The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘the media’ Category

THE ENEMY WITHIN

 

Back in the mid-60’s, those who opposed the war in Vietnam (then referred to as liberals), held an absolute belief that the government was involved in spying on them in an effort to undermine their efforts to turn public opinion to their side and end the war.  In addition to their being branded as hippies, commies and un-American, they were generally reviled by the political establishment, even as we sent more and more American boys to southeast Asia to die in a war which then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would declare, many years later, to be an effort whose goals were unattainable.   Besides the noxiousness of the over-application of perfume, this is yet another lesson we could have learned from the French.

A half century later, the liberals of yesteryear have transformed themselves and found a new banner under which they rally.  That is under the name of “progressives”.  There is probably no greater malapropism than that term because the ideology and tactics they consider essential are reach backs in history to the way in which Hitler, Stalin and other statists conducted themselves and brought their own people and much of the world to the brink of ruin.

Consider for a moment the progressive need for “safe spaces,” places where only their ideas are permitted to be expressed and, if they could engineer it, be thought.  The intolerance for ideas which differ from their party platform is remarkably similar to Hitler’s banning the playing of music by any composers who had Jewish ancestry or reading the works of authors and poets who shared that same characteristic.  The only difference is that Hitler was unapologetically honest about both his reasoning and motivations.  Progressives do not share that straightforwardness but, rather, find grounds to maintain and express their position under the constitutional rights which are guaranteed to them by a document that they mostly despise.

They also learned a valuable lesson which, given the intensity of investigation into Russian interference in our electoral process, from the founding of Pravda (Truth), which first published in May of 1912, five years before the Russian Revolution.  At least the non-Soviet view of this publication is that it served as the main propaganda arm for the Soviet Union to disseminate it’s version of reality to the Russian people and the world.  Given the near uniformity of the manner in which our major newspapers and broadcasters choose to select stories to report while ignoring others and almost unanimously giving them a progressive spin, those who exclusively consume these reports are probably far more likely to have their views shaped by them than by anything the Russians may or may not have accomplished with their “interference”.

Thanks in large measure to the invention of moveable type by Johannes Guttenberg, the dissemination of ideas knows no national boundaries.  When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, that publication occurred in London.  But the ideas in that pamphlet and the later Das Kapital were the kernels which ultimately led to the Russian Revolution many years later and the rise of communism as an alternative and, at one point, wide-spread alternative, to the capitalistic structure which existed in most prosperous and advanced societies.  Today, we no longer need to await the publication of a book to experience the author’s thoughts.

Information is disseminated virtually instantaneously and, almost as quickly, accepted as gospel truth by the consumer without bothering to ascertain whether the stories he or she is consuming are based in fact or are merely expressions of the author’s personal prejudices.  Hence, we now have “fact checkers” who dissect and parse each and every word a speaker utters to determine the validity of any given statement.  And we have invented “Pinocchio Awards” to discredit various inexact statements with greater or lesser degrees of opprobrium.  This system, of course, assumes that the people checking statements or handing out Pinocchios are doing so in a totally objective fashion without applying any personal bias.  That is a very high threshold to maintain – even for those whose self-identified goal is to expose falsehoods and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before his fall from grace, I remember listening to one of President Nixon’s speeches one evening.  After it’s conclusion, I listened to the commentators discuss the speech.  I no longer remember which of the broadcast networks I had tuned to.  But I remember my sitting with my jaw dropping as the various pundits picked the speech apart and drew their own inferences from what the president had said.  It was as though we had listened to two different speeches.  And the next day at the office I asked a number of my employees if they had heard the speech.  Several of them replied, “No, but I listened to the commentary afterward.”   That sort of intellectual slovenliness was thriving in the 1970’s and has only gotten “progressively” worse since then.

It’s a somewhat naïve and simplistic argument to make that the media is at fault for all the misinformation, disinformation and lack of information that is going around.  I am reminded of a lecture/discussion at the University of Chicago which I attended, given by the then chairman of the history department, Jock Weintraub.  Those of us who had enrolled in a class by this prominent professor knew that it was his firm belief that he was the brightest bulb in the room and should your opinion differ from his, he would expose your obvious stupidity in the most cutting and eviscerating fashion.

The lecture was on the subject of the French Revolution and the historian’s role in recording that event.  The particular historian about whom Professor Weintraub probed his audience was Jacques Condorcet.  He asked us what we could tell him about Condorcet’s approach to his works on the revolution – and one unfortunate attendee had the misfortune to respond.

He began his analysis by saying, “Well, Condorcet was born when the French Revolution was ten years in the past.  Therefore, he realized he would have to rely for source documents on the records which were written at the time and were still available to him.  But he also realized that those writers had their own bias and incorporated that bias into their work.”

He continued, “Furthermore, in selecting certain documents and historical accounts while rejecting others, he inevitably was crafting his work infused with his own personal bias.”

He concluded, “Condorcet also realized that the people who read his work would apply their own pre-formed biases and attitudes in their analysis of his efforts.  So between these three factors, it was virtually impossible for anyone to pick up his or anyone else’s work and have a clear, factual and objective understanding of what occurred during the French Revolution, or any other historical event for that matter.”

The young student sat down, waiting for the esteemed professor’s pronouncement on his analysis.  Weintraub didn’t disappoint.  After a few moments, sufficient time for a very pregnant pause, Weintraub looked at him and said in his very heavy German accent, “So, with this analysis do you think you’re making some great contribution to knowledge?”

Those of us in the audience appropriately laughed at this witty bon mot – not in an effort to further demean the young man who had the arrogance to express his opinion – but in a sort of nervous relief that the ordeal was now over.  Those who had taken the professor’s Western Civilization class knew that the outcome for the student was as inevitable as the fate of the hapless cow who walked into the bludgeoning station of the then still existing Chicago Stockyards.

Notwithstanding the dismissal of this student’s analysis, there is a great deal of truth in what he said.  We all come to any given issue armed with our inherent prejudices.  Sadly, the social sciences are given to this sort of manipulation.  They are not exact as is, for example, mathematics where the answer to any specific problem is clear, provable and universal.  The start of any discussion should begin by our admitting to that.  But that doesn’t mean that we should not scrutinize those who report news in an effort to shape our thoughts.  They have every responsibility to report stories accurately, even as we allow them to express their own views which might differ from our own.  But either omitting material facts which are in evidence or including material which cannot be verified is not acceptable journalism because it is inherently dishonest. No one has the right, whether the media or an individual, to spread mistruths about another person.  That’s why we have laws that define the nature of slander.

One of the most prevalent stories that has been ardently promoted by the media has been the alleged Russian connection and their efforts to “get Trump elected.”  There is as yet no evidence which has been revealed to suggest that this is a fact rather than a mere theory.  And per se, it would seem to require a great deal of imagination to understand that connection – if it ever existed.

The underlying premise is that Russia’s and the United States’ interests are divergent and probably almost diametrically opposed to each other.  That is, for the most part, a reasonable presumption.  The narrative is that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in ordering this “tampering.”  Why would he do such a thing unless he expected that, if successful, this would further his and Russia’s interests?  The conclusion of those who subscribe to this conspiracy is that Putin believed Russia would be in a stronger position with Donald J. Trump rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton sitting in the Oval Office.

Reflecting back to our story about Condorcet, the “It was; he thought; she said,” scenario, at the very least if we could get inside Putin’s head, that would be a good start to determining whether or not this conspiracy has any credibility.  It seems to me that there are three potential mindsets which we might ascribe to Putin.

First, the Russian is insane.  This would not be the first time that a person who most of us would call insane was the leader of a nation.  Look at North Korea.  The list goes back to at least ancient Rome.  But why would we put credibility in the ability of a person whom we define as insane to carry out such a convoluted exercise?  That, in itself, would be an act of insanity on our part.

Second, Putin is a moron. If we accept this premise, then trying to get Trump elected and defeat Clinton would most likely be in the best interest of the United States, not Russia.

Third and most likely.  Putin is a shrewd and manipulative person.  There is a great deal of evidence to support this.  But if that is the case, Putin already had the ability to manipulate then Secretary of State Clinton during her “reset” moment.  Furthermore, with Russia’s economy almost totally dependent on oil and particularly gas production, Trump’s position on exploration, “Drill, drill, drill,” poses a direct financial threat to Putin and Russia.  Why would an intelligent if ruthless Putin attempt to have such a person elected to the White House?

No matter which of these three mindset scenarios is actually the case, it would suggest there is little reason for us to be overly concerned about the “Russian intrusion.”  That is not to say that something was not attempted by Putin and company.  This  should come as no surprise since all governments, including ours, engage regularly in that type of covert activity.  So was there an attempt to thwart a free and honest presidential election?  The answer is that there probably was.  But was it Russia that was the primary manipulator?  I suspect the real manipulators were twofold.

First there was the American media.  It’s no secret that the press and television almost uniformly have a liberal bent.  That is evident in the fact that nine out of ten people involved in disseminating news contributed to the Clinton campaign.  It wouldn’t take but a few minutes of reading or viewing to realize that there was less than objective reporting on the two candidates, highly skewed to make Trump look as bad as possible.  Since we don’t receive the Russian television station but do, as a nation, spend a lot of time viewing our own television and reading American newspapers, it would be fair to suggest that if there was collusion in the campaign, much of that effort was put forth by our very own media.

But there is a second group that is equally concupiscent and culpable.  That is the American voter – or, more exactly – the American non-voter.

Participation in the election by people who were qualified to vote was fairly typical.  About seven out of ten who could legally vote bothered both to register and then exercise their most fundamental right to express their opinion.  And you, like me, have probably heard the various excuses that people who don’t vote employ.  Primary among them is, “My vote won’t make a difference.”  Given the closeness of the election, that statement is demonstrably false.

Clearly we live in a world filled with dangerous people and governments.  But there is probably no greater danger than American complacency.  That is the real enemy.  The enemy within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SPOKEN AND UNPUBLISHED WORD

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve had the opportunity to add a post to this blog.  I was not abducted by extraterrestrials (though sometimes I feel I’m living among them).  I have been actively adding my thoughts to the Huffington Post community in response both to stories they’ve published, in response to comments left by other readers and by responding to their critique of my comments.  This has become an exhausting effort.  The total number of these is now approaching five hundred.

In the process I’ve met some wonderful people who may not share my vision but who have the intellectual honesty to be willing to debate by using facts rather than hyperbole.  Of the 65 who are now “fans” they form a small coterie.  I suspect that many of the rest are only “fans” so that, given the opportunity, they can have the chance to leave a disparaging remark.  Fortunately, while I might have been an overly-sensitive child, my skin has thickened with the passage of time.

One of those, whose views are diametrically different than mine and with whom I have engaged in vigorous debate, was kind enough to respond to the snarky comment left by another reader, “What planet are you from? Uranus?” He advised, “Pay not attention to idiots.  I have your back.”  That comment literally caused my eyes to tear.

There are some decent people in the world – irrespective of whether we share the same political viewpoint.  But if we take the stand that we are the sole possessor or recipient of “truth” and anyone who disagrees is, by definition, “wrong” we will never reach any consensus or move toward a more prosperous future.  Sadly, that seems to be the majority view of those who comment on the Huffington Post and, in fairness, probably reflects much the same attitude one would find in an ultra-right publication as well.

One of the brief comments I left, which generated far more activity than I would have expected, pertained to the vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.  The rhetoric and hyperbole flowed fast and furiously (no pun intended).  The overwhelming majority of those focused on my being “un-American;” “having no concept of the Constitution – particularly the Fifth Amendment;” or simply pointed to this event as little more than a “Republican witch hunt.”

To summarize my three sentence comment I said, “I didn’t know whether Ms. Lerner had done anything illegal or whether the IRS had engaged in illegal or political activity but that it would be in all of our best interests to get to the truth and, if there were impropriety, to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

If I had a list of statements that I had made over the years which I personally considered “controversial,” this one wouldn’t have qualified.  That was not the reaction of HP readers, twenty-two of whom “faved” my comment – and thirty-eight of whom explained that I was a blithering idiot.  But at least this comment was allowed to stand by the “editorial board” at HP.

Another comment which also generated a lot of interest did not survive the censorship process.  That comment, which follows, was in response to a story which made fun of Brit Hume and FOX News (the greatest evil since Hitler discovered the gas chamber), over the social media effort to rescue the abducted Nigerian school girls by launching a hash tag campaign.

“There’s probably no one in the “civilized world” who doesn’t hope for the safe return of the abducted Christian Nigerian girls. (By civilized world I refer to those who are not members of Boko Haram or any other fundamentalist extreme Islamic terrorist organization).

But this incident is hardly without precedent since in late February, fifty-nine male students were attacked in their Nigerian school and were either shot or burned to death by the same outfit. Where was the outrage; where were the hash tags; where was the love?

Treating symptoms doesn’t cure diseases. And until we admit the real source of these problems and stamp it out as we did with smallpox, we’re all likely candidates for infection – with or without hash tags.

The story here isn’t FOX News. It’s medieval Islamic extremists.”

I can only guess why that comment was deemed as “too outrageous for publication” but I suspect that it was either by using the words, “Islam,” “extremism,” “terrorists,” or some combination of those which caused the deletion.

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to both read and respond to the twenty-two comments that other readers took the trouble to leave.  Sadly, my comment and their responses were deleted before I had the chance to do that.  That is both a discourtesy to me – but more so to those who wanted to share their thoughts.  And it does remind me that what was true more than two hundred years ago is just as true today.

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
― Benjamin Franklin

WHY LIBERALS ARE NOT

Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding on my part but I’ve always considered the word “liberal” as being somewhat synonymous with the term “open-minded.”  Now into my second week on the Huffington Post I’m finding that my understanding of the definition is far from correct.

In the interest of fairness, in my brief time at the Post I have to say that I now have 13 “Fans” and 12 “Friends”.  Please don’t ask me the difference between those two categories because I don’t know what it is.  But that is certainly more than the number of “Followers” who signed up for future posts on Word Press during the same period of time when I first started this blog.  On the other hand, I don’t know what the readership of either site is, so it’s difficult for me to gauge what that means.

Today I engaged in a conversation with a woman who uses as her byline, “I’m so liberal I would hug a conservative.”  That was one of the most refreshing moments I have yet experienced on the site and I began my reply to her comment by saying, “I love your byline.  If more people on both sides of the political spectrum had your viewpoint, we would go a long way toward being able to engage in real dialogue and perhaps arrive at real solutions.”  This woman’s attitude is, I assure you, not what I have typically encountered.

It seems rather obvious that if a company’s business is distilling liquor, advertising in a magazine whose readership consists primarily of people who believed in “temperance” would be a poor use of its money.  In order to appeal to its readership it is understandable that the Huffington Post chooses to highlight stories that appeal to its liberal base.  And there is probably the same amount of hyperbolic bias in their headlines and a similar amount of bias in the stories it promotes as one finds in ultra-conservative publications.  What surprises me is the near uniformity of opinion that is expressed in the comments that readers leave.

The other day the Post published a story about Rep. Michael Grimm (R – NY) who has decided to embrace the theory of “climate change.”  As you may be aware, the congressman has some legal problems to deal with (although the Post had not referred to them at the time this story was published).  I was aware of them and thought that comments like, “Yeah, he’s doing this just to get re-elected and save his *ss” would be posted.  But instead the community, in a sort of left-handed complimentary way, left comments like, “At least one of those Neanderthals has finally admitted the truth.”

I did leave a response to the story which I titled, “Syllogism 101”

1.  All Republicans are wrong about everything.

2.  Rep. Michael Grimm is a Republican who believes in climate change.

3.  Climate change is a myth.

Need I tell you that comment didn’t make it past the Board of Censors?

The following day the Post put up a story that Rep. Grimm is soon to be indicted for a variety of alleged misdeeds.  As much jubilation as there was the day before that “finally Republicans might be waking up,” that evaporated and the hate-mongers among the readership crucified Grimm.  “Wasn’t he the guy who threatened a reporter saying he ‘would break him in half like a little girl?’”

I knew that the attention span of the average person isn’t terribly long, but I admit to taking a deep breath when I saw how easily people can be manipulated into completely reversing the opinion to which they clung just yesterday.  Are we really that shallow and thoughtless?  Many of the people who expressed their opinions on Grimm had commented on both articles in an almost diametrically opposed way.

But there is one thing that is perhaps the most telling in my brief time at the Post.  That is that when challenged to move beyond hyperbole into the real world of facts, I never receive a response to my request to support the statements made in the comments.

One comment I left was with regard to why the government should not be in the business of selecting “winners and losers” when it comes to backing business enterprises.  I chose Solyndra as my example.  And I received a response from one reader who said, “Your statement doesn’t mean anything.  The government didn’t run Solyndra (I had never suggested it did).  And there are 25 success stories for every failure.”

I apologized to this fellow that I was unaware of the success stories he cited and requested some specific information about who they were so I could be better informed.  I have yet to hear back from him – nor do I expect to at any time soon.  He’s not the first person with whom I followed up and who has gone silent.

It must be very unfulfilling to cling to opinions that are unsupported by facts and which can only be maintained by spending time with people who believe in the same unsustainable reality.  I feel truly sorry for them.  Reality can be cruel but is there an alternative?  Apparently, to the liberal way of thinking and to use the patois of the times, “NOT.”  It goes far to explain why, among the vast majority of the liberal community, there is strong support for the legalization of pot.  They need something to help them through the day.

<DEL> <DEL> <DEL> <DEL> …

After I read a Huff Post article on the rising tensions in Ukraine I browsed through the comments that readers had left.

I wish I could take credit for the following but I can’t.  And I can’t even credit the author properly as when I tried to post my brief response, “Bravo!” I received an unexpected message (appropriately in a red border):

“There was a problem posting your comment.  (Host comment deleted).”

And here I thought it was just me.  Now I don’t even feel that important – not that I ever did.

 

Much has been said about what Obama should do to hurt the Russian economy.  To me the plan is simple:

1) Ban the use of coal.

2) Mandate that Russia goes on Obamacare.

3) Don’t allow any drilling on Russian public land.

4) Have the EPA pass rulings on Russian business.

5) Re-define the full time Russian work week to 30 hrs.

6) Raise the Russian minimum wage.

7) Mandate overtime pay for gov’t employees.

8) Demand the Russian Government pay Welfare benefits to un-qualified Citizens and Illegal immigrants.

I could go on but I guarantee these measures would bring the Russian economy to its knees; it has been working in the U. S. since 2009.

Enough said.  And my condolences to my fellow deletee on “The Huffington Post.”

LIFE AT THE HUFFINGTON POST–DAY 5-1/2 (MY INTRODUCTION TO CENSORSHIP)

I hope that my long term readers would agree that I try to make my points in a civil manner and without resorting to defamatory language.  At least that is my goal and if I am not meeting it, I would sincerely appreciate your honest chastisement.

I also understand that a user on a given site agrees to abide by the standards that site has established.  Being a person who believes in respectfulness, I read the terms of service for “The Huffington Post” and have tried to write my comments in keeping with their stated policy.

The “Post” put up a story about retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who is touting his latest book in which he calls for amending the Constitution.  In the article the retired Justice admits that the amendments which he is suggesting are ones which, had they been in place, would have substantiated a number of the minority opinions he wrote when he sat on the bench.

I decided to leave the brief comment which follows:

“Both Justice Stevens and conservative commentator Mark Levin have suggested a variety of amendments to the Constitution which each feels are necessary.  Whether either of their hopes comes to fruition is probably a moot point, given the fact that the present administration seems to have difficulty enforcing the Constitution as it is presently written.”

Okay, that was my comment and apparently it generated some interest.  In my notification box I had five replies to it and was going to see what these fellow readers had to say.  So I clicked on the first one to find the following message:

“This comment has been deleted.”

And with the deletion of my comment came the deletion of the comment(s) left in response to it.  So I never got to read what those  commenters had taken the time to write.

This experience caused me to think of the verse from John 8:32:

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (KJV)

But apparently that isn’t true at “The Huffington Post.”

MY LIFE AT THE HUFFINGTON POST–DAY 5

I read an interesting article on “The Huffington Post” early this morning.  It was a detailed description of how our federal government has become a breeding ground and a proponent for total lawlessness.  The original was printed in the “New York Times,” and I’ve attached a link to the story below.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-engelhardt/crimes-of-state_b_5184961.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Naturally, I felt compelled to leave a comment.  In that comment I mentioned Alexis de Tocqueville – stuff like that.  By way of reference, I should tell you that I read the story and posted my comment around three o’clock this morning, about twelve hours before I am writing this post.  As of a few moments ago, the article had garnered 15 commentators and 20 comments in total.

Several hours ago I saw another story on the website which announced that Meb Keflezighi had won the 2014 Men’s Boston Marathon, the first American to do so in 31 years.  Within less than an hour, that post had generated close to one thousand comments.  That is similar to the volume of comments and commentators who respond to articles on gay rights or the legalization of pot and is probably not something that is unexpected in what is a decidedly liberal medium.

I have, for some time, had a sneaking suspicion that those on the left believe that if you shout something loudly enough and get enough people to join you in the chorus, it doesn’t matter what you say but, by sheer dint of noise pollution, they will make their case.  Facts are, in their view, extremely malleable and hyperbole carries far more weight – and the more outrageous, the better.

One of the comments that posted to the article was by a man who wrote the following:

“This is small potatoes compared to the very real increases in the instance where the rich are let off the hook for crimes that would put anyone else behind bars for life.  The rape of a baby.  The killing of a pedestrian by a drunk.  The looting of pensions and the manipulation of global bank rates by Wall Street mobsters.”

“The Courts have decided that the rich must be protected, at all costs, even that of your child’s life.  The Govt’s opaque treatment of its own wrongdoers pales in comparison to the very concrete examples of how the 1% are now allowed to wallow in crime and corruption with impunity.  We are their prey.”

You may not be surprised that this chap has 1,384 “fans”  – which I gather is the equivalent of those whom Word Press calls “followers.”

Well, never accuse me of leaving well enough alone but I responded to this comment with the following:

“I was riveted by your comment – particularly your first paragraph.  I am considering writing a post for my blog and am particularly interested in your statement, ‘The looting of pensions and the manipulation of global bank rates by Wall Street mobsters.’  As I try to be factual on my blog and do my own research to verify any information which I use, I would appreciate it if you could provide me with references to this statement.”

“Thanks in advance for your assistance.”

I’ll let you know if I get a response to my inquiry.  But as a word of advice, don’t hold your breath.

INTO THE LION’S DEN

For years I have had Yahoo as my home page.  I’m not exactly certain why I selected them, but I did.  They carry at least a few interesting stories every day which often give me thoughts on new subjects for my own posts.  Some of those stories come from other sources – such as the Huffington Post.

The other day I was reading one such story and decided to reply to it.  The story was one which denigrated the Koch brothers and asserted that they were in the process of turning the country into an oligarchy in which they would reign supreme.  It seemed a little bit over the top and I wanted to try to offer a comment which would put things in a more balanced perspective.

Before I posted my own comment I read through those that had already been posted by other Huffington Post readers.  I was truly amazed.  After I scrolled through well over one hundred such comments, (this article generated a great deal of interest with more than 900 responses posted), I realized that I was stepping into the proverbial lion’s den.  Of the comments that I read, only one challenged the assertions in the original article.

Now I realize that the Huffington Post is a liberal vehicle.  But you would have thought that they had taken a lesson from Kim Jong Un on how to rig results.  I was surprised that there appeared to be such unanimity of opinion among the Post’s readership.  I mean, I read liberal journalism with some regularity, merely to see what it is that they are thinking.  It’s hard to offer an alternative to a differing philosophy if you don’t know what it is.

So I penned my comment after creating an account with the Huff Post and hit the “Submit” button, anxiously awaiting the appearance of my thoughts on the web page on my screen.  Instead of seeing my comments posted, I received the following message:  “Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter your comment is awaiting moderation.”

That took me aback as discussing campaign contributions and the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court didn’t strike me as being nearly as “sensitive” as watching Miley Cyrus twerk on prime time TV, looking at ads for vaginal creams to lessen the pain of intercourse after menopause or seeing ads by Hotels.com for an app in case you scored at the bar and suddenly needed to book a hotel room so that you could make the beast of two backs.  But maybe that’s just me.

Well, true to their word, three hours later whoever is responsible at the Huffington Post for reviewing comments and “moderating” them decided that my comment was “acceptable” and it was posted.  Much to my surprise there was a reaction to my brief comment as the next time I logged into the Huffington Post website, in the space that indicated “notifications” I found that that I had 22 of them.

I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, so I clicked on the notification button and found that six people had “faved” (their equivalent of like) my comment and 16 comments had been posted in reply to mine.  It will not surprise you that there was only one which supported my comments.  It will probably also not surprise you that the remaining “comments” were not actually a response to the points I had raised but were personal attacks.

It’s been a long time since I was called a “Fascist pig.”  In fact, to the best of my recollection, it’s never happened before.  Frankly, my response to reading that comment was to chuckle.  And then I thought to myself, no wonder there is such much division and dissension in this country – and such a lack of serious conversation on important issues.

One of the first lessons that the coach of my high school debating team advised us team members was that engaging in ad hominem arguments and personally attacking our opponents was the surest way to lose a debate.  If we resorted to that tactic it meant that we simply didn’t have either facts or logic on our side and clearly the person whom we were debating had triumphed.  I sincerely doubt that many of the Huffington Post’s readership ever was a member of a debating team.

As a result of this experience I’ve made a decision.

Now this may sound mildly masochistic to you, but I’ve decided to continue commenting on the Huffington Post’s stories.  I’ve gone out and purchased a new set of chain mail to protect me from the slings and arrows and the mauling that I expect will ensue.  But it seems to me that while preaching to the choir offers some psychological validation, it doesn’t have the potential for effecting change as going into the camp of one’s opponents with the hope of finding one or two of the troops who might be willing to consider an alternate point of view.

We’ll see how this goes.  But just in the event that there’s a weak spot in my newly acquired armor, I’ve laid in an adequate supply of gauze bandages and disinfectant.

A PAEAN TO THE PENNY

There are many of us who think of the lowly penny as more of an inconvenience than a means of exchange.  We receive them in change and they fill our pockets making holes unless we decide to put them in jars and save them – just to get them out of our hair.  But the penny has a fine pedigree and of all American coins, the Lincoln cent has been a part of our lives longer than any other coin as it is now in its 105th year of production.

It’s true that there isn’t much you can do you with a single penny.  Time was when you could buy candy or you could find out your weight and get a printed fortune all at the same time.  But other than inspiring such sayings as, “A penny for your thoughts,” or, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” the penny hasn’t gotten much attention – although it has gotten some Congressional protection.  The smelt value of the old pure copper cents is greater than their face value and thus Congress has made it illegal to melt pennies – putting them on the endangered species list.

As it happened, I was moved to think about Ben Franklin’s sage advice on frugality as I was driving the other day.  I normally listen to the local classical radio station, KCNV which is a part of the National Public Radio system.  As I turned on the radio I winced for a moment.  It was time for that semi-annual fundraising event in which the station makes a drive for contributions and new “members.”  I have always been confused by the term “member” as all taxpayers are de facto members since some portion of our income taxes go to fund this station and all others that are part of NPR.  Nevertheless, I was somewhat inured to this as my last classical radio station in Chicago, WFMT also conducted this sort of fundraiser – although that station was privately owned.

Part of being a member of society is to be charitable – at least that is the way I was raised – so I considered making a contribution to the station.  However, whenever I donate to an organization I like to see how my money is going to be spent.  Does most of my contribution go to support the charity’s cause – or is most of it going to administration?  So I spent some time to get the station’s financial statements.  This proved a bit more daunting than I anticipated – but I finally was able to review their 2012 tax return.  The returns of all “Not for Profit” corporations happen to be a matter of public record.

What I found was that the station had revenues of about $5.5 million for the fiscal year and ran a small deficit.  The CEO, a woman, earned a not unreasonable amount of $125,000 including deferred compensation.  That doesn’t seem like an excessive amount for being in charge of such an enterprise.  Of course, that means that her compensation consumed approximately .23% of the station’s total revenues.  On that same basis, the CEO of Apple, Inc. would have received $425 MM instead of the paltry $74 MM he was paid.

Nevertheless, I didn’t think that the CEO’s compensation was out of line – and frankly it wouldn’t really have been my business other than for the fact that I knew that a part of my prospective donation would go to pay for it.  So I had pretty much decided to donate when I heard an ad on the station.  That ad prompted me to do a bit more thinking.

The ad was for a local LGBT and Q group (after thinking about the “Q” I realized that meant “Questioning”) which was sponsoring a Passover Seder for Jewish members in Las Vegas.  I had no problem with this being a “gay” sponsored ad, nor did I have a problem with the fact that the ad was to inform people about a religious event.  But I was surprised that a National Public Radio station would broadcast an ad for a religious group considering all the controversy regarding various Christian symbols, many of which have been in place for decades, which somehow are supposed to infringe on the rights of others under the First Amendment.

I was impressed with the station’s willingness to broadcast the ad and it stirred my curiosity to see how truly inclusive they were.  So I called and asked to speak with the advertising department.  I wanted to see if they would accept an ad which informed the public about an upcoming local NRA event – a symposium on responsible gun ownership and responsibilities.

I was connected to the department and chatted briefly with one of the station’s ad reps.  After I explained the nature of my ad and asking for their rates to air it during various broadcast hours there was a pause on the other end of the phone.  The rep told me, “Frankly, I don’t think we would be the best venue for your ad.  I mean, (pause) most of our listeners would probably not be the people you’re trying to reach.”

After pushing back, mentioning the fact that he might be correct but that ultimately it was my decision whether to spend my money with the station or not, I asked bluntly, “Would you be willing to accept the ad should I decide to allocate a portion of our advertising budget to your station?”  Much hemming and hawing ensued and finally he informed me that, “He would have to speak with management before giving me a definite yes or no.”

I thanked him for his time, left my number and, two days later am still waiting to hear back on whether this ad meets their “advertising criteria..”  Meanwhile, I have put my potential donation on hold – although the fund raising effort goes on unabated on the station.

You can’t buy much for a penny these days.  But apparently, having an opinion or taking a position that doesn’t comply with current liberal thinking isn’t worth a plugged nickel.

BASS FISHING AND THE MEDIA

The extent of my freshwater fishing is confined to my summer vacations in upstate New York.  The Esopus River had an abundance of brook and rainbow trout and I caught my share over the years and enjoyed quite a few delectable breakfasts.  It would be a gross overstatement to construe my modest efforts in such a way that would qualify me as a real life angler.

My rod and reel were very inexpensive, my bait came from the ground in the backyard of our little cottage, I had no hat littered with lures, whether store bought or hand tied and I had no other sort of fancy gear, no creel – just a little metal pail.  In the world of fishing I was definitely an ingénue.

Later in life I met others for whom fishing was a passion, more than their jobs or their marriages.  They could speak for days about how they had spent umpteen hours tying the perfect lure; how they had just purchased the latest and greatest in reels which could do just about everything except predict where the fish were biting; and , of course, they told the inevitable “fish stories” about the ones they landed (exaggerated in size) and the ones that got away (even more exaggerated).

One of the more popular fish for which these veterans of America’s streams and rivers trolled were bass.  I learned that they came in a variety of types – but among the most popular were “Big Mouth” and “Small Mouth” bass.  Fishing is not nearly as complex as politics and the main differentiation between these two types was – the size of their mouths.  Even an ingénue like myself could pick up on those physical characteristics and tell the difference between the two.

I thought about bass fishing and the media the other day.  If you remember back to January, the airwaves were filled with the announcement that the George Washington Bridge closure was due to political payback.  Coverage was even more extensive than the last two weeks’ reporting on the unfortunate fate of Malaysian Air’s Flight 370.

The media feeding frenzy, filled with speculation and insinuation pointing to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was nothing less than the unfortunate scene caused by a llama who wandered into a river populated by piranhas.  Liberal commentators practically drooled with salaciousness as they expected this would cause the rather corpulent governor to topple with a loud thud.  A special commission was called and the head of that commission, even before seeing the evidence which had yet to be subpoenaed, virtually proclaimed the governor guilty.  I refer to this as the “Big Mouth” syndrome.

Well, the emails and phone records and all the other documents that the commission requested were received and reviewed by them.  Perhaps you’ve not heard that – or the commission’s conclusion – because the media have entered their “Small Mouth” mode.  Even with an ear trumpet or the finest hearing aid, you might have missed hearing the commission’s conclusion that, “There is no evidence that Governor Christie had any knowledge of the actions by his staff which led to closing down the George Washington Bridge.”

As I said earlier, it would be hard for me to portray myself as an inveterate angler.  But one thing that I know is that when you’re fishing you need to be quiet or you will scare the fish away.  Perhaps that explains the media’s silence in failing to report on the commission’s findings.  They all went fishing.

THE MEDIA AND THE MOB

Virtually everyone who has attempted creative writing has probably experienced the phenomenon known as writer’s block.  I don’t know if its antithesis has ever been diagnosed or documented, but in mid-January I experienced what I refer to as writer’s overload.

As I sat down to write my next post I heard a story on the news that grabbed my attention.  Dutifully, I saved the half-completed piece and focused on the breaking story which I found more interesting than the post on which I had been working.  As I began developing that post I took a break for lunch.  Returning to my desk, I turned on the news and returned to working on the second piece.  Yet another story broke that day which I felt had even more interest than either the one on which I was working or its predecessor.  Needless to say I began to tackle that subject.  Then, halfway written, I put down that piece and sat back to reflect on what was happening.

I was feeling so overwhelmed by information that I was having difficulty focusing on any of it sufficiently to write something that was either worth writing or worth reading.  The same thing happened the next day and the next.  I was beginning to feel like a teenager who was experiencing an explosion of acne but who only had enough medication to treat one lone blotch.

I remembered an experience when I was in my late teens and went on a two week religious retreat at a monastic community slightly outside New York City on the banks of the Hudson River.  I was going to begin my freshman year in college in the fall and felt that I needed some time to focus and identify my goals and develop a plan of attack.  Part of the discipline of the retreat was living in a small cell with only the bare necessities of a bed a desk and a prie dieu – and total silence other than at religious services.  I left and felt refreshed after fourteen days and boarded the Greyhound bus to return to the city.

As the bus drove to New York I felt very peaceful yet energized.  I read as we sped along and almost before I knew it we were pulling into the terminal.  The time had literally flown by.  Then the bus driver announced our arrival and opened the door to allow the half full bus of passengers to exit.  As I gathered up the small grip which contained my belongings I was suddenly amazed at all the noise inside the terminal.  It was overwhelming – almost deafening.  And I realized that I heard that noise every one of the days I had spent in NYC in my short seventeen years – but that I was so used to it I had never noticed it.  For me and my fellow New Yorkers, noise was normal.

That was in the mid-60’’s.  Television consisted of the the three major networks; news was delivered via the morning and evening newspapers; the latest innovation in telecommunications was the introduction off the “Princess phone.”  Yet even with those limitations in our ability to send or receive information there was so much noise   By today’s norms we were forced to function at a near-primitive information level.  Yet, knowing nothing else, we seemed to get along just fine.

The jury may be out on global warming, climate change or climate instability or whatever current incarnation is in vogue.  But it is clear that our access to information has exploded in the past half century.  I doubt that our ability to process all that information has kept pace.  Perhaps that is one contributing reason that one in ten Americans is purported to have some form of mental issue and the reason that the prescriptions for psychiatric medications are being dispensed at record rates.

The posts which I began during the past month had a common theme.  Whether it was the abuse of power in New Jersey in closing down the George Washington Bridge; the scandal in New York City of firefighters and police falsely claiming disability and collecting monthly payments; our Secretary of State Kerry proclaiming to the world that environmental change is as urgent a concern as jihadists with shoe bombs and bad intentions; the Syrian government’s failure to comply with their “agreement” to turn over their chemical weapons and our government’s inept policy not only in the middle east but globally as the fires burn in Kiev and the people mob the streets in Venezuela.

President Obama alone provided the substance for several posts in his most current revisions of Obamacare through executive fiat which seem to be occurring weekly.  And what is that common theme?  It is not in the substance of the event but in the fact that it will soon be replaced and forgotten as some even newer story emerges and captures our attention  for the next nano-second.  It is in precisely this environment that politicians and poltroons can either get away with bad behavior or just plain ineptitude, knowing that the public’s attention will soon be distracted by someone else’s bad behavior before they are called to account.

Let’s be honest.  The mindless mob would much rather hear or see a story about Miley Cyrus than have a conversation about the Madison papers.  The vast majority of our public would rather talk about the Super Bowl, well perhaps not the last one, than the implications of a Supreme Court ruling.  It’s difficult to be informed unless you perceive a reason to be informed.  And most people would rather be entertained by “Jersey Shore” than be concerned with “justice for all” – unless they are themselves the victim of injustice.

No matter where we turn the airwaves are filled with stories of greed, self-absorption, victims and victimizers, heroes found out to have attained their achievements in violation of the rules of fair play and countless stories of those who feel that the laws made for all were beneath them.  “What’s in it for me” rules the culture and the country.

There is no doubt that this can continue as long as there is left some marrow to be picked from the bones of the doers, the makers and the taxpayers.  The truth of that statement is that it has gone on – perhaps for half a century.  But there is always an accounting – no matter how hard those in the media and those in the seats of power try to postpone it.  Eventually we will kill the last fatted calf and there will be no offspring to replace it.

Whether that day is tomorrow or decades from now is uncertain.  Whether we come to the realization that we have been wanton in our values and our priorities because of an apocalyptic moment or through mass self-examination is also unsure.  It is unlikely that the aegis of this enlightenment will be the thousand channels of cable jabberwocky that are beamed at us each moment and without which far too many of us would see no point in living.

But if  the media suddenly had a cathartic moment and focused on things of importance rather than fluff and sensationalism, the question remains.  How many of the mob would listen – and how many would understand and work for change both personally and in those whom we elect to serve in political office?

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