Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Beyond 100 Days

The second half of the old Charlie Rose PBS timeslot is now filled by Beyond 100 Days which is produced by the BBC. The program has been on BBC World News since the Trump inauguration. It is co-hosted by Katty Kay in Washington DC and Christian Fraser in London. Along with Amanpour on PBS, Beyond 100 Days should mean a little more international flavor to the PBS late-night lineup. 

This program is more of a traditional newscast. The anchors open with the top stories of the day. They have BBC reporting and video from around the world. There are usually a few stories they cover more in-depth. For these, they will often interview experts or the BBC reporters covering the story, some in studio and some via satellite. So far, their guests have not been the actual newsmakers for the most part. Katie was in Davos for the World Economic Conference and did a couple of interviews there.

The anchors also weigh in on the stories, adding their own knowledge or insight. There is also a small amount of chitchat between the anchors.  

Other than the international flavor and additional perspectives, this is not a must-see news program. Both anchors are competent, articulate and pleasant enough. 

I'll continue to watch when I have time. For now I'll give it an average grade of C

Armanpour on PBS

In mid-December 2017, PBS began airing Amanpour on PBS in the first half of the old Charlie Rose Show timeslot. My local PBS station didn't begin carrying the program until the first of 2018. Christiane Amanpour is an anchor and the Chief International Correspondent for CNN. She has been with CNN since 1983 except for a brief stint with ABC. She was raised in Iran and England and brings a unique perspective to the news. She is based in London but does many shows from New York also.

This is primarily an interview show. Occasionally she recaps a top story or two at the top of the show. The format is one or two guest interviews during the half hour. These guests are a combination of the newsmakers, experts, and other journalists. So far, she very rarely has more than one guest on at a time. On those occasions, the guests have been mostly civil and didn't talk over each other. It was a bit heated one night when a representative of Palestine and one from Israel were on together. Thankfully, both on satellite from different locations. 

I enjoy the news value and especially the more international perspective than we usually see on US news programs. 

I am not a big fan of Christiane's interview style. She often comes across as agreeing with her guests rather than being objective. That can lead to some softball questions. She can be tougher but also may apologize before asking the tough question. 

Overall, I like getting the information and the international flavor. It is not yet a real substitute for Charlie Rose.

The program has only been on the air for a little over two months, so there is plenty of time for improvement. I'll continue to watch, at least for now. My grade after two months is a C+.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Very Random Thoughts - February 2018

  • Easy Open is not necessarily true.
  • Remember when you would read the morning paper or watch The Today Show and you were done with the news until Walter Cronkite came on that evening? Now it is a fulltime job.
  • It is way past time to stop the Groundhog Day nonsense.
  • How pissed are those Florida stone crabs? Every couple of years some guy comes along and cuts off their claw(s).
  • When did laundry detergents begin advertising during the Super Bowl? Tide and Persil.
  • God/Jesus still does not care who won the Super Bowl, or any other sporting event. 
  • I was going to order a BLT the other day, but I didn't know how to pronounce it.
  • The older I get, the longer winter seems to last. 
  • Whatever happened to all the private detective shows on TV? They've gone the way of the westerns.
  • When someone says, "I'm not bragging but...". They are definitely bragging.
  • Until Google allows an individualized wake word for the Google Assistant devices, no TV commercials should be allowed to say "Hey Google" or "OK Google. When they do, my phone, tablet, and Home wake up and talk to me. Scary.  
  • Oxymoron. There is a National Prayer Breakfast Dinner.
  • Paraphrase - at the end of the Super Bowl as Brady's Hail Mary pass went incomplete, Al Michaels said: "once again the Super Bowl ends on the last play". I'm wondering when Super Bowls usually end?
  • Just because one side accuses the other of being hypocritical doesn't preclude them from being hypocritical too. 
  • I got an email from Spotify with the following message: The hits that soundtracked your days at school are here: stream a playlist now for a walk back in time. I clicked the link just to see what it was. Turns out Spotify thinks I went to school in the 70's. I'm feeling a little younger now.
  • Does it bother the hell out of you that you pay $10 to see a movie and then have to sit through 15 or 20 minutes of previews and ads before the feature starts? Me too.
  • I'm too old to put my tongue on a frozen flagpole, but I sometimes forget to completely dry my hands before I grab some ice cubes. 
  • I had to date something, so I looked on my computer to see what the correct date was. It was my birthday. You would think I could remember that date.
  • At what age, if ever, can you call your parents friends by their first name? 
  • Why are the police officers assigned to schools called "resource officers"? 
  • Basketball is often referred to as round ball. How does that specify basketball? Aren't almost all balls are round except a football and rugby ball.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


The continuing stories and pictures are horrific. The situation in Syria is horrific and completely unacceptable. It has been for a decade and shows no signs of improving in the near future. The whole nation or what used to be a nation is a complete clusterfuck. There are many various forces competing for control of the country. Those forces include the Syrian government, numerous rebel groups, ISIS, other radical Islamic groups, Kurds, Hamas, Turkey, Iranians, Russian mercenaries, Russian regulars, US "advisors", and who knows who else.

The Syrian president/dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has been killing his civilian population for years. He has used every method including chemical weapons. He attacks areas that are almost entirely civilian, often inhabited by children. He bombs hospitals. For the past several years his regime has been propped up by Russia with major assistance from Iran. The Russians seem to be dictating the rules of engagement in the region. 

Bashar al-Assad drops chemical bombs, the Russian mercenaries attack sites with US personnel with no consequences. There is evidence that North Korea is assisting Assad's regime produce those chemical weapons.

So, my question is why are there no consequences to the inhuman and illegal activities? Why do we let Russia attack our troops without consequences? Why do we let Russia dictate the ceasefire terms and length? 

I think we should bomb the hell out of the Bashir government and military sites in Damascus. Destroy their airforce. I think we should tell Russia to back off. If they don't, we should engage their bombers and fighters. Take control of the Syrian airspace. I'm not advocating a large or protracted ground presence. Just a few well placed smart bombs in Assad's living room and destruction of his air force and air bases. 

I know it is not simple and we don't want the Syrian mess to escalate into a regional war or a full-blown conflict with Russia. Yet, why do we continue to allow these atrocities go on? Civilians and more importantly children are dying every day. It's time to stop the carnage.

Trump and Congress need to step up to the plate. Little in life that is truly worthwhile is easy, but it is rewarding. 


Friday, February 23, 2018

The System Failed (Again)

The recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has brought to light the many failures to protect our children.

The gunman (I refuse to use his name) was a troubled 19-year-old who should never have been able to legally purchase a gun. He was too young to purchase a handgun, but he could buy an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle. That loophole is a failure of the Florida legislature. The fact that an assault rifle is legal anywhere is a failure of the US Congress.

The gunman was looked into by the Florida Department of Children and Families in 2016 but they determined he was not a risk to harm himself or others. That is a failure of the investigator and/or Florida DC&F policies.

The Broward County Public Schools had disciplinary reports on the gunman going back to middle school including many for fighting. I'm not sure who failed here. Did the school system try to get the gunman help? Did they inform law enforcement? Did they contact children services? Did they even notify the parents/guardians?

The FBI tip center failed to forward a tip to the Miami field office that the gunman talked about committing a school shooting and that he owned a gun. It also appears that a previous tip was not forwarded that the gunman posted "I want to become a professional school shooter" on social media. What's the slogan, if you see something, say something. Looks like at least two people saw and said. This is a huge FBI failure.

It also appears that the Broward County Sheriffs Office had received several calls about the shooter but had not properly followed up.

Now we find that the sheriff deputy assigned to Douglas High School failed to enter the building and confront the shooter. This was an armed and allegedly trained law enforcement officer with more than 32 years on the force. Was this a failure of his training by the Broward County Sheriff's Department? Was it a failure to recognize that this deputy was not capable of carrying out his duties in a crisis? Regardless of the reason, he failed the students and faculty he was assigned to protect and 17 of them died and others were injured. 

Parkland, Florida does not have their own police department and is covered by the Broward County Sheriff's Department yet Coral Springs police were the first to respond. There were some glitches with the school's surveillance camera system. SWAT didn't arrive until 30 minutes after the shooting. By then the shooter had left the campus. Not a stellar day for law enforcement. 

Although the gunman had no criminal record, it appears that sheriff deputies had been called to his home several times because of disturbances. Several neighbors had problems with him. 

It appears almost everyone who came in contact with this young man knew he was disturbed and violent. Did he ever get professional help? Was it because people didn't wave the red flags or they were ignored by our institutions, or there aren't enough resources and money to address these issues? There were many failures along the way and now 17 people are dead. There is plenty of blame to go around. 

Let's not let this latest tragedy pass without doing something. New mental health initiatives, new gun safety laws, changes at our schools, etc. Let's ensure that current laws, programs, and procedures are funded and enforced. 

Systems will sometimes fail and people will make mistakes. Let's make sure we never again have the string of system and human failures that occurred before and during the Parkland shooting.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Just a Thought

The original draft of this post was written months ago, before the recent Parkland tragedy. As often happens with my writing, something had triggered a reaction. Then, I don't finish the article, don't go back to rewrite and edit it, or just don't publish it. Writing is one of my main ways to organize and flesh out my thoughts. Publishing is not the main objective. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and subsequent reactions brought this draft to the forefront. Just a thought that still seems valid.

What if we came up with a graduated gun approval background check? Various levels of approval for various levels of weapons. Sort of like drivers licenses. We have learner permits, regular auto vehicle licenses, motorcycle designation, commercial designation, etc.

Maybe a novice gets to have a .22 pistol or rifle, a .410 shotgun or some other smaller, less powerful weapon. Or, a musket since that is actually the arms being referred to in the Second Amendment. You could upgrade to a standard level or license, with training, to a more powerful handgun and rifle or shotgun. Then there would be various levels of advanced approval that allowed very powerful handguns and maybe semi-automatic rifles. Maybe a more stringent and comprehensive background check. Maybe a mental health examination for the higher levels. I would hope that the more advanced levels required both extensive training and a reason to have powerful weapons. Most states already require at least classroom courses to obtain a permit to carry. Those classes could be expanded to include the various levels of licenses. I would hope that some actual shooting range training would also be included, especially for the levels past novice.  

Yes, I know a .22 pistol or rifle can kill people. The difference is that it can't kill dozens in a short time or injure hundreds from a 32nd-floor hotel suite. It would take a long time to kill over 20 church members, enough time for many to escape and/or overcome the shooter. Better odds that the victims would survive being shot. 

You would only be able to purchase a weapon or ammunition that matched your license or rating in the background check database.

To be effective, the criteria and the licensing would have to be somewhat uniform across the country. Otherwise, people would get certified and buy weapons in a lenient state. That doesn't mean that the states couldn't control the licensing, it just means that certain minimum criteria would have to be met. 

This is by no means a fully fleshed out idea or solution. There would be many details to work out. It is just an idea, a starting point. 

I'm sure the NRA and most right-wing people will object to this because they think the second amendment is absolute, it's not. Some anti-gun and left-wing folks will object too because it doesn't eliminate guns.

Well, the second amendment was written when muskets and single shot pistols were the modern weapons of the day. Those on the left must realize that guns are part of the American culture and are part of our Constitution. Even if we banned all guns today, there are still about 300 million weapons in the population. For most of them, the government has no idea where they are. 

I know this will probably never come to pass, at least in my lifetime. Still, it's a different idea. It is obvious that what we are doing now is not working. While we debate about gun control, mental health, hardening of sites, etc., more people die. We seem to be at an impasse. We seem to now accept mass shootings and 30,000 gun related deaths a year as normal. It has become the price many are willing to accept for the almost unabated right of some to possess a gun. 

I happen to think almost every problem has a solution. It may not be easy to achieve. Not everyone, maybe no one, will be completely happy, but solutions are possible.  

Just a thought.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Very Random Thoughts - January 2018

  • Remember all the lame things your parents used to do and say? How many do you do and say now?
  •  A new BS weather term to describe the early January snowstorm in the northeast. "Bomb Cyclone". 
  • Just went through some furniture moves. Why do we lug around furniture that weighs 3 tons and barely fits through our doors?
  • Please, brag about how smart you are so I can be sure you really are.
  • The older I get, the more people are concerned about my activities. Maybe they are concerned about my ability to pull off the activity in question without severe bodily harm. 
  • Do we really need the Goodyear blimp to show us the roofs of the enclosed stadiums?
  • Oh no, all my old friends are turning into our parents. They bitch about those "damn young folks". 
  • Remember, many of our parents didn't like the Beatles, Beach Boys, long hair, etc. Times change.
  • When someone says "I didn't mean anything by that", you can be sure that they did.
  • I have a file folder in the cloud named "Download Upload". That seems a little confusing and schizophrenic.
  • Worth repeating daily, opinions and beliefs are not facts.
  • Who figured this out? In the US armed forces, a lieutenant general (3 stars, O-9) outranks a major general (2 stars, O-8). Yet a major (O-4) outranks a lieutenant (O-2). The Navy is far less confusing.
  • I never thought I'd become a septuagenarian.
  • Oxymoron - Starbuck's  new "blonde expresso".
  • I think I may have more blocked spam phone numbers on my phone than I have legitimate numbers in my contact list. That "Do not call" list really works well.
  • When did I get so noisy just getting out of bed? There are now joints creaking and popping, coughs, sneezes, sniffles, moans, and sometimes profanity.
  • Whatever happened to instrumental songs?
  • "No problem" is not an acceptable substitute for "You're welcome".