Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Civilians don't salute.

In the 24 hour news world, domestic abuse, particularly athlete and celebrity domestic abuse is the theme of the week.  It's likely to remain so until the abuse stories become so minor it becomes necessary to manufacture them or until some other chew toy is tossed to the media by circumstances.  What that will be, which of many will be picked up by CNN or Fox as the gonfallon of the next cycle is hard to predict.

Today's prime candidate for our next obsession   is the video clip of
Obama exiting a helicopter and saluting the marine guard with a cup of coffee in his hand.  The local Fox outlet took time out from covering wars and calamities and domestic abuse stories to discuss the implied disrespect for the people who sacrifice for "our freedom" or get dressed up to help the president off a helicopter, which ever comes first.

One characteristic of the news in our time is that we get enough information to prop up the theme of the story but never nearly enough to let you speculate on how it fits into the big picture.  Surprise surprise, presidents saluting the military is rather new to be calling it a tradition.  I believe it started with Reagan, who of course served WW II in Hollywood.  Some nations forbid saluting while "uncovered" or not wearing a hat.  According to Marine protocol:

" Marines do not render the hand salute when out of uniform or when uncovered."  

Whether or not an "uncovered"  or out of uniform president,  or any other civilian is required to return such a salute is open to interpretation.  There is no universal rule and one must remember commuting by helicopter is as common as driving to work or taking the bus is for the rest of us -- not much of a public ceremony. There is no rule about doing something because Reagan's PR people told Reagan to do it.


"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform.  It represents an exaggeration of the president's military role."  Wrote author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003 when Bush was in the White house and it was un-American to criticize the Warpresident..
It does seem that saluting with a cup of coffee seems a bit thoughtless or impolitic, or while talking on the telephone -- even if you're talking to Putin or scheduling an attack on Syria, but that alone doesn't sufficiently serve the cause of providing fodder for the Obamabashers.  We have to call it a "latte" because coffee with milk in it isn't as funny or as easy a target for scorn.  We must not mention or take note that when Bush saluted with a dog under his arm or when Eisenhower didn't salute at all we didn't melt into a puddle of contempt on the floor. We must not question the fact that the president is a civilian and  doesn't have a uniform to wear even if he is a commander in chief or ask whether he's subject to military protocols.  This is Obama we're talking about and this is the man we must impugn and impede and insult whether the nation is at peril. or not.  

Monday, September 22, 2014


In today's American parlance, or kidspeak as I call it, everything worth mentioning is either awesome or it sucks.  As with some aspects of American politics there's not much in between the extremes of cliche description, although of late some things have become less awesome and more epic. Perhaps the kids are growing tired of awesome as they grow older, some of our kids being in late middle age these days.

Anyway, I have the bad habit of noticing trends and processes in things and I noticed a sign just the other day, advertising a church down here in the Bible belt -- a church where they provide "Epic Worship." 

It's not that epic is a bad or lesser word for what goes on in churches.  The Bible after all is truly an epic: an historical and poetical narrative or tradition.  For those who worship the Bible or the characters in it,  the experience might indeed be awesome in the true sense of the word if I might be permitted to suggest that words have true meaning or history.

Perhaps awesome has lost a bit of its panache, having effectively replaced a large portion of the vocabulary although, like the other cute, cliche manifestations of eternal youth and hipness we cling to, perhaps not. Such things have an extraordinary life span, after all. Backwards hats are entering the second half century of  cutting edge semiotic splendor seen at the country club as well as the convenience store dumpster late at night.  Who knows how much longer things will be awesome or how much longer we'll be content with saying it as though we were Oscar Wilde uttering some fresh, novel and awesomely trenchant witticism.  I suspect one of those syncritisms we see when we study ancient pantheons or senescent dialects: Amun and Ra become Amun-Ra and gigantic and enormous fuse together to make the user feel ginormously less illiterate.

In short, how much longer before we hear epawsome?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The story of the day.

Bleary-eyed, the zombie turns on the TV, holding the antidote, the cup of coffee in one hand hoping to see whether UK retains it's U.  "After the break we're back with the story of the day" says the talking head, or the panel of happy-talk bobbleheads.  The story of the day, of course is the new iPhone.

The latest thing from Apple, the news from McDonalds, the celebrity "selfie" of the day. No point in checking the Benghazi channel. It's back to Al Jazeera where I get my answer and am reminded of the size and complexity of our world.  All sorts of things going on, scary stuff, important stuff Americans never hear about unless it happens to coincide with the story of the week, which seems to be the NFL and domestic violence.  We'll be clucking and squawking about something else as the flock follows next weeks' theme. Some other occurrence will convince us that something which is actually getting better is getting worse or that some one in a hundred million happening means we can't go outside anymore -- at least on the side of the news I watch. On the other side it will still be Benghazi and the milquetoast Muslim tyrant and how he's mishandled this or that.

In the trade, they call it "native" advertising.  The movie where the ultramacho hero always drives a Audi or BMW, news stories straight from the press releases of  video game vendors, the latest shake from McDonalds or of Miley Cyrus' ass.  And of course most of the news network's day is advertising and most of the actual news has to be sufficiently sensational, captivating, outrageous or otherwise sufficiently fetching to make the other glassy-eyed zombies sit through the endless bits of theater where toady, underpowered souless and boring econoboxes are made to seem like race cars and other products are equally misrepresented as the goals of all your pathetic worldly aspirations.

Scotland?  Oh yeah, they're still part of the UK for the time being and some 80 or 90 percent of the voters showed up at the polls. I guess those people don't have anything better to do in their sad little world.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alice in Foxland

When the Mad Hatter asks why a raven is like a writing desk, we recognize that the question is intentionally absurd.  What about the question of why Fox News seems to have given more coverage to the attack on the Benghazi embassy over 2 years ago than to anything in recent memory?  As it relates to the Republican refusal to allow spending on embassy security, we might as well find some connection to ravens and writing desks because the relentless hammering on the importance of  the incident isn't about the administrations "policies" as concerns terrorism, it's about Hillaryphobia. It's a coverup for their own negligence and misdeeds and failures. Steve Benin writes that the Fox aired nearly 1,100 segments over 20 months without any substantive revelations of any culpability and has yet to reveal any reasons to be horrified about anyone but the Republicans in Congress.  

I read in Media Matters that Foxed and Cloroxed host Elisabeth Hasselbeck tweeted the demand for the same transparency about Benghazi and the fake IRS scandal as we demand from the NFL.  Why is it so hard for the rear end of America to see the absurdity of this obsession, the need to connect everything to Benghazi and the cover-up that never was.

I could go on about the efficacy of the Big Lie, the oft-told lie, but  it doesn't help.  I had reluctantly to 'de-friend' someone I've admired on Facebook the other day, when he replied furiously to my comment that there was no scandal there and he'd have to come up with a better reason for his Obamabashing.  It won't be the last time I have to do that, I'm sure, because it's an article of faith that has to be protected from the heretical truth.

Is there a treatment for our national mental disease? Is everything  about Benghazi because nothing is about Benghazi?  Is it all because the people with desperate need to hate him and his party have such a hard time finding reasons after all these years of dire and disastrous predictions yet to come true? 

Why is Fox like a news network?  Like the Mad Hatter's riddle, it isn't a riddle at all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The man who would be king

President Obama wants to be a king, you know.  We hear that all the time.  He's a tyrant, he appoints Czars to run things, but of course he gets nothing done and plays golf while hordes of armed terrorists cross the borders disguised as children he invited here with his "policies." Never mind that the influx peaked in 2008. 

His policies -- his executive orders -- you know he's issued more of them than any other president and he's trashing the constitution by doing it!

Rand Paul, the man who would be president says his first executive order would be to repeal all previous executive orders, doesn't seem to see that particular order as trashing the constitution or indicating royal presumptions of his own and perhaps because he also asserts that revoking all previous orders would be his only and final order.

Of course the entire premise, that our current executive branch operates primarily by autocratic executive order and in disregard for the "will of the people" (as ignored and filibustered by Congress)  is false.  In fact Obama and his predecessor issued far, far fewer of them than any president in my lifetime.  If the facts don't fit, you're full of shit as Mr. Cochran might have said -- and he would be right.

But Paul's presidential campaign is not about truth or even about Democracy.  It's all about appealing to the irrational and fact-free passions of  the Party and apparently he had to think for a moment about repealing Truman's integration of the military and indeed Lincoln's executive order freeing of the slaves and Eisenhower's desegregation of schools before saying he would repeal and re-instate those which had some saving grace.  One can only imagine the debate about re-instating those three, but I have to wonder about the Napoleonic ego of someone who would repeal all the executive orders of the Washington administration onward and using his own judgement, re-order those he agreed with.  

To the people who cheered and applauded this proclamation without bothering to check any facts or perhaps to those who care little for facts or are able to dismiss them for some metaphysical reasons President Paul is a prospect devoutly to be wished because to those who really would be kings, all that which stands in the way must be done away with, whether true or false, good or bad or disastrous.

Friday, September 12, 2014

All roads lead to damnation

At least they do if you're Barack Obama.  Threaten to impeach if he intervenes in Syria or Libya and threaten to impeach if he hasn't.  I keep saying it but now perhaps I don't need to illustrate it. Representative Jack Kingston, R-Ga shouts it from the rooftops the day before yesterday, or at least from the Capitol steps.  Anticipating the presidents speech, and a great one it was, Kingston told reporters it doesn't matter how it goes,

It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.” [italics mine]

There you have it, the Republican strategy in a nutshell or the Republican turd in the punchbowl if you prefer.  Sure some people see these saboteurs and insurrectionists as patriots simply because they hate civilization so much but sorry, I'm not drinking that punch.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Riding my new bike yesterday, an elderly driver decided that the exit ramp was no longer the place for her and suddenly swerved back into the left lane without looking.  It just so happens that's exactly where I was.  I managed to avoid her at some risk of falling, but it happened so fast there was no question of using my horn and she simply continued on her way somewhere at ten under the limit. Why do I mention this?  Because it's 9/11 again, the day of self pity and choreographed mourning and as the fellow on the news this morning said, "I used to feel invincible but now I feel so vulnerable."

Do we need a better example of how erratically, erroneously and stupidly people assess risk?  If we were to make a statistically accurate list ranking the possibility of being harmed by a terrorist attack on any given day, would it be below a list of thousands of possibilities -- tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands?  But I didn't look over my shoulder in fear and dread getting on the bike on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and I'm not expecting an airplane to crash into my house in rural Florida today either. The chances of getting hurt by some nice old lady just a mile or so from home is almost incalculably larger, yet still small enough that I don't tremble in my steel toe boots thinking about the danger stalking the roads.  Heart attacks, cancer, strokes, a fall in the bathroom, these are all things I legitimately worry about at my age and try to avoid.  Terrorist attacks? Really?  Isn't that an insult to people who wake up every morning in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon? 

But self pity and self absorption are so American.  Beheadings and the other horrors of the day don't count so much unless it's an American head rolling and thousands dead anywhere hardly count in comparison to one possibly unjust American death.

I don't know how much Cola and shoes and Toyotas the obsession of the day will sell on CNN and Fox, but it sells fear by the carload.  It sells so much fear that most of us still haven't noticed that we -- or our congress, that is, signed away the 4th amendment for the great majority of the country, that we began pumping up our police departments with heavy weaponry even in remote places like Wyoming in order to equip them for the hordes of Muslims falling from the sky over the Cheney ranch. It sold domestic surveillance, it sold countless quasi-military weapons. It sold the longest and  most expensive wars in our history. We went to war with an uninvolved country and created so much chaos and so big a power vacuum that Iraq became helpless to keep out Al Qaeda and now ISIS.

But we still feel not only sorry for ourselves, but guilty for not feeling sorry enough.  Eventually 9/11 will go the way of the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor, but not soon enough for me because as long as we weep and moan and fear to turn our heads lest a fearful beast pursues us, as long as we continue to conduct our petty civil wars,  we won't do a damned thing about the real world and its real troubles.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Some thoughts on prejudice

 Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin,
I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies

 -Phil Collins-

What is an observation without a frame of reference?  We like to think we can observe facts and make rational deductions, but we can't.  Anyone with training in psychology as it pertains to law enforcement  is likely to tell you that eye witness accounts of the same occurrence will vary markedly and it's been clearly demonstrated that observers concentrating on one thing will be completely unaware of  important people and objects in their direct view.

When I read about an unarmed African American "child" kneeling with his hands up being shot multiple times, I was truly irate, I was ready to write off reports of his just having perpetrated a class B felony and his having charged a policeman who had ordered him to stop as racism. It fits with my habitual beliefs about the police and racism.  I may well have been totally wrong and it may not be the first time, but if it turns out that the 6 foot 4 200 pound "Child" did in fact charge the officer, things might just be other than I was primed to believe.

You might relate it to the halo effect: the tendency to have a view of people and things because of, in this case, his being a member of a traditionally disadvantaged class We do after all read about all sorts of injustice based on race and racism seems to explain a lot. But sometimes, of course we're wrong. Sometimes we fail to see things through the eyes of people who run stores and gas stations in "bad" areas whose lives are in danger every day.  Is it too easy for me  to condemn it from the safety of my gated community and the comfort of my air conditioned office? It depends on your viewpoint, your frame of reference, the things you associate with other things because your human and you have a memory.

For most of my life, I was firmly convinced that Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg were framed.  I galled me that they were Jews and their trial and execution would reflect on me.  I found it easy to find detailed opinions as to their having been innocent. There were lots of people who agreed, lots of signs and protests from lots of convinced people. People I despised were convinced of their guilt. I was ready to see the whole sad affair as yet another example of the persecution of liberals and most of all Jews.  In fact I was passionate about it. I was wrong.

But we see connections between things, relationships, reminders and all the things that lumped together are called bias and prejudice.  Watching the endless coverage of the gruesome and heartbreaking killing of Stephen Sotloff -- the tall dark man with the knife condemning Obama, blaming Obama for what he was about to do and threatening to do it again and again, in the name of peace and freedom  My rage and loathing must surely have been augmented by the years and years of hearing similar rhetoric from Republicans of all sorts, from Fox News to barber shop conversations. It's going to be hard to temper my rage at the endless Obama bashing and ceaseless hatred of human values. These things are inexorably linked in my mind.

And what do we think of Vlad the Invader?  Putin is an arrogant, dishonest, power hungry autocrat, contmptuous of  Democracy, decency, human rights and Liberty. Contemptuous of us. Have you been listening to how Fox and its followers have been praising him as the kind of bold, confident leader American needs?  If you're a Republican you will have forgotten this instantly, but you'll still be contemptuous of Obama and blame him for being weak, for not waving our nuclear penis around. I still remember though and every time I hear you barking about strength, I will associate it with your fascination with tyrants. Evey time you call Obama a tyrant I will remember. Every time I hear you call him weak and indecisiveness, I will associate it with your praise of ruthless aggression.  I will never, ever trust you to tell us the time of day even if my watch confirms it. I know who you are and what you've done and it's all been a pack of lies.

So, yes, I'm human.  Yes, I know there is wisdom and enlightenment in trying to see things through other eyes, but there is discomfort in equal amounts from remembering, from associating or correlating one thing with another. I suffer from rage and closed mindedness and prejudice like everyone else does, so when I see bloody handed monsters I will think of Republicans. When I hear the word "conservative" I think of hate, of tyranny, of  arrogance -- of evil.  the camera can't show it, but I know that face behind the black mask and I see him everywhere.