Saturday, July 26, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

At a friend's suggestion, we watched a Netflix DVD movie titled 'In the Valley of Elah', starring Tommy Lee Jones, who received an Oscar nomination for his role.
This was an excellent film about a very serious subject; the terrible impacts that are happening to our brave combat soldiers who have seen action in Iraq.

An exemplary soldier from a military family goes missing after returning from Iraq and his concerned parents get help from a police detective to investigate.
This is probably not something that young and impressionable Mary Poppins & Walt Disney fans might enjoy, but it is a powerful story -based on actual events- that needed to be told.

Many people may think they know about the horrors of war from their own service, stories from others, or just watching TV, video games & movies about it.
But, maybe not about the unnecessary horrors of an ill-conceived war, like Iraq, where our troops have been deliberately put in harms way from unseen enemies who operate on their own turf and use tactics that the Geneva convention never addressed.
Those conditions have such lethal and lasting effects on human beings, that we cannot even conceive of this 'war's' eventual costs!

Whether they believe that anything comes after life or not, the architects of this contrived conflict -I won't honor it by giving the title of war- may have created such a bad karma for themselves that they may burn in the hottest of hells for eternity!

A real war, resisting ruthless aggression by power hungry psychopaths -like Hitler- is rightly justified. But, even that is still a terrible thing that is to be avoided if possible by diplomacy, worldwide peace-keeping alliances and any other means available, providing of course one believes war is an outdated way of resolving anything, and an absolute last resort to be used only if all else fails.

Why do we elect, tolerate and not even question leaders who routinely act against this principle and against the lessons we ought to have learned long ago?
When will we learn that democracy is not a spectator sport for lazy people who prefer being pampered consumers instead of alert and hard working citizens?
I think that starts here at home, in our towns and districts that are the true wellsprings of freedom.
But these wellsprings also need to be nurtured, replenished and renewed by us to be sustained, so that what we get is bubble-up democracy and not some corrupted idea of trickle-down anything!

What we see with the Iraq situation is something that could have been avoided had we paid better attention!
We certainly could have paid better attention to the people we elected, and that starts at home.
So, go ahead and make my day and connect the dots.
You get what you pay for, so be careful how you spend your money, time and vote!

What Makes a Headline?

'If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him.' - Cardinal Richelieu [1585 - 1642]

'The power of the press belongs to those who own them' - A J Liebling

'The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.' - Winston Churchill

Now that the 'presumptive' Presidential opponents have finally been determined, we've entered the phase where the real fun begins.
That is when each candidate tries to define himself in terms that will attract votes, period.
That's because without a majority of votes that translate into 270 Electoral Votes, no one can be elected.
If one is not elected, all the rhetoric, energy, expense and the promise of betterment will be for naught.
Only if a candidate is elected can he/she put into practice those campaign promises he/she values most.
So, a certain amount of gamesmanship, seemingly contradictory statements, flip-flopping and posturing is inherent in this process.

But, most keen observers can detect - through the fog of politics - those core values that best represent a candidate.
Whether these thoughtful and keen observers constitute a sufficient number to elect is another story, as history has proven so recently.
So effective have been the PR and marketing campaigns that candidates for National and State offices have waged, that they have been able to effectively mask essential weaknesses for some and greatly exaggerate them for others.
That's a danger I hope can be largely avoided in this Presidential race, and maybe the sheer length of the campaign will help that.
Campaigns should be about facts and honesty, not myths and lies, despite any Supreme Court ruling that disallows that distinction!

In this vein, the current, manufactured 'mini-flap' over the Press giving preferential treatment to Barack Obama is very amusing!

Why not apply a free 'Market' theory to that?

There is a dire lack of new forward-thinking ideas, candor, energy and hope in this country today, largely as a result of almost 8 absolutely debilitating years under President George W Bush, likely our worst in history.

Conversely, there is a huge oversupply of incompetence and gross deficiency, including lack of trust & confidence, absence of funding for essentials, declining world standing, no energy policy, broken healthcare system, deficient education programs, wrong-headed approaches to peace & security, tremendous waste & favoritism in support of a contrived 'war' in Iraq, and the like. This list is LONG!
Again, these are largely the result of our 2-term embarrassment under an abysmally poor leader, who was 'elected' using campaign tactics evocative of a world-class villain.

So, where do you imagine the 'Market' wants to go, under the laws of supply & demand?

For every whine from right wingers, there is an easy answer in simple economic terms; unmet needs attract new investment, and surplus extravagances do not.
The investors are -or ought to be- the voting public, which rightfully feels cheated, demeaned, and ready for change!
How do people who like to call themselves 'conservative' fail to understand even these basic economy-based principles?
[I had a financial advisor try to blame the threat of political change as an excuse for touting the status quo. Guess how long it took me to fire him!]

A recent 'headline' from a so-called 'fair & balanced' talking head pronounces:

" Coverage of Obama trip almost embarrassing"

Why would the Press -especially the non-FOX variety- possibly want to cover Obama more than McCain?
I think he is more interesting for starters, partly because he is talking about real issues with good ideas.
Also, the Country -indeed the World- is very tired of our current Administration and its arrogant, unimaginative and ineffective antics.

Another headline from CNN reads:

"Young Republicans worry about McCain's appeal"
I think they mean his 'lack of appeal' don't you?
Most -non-Republican- young people have responded very enthusiastically to Obama!
And, why shouldn't they? He is addressing real problems that will impact them, but also inspiring them to get involved with insuring their own future destiny, and the heritage for which new generations will have to assume the responsibility.

Other folks are finally beginning to more seriously question FOX 'News', like the rapper Nas, who appeared the other night on 'The Colbert Report' - after being rebuffed at Fox. Nas had collected over 620,000 signatures on a petition that demanded 'FAUX' News cease and desist in its systematically racist remarks.

Nas' new song, Sly Fox, tooks direct aim at Fox;
"Watch what you watchin', Fox keeps feeding us toxins ... I pledge allegiance to the fair and balanced truth, not the biased truth, not the liar's truth," the song says.

"Fox poisons the country with racist propaganda and tries to call it news."
Good for you, Nas!

You know what? It's about time other people started calling out these jokers -Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al- on their tactics!
But, what do you expect from an organization owned and controlled by Rupert Murdock, and operated for the benefit of those he helps keep in power?

But why pick on Fox? Because that network suffers from the most egregious biases, that's why. Despite mouthing the words, 'Fair & Balanced', they are practicing just the opposite! Nothing a little quality control couldn't handle, but first you have to define what 'Quality' is to be controlled!

Of course, the other networks aren't perfect either, but most of them do try, especially PBS.
Ever wonder why Government support for PBS and NPR is shrinking?
Maybe its because they are more immune to crass advertising pressures and dare to present hard issues with facts and reasoned commentary.
Maybe its because PBS & NPR are more serious about respecting the value of honesty?
I think there are few values as lasting as basic integrity, and that applies regardless of political persuasion.

Then, there's that unfunny clown, Rush Limbaugh, who's been getting rich for years by spouting nothing but hateful propaganda over a plethora of private stations that are licensed by the FCC to use our public airways.
See anything wrong with that?
Would you call that privatizing the profits and socializing the costs?
But, we do have our rights according to several Amendments, don't we?
So, Mr Limbaugh may not be breaking any laws, except those that the Good Book warns about, pertaining to basic honesty, respecting others and unbounded greed.

Maybe its time we learned to follow the money?
That way, we might simply charge the campaigns of so-called 'conservatives' for the political value of this consistently biased, partisan reporting -on the public airways?
Bald-faced propaganda. I think it's called.
Of course, equal treatment would be expected across the entire political spectrum, too.
At least, the 'visible' spectrum.

Let's start creating our own headlines, by demanding more openness, honesty and accountability from our elected representatives!
Now, that would be a campaign reform I'd contribute to & vote for!

Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.
-William E. Gladstone

Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.
- George Will

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. - Winston Churchill