Tag Archives: News

A little less fire and fury, please?

I finally slogged through the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, about the campaign and first months in office of the incumbent President of the USA.

To make things clearer to anyone who chooses to read this post: I believe that what is needed to improve the situation in the US is good parenting, and I do not use the name of someone who wants attention over every other goal unless attention is deserved.  This means, as many parents dealing with Difficult Toddlers know: give attention for okay behaviors, for unacceptable behaviors ignore them to the extent you are able, and if the situation is egregious give a time out. If the child runs into the street endangering himself and scaring the living daylights out of drivers, you can spank him.

Back to the topic: the book is not a page turner and part way through I felt like a patsy for buying it since it felt like the whole lawsuit-over-libel thing was made up to boost sales and increase readership so more people would see the Difficult Toddler as innocent. The theory that he wasn’t organized or intelligent enough to pull off collusion was repeated more than necessary. On the other hand I am understanding the articles in this week’s paper better. I have wondered a couple of times how many of the Op-Ed writers actually slogged through the whole book…

Several things bugged me about the book, but two stood out in making it hard for me to read: The book talks a lot about Steve Bannon, whom I dislike; and it was repetitive.

At first glance the book’s voice seems neutral, but it is often from the point of view of Mr. Bannon, by that I mean his worldview is presented as desirable. The whole “this is war” idea is ridiculous and didn’t need more respect than other, more rational, ideas going around at the same time. Bannon is, to put it extremely mildly, not my cup of tea, pun intended.

Aside to explain: I think the whole TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party is a bunch of selfish, illogical, uneducated, racist galoots. The one or two exceptions to this are taking advantage of the others, and I place Mr. Bannon among these. The Republican Party was having trouble with its numbers so it subsumed the TEA Party. It’s a pretty weird pairing, which is why the party is a schizophrenic mish-mash instead of a cohesive, at least semi-rational group. But that is a story for another day…or not.

Fire and Fury is very repetitive, to be expected from the news reports that come from the White House. In general I agree with those who say that the book didn’t really say anything that hadn’t come out other ways. The one thing the book did do, at least somewhat effectively, was to put those already known things in one place, allowing a pattern to emerge, instead of outrage for each individual incident taking center stage. The outrage itself is the key component of the pattern: A Difficult Toddler throwing temper tantrums for attention. Often prodded, or manipulated, into his tweet tantrums by all those trying to “handle” him, in order to distract the tax paying citizens from what they consider “real progress” (a.k.a, screwing us over to line their own pockets) or the last debacle.

I agree that the book isn’t Pulitzer prize level work, not surprising since little time was spent honing the prose in the race to publication. Mr. Wolff’s journalism, much maligned in the press the last couple of days, is what one expects from Breitbart/Fox “News” journalism, no better and probably not much, if any, worse. The attacks on it are disingenuous. If a similar book had been written about Hilary Clinton the administration would have said it was genius.

The real question is: how and why did this mess happen? and the book doesn’t help answer it. What causes people to suspend reason in the voting booth?

One clear example of this: In yesterday’s paper ( I still read them) there was an article about how farmers are concerned that the Difficult Toddler has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is trying to kill NAFTA, both of which are huge sources of income to farmers, who voted for him. He also has been trying to get rid of immigrant labor, which benefits farmers a whole lot. Why did they vote for someone who stated during the campaign that he was going to do these things? (the article was from the Washington Post if you want to look it up).

A second example: I personally know a couple who are immigrants. They have been for the 40 years that I’ve known them, bringing family members from the Philippines into the US by providing them with a job and green card. They were complaining how  difficult it is to get people here while Barack Obama was still in office. They are hard over Trump supporters, even though he is wanting to put the kibosh on this activity.

So what next? My suggestion would be to have all of the late night comedians ignore the Difficult Toddler, pretend he doesn’t exist, and have mainstream media not use use tweets as if they are real news. Call them rumors. “rumor has it that…” instead of “@RealDifficultToddler tweeted: “. Refrain from using the name unless behavior is reasonable. My prediction: No one is going to do this. And that is a big part of how we got to where we are, sensationalism and gossip are addictive. We may think we’re just venting, but we are really feeding the Fire and Fury.

 

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Eddying Information

I get my news through a funnel; I suspect most of us do, one way or another. There are a semi-infinite number of things going on and somehow they have to get through the narrow spot created by what can be assimilated by a human brain. When a bunch of stuff tries to get down a small hole it creates an eddy, a small whirlpool.

In the stress (mechanical, strength of materials type of stress) world one test for cracks is the eddy current. It costs a bit more than dye, but can be accurately read in hard to reach locations.

I get my news from a few carefully chosen sources: the city newspaper (The Seattle Times) gives me a bit of the world, national and local news, the Economist gives a more global perspective (I use their Espresso app and the print edition), and blogs (A Lot From Lydia is an example of one that often addresses current events in the US, but I frequently become aware something has happened from others that come up on my reader). I don’t watch TV or listen to radio news. They give me a headache.

Beyond the WordPress blogs I follow, I have given up on social media for now, less from high minded principles than from the time it takes away from walking the dogs, cleaning my toilet, vacuuming up pet hair and other tasks I was neglecting in order to keep up with cute videos of pets, outraged Russian trolls, and other Facebook treasures.

The furor over the newly published book, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, was so great that I got it and have been working on reading it. I decided that I needed to read the book for myself and draw my own conclusions, instead of reading what others concluded.

If it had been a novel I would probably have finished it by now. Instead I’m, according to my kindle, at 42%. I keep having to stop and let the eddy of information and emotion subside.

So far what I have found most disturbing is the quotes of the president of the USA. Not made up, the things on the record.

I could do a better job of public speaking. I don’t claim to be especially bad, or good, at it, but someone whose job is, for the most part, communication, paid $400,000 base salary plus $100,000  “travel allowance” and $18,000 “entertainment”, and a couple of other biggish items that I’ve never had as part of a job, should be able to string two or three cogent sentences together that are appropriate for the audience…Or at least read them well after they are prepared by a competent speech writer. I don’t want to seem conceited, but I have given better (more cogent and uplifting to the people who contributed) speeches to the congregation about a church rummage sale than the Difficult Toddler gave to the CIA  on January 21, 2017*.

I realize that many people had already known about these speeches, but I find the Difficult Toddler so repulsive that if his picture is on the article I flip to the next page (if in print) or scroll to where I can’t see it on the computer. I figure enough gets through my funnel without having to endure the details.

I am trying to read the words, really. But I can only take in so much at a time.

 

*If the Difficult Toddler is looking for tips: I jot down a few key ideas in large print that I can read at a glance to keep myself on task. It is really important to stop when you have communicated your points. A little touch of class: I always wore a fascinator with a pheasant feather, along with the church apron, and never mentioned how tired my feet were, how many hours I had spent, or what I donated.

 Funnel

Who is my neighbor?

I can always tell when my next-door neighbors are going somewhere, because my bark alarm goes off. Asta’s high pitched barks start it, followed by Ginger’s lower, but lilting “Wooowoowoo”. If it is just a squirrel or bird, or the wind, Ginger doesn’t go off. But: is the bark alarm the best definition of who is my neighbor? (In which case it also includes everyone who walks their dog in front of our house, our mail carrier, and miscellaneous other delivery folks.)

This question was asked of Jesus when he said to “love your neighbor as yourself”. As usual, he didn’t give a straight answer. He launched into the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s in Luke, chapter 10. Since there are so many translations out there the exact words you know may differ a bit.

Seeing this mornings Daily Post Prompt, followed by skimming the morning paper, brought that vignette from the Bible to mind.

Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you think the Bible is literally true or not, there is a power in this story that has shaped much of the Western worldview. This is the gold standard for how we are to treat each other..or is it?

Two articles in the paper show the two sides of this. The front page headline this morning was: “GOP tax plan a boon for business”. I can’t find a link for it, the story originated from the New York Times and the Seattle Times doesn’t seem to have a link for it on their site. However, the real story, the one that should have taken up the entire front page in my opinion, was this: Who wins and who loses in the Republicans’ tax-code rewrite. Every citizen in the US should read that one. There is a stark contrast between the winners and losers and the story of the Good Samaritan. This is the party that supposedly represents conservative Christians? Hmmm…Reminds one a bit of the priest and Levite who crossed the street so they wouldn’t have to go near the injured man, before the hero of the story, the merchant from a different area, came along.

The second article was in the local section, also about taxes, but with a different slant:  “How would candidates spend your money?” In it the lefty loose-y Seattle mayoral candidates are debating how they will try to solve the homeless crisis*. The article was gentle on them, after all at least they are trying to be humane, but the bottom line is that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

We don’t have the resources of the rich merchant who paid for the care of the injured man. There is some talk of trying to get the money out of our local rich merchants (and developers) via taxation. Our local rich merchants are better known for buying football teams then hitting the taxpayers up for the cost of a fancy new stadium, funding U.F.O hunts, and things like that. (The Gates Foundation is a notable exception, and I am not saying that there is no charity from others, just that it isn’t as notable as using huge influence to make regular citizens subsidize their businesses.)

In trying to be both truthful (about my ignorance) and fair, I digressed from my trajectory: The contrast between the behaviors and perceptions related to “Christianity”.

To hear Fox “News”, and even loonier right-wing nuts, you’d think that the lefty loose-y’s are Godless, evil people and the Republicans are the chosen people. And yet, if one uses the Good Samaritan test, we see a very different story. The Republican tax plan and health “care” plan will likely add to the homeless problem over time: more people will be bankrupted and lose their homes as health care becomes increasingly expensive and unavailable, and we are hobbling the future for our youth with the huge increase in national debt meaning more of them will lead lives farther down the economic food chain.

Alms are fine, but that is not a good excuse for creating a system that deliberately, and it is deliberate, drops more people into the steep sided pit of needing them.

Sorry about being both a bit religious and a bit political, which I mostly am not, but I am trying to figure out how to vote.

* My personal opinion about how to approach homelessness:
Since turnips don’t bleed, I feel these mayoral debates are about everything that they can’t do as a mayor (meaning a waste of time). Homelessness is not a local problem. It isn’t even just regional. It is  nation-wide, assuming closed borders, and should be addressed at the national level.

Instead of Seattle’s candidates spouting off solutions that can’t be enacted, and, if successful, will just create a vacuum to suck more people into the area, there should be a nation-wide approach that has some consistency and cohesiveness to it (don’t let the US congress loose on it!). Mayors and governors should get it going instead of trying to go it alone, which is using a band-aid to try and stop a hemorrhage.

Mine’s not a slick easy answer, but homelessness isn’t one problem. It’s one symptom which can result from many underlying causes.

I’ll stop now.

Words are all I have…

The world is filled right now with folks speaking out. It was almost a relief that today’s newspaper hasn’t come (or maybe it is in the bushes or under the porch). Yesterday’s had me in emotional distress all day.

This got me thinking a very unorthodox thought: Perhaps the most effective way to Speak Out in today’s world is for us to start reading newspapers again, and turn off the boob tube.

Show the media that they have to start reporting fact, not opinion, “alternate facts”, or just plain old fiction, by hitting them in their ratings. Everything is being turned into a made for TV drama. Wise up folks: The way to stop toddlers from having tantrums is not to give them attention for having them. Even in print reporting should be strictly about issues, with names not listed in the headlines, so people don’t get ego boosts from seeing their faces and names on TV 24-7.

If there wasn’t the instant ego gratification of “news” coverage, the incentive to do dumb stuff in rapid fire would go away. We need to cultivate a society that values thinking things through over having temper tantrums on stage. Everyone, on both sides, feels like they have to speak out quickly. This results in a barrage of opinions getting the headlines and facts showing up so late that no one hears them because we have moved on to the next sensation.

I live in a nation which has a constitutional right to free speech. This is a good thing. It is, of course, a two edged sword: people who don’t agree with your point of view get to speak freely as well. That doesn’t bother me so much.

My concern these days is that people are coming out with opinion, “alternative facts” (aka, what they wish was true) and even false news and presenting it as truth. They have the right to do this. Even legitimate news programs have taken to reporting opinion as if it were news. I don’t have a TV so don’t know when this started, but one night over at Dad’s the local news channel presented tweets and Facebook entries! Excuse me??? Apparently this is a regular feature.

One problem is that there are way too many “news” shows for the amount of actual news that American audiences are willing to watch.

There is a good deal more going on in the world than what we hear on the 5 o’clock news. If we were less parochial perhaps presidential candidates would know where Aleppo is..although maybe was is more accurate in this case. Heaven forfend that the media tell us about things elsewhere in the world, those long drawn out battles and hardships in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia are so tedious, not the way to boost ratings.  They are complicated and can’t be explained in 140 characters, so off with their heads. You can watch for 15 minutes and have a handle on everything they are going to bother to report in the next two hours, but most people numbly sit there for an hour or even two, and with every repeat they become hypnotized into thinking they know what is going on in the world. Of course actually knowing about and trying to understand those issues might make us stop and think about the consequences of our actions, that’s not much fun.

Okay, off the soap box. The sun is shining on the day before the groundhog pops up: what will tomorrow bring? Hopefully not another executive order…it’s getting tedious.

It’s a Downsy-Daysy

Today is grey, not dark grey just medium, it’s chilly but not cold. With no set appointments I am trying to get phone calls related to Grandma’s health insurance made. Not the best way to cheer ones self up.

So far Swedish wins the just answer the phone and get the info into the account race (2 min 48 sec). The loser so far is Seattle Radiology-Integra at 15 minutes. Two more calls to go.

I am (perhaps too easily) amused when the robo-voice thanks me for my patience. It makes me wonder: is it patience if you put up when you aren’t given the option of shouting out your frustration?

I always used to think that patience was a serene state of mind while waiting or repeating for the nth time the same information. Now my standards are slipping. It’s a bit like surviving vs thriving.

In today’s news we have people all over protesting right now: they are communicating frustration. Sadly, I feel like they are doing the equivalent of when I lose it and tell the robo-voice that its wrong, I am not patient. I have no choice. Or, worse, hang up.

Better to laugh. Every call that gets through to a real person costs them money and helps rationalize a job for that human being.

Don’t get me wrong: it is important to have a voice, even if the powers that be disregard it. I am being frustrated because I don’t feel like I know enough on the subject to have a valid opinion. Everything I read seems biased one way or the other. I have taken to trying to read both sides to get an idea of what might be real. The problem is that the knee jerking judgement on both sides puts me off.  I wish that I had confidence that the policy makers were doing something other than just jerking their knees…and jerking people’s lives around as a product of ignorance, but I don’t.

It’s grey, in the sky, in the world and in my head. I think I’ll go buy some primroses to prime my pump.

 

Good advice

A quote from this morning’s newspaper:

Arkansas authorities also issued guidelines that they hoped would prevent the spread of the disease, urging people traveling back to the state from countries with Zika outbreaks to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 days after their return.

The article is CDC confirms dozen cases of Zika virus in U.S. While the article is serious two things made me chuckle:

  1. “Avoid being bitten by a mosquito for 10 days”, as if people wouldn’t try to avoid being bitten. There is also an implied “After 10 days you can go back to your usual carefree mosquito feeding ways.”
  2. While I understand that they are concerned about disease transmission, the following quote might make one think that the risk was to the mosquitoes: “Mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika.”

No doubt the quotes are out of context in the article. A wise Arkansas health official probably gave a well researched speech explaining everything well and a reporter grabbed a few quotes from it to make the article fit neatly around the Macy’s ad.

Why do I think that? Among other things they are at the end of the article. We live in a world where we aren’t expected to read entire articles, and perhaps the editors don’t either.

Or maybe I am a little warped…or desperate to find something at least a little humorous when the front page stories included “Five shot at homeless camp” and “Oregon standoff leader arrested amid fatal gunfire”.

Quote Me