Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi freed (by Suzie)

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed from house arrest on Saturday, setting her on the path to a possible new confrontation with the generals who had kept her out of the public eye for 15 of the past 21 years.
That's from an article in the NYT. Here's more background on the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The Washington Post had a shorter article. Unlike the NYT, however, it didn't describe what she was wearing.

I'm thrilled that the Burmese dictators went through with this. I just hope she can remain free. Then again, as she has written:
The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

The Questions of the Hour [Anthony McCarthy]

My past writing on politics here has been based on possibilities which have turned out to be mistaken. I feel pretty well discredited by the performance of Democrats in the Senate and the Administration but I will not ignore the attempts of Democrats in the House and in legislatures around the country to keep faith.

What should liberals and the left do in the present circumstances?

Who should we try to work with in Washington DC? Should we try to work with anyone in the federal government?

Barack Obama has betrayed and disappointed us up till now, I don't see any evidence that he intends to change that record. He seems to be quite satisfied with its results or he would change his political strategy of pursuing fictitious bipartisanship, even as the Republicans reap the rewards of their strategy of HELL NO!

I don't believe Barack Obama is stupid, his refusal to change has some other explanation, but I'm not interested in that. In politics results matter, not the personalities or identities of the politicians we elect to get those results.

Now should we proceed?

I will read your suggestions and will take your advice to heart in anything I write on this in the future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

'Razing Hell' with gender (by Suzie)

At some Christian churches, I feel like I've traveled back in time to a political system in which people must serve their masters and worship their lords. This extended metaphor doesn't work for me.

One reason, among many, is its gendered nature. In conservative churches, I must obey a powerful male authority or else face terrible punishment. It's universal and eternal patriarchy.

That's why I was so intrigued by Sharon L. Baker's new book "Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You've Been Taught About God's Wrath and Judgment." Baker, an associate professor of theology and religion and coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Messiah College, takes the Christian Universalist stance that a loving, powerful god would not condemn anyone to eternal torment.

My respect for her grew when I discovered her aunt, who makes the best pies, attends my Unitarian Universalist church. (The aunt does have other accomplishments, such as being a retired lawyer, R.N. and who knows what else.) While I wait for my autographed book, here's a little bit from Baker's piece in the Huffington Post:
Hell creates a clash between justice and love. We unintentionally conjure up a cruel father who demands that unrepentant sinners spend eternity in the flames of hell, finding endless torture an agreeable way to achieve justice -- which is a far cry from the God who loves with an everlasting love. ... Hell assigns eternal violence to God: Traditional theories of hell not only keep evil in eternal existence; they also keep the cycle of violence in motion for all eternity as unfortunate souls suffer the ferocity of eternal torture because God requires it.
How wonderful if Christianity could turn more people away from violence, instead of being used as a justification for it.

(I chose this photo because I liked the look of this church north of San Francisco on a rainy January day. I don't know the beliefs of its congregation.)

Hibernating after the election (by Suzie)

bleeding hearts can march and shout
and call for revolution
i'm stepping off, i'm dropping out
i just want to have some big fun ...
going to sleep city like everybody else
going to sleep city and you can go to hell
-- Vicki Randle, "Sleep City"

Randle is tongue in cheek on the title song of her CD. (I couldn't find a decent video, but you can listen to a clip here, and then buy the CD and encourage her to put out another.)
Part of the point of this song ... was a plea to the astonishing number of people I've encountered who say, "I don't pay any attention to politics, they're all the same. I'm just looking out for myself. "
I played the CD over and over after the election. I understand the desire to give up, after Republicans swept my state. They won all the statewide races, and they increased their majority in the Florida legislature. A tea-party candidate captured a U.S. Senate seat. But the loss that hit me the hardest was the governorship. Alex Sink lost by a single percentage point to millionaire Rick Scott, who spent $73 million of his own money. From the Miami Herald:
Scott, who barely met the seven-year residency requirement for governor, built the nation's largest hospital empire, Columbia/HCA, but was forced out as CEO when the federal government launched an investigation that led to historic fines for Medicare fraud.
For more on the fraud case, see this article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Scott also founded and funded a group that attacked Obama's health-care reform last year. He has been called "the mastermind of town hall riots."

All the major newspapers in Florida, including conservative ones, endorsed Sink. (I mentioned her in a post last month.) I especially liked the Orlando Sentinel's editorial. Apparently, this wasn't enough to awaken dormant Democrats or independents who sleepwalked to the polls.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Last week, I wrote about my sister's white German shepherd, Deacon, a "foreclosure pet." Here he is: washed, brushed, nails clipped and ready for his new home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Best Commission Money Can Buy!

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a. The Cat Food Commission For the Elderly) shows its fiscal responsibility by not paying all its members:

Instead, about one in four commission staffers is paid by outside entities, many of which have strong ideological points of view about how to tackle the deficit.

For example, the salaries of two senior staffers, Marc Goldwein and Ed Lorenzen, are paid by private groups that have previously advocated cuts to entitlement programs. Lorenzen is paid by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, while Goldwein is paid by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is also partly funded by the Peterson group.

The outsourcing has come under sharp criticism from seniors' organizations and liberal activists, who say the strategy is part of a broader conservative bias favoring painful entitlement cuts over other solutions. The fears of some liberal groups appeared to come true on Wednesday, when the commission's two leaders recommended significant reductions for Social Security and other social-welfare programs.
There are liberal outsiders, too!

Bruce Reed, the panel's executive director, defended the staffing arrangement as fiscally responsible and said the staff includes a broad range of views. Other staffers paid by outside entities include an analyst from the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute and a Clinton administration official who now teaches at Johns Hopkins University, he said.
Note the false equivalence when it comes to a university being labeled as liberal?

But whatever. I'm very interested in the views of Mr. Peterson:

Kennelly and other liberal-leaning critics say they are particularly troubled by the influence of Peterson, a billionaire and former investment banker who began a $6 million campaign this week urging lawmakers to cut the deficit. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group investment fund, paid for a series of town hall meetings this year that included participation by deficit commission members. He also funds the Fiscal Times, a digital news organization that focuses on federal debt issues.
How does one balance that? I think we'd need about a million indigent seniors on that commission as a counterweight. Because money speaks loudly.

I know that I've said this far too many times but it's still worth noting how the concern over the deficit didn't exist during the Bush era. Somehow it was perfectly OK to overspend then when the Republicans were in power and the money went to killing foreigners.

Lessons from Blogging. Part I: Do Not Give Up

I promised or threatened to write a few posts to celebrate my seventh anniversary as a blogger and I urge Suzie and Anthony to chime in, too, if they wish.

The lessons I have picked here are the more positive ones (though I can do another series of the negative ones if enough people are interested in that!) and they don't apply just to blogging but to most everything. The first of those lessons is:

Do Not Give Up.

These two pictures of goats feeding on minerals along a dam make the point much better. The first shows what they are doing from a distance, the second zooms in and shows us the individual goats. Now, think of yourself as a goat:

The messages are:

1. You will fail. Then climb up again. And again.
2. You are not alone.
3. It's not always harder than it looks and if other goats can do it so can you.
4. You don't have to be the best goat but you are a goat of Value.
5. You have the right to hold on.
6. Keep your eyes on the goal. And on your feet.
7. If it's there (the dam) use it!

The UN Women

This is a new UN agency, intended to promote equality for women. Which is great. Except that I cannot stop laughing when looking at the list of initial member countries:

The Council also elected Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States from among the "contributing countries," for three-year terms beginning today.
The bolds are mine though I know I wouldn't be allowed to use them in Saudi Arabia.

In general that list has many countries which we'd call foxes if women were called chicks. But at least Iran didn't get in!

Led by the U.S., several countries helped gather opposition to Iran's campaign. They were joined by human-rights groups, who pointed to the recent sentence of death by stoning for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery.

The seats on the agency's board are divided by region, with 10 spots reserved for Asian countries. Until last week, the Asian group had an uncontested slate – in other words, 10 countries, including Iran, were vying for 10 spots.

At the last minute, Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, joined the fray, taking the number of Asian candidates to 11, a move some speculated was designed to block Iran.

In Wednesday's vote, Timor-Leste succeeded in its bid to join the board. The nine other Asian countries elected were Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and South Korea.
Saudi Arabia got in through being a donor country so it was not part of this general election. But it is still extremely hilarious that the country with the most anti-woman laws sits on the board.

Not that the rest of the list is that impressive, either.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Cartoon

Is this one. I've seen versions of it before but it's still funny because it's true.

My First Thought

After hearing of the Republican victory in the House was that we are gonna hear a lot about baby killing again. The House will spend days and days and days on discussing various incremental ways of cutting back on abortion.

Sure, people voted on the economy, we are told. But what we got is lots more pro-forced-birthers in the House and in state governments.

It's a bit like what took place in Aceh, Indonesia, when the shariah law first was implemented there. The people of Aceh wanted it. Interviews on the BBC told me that many feared crime on the streets and were very pleased to hear about the installation of the shariah law. One woman said that now she could go out and feel safe.

But when the same BBC program interviewed the powers that be behind the shariah law introduction in Aceh, they told that their major focus was to be on punishing adulterers and on stopping gambling.

Doesn't sound quite the same now, does it? I think the same displacement is happening here:

Meanwhile, opponents of the Obama administration's health care law, business leaders and conservative groups have begun making plans, too, for what they expect will be a series of welcome openings. Among the possibilities: a new flurry of proposed state prohibitions on abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration.

"I feel like a little boy on Christmas morning — which package do you open up first?" said Troy Newman, the leader of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group. Already, abortion opponents were considering pressing for new regulations in New Mexico, Iowa and Kansas, where Sam Brownback, the Republican governor-elect, follows Democratic governors who vetoed some abortion limits approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Welcome to the era of a limited government!

When did Operation Rescue become a respectable group for the New York Times to get quotes from?

Congratulations To All Who Wanted A Smaller Government

Isn't that what we were told about the results of the last election? Well, this is how you get a smaller government:

A draft proposal to be released Wednesday by the chairmen of President Obama's bipartisan commission on reducing the federal debt calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending starting in 2012, and an overhaul of the tax code to raise revenue. Those changes and others would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says.

The plan would reduce Social Security benefits to most future retirees — low-income people would get a higher benefit — and it would subject higher levels of income to payroll taxes to ensure Social Security's solvency for at least the next 75 years.


The proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent on the lowest income bracket (now 10 percent) and to 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.

Even after reducing the rates, the overhaul of the tax code would still yield additional revenue to reduce annual deficits — a projected $80 billion in 2015.

But how low the rates are set would depend on how many tax breaks are reduced or eliminated. Some of them, including the mortgage interest deduction and the exemption from taxes for employees' health benefits, are political sacred cows.
Emphases are mine.

Put granny in the attic of that rental property and find yourself a cheaper health insurance policy! Of course none of this will matter if you are a high earner. In that case you have a nice tax cut to look forward to.

This is all very interesting, after you finish banging your head against the wall.

Take the mortgage deductions for an example. They have always been a bit tricky to justify from an equality point of view, because they give a tax cut to those who can afford to buy rather than to rent and because the size of the price reduction they create is larger the more taxes you would otherwise pay.

But removing that deduction will also have odd equality effects: It's the middle classes who depend on that deduction to buy a house. The rich don't need it to be able to afford to buy.

Reducing or eliminating the mortgage deductions, combined with tax cuts of the types shown here, will do -- what? They must mean a move towards a larger relative tax burden for the middle classes, unless public spending is really really slashed.

The impact on the housing markets will also be interesting. Tampering with the mortgage deductions this way is the same as raising house prices. Given the horrible state of the housing markets it's not easy to predict the overall impact except to note that buying a house certainly will be more expensive than it was.
For more information on the contents of the draft proposal, check out TPM.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Just Like Greta Garbo!

Texas governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry just wants to be left alone:

The day after his resounding re-election in Texas, the Republican governor released a book that reads like a Tea Party manifesto, laying out the conservative case for dismantling much of the federal government and returning power to the states.


Mr. Perry's book — "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington" (Little, Brown) — certainly reads like a candidate's platform. Much of it echoes the ideas of conservative talk show hosts like Mr. Beck and many Tea Party activists.

He proposes to rein in federal power on every front, leaving most questions outside of national defense up to the states.

"We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated," he writes. "We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our house, what kinds of cars we can drive, what kinds of guns we can own, what kinds of prayers we are allowed to say and where we can say them, what political speech we are allowed to use to elect candidates, what kind of energy we can use, what kind of food we can grow, what doctor we can see, and countless other restrictions on our right to live as we see fit."
That rant of his is quite hilarious. For example, the salt police hasn't found Snakepit Inc. yet, because nobody forced me to salt my oatmeal this morning (I prefer cinnamon in any case).

But I quite agree with governor Perry that we should be allowed to build houses which collapse right after construction. We should also be allowed to drive whatever we wish, including tanks, using leaded gasoline, and I (at least) should be allowed to go grocery shopping with a dagger between my teeth and a few bombs in my back pocket. It's a free country, after all.

For us cowboys.
ETA: I should have written a proper post on this explaining why his arguments are either untrue and/or too simplistic but I'm tired today. But I will note that Perry also wants to get rid of Medicaid, the state program (though with federal subsidies) which covers the health care needs of the poor (or some selected groups among the poor) and also a large chunk of the nursing home costs of the elderly. What he might put in its place remains a mystery. The most likely answer is suffering.

Meanwhile, among the U.S. Dominionists

Jesus' General linked to a blog post by a woman who certainly has strong opinions for a graciously submitting wife:

As a citizen of the US, I have a right to vote. However, I do not exercise this right, because I believe that based on the Bible, it is wrong for women to vote.

Now, I am not trying to convince any other ladies of my beliefs. I simply wanted to share some Bible verses of why I believe what I believe, because I have been asked about it repeatedly.

1Timothy 2:12 - But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Based on the Bible, it is wrong for women to exercise authority over men. However, women voting can lead to a passing of laws that the majority of men would oppose. One example of this is abortion - more than 50% of men are against it, but more than 50% of women are for it, which is why it is legal.

Most anyone would agree that in a democratic republic such as the US, the voting citizens are the final authority, not some monarch or ruling class (at least in theory). Hence, I do not wish to be part of the voting pool, because I do not believe it is right for women to be in charge.
Why do I even bother writing about a post like this full of factual errors and poor research of the Bible? For the simple reason of that second sentence:

However, I do not exercise this right, because I believe that based on the Bible, it is wrong for women to vote.
Note that she doesn't qualify her statement about the wrongness of women voting. It's not Dominionist women she talks about or even Christian women. It's all women. That I vote is wrong. That you vote (should you happen to be female) is wrong. And so on.

So what she argues here is directed at all the billions of us wimminfolk. Her interpretation of a statement taken from her interpretation of what a Bible is leads her to that conclusion*.

It also leads her to conclude that women (once again, not just women who share her religious beliefs but ALL women) shouldn't exercise authority over men. Because someone called Timothy Paul said so hundreds of years ago. Now that makes mothering pretty difficult. Your one-year old son must exert authority over you, his mother, for example (Timothy Paul does not specify ages, after all). And even kindergarten teachers for boys cannot be women.

The above post is a good example of how absolute patriarchy works and so are many of the comments to it. Some of them argue that women should not vote or work outside the home or ever teach men (gasp!), and should their husbands force them to vote they should vote exactly as he decrees. All this based on a particular Biblical worldview.

Does this sound familiar? It is what Osama bin Laden supports and a general thread in most fundamentalist religions: A certain kind of slavery which only appears voluntary. It's not truly voluntary, however, because it is based on the alternative threat of an eternity spent in hell. Literally.

*Yes, I know that sounds complicated but the phrasing is necessary because she does interpret the text in one particular way and she also applies one particular interpretation to the Bible itself: That it is the literal word of God. But then she contradicts herself by concluding what the Bible might say about women voting on the basis of an unrelated snippet of text. So either the Bible is the literal word of God (in which case women surely can vote as the Bible says nothing about women who vote) or it lends itself to interpretations which place it to a particular time and place and written by a particular group of humans, mostly men.

Monday, November 08, 2010

More On My Blogoversary

Now that is a horrible word. Like squeezing a hot boiled potato between your front teeth, or trying to do so. But I do have my seventh anniversary today, so I decided to celebrate it from tomorrow onward by writing posts about what I have learned from this blog during the last seven years. I hope some of that will be of interest to you, my dear readers. I'm still going to write about the Events Of The Day, too.

When I realized, late last night, that the date of the anniversary was today I felt pulled into several directions.

On the one hand, I love (love!) my readers and the adulation and the arguments, and I love preaching and ranting and raving.

On the other hand, seven years is a long time and it's not clear whether I have achieved anything by this endeavor, other than having fun and finding that I indeed can take pretty awful insults without falling apart. Also, my house is now always messy and dusty and my garden but a sweet memory.

On the third hand, seven years IS a long time and I have stuck to doing this! Go me.

And so on.

My heartfelt thanks go to Suzie and Anthony McCarthy and all the other kind and wise people who have written for this blog in the past and may do so in the future if we decide to keep it going.

PS: Send money if you can afford it. Thanks for all who have already given and thanks for all who read here.

Must Cheer For Your Rapist, Must. Possibly Triggering.

That's what the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit says when deciding on this case:

The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district's legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. [...]

H.S., then 16, attended a party in her hometown of Silsbee, Texas, in October 2008. She said she was dragged into a room, thrown onto the floor by several youths and raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star on the school's football and basketball teams.

Bolton and a teammate were arrested two days later, but were allowed to return to school after a county grand jury declined to indict them. They were later indicted on sexual assault charges, but in the interim came the February 2009 incident on the basketball court.

H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.
The school then told her that she must cheer for all players, including Bolton, or leave the team. H.S. sued the school on the grounds free speech. She and her family are going to appeal the ruling.

The comments at Think Progress contain some of the expected type, the type which turns a rape case into an examination of the woman's behavior. Why did she go back to cheer-leading after something so traumatizing? Was she telling the truth about the rape? Though most comments argue that she was poorly treated by the school (or at least by Bolton) not many ask the correlating questions:

Why is a student accused of rape allowed to play in the game? Why would any school put another student, one who argues that she has been raped, into that position: of seeing her rapist rewarded*?

I am not writing about the actual court case. Whether H.S. had free speech rights or not is unclear. I am writing about the greater atrocity so very evident here: The rape culture.

I have been skeptical of the concept in the past but it is difficult to explain what happened here in any other way than by assuming that the society in Texas is pretty comfortable with rape, that the society in Texas doesn't see it as much of a crime and that rapists are not treated like criminals in Texas. They can go on with their lives with only minor adjustments (like straightening a tie).

And what about the victims of rape? They, too, must act as if nothing happened except perhaps some bad sex. They must cheer for the rapist when told to do so and they must explain why they haven't escaped all normal life IF they indeed have been raped.

This case makes me very angry. Consider this:

H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.

"I didn't want to have to say his name, and I didn't want to cheer for him," H.S. said. "I didn't want to encourage anything he was doing."

She said she had done the same thing at an earlier game without incident. This time, she said, she was called into a hallway at halftime, and the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home.
Hard time in town

Her father came out of the stands - where the fans, he said, were mocking the girl - to join his crying daughter. After a shouting confrontation with the school administrators, he, his wife and their daughter left the game.

In the following weeks, H.S. said, "it was my family against the community" of Silsbee, a town of 6,300 where "football is everything. ... They were the star athletes and I was standing up to them."

She said youths shouted "slut" at her as she drove to school with her younger sister, who soon transferred to another school.

The only response from school officials, H.S. said, was to advise her to stay away from Bolton.
Did anyone yell at Bolton on his school trips? We already know that he was cheered while playing.

What all this ultimately signals is the lesser value of women, the lesser power of women to get justice and the general view that what women are for is sex. That being raped can destroy the victim's mental health for years if not for decades is just her problem but possible false rape accusations destroy the accused man's career and life prospects.

So all victims must tread carefully and seek help only in cases where it is very clear that a violent rape has taken place. Not breathing any longer might help, too. Otherwise, be prepared for a public pillorying of the kind described here.
*The actual case turned into a plea bargain:

Two days before the ruling, Bolton, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault. He was fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and take an anger-management course.

On Women and Shariah Law

I'm sure you have heard about that rather silly vote in Oklahoma advocating banning the use of international law and shariah law in Oklahoman courts. Well, the ban passed but is now the case for a lawsuit:

Days after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to prohibit its courts from considering Sharia or international law, CAIR's Oklahoma director filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction against the law.

Muneer Awad, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Oklahoma chapter, filed suit against the Oklahoma Board of Elections in federal court on Thursday. In the suit, he alleges the law both violates the First Amendment and harms his family's ability to carry out his will after he dies.

The proposition, which will go into effect once votes are certified on Nov. 9, amends the Oklahoma constitution and "forbids courts from considering or using international law [and] forbids courts from using or considering Sharia Law."

Awad said in the suit that in his will he directs that his possessions be divided "in accordance with the guidance contained in the prophetic teachings" of Islam.


As for the First Amendment, Awad contends that he will "suffer official disapproval of his faith communicated to him by Oklahoma through the document that organizes the state's existence: the constitution. The Shariah Ban, because the text only mentions and restricts the religious traditions upon which [Awad] draws his faith, will imply to Oklahomans that there is something especially nefarious about the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed that justified its exclusion from the state courts."
I'm not certain if there is anything "especially nefarious" about the shariah laws when compared to other religious laws created during the middle ages, and that's when most of them seem to have been created. They all tend to give women fewer rights than men, though. Considering that will of Awad:

"Allah commands you regarding your children. For the male a share equivalent to that of two females. " [Quran 4:11]

This first principle which the Quran lays down refers to males and females of equal degree and class. This means that a son inherits a share equivalent to that of two daughters, a full (germane) brother inherits twice as much as a full sister, a son's son inherits twice as much as a son's daughter and so on.


If there are any sons the share of the daughter(s) is no longer fixed because the share of the daughter is determined by the principle that a son inherits twice as much as a daughter.
Couldn't Awad just make a will leaving twice as much to his sons than to his daughters and not letting his wife inherit too much? I'm pretty sure that this is feasible.

Religious freedoms often clash with women's equality simply because religions do, and it's my job to point that out. This does not mean that I support the oppression of any religious group or islamophobia, in particular.

My Seventh Birfday

Is today, and the "me" is this blog. Not sure what to think about that.

But celebrations are always fun!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Is It Immoral To Think There Is Something Seriously Wrong Here? [Anthony McCarthy]

Sunday afternoon and I just went through several blogs where the discussion is all about the football games. If I hadn't read this story this morning I might just let it go. A family has 18-year-old triplet boys, all of whom played football, one still does. One was paralyzed while playing football, he might not walk again, the second one was injured seriously enough playing football that he can't play now, the third one "plays for them".

It was Jared who was by all accounts the toughest football player among the Coppola triplets at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers. No one knew if he ever would stand again after he was paralyzed from the neck down Sept. 4, 2009, in one of the state’s most devastating football injuries. In the weeks after, his brothers dedicated their lives to him, their mother dabbed him with holy water, and Jared got down to work.

And that was after his brother was seriously injured playing football:

Brandon was the first to fall, fracturing his C-5 neck vertebra in a game in 2008. The injury left Brandon’s spinal cord so compromised that doctors prohibited him from playing contact sports again. He insisted on remaining on the team, though, first as a coach’s assistant, then manager.

Paralysis, spinal damage? It's a game, it isn't something necessary, it's not something that is productive, it's dangerous. But, as this story is told, as two of the three triplets have been seriously injured doing it, it's presented as an example of all that is good and noble. I don't see it, I see something seriously wrong with a culture that would present this as anything other than amoral depravity.

I wasn't going to touch this, though what I've said is pretty much what my reaction to reading it was. For the love of God, these are children who are being sacrificed to the false god of patriarchal machismo. We are a nation of Molochites.

Reposted: November 2006 [Anthony McCarthy]

Note: Still burnt out from the last month of the campaign and reading and thinking about the aftermath. Here is a piece I wrote four years ago, when control of the House passed to Democrats. You'll remember the Republicans still had the Senate and White House. You might want to consider it for comparison to what's being said today. A few facts have changed, Drudge is eclipsed by other professional liars but most of it is pretty much the same.

Now that the Congress is changing hands the corporate media has rediscovered that old fashioned virtue, responsibility. Mara Liasson had a piecethis morning echoing what has to be the most arrogantly hypocritical quotation of the year:

Democrats are “beginning to understand that with victory comes responsibility’. Spoken by that paragon of the same, George W. Bush

Shorter Republican establishment:, "The Bush mess is going to be blamed on Democrats who don’t have the authority to clean it up."

In the past two decades we watched them play political ping-pong, going after Bill Clinton to destroy his presidency with lies and insanely wild speculations presented as if they were true. The people who spread the lies knew they were lies, they aren’t stupid, just corrupt. They lied for the Republicans every way they could possibly have come up with. Then, once the Bush II regime had take office with Republicans we were all supposed to operate on blind faith in them. During the period of the most rampant corruption, eg. Cheney’s secret energy meetings, the media did their covering up for them.

Since Democrats are fairly secure in their prospects to take over the House and just barely set to administer the Senate, responsibility is back in style in the DC based press. This back and forth depending on who is in power has happened often enough for some enterprising social scientist to write a definitive paper on the subject. The Press Requirement That Democrats Get It Right 100% of The Time, Republicans Can Screw Off Big Time, how’s that for a prospective title?

Don’t bother trying to change the corporate media, they are a pack of liars for hire. The only thing to do with the DC press corps and other Republican mouthpieces is to destroy their credibility and to build a real news system apart from them, one in which the corporate benefit of the medium is not the message.

Arianna, Kos, Atrios, you other successful organs of the new media, we need a real reporting capability. The old, dishonest, corporate model of news won’t ever give us that again. We need reporters to go to Washington, to learn facts, to get two independent sources for those facts to show them to a real editor who has news ethics and then to publish the facts no matter what they show. And that means hiring real reporters and real editors, not the show boats, not the people who are going to get asked on The News Hour or C-Span.

Before we continue, cut the ‘opinion journalism’ crap. If the ‘opinion’ doesn’t get two independent sources of verification then it’s not journalism, it’s dishonest.

The United States will not be a democracy until The People have the facts. Air America’s mistakes should teach you something, you need to put together real funding before such a thing can start up. NPR should show you that there has to be an inviolable fire-wall between funding sources and the news function.

Ethical lapses were the downfall of NPR as a news organ, they started schmoozing at the start. They should never have hired Cokie Roberts or Linda Wertheimer. Once you start down that road of insider access you are doomed to become a bunch of shills. Reporters, editors, executives of a news medium should never, ever socialize with their subjects they shouldn’t ever aspire to become part of the in crowd. Anyone who does should have no say in any part of a news operation. Owners, well, I don’t think that a real, continuing news operation should be controlled by an owner or a family of them, even the best owner gives out and the family falls away from it’s origins. A not-for-profit structure without celebrity or would-be patrons on the board is safest though nothing in life is entirely safe. No one who is not deeply committed to democracy and the ethics of news should be involved no matter how much money they have. I.F. and Esther Stone did more news of importance than just about any two corporate news operations during his day.

I have a deep bias towards radio as a model, but not American radio. If you want to look at a good news operation, CBC Radio One’s The World At Six is one of the best, though it used to be even better. An internet broadcast could include visuals but film footage is a lousy way to get information about most news. The number of words consumed per second goes down too fast when you have to worry about film. How much have you actually ever learned from watching a Fred Weisman film? The number of words per second will never be as high as it is for reading text but it is easier to listen than it is to sit and read and the information is contained mostly in those words. That is why I think a radio model makes the most sense.

Matt Drudge, the Republican gossip monger, is the media’s favorite blogger. You are never going to be able to compete for that position, not unless you start up as initiators of Republican lies and he’s got a head start. Starting our own news service is the only way we are going to get more traction in the real world.