Step away from the shards of glass that litter politics as Republicans have tried to shatter the President’s image. Step over the desolate landscape of unemployment that could end tomorrow with bipartisan effort in Congress. Step up and send the message: end the blame. Fix the country. Jobs now! Housing now! Healthcare now! Let all America stand before the bar of justice. Let’s take the corporate cases first.
The facts: Yahoo bought Tumblr. It paid $1.1 billion. In cash.
Background: Yahoo was supposed to be an internet company on the ropes; its current CEO, the Stanford-educated daughter of a Wisconsin engineer and an art teacher, 37-year-old former Google vice president (employee 20) Marissa Meyer is the company’s fifth CEO in five years! One hedge fund recently dumped 4.7 million shares, zeroing out its investment. But Yahoo’s current market capitalization is $27.78 billion dollars, on a profit-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of under 8, a positive sign for investors: it makes a dollar profit for every eight dollars it brings in.
And just last week, Yahoo won a huge victory in a Mexican court. A judgment against the company for $2.75 billion was overturned—and reduced to $172,500! (Appeals are pending!)
So what does Yahoo get for its $1.1 billion (in cash!)? A company founded in 2007. Six years ago. The website Tech Crunch Base describes the company:
“Tumblr is a re-envisioning of tumblelogging, a subset of blogging that uses quick, mixed-media posts. . . its extreme simplicity will make luring users a far easier task than acquiring users for traditional weblogging. Anytime a user sees something interesting, they can click a quick “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet that tumbles the snippet. The result is a string of media links and text to pictures and videos that takes very little time and effort . . . There is little to no learning curve involved in using Tumblr. . . Users simply sign up and begin posting in a minute.”
For the record, I tried Tumblr. I did not understand it. I didn’t return. But 300 million discrete/discreet users see Tumblr pages monthly. I say that not only to define individual users but also to signal that Tumblr permits adult content; 11 percent of its user content accounts are labeled “not safe for work” (NSFW), its warning and search firewall for its adult content, which currently drives Tumblr’s highest traffic.
But Marissa Mayer says, “I think the richness and breadth of content available on Tumblr—even though it may not be as brand-safe as what’s on our site—is what’s really exciting.”
How many accounts does Tumblr have? A tech specialist at the site All Things D estimates “the total number of monthly users who will see a Tumblr dashboard is at least a third of the company’s 110 million registered user base, and maybe quite a bit higher: My guess is 30 million to 50 million.”
What is Tumblr’s current revenue? In 2012, $13 million dollars. Yahoo paid $846.15 for each dollar of revenue. Tumblr has not shown a profit. (I have a $20 ebook. At Yahoo’s rate, they would pay me $1692.30 for the right to publish each future copy; not an exact analogy, but the ratio of revenue-to-purchase is true.)
So $1.1 billion will get you $13 million in revenues, lots of dirty pictures and personal musings, hardware, intellectual property, and a promise by the new CEO that she “won’t screw this up!”
Oh. How many employees? 18. A billion-dollar company has 18 employees. Including its Alfred E. Neumann-looking CEO (I’m not kidding!), hood-wearing (stay away from South Florida, dude) 26-year-old CEO who quit high school at 14, at his mother’s suggestion, to be homeschooled.
Some Tumblr users feel betrayed and are angry. One has a petition circulating.
Seriously? You think a petition is going to overturn the sale and stop the founder and the backing venture capitalists from walking away with a cool, no-strings billion dollars in cash, to assuage your emotional boo-boo about the change in ownership of the digital platform that hosts your free account? This is your blow of outrage against the robber barons who provide you and your boys a free site for your porn? You don’t even plan a march in front of Yahoo headquarters? No pies? Not even a Twitter bomb? Keep it up, and David Karp’s mother will visit you and take away your brownies!
Seriously, several issues deserve outrage—and caution. A good staring point is a female CEO buying a site that probably demeans women and treats them as sex objects (An artful rear view photo of Hungarian actress/model Eve Angel kneeling on a chair is entitled “Super-size me”). Mayer seems more concerned about content search safety than the social impact of the attitudes that are enabled by the sites.
Several Tumblr accounts exhibit rape “fantasies” (it shows up in a Tumblr site search), a real non-sequitur, since rape is one of the most physical and psychologically violent crimes imaginable. What does it say that Tumblr users, at least some of them, see rape as a leisure time activity, a publicly hosted, private shared feature of a digital social life?
Will Tumblr advertising take on the character of the back pages of the Village Voice?
Yes, adult digital content is disease-free and can be non-exploitative (at least a case can be made), but in the current atmosphere of misogyny, adult content almost seems the softer side of what the web and real life engage as words and deeds. Remember the Onion’s twitter label for a 9-year-old actress during the Academy Awards? The recent US military report citing 26,000 incidents of sexual assaults last year? The nexus between guns in the home and domestic violence deaths? Or the guy in South Carolina who raped two women while wearing an ankle monitor? Where does Tumblr fit in? Continue reading Jobs Are Losing the Race
Have Republicans forgotten they were elected to govern? Not when it comes to money and power. Money, especially. It’s being used in South Carolina to raise support for Lindsay Graham, up for reelection next year, by touting an immigration solution that matches his work with the Senate bill introduced by the Gang of Eight. Now in committee, the bill is the object of scorn by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. But Graham says he, “believes in it with all his heart.”
The same 501(c)(4) money supporting Graham opposes Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, a moderate from an established political family, the kind of Democrat that once won easily in South Carolina, as Bill Clinton once did in Arkansas. A 30-second commercial opposes Sheheen by saying he wants South Carolina to be the only Southern state to accept Obamacare. The spot openly touts the region’s solidarity with regression.
Win or lose, Republicans have put buzz words in place. Now at the state level, voters hear the bell and respond. This is one reason why Republicans repeatedly raise Benghazi. It’s not only to tie Hillary Clinton to the incident, but to pound into it a connotation of failure, weaknesses and cowardice. Hence the angry testimony of State Department officers in a recent hearing which added nothing to what was known except more reports and confessions of anger.
The white men expressed their anger at being told troops would add to the confusion, especially when conditions were not clearly understood. The Republican purpose is to add anger and fear—to turn Benghazi into a brand like Obamacare. All one need do is hear the word, and a parade of negatives immediately comes to mind for the uninformed majority.
If Benghazi is in, military sexual assault is out. Silence reigns about a problem so severe that both males and females in a US uniform are more likely to be sexually assaulted than killed in combat. The Republican concern for mission-readiness and discipline so displayed when gays were allowed to serve openly does not extend to violence and force within inter-gender (and intra-gender) relationships.
Any civilian organization facing year-on-year statistics for sexual assaults at the level of the military would be gravely criticized and shut down. Yet the focus of Congressional national security is on e-mails about Benghazi talking points, while the rampant, growing, out-of-control epidemic of military sexual assaults undermines military working order—widespread reports cite the difficulties of working with your rapist—and puts the nation’s security at risk. And brings home a lot of hurt.
Last year, 26,000 assaults were committed, by the military’s own score. The Air Force Chief of Staff discussed it in a Senate subcommittee hearing as the result of a “hook-up” culture. Yet the Air Force’s officer in charge of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention was charged two weeks ago with groping an unknown woman in a Virginia parking lot, and was arrested by civilian authorities. Yesterday, the Army reported the arrest of an officer at Fort Hood, a Texas base, who was the Sexual Assault Prevention Office Coordinator. He is being held on multiple charges of abusive sexual misconduct.
Outrage? The tempest over revised talking points and e-mails also ignores three of the most important global developments in recent weeks: the factory fire in Bangladesh that left more than 1,100 workers dead, calling into question issues of global working conditions and safety; the massacres in Northern Nigerian villages by the Nigerian army; and the conviction of Guatemala’s former president and military dictator, 86-year-old Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide. Continue reading Hooking Up the Wrong Way
Moral charges no longer have political meaning! Violate any of God’s Supreme 10 or men and women’s high ideal of public trust, or the simple statues of common law, and after taking the state plane overseas to see your mistress, paying the highest ethics fine in the history of the state, run for office by campaigning against a cardboard cutout which is not even the image of your opponent—and in South Carolina District 1, you can win by 10 points!
Ideas and people connect values and actions. Cardboard cutouts and moral charges are the new symbols of faith for a coast that was once America’s richest locale, a coast that generated the ideal of the American Dream that now has been consumed by its contradiction—not overrun by the contradictory presence of Africans enslaved that dream left out as it created its riches from their labor, but by the corrosive greed of entitlement that ignored their humanity. That greed has overwhelmed all common sense and decency in South Carolina 1. It threatens the country.
Tuesday’s special election in SC-1 was about Mark Sanford. Conducted in two stages, a Republican primary, then the special election, the electoral process presented a badly flawed, unrepentant individual continually exercising bad judgment—Thursday, he appears in local court to answer charges of trespassing for entering his former wife’s house without her consent, after being previously warned—and the voters sanctioned his passive mean-spiritedness as their ideal of character and to represent their politics.
But every action has the seeds of change in its core. Those seeds are ideals that stretch to the arc of the universe, Dr. King reminded us. Let Mark Sanford have his day, his win, his office, his place as the symbol of our worst.
That symbol is but a symptom of a larger, growing illness that is taking many forms. When the Air Force’s top officer in charge of preventing sexual assaults is charged by civilian police for drunkenly grabbing, in a parking lot, the breasts and buttocks of a woman whom he did not know, Houston has a bigger problem than the personal conduct of a corrupt congressman or the failed positive of a career military officer.
Today, the AP reported the Air Force removed the launch authority from 17 officers in charge of the nation’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, siloed in Minot, South Dakota. An April inspection found multiple readiness violations, from failing to obey orders and a lack of decorum to potential compromises of the missile’s launch codes and ignoring safety precautions.
Yesterday, the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assaults. By its own statistics, the US military—an organization trained in the highest ideals of honor and conduct—has a higher rate of sexual assault than any civilian organization. Continue reading A Profile of Flaws
In the televised debate Monday night for South Carolina’s US House seat in District 1, Mark Sanford compared himself to Bill Clinton. Huh? Yep. The House’s most conservative Republican former member found common ground with the former Democratic president. You already know it was not an act of statesmanship. Clinton and Sanford were fallen, pushed by demons and desires into sin. Clinton looked to God for redemption. Mark Sanford turned to Bill Clinton.
Since Sanford brought it up, their sins and failings warrant a comparison, especially when a Republican in a Republican district evokes Bill Clinton as his politician savior. Is this a new thesis of mercy or an invitation to temptation? Their crimes do share elements both wide and narrow.
Narrow, as both had hot scandals. Both lied and were caught, both were in the public eye. Both had affairs. After that, the connection breaks down.
Clinton remains married. His wife is our former Secretary of State. Sanford chose divorce. He is engaged (but not yet married!) to the Argentinian woman with whom he had the affair. Clinton never ran again for public office. Sanford, who fervently supported and then broke self-imposed term limits, wants another chance. Clinton was not fined for the private use of government property. He avoided successful impeachment as the first President for whom the bill of high crime (and misdemeanors!) involved oral sex (it really is sex!). His high crime was lying about his risk-taking; his DNA was saved on a dress!
Sanford instead poetically proclaimed his love at a press conference when he returned from a week’s absence on Father’s Day weekend and asked his wife for an open marriage. He repeatedly confuses and commingles his private and public selves. Voting no on every spending bill and twice on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), he slickly slashed through his own fiscal barriers to fund his impulses and lasciviousness. He flew on his public credit card, in state planes.
His hand in the public till, he jetted off on taxpayers’ money. Eventually, he paid it back. But strange behavior for a man who spent his time in Congress sleeping on a couch and once gave his wife a $25 used bicycle as a combined Christmas and birthday gift! The man who slept on an office cot and voted against every budget took a state plane to get a haircut!
A wide comparison creates more stark differences between Clinton and Sanford. Clinton created 21 million jobs in eight years in office; in four years, South Carolina, with Sanford as its executive, lost 98,000 jobs, with a Republican in the White House. His current priority? In a state in the bottom five of employment, cutting the federal budget.
His claim of attracting Boeing is debunked by a well verified story that state leaders convinced Boeing that legislative support was more important than the governor’s endorsement when they were spooked and on the verge of pulling out because of Sanford’s weird behavior.
Since Sanford initiated a comparison with a Democrat in order to claim the privilege of forgiveness and equal treatment, principles he voted against and failed to fund, another comparison might be effective with a scandal-driven Democratic politician, one who sought and successfully achieved a return to public office—Washington, DC’s former mayor, Marion Barry.
First, I have met Marion Barry and Mark Sanford, and lived in cities and districts where they were elected to govern and procure progress. I have looked closely at the policies of both men and seen them on the campaign stump. Through their period of travails, I have witnessed their efforts at political comebacks. I have seen them put themselves before voters to judge not only policies and promises, but their penalties and crimes.
Marion went to jail. Mark paid $74,000 in fines. Both lost wives. But both are confident, handsome and resilient. Both are polarizing figures, with detractors and supporters. But Mark Sanford is no Marion Barry. He’s worse!
Here’s why: Politics comes down to service, money, and rights.
Mark Sanford, in his service as governor, once walked into the South Carolina State House, carrying a pig under each arm; he named them Pork and Barrel. Termed “an ill thought-out display,” deemed by the Republican Speaker “beneath the dignity of the Governor’s office,” the legislature, controlled by his own party, then promptly overturned, with bipartisan support, 100 of the 106 items he vetoed in the budget. He got his way with six.
This describes Sanford’s duty of service: sleep in his office, sleep with his fiance, proudly turn down stimulus money. And he also touts charter school reforms, including a statewide district, a reorganization of the Department of Motor Vehicles, cutting wait times, restructuring the state’s Department of Transportation, and tort reform. Jobs, wages and health, environmental protection, higher education don’t appear anywhere in his Sanford Seven.
In Congress, he wanted to reform Social Security, a program with a $2.7 trillion surplus (it added $69 billion this year!) and the lowest overhead and administrative costs of any private or public program for income security. He called it “putting tax payers first.” Really?
So he’s known for a little theater, a big temptation to tinker with public money, shorter waits for driver’s licenses, and running around the district this election with new props: cut-outs of Nancy Pelosi and waving hundred dollar bills, claiming this election is being bought—after the Republican National Committee withdrew his funding when it emerged that after repeated warnings, he was charged with trespassing at his ex-wife’s house!
“I had to make the call,” he says in his second explanation of the incident. It was Super Bowl Sunday and his wife wasn’t back yet to receive their 14-year-old son. Enter Mark.
I’m divorced. My daughter always had a key to her mother’s house. But my ex-wife never found me inside. The way you handle custody exchanges is not to enter each other’s dwellings. If the exchange or pickup is missed, you leave a message. It’s simple. “I have the child. You weren’t home yet. Contact me on what you want to do.” You reset. You don’t “make the call” to enter with ease. And then try for the moral high ground in a political ad, under the cover of great parenting skills. (Remember when Sanford was missing on Father’s Day? A time zone away? Out of touch?)
What could have been handled with a phone call or text message (Sanford lived 20 minutes away!) instead led to a full-page campaign ad to spin a clear error in judgment that millions of divorced parents make daily about custody. It also blames the media. It’s arithmetic; his errors multiply.
But what sets Mark Sanford aside from Marion Barry is his unabashed opposition to the dredging of Charleston’s harbor. Charleston ranks three or four in the nation’s busiest harbors, higher than New Orleans, Galveston, Mobile and West Coast ports. Moreover, it has an efficient connecting infrastructure of roads, warehouses and personnel skilled at trade, whose long arms affect the nation. $13 trillion worth of goods are imported through Charleston; $12 trillion are exported. The jobs, income, and multipliers are enormous. Continue reading Mark Sanford Is No Marion Barry. He’s Worse!
Sometimes, good strategy is overwhelmed by circumstances. Last week, time stood still as events bobbled up and down, spinning by on a supernatural carousel.
My evidence: Radio show hosts in California, suspended for mocking the explosions at the Boston marathon, complained of bullying because of the public outcry. A Minnesota radio talker boasted if he met the Newtown families, he would tell them “go to hell.”
A Philadelphia doctor, on trial for the murder of a woman patient, performed abortions in a clinic that smelled like urine, his refrigerator filled with fetuses in plastic bags. He joked about aborting late term babies “big enough to walk him to the bus stop,” and severed spinal cords from the heads by “snipping.” He severed pairs of tiny feet and collected them in green-lidded, clear specimen jars. He saved them, he said, for their DNA.
A Texas fertilizer plant blew up. Houses fifty miles away shook. Its mushroom cloud unfolded and hovered like an angry jinn. Highly volatile ammonia gas, liquefied, stored under high pressure in tanks that regulators were told presented no danger—at worst a release of ammonia to vent pressure—proved fatal for the 16 people the blast killed.
In the midst of bloody words, bombs, bullets and dead babies dropped into our consciousness and politics, we see a distress deeper than grief. Last week, the Massachusetts governor put several suburban communities and the entire city of Boston on lockdown—the official term is “shelter-in-place.”
When a gun is sheltered at home, the chances of women being victims of gun violence increase sixfold. The Senate, with electronic scanners, guards and pat-downs, voted no to women’s safety—refused to pass into law background checks for gun purchases that 90% of Americans—and 85% of gun owners—approve.
All Photographs by Leslie Jones, Boston Herald photographer; from Boston Public Library Collection on Flickr.
The Boston lockdown was a consequence of two backpack bombs made from pressure cookers filled with metal bearings and small nails, triggered by kitchen timers that exploded within yards of the finish of America’s most famous marathon.
One bomb killed an 8-year-old. A photograph of him in school shows him with his fingertips holding high for the camera a poster he made after the Newtown tragedy. It says “NO MORE hurting people.” “PEACE.” On talk radio, a national talker accepted call-in jokes about banning pressure cookers the day the 8-year-old died.
Media strategy: walk the bomb story to the edge (terrorism trumped the 3 dead and 170 wounded—some lost feet, legs and arms); ignore the irascible jokes and voices walking through our pain; bury in a solemn complacency the wild surge of furies that seemed to knock on every door; ask over and over: Is there a global plot? (Broadly, yes.) Are the two brothers and the Boston incident tied to it? (Specifically, no.) And ask what my 97-year-old uncle calls “the stupid questions,” the ones obviously with or without answers: “Can he die from his wounds?” “Where did they get the pressure cookers?”
What is the strategy for dealing with the events and damages of the national insanity? Strategy targets maximizing the middle. What’s the strategy when living is moving over the edge? When we are overwhelmed?
First, recognize the unusualness and the uniqueness; the incredible effects on all of us, how it will amplify our bewilderment and burdens.
Increase your spiritual practice. Media avoids acknowledging the deeper inner space that lies beyond our feelings, but that is where our most cherished beliefs find their foundation.
Violence is not only a physical danger. It splinters our emotional bedrock. But it reminds us there’s strength in the void. So listen to your inner voice. Look beyond first impressions. Let your inner feelings flow. In times like these, trust their source, follow its lead. It’s on your side.
Just breathe. Pray or dance, laugh, cry, close your eyes, open your heart. Beyond the smoke and blaze and wealth, build no bars; not pity, have courage and resolve. Stray not from the old 18th century word, the “gladsome.” Healing requires purging. It’s not getting worse (but worse is to come!); it’s actually getting better. Our vision is clearing.
For, in this unique moment in our history—on the “occasion,” as W.E.B. DuBois called it in his book, Darkwater, “beset by constant perils”—the dark voices have never been more menacing, rude or absurd. And dangerous; politicians are wrapping the flag around tyranny.
They claim, especially on radio, that collective action, taken in close quarters and in concert, undermines the Constitution’s liberty—as they collectively undermine and ignore the entire 2.5-million-year history of humanity: an extraordinary accumulated record, marked in stone, which shows from its beginnings on the African plains that humanity required teamwork, sharing, cooperation, peaceful settlement of differences, and mutual respect. Compassion, especially when the community suffered a loss, or when tragedy struck beyond its control. Silence, maybe song, when words were too much.
The bones of barefooted ancestors show they didn’t complain loudly about the abridgment of their rights when the time came for them to contribute to something beyond their own satisfaction. They rose up as one in feats of hunting, wisdom, healing and protection, laughter and silence—that set the foundation course of our civilization and society. They built communal fires for the soul.
From China to Chile to Kenya to England to Russia to Australia to the Solomons and Seychelles, to the Great Plains and the Mississippi, the long march of human time shows one constant: that every hero knew we shared one heart and one blood, and those with real courage sacrificed to protect others. Continue reading Overwhelmed
If you listen to African music, especially drumming, there’s a moment where the placement of the beat colors the sound and shapes the pattern to become the driving force within the larger sound. Those of use who study culture look for these moments. Some come from inside, others from outside, but the impact of these moments calls to order a unity of purpose. Is that unity progressive?
Richard Martin, Age 8. Killed By An Explosion in Boston, April 15, 2013.
Today we see it as entertainment, but African drumming was about trust and collective action. Newtown, Boston call us to a new trust. But in our politics, these moments of special attention are increasingly becoming an opportunity for blame. But blame kills the propelling and healing force, breaks up the shared spirit of the larger whole, makes us lose the rhythm of our common courage and creativity.
O Brave New World! Those among us who complain, seldom rethink!
As a helpful guide, here are eleven themes to use in reviewing and vetting ideas and policy. Together or separately, they offer a viewing tool of the strengths and weaknesses of the multiple sides of policy and political strategy. (A single issue or example follows each one, as an illustration of how the theme can be applied.)
Is a single example or multiple ones in evidence? Is its frequency too large or too small–or exaggerated?
(Under the ACA, will the country will run out of doctors? Close emergency rooms?)
What is the impact? How is it measured? What measures are ignored?
(The XL pipeline has a 30 inch diameter. Will it create thousands of jobs, or potentially endanger the environment?)
Will the policy make things worse or better? How is change facilitated?
(Congress repealed its staff transparency provision to prevent trading on inside information. Is it a matter of national security?)
Are the claims and cautions realistic? Are the arguments a closed spiral?
(Should a fertilized human egg have full constitutional privileges?)
Policy discussions should cite at least three levels of support and critique, in plain language, without bias or labels.
(Are arguments for political austerity supported by economic results? Will a nuclear disarmament treaty lead to a UN takeover of the US under Agenda 21?)
What happened the last time these conditions occurred? What are the differences in conditions now?
(What was the state of abortions before Roe vs. Wade?) Continue reading Eleven Tools for Policy Review
Have you noticed how we now log our tragedies by their dates?
We have killed more of our own citizens with guns than have died in all the wars the US fought since the Revolution (212,000+).
Robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s March, time to take advantage of the wind energy from the GOP check-kiting plan to use empty Treasury coffers to pay government debt in lieu of their first choice of default.
When is the time ninety percent of Americans agreed on anything? Astounding, across the hills and vales of the majestic plains below the purple mountains, ninety percent of America agrees on purchasers of guns being reviewed by background checks.
Old Westerns had heroic characters famed for the use of guns, who often worked indirectly on-screen to prevent the ownership and use of guns for self-defense or to settle disputes, due to the lessons learned from their own personal, on-screen (or back story) experience (fictionally!). As famed gun users in a violent era, no Western movie hero argued on-screen for increasing the ownership of guns. Those who assembled armies of guns were labeled bad guys. Of course, the NRA would now call good guys trying to limit guns a fantasy. The NRA position is now the one endorsed by Hollywood’s worst outlaws. (I call their view a curse. And at least thirteen senators want America to become the OK Corral.)
Maybe the two or three members of Congress from Florida who are calling the shots for a full congressional investigation of Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting a children’s dance troupe, an arts school, and an elderly, well known Cuban singer, and Jay-Z being photographed with a Cuban cigar and the two eating in privately-owned restaurants while visiting Havana will come in time to see such a call as a demand for government to grossly intrude in the lives of citizens (a position the Congress members profess to abhor!), and more importantly, a spurious, non-productive use of government resources, a waste of money for political frivolity that represents the excesses that give government a bad name (and negate the fervent claim of fiscal fidelity put forth by these same Congress members who are suddenly eager to practice a violation of their core campaign, party, and personal principles!).
The couple had the proper license for cultural exchanges that meet US guidelines for travel to Cuba. To call the famous couple’s trip “tourism” is another example of the petty insignificance associated with outsized, politically faked outrage (their indignation targeted at wealthy minority celebrities who didn’t stay up late in South Beach clubs). The Cuban people themselves seem to disagree with the American Congress members; they cheered wildly, smiled, clapped, and were excited everywhere the couple went. (Was this a state demonstration ordered by Raul Castro?)
The Congress members manufactured a non-issue to stoke anger and resentment. Do you believe there is a patriotic cause to be served by closing cultural contacts with Cuba—and leaving open the pipeline to Mitt Romney’s Grand Cayman accounts?
In fact, what has the boycott of Cuba proven other than we can boycott Cuba? Did it improve the lives of Cubans? Bring them closer to full liberty? Topple the regime? End human rights violations? Or comfort an old anger?
Both Virginia and Florida have new state educational standards that differ for children based on their ethnicity and race. In Florida, the tax dollars of a black parent buy fifty percent of the standard that the tax dollars of a white parent do. When vouchers are created, vouchers for black parents will buy fifty percent less education than those of whites—but both meet state-approved standards. Suddenly, black children will be successful in charter schools—achieving an official, approved state standard fifty percent lower than the one set for whites.
Who thinks of these things?
How come big news is never any longer about big ideas?
GOP Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader of the Senate, brought up a big name this week, a seminal event in America’s history, Watergate. In his description of the leak of a strategic meeting for his re-election, he conveniently compared it to the famous Watergate break-in (done by operatives working for a Republican Presidential campaign effort!) and re-wrote the history of political taping: he suggested the tapes were obtained by bugs placed in his office!
He ignored the rich irony that the content of the tapes brought the presidency of Richard Nixon down. Nixon’s tapes revealed and documented acts illegal and unethical. McConnell’s tapes called for focusing on an opponent’s mental health issues. McConnell’s own mental health and morals should be questioned and come under inspection. He lies. He is delusional (by any standard). He utterly lacks standards of social behavior. He violates community ethics. He is unable to accept responsibility. He is devoid of honesty or fair play. Will the same personal flaws that once got Richard Nixon impeached get Mitch McConnell reelected?
In the House, McConnell has a kindred spirit in Paul Ryan. In submitting his budget plan for marking, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) detailed the rules Paul Ryan and his staff specified “by which revenues and spending would evolve.”
Ryan told the CBO to assume his Medicare plan would hold costs to half a percent above GDP growth. He required the CBO to assume spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would grow at the rate of inflation. He told the CBO to assume that federal spending, outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, will fall to 3.75 percent of GDP in 2050. He chairs the committee that oversees our national budget!
The President apologized to California’s Attorney General for saying she was America’s “best looking” state Attorney General. In a country whose largest media event, the Super Bowl, included Jay-Z’s wife in full breakdown mode, and after a CBS memo for the Oscars, the Onion’s Oscar night misstep that many called “free speech,” thousands of scatological posts about the President’s own sexuality (one asking the First Lady how it feels to be “a beard”) and scathing comments about the First Lady’s body image, none which rise to the level of a comment using the phrase “good looking,” why all the noise?
The point here (and for the whole piece!) is to point out that when an event or phrase is singled out and profiled, it is generally tied to a deeper cultural meaning that the media ignores, one hidden by the obvious and transparent political claims being made. And these deeper meanings must be reviewed and weighed not as tit and tat or good and bad or double evils or final reasons (or tennis returns! Go Serena!), but for the weight they add to or take away from the collective progress, peace, and love, and how they mark our path.
The diet of Republican politics has a lot of fat and greasy palms and bad choices for America’s health. But the GOP has staked a claim on obscuring facts and proclaiming the end of the world.
Fact: No President in history has been as emotionally public and transparent as Barack Obama. (Try to imagine any GOP President or nominee saying to a crowd, “I love you back.”) His hugs of Michelle I sometimes feel should be private, so intimate do they appear. (I have written here of eagles locking talons!) But to my memory, his words should have been public; beauty is a gift and an aesthetic that we can appreciate, and should not be tied to the idea that its acknowledgement belittles others or crosses a conventional line of correctness—but more, in the complex of my own memory, I have waited for this day, because I am a Southerner and I remember the hoped-to-be pardoned Scottsboro Boys and I remember Emmett Till. Continue reading How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?
The new Republican marketing plan is a reset; it says it is still okay to restrict the rights of women regarding their own bodies and their incomes, it is okay to stop accusing Hispanics of taking American jobs as long as they are not offered US citizenship any time soon, and it is okay to curse blacks long and loud since they now can’t be lynched or fired. (Remember, this is Republican thinking.)
The media continues to sidestep the GOP’s widening ideology of blame, especially the ideology’s populist use of speech as a hammer to forge negative action and ideas. Although heavily rooted in politics, blame is maintained primarily as a social media form. It’s adapted from hate radio (different from talk radio!), which develops and disperses its inverted ideas of denial and blame.
It develops among those whose priorities see the word as a weapon and put violence before peace. Its world view assumes those with whom its practitioners disagree have a hidden, winner-take-all agenda leading to a society regulated and controlled by occupation and door knocks. This world view equates restraint with control; its practitioners feel suffocated by any social responsibility. Its expressions give voice to the triggered temptations of wanna-be warriors to take down their perceived foes as they themselves fall. Having failed in defining progress and gaining power, or in protecting the status quo, the temptation to defile one and all is strong among them, and even defeats undeniable logic.
Their ideology of blame wears the mask of freedom (the idea of unconstrained freedom, free of responsibilities or constructive engagement) and uses the web, (Twitter, blogs and websites, YouTube) as its negative amplifier, looping and streaming its feedback. It behaves as hundreds of Peeping Toms, prowling digital windows for targets. Words are their stones.
Recently, a woman was fired for posting a picture online of two men engaged in inappropriate conversation about the First Lady; it continued after she reported it. Her employer, hit with a denial-of-service web attack, blamed her; it was the excuse for her firing.
Behind her firing was the ideology of blame. It found a sympathetic supporter in her employer. No longer about error, blame now implies and commands silence. It doesn’t mean limit your protest; it means limit yourself. Accept the great lie of because. Continue reading Free Speech and Those Rubbernecking Toilet Smells
The Supreme Court never seems to see its own reflection in the law. I wonder if any of the current justices participated in a popular 1970s self-awareness training exercise, Johari’s window.
The exercise, whose roots go back to Karl Jung and his archetypes and reflects the later influence of the popular Myers-Briggs assessment, replied on four windows that were intersections between self-knowledge and society, and the known and unknown. The facade window was unknown to society and known to you. The internet has turned the facade into a negative space; it is now the space in which you are known to others by dark secrets or ignorance, by insulting absurdities, vitriol and hatred, masked by a cute avatar and narcissistic screen name. Flaming in chat rooms has given way to trolls who are relentless in replacing logic with personal attacks, stereotypes, and repeated failures of common sense flaunted as searing insights, protected by their rights. It is closer to what Johari’s window labeled the arena, a place of shared exposure.
The exercise assumed certain psychological and personality customs that the internet has stripped away as it tossed the old facade aside. The exercise did not see this future.
Johari’s window also had a blind spot. It was a frame where others knew things about us that were oblivious to our own self-awareness. In the internet media today, its equivalent is a place of spin and denial. Denial not as a psychological defense, but as a social strategy of deceit and misdirection, positive or negative, that conceals real intent.
My favorite blind spot was Herman Cain’s. Framing opportunity and merit as entitlements, he shouted out in the last campaign about African-Americans being on Democratic plantations. He subverted the history of the institution from the horrific tragedy of enslavement to a place where its room and board was a poison pill that killed motivation and freedom! In the logic of Cain’s world, sleeping and eating—rest and community—broke the spirit and chained the enslaved in a way that the exploitation and supposed ownership of their labor did not!
That ownership, and the involuntary extraction of labor by force and law, was approved unequivocally by the institution of the American Supreme Court, then lead by Maryland-born Roger B. Taney, considered one of its greatest Chief Justices and the first Roman Catholic Chief Justice. In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Taney and six other justices saw no contradiction in a creed of freedom that permitted the ownership of human families, or between human liberty and human property—and said so, from the highest court of the land.
In fact, in his dissent, Justice Benjamin R. Curtis, the Massachusetts-born son of a merchant vessel captain, painstakingly points out that the Dred Scott decision denies the court decisions that Africans and persons of African descent were given legal citizenship in the several states, and this legal grant of citizenship gave them standing before the Court—a standing that Taney, in his majority decision, denies, calling it “unagreeable.” Curtis then points out how ludicrous it is to declare Scott is without standing before the Court, and then to have ruled anyway!
If it looks at its own reflection, the Supreme Court would see how it avoids the institutional evidence of its own magnanimous failures, going back to Dred Scott. Perhaps we, too, forget that the Court was not intended to be an institution of democracy, or rather of democratic interests: the expansion of individual liberties and rights, the ending of discrimination, the leveling of the ever-expanding playing field. The Court did not rule in support of equal protection prior to an inclusion in the Constitution by amendment, nor for women’s voting rights prior to its inclusion, nor for civil rights prior to a Congressional act, or for ending slavery before a Constitutional amendment. Continue reading Gay Marriage and Deliberate Speed
By its nature, a rule produces a reaction which can go in either direction, toward compliance or resistance. The NRA, by its nature, resists all gun rules. It consistently demands extreme freedoms (yes, even freedoms can be extreme!) to own and buy and sell the most dangerous weapons of death available to American citizens. Its strategy to resist rules and regulations has been to wrap guns in the flag, and leverage its ideology with cash from supporters and gun manufacturers. So in the NRA view, guns are no longer thought of a commercial product. They are extensions of the Constitution. The constitutional protections afforded ownership, in the NRA view, should be extended to the marketplace. Background checks, equipment limits, and other rules are seen as interfering with the end result of ownership. In the NRA world, not only is ownership constitutionally protected, the marketplace should be unregulated.
Is a constitutional right abridged if a marketplace connected to that right is regulated? Is the right to own a gun mirrored in the right to buy and sell? More importantly, doesn’t the Constitution protect citizens in a way that they can be free from the intentional and unintentional dangers associated with the use of guns? Does the government have the right under the Constitution to pass laws that make me, you, and others less likely to die, singularly and en masse, at the hands of an instrument that others see as the source of the defense of life and freedom? Should the risk associated with guns be greater for some than for others? Is that risk mitigated or increased if we all own guns?
Of course, cars kill people, too. Society has inherent risks. Yet a study released last May by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center found gun deaths actually exceeded car deaths in ten states in 2009. Bloomberg News reported this will be true as a national statistic by 2015! As the numbers of cars on streets and roads increased, public policy, focused on safety (seat belts, enforcement of driving under the influence laws at the local level, improved safety equipment by auto makers, child seats) have saved lives. Deaths from auto fatalities diminished by 22 percent in just five years, from 2005 to 2010. Dramatic proof of the good use of public policy!
But can parallel effective public policy be crafted to save lives when tied to the one instrument whose ownership involves not only fun, sports and collecting, but also involves a latent but inherent right to kill, even if in the name of public and personal safety and the Constitution?
Research is one way of looking at these questions to determine the impact of policy on gun violence deaths and injuries. Gun violence ranges from suicide (52 percent of all suicides) to mass spree killings, growing more common and commanding public attention. Best estimates (probably slightly understated) say 87 people die per day from gun violence. (I have also seen dramatically larger estimates. Whatever the number, a problem, by fact and comparison exists.) Can policy reduce this number?
In the debate over policy, let’s not forget women are on the front lines. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 58 percent of domestic violence homicides committed against women involve a male intimate acquaintance using a gun.
An older study by two Harvard professors found the US has the highest rate of domestic violence gun murders—82 percent of total murders of an aggregate of 25 high-income nations, while having only 32 percent of the aggregate female population. Every study, every statistic indicates that women are at risk from gun deaths in situations of domestic violence and that the risk is not lessened by gun ownership by women in the household.
In fact, for women the home is the most dangerous source of gun violence and murder against women. Guns of all types are statistically more likely to be used to kill women in their households than to prevent crime or personal attacks (self-defense). Continue reading Working Rules