Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wrong For So Many Reasons

There was a contest on a social media site for a  list of  50 objects that say Vermont.  One entry was "One word: Empathy (with one another)"

Wow!  Where to begin?

1. Object!  Empathy is not an object, it is a thing but is not visible or tangible.  We are looking for things like Fall folliage, sugar shacks or trustafarians on Church Street in Burlington.

2. "(with one another)"  As opposed to what? Rocks, trees and rivers?  

Enough with the trivial and easy criticism, what is the underlying meaning that is being, perhaps unwittingly, betrayed?

Since the contest is for things that say Vermont, a fair assumption is that they should be things which would be particular to Vermont and not to other places.  That is, we are looking for things which are distinctively Vermont.  The implication is that empathy is something unique to Vermonters.  Well, don't we have a high opinion of ourselves?  And by implication, low opinion of people from outside.

Clannish, check.  Self-satisfied, check.  Fully confident in one's moral superiority, check!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Because I Can

So, what should one make of this Superbowl ring controversy?

In case you haven't heard, the story is in all the papers, here is the Washington Post's version:

What are the facts and what should one make of them:

1.  There seems to be no dispute that the ring was passed between Mr. Kraft and Mr. Putin.

2. Kraft has variously claimed it was stolen from him and that he was just joking about it being taken and that it was actually a gift.  What makes this hard to believe:

     --Kraft's own claim that he was pressured by the Bush administration to not make a fuss over this is believable and even though he claims it is all a joke, his current backing-off from the story could just be that the Obama administration is applying the same pressure on him that was done before.

     --Who would give away such a one of a kind object?  It just seems unbelievable.

     --If Putin was a "normal" kind of person he would diffuse this by making a public statement that, if there is some kind of misunderstanding, then Mr. Kraft can have the ring back any time.  He only needs to ask.  This has not happened, or if it has, it has not been reported.

     --The ring is claimed to be on display in the Kremlin library.  This claim could be easily checked, though to my knowledge it has not been verified.  If it is true, then I would find this fact to be exonerating of Mr. Putin.  If he did not take it for his own personal pleasure, then he must have been acting out of higher motives.  On the other hand, one could suppose that the ring was put on display exactly for the reason of insulating the Russian President from criticism.  He would still have the pleasure of seeing his own power validated by being able to steal a prized possession with no repercussions.