Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

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ARE WE DONE NOW?

May 5, 2011

Eight years ago to the day, then President George W. Bush announced “Mission Accomplished.”

It wasn’t.

Sunday, May 1, 2011, our current president did no such thing. But he did announce that a covert military operation ended the life of Osama bin Ladin. For nearly all  Americans, this was the real “Mission Accomplished.” People took to the streets in celebration almost immediately after hearing the news.

This does very little to change the current terrorist landscape. However, we have now accomplished the goal that we set when we invaded Afghanistan: to bring to justice those who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks. Al-Qaida is no longer the top-down, heavily-armed and well-financed organization that it was a decade ago. It has been fractured into small groups throughout the world – sometimes with not more than one or two members per group. And now, their leader is gone.

Militarily, President Obama scored a huge success with the death of bin Ladin. Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, and the Navy Seals team that handled the mission did a remarkable job.

For those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, there will be some closure and personally, I couldn’t be happier that bin Ladin is out of the picture. But it’s a hollow victory for me. We’ve sacrificed so much blood and treasure over these last nine years that his demise seems far less significant by comparison.

Politically, this event resulted in a boost in the president’s poll numbers. He succeeded where his two predecessors failed. Although, with all the domestic issues that need attention: 8.5% unemployment, stupid-high gas prices, a crumbling infrastructure and increasingly higher food costs, the rise in his popularity will probably be short-lived. As a country, we need to re-think our military strategies. Our “enemies” are not other countries anymore. We do not need huge military forces stationed around the world in order to keep the peace. Small, well-trained forces on the ground like “Seal Team 6” appear to be far more effective. (They executed this operation with incredible precision and not one team member was injured, much less killed.) Plus, so much more can be done from the air than ever before that large numbers of ground troops are not necessary.

The world has become “smaller” and more transparent, especially since 9-11. The human desire to be free is starting to re-shape the Middle East with uprisings in many areas. We can be the beacon of peace in the world by not engaging in warfare and not sticking our foreign policy “nose” where it doesn’t belong. Through the unfiltered lens of the internet, people around the globe can witness life in a free society. What they do with that information is up to them, not us.

So… are we done now?

With 24 people and 40 minutes, we succeeded where nearly ten years, thousands of soldiers lost, tens of thousands of soldiers injured, hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed, and well over a trillion dollars spent, did not.

Can we please end these senseless wars?

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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HUNGRY?

April 22, 2011

Every once in a while, ya just gotta eat one of those really good, but not-so-good-for-you meals.

Here’s some very good chain restaurant food. (Yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron.)

Back to the diet. 😦

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Special thanks to Huffington Post for the pics and histories.

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PALM PILOT

February 12, 2010

 

I was absolutely not going to write about this, even though its comedic value is priceless.

Then the title came to me, and… well… I succumbed to my lesser instincts.

Sad, isn’t it?

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I am not a Sarah Palin fan. She has the ability to capture media’s attention due to her camera-friendly face – that’s it. Past that, old proverbs come to mind: “Beauty’s only skin-deep.” “Never judge a book by its cover.” “You are the company you keep.” (My grandmother loved the last one.)

And so it goes with her latest attention-grabbing stunt, which did what it was intended to do: put her back in the spotlight for yet another few days. This is where any level-headed person realizes media is not motivated by liberal or conservative agendas. It’s profit-driven, owned by large corporations, competing for the same thing – advertiser dollars. Real news has not been the motivation for nearly two decades, which, sadly, is why all three cable “news” networks covered this event.

On February 6th, addressing the Tea Party’s Convention at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel – which I can attest first-hand, is a stunning venue – in one of the smaller banquet rooms, to a crowd of about 650 people, Palin gave a speech that was obviously not written by a professional speech writer, such as Matthew Scully (George W. Bush’s speech writer) who wrote her debut speech for the 2008 Republican Convention. And, unlike the week she spent at John McCain’s home practicing the delivery of that speech, she obviously spent very little time going over this one. To say the content was less than substantive, is being very generous.

But the Q and A that followed was the highlight of the evening – not for the substance – but for the grade school level competency she displayed answering questions. Not trusting her intellect – which oddly, was the right move – she created her version of a Palm Pilot. She wrote seven “key” words on the palm of her left hand. Deciding that was too many, she crossed one off the list, leaving six words she needed “on hand” to “pilot” her through a “handful” of pre-planned questions for half an hour.

Wasn’t that considered cheating in school? Could this be why it took her attending five different colleges over nearly a decade to receive a Bachelor’s degree? Did she get caught cheating on tests?

Enough digression.

Sarah Palin may be meat and potatoes for the Tea Party movement, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s nothing more than spoiled milk.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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ARE YOU SURE?

December 2, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

Are you sure?

I applaud you for not concerning yourself with politics in making your decision. I will not however, commend you for taking time to consider every possible option. It’s part of your job description. This is why I voted for you. I wanted pragmatic, discerning leadership in the White House.

But are you sure?

 

I watched the young cadets as they watched you. It is possible some may be lost in battle because of your decision. It is possible one of these faces could someday belong to Malia or Sasha. I know you understand this. As you embraced these cadets after your address, I couldn’t help but wonder how soon their wide-eyed youthful faces would be forever hardened and pre-maturely aged by the horrific experiences of war.

So, are you sure?

I trust you are implementing this plan with knowledge that far exceeds my own. I am but a distant observer; knowing only what I hear and read – and what history teaches. I believe you have information of the region’s extremely volatile nuclear situation that neither can be, nor should be shared publically. I “hear” you when you say this is not like previous conflicts.

But are you sure?

Your eyes revealed more than your words as you addressed our nation and the world last night. I saw great concern, not about your decision, but about unknown consequences. You displayed “heaviness of heart’ through your facial expressions. This tells me you did not come to your conclusions with ease.

 

 

So, if you’re sure, I’m with you.

I will set aside my personal ideology.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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TOO CLOSE TO HOME

November 25, 2009

It’s become “one of America’s great reality shows.”

This, according to Peggy Drexler, author and assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University, is the life of Sarah Palin.

“Reality TV has a formula,” says Drexler. “One of the surprisingly numerous guides I found to selling a reality show said that the key is the right mix of four elements: talent, love, torment and sex. Others pointed out that the most important thing is letting people watch other people fail at something they desperately want to do.

“Studies show that American Idol loses a large segment of the audience after the ritual tortures of the early rounds. Another attraction, the guides point out, is spying on our neighbors without risking a restraining order. We don’t necessarily feel their pain. We just like to watch it.

“One of the best story lines is to yank people out of their normal lives, and throw them into unfamiliar situations — think wives swapping families. It’s even better when you do it to a C-list celebrity — think Paris Hilton shoveling manure.”

This “reality show” passed through my home town a few days ago. I wouldn’t even be mentioning it except for the video that showed up on YouTube of people waiting in line to get a glimpse of Palin outside a local Border’s Bookstore – twenty minutes away from my house.  😦

That’s too close to home.

There was an interviewer on the scene asking people why they support Palin.

 

They were also asked about Palin’s views on issues and policies. Here’s a few gems.

There’s SO MUCH more. Here’s the whole video.

Let’s face it: you can’t fix what is wrong here without therapy.

Drexler describes her reality show comparison. “We take a C-list first-term governor from a state with a population the size of the city of Charlotte. She’ll have this hot-for-teacher thing going on; tight skirts, high heels, hair tied up in a twist. She’s a huntin’, fishin’, scrappy hockey mom, who tells it like it is.

“She’ll have a pregnant daughter. She’s hot. She’ll have a hunky husband who doesn’t say much. He’s hot. The pregnant daughter will have a boyfriend. He and the mother say they love each other, but as the story line progresses, they hate each other. He’s hot, too — kind of a young Donny Osmond, but buff. They’ll all live in the same house.

Later she writes, “The boyfriend will make the cover of America’s leading liberal magazine, space usually reserved for stars, models and politicians.

“Just when the audience thinks it’s over, she’ll write a book, which will sell out before it’s published.”

Towards the end of the article, Drexler writes, “She won’t rule out running for president, which gives us a bridge to a second season. She’ll hug Oprah.”

Drexler closes by saying, “It’s great TV.”  This is where Ms. Drexler and I part ways in our thinking. I am not a fan of reality shows. I doubt that I’ve seen even one, beginning to end. My idea of great TV includes well-written and acted scripts, great character development, talented actors and actresses, great music, good lighting and sound – the works.

The “Sarah Palin Show” is the anathema to great TV.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com 

PS1 – Deepak Chopra wrote an article on Palin recently called “Fooling None of the People, All of the Time.” I think he’s right.

PS2 – Martha Stewart was asked about Palin in this brief interview.

I’m not a huge fan of Martha’s, but I agree with her statements here.

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“WHY ARE PEOPLE SO ANGRY?”

October 17, 2009

WhySoAngryLOGO

Recently, my son, Adam, asked this question while we were at the airport getting a quick bite, before his return to LA. I mentally replayed the conversation on my drive home and realized the question is a very good one, with many possible answers.

There are the obvious answers: unemployment is high, the economy is bad, the stock market crash greatly diminished peoples’ savings, and so on. It’s easy to be angry about any of these issues, but that anger is just one “symptom.” There is also blame, which leads to hate, which leads to unrest. At times, the combination of two or more of these “symptoms” can be volatile.

But these “symptoms” are just that – symptoms. The root cause is fear. It’s fear that makes people angry, blaming others and even hating enough to lash out. Sometimes that retaliation is physical, but most of the time it’s verbal or the written word.

With that said, I have a first-person, written-word example to share with you, that happened earlier today.

Recently, a comment on one of my posts resulted in me responding to their post, and so on. It was a good dialogue with both of us agreeing in most areas and having some minor differences in other areas.

This morning, I received notice of a response to one of my comments on that post by someone who calls himself “John Doe.” (I don’t understand why people don’t identify themselves.) Here’s his recent comment about me after I once again, discredited Rush Limbaugh. (I know the graphics will be too small for most to read, so I’ve inlcuded the text below each one.) 

JohnDoe01

John Doe

Michael Kontras is a blowhard. Rush Limbaugh is a political commentator. He does not make the news (usually), he takes items that are in the news and comments on them; he merely gives his opinion as to how they are relevant, why a particular person is doing what they are doing, how a particular new policy will affect us, etc. Obviously know it alls such as Mr. Kontras do not like what he says (”99% false”? Methinks you exaggerate there, twit boy). Obviously, what Limbaugh says resonates with many in society today. That’s why he has a twenty-million odd listership, and Mr. Kontras has a puny little blog that nobody reads.

This bit about the “government owns the radio airwaves” is just a convoluted way of trying to get around the First Amendment. The “government owns” them because the Government made a power play long ago to take control of them. No different than the Government taking over national parks. Or if the Government took over the internet bandwidths and said that it “owns” the internet. Or if it took over all newspapers and magazines. When the Government starts censoring what is said on the radio stations, then it runs afoul of the First Amendment. “Congress shall make NO law respecting… the Freedom of Speech…”

I had no intention of engaging in a back-and-forth of personal insults. This person has so many “facts” wrong, but because he is angry, any dialogue opposing his view would only elevate his anger. I responded with this:

MK01

Michael Kontras

Better to be an informed “blowhard” or “twit” than an uninformed blogger. 

Thanks for your comment, Mr. “Doe.”

Okay, maybe just a tinge of sarcasm – but hardly a personal “attack,” in my opinion.

We then heard from the owner of the blog, Federal Farmer.” This is a portion of the response:

FedFarm01

Federal Farmer

I debated…but ultimately decided against…editing out the exchange between “Mr. Doe” and Micheal Kontras. For one thing, the first comment in the fight was a followup that showed up without me accepting it. By the time I saw it, Micheal Kontras had seen it and had sent in a reply. I felt obliged by that time let the entire exchange be shown (though I’ve had enough of it). In my opinion, the personal attacks are not necessary; in fact, they truncate the debate, as can be seen in Kontras’ curt reply. The substantive issues quickly recede and the conversation ends. This seems counterproductive to me where the purpose is to discuss political ideas. Moreover, I question the human tendency to “slide” from political differences of opinion to personal insults.

I thanked “Federal Farmer:”

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Michael Kontras

My thanks to you, “Federal Farmer.”

You are obviously doing your best to keep the focus on the issues, and you are to be commended for your efforts.

If my response was deemed inappropriate, it was certainly not my intention. My curtness was a way of saying to Mr. “Doe” that I have no intention of engaging in personal insults. Calling him an “uninformed blogger” didn’t seem to be over the line, but if it was, I sincerely apologize.

There is plenty of valid information on all the substantive issues, including what our Founding Fathers considered to be “Free Speech.” I’m all for having a healthy discussion on this (or any) issue without the insults.

Mr. “Doe” continued his angry rhetoric: (The host took it down before I could grab a shot of the screen, but I managed to capture the text.)

John Doe

Federal Farmer, thanks for sounding reasonable. Please allow me to explain. Kontras attacked Rush Limbaugh (and by extension, his listeners, of whom I proudly count myself). Make no mistake, he used fancy words but HE ATTACKED Limbaugh. Rush is a “shock jock” and a “shill” and “99%” of what he says is false. What are those if not personal attacks? Is it “not a personal attack” so long as he is attacking somebody who doesn’t bother to read your blog? Why not just call him a paid whore who is always wrong? That’s what he meant. Trust me, Kontras, I am more highly educated than you are, and more informed on the issues. My blog’s bigger than your blog, my blog’s bigger than yours…” he he.

I agree that such attacks are “counter-productive” but so are attacks on those who are bigger and better than you are, who have actually DONE something with their lives, when they can’t defend themselves. Here me, Mr. Kontras?

As I said earlier, my original response to Mr. “Doe” hardly qualifies as an “attack” on him. I know he was itching for a “fight,” much like some high school bully, but out of respect for the owner of the blog, I did not engage him at all after my first and only comment.

However, allow me to have a little fun here, since I have “…a puny little blog that nobody reads.”

I don’t believe I have ever met Mr. “Doe.” So I am truly amazed at how he “knows” that I’m less educated than him. Trust me, Kontras, I am more highly educated than you are…” Really? Come on. I used “…fancy words… didn’t I? Maybe I should have used the “…highly educated…” word: “…whore.”  That would certainly put us on an equal intellectual plain, wouldn’t it?

“ ‘My blog’s bigger than your blog, my blog’s bigger than yours…’ he he.”  Spoken like a true third-grader in need of some parental “guidance.”

There is no doubt that Rush Limbaugh has “…actually DONE something…” with his life – especially for someone who dropped out of college after two semesters. But unlike Mr. “Doe,” who thinks Rush is “…bigger and better…” than me, I enjoy my angry-free life and have no desire to emulate Rush Limbaugh’s lifestyle, or anyone elses, for that matter.

As for my use of the word “shill”, I do have this tendency to resort to those pesky little things called “facts.”

Here are Rush’s own words – in the 2008 interview with the New York Times Magazine – upon receiving his $400,000,000, eight year contract: “First and foremost I’m a businessman,” Mr. Limbaugh told the magazine. “My first goal is to attract the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates… that enables me to sell airtime.” He didn’t say, “First and foremost, I’m a Conservative.” He’s deceiving people, making them think he cares about the Conservative Movement or the Republican Party, when in fact, his wallet is his only priority. He’s a shill, by definition.

“Federal Farmer” posted a very insightful comment about presiding over a debate, as opposed to getting involved in one. He felt we were both insulting. Here’s part of what was said:

FedFarm02

In moderating this post and subsequent discussion, I am reminded that George Washington did not proffer his opinion on any of the debated topics during the constitutional convention because he was presiding. To preside literally means to stand before (from the latin). Being partisan on whatever issue is being debated detracts from ones credibility, and thus ability, to preside. Were I to have sided with Micheal Kontras, for example, “Mr. Doe” would not have given my effort to moderate the discussion much credibility. He would have begun fighting me, which would have put me in a conflict of interest…protecting myself vs. managing the blog. It is possible that Mr. Doe could then post a comment that contributes to the discussion even though it attacks me. I would be operating in a conflict of intersts–that of protecting myself and managing the blog.

I mention this as a hypothetical (in actuality, I view both parties to the dispute as being out of line in insulting the other) because I don’t think we as Americans realize that when the US President takes sides on an issue being debated, he undercuts his credibility to preside.

I agree with 99% of “Federal Farmer’s” comments. 🙂

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – I received an e-mail from “Federal Farmer” later in the evening. Here’s some of what he had to say: “Thanks for visiting my blog… I’ve learned a lot today in terms of political theory (yes, I am too logical! lol) from moderating that discussion.  Mr. Doe has sent two additional comments that contained insults so I am blocking further posts from him. In any case, I appreciated that you stopped fighting with him.  I don’t know how I could have made it more transparent for him that I didn’t want continued insults.  Like I said in the blog, who knows what sorts of psychologies play out in politics at the grassroots level?”

Another good question.

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

October 13, 2009

GreatExpectationsLOGO

It’s around noon. My phone sounds the familiar jingle, letting me know I’ve received a text.

“How many times do you think Rahm said ‘f–k!’ this morning?”

“HAHAHAHA! He’s probably still slammin’ doors. 🙂

My son’s sense of humor, once again, made me laugh out loud in my otherwise quiet work environment.

Our President’s situation, however, is not a laughing matter. There is no doubt the Obama Administration knew what was coming after the President received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  

Whether he’s “earned” it or not, it was obvious the Nobel Committee decided he had done enough to transform minds around the globe about our country. It could be argued that part of the reason for this award is a rebuke of our previous President and how he isolated America from the rest of the world. But let’s not diminish how much this President is loved and admired by so many nations.

Here’s just one example: Remember the 200,000 people in Germany waving AMERICAN Flags?

GermanyComposite

While his political opposition was calling him a “celebrity,” world leaders were paying attention to the positive feelings of hope and peace he was attracting toward our country. His message was always about negotiation, and using military force as a protective – not punitive – measure. His stance against invading Iraq is certainly a good illustration. At every turn, then-candidate Obama made it clear that he would end that ill-conceived conflict and try to bring to justice those who were responsible for the 9-11 attacks. He was presenting a major shift in foreign policy thinking and the positive response from the rest of the world cannot be overstated.

Now as President, he is faced with what I would consider a “lose-lose” situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of the choices are definitive. None will result in a “win.” If he escalates troop levels, he appears to go against one of the reasons the Nobel Committee awarded him. If he maintains troop levels, it still looks like a never-ending conflict, and if he withdraws, there may be the risk of a future attack. All of this is against the backdrop of an Afghan government that appears corrupt and unable (or unwilling) to lead its people away from the Taliban and Al-Qaida and a Pakistan with nuclear arms.

This is not a political issue, but rest-assured, no matter what our President decides, the opposition will attack him – hard. Republicans seem to be in favor of troop escalation, which is a double-edged sword for him. If he escalates, his image as a peace-maker will be attacked. If he withdraws or leaves the situation status quo, he’ll be labeled as weak and unable to defend our national interests abroad. Neither is true.

Our President will not make this critical foreign policy decision based on polls or politics. He will take his time, utilizing the same pragmatism he has displayed so many times before.  

When the announcement came to the President at 6:00am on October 9th, Republicans and conservatives had a field day, showing their immaturity, instead of realizing that anytime a US President is recognized for peaceful leadership on the world’s stage, it is good for our country. 

01Limbaugh

01Limbaugh202Kristol03Beck04Redstate05Bolton07Kilmeade 

Contrary to what some think, I don’t believe the Nobel Committee had political motives for awarding our President the Peace Prize. Rather, they believe him to be a transformative figure on the world stage – a chance to be the leader in peaceful, non-military solutions for some of the world’s “hot spots.”

Michael Moore’s response summed it up well: “Congratulations President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize – now please earn it!”

As President, and now Nobel Lariat, Barack Obama has certainly garnered great expectations.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com