Harnessing The Power of Boobs

Politics are not central to our lives.   But boobs are.

Danica Patrick at the 2007 Red Dress Collectio...

Danica Patrick at the 2007 Red Dress Collection  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not much interested in politics right now because the hugely expensive food fight for president is already in full swing and will drag on for months.   Both sides craft tiresome attack ads aimed at demeaning the other, and I guess they pick up some votes that way, but their main impact is to make most of us sick of it all.  It’s been theorized that the far right likes it that way;  the sicker we are of politics the more likely things will remain the same and the richer the rich will get.

Fine.  I’ll think about that another day.  Today I’d rather sit in my deck chair in the sun and think about boobs.   I must admit, I often give boobs a cursory glance,  but lately they have pressed themselves against my consciousness more than usual.  Over the past two days, I got into an emailing dispute with a friend as to who invented the bra, and I’ll tell you it was neither a guy named Titzlinger nor Brassier, as some people think.  Also, Playboy sent me a free peak:  “Celebrate Mammorial Day.”  Thanks, Hugh.

But what really got me to thinking about boobs  was my seeing in my Huffington Post infected version of AOL a head shot photo of Kristen Stewart under the title:  News and Commentary.  I just happened to have seen an interview with her, so I know she starred  in the Twilight movies and now is in a movie about Snow White.   However, all of that is secondary to Kristen’s boobs.

The heading read:  “Kristen Stewart Almost Bares Sideboob.”

“Almost”?  Just how much bare boob equates with “almost”, especially from the side?   Well, you have to click to see that photo.  Huff Post intersperses numerous teases of this type, and they must think our response is so Pavlovian at this point that the promise of an “almost” little peek at the boob skin of  one of the latest “it girls” rings the bell.   Now that is harnessing the power of boobs.

I often wonder if these teases are primarily to attract men, of if women are interested to see just how racy the so-called “stars” are getting and whether the look would work for them?

I’m happy to report  I did not click to see what “almost” was, not out of any kind of fundamentalist virtue, but from often feeling like, well a boob, clicking disappointing teases before.   Even boob power has its limits.  Remember the story of the boy who called “wolf?”

Still, to understand American life, including politics,  it helps to understand the stupendous significance of boobs.   If a Martian landed and wanted a short course on how we humans operate, especially in this country, I would have to include “boobs” as a central factor.  I’m amazed by the power that those relatively little, largely fatty objects have upon our lives.  And, that’s irrespective of the bigger, better, bionic boobs, which frankly I’m not all that keen about.   If God wanted ’em packed with silicone, he/she/it would have made them that way.  In this matter, I’m old school.

Think of the number of Congressmen who have had their careers busted by boobs.   And remember the “ward robe malfunction” at the Super Bowl of several years ago.   You can’t remember the teams that played, right, but you remember Janet Jackson.  Oh, and the outrage on the right.  How could the network  let this happen?  The power of a just a little bit of boob.

What strikes me is the extent to which young women both employ their boobs to advantage, while also acting as if they are no big deal.   Younger women casually talk about their boobs, even move them around in public to get comfy,  when years ago this was taboo.  It was unseemly for women to touch their breasts in public, or even to adjust bra straps.  Or even refer to them by name.

Another difference is women used to complain that men would often  stare at their boobs in conversation, rather than look them in the eyes.    This was tied to the  feminist complaint about women being treated as  sex objects.   I don’t hear either complaint anymore.  I can see why, given the long lines at the offices of cosmetic surgeons and clothing styles that accentuate cleavage.  The thinking seems to be:  “You boys want to see boobs.  Well take a gander, as long as you do it discreetly and don’t creep me out.  And you are boys.  Not you gramps.”

Harnessing the power of boobs.

Today’s women seem to have finally taken ownership of their breasts, and have parlayed their value.   For some reason most of them now seem to agree with men:  Their boobs are a major selling point.   I must say, growing up in a much more Puritan world,  I feel a bit prudish about the changes and  I prefer women to be more demure.

Though I know little about her, I can see why Danica Patrick might be a role model for many a young woman, in that she has forged a place for herself in  a macho male sport, while not averse to exploiting her female body power in other venues.  What seems noteworthy is she is careful about how she harnesses that body power.  In today’s sexed up world, she seems almost demure.

I’m happy to report that from my cursory search she has held the “almost” line when it comes to full nudity, seeming to understand the importance of leaving something to the imagination.   Also, while there is much speculation regarding a number of cosmetic touch ups, if so,  she seems to have drawn the line just short of making them obvious.

While obviously not shy of including T & A in her repertoire, Patrick has developed other, much stronger cards to play, so her future does not  depend on harnessing the power of any part of her body.   That seems role model material to me.

You go GoDaddy girl!


Related Material:   A strip tease artist discusses her craft.

Reflecting Upon Our Righteous Minds

Global warming ubx

Global warming ubx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was going to continue with the theme  “the end of trust” by giving a thumb nail sketch of our declining trust in science.  Liberals see this as a result of an ongoing campaign by some on the right to raise doubts about scientific conclusions that threaten their (our) economic interests, especially these days related to the predicted climate change effects of global warming.

While I believe global warming to be a threat, I also realize how complex the matter is and how little I know.    I am aware of several sources that proffer strong scientific support for  the liberal view, but a minority of scientists do question the imminent catastrophe as often portrayed.  Not the fact of global warming itself, like the Rick Perrys of the world like to dismiss, but the time frame and  overall impact.  To even consider that there may be some validity to their criticisms feels like a sin to this liberal mind, which is part of our problem.

This seems a good time to step back and think about the sources of distrust that are not simply end products of political spin, but more deeply a part of our human/social nature.    Prompting this thought is a recently published book by Jonathan Haight, The Righteous Mind.  The book has been well received by a variety of reviewers which suggests that people both left and right of center could actually have a good conversation about its contents, something rare these days.

If he’s new to you, Haight is a cultural psychologist who employs a wide array of knowledge in making his points, some of which liberals will warm up to while others conservatives will like.  For example, he asserts that studies show liberals to be much more open minded to new experiences.  One point liberals.  But studies also show that liberals are more closed minded when it comes to appreciating the values of their conservative counterparts, values that are valuable, such as the “great conservative insight … that order is very hard to achieve, it’s precious, and very easy to lose.”  (*1).   A point to the conservatives.

Haight argues that we are trapped in our righteous minds, thinking we are being reasonable, while often blind to the truth.   In a nutshell, Haight is saying:   “Our righteous minds were ‘designed’ to ….

–         unite us into teams

–         divide us against other teams, and

–         blind us to the truth”

To come together we must “step out of the moral matrix”  into “a space of moral humility”, at least from time to time.

That summary comes from a 20 minute lecture by Haight in 2008 that can be found at TED (worth checking out in itself).    He is very smart and can be funny, too, so the clip is worth viewing even if you don’t want to read the book.

I hope you do want to read it, though, as I just bought it.

Below are a couple of reviews if you want to learn more before diving in:

William Saletan in the New York Times

Gary Rosen in the Wall Street Journal


(*1)  Thomas Jefferson showed a liberal discounting of “order” when he cheered on the French Revolution even as it got to the “off with their heads” phase, while John Adams detested the events.   The split  became rancorous for years but they patched things up via letters late in life and managed to die on the same day,  July 4, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence (yes, strange but true).  One commentator has suggested that the Declaration may have been the only thing they agreed upon, but in the end they must also have agreed that friendship is better than enmity.

A Reader Recalls Cronkite, Steinbeck and the Election of 1960

Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley: In Search of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Dear Mr. Titanic.

It’s good to be aboard, but it’s little unnerving to look around and see all the other passengers already wearing their life vests or, to date myself, their Mae Wests. Anyone who remembers Mae West also remembers exactly why life vests were called that. At any rate, I have an interesting tidbit to add to your mention of the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite, and the polarization of America into continually warring, wrangling, restless contrarians.

Just by coincidence, last night I was re-reading John Steinbeck’s classic road-trip chronicle, Travels with Charley, written in 1961-1962, during the reign of Cronkite as the arbiter of truth in America. I, myself, will always love Sir Walter because he had the audacity to weep on-air while announcing the death of JFK in Dallas.

Anyway, during the first leg of Steinbeck’s travels with his French poodle, Charley, he noted that the whole nation in 1960 had become polarized by the election campaign between JFK and Richard Nixon, but polarized in a completely different way than you reference here, 52 years later. In 1960, commented Steinbeck, people dissagreed with each other by refusing to tell one another what they were for, whom they were voting for, and where they stood, left or right. In other words, people everywhere were still possessed by the repressed 1950s.

Steinbeck used his own family to illustrate his point. His family in Salinas, California, where he grew up, were all Republicans, and his visits home were all characterized by knock-down, drag-out verbal fisticuffs. But, during his latest visit, all that had changed. Nobody was willing to offer an opinion on anything. In fact, they barely talked at all. Steinbeck blamed it all on the H-bomb, saying that people everywhere were befuddled and at a loss, simply because they hadn’t had a chance to get used to Armageddon at the touch of a button.

Maybe something different but similar is happening today. Perhaps the possibility of Armageddon by economic collapse has us all gobsmacked. But, instead of making us all dumb, this new Armageddon makes us all mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more. Who knows? Not me certainly. But I think it’s an interesting comparison between then and now.


Charles Creekmore’s electronic book, Back to Walden, is posted complete and free of charge on www.backtowalden.com, and he is  the author of a 2003 spiritual book, Zen and the Art of Diabetes Maintenance.

That’s Entertainment: The Tabloidization of Network News

As indicated in my previous post, the dissolution of public trust was

A title card still from the April 4, 1968 edit...

initiated in the years of  President Lyndon Johnson.   After inheriting the presidency with JFK’s death, he won his own term over Republican Barry Goldwater by using the latter’s  extremist language against him.   The Johnson team came up with a campaign ad that would become  legendary, that of a little girl pulling the pedals off a daisy, while in the background a voice was counting down to an atomic explosion (*1).

It was the first of our present day attack ads,  combining the visual power of television with the selective use of an opponent’s words to distort the truth.  If you believe in karma, the Democrats have been suffering pay back in recent years.    I would say the Republicans, led by the whirling Dervish of Spin, Carl Rove, have become much better at slurring opponents than the Dems.  Perhaps the Dems might prove up to the mud slinging task in the days ahead, which might prompt election victories, but at the further cost of public trust, supposing we have any more to lose.

Of course, it is not the ads alone which take kernels of truth and gin  them up into falsifications through exaggeration, facts-out-of-context or just plain lying.   Each party vies to make us voters buy its narrative of history in which each are the good guys and the opposition the bad.   Bombarded daily with misleading ads and party talking points, we need more help sorting things out and calling out the liars than in the old days, but we receive less.

While there is a growing number of fact checkers, which I’ll get to in a later post, our network media is of relatively little help.   As the spinners of falsehoods have become more skilled, our network news teams have become less so, because their primary business is no longer to analyze the news.  Instead, it’s to entertain us.

It is the end result of the tabloidization of American media.   And, to a great extent, we the public asked for it.  We want to be entertained;  it is the contemporary opium of the masses.  Decades ago, the tabloids referred to a handful of magazines that sensationalized news, and made up some more, like the National Enquirer  (*2).   Back then tabloid magazines were fodder for jokes by educated people like myself, who might  furtively glance at the headlines (“A Martian made me pregnant!”)  between unloading our shopping carts, but would not be caught dead with a copy in our possession.

What would Walter Cronkite think?  As I have indicated elsewhere, for decades prior to his retirement in 1981, Cronkite was the embodiment of the impartial journalist (*2).   To protect that image, he refused to do advertisements, which cost him millions.    After he retired, CBS got a new president and, according to Cronkite, that’s when the standards started to slip dramatically, as the new CBS president thought news should be more entertaining.  In awhile, all three networks placed their news department under their entertainment divisions, operating budgets were cut and like all entertainment, the news people were expected to generate ratings.

In retrospect, it seemed almost overnight news teams, especially local ones,  looked more handsome and pretty, were more chatty and chipper, and expert at soberly reporting  some huge accident with lots of bloody footage, and then seconds later able to laugh at the latest Hollywood shenanigans.

It was as if they all saw Entertainment Tonight as their stiffest competition.  But being news people they had to draw the line somewhere short of structuring a program around Mary Hart’s million dollar legs.

That show debuted in 1981, the same year Chronkite retired, a curious coincidence because entertainment values would come to call the shots for most news programs.  The ’80s gave rise to many cable channels,  most noteworthy CNN, which actually contributed to hard news,  receiving kudos in reporting the First Gulf War.  It hasn’t always been the brunt of Jon Stewart jokes.

Fox and MSNBC, the other two of what have been called the big three cable networks,  didn’t come along until the mid-nineties.  Fox began as a lonely beacon of light for the right (their self-portrait not mine), while MSNBC has gravitated to a similar position on the left.   That is not to  draw a false equivalency between the two.   Fox is clearly more unbalanced and more unfair more often.  But I do hand it to them for noting the success of Mary Hart and hiring many pretty women with nice legs shown off in short skirts.

Not that the cable networks offer nothing of news value, but both MSNBC and Fox essentially “speak to the choir”.  They give their respective sides more verbal bullets to fire at the enemy (*3).  And CNN?  Check with Jon Stewart.

In any event,  you do understand, don’t you, that analyzing the news is secondary to making money?    That’s understandable given our system and our inclinations, but unfortunate in terms of our enlightenment.   There is not enough news (not news Americans want to hear) to fill all those cable hours, even when providing filler ad nauseam in political speculation by pundits who largely say what you’d expect them to say, because if you watch for awhile, they’ve already said it.

Sordid sensationalism helps fill in time slots while attracting even more viewers  (do you think they’ll ever find the body of the Holloway girl in the Bahamas?), but to refrain from being pure tabloid, the stations go for political controversy as one of their staples.

Even when it’s made up.  Why else would Donald Trump, America’s neediest attention grabber, actually get covered on numerous occasions for claiming to have investigators digging up the truth of Obama’s birth?  And never pushed to produce a shred of evidence.  Why does any reputable news network  give any time to such a bogus issue?

Because controversy draws viewers, which earns money for the networks and there is no one around these days with the authority of a Walter Cronkite to dismiss it all as rubbish.  This is the end result of the tabloidization of network news.

Cronkite’s authority was so great, that when in 1968 he declared the Vietnam War unwinnable, so a peace must be negotiated, President Johnson reportedly said:   “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.”


(*1)  The Daisy ad still is still a topic of discussion.   For example, check out a panel discussion at Louisiana State last fall.

(*2)  Of course, the Inquirer earned journalistic stripes for uncovering the John Edwards scandal, but a history of focusing on sleeze helped.

(*3)   I do often watch three cable political discussion programs, one from each of the cable “big three”:  Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, and Fox Sunday News with Chris Wallace.  The Hayes and Zakaria shows I watch more often, because their format encourages discussion.  Wallace’s  show, while actually “fair and balanced”, tends to be a battle of talking points, so there is more noise and less light.   Hayes is on both Saturday and Sunday mornings and the other two on Sunday mornings.

The End of Trust?

Sorry folks, but the answer is yes.  As if you didn’t know.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather than me listing all the sources we generally don’t trust, just make your own list.  To the extent we trust is the extent to which those people have shown signs of thinking as we do.  Sticking with like minds is one of several factors that foster an increasingly polarized electorate, but that is a secondary effect to the primary one:  a loss of trust in government, science, social science and journalism.

What used to be trusted authorities, more or less, now seem dubious depending on one’s biases.   Coupled with that is the ease in which we all can find support for whatever theory or prejudice we have through Twitter or the internet, that razor sharp double edged sword.

In order to contemplate ways to restore trust, it seems useful to recollect how we lost it.  Yes, that really deserves a book or two, but who has time to read two more books, if one reads books at all.    So, if you cut me some slack I’ll try to give a sort of fairy tale synopsis, which can be amended later.

Once upon a time there was a generally well liked President called Ike.  There were lots of  “I like Ike” buttons around to prove it.   Frankly, Ike’s eight years in office in the 50s seemed pretty dull, a time  one writer described as “when America stood still.”   I think he meant culturally, though.  A lot was actually happening in Ike’s two terms, a national highway system for one, housing developments  burgeoning, another.  Also, though not Ike’s fault, McDonalds were beginning to pop up all over  like weeds.  They had ever changing signs telling the numbers of burgers sold, while it was still only in the millions.

Culturally, there were some ripples  in the form of rock and roll and a handful of so-called “beatniks”, who provided a little color to a white bread landscape.   Also, socially, racial injustice was made more obvious to we whites, many like myself, who lived in virtually  all white towns.   First, by blacks demonstrating in the south where the trampling of their human rights was most outrageous.

It was also a time when government seemed to work.   Good President Ike was a Republican, but he was a moderate one, who did not rail against  “liberalism”, a good idea since it reigned theoretically supreme while conservatism was fighting for attention.

The authority of certain figures and institutions to be  arbiters of knowledge was generally accepted.   Science and scientists were particularly respected.  Scholarly efforts in history and political science also were assumed to be relatively impartial and informative, except by right wing extremists, like the  John Birch Society.  And journalists were generally believed to be fairly  “objective” with the The New York Times the gold standard in that profession.

Such were the days during the two terms of President Ike, days that keep looking better all the time.   Than John Kennedy was elected along with his elegant wife Jackie and the White House appeared to be a second coming of Camelot.   Certainly a lot more sparkle than the days of Ike and Mamie.  JFK has been dubbed the first TV president.  He wouldn’t have stood a chance without TV, according to David Halberstam, a well respected and prolific journalist now deceased.

Kennedy, an undistinguished short-time senator, would have remained too obscure to beat the Democratic party apparatus without televison. He played to the cameras as if each was a Stradevarius and he was Itzhak Perlman, while looking fresh as a daisy.  Then there was poor Richard Nixon, who was visibly sweaty and looked a little unshaven.  All of his experience and brains undone by a case of the sweats and black stubble broadcast throughout the land.  Our periodic silly seasons began at that moment.  (Nixon also came off as a used car salesman, which didn’t help.)

All seemed possible in the land of Camelot until President Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1964.  I was in college when classes were called off after hearing the news.   Girls broke dates that weekend feeling it not fitting to be out partying at a time of national mourning.  Not that I had a date to begin with, but………..and then a couple days later, sitting watching TV with my fraternity brothers, there was Oswald, the killer, walking between deputies when this fellow, Jack Ruby, jumped out and shot him, RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF US .  Now that was reality TV.

When I think of JFK, I think of two legacies (while I try to forget all the womanizing).  One, was a fresh sense of  idealism captured in the words:  “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  I bet one could write an interesting book on those whose lives were changed by those words.  The famous diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, now deceased, would be among them.  The other legacy;  he left us with a big toe in Vietnam.  His supporters argue he meant to withdraw it after he won a second term that was not to be.

As for our still trusting government, scientists, journalists, etc.  All of this was still pretty much in tact and “liberalism” was about to really take charge  in terms of President Johnson’s “great society” programs  and changes in civil rights laws.

It has often been said that what Kennedy wanted to do, Johnson did do.  Not inspiring, like JFK, Johnson was a rough cut outsized Texan who had spent years in congress prior to becoming the VP and then an accidental president.  Also unlike Kennedy, he knew how to twist arms better than Hulk Hogan, and he wanted to establish a liberal legacy that out shone that of the Kennedys.   Sadly, he also wanted to jump into Vietnam with both feet, which diverted money away from his great society and eventually forced him out of office,  in disgrace in the eyes of many.

In terms of “the end of trust” Johnson sewed the seeds for the beginning of the end in two ways.  First, through the famous  “daisy” attack ad against Barry Goldwater that cemented his winning his own term as president.  Second, his lying us deeply into the quagmire of a Vietnam War.   Both can be considered breaches in trust that would have lasting consequences.  More about each in my next post.

Well, boys and girls, that’s  enough for now.  For those wanting to hear more of the story, I’ll put up a special post this Sunday and then likely finish it all up with my regular post on Tuesday .

We Need an American Evolution

I thought of titling this The Second American Revolution…..

The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarri...

The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring and Feathering. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

but a revolution is what those on the far right see as necessary.  They even have their own Tea Party.   Our revolution to free ourselves from England had a lot of “no” in it, too.   “No taxation without representation” for example.  It is much easier to organize around a “no” than it is a “yes”, though.   And the creation and state by state ratification of our constitution may have been  even more amazing than the revolution itself.  When you organize around “yes” you have to make compromises and many painful ones were made to forge the constitution.

Isn’t it ironic that the Tea Party, who act as if they own the constitution, have no inclination to compromise?  Among the compromises the founders had to make was to allow slavery to continue, hopefully to be gradually phased out, without which there would have been no United States.

The TP’s as I’ll call them, dream of a more simple past, which allows for simple solutions.  But our real world is much more complicated.  To paraphrase  H. L. Mencken, a libertarian of nearly a century ago:    For every complex problem, there is a simple solution….  and it’s wrong.  (#1).

TP’s have that simple solution.  Less taxes, less government, and less government intervention in our lives (#2).  Do you think I like all the government red tape, and wasteful spending (though if it’s boosting jobs in my area, well then….)?   Wasteful bureaucracy comes with the territory.  Sure it can be trimmed, but THAT IS NOT THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  True, the national debt must be dealt with, but it is a question of exactly how and when, and the simple solution the Tea Party has in mind is simply wrong.

The 1790 census, our first, counted roughly 3.9 million of us.  Now we are over 300 million.  That’s a hell of a lot of people to keep from just running over each other.  Bureaucracy which makes us all fighting mad frustrated is inevitable, though of course it can be improved upon,  but the situation is not helped by the increasingly dysfunctional nature of our institutions.

Take the Supreme Court.  Our founders did a great job, but their world was about as similar to ours as ours is to that of Star Wars.  Justice Kennedy’s defense of the Citizens United 5-to-4 decision in 2010 that opened the flood gates pouring money into Super Pacs had the aura of Dorothy in Oz.  It makes no sense for our contemporary world.

Essentially Kennedy argued there was no reason to believe the allowance of unlimited contributions by corporations and unions would corrupt (further?) our political process (#3).   Huh?  This presidential campaign already offers abundant evidence in that regard and will become more expensively ugly than ever by the time we all gasp with relief when it ends in November.  Thanks judge.

What we need is not a revolution, but an evolution whereby much of what we are accustomed to must be changed, including our sense of what it is to be an American, that sense of entitlement, not just in terms of what our nation owes us, but the privileged position we have been accustomed to for decades, that of having about 5% of the world’s population and consuming about 25% of its resources.  That’s not our God given right you know.

Evolution in contrast to  revolution takes much more time to develop, and that is reflected in this blog.  If it seems to be heading nowhere fast:  It is.   I think that while we have more information than ever, we are less aware of where we are and where we need to go than ever.  Our national identity is a residue of what we’ve been rather than where we are.

We have been swept along by various trends which have much to do with making money and winning power games, but strikingly  little to do with understanding who we are and what we need as a people.  The internet and social media have thrown those trends into warp speed.  The desire to go back is understandable, but an illusion.  The path forward is murky.   It will take much time and attention to forge,  a huge obstacle right there in these increasingly crazy busy times.

And it will take trust.  Trust that we can figure out a way forward, rekindled trust in knowledge and thought resources to illuminate that path, trust in our capacity to develop a political force that is shaped by common beliefs as opposed to power brokers with special interests.

A recent cable pundit panel discussed “the end of trust”.  I think that’s a good place to start and will expand upon that thought in my Friday post.


(#1)    According to A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), Mencken actually said:  “There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible and wrong.”  What I used is actually a paraphrase I saw on a poster, which I think is snappier.  Hey, maybe it wasn’t a paraphrase.  Maybe someone just made a similar point.

(#2)   You might say “they” want to interfere with our sex lives, but that would be the Christian Fundamentalists, not the Tea Party…..a problem with grouping all on the right together.   Also, because the Tea Party has a common agreement on a set of  “no’s,” is it easy to lump them together as if they were cuttered cookies .  Undoubtedly there is at least one young, black, Fundamentalist in the Tea Party, who might even be gay, though I do think it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, as most seem to be white and over 55.  On second thought, he or she wouldn’t be  hard to locate after all .

(#3)   In the current New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin has an interesting piece tracing the surprising evolution of the Citizens United decision titled:  Money Unlimited.

True, False or Just Plain Dumb?

Official photographic portrait of US President...


As you may well know, the Obama team put out a 17 minute film in March titled The Road We’ve Traveled narrated by Tom Hanks.  The film puts everything Obama did in his first term in the best light possible, leaving out “inconvenient truths”  (the director earned an Academy Award for that one, by the way.)

Asked why the film avoids many of the controversial aspects of the administration, producer/director Davis Guggenheim told ABC News that the audience doesn’t expect to see the negatives from Obama’s first term.

“It’s a campaign film and I think people who watch it understand where it’s coming from,” he said.

Excuse me, but I don’t.

Tom Hanks at a ceremony for George Harrison to...

( Wikipedia)

I like Obama and believe, as Hanks stated in the film:  “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president.”   Hey, that’s why I give Obama so much slack, and think he has done a good job under nearly impossible circumstances.  Not great, but what do you expect from a short term Senator, law professor and community organizer?   I’d say he’s got a lot better executive credentials now.   And,  I think he can learn from his mistakes.  …I still have a little audacity of hope.   And look at the competition.

So, you know which corner I’m in, but I still don’t get the film.   I see it as a gift to the Republicans, a big old pinata plastered with Obama’s face, something they continue to whap around.   Oddly, for once truth is on their side.

As FactCheck.org summarized:  the film “…. casts the president, not surprisingly, in the best light. But the 17-minute video lacks context and takes liberties with some facts on health care and the auto bailout.”    Glenn Kessler, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post wrote that the film presented:  “A misleading account of Obama’s mother and her insurance dispute…” which was used to humanize his health care plan.  And other fact checkers wrote similar things.

Here is the problem to me.  It is so easy to find misleading statements in the film that some of Obama’s real successes get dismissed by the ease of opposition criticism, like the revival of the auto industry.  In the film Hanks states:   “With business booming, (GM and Chrysler) repaid their loans.”   While that is technically true, it is misleading enough to be dubbed false.

GM and Chrysler were turned into New GM and New Chrysler through the process and it is only the loans to the new companies which have been paid back.   That was only a small fraction of the money the government ponied up.  Treasury is still on the hook for billions, but much of those billions is in stock, which can be sold some day to recoup more ……  Anyway, this is so complicated I’ve established a separate page to try to sort it out.  Click Auto Bailout.

Here’s the bottom line.  About $80 billion was “infused” into the auto industry and about $40 billion of that has been recouped by Treasury.  But “we” own lots of stock in the new GM and its former finance company, now called Ally, so in the end, the auto bailout might cost us taxpayers $14 billion or a few billion more.

That’s the real issue.  Was that $14 billion well spent.  Well, it seemed to save a 1,000,000 jobs at a critical economic moment and, though Ford wasn’t a direct beneficiary of it (it was of some other funds), it’s CEO, Alan Mulally, was in favor of the bailout as their own suppliers would be badly hurt if the other companies went down, triggering a domino effect.

It seems to me a strong case can be made in favor of the bailout, but it gets lost in these silly sidebars, in this case one provided by the Democrats themselves.

So, tell me again why that film was a good idea.   Aren’t you trying to get independents and maybe some Republicans who find Mitt even harder to swallow than Barack to come on board?  Do you think propaganda will swing the undecideds your way?   Especially with the Republican War Room dissecting every misleading statement or portrayal in that film and serving each bit on a platter to one news organization or another.  It’s like you tossed hand grenades at them, and then they took out the pins and are throwing them back.

Just Google around some and see the hay the Republicans have been reaping from this.  You can start with a recent editorial in the San Diego Union titled:  A Barrage of Dishonesty on GM.

That’s one hand grenade coming back at you.

Deconstructing Stephanopoulos: Part II

The Government Accountability Office is an imp...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes one bites off more than one can chew and I did that by tackling this panel discussion on the economy.  It is not the subject of a post or two, but of a long article or even a book.

Well, I waded in, so now I have to try to get back to shore.  I mentioned four panel members in my previous post.  The other two were, on the right, David Walker, CEO of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008, and on the left Eric Schmidt, former CEO and now Executive Chair of Google.

Though a Democrat, Schmidt bonded with fellow CEO (ex-CEO) Carlie Fiorina, in seconding her emphasis on creating a more nurturing climate for the growth of small business, but like her, never got into any details about that.  He seems worth exploring further as I imagine he would be able to give a good picture of what changes would seem useful.   Fiorina, on the other hand…..well, Google her being ousted by Hewlitt-Packard and judge for yourself.

From a more immediate perspective, however, Walker seems the one to look at most closely, as he has written a book – Comeback America – and developed a center aimed at restoring fiscal responsibility, and has been praised by figures on the left and right, while also blaming both parties for not dealing with our huge fiscal problems.  Though I believe he calls himself an independent, he has had more Republican ties than Democrat which put him on the right side of the table.

So, those are all the players on the panel.  I said in the previous post that I disagree with G. S.s’ calling the discussion fantastic, but that is not to say that it didn’t have any merit.  For one thing, it reflected our division on political lines, while still bringing together people capable of at least beginning a discussion on them.  Also, G. S. did a good job of giving everyone a chance to speak and moving the discussion along.  They did touch upon most, if not all, of the issues involved with the challenge of turning our economy around, in ways that might work for most people, not just a relative few.

While the economy as a whole is sputtering along, record profits were announced by some major companies yesterday, and the stock market is doing fine, so some of the economy is not in a recession, though many former employees downsized are.

So, what are the “take away’s, “ as they say?

Krugman and Walker seem the two most worthwhile to learn more about, as the former has a well developed argument that now is not the time for austerity, but for increased government spending and the latter has a well developed plan to put our fiscal house in order.   Since Walker agrees now is not the time to cut government spending, there might be some middle ground between the two.

Not that other issues raised were not important, particularly the idea to establish conditions that nurture the development of small businesses, which most agree are the engines of economic development over time.  But as I’ve indicated, how to do that was left open, accept to reform the tax code, which in theory could help our economy in various ways.

But what’s the likelihood of that, even after the next election?  George Will described the code as a “favor machine” which has been accumulating more and more favors since it was simplified back in 1986.   Will’s attitude was:  Good luck reforming that, what with everyone having something they want to protect in the code.   (I might add, it is 2700 pages:  Who wants to begin?).

Oh, and let’s not forget education.  Even though there wasn’t a show of hands, I’m sure they all think our education system need lots of improvement.  However, once again the devil is in the details and, since education (as teacher, trainer, and endless student, according to my friends) is my strong suit, I see even more devils than most.

How about developing an answer to something more specific, such as how to provide more trained manufacturing engineers for Silicon Valley, where there is a shortage according to Fiorina and Schmidt.  We don’t have to fix the whole system at once, which is good since we can’t.    I’ve also read that we are not producing enough electricians to meet our needs with a bigger gap forecast.  Why is that?  Those are good paying jobs and last I heard, you didn’t need a college diploma to do them.   Couldn’t we have educational programs in high school and junior college to help fill the widening electrician gap?

The panelists tried to end the discussion on a positive note, sort of summed up by George Will.   “We have everything going for us once we get our bad policies out of the way.”

I agree, but can we come to an agreement as to which are the bad ones?


P. S. – Perhaps you have already had more than enough on this topic, but for those hardy few who want to clarify their sense further you can find additional information at the site of the host of the discussion the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.  Among what’s there are additional comments by Krugman, Fiorina and Walker, including why Krugman muttered afterwards “we’re doomed”, only half-joking.

Also, there are responses to the discussion from two college professors, one obviously with liberal inclinations and the other with conservative ones.  I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which and who seems the more insightful.  And a third professor offers a 20 page paper covering the “built to last issue”, from both left and right perspectives.

Deconstructing Stephanopoulos: Part I

Will's Billboard

Will’s Billboard (Photo credit: teresia)

Not the man.  The panel discussion he moderated on This Week last Sunday.   I watched because I heard its topic would be:  Is this economy built to last?    And Paul Krugman, my favorite economist at the moment, was to be on along with George Will, the conservative columnist who usually has something interesting to say and four other folks who might contribute as well.  I’ll get to the others later.  Krugman and Will sat immediately to the left and right of G. S. respectively, which reflects their political inclinations as it did with the other four participants as well.

Afterwards George summed it up as “a fantastic discussion.”  Well, maybe in a teeny-weeny TV sort of way, but not really.   Thirty minutes was barely enough time to scratch the surface,  given the breadth of the topic and the diversity of the group.   People offered their particular agendas, often only tangential to the THE QUESTION, with relatively little agreement.  To call that “fantastic” reminds me of that psychotically chipper “ambassador” to the ever punished districts in the Hunger Games, the one who made the contests to the death seem like fun.

The panel lacked sufficient areas of agreement to do anything but politely squabble.  The question which shaped this discussion was not the one stated but instead:  How many viewers can we reel in?  It is the kind of pseudo seriousness that rules these media shaped political discussions.  The question was chosen not to be answered but to attract viewers sort of like the news promo:  “Does walking your dog cause cancer?  Tune in at 11.”

Always intent on turning a frown upside down, I will try to illuminate a few things worth remembering, and a number of them deal with the sub-text, not the faux discussion.  What’s that baseball saying? You can’t tell the players without a program?  Well, allow me to say a little something about these players, which might help in understanding what was really going on, and what might be useful to take away from it.

As to the question of keeping the economic recovery going, Krugman really was the “main man” here as he is a Nobel winning economist who has just published another book End this Depression Now.  He has a column in the NY Times and a bunch of other books and can back his case with a slew of economic facts quicker than I can type “economic facts.”   He also posts very often on a blog titled:  “The Consciousness of a Liberal.”  So, the far right can’t stand him, especially because he is both very smart and very combative verbally. President Obama has complimented him for his smarts, which only makes the far right hate him even more.

Krugman often argues that the way to really build a recovery is for the government to spend more money, hire back the teachers, rebuild the bridges, put more money into new energy etc., which is what his latest book is about.   He points to Europe’s stagnant economy and the austerity measures they employed as an indication budget cutting right now would be a terrible idea.   The right calls the stimulus a dud, but Krugman argues it helped us stay afloat and it would have helped more if we had spent more  (see my Stimulus page for more).

Not that he is unconcerned about the debt problem.  He says it’s a matter of priorities.  First build the economy to last and then tackle the debt hard and fast (I shaped the rhyme, just for fun).  Not that Krugman spilled this all out immediately, but this is where he is coming from and, if he’s right, a key to economic recovery.

On the right side of G. S. was the conservative George Will, who was given first shot at commenting and immediately dissed THE QUESTION replacing it with his own: “The threshold question is not is the recovery built to last, but does it exist?”.  He emphasized how weak the recovery was and later compared it to 11 other post WWII recoveries which appeared to puzzle him.  He is now 71, I mean exactly now – it’s his birthday today – so he may actually be bewildered like I am at times.  But I suspect he was just playing dumb, leaving us to fill in the blanks. Why is this recovery so slow?  Hmm….what’s so different now?  (Can you spell O-B-A-M-A?).

Krugman immediately challenged Will’s assertions, and those of others later, giving several reasons why the recovery is stronger than Will portrayed it, chomping away at his points like a pit bull.  Will is not an economist, so he wisely did not respond.

Now meet Carlie Fiorina, sitting to the right of Will and less wise.  If the name doesn’t ring a bell, she was the CEO of Hewlett- Packard for three years before she was fired.  Then she ran unsuccessfully against Barbara Boxer for senator in California and now co-chairs the Mitt Romney election team in California, which makes her, unlike the others on the panel, a clear cut political operative.  That means she sticks to the party line.

Over the course of the “discussion” she emphasized a number of key points, as if no one had thought of them before, greater support for small business – “fewer are starting and more are failing than any time in the past 40 years” – the need to improve education and the need to reform our tax code, most importantly to reduce our corporate tax rate which is the highest in the world.


Have you seen those Southwest commercials emphasizing the additional fees other airlines charge, the ones where a referee jumps in from nowhere and calls “foul”? Think of Krugman as that referee who, trying to be civil, restrained himself from jumping in and instead sat quietly appearing to need an emergency  bathroom break.  However, as soon as a second of silence arrived he said:  “Nothing you just said about business taxes is true.”

Part of what he meant, if not exactly stated, is corporations don’t actually pay that high of a rate once their phalanx of tax lawyers begin chomping away like rats at a picnic, with a little three card monty thrown in.   The NY Times has examined Apple’s world wide tax rate and it’s about 9.8%, one more reflection of how good they are at everything.  Even less resourceful companies, like Walmart, average only around 24% a year, not the 39.2% that’s official.   Republicans know that.  They just prefer to maintain the half-truth, implying Democrats don’t understand business needs like they do.

Later Fiorina tangled with Jennifer Granholm, her female counterpart on the left side, and former governor of Michigan when the auto bailout occurred.  Sounding just like the Romney surrogate she is, Fiorina doubled down on Mitt’s original assertion that bailing out GM was a mistake.   As Fiorina spoke, Granholm seemed warming up to an epileptic fit:  “We tried everything,” she eventually spat out, waving her arms about to further make the point.  But Fiorina had a rejoinder:  The government should have just called the big bankers together and insisted they loan the money to the car companies, as if that would have been as simple as pie.  Remember the last time the bankers were called together by the treasury secretary?   Few loans resulted as the banks preferred to take that money and invest it.


Blog Posts are not meant to be book length, so I’ll introduce the other two panel members and continue my deconstruction Tuesday.  I hope I’ve prompted some interest in this “discussion” and in the meantime, some of you will want to see it for yourself at this ABC web page, which provides a written synopsis along with videos.

Of course, the slackers among you can just wait for more of my slant Tuesday which I’ll be happy to provide.   Despite its shortcomings as a discussion, I think the show offered several points worth noting and building upon later.

I Know You’re All Crazy Busy but…

At some time over the past week or so I asked myself: Are you nuts?

Whatever made you think you could squeeze your way into the densely populated blogosphere and find a following?  True, I think I have a good idea, simply by being willing to give a stark look at our broken body politic to see how it might be repaired, whether surgeries are needed, a heart transplant, or even something bionic.

Few doubt our future is in doubt.  President Barack Obama acts like he is confident, but that’s his job.  He has to act that way.  Can you imagine him saying:  “Well, folks, I gotta say we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  Anyone see any paddles out there?”  But I imagine in private moments he has said to Michelle:  “Whatever made me think….?”

In googling to expand my knowledge, I’ve come to see the error of my ways even more clearly, since there are already about a zillion web sites and blogs – many of them worth following . Along with that, I’ve belatedly realized most people have email in-boxes bursting like mine.  If you’re like me, you set aside emails you want to really pay attention to for later, and then forget you ever got them.  Now that we have all these labor saving devices, we have no time for anything,  There are a few blogs I like to read, but haven’t read them in days.  I’ve been too busy working on MY blog.

Actually, I shouldn’t whine so much, as the site had 74 hits on it Sunday , the second largest day by far since my “opening day” of 119.   (Maybe Sunday is just net surfing day for many of you).   Not bad for a baby blogger, I think.  But I want the audience for this blog to grow like crab grass.  After all my reach-for-the-stars goal is that this eventually will become a go-to web site for solid information and thoughtful opinion regarding making whole once again our broken body politic.  The one chance in a million of that happening depends on an ever growing readership.

In contemplating ways to expand the pool of sifters and winnowers, of course I first thought of adding naked pictures  or maybe providing contest prizes.  I decided instead to make a direct plea to EACH OF YOU.  That small band of brothers and sisters who like what I’m offering enough to come back for more on occasion and, HOPEFULLY, to put your reputations on the line and recommend the blog to friends.

Convincing three to check it out would be good, five would be better and 10 would be great.  A few friends have suggested that I should go on Twitter and Face Book, but since two of my life goals are to do neither, I’m putting my cyber future in your hands.  That jump up in readers Sunday suggests some of you have already answered the call and I thank you.

One friend who tweets is already working on it, and I’ve asked another to plaster kudos for my blog all over his Face Book page (though I have never looked at a Face Book page, so I’m unsure what I will be getting, or if it was even a good idea.).  Of course, if all of you drop the ball, well, I might HAVE TO try those other methods, but word-of-mouth remains the best advertising, so I’ll try this first (and really, who wants to see a 67 year old man naked?  Not me.)

If you like what I’m doing, that may be enough to coax a friend or two to check me out (unless of course they don’t value your opinion as highly as you do.  In that case, isn’t it good to find that out now, so you can find more insightful pals who will appreciate you more?).

So, I beg of you.  Help spread the word, unless of course you have concluded it would be better for the future of humankind if my words flicker and fade out of sight as soon as possible.

I can respect the authenticity of that.


P. S. – If you haven’t noticed, I put up Posts on Tuesdays and Fridays.    Also, periodically I  add information to the pages listed across the top.