire if they are not amended to include privacy protections to protect personal information from government overreach.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no showing that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy. Congress must ensure that things collected with this power have a meaningful nexus to suspected terrorist activity or it should be allowed to expire.
Section 206 of the Patriot Act, also known as “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, permits the government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders that identify neither the person nor the facility to be tapped. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require government to state with particularity what it seeks to search or seize. Section 206 should be amended to mirror similar and longstanding criminal laws that permit roving wiretaps, but require the naming of a specific target. Otherwise, it should expire.
Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, or the so-called “Lone Wolf” provision, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization. Such an authorization, granted only in secret courts is subject to abuse and threatens our longtime understandings of the limits of the government’s investigatory powers within the borders of the United States. This provision has never been used and should be allowed to expire outright.
The bill also fails to amend other portions of the Patriot Act in dire need of reform, most notably those relating to the issuance and use of national security letters (NSLs). NSLs permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. Numerous Department of Justice Inspector General reports have confirmed that tens of thousands of these letters are issued every year and they are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect. NSLs also come with a nondisclosure requirement that precludes a court from determining whether the gag is necessary to protect national security. The NSL provisions should be amended so that they collect information only on suspected terrorists and the gag should be modified to permit meaningful court review for those who wish to challenge nondisclosure orders.

On Morning Joe this AM, they referenced the serious journalism of comedian John Oliver when in his show last night he interviewed security leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow. So I watched the show, which I record from DirecTV. In it, among other things, Oliver asked Snowden if a dic pic sent from a husband to his wife over the internet could be captured by the NSA, and Snowden answered yes, it could. Funny bit. But disturbing, in the sense of the degree of invasion of privacy the NSA can accomplish into the personal lives of ordinary Americans. Of course, the rationalization is that national security might require such invasions, on rare occasion, to protect the country from terrorists. Thus, we all must give up all, figuratively and literally, of our privacy for such protection. Excellent journalism, indeed by Oliver. Perhaps he deserves a Pulitzer Prize for journalism,for making plain the sacrifices we are all making, whether we realize it or not, for the sake of potential protection from terror. Of course, I became suspicious when the end of the Snowden interview was cut off by my video recorder, leading me to wonder, just wonder, if the NSA was blocking a portion of John Oliver’s Snowden interview, perhaps because they didn’t want America to discover what bald and bold truths were revealed in the final minutes of the show. Am I jumpy? Maybe. Do I have reason to feel that way? I think so.

are using our deer feeders these early spring days…

turkey in deer feeder at Applewood

turkey in deer feeder at Applewood

P1000882

National Geographic Magazine in their March cover story, The War on Science, gives some light on our exacerbated political divide as they try to explain the psychology related to the fight over what to believe about science. The author surmises that the left includes “Those with a more ‘egalitarian’ and ‘communitarian’ mindset,” who are, “generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change.” The right, on the other hand, includes “people with a ‘hierarchical’ and ‘individualistic’ mind-set who respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings of climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.”

The author believes that climate change has become a sort of litmus test about which of these warring “tribes” — the left and right, you belong to. He believes we are not so much arguing about the issue, but about who we are. On the left, we’re all in it together and must deal with consequences on behalf of all. On the right, we stand as individuals against the world, and must fight for our autonomy of belief against the “science” of the masses. Accepting a belief in climate change, one of those nasty “science things,” could get that hierarchical individualist thrown out of his or her tribe.

The author concludes, “science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining right with our peers.” We still live in a world where science (read: evidence based) often trumps beliefs (read: tradition based). I’m neither a scientist nor a psychologist, and I see some of the dichotomy in this over-simplified analysis, and so I see that the social definitions of these two tribes often overlap among us.  Yet, when it comes to politics, and after all, politics is nothing more than the quest for power within our broader community, the apparent growing gap in organizing belief systems between these two tribes is threatening our democracy.

The genius of our American society lies in our ability to find compromise and some sense of fairness between our varied personal belief systems, and then move forward as a people, individually and together. That is our democracy. And it is in trouble. The answer: we must rationalize the past, as we remember it, in light with what we know to be the truth, today.

While NBC News tonight bawled about drunk drivers with up to 27 convictions going free, and not to jail, while their victims go into physical rehab, if they are lucky enough to survive, I read in the Lake Geneva Regional News that at 9:05 pm on February 20, a drunk driver was cited for his 4th offense in nearby Elkhorn. Every week, I read locally of drunk drivers being cited for their 3rd, 4th or 7th offense, while retaining their license and remaining free, while thousands are maimed and killed, not to mention intimidated and threatened by intoxicated men and women, old and young.

My first corporate job was at the headquarters of Allstate Insurance, working on national efforts to reduce the blood/alcohol levels at which people could be arrested for drunk driving. We worked with the public, with women’s organization and with state legislatures, and we were largely successful in reducing those levels. But thanks to the pervasive tavern lobby, especially here in Wisconsin, and a culture that still endorses having a half dozen or so drinks and still driving, we are still letting people who drive drunk over and over, and are arrested over and over, to remain on the road. Maybe there should be a blood/alcohol ignition interlock in every car on the road. Maybe it’s worth another 50 bucks to save thousands of lives and injuries. Or more simply, let’s exhort these sleepy state legislators to do something useful for a change, and get the drunk drivers off the road.

In addition to being designated drivers when needed, why don’t we all become designated lobbyists to demand that repetitive drunk drivers be kept off the road, at least for the sake of our loved ones? End the drunk butchering on our roads.

South LSD Viewshed 2015

(click to open article)

In an incredible coincidence, I lost my cars keys at the Enormous Chicago Auto Show this afternoon, and got them back almost immediately due to some wonderful people whom I don’t know.

I had parked in the large indoor lot behind the McCormick Place show building. The place was swamped with kids and others with the day off — President’s Day. When I left, I paid my ticket and stepped into the garage and started fumbling through my pockets for my keys. Not finding them, I walked over to a garbage can and began spreading out the contents of my pockets to complete my self-search. I had also left my cell phone in the locked car, so was contemplating my next step.

Just then, and attractive young McCormick Place employee stepped up and asked if I’d lost keys, and asked what kind of car I had. She asked if there was a micro flashlight on the key ring. Yes! She had already turned them into the office, so we walked the few steps over there, and wa-la, I had my key back. She said a woman leaving the show had handed them to her a short while before.

What were the odds? A show with a thousand cars and thousands more in garages, tons of people crowding everywhere, multiple garage entrances. A responsible person who must have seen the keys on the floor, somewhere, who turned them into this responsible employee, who immediately took them to the office, and then was on the alert for someone who looked like they might have lost their keys! I love these people!

And, by the way, another great auto show, with all the latest on display. The prototype Buick Avenir sedan is the classiest thing to come out of Detroit in years. Of course, the new Mercedes Mayback is even classier.

On Morning Joe today, they discussed the dichotomy of a new NBC-Maris Poll that shows that 64% of Americans would support moderate to heavy commitment of U.S. ground troops to the middle east, while each guest declared that almost everyone they meet of every political persuasion says that we should NOT again commit ground troops to the middle east.

Here’s my theory of explaining this contradiction. When the majority of those surveyed by NBC said yes, we should commit ground troops, they were referring to our professional military soldiers and sailors, not them or members of their own family. But when you ask people individually, they are thinking of themselves, and don’t think we should go.

The military DRAFT is a dirty word, because most Americans don’t want to risk their own loved ones being compelled to serve the nation, but we are less sensitive when polled and think that others (the professional military) would go on our behalf. I don’t love the idea of a draft. I was subject to the draft when I graduated college in 1966, so enlisted and served 3 years as an officer. But I didn’t like the service, and though I called it “my military MBA,” the truth is that it set me back professionally in relation to my friends who didn’t serve, and it caused family disruptions that changed the course of my life.

But I think a draft is a good thing, because it serves to align the thinking of the people with the decisions of our government, and vice versa, and as we know from the Vietnam experience, public opposition ultimately served to get America out of that war that never should have happened. Our military is thinking in terms of a “long war” in the middle east, that might go on over 40 to 60 years! It’s time that the American people think in terms of themselves (their own families), rather than in terms of “other” Americans (a professional military), serving on the ground in such a long war. Then, and only then, will they express themselves clearly to our political and military leadership, and let democracy, rather than bureaucrats, determine our nation’s future.

Famous, adventurous newsman Bov Simon’s death yesterday in a West Side Highway car crash in NYC, raises a probable lesson. he was reportedly riding in the back of a town car, likely a Lincoln, and there were two drivers in the front seat who survived. Having traveled thousands of times in so-called town cars, I do not recall ever being asked or even reminded to put on my seat belt. Why? Perhaps because the perception that riding as a passenger in such roomy vehicles with their living room-like rear seat areas is like being in an office or reception room, where one would not be strapped-in like driving in a regular car. In an accident, the un-seat-belted passenger in such a roomy back seat would be tossed around like a tennis ball in an accident. I don’t have all the facts, but I suspect this is what happened to Mr. Simon, who survived so many dangerous foreign assignments over his stunning career. If so, there is a suggestion for change here.

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