Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moammar and the CIA

Ohhhhh , be afraid Moammar . . . the CIA is on the case, and “on the ground” so to speak . . . Man we are really moving mountains to get rid of this guy. Think of it . . . putting the CIA into the game. Wow! What’s next, I wonder? Maybe sponsoring a Justin Bieber concert in Benghazi to support the rebels?? Hah! That’ll scare the crap out of Moammar.

Really, guys, you’re telling us, and presumably Moammar, that the CIA is now engaged and walking the walk in Libya. So, what’s that all about? I assume this announcement is supposed to terrify Moammar, and maybe get him to reconsider his next moves? And we’re told that it was, after all, the addition of the CIA into Afghanistan that led to the defeat of the Taliban. Huh! I wonder when we defeated the Taliban? So I guess we can bring all of our troops home from Afghanistan??
The CIA seems to me to be the most inept agency in the US government. They really seem to get almost everything wrong. They missed the Decline and Fall of the Russian Empire, including the collapse of the Berlin Wall. They appeared to have no clue that we were actually losing the war in Vietnam. They told us that the Iraq WMD thing was “a slam dunk”. I guess arguably, they were at least aware that Osama Bin laden (remember him??) was trying to wreak havoc in the US of A, but George W. was too busy dismantling the US government and reducing taxes for his wealthy friends to pay attention. But really, they don’t get much right. So, why the announcement?
Could it be a throw-away line to placate our own radical right, who continue to fuss and fume at every Obama pronouncement? I assume they love the CIA, so telling them that the CIA is engaged is perhaps a way of telling the hard right to back off—their guys are on the ground, so shut up and “support our troops.” But for the rest of us, it’s not great news. First of all, the announcement means that they are not actually doing anything important, or we would not be told about it. I mean, they never tell us anything important about the CIA, so I assume this announcement means that maybe they’re already done, or that they aren’t actually on the ground. Ohh, I know . . . they’re “on the ground” sort of like the way the Jon Stewart cast of comedy journalists are always “on the ground” somewhere, when actually they’re just standing in front of a green screen with a film projected behind them. That must be it. Yeah, the Intel guys are still sitting at Langley drinking their giganto latte’s, while pretending to be “on the ground.” Ohm yeah, I feel so much better now . . .
And on yet another exoplanet, Newt Gingrich is telling us that he doesn’t understand why Obama is messing with Libya. Were he President, he wouldn’t be messing with Libya, unless of course he was messing with Libya . . . but you know the Newtster. He’s such a joker. Maybe he’s readying himself for a new wife, and he’s practicing his particular form of “truthiness”.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View

I guess I need to get out more. I saw the headline, above, in the New York Times, an article by Ray Jayawardhana, and thought, “Oh, an article about the recent invasion of the nation by Republicans." I assumed the article was going to describe the Grand Vision of our newly elected barons . . . you know, eliminating decent public education, elimination of all social safety nets, and returning the Nation to third world standards, where we have two classes—the rich, and everyone else.

But, no, it was instead an article about actual alien life (no, you doofuses, real aliens, not Mexicans) , that might exist on what are known as exoplanets—planets that sort of resemble the earth in ways that suggest at least the possibility of life. Then it made me wonder whether alien intelligent beings on some other planets are doing the same thing—scouring the universe looking for other intelligent life forms. And, on what they might be saying to each other if they stumbled across us. I mean, would they think of us as intelligent life forms?? Seems unlikely huh? I guess it depends on your definition of “intelligent”. I assume they might wrestle with this issue a long time. Would actually intelligent life forms act this way—blowing themselves up, destroying the very planet on which they depend for their future existence? Surely not they would think . . . So they might be forced to conclude that, while we might have begun a while back (some would say 6,000 years ago) as intelligent life forms, something must have happened along the way to corrupt the genetic pool, turning out this collection of moronic, highly destructive savages. They might even conclude that we are a highly dangerous species, toxic one might call us, and that we need to be eliminated, sort of like kudzu, or those nasty Asian carp threatening our rivers. Wouldn’t that be too bad?

On the other hand, perhaps they’re right.

And on yet another of those alien planets, Donald Trump—you know THE Donald, decided that he will probably toss his hat into the presidential aspirant ring. It is said that, as soon as he heard that Michelle Bachman had just declared, he said, “hell, if we’re that desperate for talent, I might as well give it a whirl. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Great Dumbing Down

The more I read articles about current events, made available on the Internet, the better I feel about my ability to understand and interpret the news of the day. But a counter phenomenon has begun entering my consciousness—the rapid commentary on the various articles. And the commentary has begun overwhelming the actual news reporting and interpretation by the various journalists and officials who are responsible for most of the articles.

In olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we all gathered our news and interpretive writings from our newspapers, reinforced at a later stage by radio and television reporting. Television was often a series of quick-takes on local, national and global events. One could, of course, learn something of what was happening “out there” from television, but the absence of deliberative thought behind much of the reporting, and the press of deadlines has always made television somewhat less than coherent. I say this, realizing that some of our television news was a fairly widely respected source of news and interpretation. Edward R. Murrow on radio and TV gave us a reasoned understanding of world events, largely unduplicated in today’s news media. Today, only the Public Broadcasting system even attempts to provide the kind of careful analysis and discussion of world events we used to expect routinely from Murrow. Bill Moyers was one of the last great sources of intelligent news programming on the air.

Still, in those olden days, if we were driven to comment on world events, or the analysis/reporting that appeared at our breakfast table, or our nightly news programs, we had to sit down at a table and put pen to paper. Then we had to place the paper in an envelope, place a stamp on the envelope and send it off in the post to our friendly neighborhood newspaper, or TV station, hoping that some editor might find our musings interesting enough to publish or broadcast. The effort required to create our own commentary probably made us at least pause before even deciding to sit down and write. We might even think about what we wanted to convey. We wanted our opinion to matter, so we thought before we wrote.

Enter the Internet. The Internet is both a marvel and a nightmare at the same time. We subscribe on-line to the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. These news sources also require you to comment via E-Mail, or actual snail mail. In either case, there is no guarantee that your comments will find their way onto the screens of your PCs. Editors still exercise judgment on what is published, and of the many submissions, only a few make it into print or onto the screens of these news outlets.

But we also subscribe to many Internet news sources that are collections of articles from many sources, usually aggregated around some theme or point of view. Most of our subscriptions represent the middle to the political left. For these sources—both of the Left and Right persuasions-- instant commentary is possible: All one need do is to trail down to the end of the article to the comments section, and write your own commentary on the article. It is a form of instant gratification; since one can see one’s own words appear magically for the entire world to see. Little forethought is required for such commentary, and even a casual perusal of the extensive commentary suggests that indeed little forethought characterizes most of it. It is akin to all of the other forms masquerading as modern communication—texting, tweeting, Facebook postings, even blogging. It is as though speed actually is of the essence, brevity is important, and forethought largely irrelevant. What matters mostly in these commentaries is your vote on the subject, cast in the harshest terms possible. Some even use the all caps approach—equivalent to yelling. Reasoned comments are largely drowned out by the flood of verbal abuse heaped on one another and on the article writers. The great middle or indeed subtlety seems not to exist in these communications venues. It represents, to me, a form of the great dumbing down of America.

It seems doubtful that people in America are actually growing less intelligent over time, although the continued 35-40% dropout rate from our high schools might contradict that optimistic view. But I think what is happening is that the Internet allows and even encourages group-think, and also allows anyone to voice their opinion in open forums.
We now have organized social and political venues on-line that allow like-minded people to collect and “talk” with one another, as though they were in the same room. Since like-minded people tend, over time, to support the views of their chosen kind, the views seem to be moving to one side or the other of the spectrum of social/political thought. This group-think is amplified heavily by entertainment media such as Rupert’s Faux News Network, in which actors or actual delusional sociopaths dominate the airwaves, pounding home the view of the opposite party as “the enemy”, or as inherently evil. The continued, and indeed expanded, financial support of the largely right wing groups—think venues by such groups as the Koch Brothers-- gave rise to such phenomena as the Tea Party, an entirely Astroturf political group, but a potentially dangerous one for our Republic.
How to counter these growing forces driving the Nation into two camps is a problem we ignore at our peril. Our elected representatives in Congress are supposed to find ways to forge solutions to our Nation’s problems, solutions often based on compromise. What we see instead is the same movement to the right or to the left by our representatives, and actual problem solution has disappeared, replaced by attempts to Defeat the Other. Increasingly, the President is faced with the equivalent of two warring camps. Where are the adults in the Nation? Perhaps they all migrated to Canada?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Japanese Neighbors

10,000 lost souls . . . what can one say in the face of such a natural calamity? Certainly Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell would have a ready answer . . . something to the tune of, “ this is God’s way of punishing . . .” To idiots such as these religious fascists, their mean little god is always about punishing someone, just for the hell of it. To the rest of us, you know, just normal people, we have a less corrupt, distorted view of god and/or nature. “Shit happens” seems to capture it nicely. Our natural world is not perfect, and stuff seems to just happen every now and again. You can prepare for it, and by all accounts, the Japanese prepared perhaps better than anyone else on this globe. But a quake of over 8 magnitude??? Hard to prepare. And I am just beginning to understand the true power of a tsunami. That much water rushing at you at 30-40 miles per hour exceeds any definition of “awesome” power.
But we can try to empathize with the Japanese people and to understand that they really are our neighbors on this spinning globe. We should try to do everything we can to assist, and to let them know that we care. In such situations, we really are our brother’s keeper. We can and should mourn with them their loss of so many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters.
And when tomorrow comes around, and their recovery is assured, and that day will come, we might want to think about the other living souls on our planet, and how we can begin to live together without trying to kill one another so frequently. I realize that those to the right seem to like killing things, people and animals. But maybe a natural catastrophe such as this in Japan should make us pause. Perhaps in the face of this disaster, when so many earthlings died, it would be appropriate to ask whether there aren’t alternatives to killing as the dispute resolution of choice. Isn’t that why we invented the United Nations?
Can we at least give it a try folks?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NPR & Federal Funding

So, what do we know? Well, we know for certain that Ron Schiller is an idiot, at least as big an idiot as the teabaggers and other right wing repubs he accuses, with some justification, of being radical racists. Whatever Schiller believes, and however true or false are his beliefs, he demonstrated that he did not deserve being in a position of authority at NPR. “Loose lips sink ships”, it was once said, and it as true now as it was in WW II. NPR is a national treasure, but a treasure under attack by the right wing. The right wing does not need more ammunition. It is enough for them that the only “Fair and Balanced” news program on our airwaves is NPR. The right wing specializes in media control. The Faux News Network is their idea of balance—i.e., to the right of Attila the Hun. So, Schiller handed them a gift. I guess he thought nobody was listening—he was talking “to the choir” so to speak. But, as in WW II, the enemy is always listening, and we need to be clear—the right wing in this country is the enemy of true American values. They value only corporate money and its ideologues. Rupert, the Cocks and others of their ilk now run the right wing of this nation, mainly the republican party. They will stop at nothing to destroy a balanced approach to any subject.
So, maybe we don’t need federal money. Perhaps the right wing is correct. If Rupert Murdoch doesn’t need and can’t get federal tax dollars, perhaps NPR should not get such funds either. Maybe this is a test. Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. Perhaps this one of those times. If NPR is as good as we think it is, and as valuable to the American people, perhaps we should put our money where our mouths are. Maybe this is a time for the American people who listen but never contribute, to step up to the plate and pay for what they value. Maybe it is time to end federal support for NPR and PBS. The extreme right wing has its Glenn Becks and the other acting stooges of the Faux News Network. The rest of the country—the great middle—needs its daily fix of real news, and reporters who actually think for a living. I am firmly convinced that Americans will pay for real value, and that NPR provides real value. It is a quintessentially American institution—thoughtful, quiet, fair. We need NPR. The goons on the right want to kill it. But ending federal funding is their only vehicle. We cannot, must not let them succeed.
We need to stand up and pay for what we value.
We all need to denounce the enemies of NPR . . . BY PAYING OUR FAIR SHARE.
If you believe in the concept of NPR, send them a check.

Oh, and one more thing. Maybe we need to do the opposite of what the right wing is yelling about. Maybe we need to rethink the corporate advertisers who support the extreme right wing, via Rupert's PR outlets. Perhaps we can live without the products being advertised on the Faux News Network.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Oh, those awful teachers. They’re lazy—they only work 9 months a year, you know. And they make so much money; plus their benefit packages are insane . . . Oh, and to top it off, they don’t really teach our kids very well. Nope.
That’s the Scott Walker-Teabagger-republican party-Cock Brothers-Rupert the Magnificent party line.
Why would they adopt such an incredibly preposterous attack on teachers? Hey, you idiots, those are the people who are helping to produce the next generation of Americans. And you’re sliming them?
It’s hard to imagine what sewer system the republicans claim as their home base. How pathetic really to base your whole fiscal policy on attacking teachers. They seem to think it’s ok for investment bankers to take home millions in bonuses, just after having trashed the entire global financial system through their own incompetence. That’s ok, huh? But teachers acting collectively. That’s not ok.
I continue to wonder when and why the republican party got so off the main American rail system that they are now like a bunch of right wing goons, acting robotically to satisfy the richest two percent of our population. And, now Wisconsinites are saying through polls that they disagree with their governor. So, how come you elected the idiot then people?
I have worked with teachers off and on over a very long period of time, watching them with our kids, talking with them about the problems they experience in trying to give their kids the best they can. Almost without exception, I have found teachers to be dedicated to the kids in their care. When the kids don’t/won’t learn, the teachers are as frustrated as all their critics. Lately, in conversations with teachers, it seems they are as demoralized as I have ever seen them. The attacks are telling on them. Their job is getting harder over time, as we cut budgets and thereby increase class sizes—the opposite of what common sense suggests. As we increase testing, forcing teachers to teach testing rather than the substance of learning, the kids are probably learning less and less about the basics and more about how to take tests. We continue not to deal with the uninvolvement of many parents in their kids’ education.
In short, many of the “solutions” (e.g., No Child Left Behind) are solutions in search of a problem. Charter schools, which experience suggests are not a solution, while sucking more money out of the public system, are simply a way of walking away from the real problems of our educational system. Focusing on “bad” teachers, i.e., let’s find all the bad teachers and fire them, is yet another mindless solution in search of a problem. Undoubtedly, there are bad teachers in the public school system. Having worked for 50 years in both for-profit, non-profit and government jobs, it is clear to me that there are bad workers everywhere. They aren’t generally the problem, when something goes seriously awry. Sometimes, as in the financial industry, it is the entire leadership combining greed and incompetence in major displays of the Peter Principle. Sometimes, as in the case of the Iraq War, it is monumental incompetence or corruption at the top of government.
But we don’t go around yelling about how awful the bank tellers are, or how incompetent are our troops on the ground. But that’s what we are doing with our teachers.
I realize that the Koch Brothers hate unions, as do all royal-loyal republicans. But really guys, is this your solution to the Nation’s very real economic problems??? Can the unions and fire bad teachers???

How pathetic.