Friday, July 28, 2006

Mr. Nail, meet Mr. Hammer

Every once in a while, a string of words is crafted so well, so elegantly, that they put the finest strand of pearls to shame. Driftglass, for example, tosses such miracles around like Rockefeller dispensed dimes to urchins. But wherever and whenever one of these prizes appears, it's special, and an event worthy of attention.

Whilst prowling around on The News Blog, I encountered such a treasure, and I share it with you here and now. The author is a poster named "marquer", and in comparing The Iraqi Adventures of Commander Codpiece to another well-known cluster-fuck, he uttered this piece of perfection:'s worth noting that despite its failure by every single metric of significance, and despite its enormous collateral damage and poisonous sequelae, the War On Certain Drugs continues to slowly shamble onward, an unkillable, unstoppable zombie policy."

As a front line troop (albeit an Enemy Combatant) in the War on Certain Drugs, I can tell you that this is as breathtaking an analysis as an analysis can be.

Well played, Sir, and a good shot! Step forward and be recognized!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bill Bennett for Mid-East Envoy

Bill Bennett? Mr. "Book of Virtues"? The former Education Secretary who once said aborting "every black baby in this country" would reduce the crime rate"? The same guy who once said that beheading drug dealers would be "morally plausible"? The guy who once went on a blind date with Janis Joplin?

Yep, that's my pick, but not for any of the above reasons.

I support Bill Bennett as Mid-East Envoy because he's got the right experience.

Ya' see, when we sit down across the table from Syria, and Hezbollah, and Hamas, and Iran, we need a guy who is willing to roll the dice, to push all of his chips into the middle of the table, who's not afraid of rolling snake eyes. In other words, a degenerate gambler.

A little historical perspective may be in order; when Israel was recognized as a state in 1948, that recognition was followed by approximately one year of fighting between Israel and various Arab states, pursuant to the Arab league's Declaration of War. An armistice was reached in the Spring of 1949.

An uneasy and imperfect peace continued into the '50's, at which time Egypt's threatened nationalization of the Suez Canal brought regional and international passions to a fresh boil.

There followed the founding of Fatah and the PLO and, in 1967, the region erupted in the Six-Day War. Into the '70's, various factions instituted a campaign of terrorism, featuring the hijacking of civilian aircraft and the Black September kidnapping/murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The entire bloody history of the region is well documented, and the interested reader can Google away to his/her heart's content.

But why Bill Bennett? The answer can be found on the roulette wheel depicted above. You will observe that the wheel contains 38 spaces; 18 are red, 18 are black, two are green. Various bets can be made predicting the drop of a ball onto the spinning wheel. If the ball falls into the green spaces ("0" or "00"), however, the house wins and all the players lose.

Now consider the US approach to the Middle East. On one hand, we have been enthusiastic political and financial supporters of Israel. On the other hand, our ravenous appetite for petroleum has created wealth beyond description in the oil-rich Arab states of the Middle East. Much of that oil money, either overtly or covertly, funds the various fadayeen and jihadist enemies of Israel, and the funding has been increasing right along with the price and consumption of oil. In short, we're backing both sides. In roulette, you can back both sides by betting on both red and black. About 95% of the time, the ball will land on either red or black, and your losing bet will be balanced by your winning bet; it's a break-even proposition. The other 5% of the time, however, the ball will land on the green "0" or "00". Then you lose both bets. Let's recap: in the short run, you can break even, and in the long run, you will always lose, but the one thing you cannot do is win! Bill Bennett, as a degenerate gambler, understands this. (For the degenerate sports gamblers in the audience, it's like betting on both teams in a football game; you are gonna lose the vig on every bet.)

Are we willing to cut off our aid for Israel? Nope, that's political suicide. Are we willing to cut off our consumption of Middle East oil? Not a chance. QED, we are playing the red/black game in the Middle East, a game in which our best hope is stasis in the short term, but a game at which we must ultimately lose.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that Bill Bennett can find a way to win the game; it simply can't be done. But I believe he's enough of a degenerate gambler to stay at the table, drink the free drinks, flirt with the cocktail waitresses and keep the game going! Because whether we like it or not, the game must continue. Whatever miscalculations were made at the time of Israel's founding, whatever legitimate Palestinian grievances were overlooked or ignored, we have too many chips in play to walk away from the table. So if we're going to continue to keep betting the red and the black, we should at least be represented by a guy for whom the winning or losing are less important than the action. In short, a degenerate gambler. In shorter, Bill Bennett.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

....and now, the rumors behind the news!

The Tipsy McStagger Administration couldn't continue to pull the wool over the eyes of the sheeple without the complicity of the Corporate Controlled Conservative Press (CCCP). I would submit that there are two major factors contributing to the gross failure of the media to fulfill the role and exercise the privileges granted the press by the First Amendment.

The first factor is the corporate nature of news-gathering organizations. The officers of a corporation are obliged by law to maximize return on shareholder investment. This is an actual duty, imposed by law, called fiduciary responsibility. Example: "Will attacking war profiteers cause high-dollar corporate advertisers to shun the Sunday Morning Mouse Circus?" Well, if it's going to cut into our profits, we can't do it, because our stockholders would "suffer" (and I use the term advisedly) due to the loss of that revenue. And thus does the CCCP suppress news unfavorable to its corporte advertising base. They are just "following orders."

There was a time when the "Fairness Doctrine" required broadcast licensees to present controversial issues of public importance, and to present such issues in an honest, equal and balanced manner. This rule (which was frequently mis-characterized as the "Equal Time" rule) simply required broadcast licensees to present both sides of controversial issues. So, for example, when CBS broadcast Edward R. Murrow's groundbreaking documentary "Harvest of Shame", they could justify that decision by citing compliance with the Fairness Doctrine.

Well, you can kiss that shit goodbye.

The Fairness Doctrine and the other rules which allowed it to be enforced were repealed during the Reagan Administration. It's easy to see that Rush Limbaugh, to name one example, would be unable to spew his lies and vitriol if the stations carrying his show were required to give an opportunity for the presentation of opposing points of view. Once unfettered by any legal obligation to serve the public interest, broadcasters immediately strapped on the knee-pads and demonstrated their fealty to those who secured their place in line at the public teat of the broadcast spectrum. You may know them as the Republican Party.

The second factor which has brought shame and disrepute to the "profession" of journalism is the lack of any sort of credential assuring the news consumer that the person delivering the information has the slightest clue regarding journalistic standards, ethics, etc. Consider that, on the average large market TV newscast, the sports "reporter" is likely to be an ex-professional jock, with demonstrated experience in the sphere of professional sports. The weathergirl probably has earned the Seal of Approval of the American Meteorological Society, having shown some degree of competence in the science of weather. But what about the well-goomed hairdos who actually present the hard news? No qualifications required, other than a certain telegenic quality and the ability to adopt a tone somewhat in keeping with the seriousness (or not) of the material they are reading from the TelePrompTer.

Now, I recognize that any "licensing" scheme for journalists puts us on a slippery slope leading toward government regulation of reporters, and believe me, I ain't about to go there. What I envision is an independent accreditation process, perhaps through the Society of Professional Journalists (nee SDX). If you can demonstrate sufficient experience, perhaps pass a test on standards and ethics, you could use the title "Certified Professional Journalist" in your byline. Documented failures to abide by said standards could result in the loss of the right to use that title. Some reporters might not qualify. That wouldn't keep them from bloviating on, oh, let's use Faux News for an example. They just couldn't claim to be professional journalists. News consumers would thus know that their source of "news" is operating outside the bounds of journalistic standards. Hey, if you choose to buy your food in dented cans from the half-price cart, that's your business. But you're entitled to see the dents, right?

Thoughts? Ideas? Criticisms?

(NB: I have my own ideas about whether journalism is technically a "profession." (I think not.) But that's a discussion for another post....)