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Saturday, July 26, 2008

FAR-RIGHT LUNACY

You know, it never fails. Just when you think ignorant political ideologues have finally started to see the light, along comes this week's batch of idiots: Presidential candidate John McCain, Oklahoma City 2nd District County Commissioner Brent Rinehart, and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN, 6th District). WHAT PLANET DO THESE PEOPLE COME FROM, AND HOW IS IT THEY COME TO INFLUENCE PUBLIC POLICY HERE?

Take John McCain. All week long he's been behaving like a spoiled little crybaby brat, competing with a sibling (Obama) for mommy's (the media's) attention. He has been trying his best to steal the focus away from Obama's very successful Middle East and European trip. He has lambasted Obama at every cheap opportunity and has confused or deliberately misstated the facts regarding the military surge in Iraq to make himself appear more knowledgeable and experienced in foreign affairs than Obama. He has had to backtrack to cover up numerous mistakess. Criticizing Obama for not supporting the surge, he first claimed the surge caused the Iraqi Sunni "awakening" in al Anbar province whereby they began to turn on alQaeda. When it was pointed out to him that the surge occurred 2 months AFTER the Sunni awakening, he spun a yarn about how Gen. McFarlane had told him about a "surge strategy" where we would first make overtures to Sunni sheiks and then phase two would involve an increase in our troops to root out alQaeda and protect the Sunni sheiks from terrorist reprisals. Of course, this was pure cover-your-ass spin, because the military buildup took place almost exclusively in BAGHDAD, NOT al Anbar, and, at the height of the military surge, a very prominent Sunni sheik was assassinated anyway. Uh huh, John. Right. YOU'RE on top of all the facts. YOU'RE the foreign policy and military expert! YOUR brains and "experience" are what we need to win the war on terror. NOT! McCain is weak on the region's social and political history. He confuses Sunni, Shia, alQaeda, and Iranians. Four times recently he has made reference to "Czechoslovakia", a country which went out of existence 15 years ago! McCain is just another paranoid, militaristic, desperate right-wing wack job who is TOO CONFUSED TO BE PRESIDENT! And then he had the balls to say "I would rather win a war and lose an election", inferring that his opponent would choose the opposite course. Sorry, McCain: A guy as rash and power-hungry as you doesn't DESERVE to be President! The more immature crybaby behavior I see in you, the more you look like a bitter, angry, and unstable old man. That's the LAST thing we need in the White House!

Next, there's good ol' upstanding, professed Christian, southern Baptist Oklahoman Brent Rinehart. Just Google this guy and read up on him. He's pretty unbeluevable. Rinehart has a vendetta against homosexuals and political and legal opponents. Like most of his extreme persuasion, he is ill-informed, ignorant, vindictive, and just doesn't care, because HE is always right. There's no arguing with these people. They're nuts. Now running for re-election, Rinehart has written, drawn, published, and is distributing a 16 page COMIC BOOK slamming homosexuals that he is using for his campaign literature! In it, he makes reference to gays being pedophiles, even though there is no basis in fact for this claim. Amusingly, he even misspells the word two different ways: "pedifile" and "pedaphile." I guess spelling, like fact, is a purely subjective or relative matter to Rinehart, as his book contains other falsities as well. Currently under indictment with trial set for September on campaign finance and ethics violations chargws, Rinehart in his comic accuses the man who has brought charges against him of being "a pedifile's (sic) dream come true." The book also depicts a gay in a toga holding a sign reading "I want to be a Boy Scout leader" and another whose sign reads "we're here, we're queer, get used to it." He even features Satan with pitchfork in hand saying, "If I can get the kids to believe homosexuality is normal", and an angel answering "Hey, Satan, not with Brent around you won't!" Satan is also portrayed endorsing his opponebts in the July 29 Republican primary, and an angel endorsing HIM. Rinehart professes to be Christian, but I don't know what Jesus HE follows. For the REAL Jesus NEVER lashed out at, persecuted, or ridiculed homosexuals or others in word OR deed. Don't be mistaken: My blog today is not an endorsement of homosexuality or a call for specific gay rights. Rather, it is just a reaction to the needless and over the top picking on of a particular controversial segment of society by paranoid bigots like Rinehart. He is just another deluded fanatic who has apparently decided to create God in HIS own image and likeness, instead of the other way around.

Then we've got dear, dear Michele Bachmann. She, you may recall, embarrassed her constituents and her entire state during President Bush's exit from his 2007 State of the Union Address. She grabbed and held onto his shoulder for a full 30 seconds and then planted a looonnnggg, slobbery kiss smack on his lips. (I wonder how she and Laura are getting along). In a Feb. 10, 2007 interview with St. Cloud Times reporter Lawrence Schumacher, she claimed knowledge of a plan to partition Iraq, whereby Iran would control fully half of the country and would set up a "terrorist safe haven zone" to launch attacks against the Middle East and the United States. This safe haven zone would be called "the Iraq state of Islam, something like that," she claimed. When grilled about this by the Associated Press in a subsequent interview, she retracted her ridiculously non-factual claim. Then, just this week, she returned all full of piss and vinegar from a Congressional energy study in Colorado and Alaska. She issued her claim (parroting the Bush White House) that domestic offshore oil deposits were plentiful and that we could get back down to $2.00 per gallon gasoline if only we could begin drilling in federally protected offshore and Alaska wilderness regions. This motor-mouth statement is preposterous and was immediately debunked. But Bachmann didn't stop there. She went on to compare these oil deposits to a fully stocked locked pantry, and likened the American consumer to starving children being unjustly deprived (in her view) of plentiful oil. Of course, energy experts like longtime oilman T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore have already pointed out that we cannot drill our way out of our current high oil price problem and that the real problem is our excessive CONSUMPTION. We, as only 4% of the world's population, wastefully consume 25% of global oil production, and it is bankrupting us. Ms. Bachmann, much like John McCain and George W. Bush, apparently just doesn't get it and has great difficulty comprehending and dealing with complex issues. But you can always count on her to be recklessly impulsive, a thoroughly partisan and doctrinaire reactionary, and most often wrong. This Congresswoman is definitely out to lunch.

It is truly unbelievable that, in this day and age, people like these three can get elected to public office. My, how low the bar has fallen. God help us!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

At the time of Columbus, Europeans were beginning to outstrip their land and so thus began to find a way to do things more efficiently by pooling their resources for the common good. Even in the early days of the American colonies, entire settlements would band together to build churches, barns, and family homes. It was the correct, civilized, and neighborly thing to do, and our ancestors did it. This banding together, this community spirit, was a good and healthy thing. It added to the community as a whole, and the country grew and prospered. As time progressed, individuality and anonymity seeped into our culture. Individual fortunes were made through individual effort and entrepreneurial endeavors. That, too, was a good thing, and still is. But the rise of individualism has made a victim of that once-prevalent community spirit, and that has not been necessarily good.

Some time ago I came upon an old grade school classmate. He was scalping event tickets, as I knew he had been doing and prospering handsomely with for many years on the side. We chatted for a bit and he soon began to complain about freeloaders on welfare and his hatred for do-gooder liberals ("f___ing socialists", as he so venomously put it). He even called the chief of staff for a former Minnesota moderate Republican governor a "f___ing socialist" on another occasion, and then it dawned on me. My ex-classmate had obviously forgotten and/or rejected all of what had been covered in religion class, especially concern and aid for the poor as Jesus Himself had advised. Regrettably, he had today become an extreme product of our current individualistic mindset. My acquaintance despises paying taxes (he's told me so), so I'm relatively certain he pockets all of his scalping money for himself, substantial income though it is, and only pays taxes on income derived from the various "legitimate" jobs he has held over the years. I admire him for his entrepreneurial drive and work ethic, but his current outlook saddened me. This mindset of individuality I have described may best be illustrated by the slogan "I've got mine, now you go get yours and to hell with you." It was abundantly clear to me that his concerns were only for HIS wants, HIS family, HIS city, HIS country---basically, all extensions of HIM. This wasn't the same guy I knew years ago.

I just came back from a visit to see an old friend who is now in a nursing home. Years and years ago, he had been a well-known successful media personality. He moved away from our area long ago and became involved in sales, but a few years back he returned here. Then began his downhill slide. He developed some very expensive and crippling health issues which left him unable to work, no longer able to walk, and nearly destitute. This once proud, vibrant, and vigorous man, who in previous times made good money and routinely did charity events, was now nearly penniless and a charity recipient. He was now miserable, gaunt, and forced to reside in a county-assisted nursing home. I felt terrible seeing him in his present condition, yet he was far better off than many sick and elderly living in poverty. Much as he'd love to, he can no longer "go get his." Were it not for government aid, he would surely die, unnecessarily early.

As I left him, I began thinking of the millionaires and billionaires who have become even wealthier through reduced income and corporate taxes under Bush and his conservative allies. The past 7 years have been VERY kind to these people, yet few have done much with this new, increased wealth to build up our infrastructure, or improve our inner cities, or ease the plight of the poor, elderly, and afflicted. Many of them used their new, enhanced wealth to ship American jobs overseas or buy up other companies and lay people off. These filthy rich are obviously believers in the "I've got mine, now you go get yours and to hell with you" philosophy. But they, like my ex-classmate, are dead wrong with that self-centered and morally bankrupt mindset.

I recently came across a fabulous website I would encourage you to check out. It is found at http://www.pickensplan.com. It is a site set up by a wealthy Texas oilman named T. Boone Pickens, who, unlike many of his peers, has a benevolent eye on the future and who apparently shares the vision and clarity of Ross Perot when it comes to economic issues. Mr. Pickens is urging us to band together again as a nation for the common good to solve our energy problems and stop sending so much of our wealth overseas.

The times DEMAND that we Americans get off our overly-individualistic high horses and start adopting anew the community spirit we once had. With our standard of living dropping, 1 in 7 of us not covered by health insurance (or unable to afford it), and our self-centered and wasteful habits of consumption, it is abundantly clear we cannot continue with our current mindset! A visit to Mr. Pickens' website might be a good start on the return to a more healthy community spirit. And for all of you narrow-minded, hardcore neo-conservatives out there, please notice I advocate a return to COMMUNITY spirit, NOT a "Communist" or "Socialist" one. Some of you ideologues just don't get the difference, and that difference is HUGE.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

CABLE TV MEDIA: A PATHETIC STATE OF AFFAIRS

The overwhelming majority of news networks on U.S. cable and satellite YV are corporate-owned. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, and even offshoots like CNBC and MSNBC are ALL owned directly or indirectly by corporate giants like Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, GE, and others. They each claim to be unbiased and objective in their reporting, but we, the intelligent viewers, know otherwise. For example, not only do you get your news with a slant, but much of it is withheld, partially told, or even omitted altogether. We also get an overload of coverage concerning Hollywood figures, which, in this humble writer's opinion, isn't news at all and should be covered instead by some kind of entertainment network.

In the world of politics, the cable networks fail us miserably. FOX, for example, is little more than the current White House's propaganda bureau. Every right wing or Bush administration talking point is presented verbatim, and liberal or Democratic news or stands on issues are often either omitted completely, given scant or only partial mention, or outright distorted or ridiculed. Pundits like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many others twist and distort news stories to fit their narrow ideological beliefs. O'Reilly has even turned off the microphones of guests on his show who have openly challenged his stands. So much for free speech - so much for "fair and balanced reporting" - so much for journalistic integrity! He also spends far too much time attacking network rivals like NBC, MSNBC, and CNN. What a total waste of time and an insult to our intelligence! CNN's Lou Dobbs also presents a slant on his show: Center-right with a streak of economic populism thrown in for good measure. Unlike O'Reilly, he allows those with opposing viewpoints to freely disagree with him and express themselves. But he never allows enough time for each topic or story he covers. Everything is always cut short by the ever-present need to go to a commercial break or move onto the next story. To his credit, though, Mr. Dobbs DOES feature a wide variety of authors, historians, public figures, and topics not oven seen or covered on other networks. MSNBC's Chris Matthews is a most irritating personality. He has a grating, high-pitched voice that always carries a sneer in its tone. His presentation is center-left, and he usually has several trios of pundits on his show "Hardball With Chris Matthews" to help him slice and dice a myriad of politicians and issues down to the subatomic level. But the most irritating thing of all about him is the way he steps on all of his guests. He cuts everybody off all the time, seldom letting them finish a sentence without his interjecting another question or his own opinion over them. Often his guests will get into heated arguments among themselves and the show breaks down into chaos until ol' Chris butts in again. He's like a snide, mouthy little kid in need of a damn good spanking!! If I were in the studio for his show and he cut me off or tried to talk over me the way he does with virtually everybody else, I'd punch him squarely in the mouth. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show also draws on a number if pundits, authors, and legal and constitutional experts. His left bias is transparently obvious but what he presents is usually buttressed with solid factual information. But segments of his show are often devoted to persons in the entertainment industry and silly satire. Unlike O'Reilly and Matthews, though, he doesn't step on his guests, treats them with a good deal of respect, and is a polite listener. We would all be far better served if his producers would cut the silly segments of his show and let him spend more time on the issues of the day.

In the world of entertainment, cable TV's penchant for covering the excesses of Hollywood personalities is ridiculous. Nonstop coverage of the goings-on of morons like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, and all the rest is not newsworthy in the least. It distracts the public and time spent on these idiots is NOT time spent on important facts or issues worldwide. It does little to enlighten the public or raise the bar in terms of intelligent discussion of actual newsworthy issues or events of the day. This is a travesty.

Cable TV networks also have a disturbing knack for not fully covering the relevant, and instead saturating us with trivial, relatively unimportant things. Whether or not Cindy McCain is more likeable or popular than Michelle Obama is NOT newsworthy! Whether or not John McCain or Bill Clinton blow up angrily at a provocative reporter is NOT newsworthy! Whether or not Barack Obama wears a flag pin is NOT newsworthy! What Obama's minister said in church, or what an evangelical backing McCain said on a podium is NOT newsworthy! Unfortunately, this is the kind of nonsense we are subjected to daily on cable network TV. It's utterly pathetic. What IS important, of course, is the detailed presentation and in-depth analysis of each aspect of a political candidate's platform, as well as that of current issues and occurences around the globe. We get surprisingly narrow coverage of important things like that, however.

Can anybody tell me: Who is the President of Paraguay? Who is being held under house arrest in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and why? What are the hot political issues in The Netherlands right now? Or even in Canada? Shouldn't cable and satel;lite news be giving us insight on these types of things? Aren't these questions more relevant than Britney Spears' latest bad behavioral incident? See my point, everybody?