The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘news’ Category

AWOL

It’s been about six months since my last post.  While some of my most loyal readers here locally have been pushing, poking and prodding me to once more tap out some posts, several readers out of state and out of country have written me to see if I had gravitated to a higher plane of existence.  I can assure you that I have neither gotten any more intelligent nor have I shrugged off this mortal coil.  There have been two separate distinct reasons for my recent lack of productivity.

The first of these is purely technical.  A while back, my laptop encountered its mandatory period of planned obsolescence and died, despite all efforts to resuscitate it.  Well, the Vista operating system which ran it was never considered one of Microsoft’s best efforts – but we had come to a rapprochement and were quite comfortable with each other.  The new laptop runs on the latest and greatest operating system, Windows 10 (or so we’re told so that we will purchase whatever is being touted as the latest and greatest as though we are mindless, unthinking and programmable laboratory rats – which many of us are).  Well, latest and greatest, in my experience, usually means, at the least, making many adjustments and at the worst means feeling as though one has a limited cerebral capacity caused by oxygen deprivation while in the womb.  I found my experience with Windows 10 to more closely approximate the second of those two alternatives.

Of course, the very lovely (Microsoft) blog program that I had been using for years is NO LONGER SUPPORTED in Windows 10.  So there was that as well – considering that the new SUPPORTED blogging program is glitchy and a pain in the neck to use with far fewer features and more hoops through which a person must jump.  This is what the left defines as “progress” – hence the misnomer, Progressivism.

It seems to me that complicating what should be something that is otherwise a simple thing to do is at the core of what Progressives consider their job creation plan.  After all, if a task can be accomplished easily by a single individual in a short period of time, how detrimental is that to the economy?  And how much better to so complicate the procedure that it can only be accomplished by involving three or four people, and then getting a questionable result only after a long period of time has elapsed?  That is why we are now teaching children how to do simple math problems involving the addition of two, two digit numbers and require a three page explanation of how this is to be done.  (Frankly, I am not surprised that school kids are in such despair at this convolution that they simply pull out their cell phones, go to the calculator function, input the numbers and get the correct result – never learning how to add those two numbers using only their brains).

Despite the amount of time I have devoted to the technical challenges I encountered which disincentivized my posting for this extended period, this actually was the lesser of the two reasons for my absence.  The greater one is all the blathering noise that we pass off as “news”.

I probably started twenty or more posts during the past six months – yet I never quite completed any of them.  In part that was owing to the technical difficulties enumerated above – but more significantly I attribute this to the fact that before I finished tackling one “news story,” another one of equal triviality diverted my attention from completing it.  And when I say, “trivial” that is my sense of most of what seems to occupy our interest.

We the people seem to be so occupied with identifying the trees that we ignore the fact that there is a massive forest in front of us.  And we have no better ally in this than the news and social media.

While I have no answer to the reason that our news sources act as they do and report as they will in a verbal and visual portrayal of the classic chicken/egg conundrum – that is to say do they shape the viewpoint of their viewers or do their viewers’ viewpoints determine their choice of content in search of ratings – it is remarkable that when any story breaks, the collective “news media” act like a school of piranhas attacking an unfortunate alpaca who is strayed into their feeding grounds.  And when they have finished gorging themselves, they all swim off in search of a new victim.

I can’t help remembering coming home from school after either struggling on a test or being the subject of a classmate’s insult and feeling sorry for myself, spilling my guts to my father and listening to his wise counsel (after he instructed me that if I only had studied harder I would have gotten a better result or explaining that people who made fun of other people were “very small kids” who would, in all likelihood wind up being “very small grownups” and then concluded his lecture with the statement, “What will it all matter in one hundred years.”  The same may be said of most of what we are exposed to and absorb as being “newsworthy”.

My realization that posting on subjects that were absolutely trivial, while it might entertain some, was probably beneath the intellectual level of my readers and would require a forced effort on my part as I find most of it to be exceptionally boring and unimportant.  So I took a sabbatical from which I have now returned.  But if I may express my viewpoint for this period, it might best be described in the first few lines of  John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” a poem that I recited for a high school senior public speaking event:

 MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk.

Well, I’ve promised myself that I am going to try to re-establish my former cheery, optimistic self.  But I know that if I am not fully successful, what will it all matter in one hundred years?

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

My father used the title phrase of this post so many times that I lost count of how often he said it.  If I were upset because someone had said something that was hurtful he would ask me about the individual making the statement.  Normally, it was someone from school.  The fact that I wore glasses at an early age was one area of such commentary.

He would advise me that a person who made fun of a person who needed glasses in order to see would probably also make fun of an old person who needed a cane in order to walk.  “Now, that doesn’t speak very well to the person’s sense of compassion, does it?”, he would ask.

“It’s always important when we listen to others to consider the source.”

Those words are perhaps even truer today than when I heard them as a youngster.  We have so much information thrown at us that simply sorting through it is, in and of itself, virtually a full time job.  That, of course, leaves us with little time to verify that information which is formative in helping us shape our opinions.

And when we hear the same thing, over and over not from one source but from virtually every medium reporting on a particular subject, it is easy to fall into the habit of accepting what we hear as gospel truth.  The assumption is, if everyone is saying the same thing, how could they all be wrong?  And so, in the interest of convenience, we buy the story and think no further about it.  Our opinion has been shaped by others and we have taken ownership of it.

And, of course, that is exactly the objective of advertising.  Repetition tends to breed acceptance – which is why we hear the same ads for a particular product so often.  While we subconsciously know that the purpose of advertising is to sell a product or service and may be annoyed at seeing a specific ad for the hundredth time, we do not see this as deceptive.  But when the same practice exists in our media, presenting us with the “news”, we have every right to be suspicious of the source and of its author’s motivations.

Back in the 1950’s, New York had three morning newspapers:  “The New York Post”; “The Herald Tribune”; and “The New York Times.”  “The Post” tended to contain stories that were written in a somewhat more salacious way although in dad’s opinion they had the best sports section.  “The Trib” and “The Times” approached news stories in a more in depth manner, the difference being that “The Trib” was far more conservative in its outlook.

Because my father liked to stay informed, he would purchase copies of all three, reading only “The Post’s” sports section and relying on the other two papers for news of current events.  I think that speaks well to his desire to form objective opinions.

In truth, he leaned far more closely to the interpretation of facts as they were described in “The Trib” but he wanted to hear the other side’s point of view as well.  It’s hard to defeat an opponent if you don’t understand what that opponent’s “modus vivendi” is.

There is a source on which I frequently rely because it generally does a decent job of providing information that I need – particularly as it pertains to movies and movie stars.  That source is www.nndb.com.  For example, if I am researching the cast of a particular film and only remember one of the actors who starred in it, by entering their name I can pull up that person’s biography, together with a (usually) complete listing of all the films in which he appeared.  By then going to a specific film I can bring up the entire cast and, if I wish, click on their names to access their bios as well.

Well, I’ve given credit to NNDB for the good job they do of detailing movie personalities and their artistic appearances – but when it comes to current events, I cannot offer the same commentary.  Below you will see the postings on NNDB for two people who have been in the news lately – Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman:

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon MartinAKA Trayvon Benjamin Martin

Born: 5-Feb1995
Died: 26-Feb2012
Location of death: Sanford, FL
Cause of death: Homicide
Remains: Buried, Dade Memorial Park, Miami, FL

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Victim

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Shot and killed by George Zimmerman

Shot and killed while walking home by George Zimmerman, a hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who had been specifically instructed by 911 not to pursue Martin. The killing became politically charged with many conservatives taking the side of Zimmerman, blaming the hoodie that Martin was wearing. Fox News quietly removed the hoodie they were selling from the network’s online store. On 11 April, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, and turned himself in. In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of the charge by an all-female, mostly white jury.

Father: Tracey Martin
Mother: Sybrina Fulton
Brother: Jahvaris Fulton
Sister: Michelle
Girlfriend: (age 17 at the time of Martin’s death)

High School: Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, Miami, FL

Autopsy

George Zimmerman

George ZimmermanAKA George Michael Zimmerman

Born: 5-Oct1983
Birthplace: Manassas, VA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal Defendant

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Killed Trayvon Martin

Overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer. Pursued, shot, and killed Trayvon Martin on 26 February 2012 after he was instructed not to pursue Martin by a police dispatcher. After weeks of media circus, Zimmerman was charged with 2nd Degree Murder on 11 April 2012 and released on bail on the 23rd. But as the Zimmermans deliberately deceived the court by claiming to be broke while failing to disclose over $100,000 in donations via their website, his bond was revoked on June 1st, and wife Shellie charged with perjury. On July 6th, Zimmerman was again released after a much higher bond of $1M was posted.

Father: Robert Zimmerman, Sr.
Mother: Gladys Mesa
Wife: Shellie Nicole Dean (cosmetologist, m. 2007)

University: Seminole State College of Florida (expelled 2012)

Murder 26-Feb-2012 (death of Trayvon Martin, not guilty)
Manslaughter 26-Feb-2012 (not guilty)
Peruvian Ancestry Maternal

I chose to highlight several points in both of these brief biographical summaries to illustrate the serious lack of credibility that NNDB deserves for these listings.

To make their assumptive case that Zimmerman was at fault for this unfortunate event, you will notice that in both bios they refer to the 911 call and the directive that “he should not follow Martin”.  Frankly, I agree that this might never have happened if he heeded that advice.

But it does give the suggestion of plausibility to the contention that Zimmerman was “stalking” Martin, if you accept the argument that this was just a nice kid who went out to buy some candy and an iced tea (actually Skittles and a Watermelon Punch soda – two thirds of the ingredients needed to make LEAN – a new drug popular among the Hip Hop crowd).

Now when it comes to schooling, Trayvon is merely listed as a student at his high school of record.  There is no mention of the fact that he was suspended three times by school officials and, in fact, was serving one of the suspensions the night he died.  (Nor is there any mention of the fact that “burglary tools” and women’s jewelry were found in his locker.  Or that he was also found to be in possession of a “marijuana pipe” and there was residue from cannabis in his effects).

By contrast, we are left in the Zimmerman profile with an image of a man who couldn’t even cut it in a community college and was “expelled”.  My first thought was that he was a failing student – until I did a little digging.  Here is the statement from Seminole State’s officials about Mr. Zimmerman and his “expulsion”:

Due to the highly charged and high-profile controversy involving this student, Seminole State has taken the unusual but necessary step this week to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrollment.   This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.”

And you couldn’t make a good case for racist motivation on Mr. Zimmerman’s part (with a dose of it thrown in on the part of the jury) unless you mentioned that the panel members were “mostly white”.

Last but not least, there are the photos that NNDB selected to use.  Of course, we have the perennial one of a smiling, happy, Trayvon, a young kid with the whole world in front of him; and we have the dour, grim looking George, a man who is distressed because he hasn’t found anyone offensive enough to gun down the morning that picture was taken.

Of course, I am interpreting the “facts” as I see them and that certainly has influenced the way in which I wrote this piece.  It would be less than honest if I were to say that I wasn’t trying to present a certain point of view which I hope you will, at the least, consider.  But I am honest enough and have sufficient respect for you, unlike our media, to hope that you don’t take my word or accept my spin on things as gospel truth.  Do your own research and formulate your own opinion.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been given the right to enjoy “freedom of the press” but rather, “freedom from the press”.  And we should all always remember, before we reach a conclusion, that we should, “Consider the source”.

AND THE AWARD GOES TO …

Hillary Rodham Clinton has had an interesting career – to put it mildly.

She is an attorney; an inexperienced but highly successful commodities trader; the former first lady of the State of Arkansas and of these United States; the first female partner in the Rose Law Firm – the firm of choice for the rich and powerful in her adopted state (the first one); a key player in the Whitewater Scandal that absorbed the nation’s attention for over two years; a partner in an unusually “open” marriage; a United States Senator elected from her adopted state (the second one); our 67th Secretary of State; and now … my nominee for “The Best Actress In A Leading Role” for her testimony regarding the “Benghazi Affair” delivered to the Senate.

With a dossier that is extensive as Secretary of State Clinton’s it is hard to know where to begin in reviewing her career.

It shows remarkable, innate talent on Ms.Clinton’s part to have given the emotional performance that she delivered in front of the Simpy Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week while essentially avoiding answering the questions that were put to her.  Rather than respond with facts, Ms. Clinton launched her own assault on those who were questioning her – overflowing with “emotion” as she talked about standing next to the caskets of those who had been murdered by Muslim “extremists” in Libya.

During her testimony she also pointed out to her Republican critics that it was not only Libya but that there were at least twenty countries around the globe where American diplomats and embassies were at great risk.  That was perhaps the most honest part of the testimony which she delivered.  Perhaps that was what prompted Senator Dick “Duh” Durbin of Illinois to comment,

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done an extraordinary job for this country. It’ll be recognized by history. This was one of her finer moments.”

Sadly, Senator Durbin’s statement might have been one of the most insightful of his rather inglorious career.  The only small emendation I would like to make would be the small matter of a preposition in the first line of that comment.  My revision would change that line to read, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done an extraordinary job on this country.”

Let’s return briefly to the Secretary’s remark about the danger our men and women in the foreign service face around the world.  As the present administration, which claimed that it would be the most transparent in history has proven continuously to be the polar opposite, it is unusual to have one of its members be so forthright by making this kind of statement – and it gives us an unexpected opportunity to gain an understanding of our government’s thinking and foreign policy.

What is it, if anything, that these twenty hot spots have in common?  Well, for those of you who lived through 9/11 (the first one), it should come as no surprise that virtually all of these foreign lands are run by governments where sharia Muslim law is the law of their land and jihad is their political message.

So having been forthcoming in her analysis of what is going on globally, how did Secretary Clinton’s Department of State explain the Benghazi massacre?  Did they place the blame on extremists whose goal is to bring down America?  No.  It squarely faulted an “insulting film made by an American Coptic Christian” and publicly maintained that position for at least a week after the facts were known.

Have you heard anyone, whether in the State Department, the Congress or the White House with the guts to speak out against those in the Muslim world of jihad and say, “America will not tolerate your abrogation either of our laws or of international law and you will be rooted out and destroyed if you attack any of our embassies or our personnel?”

Secretary Clinton (along with many of her European colleagues) has maintained a position (our official position) of being an apologist when the “rights of Muslims” are purportedly infringed.  Protecting our citizens’ ability to practice their religious convictions freely is an essential part of the American Constitution – and one not accorded to non-believers in the countries to which the Secretary made reference.

The performance to which the Senators and the nation were treated by the Secretary was nothing short of astounding.  Perhaps the senior Senator from Illinois’ comment,  “It’ll be recognized by history. This was one of her finer moments”  will ring true.

But coming off a baseline of a career filled with deception, half truths, intrigue and unmitigated dishonesty, doesn’t America deserve better?

STICKS AND STONES

You would have to be very naïve or extremely unread not to realize that mankind has a long and brutal record of violence in our brief while on this planet.  The murders today in Newtown, CT, horrible beyond description, are simply an extension of the behavior that we have exhibited since we became the head of the food chain.

We all know the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  I learned that from my parents when one of the neighborhood kids insulted me.  As I had never been beaten by this child with either stick or stone I had to imagine what that would have felt like.  In the meantime, I knew what the insult felt like because, my parents’ wisdom notwithstanding, I was hurt by that snub.

Man started making war and making his way on this earth with sticks and stones.  We moved to bow and arrow and spear and lance and knife and sword.  We invented guns and then pistols and each evolution of these weapons proved even more effective and faster and less personal than its previous incarnation.  And we made rockets and bombs to replace the old assault weapons of catapult and boiling oil.

We became more efficient with our methods of dispatching one another.  And every time we found a faster and better way to kill, we learned not to think of those whom we victimized as people but as targets – necessary sacrifices who stood in the way of whatever goal we had set for ourselves.

We should be disturbed and deeply saddened but not surprised at what happened in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. 

This is a terrible tragedy.  It is almost too difficult to conceive – other than that we have already lived through it far too many times in other places with other killers and different sets of victims. 

When a tsunami or other “natural phenomenon” claims thousands of lives, we can at least understand that this occurred without willful intent.  While that is small solace for the victims and their survivors, at least we can wrap our thinking about the misfortune.

But this is different.  And because it is something that is so hard for us to comprehend – why anyone could be led to murder twenty children and six adults, including himself, defies any sense of logic – or at least it goes far beyond mine.

There will be extensive coverage of not only the shootings but we will hear about the shooter and his family.  We will come to know this man intimately.  We will see the funerals of the victims and we will cry at the horrible injustice that their lives ended by his hand .  We will hear from journalists, politicians, psychologists, clergy, the families of the children who died and the children of the adults who perished.  We will hear from those who advocate that all firearms be surrendered and we will hear from the NRA.

And, after a short while, those who were not personally touched by these murders will forget and go about their business, looking forward to the next NFL game which may or may not produce any number of injuries or watching our favorites mar and scar their opponents in an Extreme Fight.  And we will put a bumper sticker on the back of our car that proclaims our son or daughter is a graduate of D.A.R.E. and has learned to resist violence and drugs, complacent in the certain knowledge that we have fulfilled our role as a good parent.

Take away all the firearms on our planet.  We will once again find ourselves battling each other with bow and arrow, spear and broad sword, catapult and boiling oil.  Because with all our getting, we have yet to get understanding – and even less have we found for ourselves the beneficence of compassion and love and decency.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein

THOUGHTS ON THIS AND THAT

As this is a long Holiday weekend in the United States it was kind of the rest of the world to stop doing business so that we could enjoy ourselves without having to be distracted by their affairs.

I would especially like to thank Hamas for stopping their rocket attacks on Israel.  We were getting bored listening to all the reports that those evil Israelis were killing the civilians you purposely place near your assault weapon facilities in Gaza so that you could claim the evil Zionist Jews were murdering them.  Our collective head wear is off to you.

So on to some random thoughts … on this and that.

BLACK FRIDAY

If you have been out of the loop for about twenty years you might think that this is a Holiday named in honor of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  You might even include Barack Hussein Obama in that list.  (No, on second thought – if you’d been out of the loop for that long you’d have no idea who that was).

Of course, Black Friday has a lot to do with “equal rights” which is something that the first three people I named worked so hard to achieve through their words and their lives.  But in this case, it is not the right to be treated as an equal without regard to skin color.  It is the right to spend frivolously and freely and with abandon at your friendly retail store – because in the end, all money is equal.  It’s green.

Black Friday is also the most dangerous day to be a civilized driver who wants to continue an unblemished record of avoiding accidents.  Mall parking lots which are, in my opinion, the most dangerous place to operate a moving vehicle at any time, become even more so on this particular day.

You see, many drivers have a problem understanding the difference between “Limit” and “Minimum” when they interpret those little signs which are supposed to regulate the rate at which we operate our vehicles.  This deficiency on their part naturally carries with them into the parking lots of our malls which may or may not even bother to post a speed limit.

Many malls, realizing the futility of trying to regulate the speed at which their patrons drive, simply have removed them – perhaps with a view to getting the survivors into the doors faster to purchase their goods quicker.  Once the purchase has been made and the consumer is stacked up with goodies that extend far above her head, if she’s run down by a speeding Hummer – well, too bad.  (“There will be no exchanges made without a receipt” – and if you’re run down by a speeding Hummer it’s hard to separate the receipt from the hemoglobin).

I’m keeping a safe distance from malls today but I wish all of you daring souls who want to give it a try the very best of good luck.

RESIGNATION

During the last several months I’ve put up two posts urging my former Congressman, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (2nd IL – D) to do the right and honorable thing by his constituents and resign.  He finally did.  Sadly, this came two weeks after he was re-elected, so vacating the seat at this time will require the people of Chicago to pay the additional cost of holding a special election to fill his post.

In no way will this newly elected representative change the composition of the House as the district is predominantly black and overwhelmingly Democrat.  So we should expect that the result of that special election will be that a person, male or female, will bear both those characteristics.

Former Congressman Jackson has been suffering from “Bipolar Disorder” and has been undergoing on again off again treatment at the Mayo Clinic.  This condition, once called “manic depression” may be due, at least in part, to the ethics charges which were being considered against him by the House – and now the FBI.

The investigation centers around two aspects of the former Congressman’s activities.  One is the possible misuse of campaign funds which may have been diverted for his personal benefit.  The second concerns his possible involvement in former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s (now incarcerated on corruption charges) efforts to “sell” the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated.

With the weight of his public responsibilities now lifted from his shoulders, the former Congressman may devote his efforts more fully to his attempts at recovery.   Fortunately, under the very generous benefits that the members of Congress have voted themselves, he will enjoy a lifetime of the best of care, should his condition warrant that, all of it funded by the taxpayers of the United States.

It remains to be seen whether that treatment will occur in a medical or a correctional facility.

ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS

President Felipe Calderon has proposed, as a final gesture before he leaves office on December 1st, changing the name of his country to just plain old Mexico.  Now the astute reader will say, “Wait a minute, juwannadoright – I thought this post was all about U. S. stuff and none of that world gobbledygook.”  And you would be correct.  You see with our transparent borders and all, it’s hard to tell where one country ends and the other one begins.

One of the major questions facing us is the issue of illegal immigration – the bulk of which is due to our neighbor on the south.  So if we simply bought Mexico, we could quickly resolve this problem without having to look like racist bigots.  This should appeal to the Administration since Hispanic voters seem to like the President quite a lot.  And who knows, we might even repeal Amendment XXII to the Constitution.  That’s the one that limits the President to two terms in office.

I do realize that we are a little strapped for cash right now so the alternative might be for the Mexican drug cartels to buy us.  I hear they’re doing very well.  And this would provide those who recently voted to legalize marijuana in their states with a virtually unlimited supply of their favorite recreational product.  Perhaps weed will be the new growth industry of the 2010’s and the way to bail ourselves out of our financial mess.

Just think how much simpler life would be if most of us were high all the time.  Consider how much easier it would be for labor and management to negotiate new contracts.

“So, like man – you want us to take a twenty percent pay cut and pay for our own health insurance?  Yeah, baby – that’s cool – I can sell that to the slobs down on the production lines.  As long as we get all the reefer we can smoke.”

Of course, the question of immigration is one with which we’ve been struggling for a long time.  Fifty-five years ago, West Side Story came alive on Broadway.  With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show ran to sell out crowds before going on tour and inspiring a movie of the same name.

While the Hispanics in the play were Puerto Ricans, for most Anglo-Americans one Latino is pretty much like all the rest of them.  (Although I’m pretty sure that we do own Puerto Rico.  Didn’t we steal it fair and square from the Spanish?)  With that said, I present for your listening enjoyment, one of the many delightful songs from that show.

And remember – if you’ve got shopping on your to-do list today be careful.  It’s a jungle out there.

HOW TO CONVINCE YOUR FRIENDS THAT YOU SHOULD BE COMMITTED.

I decided to take a few weeks off from blogging.  There was simply too much noise in the ether – and there still is.  But I think the ultimate catalyst was an anonymous email I received.  The title was “Get 3500 channels of TV – FOR FREE!”

I have to be honest and tell my dear readers that I didn’t open it – although I stared at the message for about five minutes before hitting the delete key.

As I looked at the title of this unsolicited missive strange and bizarre thoughts began ruminating.  I began counting up the number of subjects with which I was familiar and the smaller number in which I had an interest.  I don’t think I made it very far past 30 when I was running out of ammo.

I mean has someone invented a television channel devoted to discussions of gall stones; or one that extolls the virtues of exemplary professional athletes; or is there now a chess channel?  I imagine that if these exist, there is a great deal of time that can be devoted to commercials – with which I am already overwhelmed.

Fortunately, for most of this time, I have been enjoying Gracie’s and the three golden retrievers’ company which has enabled me to maintain some sense of semblance and sanity.  But it was because of them that I am writing this post (and another ten or so to follow which I have been mulling around during my blogging absence).

The five of us were at the dog park a few mornings ago when we ran into our friends who gather in the wee hours, just after the park opens at six o’clock a.m.  After the kids took care of business, we merged into the gathering when I realized that the conversation had turned to a discussion of various ways that we could receive our television broadcasts.

One of the members of the group turned to me and asked, “Who do you use for your television service?”  I responded, “Right now I have Cox Cable – but I’m thinking about cancelling it after the election.”

“Oh, are you going to go with DISH Network?”

“No, actually, I’m seriously thinking about cancelling it and not replacing it with anything.”

Despite the fact that the park has grass, the lull that came over every member of the group was so profound that you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  I have never seen a group of people who were so dumbstruck.  Apparently they felt that anyone who chose not to spend their life watching television was at worst a cretin and at best mentally impaired.  Because they are, by and large, a charitable group of people, I think they gave me the benefit of the doubt and put me in the second category.

I hope that none of my readers is too aghast at the concept that there is life beyond television.  Sure there are a few things I might miss – but I suspect I will have more time to discover new and far more valuable ones.  Books, music, nature and all sorts of other wonders in our wondrous world.

In the meanwhile I’ll just enjoy the tripe that bombards all of us (with special emphasis on the political ads).  That should keep my blood pressure at fever pitch and my dopamine levels at record lows.

Go ahead, call me crazy.  I know my friends at the park are thinking that anyway – and I kind of like the appellation.  But remember, “Just because you’re crazy doesn’t mean that you have to be stupid.”

AND NOW–THE NEWS

Once upon a time people waited impatiently at a newsstand when a big story was breaking.  Occasionally a really big story would result in a newspaper’s printing an “EXTRA” edition.  And we had radio to keep us informed, then television and now, of course, the internet.  The speed with which we are able to access news has gone from hours to minutes to microseconds.

But what are we getting?

There is an ad that I’ve seen several times that  features a man and woman speaking.  (It’s obviously not a very effective ad because I couldn’t tell you what product or service it promotes).  But the dialogue has the woman saying, “I heard that on the internet – and they couldn’t put it on the internet if it wasn’t true.”

The man asks, “Where did you hear that?”

She replies, “On the internet.”

For at least the last five years I have had my pool serviced by the same company and the same individual.  I have been so pleased with the quality of the job and the reliability of my “pool guy” that I have recommended him and his company to two other neighbors who are as pleased as I am.

For reasons of anonymity, I’m going to call him Carl.

Well, Carl usually comes to maintain the pool on Tuesdays, although occasionally he will arrive a day earlier.  Only rarely does he come later in the week – and it is usually because of an unusual situation.  Two weeks ago, Carl came on Wednesday.  As it happened, I was having my morning coffee and giving Gracie her doggie treats when I heard the gate open.

Without looking up, I heard Carl coming to the back and I said, “Well, I thought you were MIA.”  Then I saw the reason.  He had two bruises over both his eyes and had stitches in both his eyebrows.

Carl, who was moving very slowly because he had some fractured ribs told me the story – how he was the victim of a house break in the previous weekend and how he and the home invader had gotten into a fight.  He obviously was in pain – which anyone who has ever had a fractured rib knows only too well – so I told him to skip doing the pool and take it easy – but he insisted he wanted to do his job.

Naturally, I inquired about what had happened.  So he told me that the man had broken a window and climbed through it to gain entrance.  Then he had completely destroyed all the pictures and anything else that was breakable.  Carl slept through all of this.  But he got up to use the bathroom and that was when he saw the man.

The home invader was not aware that anyone was in the house, but when he saw Carl he made a rush at him.  In self-defense, Carl picked up the lid from the toilet bowl tank and used it to fend the guy off.  After a very physical scuffle, Carl made it out to the front door with his assailant trying to keep him inside the house.  A neighbor came to his assistance and he escaped the house and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Apparently, the assailant, one Ronald Hetzel had begun his spree inside his sister’s house which is directly behind the wall to Carl’s.  A neighbor reported hearing a lot of noise two hours earlier and called 911 to report it.  The police were dispatched and came out to investigate.  Another neighbor reported that they saw someone go over the back wall and into the yard at Carl’s house.

With five or six patrol cars in the neighborhood you would have thought that they would follow up on that and at least have checked Carl’s house to see if the man had gained entry.  That apparently didn’t happen.  But I am not trying to point fingers at the police and say they could have done a better job.  That might be the subject of another post.

The week after telling me about this assault, Carl showed up on his regular Tuesday and we talked about what had happened at length.  That was when I learned the assailant’s name and looked him up on Google.  I found three different stories covering this home invasion and assault.  One was from UPI; one from the Huffington Post’; and the third from The New York Daily News.  Here are the links to these three news sources:

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/367300/20120726/toilet-bowl-killer-lid-guitar-ronald-hetzel.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/ronald-hetzel-guitar_n_1702045.html

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-07-25/news/32853132_1_homeowner-police-officer-medical-care

If you read these three stories, the first one from ibtimes (courtesy of UPI.com) makes no sense at all.

The most descriptive of them is the second one from the Huffington Post – and the third from the NY Daily News looks like it simply extracted information from that article, copied and pasted it to create their own story.

But there is a common link between all three – that is who was wielding the porcelain toilet bowl cover in this skirmish – and they all got it wrong.  (But it’s wrong according to my friend Carl in the police report – which is probably the source for their misinformation).

Does this matter?  Well, with our focus on maintaining the rights of those who are accused of crimes, it does matter – because little slipups like this can cause a good defense attorney (pardon the oxymoron) to find a reason to get a case thrown out on the basis of a technicality.  Consider the following two headlines:

“American troops kill ten Taliban leaders in secret ops;”

“Taliban kill ten American political leaders in secret ops.”

The first story gets our “Ho-Hum” attention but the second means that we’re probably going to red alert.

A free and informed and investigative press is essential for a democracy to exist.  Reporters like Woodward and Bernstein spent months assembling and verifying their information which ultimately brought down the Nixon administration.  But today, perhaps because we the news reader are constantly looking for new information to keep us entertained, I believe it is fair to say that we have relaxed those standards to the point where what we see and what we get may only bear a minor resemblance to what actually happened.

It is not only up to capable journalists to probe, to question, to ask why and to get to the truth of the matter in the issues they cover.  It is up to each of us who rely on their reporting to make sure that we do so as well and that we do not simply accept what they present us as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If we buy into the statement that, “If it’s on the internet it must be true,” who knows what else they will be able to sell us?

Tag Cloud