Midsummer 2013: The State of Things

Statebanner1190440_138806032971926_1893066145_nHappy Fourth of July!

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve neglected my blog for most of this year.

wewonLast year, inspired by the exciting political pageant of the Presidential Election and touring with my very funny wife in our comedy revue, I was posting an article on something or other once or twice a week.

This year I’ve barely eked out one or two posts a month.

So, why is that?

I could lay the blame for my sporadic blogging on a number of factors.

pretty-wicked-momsI could blame a very busy winter and spring working on the new reality television series Pretty Wicked Moms, which now airs Tuesday nights on Lifetime right after Dance Moms.

Since the show began airing in early June, I’ve too often fallen into the trap of following the catty back and forth sniping on the Pretty Wicked Moms Facebook page: hours of online time lost to a guilty pleasure.

IMG_1248I could blame my bad blogging habits on the fact that my youngest daughter Eva graduated from high school on May 25th. (She’s the one in the center of the photo at left.)

Eva’s graduation was the culmination of a months-long, celebratory parade of proms, dress fittings, awards night, a baccalaureate mass — and finally, a commencement ceremony resplendent with white gowns and red roses.

I could blame my poor posting on the fact that my daughter Emilia graduated from college on June 21st. That proud and wonderful occasion took us to Evanston, Illinois for a week of moving events: some were emotionally moving and some involved actual moving.

IMG_1278Emilia was leaving her apartment, so all of her belongings had to be boxed up by mom and dad and her furniture – including two cumbersome couches — hauled out of her second-floor unit and trucked back to her aunt’s house on the South Side, nearly 50 miles away. Luckily, I was aided in these exertions by Robert Rashid: an athletic 20-something friend of the family.

We all recovered in time for a glorious weekend of parties, toasts, beloved friends, commencement ceremonies and receptions. Then it was time to lug several heavy suitcases stuffed with our daughter’s college detritus to O’Hare Airport for the flight home.

blakegriffin1I could blame my lack of Internet interfacing initiative on the fact that my second-favorite NBA team, The Los Angeles Clippers, made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Following the fortunes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and company became a near obsession and, were it not for my wife’s infinite patience and understanding, my basketball jones might easily have caused domestic discord.

imagesI could also blame my failure to faithfully blog on the fact that my favorite NBA team, The Miami Heat, won their second straight NBA Championship. I’m one of those rare native Clevelanders who has remained a LeBron James fan – so watching the Heat’s progress from their 27-game regular season winning streak through their dramatic, buzzer-beating odyssey in the playoffs consumed many of my evenings from January to June.

But distracting and demanding as all of these events have been, I can’t truly blame any of them for my lack of attention to this blog.

images-3The fact is that politics and current events have become maddening – and seeing how important stories (and totally bullshit stories) are covered in the mainstream media makes me want to scream. The daily, mind-bending inanity of the network talking heads – especially those employed by the incredible, shrinking CNN – has gotten the best of me.

I’ve been too intellectually and emotionally exhausted to shout down the unrelenting, inexorable stupidity and vapidity of mainstream television and newspaper reportage. So, I’ve focused on the things I can actually control: my professional life, my family life – and the NBA Playoffs.

However, now that high school and college diplomas – and the Larry O’Brien Trophy – have been handed out, I’ve gotten my second wind.  And now it’s time to let off some steam on a variety of topics that have dominated the news so far this year…

The Snowden Affair

images-1Let me begin with a simple question.

Were any of us really and truly surprised to learn the vast extent to which our government was collecting information on us? What do Americans think the Patriot Act was all about back in 2001?

It was like watching some absurdist comedy to hear all those earnest voices in the press and on Capitol Hill react to Snowden’s leak as though he was finally shining a spotlight on something shocking and heretofore unknown.

DownloadedFile-1Didn’t anyone in the White House press corps or on Republican congressional staffs – or reporters working for a CNN or CBS or ABC news show or website – ever bother to read the many articles written for Truthout, Common Dreams, Daily Kos, The Nation or Talking Points Memo about the vast information gathering network being assembled by General Michael Hayden, Director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005?

That anyone in America thinks Snowden’s revelations are shocking proves what a miserable job mainstream media does of informing the public. In fact, we can only assume that public enlightenment is not big media’s true purpose. Keeping us entertained between advertisements is what they’re really all about.

images-2However, when we sit down on the couch to watch Pretty Wicked Moms, we know we’re just being entertained. Yet, we expect that serious looking, gravely intoning Wolf Blitzer is truly giving us the news from The Situation Room. Let us disabuse ourselves of that quaint notion. Ted Turner is gone. Peter Arnett is gone. Walter Cronkite is gone. And Wolf Blitzer has not replaced them.

images-5As for Mr. Snowden, I’m not sure how big a hero he is. I’m glad he stirred the pot with his leak – but his flight to Hong Kong and then to Moscow is curious at best. How does a person who portrays himself as a champion of openness and transparency in government find himself seeking refuge in China and Russia? Now, that’s a conundrum I’d like to see Wolf Blitzer puzzle out in his fuzzy, constipated brain.

The Trayvon Martin Affair

My bottom line is this: if George Zimmerman isn’t armed with a gun, he doesn’t have the balls to approach Trayvon Martin in the first place.

images-10Zimmerman’s deadly, concealed weapon gave an average guy with a hero complex the false courage to pretend that he was some kind of vigilante crime fighter. I’m almost surprised George didn’t dress up in a “Kick Ass” hero costume. Zimmerman was playing out a macho fantasy – with tragic results.

I don’t care who had the upper hand in the fight that preceded the fatal gunshot. Zimmerman on top or Trayvon on top – it doesn’t matter to me.

Why not? Think about it.

images-9Imagine if it was okay to end every fistfight, bar brawl or dustup at a nightclub by shooting the other guy with a gun. I got into my share of fights when I was a kid, some when I was a teen. But, lucky for me, none of the guys I got the upper hand on decided to quickly even the odds with a handgun. If Zimmerman is such a macho man – why did he need a gun to defeat a 17-year old kid?

I believe it’s sound practice not to pick a fight you can’t win without shooting somebody.

images-8Neighborhood watch citizen volunteers should not be armed. I don’t remember the old lady next door on Spokane Avenue coming out at night – packing a rod or not — to confront suspicious people in the street. She called the cops. That’s what amateur crime fighters should do: call in the trained professionals. George Zimmerman should have called the police and let it go at that — as he was directed to do by the emergency operator.

DownloadedFile-2Stay in your car, George. Phone it in. Nobody dies.

Alas, I do think the local prosecutors overcharged Zimmerman with second-degree murder due to public pressure. Manslaughter would have been a more appropriate charge. And I’m not sure whether under Florida law the jury can find him guilty of the lesser charge. (I hope they can.) But, whatever the verdict, it’s a pathetic tragedy: yet another bad situation made far worse by a gun.

The Obama Scandals

Benghazi-gate? IRS-gate? Reporter-gate? And now Snowden-gate?

gty_obama_address_kb_121216_wgOh, please.

Am I shocked that American embassy personnel were killed in a hotspot like revolutionary Libya? And am I surprised to learn that the Obama administration was careful about how they dealt with the aftermath? The answer is no.

DownloadedFile-3But does the fact that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows to recite carefully-worded (and somewhat inaccurate) talking points pale in comparison to the bald lies that Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice peddled on those very same Sunday shows to dupe our nation into war? The answer is a clear and emphatic yes. Then there’s this:republican-hypocrisy-on-benghazi

april-tea-party1I’m also not shocked that the Internal Revenue Service would do its job by scrutinizing alleged non-profit organizations on the right or left. And now it turns out the IRS wasn’t just going after right wing Tea Party groups — it was looking into organizations on the left as well. (Though you won’t see that in a screaming banner headline on FOX News or scrolling by on the CNN crawl.)

Besides, why shouldn’t the government agency charged by Congress with collecting our taxes investigate whether radical groups dedicated to avoiding taxes — and ultimately abolishing the IRS — truly qualify for the tax breaks granted to non-profit organizations?

imagesholder-1I’m not thrilled that the Obama administration went after the Associated Press to find the source of government leaks. I’d like to see Attorney General Eric Holder as aggressive going after white-collar criminals on Wall Street as he is putting the screws to reporters to reveal their sources. (And, while I’m compiling my Justice Department wish list, I’d like Holder to lay off the medicinal pot clinics in California, too.)

ISSA-articleLargeIn a post 9-11 world I can understand a heightened sensitivity to security leaks. But while I’d love it if “reporter-gate” would inspire our political leaders to have a serious debate over national security, government transparency and freedom of the press, I don’t hold out much hope that a wingnut like House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa will do anything more than hold a series of show trials in hopes of driving down Obama’s poll numbers heading into next year’s mid-term elections.

ieaThe mainstream media loves these pseudo scandals du jour. It’s clear they’d would rather not cover something truly scandalous – like the environmental catastrophe revealed in a stunning International Energy Agency report on June 10th that said:

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record and putting the planet on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals, the International Energy Agency said in a report scheduled to be issued Monday.

 PR-log-smokestacks-coal_news_featuredThe agency said continuing that pace could mean a temperature increase over pre-industrial times of as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), which IEA chief economist Fatih Birol warned “would be a disaster for all countries.”

 Wait. What’s that? You haven’t heard about this shocking, absolutely frightening report issued a month ago? The human race is demonstrably on course to destroy itself – and the mainstream media spends it’s time yakking about Obama’s “scandals”, hawking gossip tidbits about Kanye and Kim’s baby, and debating what’s worse: The N word or “cracker”.

paula-deenWhich brings us to the Paula Deen Affair.

On second thought, forget it. She’s not worth the space on this blog. Anyone who thinks it’s fun to have a “plantation style” wedding deserves all the vilification she’s getting. With sugar – and lots of butter – on top.

So, there. I’ve unburdened myself.

Now, let’s see…

standingsOh, look! My Cleveland Indians are in first place!

Could this be the year we win our first World Series since 1948?

Here I go again…

8 Comments

Filed under Politics, Random Commentary

8 responses to “Midsummer 2013: The State of Things

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks Pablo!

  2. Sandy Laub

    Congrats on your daughters’ graduations, Paul. I always look forward to reading your blog. I’ve used it in class (I teach high school English and Drama)- once , actually , your older daughter’s blog about sunscreen and her travails in Rio… And a few years ago when you wrote about the supreme courts’ decision to allow for corporate personhood. Your writing is clear, filled with “voice” and rhetorical flourish- making your pieces perfect for a young Audience… Many of whom get pretty riled up at what you have to say! Keep it coming. Have a terrific summer…
    All the best,
    Sandy

    • Thank you, Sandy! I’m delighted to have had a chance to rile up the kids and provoke them to think about larger issues. Sounds like you have the best job in the world.

  3. Clear, committed and prescient as always, Paul. You always present a world in which I want to live.

  4. Shelly Goldstein

    Excellent Paul.

    For those who skim – this is the pull quote –

    “That anyone in America thinks Snowden’s revelations are shocking proves what a miserable job mainstream media does of informing the public. In fact, we can only assume that public enlightenment is not big media’s true purpose. Keeping us entertained between advertisements is what they’re really all about.”

  5. Ben

    Excellent post, Paul! I relate so much to the exhaustion over the state of current events…when the Boston bombings happened in April, I was just so fed up with being horrified, disgusted and upset by what I was reading about, that I didn’t feel like reading, discussing or even thinking about it much. I just wanted to rest.

    Congratulations on your daughters’ graduations!

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