7.30.2010

From a UFO, it's a small world

This post is not intended to suggest the acorn doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Its subject is, however, interesting enough for me to spend hours on research and make a couple of long-distance calls to confirm.

First, I quote from the book, “The Interrupted Journey” by John G. Fuller, first published in 1966 and available on Amazon. The book is the story of Betty and Barney Hill, alleged UFO abductees.

"(Walter) Webb also was familiar with the findings and research of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization in Tucson, Arizona, and another conservative non-profit group, inclined to take more seriously the reports of intelligent beings associated with UFO sightings, where the craft hovered or landed. APRO, as the organization is known, is under the direction of L. J. Lorenzen, an engineer in the Kitt Peak National Observatory at Tucson. Among its advisers are Dr. Frank Salisbury, Professor of Plant Physiology at Colorado State University; Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wyoming; H. C. Dudley, Chairman and Professor of Physics, University of Southern Mississippi; Dr. James A. Harder, Associate Professor in the College of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, and others.

“Dr. Dudley once said, 'I recommend we use a bit of scientific curiosity to see whatever is the physics of the phenomena so many people are describing as UFOs. Ascribing the phenomena as due to psychological aberration is nonsense. There is a series of physical phenomena that needs explaining; let's get on with it in an open-minded, scientifically oriented manner. Then, let the data provide the answer.'''

I have confirmed with public relations at the University of Southern Mississipi that Dr. H. C. Dudley – Horace Chester Dudley – is the father of newly named British Petroleum CEO Robert Dudley.

This is not intended to disparage either Robert Dudley or his father. I just think it's interesting, and I believe DemWit to be the only media source on planet Earth to report it.

Don’t know about other planets.

7.29.2010

Conspiracy Theory Generator

Thanks to my friend Bill Sumrall for providing me with a couple of hours of great online entertainment! This one is for the reader’s enjoyment, so … enjoy!

Public Eye has a very interesting site dedicated to various conspiracy theories, the groups who generate them and analyses of just how absurd they are. Take a look at the INDEX of links!

Now, for the fun part. In the Index, I spotted “Automatic Conspiracy Theory Generator.” Clicking on the link led me to a page with paradigms of four top conspiracy theories that just never seem to die out. By clicking on each of the four, information relating to that theory pops up in the box below the list. A little scary and a whole lot hilarious!

After you’ve checked out the four “theories,” you can then go below the box and create your own conspiracy theory. The fun here is in the choices in the drop-down boxes within the theory you are creating. This is LMAO stuff, dear reader, not to be missed if you need a little fun to make your day!

So, go HERE and check out the four conspiracy theory models, then create your own!

This post is dedicated to Bill, Tiny, Frodo, Leslie and Infidel, who know how to have fun.

As Infidel says about his approach to blogging (and I suspect everything):

“If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

7.27.2010

Journalism today, plain & simple

I was taught and practiced ethical journalism. For 11 years with an Internet pulpit, I have made ethical journalism my number one concern.

Surely, dear reader, there is no reason to explain, after millions of words on the state of journalism today, how media which have fallen into prostitution can harm democracy.

After a long and distinguished journalism career. a white-haired editor friend told me, “Journalism is a whore riding a black horse.” The black horse being printer’s ink. How prescient he was!

Comes John Cory of Reader Supported News with a perspective on journalism today so plain and simple I post it here for my readers’ delight. Permission to republish is “freely granted.”

Running on Bullshit

By John Cory
Reader Supported News
25 July 2010

In the 1976 film “Network,” Howard Beale explains why on the previous evening's broadcast he had announced that he would commit public suicide on the air: "Well, I'll tell you what happened: I just ran out of bullshit ... So I don't have any bullshit left, just ran out of it, you see."

That is not a concern for what passes as our modern media because bullshit comes with a golden microphone and silver-framed teleprompter. Bring your own pooper-scooper.

The media narrative of the Shirley Sherrod event began with, "racist discovered at NAACP," then promptly shifted to, "oops, my bad," and then to, "what's wrong with this White House and why is the President afraid of FOX?"

On Wednesday's ABC Nightline Cynthia McFadden introduced a segment about the kerfuffle Andrew Breitbart had stirred up. Kerfuffle? That sounds so harmless.

The NY Times ran an editorial that began: "The Obama Administration has been shamed by its rush to judgment," and ended by noting that this time, Glenn Beck was right.

Howard Kurtz gave cover to FOX and Breitbart by glossing over the whole incident and ending with, "Still, one fact is indisputable. It was Vilsack, not Breitbart, who kicked Sherrod out of her job."

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC chided the White House for continually falling for these FOX News stunts, and Keith Olbermann interrupted his vacation for a Special Comment on the whole Sherrod affair and lectured Obama about standing up to the right-wing FOX noise machine.

Let's be blunt here, the media is not interested in journalism or news or context or factual reportage; it is interested in what sells - and that my friends, is bullshit.

CNN is a slogan generating "news" organization. "Keeping them honest" is the term most often used while uttering the phrase "both sides do it," as protection against accusations of being part of the "liberal media."

MSNBC has positioned itself as the anti-FOX with its so-called "liberal/progressive" evening lineup that punches back at the propaganda of FOX. It is Keith versus Bill-O and Rachel versus Hannity or whomever she can snark and giggle at. It is the World Wrestling Federation of "I know I am but what are you!"

In other words - bullshit. Lethal repugnant odious, but oh so shiny bullshit.

It is time to re-read Gene Lyons' "Fools For Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater." It is time to remind ourselves that the NY Times and Washington Post were cheerleaders for war with Iraq and Afghanistan. The networks quivered in near orgasm over the chance to embed with troops and roll across the desert in glorious full battle-rattle. The "media" attacked Michael Hastings over his reporting on Gen. McChrystal and whined about the need for friendly access to the military, and at the same time complained that BP restricted their ability to cover the Gulf oil disaster. BP was being mean!

The truth is, had BP oil been used as a lubricant for a celebrity sex scandal, the media would have broken through the security lines and rushed the bedroom for photographs. But of course, the oil was only used to lubricate the screwing of America, so nothing to see here - move along.

Our "media news" outlets are nothing more than carnival barkers and hucksters. They are the last real manufacturer left in this country. They manufacture sensationalistic fear while selling conformity to the great, unwashed American consumer. They sell tribalism and all the products that go with it.

In other words - bullshit.

The Sherrod affair was never about racism. It was blowback for attacks on the Tea Party - that manufactured coalition of hate and anger supported by conservative corporate largesse - just like that other media creation - Sarah Palin.

All the media did was yell: Fight! Fight! Someone called someone else a racist and then someone else showed that the other someone was a racist, too, and both sides do it so - we're just keeping them honest. See?

Breitbart won the prize his kind desires most - headlines and media profile.

MSNBC and FOX got to punch and blame each other, so that's a win.

The American people lost. They lost an opportunity to have an honest discussion about people and racism, about institutional racism, about the progress and redemption of race in our society. But at least they were entertained for a while. And isn't that what it's all about, really, a little entertainment between job losses and military suicides and the 100 bank failures so far this year and, oh yeah, having to talk about that scary race thing?

One night Howard Beale ran out of bullshit. Howard Beale is a fictional character.

So is our modern media.

7.26.2010

Still Ragin'

If you have not yet read Frank Rich's column in Saturday's New York Times, it sheds new light on a controversy:

There's a Battle Outside, and It's Still Ragin' LINK

7.23.2010

Glenn Beck's vision

Glenn Beck, who has moved up through the ranks of the despicable and self-aggrandizing, has now been handed an opportunity to turn the enigmatic energy that appeals to millions into a positive force.

Beck has announced (LINK) that he has been diagnosed with macular dystrophy, one of a group of retinal disorders including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which has affected my own family for generations. These retinal disorders, which include macular degeneration affecting one in 10 Americans over age 65, lead to legal then total blindness.

Despite my feelings about Beck as a political propagandist, I empathize when he says, “I know what my wife looks like. I know what my children look like. I have a great imagination. I know what color looks like. But I love to read. I thought to myself I’m too darn lazy to learn Braille.”

To best explain how retinal disorders affect a person’s life one need only note the functions of the normal retina.

In the normal eye, sight is processed through the cornea, iris, pupil and lens toward its final destination: the retina, a layer of nerve tissue which lines the back of the eye. At the center of the retina is the macula. Only 1.5 millimeters in diameter, the macula is responsible for the clearest, most detailed vision. (www.eyenet.com, official site of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.)

The retina is made up of two types of cells: rods and cones. The rods are designed for night vision, allow the detection of movement and objects and provide peripheral vision – what a person sees out of the so-called “corner of the eye.” Millions of cone cells, sensitive to light, detail and color, are packed into the macula. Cones provide the visual details which allow the normal eye to scan an eye chart, see a stop sign or read a newspaper. To experience the sensation known as color, the cones have three different pigments which act as a palette mixing blue, red or green wavelengths of light. If a person is missing one or more of the pigments, color-blindness results. (“Vision and Aging,” Eleanor E. Faye, B.A., M.D., Ophthalmologist, Editor. The Lighthouse International.)

Quite simply, retinal disorders destroy the functions of the normal retina.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness (LINK), formerly The Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, is the national clearinghouse for research for a cure and even a reversal of vision loss. Amazing advances have been made toward this end.

Mr. Beck can now use his broadcast influence to call attention to these robbers of vision in much the same way Michael J. Fox, the late Christopher Reeve and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn have used their afflictions to stir interest in and stimulate contributions for medical research.

Beck says he could be blind in a year – plenty of time to see the light, to stop tilting at windmills and to devote his energies to the common good.

7.21.2010

WaPo's 'Top Secret America'

(BJ NOTE: I have placed links to this series in my left sidebar.)

A MUST-READ: Here is the press release from The Washington Post about its special investigative series on the nation’s intelligence community – “Top Secret America.” The Post has established a special Web site for this three-part investigative report (see press release). I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read the press release below! We have all been begging for good, investigative journalism, and here it is!

The Washington Post's press release, July 19, 2010:

Washington Post Investigates the Intelligence World Responsible for America’s Safety

Two-Year Long Review Explores Redundancy, Unwieldiness in Top Secret Government Agencies

WASHINGTON--July 19, 2010--The Washington Post today published the first story in a new series exploring the Top Secret world created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The series titled "Top Secret America” (www.TopSecretAmerica.com), describes and analyzes a defense and intelligence structure that has become so large, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, or whether it is making the United States safer.

Among the highlights:

-Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on Top Secret programs related to counter-terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence at over 10,000 locations across the country. Over 850,000 Americans have Top Secret clearances.

-Redundancy and overlap are major problems and a symptom of the ongoing lack of coordination between agencies.

-In the Washington area alone, 33 building complexes for Top Secret work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.

This is the first and most comprehensive examination of the complex system. It was reported by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Dana Priest and author, researcher, and military expert William M. Arkin. The findings are based on hundreds of interviews with current and former military and intelligence officials and public records. Nearly two dozen journalists worked on the investigation, including investigative reporters, cartography experts, database reporters, video journalists, researchers, interactive graphic designers, digital designers, graphic designers, and graphics editors at The Washington Post.

“This country’s top-secret national-security enterprise is both enormous and opaque,” Marcus Brauchli, The Post’s executive editor said. “We have sought through this long-term investigative project to describe it and enable our readers— including citizens, taxpayers, policymakers and legislators—to understand the scale and effectiveness of what has been created. The Post remains firmly committed to this kind of accountability journalism.”

In addition to the stories in the series, a blog will anchor the Top Secret America site providing updates on Top Secret America coverage, original journalism and insight around related national security matters. The Top Secret America blog will serve as an online destination for further reporting, discussion, analysis, and interaction. Priest and Arkin will host this continuing conversation throughout the rest of the year, working alongside readers to lead inquiries about dimensions of Top Secret America that remain unexplored.

Other multimedia features include:

-A searchable database illustrates information about government organizations that contract out Top Secret work, companies they contract to, the types of work they do, and the places where they do it.

-A map displays locations of all the clusters of Top Secret activity and some basic information about those areas.

-Each of nearly 2,000 companies and 45 government organizations has a profile page with basic information about its role in Top Secret America, and readers can filter searches by companies doing a specific kind of work, all companies mentioned in the story, or all companies with more than $750 million in revenue.

-A video guide to Top Secret America provides a concise, 90-second visual overview of the project’s major findings and implications.

-A video produced by PBS Frontline previews the series and illuminates the process of reporting. From the high-tech barn where Arkin worked to Priest’s guided-tour outside the NSA campus to a photographer’s experience shooting, the video captures how the information was gathered and evolved into the final series.

A second story to be published Tuesday takes an in-depth look at the government's dependence on private contractors and how it may be degrading the quality of the federal workforce. Managers of the intelligence agencies do not necessarily know how many contractors work for them. The Post estimates the number of contractors who work on Top Secret programs to be 265,000.

A third story to be published Wednesday focuses on the economic and cultural impact of a high concentration of Top Secret work within a community located around the National Security Agency. While the rest of the country struggles with an economic recession, in the clusters of Top Secret America, expansion continues and the unemployment rate is low. The NSA plans to expand by two-thirds its current size over the next 15 years.

The first installment of the series is available now online at:


www dot TopSecretAmerica dot com

(BJ NOTE: All three installments are now available.)

Dana Priest is an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. She was the Post's intelligence reporter for three years and its Pentagon correspondent for seven years before that. She has traveled widely with Army Special Forces, Army infantry troops on peacekeeping missions and the Pentagon’s four-star regional commanders. Priest received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for “The Other Walter Reed” and the 2006 Pulitzer for Beat Reporting for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. She authored the 2003 book, “THE MISSION: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America’s Military” about the military’s expanding influence over U.S. foreign affairs.

William Arkin is a reporter for The Washington Post and has been a columnist since 1998. He has been working on the subject of government secrecy and national security affairs for over 30 years and has visited war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books about the U.S. military and national security including seven basic reference works. He has been a consultant for Natural Resources Defense Council, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and the U.S. Air Force. -END-

7.20.2010

Tea Party slugfest

Embarrassing. Absurd. Alien. Arrogant. Preposteroous. These are some of the milder adjectives before the exchange gets down and dirty between David Webb of the National Tea Party Federation and Mark Williams and Joe Wierzbicki of the Tea Party Express.

For the really heavy slurs, read CNN.com’s wrapup of Monday’s infighting: LINK

Oh, but “Webb predicted to CNN on Monday that his clash with Williams will soon be forgotten by voters. ‘This is not a split, so the gleeful left can put away the smiles,’”

Who’s smiling?

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a dramatic increase in racially motivated hate groups in America. Don’t tell me there’s no correlation between this rise and the fact that an African-American now occupies the Oval Office. That’s just poppycock!

When the Tea Party claims to be a grassroots movement, and one of its leaders writes blatantly racist thoughts under the guise of “satire,” it is time for well-meaning conservatives to wake up and ask who’s representing them - and who’s getting the most attention.

As one of my conservative friends said about the “fringe,” “It’s the squeaking wheel that gets the grease.”

7.18.2010

Fury with the fringe on top

I always enjoyed Dana Milbank’s nightly appearance with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann until The Washington Post columnist’s fall from “Countdown” favor with a COLUMN about Barack Obama’s pre-election hubris.

In this morning’s WaPo, Milbank says the despicable message of the recent Mason City, Iowa, billboard is “supported by conservative thought leaders and propagated by high-level Republican politicians.”

A “thought leader” at the conservative Hoover Institution recently wrote in a revoltingly hypocritical column that Obama, like Hitler and Lenin, exploits "useful idiots" who don't know much about politics. Sarah Palin tweeted the link to her supporters.

“Godwin’s Law,” Mr. Milbank writes, emerged with the Internet and states that eventually when two sides argue online, one will call the other “Hitler” or “Nazi.” Such epithets, Milbank notes, have moved from the fringe to the mainstream – to cable news and even the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

THE BECK TALLY

Milbank writes, “Consider these tallies from Glenn Beck's show on Fox News since Obama's inauguration: 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama - as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck's nightly ‘report.’"

By quoting a number of politicians, Milbank contends the language of the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream. Perhaps it is the other way around. It seems to me those who were once considered “mainstream” have stepped across the line and moved into the fringe.

DemWit recommends:

“The tea party makes trouble with a capital T,” Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, 18 July 2010: LINK

7.16.2010

Palin's chances?

From USA Today/Gallup poll this morning:

“Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the best known and most positively rated of five possible contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Her 76% favorable rating among Republicans tops those of Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal.”

READ THE POLL RESULTS

And, never underestimate the lunacy in a country that re-elected George W. Bush.

7.15.2010

The Tea Party cause

Ryan Rhodes, spokesperson for the Iowa Tea Party, defended the statewide organization after an affiliate, the North Iowa Tea Party, erected a controversial billboard in Mason City.

The billboard, which has been papered over, pictured President Obama, Adolph Hitler and Vladimir Lenin under the phrases, “Democrat Socialism,” “National Socialism” and “Marxist Socialism.” The word “change” appeared under each image and above the phrase “Radical leaders prey on the fearful and the na├»ve.”

Rhodes, in a statement to CNN (LINK), said the billboard did an injustice to the Tea Party cause of “American exceptionalism.”

If the reader wants a dissertation-level understanding of “American Exceptionalism,” there are plenty of online entries and even books on the subject.

A fairly simple definition opens the Wikipedia entry:

“American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, political and religious institutions and its being built by immigrants. The roots of the belief are attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, who claimed that the then-50-year-old United States held a special place among nations, because it was the first working representative democracy.”

Opponents of the theory put it in simpler terms: “jingoism” and “nationalist propaganda.”

Ironically, other political entities claiming such an exceptional destiny were the Third Reich and the U.S.S.R.

I love the country of my birth. I’m sure Mr. Rhodes’ Tea Party does, too, although many in its ranks would deny President Obama’s love of the country of his birth.

A myopic view of exceptionalism, howeve, does not allow for correcting faults and righting wrongs. A claim of perfection denies a need for improvement and results in stagnation. It impedes the “change” mocked by the billboard and brought about by such Democratic programs as the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. In each of these programs a Democratic president moved America beyond the restrictive bounds of poverty, parameters, prejudice and its own self-importance.

Once more this nation has a leader with a progressive vision encompassing all its citizens, and a “confederacy of dunces” has risen up to put him down.

***

Sometime this morning, DemWit, my stepchild blog, will mark 20,000 visits. Thanks to you!

7.12.2010

'Beyond the Killing Fields'

This is a story of journalism when it was journalism – and what it has become today.

Among my top 10 favorite films is “The Killing Fields.” Two stories unfold in this true depiction of intertwinging lives. One is the story of Sydney Schanberg and other courageous reporters with boots on the ground in war-torn countries. The other is the story of Dith Pron, who survived the killing fields of Cambodia.

Dith Pron, who became a photojournalist with the New York Times, died from cancer in a New Jersey hospital in March 2008. Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who won an Academy Award for portraying him in the film, was gunned down outside his Los Angeles home in February 1996. There are killing fields, and there are killing fields.

Anyone who didn’t cry as Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pron were reunited to the strains of John Lennon’s “Imagine” is cold of heart.

Pulitzer Prize winner and former NYT reporter Schanberg, in a interview with Politics Daily (LINK), talks about his new book, “Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings,” the closing of foreign news bureaus and why journalism today is in a “state of chaos.”

Here are excerpts from the interview:

“ With life on our planet spinning faster and faster on the electronic wings of the digital revolution, I have no simple answers.

“There is no way to turn back the clock. The world has embraced the new technology, and as I see it, the craft of credible, serious journalism is in a state of chaos.

“Money is at the heart of the issue. Papers have lost much of their advertising to the Internet, which so far has produced sparse original reporting considering the volume of websites, choosing instead to cherry-pick from newspapers without compensating them.

“Also, Internet sites have decided that their audiences want shorter, splashier articles, not lengthy, detailed ones that often force governments and corporations to correct errant ways of dealing with the public.”

“CRUCIAL FOR DEMOCRACY”

“Papers are disappearing into bankruptcy on a regular basis. Those that remain are struggling to find a business model that can still support in-depth reporting. The best journalism costs serious money. I'm referring to investigative journalism, which is especially costly because it can take months for a team of reporters to bring forth a solid, major story. In the past, these came almost entirely from a small number of major newspapers and a few magazines.

“As newspapers and their staffs have shrunk, so has that special product, which is crucial for any healthy democracy based on a well-informed public. Those still standing have created their own websites to seek new advertising revenue, but the money gap has not closed. And the decline of credible journalism continues.”

“TRAIL OF GARBAGE”

“Good journalism does not have to be printed on paper. But the Internet has also spawned an endless 24/7 trail of garbage, which I call bits-and-pieces journalism – ‘borrowed’ or ‘aggregated’ material from other sources, especially original stories from newspapers. Internet companies say that the material they use is in the public domain and, therefore, free.

“So what can we do to repair this mess? It isn't just a case of a profession in decline but a dumbing down of an entire nation - one that has considerable effect on the rest of the world.


"The public does not hold journalists in high esteem largely because news outlets, including newspapers, have chosen over time to increase fluff stories about gossip, celebrities, sex scandals, etc., and mix them with hard news.
We were dumbing down the coverage before the Internet reared its head. If we want to restore a higher grade of journalism, we professionals will have to address the public and convince them that without serious reporting, they will not have the means to make informed decisions.”

“WE’RE IN A FIGHT”

“In the past, we have never explained ourselves well to the public. We resent it when citizens raise questions about our stories. As a profession we have been soft and have not challenged our publishers when they sought more fluff. If we want to rehabilitate professional journalism, restore foreign bureaus, raise newsroom standards, then we're in a fight - on the Internet and at newspapers.
We would have to stand up and speak out. But I don't know a silent, invisible way to get a task like this done.”

***

Cue John Lennon. This retired journalist is crying.

7.11.2010

Lock and load, amen!

A classmate from my high school days sent the following brief article from the right-wing NewMax (LINK). Just though DemWit readers would find it interesting:

Jindal Agrees to Allow Concealed Guns in Church

Thursday, 08 Jul 2010

BATON ROUGE, La. - Gov. Bobby Jindal has agreed to allow concealed handguns inside Louisiana's churches.

Churches, synagogues and mosques choosing to allow concealed carry will have to inform their congregations of the decision. Anyone wishing to carry a concealed weapon in a church will have to take an extra eight hours of tactical training each year.

Jindal signed the bill by Republican Rep. Henry Burns on Tuesday.

The new law does not apply to churches on school property.

Supporters of the measure said it can be a deterrent against criminal activity in church and will give an option to ministers and pastors to incorporate concealed handguns into their security plans.

Opponents argued it's inappropriate to have concealed handguns in church.

***

DemWit’s continuing effort to profile potential GOP presidential candidates.

7.08.2010

A little edukashun at Beck U.

Never has there been more evidence of the old adage “a little education is a dangerous thing” than the announcement that Glenn Beck has founded his own online university.

That’s no joke. Here’s the one-click matriculation (Cheetos and Kool-Aid not included): LINK

Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones has compiled a list of courses (LINK) he and other MoJo wits would like to see offered, and I reprint them here with his kind permission.

Mr. Weinstein, by the way, ain’t no intellectual slug. MoJo’s copy editor is a Navy veteran, is currently at work on a book about his "recession-fueled stint as a military contractor in Iraq" and, in addition to some great journalism experience, is a two-time Jeopardy champion. LINK

Courses at Glenn Beck's New U.

by Adam Weinstein
Mother Jones, Jul. 2, 2010

Have you heard the exciting news? Apparently appalled at the paucity of solid learnin' in America (excepting, of course, Texas), media maestro and renowned art historian Glenn Beck has announced the opening of his own great patriotic hall of academe. The forthcoming institution o'learnin', appropriately titled Beck University, will "explore the concepts of Faith, Hope and Charity and show you how they influence America’s past, her present and most importantly her future." Its faculty features such luminaries as a free-market economist whose degree is in psychology and a Texas Republican Party bigwig who hates, hates, HATES church-state separation. It even has an Ivy-style crest—featuring a feather, a buffalo, and the disembodied head of George Washington—and a Latin motto, "Tyrannis Seditio, Obsequium Deo" (roughly translated: "Revolution against tyrants, submission to God").



No word yet on whether RNC Chairman Michael Steele, apparently in need of some good historical and civics education of late, has enrolled. But just in time for the Independence Day weekend, the MoJo staff has produced a list of course offerings we hope to see at Beck U. next fall. If you have suggestions, too, post 'em to the comments or post them to Twitter with the hashtag #BeckUCourses! Let's do some educatin'! Yee haw!

Theories of Self and Other in the Autobiography of Ronald Reagan

Semiotics of Tricornered Hats

Mythology 101: Fossils

Presidential History From Harding to Coolidge

Oath Keeping

Semester Abroad in Kenya with Visiting Professor Dr. Jerome Corsi

Physics of AM Radio Waves

Fundamentals of Spelling and Grammar CANCELED

Great Military Heroes: John Wayne

Intro to Theology: Ayn Rand

Advanced Marketing Seminar: Rare Gold Coins

Drama 101: Intro to Alternative Lifestyles

Psych 301: Paranoia as Therapeutic Alternative

Wilde, Proust, and Other Homosexual Europeans

Middle Eastern and Arab Cultures: What's Up With That?

Literary Masters Colloquium: Cleon Skousen

Motherhood, Hockey, Hunting: Cultural Convergences

Studies in Moral Courage: Joe McCarthy

Counterinsurgency Techniques in Morning Radio

Phenomenological Epistemology and the Speeches of Barry Goldwater

Hermeneutics and Homosociality in The Overton Window

Political Science 300: Reverse Racism and the Modern Presidency

Colloquium on Great Filmmakers: Mel Gibson

Gym Crow

Underwater Conspiracy Weaving

***

I know my brilliant DemWit readers can come up with a few suggestions of their own. Have fun!

7.07.2010

Climate scientists cleared

Lies. Stopping them is not the biggest problem: reversing them is a major task. DemWit’s main aim is defending truth. Here’s a dose of truth just breaking in the news. Share it.

‘Climategate' review clears scientists of dishonesty, CNN, 7 July 2010.

“Climate change skeptics said the emails suggested data was being manipulated to exaggerate the threat of global warming.”

Read the story and pass the facts along.

7.06.2010

Four past midnight



Death of a killer

In my collection of old newspapers and magazines marking historic events of my lifetime is a copy of Life magazine with a fold-out double cover proclaiming “OLYMPIC TRAGEDY: From this small Israeli team, 11 would die.” Not just Olympics fans, but the whole world watched in horror as “Black September” unfolded in Munich in 1972. The iconic photo shows Palestinian terrorist Khalid Jawad looking over the balcony of the Israeli team quarters in the Munich Olympic Village. In all, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, five terrorists and one West German police officer would lose their lives.

On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority news agency reported Abu Daoud, aka Mohammed Oudeh, the man who claimed to be the mastermind behind the Munich tragedy, is dead at age 73. Read the story.

The Dinosaur Trial?

I love the story of the Tennessee couple whose swimming pool project unearthed dinosaur fossils. A stunned Jim Leyden of Brighton said of the find in his backyard, "I grew up in New Jersey. I might find a body, but not a prehistoric animal."

One expert said the remains of the trilophodon, an extinct animal similar to the mammoth or mastodon, could be from 30,000 to 2 million years old. (LINK)

Attention Tennessee science teachers, any attempt to impart this knowledge to your students could result in a very famous event known as “The Dinosaur Trial.”

Reading the Tea leaves

On Monday a USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that “six in 10 Tea Party supporters view federal debt as an extremely serious threat to the future wellbeing of the U.S., easily their top concern.”

Where were these people for six years when the Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches of government were spending like drunken sailors?

For the record, here’s what became of Clinton’s $128 million surplus: “President Bush's budget chief blamed the faltering economy and the bipartisan stimulus package for the record $482 billion deficit the (Bush) White House predicted for the 2009 budget year.” (LINK)

Two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy had nothing to do with it?

Gag a Gaga

Word came Friday that Lady Gaga had broken the 10 million mark of Facebook “followers,” beating out President Barack Obama. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the current population of the United States is 307,006,550, which, assuming the bulk of Facebook users is American, means one in 30.7 Americans either need to get a life or are Republicans. IMO, these social networking sites are venues of one-liner vapidity leading communication back to a prehistoric vernacular of “ugh.”

I hesitate to ask this, but who the heck is Lady Gaga?

7.02.2010

Hear that lonesome whistle



My love affair with trains is in my blood. The circa 1900 photograph accompanying this post is of my paternal grandfather, Marion Monroe Turner (left), with shop hands and "Boss" (seated center) at the Illinois Central Railroad maintenance shop in Water Valley, Mississippi. The men who built the rails built America.

To this day the distant whistle of a train brings back memories.

When we were little kids and living on Second Street in Grenada, Mississippi, my brother Isaac and I knew the daily schedule to run the two blocks up the street to the train depot and watch the City of New Orleans pull in. Our day wasn’t complete until we received a friendly wave from the engineer. (The Panama Limited with its Pullman cars came through at night.) Across the tracks was the Yellow Fever Cemetery. I’m not sure if it was off limits because of the possibility of lingering germs or because we would have had to cross the tracks. I suspect a little of both.

Hoboes riding the rails carved a cat on our fence post – a sign that meant “a kind woman lives in this house.” Rarely a day passed that one or more didn’t knock on our back door for food. Mother would give the hungry man a rake and tell him she would give him a plate of food if he would rake the leaves in our small back yard. Some took off, while others worked for Mother’s good cooking.

After we moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1951, Isaac and I had our first train ride. My daddy, who had to return home to work, drove us to Chincoteague, Virginia, an island in the Chesapeake Bay, where we spent a glorious summer with my sister Mary and brother-in-law Paul. Paul was stationed at Norfolk Naval Base, a daily commute on a ferry boat. At the end of our island adventure, Mother, Isaac and I rode the train home. What a thrill for a couple of kids.

My last train ride was a thrill, but of a different nature. In the spring of 1983, a friend and I rode the City of New Orleans from Jackson, Mississippi, to Carbondale, Illinois, where we were to retrieve some furniture pieces I had stored there. The train left Jackson in one of the worst spring floods recorded. For 200 miles we rode at a snail’s pace on rails three feet under water. When the engineer cleared Memphis, Tennessee, for higher ground, he made up for lost time. “How fast is this damn train going,” I accosted the conductor. “Is this Casey Jones’ trip to the promised land?” “70,” he chuckled. “More like 120,” I snapped back. My embarrassed companion escorted me to the dining car for a prescribed “stiff drink.” When I stepped off the train at Carbondale, happy to be in one piece, I declared, “That will be my last train ride,” and it was.

A few days ago I was relating this tale to my friend Jenny as we entered a Walgreen’s pharmacy. Overhead the Musak was playing.

Good morning. America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son.
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans.
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

A tear for a long-ago childhood ran down my cheek.

7.01.2010

Cantor's 'manifesto' bugs GOPers

“House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has asked the ethics committee to greenlight a national book tour this August for a new GOP manifesto he’s co-authoring with two younger members of Congress, according to sources familiar with the situation. This is classic Cantor: a hyperambitious move to publish and push ideas he thinks will help rebrand the GOP, on his terms — and not necessarily those of his boss, Minority Leader John Boehner. If this were an isolated incident, it would pass without a peep. But it’s not: Cantor is earning a reputation for pushing his ideas so hard and so often that some GOP colleagues are questioning his motives.”

DemWit has selected this item to highlight CNN’s “Early Morning Speed Read” which can be accessed between 7 and 8 a.m. ET on CNN’s “Political Ticker.” The Speed Read covers the latest in politics as well as U.S., world and business news. An excellent source of news briefs served up with your morning coffee!

Read “Eric Cantor’s ambition raises concerns, debate”

Check out “Early Morning Speed Read”

Access CNN’s “Political Ticker”