it's just common sense

The musings of an over qualified white male on matters of media, music, science, politics, etc, that are patently obvious.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Stop Sinclair Broadcasting

If you are aware of the issue, please click on the link below to send an email to the major advertisers on Sinclair television stations with one easy click. You can add your own comments as well.

For a brief overview of this breach of election laws with respect to the fairness doctrine and equal time regulations, simply hit the link below.
Thank You.

Colin Powell

Colin Powell at the United Nations in February, 2003 making the case of the US invasion of Iraq.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Colin Powell: An Alternate Legacy

Colin Powell, the current Secretary of State of the US is the highest ranking African American in the history of our country. His appointment and tenure should be a cause for celebration in our still incomplete journey as a nation, and as a world, towards racial equality. Yet, during his time in office, he has become a man forced to degrade and humiliate himself. We have witnessed Mr Powell's compromise of his own beliefs and integrity, as he was forced not only to silence himself with respect to what he knew was the truth about Iraq, but to repeat and fortify clear falsehoods. The cost to him personally was made all that more tragic, by taking place on the world stage before his peers. It is our only hope that this competent and accomplished man can be judged, when the history texts of the future are written, from a more philosophical point of view.

I could only feel sympathy for the man during the Fall of 2002 and the Spring of 2003, during the run up to war in Iraq as I watched his public statements change. This intelligent human being gradually altered his voice from sensible moderation and diplomacy about Iraq, to the fallacies of administration pre-war slogans.

How embarrassing it must have been for Mr. Powell to listen to the State of the Union address in January of 2003 while our President lied about Saddam's attempt to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger. Mr Powell, and his colleagues across the globe knew by the Fall of 2002, that the uranium documents were forgeries. While the world community either laughed at the reference to Niger, or roared with disapproval, Mr Powell was forced to lessen his proud career and allow this gross misrepresentation to pass. His presence at the joint session that night was at best, a painful approval of fallacious rhetoric, and the deliberate presentation of forged intelligence data. ( ).

How mortified he must have been when he was subsequently forced to present the United Nations with the charade of American proof regarding Saddam's "imminent threat". Armed with no direct evidence, Mr Powell was forced to betray his life in the military and its attendant proclivity for hard documentation, facts, and "actionable intelligence". How his anxiety must have boiled, knowing that he would be appearing before this body, and for this purpose, without the benefit of even one unambiguous photograph, not a single hard drive, or an unequivocal transcript of a cell phone conversation to convince the world. I can only imagine that his personal shame continued, knowing full well with his colleagues across the globe, that the aluminum tubes for nuclear devices were pipe dreams. How deep the feeling must have been for him, to publicly rebuke Hans Blix, while each of them knew that he was deliberately misrepresenting the case. ( ).

My own sympathies for him deepened as he further made the American case by joining the chorus of Pennsylvania Avenue about the connection between Saddam and bin Laden. In this, he was armed with even less than the drawings he carried to the UN. How his discomfort must have ached, in making the case for an illusory nexus of evil, again in the face of overwhelming and contradictory evidence. ( ).

Colin Powell however was degraded further in the assertion an Iraq-al Qaeda link during that part of 2003, with the addition of a humiliating irony, known to many at the time. From November 2001, until its mysterious disappearance in October of 2004, the US State Department website and map did not even list Iraq as a country in which al Qaeda operated. For three solid years, beginning in the immediate aftermath of 09/11/01, the official website of his agency, contradicted his public statements about the alleged link with Saddam and bin Laden. ( ) How utterly absurd.

His personal journey of public compromise however continued, as he joined the leader of the free world and the National Security Adviser on the stump, invoking the specter of nuclear weapons on the road to war. ( ). Colin Powell's oppression under the famous and maniacal thumb of the Bush cartel's obsession, with its dark insistence on obedience over conscience was carried out publicly, in the full view of his counterparts across the globe. We can only begin to imagine what he must have felt before the eyes of his peers in the international community.

In the short term, it is true, that Colin Powell has spent his reputation as a mouth piece for an administration that is the most aggressive, and openly deceptive group of people who have ever occupied Washington, DC. One can only ask why, such a man of presumed integrity, who certainly knew in advance that he was being told to support outright fabrications, might have done these things. Let alone, why would he deliberately act in these ways, in front of his global colleagues and other's who knew that he knew. One can only hope that the history texts will find a kinder interpretation for Mr Powell, and a generosity to his legacy.

One possible future would be to examine his tenure as a mission of political necessities, where he purposely sacrificed himself in the present, in order to hold the office for its full term and accomplish not victories of diplomacy, but a victory of race. Perhaps his greatest conquest then will be to have furthered the journey to racial equality. Through his mere presence in the office, elevated by merit, diligence, intellect, and judgment, he has forever raised the bar in American politics not only for African Americans, but for all statesmen to come. By his perseverance and seflessness in these matters of shame, Colin Powell then has indeed triumphed nobly.

State Department Covers Its Tracks: Breaking News?

A short time ago there was a posting at Democratic Underground, a marvelously active place for progressive people. ( ). The specific posting I am referring to was regarding the fact that the State Department website had not listed Iraq on its terrornet pages as a country in which al Qaeda operates. The State Dept page dated from 11/01.

The link for the discussion in DU is/was:

The link to the actual page at State was:
This page has been removed as of a few minutes ago, and gets a 404 error message about site reconstruction.

While, I have not viewed the total website at State often enough to be fluent, my 10 minute perusal tells me that "terror" as a term/topic is distinctly absent from the indexes and hyperlinks. What does this mean? Are they expunging the evidence? Are they deleting the evidence that even as our administration has been trumpeting the link between Iraq and al Qaeda, that our own State Department did not see fit to list Iraq, for almost 3 solid years now?

I discovered this while writing another posting on Colin Powell, and fortunately there is a copy of sorts of the original State department map and country list at the DU discussion link I noted above. This copy now seems suddenly very important to me.

Of course, the irony of Iraq not being listed was certainly amusing, given that the link with bin Laden was arguably the second most prominent reason cited in the run up to war. The irony is doubled however, when it is noted that the now missing, (but still viewable page, thanks to Democratic Underground), listed the United States as a country in which al Qaeda did indeed operate. As one comment at DU noted, "What do we do? Invade ourselves?"

Curious stuff, the disappearance of this page. I have just finished notifying DU and buzzflash as it seemed notable.

The Brad Blog Reports White House Website Also Being Expunged:
Pages, audio, and video about the coalition missing in an attempt to cover Cheney debate lies?
Revised: The White House materials seem to have been moved to a section of the Pentagon website.

See Also:
On the history of missing pages at the White House website.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Upcoming Posts/ Works in Progress

1) Stop Sinclair Broadcast Group:
Sinclair Broadcast Group is the controlling interest in a string of television stations that reaches 24% of American homes. Very soon, in the last 10 days before the election, they have ordered their affiliate stations to preempt regular programming, and to air an anti-Kerry propoganda film entitled Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. This biased film is being portrayed by their spokespeople as a documentary containing news of local interest, instead of as the naked political advertising that it is.

The FCC, with Michael Powell, (Colin's son), as the chairperson has refused to act on this isssue with respect to campaign law violations on equal time and fairness, (Gee, what a surprise), and the email addresses for Sinclair officers have been turned off. The only avenue remaining at this point to preserve the integrity of the publicly owned airwaves is to let Sinclair advertisers know of your distaste for this politically motivated ruse. Use the link below to send a pre-written email, to which you can add your comments, to all national advertsiers with Sinclair. Being an internet activist is the easiest way in the world to actually be involved in important issues, and it only takes 60 seconds to do your part on this naked ploy.

2) Our Sorry National Dialogue: Circular Reasoning is yet another skill that is taught in grammar schools. How is it that our national discourse allows this from the leader of the free world as support for the war in Iraq?

3) FCC Makes Founding Fathers Roll Over in Their Graves: Republican administrations since Reagan have ceaselessly tried to relax ownership rules for media outlets. As a result, our sources of information have become less and less over time. Our information is filtered and manipulated to reflect and reinforce the agenda of the military-industrial-complex.

Monday, September 20, 2004

7th Grade Quiz: The Law of Supply and Demand

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Lessons From Grammar School: The Law of Supply and Demand and US Energy Policy

As I learned the law of supply and demand sometime before exiting the 8th grade, it seemed so utterly simple and self evident. It was intuitive to me in the most obvious of ways. For those who remember the term, but may be in need of a review, let me engage in a short summary. The words alone will illustrate its completeness and utility. As the supply of goods decreases, the prices of those of goods will rise. The inverse of course is also true. When the supply of goods rises, exceeding demand, the prices for those goods will fall. Stated another way, when supplies are finite, prices will eventually rise unless demand is suppressed. Again the inverse obtains. Goods in infinite supply will not command higher prices.

The law has been used in countless ways over the course of time and study, explaining everything from inflation, and government price controls to many a Madison Avenue advertising campaign. How is it then that something so useful and unassailable in its logic remains ignored with respect to US energy policy?

Petroleum is a finite resource, and therefore as most any 7th grader can tell us, unless methods of curbing our thirst for this resource can be found, then prices for petroleum products will rise as time goes on. The 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo was a very large illustration of the law of supply and demand for most Americans. These events caused an unusual introspection where the words reduce, reuse, and recycle actually became part of our national lexicon. They were accepted terms for a time that even carried patriotic overtones. The can do attitude associated with our national character included these ideas, and our political and legislative climate reflected this.

These trends culminated during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. By the late 1970's there were even regulations that guarded against the excessive heating and cooling of public buildings as a way to save precious, finite petroleum. (Those regulations are long gone, thanks to the Reagan Revolution's notions of an invasive government, but to this day, I personally cannot walk into a cold movie theater in July, donning my sweater, and long for more sensible days when such waste of resources was recognized).

Those years were also a time, when our national introspection led us to believe that perhaps it was not really prudent to be driving such large fuel drinking automobiles. With equal importance our national will told us that we could actually do somehting about it. The outcome of this thinking was embodied in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Requirements, or CAFE regulations. ( In brief, each manufacturer of automobiles sold in the US, including foreign makers, would be required to achieve increasing miles per gallon targets in each new model year. This was based on the average mpg of all new cars sold. Failure to reach the legislative targets of mpg triggered a system of monetary fines against individual manufacturers. What a blessed idea, a government which actually utilizes foresight and planning for the future instead of short term political gain! A government with the fortitude to reach out and save a population from its own bad habits in the process. Those were noble and heady times indeed to see a government willing to apply what it had learned by the 7th grade for our national and global well being. It was a time of profound common sense.

It is interesting to note however, the ways in which progressive and seemingly sensible ideas are reversed during times of Republican or conservative control of the White House or congress. One can notice the correlation of record federal deficits, relaxed environmental laws, the doubling of commercial minutes allowed on children's television, and any number of similar trends during times of Republican ascendancy. ( Our society becomes polluted in many ways that are below the public radar, and buried under the rhetoric of free markets, and smaller government. But that is a discussion beyond our scope here.

In 1980 the tone of our country changed in this manner as the Reaganomicists and their ideological colleagues in congress implemented their own notions of a smaller less "invasive" government. Who can forget such lines as, "It's time to get government off the backs of business!", (meaning General Motors et. al.), "We must preserve the entrepreneurial spirit in America", (meaning IBM or GE).

The translation of this rhetoric into the world of CAFE meant that by 1985, the efficiency standard for passenger vehicles was frozen at at 27.5 mpg, and from 1986 through 1989 it actually was lowered. Astonishingly, this meant that American cars were actually getting larger, and less fuel efficient despite the law of supply and demand, despite the continuing decline in world wide reserves of petroleum. As a nation, we somehow called it a greater wisdom to use even more oil. ( It was not until 1990, (a renewed Democratic majority in both houses of congress), that the CAFE requirements were amended back to the 27.5 mpg figure, but were frozen at that level where they remain until this day.

Yet, the subsequent manipulation of the CAFE requirements classifies SUV's as trucks, instead of the passenger vehicles that they really are. This is a tip of the hat to the benefit of domestic automakers. As a result, our rates of consumption have continued to grow. US consumption is higher today than in the late 1970's. Even more shocking, after the national anxiety of 1973-74, our dependence on foreign oil is a full 25% greater than in those years. In the 21st century, this fact carries with it a double whammy, because it is not simply the raw materials that we are importing. Today, we are importing a larger percentage of our foreign requirements as finished products. This means that not only are we beholden to other nations for the raw materials, but dependent on them for the latest in refining technology as well. The most modern refineries, with their ability to squeeze more and better products from every last barrel of crude oil are located overseas. This is a true double bind in both materials and know how. (

The American appetite for fossil fuels therefore remains unchecked, either through our own volition, or through regulatory manipulation. The US comprises 4.6% of the world's population, yet acts unabated as the consumer of 25% of the the planet's fossil fuels, and and amazing 30% of the world's total resources. ( Yet, through government inaction to make the hard choices, US gasoline prices are lower than 101 other nations on earth. (

Perhaps the true genius of our government and our society has been that we are able to maintain such reckless numbers and wanton disregard for the law of supply and demand, while doing so at prices for energy that remain far below world scale. But it is an artificial world of rampant consumerism and disregard for our 7th grade grasp of the law of supply and demand. It is a world encumbered by a short sightedness and self interest in the government's business of business that crosses the border into irrespopnsibility.

The job of government is the job of long range planning. It is a job that may sometimes include difficult decisions in the short term, in order to provide for long term security. It is not the job of government to ignore such trends, as an ostrich, while singing the praises of smaller government, and hearkening to some vague and self serving notions of free markets. It is certainly not, in the words of of both Presidents Bush, a case where "The American way of life is not up for negotiation." Bush 41 uttered these famous words when trashing the Kyoto accords on global warming and fossil fuels, while the son used them in the aftermath of 09/11/01.

The answer my friends lies, as do many answers, back in our elementary schools. The answer is as simple now as it was then. It is an insult to our schools, and to ourselves as thinking adults that we can ignore the basics, and allow our government to do the same. O Pray that we find the wisdom to behave as 7th graders once more, and find the good sense to lessen our demands for that demon black gold.

Further Thought:

Timely Common Sense Developments Since This Post: California backs a plan to reduce emissions. The implementation of this by automakers will require increases in mpg. My hometown newspaper, The Hartford Courant endorses California proposal.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Political Theory In Action

Political Theory 101: Iraq, Democracy, Dictatorship, and a Dash of Regis Philbin

Okay, so just ignore all of the pre war rhetoric about the US invading Iraq as a matter of national security and WMD's. We all saw the seamless morphing of the war's justification from security into something called Operation Iraqi Freedom. That's the one where the real goal all along was to liberate the Iraqi people from the burdens of strong man rule, and to give the gift of democracy. I mean after all, how is it possible to argue with such a clear, concise, and simple objective. Concise yes, but clear and simple?

Our State Department is filled with very learned people from all realms of academic discipline, and among the many areas of expertise represented there would be something called political theory. ( ). Political theorists are a cross between historians and political scientists. In brief, one of the foci of study among people of that ilk is to look at the various forms of government that arise in the human condition. These would include such formulations as monarchy, theocracy, democracy, or dictatorship to name just a few. One of basic ideas explored in this regard is to further look at the various factors of people, place, and time, among others, that seem to particularly favor the establishment and maintenance of one form of political system over another. What factors contribute to the creation of a stable democracy? Why do some countries, regions, or conditions seem prone to dictatorship, or strong arm rule?

It is the purpose of agencies such as the State Department to utilize their resources and to inform our leaders about factors that might influence policy and the decision making process. It is the job of our government and our media, particularly in something so delicate as a democracy, to pass such key information along in order to ensure an informed populace. No such thing has happened in even the most elementary sense about the profound difficulties in establishing democracy in any place on earth, let alone the special experience and history of the Iraqi people. This constitutes yet another in a long line of lies of omission that seem to characterize the Bush administration, ably assisted by a compliant media.

Basic political theory, among writers since Alexis de Tocqueville in his landmark1831 tome Democracy in America, (, have held that of all the different forms of government that might arise, democracy is among the most difficult to establish, let alone flourish. Democracy is anything but simple to build and maintain. Its growth may even include elements of luck and geography that are specific to the United States, (

In brief, Political Theory 101 teaches us that special sets of conditions promote and foster democracy as Americans conceive of it. The short list of key indexes would include the following:

1) A long tradition, respect for, and experience with the notions of free speech and a vigorous and inquiring press.
2) A population that is informed, and is itself vigorously questioning.
3) Respect and experience with the judiciary and the rule of law.
4) A national consciousness that includes a devotion and tradition with the ideas of self determination.
5) A tradition of self reliance.
6) Acceptance of the supremacy of the federal government and the manner in which power is shared with the states or regional authorities.
7) Experience and understanding of freedom, equality, and the rights of humankind.
8) Stable economy and matters of infrastructure, abundant and varied resources.

Clearly, in the case of the United States, and other countries with various forms of democracy about the globe, this partial list of factors is quite evident. Clearly, each and everyone of these items are glaringly absent from the Iraqi experience both past and present. The job of establishing that beacon of democracy in Iraq is in need of many more building blocks and much More time and money than anyone in Washington or on the airwaves would have us believe. It took the US decades to actually arrive at some of the aforementioned parameters.

However, not only does Iraq want for nearly every major factor to ease democracy into existence, but the actions of the present administration have magnified and in some instances created circumstances that are diametrically opposed to democrarcy. Conditions in Iraq, economic, political, and otherwise actually represent a wonderful mixture for the rise of dictatorship and strong arm rule. This is a bold and simply supreme irony that should influence the decision of every voter in some way.

Basic political theory has outlined the conditions favoring the rise of dictators and strong man rule, ( Some of the most vivid examples of this in recent history can be found in post WW I Europe with the rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The history of Latin America and Africa are also rife with examples. (Latin America in particular shares with Iraq, the problems associated with what has been called monoculture, i.e., the reliance on a single resource for revenue, but that is another whole discussion beyond the scope here). The short list of factors favoring the rise of dictators would include such things as:

1) Unstable economic conditions such as rampant unemployment, and strong inflation threatening the basic security of the population in terms of survival.
2) Breakdown in the rule of law further lessening the safety of the people.
3) Unstable infrastructure with respect to utilities, water, electricity and the availability of food and life services.
4) The rise of regional and ethnic factions pronouncing their own self interest or hearkening back to some more stable perceived golden era in the past.
5) A collective blow to the national self image and ego.

When a population is confronted with these types of conditions, theory holds that the people will yearn for the basic immediacy and stability that can be offered through some form of dictatorship or strong man rule. US policy under George W. Bush has contributed to and multiplied each and every one of these tendencies in ways direct and indirect.

The ideas outlined above are simple, completely elementary in the thinking that embodies political theory. The monumental task of establishing democracy, and the healthy environment for dictatorship created by US military presence and actions simply cry out to be heard. This Iraqi situation is anything but easy, and progress is no where to be seen. The lies of omission, and at best the supreme irony of American actions in Iraq should not be lost on even the most casual observer, and have only been hinted at in the mainstream media, (

Operation Iraqi Freedom? This thing should be a reality show called Who Wants to Be a Dictator?


Monday, August 30, 2004

Dinah Washington

From Dinah Washington to Britney Spears: Technology and the Decline of Musical Integrity

Today, 08/29/04, is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Dinah Washington, ( ), (, for many years one of my favorite female vocalists. Dinah left us, all too early, at the age of 39, (not 42), in 1963. Dinah's work, despite her artistic and commercial successes has lived in the shadows of other, for some reason bigger legends such as Ella, (We only need her first name to identify her), Billie Holiday, and others. Over the years, I have given out more than my fair share of Dinah recordings as xmas or birthday presents, as a way of saying to the recipient, "Here is someone equally marvelous that you will appreciate knowing about".

True vocalists share an array of traits; purity of tone, range, signature phrasing, the ability to comfortably and convincingly convey the emotional content of a composition, as well as the capacity to interpret and offer a diverse set of material. True vocalists are also able to imprint a song with their own particular style, no matter how many times in the past it may have been recorded, their version of the song belongs to them. Take the Kurt Weil composition Mack the Knife as but one of the thousands of examples available. Over the decades this tune, has belonged to Ella, Frank Sinatra, or Bobby Darin to name merely three. Each singer put such a personal stamp on the performance that each recording can be said to be definitive, and bears the mark of greatness through the ability to make the song their own.

Dinah shared each and every one of these elements with other true vocalists. Listen for example to her top ten recording of the old torch song, What a Difference a Day Made, along with the raucous and funny, Judge, I Say Judge, Give Me the Electric Chair. ( See link for a brief biography and discography, ). This is a mere 6 minute foray into what Dinah was, yet dramatically displays the diversity and depth that she brought to the microphone; pure tones, phrasing, emotion, and individuality were hers.

As technology grows however, bringing with it all manner of things that it can do, not only for music, but also to music, new issues of artistic integrity and music criticism arise. It becomes necessary, along the waves of digital change to reemphasize one aspect of greatness that was at one time an absolute given. Astonishingly, this would be the notion that the live performance or CD recording we are hearing is what the musicians and singers actually did. As time goes on, the music that is being offered to us, whether recorded or live, is simply no longer the result of human beings "performing", but the result of software and digital processors that literally change the notes of voices and instruments by raising or lowering off key pitches to the next closest note in the key. Thus, it has become, not only impossible to make a harmonic mistake, but also has become unnecessary to have vocal or instrumental proficiency, and equally unnecessary to strive for perfection. The artist no longer has the compulsion to pay attention, to muster the energy, effort, discipline, and most importantly the integrity that perfection, or near perfection used to require. Digital wizardry will cover for any shortcomings they may have. This is grave and unnerving.

Current technology has evolved devices that are currently called autotuners. Autotuners have the ability to alter tones, that are off key, of both singers and musicians into tones that are perfectly in key. In the beginning, this was something that could only be done in the studio, after the fact. Engineers would apply what was then called pitch correction software to a recording and push the offending tones into pleasing perfection. With the advent of autotuners however, this can now be done in real time, even during a live performance. In short, for so called artists who would choose to use such devices, the "music" we hear is not the result of what they are doing, but rather is some kind of product that has been formulated by a machine and software. I refuse to call this music or artistry. It is disrespectful to other artists and dishonest to the audience, it is cheating, plain and simple.

The reach of digital technology however, is not restricted to the tones of instruments and voices, but to one of the most basic aspects of western music and musicians, and that is rhythm. It is possible in the studio, via a process that at least one manufacturer calls nudging, to take a performance, and to literally "nudge" the beat of the drums, the chords of a guitar, or anything else for that matter into a perfect unison, right on the beat, thus improving what the musicians themselves are doing on yet another level of shame.

If nothing else, the process of art is the process of putting oneself "out there" on a very risky and personal level. It is as though to say, "Here is what I do, this is what I think is good, this is what is inside of me." It takes courage for an artist to actually put oneself out there, no matter what the medium. Prior to the courage, it takes time, lots of time, practice, discipline, and dedication. Or is it just a good brand of autotuner?

There has been a loss of purity in live music for many years now. Dinah or Ella could bring an audience to deep and quiet tears with nothing but their voices and a pianist, truly putting themselves "out there". Increasingly, modern artists seem to need light shows, pyrotechnics, dancers, taped accompaniment of layered voicings, (How else do you think Britney gets to sing harmony with herself in 4 parts?). Yes, even without autotuners, the live performance has become less pure, and we lose sight as a society of the beauty in unadorned music.

Abbey Lincoln, ( ), tells a story about appearing live with Ella Fitzgerald, obviously fairly late in Ella's career. Apparently, it was normal for Ella to walk around back stage, before a performance, worrying and hoping that she would sing in a way that the audience would enjoy. The First Lady of Song never disappointed, and never used the "gift" of digital perfect pitch, she, like Dinah Washington, and many others managed that on her own.

Shame on the so called artists who use such devices, and shame on the audiences and consumers who accept such artificial tripe. Being an artist means having talent, and having talent means hard work and practice. It does not mean having a good autotuner.

Happy Birthday Dinah !

The List of Digital Shame
(To be periodically updated as new information becomes available)

Cher, N'Sync, Shania Twain,
Britney Spears, Reba MacIntyre, Sum 41,
Good Charlotte, Mariah Carey,
95% of music from Nashville, (Gee, what a surprise),

And Now This: Ashlee Simpson walks off the stage at Saturday Night Live. The band started playing one song, and with her microphone at her side, the pre-recorded vocal track, (that she was presumably to lip sync), was actualy some OTHER song. Ashlee, in one of the great show biz ad libs of all time, opted to walk off the stage, rather than sing the correct song live. Of course the microphone she held was probably not turned on anyhow.

Ms Simpson, at first selfishly blamed the band for starting the wrong song, but as of 10/25/04, she had recanted and apologized to the musicians. Interesting as a final that Simpson had previously made public statements to the effect of' "I would never think of lip syncing, that's just not me" note Can anyone say Milli Vanilli?

Check your work?

Raft Guide Sociology

At 51 years of age, I have had 2, maybe 3, maybe 4 careers so far. This depends on exactly how one wishes to define the word "career". At any rate, it was my 12 years of experience as a raft guide, which brought me into constant daily contact with as many as 350 lumbering Americans on vacation, that ultimately gave me what I hope is the unifying theme for this weblog: The notion that nearly everything we need to know, and skills of thinking were given to us by the 8th grade. This is followed by the sad observation of the raft guide: That very few Americans bother to call this information to mind.

A raft guide is thrust, during the course of the job into extended, intimate contact with anywhere from 6 to 24 tourists each and everyday, on a very random basis. It would not be inaccurate to say that the sociologically inclined guide gets an up close and personal view of America, fingers on the very pulse of the nation, from something close to a statistically valid sample of the populace. It is a view that puts us in touch with the very fabric of the country, mingling with the national consciousness, its values, opinions, preferences, desires, its very guts and zeitgeist.

It was during the course of my years as a guide, as a result of interaction with the customers in my boat, that I developed the thesis noted above. It is the idea that almost everything that one needs to know was learned by the 8th grade. I refer of course, not just to the mere facts of subject matter, but as well to the notion that retaining and using the knowledge and skills of elementary school, gives us the ability to answer, analyze, and to perceive nearly every situation in the human experience. If we would only do something so simple as to ask ourselves, what is it that I already know about this?, we could certainly save ourselves from our own stupid questions, observations, and opinions. Save us that is, if we are only willing to use that which was given to us and honed, by the time we were all 14 years of age. This of course is what Mother Mary Trinity meant when she said "Check your work!".

The overwhelming national malady, as any raft guide will tell you, is that we are a nation of mental cobwebs, a people who have become mentally lazy, despite, the much heralded "information age". The national disease is seen daily in a population that will not call upon the information, and capacity to reason that was required of us to graduate from 8th grade. It occurs on 2 levels, a failure to call upon the very facts of addition, subtraction, geography, and so forth, and secondly, to the failure to use those facts and our own common sense to just figure it out for ourselves. Most Americans do not "check their work", before opening their mouths.

How else is the poor raft guide to explain to him or herself, the numerous adults in a season who truly want to know, "Does this river finish in the same place that it started?". How else to explain that 5 of 6 Americans are unable to locate Canada on a globe? The numerous people who ask, when they are 500 miles from the nearest ocean, and 2500 feet above sea level, "Is this water fresh or salt?". And what about a president who states with all seriousness, "The reason I keep inisting that there is a connection bewteen Iraq and Al Queida is because there is one." Anyone of these miscues is reason to repeat the 8th grade, and I could offer thousands of more examples in my experience that occur with sad, startling frequency, about the lack of mental processes, about the absence of using what we already know.

It is often said, trite but true, that learning is a life long process. At least one dominant and valid observation on learning says that new information will be retained and more meaningful when it is attached and connected to as many related pre-existing categories and concepts as possible. I believe it is time to get our cognitive wheels going and to more often check out or pre-existing mental categories before opening our mouths.

It has also been said that the best learning is that which is done by ourselves and for ourselves. I would therefore plead, that America shake the mental cobwebs away, look at our world, call up those facts and skills that were there in 8th grade, and start mentally manipulating the world on our own behalf, using that which we know already, as well as our common sense. Let's start checking our work. Let's not be too lazy to step back and take a look at what it is that we may already know about something. And let us do this before we ask for the information to be handed to us on a silver platter, thus exposing our lack of thought. The mind is a muscle, it needs exercise. Let's use our common sense.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Useful and Informative Links

Links for Breaking News and Analysis Free From Mainstream Spin

1) Political Action and Human Rights Links
The headlines are maybe a bit raucous in tone at times. Rest assured however, that stories and pieces of news are well established at buzzflash days or sometimes weeks before the cable or your local print and air outlets ever pick it up.
As its slogan says, Conventional Wisdom Since 1865. Outstanding writers, inside the beltway information, and directions for direct action to politically minded individuals. I stopped reading major news magazines when i settled on this one.
Another good source of breaking news, way ahead of the mainstream. Particulalry admirable in the current, (10/14/04), controversy over Sinclair Broadcast Group, and in motivating people to action.
A regular antidote to the shallow reporting and intsitutional bias of mainstream media.
A dogged group of people who persistently check facts in mainstream reporting, with a special and well warranted emphasis on Fox. If you watch Fox News, you are 200% more likely to belive that WMD's were actualy found in Iraq, and you are 800% more likely to believe there is a link between Saddam and bin Laden!!
Human Rights Watch: One of the great underreported legacies of US foreign policy over the decades has been the ongoing and decades long support for brutal and oppressive regimes across the globe who happen to favor American coprorations. With limited exceptions during the Clinton Administration, this is the dominant theme of US global relations since WW II, and it continues to this day. Use this link to be informed as the US in the 21st century descends to new depths.
The US DOD has specifically stated that they will not do body counts in the most current Iraq war. Would it not make for more humane warfare to have some idea of civilian deaths, so crassly referred to since the so called First Gulf War as "collateral damage"? It is impossible to see the numbers of Iraqis killed, and not find the abusrdity of fighting a war with jets, against fertilizer bombs in automobiles.
Coomon Cause, Holding Power Accountable: Information on media, politics, special interest groups, and election reform among other things. One of the hallmark organizations doing its part to guard democracy.
Thoughtful articles on all manner of things.
Another good source for political news and analysis, without the conformity and compliance found on cable.
The History News Network, a very erudite group of academics posting essays on current affairs, placed in learned historical context.

2) Links on the Evils of Advertising and Consumerism
How arrogant can tobacco companies be? This arrogant!

3) Blog Like Me
Another new blogger that enjoys thinking about politics, music, and such.

4) Links for Following the Trail of Big Money in the Media and Politics
One of the biggest issues facing the US today is the increasing concentration of all news media into the hands of a select few giant corporations. Corporations with political agendas that are subtly, (and not so subtly), foisted upon an unthinking electorate. Republican administrations ceaselessly since Reagan, have eased the rules of ownership, thus lessening the ability of all Americans to get diversified points of view, instead of the right wing bias. This issue is huge, and will hopefully be addressed in a post on this weblog someday soon.
Media Reform Information Center: Tons of links to truly watchdog the media and learn about the sources and validity of bias and complicity in the USA today by giant media companies.
Who Owns What, from the Columbia School of Journalism. One of the best ways to get a real grasp on how it is that our information is being manipulated is to follow the money. Do you really think that GE, parent of NBC, and countless other examples give unbiased news and information, news that may hurt their share price on the DJI?
The website of the Center for Responsive Politics. Follows the trail of money in politics, what industries and companies are donating financially, how much and to whom.
Along the same lines as above, but with an emphasis on current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Large corporate donors to the GW Bush 2004 campaign. Hey, even if he loses, these companies will surely always be backing the right anyhow, so you will always know who to boycott.
Advertising supporters of the Rush Limbaugh show, the evil, racist demagogue of the right who dropped out of Southeast Missourri State University after only one year and never finished.

5) Laugh if You Don't Cry Links
The transparent and patent idiocy of GW Bush is always funny, and tragic.
The sharpest eye seen in a long time to point out the terribly obvious absurdites of American political life. One could teaxch a course in modern political dynamics with Tom Tomorrow!