Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression --Names of the Dead

                                         Memorial Day, May 30, 2011

Names of the Dead

The Department of Defense has identified 1,581 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans recently:

BOHALL, Thomas A., 25, Sgt., Army; Bel Aire, Kan.; 101st Airborne Division.

HAMSKI, Joseph J., 28, Staff Sgt., Air Force; Ottumwa, Iowa; 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron.

JOHNSON, John C., 28, Pfc., Army; Phoenix; 10th Mountain Division.

MILLS, Edward D. Jr., 29, Staff Sgt., Army; New Castle, Pa.; 101st Airborne Division.

OSMAN, Ergin V., 35, Staff Sgt., Army; Jacksonville, N.C.; 101st Airborne Division.

PATTON, Adam J., 21, Specialist, Army; Port Orchard, Wash.; 101st Airborne Division.

RUNKLE, John M., 27, First Lt., Army; West Salem, Ohio; 101st Airborne Division.

SOLESBEE, Kristoffer M., 32, Tech. Sgt., Air Force; Citrus Heights, Calif.; 775th Civil Engineer Squadron.

THIBODEAU, Christopher R., 28, Chief Warrant Officer, Army; Chesterland, Ohio; First Battalion, Fourth Combat Aviation Brigade.

VELAZQUEZ, Louie A. Ramos, 39, Sgt., Army; Camuy, Puerto Rico; 101st Airborne Division.

I haven’t found many news outlets, with the exceptions of the New York TimesWashington Post and the PBS News Hour, which regularly post the names of those who, after ten years of war, are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Here’s part of  the Times’ editorial for this Memorial Day, May 30, 2011.
Whatever you make of the wars in which those soldiers fought, whatever you make of war itself, their sacrifices are real and permanent. How death came to them, now or then, is something only they can know. We who have not been called to war, or have been lucky enough not to lose anyone dear, still feel the loss. These are things worth remembering here in the last blush of spring, the first flush of summer.
Every sentence in this paragraph deserves close attention. Memorials honor those whose sacrifices lie in the past. Memorials also burden those living in the present. Do we carry this burden too lightly?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression -- Micro Managing Mitch Says No

I’m generally hard on Micro Managing Mitch and his strong arm tactics. But stepping away from all that and just looking at MMM’s decision to not run as a general problem in our electoral process, what do you come up with? 

One thing stands out in clear relief: It costs a lot of money to run for office.  This means collecting money, which means owing friends and special  interests.  Both Republicans and Democrats go through this money meat ethics grinder. Perhaps MMM and his family balked at this prospect. Perhaps Newt Gingrich embraces it.  It’s not a pretty prospect for most candidates.  And the Supreme Court’s misguided “United” decision has worsened the situation. 

Yet few are ready to put limits on campaign spending, or, heaven forbid, opt for electoral reforms that equalize campaign expenditures through a combination of private caps and public financing. So we are left with what we get–money making the political world go round and those who are good at it, revel in it, don’t even bother to think about it, running for public office. 

So who should be surprised when we get what we pay for?  Or by the news of how too many of our elected officials pay for what they get?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression -- Giving Empathy a Bad Name

The Empathy Trap
What happens when Obama, like all presidents, tries to show Americans that he feels their pain.
By John Dickerson Posted Slate Thursday, May 12, 2011, at 12:01 PM ET

. . . So he [President Obama] emphasizes that he understands the plight of regular Americans. The problem with empathy, however, is not just that there's never enough of it to go around. It's that by offering it, presidents raise unrealistic expectations of a different sort. . . .

. . . Obama needs voters to think he's on the case. The challenge is vast, though. Whether at the gas pump, in the grocery aisles, or on their mortgage statements, people are constantly seeing scary numbers. To keep up with all that anxiety, the president-as-therapist would have to hold office hours every day.

“Empathy trap”!?! 

Since when has UNDERSTANDING the situation and plight of others become a “trap”?  Oh, right, since the pundits, polls and publicists of the world have taken control of the vocabulary and behavior of anyone in government, right or left.  These experts now slice and dice normal words into grains of carborundum and grind out pronouncements which sound solid and important but are as soft as crapola.
All this is admittedly much easier then, say, actually examining economic data on cuts in public services, corporate profits and their non-hiring practices, the cost of wars based on arrogance and the current rage-of-the-day, budget deficits and debt. So OK, play around with the “empathy trap.”  But how about a column or two or three on the “indifference trap”?
For starters, we might read and hear more of this:

The Chart That Should Accompany Every Discussion of Deficits
By James Fallows
May 11 2011, Atlantic Online  9:39 PM EST


And if you can’t follow the econ-speak in Fallows’ report, just study this chart carefully.  Decide for yourself who and which policies exceed the bounds of human empathy.