Entire newscast devoted to Cronkite’s death; would he have done it that way?

July 18, 2009

Somehow I think the late Walter Cronkite would have been embarrassed and even a little sad that his old CBS Evening News show had come to this – devoting its whole half-hour broadcast Friday night to the reporting of his death (well, he might feel sad that he was the one who died, but I meant sad for what his former newscast has come to). Apparently as far as Katie Couric’s version or the modern CBS management’s version of the evening news is that’s the way it is today. The network news has become irrelevant as a reliable source for a re-cap of all the day’s news. Michael Jackson got the same exclusive treatment.

That’s a far cry from when Mr. Cronkite, who died Friday at the age of 92, was at the helm as the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and was known as “the most trusted man in America”.

Of course both he and Jackson were celebrities and as such merited coverage upon their death, but a serious news broadcast does not devote its entire length to an obituary of one of its own or of a pop star.

And I think it’s kind of my job or interest to comment on current events and bring up inconsequential things, so on the subject of Mr. Cronkite’s trustworthiness, kind of like your favorite uncle, that’s where I learned the word “avuncular” (uncle like). I was reading a story about Walter Cronkite years ago, maybe sometime in the early 90s, and the writer used that word to describe America’s most famous news anchor. Sometime later and while I was working for a newspaper I did a story on an assistant principal at a high school who all the kids seemed to like and look up to and I used the word avuncular to describe him. Got a lot of comments on that. “Avuncular” people would say with a slight smile, as if maybe I was throwing fancy words around. No, it just seemed to fit at the time.

While I certainly watched Mr. Cronkite a lot through the years, my earliest memories of concentrating on the nightly network news are of watching NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, one in Washington and one in New York. I understand they were in the solid lead in ratings among the three networks when Mr. Cronkite became anchor in 1962.

But what I admired about Mr. Cronkite was that he was an old newspaper and wire service reporter. He was to me a real newsman, who happened to get into broadcasting and was quite good at it.

He was not ugly, but of course he’d never make it starting up in the business today up against the pretty boys and pretty girls.

And that makes me think of some of the long-gone TV news correspondent pioneers. I can recall some rather good correspondents, one man who seemed to have bad teeth or braces or something and some women who were rather plain or dowdy, but you didn’t expect them to look good, they were just reporting the news – remember when it was the news that was featured.

Nowadays it often seems more of a beauty contest and there is a lot of interviewing each other and endless professional pundits. Although, interestingly enough, I think the idea of a bunch of professional news people and mouthpieces sitting around giving their opinions may have gotten its start with the coverage of political conventions, in which Mr. Cronkite took part.

To some extent, broadcast news has moved beyond the tunnel vision of the one camera and the correspondent interpreting for you what is happening with a broader picture and more sources (I think I am correct in that). And when you add the interesting but somewhat confusing and unreliable element of so-called citizen journalism, things have moved way, way beyond the Cronkite era.

But there is something to be missed from that era when the avuncular Mr. Cronkite removed those thick-rimmed glasses and announced the death of President Kennedy, choking back tears. Uncle Walter was telling us something terrible had happened.

And when he admittedly broke away from his usual mode of being super objective and not taking sides when reporting the news and told his audience that the Vietnam War was hopeless, President Lyndon Johnson is said to have commented that he knew he had lost the war or the public’s support of it at that point.

Objectivity in journalism is the ideal, but sometimes you just have to tell the truth and tell them “that’s the way it is”.

ADD 1:

I turned on the TV Saturday night and it was as if they were re-running Katie Couric’s Friday night broadcast — it was all about Walter Cronkite’s death again. I turned to ABC and the news had been pre-empted for a sports event, and then I turned to NBC and it was leading off with Walter Cronkite’s death — so I knew he was still dead. With all due respect, I hope they have found a new story tonight (Sunday night).

RIP Uncle Walter……

ADD 2:

Watched CBS News Sunday night and they did have other news, along with Cronkite’s continuing death.

Advertisements

Raise tariffs, re-tool America, lower retirement age, and go for universal health care…

July 17, 2009

I watched Charlie Rose last night and heard Bob Woodward say that President Barack Obama has not really been tested by his own crisis yet. He said that he did not know what crisis might be in the offing, but perhaps unemployment might be it. And today I read that unemployment has reached 10 percent in 15 states. I know it is higher than that in my local area, and maybe in yours. If unemployment remains high, I think the Obama administration will be seen as a failure. Actually we are already in an unemployment crisis — so let’s see how Obama handles it.

Raise tariffs and provide tax incentives to U.S. industry that employs people right here in America, lower — not constantly raise — the retirement age to increase job opportunities for younger folks, and relieve businesses of providing costly health plans and thereby at the same time free up workers to more easily go to better or more suitable jobs by providing some type of universal health care scheme not tied to employment.

And so the doctors, and others, will not gripe that government bureaucrats (as opposed to private health insurance bureaucrats?) are dictating health decisions, let doctors serve on public boards to oversee the government-guaranteed health care. Notice, I have not written “government-sponsored”. Actually I assume that under any scheme to guarantee that everyone has health care coverage there will be government funding.

How about those ideas to put America back to work and get the economy going?

And while I don’t want to just concentrate on health care, I can see from my own personal experience that health care rules so much in our lives (it’s the cost and availability).

So I will address health care and then go back to some of the other economic recovery ideas.

The only way I can see that there is ever going to be health care for everyone is for the government to be involved, the free market can’t seem to do it.

I watched part of a documentary on PBS some time ago about how other nations handle health care, but it was kind of hard to follow or at least remember, except that it seems to have a lot to do with attitude of the public. For some reason maybe the rest of the world is just crazy, but they see a role for their governments to serve the interests of their citizens. For all the need and talk about health care reform in this nation, I sometimes get the idea that the general public is not into it as much as one might imagine, that is until something bad happens in one’s personal life, but then you’re so mired in your own mess, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But if the public really cared as much as it is reputed to, I think we would have had reform long ago. I keep hearing that Teddy Roosevelt ( a Republican – a progressive one) pushed for some type of national health care. That’s a century ago.

I’m extremely surprised the business sector has not pushed for national health care, seeing as how providing health care coverage for employees is such a major expense. And if employees don’t have coverage they will eventually be less productive and certainly it would seem more vulnerable to worker’s comp claims, which really can cost employers a lot.

Right now with so much of the work force out of work, huge numbers of people are without or soon to be without health care coverage or are trying to figure out how poor they have to let themselves get to become eligible for government programs.

Health care has become so expensive but is so necessary that it has become one of the most important, yet hard to meet, requirements in life, darn near beating out food and shelter.

Unless you have the fortune required to pay out of your pocket for all health services you might need, you generally have to join together with others in some type of group plan. So why can’t virtually the whole nation join together as a group? Yes it is going to cost, and everyone should have to pay a fair amount according to their means. And the amount of taxes raised for health care cannot be unlimited. So, yes, that means that decisions as to what is covered and how much the insurance will pay will have to be made. They always are, even in private insurance.

Taxing the rich (and who figures out what rich is?) to pay for health care is a bad idea. Social Security, the one program with “social (ism)” in its name that seems to have near universal support or at least acceptance, was designed so everyone (almost) pays for it and everyone is eligible and everyone has a stake in it.

A doctor who writes a column for my local newspaper said he dreaded any type of public option because the government would be telling him how long or what kind of treatment he can give his patients. Not any more than private or so-called group insurance does. And no one would tell him how long he can spend with a patient. That is up to him. He’s talking about his reimbursement. He can spend longer with his patient than the reimbursement covers (the government or other insurance entities only limit the money, not the time), and he can charge the patient the difference (and that is what is often done). Whether the patient can pay that extra amount is always in question (and do doctors consider themselves mere hourly employees?). And it might seem nice to compare the medical care market with any other consumer offering, but, you know, there is just not much competition. In fact, a lot of doctors do not accept new patients.

There is a concern that the number of family practitioners is dwindling because there is just not the money in the field there once was (still better than when they used to accept chickens from farmers). Maybe there needs to be more incentives to create new family practitioners, such as subsidized training for promising students. And maybe if the private sector cannot offer enough services, there needs to be government clinics staffed by well trained doctors and support personnel.

Such clinics would have to be well funded, because if not, you get the stereotypical zoo.

And then there is the problem – who wants to go to a cut rate doctor?

I got off the track on this medical thing. I was really wanting to put another pitch in for the re-industrialization of America. I know all the learned economists and political historians will tell you that raising tariffs is “protectionism” and protectionism is a bad thing because it leads to retaliatory protectionism from other countries and stymies world trade and leads to even more economic hardship and that there is precedent that proves it – the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 and the Great Depression. But that notion has been brought into question by some. And besides, that was then and this is now. I love history, but we live now and maybe things are slightly different today.

What so-called free trade has brought us is unbalanced trade where the U.S. competes with nations with a much lower standard of living and it continues to drag the U.S. down. Free trade was sold partly on the idea that other nations would prosper and come up to our standards. And I have to admit that in my ignorance I once thought if something can be made cheaper elsewhere, so be it, I’m generally for it. But there is such a thing as buying value (something that is hard to find these days – except in foreign cars), and there is such a thing as keeping the wealth in one’s home country. In our own greed we may have been tricked into giving up the store by becoming a nation of bargain hunters rather than a nation of those who produce or support in the production of quality products  and who share in the wealth that the demand for quality brings. Developing nations may develop, but they also may surpass us while we are not paying attention.

And even though a lot of money is made out of war, our current wars are a net drag on our economy and it is morally wrong to base our economy on war anyway. We should work to get out of war situations as quickly as possible and avoid wars when we can. And we are finding out that in today’s world rapidly moving events all over the globe can cause us to be overextended easily.

Kind of a scatter shot approach here. But just some thoughts.

P.s.

I heard someone mention on a TV news talk show that even with all the hubbub about whether a health care plan will make it through congress this term, even if it did it would be five years before anything went into effect. That’s absurd.

I still think everyone is trying to make this whole thing too complicated. Complication is not what we need. And it is hard to shop for health care, especially when you need it (think about it).

Just expand Medicare for those who cannot afford to pay for private plans now on the market. The market has no interest in providing health care for those with no means to pay. In fact, left to its own devices, the private health care industry would avoid offering coverage to anyone who might actually want to use it.


Lindsey Graham: Judge Sotomayor when are you going to quit throwing fits???

July 14, 2009

Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor was the recipient of  loaded and unfair questioning of her personal temper. Kind of like asking the guy – so when are you going to stop beating your wife (didn’t know he did do that)?

(I didn’t use term “judicial temperament” because I could not find a satisfactory definition and because it seems to connote something different than simply temper.)

She was asked about anonymous charges that she throws a fit on the bench and unfairly goes after lawyers she does not agree with. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham brought up the charge seemingly to get at her, knowing, by his own admission earlier, that she will be confirmed, and that her past decisions, for the most part (Ricci excepted) don’t give her detractors enough ammunition to tar her as a activist liberal (as opposed to an activist conservative? Hey no matter what anyone says, they all make law on the bench by interpreting).

I used to like Graham, with that slightly squeaky or nasal twang of a voice. He’s usually quite congenial and I liked watching and listening to him on the talk shows, not because I usually agreed with his political positions necessarily but I guess I just liked to hear him talk, but no more.

It seemed like a cheap trick when he suddenly ambushed Sotomayor in a Senate confirmation hearing with the accusation that unnamed lawyers had accused her of being temperamental and flying off the handle on the bench.

Hate to use the “empathy” word since it’s now become a pejorative against her – Obama nominates her in part for her “empathy” and the far right says that does not have any place in law. But I empathized with her.

Before I go farther, I must say I don’t know whether I believe she is a good nominee or not – didn’t agree with her Ricci decision on the appeals court (it was overturned by the Supreme Court)– and for all I know she does have an anger management problem (have not and will not appear before her in court).

But that accusation was transparently a power trick. Because at that point in time, how so ever brief, he had some kind of power over her in that he might be able to sway votes or just because of the fact he was the questioner.

While uncontrolled and unnecessary anger is never a good thing, the unwritten law is that if you are in charge, you can be angry – maybe that is part of the reason you are in charge. You are a leader and you demand results and you get angry when you don’t see them.

But if you are not the leader and you get angry, you are a hot head and hard to work with.

I have a hard time believing he would have even resorted to that charge from anonymous accusers if she were not a woman. It’s often noted that when a man gets mad that shows toughness. When a woman gets mad, well she’s a B..ch.

And it’s always hard to defend yourself against such charges without becoming incensed and proving your accuser’s case (Sotomayor did not fall for that, but she seemed somewhat taken aback). I think Graham, who already said himself that she would confirmed barring a “meltdown”, accomplished what he wanted. He temporarily put her in her place. He even told her maybe she ought to do some “self reflection”. You make a condescending statement like that, after leveling unsubstantiated charges (anonymous charges) and you know the recipient is not likely to answer in defense, because again that would tend to prove the original charge true or a refusal to look inward.

Graham is a pipsqueak, but he took on what he perceives to be a great liberal enemy and made a show of it for the folks back home, his conservative buddies, and the TV audience.

Nice performance Lindsey, but I think Sonia has that lifetime appointment sewn up.


Message from McNamara’s book: it’s not too late to rethink our war policy…

July 13, 2009

With the war in Afghanistan getting more serious and the indication that Iraq’s ongoing civil war might be heating up with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the cities, it seems a good time to look into not-so-distant history – the Vietnam War – and see if something can be learned from it.

I have now finished reading the late Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara’s book, some would say his mea culpa, on Vietnam: “In Retrospect, the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”, published in 1995. McNamara died a week ago at the age of 93. He lived with the fact that many had called Vietnam “McNamara’s War”. Having left President Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1968, he apparently kept all that bottled up until he published his book.

After reading it, I would sum up his position this way:

I was wrong. I was not the only one. We should have analyzed the situation better, but the mood of the times (Zeitgeist?), the Cold War philosophy, precluded that, and we were supported by the public up until we had gone too far. And the reason we conducted a limited war (instead of doing anything and everything to win) is that we feared getting Communist China and the Soviet Union directly involved and pushing events to a nuclear confrontation. And we eventually realized that due to the ineffective government in South Vietnam and the ambivalence of the population there really was never a chance to save that nation from the communists.

One portion of the book dealt with the fact that at one time there seemed to be a direct and public confrontation between the military chiefs and McNamara. They accused him of micro-managing the war and not letting them do their jobs. They, the military chiefs, wanted to be more aggressive, especially in the air war, and go after all targets, no matter their geographical location, such as Haiphong Harbor and on the border of China.

And I have blogged before, and nothing in this book told me anything different, that the mood of the public at the time was this: first the nation was truly divided on the war. Nonetheless, I think even among those who did not like it, most of them agreed with war supporters that if we must fight then the only way was fight to win and get it over with. By doing that, we would achieve our goal of saving South Vietnam from the communists and we would save American lives by not needlessly prolonging the conflict. I lived through this entire history and I heard people, so many, say things like: “I don’t really believe in this war, but if we’re going to risk American lives then why don’t we fight to win?”

In one brief passage in the book, McNamara notes that in the process of trying to save South Vietnam we indiscriminately killed a large number of civilians and did much damage to the country. I would add that it seemed like we were doing more damage to South Vietnam, our ally, than North Vietnam. We bombed North Vietnam, but with many restrictions. And we never invaded North Vietnam, even though North Vietnam invaded the south with both regular army forces and the Viet Cong guerillas they supported (and McNamara referred to other types of forces, such as militias, I was never aware of).

I’m not going to go back through the book and quote things. But I would suggest if you have not read it to read it. It’s kind of self-serving, and I got the impression that he slyly took the blame while spreading it around and went to great lengths to say that he at some point knew along with many others who supported the war that they were all wrong and that he tried to tell other insiders, thus trying to lessen his own blame (I would blame LBJ and then Richard Nixon; they were the commanders in chief through the all-out part of the war).

But here is something important that I think the book brings out: Public opinion means everything. You can’t fight to win a war without full public support. And unless you level with the public early on, you will not get it or be able to keep it. The Johnson administration withheld their own studies that demonstrated the cause was probably hopeless (and they knew this early on).

We fought the Vietnam War on the premise that we had to hold the line against the expansion of communism. But once we withdrew and once South Vietnam fell, while that nation became one nation under communist rule, the communists did not expand. Their own system worked against them and does today.

Also, reading the book has only served to confirm my already-held belief that the United States should only fight wars in true self defense. Sometimes it is hard to decide what that actually means, but that should be the rule to guide decision making on whether to fight a war, nonetheless.

(Also before I forget, I have more than once blogged that really we could have won the Vietnam War, kind of Korea style, but I am not so sure of that now, but that is moot anyway.)

So, using history as a guide, the U.S. needs to reassess what it is trying to do now in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether we can prevail and whether it is all worth it (and is it ever too late to save American lives?).

My take on what the Obama administration’s position seems to be is that we need to exit Iraq gracefully, but we need to press on in Afghanistan because that is where the 9/11 forces staged and where Al Qaeda leaders got refuge (so they seem to be in Pakistan now – so do we invade Pakistan?). The administration has also decided that we should protect the Afghan villagers to get their support, kind of like the pacification program in Vietnam (which was a failure).

But my question is: given our economy at home, whose living conditions should we be working on, those of Afghan residents or U.S. residents? (And there is a direct parallel here with the guns and butter approach of the LBJ administration – fight Vietnam, improve things at home at the same time, and that did great damage to our economy – but as often is the case, I digress.)

We did manage to install a government, however effective or ineffective, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maybe we should simply tell it, handle it, and don’t harbor enemies of the U.S. We can come back by air or land or both.

And I think that if the Obama policy makers came to the conclusion in private that winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans cannot be done, they would face the same dilemma as McNamara said he and others did. They were afraid that the U.S. would lose face and would become weak. Decisions are tough. But do you continue to commit others’ lives to save face?

In my previous blog I wrote that the U.S. still today needs to come up with a clear policy on how the nation gets into war. I think we ought to follow the Constitution, which indicates that declaring war is the responsibility of congress. While the president always has to have the authority to deal with emergencies, a war is a much more involved process with such dire ramifications that it needs deliberation and support from elected representatives. And don’t play games with the definition of war by calling it something else (police action, conflict), everyone knows one when they see it.

The U.S. has not fought a constitutionally-declared war since World War Two. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have not had a clear-cut victory since then. Korea was a stalemate (although we did save South Korea), Vietnam a failure, the first Gulf War indecisive in that we found ourselves going back into Iraq years later, Kosovo, well you have me on that one, I don’t even know why we felt we had a dog in that hunt (and that was not an all-out war on our part), and the current wars – don’t know, still in progress.

But without taking a position on the current wars, I can only say, let’s learn from history and think this thing out and do what is actually best for our own defense and realize we cannot nor should not remake the world in our own image.

And to paraphrase a famous quote: who wants to be the last person to die for a lost cause?

Oh. But I feel self-conscious now, for some would contend I am not supporting the troops. To the contrary, I support them one hundred percent. I am only saying we need to clearly have goals spelled out and be in agreement that they are just and we need to make an honest assessment as to whether our efforts are practicable. If we have checked all the boxes in support – throw everything at it and fight to win.

I do not believe in the concept of “limited war”. Seems like if you limit your actions but the other side does not, you lose. And if you both agreed to limit your war, you would both be morally wrong — wasting lives for a game. 

P.s.

I did not mention the involvement of the UN or NATO in Korea or Kosovo, respectively, or coalitions, because it is my observation that the U.S. always uses those organizations as cover for its own policy. On that subject I fear one day it could come back to bite us. Sure it works when we run the show, but what if we were outnumbered? And in no case should the U.S. ever give over its sovereignty to another nation or entity (I think it has been done to some small extent, but it should not be done).


Questions of war need to be carefully thought out…

July 11, 2009

Something that has never been clearly resolved in the United States is how the authority to declare and conduct war is delineated. Since Vietnam it seems that the president has the most power concerning war. If the president decides to use the authority as commander in chief to take military action anywhere, from then on he (or she) is in control and can charge treason (in the political sense, not legally) against anyone who objects.

It’s always a wise move to get congress on the record with some kind of resolution, such as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, upon which the whole long, drawn out and disastrous Vietnam War was based. And even the “decider” George W. Bush got resolutions out of congress to fight his War on Terror.

I wished this was a coherent and well researched essay, but it’s just a blog off the top of my head. It occurs to me that there may not be much difference between a declaration of war which the Constitution gives the congress power to decide upon and a resolution. I really need to research this.

But I will observe here that when congress makes a declaration of war then it would seem to have shown a clear resolve.

Resolutions by their very nature appear to be something temporary, but they are not, i.e., the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which resulted in a costly decade-long war, carried out year to year almost as if it were temporary – no wonder we didn’t win. If congress had gone on record as declaring war, it might have had the resolve to actually win. Instead much time was spent debating how much and exactly what authority was given to the president.

The War on Terror resolutions seem to have created a war with no end in the Persian Gulf (yes we are supposedly easing out of Iraq, but it is pretty questionable what will eventually happen there — the violence is up again).

And it is hard to even envision how a victory would be achieved in Afghanistan, although I hasten to add it might not be impossible, if it can be figured out what a victory would be – a stable western-friendly government with no Taliban and Al Qaeda? And how long would that last? And wouldn’t we have to occuppy the whole region forever to make sure insurgents don’t rise up again? (These are the kind of questions that need to be asked and debated but are not.)

There is a question as to just what the president’s (any president) power as commander in chief means. Is the president simply in charge of the armed forces and not answerable to congress? Many people seem to think so.

Congress can effectively end a war by holding back on the funding (which it has unquestionable constitutional power to do), and did so eventually in the case of Vietnam. But that was only done after so many long years and casualties and the acceptance by the public that the cause was indeed in vain, giving congress the will and cover to act.

During the last Bush administration congress was intimidated by charges that to withhold funding while troops were in the field would be treasonous – and I agree that for the government to order troops to fight on the one hand and cut off their funding on the other seems at least is wrong morally and impractical. But eventually the only tool the congress, as the representative of its constituents, would have to effect a withdrawal if the executive resisted would be to not continue funding the war.

What made me think of all of this is that, as I blogged earlier, I am reading the late Robert S. McNamara’s book “In Retrospect, the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”.

I plan to review it via a future blog. But for now, I can say that it points out that narrow thinking predisposed the nation to go to war in Vietnam. President Johnson, who had mixed emotions about the affair from the start, concealed vital information from congress and the public and essentially had the Tonkin resolution written up before the Tonkin incident happened, that is a resolution calling for increased authority to deal militarily with the communist threat to South Vietnam. The Tonkin incident provided a pretext to introduce that resolution before congress. It was implied that it was simply for something temporary. I remember in the early days of Vietnam it was called a “police action” (as Korea was) and then when it heated up it was called the Vietnam “conflict” and finally, even though “war” was never officially declared, it was called the Vietnam War.

I think I was a sophomore in high school when the Tonkin resolution was passed. And I know when it was decided to send in the troops and air power and take an active instead of advisory role, it was thought the U.S. would surly overwhelm the enemy. I thought certainly it would be all over by the time I graduated from high school.

The Vietnam War caused me to make a kind of illogical decision to join the Army, based in part that I would be drafted anyway, and maybe joining would give me some advantage, and I needed something to do. I ended up going to Germany. One of my brothers was drafted and served in Vietnam. So lucky for the both of us – and the luck was especially for him since he faced the danger – we both managed not to be names on the Vietnam Wall.

And today I have two grandsons, one born a few weeks ago and one almost ten years old. What happens today in world affairs will impact their lives. And really I should mention I have a granddaughter too just entering high school, and the same goes for her.

That is why I think it is important that we have a system in which such momentous decisions as war are carefully thought out. While the president needs the authority to deploy forces or take military actions in immediate emergencies, one person should never be given a blank check to wage continuing war and then pass it off to his or her successor.

It should be kept in mind that at least 58,151 Americans died in Vietnam, 4,322 in Iraq so far (46,132 wounded), and 677 in Afghanistan.

Remember, the numbers started out small in Vietnam.

And shouldn’t we be seriously considering whether the notion of pepetual war makes sense? And since terrorists can pop up most anywhere, are we obligated to occupy every inch of the world to maintain U.S. security?

ADD 1:

I should mention the War Powers Act of 1973, but at this time I cannot find much to note of it. I think I am correct in saying that it essentially has been ignored or circumvented since its passage. And I would think since it deals with war powers and war powers are enumerated in the Constitution, then maybe the act is unconstitutional. The Constitution cannot be amended by simply passing a law. The whole point of this blog is that the power to get into and out of war is an unsettled matter and it should be settled. At lot of people thought that, I think, at the conclusion of the Vietnam fiasco, but all that was come up with was that War Powers Act — so really no progress.

There is one sure way to get out of  a war. When the public mood turns decidedly against a war, eventually the nation withdraws, but at major cost in the meantime.


Show bizz is killing serious news and politics

July 10, 2009

I’m a news and political junkie and as such I make this observation after reading about how Sarah Palin is trying to use her brief moment in the national political spotlight to cash in, even without gaining higher or holding lower political office. And then I read how her would-have-been son in-law Levi Johnston is saying critical things about her  nd is hoping to maybe get into acting or get a book deal – Palin herself has a book planned.

And now Johnston is quoting his would be mother in-law as saying she might rather cash in on all of the commercial offers she has received and forget the political office part of it. But of course he could be saying this because he has his own agenda, being attached to this Palin saga and hoping to cash in himself.

(As far as books, the two would certainly need help — from what I’ve heard of them, one is barely if at all able to utter a thought, and the other rambles on but seldom utters a complete thought.)

So I make this observation, being a news and political junkie:

Show biz has ruined news and politics.

Organizations that pass themselves off as dedicated to news operate like they are putting on a constantly-running variety show. People running or claiming to run for public office have found that there can be more money in promoting one’s self than actually seeking an office or fulfilling the duties of that office. And even the news people spend a lot of time interviewing each other and plugging their own books.

I wish all these people would leave news and politics and try their hands in the show biz world directly and that in some other universe there would be real news and real political discussion.

With all the problems the nation faces, from the disastrous economy to being threatened by North Korea and terrorists from the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation, it is galling that these phony pundits grab so much attention.

And the cable and internet news outlets discredited their credentials as serious news entities by spending and continuing to spend so much time on Michael Jackson – he’s dead already!. He was an entertainer, an artist, and a troubled person, and he apparently had one heck of a lot of fans. But that’s entertainment. What about the real news that affects everyone’s life and the future of the world?

I do this blog in a kind of fantasy world as if anyone really cared. But it seems to me there must be a lot of others living in some parallel universe who cannot or do not want to come to grips with real public issues but can obsess on Michael Jackson or Sarah Palin (although I think the latter is losing her allure, while the former, although dead, continues to bring in money).

Newspapers are dying, in part because many were serious. Meanwhile, TV news, cable and network, have completely sold out to commercialism, and the internet is full of gossip passing itself off as news, and is not really a separate entity for real news in that it still for the most part depends upon the traditional news sources, you know, the ones that are going out of business because they may be too serious.


Remembering after-work mandatory meetings with beer and re-inventing myself to fit the job…

July 10, 2009

Just watched a stupid commercial where a guy gets thrown out of an upper story window for suggesting at a company conference that they save money by not serving Bud Light at the meetings.

Reminds me of years ago when I worked at a paint store and we had mandatory meetings from time to time after work. We did not get paid for these meetings, but they did serve beer in a cooler.

Another good thing about that job is that I lived within walking distance – didn’t need a car.

I began the job mixing paint matches for auto body repairs – hey I know nothing about colors and how to mix them – I just followed a formula from the proper paint code, generally under the hood of your car somewhere (at least that’s the way it was back then). It was mighty exacting, though. One tiny drop too much and the entire batch was ruined – we just mixed pints, quarts, and gallons.

One day I was informed I would be doing the deliveries. And as it turned out, from then on I did the deliveries every day – a morning and an afternoon run. Easiest job for the money I ever had.

I should have known it was too good to last. I don’t recall how long I did it, but one day I was told they had to cut back – last hired, first fired. I was gone.

I actually thought I had learned a skill, mixing that paint, but when I applied at other places, they told me they didn’t need an extra hand, that they all took turns mixing.

I eventually went back to school and then later I went back to journalism and still later I went to big truck driving. When I applied for a big truck driving job, even though the company offered its own school they preferred some related experience. Those paint deliveries came in handy. Let me tell you, driving a pickup truck or a van or one week when both of those were not available, the boss’ station wagon, is not anything like driving a big truck – but of course I did have to make deliveries.

Come to think of it, when I applied for the paint store job, the boss wanted to know if I had sales experience. The only thing I could put down was that I sold newspapers on the street as a little kid. Good enough, I guess. Well I did sell insurance briefly – not sure I mentioned that.

And one time while I was working at the paint store, I had to make some deliveries of oxygen and acetylene tanks – the store I worked for was actually a welding supply store with an auto paint department. Good thing I had just taken a welding class (which I did not do extremely well in), because at one stop, the airport, as I recall, they assumed I knew how to undo the old tanks and hook up the new ones. Fortunately I did.

After that job played out I tried to get a truck driver job at another welding supply store. But the guy looked at my resume and saw that while I had just come from a welding supply business, most of my experience was as a newspaper reporter.

“I can’t figure out what you want to do” , he said.

I guess in a way I couldn’t either, but at that very moment I needed a job – any job. Didn’t get that one. I think that’s when I decided to go back school.

I’ll bet there’s a lot of people going through this sort of thing nowadays with unemployment so high and businesses closing their doors all over the place.

If I’m sure of anything, I’m sure things will get better, but just like everyone else I don’t have a clue as to when.

Meanwhile, large numbers of people are out there trying to figure out what they want to do or what they can do and trying to re-invent themselves to fit into a more competitive job market.

And if you are one who envies those who always knew what to do from the start and followed the straight path and have been successful at it, I have empathy – I feel your pain.

P.s.

And I know you’ve heard this one before, but take it from someone who thought he was a goner due to a bout with cancer – find some enjoyment in every day you can. Every day above ground is a good one.