Archive for January, 2013


January 18, 2013

Wayne L.

There’s recklessness in the air.

This is a winter of deeply divisive discontent.

Even though the American people have spoken.

Barack Obama was elected in November for a second term as our President with a 51% to 48% win over his opponent — a three and a half million vote victory margin. Democrats in The United States Senate now outnumber Republicans 54 to 45 and picked up eight seats in the House of Representatives, where they now trail the GOP by just 33 votes, a significant shift away from their former 49 member majority. In fact, there were a million more Democratic ballots cast for House members than Republican on a national basis in 2012, but some fancy pre-election hanky-panky (formally known as “Gerrymandering”) is keeping John Boehner as Speaker for another two years of crocodile tears.

Elbridge Gerry was Governor of Massachusetts in 1812 and helped engineer the restructuring of several state senate districts to benefit his political party, said organization curiously known at the time as “Democratic Republicans”. Their opposition was The Federalists. A local Federalist newspaper in Boston casually noted that one of the new “carved out” sections resembled a grossly contorted — salamander. Combining this humorous imagery with the good Governor’s name, the practice of gaining advantage by such chicanery became known as “Gerrymandering.” The name has stuck ever since for over two centuries, therein offering an important cautionary note for writers of all stripes. Words do live on.

Elbridge Gerry continued his political career to become Fifth Vice President of the United States under James Madison — as everyone knows.

But one clear, undisputed, unqualified fact of the entire matter is that the sole reason the GOP controls the 113th House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts through a 30 million dollar investment during the 2010 election cycle in “blue states” such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This campaign was so successfully executed that Republicans went from controlling both legislative chambers in 14 states before Election Day to 25 states afterward, paving the way for new salamander art.

Now they’re trying to work that same slithering magic with rules governing the Electoral College, scheming and dreaming that a future Presidency might similarly be sliced out.

All of this was released last Thursday by the Republican State Leadership Committee, along with the specific admission that only through such activity was the House not lost. This was also the same time Lance Armstrong gave it up to Oprah, although not nearly as fully as the RSLC in honestly owning up to cause and effect. Admittedly clever manipulation carried the day. Score a big one in memory of the Gipper.

So — here’s the deal.

Along with all the aforementioned realities, even Ronald Reagan wanted to ban assault rifles. He remembered being shot. Latest accredited polling shows 56% of American voters believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict while 7% say regulations ought to be lessened. 85% of respondents are in favor of background checks for private and gun show sales with only 12% opposed. 63% of the American people support a stringent limitation on high capacity magazines. A total ban on military war weapons, such as used to kill twenty little kids in Connecticut, is favored by an overwhelming majority of fellow citizens 55% to 40%.

So who are these creatures calling our President an “elitist hypocrite” in a misleading radio and television ad referencing his young daughters with a dangerous appeal to the worst instincts of gun-rights subversives?

How can any fair-minded individual consider the National Rifle Association to be anything other than a cowardly cabal of antagonistically angry and horribly frightened old men?

As English Moralist Samuel Johnson reminded us on April 7, 1775, false patriotism is “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

They dare to flamboyantly wrap themselves in our treasured flag with feigned defiance, hiding from their fear as a small child shakes and trembles behind its mother’s apron.

Pathetically pitiful.

Outrageously antiquated.

Surely shameless.

The N.R.A.?

Not Really American.

“Sheikh it up, Baby!”

January 4, 2013


Al Gore didn’t sell out to Al Jazeera just because they have the same first name.

There’s that half a billion bucks.

Al and a pal, businessman Joel Hyatt, formed Current TV on August 1st of 2005 in an effort to create a viable “Progressive” cable information channel to position against Rupert Murdoch’s phenomenally successful FOX News. While becoming available in forty million homes through Gore’s considerable political clout, the basic Current mission has been a big flop. That is — until now.

Riding to the rescue comes Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar Media and, more importantly, Emir of Qatar, Supreme Chancellor and head of the government of Qatar — a family run business for the last hundred and fifty years. Having overthrown his father in a bloodless 1995 palace coup, the Sheikh enjoys enormous popularity among the 250,000 citizens of this tiny nation geographically squeezed between Iran and Saudi Arabia and it’s no wonder. His constituents are the richest people on the face of the earth, pay no taxes, enjoy free education and health care and have moved from transportation by camel to 747s in a single generation.

The Sheikh is paying an estimated $20,000 per “Current” viewer with his five hundred million dollar purchase of the channel, which should make you feel important if you’ve been watching, but please know he’s buying viewing location, not viewer loyalty. He’ll be tearing down the old house and erecting something quite new in the neighborhood.

The current lineup and name “Current TV” will shortly disappear, to be replaced by “Al Jazeera America” – programmed out of New York and Qatar. I know that sounds weird, but this is a changing world — and to influence future change and stay on top — we need to be aware.

My own familiarity with Al Jazeera — The Island” — comes about through Fresno Free College Foundation’s 50,000 watt KFCF (88.1) which carries both evening news reports and live breaking coverage when appropriate from “Al Jazeera English.”

Admittedly quite skeptical at first, I now regard the service as thoroughly professional, impressively produced and journalistically superior to much of what we find ourselves receiving these days from our traditional commercial broadcast networks, squeezing every penny for more profit to the bottom line.

News bureaus have been closed by the dozens and staffers fired by the hundreds as viewers and readers have been short changed by the tens of millions.

To the embarrassment of our culture, the most penetrating foreign reporting is often found in documentaries that run on the financially challenged Public Broadcasting Service, often in the work of young journalists who are forced by circumstance to finance their own projects or rely on the occasional philanthropic grant.

So here comes the Emir with billions to boogie.

Since its creation in November of 1996, Al Jazeera has become one of the most powerful media sources on the globe and is generally credited with being “the engine of the Arab Spring”.

Bob Simon conducted an extensive interview with The Emir in an impressive “Sixty Minutes” segment about Qatar on January 15th of last year. Check it out. It’s worth your Google.

Qatar was our ally with NATO in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and is recognized by many as a force for lasting peace in the Middle East, a view not shared by the current Israeli government.

American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers “real news” — something she said American media was falling far short of doing. The Secretary added that other countries and global news outlets were making more inroads around the world than we are and that “the United States is losing the information war.”

Wait? What do I hear?

“The Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming!

Hey, they’re already here!

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia — with a personal wealth of 28.7 billion dollars — is the second largest owner of — FOX News.

In this changing world.