Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fox and Pravda

Fox News reminds me of the old Soviet Communist newspaper Pravda. Back in the bad, old Cold War days, people said the US would become more like the Soviet Union. Well, I think it has happened Like Pravda, Fox present the news as it would like it to be, not as it is, despite the "fair and balanced" claim.

As the names of the main Communist newspaper and the main Soviet newspaper, Pravda and Izvestia, meant "the truth" and "the news" respectively, a popular Russian saying was "v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy" (In the Truth there is no news, and in the News there is no truth).

This development was predicted in George Orwell's book 1984, where, according to Wikipedia:
The Ministry of Truth controls information: news, entertainment, education, and the arts. Winston Smith works in the Minitrue RecDep (Records Department), "rectifying" historical records to concord with Big Brother's current pronouncements, thus everything the Party says is true.

Obama' Detroit Rescue Was Worth It

While the Republicans railed against it, the Obama bailout of GM and Chrysler has been worth it, and it may not end up costing as much as many people feared. Steve Rattner's book seems to support that thesis, in spite of its lukewarm review by the NYT.

American manufacturing is disappearing fast enough without have most of the automotive industry go down in one fell swoop. Unemployment would be much worse with the automotive companies gone. The two bailed out would probably have taken down most of their parts suppliers, and the loss of those suppliers might have taken down Ford, which was financially strong enough to forgo a bailout. You think unemployment is bad now? What would it have been if the big 3 and all their suppliers had disappeared? We were constantly reminded that we had Honda and Toyota plants scattered around Southern parts of the country that resisted unions, but we still would have had a lot of unemployed people in the Midwest. The Republicans say we should have bitten the bullet and taken the hit, but even now they complain loudly about high rate of unemployment. You can't have it both ways. Obama did the right thing. If you are going to let the car companies go down, do it when the economy is booming and there are new jobs available.

Benevolent CEOs

The fact that corporation today are flush with cash may illustrate my hypothesis that employers today do no care about their employees. This may not have been the case fifty years ago, although with important exceptions. I think that World War II service brought the employer and employee classes closer together. Of course there was a lot of pushing from unions and lawmakers to bring it about, but that also derived in part from WW II experience, when we were all in this together. Stephen Colbert had Yogi Berra on his show welcoming the troops home from Iraq. It turns out that Yogi participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He was a reminder that back then everybody served the country. Those that didn't were the exception. Women filled men's jobs while the men were overseas. Today, people don't even look at joining the military as service; it's just a job. As one wife said in an article in the American Legion magazine about military families, when the families face problems, people today don't see it as a sacrifice for the country, but as a poor career choice.

If corporations are flush with cash, it means that they could have kept more employees on board, but today the cash is more important that the welfare of the workers. While the Republicans complain about welfare, they are ready enough to fire their employees and throw them on the welfare pile for the government to take care of. This means bigger salaries and bonuses for the CEOs, so that they can have bigger houses, bigger yachts, etc. If they need more people they hire temps or they outsource to overseas workers, leaving Americans on the government dole. If corporations were going broke, such actions might be justifiable, but when they are flush with cash they are not. My grandfather may be an example, although his experience predates WW II. During the Depression, he and his employer agreed that he would not draw a salary, but he would take just enough to support his family. His employer kept him on, and obviously trusted him not to be extravagant.

I'm sure there are many small businesses where such camaraderie exists. It's one reason private equity firms have been so successful. People who start companies often tend to have a bond with their employees that prevents them from laying them off, sometimes pulling the company down toward bankruptcy. Private equity types step in, take them over, and institute mass firings. Then they sell off or leverage what they can, pay themselves handsomely, and turn the company back out to the public, often in such a weakened state that it is still questionable whether it can survive or not.

Israel Warns American Jews

This worries me. In "The Atlantic" Jeffrey Goldberg says:

There's been some controversy here in Washington about a short sermon Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, delivered at my synagogue, Adas Israel, and two other synagogues over the course of Yom Kippur. I took the sermon as a warning from the Netanyahu government: There may be tough times ahead, in the peace process, and with Iran, so it is time for American Jews to cowboy-up and deal with the difficulties our brethren in Israel are facing. Others in my congregation took the speech as a signal that Israel was prepping American Jewry for an inevitable attack on Iran, or, at the very least, for an Israeli unwillingness to freeze settlement growth, which could lead to the end of the current round of peace talks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breyer v. Beck

I have been watching Charlie Rose interview Justice Stephen Breyer while Glenn Beck is recording on the DVR, after I watched Glenn for a while. Listening to Breyer talk about the United States, the Constitution, and how government works, there is no comparison. To me only Breyer is the real patriot. Beck is just ranting and calling people names. It's encouraging that our court still inspires confidence. I think the weakest Justice is Clarance Thomas. I would like to hear him talk to Charlie Rose.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Still Support Obama

There is so much negative commentary about President Obama these days, that I'm just saying that I still support him. I think that he, more than most in Congress, is doing what he thinks is best for America, rather than what is best for his party, for him personally, or for his fat cat donors. That's one reason the commentariat is so full of talk about Democratic candidates who are mad at him. They put there political careers above the nation's interests.

On the Daily Show, former President Clinton tried to defend the health care plan. But you can't defend it with people who don't love their neighbors. As I see the Tea Party people, they say, "I choose that my children die so that I can live six months or a year longer." Nobody faces up to the fact that much of Medicare expense is for the last six months of life. Tea Partyers won't give up anything so that more younger people can get health care.

The talking heads are also down on Obama for the war in Afghanistan. I'm not really in favor of the war, but I support him on what he is doing. My view is that he is giving the military some time to redeem itself. Under Bush, the military botched Afghanistan badly because Bush pulled all the troops out to go to Iraq. In addition, it sounds as if the military had Osama bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora in late 2001, but chickened out and failed to go after him with all of its resources. The whole purpose of the Afghan war was to get Osama bin Laden; the failure to get him was one of the most ignominious defeats in US military history, although not in terms of casualties, since the US didn't commit any troops. Osama bin Laden punched Bush in the nose on 9/11, and Bush ran home crying. Obama is trying to redeem America's honor. It seems to matter only to the soldiers who fought there and whose honor is at stake. The average American is totally disengaged from the war and doesn't care about America's honor.

Ironically, Glenn Beck's restoring honor mall fiasco totally missed the point. Glenn Beck is only interested in restoring honor to himself. The troops make a useful patriotic backdrop, as they did for Bush, nothing more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Emily Dickinson on Fame

Emily Dickinson had the right attitude toward the 15 minutes of fame problem we face daily thanks to the Internet and cable TV

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us. you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Take that Paris Hilton, Madonna, Newt Gingrich, and all the rest of you, croaking in your bog.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Big Shots Don't Serve

As the Iraq war ends, I'm still bitter about my cohorts who should have served in Vietnam, but didn't, many of them prominent Republicans. At the top of the list are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as Bill Clinton. Al Gore is the only one to have served in the military in Vietnam. But also Mitch McConnell and John Boehner both avoided service, although Boehner may be young enough that we was not under the draft. He still could have served if he had wanted to.

I'm not sure where this web page showing who served came from, but it seems pretty accurate, although it is now somewhat dated.