Facts not fashion

Author: admin

Story placement is always a bugaboo for print journalists. Sometimes the rule is the most important story of the day goes at the top. Other times, the editor reaches for one that will “grab” readers because it’s cute or funny or sensational. But my latest experience in lousy headline juxtaposition came the other day with these two. Side by side. Both treated equally.

“HENRY KISSINGER: WORLD ORDER IS CRUMBLING.”

“FASHION EXPERTS REVIEW PRESIDENT’S TAN SUIT”

Now I suppose the value – importance, if you will – found in those two items depends on how you look at world events. Personally, I find stories of cataclysms and threats to our worldly existence a tad more of interest than the color of Mr. Obama’s sartorial selection of the day. Apparently not so for the editors of The Huffington Post and nearly all other national media.

I checked seven national news sites after finding the breathless reviewers comments about that suit. All had similar stories: one had three! Only two mentioned “Doctor K’s” rather mind-numbing remarks.

Henry always has had a flair for being quotable if not just a bit over-the-top. In this instance, it’s hard not to agree with him. Look at a Congress where order has already crumbled into chaos and stupefying inaction. Check out Vladimir Putin’s barefaced international lies denying invasion of another country while his military does just that. At the moment, the civilized world is absolutely flummoxed about the merciless killing machine known as ISIS or ISIL and what to do about the mindless slaughter being perpetrated on thousands and thousands of innocent people.

If these world order-defying items don’t hit home, there’s always the climate change that’s redesigning and eliminating parts of the earth as we stand flatfooted and take no meaningful steps to reverse it. Or, the many longstanding racial injustices leaving young, dead bodies on the streets and thousands of innocent people in jail.

There’s the outright racial hatred of our duly elected President and the piling on of blame for anything and everything never exhibited with any other President in our nation’s history. Add some of the most ignorant and dangerous people elected to public office with no thought of the responsibilities they’ve sworn to undertake. They make a mockery of the very Constitution a lot of ‘em have never read but use repeatedly as a verbal dressing gown.

“Doctor K” was also referring to the widening disparity of economic well-being in this and other countries. Disparity brought about by self-indulgent thieves with billions of dollars at their disposal to buy whatever elected officeholder is necessary at the moment to gather more power and privilege. You can add to that category the sell-outs in public office who feel their own employment – and their own bank accounts – are more important than the honest conduct of the business they were elected to perform.

Kissinger’s discussion of national and world conditions was predicated on these and any other factors – breakdowns in political and economic orders – mayhem and lawlessness – elected impotence in this and other countries – wrongs against civilized nations going unpunished and a lot more. I read the details of his interview more than once. And – in the main – agree.

In his prime, Kissinger could have been lumped in with some of those irresponsible politicians. As it did with his bosses, Viet Nam spilled blood on his resume and made him a liar many times. He had many moments in his storied career he’d like to forget. Historians will not let that happen.

But, he also had moments of leadership and brilliant decision-making to handle many tough situations. Despite some flaws in the performance of his public duties, he was right a lot more than he was wrong. He’s right in his most recent public utterances. His words deserve a much larger audience.

In nearly universal fashion, the media – all media – is failing its most important reason for being – informing. Telling us what we NEED to know rather than what it thinks we WANT to know. The ratings-watching bean counters who worry more about return-on-investment or the economic interests of some vague group of stockholders are leading this decay in the traditional role of media information necessary in our society. They’re being ably assisted by too many media people more attuned to trivia than history – gossip than reality – too many unable to distinguish the important.

And that tan suit? I don’t give a damn if a president wears jeans, a t-shirt and is barefoot. What he says – how he says it – what it means. Those should be the criteria reported.

And speaking of clothing and fashion – check out the media next time you see some of those folks at one of your local news events. A tan suit would be more welcome.

One of the fastest places in the world to quickly learn new life skills is in the middle of a large street demonstration or riot. Pure fact from someone who’s “been there, done that.” Watching the news out of Ferguson, Missouri, brings it all back.

It’s also recreated that eerie feeling of being lost in the crowd – finding yourself unable to control your own direction of motion – scared – trying to get your bearings. And the smells. Lots and lots of unforgettable smells.

There are really just two kinds of street demonstrations – focused, calm, centered, deliberate. Peaceful. Several of those I experienced as a reporter at anti-war gatherings of several hundred thousand in Washington D.C., in the late ‘60′s – early ‘70′s. Except for twice being ridden to the ground by mounted National Park Service cops, those gatherings fit that description.

The other type was brought sharply watching events in Ferguson. Crowded – scared – charging cops – tear gas – arrests – walking wounded – strangers trying to help strangers. I got into several of those, especially around the DuPont Circle area of D.C.. As in Ferguson, cops could get aggressive and out-of-hand.

All those years ago, Media people in D.C. were issued I.D. badges to be worn on a chain around the neck – about the size of a postcard, orange and black with our pictures in the middle. Supposed to keep us safe and free from arrest as opposed to media experiences in Ferguson – where they also have “credentials.” Except they were actually used by cops to target the media with tear gas canisters and to get you arrested, hauled off to busses and taken to RFK Stadium for processing. At that time – and maybe even now – wearing your name tag simply meant this was your first street riot. We been-there-before guys kept them in our pockets.

One of the best descriptions of feelings in a riot situation with thousands of people, tear gas, cops, police dogs and panic is “alone in a crowd.” From the second it starts, people have a cattle-like urge to run some direction. If you came with a friend, most likely you are quickly separated. You find yourself breathing gas, feeling your skin burn, choking, eyes running and that terrible taste in your mouth before you can cover your face. You are instantly disoriented. One experience like that will NOT be forgotten. Nor the sights and sound. And that smell.

I’m sure many of the unarmed demonstrators in Ferguson would attest to these descriptions. The intervening 44 years or so between my experiences and theirs haven’t brought much change. People – mostly honest folk feeling deeply about a grievance – still take to the streets. The herd-like stampede can still start at any second for any reason. Cops are still armed – though better now and able to wound or kill more people more quickly. No amount of intervening time has made the affects of tear gas any less painful.

My generation grew up with strong parental admonitions to “respect police” and even help them when we could. I believed that and tried to teach my own offspring the same. As a young reporter, I spent a lot of time on the “cop beat,” riding with ‘em at all hours. I saw a lot of things they were confronted with that most folks don’t hear about. I witnessed lightning-quick decisions – nearly all right decisions. I knew a lot of good cops. And a few – very few – not good.

Despite that exposure and years of respect for law enforcement, I’ve never seen such an out-of-control, heavily armed and dangerous situation as we’ve seen in Ferguson. Not just once or twice. But most nights. There can’t be any well-trained supervisory structure or it wouldn’t be repeated so damned many times. Capt. Johnson of the Missouri State Police seems to be a helluva spokesman. But even his people seem overly aggressive and quick to strike out. And the presence of the equally well-armed national guard is completely unjustified. Very bad decision.

I know there are provocateurs in the crowds. Sustained demonstrations anywhere always draw the bastards out. But after a confrontation or two, they can be identified and arrested. Maybe more plainclothes cops are needed in the crowd to find ‘em and weed ‘em out. There’s no damned reason for the night-after-night violent police reaction we’ve witnessed to legitimate crowds of earnest and peaceful folks gathered in the streets. Boot the troublemakers. Jail ‘em.

I tell of these demonstration experiences and of the uncalled for response by poorly trained law enforcement for one reason. To describe why – after the first confrontation – I believe things have gone so badly. No matter how innocent the demonstrator – no matter how willing to be directed by responsible authority – no matter how legitimate the initial grievance – once faced with heavily armed and irresponsibly aggressive cops using tear gas and abusing their authority, after the first night the protest swings from the original reason for the demonstration and becomes an us-versus-them situation for most participants from then on. Almost impossible to control.

Every night since the first one, that’s what we’ve seen on the streets of Ferguson. No longer outrage over the killing of one black teen for many. No longer the emotions such a violent act would have on citizens. After the first night, its been us-versus-them. More a protest of the heavy-handed authority and badly mishandled response. Rocks, bottles and bricks don’t come from a peaceful assembly of honestly aggrieved people supporting their own impassioned feelings.

I’ve got two scars – some 44 years old – reminding me of all that every day.

And it was so

Author: admin

Live long enough and that old saw “all things old are new again” will have more meaning. The six communities of Idaho’s Ada County may be about to step into a time warp and make the “old new again.” It appears political bubbling and boiling just beneath the surface could soon break out with a decision – likely in court – to return control of county roads to cities. For many of the same reasons the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) was created in the first place 40+ years ago. How’s that for irony?

In the ‘70′s, the hot topic was how those six local governments could save taxpayers so much money on road and highway care if they threw all their various road departments into a central unified “highway district.” After all, six highway departments were just “creating lots of duplication.” Just made all the sense in the world!

And it was so.

But, shortly after creation, you could hear whispers of discontent. “We’ve lost control of our streets.” “Our taxes are subsidizing all the others.” “Another level of government we just don’t need.” “Boise’s going to get more money than us.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

And it was so.

I don’t recall a year from creation of ACHD to now that there hasn’t been bitching about something. Though directors of ACHD are elected from districts more or less representative of all six communities – plus the rural areas – there have always been battles about distribution of dollars, cars versus bikes, mass transit versus more roads, who gets what, where the new roads will go, snow removal, where maintenance should be done and how much. And on and on and on. Long ago, ACHD should have hired Ann Landers or “Dear Abby” to keep peace in its multi-governmental “family.”

Case in point. Boise recently installed some new computerized parking meters around town. If a car left a spot with time remaining on the meters, these electronic bandits would “zero out” so the new occupant couldn’t get a break. After an expensive installation, ACHD said Boise didn’t own the parking spaces, had not applied for “permission” and should take ‘em out. Post haste!

And it was so.

With a whole new round of bitching.

Now, with issues of bike lanes, parking, mass transit – what kind and where – whether Boise should build a downtown transit system and an accompanying terminal of some size – all these have candidates and local governments in a war of words. Boise law firms must be salivating on the sidelines as the cities and ACHD edge ever closer to the courtroom.

The old arguments of “cost savings” and “avoiding duplication” are still at play. What’s added now is the fact that Ada County’s two largest communities – Boise and Meridian – have physically grown so close together through urban sprawl that issues of mass transit and local freeways are more important than ever according to new traffic counts. The other locales – Eagle, Kuna, Star and Garden City – are fearing they’re going to be left out because those issues aren’t their issues.

The most contentious subjects in the current ACHD director’s election are mass transit and bike lanes. There are strong supporters. There are strong opponents. Both camps vocal. Both camps firmly planted. Middle ground seems impossible to find. So, the elections have taken on a new and higher level of importance. The winners will have made some pretty solid promises to go one way or the other.

That means the issue of whether the combined district should continue, or be returned to the six communities because of their different needs, is likely to be the central question to be solved before movement on future transportation plans. Which could mean idle hands at ACHD until some answers are found and a direction determined.

Some 40 years ago, ACHD was born out of a desire for everyone to work together and realize better economics. Cooperation and better use of tax dollars. Motherhood and apple pie. Now, a lot of voices are saying there would be more cooperation if each city was allowed to determine local needs and taxes would be saved if not all of them were required to contribute to transportation needs that didn’t affect them. More motherhood. More pie.

“All things old are new again.”

And it was so.

About 25 years ago, I loudly and publicly complained about one of the many policies our government was engaged in at the time that had roused my ire. As I recall, the words were proper, the thoughts well-organized – as usual, of course – and the anger was not hidden amongst flowery phrases. In typical government reaction, my well-delivered suggestions for immediate change were ignored.

All these years later, my angst regarding the issue has doubled. And doubled again. But government persists. And the bad policy continues to exist – redoubling again a few times itself. The issue: equipping and training community law enforcement to be hometown armies rather than agencies to “ protect and serve” as is written on the doors of so many local police cars.

The black anger in the streets of Florence, Missouri, these days is exactly what I was talking about two decades ago. These unarmed, frustrated, socially-suppressed and mad people are in those streets of their own neighborhoods – often their own yards – being faced by officers in camouflage combat fatigues, snipers in the open on top of armored trucks, nearly all cops wearing gas masks and carrying many, many automatic weapons. Anyone speaking “protect and serve” speaks pure B.S..

All of this was brought sharply together in my livingroom a night or two ago when one of the TV networks was using some stock video footage as the faceless voice was talking about much the same issue – inappropriate police dress, tactics and weaponry. What connected it all was one of the scenes shot in a Caldwell, Idaho, neighborhood some months back, showing police in the same type of combat dress and carrying the same types of weaponry. And they were prominently accompanied by an MRAP! An MRAP parked on someone’s subdivision lawn!

An MRAP is a terrifically heavy behemoth, designed to ward off bullets of nearly any size as well as land mines and rocket fire. While these armed monsters of steel have undoubtably saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem terribly out of place in a community of 25,000 or so near the Snake River in Idaho. Like machines from science fiction movies.

This “uparming” of local law enforcement began under President Bush-the-Elder and has continued under Clinton, Bush-the-Junior and Obama. It started after we “freed” Kuwait from Saddam. All that hardly-used military hardware was just going to be scrapped. Until some in-over-his-head political appointee decided America’s local law enforcement agencies would pay 10-cents-on-the-dollar for it. And pay they have.

Since our beginnings as a nation, we’ve successfully carved out roles for our national defense – our military. Planes, tanks, drones, rockets of all sizes and all sorts of specialized vehicles. To take on any foreign adversary. We can kill and maim as well as any nation and better than most. “Hooray,” sez I. And we’ve got a well-trained – but badly misused – national guard in all states. Aside from being sent off to foreign battles over and over and over again, beyond most humans abilities, guard units have valuable, more localized peacekeeping roles. Read the rest of this entry »

Punishment is overdue

Author: admin

The most fundamental structures of our country are being challenged. Put another way – even more basic – America is under attack. No airplanes. No bombs dropped. No anti-aircraft batteries. No tanks or missiles. Not even an invasion of our shoreline. But the attacks are real. Numerous. Sustained. Sometimes orchestrated. And worst of all – from within.

I’ve not just left the most recent mindless histrionics of the John Birch Society. Nor am I a Limbaugh or Beck adherent. And I still believe Michelle Malkin is the most ignorant voice ever to foul national airwaves. But there are things afoot challenging our way of life – deliberate lawbreaking activities of too many citizens and even some we’ve elected to public office. In both political parties – right and left.

Worse than all that – nearly all of these assaults are – so far – going seemingly unchallenged by legal authority. And – at times – some of them are being committed by the legal authorities we rely upon.

Here are some examples:

## The governors of Idaho and eight other states formally told the U.S. Justice Department they wont enforce certain mandatory federal requirements regarding their legal responsibilities for protecting the safety of inmates in their various penitentiaries. Won’t do it.

## More than 100 people with ATV’s invaded archeological sites in Utah where such vehicle use is prohibited by law. They spent much of one day posing for various media by trafficking through the “off limits” areas with their children – and guns – riding along.

## Some 200 sheriffs have told federal authorities they’ll not enforce laws dealing with guns which THEY deem “unconstitutional.” Further, they’ve served notice they’ll stop and/or arrest any federal officer trying to do so.

## Several dozen “citizens” deliberately carried exposed weapons to an anti-gun law demonstration in Washington D.C. where the law expressly forbids such displays.

## A Nevada rancher is in arrears over $1 million to the feds. He not only refuses to honor a contract of longstanding with the government but has also used his unearned notoriety to gather other lawbreakers to break other federal and state laws on his behalf.

## The armed and unlawful assembly at Bunkerville has continued unabated with citizen guns turned on government employees doing their court-ordered duties. They’ve been impeding traffic on federal and state highways for nearly two months and trespassing on the private properties of locals. Several months now. Unimpeded.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center sums up these and many more recent examples of in-your-face actions by people hellbent on condemning anything governmental. Called “War on the West” it delves deeply into the Bundy mess.

Center Director Mark Potok cites these and other examples as warnings of things to come if the feds don’t gain an understanding that this is the volatile nature of what’s happening. The Bundy lawbreaking “was not an organic plot. It was a coordinated effort to bring the threat of violence to the federal government.”

SPLC cites many examples of hundreds of militia types, conspiracy theorists and other angry extremists who quickly responded to Bundy’s call for a range war. So far – without consequence.

I’ve heard a number of honestly-offered arguments about why there’s been no ”push back.” I’ve heard ‘em and I reject ‘em. Even the ones contending there would have been gunfire and casualties at Bunkerville. Which likely would’ve been the case. And may yet be. But that’s what can happen when people take up arms against their government. Those doing so need to learn that hard truth when they do it. Not just get a lecture and a ticket.

But – we’re now several months past the first day of that standoff and dozens of people on-site continue committing illegal acts – including harassing locals who’ve done nothing and who want to be left alone. The feds – and the local sheriff – have turned deaf ears to the local member of congress who’s asked repeatedly for action to disperse the armed violators of others civil rights.

Those who rode roughshod over the fragile federal lands in Utah have suffered no response from law enforcement. The disparate pack of armed lawbreakers in that D.C. federal park broke several laws with seeming impunity. Sheriffs who’ve openly made themselves arbiters of the law rather than enforcers of the law have not been rebuked by those in positions of authority to do so.

Taken individually, much of this can be looked at as not terribly significant. But – taken in sum – it is. Because these are only a few of the in-your-face illegal acts of armed lawbreakers. They continue unchallenged – as do other legal “authorities” – flaunting laws and acting out imagined grievances against their own government. They – and too many others like them – are violating rules of law which are the foundation for our liberties.

At some point, we – all of us – must demand action. Those who administer our laws are accountable to the rest of us who live by them. Nothing will erode a society faster than allowing deliberate law breaking to continue with no accountability for illegal and often dangerous acts. The “envelope” will continue to be pushed. And it WILL break.

Until legitimate authority draws a line and says “no more,” these people will continue to act out. If the innocent majority is not protected by the laws we live with – if armed lawbreakers can continue to intimidate a legitimate government – if taking up arms against lawful authority isn’t stopped and punished – if all of this is allowed to continue without response – what will happen to our society and our national way of life?

Lincoln warned us about these types of activities when saying he feared no takeover of America by foreign interests. But, he warned, successful subversion of our government – should it ever be attempted – “would most likely come from within.”

The cited examples represent some of the cancers he feared.

Rant-less

Author: admin

If you’re looking for the usual rant about this-that-and-the-other usually found in this space, there’s disappointment ahead. The historic mess we’re in at the moment – politically and congressionally speaking – has about left me rant-less.

Criticism after criticism and well-worded complaint after well-worded complaint by others more intellectually-gifted and less intellectually-challenged have made no mark on the consciousness of our politicians so historically bad at their jobs. The oligarchy we’ve become has left no sense of responsibility to the folks at home. None. As long as some billionaire continues to kick in big bucks to whichever party he wants to buy at the moment, those with their hands out will pay us no mind.

As Mitch McConnell has run rule book circles around the backbone-challenged Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has become the place where common sense legislation goes to die. Operating as no other political sphere I’m aware of, the minority has held firmly to Reid’s gonads and dragged him and the will of the majority all over hell’s half acre. The wasteland that used to be a respected and fully-functioning part of our democracy is littered with crumpled legislation that never had a chance.

In the House, a gutless Speaker – trying hard to keep his limousines, the taxpayer jet aircraft, secret service details, his huge suite of offices filled with an overabundance of staff, his additional pay and private dining room – that guy has allowed a few dozen cretins to stifle an entire government. Cretins who deny science, deny law, deny common sense and even deny the multiplication tables – these beneath-the-bridge-dwellers have proven their next attempt to repeal something could well be the law of gravity. It’s this bunch of hypocrites that has brought about my political confusion.

I started having trouble with my civics education when these animal crackers drove Republicans in the House to find a lawyer hungry enough to take their meaningless “case” to sue the President! One branch of one branch of our three branch government suing one of the other two. As this lunacy slowly sank into my cortex, I quickly visualized Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and some other feisty founders rising from their graves to ask each other if this was what they intended when they created the three-legged stool of our democracy. Republic, if you will. The balance.

Trying to make sense of that portion of the court filing dealing with the reason for such lunacy, it all came down to this: faced with dead ends at every turn when dealing with Congress, our President took it upon himself to do something without crawling up Capitol Hill only to find a closed door and degrading voices making nasty references to his manhood. And this added curiosity. What he did is what they wanted to do but didn’t because they couldn’t get their own act together!

So they sued. Or are trying to.

But my confusion came to it’s current maximum state when those same political terrorists failed on another issue – immigration – just a few days later. Once again, the factually-limited minority forced a stalemate with its own majority and the whole stack of watered-down immigration legislation was trampled on the House floor to be replaced by a piece of villainy trying to deport half a million people. DOA legislation that was pure sewerage. It passed. Then the herd of 435 impotent officeholders raced back home to campaign for extensions of their employment contracts.

BUT – the precise second fog settled over all my rational thinking was when Speaker Boehner – the most ineffective politician to hold that office in this or any other century – that Speaker opined “If Congress adjourns without action on immigration, the President should do what he can.”

BOOM! CRASH! Fade to gray and then to black. Really black.

The ink is hardly dry on Boehner’s signature on those legal papers and he’s publically urging the man he’s suing to take action unilaterally. The same type of unilateral action that Boehner and his miscreants got so riled up about that they sued!

There’s no reason to believe the next Congress will be better than the one coming to an ignominious end in a few months. In the next 100 days, there are only about 20 scheduled “working” days on the Hill. There’s zero reason to think any of those 20 will produce anything positive or meaningful. No one – right or left – has reason to be hopeful for anything productive the remainder of this Congress or at the onset of the next.

No one I know – right or left – has come up with a prediction of when this long national nightmare of ignorant, self-serving political stalemate will end. No one has been so foolishly optimistic as to say “Just hang in there. This can’t go on. It will pass.” Maybe it will. I wouldn’t bet on it.

As I said, confusion reigns supreme. I can’t even work up a good rant anymore.

“Why, Daddy, Why?”

Author: admin

When Dad got tired trying to answer my childish questions of “why” to nearly any new, youthful encounter, his standard response became “You’ll know when you’re older.” Being a trusting kid, I blindly accepted his promise of future knowledge.

Dad’s gone now. And, after my nearly four score years experience, it pains my soul to say it – he was wrong. At least so far as being able to comprehend by knowing the answers to my continued queries of “why.” If his advanced age during my growth years truly gave him understanding of hard-to-understand situations, he was really quite an extraordinary man because my added years haven’t always helped me all that much. On the other hand, maybe some things happening now beyond my ability to grasp are far more complicated and I’m just not up to the task.

Here’s one.

Why would leaders of the National Republican Party – and their elected offspring – formally adopt a position of banishing access to health care for millions of voters and their families? Even want to go to court over it? What sane reason could there be to take away life-changing and even life-saving medical care from adults and kids who now have it – many for the first time in their entire lives? Why would a political party take a position to disenfranchise Americans needing what should be considered one of those “unalienable rights?” “Why, Daddy, why?”

Here’s another. Why will both parties in our national Congress – after endless bloviating about the problem of tens of thousands of children flooding into this country seeking personal refuge and safety – why will those Washington folk go home and not do anything to deal politically or humanely with the situation? Why are they walking away?

Human-being-by-human-being, we have an entirely non-political and extremely human tragedy on our hands. Children from South American countries being used as pawns. Children with absolutely no voice in the matter being pushed and/or dragged into this country with promises of a better life. Or their parents are being threatened with death if they don’t blindly ship their kids off unaccompanied into a trip of thousands of miles filled with all sorts of life-threatening dangers.

And the Congress, from which all resources must come, is going to quit without undertaking a single effort to ease this human tragedy. Why?

And more “whys.”

Why would the governor of Texas call up the Texas National Guard to stand along that border? Why send a guardsman with tank and a rifle to face an eight-year-old child trying to surrender? Why use uniformed – and heavily armed – Texas fathers and mothers to face this flood of young humanity and what are they expected to do? Why uproot members of the Guard – trained in dealing with ecological and natural disasters, equipped to deal with armed foes in other countries but not trained in dealing with the needs of children who don’t understand what’s happening to them and who probably don’t speak English – why send the military and their weapons to deal with kids needing food, shelter and some sense of security? Why?

Here’s another “why” beyond my understanding.

Why would politicians – who sent hundreds of thousands of young people into foreign wars for no legitimate reason – now refuse to pay for the medical, psychological and educational support promised before those young people walked onto those damned, doomed battlegrounds? Why are lying politicians now going home begging for renewal of their employment while the walking wounded of Iran/Afghanistan continue to suffer? Why?

Why would Republican-dominated legislatures in eight states do their damndest to keep people who may not look like them and maybe don’t talk like them from their legal right to vote? Why?

Why are soulless, bloodless – and in some cases heartless – corporations considered to be “human” for the purposes of perverting our nation’s politics? Why are these “humans” allowed – even encouraged – to take their profits and skip out to other countries so their “human” share of the responsibility to support our national economic life is avoided? Why are these “humans” able to prosper here at great cost to real humans but not be responsible for paying for the infrastructure and other needs that make their profits possible? Why are those “humans” able to avoid the inexorable taxes all the rest of us humans must pay? Why?

We’re living in an age in which the “whys” stack up faster than ever before. We have an unresponsive national government – even an adversarial national government – that’s damaging this nation daily by inaction and perversion in the misconduct of its duties. Some of its “human” parts are denying science, education, health care, voting and other basic fact while favoring any “human” that will help finance a re-election campaign.

Our “citizen congress” has become a lifetime employment sector for too many self-serving, intellectually challenged politicians who shouldn’t be allowed driver’s licenses – much less be in positions of power to “direct” the affairs of this nation. The driver’s license analogy is entirely proper given the deep ditch they’ve driven this country into.

Running in tandem with this Potomac train wreck, too many state legislatures are following the same destructive path as they try to deprive rights and expectations of citizenship from minorities. Again, the bloodless “humans” – read “corporations” – have their greedy hands in the pot. The expectation of continuing our Republic is being replaced by the reality of an oligarchy.

Dad’s been gone for many years now. So, I ask you. Why?

Facts more than balance

Author: admin

A small, informal discussion has started in some media circles – the first quiet conversations about a most basic journalistic tenet – balance. Balance in coverage of the news. Balance in representing all sides. Balance to assure fairness. The discussion is long overdue. It’ll call for judgments and – for that reason – there’ll probably never be a satisfactory solution.

There isn’t much left of the days of really responsible journalism – the professional output that was traditionally expected and – for the most part – traditionally produced. Given more than one side to any story, efforts were made to present all. That, of course, was in the days before “gotcha” journalism, reporters mixing opinion with reporting and the need to report otherwise worthless B.S. that fills too many pages and far too much airtime.

The most recent stimulus for this self-examination is climate change. Yep, simple as that. Or, if you will, as complex as that. With the preponderance of scientific evidence that such change is happening all around us and our world is already the poorer for it, some news organizations are asking how much time – how much ink – should be given those who deny both the science and the reality. What is the media responsibility for reporting the scientific facts accepted by the overwhelming majority of experts, then giving time and ink to the distinct minority denying reality? Denying fact?

It’s long been said the media should just report the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. I buy that. But when what’s on the front pages and what’s leading the nightly news contains no factual merit – climate change denials – irresponsible and baseless impeachment ranting – conspiracy claims without proof – phony stunts of one branch of government to sue another – what facts are being reported? Where does news start and “Entertainment Tonight” end?

Take the climate change story, for example. One very significant fact is that the chairman of the House Science Committee is a climate change denier and flat-earther who loudly proclaims his ignorance by telling all who’ll listen the earth is just 6,000 years old and man lived with dinosaurs. Why is that not reported with such a repetitive assault that he and half a dozen other “deniers” on that important panel are removed? This nation and the world needs strong, responsible and effective political leadership to deal with the terrible realities of climate change. But the power to do that is in the hands of idiots – a distinct and irresponsible minority – who’re blocking attempts to deal legitimately with facts that – ignored much longer – could end our world. Why?

To me, the answer to this “balance in reporting” conversation isn’t as illusive as it seems. Not in these examples. Or in many others. Go back to the original reason for mass media in the first place. Reporting of the facts. Put the facts – all the facts – in the lead story and on the front pages and ignore the garbage. Keep the facts there. Stop trying to balance realities of life – be it political or any other form – by giving time and ink to voices plainly lacking facts – lacking truths – lacking responsible evidence to support them and their irresponsible conduct. That’s not achieving balance. That’s distributing distortion on a large scale.

A prime reason for media existence in the first place is to inform. Make that “responsibly” inform. So stop with the misinformation. Stop spotlighting people and voices with no facts. Stop being a conduit for self-serving voices of ignorance as if they were necessary to “balance” what the rest of know are the facts. Use the power of fact to educate.

We’re a nation gripped by paralysis. To some extent, that paralysis has been caused by an outsized effort to give “balance” to all sides. We’ve mixed fact and ignorance together in an effort to give voice to all – to give balance. In doing so, fact has often been diluted and ignorance is too often accepted as reality. Too many people can’t tell the difference.

The traditional media role to inform is more important than ever. The soul-searching attempts to “balance” need to stop. Stick to the facts.

Shut the hell up, Sarah

Author: admin

I’ve wanted to do a column under that headline for five years now. Even got to the keyboard a few times but held back. Really don’t know why. Lord knows she’s given any thinking person a pot full of reasons to tell her to “take a hike.” But now it appears she’s pissed off more than half the country and a majority just wants her to shut up and go away.

A new NBC/Wall Street/Annenberg poll has found 54-percent of voters – regardless of party – have heard enough of the Wasilla wastrel. Even four-in-ten Republicans don’t want to hear her uninformed babbling anymore. Among Democrats the margin is two-thirds.

But it’s not just the self-serving Alaskan opportunist the public is fed up with. More than half the respondents are tired of hearing Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinions on this, that and the other. Nearly half would like former Vice President Cheney to put a sock in it and go silently back to Wyoming with about 43% saying “enough already” to Newt Gingrich.

Aside from being just plain without talent or knowledge enough to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the national dialogue, Palin’s problem – and to some extent the others – is the result of several things. First, none of those named has any legitimate public platform. All did at one time. But no more. They have no substance and nothing relevant to say. They’ve worn out their welcome.

Second, the media made them “personalities.” As such, they have nothing meaningful to contribute. No public office. No institutional connection. No platform of any kind. They’re just supposed to be opinionated, funny, crusty, say controversial things, be available and show up.

Think all the people you know. You know lots of folks. But are they all friends? Do you invite all these folks to your house? Do you even want all of them at your house? Probably not. Oh, you may work with some, socialize with some, go to church with some. But are they all people you want to hang out with all the time? Probably not. People come and go in our lives but few relationships stay. Those that do are based on something more than “personality.”

The media has “made” these people – Palin, Gingrich, Jackson et al. Not because they’re good, upstanding, honest folk with something important to say. No. They’ve made them “personalities” to fill long stretches of what would otherwise be “dead air” or empty pages because they can be counted on to be controversial or entertaining if not illuminating or meaningful. They’re creatures of the media and, when they no longer can bring ratings or subscriptions numbers, they’ll be discarded by that same media. Old news.

Palin, in particular, is nothing more than a media “personality.” She’s offered nothing positive or important to the national dialogue since you first heard her name six years ago. She’s a creation: partly by the media but mostly by her own hand. When the national spotlight accidentally shined on her in 2008 – at the behest of a confused John McCain – she was ready. Immediately ignoring McCain speech writers and political advisers much smarter than her, freelancing interviews without campaign approval, copywriting her name and image and signing a long-term contract with a major speaker’s bureau before the campaign was over, Palin grabbed the brass ring. The media loved her. Well, more like developed a case of heavy breathing.

But, like those people you know but don’t necessarily want in your home, Palin’s reliance on marketing rather than any real political knowledge, made her someone with no staying power: hot at the start but destined to burn out with the broad market. And she has. There’s never been any “there” – there.

Now, she seems unaware times have changed – that her popularity is only with a minority of people as totally uninformed about realities of the world as herself. Her books aren’t selling. Her TV show is gone. No political group with broad appeal is inviting her to the stage. The mainstream Republican Party is ignoring her. Were it not for Fox “News” she’d have no public forum at all but she’ll eventually lose that, too. Oh, she’s still making appearances at trade conventions and right-wing gatherings. But not for the large six-figure fees she got a couple of years ago. Now she’s signing autographs for fewer people and hawking books and bumper stickers out in the lobby.

Personality without talent – without smarts – without some sort of knowledgeable, serious core – has no staying power. Something newer and shinier will always replace it. Palin’s 15 minutes of fame are about gone. She offers nothing relevant to today’s discussions. Never has really. Only criticism and senseless carping. You can get that at any neighborhood bar.

So, along with a majority of you, I offer my own heartfelt advice to the former Wasilla mayor: shut the hell up and sit down.

In recent days, I’ve looked at many congressional races around the country. Using my “student-of-politics” proclivities and some very good research, I’m going to give you my list of picks so you’ll know who’s who – how they stack up. I’m going to “name names” so you’ll know whom you should support.

Wait? What’s that? You don’t care who I like? You don’t want to know which ones I’m endorsing for Congress? What? Why?

Actually, that would be my response if you – or anyone – told me a list of candidate selections. It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.

And therein is my problem with endorsements. Who someone else – anyone else – ANYONE else is supporting is just not relevant to my ballot. Oh, we might eventually vote for the same candidate. Maybe more than one. But we do so individually. Not because of anyone else backing ol’ so-and-so.

There was a time endorsements were somewhat important. Used to be Democrats put a lot of stock in labor union picks. If the president of Amalgamated Widget Makers told members which candidate to support, that’s pretty much how everybody went. Major corporations often got behind one name and word went out to various branches of the business. “Smith’s the guy” and everyone was expected to mark “Smith” at the polls.

Union, corporate, workplace endorsements don’t carry the weight they used to. Nor should they. But all keep trying. Even some “churches.”

Newspapers endorse a lot – claiming they’re giving you the benefit of hours and hours spent in face-to-face extended interviews and “Candidate Glutz is our pick for county treasurer.” I’d rather they change current employment practices and hire someone who can actually write accurately and tightly – then publish well-written summaries of what that extensive interviewing showed about the office-seeker. Things the paid advertising didn’t show. Skip the endorsement. Factual summaries will do just fine, thank you very much. Again, well-written, of course. I’ll do the deciding.

The “endorsement” I hate most is the one that comes from one politician of another. The endorser may be boosting a friend or someone he works with. But often it’s a sham. Sometimes the two are even strangers to each other.
Politicians endorsing other candidates they’ve never even met has always been a vote killer for me. Party politics at it’s finest. Or worst. If you think such “blind” party line politics has been helpful for us in recent years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then, take Chris Christie’s trip to New Hampshire awhile back to loudly announce his support for political transient, Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Very firm words. Unqualified Christie backing. Yet, when immigrant Brown was “Senator Brown from Massachusetts,” Christie locked horns with him repeatedly and – in true Christie style – did so at the top of his lungs. Now it’s all better? Yeah, sure.

Political endorsements are almost always about getting an advantage or keeping the advantage. Chairman Christie of the Republican Governor’s Association, for example, is interested only in getting more Republicans in statehouses. Experience or qualifications be damned. Hand him a piece of paper with the name of your local Republican wannabe governor and Christie will make you think they grew up together. Buddies for life.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just a job Christie and others are doing. But you need to know that because if you believe the hollow, verbal garbage and let the endorsement make your voting decision for you, then there’s a lot wrong.

And, of course, there’s the double-edged sword of endorsements. May look good to the one receiving the endorsement. Or, it may be a message to voters who don’t know the candidate but know they don’t like one or more of those doing the endorsing. Associated guilt, as it were.

The national political mess we’re in has been caused by a lot of things. But three factors stick out for me. First, too many voters don’t know one candidate from another and – like picking the “pretty brown horse” at the track – they cast a vote for the wrong reason. Second, too many of us don’t do our homework to find out which are the smart rabbits and which shouldn’t be allow to handle sharp objects.

And, third, many are “turned off” to politics – all politics – and either don’t vote or don’t make informed choices. So they wind up cancelling out wise decisions by more informed voters. And we wind up with a Louie Gohmert when we’d be better off with Gomer Pyle.

Each informed vote – honestly cast – does make a difference. That’s just a fact. Each vote. Every vote. But especially the vote that’s the result of a little research – a little extra effort – a little independent thought. The information is more easily accessible now than ever. Getting it is not hard.

What’s hard is living with the results of a bad vote – an uninformed vote – or a vote that wasn’t cast. Or falling for an endorsement of someone you don’t know BY someone you don’t know.