Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Women in Combat

by Madeleine Kando

"The Army is the supreme symbol of duty, and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality. If the daughters of Israel are absent from the army, then the character of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Israel) will be distorted." David Ben Gurion

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has decided to lift a ban that prohibited women from serving in combat units. I have never served in the military and wonder if I have a right to voice my opinion on this matter, but my instinct tells me that this decision is of historical importance.

Fighting hand to hand, which combat units are designed to do, should be the least desirable job for any soldier, male or female. That's where the killing occurs. But it is also given the highest respect, both in the military and amongst civilians. And more importantly, it is a stepping stone to advancing your career. If women are denied combat experience, they will also be denied opportunities to climb up the military ladder.

One of the reasons history books are populated by men rather than women is because women didn't take part in the fighting. Glory, fame and admiration went to the winner of a battle. There are exceptions, of course. The Amazons, a race of female warriors, have survived oblivion through Greek mythology and the Valkyries, female Viking warriors are celebrated in Norse mythology. There is a question whether the Amazons and the Valkyries really existed, but almost half of the bodies found in 14 Viking burial grounds belonged to women, and some were buried with the swords and shields they presumably used in life. And of course there is good old Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans who defeated the English in the Hundred Years' War. She definitely was flesh and blood. She was burnt at the stake for her valiant effort to save France. Read more...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are Fascism and Socialism the Same? Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Other Ignoramuses Believe so.

By Tom Kando

Although I didn’t write the January 18 post “Obamacare, Fascism and Brown Rice,”, I’ll piggy-back on it. It gives the professor (me) a chance to give a short introductory lecture in political science and history.

Those who try to equate fascism and socialism, or speak of the two in one breath, show appalling ignorance of politics and history. Ever since Obama became president, some on the Right have tried to paste the “fascist” label on him and on his policies, and they have used the terms “fascist” and “socialist” interchangeably. Many in the Tea Party have done this, as have people like Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and other loons, and now John Mackey. I already wrote about this preposterous distortion of reality in my March 16, 2010 post "Is America Going Fascist and Gay?"

As I wrote nearly three years ago, these folks have things upside down. Anyone who knows anything about 20th century history knows that fascism and socialism have always been each other’s worst enemies, as in the Spanish Civil War, the war between Nazi Germany and Russia, and many other conflicts. I know, I know, there was the Molotov-Ribbentrop “monster pact” of 1939, when the Nazis and the Soviets tried to collaborate. And yes, “Nazi” means “National Socialism.” But don’t be mistaken: Fascism/Nazism and Socialism are each other’s opposite: The former is on the Right, and latter on the Left. And the distinction between Right and Left remains very meaningful, today in America as much as it was in 20th century Europe. Read more...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Six Questions About Lance Armstrong

By Tom Kando

I watched both of Oprah’s interviews with Lance Armstrong, mesmerized. The second one was even more gripping than the first. Lance choked, when talking about the burden he has placed on his 13-year old son Luke. Still an act? Still a lying psychopath? You decide.

Despite the incredible amount of coverage and the enormous brouhaha, many things remain obscure. Here are six questions to which I don’t have answers:

1. How did Armstrong pass over 500 drug, urine and blood tests, during his career? With all the cheating and the increasingly stringent and sophisticated testing, how did he get away with it so often? I am sure many other racers got away with cheating as well, but many did not. Why was Lance so exceptionally successful at cheating?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Obamacare, Fascism and Brown Rice

by Madeleine Kando

Yesterday, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey made a splash when, during an NPR interview he characterized President Obama‘s Affordable Care Act as “fascism.” I decided to write him a letter.

Dear Mr. Mackey*:

If I could remember how long I have been a patron of our local Whole Foods store I would certainly tell you, but it’s been too long and I’d rather not be reminded of how much of my hard earned money I have put in your pocket over the years.

I know you like to be in the limelight and voice your political opinions, although I have read somewhere that it is sometimes a sign of an overblown ego. But that doesn’t apply to you, I am sure.

Your recent comment comparing Obamacare to Fascism was not as well received as you might have hoped, although hardly a shock for someone who is familiar with your strong support of ‘consumer-driven’ health care. You have compared Obamacare to Socialism in the past, so I am not surprised at your recent statement that:

‘[Obamacare] is more like fascism than socialism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it, and that’s what’s happening with our healthcare programs and these reforms.’

I would like to correct you on two points: First, under Socialism it is the people who own the means of production, not the government. I am afraid you are confusing Socialism with Communism. Second, comparing Obamacare to Fascism makes even less sense. Fascism is best described as a merging of corporate and government interests. How, exactly, does Obamacare fit into this definition? Read more...

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Review of the Movie "Zero Dark Thirty"

By Tom Kando

This is the story of Operation Neptune Spear, the mission to kill  Osama Bin Laden. The mission has also been  called operation Geronimo, the code name given to Bin Laden by the CIA.

The movie describes the ten-year hunt for   Bin Laden and its successful conclusion.  It describes an incredible sequence of black ops, CIA board meetings, “black sites” where detainees are being tortured, explosive Pakistani streets, suicide bombings,  and of course the final assault on the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad.

In one word: awesome. The central character - better word: heroine -  is CIA operative “Maya,” played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain. Through dogged determination, she is able to  almost single-handedly track down and  finally eliminate the world’s number one public enemy. She survives assassination attempts and overcomes Washington bureaucracy. One of the many controversies surrounding the movie is the extent to which the Maya character is fictitious. It is not, although it is probably embellished. Read more...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Homicide: Locally and Globally

By Tom Kando

As I open the morning newspaper, hardly a day goes by when I don’t see a notice of another gun death  in the greater Sacramento  region. The small notices are usually  hidden on a secondary  page. The forever snuffing out of a  human life  is so banal, so everyday.  On January one  of this year, I started keeping count.

As of January nine , the Sacramento Bee   has reported  9 people  shot to death in the greater Sacramento area. Yes - one per day. This includes one suicide, one suspect killed by a cop,  and the double murder on New Year’s eve.

If this trend continues, we will end up with 365 deaths by gun for the year. I know, my total so far is  a mishmash. Still, gun deaths are gun deaths. Read more...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ashes to Ash: Remembering Metropolitan State Hospital

Mark is taking us on a nature walk again, this time through a thick pack of snow. The area is called 'Beaver Brook North Reservation', a 300 acre piece of conservation land in Belmont. It is a beautiful winter day, the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the branches on the trees are motionless, patiently waiting for the birds and squirrels to come forage for food or sing their morning song.

Our walk is taking us over a small wooden bridge where we peer into a brook with patches of ice that resemble delicate, transparent lily pads. We walk through fields where the invasive burdock lies dormant, waiting for the spring when it will conquer more of this native habitat. We pass by tall cherry trees whose bark looks like burnt cornflakes, next to some slender hazelnuts with bark as smooth as a babies' bottom. A patch of oaks whose branches droop under  the weight of blackened gouty oak galls, some others being choked by climbing ivy. Read more...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 NFL Playoffs: Kando's Prognostications

By Tom Kando

Dear Readers: As has become my custom, now that the regular NFL season is over, I offer you Kando’s 2013 post-season prognostications

1. Wild-card Round (Jan. 5-6)
Houston vs. Cincinnati: Houston
Indianapolis vs. Baltimore: Indianapolis
Green Bay vs. Minnesota: Green Bay
Seattle vs. Washington: Seattle

 2. Divisional Round (Jan. 12-13)
Houston vs. New England: New England
Indianapolis vs. Denver: Denver
Green Bay  vs. San Francisco: San Francisco
Seattle vs. Atlanta: Atlanta