The Media

7 SEPT 2023

R.I.C.O. (Rev. 9/9/23, twice)

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is an extension of jurisprudence signed into law in 1970 to apply to individuals who are alleged to have, and subsequently are found guilty of, acts performed in furtherance of a criminal purpose as part of a organization the purposes or goals of which are illegal and/or unconstitutional and therefore corrupt and thereby corrupted. Such an organization may or may not have legal purposes, but if two or more persons owning, elected to, are in practice leading and defining, accepting instructions from, or otherwise associated or affiliated with the organization conspire together to carry out at least two illegal acts, then they have ipso facto created a corrupt and criminal organization to which, by the way, other persons may become criminally involved because they share and carry out certain acts to pursue those same corrupt goals or purposes.

It is instructive to scroll down into the linked Wikipedia document to see what other kinds of organizations beyond the familiar crime-syndicate and mafia-style organizations for which the RICO Act was needed, given how regularly trials were subverted by organized corrupt organizations and mafias. The drug trade colluding sheriff's office being one such interesting case.

In the case of the January 6th Insurrection, the organization was the DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC., dated the first day of his presidency, January 20, 2017. This organization has requested donations for Trump's future presidential campaigns and served as the focal point for political activities, those aside from the activities inherent by law to the presidency. This is the essence of his "campaign committee," which in Georgia has been alleged to be (or have become) a corrupt organization with certain members and associates and followers alleged to have demonstrated by certain unlawful acts the common purpose and goal to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.

Big Picture — RICO is complicated, and RICO is at the heart of the effort to bring Donald J. Trump and his associates to justice. As described elsewhere in Iron Mountain essays, Trump and his associates are using intimidation and threatening force to confuse and corrupt the jurisprudential processes being brought against him. For instance, former Governor of Arkansas and staunch ally of Trump said yesterday that the 2020 election may be the last to be decided by ballot, future elections will be decided by bullets. It is this kind of thing that Trump and Republicans allied with him unceasing carry out to taint juries in all four jurisdictions where he is now arraigned under NINETY-ONE criminal charges. This is the dark contex that defines the literal battle lines forming up as the days go by.

Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner of MSNBC are both nervously covering RICO for their audiences. Twice Chris has intimated, amid callow giggling, that he does not understand RICO and (yet) questions its constitutionality. If I were President of MSNBC I would remove him from his post for a week and ding him a month's pay, instructing him to enlist competent legal expertise on his show for every instance involving RICO ... or else. Alex does not pretend to understand jurisprudence in detail, as well, but particularly, RICO. Her affect is a sort of "hair on fire" embarrassment, which could be easily solved by disciplining herself to not make "erudite" comments to her expert guests, but rather ease back and be sure her experts have the RICO experience that she does not.

Chris is forty-four, b. 1979, and accordingly, at best has been a Progressive Democrat about one third the time I have been. I am perplexed that such a voluable Progressive journalist can lose the Big Picture like this. We are, as he very well knows, in a very real and critical struggle to sustain our democracy. It is not a game! It is an historic struggle that Trump and his allies will fight to the figurative DEATH to win.

Alex, also went to Brown University, and is about two years older than Chris, brighter, and laboring under the misogynist web and lingering vestiges of The Patriarchy, so I give her the benefit of steady enthusiasm, but ask that she be told to calm the hell down. The last thing deeply concerned MSNBC viewers need is to be over-whelmed by her hyper-enthusiastic bearing, we need her calm and incisive and thoughful consideration of the news.

RICO is complicated and we do not need Progressive journalist personalities making it more confusing. Wallace, Melber, Reid, Maddow, O'Donnell, and Ruhle manage exceptionally well, as do Hasan, Mohyeldin, Velshi, who as stand-ins have little control over the program assets. Jen Psaki is a great addition to MSNBC, whether on the weekend or as a weekday stand-in. "The Rev" Al Sharpton brings his own power to the weekends and as a very knowledgeable guest on weekday shows. The website for MSNBC needs a complete overhaul, President Jones!

I appreciate MSNBC for employing at senior positions Progressives and Former Republicans, each of the latter assumed to have been fairly close to the political center in America. Rashida Jones is the President of MSNBC, the first Black woman to run a major cable news enterprise. She has her hands full and then there's Trump. She needs to gird MSNBC for the battle that the next year and half promises to be. By that I mean she needs to get the Big Picture firmly in place and be sure that the voices of MSNBC know what to say and when and how loudly.

JB — (BA History - Russian Area Studies, UVA; USN (O-3) Combat Veteran of the Vietnam War; MA History, CSU Long Beach; PhD Russian History, UCLA;)

The Media

30 August 2023

That's Ageism, Charlie

Charlie was born in November 1954. That means this coming November he will experience yet another birthday, his sixty-ninth. During his reappearance on Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace today, and while discussing the problem Mitch has when facing difficult questions at the mike during infrequent press briefings in Washington, Charlie accepted reluctantly Nicolle's clear-minded analysis that "Mitch could not do what he set out to do there at microphone," suggesting that while that was true, it did not give the obvious context: "Mitch McConnell's age." Both Mitch and Charlie work in Washington, he as Editor and Chief of The Bulwark (an "anti-Trump conservative news and opinion website") and Mitch as Minority Leader in the US Senate.

I, born early in the morning in February 1940, have been meaning to address the issue at hand at the mike and elsewhere in Washington. My own Senator is humbled by some kind of deterioration the likes and truth of which is typically suppressed by the news media by not actually covering her comings and goings. Mitch's problem and Dianne's problem are probably more common with the onset of the so-called golden years, and Charlie thinks that context is more important or germane than the fact of some kind of individual mental problem, probably a deterioration within the brains of these two individuals. I stand with Nicolle on this. Age and ageism are topics requiring nuance, a word both Nicolle and Charlie used a couple of times.

Nuance—There are people all over the world who live thoughtful, active lives well into their tenth decade. I lost a golf game in my mid-seventies to a guy named Jim from Sun City aged 94! My uncle lived a good life until age 95 and the finally passed at 99. He had been a professor of English at UNH and of Art at U. Buffalo. He was the paradigmatic "Yankee Craftsman" as the Boston Globe's Sunday Supplement reported at least twice during his careers. Charlie will have experienced some few of the deficits of age already, but mostly at arms length as he blythely interviews men and women in DC decades older than himself. He has not yet arrived at that point in the gauntlet of aging where one loses functions we once had: balance, ability to read 6pt type package instructions for microwaving food, stamina, breath, and so on, yet we are able to cobble sentences together to make a point.

The US Constitution does NOT grant any officer of the federal government a life term in office. The expression is "during good behavior," which (as Nicolle correctly insists) refers to the individual employed to serve us, not the totally ambiguous and multifarous context of age.

Yes, it is a fact that pointing out that Jim or Susie have deteriorated sufficiently that they cannot carry forward their careers could be read as a harsh comment about a beloved colleague or respected adversary. So one of the norms in Washington—clearly out of synch with the Constitution—is to soften the news by blaming everyone in their age cohort. I detest ageism and see it looming large and ugly as the Boomers, who have been used to having it all their way, slip awkwardly into elderhood and senescence.

We of the Silent Generation (aka Vipers, Beats, Beatniks, rarely as Traditionalists, b. 1925-1943,) are well into all that now. Our generation name is irrelevant, but WE are not. Individuals are the unit of humanity. Our health and welfare is the concern of us all. Nicolle is absolutely correct that when representatives of the people in the US can not carry out their appointed and intended tasks and duties, they must give over their post to an individual who can.


The Media

18 August 2023

How the World Works

Sometime in the last week Donald Trump was being interviewed on television. He looked 15 years older than the last time I saw him. His voice was the usual sandy gravel—his idea of softening the audience up. He was deriding Special Counsel Jack Smith about his indictment in DC, the over-turning the election, the government, and the rule of law indictment. After the usual slanderous characterizations Trump said, "He just does not know how the world works."

Psychologists and therapists and psychiatrists have all remarked about how Trump "projects" his own condition onto those who are arrayed against his pathway through life. Finally, though, given that "how the world works" is a projection, Trump now has an inkling that he himself has recently discovered there is a majority opinion about this question of "how the world works," and it not only is a super-majority opinion, but it has teeth and bites. This is a good sign, by no means exculpatory, of course, but a crack in the facade Fred Trump installed around his son Donald.

How-the-world-works is the fundamental question of life. Parents assist babies to understand gravity, hunger, day and night, cause and effect, particularly cause and effect from thousands of points of view and departure. Some children pick up on the long-term antisocial behaviors of their parents and other significant "grown-ups" in their lives, too. The cause and effect doctrine is not always seen for what it is or for what it is supposed to be. Attention span situations come into play. Of course these kids try out everything, and some learn that the world works the way they might want it too, especially when they tantrum about it. Trump got A's on these lessions.

But there are others in society whose understandings about the world are open to discussion. The executives at MSNBC, who in the aftermath of the Fani Willis RICO indictment in Atlanta of Trump's criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, issued a caution to the company's news hosts to remember that Trump is innocent until proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." It was a proper advisory, but made so sufficiently clear that attentive viewers could infer that it happened. All of the news hosts exhibited new signs of having been legitimately chastened. The signs were small, but unmistakable, except for the host of "All In with Chris Hayes," whose voluable style and boyish—even after ten years at the helm of his show—exuberance, betrayed him.

The RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law in the State of Georgia is complicated—too complicated for Chris. He sat there a few days ago and said with his boyish aplomb that the RICO case seemed to him to be like the odds you get in a casino where the game rules always favor "the house." Well, Chris, "corrupt organizations," once appropriately so proved and labeled, are more complex and difficult to bring to justice than individuals, and so they prosper when prosecutors run out of steam to convict them as simple individuals. Chris openly questioned the constitutionality of RICO laws quite directly, which I am thinking is not exactly what the MSNBC executives had in mind, not to mention all of us who watch him. He should recant.

How the world works is infinitly more complicated than Trump understands. He has staked out a set of behaviors, trenches and embankments, if you will, upon which he can depend for personal safety. He thought his position was good for enfilade and defilade situations, but we are long past the Hundred Years War. RICO takes a legally necessary higher-ground, a recognition that groups and organizations behaving criminally require laws that see and prosecute en masse groups acting for common criminal purposes. The rules of engagement are logical and unforgiving. Judges have sentencing latitude, of course.

The old and logically discredited journalistic credo of "fair and balanced" is going to die a thousand more deaths during this epoch. Fair must be defined as "truthful." Balanced must be depoliticized so that the pivot of balance is not the center aisle in Congress, but instead logic—"reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict [and announced] principles of validity."(Oxford)

These are interesting and historic times. The media is still grappling with the audacious attack on what were hypothetical "norms" in the best of times. Donald Trump is not President Trump, and Former President Trump has been established sufficiently that Mr. Trump as a term of reference will do just fine. Referring to anyone by their last held office is quaint and misleading and less than polite or necessary.


The Media

2 August 2023

1000 words

Yesterday, August 1st, 2023, John Luman "Jack" Smith, 54, BA in Political Science (Summa Cum Laude) from SUNY Oneonta (1991), JD Harvard Law (1994) (Cum Laude), brought what will be considered the most important case in law of our lifetimes, one of the top five cases in the history of the United States, among Marbury, Dred Scott, Brown v Board of Education, and Roe, a four count charge of criminal conspiracies and criminal obstructions of justice against Donald J. Trump, former (45th) President of the United States. As Tim Heaphy, BA and JD, University of Virginia, former Lead Investigator for the House Select Committee on the events of January 6th responded to MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace's question how he feels a day later: "I feel like I am in a swirl."

We all do. The implications of the indictment are endless. One of the first reponses of the media experts, including Mr. Heaphy, is that the indictment is very close to, but more in depth, with additional testimony, and deeper penetration into the truth elaborated by the January 6th Select Committee.

It is rare that a matter of government like this happens even as we are looking on, and so virtually everyone in the media have said that, if you can read 45 double-spaced pages, you should read the document.

Somewhat surprisingly the indictment does not allege that Trump masterminded the assault on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. We all know he invited his most footloose followers to Washington for an event on January 6th with the infamous tweet: "Be there, will be wild." Instead, Special Counsel Smith and his team have taken the point of view that Trump has freedom of speech, so they concentrate on his actual behaviors, the actus reus, inferring his mens rea not from speeches and tweets, but from reports of conversations and his actual responses and behaviors.

The indictment proceeds through the several states from which fake electors were created to be introduced to VP Pence to either be accepted and overturn the final and official count of electoral votes in the 2020 Presidential Election or at least confuse the situation sufficiently to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power between administrations. There were less complicated attempts to overturn state election totals, like the well-known request from Trump to the State of Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to "find" 11,780 votes for Trump, a criminal case about ready to be brought in Atlanta, in a Georgia State court.

The indictment is almost universally thought to be way overdue. Lawrence O'Donnell countered the growing consensus about this during yesterday's meeting of the MSNBC news hosts by noting that without the January 6th Select Committee Report information, an indictment from DoJ would have not have had the excellent preparation of the public, especially the Republican public, "necessary" for a less jarring and disputable acceptance of the DoJ charges. There is a good measure of truth in O'Donnell's point of view.

It was MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, though, who chose to ask the important question as she began the meeting of news hosts yesterday evening. The question has been lingering in the air for at least seven years with very little vocabulary available to express it. The NYTimes reported yesterday before the indictment was unsealed that among Republican voters in a recent poll 22% would vote for Trump in the 2024 Presidential Election even if he were indicted and even if he were convicted. The first word out of many mouths is the word "cult." This tells us how impoverished the vocabulary for this situation is.

Iron Mountain has been featuring many essays about the pivotal position of "human nature" in politics, how checks and balances were written into the Constitution because of spoken and mainly unspoken understandings about human nature. The word "rabble" has been often used to describe the men who fought in the Revolutionary War and about those same human beings as potential voters—and how to contain and conrol them, how to avoid their worst impulses. The main inference is that, given a large body of men (and eventually all colors of men and of women), there will be irrational behavior, including irrational voting.

If we are to leave it right there (for the lack of a good vocabulary for it) it says that Trump tapped into that irrationality with uncommon precision and great success (with help from abroad) in 2016 and got elected. It says that given four years as President, Trump and his chorus of sycophants lying incessantly about nearly everything, the irrational among us became even less tethered to what most of us call Reality. But does this provide even a mote of information about how to fix the situation?

The sheer numbers incorporated in that 22% are boggling enough—we are talking about millions of people within a national universe of 340 million and an electorate of 230 million. As of September 2022 there were 38.8 million registered Republicans, so 22% of that raw number is 8.5 million voters who are devoted body and soul to Trump. It could be twice that number, if many of the 22% are not actually registered. There could be an equal number (either number) of Republicans and right-leaning Independents who would now never consider voting for him (again).

The history of this situation goes back more than 150 years, back to situations all across the nation where "machine politicians" ran politics on and over the edge of legality in their areas. It was done in the cities and in the countryside and still is. Economic power or religious influences are the most common elements of the power wielded against rational democracy. In places like Alabama voices online speak freely about being in a 0ne-Party state. As the KKK undid Reconstruction, machine politics was the rule, enforced for generations by terror.

Rachel's question has answers, some of which are distinctly unpalatable. We dangerously delude ourselves that our democracy is healthy and responsible to truth and reality. Yet, what is the alternative? One alternative is to prosecute the flagrant perps. Needless to say, Donald J. Trump is one.


The Media

20 June 2023

Creating History
~1200 words

In the swirl of things that happen every day, the voices propounding, the accidents, the marriages, deaths, publications, rockets launched, movies shown, the many trillions of things and events about which individuals remain blissfully unaware, the idea of telling the history of an epoch still seems pretty normal, but in fact not one of us actually experiences much more than a mote of what happened ... and remembers little of it a week later. Histories are stories seen then spoken through paper towel tubes, paying little attention to the overwhelming clatter of everything else.

It is often said that journalists produce the "first draft" of history. If it is said too often, it may be that journalists are scrapping with so-called social scientists for that kind of prestige associated with sciences, that crisper sense of truth based on demonstrable facts. Historians these days, as New York Review of Books reviewer David A. Bell notes, are facing a dramatic "plunge" in history course enrollments, and so he goes on to point to some of the reasons.

His review of two new books is titled "Ego-Histories", borrowing from the notion promoted by French historian, Pierre Nora, meaning that recently historians have written their own personal experiences into their narratives, sometimes personal acquaintanceships with key figures. Maybe this is because it is now technically or logistically more possible to have had those experiences. Ego-histories are more "subjective" than Bell likes, or was taught, but not necessarily off his table.

Professor Bell postulates that ego-histories are the result of the "intellectual gap left by the fall of scientific history," that is, the reverberations of the crisis in Physics usually marked by the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment's failure to detect the "luminiferous ether," and thus a profound embarrassment to the idea of discoverable laws of science. The chagrin perpetuated with faltering courage of scientists into what soon became the relativistic twentieth century.

Perhaps ego-history is about restoring authenticity. It is uncertainly "clear" that Bell prefers histories to be written from letters and journals and documents with the authors sublimating their egos, (as if this were possible at all), to the point of approaching asymptotically a scientific view worthy of the causal connections "scientific history" might have been able to explain. Of this, I am not so sure.

This (my) essay would not have seen the light of day had Bell not misunderstood—it seems to me—or perhaps (judging from his word choices) tried to settle an old score with Hayden White by noting:

... this “subjectivist turn” among historians has freed at least some of them to innovate stylistically. Fifty years ago the critic Hayden White scolded historians for continuing to ape the expository style of the early twentieth century, even as writers of fiction rode one wave of wild experimentation after another. The principal reason was the primacy of scientific history and the pride historians took in sublimating their personalities to their method, as Lord Acton had prescribed. But in turning inward, some historians finally started down the path long taken by the high modernist masters of introspection, Joyce and Proust. Contemporary history writing has not yet found its Joyce or Proust, or anything close, and the enormous inertial force of disciplinary norms still makes experimental historical prose largely a game for those with the freedom to take risks—i.e., the fortunately tenured.

You should understand that Hayden White was a distinguished and leading American historian. He conceived and wrote Metahistory (published in 1973, just as our "publication-seminar" began). He was not afraid to consult with the lore of literary critics, like Kenneth Burke, nor reluctant to consider that the rules, logics, and styles of language itself should be examined in the examination of histories, both of "scientific history" and of "Geschicte," the story of what seems to have happened and why.

It needs saying that the anchoring of history to the naive "wie es eigentlich gewesen" ("as it really was") school needed to be weighed (hauled up), hosed off, and fastened down on deck as a relic of an age of patriarchal, patronizing, and arrogant historiography—the school of "victors write the histories and devil take the hindmost, the victims and the genocides." If you read the review you will see at its conclusion the author's attempts to drop a replacement anchor somewhere, around which the discipline of History might swing.

For me, a student of Hayden White and, by the way, Hans Rogger, at UCLA those fifty years ago, history has exhausted its value to the world economy because historians are too narrowly educated and focused, do not humbly command useful knowledge of epistemology, psychology, and the essentials of modern physical and life sciences. Geologists taught us the method of multiple working hypotheses, and archeology then took to it and anthropology and sociology. Economics would, but its Adam Smith reverence for—the Market—stands in the way. History does it but continues draw from the unpublished encyclopedia of Human Nature (greed, envy, prowess, sympathy, etc.) to deduce causal relationships. Multiple working hypotheses are the true currency for the study of anything singular or impossible to reproduce.

The modern historian teaching at any university to disappointingly underprepared young people does not understand how to teach provisionality, much less evidence in multiple contexts. Instead, names, dates, and places—the stuff of chronicle— become the terribly incomplete skeleton of history for those poorly-prepared students. Teaching history, perhaps something you wrote, should be to provide plausible reasons (plural) for why things worked out as they did. "Come quickly ... do not bathe" may humanize Napoleon Bonaparte a bit, but it takes time to bring it up and then to balance instructions to Josephine against the interesting idea that the first World War occurred a hundred some years earlier than we have been thinking.

"Critical race theory," for instance, so prominent in the contemporary news, is "critical," (both important AND discerning) in the sense of historians seeking to pry out of the sad record of 400 years of America's behavior the dismal succession of human activities, a new more complete history, contrasting with the recitation of proud histories of an advancing, progressive civilization centered in western Europe and jingoist America. CRT is also about "race" without admitting "race" is not a scientific fact, but a human construct with real psychological relevance among masses of people confronting strangers. And, CRT is "theory" only to calm the sentiments of those who resist it, and perhaps to acknowledge that all history is incomplete. It is "re-facting," the sort of digging down into the larger picture past the victor's story, to find a more complete truth.

In so much of the modern world, the ideas of provisionality and relativity and evidence have not been understood and incorportated into the general Zeitgeist, but rather have stalled in endless, fatuous arguments about what we can be certain about. Folks, we cannot be CERTAIN about anything or anyone! The best we can do is have a couple favorite hypotheses about whatever it is ... or seems to be. One has to get used to living in swarms of hypotheses to be calm about what we think we know.

JB (James Richard Brett, PhD, Russian History, UCLA, 1975)

The Media

13 May 2023

Declaring War
~750 words

"I am your warrior, I am your justice, I am your retribution."
Donald J. Trump, March 25, 2023, Waco, Texas

The United States Congress has not declared war since WWII. The reason is that war is expensive, disruptive, and will up-end virtually any program of legislation, and moreover, will create broad anxiety, resulting in negative economic consequences, perhaps conscription for the military, among many other reasons. Yet we have been engaged in lethal military operations almost continuously since WWII: in Korea, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Serbia-Bosnia, Lebanon and other parts of the Levant, Panama, Iraq, Syria, or providing weapons of war to friendly combatant regimes with some risk of being called out on it by antagonists of our friends. Our espionage agencies have lost scores of men and women in clandestine operations, principally against the Soviet Union and Russia.

It is almost "no wonder" then, it being thought much more complicated, that the media have not acknowledged the non-state, openly declared war against the United States by the MAGA-dominated Republican Party.

Friday on MSNBC's "Deadline White House" with Nicolle Wallace, the first three-quarters of an hour were taken up with a lively discussion of former President Donald Trump's rantings and bombast in the so-called Town Hall seventy-five minute presentation conducted by CNN (Cable News Network). Trump went over the top continuously and CNN's host was largely unable to control the situation, giving Trump a multi-million dollar free-ride campaign event with an estimated audience of 3 million!

Nicolle Wallace's panel agreed it was over the top, but John Heilemann refused to straightforwardly acknowledge that the normal broadcast and cable media should already by now understand that Trump is the real standard-bearer, voice, and leader of a real political movement, self-declared to have the goal of the destruction of the US government and its key principles, namely Democracy and Rule of Law.

Heilemann is far from stupid, but often stupifying, which is taken by MSNBC and Nicolle Wallace as "dear." Although Heilemann is sometimes a substitute host in Nicolle's absence, his sub-stentorian delivery is just as off-putting as his mouthful-garblings. This time, though, Nicolle said "I am going to push back on that," meaning Heilemann's inchoate and obtusely blind ramble through the last eight years of formal, for-profit US media coverage of Donald Trump and those around him. John seems to think that the egregiousness is Trump's work, ignoring that a hefty segment of the large Republican MAGA faction—White Christian, Misogynist, Nationalists—have been at it for generations and are ahead of and leading Trump in many ways!

She did push back up to a point. The point is exactly the point being reached by CNN, the broadcast networks, and MSNBC. Question: Is it time to call a spade a spade and declare that we the people and the media are in receipt of a Declaration of War from Trump's Republican Party? (rhet.) It most definitely is! There is no reason to treat a vicious and pathological liar as a possibly civil truth-teller. There is no reason to afford a twice-impeached, disgraced, indicted for criminal fraud, found civilly liable for sexual assault and defamation of character, narcissistic demagogue, who is the target of at least three federal and one state investigations into crimes of huge importance to the nation, ... to give such a person the time of day, much less a platform from which to carry out his destructive plan. Professional jouralism demands nothing of the sort.

For-profit news organizations have a more difficult row to hoe. They need to keep an audience to show to advertizers to justify their price. Fox has proved that some people will triple-down on newsy, glib-truthy, propaganda, a form of entertainment and nourishment for their heretofore less openly articulated social and political predispositions. The lesson in that is EMOTION, the sense that the media believes what they are saying. The fact that Fox secretly did not does not exclude that principle. Nicolle and Rachel and Alex and Lawrence all display the sense they believe what they are saying. Joe is a little "masculine" about it, but yes. Joy and Stephanie, both definite yesses. Ari and the subs and weekend hosts too! The execs at MSNBC have made it plain that the entire edifice is committed to the battle for our democratic, pluralistic nation and its rule of law. Now all that is needed is a fighting vocabulary!


The Media

29 April 2023

The Media Today
~1000 words

Since the inside communications of the Fox Corporation and its propaganda network were released in the discovery phase of the civil lawsuit brought against Fox by the voting machine company, Dominion, which settled the case to the ttune of $787,500,000, much of the rest of mainstream media has covered the situation as best they can. MSNBC, which is my main source of media information and analysis, has become OC about Mr. Carlson, which plays to his hand in proving to the next organization that hires him that he still "has it," What "it" is in his case is actually what he does not have: any decency. He lies, cheats, steals, harasses, curses like a sailor, [y.t. was in the Navy over the course of nine omeyears] He was making, it is told, $30m a year at the job of exposing the awful hatred within himself to the public. Regretably, we will probably get another wave of TCT show (et al) information as the Smartmatic company reaches into the very, very deep pockets Fox and of Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, recommending a $2.7B amount to settle the affront to their reputation. They, though smaller, have Fox pinned Gulliver-like to the ground (and air/cablewaves) Fox has infested for years.

I cannot speak for MSNBC, but it seems apparent that host after host are delighted with the interim outcome, but dig daily into any evidence that the next two lawsuits against Fox will bring them to their knees and, the other shareholders will take advantage of the situation to rid the media of the Murdocks and their closer friends and employees. It is a pipe dream, and I do not smoke.

For me the entire embroglio has put into even starker contrast what the other major parts of the for-profit media (NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, et al) are purveying as journalism. Huntley-Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, and stables of senior correspondents, the 60-Minutes crew of yore, with the likes of Mike Wallace who infuriated me with badgering people like Muhammad Ali over his Parkinsons ... they are all gone. Ego has been a key trait, not just beginning with Edward R. Murrow, but ever present. It takes something like that to do what they do.

Lawrence O'Donnell and Nicolle Wallace and now Jen Psaki are three of the veterans of real government now employed by MSNBC to do reporting and analysis of our daily news. All three are luminously amazing, and none show especially overt or in any way annoying signs of ego. Lawrence is justifiably proud of his contributions to Aaron Sorkin's West Wing series on television and his personal path from the wicked streets of Boston to Chief of Staff for Sen. Moynihan. Nicolle, on the other hand, is proud of her frantic work as Director of Communications for President George W. Bush and for working on the campaign of Sen. John McCain, and all the while having to demonstrate that she is no longer a Republican since the arrival of Trump. Jen Psaki's incisive intellect is a very important addition to the network, and I am going to opine that she is destined to take over the mantel of Rachel Maddow, if and when she declares candidacy for office in Massachusetts, where she lives.

Dr. Maddow, eschews display of her doctoral degree from Cambridge University in Politics. Bright and personable, she was dug out of the cellar at MSNBC by Keith Olbermann, who had a prominent spot on MSNBC from which he developed a toxic-to-establishment-conservatives reputation, which prompted him to leave. Rachel has a huge audience, which suggests that a good part of her fan mail comes from imbeciles, because in her monologues she now repeats things almost endlessly, or possibly because

she can "hardly believe" what she is reporting

she is sufficiently unsure of her logic and narrative, or

she has not had the fun of doing the actual research herself, but wishes she had.

In any case Rachel is a honest-to-goodness scholar and widely respected. Her forte is bringing the historical context to our minds, and that has been extremely valuable for me, at least.

Lester Holt is the anchor for NBC's nightly news. David Muir has this job on ABC, and at CBS there is now Norah O'Donnell. In my view the kind of news shows they deliver are only recently being linked to in-depth information online, indicating they are very aware that the shows themselves are formulaic hopscotch exercises designed to pat the majority on the head, while irritating the least number among them. Women are finally getting the top spots, but as Alex Wagner on MSNBC knows the infrastructure is run by boys, and so now her glass host table is now opaque, and as Stephanie Ruhle knows getting into the MSNBC line-up requires a lot of "glamorizing."

The First Amendment is in pretty good hands these days. The behind the scenes at MSNBC (Plato's Cave) management makes more good decisions than poor ones. Clearly what Alex went/is going through has to be dealt with. The overall reputation of a news analysis network like MSNBC hangs to some respect on the ability to make ends meet, given that Big Pharma is (collectively) a major source of revenue, and given that Fox has demonstrated that pleasing the audience should not be the thing that drives analysis or what is analyzed.

Finally, the legal team behind MSNBC hosts, and presumably those behind NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN hosts, need to be reasonable about certain locutions, such as insisting that the word "alleged" is used in every utterance about a wrong-doing. Once per paragraph is enough, we think. How about, for instance, "the Mar a Lago Affair, alleged by the January 6th House Select Committee, and hereafter today, is referred to by us as alleged without saying so every time."


The Media

30 March 2023

Queens Man Indicted
~400 words

The Queens Daily Eagle ran the exact words of the title to this essay as their late in the day headline. Ryan Schwach and his editor should get a Pulizer Prize for this bit of American perspective on the day. Several people on television this evening said that America has just passed not unexpectedly into a new era, because until this afternoon it could be reasonably said that America treats its presidents like kings, even though George Washington supposedly set the tradition that they should be mere citizen presidents. That change is g n strange ways. Some will act out.

The commentary from my favorite sources has been uniformly guarded, and I am hoping that the media will realize that their role in the country's pursuit of justice has just turned a corner. There are more corners to come presumably, but it is time for the media to stop trivializing the Mahattan case and metabolize the idea that the other corners might not or probably would not have happened had he had not paid hush-money to two women just before the 2016 election. If the Queens man did not win the electoral college vote he could not have done all he did, including instigate the January 6th Insurrection, fail, then cart off to Mar-a-Lago hundreds of documents belonging to the people's government, including over a hundred highly classified documents, putting at risk our national security.

Rachel Maddow said that the whole thing will be basically boring for a long time, basically because the trial itself will probably not take place until mid-2024, there being all the Constitutional protections of accused persons to observe and doubtless seen and unforeseen incidents along the way. The first of these was unforeseen and given to us by Governor DiSantis, who said he would not cooperate in any extradition processes for the indicted man from Queens.

DiSantis's dog whistle to the far right crazy Base was really stupid. It whistled the awaited-for call to arms, which is on the internet already under the single word at (just guessing at the URL) as "Accellerate." We were told that single word means to the Base "guns free, find a target, and go for it as individuals," sort of like the guy who took his nail gun to an FBI office in Ohio after the execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. It is a call to a domestic insurgency. It is going to cost us dearly.

"Perilous era" will be the understatement for the next two years and more, thanks to Florida's current governor and hundreds of people like and worse than him.


The Media

3 March 2023

Fact and Evidence and Trust
~1200 words

In Metaphysics, last time, I wrote about Truth and Lies and ended, perha Se Seps strangely, with the comment that we know almost nothing for dead sure. This basic epistemological situation should be daunting to everyone, but we do not have that kind of "humility" in a scrappy world of whales eating 5,000 gallons of sardines at a single gulp, or one's own life plans going south for lack of vigilance.

On Wednesday, March 1st, on MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, guest Neil Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General for the United States, while in a discussion of why it was that the FBI had been dragging its feet on the Mar-a-Lago Classified Documents Case, responded startlingly to Lawrence and the other guest Andrew Weissmann, former chief of the Criminal Fraud Section of DoJ, former leading member of the Robert Mueller Probe into the Russian Investigation of President Trump, and now member of the Law faculty at NYU. Katyal said their were three main reasons why the FBI was dragging its feet, and prefaced the first of these with "I will start with the nefarious." After explaining each, he then concluded that all three were true. The first one was: "... there are MAGA Republicans in the FBI, agents who favor Trump."

I almost fell out of my chair. Why? Because I trust that Neil Katyal knows what he is talking about and knows better than 99.8% of all humanity when to say something and when not to. And so, the lesson for today is that it is a fact he made the statement, but the statement is an opinion—so far—not a fact. But, it is a theoretically provable opinion, but unlikely to ever get that far, although we may get corroborating opinions which pile up in our own minds as, well, "nearly facts," but they are not. Needless to say, many of us have wondered why it has taken so long for anyone with credentials and opportunity to say this.

So maybe I should have put BIAS in the title of this essay. Clearly, I was ready to hear him say that. O'Donnell seemed to miss it. Clearly Fox News has been biased in favor of Trump, even though since the election of 2020 many of Fox's important (most important) people have thought Trump to be dishonest and unworthy of the support they had been giving him.

Evidence, I mentioned in the previous essay of February 28th, is the way to understand what is factual and what is not, even though, as I hopefully have shown that humans cannot know anything completely. They sure can know things "in every cell of their bodies" and beyond their personal shadows of doubt. Evidence is stuff we observe and relate to a question we have. Barack Obama's birth certificate can be taken as a fact of his birth in Hawai'i. There are lots who think Hawai'ian officials were paid to make up that certificate, which was certainly possible and unlikely, but none of them have offered any evidence for that assertion. So it stands! Assertions are not evidence, even those delivered eloquently. They may not even be opinions, but merely ways of stimulating that doubt beyond the shadows of which we like to be.

The law as it is practiced in the US depends on a corpus delicti, literally a body (bunch of) evidence, one part of which is called the mens rea, or the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing, as distinguished from the action or conduct of the accused. Okay, now you see that the law can read minds! No it cannot, but it can assemble evidence that contributes to a reasonable conclusion that the accused intended a crime, knowing that the conduct is against the law. This example, at the heart of law, is the paradigm of our willingness to accept a human (or a jury's) conclusion substantiated by evidence and based on reasonable people's understanding of how people make decisions about what they will do in some future. It is not scientific, per se, but we are getting closer to that level of certainty.

Facts are things that approach self-evidence or meet the terms of a definition, in other words, that one does not have to deliberate to conclude that oranges are orange. Yes color-blind people may not see the orange color as the majority sees it, but many are able to connect whatever they "see" to the word "orange." The facts of the 2020 election are that Joe Biden got 81,283,501 certified votes and Donald Trump got 74,224,975 certified votes. The numbers are not etched in granite, but at some point a duly authorized person "certifies" a number. They may, if allowed by the rules in that state, amend the certified number and that means facts have time stamps on them. Yes, that orange was orange when I bought it, but it was rotten brown by the time I went to eat it.

It is a fact that Trump got more votes than any other Republican presidential candidate ever got. This is a fact established by looking up the last-certified vote tallies and doing the arithmetic. The fact also is that Trump lost the election by over 7 million (7,000,000) votes.

What I am saying is that although there is a minute fuzziness about everything we know, we know some things well enough to base our own conduct and the conduct of the state on them. The alarm goes off on Monday morning at 6:30 or at least that is what it was set for and the clock is very close to accurate, so we hit the snooze button once. You set the alarm because you know you have to be at school or work or breakfast with the guys. There are facts littered all over the place, and what we do is confirm that there was not a power outage overnight by checking at least one other source of information, the window. It looks like 6:40 out there, you notice your watch says "Mo" and soon the whole scene lights up in your head that you have begun the opening conduct of a planned event in your life. Some of it is still in the future, so it cannot be factual yet, but it's a premeditated plan, which as time and action take place becomes factual.

Assertions and lies are different categories of statements. Scientific theories are assertions predicated on known and regular observations. Common assertions have an unknown truth value until we or with others we test them with observations of things and events which have a known value. They can be outright lies, or they may contain a grain or glimmer of truth, but do not actually or logically associate that grain or glimmer with the point of their statement. So, we trust what they say or we distrust what they say, depending on whether we are a member of the silo where they may have been asserted or not. Remember, silos are containers for one thing, corn, wheat, Christianity, apartheid, justice, revenge, and so on.

Everyone has a few silos. It helps to keep track of the world and universe, but it is irresponsible for people to live in a silo because it feels good and warms your heart. Your heart is a pump, not a thinking apparatus.


The Media

14 January 2023

Suicide Pact
~900 words

I wrote at the end of my last essay in the Government folder that "... the policy of the Jim Jordans and Kevin McCarthys and scores and scores of others, say 175 in the House alone, is to disrupt and compromise as many Democraticoor or people and programs as possible." I did not say why they have this policy, but the "how" of it is that they have a slim majority right now and any majority gives them control, so they now run the US House of Representatives with all its "oversight of government" prerogatives. During these two years, as long as their majority holds, they cannot pass legislation that will become law, because the Senate will not bring it to their floor, and if they didnesident Biden would veto anything that would harm the nation.

So the reason the Jims and Kevins and all the others have this policy is because they now hate Democrats that a few years ago they only disliked and then despised, and this is because Democrats represent national policies promoting a multi-cultural and multi-racial nation, a culture of acceptance and respectful tolerance of differences like the hijab or diet and differences of color and national origin. Since the GOP has always been the other way, the White Christian way, by promoting white estabishment policies and power retention goals. When they absorbed the Dixiecrats, when Ron Reagan arrived in the wake of Lyndon Johnson's Civil Rights Act, the new Republican party now included: red-necks, ignorance, violence, and intolerance, people who had been submerged and held back by the weight of their slightly more savvy politicians, of whom, it must be said, many saw the handwriting on the wall and gave up their "Lost Cause." But, some did not, the ones we are dealing with now!

So, the contemporary issues for the GOP are how to make up for the lack of a voting majority in the American electorate overall until they can convince Americans that their ideal of a White Christian America is the only viable one (which is so unlikely that one wonders how they could hold out that hope) ... or when they can suppress enough minority Democratic voters to "level" the playing field with the scalpel of voter suppression laws. Obviously, immigration law is central to the struggle between the outward-looking Democrats and the usually isolationist Republicans. Immigrants, "...your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore ... homeless, tempest-tossed" usually become Democrats immediately, for the very reason that Democrats have not forgotten the experience, nor, especially, have they forgotten the basic tenets of their ethics or their religions! That is the problem in a nut shell.

The GOP Jim Jordons and Kevin McCarthys and the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House this time are hiding and posturing in the historical safety of the Constitutional Order, the bipartisan tolerance politicians have had for most of our recent history, encompassing First Amendment rights for discussion of divergent ideas. The Jordons and McCarthys more and more often see how hopeless it is to bring along the American majority, so they threaten to burn our Constitutional Order to the ground, and they are doing so right in our faces, protected by Our First Amendment. And why would they burn it down? They do not want what we have now, which is the first and most successful multi-cultural, multi-racial democracy in the world. They want to rule as White Men over whomever lives here and tolerates that rule or succumbs to it.

We know all of this, but what we do not know is how much of their hatred we can tolerate. The Constitution of the United States and the Rule of Law encompassed within it is not a suicide pact. We do not have to tolerate a conflagration that destroys centuries of pains-taking work to create and from which we hope to achieve a more perfect union. We do not have to just sit back and watch them destroy what they hate with all their hearts—a nation that can elect a Black man President and have him and his administration rescue their sorry asses from their own greed and arrogance, doing so even at the inconvenience and expense of the majority of people in order to preserve the world economy! They hate all that. It undermines everything they believe is true and right. They are sick puppies grown into snarling Weimaraners.

The reason this essay is where you found it, in The Media section, is that of all our institutions the media have the wherewithal with which to call spades spades and to quash the ugly lies and violence these mobsters are willing and desperate enough to tell and take. Rupert Murdock has exploited his propaganda outlets exuberantly, incessantly, spreading lies and treason among willing members of our society. I am not suggesting we go there, but we can demand that our authentic news media, advertising agencies, movie moguls and actors, even stand-up commedians, reject anything and everything that plays to Jim's and Kevin's ideas of how things should be. The vast majority of Americans know that it may take a full generation to subdue these treasonous men and women. So be it! We will not commit suicide by imagining them to be a harmless kabuki. They are the most potent clear and present danger to our nation since the Civil War. And, indeed, if they feel they have to, they will provide us with another.


The Media

24 December 22

~1000 words

I have been thinking about this for a very long time. Speech is a vital part of our society and civilization. Free speech is the ideal, even in the midst of persons and groups who want less of it or use it to deceive, to bully, and to preen, sometimes all three at once. Speech is also the act of conveying a thought done with oratory, style, humor, irony, or stumbling for lack of practice, of self-assurance, or ill health, or because of neurological conditions that create thought processing problems and speech impediments.

Epistemology is one of four departments of philosophy: logic, aesthetics / axiology, metaphysics, and epistemology, the last of which considers how we know—how we acquire knowledge. Speech is the linguistic practice of telling people what we want them to know or believe. Rarely is what we say the complete fund of our knowledge, so for instance, "that apple is red" is point blank a statement of fact, except that we know about color-blindness, so the statement is actually "I believe I am not color-blind and therefore perceive the color of that apple very much the way I perceive the color of the top and bottom stripes on the American flag, red, as most people seem to, and as perscribed in the law concerning the design of the flag."

Clearly, that sort of statement is tedious and usually unnecessary because most adults are assumed to know that speech is limited to evoking ideas in other minds by uttering word-sounds, which have agreed-upon meanings. We all know there is much more known about and associated with those meanings. Hearing speech we tacitly dismiss as not yet relevant all the miscellaneous exceptions and presumptions held in the conscious and unconscious mind of speaker and listener. There's enough ambiguity that language has evolved grammars and rhetorical rules that help to limit many kinds of ambiguity.

Some speakers say a carefully chosen word mainly to evoke its associations. "It will be wild," evokes the associations of "wild," such as "red in tooth and claw," that listeners will understand the intended meaning—a fight to the death or nearly, perhaps.

Speech is not only the words used, but also the quality of the sound, the tone and overtones, the pace, together with the affect displayed while vocalizing, such as gesticulating, moving about, meeting the eyes of the audience or not, changing one's facial expression as an affect to indicate a search for the best or most correct words and ideas, to indicate mood or plausability.

Great orators have different styles, so one like Winston Churchill rumbles about, exuding veiled references to the complications of life, his particularly, and then puts out the memorable words we remembered for years. Or Mark Anthony, as Shakespeare imagines him, ingratiates himself with the audience by alluding to what everyone might suspect of yon Cassius, lean and hungry, who's made the mistake of taking the first speech opportunity. Or Volodymyr Zelenskiy, presenting himself as a soldier in the war against his country in army green, speaking in English with a slavic twang and some difficulty, but trivial to the war in which he is engaged, and relying on the logic of emotions to reach his most memorable words to the US Congress: "your money is not charity, it is an investment," which is so true and equally apt.

There are people who speak very fast. It is interesting for what it accomplishes for the speaker and the audience and how it also fails. Having said this, it is important to note that the vast majority seem to understand that speaking very fast risks the audience mishearing and misunderstanding, but also in the culture establishes the negative valence of the slick, glib salesman. On "balance" it may recall rap, the cascades of words meant to create a tapestry and disguise the arhythmias and profanity.

You might find fast-speakers doing so to impress you with the amount of ideas in their heads. It seems to be a habit, but it also may be a way to dispense, ad hoc, with the maxim of choosing one's words carefully, thus projecting disrepect for, fear of, or other propositional attitudes and postures about the subject or the audience or, even, about the speaker's own inadequate competence.

It may also be the way that a person "realizes" what they know, lacking the time or discipline or neurological mechanism for an inner dialogue and organization about the subject. Most people pace things so they can "choose carefully" or "remember accurately" and to give their audience the time to, if not savor their words, to understand and consider them, such why this word and not that one.

Fastspeech is more popular now than the 20th century. As a cultural artifact it may be related to the welter of information delivered to a rapidly expanding population, ideas penetrating brains, from radio, television, social media, and the internet. It may be, then, that speech speed reduces one's responsibility for veracity, and gives rise to or echos the disconcerting uncertainties and ambiguities inherent to the realization that relativism is all we get for guidance. Thus massive fictions and outright lying becomes the distillate of relativism for politics and commerce. Fastspeech is an epiphenomenon of our epistemological quandary.

Do not despair. Relativism is not new and it is not inherently dangerous. We are used to different neighborhoods in our towns and cities. They all have both unique and similar characteristics and we quickly learn how to accommodate ourselves to them. We have hundreds of religions, hundreds of different political entities called countries, states, counties, marches, oblasts, and so forth. Each has a "standing" that by having it establishes the relativism. The same goes for worldviews: first, we react to different ones, but we usually find commonalities and reasons for the differences. Eventually, we learn to take a breath.

Merry Christmas and Best Season's Greetings to everyone!


Index: Media

19 November 22

"History: the Later Drafts"
~1150 words

The Press, Fourth Estate, the Media are the traditional authors of the first draft of history. The second and later drafts of history are usually done by essayists and historian monographs and books and sometimes in other media, like Shakespeare's plays. Lately, though, the media have taken up the cudgel for accuracy in history. The media usually gets a pass on getting it all and getting it absolutely correctly, because they have limited information collection resources and cannot cover everything, and because they are in competition with other parts of the media for getting the word out fast. They walk a deceptively difficult road. But, lately we are—finally—getting the media's news about iticians meddling with history.

First, let me say that meddling with history is one of the oldest sports invented by civilized and barely civilized human beings. I think it is important to listen to these games and discern when the establishment is being contrarian rather than simply "disciplined." There is a Netflix series called "Ancient Apocalypse" in which the author/journalist, Graham Hancock, offers us the tools of imagination to see a revised ancient history of our species. He is forthright about his own distaste for the practicing, professional archeologists and their methods, and he slants his view of evidence with thumb to nose and an overt, dare-me attitude about their conservatism and lack of imagination. This IS grievance argumentation, of course, but it is compelling ... just for that reason.

I am reminded of the calumny heaped on Alfred Wegener who proposed the idea that continents moved and some once fit nicely together. He died before the International Geophysical Year explorations of the Atlantic seabed revealed the efficient mechanism powering continental drift, which has become plate tectonics, that process every bright schoolchild knows. This example does not excuse Hancock's vitriol, but neither does it excuse the establishment's behaviors and emotional counter-attacks. Anthropology is full of theorizing about local civilizations based on very fragmentary evidence. The nature of evidence is a central issue, and it is embedded in human failings about large numbers and processes of the planet.

As an historian it is easy for me to scoff, but it is also my experience that the history we have beginning with Gilgamesh and Homer is terribly inadequate. If more or less modern human beings could be differentiated from whatever it was that they evolved from 300,000 to 200,000 years ago, and history begins 8,000 years ago, did we just hunt and gather for 192,000 years? Since I started watching the series I have been wondering whose dogs are in this fight, since we know that ideologies and religions and commercial schemes all have influence, if not paid writers in the game.

Universities are or were once created by religions and most have gone through various ablutions and catharses. The public universities like Virginia and the University of California bear the imprint of the mainly Christian context in which they evolved, but are not really suspected of meddling with the facts of history or physics or medieval literature—except as individual teachers might. Or as the Rector, Chairperson of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, declared one day in the midst of an public discussion (argument) about the place of Jefferson's statue on the Grounds:

“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” UVA Rector Whittington Clement said in remarks at the Board of Visitors meeting. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President Ryan or his team.”

I objected online to the imperious decision Clement made for me, for President Jim Ryan's team, and the students of this otherwise very fine institution. The declaration is not what it first appears to be — political blather about comfortable traditions—or even, about the respect we have for the slave-owning scribe of the Declaration of Independence, the 3rd President of the fledgling USA, or the framer of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. I cannot honor his "legacy" as "an indelible part of what it means to live, learn, and work here ...." I believe no one should honor this legacy of a man who would not declare his own child —by his concubine slave, Sally Hemings, the half-sister of his late wife— to be as free as himself. How interesting it has been, the interference in this small thread of Virginia's and America's history.

The present Governor of Virginia and that of Florida are active now to re-form the public schools—of which the University of Virginia is one—to mold the history of the United States as a predominantly Christian, European-sort of culture. It once was, now it is not, but thousands of Virginians and Floridians want it to be, regardless of the fact that huge populations of non-Christians and non-Europeans are already in this country, induced or allowed to study here or immigrate here as workers, but who have become business people, lawyers, physicians, professors, Congresspersons and one of their kids became President even! We are now, because of important moral decisions and good laws governing immigration, a multi-cultural democracy. There is no going back.

I am convinced that the White Supremacy culture people are playing a losing hand, but the point is that that they will create intolerable harm to those whom they believe are inferior and certainly not the kind of people with whom they wish to share this land. Pick cotton, beans, grapes, and work in factories—those they have not sent abroad—is the sufferance the White Supremacists give immigrants, including half of my family tree. I am a survivor of this sort of thing, having gone to public schools in Arlington, VA, from 1947 to 1958, then UVA. My eleventh grade history teacher was for all appearances and for everything that came out of her Danville-Virginia mouth a Janie Reb, a femme Klan person, and she taught the class that slavery was good for them. She was awful and she got away with it, and why? Because the Arlington County (third smallest county in America) School Board were morons from the same moral place.

And, so now, I have mentioned the object of this essay. It is for everyone to keep an eye on the local school board wherever you are, and while you are on it, keep your eye on the media and demand that they keep their eyes and their voices on the school boards that are "guiding" what part of actual history gets taught. Go to their meetings, speak up, let them know that grifting our history is not okay, in fact it is vicious. So, yes, history—as we write and teach it— is the DNA of civilization and cultures and eventually turns into Reality itself.


Category: The Media

7 September 22

"The Media: First Draft"
~700 words

On August 27th I wrote about the problem with Deference. Today on "Deadline White House" on MSNBC, Nicolle finally committed part of a discussion to the unreal defere DJT is getting from the press, the media, the cable news outlets, and from DoJ. But, finally, former CIA Director Brennen did take up the notion that underlings in the White House were derelict in their duties as custodians of highly classified materiel. Yes, of course, we all understand that when the boss says, "I am keeping this piece," that means he is going to fire you, if you resist. Brennen and Nicolle Wallace both noticl that former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows was ruminating in the center of this situation.

"Need to Know" is the centerpiece of US classified materiel protocols. Mere Confidential information is difficult to withhold from those with clearance for Confidential on the basis of "need to know." Secret is much easier to withhold. Top Secret is automatically withheld until the NEED is demonstrated, but even the Compartmentalized Security Information, was not withheld from the former President, who gave every indication that he was conducting business inside countries we do not normally refer to as close allies, who was demonstrably cavalier about intelligence information, and who had no need to know ANY (Brennen, Litman, Wallace, Sue Gordon) of the the information he stole from the government at the end of January 2021.

It is often said that journalism produces the first draft of history ... itself. Well, as an historian, it seems obvious to me that without journalists historians would have a much more difficult time of it. Still, journalist do not have an easy time of it either, because every one knows a jounalist's time frame is short and that they will be back begging for answers to questions posed them by editors and, mostly, from their own intuitions. In the last 30 days, mostly the last two weeks, there has been a fairly subtle change in journalism. Nicolle mentioned it to Jackie Alemany as an "aside" inside a remote conversation about Alemany's reportage of the Mara Lago disaster. I am going to paraphrase: "... words we are not yet using ...."

There are many of us who, having been "there," know that if we had done what DJT has done we would have been in handcuffs immediately, but because of Deference, DJT is not. What the press writers and speakers know is that the public—all 260 million adults of our 330 millions—understands very little about the grave dangers to the Republic caused by DJT's theft and probable abuse of highly classified materiel. What the executives behind the writers and speakers are doing, though, is trying to find a way of presenting the first draft of history without losing unnecessary customers for their papers and networks. I suspect that hosts like Nicolle Wallace and Ari Melber and Joy Reid and Chris Hayes, and Alex Wagner and Lawrence O'Donnell and Stephanie Ruhle were all told to calm it down on how bad the Republicans are. Biden has given them permission, though, to say "MAGA Crowd" to the effect they sought in their programs.
N.B. (Alex: stop yelling! Sound crew: you are responsible for the clatter in her voice. Fix it!) (Stephanie: hang in there! The misogynists of the world are numerous, but flaccid.) (Yeah, I know I left out Rachel. I read she's going to run for elective office.)

We all know that executives try to sculpt the news and its analysis. MSNBC may have reached the same decision as did the execs at CNN: "move to the right." For CNN this is turning out to be a not very smart and not very slow suicide. For MSNBC it is the sort of thing that makes an adept public speaker like Nicolle or Lawrence stutter and squirm to resist pulling that fucking plug out of their ear. So, we consumers of the news analysis programs are faced now with monitization of the deference to DJT, and where I live that's called un-American.

The handcuffs belong on Donald John Trump—and the sooner the better—if Merrick Garland can read through the bullshit being troweled over the facts and insights of the experts and get on with it! They do not belong on that long list of very competent media journalists given above. And, by God!, they do not belong on We the People!


also in: The Media


12 July 22

Hearing #7:
The Mob

~900 words — revised

Today's Hearing by the House Select Committee on the Events of January 6th, 2021, was a series of suspicions confirmed, or at least the dotted lines resolved somewhat. The gist of the testimony was that former President Trump knew full well that the 2020 Election was free and fair and that he had lost and that there was no appreciable voter fraud. The Hearing was about Trump, seeing one strategy after another fail or about to fail, and how at the last he turned to the mob and to violence, desperate to save his power.

Television is full of analyses today, so I think that a broader picture than what they are assembling is in order. Of course professional news people concentrate on what happened today, but what Katie Tur on MSNBC'S Deadline White House said to Nicolle Wallace about the long run-up to the Election of 2020, which she reported from the campaigns, got lost in the day's testimony. Her point was that Trump has been tilling the fake news soil for years, beginning just as his win in 2016 boosted him into the White House. It was aimed at the 2020 Election and any opportunity to make a buck from anyone, but particularly his Base. The day after the 2016 Election, the opportunities surrounding Trump, as he saw them, became radically different. He was now going to be President, the "most powerful person in the world" suddenly ... probably unexpectedly, but still ....

Trump operates as a mob boss. There should be a team of RICO attorneys working on the forthcoming trial, I think. What is amazing and deceptive about Trump is the many layers of strategy he had to have in mind to get to the point of attacking the Capitol building on January 6th. In fact, though, the testimony tells us that the specifics of each layer were very vague until circumstances demanded that they ripen into actual plans. The hangers-on and toadies were full of ideas, and he listened intently. There was a mob-boss stratagem under it all — take full advantage of every situation! He knew something about human nature, namely that it was very much less than the ideal, and in particular, people are gullible, especially if they see even a glimmering of advantage to themselves.

You have to ask yourself why Trump began his attacks on the press/media so early. He knew as soon as he won in 2016 that his life had changed and that he could, if he played the cards right, he could become something bigger than anyone imagined. He manipulated people like Lindsey Graham into seeing him as their golden goose. With all that presidential power, it is an easy sale. Trump knew from his life in NYC that the press cannot be seduced so easily, so the alternative is to neuter them. Doing that also works for him by bringing his strong suit into play — telling huge lies, but also doing it in a disarmingly public way.

So, layers of imaginings, thoughts about historical leaders, they all bubbled up when he won 2016. He gave himself personal permission to dream about it, and the dream was to have eight straight years in which to solidify himself in power — as he had done once within his family, and done several times in real estate deals. He looked for insights and opportunities and the world was gracious about it. He probed sources slowly about the Constitution, about which he knew next to nothng, asking questions of staffers and appointees seemingly innocent questions about "what if's" and "why does ..." and he slowly assembled an idea that he could win 2020, despite some really bad situations, like being impeached for shaking down the President of Ukraine. That he was not convicted in the Senate gave him a boost with the Base.

But he lost in 2020 and rocked back on his heels. His seemingly insecure rhetoric that "if he lost, it had to be rigged" was essential content for his own fake news. It was what he had committed to most. Automatically, the big lie: "the Election was stolen," was his new mantra. So we now know he had this plan all along. It was not a genius plan, but it worked — and right there in public. The audience was ready for it. The idea of such a brazen declaration appealed to some of his close associates and other people he knew and some he found along the way by listening and charming them — "stand back and stand by" — radicals, paramilitaries, groveling toadies, opportunists of all kinds. What we now know is that he had already decided to have a last chance plan to steal the election!

Fortunately for the country, Trump's advisors were a scurvy lot. Remarkably though, his mob-boss ingenuity and ready opportunism got him within inches of pulling it off. Had Pence capitulated to Trump's harangue and threats, we would no longer be living in a constitutional republic. It is easy to say that were Trump smarter, he would have won. I think though, if the media and people in Washington had been smarter, he neven could have gotten as far as he did.

It is up to Merrick Garland now. Our Attorney General needs to see his way to an indictment and conviction, or face accusations of dereliction of duty ... too!


Archived at: Media

6 July 22

Russia, Putin, 2nd Amendment
~750 words

Sophie Pinkham's "A Hotter Russia" in the New York Review of Books, June 23, 2022, is about Klimat and the changes expected by Russia and, on the other hand, by science. Russia, she writes, is warming 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world and the arctic even faster. Russians are hoping for clear shipping lanes over the top of Siberia, more land for planting crops in longer growing seasons. On the other hand, though, she writes

About two thirds of Russia is covered in permafrost, a mixture of sand and ice that, until recently, remained frozen year-round. As permafrost melts, walls built on it fracture, buildings sink, railways warp, roads buckle, and pipelines break. Anthrax from long-frozen reindeer corpses has thawed and infected modern herds. Sinkholes have opened in the melting ground, swallowing up whole buildings. Ice roads over frozen water, once the only way to travel in some remote regions, are available for ever-shorter periods. The Arctic coast is eroding rapidly, imperiling structures built close to the water.

In 2020 the aging, poorly maintained cement foundations of a power plant storage tank in Norilsk split, pouring 21,000 tons of diesel into local waterways and threatening to contaminate the nearby Arctic Ocean. Public outcry led to the punishment of some of those responsible for the spill, but it wasn’t enough to make the Russian government take meaningful action on the root causes of the disaster, including climate change. The authorities remained more focused on the opening of the Northern Sea Route. The Arctic was the Soviet Union’s “treasure house,” as Gustafson puts it, the source of much of its oil, gas, coal, metals, and diamond reserves, and today Russia takes the same extractive rather than conservationist approach to the region.

Russia’s forests are the largest in the world, accounting for a fifth of Earth’s trees, but they are being grievously damaged by fire, drought, and disease, all of which are caused or exacerbated by climate change. Smoke has choked Siberian cities. During the 2019 fires that burned about 10,000 square miles of forest in Siberia, the Internet lit up with protest, and Russian singers and actors took part in a flash mob called “Siberia Is Burning.” President Putin sent in military units to help extinguish the fire, but he was soon rescued by rain. The problem was forgotten. As burning, dying, clear-cut forests become carbon producers rather than carbon sinks, they make the problem of climate change even worse. The same is true of melting permafrost, which releases methane, another potent greenhouse gas.

Obviously a country covering one sixth of the world's surface is not to be ignored. Russia needs help and its current president is very unlikely to ask for it. (And we might not be disposed to, given the war in Ukraine.)

Julia Ioffe, of Puck news and analysis, writes About a Boy: The Roots of Putin's Evil," a depressing story of a a post-WWII family engulfed in and surrounded by PTSD in a country where "... in the years after the war, over a third of Soviet babies were born out of wedlock...," with the attendant poor parenting you can easily imagine. Young Vlad Putin was a brawler, constantly in trouble with authorities, "a C student ... not allowed to join the young Communist Pioneers ... in fifth grade," which was almost unheard of. He was he said: "I was a hooligan ... a punk."

He still is, of course, but he is the top hooligan in Russia lo these last 22 years, with thousands of nuclear weapons. This intelligence about Putin bears very heavily on NATO's understandings of what he is capable.

Jim Brett, yours truly, apropos of depressing realizations, needs to say one thing about the tight chain of mass murders going on in the United States. I have written several times before that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution was put into the Bill of Rights to satisfy or slake the apprehensions of many in the thirteen states whose principal anxiety was the power of the new federal government. It was allowed because there were other threats as well, angry natives, troubling European interests, and of course angry slaves. What is bothering me these days of mass murder is the media not mentioning that it is the creed of millions of Americans that the 2nd Amendment is tacit permission to rebel against an overweaning central government, a rebellion that could only be successful if the rebels have thousands and thousands of AK-tyoe "Kalashnikov" style weapons, the very ones that murder innocents at the grocery store, their classrooms, and at their Independence Day parades. Media! Let's put that on the table before the American public. Please!


archived at: Russia & China, Media

14 June 22

Leading the Times?
~ 800 words

The Washington Post today has an article by Jeremy Barr about the transfer of power at The New York Times "on Tuesday" (presumably today). The new Executive Editor at the times is a 57 year old named Joe Kahn, selected from among several "ready" for the job at the newspaper by A. G. Sulzberger, Chairman of the New York Times Company and the Publisher. Kahn replaces the 65 y.o., "legendary" Dean Baquet. From Barr's reporting the two men could not be more different in personality, but he says in the title of his report for us not to expect a revolution—at the Times.

In the midst of Barr's essay is a comment that Mr. Kahn's comments on a podcast by the Colombia Journalism Review drew fire from the Twitternet a little over a month and a half ago in April. (The link to this very unsettling discussion is in Barr's article, above, and I have copied out a portion to show what the furor is about.) It is about journalism and democracy! And, Kahn comes down on the side of journalism as a business.

Kyle Pope, for the Columbia Journalism Review, refers to a Tweet in which a woman talked about "... the need for a massive reset of how we cover what's happening in the country ... acknowledging this democracy-at-risk question and whether institutions like the Times are adequately responding." Here is the opinion of today's new Executive Editor:

Kahn: I think it’s a big chunk of my time. I do. I think it’s—you know, we have to try to hold two slightly contradictory thoughts in our mind at the same time. One is, as Dean said, there really are genuine threats to democracy in this country and in other countries. There are influential figures in this society who would be eager to fatally undermine democratic institutions, and even the legitimacy of the vote, in order to hold on to power. Right? It’s just true. It’s a reality, and we have to cover that really aggressively.

At the same time, I think we also have to keep in mind that politics hasn’t died. It’s still alive. There is still politics in the country. The Republicans did not win the governorship of Virginia because they killed democracy in Virginia. They won the governorship of Virginia because they outpoliticked the Democrats, right? We do not think the Republicans are going to do really well in the midterm elections because they’ve somehow successfully gamed and undermined the voting system in the United States. [emphasis added] There’s a legitimate argument that, over the decades, there’s been a withering of the integrity of the vote, through gerrymandering for example, and we cover that aggressively. The Democrats do some of it. The Republicans in more states have done more of it, right? That, I think, is factual.

But the idea that the only thing the New York Times should cover—at the expense of the politics that are motivating voters around the country—is the threat to undermine the democratic system, and that therefore everything on—if you’re a Democrat—the other side of the fence, the Republican side of the fence, is nothing but a threat to democracy, is the formula to not having any more independent journalism in the United States. I honestly think that if we become a partisan organization exclusively focused on threats to democracy, and we give up our coverage of the issues, the social, political, and cultural divides that are animating participation in politics in America, we will lose the battle to be independent.

At the same time, if we don’t put some of our best reporters on really looking hard at the attempts to fatally undermine the integrity of the vote and the institutions that protect democracy in this country, we’re not doing our job as a leading news organization.

Those are slightly contradictory thoughts, and we have to motivate a staff to be able to do both of those things.

Those are indeed contradictory thoughts and the contradiction is of the utmost importance!

As "critical thinking" goes, (which I taught at the upper-division level at the university where I also taught Russian History and managed research support to the faculty for 30 years), it is a category fault. Gaming the election system is not the same sort of thing as campaign politics rhetoric. Yes, of course, from the simplistic point of view of newpaper editors and readers they are both literally stories written by journalists, but—for God's Sake!—it is content we are interest in not the prosaic form. From the point of view of citizens trying to "keep their republic" the one is a traitorous crime and the other mere banality.

The mentality of the new Executive Editor is very much in question. Let us hope that he works out this problem of walking while chewing gum as soon as possible, or that Mr. Sulzberger will make this an interim appointment. Please!


archived at: The Media

20 April 22

Is Censorship Obvious?
~800 barely censored words

Stimulated by an article in The New York Review of Books of April 7, 2022, by Ariel Dorfman, "The Futility of Censorship," I understood immediately what the point of the piece might be. My own thoughts are taken up with Putin's hold on the imaginations of the Russians, and yet here at home the hold Donald Trump & Co. have on millions of imaginations in the absence of countervailing censorship. I have been wondering a lot about whether Russians can see through the fog of lies and notice that not only are certain possibly more-truthful commentaries about reality now missing entirely, but also that a lot of west European and North American businesses are no longer there.

How can it be that intelligent people do not—or choose not—to fully and carefully and habitually evaluate and appreciate the fields of human discourse on which they work and play?

I wonder what the counterpart is for the Trumpists, since it is not vicious censorship. There is a factor at play that for some reason we largely miss in this discussion, which acts like censorship. Is it self-censorship?

Of course, to be honest about it, we in the US have various kinds of censorship playing out in every television program and every newscast, even in our porn, I am told. Why we deliberately censor the "pubic hair" of reality is a long story, which I am going to summarize as follows:

the point of censoring discourse—including commercial advertizements, childrens stories, the evening news from what used to be the "big three," and even to some extent in movies and novels,— is to avoid riling up, embarrassing, challenging, or leading astray people whose attention and comfortable agreement is wanted. Censorship is the suppression device of thought exchange.

Social taboos are rarely called out by their names. Political ideological divergence is, until recently, downplayed to make it easier to hope for agreements and to avoid questioning the efficacy of the status quo, the mechanisms of political activity. Religious ideas are left aside, unargued, somewhat patronizingly, to comfort those who need that comfort.

The religious realm is where censorship has been in action for a long, long time. Ariel Dorfman mentions ancient Greeks like Protagorus who wrote that the gods were not real. Clearly, those with a stake in the god-given status quo could not abide such heresy. For my own part, I did not think to question my Episcopalian universe until I understood that respectable grown-ups had done and were currenty doing so. In that sense, the general censorship about questioning authority, specifically eclesiastical authority, was not obvious, in the the sense of answering the title of this essay. I suspect that the less sophisticated minds in Russia are accepting Putin's view of the world in a similar way, that is, without much from accepted authoritative sources to compare it to. So "authoritative" and "authorities" themselves are parts of the ill-discussed factor inhabiting the world of censorship.

Adherents to one idea will not easily reliquish their adherence to that idea, and will reject out of hand the challenging idea until the emotional bonds to the original idea are broken or severely damaged. "Authority" is a key concept. As a thirteen year old, the American Flag Barer in the procession and recession rituals of my church, I put my trust in the vicar without seeing the vicariousness of the relationship to God. When the priest turns out to be just another vendor in the marketplace of ideas, authority is gone, and so eventually is the religion1. For the Russians to overthrow the Orthodox clergy for their human iniquities is too heavy a burdens. For the Trumpists to see that the "base-everyman realism" of Trump is an outrageous, cynical con, threatens their own self-confidence in being able to take the measure of another human being, that is, their own position in the polity, which was in doubt anyway, given the evolution of national demographics.

So, we cling to ideas for our "own" reasons and do not resist the imposition of that censorship, which shelters us from antithetical ideas. Censorship is not exactly "futile" as Dorfman hopes, because it can have century's and even millennia-long effects. Censorship is also not exactly "obvious," because censorship plays to our need to protect ideas to which we hold and mold ourselves.

1 — I understand that many people within a religion hold to the artifacts of the faith as a common and, therefore, reassuring stablity, so that they can enjoy the companionship of their fellow human beings in the repose offered in the "shelter"2 of the edifice. I am speaking only about religous organizations, not the spirituality that infuses faith with personal authenticity.

2 — "Shelter" means the deliberate, accepted, pervading censorship from extraneous or competing views.


(Society, The Media)


General Complaints

In a world where nearly everything has been knocked askew to some extent by the Covid-19 pandemic, by the Trump presidency, lawlessness, and aftermath, by the 2008 Great American-Generated World-wide Recession, its causes and effects, the failure to prosecute the rich perps in banking and finance, and the concommitant failure to even acknowledge the huge insult to the economies of the poor and middle classes, and most of all—the living and looming catastrophic global climate change and a billion lies told to protect the financial interests of those causing it, ... there are a few smaller things I think need attention, fixing, amending, and perhaps goosing the perps!

First on my list is President Joe Biden's stubborn (arrogant and stupid) refusal to add four new justices to the United States Supreme Court. He has the opportunity now, but may not have it in a few months. The Court has been packed already with radical conservatives whose aim is to disestablish the so-called administrative state. You know, the government that provides food stamps, pandemic behavior rules and advice, civil rights enforcement, and all manner of things that seem to step on the sore toes of self-righteous, personal-liberty-grasping, conservatives seeking a return to a state of being like 1927 or so. I will not vote for Biden again, if this does not happen. I may not have the chance, since it is widely whispered that he is way too old to be President. Kamala Harris is negligent in not pushing hard on Biden to do this! I am told that she does nothing, and is not considered by people out here in the trenches as a viable candidate for VP or P in the future. She needs some dynamic speaking lessons, too.

Second, is the Vice President for Breaking News at MSNBC, (I think). The problem is that Rashida Jones, the relatively new (and hastily promoted) President of MSNBC, under the umbrella of NBC Universal, Comcast, etc. is not all that well respected in the industry, nor does she have the full confidence of the other MSNBC players, which includes Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Nicolle Wallace, and up to very recently Brian Williams. On the other hand, she is the cowgirl who needs to corral the spirited and formerly uncoordinated actors and hosts in order to take on CNN and put a dent in Fox. The Jones regime now requires the entire "family" to acknowledge that one of MSNBC's strong points is presenting Breaking News across the entire panoply of shows. To do this VP Breaking News is more than just allowed, but actually commanded to put graphics on screen that seem to explain what is being said. THIS IS THE REAL AND MAJOR PROBLEM! These inserts at the bottom the screen, remain on screen long enough for any fourth grader to have read them ten or fifty times. What is not shown enough is the name and credential of who is speaking. Of course the host needs no introduction, and neither do POTUS or VPOTUS or The Speaker of the House. But guests do need to be identified, just as if they were being quoted in a high-school or college-level term paper. The essence of truthful news and analyse is having a very good idea of the value of sources. Talking heads are sources and MUST BE identified by name and position AT LEAST 50% of the time they are on screen.

Third, Travis Stork, MD, whose Wikipedia page says he is an American television personality, author, emergency physician, and was an actor in The Bachelor. He got his MD at Virginia, where he should have learned that flogging herbs as home remedies for sleep disorders and replacement potions for medically (FDA) approved support products is essentially dishonest, particularly if he does not practice medicine in the areas he flogs. He should have become an obstetrician with a name like that, obviously. The brand he flogs buys too many commercials for back to back or back, hop, back broadcast. I would never buy their products, mainly because they are not rated by USP and because Travis is exactly what Wikipedia says he is—an actor. He owns a set of scrubs and wears a stethoscope jauntily.

Fourth and last for today, is the notion in American broadcast and cable network television that the audience has one way of expressing its like/dislike of, respect/disrespect for, gratitude for/disapproval of news or even entertainment programs. These are not canned soup, bread, automobiles, or any other kind of thing we buy or do not buy. In fact, we are not buying programming; we are submitting ourselves to the advertisors who support the program. There should be a way, now that we have the internet, for people to rate programs with the proviso that their own reputation for rating is accumulated and immediately available on their personal profile. Rating the news as to their respect for the truth, their respect for the intelligence of their presumed audience, and their willingness to not deliberately disguise the full truth of a subject by mischaracterization of truths by condensation, elision, body and tonal language, or any other means. Rachel Maddow in her endlessly repetitive presentations tends to insert mention of complex factual situation in abbreviated form that seems deliberately to ignore their complexity and nuance, even facts she has herself reported. She does this because she repeats herself too much too often.


(Government, The Media)

Suicide Pact: Part I
~800 words

You are sitting in the room with the television wondering why Rachel and Nicolle and others are losing their cool, their professional detachment, over what they are explaining to us is probably (not just possibly) the impending demise of democracy in our country. You ask yourself, "Do they know something I don't know?" You muse through a commercial break: "Yes, it is bad, but is it that bad? Are all the guard-rails down? Do these bright people down in their heart of hearts know that no one is going to save us?"

Your modest paranoia clicks in and you wonder. You consider the options and decide MSNBC is, yes, a corporation, so it has goals and ideals and bottom-lines and quarterly reports that must square with the edifice of corporate law and its assumptions. You scratch your head for any clue about bad behavior, and you find none. These news-opinion-analysis hosts obviously know more than they can possibly say during their one- or two-hour shows every day on MSNBC. Likewise the corporation, which provides them with air-time and studios from which to speak, has the usual legal interest to avoid lawsuits from misreporting the facts of any news story. I believe and most of you will conclude that this corporation has acquitted itself pretty well through thick and thin in the very rough century just past and this relatively new one off to its really bad start.

First, a general comment. That "antsy," uneasy, feeling between your shoulder blades is a result of the revolution in communications brought on by the vividness of television and the speed, penetration, and ubiquity of the internet and cell phone technology. Your gut tells you that things are happening at a breakneck pace all over the place and that it is a struggle to stay up to date on it all. In actual fact there really is more happening per minute in our world than things of similar consequence seventy years ago. And, it is becoming impossible for an average college graduate to cover it and understand it and explain it all. Some of those without the critical thinking experiences of college gave up years ago.

Second, the response of our federal government to all these things has been to expand the number of recepticals for incoming data, news, and issues, and to process these things using modern data-processing computers on the internet, creating an alienation of citizens and, especially, government employees from the normal human relations of government. The Congress, being composed of human beings (by and large), has yet to fully understand the huge advantage to the audience of politics on television or on the internet, except that some have a head start because they understand that the audience knows that people adept at the business of legislation are good at compromise and tactical lying. These one-step-ahead politicians have employed lying in public, on television, and in "rallies" as their open-secret weapons. The effect is to dilute straightforward truth to the point of impoverishment.

Accordingly, what we experience in our TV rooms is the awful sense that the government is becoming less and less intelligible and, more to the point, that the fundamental assumption that democracy is best even if messy is waning for lack of clear, visible proof. Is it any wonder then, that the mass of citizens have begun to give up on the idea of democratic, representative government. I wrote "begun" so I could say a moment later that it "began" long ago, and that we have been averting our eyes from the mess for at least a century, and have had one eye closed since Vietnam, and have them both tightly closed since September 11, 2001, when a huge Potemkin village in lower Manhattan was destroyed along with much that it symbolized.

One result of figuratively closing one's eyes—while stressed by the plain fact that you have been uprooted, disoriented, and become passive to endless media chatter and caterwauling— is that "figurative" is nevertheless a real event in your mind, which is closely related to the physical effect of actually closing one's eyes. What that means is that the brain and mind no longer have one of the fundamental, primary orientation systems functioning, and so critical thinking guard-rails are depleted or gone entirely. So, when a young man, Peter McIndoe, discovered that Birds Aren't Real, people began to peek out between their squinted eyelids for some confirmation of this James Bondish claim.

As it turns out, when political lying is rampant, some "birds" are not real. They, like phoenixes, arise from the ashes of truth, from the lies and arrogance of amoral people—Trumpist politicians—and they fecate the landscape with uncertainty and delusions. It really feels good to see though that, finally.


(The Media)


The Fourth Estate

The term "Fourth Estate" is attributed to Edmund Burke. So that gives you a notion that we are talking about the later years of the 18th century, just around the time of the American Revolutionary War and the years during which the US Constitution was framed. The subtle nuance of the term is that the press, and now the media, are given the same rational and abstract status as Lords, Commons, and Clergy, that is, Burke perceived them as a Power in the state, which arises naturally and which must be considered in any discussion of government or politics. We might say that the American Fourth Estate is a power in almost the same sense as the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. It is an entity dedicated in the First Amendment to the Constitution, that is, partly as a deliberate and separate "afterthought," rather than an organic part of the government designed by the Framers.

Journalism is the act of recording the salient events of the day. The record of a reporter's notes becomes a "story" in the newspaper, which is paper with what is perceived as new and interesting information printed on it. So, first, paper is not parchment or tapestry or concrete or stone. It is emphemeral, disposable, useful for the next day in many ways, but in toto the first draft of history. Second, what is news may be brand new or it may be an increment of something happening over time. It is "news" because the journalist thinks it is interesting and fits into an ongoing story. It may be that the journalist is assigned to "cover" the news in Parliament, Congress, Wall Street, or the county school system. The act of assigning journalists is to impose an owner-preferred perspective on potential or actual happenings. Every journalist knows that audience-preferred perspectives are fungible and in the long run taught. Salience is in the eye of not only of the journalist, but of the owner of the paper or the management of the media today.

Some processes and events are inherently interesting, but can be viewed in varieties of perspectives, such as skepticism, outright disbelief, favorably, detailed, or cursory, or more now than ever before to bring vital analysis to the situation as proven by past successes. Bob Woodward comes to mind. So does Benjamin Franklin. Three paragraphs ought to be enough to show that news is definitely a "story" and only an approximation of what all the event observers might testify to, which could be unanimous or very much not.

image: cartoon about trial by media Currently in America (and some other parts of the world) the media have taken on a very obvious role of conditioning the perspectives of their audience. This has always been the case, but now it seems that these "news" outlets are, for the lack of a more sedate term, brainwashing their audiences. Repetition of something is one way to impress it into a human mind ... or a dog's or horse's. Consistent denial of certain facts and data is a repetitive process. Telling people to not believe their own eyes and ears is a radical expression of denial strategy, but it works when the events of the day are not ordinary, so that the average person does not have either the experience of previous examples or personal access to current ones.

The news I watch is "taught" rather than "reported." We are given context and ramifications as seen from a particular set of points of view—in my case points of view I share: empathy, nurture, democracy, Progress, commonwealth, security, intelligence, beauty—but, for most people a point of view that reinforces their preconceived notions or lack of them, their hopes and other biases, their objectives in life as a member of a certain kind of general and then special, local society.

One of the things about contemporary Fourth Estate behavior is that electronics have made virtually every nook and cranny of our planet accessible by someone who can report something interesting that happened. For instance, the other day, we received news that five people were killed when a truck overturned in, I think, Nigeria. This garnish to our news is largely irrelevant, but lets us know that almost anything could end up in our news, that our media are that good! The other side of that coin is that owners may decide that the starvation of a million peasants in China is "unreportable." It is a big story, of course, but reporting it may lead to analysis of the causes and that would lead to embarrassments here and abroad. One consideration is whether or not the media show has enough minutes and seconds to do justice to a story like that. Today my favorite news shows exclude way too much real news to make room for "teaching" us how to understand a story they are pursuing. So, for instance, Rachel Maddow(@maddow / @MaddowBlog) uses her skills of historical analysis (Bachelor's in Public Policy from Stanford U, and MA, DPhil Political Science from Oxford U.) to show the causal sequence and random events that contribute to something very interesting to her viewers. She uses almost half of her weekday hour-long show for just one "story." Rachel also repeats herself a lot, which I have decided endears her to a broad demographic segment of her large audience. The fact that she is out of the closet is important to her gravitas: she may be presumed to have new and fresh and experienced eyes on her subjects. She says she is probably an Eisenhower Republican, i.e., a liberal. Liberals in those days were people like Adlai Stevenson, who lost to Ike twice.

I have criticized the media for applying their clocks—their pace— to the processes of Congress. They have that right, but exercising such a "power" requires that they do it so as not to become the "story," which it did and did affect governor elections in Virginia and New Jersey. This very same "story" did not include information—"teaching"—about the probable perspectives of Senators Manchen and Sinema. The situation today, with a 50-50 split between the right and left caucuses, is such that every Senator has the Senate majority in his or her hands. It is a very important part of the whole story, and we see 48 in the Democratic Caucus acting one way—as a team—and 2 acting quite differently. I think probably the media like MSNBC were afraid to tell us the truth, because it might have resulted in something for which we are not prepared.

This is an endless subject, hopefully. It is endless as long as we have a free press, free media. In actual fact we don't, but it is as close as capitalism's contemporary corporate ethos will allow it. Franklin's was very much like that too.


(The Media)


Making Sausage

Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC's mid-afternoon warm up for the 2021 election coverage "had it handed to her," gift-wrapped and delivered by a woman I know she respects deeply, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), also the leader of the Democrat's Progressive Caucus in the House. Finally after listening to endless cant, Rep. Jayapal said to Nicolle (about the many delays in the process of creating the largest, most extensive, and most urgently needed legislation ever to be considered by a political party in power by the thinnest margins imaginable), she said "I don't see it that way." What she did not see was why Nicolle and ALL her colleagues, even Lawrence O'Donnell (who should know better), have been grousing in public about the legislative process, which as everyone in the world KNOWS to be difficult to describe as breaking news, as normal news, or in front of young children. Legislation is the process of obtaining compromises wrapped in compromises and doing it partly in public, but preferably in private and away from the nattering media.

Making sausage means adding ingredients to a meaty slurry that might shock those who really never thought very clearly about the word compromise, especially compromise among hundreds of elected representatives and senators in the richest nation on earth, one that spans an entire continent and then some out into the mid-ocean Hawai'ian Islands. It all means that people of wildly different experience have to boil down all the problems they and their constituents see into not too-abstract terms, but words that carry legal meaning—because they are making laws—and then conceiving solutions, perfecting them in a context that changes with the wind, and finally getting these several hundred diverse people to agree in principle and then in fact.

But, "making sausage" has become a shibboleth for the media. They understand the so-called "noxious" parts, the use of spices to cover certain flavors and to relieve the palate, the injection of fat, yes fat, and then stuffing the casing, which is, in and of itself, not the most beautiful part of the process or the end product. The media have succumbed to their own uneasy metaphor. They have taken the posture that political compromise is inherently ugly and probably unhealthy. In fact, they have become serious hinderances to the ancient artisanal business of political compromise. They should be ashamed, especially the Progressive media. The media knows better, but as the Fourth Estate acknowledged by the Constitution, the rough and tumble, sweat and tears is what they bargained for, not to criticize irrationally and endlessly. I think the MSNBC stables are really good stock. Bright and amiable people with some legs-up on certain facets of our society and government. But, they are not infallible, and I am glad that Rep. Jayapal rose to that occasion to say so with grace!

They are not infallible. They dithered in the first months of the Trump administration, seemingly unable to keep the outrages in mind when reporting the next outrage. Some held onto the notion of "fair and balanced" even as they were being conned and proven to be alarmingly naive. Then in the first days of the Biden administration they decided that their role was to be the junkyard watchdog on what for most of them was a reprieve from the hell perpetrated by Trump. Lester takes the road less traveled, and leaves the issues to underlings to announce. I don't watch CBS since a 60 Minutes correspondent began to tease Mohamed Ali for his Parkinsons. Eric S. was intolerable. Garrick was cool, and so was Roger, and Cassie. I watch MSNBC and NBC and CNN, 95%, 4%, 1%, respectively. The media has an important place in our society, but it is not a license to create issues ... but that is what even MSNBC did. Political compromise is not actually making sausage. It is the very essence of a liberal democracy!


(The Media)


Mark Zuckerberg / META

I do not know the man at all or any more than the average world citizen knows him. He is a techie in the way that people who understand computer languages and the vast implications of the internet are techies ... and sometimes nerds. Nerds are people who seem to avoid interaction with most people, but seem to like and hang out with other nerds, as if there might be something about the rest of you that puts them off. That something is a moving target called "social maturity" or the ability, if necessary, to dissimulate seamlessly, which means that the rest of you, for whatever else you may be reasonably proficient, are dangerous to nerds because you represent, if not just now, potential dishonesty and various unknown kinds of probable malevolence. Of course, you have more or less suppressed your knowledge of and skill at mendacity, and you have all but conquered all those bloody, gory, raging thoughts about what you might do to your worst enemy ... or even some that are not on that list.

Mark is changing the name of Facebook tomorrow. It might be META, I am just guessing, given that a reliable account said that META was registered back in 2015, but not used. It is said he might not be the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook any longer, but instead will remove to a higher position which is alleged in the media to be the absolute head of a holding company that owns and runs Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, LiveRail, Threadsy, and a swarm of smaller pieces purchased and incorporated (or squelched) quietly over the last few years—probably as many as fifty companies and start-ups. Virtually no one believes that changing the name of Facebook or subsuming Facebook under a differently named umbrella corporation (LLC) will prevent the principal stock holder, Mr. Zuckerberg, from making more inept decisions based on his misunderstandings about the social and intellectual maturity of his customers.

There! I said it. Facebook's customers, you and I, are complicit in the world-wide travesty that the Facebook operation (and others) have become. Our complicity is that we are quite a bit less moral and rage-free than we used to believe when our daily ambit was insulated from strongly dissenting views of God and country, who was the best quarterback in 1999, and abortion. When Facebook (and, truthfully, other platforms) put us into confrontations with people with other views about what we thought (at the time) were fundamental and characteristic pieces of a mature homo sapien's character and morality, we buckled and then raged. I did it. I got a snootful of really hateful responses to my responses to their responses to deliberately provocative issues and stories and lies. It kept me up at night after a particularly vicious posting—mine or theirs and their friend's and mine.

But back to Mark who makes bad decisions about our social maturity and his responsibility in that fairly slick context he provides online. Alternatively, I could have said that, if he had finished his formal education at Harvard, he might have learned that world societies are, in the last analysis, held together by nothing but the cobwebs of informal social compacts and family ties. Each such cobweb is elastic to some degree such that abberant behaviors are not only identified by the big and little distortions they cause in the web of civilization, but are usually dampened and "assimilated" into a societal trove of ideas deemed unacceptable in polite society. Or, they were until a flood of them entered our lives by way of Facebook and other social media. It also used to be that an offense against polite society brought forth at least a rap on the perp's knuckles to provide emphasis that the offense was truly offensive.

It is widely said, as recently as Tuesday on MSNBC, that Mark Zuckerberg, even acknowledging any of his good points, is incompetent to run the social networking platform he (and the Winklevoss twins) invented back in the Harvard dorms. The Winklevosses came up with the broad, but incomplete idea for a "getting to know you" app for college kids. The movie about this is fair, I would say, and although the two Winklevosses come off as quite a bit less brainy as the one Zuckerberg, and that may be because we see Zuckerberg favorably as a social underdog even back then. So, back to the question: why within all the furor about Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg seen as particularly incompetent to run it, especially within the reality of cobwebby parameters of hundreds of national and regional social compacts,long standing social norms, and literally thousands of ethnic and familial social traditions?

I would hazard this answer: It is because Mark does not really understand the nature of what we somewhat euphemistically call "civilization" or much beyond Silicon Valley, including the part from which he emerged with 150,000,000,000 US dollars. Yes, the price tag is real and suggestive. Human nature tends to admire the person who manages to accumulate that many tokens of their success. In fact, so do the persons who do that also admire their own success, but it does not provide them the breadth of knowledge about their own species that people who study the Humanities and do finish college usually and often have.

I believe that the Congress is sufficiently alarmed at this point that Mr. Zuckerberg has not accepted even the principles behind the dreaded regulations he has been dodging for the past decade and a half. I agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that regulation world-wide is necessary and that the US should provide a model of such legislation, especially since the worst effects of Facebook are said to be in less developed countries.

But, it is gruesomely complicated. The word "algorithm" is now bandied about as if an algorithm like "IF A =>X, THEN B, ELSE C" is about the sum and substance of it all. Au contraire! The algorithms used in Facebook can be complex nests with scores of parameters, and one algorithm may be input to many others. (I once programmed the board game "MasterMind ©" in Turbo Pascal ©, from scratch, in color. Yet I have only a fleeting glimpse into what must be the case with Facebook.)

There are some obvious things that must be done about herding unwitting customers into hate-laced confrontations, especially those constructed mostly of lies. Having said that in just one sentence is deceiving. There is much more than that to be done. Snake-oil salespeople and grifters must be culled out of the advertising mix. Maybe certain people should be permanently prohibited from posting anything on Facebook. And, seriously, Facebook is the news source for many people. Consumers of lies and opinions presented as facts, like about the masks, social distancing, and vaccines for Covid-19, deserved the absolute truth because so many lives are at stake. The millions of intransigent unvaccinated, and thousands who have died because they believed the lies, are on Mark Zuckerberg's head.

The pity and the horror of all this is that Mark Zuckerberg does not take responsibility for any of it. He responds to criticism from behind a meager pallisade of freedom of speech homilies. He has been brought to the bar many times and has failed to sincerely acknowledge his mismanagement of Facebook or the absolute horror parents and seniors and Senators have voiced. If it were up to me, I would divorce him from his invention immediately. He has enough money now. His contribution to the world is now a ticking timebomb.


(The Media)


Reality: Worlds Within Words
(A Complaint)

We rattle off words like "third world" and then soon by extension we were imagining "fourth world" places. The "second world," of course, was never very clear in our "first world" minds. Would Turkey or Greece or Mexico qualify for that runner-up position in the "real" world? If so, what made you think so? Clearly a country able to build nuclear submarines would be classified "first world," so then France might wonder whether Australia might not be, despite speaking English.

I allude to this submarine building incident only to show how muddy the waters are, to demonstrate that although we have the words, we exercise very little control of them. These "world" words are all metaphorical uses of the original word, and in many of these uses they are also euphemisms, allowing us to say something close to what we mean without adding in the uglier details. Ah, MSNBC, but the devil is in those details.

MSNBC news hosts like @Nicolle Wallace and @Rachel Maddow and sometimes @Chris Hayes and @Lawrence O'Donnell refer to the radical and "fringe" people as living in "Earth Two" or "that other world," people who have fixed their wagons to and adore former President Donald Trump (and his four horsemen). Again those MSNBC hosts, smart and as experienced as they are, are not saying what exactly they mean. In fact they give people in that Earth Two the benefit of the doubt that they are not insane or imbecilic or--crucially--dangerous. There are, we now vividly know, lots of vicious and violent people who care nothing about our form of government. Quite the opposite, they are right now plotting the overthrow of our government and our Constitution. but ... they are lumped into that mythic other world along with the merely stupid and discontented.

They (the far-fringe) seem to have a separate reality, but the more you try to pin down what they believe--and believe they believe--the less it sounds like a world, and it certainly does not sound like a reality. True, the media have to be careful about what they say, but that is a two-edged problem. If they persist in euphemistic talk, the fringites take sustenance from it. Rachel is the main proponent of "snarcasm." First, I doubt any of the fringites watch her show or, second, if they do, understand that she is being ironic to make them look foolish while expressing her and our feelings of utter frustration and anger at their behavior.

The huge problem is that those in charge of good order and discipline and those protecting and preserving our lives and liberties become seduced and dis-alarmed and inured by the soft, "careful," oblique treatment given to those who are rampant criminals and those who have absolved themselves of their oaths of office. Is it not time, already, to call it what it is! Many in Congress are taking cover under this oblique language.

Fascism is another word that has very blurred edges. Literally it refers to the symbol of the fasces, a bundle of sticks or rods around an axe, invented long ago to symbolize the power of magistrates and ultimately of the state. The rods are bound around the handle of the axe to show community of purpose and resolve. The axe, of course, represents life or death. Community of purpose and resolve are probably the main reasons there are two giant fasces in the US House of Representatives Chamber. The Etruscans left the fasces to the Romans, and much later Benito Mussolini saw in it the binding of economic interests (Italian corporations) to the state. He sometimes referred to Fascism as "Corporatism." Eisenhower prefered the expression Military-Industrial Complex.

We all live in just ONE very complex, ongoing, and evolving reality, although we can easily comprehend it differently according to our frame of mind, our prejudices, our faiths, our economic circumstances and many other factors imbued with fear, favor, and loyalty. It is not wrong to remind people that their intellectual limitations, including their modesty and humility, are simply recognition of their inability to personally know everything for what it literally IS or to see all sides of a scene at the same time. But it is crucial--and recently forgotten by many--that as a biological species that incorporates social and, indeed, collective imperatives into the fiber of the societies we construct and propagate, we must be gracious, and being gracious may (or must) also include the coup de grace. We must be ever vigilant against those who wish to destroy our society. Fascism will destroy American democracy if we let it.

If we let the fringe radicals who no longer (and maybe never really did) want our multi-cultural democracy, who will destroy it for strongly held convictions and also for personal but ephemeral gain ... if we let them believe we do not see the extreme dangers they pose, if we coddle them with outdated and decrepit processes and norms--with euphemisms and sarcasm--they will destroy us. They are not liberty-seeking patriots, they are absolutists about to install an autocracy over our fair land. It will begin by excluding certain parts of the democracy--first the Jews, then the Blacks and Browns, Asians, then Socialists, then Progressive Democrats--and in a relatively short time will concentrate power over all of us with allegiance to only themselves, completely divorced from the principles of governance we have been defending with our lives for over 240 years!


(The Media)


Thinking as a Progressive Process: An Epistemology For Politics

The title of this weekend essay is deliberately misleading. (That is not a statement equivalent to the bromide conundrum "This sentence is false.") No, my title is deliberately misleading because of two words: "Progressive" and "Process." The idea you have about "progressive" in the context of this website is that strain of political thought and action which holds that government can use its concentrated power to make things better for its citizens, such as by improving transportation by building roads or by setting a goal to reach the moon before the end of a decade or by sponsoring research into the causes and possible cures of cancer. Progressive in that sense is deliberately pitted against the idea that private enterprise is the source of all good developments in the country, including the infrastructure, such as private tollways, and private medical research institutes, and even privately owned space vehicle development. But, as I have already said, that is not the "progressive" I am interested in today (although you can and should keep the American political tradition of Progressivism in mind.)

The "progressive" I am thinking of is the more abstract idea that thoughts are linked to one another in a great chain of "thinking," and the metaphor chain is instructive in the sense that the thinking usually, but not always, follows proven and habituated pathways through the thickets of facts and emotions already learned by the brain. This is the bare bones of the thesis propounded recently by Dr. Stanley Fish in the New York Times with which I will take issue and optimistically declare there is a way of getting through to people stuck in their conservatively conditioned, pessimistic, and outrageously wrongheaded ideas about our country.

Here is the link to Dr. Fish's essay, which you should read now so what I have say about it makes some kind of sense.

Fish believes that we are caught up in a socially constructed matrix of possible thoughts that only remarkably freakish events can change, and then only by small bits and pieces. He writes

The obvious answer to this not entirely frivolous question is, “you can’t think of everything,” and that’s the right answer. Despite imperatives like “broaden your thinking” or “extend your horizons or “widen your sense of ‘us,’” thought is not an expandable muscle that can contain or comprehend an infinite number of things.
I am sure Stan believes he has accomplished a coup de grace of logical insight here, but in fact he has shown the way out, inadvertently and nevertheless conclusively. His paragraph describes "thought" (which is a process, not just incidentally) with the brain (processor) which he calls (for purposes of his evasion of the truth) a muscle. This is a metaphoric description, a slipping in of one word for another to bring in this case some concreteness to the issue so that people will understand it better, if imperfectly. The ancient Classical Greeks and Romans had a name and organization for this kind of metaphor, "metonymy."

I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Russian intellectual history using terms like "metaphor, metonomy, synechdoche, and irony." My mentor on this took his lead from leading lights in the study of rhetoric and language and literature. None of us, including the professor of Psychology on my committee were truly well-versed in neuro-anatomy or neuro-physiology, but fortunately those disciplines were in their infancy and functional MRI scanning and some new ideas about brain function were just popping into view. We read this material avidly and the more we read the more the disparate fields of rhetoric and brain function physiology seemed to have a deep resemblance. To put it simply and to fulfill my promise to tell you how the term "process" is misleading in my essay's title, you should understand the word "process" a little bit better. Pro means "for" or "forward." The "cess" part is more complicated, but generally the root of it is the idea of "give or giving." In brain function the process is not a "procession" of links in a chain; it is a mass action wherein engrams—neural complexes of synapses which consciously evoke in our conscious brains "images," of things, sounds, smells, tastes, tactility, etc.—are strongly or weakly stimulated by their complex of associations through the physical medium of dendrites AND the "unloading" of synapses at sensitive frequencies nearby and in other parts and regions of the brain complex, all the while being continuously stimulated by consciously and unconconsciously received new outer stimuli. So, "process" is not a parade, it is a "fermenting" of connections between established and being-established engrams. The difference may seem precious to you, but it is as important as the notion of a spherical planet in a world that thinks of the land and sea as a scene ported around on the back of a huge turtle.

If you have the curiosity to click on the link (name and organization) to Silva Rhetoricae, which I strongly recommend for those of you who want to learn something new, yet very old, you will notice that the folks at BYU rhetorical studies have named this valuable website with a metaphor on "a forest." And that is especially important, given the homily about "not seeing the forest for the trees," which is exactly what Professor Fish has done.

Metaphor (broadly, including all its subcategories) is the method of our ability to move beyond the hardwired parts of our brains, evolved to provide us with instant responses in dangerous situations, and the soft-wired parts where we have become accustomed to thinking in sequences like "salt ... then pepper" or "GOP .. then business" or "Marilyn ... then Monroe," for three simple examples. Metaphor is the method by which we slip in a "ringer" term and let the brains of the audience consider the output on their own. When someone says the "cavernous mind of an Einstein" the imagery I get is of a "hitherto unsuspected vastness with stalactite ideas dripping droplets of inspiration onto growing stalagmites of new ideas." You might get a different image, but you will understand that "cavernous minds" are not just empty holes, but full of "micro-processes" and even "blind albino fish" of sterile notions, which swim in the imagination attracting attention, but proving almost nothing.

Fish ignored metaphor. He used it, as we have seen, and we can see how in using it he actually undercut his own thesis. Perhaps understanding that our daily verities can be overturned by metaphor will enable us to take control of our thinking processes in such a way as to make more likely that we will understand why 47% of Republicans think that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Does it go back to their beliefs about family and their rudimentary ideas about the genetics of personality? Do they understand that Obama's family in Kenya were Seventh Day Adventists and that his father converted to Islam in a fit of embarrassed rage? What do these facts and processes do to our own thinking?

Fish is dealing with trees, even groves sometimes. He misses the grandeur of the forest in so doing, but his lesson is one that should be learned. We all too easily fall into habits of mind that lead nowhere, provide few solutions, and answer no questions. But, Fish is wrong that we must wait for a tree to talk to us. We have!



Media Reflections of Our Times

I like this recent essay about immoral and amoral corporate policy. It provides the basic rationale for refusing to put government into the hands of corporations ... as the Republicans want to do ... based on their notion that corporate leaders are better at organizational behavior than anyone else. It isn't true, and this essay shows why.

I like this recent article about the perfidiousness of political leaders whose imaginations are shorter than their attention spans. I like particularly the exposure the governors of Florida and New Jersey get in this piece. Both are blowhard demagogues and will be replaced soon enough so their states can begin to prosper. Lazy thinking and no-think politics are not exclusively Republican, but they seem to have twice or three-times as much as any other group.

This article about the sneaky work of Steve Jobs' Apple Corporation, deliberately tracking purchasers of their toys, is exactly the kind of thing that corporations do, regardless of the implications for personal freedom and privacy. Big Brother does not originate in government, but in corporate immorality ... and thankfully we caught this and will rub Steve's nose in it until he whimpers.

Paul Krugman's piece today on the perverse framing of the medical costs issue is good. Krugman is exasperated by the GOP metaphor of consumer, and rightly so. This is a rhetorical battle that will not be so much "won" as "countered continuously." It is not only a GOP foible that creates this metaphor; it is intrinsic to the whole MBA-ishness of social analysis.

This news item about Congress intervening in national diplomacy has me wondering whether the White House and State Department are "in on" this, "oblivious," or have been sucker-punched by the GOP. The law of the land is that the Executive runs diplomacy, but as we all know, Congress has the right and duty to investigate and accumulate knowledge about anything it may be called to legislate about. Still, this article has me watching for more clues.

Finally, this piece also from the New York Times about the shallow waters of Republican presidential hopefuls has me smiling about the underlying problem ... GOP ideology. You see, the GOP is a front organization that must pay at least convincing lip-service to the idea that they represent interest beyond those of corporations. They do this by framing issues ... like the medical costs issue ... in terms that please corporate leaders and resonate with other themes in the lives of normal Americans, but are false analogies and thin camouflage for the basic position that corporate power is good for American workers. Their philosophy of life is manifest in the hypocrisy of their erstwhile leaders, none of whom have the corporate/chamber of commerce framing engine on their side yet. Pathetic!



Reframing Barack Obama

George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley. He is very much involved in the analysis of political rhetoric, by which I mean that he parses where others merely read or listen. His framing theory is well-known, and for reasons that defy explanation, continues to be ignored by the political left. Well, if not ignored, then not very well implemented. The reason may be that the left is a herd of cats doing their own things.

This suggests that framing is not the only matter involved. I would suggest that "democratic centralism" as practiced by the right is equally the key. This does not detract from Lakoff's insights, by the way, but it does suggest that the left must work extra hard to agree on frames and then use them. The GOP is very much more disciplined (and, therefore, hidebound) about it.

The other day George wrote a piece in Huffington Post that you will find interesting. He is pretty sure that the old Obama who won our votes in 2008 is back.

This article retraces some of the steps Professor Lakoff has taken to arrive at his theory and his conclusions, and is therefore a seminal piece of political analysis. Enjoy!



Sunday Browse

Rogen Cohen is not my favorite columnist by any means, but he is intelligent (and more than slightly self-indulgently) middle-rightwing. This piece on Sarkozy is really about France, and it looks like we have a new France to befriend.

I use Maureen Dowd frequently, on the other hand. Her brand of Liberalism was built in from her family and circumstances and represents a strain of legitimate progressivism that we need to keep in mind. But today's meow-ish piece on the arrival of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" in your movie theaters Friday, has neither deterred me from or lured me to that film. I was going anyway to see if my youthful indiscretions have been cleansed.

William H. Freehling is new to me although he seems to be deeply committed to a fair analysis of the state I grew up in—Virginia. Freehling disects the Old Dominion in a way that explains very well my discomfort with the place and the reason I will not return, yet it is intended to be, I think, modestly exculpatory. The fact is that Virginia 85 years after the Revolution was no longer the Mother of Presidents, but the sanctuary of jackasses like Wise, whose rhetoric reminds me of the jackasses on Fox.

Yes, I know these are all from the New York Times! It is simply the best place for sampling the flavor of our times. Notwithstanding that, the annoyingly jingoist Washington Post has an editorial today that I think clearly refreshes the image of Barack Obama as a man with too little understanding of the necessity to act decisively and let the devil and the historians take the hindmost!



The Corporatist Press

People I talk with about American politics generally doubt my (and many others') assertion that America has become a corporatist state. It is strong testimony to Bill Moyers's point that belief is stronger than curiosity in most people. It directs the conscious and the subconscious in the selection of facts, choosing those that corroborate a belief system. Americans just do not like the idea that their democracy is effectively bought and paid for by the corporations. Moreover, the rude facts that Congressmen and Congresswomen are "on the take," representing interests antithetical to democracy and to local economic and cultural interests is ignored under the rubric ... "well you just cannot trust politicians" or "politics is a dirty business." This as if there were no reason other than human frailty for the deceit and dishonesty that politicians daily exhibit.

The most insidious form of corporatism, perhaps, is the undermining of the information economy, the free press, the very freedom of speech that is the sine qua non of democracy. Without a free and unfettered system of information distribution, what we call a free press, democracy cannot possibly survive. Yet, time and again we see the major corporations in apparent collusion to suppress certain kinds of news or to impose on an event a point of view that may be at odds with the facts on the ground. This article from The Guardian in the United Kingdom and reprinted in the website Common Dreams tells such a story. The piece leaves no doubt in your mind about the power that corporate leaders have over the information you accept passively as "news."



Moyers on the Fight for Democracy

There is usually something for everyone in a keynote speech, and Bill Moyers's keynote address at the 2011 History-Makers Convention in New York City late last month was no exception. Bill has a wealth of experience and connections to people who are about to make news or are still doing it. The speech was a rouser, as expected, and if you had to boil it down to the glue of its theme, you would be talking about Freedom of the Press.

Often, though, Moyers's thoughts lean heavily on the role of the rich in our information economy. It is amazing to me that more of our plutocrats do not understand that their own rampant and egregious violations of freedom of information will come back to destroy them sooner or later. Such is the arrogance of money and the Olympian view from the corporate boardrooms.

Bill chose a title for his speech that reminds us of an old joke he used to tell. "Is This a Private Fight or Can Anyone Get In It?" But, as you will soon see his topic is no joke and his point is clear. Yep! You are in this fight!



Here's One for the Gipper!

First, let's be clear. "Gipper" is nonsense. There is nothing and no one in the world named "gipper". Ron Reagan's appropriation of the term from a movie in which he once was a supporting actor tells you nothing about Reagan or America. It is about nostalgia and friendship—a darned good frame for a presidential hopeful. It is, though, a ruse and part of the fantasyland that has been created about Reagan.

The mythology of Reagan is revealed quite nicely today by the Washington Post's columnist Eugene Robinson. The mythos certainly is built from selective memory most of which is outright false. Read Robinson now and tell me the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth is not a fairyland of forgetting the facts and building an image of something the conservatives are in fact unable to do or be in real life!



Egypt and What We Know

Someone wrote this morning that this day's Super Bowl was irrelevant and no one cared. It was a good game, though, and the Pack led the whole way, yet it was exciting. Best commercial for me was about Chevy trucks. The Black Eyed Peas were raucous and well staged. Good show overall; I'd give it a B+.

Meanwhile most of the world could care less, and in fact are a little annoyed that the U.S. is so preoccupied with itself. Frank Rich, in the New York Times does a good job with this. He shows pretty well that Americans know almost nothing about the Muslim world and are unlikely to learn much from the U.S. media, who for reasons that related to our corporatist oligarchy who see opportunity in the idea of trashing Islam at every turn. He damns our culture for thinking that anything positive that is going on is about us. It definitely isn't.

Then, David Brooks, also in the Times, writes to inform in his semi-academic way. He pegs Egypt as a 40% nation, a middling nation among the nearly two hundred on this planet, middling in all the political and cultural dimensions one might look for in a search for hope in this revolution. Forty percent is not bad as third world countries go. Mubarak can hardly be credited with that much success, but the people of Egypt need to see themselves as optimistically as Brooks does. It is going to take huge work to bring Egypt up out of poverty and corruption, but maybe it can be done. The sixth seeded Packers did it from the middle!



Interview with Gabrielle Giffords's Husband Astronaut Mark Kelly

This is an interesting interview. Already the rightwingnuts are poo-pooing the sentiments involved, and that should tell you where they are coming from ... from reptilian hatred and fear ... completely without dignity or class, appalling at every syllable. Gabby has tactile cues she is sending to Mark, it is not some "liberal" poppycock designed to ingratiate Giffords to the American public.

Here is Diane Sawyer's interview on her 20-20 broadcast Tuesday evening, in case you missed it.



She Opened Her Eyes, Can We?

These words filled my heart with hope. Thank you Captain Kelly for allowing President Obama to utter them at the memorial service here in Tucson yesterday. She opened her eyes for the first time, a sign unmistakable in the progress my Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is making. Survival is the main thing, of course, but we all want her to recover as much as is possible. Some brain material was removed in the surgery, but, as the neurosurgeon told us that day, the amount was minimal. Some brain tissue was permanently damaged, perhaps ruined, as the bullet traversed her left hemisphere.

You should read some of the stories about traumatic brain injuries of the past to get a sense of what we are dealing with. In the 19th c. a man in Vermont or New Hampshire had a metal rod jammed through his frontal cortex and lived, worked, and was almost normal for years afterward. The story is interesting because of the nature of the deficits he experienced. Bob Woodruff of news reporting fame, was grievously wounded in the head in Iraq and is back on the job today. Maybe we can hope for as much for Gabrielle Giffords, too.

But the news was that "she opened her eyes." And that immediately offered to me a metaphor or theme for an essay at ALP and at what is now my home website, Iron Mountain.

Being a co-founder of The American Liberalism Project has been a wild ride. The nation has undergone probably the worse presidency since that of James Buchanan, the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorism, two brutal political campaigns, and a disaster on Wall Street, the effects of which are still being felt strongly by millions of unemployed and dispossessed of their dreams. We have done a reasonable job, I think, of bringing to you the issues of the day with, of course, our Liberal and Progressive biases clearly there for people to see and emulate or just ignore. The question is whether we have be hateful about it, whether we have stooped to the mendacity that those we have described in our essays are wallowing in? I think not. We have not been hateful, but we have grazed close to that peril many, many times. I cannot tell you how much I dislike Rush Limbaugh, Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, the owner of Xi Services (formerly Blackwater), O'Reilly, Beck, Coulter, Malkin, and a couple dozen more of the deliberate hate and fear mongers of our American society. I dislike them a lot; I think they are abusing the freedom of speech and the basic principles of honest journalism. They are dishonest people making a buck (lots of bucks) with their hate speech.

I do not think that I can open their eyes. There is almost nothing I can write that would divert them for a time long enough for the truth to burrow into the rat's nest of their minds to clear them of their hatreds and prejudices and love of money. I do not think I can open the eyes of my next door neighbor who, with his dear wife, is a devotee of Glen Beck, that atrocity of a man, weeping his way into the simpling minds of the aged and change-fearing people of our country. At that I fail every day.

So I ask myself in the wake of the tragedy in Tucson that struck down my friend Gabrielle Giffords and killed six, I ask myself what am I doing here at this keyboard hour and hours a day, reading disparate views from six or more sources, boiling them down, finding an eloquent statement of them for you to read if, perchance, you missed it yourself. What is the purpose? What is the really practical result?

She Opened Her Eyes. You must do the same. You must have the courage to open them and keep them open, to act, as old Emmanuel Kant suggested in his Categorical Imperative, as if what you do may be a model for others. No shorter statement of the importance of your motives is written anywhere. And so that is my reason, my raison d'etre. It is to remind you to seek out your next door neighbor and sneak into his heart and mind with a neighborly comment that proves that you are not the ogre he thinks you are. Take your time. Be well informed. Speak to friends about the issues first and practice your own words. Bring the message of a just society into your message. I hope we can help.



Our Toxic and Dangerous Society

There already has been much written about the motives of the shooter here in Tucson, the "troubled" young man who set out to kill his and my Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. Sheriff Dupnik nailed it on day one. The climate of discourse in the United States has become literally toxic and there are repercussions. There may be more as Paul Krugman suggests in his eloquent and anguished comments on the situation.

I have been musing about my part in the escalation of rhetoric into the toxic zone. I am afraid that from time to time I do get quite angry about the other side and their lies. How does one confront a lie, you should ask. How else but by calling it or showing it to be a lie. Then can you not call the person a liar? They are liars, but they are also deliberately inciting people to anger, rage, and behaviors that have no place in our society. Lying to incite is at least double the sin of these people, and I for one cannot sit idly by and let them do it, because what is at stake is my country and my society.

Everyone knows that we have 1-2% (maybe double or triple that) of our population who are chronically unstable, unreliable, untrustworthy, unbalanced, uncivil. We really do not know what to do about them. So, it seems to me that in the absence of a societal resolve to deal with these persons, in the absence of initiative from us, we must—since this is real—accept the consequences of our inaction. That would be the loss of general security for the whole. It does not sound like a good bargain to me, but it is what you get when you steadfastly refuse to incarcerate and correct and cure the "unbalanced" members of society. Do nothing adult and responsible to address the problem, you get the result, mayhem!

We do not allow the "unbalanced" on airplanes and endure public humiliation from the security forces so that we can fly with a reasonable sense of security. We must provide something like that level of security for our elected officials, and that means a diminution of access, for there will be citizens who believe they (because they are "balanced") should have unfettered access to their representatives. After all the corporations and lobbyist have unfettered access and it has all but destroyed the heart of our representative democracy.

There is no easy road from here. Imposing rigorous security measures without addressing the problem on its own "demerits" will lead to a police state. We must provide security now, especially in this toxic environment. We must address the needs of society and the individuals who are unbalanced, even if that means incarceration at "great expense" (certainly less than the cost of the Tucson-style mayhem)! And we must deal with the agents of toxicity, principally Sarah Palin and Rupert Murdock and his FOX network of hate-mongers. Their "free speech" cannot be allowed to include incitement to violence!


12/22/10Net Neutrality

I saw "Tron: Legacy" yesterday in 3D. It is, from a technical point of view a tour de force movie, and despite the shallow tween-aged focus on virtual killing by violent means, the acting goes beyond the usual cardboard. It does not compare to anything in "The Matrix" series. It does begin to point out the trend in gaming computing, however, that being that more and more people are getting sucked deeper and deeper into "the grid."

In fact, "grids" are proliferating, providing rapid, graphic, human-like, and sensuous media for communication along the lines that most human beings are familiar. Grids like "Second Life" and "Blue Mars" will someday interconnect and people (users) will have the opportunity to establish identities that transcend the limitations of one commercial grid, according to "Elenia Llewelyn," founder of a grid called "InWorldz". This is pretty exciting stuff for USERS in any of these "worlds," but unlikely if the net neutrality regulations do not allow sufficient elbow room for entrepreneurs to compete profitably. That is half the story.

The other half is that entrepreneurs are the least likely people on this planet to worry about civil rights. They issue terms of service for USERS to accept or not (if not they don't get to use the service). The terms of service recitations are long, fine-print, legal documents that reserve most rights to the vendor and restrict the users to certain (usually mundane and reasonable) kinds of activities. But that is about grids. Not all things on the internet are about grids (yet).

A simple form of computing nowadays is a free-email account, say at Juno or hotmail. There are terms of service for using these systems for communicating with friends, but hardly anyone reads the ToS carefully, and will be surprised when they try to forward a big video clip of Britney Spears taking a bath to their old college buddies. It is easy to see why ToS limit the size of email attachments. They clog the internet with mindless stuff.

An even simpler form of internet usage is clicking on an icon that contains the URL (uniform resource locator, which means "internet address") and reading what is being posted at that website. You are doing that right now. This website is small potatoes compared to Macy's or BestBuy, so small accounts like ALP and Iron Mountain will be granted equal access to the broad internet, but only if they are propagated through cables, wires, and other physical means. So far, then, net neutrality is good.

What is bad about the new net neutrality regulations is that there are no regulations for internet propagated wirelessly, as for instance to that new Droid 4G device in your pocket that has a telephone service embedded in a nest of other electronic marvels, including access to everything on the internet including Google. Specifically, what is bad is that if you want to read my rantings wirelessly while riding to work in car

pool, you may be out of luck. ALP and Iron Mountain may get pushed back in the router queues so far back that you give up trying.

Google is a good emblem of what goes on in the internet. Zillions of people a day ask Google questions about things they are interested to know more about. Google provides the answers lickity-split and, if you are "Googling" from Home Depot, you know almost instantly whether Lowe's has a better price on a particular bar-coded Ryobi drill set. Could save yourself tons of money over an extended shopping spree, you know! Well, Google also provides you with paid commercials when you ask it a question. Underlying that ploy is the question of whether Google is putting paid-for information at the top of the list of 23,202 "hits" on your subject. Net neutrality says that they should not do that.

Scale that question up a bit and consider that monopoly is not just a Parker Bros. game, but the holy grail of many high-end businesses. They know they will never achieve a real monopoly in their product or service line, but they hope to get as close as possible so they have more elbow room on pricing (aka "price gouging"). Net neutrality regulation cover this, if the service is wired, but not if wireless.

Then there is "the cloud." The "cloud" is computing services that you do not download, or only download a thin, lightweight interface for. Microsoft is in favor of cloud computing for Office, for instance, where you will pay a small fee for using Word or Excel or Powerpoint on their servers, which will have the latest up-to-date versions of the software, of course, thus eliminating all the hassle of propagating versions to a hungry world containing relic computers and high-end quad-core beasts that easily defeat the bad guys found in Matrix and Tron. There will be some applications in "the cloud" that are useful to mobile, wireless users. These will not be regulated.

So the big question is whether the Comcasts of the world have decided that they can get sufficiently rich from wireless apps, or whether they can mount pressure on the physical network regs from catbird seats in the wireless regime? In fact, as this article and its reference (be sure to read both) indicates, this situation is polarized along partisan lines and the GOP and large corporations are going for the jugular of the FCC.

Personally, I am satisfied that "net neutrality" has been recognized for what it is, a serious issue akin to the issues that resulted in the breaking-up of ATT a generation ago. ATT got too big for its britches and telecommunications suffered. Now, "land-line" telephones are produced by the billions by anyone who wants into that market and service has improved and broadened so that you can call anywhere in the world these days for a very nominal fee. Understand the ATT issues and you understand the Net Neutrality issues.

Of course, I despise the likes of Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) who will fight tooth and filthy finger nail to cripple the FCC. She believes in the power of corporations to progress, but she ignores human nature, the human condition, and human history in so doing.



The Scientific Method is Sound

The New Yorker magazine ran an article last week with a subtitle suggesting that the scientific method might be wrong. I found this both annoying and gratifying, being (among other things) an historian of science and particularly of the history of progress of societies with science in the core of their methodologies.

I found it annoying because "the scientific method" is simply formulated as the development from observations, intuitions, and inductions of hypotheses and research to falsify or confirm these hypotheses. It is wrong to call the publication process part of the scientific method.Lehrer's article concentrates on the "confirm" side of research and takes the prejudicial rhetorical position that "falsification" of hypotheses is less the objective of scientists.

I was gratified because as an historian of science with a good deal of reading about all kinds of science under my belt and as a former university administrator charged with promotion of scientific research and research ethics (particularly with live animals and with human beings as subjects of the research), I felt that my many years of effort were vindicated (in absentia, since I am retired). Scientists are often sloppy and arrogant, and all too willing to brow beat "civilians" to their will.

The bottom line on Lehrer's essay is that the need to publish or perish leads scientists to take extraordinary means to obtain or to find confirmatory results in the data of their research. Lehrer does not question broadly the design of research, which he could have, of course. And, indeed, the essay concludes from reasonable research on research that from the very beginning of the process of defining an hypothesis, scientists are thinking of things like finishing degree programs, getting tenure and promotions, getting published, becoming famous, and so forth, none of which is likely to produce objectively replicable results. We all know this to be true. It is not the fault of the scientific method, however, except as humans are necessary to the carrying out of science. But, the point of the essay should have been that other researchers find errors and do not find the statistical significance that first reporting scientists find. So, in fact, not only is the scientific method sound, but the social infrastructure of science is sound, as well, especially given neutral contexts where millions and millions of free dollars are not at stake, as unfortunately they are with pharmaceutical research and high-roller grantsmanship.

The Lehrer essay also glosses over the processes involved in the formulation of research hypotheses. A good deal of falsification as goal takes place to hone down an hypothesis sufficiently that a rational research project can be undertaken to verify or disconfirm the major elements of the hypothesis. Leaving this out of the essay seriously derails the truthfulness of the message.

The message is, of course, that science is a human activity completely at the mercy of human foibles and unspoken (or unconscious) goals. The scientific communities must be vigilant always to see to it that replicable studies are done when new science is "discovered" by earnest researchers. They often are not. National politics plays into the way moneys are spent in the National Institutes of Health, for instance. And, I can tell you from personal experience that program officers in the federal agencies (leaving out their office names deliberately) are little interested in getting involved in ethical disputes with rich universities or corporations.

The ironies in the Lehrer article are instructive. You will be able to read the abstract of the article online, for instance, proof that information science (and engineering) are stable enough to provide you with this little miracle of dissemination. And, the world is full of success stories emanating from the use of the scientific method and its social infrastructure. For me the article proves only that we get lulled into a false sense of security periodically, and that a jostling in the popular media is perhaps sometimes necessary. We are not about to dispense with the scientific method, however, and certainly not on the say-so of ambitious writers in the New Yorker.



Olbermann's Time Out

Welcome back to Standard Time, folks. We Arizonans never touch our clocks and get along pretty well considering that we need the early morning daylight in summer ... and anyway, those geniuses up the road in Phoenix think it is socialist to be monkeying with God's own time.

So, Keith Olbermann, however, did send some money to Grijalva and Giffords here in Tucson. He could have saved himself some trouble by skipping Grijalva, and Giffords (whom I worked for assiduously) really needed the infusion of cash. He shouldn't have violated that onerous GE/NBC contract, btw. It is totally enforcible, but probably unconstitutional in theory.

That's where Keith should take this issue ... to the Supreme Court (if need be). The idea of pristine journalism was put to rest with Ben Franklin. NBC is an old, beat-up, ugly whore of a company (not syphilitic and HIV+ like Fox, however) who thanks to the Supreme Court can make unlimited donations to candidates, PACs, and fifth columnist organizations to their black heart's content. Do they actually believe Keith has to pimp for them, too??? Give us a break!!!

I gave up on Keith over a year ago, largely because his show (and it is a "show" not a newscast) contains so much puerile crap. Rachel bested Keith within a few weeks of her own "show" taking off, and I gave up on her too ... just up to here in the waste of precious television time on coddling the cyber generation into 90 second attention spans. MSNBC is GE and GE is one of the major parts of the military industrial complex, so I read the newspapers and take a pass on all that tv fun.

Oh! You might want to read Frank Rich's column in the New York Times this beautiful Sunday in November. He rarely froths quite this much on a leaves-are-changing, football and tailgate Sunday, after an election, when everyone is finally at five minutes peace with the world.



Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader!

Washington is all antsy about Nancy Pelosi's completely reasonable and rational decision to run within the Democratic Caucus for Minority Leader. After all, if you look at it from a decent perspective, no one in Congress knows more about Congress than she! Why would you throw that away?!!!

If you read the Washington Post article on this story and wade through the sports metaphors (and having grown up in the Washington area and been a WaPost deliveryboy, I can tell you there is no reason for the Post to use sports analogies), you will notice that the whiners are from the "blue dog," GOP lite, bench-warming side of the Democratic party spectrum and not the leadership, i.e., Pelosi's ideological compatriots! On a sports team you weed out the ineffective players and only as a last resort fire the coach, and never fire him or her for being too effective. Remember, Nancy Pelosi was the whipping girl of the GOP and still managed miracles with the fractious majority she inherited.

But, read the New York Times article on the subject. Here you see the truth of the matter emerging more clearly. The so-called "blue dogs" who are straddling the great divide between democracy and corporatism, the Evan Bayhs and the little squeaks mention in the Post article are the ones feeling the pain. If they would stand up on their hind legs and be Democrats they would find the going a lot easier.

Bob Herbert yesterday was completely correct in describing this election as a clearing out of the confused and incompetent middle. The "indies" may have been the efficient mechanism for that, but independents have the sense to see when a mugwump is causing more trouble than he is doing good. And clearly the problem we face now is that there were too many meek, timid, ineffective Congressmen to pass effective legislation two years ago. Now, of course we are stuck for two more years with the results of a housecleaning on one side, ready for the clean up two years hence as the TeaParty folk overplay their hand.



Interpretation of Elections: An Industry

Dan Balz is a veteran reporter and writer for the Washington Post, and some of what he says in his article today on interpreting the results of election day make sense, and frankly some do not.

First, there is the overwhelming fact that 50+ races for the U.S. House of Representatives up-ended Democratic incumbents. That raw information is useful, but "interpreting it" vis-a-vis any particular piece of government business or potential legislation is hazardous until you read the records of each of those up-ended, their beginning chances for re-election, and the platform of the winning GOP person. Clearly the removal of some sitting Democrats was personal and some was ideological, some both, and some neither. Balz and others have not done their homework on the effect of massive amounts of money in some races.

Second, the pieces on the chessboard are being thought as a referendum on President Barack Obama. This is a favorite idea of pundits and analysts, and I agree with it up to a point. It is a bit like taking a book of matches away from a kid who has just burned down the dog's house. It goes almost without comment that the kid learned his behaviors from the GOP who burned down the main house and have left millions without jobs. But, Obama has been clearly deficient in communicating to and from we the people, and even more importantly the base.

Balz says that the center expected a Centrist presidency. Horse manure! Obama's short record in the U.S. Senate labeled him the most LIBERAL of all 100 Senators! How can Balz say something so foolish! The Center expected Change and movement toward the Liberal ethos, and they did not get it. Obama reneged on many promises that were in his personal-presidential power to effect: open government for one, ethical treatment of terrorists, skepticism about the war in Afghanistan, Realpolitik in Iraq. He should have prosecuted the worse offenders on Wall Street and led "the mob" to Congress to tighten up the impossibly loose rules governing finance. So, yes, people voted their discouragement and their disappointment, but that does not mean they have turned to the big money party for relief. I doubt that 20% of the voters who removed a Democrat really want to turn rightward again. They have attention spans that encompass two years, and want relief from this economy now!

Yes, I know that interpreting elections is an industry with vested interests in keeping the topic hot and sweaty. I think readers would be well advised to understand that and to understand that the corporate press and media have an agenda, and that agenda is not ours!



Glib Assurance and Glib Criticism

Today, Monday, in the Boston Globe our old mentor James Carroll shifts gears and gets into the grist of this mill. His essay is worth your time, especially in these last weeks before the election. I think you will find The Time Required for Change to have hit the nail squarely on the head.

The biggest question these days is whether the voting public will come to its senses in time to register a responsible vote or, as the media are suggesting, teasing, promoting, will they follow through with their little temper tantrums, their little revenge for little injustices. Will they be able to see the thieves in the forest, or will they concentrate on the big tree and fell it and all around it out of pique and distress.

The question actually resolves down to a question of whether Americans can stand on their own two feet anymore. Are they so spoiled by a half century of economic expansion that broadened the middle income strata out to include a rainbow of collar colors that they will just stammer out their puerile rage against the universe that no longer tucks them in and kisses them good night.

Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with a prostitute. You might think that a poor employment of my valuable time, but in fact I am also a prostitute, concocting an exchange of something I want for something I want you to want. I think she was dead on right in the convolutions of our cryptic verbal intercourse. We all have raging desires and most of us have the means to attempt getting our way. There is no guarantee that anyone will get satisfaction, but at least there is the road to satisfaction as Michael Douglas's new "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" deftly demonstrates. The movie slowly and inexorably pulls away the curtains of techno-babble within which the finance sector has shrouded itself. We are left finally with a vivid picture of how distorted are many of the personalities that run our world.

In the movie it comes down not to money or credit default swaps or any other unconscionable means of profiting without working, but to animal aggression and murderous competition laid bare as the engine of life on this planet. Finally, the financiers adopt Darwin, but only half. In all of life there are two modes and forces, and yes, one of them is competition, ubiquitous and unrelenting. But, in parallel, just as all- pervasive and just as inevitable is cooperation. Oh yes, cooperation! I remember! Isn't that the basis of communism the right wing screams from its vulgar perch on the obstructionist side of competition?!

The key word of this essay is "glib," not because glib is unprepared communication, but because glib is slick. Yes SLICK. It is the carrier of unannounced infections and illogical conclusions. It is the Trojan horse of rhetoric, the fast sales talk, the appeal to our infantile need for simplicity. It is the life blood of Fox and many others all over the political spectrum. We imbibe at the peril of our republic.



Impossibly Impatient

Recently, (about a month ago), I challenged Rob Kall the owner and operator of OpEdNews, a political website where I have posted over 200 essays. With a sharp tongue in cheek I accused him of prescience he clearly does not possess, and told his audience that drubbing the Democrats from Democratic pulpits was at the very best counter-productive, probably suicidal. Rob called me delusional in return, as if my allegiance to the Democratic Party and to Liberal ideals were some sort of particularly perverse naiveté.

I have stopped writing for OpEdNews largely because of this incident and despite the fact that just weeks earlier Mr. Kall offered me an editor job at OEN ... without pay, of course. The other part of my reasons for dropping OEN off my list is the surly behavior of the audience, many of whom are clearly poorly educated and whose critical thinking skills are virtually non-existent. In other words, I got sort of tired of responding to folks' concerns that my doctoral degree in Russian History might be fake (U.C.L.A., 1975) or that despite my intention to come off as a Progressive Liberal I am really a professional elitist. Enough was enough.

In Saturday's edition of the New York Times Charles M. Blow writes about the calumny being heaped on the Democrats, some by Democrats and some like Rob Kall and his regulars, and the inverse relationship of those digs and puerile disappointments to the facts. Blow does mention the tradition within the Democratic Party for dissention and outright rebellion. We know about that, all of us, but it always has seemed reasonable to me that if you are going to call your movement a political party, you should have some discipline, not Leninist or Trotskyist "democratic centralism" where dissent is actually not tolerated, but something like what the Republicans have ... namely, to be circumspect about commenting on other Republicans, particularly those who have serious jobs and may have some information that is not widely available to street-side pundits and commentators.

Well, if you read Charles Blow's graphic you will see that the Democrats are in far or at least somewhat better shape than the Republicans as told by a NYT/CBS poll conducted recently. The Democrats are likely to lose some seats in the House and maybe a couple in the Senate. This is the tradition in our country. Every party at every juncture feels pressure at the first mid-term election. The reason should be obvious.

Two years is not enough time to plant new programs and harvest a new crop of benefits. It is particularly difficult when the opposition continuously says you have planted the wrong crop and has no compunction whatsoever about lying about your efforts. Moreover, usually the fields are pretty badly abused by the opposition that has just been recently defeated, so their objective is to cover up their maladministration with ever more lies and mispresentations.

But, two years is all you get. You, as a Progressive and Liberal Democrat have to understand that people like Rob Kall ... ostensibly on our side ... are trying to make a living dealing in opinion. Controversy attracts more attention (along with scandal) and so they do what they can to keep an audience coming back, and that often turns to unwarranted criticism for its own sake and gossip mongering. Kall is actually the least of the practitioners of this sort of journalism. Kall knows full well that the President's plate was heaped with manure on Day One and that Republican obstructionism has hurt Obama's legislative plans and administration staffing. But, Democrats choose to have short attention spans and high ideals, to ignore salient facts and demand actions that are clearly impossible once you know the facts. Frankly, it is time that Democrats grow up and fact the real truth that their petty activities do add up to trouble and that endless repetition of falsehoods gives them credence in the mind of the untutored public.



Pruning the West Wing

One of the stories this past week was the outburst of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whining about the "professional left," that sector of the Democratic Party that seems to not like Barack Obama much at all. They are the pundits, like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, whose motives are as suspect as anyone's over at Fox Noise. (I stopped watching Countdown months and months ago, finally fed up to my lids with the childish antics and format.)(I never got an independent Maddow habit, so my pique at Keith for his bombast and tell-tale corporate water-carrying eliminated Rachel more or less automatically.)

The so-called "professional left" are people whose livelihoods are centered on politics, though few among them are politicians, and none are diplomats. They are, like the rest of us, annoyed that Obama chose to "move on" rather than investigate, try, and convict the criminals who inhabited the Executive in the previous administration. In fact, there is no question that the so-called "professional left" had a hang-over after eight long years of Cheney and Bush, and was unable to get past the abuse of our democracy perpetrated by those people. They are insulted by the Obama's response to the verifiably center-right orientation of the electorate. They are annoyed by the failure to live up to 100% of the campaign ideas. (They are never really promises, by the way. The press uses that term to establish a fake distance between themselves and the successful candidates with whom they have been embedded for up to two long years.)

Maureen Dowd sees this breech of press corps relations etiquette as sufficiently grave to warrant the dismissal, perhaps promotion to "counselor," of Robert Gibbs. I cannot say that I disagree, but her drawing out of the litany of accusations and disappointments avoids the hard fact rocks on either side of the straits Obama has been guiding our ship of state.

I am not going to be endlessly apologetic for Obama, but the record of his short administration is not terrible, only disappointing because of the smoothness of the transition from the Cheney years. I am not going to suggest that Obama make a big deal out of the sacking of Gibbs for what is obviously an event that will poison waters that needed to be relatively pure. I will suggest that the occasion be given the gravity it needs by reshuffling several people in the White House all at once: Rahm Emanuel to some distant shore where his vulgar and cynical personality will be diluted by the indifference of his new surroundings, Gibbs to the Gulf Coast where he can chat with red-necks until he learns that even they have brains, Summers to some suitable purgatory for fouling up our private relations with Europe and "deviant" opinion domestically, and Axelrod to the DNC, where, I believe, he can patch things up with Howard Dean's concept of how to run a political party like the ill-disciplined, fractious, and alternately lazy and loud-mouthed Democratic Party.

The time is right at Labor Day to make these moves. It will give the chattering class plenty to discuss, optimists the opportunity to find a pony in the West Wing amid all the other evidence, and pessimists too much to chew on all at once, thus attenuating their pernicious blathering.

Finally, whether any of the so-called "professional left" understands it or not, politics in this country is still party politics. If Obama has illusions otherwise, he needs to be disabused of them instantly. The fate of the nation hangs on the willingness of Dowd's meaningless "Progressives" to find a way to support the basic party. Doing so at the eleventh hour does not work. Setting up Obama for one-term can be managed much more deftly than they are currently doing it.



Amazing Oracle Owns OpEdNews

You may know that in addition to posting my progressive liberal thoughts at The American Liberalism Project, which I co-founded many years ago, and at my own website Iron Mountain, which is dedicated, but not completed devoted to, exposing the military-industrial complex in America, I also post my essays at OpEdNews, a top 100 blog site among tens of thousands of blogs (according to Technorati, the blog measuring people). I do that because OpEdNews gets lots of hits. Essayists like me like to be "hit on," even though many, perhaps the majority of readers are poorly informed about national or world events and are even worse as expressing their own thoughts. Oh well, we learn to live for the occasional bright light or the opportunity to agree in part and to guide thinking away from logical inconsistencies and factual errors. It is a good life, but it doesn't pay anything! LOL

So, today I noticed that Rob Kall, the proprietor over at OpEdNews somehow got headlined with a diatribe against President Barack Obama, including within certain prognostications that are based on his own distemper with the White House. Since I have been asked to participate more over at OpEdNews I kicked myself around the block here, because had I taken him up on the offer, I might have dissuaded him from writing such a tendentious and (as I have alluded) distempered blog.

First, the notion that everything that goes wrong in the country is attributable to the President is juvenile thinking, perhaps infantile! Second, the list of "abuses and ignored opportunties" by Obama turn out to be extremely complex situations for which there are no (none whatsoever) easy answers in terms of national policy and national politics. The failure to close Guantanamo detention facility, for instance, leaves the President with the unsavory political choice of lodging the inmates domestically, say in an unused Illinois prison, a decision that would immediately bring in the press to ponder the likelihood of terrorism emanating from within the prison via whatever means they could manufacture in the editors's offices. Or, he could let the inmates go and be assured that they will (thanks to Cheney and Bush locking them up in the first place) go on in life to become major martyrs and terrorists in their own right.

But, Rob Kall in his tantrum forgets that what Barack Obama sees is not Rob Kall's agenda, but instead what his Chief of Staff calls a SHIT PIE inherited from the previous occupants of the West Wing ... and the East Wing, btw. It should not be lost in passing that the Chief of Staff is a large percentage of the problem and must go soon. It is alleged that this is already underway. Obama would do himself and the nation a huge favor by expediting the removal of Rahm Emanuel and his stultifying effect on the rest of the staff. Leo McGarry spins!

What is in the unsavory pie is an economic situation that cannot be described in full for the simple reason that if the White House were to do so, panic across the globe would surely ensue. Why panic, because the situation was (and continues to be) the most dangerous economic situation ever encountered by the United States. The economy of America is predicated on the U.S. currency being the "reserve currency" of the world. This gives the United States additional leverage (in the classical non-debt sense), additional cushions for domestic politics to make small errors, and additional responsibilities for guiding and assisting smaller economies. The United States is the largest economy in the world, despite challenges by the EU and China ... and India, Brazil, and combinations thereof. To put it simply, if the U.S. economy tanks ... and it very nearly did ... the world economy tanks and the misery will be endless. That's what's on Obama's plate, but you will see scant reference to it in Rob Kall's diatribe.

Then, of course, there are two political situations in Washington that impinge strongly and painfully on the White House. The Democratic leadership in the the Congress is not strong, certainly not of the calibre that the times demand. Nancy Pelosi is a savvy politician, but she is still very much a woman, and unable to play hardball with the jackasses within her own party and especially those in the Republican Party. The Republicans are the other factor, of course. They decided as a hedge against making any creative mistakes of their own, to object and obstruct everything the Democrats were elected to do. They have lied, cheated, lied, prevaricated, lied, and stood their stupid ground as if the American public were too stupid themselves to notice. With John Boehner appearing in the nightly news with various new shades of tan on his perplexed face, the Republicans have gotten a pass from newspapers and television critics alike, as if the "fair and balanced reporting" doctrine required the press to find something ... anything ... to say nice about a bunch of obstructionist morons! Give us a break!

The answer to Rob Kall is obvious. Democrats, whether they be conservative or progressive must understand that the President and his staff are not being deliberately aloof, nor are they thumbing their noses at bloggers scattered around the internet or the people who read these blogs and make their comments on them. The President is guiding the ship of state through extremely dangerous waters and, frankly, tempests in the teapots of the internet really go a short way toward making the situation worse. They are not important comments, but they set up a background of distrust and ill-will, that could just as easily have been a conscientious understanding of the big picture.



The Dog Days of Summer

One of the things that pundits do is write pretty much on a daily basis, whether there is real news or not. Of course, in Washington (and New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco) the columnists know how to start their own news upon which they comment in the ensuing days.

The word "pundit" is derived from the Hindu word "pandit," meaning "learned (and usually respected)." The current crop of practitioners, however, gets its etymology from the French, apparently. French "dire" is one of the Gallic ways to say "speak"; "dit" is a conjugation of "dire." And speak the pundits do, the Olbermann's and the Maddows's recently running out of real things to talk about, have jumped on the pronouncements of other voices and decided that this summer's barbecue will feature Barack Obama.

It would be disingenuous of me to suggest or lead you to believe that I am completely or even substantially happy with the way the Executive is behaving and talking these days. As you know I really dislike Rahm Emanuel and believe him to be a major part of the problem. (We have some reason to believe that his obscenities and abrasive personality will be otherwise employed shortly, however.) With that hopfully marvelous outcome we can be assured that relations with Capitol Hill and the press will change. But, we cannot wait for the ejection of Emanuel. It seems to me that the obligation of a Liberal columnist in an environment of distrust and rancorous division across the nation would be to consider the probable causes of his or her own distress and be a little "conservative" about ditching the President before there is any real reason to.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, sometimes a frequent flyer on Olbermann's Countdown, opens up a volley of nonsense today about Liberals falling out of love with Obama. The very title indicates the foolishness of the idea: we were never in love with Barack Obama, nor he with us. It is politics, and love hardly ever mixes with politics successfully. We handed him our hopes for change and change there was as Ross Douhat in the New York Times astutely points out this morning, too.

The facts are and the truth is that Washington is a swamp of deceit and corruption that would boggle the "mind" of Beelzebub himself. Then when you figure that out, you have to consider that even reasonably fair-minded people disagree about fundamental issues, creating discord, cacophony, and eddys and whirlpools of chaos. Just for instance, take Dr. Paul Krugman on the current slide toward deficit panic in Washington and abroad and compare it to Jeffrey Sachs's peeing in his pants over at Scientific American. Of course huge deficits are scary, but how much scarier are stunting one or two entire generations of Americans and, indeed, human beings of all nations, by letting this Great Recession go into double dip for decade or two, squandering all the previous deficits and making the right choices nearly impossible?

How dangerous is it to beat up Obama when religious fanatics like Huckaby being touted as the GOP's best choice for a presidential run in 2012? It is extremely dangerous and the dog days of summer are no excuse at all for this mindless chattering. This itchy feeling we all have is that our hopes and dreams suppressed for e i g h t l o n g George W. Bush/Dick Cheney years are just not being instantly gratified!

Grow up Liberals! No one really cares that you were in a deep psychological depression for a decade. How smart are you, anyway? Can't you see the situation for what it is? It is hot, slow, and frustrating inside the Oval Office, and out here in the encroaching desert, where the signs are unmistakable that moronic anosognosia has afflicted the very people who could contribute materially to responsible attitudes and activities against anthropogenic global warming. A long hot summer of childish whining at Barack is not going to be helpful and probably will backfire in the worst ways and the worst times!



The Irony of Irony

Maureen Dowd fired one across the bow of President Obama today in her New York Times column. As a former Naval officer I can tell you that firing across a bow is intended to show that you have ammunition and are willing to use it to further your own aims ... and that your aim is good. Today Maureen Dowd missed hitting the bow by only a hair's breadth and threw up a column of water onto the decks of the still slightly questionable seaworthiness of the USS Obama. The skipper is doubtless not pleased, being soaking wet from the experience, and being not pleased will doubtless retreat further into that place that Ms. Dowd penned him.

Such is the power of the press to create self-fulfilling commentary. Or, is this just a bit of hubris on Dowd's part when she asserts that [even though]

Jon Stewart and bloggers mocked the journalists, suggesting they were too chummy with power ... the picnic was on the record, and good reporters can’t be co-opted by some cold French fries. Whenever you see politicians in a relaxed or stressful situation, beyond the usual teleprompter speeches and scripted photo ops, you learn something about those charged with making life and death decisions. You may even pick up some news.

Cold French fries, indeed! One gets the notion that journalists eat out of dumpsters with a passion and a cold French fry becomes a story about cooling Francophilia. No, I think Maureen is many times too self-righteous about the positive qualities of her profession. Still, (as I mentioned to someone today), the press corps is pretty much the same as it was in 1933 or 1956 or 1982 or yesterday. It has deadlines, a need to fill screens or pages for sale, and clearly each member and each publication has a prevailing point of view. In other words, it is not pristine, it is not beautiful, but it does incorporate a certain "free market of ideas and positions" that in time sift out into effective political journalism or ineffective fluff.

Irony is a trope, a figure of speech, in which the intent of the speaker is to say one thing and mean quite the opposite. In modern America the term has been invested with inanimate objects and public opinions, cultural values, and the like. So, Irony is complicated. But, at least we can agree that Irony is about value reversal and gestalt-like shifts from positive to negative or vice versa. Dowd is telling us that she has resisted the gestalt shift on Obama fiercely (not really!) until today, whereupon she has seen the emperor naked and not nearly as comely as she had hoped. Her dashed hopes are a bit more whiny than she intended, I think.

Synecdoche (sin ECK doh key) is also a trope, a figure of speech, one where the part is taken for the whole, the whole for the part, or the container for the thing contained, and vice versa. If you spend a lot of time nuzzling the semiotics of synecdoche you will find that it is a favorite of philosophers like Hegel who posit "organic" causal processes, who resist strenuously the descent into Irony implicit in all tropes. Maureen Dowd jumped straight toward Irony, but it interesting to me that she avoided the complicity of journalists in the "making of the President" or the "unmaking," as you will.

Complicity is the press corps problem. They get nothing without "befriending" someone they might better be criticizing. They need deep background all the time, so they become part of the problem, as it were, an organic part of the administration. They are, however, part of two worlds, the general culture which is their primary audience, and the local establishment which is their bread and butter that they dare not (usually) to scourge.

My colleagues disagree about whether Maureen scourged Barack Obama, but I think they are in tacit agreement that an unfunny-bone was struck sharply. Given that Dowd is writing to and about Obama, her propositional attitude seems to be a surrender to the imperatives of her professional class that coincides with a need to let us know that Obama is not what we (or at least she) believed he was. This is not new; but it is Dowd, a loud voice in the culture.

Personally, I added her hypothesis to the several I have about Barack Hussein Obama, some of these hypotheses overlapping and some not. This hypothesis struck me as a theory of Obama that he expected the "Liberal press" to give him a free trip to the next campaign. I think that is more true than not. I do not think Obama dislikes the press categorically or for any aesthetic or moral reasons, although I think that the crafty Dowd tries to infer that. I continue to believe that Obama is poorly staffed in the West Wing and that his loyalty to Rahm Emanuel, among others, is taking on the color of being hostage. Emanuel is out of his depth; he belongs in a much lesser job. My evidence is the year-long debacle over health care reform. Rahm botched his role completely. He did not do such a hot job fingering Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, either.

Who the Press Secretary is is irrelevant, since Maureen's comments go around that factotum directly to The Man. So, perhaps the deficiency in the White House is that there are too many people with too little clout with the basic person who is President. But that is another essay.



Net Neutrality in Trouble

The Washington Post this Monday morning reports the falling of the other shoe. It is expected that the Chairman of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), which has been morally adrift for at least 30 years and which Slick Willie Clinton sold into corporate slavery during his pathetic tour of duty, will decline to regulate internet providers ... which means that safeguards FOR "net neutrality" will not be imposed, nor will the corporations who want to give faster access to their more profitable and less politically annoying customers be regulated.

This is a tragedy in the making, but one wonders why a Democratic administration would come down so flatly against the public good and for the corporations? The answer is that the Administration has an even more expansive target in mind, one which involves the corporations and their willingness to undertake the LEAST profitable sector of internet provision—inclusion of the rural and low-income populations to achieve 100% internet penetration.

This is a very bad bargain, a bargain in which the corporations will get federal assistance to extend the internet that last several miles and also get permission to treat the consumers at the end of the pipeline unequally. Not good! Worse yet for companies like Google that rely on natural "market forces" within the internet to provide information about internet use. No way to monitor a system that has artificial constraints on certain less profitable and more annoyingly political areas.

Chairman Genachowski should grow a pair and get on the right side of history, commerce, and freedom of speech immediately! Write him, email him, tell him how much this means to us!




Last week ABC News—obviously not clear on the concept—promoted the idea that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made the internet the center of U.S. foreign policy! I hope the ABC News watching public understands that "the center" and "a centerpiece" are very distinctly different concepts. But make no mistake about this, Washington believes that the internet is crucial to modern American jingoism—the promotion of American values and our form of government (corrupt and otherwise ... certainly not the model of representative democracy that the Framers had in mind ... certainly the form that best suits a nation reduced to selling guns and peon-izing its citizens) across the breath and length of this planet.

There is more than just a cynical thread of truth in this notion of the importance of the internet, but Washington in its hubris misses the point that the internet, whatever its sources of funding, is essentially two things: it is democratic to a fair-the-well, and it is fragile.

I shudder when my computer crashes and I imagine millions of computers "crashed" because government has gotten control of the hubs and nodes and closes us down. Absolutist Control is a work in progress in China, of course, and that is the putative model for this notion that ABC has misunderstood. When the internet goes down for political reasons, there is no substitute for what we have evolved over these last twenty years. Commerce will plummet, in fact, there will be a depression, panic, and political upheaval. The internet is extremely important, but there is one thing that it is not.

The democracy of the internet is not a form of government. It is the democracy of three billion voices and ears and eyes. The internet is what we make of it, and sex is what we have made of it. This may speak more to the weird notions we have about the sexual nature of our species, but it is what happened. Sex and political propaganda, then commerce. The American ideal, if you are to read ABC News straightforwardly, is that people have the god-given right to access (and even contribute to) the array of sexual content, the political propaganda, and especially to buy stuff. ABC believes (and maybe Hillary does too) that the motives energizing the internet are "manageable" in the same way that television audiences are "managed" into bogus "reality shows" and news media that express corporate interests. ABC and Hillary may be right, for the facts are that the vast majority of people do not stop to question authority, assertions, or much less the psychology of presentation on TV. Why would they on the Internet?

We come to the conclusion that the "centerpiece" of American outreach to the rest of the world is for the rest of the world to emulate the American way of being docile and managed citizens. The hubris of this idea is astounding, and the possibility that it is accurate utterly horrifying.



The Media! Do Not Believe Them

From my friend at The American Liberalism Project (which I founded) comes this summary of the intrinsic unreliability and moral bankruptcy of the domestic (and much of the foreign) press. It is worth your while to read this short piece.

I am certain that there is a movement afoot which will within months (perhaps 18, if the midterm elections go as I think they will ... more on this later) result in something that feels, looks, and smells like revolution. Yes. Revolution. Unsettling, isn't it. Better to be safe? I don't think so. Revolutions carry the innocent on their horns.



Manipulating the News

Americans have been manipulating the news since well before the American Revolution. Other Americans are fairly used to the news being manipulated. Not that it is a tradition, of course, but Americans (and Europeans and people all over the world) have always suspected the bearers of tidings good and bad to embroider their stories to suit their own preferences, delivery styles (their songs, ballads, righteous propaganda, evangelism, proselytizing, monarchism, democratism, revolutionism, racism, and so forth). Today the number one issue in America is the economy, followed closely by our foreign policy. The key item in our economy, from the point of view of regular people, is employment. The significant factor in this area is unemployment, and the latest news is that the rate of unemployment has (momentarily) dropped by 0.2% amid wild cheering from people who should know better!

More on unemployment in a moment, but first a little reality check on foreign policy. If you read the left blogosphere (DailyKos, FireDogLake, OpEdNews, American Liberalism Project, TomDispatch and others) you will read about the great disappointment in President Obama and his decision to augment our troops in the AfPak War by some 30,000. To tell the truth, I was not happy about the decision, but, folks, that was the decision, and I understand it as far as it goes. Clearly President Obama, before being elected and since (prior to his December 1st speech at West Point), has seen the Afghanistan theater as an important step (real or perceived) against terrorism (for him, his administration, our country and others).

Why then do bloggers bother to write so stridently and foolishly about the latest decision, when in fact the die is obviously and widely cast and their better bet is to set up the frame for the next decision, to establish popular metrics for determining whether we are getting anywhere or not. Of course, we all understand that the current decision depends heavily (probably foolishly) on unreliable folks in west Asia (and President Obama should be given credit for understanding this) so with all that, what position should the bloggists take? Should they point out how unreliable Afghans and Pakistanis have been? No! What good does that do? They should point out opportunities won and lost in the coming eighteen months. How are they to know about these opportunities? Through the news, of course! But the news is manipulated. We don't know what CIA and Blackwater (Xe) are doing; we only know that they are doing it primarily (perhaps) in Pakistan in spite of the Islamabad government's protests. People who know how complex this "game" really is begin to relax their vigilance and just let it happen, taking note only when an AP reporter tells them that some prime minister somewhere has been carted off by the military and that nuclear arms are now safer.

Bloggers (and indeed the entire network of professional journalists) must dig deeper into Afghanistan and Pakistan and produce information that is relevant to the decision that will be made about 18 months hence. We must be all over the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, but more than that we must understand the people there and go deeper than the barely credible polls. Take Obama at his word, the policy in place now IS an exit policy.

Has anyone written about the relationship between our wars and our unemployment problems? Does anyone remember demobilization after WWII? Does anyone think that the contemporary U.S. economy could absorb 100,000 demobilized troops? ... 200,000? I was going to ask the former Marine Corps guy who came around yesterday advertizing his new window washing company. Does this man show up on Bureau of Labor Statistics radars?

The Bureau's stats for November are a delight for Xmas retailers. It appears that the newest millennium has arrived from the carefully scripted report. The first figure reported out by flash news services—165,000 jobs lost—is suddenly impossible to find online and now we read that only 11,000 net jobs have been lost in November. Recent month's historical data is revised to make the whole thing seem even less scary and more amenable to Xmas shopping sprees ... to buoy up the economy ... (of China)!

Take a look at the unemployment graph in the report linked to above. November shows a slight jog downward. But, look back at May 2009. Yes, there is another similar jog just before the whole thing began to climb at an alarming rate. Yes, clearly the recent three month's slope of the curve is less harrowing than that curve describing most of 2009, but please notice that the slope is still upward ... meaning that unemployment is still increasing. The best minds around predict a slump after Xmas ... principally because there is ALWAYS a slump after the Xmas retail sales. So, drawing a moderately bad slope on the unemployment curve is not naughty or unAmerican, it is simply straightening out the news ... and the record, because you sure do not want to risk your precious liquidity on BLS propaganda foisted off by a beleaguered administration and compliant media, do you!



The "Cojones" Frame

Just recently William Greider wrote in The Nation an interesting piece about "Obama and the Big Dogs," the canines who typically inhabit the top floor, two-corner offices on "Wall Street." I wouldn't have known about the article at all except CommonDreams aggregated it into their daily "must read" dozen under a grab-you title "Testicular Politics." The way "CommonDreams" presented it, you would have thought Greider was framing the trouble President Obama has bitten off as somehow linked to Barack's manhood. In fact, Greider does play the Alpha Dog routine for all it is worth in his brief essay, so the combined effect of the publisher and the aggregator is to frame the state of the Presidency today pretty much as a mano a mano combat situation, with just a tinge of pejorative sexual/racial overtones to lend contrast, just a suggestion of wimp, without having to take too much responsibility for the slur.

Greider says that Obama is doing a good deal less than Greider would like to see in making sure the canines of Wall Street understand who's boss—who is Alpha Dog. I don't doubt for a second that the big dogs think they run the world. I have friends who despise these plutocrats and oligarchs, but believe when the trump are counted, these big dogs will have most of them. In fact, the oligarchs have had their way with government for many years now, beginning with Nixon, but clearly expanding under Ron Reagan. For the best part of a half century Americans have been listening to the carrier wave of right wing politics which drones on and on about how government is the problem. So canny are these folk that they don't even mention an alternative—that big business is the problem with America.

Greider and the aggregator are irresponsible to put the battle between NY and DC down in terms of how macho Barack Obama might be. They are, in fact, reducing the problem to one which will never be resolved in those terms, and so it is a canard and cop-out. The way Greider sees it, the big dogs have been baiting Obama, but the explanation in terms of bluffing the bailout and peeing on Obama's tree goes nowhere to really explain his or their behaviors, which in fact can be described in much less provocative terms. Since Greider is writing from The Nation and not The New Republic we can assume that he has good wishes for President Obama, even though he can hardly use the word President next to Obama's name. He doesn't.

The "cojones frame" is what this is and it says more about Greider and editor vanden Heuvel than it says about our new administration. It is vicious under the cover of being just prosaically nasty and rude. What effrontery to accuse "the kid" as he calls President Obama of being thumped around by these megalomaniac tycoons, while the President and his inside guy, Geithner, try to save their sorry asses—and are showing signs of success! It takes "balls" to write this kind of crap and that somehow JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have saved themselves while accepting a bailout! The party that Greider and vanden Heuvel think they represent does not exist. It has not existed since Iowa, since the speech in Philadelphia, and not since November 2nd last year. Greider may be a seasoned journalist and may be used to the smells of corruption and wanton power-brokering, but he hasn't a clue about this new president. If he did, he would have begun to make the real case about Barack Obama that explains why we are so unnerved by his opening moves.

First, you have to give Barack Obama some credit for brains. He is not just a stump orator without a pot belly. He is a Constitutional scholar, a thinker, an activist who can see the world of hurt that some people begin to believe is their life's lot, and he can steer them past the rough edges of those worlds. He is an organized and disciplined man with a canny sense of the possibilities that others think are impossible. He is a change agent, but his idea of change is not that we will model ourselves on the sordid worlds of Bill Greider, but on a new set of relationships that will, frankly, tend to exclude Bill Greider. Greider is smart enough to see this coming in broad outlines, so he reacts.

The proof that Barack Obama is not clairvoyant is his selection of Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Rahm was to deliver strong and subtle messages to members of Congress, both sides of the aisle. Who knew that the Republicans would undertake a process of self-destruction that includes truculent no-ism? Rahm is completely ineffective at this point, but you can see his hesitating hyper-political influence in the question of what to do about torture. Rahm thinks he still has those motivate Congress duties. Fortunately, it has worked out differently, so Mr. Emanuel's caution about irritating the Health Care Base in the Democratic Party is so much froth on an empty beer can. I believe President Obama will have several Chiefs of Staff and that Mr. Emanuel will soon enough be back in Chicago running for the House seat he vacated to take on this work.

The proof that Barack Obama is not immune to pressure is his willingness to put out in the public the so-called "torture memos," knowing full well that once the chickens are allowed to go "free range" there will be endless trouble. Obama does not want to risk the recovery or health care or immigration or social security reform on torture show trials, and you don't want that either, so Obama has opened the door enough, for right now, to get the conversation going and to get the hotheads to identify and exhaust themselves. As a poker player, President Obama is as good as Greider has ever seen and much better than he understands.

But in poker there is a flinch factor. It is called "the tell." The cable television poker players wear wrap-around sunglasses, propeller hats, anything to take away the likelihood of an opposing player noticing his "tell." Every player has one (or many), so it is not a question of bearing down on one's disguise. It is a question of keeping the noise sufficiently loud that the "tell" is engulfed and virtually impossible to see amid the activity.

The activity is this: the administration is still forming and the principals are busy finding, cleaning, and testing the levers and strings, unearthing the Cheneyite "left-behinds." In a sense, President Obama (under the most intense scrutiny ever put on a President in his first three months) is temporizing until he can put his lieutenants out there with full confidence ... or sufficient body armor! You can "tell" this by the way Secretary Gates (a holdover and completely at ease in his own office) takes initiatives and speaks without President Obama there to prop him up. The rest, with the exception of Secretary Hillary Clinton, whose activities as ambassador plenipotentiary are deliberately personal and exceptionally unrelated to the organization beneath her, are biding their time and getting set to act.

So, what is Barack Obama's "tell?" It would not be good for me to say until you have your bets on the table, until you are committed to this hand, until you know who the big dog really is and where the bigger stacks of chips are. But, I will give you a muffled hint: Barack Obama is President. Think about it.