Friday, July 23, 2010

An American Hero has Died

This morning, Friday July 23, newsman Daniel Schorr died. Mr Schorr was the last of the great newsmen of the 20th century. We are unlikely to see his like again.
He was dedicated to presenting the news without putting his own emotional spin on it.
When he read, in a live broadcast in 1974, the names on the just released Nixon "Enemies List' he came to his own name and said with equanimity, "The note here is, 'A real media enemy," and kept on reading names.

His is one of those voices which was a part of my life, almost all my life. He will be greatly missed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are you afraid of Black People?

On the July 21, 2010 Rachel Maddow show, Rachel had a good and long exposition on the political tactic of creating fear among whites—fear that the Black people are coming to get you and more importantly, get your stuff. Two of the biggest stories lately have involved Acorn and Shirley Sherrod.
In the Acorn story, videos were shown that seemed to show an Acorn employee agreeing to help smuggle young women across the border for prostitution. What wasn't shown was how the employee was getting information from the fake pimp and prostitute who were proposing this activity, which he then called into the police after they left. The police have verified this.
Acorn was not without sin, but it's biggest sin was getting a lot of people to vote who would not vote for the Republicans. Hence they had to go, and a carefully edited video was enough to do it.
Now just days ago, another video was aired on Fox "News" which came from Andrew Breitbart, who also, just incidentally, showed the Acorn video. Mr. Breitbart is a known liar and sleazeball. What else do you call someone who edits videos to promote a lie?
The editing here purported to show that Ms. Sherrod discriminated against a white farmer because of his skin color. And she was described as a "government official" when at the time of the story she was relating (20 years ago!), she was working for a non-profit. And the point of her story was how she realized that not doing her best for this farmer was wrong. She went on to help the man, and he has appeared on TV saying that she helped save his farm.
Somehow, gee I don't know how, that last part was left out.

The most disturbing part of this is not that Mr. Breitbart created this falsehood, nor that Fake, I mean, Faux, I mean Fox News immediately jumped on it and gave it mucho air time. No, you expect pickpockets to act like pickpockets, you expect mafia hit men to kill, so the actions of Breitbart and Fox are pretty much normal for them and what we expect. What is disturbing is how quickly the administration bought into this story, did not even TRY to verify it, and forced a resignation from Ms. Sherrod.

This is so utterly disgraceful.

There's no other way to put it. I mean, I mean, I mean I mean, how can this administration allow itself to be so totally flummoxed by these lies? Especially after Obama said a few weeks ago that Fox news was not a real news organization? Well, we knew that. Doesn't anybody fact-check at the white house? If Faux News says the Russians are going to launch missiles at us in moments, is Obama going to push the button?

Give me a freaking break.

Here's how spurious that video seemed to a, omigod, Fox News commentator, Mr. Shepard Smith:
"We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn't know who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source."

One redeeming commentator on Fox News.
Like Jehovah sparing Noah, I cannot damn the whole network to perdition.

But the point is, if even one, so it was only one, Fox News person was suspicious of the story, WHY THE HELL WASN'T THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SUSPICIOUS OF THE STORY? Forgive me for yelling.

Breitbart has a history of phoniness, and the fact that Faux News picked up this story and gave it lots of airtime should have raised some red flags. But no, the Obamarama caved and asked for a resignation, and then ended up with egg on its face when the real story came out. When will they learn? When will Obama remember he has ba— remember that he won by a big margin, still has a lot of support in the country, and still has the Bully Pulpit so he can get up and call a spade a spade (perhaps not the best metaphor in this context) and bring the force of his office against this fear-mongering and lying?

And now Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who asked for the resignation, have had to make public apologies for this embarrassing forced resignation.

The best part, for Fox and its minions, is that it doesn't matter that the story is proved false. The administration made such fools of themselves over it that the right-wing wingnuts win anyway.

"The buck stops here." You know that Mr. President. Please, please, show a little more leadership.

I thought I was supporting a brave and focused leader for President. I sure wish he would prove me right.
And I sure wish the Democrats would also show some fortitude in pushing a progressive agenda. When Obama was elected, I worried that I would have to go elsewhere besides politics to find things to rant about. I needn't have worried. My biggest gripe now is not that I still have Repubicans (intentional misspelling) to rail against (expected that), but that the Democrats and Obama also deserve the miniscule darts of my aggravation. Oh, if only I had one of those missiles buried in North Dakota, I could really get some attention then. All I have now is my two loyal readers, who really should be doing something else.

I see a need, a job which should be filled. For a mere, oh say, 70 grand a year, I would be willing to check all news stories which come out of the right-wing alternate universe, and advise the administration on any that need to be addressed, and HOW they should be addressed. I'm not asking that much money, but I would make that sacrifice for my nation. 70 grand is not that much to pay to avoid embarrassing yourself in front of over 300 million people.
Consider it Mr. O. You need me. I am willing to serve.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm really not a violent person…

…but God help me, when i hear about how the latest attempt at an environmental protection plan is just about dead in the water in the Senate, my blood starts to boil. Apparently the oil companies, who don't have enough money to devote to  research into disaster prevention and clean-up, have enough money to throw at the Senate to keep any reasonable "Cap and Trade" legislation from being passed. The Repubicans are nattering on about how this is a tax. Mitch McConnell, weasel hypocrite extraordinaire, especially is leading this charge. They fulminate about new taxes as if it were you and me being taxed. but who will really be ponying up the cash? Why the very companies which have been making billions a year, with subsidies, subsidies!!, from our government. Deepwater Horizon, your tax dollars at work.
And the Congressional Budget Office has said that the original Lieberman-Kerry Bill (Joe Lieberman, doing something I approve of? These are the Last Days!) would reduce the deficit by 19 billion dollars. See it here:

I want to go to Washington and grab Senators by the neck and shake some sense into them. And cause bodily harm as well. But of course it would be useless. No way to shake sense into them. They are too full of the manna from the oil companies trough. When I see someone like the late Ted Kennedy, or Barney Frank (who co-wrote an article about cutting defense spending with—wait for it—Ron Paul) working on mutual concerns with political opponents, and getting things done, I am in humble awe.

I used to be such a gentle person.

By the way, this country spends more money on defense than the rest of the world combined!
Are we that scared?
In how many wars are we planning to get involved? I've always had a problem with this kind of thinking. I used to wonder why we needed enough nuclear missiles to destroy Russia several times over. Isn't once enough? But then, I'm a pinko liberal anarchist hippie—what do I know?

Anyway, why do we need to spend so much on defense, and what is the money going for? Ask your congress(wo)man next time you see her/him. Do we really need more submarines and fast bombers to fight against guys who hide in caves with their AK-47s and send weak-minded fools off to try to blow up airplanes with bombs in their shoes? Or underwear? Samuel Beckett, move over. Reality has taken over the Theater of the Absurd. And just who are we waiting for?
 God? Better hope She doesn't show up, because She will be very unhappy. 

I'll leave you, my two loyal readers, with that thought.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July

I really hate to see patriotism being taken over by tea-party wingnuts and conservatives. It's hard for any one on the left, or even in the real middle of political thought (which is somewhere to the left of the media's idea of middle) to express love of country without being lumped in with those characters. It's especially hard for a former Vietnam-protesting, civil rights-supporting, FBI hating, anarchist manqué, 1960's college boy.

But though I have been critical, sometimes extremely critical, of how our government works, how often the reality of America has failed (and often continues to fail) America's ideals, I've never hated this country.
Let me tell you why:
There are the obvious things—you know, no king, freedom of speech (most of the time—and we certainly haven't beheaded anyone for it), etc.,  but that's not what I'm about.

What I'm about is how my father was born in Slovakia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire back in 1892 (Jesus, that was so long ago). I don't have all the details, but he worked for a "count," a Hungarian, and he told me about the time the horses he was watching (the counts' horses) were scared by a bear and it took him three days to round them all up. He was basically a serf—the Hungarians controlled that part of the Empire. And like many other conquerors (think about how the native Americans were treated), they weren't always nice to their subject peoples.
I'm not trying to dis Hungarians here, particularly. Some of my best friends, etcetery. They just acted like most other people in their position. No better, no worse. When he turned eighteen, he was supposed to join the army to defend the empire.
He decided that defending the government that was oppressing his people was bullshit and hoofed it across the mountains, probably with some like-minded companions, through a couple of countries whose language he didn't know, to another country across the ocean whose language he didn't know. Many Slovaks, like the poor and dispossessed of other countries, did the same. He ended up working in the steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio.

He came here in 1910, one hundred years ago this year. In 1916 America joined WWI, fighting against the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One of my father's friends said to him "Joe, we have to go back and fight for Austria. otherwise Franz Joseph will be mad at us and we'll never go back."
My fathers response was "Piss on Franz-Joseph. This is the greatest country in the world. He'll never beat this country!"

My mother was also from Slovakia. Because of the Hungarians' policy of Magyarization, making all things, especially language, Hungarian, she couldn't study at school in Slovak. Her parents sent her to a Jewish school so she could study in her own language.

One day, we were going though some old photographs and she pointed to  figure in one, and said,"That's my father, in New York City." I was dumbfounded. "What was your father doing there?"
She said he had to leave Slovakia for a while because he was wanted by the authorities for agitation—for Slovak independence.
So he went to New York City, United States of America, where he didn't have to worry about the police.

I never had to face any of the challenges my parents faced. Because I live in America.
Nobody is forcing me to learn another language.
In spite of my political agitation, no police are after me.
And I did have the option of being a conscientious objector to war during the Vietnam era. It was a near thing, whether or not I would go to jail because of my beliefs (I didn't), but I got a fair hearing. You can't ask for better than that.

That's why, is spite of all my kvetching, all my distaste for the body politic, all the concern I have that bigoted and fearful yahoos are going to one day get their way and destroy the best of this country, I love America.

Yes, the history of this country has much to be ashamed of—slavery, for one, treatment of the Native population (who were in many cases forbidden to use their own tribal languages) for another, the treatment of early unionists and workers for the dignity of the working class, for yet another. You can come up with your own list of crimes and misdemeanors.


Still. We have the ideal and many of us continue to strive for it.
We don't want people to have to carry evidence of citizenship on their persons at all times.
We want people to be able to express their views, even if they are Glen Beck.
We don't want the FBI or NSA spying on us.
We don't want to give up freedoms for a false security.
We want our leaders to stop being controlled by money and powerful interests and to keep the welfare of the American citizen (and that citizen is a PERSON, not a corporation) uppermost in their thoughts and endeavors.
We want to keep the beauty of our land safe from reckless development and mining.
We want to worship in the way we want to, and make it easy for others to worship the way they want to, without having an official religion that everyone is supposed to bow to.
We don't want the government to tell us what we can do as consenting adults in our own bedrooms.
We want to be a nation which takes care of the helpless and oppressed, not to nursemaid them, but to give them a chance to stand on their own feet and move ahead without the burdens of class snobbery or prejudice.

I could go on, but you get the picture. This is why I love this country.
This is why I will fight to keep it true to its highest ideals.
I hope everyone had a happy Fourth of July, and  that everyone had an opportunity, between the ingesting of hot dogs and the drinking of beer, to think about what s/he loves about America.