Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

On Voting

Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 in Current Events, Politics, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

If you don’t vote today, come on, it’s time to face facts: you are kind of a shithead.

Voting is so easy.  Voting feels good, almost orgasmic even.  Think about it: the act of Voting is like the concentrated release of all the beefs and gripes and hopes and ideals that have been pent over time.  Voting is finally having our say.  Even if the system is rigged, and all our votes go uncounted, at the very least Voting reinforces the illusion that we live in a free and democratic society.

Again, Voting is easy, especially nowadays.  Even if you are forced to vote during rush hour and are stuck in a long line, with the tiny computers in our cellphones, you could get your banking done, set your DVR, and check Facebook, all while listening to some fresh tracks on your iPod.  And Voting is pretty fun anyway: I love people watching and trying to guess who that asshole is voting for.  And if you are like me, and have never been polled (especially since most of us youngerish people don’t even have hard land-lines) that makes our votes the monkeys-in-the-wrench, so to speak.  There is nothing better than proving the polls and pundits wrong.

Polling places are well within a reasonable distance to you and your home. The internet makes them easy to find, and is a great resource for learning about your district and the candidates.

Voting is sexy.  So come on!  Get in the mix.  Make your voice heard, because only once every year do we get the opportunity to pop off like our Forefathers intended.

So Party People, please VOTE.

Advertisements

The following 15-minute video is pretty much all you need to know regarding what is happening on the front-lines of the BP Oil Disaster.  Kindra Arnes, a Venice, LA, native, delivers a mind-blowing account of her dealings with BP, and the effects the oil-giant’s spill has had on her community.  I know it’s a bit long, but I urge you to watch this video; you won’t find a more compelling human voice of this tragedy.

A great big thanks goes out to the Cajun Boy, for posting this.  My heart goes out to you, your people, and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

While brevity is not one of my strong suits, I shall try to keep my commentary on the last half of the summer short and sweet – so short and sweet, in fact, that my observations and opinions on some noteworthy events from the last half of the summer shall be presented in the form of little poems. Enjoy the shortness and the sweetness, but take some wet-naps: they’re sticky.

July 18th: The Dark Knight opens world-wide.

Heath Ledger’s creepily awesome performance

In The Dark Knight was great;

Makes me hope that the Dead can see what’s going on down here…

…Except for when I masturbate.

July 24th: Barack Obama speaks in Berlin, in front of 200,000.

Obama is admired around the world;

And somehow this is bad to think?

Perhaps they’re putting stupid,

In water half the people drink.

July 29th: A 5.4 earthquake hits the Los Angeles area.

The Earth shook below

The Hollywood Hills.

How long will it be

Till the Big One that kills?

July 29th: SIRIUS and XM satellite radios merge after over 17 months of government review. It took less than one year to approve the Exxon/Mobil merger.

SIRIUS and XM

Could finally unite,

In spite of the Radio’s

Political fight.

August 7th: Brett Favre is traded from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets.

I woke in the morning,

And Favre was a Jet.

If only I’d placed,

That 100 to 1 bet.

August 8th: John Edwards admits to having an affair with his videographer.

Affairs in remission,

Are not all that bad,

According to Edwards,

The Cad of All Cads.

August 8th: The Opening Ceremonies commence the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

The Opening Ceremony,

Was remarkably done.

China showed what can happen

When working as one.

August 13th: Michael Phelps wins a record eighth gold medal in a single Olympics.

Phelps upon winning, 

Eight medals of gold,

Is a Hero of Heroes,

His feats to behold.

August 15th: Mike and the Mad Dog (Chris Russo) officially end their historic, 19 year run as one of America’s preeminent sports-talk teams.

An end of the era that was

Mike and the Dog on ‘The FAN’.

Now Chris leaves for SIRIUS,

To be the one Man.

August 24th: The Summer Olympics conclude with the Closing Ceremony. The United States finish second in the gold count with 36, to China’s 51.

Hats off to China,

And all their medals of shining gold.

And not too bad for Team USA,

All of whom play without being told.

August 27th: Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

For people who say,

“Well what will he change?”

Please pay attention,

It’s not all that strange.

September 4th: John McCain accepts the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

This convention is nonsense;

Its delegates creepy.

Social fluff and no issues,

Put me to sleepy.

September 4th:The 2008 NFL season officially kicks off with the Superbowl Champion NY Giants hosting the Washington Redskins.

Football has started,

Our Nation’s true past-time.

Now 31 teams hope for

Better than last time.

“Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.”–Thomas Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 1805

I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful holiday weekend. And to the rest of the world not down with the Monday Morning Punter: I hope y’all had a pretty good weekend as well.

We will start the Television Edition of the MMP’s ‘Summer Reading’ list with an examination one of the more ubiquitous and controversial sources of news coverage these days: 24-hour cable news networks. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the dominance and influence of the major media corporations, television is still a hugely powerful medium when it comes to delivering news and information. Whether or not it’s all bullshit, TV news coverage is still how the vast majority of people get informed on events around the world or around the corner. And specifically, 24/7 cable news is becoming increasingly more significant as viewership wanes for the traditional 6/6:30 nightly news.

History

Back in the early 80s Ted Turner and his rag-tag, little network-that-could, CNN, began broadcasting news 24/7 from its Atlanta headquarters; becoming the first network in the United States to do so. A little over a decade later CNN came of age as a major news outlet after it was the sole network covering the initial bombing phase of Operation: Desert Storm. (There is a fantastic HBO film about CNN’s historical scoop called Live From Baghdad, starring Michael Keaton and the lovely Helena Bonham Carter. Check it out.) In 1991, while CNN was making broadcast history in Baghdad, it passed the big three networks in ratings, and cable news was born. This subsequently launched CNN into the major media stratosphere, paving the way for its acquisition by Time Warner in 1996.

At around the same time CNN was being acquired by Time Warner, two competing cable news networks were about to toss their hats into the ring. In 1996 both the Fox News Channel and MSNBC launched their respective 24-hour news networks.

After achieving “fourth network” status in the early 90s, and having previous experience in the 24/7 news business overseas, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp gave birth to the Fox News Channel on October 7th, 1996. Republican strategist Roger Ailes was picked to lead the network. (It should be noted here that at one time Ailes was in charge of America’s Talking, which later became MSNBC, who then passed on Ailes for leadership of the new network.) FNC really brought a modern graphical overhaul to its presentation of news coverage, with lots of bright red, whites, and blues highlighting summations of the current topic at the bottom of the screen in bullet-point format. Fox News quickly ascended to the top of the cable news mountain by the turn of the century, and is still the highest rated cable news network (and 6th overall amongst all cable networks.)

A few months before Fox officially launched, on July 15th, 1996, MSNBC officially began airing news, interviews, and opinions. The collaboration between Microsoft and NBC created the MSNBC network in an effort to reach a younger, more tech-savvy generation of news viewers. From the get-go, the MSNBC internet site was heavily integrated with the network. But in perhaps an ironic, unintended consequence of this focus on the burgeoning medium of online news, MSNBC.com has by far outperformed its television parent; as it is currently engaged in a fierce battle with CNN.com for top online news site honors. After being mired deep in low ratings, and approaching its 10th anniversary in 1996, columnist for the New York Post (like Fox News, run by Murdoch’s News Corp), Don Kaplan clowned MSNBC by writing: “the running joke in TV news is Fox and CNN are news channels with websites, but MSNBC is a website with a cable channel” While still lagging behind both ratings leaders Fox and CNN, respectively, MSNBC has managed to turn a corner and seems to have found its niche in the world of 24/7 cable news coverage. And the future looks bright for MSNBC as they have seen a steady incline in the ratings amongst the coveted 25-54 demographic.

So that’s a brief little history on how the three cable news networks came to be, and how people like Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs became household names and lightning rods for criticism

Bias

We’ve all heard about the “liberal media bias” from conservatives when describing newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. (The basis for this argument is that most reporters would describe themselves as leaning left or voting Democrat, and not on their actual reporting itself.) And we’ve all heard liberals screaming about the “conservative agenda” put forth by the Fox News Channel. CNN and, now MSNBC in particular, often find themselves the targets of conservatives for a perceived liberal bias on their part. It might surprise some to learn that both MSNBC and CNN have been accused of a conservative bias as well as the typical liberal criticisms by media watch-dog groups like Media Matters. Of course, the Fox News Channel has never been accused of leaning left in any way. Really? What about that liberal pit-bull Alan Colmes?

What NOT to watch

I think you know where I’m going with this. For the love of God, and all that is good and true in this world, please, I implore you, a thinking American citizen, whatever you do, DO NOT watch the Fox News Channel if you want an honest source of information. If you are in the mood for a little entertainment or a good chuckle then, by all means, tune in.

One of the catchy slogans Fox News has adopted, “We Report, You Decide,” should most definitely be changed to the more accurate, “We Decide, Then Report.” And another one of their self-described subtitles, “Fair and Balanced,” is the equivalent of Amy Winehouse calling herself, “Clean and Sober.”

I could go on and on about the clear conservative agenda being pushed by Fox as manifested in the bullying, blow-hard, Bill O’Reilly, harping on meaningless, socially divisive issues like his crusade against a perceived ‘attack on Christianity’; or the hilariously mismatched pairing of Hannity and Colmes – respectively, one a dashing and eloquent conservative pundit, the other a little Gollum-looking, spineless whipping boy, meant to personify the caricature of a bed-wetting liberal; and I could continue on about how the president of Fox News since its inception, Roger Ailes, is a stalwart supporter of the Republican party, and was media consultant to Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and H.W. Bush. But all you really need to know about the Fox News Channel can be found here:

Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters

and here When Fox News is the Story

After Fox “News” doctored actual photos of reporters who had the audacity to write a factually correct piece about how both MSNBC and CNN are closing the ratings gap with Fox, how anybody can watch this shit and honestly call themselves an intellectual is beyond me. It kind of makes you wonder if there is anything else they might have slanted to the right. Hmmm? It may not be fair or balanced, but from here on out if I find out that you, my faithful reader, watch this propaganda passed off as news, be you friend, family, or otherwise, I will simply have to conclude that you, my friend, are a moron. Sorry. You’ve been warned.

What TO watch

Forget for a moment that I lean towards the left (I am left-handed after all.) Instead try to think of me first and foremost as someone who is very open-minded and welcomes new and opposing ideas. If you know me, you know that I love to argue. And one of the most effective ways to argue one’s point is to get intimately familiar with the opposing stance. Also think of me as someone who spends a lot of time watching these various cable news channels as I speed along the Information Superhighway, passing the on and off ramps of various media exits. Please keep all of this in mind when reading the following recommendations.

If you are going to watch cable news, and you haven’t already, please make the switch to MSNBC. From the perspective of journalistic integrity, I have found that MSNBC, along with CNN, present their regular news coverage very subjectively and void of the editorializing often found in Fox’s coverage, be it from their anchors or the carefully worded summations beneath them on the screen.

MSNBC has really surged forward as of late, and much of that success can be attributed to a fervent interest in a historical primary season, and now a presidential campaign that will result in a new leader taking charge of our nation. MSNBC has a stable of political heavy-hitters amongst its anchors and correspondents such as Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, former White House correspondent and Press Secretary agitator, David Gregory, Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe and a former Republican congressman, Pat Buchanan, former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and conservative/libertarian Tucker Carlson, to name a few. Judging just by some of names on the preceding list, one can surmise that MSNBC strives to present both sides of the political spectrum.

And finally, if you need any more reason to make MSNBC your cable news source, know this: they are partnered with some of the most trusted and respected print media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsweek.

Morning Joe

If you have the luxury of spending a little time in the morning watching television, and you are looking for some perspective on the news making headlines, please avoid the banal network morning shows with their cooking segments, shitty concerts “live from the plaza,” and the countless rube tourists jostling for camera time behind the jolly weatherman. Instead, head on over to MSNBC and grab a cup of Morning Joe, hosted by conservative pundit and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. The lovely Mika Brzezinski co-hosts Morning Joe, and provides the liberal viewpoint, along with the hysterical Willie Geist, who supplies the witty comic relief.

This show is great because the crew gets a head start on the day’s early news as they analyze and discuss it in a relaxed, round-table format. The core that is Joe, Mika, and Willie are often joined by pundits and journalists like Pat Buchanan (does this guy ever leave 30-Roc?), Mike Barnicle and Andrea Mitchell. Even the Big Man himself, Jack Welch, former GE CEO, stops by now and again. While I often find myself disagreeing with a lot of Joe Scarborough’s political views, I have nothing but the utmost respect for him because while he is conservative, he is also a free-thinker who has no problem criticizing this administration and his own party when he feels they are not acting with the best interest of America in mind.

Again, if you are up at 6am, and have a little time to watch television, and want some good information, have some Morning Joe with your morning joe.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Now that it is summer, and re-runs and reality dominate network primetime, it is the perfect time to discover a wonderfully informative and entertaining program. I highly recommend watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann at either 8 or 10 pm, or least TiVo it. (When our programs are on at 8, we watch Keith, while recording the other show, then fast forward through the mindless network commercials. DVR or TiVo technology is the type that I now cannot imagine life without). I should mention that this show is often blasted by conservatives for its liberal perspective. I will concede that Keith may lean left; but most of his ire is not so much directed at conservative ideology in general as it is on an administration that has used conservatism to hijack our government while pissing on our Constitution and waging an unnecessary war for profit. Keith is also an unabashed critic of Fox “News” and their obvious water-carrying for an administration whose policies have made the average American less secure, less prosperous, less informed, less free, and more fearful. Can you blame him?

But Countdown with Keith Olbermann is no less an honest program covering the current events in politics and news in spite of a perceived liberal bias from its host. You may remember Keith from his days as an anchor on SportsCenter, as part of the legendary duo of him and Dan Patrick. The sarcastic wit on display in those days, as Keith read the highlights, is out in full force on Countdown. But nevertheless, the stories he covers are the big, national stories of the day (as opposed to the often local, fringe stories The O’Reilly Factor focuses on in a clear effort to spread fear and the far-right’s political agenda.)

The format and title of Countdown is meant to ironically highlight the varying emphasis that networks place on covering social and celebrity stories alongside “hard news.” The program counts down from five, the top stories of the day, leading with, and devoting the most time to, the biggest national news at #5, and then finishes with the nonsensical celebrity voyeurism news of the day at #1. Speaking of which, what possible value is there in bringing the American public the sordid details of a divorce between a very former model and her uber-cad of a husband? I cannot imagine giving less of a fuck, but somehow, I know all about it. And I need to take a shower.

So please, give Keith and his Countdown a chance. I promise you will find the show both informative and entertaining. And if you are coming from a conservative perspective, don’t worry, Keith and MSNBC won’t turn you into al-Qaeda, and you can still keep your flag pin on your lapel.

Arbitrary Commentary

  • Maybe people would be less inclined to climb the walls of The New York Times building, in New York City, were those walls not covered in a gigantic fucking ladder!
  • Our man Andy is still going strong on I Survived A Japanese Game Show, as the Yellow Penguin team pulled out its second straight victory over the reeling Green Monkey squad. Big ups to Belinda for her efforts on the tricycle. Poor Darcy was eliminated for the second and (apparently?) final time. You gotta hand it her though; she was tough little fighter. Andy has been fantastic so far, excelling in the competitions as well as the social maneuvering. Keep it up, Homie! And thanks to Andy, the MMP

    has received a huge amount of traffic from people searching for ‘Andrew Kelly-Hayes,’ as my site is one of the first that is recovered when he is Googled. Thanks, Big Man!

  • And finally, since I’ve mention Bill O’Reilly, I just couldn’t resist. The video below is a behind-the-scenes look at just what ol’ Billo was actually seeing on that teleprompter. Hahahahahahaha. I just LOVE this guy!

In yesterday’s edition of the MMP, the ‘Summer Reading’ list was introduced. To recap real quick: if this blog is able to accomplish anything, or make even the slightest bit of difference, it will be to spread the word that we are being lied to, distracted, or left out of the loop by mainstream media outlets. Because most of the information that most of the People are getting, and making decisions upon, is controlled and disseminated by a very small, but very powerful, handful of corporations, it is vital for the sake of our nation that We the People look elsewhere, then, for better and more credible sources.

So the purpose of the Summer Reading list is to pull your coat on some of the words, sights, and sounds that I have come across in my travels, jetpacking through cyberspace. And to reiterate, the list will not be limited to just books and/or articles. The Summer Reading list is meant to be a sort of clearing house for information so that everybody can stay sharp and informed for when the school year starts and the presidential campaign kicks into high gear.

The format for the Summer Reading list will be categorized based on medium. So yesterday we began with the Internet. I will continue that list today, and begin my discussion on television to follow.

I put this quote in yesterday, but I will repeat it now, and before every reading list:

“Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.”–Thomas Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 1805

The Web (underground)

The Internet has become such an invaluable tool, and playing-field leveler, when it comes to providing an alternative to corporate dominated, Chicken Little media. Of course, because of the wide and rushing river of information flowing through cyberspace, it can be quite a daunting task trying to navigate the waters without getting swept away. This is why the first item on the Summer Reading list is the Dandelion Salad site.

Dandelion Salad

Like I said yesterday, this is a one-stop-shop for pretty much all the behind-the-scenes news you will ever need. Multiple articles, videos, links, etc. are posted each and everyday. So much so that nobody can keep up with it all. So I suggest linking Dandelion Salad to your homepage via a widget or something. That way the headlines will be front and center, and you can follow up on anything that catches your eye. Again, big ups to Lo for managing the mind boggling amounts of good independent information. And remember her, and the site’s, motto: “Audio Panton, Cogito Singularis.” Listen to everything, think for yourself.

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Everyone should have FAIR.org bookmarked in their web browser. This is another fantastically informative website, whose sole purpose is to hold media outlets responsible for their bias and censorship. Basically, over at FAIR, they are watching the so-called watchers. For example, there is a piece up right now about how in all the massive amount of coverage devoted to the campaigns so little of it deals with any substantive issues.

The Real News Network

In a true democratic society, with a true and vigilant media looking out for the People, this is what we would be watching at 6 or 6:30. The Real News Network is totally supported by member donations and is presented in video format along with transcripts. You’d be amazed how refreshing it is to watch a news story that doesn’t treat its viewers like they were fucking morons. The stories are well over the 90 second sound bytes we are all used to getting, and actually use multi-syllabic words. Definitely worth a visit.

These are all great places to start discovering the underground media, and can provide all you need to know to make more informed decisions in your day-to-day. Later in the week, I will be presenting some links to more mainstream media outlets via the internet and what is actually good about them.

Television

Stay tuned for my write-up on the only cable news show you should be watching (I’ll give you a hint: it’s not The O’Reilly Factor – “WE’LL DO IT LIVE!”)

The dog days are almost upon us as the great Sun has reached its northern zenith, and is already ten days into its six month voyage back to the equator and beyond. While the reminder that the days are now slowly but surely getting shorter may be something of a buzzkill; the summer solstice just means that the season is now racing forward in high gear like Hunter S. Thompson in his Cadillac, ‘The White Whale,’ doing 90 miles per hour through the desert on the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Summer is Americana at its finest: ballgames and barbecues, the lakes and the shores, camping and hiking, lots of hours and little clothing. It’s easy to get lost in it all.

No matter how old you get, or what you end up doing for a living, these months will always manage to capture that essence of your childhood summer vacations. Lost in warm nostalgia, I got to thinking about those summer-reading lists we all got assigned back in the day, and how they relate to this blog. One of the main purposes of my writing is help steer people towards better channels of information. It’s not so much about presenting what I see as the truth (although this perspective will be pervasive throughout), because ultimately we all must determine “the truth” for ourselves. No, here at the Monday Morning Punter we are more about getting our readers better tools to make said determination.

If you, the reader, come away from this blog with only one thing stuck in your mind, like a fly buzzing around in there, let it be this: virtually all the information that is available for mass and convenient consumption is disseminated by a small handful of mega media giants. Let me repeat that: everything you read, see, and hear, all comes from high atop 5 humongous media pyramids – Viacom/CBS, GE/NBC, AOL/Time Warner, Disney/ABC, & NewsCorp/FOX. And bullshit certainly runs down the side of a pyramid much faster than down a hill.

A Scary Hypothetical

An Examination of Mass Media

Today the average American is working harder and longer for what is clearly less and less, especially when you take into account the meteoric rise in the cost of living. More than ever we need an informed citizenry aided by an independent media. But gone are the watchdogs. Gone are the pit-bulls; replaced now with one of Paris Hilton’s shitty little yapping lapdogs. No wonder we are only getting two minutes of Iraq coverage per night. No wonder Europeans laugh at the differences between the stories written by our respective medias. However, there is a brilliance coming to outline these thunder-clouds: the infant that is the Age of Information.

We are, all of us around the world, careening towards a time when the physical constraints of time and space will be rendered irrelevant as technology shrinks the planet to a neighborhood. Already we are seeing the seismic affects the internet is having on traditional media, evidence in the decline in nightly news viewers, and most strikingly in the apparent death rattle of the newspaper business. Now that people are getting their mainstream news from the same place and in the same format as the underground and independent media, namely, us. Articles from bloggers and Time staff writers now rub elbows; and YouTube videos catch fire and spread in a manner that Madison Avenue could only dream of. And when you combine all of this with an angry, fed-up, tech-savvy generation of citizens, who are tired of being pushed around by those with an insatiable greed for money and power, what you get is a revolution; a digital revolution fought with gigabytes instead of guns and bullets.

All this is well and good, but there is a catch: as more and more information is becoming available to us, we are often too busy to sift through it all. Because the Information Age has yet to start crawling, there is still a lot of catching-up to do when it comes to providing people with an alternative to the corporate raised horseshit being shoved down everyone’s collective throat. And there is still a lot of plumbing to do when it comes to a political system that is dependent on its media partner’s obfuscation, in order to distract the Voters from its ulterior motives. But inevitably this will all reach a critical mass, and, to paraphrase Princess Leia, “The more they tighten their grip, the more star systems will slip through their fingers.”

As we enter into the heart of the summer season, starting with this weekend’s Fourth of July celebrations, the reading lists of yesteryear, meant to keep us sharp and prepared for the rapidly approaching new school year, seem like an appropriate analogy for staying informed and prepared for this Autumn; and specifically the first Tuesday in November. Because so many of you out there are extremely busy and your time is very valuable, and because it is very easy to loose one’s self in the joys of summer vacation, the Monday Morning Punter is going to provide its “Summer Reading” series; which will certainly not be limited to just the printed word. A lot of the recommendations will come in the form of websites and blogs, as well as films and documentaries (some found on the web), and also some thought provoking and political music suggestions (yes, believe it or not, there is socially conscious music out there, and its growing). We will even recognize the few air pockets of independent thought found in the increasingly toxic cloud of the mainstream media visa vie the television. I spend many hours each day getting information from a wide array of sources, and have become very good at separating the wheat from the chaff.

So, stay tuned to the Monday Morning Punter throughout the week, and into the patriotic celebration of our United States of America’s 232nd birthday, for some alternative sources of information. And during this 4th of July, remember something that Thomas Jefferson once said/wrote:

“Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.”–Thomas Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 1805

DANDELION SALAD

The first item on the Summer Reading list is a remarkable blog that is constantly being updated with all sorts of alternative media. Here you will find articles, video, foreign media, and links to tons of other useful information. Some of the stuff you will come across on Dandelion Salad might make your head start spinning, but you will feel like you have awoken from a coma. If you really want to get informed about what is really going on behind the scenes, then bookmark this site, add it to your homepage, and don’t go a week without dropping by. Lo, the site’s founder and moderator, is the embodiment of Patriotism. Her motto is “Audio Panton, Cogito Singularis.” Which is Latin for: Listen to everything, think for yourself.

So if you want the straight dope, Daddy-O, then go visit Lo over at the Dandelion Salad and grab a bowl.

Arbitrary Commentary

  • Andy had his primetime debut last Tuesday, and the only thing I can say is, “Hai, Majide!” If you got a chance to watch I Survived A Japanese Game Show then you know that “Majide” is the name of the popular program that our intrepid American brothers and sisters must compete on; and you would know that the name is loosely translated in English as, “You have to be crazy!” according to the pisser of a host, Rome Kanda (Majide is literally translated as, “Seriously?”). I Survived…premiered with some very solid ratings – an estimated 8 million people tuned in to watch moshi munching and treadmill face-plants. And, judging by the response to my blog, a number of those 8 million are already big fans of our man Andrew Kelly-Hayes. See for yourself in the comments section of my Andy feature. He is also apparently a big hit amongst the “bear” loving community. After the show, the Monday Morning Punter had a huge spike in hits, doubling the previous one day high.
  • On Sunday, June 29th, I reluctantly acknowledged the one year anniversary of a day in my life I’d rather forget. Let this be a cautionary tale for some of you out there. Last year some of us planned a weekend in Montreal, Canada, for a friends bachelor party; and most drove. Well, to make a long story short, our neighbors to the north weren’t very neighborly, as I was greeted with the Heisman stiff-arm and told, thanks but no thanks, you can’t come in. Now I know what you’re thinking, but no, I did not have anything illegal in the car, and yes, I was on my best behavior. Nope: sometimes honesty is not the best policy; as was the case in this situation. Upon questioning after a random car check, I simply answered in the affirmative regarding past brushes with the law, as I figured there was nothing serious like a felony, and everything should have been wiped clean by now. Eight hours later I pulled into my driveway exhausted and agitated. I figured wrong. Fortunately, everyone else was able to make it in and have a ride. But the moral of this story is that if you are trying to cross the US/Canadian border, make sure you have your ducks in a row, or dummy up like Dick, Karl & Scooter, and simply say that you don’t recall.
  • Sorry for not having a late week post up last week. That may happen now and again during the summer, as most weekends are chockfull, with some requiring preparation. It was great to be back in Connecticut these last two weekends; and it was wonderful to spend some quality time with so much family. And Friday, while back in lovely Fairfield county, I got this sweet tattoo as a birthday present from my brother, done by his friend Brian, who is an amazing artist. Thanks Chris and Brian. Here’s a link to Brian’s studio, the Iron Butterfly Tattoo, in Danbury, CT. If you are in the tri-state area, and are looking for some ink, its well worth the drive.

America lost a great Patriot on Friday, June 13th, when Tim Russert died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. When the ‘Breaking News’ alert interrupted MSNBC’s usual coverage that afternoon, I thought it was about the attack on the Kandahar prison that had freed 1,500 inmates, 350 whom were considered Taliban militants. That story had just broken over the various news-wires. But when I saw that it was Tom Brokaw there to deliver the news, it became evident that something more personally profound was about to be reported on. My initial thought went to the safety and condition of the current anchor of NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ Brian Williams, who has been reporting from Afghanistan this past week, covering the fight against a resurgent Taliban force. While I was relieved that Williams had not come to any harm, I was terribly saddened to learn from Brokaw that his esteemed colleague and friend Tim Russert had passed away at NBC’s Washington bureau, where he was Chief, and where he so tirelessly and passionately worked to inform the American public. Tim Russert was 58; far too young, even in spite of the fact that in his tragically shortened time he accomplished enough to fill three long life spans.

Over the past two days, the common theme found throughout the many eulogies of Tim Russert was the genuine love and care he felt towards his fellow man. Of course this was manifested first and foremost in the devotion to his family, wife Maureen and son Luke. For one so noted for his incredible work ethic and attention to detail – he made a point of doing his own research in preparation for his interviews on ‘Meet the Press – what friends and colleagues found most remarkable about the man was how he was able to put his family first. Often the first question asked by one of the most famous of all “questioners” was not about your career or your thoughts on the latest political news making headlines: he would ask you about your family, whom he would know by name. He also made it a point to pass on this preeminent value to those who would come to call him mentor. Even in the heat of late night election coverage, Russert was known to send Mothers and Fathers home so that they could put their kids to bed.

This extraordinary connection to the average American family, cultivated from his Buffalo working class roots, was always apparent in the way he did his job as a journalist. Tim Russert, as moderator of ‘Meet the Press,’ has always been lauded for his objectivity and fair treatment of all his guests from across the political spectrum. If someone left the studio on Sunday morning battered and bruised, it was because of the inconsistency of their own words and actions. Tim may have been the Hangman, but the noose was the intellectual dishonesty that passes for political discourse nowadays. And time and time again, political spin masters fell crashing through the trap door.

The greatest lesson that can be learned from the life and work of Tim Russert is that as a journalist he never made it about him. It was always about the Truth. Each Sunday, Tim labored to clear away all the obfuscation that stood between the American people and what the real story was. In this era of round-the-clock news coverage, and partisan anchors like Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly, the type of journalism that Tim Russert practiced is needed now more than ever. Regardless of how he may feel towards and issue or a guest, Russert checked his political baggage at the door to the studio, and did his best to present the information as equitable as possible. For someone so famous for asking questions, his best attribute was the way he listened to the answers. If his life and untimely death can inspire a better Free Press, than it may be the best of all his great accomplishments.

I had the privilege to hear Tim Russert speak at my commencement from Lehigh University a few years back. It was a great speech that inspired as it entertained the thousands assembled on that hot day. But what was most noteworthy about the address was how little of it was spent on politics or journalism. He spoke more about the lessons learned from the Zen-like wisdom of Yogi Berra. The point of his speech – made quite eloquently and successfully – was that for the young graduates in attendance, who were blessed with the opportunity to receive a college education, they now have both the means and the obligation to take care of one another and those less fortunate. (I could only find a transcript of a commencement speech he gave last year at Washington University in St. Louis; but it is very close to what I heard, and is worth reading, here: http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9548.html )

In the speech he quotes his favorite commencement address in its entirety: “No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person.” The tragic irony of that statement is that ultimately it was his heart that failed him physically. Doctors said that they found he had an enlarged heart; and after a life devoted to the lifting up of others, his friends and family could have made that diagnosis themselves.

As I type these words, it is exactly 10:30 am on the East coast; and that means its time to ‘Meet the Press.’ The Good Lord had better brush up on the Good Book, because Tim is coming, and I’m sure he has some questions.

In trying to find the right words for me to properly articulate the poignancy of Barack Obama being the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of The United States – the first person of African heritage to do so in the history of so called “Western” civilization – I had a moment of serendipitous fortune when I came across my senior project from college. It was an examination of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, juxtaposed with the autobiography (as told to Alex Haley) the film was based upon. A shoutout goes to Professor Gallagher at Lehigh and his great class, ‘Reel American History’ (linked in the blogroll on the right).  My project can be found here at:http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eineng/jace/jace-title.html

In one of the more memorable scenes from the film, the camera follows Malcolm en route to Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on that fateful day in February of 1965, as Sam Cooke’s amazing opus, A Change Is Gonna Come, plays in its entirety. I was reminded how this song is so moving and has such significance, especially in light of today marking 40 years since Robert F. Kennedy had his life taken. Cooke himself lost his life to violence in 1964. He was only 33, and did not live long enough to see A Change Is Gonna Come released, and later go on to be considered one of the greatest songs ever written.

Another moment of pure serendipity will come on August 28th of this year, the 45th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, when Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, Colorado. In many ways, so much of Dr. King’s vision will be realized at that moment, regardless of what happens in November.

In the dark days of the 1960s, when it appeared that the forces of evil and intolerance would prevail, and the great leaders of the day were being cut down before our eyes, the seeds of a brighter and better America were sown. And in the following four decades, while it appeared that the progress was too slow, or that racism in America was simply lurking invisible in our institutions, a whole new generation of Americans gave birth to another, a generation that values other people not based on the color of their skin, but on the quality of their soul. Bigotry and ignorance of course still live; but the signs that their coming death is imminent are everywhere. Young people, progressives, and minority voters are energized like never before, and their will to realize the great promise of America has manifested itself into the largest and most effective grassroots political organization this country has ever witnessed. And meanwhile, those who ignorantly adhere to a biased and intolerant vision of our society are being increasingly marginalized and put in their proper place – often by their own children and grandchildren. Yes, our generation is absolutely the most colorblind of any before it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our parents for that.

The struggle is far from over; but it is definitely appropriate to pause and savor this moment, and realize that the future is always bright and that night is darkest before the dawn. Men like Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and many like them, gave their lives in the struggle to make America a better nation. They died not knowing whether or not such a sacrifice would bear fruit. Sam Cooke sang:

“There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”

Somewhere, Sam, Bobby, Malcolm, and Dr. King are together, smiling.