Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One Nation

The result of the recent referendum to consider independence for Scotland is one I greet with relief, for many reasons. I have been a U.S. citizen for over 50 years, but also retain my native British citizenship. My full last name is "Lindsey-Renton", and I am part English and part Scottish. At cricket, I support the English team; in Rugby Union football I am happy if Scotland wins. "Lindsey" is an English name for part of the large county of Lincolnshire. Not that this ever prevented my sisters and me from selecting Lindsay tartan for kilts, rugs, and bathrobes! Besides the Seattle suburb of Renton, there is a small suburb of Glasgow with that name. When Barbara & I were touring in Scotland, we planned to go there, buy postcards, and send them to family members. It's a miserable place, we found, and the post office had been permanently closed. Scratch that idea! The Rentons were lowlanders, mainly living near the River Tweed border with England. I once asked what was known about the Rentons, and was told that north of the border they were considered patriotic warriors: south of the border they were considered just lowdown cattle thieves.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


The San Francisco Chronicle recently published a letter that I wrote, which read as follows: A permanent resolution of the conflict between Israel and Gaza will not be acceptable to Israel if Gaza can import weapons. It will not be acceptable to Gaza if the compete blockade remains in force. Surely the reasonable solution is to allow the import of non-lethal goods, controlled by a neutral party. This could be Egypt, or perhaps reliable monitors established by the United Nations. Undoubtedly there would be complex negotiations to arrange this, but wouldn't the positive result of such an arrangement be worth the time and trouble? For the purposes of publication, this was necessarily brief. A friend pointed out that what I was suggesting was essentially an idea brought out at the unsuccessful meeting in Cairo, and he informed me that this common-sense idea was rejected by the Israeli's. When I see pictures of the devastation the Israeli bombing has caused in Gaza, it disturbs me. It was a response totally out of scale by comparison to the ineffective but relentless firing of rockets into Israel. It is hard to see how this conflict can ever be resolved without each side making concessions. It would be humiliating for the Palestinian's to have to accept control over the imports by a third party, but it would certainly be preferable to the complete Israeli blockade, which stifles peaceful economic activity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Double Jeopardy?

I deplore violence against women. I am glad that the NFL is finally getting serious. Most of us saw the video of Ray Rice dragging his future wife out of an elevator, and applauded when the original 2 game suspension was increased to six games. Then a second video emerged, of the vicious punch which floored the woman. Frankly, I had imagined such violence from the first video. Ray Rice was "cut" (lost his job) from his team. Then Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, banned Rice "indefinitely". That seems to me inappropriate--not that it was the wrong response to the offense, but that he had already been punished for it, and such a severe penalty represented a changed policy.. We would not consider it right to introduce legislation to upgrade a misdemeanor to a felony, and then charge someone with a felony for an act committed before the change in the law. Unless the suspension is lifted.within a year or two,this talented athlete will have lost the rewards of his career. It also seems that Goodell is more interested in keeping his own well-paid job than being fair to the player. The one good thing about this saga is that it may discourage such physical violence in the future. The practitioners of a violent sport may think twice about jeopardizing future earnings running into many millions of dollars.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Weights & Measures

We don't use the word "stones" when discussing a person's weight in the USA. We limit ourselves to pounds and ounces, and I doubt if many children learn that fourteen pounds of weight is known in Britain as "one stone". When it comes to coinage, I learned as a child to deal with farthings, shillings, pence, florins, and half-crowns. [We did not use "crowns" and it always seemed somewhat redundant to have two shillings (a florin), as well as two shillings and six pence (a half-crown).] At a higher level, there was the, "guinea" mainly used at expensive stores, being one pound, one shilling. I used to think that the decimal system, in use in most other civilized countries, was simpler and superior, eliminating the need for many troublesome mathematical calculations. Since my childhood, the British have reformed their monetary system, and also adopted the decimal system for currency. Meantime, why are we still talking about inches, feet, yards, and miles in this country? The world uses centimeters, meters, and kilometers for distances, although it seems to have rejected decimeters. We still use quarts and pints for liquid, rather than liters. I can only suppose that our politicians are afraid to make changes to our measurements, as they would not always be very popular! We measure gasoline in gallons, but we don't use the same "gallon" as the British, who cling to the outdated term "imperial gallon", despite having long ago lost an empire.