2019 Tony Awards

Sunday night after 60 Minutes I left the TV on to watch the Tony Awards. My days of theatre involvement are long gone and much lower level (i.e., not Broadway but just local dinner theatre and community theatre) but still, like barbershop quartets, that experience is an important part of my background.  Many parts of Sunday night’s awards presentation were uplifting. A ton of intricate choreography, super-difficult but performed with precision. A couple of additional examples:
* The first one, a Best Featured Actress award, is from To Kill a Mockingbird.
* Baltimore’s André De Shields “Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be”
Amen to that latter observation. Overall, the level of talent keeps rising.

News coverage during the past week about John McCain has given the impression of a nation drawn together more than usual. Importance of that is especially evident during these days of conflict. Turmoil among leadership in my country — and now also in my Christian denomination — forces me to depend on my own judgment even more than before, and therefore less on customary sources.

Fortunately I can draw on massive amounts of guidance and direction from those customary sources in the past. With all their imperfections, past guidelines at least weren’t weighed down by the extreme disarray just cited. It is now fitting the way we focus on a product of those past guidelines: John McCain, whose example of selflessness and sacrifice provides much needed inspiration. How many would have suffered years more as a captive rather than accept a privileged offer to leave — one in a million — or less?

The overwhelming majority of us, not destined for even a slight fraction of his achievements, must settle for a far smaller legacy. Speaking for myself, if success of all my efforts suddenly changed from very limited results to spectacular triumphs, maybe that would advance me to one per cent of one per cent as high. That would be more than satisfying enough. Many of us almost never call someone an inspiration. John McCain was an inspiration.

For several years I’ve expressed, on this website or another, objections to many conditions (deportations of innocents, defense budget exploitation, some aspects of air traffic management, failure to capitalize on opportunities for advanced warning of earthquakes or infrastructure failure, high-level misrepresentation of satellite navigation, … ). August 2018 news has produced a whole new level. This will focus on church crime.

I’m proud to be a Christian. In the past I was proud to be a Catholic. My reason for remaining “RC” now is historical: a timeline reaching all the way back to year one AD. Crises have occurred along the way (with the Inquisition usually cited as “exhibit A”) but modern times bring a much bigger calamity.

Page 30 of a 2005 book “Nuts & Bolts of Christianity” included this excerpt:
I frankly question the judgment — and competence — of the whole hierarchy. My denomination lost a giant amount of credibility in the Christian community. How many centuries it would take to regain that is anyone’s guess.”  That was thirteen years before the full extent of corruption became clear.

Outrageous insanity connected with abuse of children and adolescents defies attempts to explain or even describe it. Instead I recently suggested this: Let the Catholic church divest all financial assets, give proceeds to victims of abuse, and declare bankruptcy. Seeking advice from others I was cautioned: Creating that vacuum could enable even worse control. OK, granted — but the suggestion at least highlights the severity. Only extreme action can begin to exorcise this critically wounded institution. Moral authority, shattered over decades, is now nowhere in sight.

Authority also betrayed elsewhere (public schools, University coaches, movie moguls, gymnasts’ doctors, … ), though very real, won’t reduce the severity here. Restoration will require something akin to breaking down and starting over from scratch — followed by flawless performance over a very long time. Anything that drastic will produce a ton of objections (e.g., “it’ll destroy the church”). No, it won’t. Christianity began from square one, surviving with benevolent people coming out-of-the-woodwork from all directions, lifted up by Divine power. Not by money, which appears to have been a destructive influence; funds urgently needed for helping the destitute are now targeted by lawyers. Deny those lawyers access to the funds; steer payments to victims instead. At least something can then be salvaged from this disaster.

Thousands of innocents contributing to constructive church efforts justifiably found a way of life within. Their stable world was unfortunately invaded by monsters from a hideous swampland. No doghouse is too small for them; let civil authorities decide their fate. Suffering of innocents along with the guilty is of course regrettable, even tragic, but also inescapable; it happens no matter what is decided.

With no easy ways past this man-made ruin, I can say only that restoration will demand a clear drastic beginning followed by slow consistent progress. Apologies for not knowing a more definitive answer.

With this text I’m raising a subject that’s unusual for this site. It’s not an easy topic. For about a year now we’ve all seen disagreements that have strained relationships everywhere. Just about all of us have friends and/or family members on opposite sides of the political divide — no matter which side we favor. No need to go into detail or try being preachy at this point; what I want to describe now is a year-long series of meetings that included fourteen people, seven at each end of the divide.

The first thing to notice is that the meetings took place at all and, in fact, they’ve continued for a year. Immediately that proves the possibility of real communication between people with opposite beliefs, even exceptionally strong beliefs. The next revelation is that, gradually over time, cross-currents of genuine respect and trust evolved within the group. No one convinced anyone of opposite persuasion to change views, but understanding was developed.

The example worth deriving from those gatherings is the process being used to extract order from apparent disorder. Rather than insisting on only one way to see everything (“my-way-or-the-highway”), individuals expressed reasons for their positions. Instantly that brings in categories and priorities; instead of one isolated issue there are multiple classes of issues. All of a sudden a question emerges about what’s most important. That at least paves the way toward exchanging opinions that can differ without seeming insane.

There’s nothing new about conflict resolution. For eons it’s been recognized that (1) most arguments (some escalating into fights or even wars) begin as misunderstandings and (2) drawing out reasons can prevent chaos. OK, it’s time to identify the source of that information about the group-of-fourteen. 60 Minutes on 2/25/18 showed one of the meetings. The discussion moderator for that one was Oprah. I’m not an Oprah follower (no discredit to her; with no football now, 60 Minutes is the only thing I watch at all) but I gotta sayit — her management of those conversations was flawless.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Trump fan. In keeping with the example just cited I’ll note just one of my reasons. The image of a toddler having to say goodbye to her dad (deported despite having no police record at all) is something I’ll never be able to dismiss.

Regardless of our feelings we need to get a grip on them. Divisions within the past year have risen to an alarming level. Allowing the damage to be permanent is to be avoided at all costs.

This is a complex subject that can’t be resolved by a short blog. My reason for bringing it up here is the way it has divided family member against family member, friend against friend, etc. across the entire nation. I raise it with no illusions about convincing others and changing the political landscape; the purpose is to explain, in a calm voice of reason, the basis for my beliefs.

Families are being separated by deporting fathers who have been here for many years with no criminal record. Defenders of that process cite the law as justification. All of us realize that the legislative process has produced a set of laws containing imperfections. Some laws are outdated. Some have been traced, frankly, to very narrow interests (serving a few overprivileged to the detriment of the vast majority). Our immigration laws have a different trait: inconsistency. Native Americans were displaced through a process that began about 500 years age by settlers from Europe. Should the millions of their descendants be deported? If not then a strong precedent, one that has lasted 500 years, has been set. The legal process depends heavily on precedents to establish order through consistency. Deportation of residents with no record of offenses is not in compliance with that principle. I would extend that to residents with a record of only parking tickets or other minor violations; the “practical” effect of breaking a family is known to be extremely impractical.

None of this implies permissiveness toward violent offenders; send `em away of course. It doesn’t imply that letter-of-the-law is the only issue either. Spirit-of-the-law commonly takes precedence — and it’s hard to invoke that to justify what’s happening. OK, enough about legalities; many would base their arguments on other considerations. For that I’ll have to admit being affected by pictures of wives or children at the scene of departure (struggling now to keep this discussion low key). If broaching that topic doesn’t stimulate some thought-generating activity, there’s another item to offer. Before putting it here let me note that I’m not an Evangelical (in fact, as a Christian I disagree with Evangelicals’ preoccupation with material wealth). Here’s the Scriptural passage from Deut 27:19 — “Cursed be he that violates the rights of the alien, the orphan, or the widow.”

Just about all who agree with my reasoning have relatives and/or friends who disagree. Don’t “un-friend” them; that would only increase the divisions that are tearing this country apart. Our nation needs healing, not more division. There are always areas where opposites can agree. Continue dialogue, starting with those.

A common argument urges support for veterans instead of immigrants. Much better support for veterans is something I’ve advocated for many years  — that doesn’t have to exclude accommodating law-abiding working fathers with young children. This isn’t a mutually exclusive (“either-or”) choice. Anyone who is worried about taxpayers’ dollars might consider (1) defense spending described in the link just cited and (2) family breakups are costly in the long run.

Punish the Innocent?

Last night I read how the ordeal experienced by Connecticut’s Colindres family is being repeated. To make a long story short: immigrant husband of a citizen wife and father of little children citizens, is scheduled for deportation — again. This follows an earlier pause, granted by a Circuit Court less than an hour before a mid-August deportation flight, giving the family a few months of hope mixed with uncertainty. Now the sword hangs over their heads again.
A related case in Indiana involves deported restauranteur (employer of about twenty) Roberto Beristain. Like Joel Colindres he is innocent. Technically, to those relying on lawyerly logic, being undocumented contradicts innocence. Here’s my reaction to that: If rules must reign supreme then they need to be consistent. Over 500 years ago those who came before us started a sequence of events eventually seizing all of continental United States from the native Americans. Should all of us be deported?
These things don’t happen in a vacuum. A new film The Other Side of Hope depicts the life of a MidEast refugee who, after losing most of his family in an explosion caused by a missile from an unknown source, lands in Finland. There, as anywhere, he’s regarded with suspicion and treated as an intruder.
It isn’t only the bureaucracy that makes migrants’ lives miserable. Too many among us actually approve of sending these innocents away, breaking up their families. I don’t claim that we have to turn off the music or give up moderate amounts of legitimate pleasure. But to remain unconcerned about the plight of millions in continuous misery?!? Nero fiddling as Rome burns? No, hell no.
We lack the power to make this all better but we can at least refrain from making it any worse. Fortunately there are some who really can introduce change. From a mid-December 2017 60 Minutes program: A former neo-Nazi skinhead became co-founder of the nonprofit organization Life After Hate. What convinced him to change? Someone he was attacking made eye contact; for the first time, he realized the hurt he was causing. `Nuff said?


Just a quick note: the spammers have “won” — I deleted all comments and will block all future ones. Unfortunately that blocks the good along with the bad, but there are too many people who have nothing better to do than propagate material that is useless or worse. The truth is that I never did find enough time to follow comments and, recently, the amount of time available for moderating those has contracted even further.

I know a compliment when I get one. This is about two of those.

At  Jim Murray’s Saturday night Karaoke, after I sang an old Whitney Houston number, two young black guys made it a point to find me and shake my hand.

Not just young, but decades younger than I am. I’m gratified.

Probably most of the people there didn’t notice that because my experience was not at all exceptional; the place was alive beyond description. With ages ranging from 20-somethings to old duffers (like me); male and female; and — straight to the point of this: about half white and half not white, together in song. Together is no exaggeration; I gotta emphasize it again: Those guys-&-girls/blacks-&-whites/hipsters-&-duffers were together. That’s why the place could be so alive.

It’s not unique. That same description fits the tennis courts where I try to hold my own against better players.

It just doesn’t matter who’s white and who isn’t. The same is true, by the way, at the gym where I work out. The subject came up at the Karaoke bar in a conversation with the wife of one of the other singers — what a contrast from TV scenes close to here. WHY is the news from Baltimore so disastrous ??

An engineer/wannabe-singer can’t know what the answer is — but I’ll venture to say what the answer isn’t:

It definitely isn’t because members of different reces can’t get along. It isn’t because Baltimore is hopeless. Our city is clearly in big trouble; we can’t pretend otherwise. At the same time we need to recognize an old statistic: a small percent of the people cause a huge percent of the major problems. Better minds than mine have struggled with that irony for ages. I’ll leave it to those heads-higher-than-mine to apply that now.

SO: The only thing offered here is a reminder of observations just stated.  That’s about one percent of one percent of one percent of what’s needed to fix our city. But the importance of it prompted me to add this third blog, after five years, to this site.

Still another unforgettable face appeared among news media pictures this week. This time it was from Syria. Her face joins many others showing unmistakable effects of tragedy, with abundant past examples from this planet we inhabit –
* a boy, 5 or 6 years old, with his brave older brother and mother, staring uncomprehendingly at an opaque box cocontaining the remains of a father killed by a cluster bomb in Desert Storm
* another boy, accompanied by several Iraqi siblings, minutes after both of their parents were killed because ofof a misunderstanding at a roadblock
* a man, overcome by grief, carrying the body of his beloved wife who had just died (was it starvation in BiBiafra? With so many disasters who can recall?)
* plus so many more — enough to fill more pages than the number available.

Because most of us in the U.S. haven’t had those experiences, many of us tear up maybe once or twice in a decade. That leads to the belief that we just don’t care (“out-of-sight = out-of-mind”). Don’t believe it; those reminders of others’ shattered lives are enough to make anyone burst out crying. The question is: WHAT CAN WE DO to prevent those tragedies? The disasters that have already happened, being in the past, can’t be retrieved — but what can be done to bring any comfort to those who suffered through devastation ??

Past events that none of us have any power to change clearly indicate looking beyond ourselves for answers. For those who believe in God that means: IN THE LONG RUN (in the final analysis) “the last shall be first … ” — if I didn’t believe that I couldn’t write this because I wouldn’t have any idea at all.

A related question: what can be done to help prevent any FURTHER tragedies? OK, here I have to extend beyond my reach in attempting to answer that one. Immediately it must be admitted — I don’t know what the answer is but only what the answer ISN’T. The answer ISN’T to follow the advocates of hatred. I’ve always believed that names like bin-Laden never represented Islam, but “pretend”-Islam, accepting murder of innocents (including women and children). Another example: Zarkawi, not content to murder Christians but other Muslims as well. The pattern repeats and repeats over again throughout history.

The philosophy tracing (at least) as far back as Napoleon (“When France is at war against England, then ALL of France is at war against ALL of England”) — was obviously dead-wrong. The Muslim woman whose face prompted this writing had nothing to do with 9/11/2001; I care about her. Having no power of my own I can only derive assurance that God will take care of her. There’s no doubt in my mind that, at some time, God will do that — the same God recognized by all “sons-of-Abraham” (whether Christian or Muslim or Hebrew).

When will we EVER learn that monsters who lead by killing have no legitimate call to lead? “My-way-or-the-highway” brought ruin not only to Hitler and Stalin but also to more recent examples (Timothy McVeigh among tons of others). If Muslims will let an outsider (I’m a Christian) recommend an alternative, let me suggest the name of Sistani. I easily recognize him as a man of God.

Admittedly it’s easy for me to say: Muslims, disown your extremists as we in the U.S. must disown ours. Your task is harder than mine (no one will kill me for debunking Rush Limbaugh) but still it’s equally imperative. It is widely recognized that the overwhelming majority of Germans in mid-1900’s DID NOT WANT Nazis in power. The Nazis were organized while others were terrorized. Again this was far from a unique case in history; the results were perfectly clear, even as they unfolded. The same lesson now applies to the vast Muslim majority: Stand united against the criminals who hijack your culture and who threaten to destroy your legitimacy for generations to come. Overrule them. Anyone else trying to do that for you will fail, with disastrous results.

The material below concerns the tragic effects, placed on the shoulders of our veterans, from wrong decisions on a massive scale.  Already visible, this problem can only grow with time.  Let me insert a brief mention of two references, to introduce the topic:
[1] “Forgotten Heroes”  NEWSWEEK March 5, 2007, pp.29-37.
[2] The latest assessment of dismal performance in the defense industry, (GAO-08-467SP March 31, 2008)
I could go on and on, but I’ve already done that – in person and in print, getting nowhere. This is way way too big for one guy swimming upstream.  It needs concerted effort by a group with NO aspiring billionaires in it. Our country has a crisis that will take several non-opportunistic informed people to avert future calamity. All I can do now is draw attention to this “elephant that everyone is ignoring” — and even that limited objective runs into a brick wall. Aside from technical journals, magazines won’t publish what I’ve written below (I’ve tried several since 2004), and every organization believes that this is some other organization’s problem. Meanwhile our veterans continue to suffer tragedy after tragedy.  Does anyone care to stand up and say how wrong this is?
A lot of us know something is wrong.  I know how to fix part of it (see JamesLFarrell.com).  I’ve written and spoken on this subject for years,  everywhere possible, sending my writings to dozens of people at high, low, and intermediate levels in government, industry, academia, and, military plus veterans’ organizations (all with different sets of priorities; one recipient found it provocative; another wondered whether this writer was “crazy”).  Still, many informed (in some cases highly influential) individuals agree with me but no organization has focused the realization into a plan.  The challenge is to bring the collective wisdom of these groups and individuals together.  Why can’t that happen, especially now when so many heroic individuals sacrifice life and limb halfway across the planet? The consensus is: it’s too big and too many jobs depend on the status quo – it “can’t” be changed.  I don’t accept that; I want to challenge corporate managers to change the climate.  Here are some meaningful ideas.
For criticism of the defense industry, the familiar cry about fraud won’t hit the nail on the head.  No one goes to the slammer for poor practice.  Usage of sub-par methods isn’t justified, of course, but it isn’t illegal.  It isn’t even unethical if done out of ignorance, but that isn’t the subject to be explored here.  Our big corporations, with top priority attached to short-term profit, often find it useful to avoid approaches known to be superior.
In avionics (from AVIation electrONICS – a major cost factor for warplanes and other aircraft), a number of reasons can explain why this problem is so insidious, and why it produces poor performance and/or a cost explosion.  Understanding this doesn’t require technical expertise:
* Expensive items in the defense budget include many separate subsystems.
* Subsystems come from independent suppliers uncommitted to each other.
* Subsystem suppliers often try to expand into providers of complete systems.
* Subsystems can be designed to work well with “our but not other” equipment.
* More control over a system means more control over modification costs.
* Modifications bring major profits, reducing motivation for early success.
* Slogans constantly express commitment to excellence – but only verbally.
* Excellence in separate parts does not at all guarantee excellence overall.
* Companies carry ideas of “proprietary” products and concepts to extremes.
* System integrators lack enough time, access to proprietary info, and clout.
* Overseers, if wise enough to master the issues, lack time to investigate.
* Superior methods are often misrepresented as needlessly complex overkill.
To those aiming at solutions, “vendor lockdown” is a familiar phrase.  You can see the rationale; something like (“You have our ___ and it works best with the way we do __ – anything else will cost more”).  Common-sense standardization, proposed for compatibility among separate parts, could have and should have been accepted over a decade ago.
One trend that is slowly gathering momentum is effort to restore the former expertise in agencies of the armed services (relying less on corporations).  That step could relieve some problems just listed (e.g., by eliminating
from competition proposed approaches with proprietary claims).  Until that becomes a reality, there are steps that could be taken now.  The defense industry’s obligation to place troop support at the top of the priority list
could hardly be more obvious; it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned.  Unfortunately the reality is: it not only needs to be mentioned; it needs to be shouted.  At the same time, nothing will be accomplished by bashing corporations whose cooperation is needed to fix this problem.  So – to those with clout in the defense industry: forget your career for a moment  This is about your conscience.  Wouldn’t you welcome a climate where rational planning could enable goals aiming toward long-term (instead of short-term) profit? Doing the right thing benefits the business eventually.  Relearn how to wait.
Time after time I’ve heard luncheon speeches warning about how the U.S. can’t afford careless spending of the defense budget.  Everyone agrees that it was a wonderful speech – and immediately proceeds with business as usual.  Where’s the reality?
No illusions here about avionics procurement reform solving the whole problem. There are other items in the Defense Department inventory and, furthermore, documented abuses by the war service industry are worse than issues just discussed here.  Still, a legitimate way to fix something big is to fix each part.  The captains of industry need to prove that there are some things more important than profit-now.  Help me refuse to quit – NOT for my sake but for those who shoulder the burden.  Those are the real heroes; we all know that.  A country that fails its best heroes can’t possibly stay strong.
From government, industry, academia, and, the military there are hundreds of former administrators with organizational skills I lack.  Many of them, for retirement or other reasons, are not putting those abilities to use, Here is a worthwhile – even urgent – objective that could be served by awakening organizational skills now lying dormant.  Here’s a “template:” In the musical play 1776 – and in the YEAR 1776 – the characters had differences of opinion and limitations like everyone else.  That didn’t prevent them from hammering out a very important agreement.  Something like that needs to happen, to reform all industries organized for the purpose of protecting troops put in harm’s way.  Eisenhower warned us about this decades ago.