Monday, March 23, 2015

Week of 03/23/2015

Mandatory Voting? We Already Have It.
So the man that spearheaded and championed the biggest capitalist enslavement since the Emancipation Proclamation under the guise of “reforming healthcare and making it affordable for all” now wants to solve the endless problem of voter apathy in America.
Yes, President Barack Obama wants all of us to fulfill our civil responsibility as Americans and vote in all future elections.  Apparently he’s been so moved by the turnout in the recent elections in Israel – in which the so-called “experts” got wrong – and equally disappointed by the turnout in America’s own mid-term elections – which, again, the so-called “experts” got wrong – that he thinks we should be a little more politically involved.  We are, after all, the United States of America.  We’re supposed to set the example when it comes to “democracy” and the “will of the people”.
And I have to agree that it is embarrassing and insulting to know that at any given time we cannot count on three-fourths of the American people to actually show up at the polls.  That every effort made to register people to vote is ultimately betrayed and slapped in the face when all of those newly-registered people don’t even bother to look at a ballot, much less make a choice.
So what is Mister Obama’s solution to getting us all to vote?
No, I’m not kidding.  President Obama thinks we should all be forced – by law – to vote in every election.
It’s not a new idea.  Eleven countries around the world do this.  Australians, for instance, can be fined or even jailed if they refuse to vote in elections.  Never mind the shrimp; your butt would be on the “barbie” if you don’t vote over there.
“If everybody voted,” Obama told people in Cleveland, “then it would completely change the political map in this country.”  He even speculated that it would counteract the obscene flood of campaign money that has been buying and paying for politicians like they were Amsterdam prostitutes.
Well I don’t disagree with the statement.  If everyone voted in the last election, you probably wouldn’t have seen the GOP taking over Congress.
But to force all registered voters to vote?  To force them with fear of fines and/or jail time to cast a ballot?
No.  Absolutely not.
In fact, to force Americans to vote is pretty much about as anti-American as you can get.  And, no, I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  I consider that to be as much of an abomination as the ongoing efforts of a certain political faction to suppress the vote of those that would not vote for them.
Besides, there are two huge reasons why Obama’s hair-brained idea to force all Americans to vote is an inherently bad idea.
First of all, we have a political system that has been carefully and meticulously designed to drive voters away.  And this is not by accident either.  This is intentional.
Between gerrymandering of districts into art deco projects, the loosening of campaign rules so big money can buy politicians like Amsterdam prostitutes, the scheduling of primary elections, and the deliberate manipulation of who can appear on the ballots much less in the debates, the Democrats and the GOP have systematically perverted the political system into a de facto plutocracy.  Their party bosses determine who is “allowed” to run for office, and they manipulate the ballot qualifications so that any kind of challenge faces a herculean uphill battle.  Special interest control the debates, and they spend obscene amounts of money on political propaganda, thanks in no small part to our court system.
Campaigns are nasty and dirty, and they continue to get nastier and dirtier, because they are meant to drive voters away!  It’s a game of attrition, not attraction.  The incumbents already have all of the support they “need”, so all they have to do is make sure nobody else votes and they are assured a re-election victory. 
And the masses have already been thoroughly conditioned to believe that no matter what the career politician says or does, no matter how outrageous or offensive, there is supposedly some false equivalent somewhere on the other side of the ballot to validate it.  Drunk driving?  Child molestation?  Sex slaves?  Murder?  “They all do it,” is the damnably scripted response, as if saying it negates the offense.
All of this is designed to drive the voters away from voting, President Obama.  If you want people to show back up at the polls, this is what you need to address first.
And I really don’t think you want to do that, sir.  Because to do so means you have to take on not just the GOP and their party bosses, but also every single Democrat in the House and Senate and your own party bosses.  It means you have to wage war against your lobbyist friends in K-Street and C-Street that have gotten fat and rich and powerful off the system as it is today.  You may not have to worry about running for office ever again, but Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren do.  And I really don’t see you changing the status quo if it means risking your own political party’s survival.
The other reason why the idea of “mandatory voting” is a failure... is because we already have it.
Let’s get brutally honest here... every single eligible voter already votes in one way or another!  If they don’t vote, then they automatically default to the ones that do.  It’s a passive vote of surrender to the inevitable outcome.
This is precisely the kind of vote that your friends in Washington have carefully crafted and coveted, President Obama.  Electing to not vote, to not take an active part in the process, to not choose between the lousy choices presented to them, because it gives your friends in Washington that much more power.  It gives power to all of those “consultants” and “advisors” and so-called “experts” that get fat and rich being able to orchestrate the outcome of the elections.
The same people, sir, that got you elected and re-elected.
If you want more people to show up at the polls, then you have to give them a reason to take part instead of surrendering by default.  It is not enough to get them to register.  Registration is not the same as actual participation.  They have to feel something personal at stake for them to take part.
For all that we condemn the GOP’s extremist factions for doing, they still manage to get the bible-thumpers and the gun nuts and the senile seniors to the ballot box, because they give those groups something to vote for.  The old people will show up if they feel their Social Security money is threatened.  The thumpers will show up if they feel a moderate could get elected.  The gun nuts will show up if they hear someone threatening to take their guns away.  The so-called “tea party” voters will show up in droves if some new tax program was at stake.
I’ve seen it happen on the local level.  Give them an issue to vote for or against that they feel strongly about and they will be there.
They know how to play the game, Mister Obama.  The real challenge is making it work for more than just the special interest groups.
You want us to vote?  Then give us a real reason to, and not just because you “said so” or threaten us with the government’s ever-present gun.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week of 03/16/2015

Hey Airport People! We Will Call You What We Want!
Apparently the people in charge of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have a real problem on their hands.
And we’re the problem.
The Atlanta City Council are upset that people – you know, us - are not calling Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport” in our conversations.  We’re simply calling it “The airport” or “Hartsfield”.  We’re not calling it “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport” every single time.
Oh the horrors!  How dare we do that!
So the City Council have directed the airport’s general manager to come up with some remedy by June.
Yes, you read that right.  The Atlanta City Council is going to spend taxpayer money to have a government official come up with ways to force everyone in Atlanta to refer to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in all of our conversations, communications, and references.  Not “The airport” or “Hartsfield” or “The Atlanta Airport” or even “Hartsfield-Jackson”.  No, they want us to say “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport” each and every time.
Now the reason they give is this: when you don’t refer to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by its full name, you are somehow “disrespecting” the memories of either William Hartsfield or Maynard Jackson, the two former mayors whose names got tacked onto the front of the Atlanta International Airport by the Atlanta City Council.
Did you get that?  If you do not refer to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, then you are supposedly “disrespecting” two dead people.
And here I thought only young homicidal gang-banger wannabes were so vain and egomaniacal.
Tell me something, airport people... have you ever heard of the First Amendment?  Do you even know how asinine you appear when you approved of your little speech-control measure without even one of you opposing it on constitutional grounds?
How about this... how many of you in the Atlanta City Council refer to the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority bus or rail line as the “Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority”?  Or do you simply call it by its acronym?  I’m guessing all of you simply call it “MARTA”.  According to your logic, you’re “disrespecting” the whole Metropolitan Atlanta area by not using the full name.
How about Turner Field?  How many of you simply call it “The Ted”?  Isn’t that “disrespecting” Ted Turner, for whom the field is named after?
Let’s get brutally honest here, Atlanta City Counselors... we will refer to Atlanta’s airport as we wish, and there is absolutely nothing that you can do to stop it!  We will call it “Hartsfield” or “The Airport” or “Hartsfield Airport” as we wish because it’s shorter than to call it by its full name.
A name, I should point out, that you – the Atlanta City Council – chose all on your own to make longer and longer.
You chose to add the late Maynard Jackson’s name to the already-long William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.  You did that.  Not the voters.  Not the people that use the airport and keep it going through their dollars.  You imposed this change and expected us all to simply accept it.   But what you can’t do is tell the rest of the world what to think or how to call it.  You have neither the power nor the authority to do that.
What adds insult to injury is that you chose to pick this fight at a time when your precious airport has some serious problems.  Not too long ago it was revealed the airport was the hub for illegal gun-smuggling.  More recently, it was revealed that some 1400 security badges were missing.
And here you are demanding the airport manager focus his attention on why the masses don’t call your precious airport by its full name instead of trying to plug all the security breaches.
Let’s not forget that the most dominant airline in your precious airport is on a money-grubbing fee-happy spree, hitting passengers up for every kind of additional fee that they can imagine.  And your second-dominant airline has a notorious history of being clothing Nazis.  No joke; they make the “Fashion Police” look petty in comparison. 
I don’t know about you, but I think those issues are far more important than whether or not the masses refer to your precious airport by its full name.
In fact, I think that’s what I’ll be referring to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from now on. 
“Your precious airport.”
Go ahead and try to stop me. 
The real problem, of course, is not whether the masses call your precious airport by its full name.  It’s not even about gun-smuggling or missing or stolen security badges or excessive fees or a draconian dress code.
The real problem is not the world, Atlanta City Council.
The real problem is you.
If you think that it is more important that you should worry about whether the masses refer to your precious airport by its full name instead of real security issues, then it is clear that you don’t deserve to be running the airport.  Maybe it would be better for the city and for your precious airport if control was given to an independent private entity.  Then at least the emphasis would be on making the “World’s Busiest Airport” one of the safest in the world.
Meanwhile, don’t worry about what people call your precious airport.  You should be more concerned that they are still using it, because all the names tacked on to it won’t mean a thing if people decide that it just isn’t worth the effort to fly anywhere.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week of 03/09/2015

Brian Versus Bill-O
When it comes to the idea of honesty and integrity in the media, I can’t help but come back to a little exchange between Jon Stewart and the political commentators on CNN’s now-defunct series “Crossfire” back in 2004.  Stewart was being grilled by the hosts about his Comedy Central series “The Daily Show” about his supposed “journalistic integrity” when Stewart turned the tables on them.
“You're on CNN” he said. “The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?”
That pretty much spelled the end of that incarnation of “Crossfire” ten years ago.  Meanwhile, Stewart only recently announced his retirement from “The Daily Show”.
The “Crossfire” hosts made the mistake that a lot of other people do about Stewart’s show on Comedy Central.  “The Daily Show” is not a news program.  It’s a satire of a news program.  Stewart is not a reporter.  He doesn’t pretend to be a journalist.  He is a comedian.  He doesn’t do what he does to inform.  He does what he does to entertain.
And yet we’ll watch his show instead of the local news, and we’ll trust what he says more than we will the network anchors.
And that, I think, is the real joke.  But the joke isn’t on us.  It’s on the people that think that Stewart is a journalist or that his Comedy Central show is a real news program.
That brings us to a guy named Brian and another guy named Bill-O.
Brian Williams was long considered a reporter before he became the host of NBC Nightly News.  People trusted him.  If he said something happened, then viewers believed that it did, because they believed in him to be honest.
That kind of honesty and trust is not easy to build.  And yet it can be ruined so easily.
In February of 2015, Brian announced that he may have told a fib about being shot down in a helicopter in Iraq.  And, for that, he was taking some time off from his job as Managing Editor and host of the Nightly News.  Not long afterward, NBC decided his time away would be six months without pay, and there is some speculation that it may eventually end his employment altogether.
There is some precedence.  Dan Rather lost his job as the “grand poohbah” of CBS News – a position he inherited from the great Walter Cronkite – after it was discovered that one of his stories had a questionable source.  And no matter how many times Rather said the documents were true, the facts continued to mount until his bosses decided to pull the plug and terminate his job.  The scandal destroyed the integrity of that network’s news division, and NBC execs could very well move to make sure that the same doesn’t happen to their own division.
That brings us to Bill-O, aka Bill O’Reilly. 
Bill-O, it seems, has been making claims for quite some time that are now turning out to be false.  Was he a “war correspondent” during the Falklands War?  Apparently not, since he was in Buenos Ares at the time looking at photographs.  Was he there at the hotel when the friend of Lee Harvey Oswald killed himself?  Well the sheriff’s report and the Associated Press reports at the time say otherwise.  So do his co-workers at WFAA in Dallas, who say they were with him in Texas when George de Mohrenschildt committed suicide in Florida.
As far as anyone knows, Bill-O does not possess the power of teleportation, nor does he own a teleporter straight out of “Star Trek”, so it’s a little difficult to claim that you can go from Texas to Florida in an instant.
Oh, and apparently he wasn’t caught up in the Los Angeles riots of 1992 either.
Bill-O, Bill-O, Bill-O…you just can’t seem to keep your history straight.
So why is Bill-O still on the air?  You would think that after he went on a tear about Brian Williams and the integrity of the news division that Fox News would set the example, especially after Bill-O started bashing the so-called “liberal media” following Brian’s suspension.  “Think about other news agencies that are distorting the facts,” he said.
Bill-O?  They are. 
But instead of admitting to his instances of Munchausenism, Bill-O and his employers at Fox News have been busy attacking the accusers.  They don’t refute the claims with hard proof or evidence.  They simply dismiss the accusations of Bill-O’s lies and exaggerations by screaming “Liberal agenda” in the same way that a little boy refutes his bad behavior by saying that the other person’s a “doodie-head”.
But, you know what?  There is a way out for Bill-O.
Because let’s get brutally honest here… what Brian Williams does (or did) and what Bill-O does are two different things.
Brian is/was a reporter and a news anchor.  His job depends on people trusting what he says is honest and factual.  His accounts need to be fact-checked and verified.
But Bill-O really isn’t a news anchor, is he?  No, he isn’t.  He is the host of a commentary program that dissects the news of the day with his own slanted spin.  Maybe he was a reporter once upon a time, but not today.  Not while he sits in the chair of the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News.  Not while he churns out books talking about “Killing” this person and “Killing” that person like they were Harlequin novels.
Bill-O is a commentator.  Commentators have different sets of rules than a news anchor.  They don’t have to be completely factual.  They can exaggerate things and make stuff up to get their point across.  I should know, because I’ve been a commentator longer than Bill-O had a Fox News program, and I’ve been pointing out the line between journalism and commentary for years now.  (And, by the way, that’s not an exaggeration.  My commentary site started months before Fox News went on the air.)
As a commentator, Bill-O can live in and report from his fantasy world with impunity.  He can talk about how he witnessed famous events without actually being there.  He can accuse the United States Army of committing war crimes in Malmedy during World War II.  He can claim that a falafel is just another word for an exfoliating bath sponge.  He can claim he defied the Ottoman Empire and flew on a cannonball.  Oh, wait, that last one wasn’t Bill-O; that was Barron Munchausen.  Well it’s easy to see how anyone could confuse the two of them.  (Just kidding, of course.)
Fox News could even take it to the next step and just admit what their critics have long accused them of being… not a news network, but rather a political propaganda machine for the conservatives and neo-conservatives.  Then they won’t ever have to worry about “journalistic integrity” or whether or not their media personalities are telling the truth.  But I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.  They love the pretense of being a “superior” media outlet too much to give it up.
What Brian Williams did was sad and needless.  But at least he had the integrity and the courage to own up to his mistake when exposed and accept the punishment from his employer.  What would truly be sad is not that Bill-O won’t do the same, but if his own viewers refuse to hold him to the same standards that he pompously decrees others should live up to.