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Smirky Head Shakers II

Those TV and movie moments that make normal people smirk and shake their heads.

I was at a doctor’s office waiting for my wife last week, watching a Biloxi news show. I had to cringe. This is why local news is seen as the kindergarten of the news media industry.

The anchorwoman was discussing child obesity with a local “expert” on the subject. The “expert” said that child obesity strikes 74 million boys and 50 million girls in this country. The “news” anchor joined the “expert” in a short round of somber head-shaking. Why, it’s just shocking!

Made all the more shocking by the fact that we now have 124 million kids out of 73.8 million (total) suffering from obesity. (Look at those numbers again if you aren’t smirking yet).

We see this almost every day; and not just on local news. It only stands out on a local level because these programs look like high school media projects. But we see this kind of “reporting” everywhere. The reason why most people don’t question enough is because when the shoddy information is reported it is often reported on varsity outlets like cable news, featuring our favorite celebrity reporters.

Guests make the most outrageous claims and the “news” celebrity nods, giving the statements an air of legitimacy. We shake our heads and wonder My god! Is there ANTHING that can be done about this!

 In most cases, with the slightest intellectual curiosity on our part, we would find that what we are being told is either grossly exaggerated, being spun to the point where the underlying information is worthless, or that the statements are outright lies.

Name a big news item we’ve seen on the last 10 years. Think about what is reported and opined upon with respect to the “news”. With ten minutes of critical thought, you can probably find that a) the “reporting” provides very little in the way of fact surrounding the item, and b) the opinions are ALMOST always an effort to advance a commentator’s personal crusade or to advance the career of the commentator/”reporter”.

Here’s the problem with that. Once we reach the point where discussion is bereft of fact or reason argument ceases. You cannot argue a point with reason on one side and self-serving bullshit on the other. And when reporting and discussing reaches the point where both sides are shoveling agenda and spin and ignoring reason, you hit the slimy bottom of the sewer.

As a culture, we’ve been there for a while.

Name the subject:  North Korea, Donald Trump, the Vegas shooter or fat kids; there is precious little being said anywhere having any intrinsic value. There is almost no subject upon which we can gain purchase and reach valid conclusions. Not from the sources we presently accept as legitimate.

We ARE the “idiocracy”.

We live in a world where in some powerful circles Donald Trump is still referred to as “brilliant” and a great “deal maker”. He was NEVER either. We live in a world where an entire house party caucus still allows itself to be disgraced by Nancy Pelosi. We live in a world where a cabinet officer, former first lady and presidential candidate is caught red-handed, up to her eyeballs committing felonies – and nothing happens. In this world, Mitch McConnell is still revered. Global warming alarmism is gospel, while not a single person can tell you what the ideal median temperature of the earth* is supposed to be.

And while half of the population latches onto one of these stupid conclusions the other is only motivated by how they can be used to discredit or destroy political opponents.

We may well have passed the tipping point where recovering a mature, educated, civil society is impossible.

How do we now teach our daughters that a pat on the ass, while most consider it inappropriate, is NOT sexual assault? How do we then teach her to handle such things as an adult?

How do we teach our children that history favors free and open discourse, while we allow a growing list of things we are not permitted to discuss?

How do we, as a nation, ever again recognize the laws of economics (as hard and fast as gravity) versus the failure of “managing” an economy among 312 million people?

We live in a country where adults watch TV shows about vampires and zombies, and now police officers with magic super powers. Think about that! Less than a generation ago such concepts would be laughed out of any adult gathering.

Me-too-ism is running rampant. For every dramatic news event, there are now battalions of Americans jumping in and trying to be part of someone else’s narrative. They are followers and claim the mantle of weakness or victimization as if those were good things.

Our schools, our government and now many of our corporations operate not from a position how do I improve my world today, but from a kill Ivan’s goats perspective.

Some believe we just need “god in schools” to fix everything. But our present-day, citizen-as-obedient-drone society has been metastasizing since Woodrow Wilson. Religion has been around since the discovery of fire. Prayer in schools and the Pledge of Alligiance didn’t stop the rise of FDR or LBJ. So that’s not the answer.

If someone can tell me how we can un-Animal Farm this nation based on reason and without magical thinking, I’d love to hear your argument. I will enthusiastically invite you to post it here.

Just follow and message me here.

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Pay Attention!

I am supposed to be doing homework for a special project. But I if I didn’t get this out, my head will explode.

Everybody is getting their noses out of joint about the NFL and Donald Trump being his regular, inarticulate, nonsensical self.  I sure as hell said my piece about it.  But as a problem, who stands, sits or scratches their asses during the National Anthem should be about 138 on our list of national priorities right now.

There is far more to worry about.

First I will stipulate that as sure as there will never be a real wall on our southern border, I am equally sure that the NOKOs will get their nukes, just like the Iranians did. There is no one in DC with the brains, much less the sack to do anything about it. (Perhaps the only saving grace in this case is that the American President isn’t going to actively facilitate Kim’s acquisition of the weapons as Obama did for the Iranians.)

BUT!!!!!

If anyone is seriously thinking about going after the crazy fat kid and his crazy generals they better start making preparations SIX MONTHS AGO! If the post Vietnam yes men in the Pentagon plan this one the way they have done the last several, we will find ourselves in real trouble on the Korean Peninsula.

I have been watching the Ken Burns’ Vietnam series. Not much new there, but the detail is amazing. And as many times as I have read or seen these stories, it still leaves me gob smacked at how criminally incompetent LBJ, Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs were in the execution of that war. All the years in Nam and all the conflicts since have demonstrated that we have yet to learn anything since 1945.

In McNamara’s time, the powers that be believed the guy with the best spreadsheet would win the war. Now the yes men believe the guys with the coolest PowerPoint slides are on top of things.

If we don’t get REAL generals and planners in DC, plan a REAL campaign designed to defeat the enemy and INITIATE THE DRAFT right now, any adventure in Korea will result in a tremendous loss of life, squandered initiative and NOKO getting their nukes anyway.

In Chapter 16 of Street Politics: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! I laid out my objections to the concept of limited war. The bottom line was that if you don’t intend to take all the real estate and keep it; if you don’t intend to completely break the enemy’s will to resist your own, you don’t go to war. Period.

Korea I, Vietnam, Iraq (under Obama) and Afghanistan were all a colossal waste of American lives. As this NOKO debacle unfolds before our eyes, I don’t see anyone with the requisite knowledge and courage to understand this.

Trump still lacks the intellectual curiosity needed to digest real input from his advisors on a subject as important as this. And I see no indication the military is being led by a new breed of young turks capable of planning a real war.

Again, I don’t think we will lift a finger against NOKO nukes. But if we decide to do so, and try to do the “limited war” circus, popular since 1950, we are going to be in deep shit!

Don’t be a political pansy! Read Street Politics: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! Grab your copy here.
Let’s demand good governance!

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The NFL. Children. Ignorant, Petulant and Overpaid

I’ll put the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF as my old boss used to call it). The playing of the National Anthem at sporting events has always been for one and only one purpose. It was a way of saying, in a feel-good way that we are all in this together. The Baptist in section C row 5 seat 16, the lesbian in A 15 4, the disabled vet in F 22 12 and the Muslim in P 11 2 are all Americans. Tomorrow the Lesbian might blog about gay rights. The vet will be fighting red tape at the VA. The Baptist will decry the lack of god in schools. And the Muslim may decide to march against the travel ban.

But right now, in this place, at this happy time, we are all a part of a larger picture. Let us just for this brief moment enjoy knowing that and enjoy being together. THAT is why we play the national Anthem at ballgames. There is no other reason. There never was.

It wasn’t about wars. It wasn’t about race riots. It wasn’t about the imaginary grievances of college snowflakes. The flag itself was just a focal point; a rather pretty visual the good feelings were built around.

Well…until entirely un-oppressed, professional athletes decided to get camera time and headlines by ruining the moment for the rest of us.

It’s Not FSC’s Fault

As I read the social network comments regarding the NFL’s National Anthem controversy, I am struck dumb with the level of ignorance from which people argue. Clearly, many of the arguments are made up from whole cloth. I read one post that the National Anthem was written by an attorney who worked to free slaves.

[insert loud game show buzzer here]

Sorry! Francis Scott Key was a slaveholder who, it is said, wrote of the inferiority of the Negro race. Yes, he did represent slaves seeking legal manumission as well as slaveholders seeking return of their “property”. If he thought his client had a case, he argued it. But he was no paragon of abolitionist virtue.

I hate revisionist history worse than cooked carrots.

I read repeatedly that the song “celebrates slavery” or “celebrates the murder of African-Americans”. Leaving aside the impossibility and self-indulgence of the label in the latter example, the song does neither.

Sadly, the ignorance is not limited to silly tweets or Facebook trolls. Mark Clague, a musicologist (here defined as someone who can say anything he wants and declare it valid) is a shining example of what has become of American learning and intellect.

Clague works at the University of Michigan and is founder of the Star Spangled Music Foundation (no agenda there, right?). In a particularly non-intellectual and self-contradictory interview with the NY Times[i], Clague says the lyrics are not a celebration of slavery.

So far, true enough. They are specifically not that.

But then Clague goes on to damage a simple and true statement by slathering on his own disjointed views and projecting his own wishes and feelings on things, 200 years hence, into the minds of people who simply did not think as he does; people who did not think the way educated people think today.

In his reference to “freemen”, Clague asserts, Key was including white people AND black slaves who remained loyal to the U.S. during the war.

In other words, according to Clague, an attorney, and the author of a rather well-penned verse, had no concept of the meaning of words. At the beginning of the 19th Century, a freeman was specifically NOT a slave. Period. If I were a merchant in Philadelphia and was introduced to a Black man with whom I might do business, he would be introduced to me as a freeman to specifically delineate him from those who were slaves. This was by no means an uncommon occurrence, even in major southern cities.

Key would have not confused the two. Clague does so intentionally to burnish the image of the Anthem, which is clearly his goal.

At the same time, Clague and any other literate person who reads the lyrics and knows of the history of the time, knows the terms “hireling” and “slave”, in the context of defeating the Brits, was a reference to the mercenaries and slaves who fought for England during the war.

If you are a 100% pacifist and believe that all war is murder, then you could read into the words of FSK a justification for the murder of slaves and mercenaries in the Anthem. But that would be projecting YOUR beliefs onto the words written by another person.

Key clearly believed in the cause being contested and did not quibble about the morality of war in his verse. So in his mind, and therefore his words, there is no celebration of murder. There is only the statement that the enemy is not free from what American forces might visit upon them. This included people who lived here and fought for the Brits. The “controversial” phrase is neither celebration nor condemnation of death in war.

All I will say further about the birth of the Anthem is that it was a verse that reflected it’s time. The modern approach to that reality is to deny it by saying things like, “Don’t tell me about the morality of the time! Don’t confuse me with facts! XYZ is wrong and everybody knows it!”

Well, isn’t that just too convenient for you? The fact is, that for several millennia, it was accepted as correct that one people should enslave another. If your state went to war with another, one of the most valuable and common spoils of war was the acquisition of slaves. If you marched your god into a foreign land and they rejected that god, you could do to those people anything you wanted to.  While the Greeks and Romans would happily nuance the concept to win the loyalty of this tribe over that, the common thinking was that the conquered could be used as the conqueror sees fit. There was no moral argument against it.

We are a mere 200 years into a world where slavery is seen as a blight. Many places in the Muslim world have a lot of catching up to do to eliminate slavery all together. That’s to be understood since they actively rejected the Age of Enlightenment, where old cultural and religious nonsense started to be peeled away in favor of critical thinking.

But is it a process. One we worked through, quite painfully, 150 years ago.

There is more to Clague’s unhelpful interview, mostly about newer versions of the song written over the years by people with various axes to grind, including abolition. But they are not germane to the argument at hand as they are not Key’s words. But Clague is a “musicologist”. So perhaps I should show a bit more respect.

Meh…nah.

So What of Today’s NFL Anthem Squabble?

It might have been smart if Woodrow Wilson and Congress, when they made the Star Spangled Banner our official Anthem, had reviewed all of it. If they found controversy in the various stanzas, it would have certainly been within their power to say, “We adopt this stanza and reject the rest in the use of the verse as our anthem.” That would have been quite prescient. However, there would be no way Wilson could have possibly read anything sticky about the third verse. He was a racist. He was completely and utterly tone deaf to issues of any minority.  So talk of defeating slaves and mercenaries fighting for the enemy would have meant nothing to Wilson.

But at this moment, the Anthem is still our official song.

There is no law that requires the playing of the Anthem at sporting events. Nor should there be. This is a tradition, and a nice one.

People are free to sit, stand or chew gum while it plays. People are free to protest during it’s playing. After many decades of this without these circus stunt “protests” do I question the motivation of players who are protesting a benign song? Of course I do. These are spoiled, overpaid, prima donnas who haven’t heard the word “no” since the first scout visited their schools. Not a single one of them could articulate a true statement in favor of their “protest”.   Talk of “oppression” coming from their mouths should be an anathema to any mature adult in this country.

Even if their erroneous view of the Anthem’s lyrics were correct, there isn’t a single person alive who has actually suffered through the time in question. Not a single living American has had to deal with the issue of slavery. Only the oldest among us had to fight for civil rights. And they won! The only emotion we should feel about any of that is gratitude!

But They Disrespect Our Veterans!

If you’ve read my stuff, you’ve read that I don’t use my time in uniform as a reason to criticize protestors. I wore the uniform for 23 years to uphold the right of anyone to peacefully protest anything they want. That includes the actions of stupid, spoiled men getting paid to play a kids’ game.

But as they are free to make phony protests, you are free to counter them.

I hear talk of boycott. That might do it. But be sure to make your actions clear and accurate. They lose their meaning if you don’t.

This is my take. Player A sits on the bench, collecting camera time during the anthem. Let’s not pretend it is really anything else. That is his right. BUT he is in a uniform. While wearing that uniform, and in the performance of his duties representing the ball club, it is the club’s reaction that is the key.

The owners and stockholders of the franchise have freedom of speech as well. If a player sits out the anthem and the club doesn’t penalize him, or at least scold him publicly, the club is making one of two possible statements.

  1. We agree with the actions of Player A and believe the National Anthem and the United States are bad things.

OR

  1. We don’t agree but will coddle the spoiled brat because we care more about how much we pay him than we do about patriotism or national pride or whatever label the observer thinks is appropriate here.

But take care where you point your finger and be prepared to make your own mea culpa. Who was it, after all that made these “protestors” into more than overpaid meat hired to play a game?

Who was it that paid good money to make sports entertainment into a multi-billon dollar activity? What a waste of resources! Who is it that allows our institutions of higher learning to be football clubs and snowflake villages rather than institutions of higher learning? Who stood by and watched as our government created a publicly subsidized “bread and circus” industry we now know as professional sports?

That’s right. It is you. I would wager some the people most angry with the protestors these days are season ticket holders or viewers that never miss a game each week. But in attempting to admonish the “Frankenstein” we’re angry with, don’t minimize your role in creating it.

Still feeling passionate about your argument? I hope so. Now go out and make a valid one.

Note: The fact that NFL players in exhibition in England stood for God Save the Queen and took a knee for our National Anthem shows their complete ignorance of the history of the anthem and the history of this nation. And it demonstrates the total lack of seriousness in their “protest”.

Children!

[i] The National Anthem Racist? Beyond the Debate over Colin Kaepernick by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, 2 Sep 16. The Times actually refers to Clague’s emotionalist, self-serving meanderings as “scholarly”.

Don’t be a political pansy! Read Street Politics: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! Grab your copy here.
Let’s demand good governance!

Kindle version here!

Or just start reading for free on Kindle Unlimited!