Saturday, December 31, 2011

Divided Loyalties

The Chiefs come to Denver tomorrow. No, not elderly redskins in feathered headdresses, or the uniformed General officers who head all the U.S. military service branches. I’m talking here about the Kansas City football team. And this presents a dilemma in Heaven. As we all know, Jesus and “Timtim” Tebow have established a boyhood friendship. Problem is that Christ’s father, The Big Guy, feels a certain loyalty to the Chiefs fans based on the fact that Kansas and Missouri are the only states that teach creation in the schools. Who will prevail? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why the Gaps in His Resume?

Poetic mythmaker, Clement C. Moore, borrowed a couple of ideas from Washington Irving and in 1822 he gave us a detailed picture of St. Nicholas— a picture complete with the red suit, the round belly, and the sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. In the 190 years since then, Madison Avenue mythmakers came to realize there was a big gap in the year starting with the day after Christmas and continuing until Thanksgiving when Santa Claus reappears, and over time they filled in the myth of Santa Claus with a home at the North Pole, a workshop manned by a toy-production labor force of elves, and a kindly wife named Mrs. Claus who looks remarkably like my own wife. The point is this— when you’re selling the idea of an iconic personality, you need to fill in all the details.

I offer the tale of Santa Claus to stand in contrast with the tale of Jesus Christ. If Advent and the time leading up to the nativity is meant to build anticipation for the coming of mankind’s Lord and Savior, then why is there this informational black hole starting the week after Christmas and continuing for three decades until Jesus shows up again as a full grown adult? By all accounts, the first Noel was witnessed by three wise men, as well as numerous shepherds and angels and heavenly hosts (whatever those are). And it’s obvious from the record that everybody at the nativity realized at the time that it was a big deal. So why didn’t anybody bother to track the growth of Jesus after His birth? Where are the hymns about the second Noel, or the third, or any others?

The Muslims in their Koran have a pretty detailed account of the life of Mohammed, and there aren’t the gaps in his story like there are with the life of Jesus. In Christianity, the four gospels do a fair job of doing the job they do, but they sure leave a lot unsaid. If the Son of God truly walked the earth in the midst of mankind two thousand years ago, then why was he so unremarkable for most of his life?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Blame It on the Birthday Party

Timtim (a.k.a. "The Big Tebowski") threw four interceptions today (two of them came just nine seconds apart) on Denver’s way to a 40-14 blowout loss to Buffalo. After the game, Timtim received a text message from Jesus in the locker room. By way of an apology, the Lord and Savior of all mankind explained that He was so focused on last minute preparations for His big birthday party tonight that He totally forgot that the Broncos were playing on Saturday this week. He actually missed the game, which is why He wasn't guiding the hand of Timtim. At least that's the excuse that both of them are using. BTW, if you’re planning to attend the birthday party tonight, and you need to get a last minute birthday gift, Jesus did mention in his text message that He could always use a little more myrrh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Happened to the Gold?

Once again confirming that Evangelical Christians have absolutely no sense of humor, the true believers have been in a snit since Saturday night when SNL did a skit with Jesus visiting Tim Tebow in the Broncos locker room. They feel that depicting Jesus in such a sports setting is inappropriate and offensive. Of course, these are the same people who think that incense, gold, and myrrh are totally rational baby gifts for a newborn infant. And by the way, just exactly what did Joseph and Mary do with that gold? Did they book themselves into a hotel or B&B to get their kid out of that pathetic manger? Did they use it to pay the tax levied by Herod? Did they put it into a trust fund until Jesus turned 18? Or did they just “blow it” like parents often do when they’re trusted with wealth that belongs to the next generation? This is one of many questions that I intend to ask a Heavenly host if I run into one during the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Alas— No Hoopla

My wife and I went downtown last Thursday to join the celebration. The Iraq War had ended, and I remembered the iconic photo in Life magazine taken on the day World War II ended— that classic image of the sailor kissing the nurse. I missed the end of WWII (actually I didn’t exactly miss it, but I was only three years old at the time) so I wanted to experience all the celebration-of-victory hoopla for myself this time. Alas— no hoopla. Maybe because there was no actual victory. Covered incessantly by the media with “imbedded” camera crews, Iraq just turned out to be a really, REALLY expensive, long-running and mindless reality show in which viewers eventually lost interest, so that the show finally got canceled because of low ratings. It will be interesting to see what they come up with to fill that time slot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Maybe If We Wait Long Enough

The French and the Germans killed each other— big time— during the two World Wars, but now 65 years later they are working together to try to save the European Union from economic collapse. Yesterday, their two respective leaders appeared arm in arm, beaming in apparent harmony. So maybe if we wait 65 years, the Republicans and the Democrats will work together in harmony to try and save what’s left of The United States of America. Question is, by that time will anyone even care?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And Here's Why They Will Always Be The 99%

“We are the 99%” So goes the battle cry from the “Occupy” movement, but there’s an uncomfortable reality of life that seems to be misunderstood by these folks. The equality which they seek is impossible in the modern world. If you took the total personal wealth in the United States, and distributed it equally so that every family in the nation had exactly the same net worth— within five or six years there would be a group at the very top who had accumulated hundreds of times as much as the average. The personnel makeup of this new upper tier would contain some new members (although most of them would be the same people who are at the top now) but for the most part, the winners and losers would be distributed almost exactly as they are now. Some people are simply more lucky, or more capable than others. Not necessarily better, and certainly not better in terms of their character, but simply more fortunate or more proficient in their ability to navigate the complexities of the modern economic world. Qualities like blind luck, raw intellect, common sense, self-motivation, ambition, personal discipline (this personal self-discipline is probably the most fundamental of all), and pure human likeability (sometimes called charisma)— these traits are not evenly distributed throughout the population, but these are the traits that help certain people rise to the top. And as every elementary school teacher can tell you, these traits can predict as early as fourth or fifth grade which students will go on to be the high-achievers in life.




The “Occupy” movement will die out because it’s nothing like the uprisings in the Arab Spring. Overthrowing an Arab tyrant is very different from trying to even out the economic inequalities of life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's All About Certainty

According to the latest news accounts, the failure of the “Super Committee” came as a surprise to most Americans. Not me (see Dirty Little Truths About pentagon Funding 8-6-11) where I predicted the failure with absolute certainty. I really don’t have that many truly original ideas, but I do have a firm opinion which I’ve never seen echoed by any of the media pundits. I believe that ideology is not just about political viewpoints (and probably never was) but has, in fact, become the world’s newest religion. Wondering why Liberals and Conservatives can’t see eye to eye about the national budget is like wondering why Catholics and Buddhists don’t agree on the virginity of Mary or the divinity of her son. Religion has never been about compromise, and ideology isn’t moved to compromise either. Both are about the certainty of being correct in a single point of view, and to compromise would be to admit a possible flaw in that viewpoint which, in turn, would undermine the certainty. And here’s the key point. The certainty makes people feel good. Compromise doesn’t make people feel good. So I suppose that right about now, both factions of the Super Committee are feeling good about their toeing the line on behalf of their ideological comrades.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some Thoughts About That "Big Footprint"

Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, warns that cutting the defense budget will reduce our navy to the smallest fleet since 1914, and will reduce our standing army to the smallest number of troops since 1940. Actually, that makes perfect sense. In 1914, we were ramping up our navy to face the looming threat of Germany, which had the most powerful navy on the high seas, including the world’s first operational fleet of submarines. Similarly, in 1940, we could see that we would soon face the German army as well as the Japanese. At that time, Germany had the world’s largest and most powerful military machine in the world, and Japan was number two in military might. Those situations required what West Point now refers to in buzzword-speak as a “big footprint.”


Fast forward to 2011. We are told that we still need a “big footprint” to fight the threat imposed by— drum roll, please— the Taliban. According to the Pentagon’s latest assessment, the number of Taliban currently in Afghanistan is about 10,000. Oh, and by the way, the Taliban has no navy. In fact, they have virtually no military infrastructure whatsoever. We’re not talking, here, about pre-war Germany or Japan. And we're most certainly not talking about the Cold War Soviet Union. The plain fact is that America maintains the world’s biggest military simply because it has become the main part of our national identity. It makes us feel good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make us feel safe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Sainthood for Joe Paterno

I wonder if Joe Paterno is a practicing Catholic? If so, this might help explain why he tolerated a known pedophile under his authority for eight years without notifying the law. Perhaps he was looking to the example set by John Paul II who tolerated numerous pedophiles for twenty-plus years without any negative personal consequences. But Penn. State University isn’t the Vatican, and Paterno should have known the difference. At Penn. State, Paterno was fired immediately for his lapse in leadership responsibility. If Paterno had been the Pope instead of a head football coach, he would now be a candidate for sainthood. In the Roman Catholic process of canonization, being an accessory to pedophilia is not something they hold against you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Buddhism Deals With Flooding

Last March I blogged about the fact that there had been absolutely zero incidents of looting in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami. Now, another eight months have passed, and still there has been no looting whatsoever. In nearby Thailand, most of the entire country has been devastated by massive flooding for more than two weeks now, and the situation there makes New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine look like nothing more than a small scale water event. In contrast with the post-Katrina crime rampage in New Orleans, the incidence of crime and looting in Thailand has been zero. Ziltch. Notta. It's worth noting that both Japan and Thailand are Buddhist countries, and Buddhists believe that it's wrong to steal from their fellow man, so they refrain from looting even when there's a flood.

Unfortunately, such good deeds are not going to save the Buddhists from the everlasting fires of hell (if you listen to the Christian fundamentalists) because the Buddhists have not accepted Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Savior.... and yada yada yada. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and there is no way to the Father but through me." (John 14:6). This narcissistic declaration from the self-proclaimed "Son of God" doesn't offer much heavenly hope to the Buddhist community.... unless, of course, the whole Jesus thing is just a pile of undiluted horseshit. In that case, the Buddhist practice of lawful behavior might have something going for it.

See also "Looting in Japan," March 13, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

...And We All Just Wink at One Another

The world didn't end yesterday as Rev. Harold Camping had predicted, nor did it end in May when he made his previous prediction, nor has the world ended on any of the days predicted by Biblical scholars going back to the time when Abraham thought that killing his own son was a perfectly reasonable instruction from God. The end of the world is a certainty, but predicting the exact day of this destruction from biblical interpretation has proven to be an exercise with a 100% failure rate. In science, if a hypothesis or prediction fails 100% of the time, the scientists change the methodology. In religion, the believers always press onward with strengthened resolve. I personally believe that being wrong is how religious fundamentalists get their kicks since their adherence to flawed notions can be seen as a sign of their faith.

The more interesting question is why do mainstream media outlets give news coverage to these "end-of-the-world" predictions when the track record on these is as bad as it is? I like to think that news people in this scenario are like circus trainers who keep feeding the trained bear so the bear will keep doing tricks to entertain the public. The media keep covering the morons who predict the end of the world so the morons will keep making predictions, and all of us who are in on the joke get to wink at one another and enjoy the fact that some absurdity in life can be perfectly harmless entertainment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Only In America

There's a tourist store on the main street of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It offers for sale large caliber handguns, assault rifles with oversize clips, salt water taffee, and 117 brands of hot sauce. The selection of taffee flavors and assault rifle configurations is as extensive as the hot sauce offerings. And this isn't the only store in Gatlinburg luring tourists in the door to buy this stuff. These stores share a main street with a Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" museum, a Cooter's "Dukes of Hazzard" bar-b-cue restaurant, a museum with several cars that once appeared in the movies (or so they say) and other eating establishments (none of them gourmet) and trinket emporiums too numerous to list in this short blog. By comparison, it makes the midway at Coney Island look like Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. And here's the thing. In our current depression economy, every store on this main street in Gatlinburg is bustling. Cheesy as hell, but positively thriving.

The lesson for American retail business is this. When setting your sights on something to appeal to American taste, aim as low as possible.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Free to Believe Anything

Recent physics data coming from CERN seems to suggest that neutrinos might— I say MIGHT— travel faster than the speed of light. If true, this would prove Einstein wrong about a crucial fact of physics. Already, evangelical Christian fundamentalists are seizing on this to say that, “If Einstein is wrong about physics, then science can be wrong about evolution, too.” This would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetic. For evangelicals to try defending their thoughts about science based on their logic is like an illiterate non-reader critiquing the sentence structure of F Scott Fitzgerald and Norman Mailer.

Here’s the thing. If Einstein is found to be in error about the speed of light, the revision of his theory will come from scientific testing and computation. It won’t come from The Old Testament. And if evolution someday turned out to be a flawed notion (I guess anything is possible) then that revision as well would be based on science, not The Old Testament.

And here’s why this is important to all of us. In the United States we bend over backwards to accommodate the radical anti-science conservative beliefs of the evangelical Christian fundamentalists, because they compose a large voting block when it comes election time. If a large segment of the voting public consolidated themselves around a hardcore belief in Santa Claus, then the political forces would devote some happy talk to Santa Claus too. Meanwhile, China and India don’t burden themselves with The Old Testament or anti-science fundamentalism. In China, EVERY student in eighth grade is REQUIRED to begin their multi-year curriculum in physics, biology, and mathematics. In America, only 18% of high school students EVER study physics or biology at any time in their undergraduate public schooling.

In the United States, people are free to believe in The Old Testament, and they are free to not care a thing about science. They are also free to be poor and unemployed while they watch all the wealth and jobs go to China.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Consider the Math, Not the Morality

Lots of blogging going on today about last night’s execution in Florida. As for me, I respect the Chinese because they practice capitalism with a death penalty. In China, not only would they quickly dispatch a scumbag for shooting a policeman, they would also extend that treatment to guys like Bernie Madoff and Ken Ley and Dick Fuld.

With seven billion people prowling about, we don’t need to worry about one life. We need to be concerned with behavior that threatens every life. One guy kills another guy. If that action is expanded to the extent that half the people do it, the human race comes to an end. I call it extinctionary morality. You ask yourself the simple question, “What happens if EVERYBODY does this certain behavior or action?” In this scenario, if the action or behavior in question threatens the human race, the perpetrator has to go away, sooner rather than later. It’s just plain nuts to look at any aspect of murder within the underpinning context that, “Not everybody does it.” Math trumps morality.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Never Believe the Happy Talk

A few readers of this blog know me personally, and I’ve been asked once or twice why I’m so cynical and contemptuous of institutions. My answer is— personal experience and my personal disappointment in the institutions I’ve come to know.

I grew up Catholic in a time when the public face of Catholicism was Bing Crosby in “The Bells of Saint Mary’s.” I was an altar boy, and I actually wanted to become a priest. Then, within my own lifetime, I saw the Catholic priesthood exposed as a kind of training ground for despicable pedophiles, while The Holy Mother Church worked behind the scenes to limit the PR damage and cover up the transgressions. I was disappointed and disillusioned.

I was young in America when the United States had half of the world’s GDP, and the so-called, “American Dream” was real, and was iconic throughout the world at that time. I remember an America that had just saved the world by winning World War II. Then, within my own lifetime, I’ve seen the United States fall below many of the other developed nations in the standard of living, and I watched the U.S. military transition from a supremely unbeatable fighting force to a bloated jobs program with high rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities. I was, and am, disappointed and disillusioned.

To the extent that political parties can be considered institutions, they are so far beneath my contempt that I won’t even discuss them here. But more consistently disappointing than religions or nations are corporations. Who can forget Enron or Tyco or WorldCom or Lehman Brothers or Pfizer (did he just say Pfizer?) In the 1990s, Pfizer was named the “most admired” and “best managed” corporation in America. I owned some Pfizer stock when it seemed that everybody who didn’t own some of it wanted to own it. During the 1990s, Pfizer stock increased in price 10 fold in 10 years. Then, within the last twelve years, I’ve seen Pfizer become, arguably, the most dysfunctional company on the Fortune 500 (See Fortune Magazine, August 15, 2011), while Pfizer stock has languished dead flat for ten years at a price less than half of its value during the glory years. I’m disappointed and disillusioned.

From my personal experience, I believe that— just as surely as all living things eventually die— all big institutions inevitably crumble and fail if you watch them long enough. And you can, literally, watch them because their demise takes less than a single lifetime to unfold. Only 15 companies on the Fortune 500 were on that list 50 years ago. When you see an institution— any institution— at the peak of excellence, you can be pretty sure that the downhill slide has already inexorably started, and that’s why I never put my faith in any big institution. That’s why I never believe the happy talk.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Update. And Also a Question

Here's an update. My post last Thursday said that public approval of the government was at 17%. That was accurate.... then. Things change. A new CBS / New York Times poll today shows public approval of the government at 12%. This raises the question, "Who will be the last person in the country to approve of the government?"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Would John Cameron Swayze Say About This?

The United States of America, 2011. After ten years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military (funded with 700 billion dollars a year of national treasure) is hoping to get out of the war with a draw. Victory is a word that’s never uttered because it’s so far removed from reality. The enemy for ten years has been a ragtag bunch of third world insurgents numbering less than 70,000— with no munitions production facilities, no industrial manufacturing capability, no heavy armament, no air force, no navy, no transportation infrastructure, no advanced technology, and absolutely no money flowing into its coffers. In fact, no coffers. Think David and Goliath with Goliath backed by astronomical amounts of American taxpayer money.

Back home, in the second week of September, 2011, the leading Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election is found to have mandated vaccination of all 16 year-old girls in Texas against cervical cancer just to do the bidding of the vaccine maker, Merck, in return for substantial corporate monetary contributions. Democrat politics is equally inept. A solar panel start-up company has just declared bankruptcy after squandering half-a-billion dollars of “stimulus” money pumped in by the Obama administration. Polls show public approval of government is at 17%. “Official” unemployment stands at 9.2%, but the real unemployment rate is twice that high. Housing foreclosures have never been more numerous in all the nation’s history. U.S. corporations and small businesses are holding more cash than ever, but say they won’t invest in jobs or infrastructure upgrades until they can have their faith in government restored. Nobody expects that to happen anytime soon. And 84% of total American wealth is owned by the top 20% of wealthy Americans.

If John Cameron Swayze had reported news like this back in 1954, the American public at that time would have overthrown the U.S. government, even if it meant flirting with Soviet Communism.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What Is It With American Voters and Texas Politicians?

What is it with the American electorate and Texas politicians? Must be masochism. What else can explain it? Lyndon Johnson— now there was a real piece of work. Granted, he kind of slipped in under the radar as the result of a tragic assassination, and he waited until he was rightfully elected president two years later before he gave us the full-scale version of war in Vietnam, as well as Medicare here at home. That worked out so well that the other party (Republican) decided to tap into the wellspring of Texas politics when they came up with their pick for the election of 2000. And damned if their guy, George W. Bush, didn’t also slip in under the radar, this time as the result of a Supreme Court decision. His legacy to us was a totally needless war in Iraq and the worst economic situation since the 1930s here at home. Score another one for the Texans.

Now it’s Rick Perry’s turn. This guy combines the “real Texan” shit-kickin’ authenticity of LBJ with the “deer in the headlights” cluelessness of George W. Bush. His promise to us is the elimination of Social Security, creationism in the school science classes, and the rejection of pretty much everything that smacks of science or intellect. He hasn’t said yet where he plans to start his own war to take the place of Iraq.

How many times do we need to go to the well in Texas before we learn that the stuff coming out of there isn’t fit to drink?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It’s All About Bringing Down the Anti-Christ

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has a personal open letter that’s being passed around the Internet as an attachment to people’s e-mail messages, and if it comes your way it’s DEFINITELY worth a read. Schultz, along with 100 other business leaders, have taken it upon themselves to plead with Congress to stop what they’re doing and to work together to restore the American Dream which pretty much everybody knows is dead. The letter from Schultz and its message is praiseworthy— but utterly useless. Here’s why.

If you personally know an evangelical fundamentalist who believes that the earth is less than 5000 years old, and that 4000 years ago people (created by God) were riding around on dinosaurs— if you personally know such a believer, then you also probably know that you will never, EVER get such a person to change that belief. Disagreeing with them, and giving them scientific evidence to disprove their notion only solidifies their position. Disconfirmation always strengthens belief in the religious mind. What Schultz and his 100 friends don’t seem to realize is that the new movement within the Republican Party— including but not limited to the Tea Party— is not so much a political force as it is a quasi-religion. You can’t plead with them to work for the betterment of the nation because, in their religious-type belief system, that’s exactly what they’re doing now. What everybody seems to be missing is the true extent of the vitriolic focus of hatred on Obama. Throughout American history, every president has earned some measure of contempt from his political opponents, but until 2008, The President of the United States was never believed to be the anti-Christ. But such has been the case for three years now. You don’t get a believer with a Christian religious mindset to back off on his or her opposition to the anti-Christ just for the trivial notion of restoring the American Dream.

It will only get worse. Rick Perry is the one person who truly understands the situation for exactly what it is, and he will probably be the next president. He kicked-off his presidential quest with a pep rally in a giant stadium that drew over 30,000 hard core Christian believers. This was pure genius. It’s exactly what a person would do as the opening salvo in a war against the anti-Christ.

The problem with the Book of Revelations is that it doesn’t explain all that much about what to do AFTER you defeat the anti-Christ. Come January of 2013, Perry will have to figure that out. Maybe then, he and his followers will start to care about America.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Tribes Are Bigger Now

Much of the chaos and uncertainty in Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention Libya) has been explained over the years by tribalism, but I happen to think that tribalism also explains the chaos and uncertainty in the United States of America. Our tribes are just bigger and more formalized. When you get right down to it, what are religions and political parties and giant corporations other than just big inflexible tribes? This isn’t a new idea. Other people, smarter than me, have come to this notion before I did. I just needed a little more time to mull it over and get on board.

How else can you explain the way that old time Lutherans see things so differently from evangelical fundamentalists, even though both groups believe in the same Jesus? How else can you rationalize the vitriolic gap between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans even though both groups claim to have the nation’s best interests at heart? And most amazing of all, how else can you understand the positive passion and loyalty that some employees invest in their company or corporation, even though that same company looks at the employee like a totally disposable commodity to be eliminated the minute there’s a need to adjust the bottom line? People believe in their tribe simply because it’s THEIR tribe. There is no right or wrong way of seeing things in the big picture because the definitions of right and wrong are set by the tribe, and the tribal members believe that the tribe is all there is. There is no “big picture.”

One last thing. People are free to kiss off a religion, or switch political affiliations, or to give up on their company and abandon misplaced loyalty without actually quitting the job, but they almost never do it because tribal members don’t see themselves as being free to quit or switch or give up on the tribe. 10,000 years of human cultural evolution, and it’s come down to this— the tribes are just bigger now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I’m Disappointed with the Outcome of Hurricane Irene

Here’s a question. Republicans don’t believe climatologists when explanations are forthcoming about the scientific fact of global warming, but do they believe meteorologists when a warning is given to stay inside during a hurricane? After all, meteorologists are scientists, and every good Republican knows that scientists are just elitists doing the work of liberal Democrats. So how did Republicans respond to warnings about Hurricane Irene?

And speaking of Hurricane Irene, I need to say that I’m disappointed with the outcome. Not the lower than predicted winds in NYC, or the downgrade of Irene from a category 2 to a mere tropical storm. No… I’m exceedingly happy with everything that made Irene less destructive than what was predicted. But the name, Irene, starts with the letter, I, so I knew that the next “big one” would start with the letter, J, and I was really hoping to see Hurricane Jesus. It would be galactically satisfying (for me, at least) to see a hurricane named after the guy who causes hurricanes. Jesus is Lord and has dominion over everything— right? So by definition, that includes hurricanes.

But alas, the newest tropical depression is called, Jose. Maybe next year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Civil War Won’t Last That Long

This is personal, so I’ll just say it flat out. “I don’t love this country enough to try and save it from the new angry and resentful breed of Republicans”. I haven’t been what you’d call, “a patriot” since the 1950s, and seeing as how the American public has some input into the fate of the country, I feel that The United States pretty much deserves what it gets. And what America will probably get in 2012 is an all-Republican government with a Republican president, but this is better than the alternative.

The alternative isn’t Obama. He wouldn’t last that long if he was re-elected. The alternative to Republicanism is civil war. No president in United States history has been as aggressively hated as Obama, and it started the day after his inauguration when conservatives across America went out and stocked-up on hand guns and assault rifles and ammunition. To their credit, they haven’t opened fire just yet.... outside of Arizona, but if they can’t get their way at the polls next year— if Obama beats their guy or gal in the election, then In Rick Perry’s popular shit-kicker vernacular, “they’ll get ugly on him”. No way in hell would they peacefully tolerate another four years.

I could actually vote Republican in 2012, if I could vote for Chris Christie or Jon Huntsman, but Christie is too intelligent to even want the job of president, and Huntsman is too intelligent to get the nomination from the party of Perry, Palin, and Bachmann. Most Republicans now seem to value only angry fundamentalism and extreme conservatism, which means that their candidate will be an extreme conservative fundamentalist, and almost certainly angry and ignorant as well. So I won’t be voting Republican. I will vote again for Obama as I did three years ago, but this time I really don’t want him to win. I don’t want the street riots to start. Not that the civil war would last that long. It would be over in a day or two. The Republicans have all the guns. And I wouldn’t be anywhere in sight. I don’t love this country enough to resist angry Republicans when they have guns in their hands.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Was So Different About the 1930s?

Throughout The Great Depression of the 1930s, the national unemployment rate never rose above 30%, and I wondered what was on the mind of the 70% who still had jobs. With very little research, it was easy to find the answer— optimism for the future. An unbounded and ubiquitous optimism pervaded America, and there was a kind of inner confidence that America would soon lead the world to prosperity. This world of tomorrow that everyone imagined even had a name— The March of Progress.

The March of Progress was a collection of anticipated marvels, prophesied in 1939, that were realistically expected to exist in the year 1964: buildings taller than the Empire State Building constructed with lavish use of aluminum and glass, a multi-lane highway system that would allow a driver to travel coast-to-coast without stopping for anything but food and gasoline, the cautious but feasible use of atomic energy for power production, ubiquitous plastics, television sets in every home supported by a broadcast infrastructure, nylon stockings for women, rockets capable of orbiting above earth's atmosphere, radio telephones for occasional use in automobiles, aircraft capable of carrying 200 passengers at 400 mph, antibiotics, warships an eighth of a mile long, prefabricated low-cost houses, and fresh fruits and vegetables available at any time of year. And when 1964 came to pass, every one of these wonders had become reality. Even in 1939, for those in the depths of poverty, technology and innovation promised a better future.

In 2011, there’s a new March of Progress that’s become reality: transcontinental bullet trains capable of speeds in excess of 250 mph, skyscrapers approaching heights of a quarter mile, and supercomputers capable of a trillion computations per second. The thing is, these technological wonders all exist in China and Japan. The U.S.A. is behind Asia in this new, modern-day March of Progress, and as if to put an exclamation point behind that reality, the United States just ended… ENDED its manned space launch capability. We do, however, still have the world’s biggest and best military, although we can no longer win a war.

So what’s on the mind of Americans today, the 90% who still have jobs, and who aren’t yet brain dead from incessant ideologically-biased political happy talk? What do we have to match the optimism of the 1930s? What future can we predict with confidence? Here’s a partial list: the emerging power of radical fundamentalism in both Islam and Christianity, diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics, identity theft, man-made climate changes and rising sea levels, extermination of the world’s supply of edible fish, a series of global economic meltdowns, depletion of natural resources (especially fresh water), escalating and unstoppable rates of Internet crime with pervasive hacking, and corruption in seats of power… all problems with their origins in the growth of population and the disparity of living conditions across the planet. And then there’s a secondary but related set of problems: most countries including the United States are now becoming ungovernable, and most large corporations are unmanageable, and most religions are unreasonable. The optimism of The Great Depression is something we’ll never see again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Doomsday Feedback Loop

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence initially reserved the vote for white male property owners, and while some of them might have harbored their own sexism or racism, the majority of the Founding Fathers were simply acting on the assumption that only white male property owners could inform themselves sufficiently to vote intelligently. Slaves and women (for the most part) didn’t read newspapers. A slave master was in the position to tell a slave how to think politically, and the same was true for husbands and wives, and only property owners were deemed to have the kind of stake in the governmental system that would motivate them to stay abreast of national affairs. The intent was always to have our democracy guided by an educated, well-informed electorate.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and a focus-tested world where opinions about pretty much everything— including politics— are shaped by what appears on electronic screens of every conceivable shape and size. When it’s time to vote, the 50% of the eligible voters who choose to cast their ballot will do so based on what they’ve been told by the heads that appear on their screens. For the most part, this means that their vote will mirror the opinion of someone else (probably a politician), and will most likely have little to do with their own understanding of the issues. The system has worked this way for at least half a century, ever since the advent of television, and it wasn’t previously much of a deal breaker because the elected politicians, once in office, had access to the kind of information necessary to govern intelligently. Quite simply, a public vote cast in ignorance didn’t guarantee ignorant governance.

Now that’s changed. The politicians, especially Republicans, and especially Michele Bachmann in particular, are perfectly candid in saying that they shape their opinions and voting positions based on what “the voters” tell them. And, of course, the voters tell the politicians only what the politicians have told the voters. In the sciences of chemistry and physics and biology, this is known as a feedback loop, and it doesn’t allow for much, if any, variance based on new input.

The current economic deterioration of America is the biggest single problem we’ve ever faced. Our fate is now being guided by “the people” who know nothing about the staggering complexities of tweaking the largest economy on earth, and this guidance is channeled through elected representatives who know little more than “the people” they claim to listen to. These forces are reinforcing each other in a feedback loop with almost no input from economists or any kind of outside experts who might actually know something about money and finance and business and international banking.

The thing about feedback loops is that they always magnify any imperfection, and— lacking a correction mechanism— when left alone for sufficient time, each and every component of the loop will eventually self destruct.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Perfect Icon for Our Times

Hats off to Newsweek Magazine for its cover photograph of the wide-eyed, looney-looking Michele Bachmann. More than any other single visual image in the last few years, this Pulitzer-worthy photo captures every nuance of America’s flirtation with true collective mental illness. Whether or not it was Newsweek’s intention, the magazine has given us the perfect icon for our times. We're so messed up now that we can't even do rebellion in a rational way.

Looking back to the early years of Vietnam, governmental failures at that time coincided with the Civil Rights movement, and the summer of love in San Francisco, followed by Woodstock two years later. Back then, we knew how to rebel against a constrictive and dysfunctional Federal government by celebrating our own version of freedom. Our icon then was Bob Dylan who wasn’t electrically mesmerizing in any wide-eyed way. He was just simply brilliant in a thoughtful way. Fast forward 40 years. After ten years of Iraq and Afghanistan and Democrats and Republicans, our newest version of rebellion takes the form of the Tea Party, with Michele Bachmann as their standard bearer. They gravitated to her because they thought Sarah Palin was too intellectual. You know that a nation is crazy when the rebellion against the national insanity is crazier than the national insanity itself.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Getting a Little Sick of Seal Team Six

As a quick follow-up to my previous post about the Pentagon, and about last weekend’s loss of 30 American servicemen in the helicopter shoot down, I just need to say that I’m getting sick of hearing about Seal Team Six. I feel sad for the families that have lost a son or daughter who joined the National Guard and died later in Iraq or Afghanistan, and then watched as the nation pretty much ignored the sacrifice because it wasn’t sufficiently “spectacular.” I guess that if you’re in the National Guard, you’re not “bad ass” enough to impress the media. The Seal Team Six members might be the best warriors in our military, but their lives are not the most important lives. One of the things that made America great during World War II was that our nation honored every single sacrifice as though it were equal to every other sacrifice.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dirty Little Truths About Pentagon Funding

When the twelve-member super committee fails to cut another 1.5 trillion later this year, then presumably automatic cuts in Medicare and Defense will kick in. To preempt the Defense part of that, Secretary Leon Panetta warned us two days ago that cuts in Defense would threaten our national security. Now, it’s universally known that the U.S. spends more on its military than all the rest of the world combined spends on their respective armies and navies and such. No other nation on the planet spends even a fifth of what we spend militarily. So here’s my na├»ve question for today. How come all these other nations— clearly underfunded by Panetta’s standards— are not being overtaken by aggressors intent on stripping away their security and freedom? How do other countries manage to protect themselves on the cheap? And if they can do it, why can’t we do it?

The answer to that question is in another dirty little secret (America is filled with dirty little secrets). The United States military is NOT primarily about protecting our security or maintaining our freedom. That’s just patriotic feel-good nonsense. It’s all about jobs. The Pentagon is our nation’s biggest jobs program. Manufacturing all those bullets and bombs, as well as the fancy equipment to deliver those commodities to a target— all of this keeps people employed. A lot of people. And here’s the fascinating subtlety. It doesn’t matter whether the U.S. wins its wars or loses them because the consumption of bullets and bombs stays the same in either scenario, just as long as the war doesn’t end. Actually, either an outright victory or defeat is negative for jobs because then the consumption slows down or ends, and there’s a limit to how much you can stockpile. This is why the U.S. is always at war in at least one foreign country, and why the wars go on so long. C’mon, does anyone in their right mind believe the United States wages a war for ten years because it lacks the firepower necessary to take down an enemy in less than a decade?

And here’s another subtlety. A war can come to a stop (a big job killer) if our enemy runs out of their bullets or bombs, so over the years an ingenious system has evolved that allows our own bullets and bombs to find their way into channels that supply the people we are fighting. This effectively doubles the consumption. Did anyone out there think that al Qaeda or the Taliban had their own munitions plants? Of course not.

The only drawback to the entire operation is the death and injury of the troops we hire to do the fighting. But it’s surprising how little most Americans care about this. We never see the protests that were so common in the Vietnam era. Yesterday, 30 Americans were killed in a single incident, but next week people will forget it. The 30 who died were in a helicopter brought down by an RPG in Taliban hands. We’ll never know if that RPG was “made in America,” because the Pentagon will lie about it if they learn the truth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

“The Rose Tattoo,” The Legion of Decency, and Divine Retribution

This week, Denver is hosting The Supreme International Convention of the Knights of Columbus, and during my morning walk while waiting for the light to change at a downtown street corner, I found myself surrounded by a dozen or more “knights.” And in their conversation I heard three words which I hadn’t heard for 40 years, “Legion of Decency.” If you’re not Catholic, or if you are Catholic but are younger than 30, you might not know about the Legion of Decency. A quick search on Wikipedia can pretty much fill you in, so this blog isn’t so much a factual explanation of the Legion as it is a personal kind of diary entry about my own brush with the Legion of Decency.

It was 1955. I was 13 and I was living with my grandmother (a staunchly compliant old-time Catholic) who raised me during my teenage years. A new film opened at the movie theater, “The Rose Tattoo,” starring my favorite swashbuckler, Burt Lancaster. I figured, given the title and the lead actor, that it was just another adventuresome pirate movie about a buccaneer with a tattoo, so I made plans to go see the film. And I told my grandmother. Big mistake. She sat me down and began to explain that “The Rose Tattoo” had been condemned by the Legion of Decency (actually it wasn’t), and it was too “suggestive” for me to see it. In another minute or so, when I failed to understand all the implications of the word, “suggestive,” she had to break down and tell me it was a “dirty” movie. One thing led to another, and finally she had to tell me that it was “dirty” in a sexual way. She said that the Legion of Decency had determined that this movie would put filthy ideas in the head of anyone who watched it. So I asked the key question, “How did they know this?” She said they just knew it. Then I asked the key follow-up question, “Had they watched it?” She said that most likely they had. Then I asked the question that almost got me banished from her house. “If the guys in the Legion of Decency had watched it, how come it didn’t put filthy ideas in THEIR heads?”

In later years I came to know the answer to that question. The Legion of Decency was made up mostly of priests and bishops, so the only fictional character in literature or film who was likely to fill them with lustful sexual craving was Oliver Twist. In their own dysfunctional way, they were immune to the normal heterosexual allure of women, so they could view films like “The Rose Tattoo” with a certain amount of detachment.

That’s not quite the end of the story. The Knights of Columbus got me to thinking. I never got to see “The Rose Tattoo” when I was 13, and then I forgot about it until day before yesterday. So Monday night I downloaded it on Netflix and gave it a view. Good movie. I think it won three Oscars. I thought I had escaped the “filthy ideas” curse of the Legion of Decency, but then last night the sky over Denver lit up with a tremendous lightening storm. A strong bolt of electricity struck the earth about a block away, and I was sure that it was divine retribution for what I had done, especially since the thunderbolt missed me by a good 600 yards which looked to me like just another sign of incompetence from Jesus.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Disconfirmation Only Strengthens Their Belief

When the Founding Fathers (most of whom were Deists, and not specifically Christians) gave us the First Amendment, they intended to keep government out of the “religion” business, but they had to know at the time that there was little they could do to keep religion out of the government business. The “separation of church and state” as it’s commonly called really isn’t a true separation because it only legislates against cross contamination in a single direction, and in a curious way the debt and budget debacle in Washington this week is a byproduct of that situation. In a nutshell, the kind of fervent belief that causes a person to reject evolution and global warming can now also cause a person to reject rational principles of economics. “We don’t need to raise the debt ceiling because I don’t “believe” that we need to raise the debt ceiling.” It took 225 years, but eventually enough of these believers got elected to congress to actually have the power to take down the system. And it looks like that’s exactly what they intend to do. I wonder if the Founding Fathers saw this coming such a long time ago?

Three years ago I attended a neuroscience seminar titled “Hardwired to Believe.” (see my blog “Conference on World Affairs” 5/1/2008) The essence of the seminar was that people are hardwired differently, and some people just have neurological connections within their brains that make it easier for them to accept the idea of creation than to dig into the mountain of scientific evidence supporting evolution. And here’s the kicker. The more these people get their noses rubbed in evolution, the stronger becomes their belief in creation. The disconfirmation only strengthens their belief. Moreover, they’re not just being stubborn. They are following a neurologically based bias, and it’s this bias that we’ve all come to know as faith or religious belief. When this faith is applied to the question, “Where did man come from?” the answer isn’t immediately critical. If faith says that man was created by a creator, then, “So what?” It’s as harmless as believing in Santa Claus. But when these people band together to gain political power— and that’s exactly what happened with the Tea Party phenomenon— then their faith and belief systems are no longer inconsequential. Believing that the U.S. will still be okay if it defaults on its credit obligations is NOT as harmless as believing in Santa Claus.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not All Breiviks Live In Norway

It was a lone self-described Christian conservative (his description, not mine) who perpetrated last week’s lethal rampage in Norway to highlight the erosion of culture by the infiltration of those who are “different.” In this case, the “different” meant the Muslim immigrants moving into Europe in increasing numbers. Clearly, as a dramatic statement about maintaining a certain cultural purity, this deranged killing spree was different from anything that had come before, but the dirty little secret is that Oslo was different only in degree, not in essence.

To justify his insane murders, the homegrown Norwegian killer, Anders Breivik stated that he was offended by the prospect of Muslims “mixing in.” Thus, Breivik joins the long list of other Christian conservatives who have been offended by “different” people “mixing in.” Christian conservatives fought against equal rights for Negros right up until the 1972 passage of the Equal Rights Amendment because they didn’t want people with dark skin and kinky hair to be “mixing in.” When the KKK would set their chosen symbol on fire to intimidate and threaten Negros, it wasn’t the symbol of the swastika, or the symbol of the star and crescent. It was the symbol of the Christian cross. And today, the Christian conservatives have targeted homosexuals as the latest group to be prevented from “mixing in.”

Readers of this blog know that I’m not a fan of Christianity, and my reason for this is that I see Christianity— at least in its conservative fundamentalist version— as exclusionary and elitist. It’s all about deciding who is offensive to God, and deciding who should be prevented from “mixing in.” But mostly, it’s all about making the fundamentalist Christian conservatives feel like they’re “special.” Swelling their ranks are evangelists like James Dobson and Ted Haggard, and politicians like Michele Bachmann, and self-appointed “therapists” like Michele’s husband, Doctor Bachmann Ph.D.— all claiming to speak the mind of the Lord when they oppose gay marriage, and as they work to marginalize homosexuals I see a little bit of Anders Breivik in all of them.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Michele Bachmann is Fortunate to Live at This Time

If you’ve ever watched someone suffer a severe migraine headache, it can be outwardly obvious that there’s something going on inside their skull that you don’t want going on inside your skull. It’s hard to hide intense pain. That’s probably why migraine headache symptoms were routinely interpreted as a sign of demonic possession 300 or so years ago in America. I happen to know a little bit about this. A distant relative of mine, Elizabeth Clawson, was one of the last women to be accused of witchcraft, and she stood trial in Stamford Connecticut in 1692. She was actually acquitted, which is why she survived to raise a family that cascaded down through the generations until I could finally join the tribe 250 years later. I mention this now because I’ve done a fair amount of research on the witch trials in New England (there were other locations besides Salem), and I can report with absolute certainty that more than one woman was burned at the stake simply because she was seen by other people while displaying outward symptoms of what was certainly a severe migraine headache.

Migraines are in the news this week because Michele Bachmann is reported to suffer occasionally from this affliction, but this blog isn’t a rant about the prospect of a female U.S. President having a migraine while her finger is on the nuclear trigger. That wouldn’t be my problem— not unless Boulder Colorado was on her target list, which— come to think of it— might be the case. No, that’s not why I’m raising the subject. I mention Michele Bachmann and migraine headaches because she needs to be ever thankful that she lives in the 21st century instead of the 17th century. Back then, suffering with migraines, she might very well have been suspected of communing with Satan as a witch. And living as she does with a hardcore bible thumper it would’ve been hard to hide the signs, which he would have immediately recognized as something offensive to God. Deciding what’s offensive to God and then inflicting that decision on other people is what bible thumpers do, and Michele Bachmann’s husband is notorious for this. He’s even built a cottage industry abound it. Doctor Bachmann Ph.D. spends his time these days “curing” homosexuality which he’s decided is a curse from God, but three hundred years ago he would most certainly have been building fires under the feet of some women with severe migraine headaches. Michele is fortunate to have been living at this time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Learning from the Pros

As preparation for an upcoming game, NFL players routinely study films of plays that have worked for other teams. To continue with a sports metaphor, Rupert Murdoch has apparently taken a page from the NFL playbook. I have it on good authority that Murdoch stayed up late Monday night watching film and video clips of Catholic bishops appearing before critics to answer for the sexual transgressions of people under their supervision. These guys are the ones to watch if you’re in Rupert Murdoch’s position. The Catholic Church has, literally, written the book on accountability avoidance. Their formula is in three parts. One part, “My integrity is not to be questioned,” and one part, “I’m deeply sorry, and I apologize to anyone who was offended,” and one part, “I’m utterly shocked that something like this could have taken place on my watch.” Actually, the bishops do the last part a little differently. Instead of “on my watch,” the official Catholic phraseology uses, “I’m utterly shocked that something like this could have taken place within my flock.”

When a priest is being promoted to bishop, he is flown to Rome for a crash course on how to answer for sexual transgression “within the flock.” The three part formula is teachable, and its success is repeatable. It works every time. And if the formula can work against allegations of sexual molestations occurring by the tens of thousands, then it’s a piece of cake to apply that same formula to something as simple as hacking the e-mails of somebody who’s already dead. No big deal. Right?

Murdoch is as safe in his job as a Catholic bishop, and that’s pretty darn safe. But if I’m wrong about this, he has other options. Murdoch can take it on the lam, going incognito by plastering on thick facial makeup and long false eyelashes, and then passing himself off as Tammy Faye Baker.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stop Blaming the Government and the Politicians

If China was going down the tubes (the reality for China is quite the opposite), then it would be appropriate to blame the government. In China, the government runs the country. In America, “we the people” run the country. That’s the problem. We now have a democracy— the very kind of democracy that frightened the hell out of the Founding Fathers who wrote the U.S. Constitution. That’s why they gave us a republic instead. The way it was supposed to work— in the original plan— a person might get elected to office by voters who were so petulant and spiteful that they were demanding a complete government shutdown, but then once that person joined other elected leaders in the seat of government, he or she would work in cooperation for the good of the country. And most essential of all, the voters were expected to be sophisticated enough to know they couldn’t always get their own way on everything. That’s how a republic works. That’s how America is supposed to work. That’s all in the past.

Last election, about 50 Republicans (most affiliated with the Tea Party) were sent to Washington with marching orders to shut down the government, and damned if they didn’t do exactly that. That’s true democracy in action. Why should we be surprised at what they’re doing when they said they were going to do it?

So how did America get to this point? I blame four things: Ubiquitous and incessant polling. Massive political advertising on television. The emergence of our current system of primary elections to choose candidates. And 40 years of “dumb down” public schooling. We now have elected leaders who first become candidates by winning a primary, as opposed to being selected by party officials. All too often, this “winning” is achieved by the hiring the best PR agency to design the most effective attack ads while, at the same time, raising the most money to pay for the whole negative advertising process. And the attack ads work because the electorate just isn’t very bright. But here’s the killer. Once in office, elected officials make their decisions and policies based on the poll numbers. And then they crow that they’re following the will of the people, which they are. By definition, that’s democracy, but that’s not how it was supposed to be.

Democracies, if we look back at the historical record of true democracies, never last more than a century or two, and this includes the Athenian democracy in ancient Greece which went belly up after 172 years. The Founding Fathers knew this. In a true democracy, the voters don’t just get what they want. They get what they deserve.

Also see: Dying From "Death By Polling" 6/27/11

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Would Jesus Solve the U.S. Budget Problem?

In all four gospels there’s a written account of an episode where Jesus chased money changers and livestock merchants from the Temple of Herod by the use of his own physical force. So from the gospels we know this about the Lord and Savior of All Mankind— he was not above pitching a good old fashioned fit in the pursuit of political activism when confronted by an intolerable economic situation. Good for him. This documentation stands in stark contrast to what the gospels say about the actions of Jesus when confronted by homosexuality and abortion (both of which were as common in biblical times as they are now). Quite simply, the gospels say NOTHING about this. Zippo. Zilch. Notta. Jesus, as far as we know, never uttered one single solitary word about homosexuality or gay lifestyle or abortion. These issues may or may not have been off his radar, but they were certainly absent from his talking points.

I bring this up now because I believe the Republicans are missing a great opportunity. For the last 40 or more years, the Republican Party has regularly found someone on their team with a special relationship to Jesus— somebody who could tap into the infinite mind of the Son of God, and report to us what the Big Guy really and truly feels about things like gay marriage or abortion. How else can you explain all the right wing rhetoric about God’s opposition to such practices? The GOP position is clearly not taken from the gospels which are silent on the dreaded sex-related topics.

The newest GOP favorite with a channel (albeit an indirect channel) to Jesus is Michele Bachmann. Her husband, Doctor Bachmann Ph.D. runs the family business— a Christian Counseling service that offers to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight by filling them in on God’s negative opinion of their behavior. I think Doctor Bachmann Ph.D. is squandering a huge opportunity here. If he can climb inside God’s head to get the lowdown on homosexuality, why wouldn’t he also try to get some divine inspiration about topics like budget deficits or how to avoid national bankruptcy? Biblical history tells us that Jesus actually cared about financial malfeasance and economic impropriety enough to get physically involved trying to make things better. I’ll bet Jesus would be more than willing to talk about raising the debt ceiling if only some special person like Doctor Bachmann Ph.D. would ask the right questions during their next discussion. And then Doctor Bachmann Ph.D. could tell his wife, Michele, and she could go to Waterloo and tell the rest of us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don’t Blame Rupert Murdoch

After 168 years of publication, most of which was spent wallowing in tabloid journalism, “News of the World” went out of business because of outright criminality and excessive sleaze. The surprise for me, personally, was the apparent recognition that there can actually be too much sleaze, even in the modern 21st century world. I had thought otherwise.

For the record, I personally loathe FOX News. I listen to NPR and I watch PBS, and I never thought that FOX and PBS were simply right wing and left wing versions of intellectual equivalency, although I’ll grant that FOX and MSNBC are intellectual equals. I also regularly tune to NHK (the Japanese version of BBC) to get news from Asia. FOX news comes up for discussion now because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch who also, until last Saturday, owned the now-defunct “News of the World.” There’s a huge temptation for liberals like me to jump on Murdoch now that his power seems to have lost a bit of its tarnish, but I think this is being overly simplistic and naive. Murdoch is, and always has been, merely a zookeeper who made sure the lions got their daily dose of red meat, and zookeepers rarely question where the red meat comes from. In the case of “New of the World,” supplying the red meat meant hacking the phones and e-mails of people who had lost loved ones and who were at the depths of their own personal sorrow. The fact that this is despicable journalism may or may not say something about Rupert Murdoch, but it speaks volumes about the people who actually read that tawdry newspaper. And with its history going back 168 years, clearly readers were reveling in trash and sleaze and other people’s grief long before Rupert Murdoch was even born.

What a huge coincidence that this comes in the exact same week when we were treated to televised images of people gathered outside the court house where the Casey Anthony saga was being concluded. I could not, in my wildest imagination, ever see myself joining such a group of rabid blood-nuts to express pleasure or displeasure at a judicial sentence being handed down to somebody I didn’t personally know. Who in their right mind does that? And I confess that when I see a group like that I secretly assume that all of them are FOX News buffs. It’s interesting, though, that Rupert Murdoch probably looks at such a group and sees the same rabid herd mentality that I see. This would explain a lot about FOX News.

Back about the time that “News of the World” began publication, Henry Thoreau said that “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And human nature being what it is, I suppose some people find solace or pleasure when they can read about other people who are even more desperate than themselves. Rupert Murdoch didn’t create that condition. He merely strives to make a dollar by helping it along.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Bright New Career for Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony gets out of the slammer next week and will, presumably, be looking for a job in a bleak employment market. Meanwhile, Nadya Suleman (a.k.a. the Octomom) appeared last Friday on The Today Show with her brood, and demonstrated for all the television viewers to see that her two-year-old octuplets are completely out of control, and are well on their way to predictable adult lives as deadbeat malefactors. Since 2009, most of the cost of raising the octuplets plus Suleman’s six other fatherless kids has fallen to the taxpayers in the debt-ridden state of California. By her own admission, Suleman has too many kids. Meanwhile California, facing bankruptcy, can no longer afford to support the prolific cash-crop resulting from Suleman’s peculiar life style as an in-vitro breeding machine. And Casey Anthony will need a job. Her primary expertise and work qualification seems to be the willingness to whack a two-year-old kid, and the ability to do it with legal impunity.

I love it when multiple problems can be solved by lumping them together to provide a common solution. So here’s the deal. Casey Anthony needs to move to California and go to work for the state, where she can accomplish a rather drastic budgetary cost-cutting measure. Utilizing her unique and rare skill set, her job would be to move in with Nadya Suleman and cull the herd, so to speak.