The Real News PAGE TWO
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WHISPERS OF WAR
President Obama interrupted the American holiday weekend to address the nation to say nothing substantive on the Syrian crisis. He wants to take some action, but does not know how limited the U.S. involvement would become in the situation. Secretary of State Kerry said the U.S. has proof that chemical weapons have been used in the civil war. Some members of Congress want more intel on who actually used those WMDs.
Syria is just another global conflict that tends to pull American leaders into the limelight like moths to a flame. As the alleged lone superpower on the planet, it is America's duty to be world cop. But Obama fails to take sides in the Middle East. He wants to be liked by everyone as someone being above the fray. As a result, he is liked by no one. He is judged as weak and disconnected by both allies and foes. He is at the tipping domino that could lead to involvement in major conflicts from Egypt to Lebanon, Syria to Iran.
A weekend review of average Americans finds that none of them have the stomach for another Middle Eastern conflict. They do not see any U.S. interest in the Syrian civil war. War crimes are bad, but without a legitimate reason to interfere people would rather just let things play out. Leaders will tell us that stability in the Middle East is key to America's most important interest: oil. Commentators state the U.S. has two options: intervene to bring stability like in Iraq and Afghanistan or do nothing so that more radical Muslim factions are can seize control and disrupt the region and its oil supplies. But there is a third foreign policy option that Washington refuses to discuss because it is so simple. The third option is to build the Keystone pipeline, drill for oil on American soil, and become petroleum independent. This option is already happening because most Americans do not realize that the U.S. is now a major exporter of gasoline. Our economy has slowed to a point where American refineries are producing excess product. States such as North Dakota have proven that new oil techniques work, and create massive economic development with good paying jobs.
And that is the problem with all of the Middle East. There are no paying jobs for a great portion of the population. The have-nots have no productive work. As a result, the unemployed seek to blame someone or something for their poverty. Radical leaders turn their anger into conflicts against perceived enemies like the United States. As a result, those poor countries create profitable black markets in arms and resources under the cover of religious civil wars. Leaders fail to explain in detail that most of the conflicts in the Middle East have nothing to do with the oppressive actions of the U.S. or any other country. The conflicts are battlefields for an increasing hostile genocide between Shiite and Sunni religions. Both sides look to blame outsiders to divert attention from their own motives. The U.S. has been the fall guy for Middle East conflict for decades.
Will the U.S. accept the role as patsy again? Obama is looking for his own duck and cover. He does not want to make the ultimate decision on Syria because he too wants to deflect blame to others such as Congress. Sen. McCain has said he believes a limited air strike on Syrian assets would do no good. Ground forces will be needed to restore peace. But what kind of peace? The continued anarchy of political rebellion in Afghanistan? The religious intolerance and terrorist training war zones of Iraq? America may want to spread its version of democracy throughout the world, but in places like Syria which has only known dictatorship rule, the people may not know what they truly want - - - as the Egyptians soon found out when their new government suddenly turned against the people which forced a military coup to keep order. Both sides in the Syrian conflict are bad actors. Their business is the business of terrorism and warfare. The only question is whether it is the U.S.'s business to become a sitting target in any Syrian intervention.
TRANSPARENT TIN FOIL
The CIA has admitted the least secret secret in American History, that Area 51 in Nevada actually exists. People have known about the secret military base for generations. It was kept5 off limits to the public due to its highly advanced research and development operations, including testing of advanced aircraft such as stealth bombers and spy planes.
Many people have thought that the American government kept downed space craft at Area 51. Some also speculated that the government held Little Green Men from Mars, or the Grays, the aliens from the Rosewell crash site of 1947. What Area 51 gave the American public was a seemingly endless variety of Discovery Channel, History and TLC conspiracies shows on what the government was hiding in the Nevada desert from the public. Yes, there are problem aliens or alien technology at the facility, since anything not in the mainstream industrial or technical fields would be alien. All workers at the facility are allegedly sworn to secrecy due to the level of confidentialty and state secrets that engulf the Area 51 mystic. But there are dozens of other secret bases throughout the country, each specializing in some aspect of national security. For Area 51s have their roots in the Cold War and the nuclear time clock of humanity's self-destruction. Some secrets are better kept secret to avoid a panic or a new threat from one's enemies.
DUCK DUCK GOOSED
It seems that American television, including cable networks, have run out any new, creative ideas. With scientists having only explored less than five percent of the planet's oceans, Discovery Channel decided it was better to create a mockumentary or a FAKE show pretending to be a real documentary about a massive instinct shark. The Discovery Channel, TLC and History channels are all running down this path of entertainment over historical fact. An entire generation is at risk when the truth no longer matters.
The quality of American television shows is sinking like the research boat in JAWS. It appears the new formula is reality shows (which are cheaper to produce than scripted shows). Find the dumbest, weirdest or strangest people and film them doing dumb, weird, or strange things. An intelligence audience may out of pure curiosity watch a single episode but not an entire series on Swamp people, moonshiners, dumb rich Hollywood celebrities who do nothing or Amish going bad. The Supreme Court would have a hard time finding any social redeeming qualities in any of those type of shows.
Who relly knows what a Duck Dynasty really is . . . apparently some rich mountain bearded me make a fortune selling hunting duck calls and decoys. Now, that would seem to be a perversion for Hollywood producers who are anti-gun, anti-hunting and pro-PETA save the animals at any cost. Why glorify something that producers probably abhor? Ratings. The television audience has fragmented so much due to niche cable channels, streaming video, DVD rentals/sales and the basic internet that television show producers will try just about anything to get attention. Like show runners prodding poor guys to go out into the swamp and try to snare a large gator with twine.
The quasi-celebrity culture means that these type of mock, fake or dumb shows will continue. Everyone wants to be on television, even if they are the baffoons. People watching must get some weird connection that maybe their lives are better than those reality stars who are really only famous for doing nothing important. Or many the collective humor of the nation has fallen back to silent movie slapstick levels. But then again, who is making fun of whom?
The three American network national news casts had several breaking news stories to choose from to lead the evening news:
a plane crashed at a major New York City airport;
a stunning player suspension in the Major League baseball performing enhancing drug scandal; or
the markets reaching new highs.
No. The three networks decided to spend their first blocs on the birth of a child who has no relevance or importance to the United States, politically or economically. The birth of the third in line to the British throne is the worst tabloid magazine fodder.
After many hours of testimony, the Chicago Landmarks Commission decided that Wrigley Field is not really a landmark by its decision to allow large video billboard and outfield signs. READ MORE.
SPIES ON US
Many people believe that the federal government is out of control. Weekly scandals have dominated the headlines, from the IRS targeting non-for-profits, HHS lobbying firms it will regulate to push Obamacare, the Justice Department calling reporters criminals in order to wiretape their phone and computers, and the NSA taking all telephone and internet data without probable cause.
In the midst of these growing scandals, the President continues to be missing in (in)action. The President can only have three positions on these matters: he was unaware, he approved them or he does not care. It does not matter whether he is the puppet or the puppeteer; these scandals continue to grow in disturbing scale and size. READ MORE.
DID YOU REMEMBER?
Did you remember to remember Memorial Day and what it stands for?
THE BEST AND THE WORST
The sports trend continues: the best regular season team falters during the playoffs. It may be the long season. It may be the opponent has nothing to lose so it plays out of its collective mind. It could be overconfidence. It could be mental exhaustion. It could be the expanded playoffs and travel for national television games that equalize the team skills.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the best NHL hockey team in the 2012-2013 season. They were the favored team to win the Western Conference. But now, The Hawks face elimination from their old rivals, the Red Wings.
When captain Jonathan Toews makes three consecutive penalties in a row in the second period, fans had to realize that the Blackhawks had lost their edge. The pressure had gotten to them. The Red Wings would end the Hawks power play kill streak at 30 attempts. At the same time, the Hawks could not score. There is even major issues with the Hawks being unable to score on their own power plays.
Analysts state that star players need to shine during the playoffs. The Hawks best players have failed to light the lamp.
So having the best regular season record, and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, is meaningless if the team fails to perform up to its regular season standard.
What did people expect in a second term?Accountability? Transparency? The Truth?
When people's lives are ruined, that is the cost of politics. But when people's lives are lost like the diplomats in Benghazi, the cost is the Truth. Congress is looking into the matter because the administration's first statements on the embassy attack were to blame the U.S. for the incident. It could not be a terrorist attack but a feverish over-reaction to an internet video. We now learn that the state department scrubbed 12 drafts of the talking points to politically spin their handling of the event. We knew Hillary Clinton was leaving the State Department. She only became Secretary of State in order to pump her resume to run for higher office. She spent most of her time overseas being Apologist in Chief for Obama. She brushed aside any criticism of Benghazi as she huffed out her office door. You telled at Congress telling them that any inquiries on the matter were irrelevant. What happened happened.
But this is not a pick-up game of basketball at the local gym where no harm no foul rules. Four American citizens were killed because the executive branch froze on their watch. It is symptomatic of the entire Obama administration: take control but do little. Don't put yourself on the spot. Lead from the shadows. So Clinton's agenda was crystal clear: let this incident blow over quickly and get out of the second term early so she can begin campaigning for 2016.
It is all about winning elections. That is the sole goal of American politicians. Not to lead the country, or make reasonable policies, or give the average citizen their freedoms and liberties . . . it is merely to get re-elected by any means. Richard Nixon famously had his enemy's list, and used all facets of the government to spy on people he disliked or wanted to be put in their place. Abuse of power happened before Nixon and after him. The latest example is the Internal Revenue Service scandal. The IRS was targeting conservative political action groups prior to the election. In a form of harassment and intimidation, the IRS asked these organizations in audits about the donors. The White House claims it was merely a few rogue low level employees out a service center that took this action. It sounds as weak as my dog ate my homework. Additionally, the IRS commissioner let the story run wild after she apologized for the behavior. The apology was stunning but calculated to take the sting out of a forthcoming oversight report which will be highly critical of the politically motivated targeting by the IRS.
Of course the Democrats wanted to put down the conservative Republican PACs in the last election. The Supreme Court allowed Americans to fund their candidates and policy positions as a basic First Amendment right. But what are rights when election results are at stake. To the victor goes the spoils, including using federal government resources to push one's agenda.
May 5, 2013
Tom Ricketts has finally uttered the M-word: move. In finally announcing the Cubs redevelopment plan to the public, he said that unless he gets all the new revenue streams (i.e. signage) then the team would have to look to other options, including moving out of Wrigley Field. Of course most people believed that this was just another P.R. bluff since Wrigley Field is the only thing drawing fans to Cubs games. But this shot across the bow of the community and city shows how the delays and the state of the baseball team have begun to squeeze the finances of the Ricketts. READ MORE
Jonathan Winters passed away at the age of 87. Many people in today's internet age may not know about this comedic genius. He spanned the Golden Age of Television comedy, from the early black and white late night talk shows, variety hours and sketch comedy shows to major movie roles like It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World or The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! He was a master of creating believable odd-ball characters, usually from humble or simple root stock. He was also a true magician of improv comedy.
What hits home is that Winters was from the generation prior to the Boomer generation. He was a World War II veteran. He stumbled into comedy by random chance when his wife signed him up for a talent show in Dayton, Ohio. If not for that simple push, American comedy would have lost a true treasure. Winters mentored many comedians - - - making it respectable to go beyond the comfort zone of normal stand up comedy routines to the absurd. He was the Salvador Dali of character comedy. Steve Martin and Robin Williams would follow in his foot prints. But Winters will be remembered as the big teddy bear, with the chipmunk grin, who entertained generations.
If you thought it was impossible for government to think up any new taxes, think again. Maryland, which has a problem with stormwater run off, has been ordered by the EPA to take measures to contain the problem. But Maryland has no funds for such a large public works project. So it has decided to tax the citizens of the ten most populus counties a rain tax. Every property owner will be charged a separate tax for the amount of impervious structures on his property. The state is going to take satellite images of the real estate and calculate the square footage of all impervious surfaces on each parcel, then bill the owner. This is addition to sales tax, real estate property tax, income tax and user fees. What the actual bill will amount to is unknown. But the law does contain the standard legislative loophole (which is ripe for abuse or favoritism). The law contains an exemption from the tax for property owners who practice the best means of storm water control on their property. What that means is also unknown. But one thing is clear: the money collected is supposed to fund a massive stormwater detention system. The City of Chicago has been building its Deep Tunnel storm water detention plan for the last several generations. After billions of dollars spent, the project is still not completed. It is the largest money pit in the Midwest. But at least the city has not taxed the actual rain, yet.
Of course, President Obama releases his new federal budget while he is on vacation. Details. Little details. In the $3.8 trillion manifesto, broken promises and tax increases are buried under the mud slide of numbers. It appears that the budget has critics on all sides which is natural since Obama is never going to run for re-election. Obama proposes new tax increases (allegedly on the wealthy) and cuts in Social Security benefits (to anger the seniors). The CBO will crunch the numbers to find out how bad this proposal on the out of control federal deficit. Obama supporters claim it is spending neutral, but if it relies on accounting tricks like deduction reductions or real cuts 10 years down the road during another Congress, then it is another mirage. If the budget relies on cutting wasteful spending, well, everyone with one active brain cell knows that Washington D.C. runs on government waste.
April 6, 2013
The Cubs have decided that the slogan for this season will be one word: committed. But committed to what?
It seems that the Ricketts family is committed to changing the Lakeview neighborhood in their own image.
This cartoon is available at the Real News Store
Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert has passed away at the age of 70. He had battled two types of cancer for many years. He was a vocal defender of old school journalism. He was the editor of the Daily Illini, his college newspaper. He started his writing career with the Sun-Times during the age of long form, in depth investigative stories. His career lasted 46 years. He outlived his medium of choice, newspapers.
Younger readers may not be aware of the technological changes that happened during his career. When he began, we used typewriters to make copy. Those pages were then inputed to machines to print out columns of text to be placed on lay-out flats. There was a harsh transition from typewriters to computers. Copy was saved in file format and files were then placed into computerized lay-out programs. But at the end of the evening, the presses still churned out a tangible black and white product.
In his day, Chicago had more newspapers than network televison stations. The access to local information was at its peak. When he gravitated to movie reviews, he found his that his Midwestern voice and perspective had national impact. His syndicated column won a Pultizer prize.
He was one of the first print media writers to make a successful national transition to televison. Sneak Previews ran for many years on PBS stations with his cross town rival, Gene Siskel, as his co-host. Their head butting dynamic and intense but respectful argumentive style was classic television. By contrast, today's cable news shows are filled with flippant talking heads who have no personal knowledge of topics beyond scripted talking points.
He was quite adaptive. He transitioned himself into the social media world when his cancer took his voice. he continued to write until the end. He practiced what he preached to young writers: continue to write and improve yourself with experience. Whether there will be a new generation of gifted long form writers in an age of tweets, texts and 140 character symbol messages with the breathe of knowledge and passion for their craft like Ebert had for his own is something that may not be found in the media of the future.
Ebert will be missed by his family, friends, colleagues and readers.
It will take the average American until April 25, 2013 to earn enough wages to pay his or her federal and state income taxes. As more and more government agencies drown in public debt, municipal bankruptcies are leaving the realm of a rarity to the field of possibility. Stockton California is the latest and largest city to be approved for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. That city was caught up with massive spending during the housing bubble, huge pension obligations and then the financial bust of 2009. But Stockton is not alone. The federal government has not solved its massive debt issues. America sits on a ticking time bomb of default. But leaders don't seem to care. They seem to feel that there are endless ways to tax people and/or an endless supply of printing presses to make new money to pay old debts. That thinking is a runaway train headed for the collapsed bridge over the high gorge.
In a culture now dominated by sports, celebrity and gossip, the Manti Te'o story was bound to happen. The Notre Dame linebacker was caught up in the bizarre allegations of having a fake, dead girlfriend fraud on the media and the public. Te'o had told his story, including the tragic love story with a girl he allegedly met after a Stanford game, who would be in an accident, get cancer, then die just as Te'o's historic final championship season was beginning. He claimed to use this tragedy to motivate himself and his team to the number one ranking, and a Heisman Trophy finalist. But when the news broke that the story was a scripted soap opera gone bad, questions were asked that remained unanswered.
It would have blown over quickly if not for the university's insistence to investigate it, and have their athletic director emotionally defend his player as a victim of a tragedy. Some members of the press recall the university never using that word or emotional press conference when a student cameraman was killed filming a football practice. The university never used tragedy to describe the numerous rape allegations against his players, a student suicide, or even the disorderly conduct charges against police officers by athletes. It was when the university put its power, money and statements into the public arena, did the story take off because there was no reason for Notre Dame to put up such as scorched earth defense of their player. All Te'o had to say was that he was a victim of a juvenile prank.
It would have been dismissed like a bad MTV reality show. But instead, after learning of the deceit, Te'o kept up his dead girlfriend story. Which continued to lead to speculation of whether it was a hoax, or a sympathetic ploy to garner national attention to a program that has been out of the limelight for years.Can a young man at a major university be duped by an on-line scammer? Of course. Can a young athlete use the soap opera details of a young woman's car accident and subsequent death by cancer as a sympathetic hook for national sports magazine stories about himself? Of course. And would Heisman voters and NFL scouts take more notice of Te'o as a result?
Of course. A cynic would follow the money trail to see where the motivation, or profit was, in this ruse. But apparently, no laws were broken and no money was exhanged (even though Te'o's draft stock has been dropping like a stone on mock draft boards which will cost him NFL salary dollars). A star athlete a major Division I school should have no problems meeting attractice women on campus. So, if someone who already has a position to make friends easily relies heavily on virtual relationships instead of the real thing, does that seem plausible?
People are getting so emersed in technology at younger and younger ages that a smart phone will be considered more important than what a parent teaches their children. Kids have come to trust their technology more than personal observation and experience.A larger question is what passes off as time-killing entertainment for the millenials. Is catfishing (making up a fake on-line person to scam a person into believing the fake is real) more entertaining than the latest $100 million blockbuster summer movie or a touted zombie survivalist cable television show? Are today's youth so insecure, naive, technology rich but social skills poor to make the basic decisions of what is right or wrong, real or fake? In an age of global connections and personal sharing of all aspects of one's life, is this information overload making people even more lonely, depressed and isolated in dangerous new social norms? Is being caught up in a fake girlfriend scam a massive emotional hit or a badge of internet honor? Not everything can be solved by going on line - - - there is no all-purpose app for living.