Richard Elfers

Richard posted 163 stories to Courier-Herald.
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Political extremes feed on frustration | Rich Elfers

Why have so many young men and women from the West flocked to join ISIS? What is the attraction of such a violent and brutal regime in Syria and Iraq? Since I will be teaching a continuing education class in May at Green River College on “Cults in America,” I’ve been reading up on the topic of mass movements. The best book I’ve found on the topic is Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” written in 1942.

  • Apr 14th, 2015 8:48pm

Decisions in China shape the world | Rich Elfers

In China’s Shanxi province, 15,450 government officials were removed from office on corruption charges in 2014, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. This included seven top leaders according to a March 24, 2015, “Stratfor” article entitled, “China’s Anti-corruption Drive Runs Deep.”

  • Mar 30th, 2015 8:21pm

Three errors made by our president | Rich Elfers

President Obama has made three major mistakes in regard to foreign policy. First, U.S. intervention in Libya destroyed a government that, while corrupt, was structured in such a way as to tamp down on the Islamists. Now, the Islamists are threatening Libya and neighboring Mali, forcing the French to intervene. The lack of an autocratic dictator like Qadaffi has helped bring about Islamist extremism in the region.

  • Mar 23rd, 2015 8:52pm

Seahawk sets example for all | Rich Elfers

In my observation, Wilson possesses three qualities that high school students could emulate to make them as successful in their studies: self discipline, pursuit of goals and the ability to learn from mistakes.

  • Sep 29th, 2014 10:42pm

Balancing stability and change | Politics in Focus

All of us struggle between the desire for stability and the desire for change. Some favor stability and order above all else. Others are dissatisfied with the status quo and want to improve conditions for themselves and/or others.

  • Dec 27th, 2013 8:34pm

Politically, all have to learn to adapt | Politics in Focus

After the Edward Snowden revelations, an embarrassed President Obama, who campaigned for government transparency, is reshaping his surveillance policies – secretly. Isn’t this hypocritical? The answer, surprisingly, is no.

  • Dec 9th, 2013 9:31pm

Political landscape has a lot to do with geographic landscape | Politics in Focus

Every year, when I travel to visit my friends and family in eastern Washington and Montana, I’m shocked to see how geography affects political attitudes.

  • Sep 6th, 2013 5:55pm

The politics behind Mount Rainier National Park | Politics in Focus

What part did politics play in the creation of Mount Rainier National Park? To answer this question I used information from the book, "Mount Rainier Wonderland: An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park."

  • Aug 30th, 2013 10:12pm

Can conservation and capitalism walk hand-in-hand? | Politics in Focus

Which is more important, saving the environment or creating new industries and jobs? This issue was one of the main themes recently in PBS’s six-hour presentation on the National Parks and how they came to be.

  • Aug 28th, 2013 6:25pm

The five ways of handling conflict | Politics in Focus

I bet I can predict how you deal with conflict. How can I do that? Because there are only five possible ways: avoidance, accommodation, compromise, competition and collaboration.

  • Aug 16th, 2013 6:46pm

Whence virtue? | Politics in Focus

Research has shown that if we think about certain virtues when we are confronted with difficult issues, our personal behavior changes as a result. If, for example, we read about the virtue of honesty before we make a decision about a moral issue, we are more likely to act honestly.

  • Aug 9th, 2013 5:56pm

Are non-partisan endorsements a sign of ‘mission creep?’

Why does it appear that unions and political parties are starting to support candidates for nonpartisan races? Why would I be thinking that, you might ask?

  • Aug 2nd, 2013 5:56pm

Arctic ice melting more rapidly than predicted | Politics in Focus

Arctic ice is melting even more quickly than scientists predicted. At this time last year, an area the size of Venezuela (350,000 square miles) had melted at the North Pole. According to the article, “The Coming Arctic Boom” by Scott Borgerson in the July/August 2013 Foreign Affairs, the melting of the ice is supposed to make Arctic summers ice free by as early as 2020 – a rapid increase from the original 2070 prediction.

  • Jul 30th, 2013 4:33pm

A brief history of The Pill | Politics in Focus

By 1962, 1.2 million U.S. women were using the Enovid birth control pill. By 1963, the numbers almost doubled, according to a PBS timeline. Between 2006 and 2008, 82.3 percent of American women aged 15 to 44 were using an oral contraceptive pill (Centers for Disease Control). Today, between 80 million and 100 million women worldwide are using The Pill.

  • Jul 19th, 2013 5:25pm

Do you know the difference between fact and opinion? | Politics in Focus

Think back about the last argument you had. Someone made a categorical statement that you strongly disagreed with. How did you react? Did you come back at them with an equally strong statement? Did the views expressed become heated and angry? Did you raise your voice and get red in the face? If you sit back and think about the argument, could either of you tell the difference between what were facts and what were opinions?

  • Jul 12th, 2013 7:35pm

The balancing act of individual rights and public safety | Politics in Focus

Recent revelations bring to the fore larger issues elected officials must struggle with: where is the line between protecting the public versus guaranteeing individual rights? The answer to this question is not easily determined.

  • Jun 20th, 2013 9:35pm

The relationship of wealth and power, miniaturized | Politics in Focus

When I taught sociology in high school, I employed something called a simulation as a class lesson. I divided the class into three groups. Each was given a mixed bag of colored chips: golds, reds and blues. The students didn’t know it, but I had added more gold chips to one bag than to the others. Golds had the highest value. Students could trade their chips with other teams, trying to improve their scores. I did this several times.

  • Jun 14th, 2013 6:47pm

The politics of fixing bridges | Politics in Focus

Another bridge collapsed recently. This time it was on Interstate 5 just north of Mount Vernon. Fortunately, no one was killed, as occurred when the interstate overpass collapsed in Minneapolis a few years ago.

  • Jun 11th, 2013 8:59pm

Two schools of economic thought inform modern political split | Rich Elfers

Two major theories have been battling in America: Keynesian Economic Theory and the Chicago School Economic Theory propounded by the late economist Milton Friedman. Their conflicting positions have struggled for dominance in fixing the economy for decades. Understanding these two views helps to clarify the differences between liberal and conservative economic thinking in America today.

  • May 31st, 2013 6:56pm

Second term presidential scandals | Rich Elfers, Politics in Focus

Do you ever wonder why every two-term president since Richard Nixon has had a scandal or three during his second term? Nixon's Waterloo was the Watergate scandal that started during his campaign and ended with his resignation and pardon. Ronald Reagan, the next two-term president, caused the nation to suffer through the Iran-Contra Scandal where his government condemned and sanctioned Iran on one hand, and with the other sold them weapons to fight Saddam Hussein, our ally, whom we also supplied with weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. Clinton's was Monica Lewinsky; George W. Bush's scandals number as high as 34, according to one source. They include Abu Ghraib and no WMDs in Iraq. Now, Obama has three scandals going all at once: Benghazi, AP and the IRS.

  • May 24th, 2013 8:11pm

Failure isn’t the end | Rich Elfers

It’s paradoxical, but true: Sometimes failure is good for us. That was my experience several years ago. I had been teaching high school history for 22 years by then and still had no sympathy for students who didn’t work hard and did poorly as a result. They would often give up rather than try to succeed. Sometimes they would act up in class, further frustrating me.

  • May 21st, 2013 7:32pm

What’s your life thesis? | Rich Elfers

Do you know what your life thesis is? You have one whether you realize it or not. We all do. It’s the spectacles we use to interpret everything that happens to us. That life thesis comes as a result of major life events that shaped our thinking when we were young.

  • May 10th, 2013 9:21pm

Marathon bombings illustrate how brutality objectifies | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

In 1915, during World War I, Imperial Germany made a fateful decision that has rippled down to us in the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Kaiser Wilhelm, in desperation over the British naval blockade of Germany, ordered a German U-boat to sink the British ocean liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,119 passengers who died, 114 were Americans.

  • Apr 29th, 2013 4:00pm

How the Kims leveraged North Korea’s shortcomings into power (and why it might no longer work) | Politics in Focus

Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, North Korea has used a strategy of “ferocious, weak, and crazy” to stay in power. Up until recently the strategy has worked brilliantly for the Kims. But the situation is changing under the leadership of twenty-something Kim Jung Un. Because of his actions and rhetoric China has to reconsider its stance of protecting the North Korean regime. Additionally, the current U.S. response toward North Korea is forcing other changes in the region.

  • Apr 19th, 2013 5:50pm

Is development worth losing greenspace? | Politics in Focus

Think about what you feel as you drive east on state Route 410 Enumclaw and head up the hill above the fieldhouse and the golf course. Look off to your right (south) and you see a beautiful forest with thousands of trees. Hancock Timber owns that property.

  • Apr 4th, 2013 8:53pm

Balancing capitalism and the social safety net | Politics in Focus

Which is the best avenue for a strong economy? Republicans want to free themselves of government regulations and taxation. Democrats want to protect the poor and middle class with a safety net. This is the battle we are seeing in the nation’s Capitol right now.

  • Mar 28th, 2013 10:15pm

The limits of executive power | Politics in Focus

How much power does any U.S. president have in affecting domestic issues versus the power he can exercise in foreign affairs? Many Americans believe our president has enormous authority in both arenas based upon promises and criticisms during his presidential campaign. According to our Constitution, that view is in error. Let’s examine where power really resides and how it is actually exercised.

  • Mar 22nd, 2013 8:48pm

Cultural attitudes set low-performing American students behind the curve | Politics in Focus

How does teaching international high school students differ from teaching Americans of the same age? I retired from teaching social studies at Sumner High School after 31 years. For the past three years I have taught American history, government, and culminating project to primarily international students wishing to get their high school diplomas in America at Green River Community College in Auburn.

  • Mar 14th, 2013 9:20pm

Educated parenting the key to educated children | Rich Elfers

Would you like to know how to have a child who does well in school? According to an article in the March/April Foreign Affairs Magazine entitled “Capitalism and Inequality” by Jerry Z. Miller, there is one key that seems to be the best determinant of educational success: “The prevalence of books in a household is a better predictor of higher test scores than family income.” Let’s examine why this is so.

  • Mar 7th, 2013 10:12pm

For-profit medical industry bleeding patients dry | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Time Magazine’s March 4 cover notes that a 1.5 cent acetaminophen tablet costs 10,000 times that much in a hospital. This introduces the reader into the featured story of the issue: "Why Medical Bills are Killing Us," by Steven Brill.

  • Mar 5th, 2013 8:56pm

Do fairy tale beginnings do harm in the long run of a relationship? | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Why do couples so often dress better, bring flowers, hold the chair, open the door for the love of their lives, go out to dinner and attempt to keep themselves slim only until the “quarry” has been safely bagged?

  • Feb 21st, 2013 9:56pm

Good government comes from caring and competence | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

I watched with avid interest and some surprise as seven candidates vied for the Enumclaw City Council seat vacated due to the death of Kevin Mahelona.

  • Feb 14th, 2013 5:59pm

Lack of Wall Street prosecutions are a travesty | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Approximately 4.5 years have passed since the 2008 economic meltdown. It is estimated that $12 trillion were lost and millions of jobs ended in what has been considered the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. How can it be that this group of people has escaped criminal prosecution?

  • Feb 8th, 2013 7:49pm

McCleary decision put state lawmakers on notice | Richard Elfers’ Politics in Focus

The McCleary versus the state of Washington decision of Jan. 5, 2012, set the stage. According to the state constitution, “It is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all students residing within its borders.”

  • Feb 1st, 2013 12:26am

The many faces of American expansion | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

When I teach American history to international students, I want to make sure they learn how the United States spread out across this continent and expanded overseas. Understanding this tells them a lot about America’s national character and personality. There are definite patterns to our expansion westward.

  • Jan 26th, 2013 12:01am

Venture capitalist challenges notions about democracy | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

A Chinese venture capitalist and political scientist in the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs presents an intriguing perspective on the current state of U.S. democracy. The author, Eric X. Li, trumpets the advantages of the one-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party. Democracy is not the only form of successful government, according to Li.

  • Jan 18th, 2013 7:13pm

Binary thought has a time and place | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Do you know what black-and-white thinking is? It’s a way of seeing situations and events as moral choices between good and evil, right and wrong, either/or, with nothing in between. This type of thinking is absolutely essential in life-or-death situations. The choices are stark where dramatic decisive action is required. Most of the time, though, black-and-white thinking limits our options and causes us to see the world with too narrow a focus.

  • Jan 11th, 2013 7:32pm

U.S. political parties have a rich and storied history | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Do you know the history of our current major American political parties? Understanding their history will help you appreciate how they change with the times and often switch roles.

  • Jan 8th, 2013 3:04am

The power of legacy | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

My grandfather Elfers loved to argue, and on one occasion when I was about 10 years old, I saw him get a glint in his eye, and raise his voice as he talked about politics. I, too, became interested in politics and later ran for public office. I, too, love to argue and discuss what’s going on in the world. That’s partly why I write this column.

  • Dec 29th, 2012 2:15am

Media is a powerful hammer in the politician’s toolbox | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

A major reason President Obama won the elections of 2008 and 2012 was because he and his advisers harnessed the power of the data-mining capacities of the computer and the mass appeal of the Internet. Obama for America polled, communicated with, organized and milked supporters for donations more effectively than any other candidate in American history.

  • Dec 14th, 2012 11:40pm

Politicians need to adapt to the new reality | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Politics deals with what is, not what we would like humans and society to be. That’s one of the major things that I miss about being on the Enumclaw City Council.

  • Dec 6th, 2012 11:33pm

In the sock drawer of good and evil | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Are children born with an innate sense of right and wrong? That was the question a 60 Minutes segment explored on Nov. 18. The Yale study used hand puppets to test whether children as young as 3 months knew right from wrong. This study gives us a more complete picture of moral development with deep implications for us all.

  • Nov 29th, 2012 10:34pm

Election spending about quality, not quantity | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

The 2012 election was the most expensive political war in American history. Republicans and Democrats spent $6 billion on all the campaigns - presidential and congressional and on the state level.

  • Nov 26th, 2012 11:55pm

Politicians master the art of framing | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

In order to win big stakes elections in America, it’s necessary to frame your opponent in an unfavorable light. Your opponent tries to do the same thing to you. Whoever is more successful in framing their opponent will win the election.

  • Nov 17th, 2012 2:42am

Reaching for the other side of the aisle | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Have you had enough of slanted political views, slander and stubborn, self-righteous partisanship? I have. I’m glad elections are done for at least a year. It seems what Americans are hungry for is cooperation and compromise between the political parties in the nation’s Congress and the state and local governments for the good of the nation. What most of us really would like to see is a sense of balance and moderation.

  • Nov 13th, 2012 11:54pm

Understanding Syria | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Syria is a nation formed by Britain and France out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. France chose to have Syria and Lebanon as its mandated protectorate as formulated by the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations.

  • Nov 1st, 2012 6:29pm

Could this year’s election beget a historic glitch? | Politics in Focus

All the polls say this presidential election will be very close. According to one political writer, it will come down to about a million people who live in the battleground states whose highest education is a high school diploma.

  • Oct 25th, 2012 9:01pm

Political fractures fuel candidates’ dishonesty | Politics in Focus

Recently I announced a guest Pacific Lutheran University professor at my church would be discussing Christian ethics and politics during the Adult Forum. I received laughter when I noted those two terms didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Both presidential candidates claim to be Christian, but in the heat of political battle for the highest office in the land, truth seems to have taken a back seat to winning – or is it to avoid losing?

  • Oct 22nd, 2012 11:09pm

Racism of apartheid had deep economic roots | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

How do you react to injustice when dealing with your government or in the workplace? That was one of the questions I asked myself on my recent trip to visit my daughter and family in South Africa.

  • Sep 27th, 2012 10:46pm

The limitations of executive power | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Government leaders are often criticized for the wrong reasons. Presidents, whether they are Republican or Democrat, are sometimes blamed for things that are beyond their control. Likewise, city mayors are blamed despite their lack of power to vote on issues that come before the council.

  • Sep 19th, 2012 8:41pm