Friday, May 30, 2008

How portable should customs be?

Some Muslim women have sued their employer because they were required to wear a certain uniform. They said the uniform violated their religious freedom. Would a Muslim country allow a western women to wear whatever she chose?

It has long bothered me that Americans are supposed to adopt certain customs in other countries, but non-Americans should be allowed their own customs in the U.S. We should eat in a certain way in Japan; but Japanese should feel free to slurp their noodles and soup in the U.S.

I remember learning in school that U.N. envoy Ralph Bunche graciously accepted the sheep's eye in a stew while he was in North Africa. But will a Muslim accept a ham dinner in the U.S.? If not, I should be freely able to decline a sheep's eye.

Closer to home, some people wear their shoes in their houses, and some don't. Many of the latter request that their guests take off their shoes. Some of these latter even insist on taking off their shoes when their hosts are wearing shoes, often cluttering up a hallway with their shoes.

Che paese vai, che usanze trovi! Whatever country you go to, adopt the customs that you find. Or, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

But if the Romans are throwing the Christians to the lions, should you do likewise?

Addendum 2009-07-26
As I was planning a similar entry today, I double-checked the Italian phrase above. I made two mistakes, one in word order, the second in making a word plural. The correct phrase is "Paese che vai, usanza che trovi."

A day of infamy

Today is the anniversary of the first internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry in 1942. The later Supreme Court ruling justifying the internment as a national security measure still stands. This same thinking has led to abuse of power by several succeeding presidents.

On the other hand, my German-born grandmother was never interned. If some movies are to be believed, Germans in America were more dangerous than Japanese. After all, they "looked like" everybody else.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A true response to telemarketers

While I was eating dinner, the phone rang. I thought it might be a friend calling for help on a computer problem. No, it was a recorded telemarketing call. I hung up.

As I sat back down again, I thought if a person had been on the other end, I could have responded, "I was expecting an important call." It would have been a true statement, even if I had not been waiting for a call.

As I get up, I assumed it was a friend calling. If it had been a friend calling, his or her message would most likely have been far more important than the telemarketing call, even if it was just to say hello.

So, the full "truthful" and polite response could be:

"Oh, I'm sorry. I was expecting an important call. I must hang up now." Click.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Political surveys

Both the Democrats and the Republicans think I'm one of theirs. I get surveys and requests for donations from both. They don't seem to realize that the title of my column in the Reader Weekly is "Party of One".

OK, OK, I may support with a check a candidate that I like now and then, but that doesn't mean I support the candidate's party.

Yesterday I received a survey from the Democratic National Committee. I don't plan to return it; see "Can You Believe the Polls Anymore". However, I do find this survey more meaningful than those I receive from Republicans. Recent Republican surveys have been full of leading questions; this Democratic survey has only three.

These are:
"Do you believe that John McCain's pledge to keep troops in Iraq for another 100 years will be a liability in the General Election?" McCain didn't "pledge" to stay in Iraq; he said troops would be in Iraq 100 years if necessary.

"How likely do you think it is that John McCain and his Republican allies will launch a "Swift Boat" style smear campaign against our presidential nominee?" We can be certain that allies of both parties will engage in distortion campaigns. Let's hope both presidential candidates stand above such nonsense.

"How concerned are you that Republican voter suppression schemes will disenfranchise Democrats and impact the outcome of the presidential race?" The best antidote to any " suppression schemes" is to get out the vote, massively. Remember more Democrats stayed away in Florida in 2000 than voted for Ralph Nader.

I might send in the survey anyway. Its last question is "If your could offer one piece of advice to the Democratic presidential nominee, what would it be?" I've thought of a couple over the past few weeks; if I can recall them and express one concisely, I might send the survey in.

Mark Trail did it again

As I assumed, Mark Trail used violence against a bad guy. Yesterday he kicked in the door of the bad guy's house. Today, the bad guy took a swing at Mark Trail; Trail swung back and knocked the bad guy off his feet.

Lone wolf policing and fisticuffs is not my image of a conservationist.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mark Trail will do it again

Mark Trail is on the trail of a bad guy again; this time a dognapper. How do I know that Mark Trail will have a fist fight with this bad guy?

Creationism is hubris

Those who study evolution observe how God created life. Creationists tell God how He created life.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Can you believe the polls anymore?

In the 1948 presidential election, many polls predicted that Thomas Dewey would beat Harry Truman. They were so wrong. The polls were made by telephone, but many Democratic voters had no telephone. So, they were not counted.

Now more people have telephones; and polls, except exit polls, are conducted by telephone. But two things make them inaccurate. Many polls are conducted by robo-dialer and a large number of people hang up when there is silence on the other end. Polls are conducted to numbers that are in some database, but many of those database are based on listed numbers. People with unlisted numbers might not be called. Cell phone numbers generally do not appear in listings. Many young people have cell phones only. So many young people will never be called by polls.

Barack Obama is attracting and energizing many young people. Will a representative number of his supporters be called? Some polls show him getting fewer votes than John McCain. Will John McCain be the 2008 version of 1948's Thomas Dewey?