The Whopper at the Burger King

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A friendly young man at the Burger King — I don’t eat Whoppers; I drive to the Burger King in rural Minnesota for the free WiFi — draws my attention. “What’s going on?” he asks, staring at the television monitor behind me and my MacBook Air. I assume he is responding to the breaking news I’d heard moments before on the drive from the cabin to the Burger King — the shooting of journalists in the office of an Annapolis newspaper. He is. He shakes his head; I shake mine. Then the words spill out. “I guess this is what happens when the press is targeted as public enemy number one.” He shakes his head again and walks away.

MARYLAND NEWSPAPER SHOOTINGA few minutes later he returns to speak his support for the Second Amendment and the president. “All this gun stuff . . . we’ve always had guns in school and stuff, only now the media’s making a big deal of it. They’re blowing it up.”

We’re coming up on July 4th weekend. Celebrating the nation’s independence feels different this year. America is different. It’s the First Amendment that is at risk, not the Second.

The free press, sometimes called “The Fourth Estate” — the people’s independent watchdog of government — has saved us from our worst selves many times. It was the Fourth Estate that brought into our living rooms Edward R. Murrow’s report that stopped Senator Joseph McCarthy’s pernicious attacks on the integrity of American citizens whose political stripe wasn’t his. It was the Fourth Estate’s publishing of the Pentagon Papers that exposed the dirty secrets behind the Vietnam War, leading Lyndon Baines Johnson to become a one-term president. It was the Washington Post’s publication of Woodward and Burnstein’s investigative report on the Nixon administration’s break-in of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that led to the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon.

CapTimesThe Fourth Estate exists as the instrument of the people to hold accountable those we elect, and the government agencies they are responsible to oversee on the people’s behalf. The First Estate (the executive branch) and the Second Estate (the legislative branch) have often been critical of the Fourth Estate. Because the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press from state control, the Third Estate (the judicial branch) has protected it from the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court has been the court of last resort to protect free speech from Presidents and other elected officials have been wary of it.

There is a world of difference between wariness and assault. The current occupant of the Oval Office has used the nation’s Bully Pulpit to stir up good people like the guy at the Burger King to believe the minority party, once referred to as the “loyal opposition,” is out to destroy their freedom under the Second Amendment. Public perception has been altered. The public enemy no longer is communism, as it was in the McCarthy period. The target is much more in clear public view: the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, PBS. Every member of the Fourth Estate except FOX News and — who would ever have imagined it? — The National Enquirer. Joe McCarthy is smiling.

Hope-Despair-Public-Domain

A civil society has quickly become less civil. The Bully Pulpit we once expected to give voice to the unity that underlies our pluralism (e pluribus unum); appeal to “the better angels of our nature” (Lincoln); respect the public and private institutions that make us who we are; and mourn tragic events such as today’s shooting in Annapolis, is used to create the public perception that the president’s critics are America’s enemies. This is an abrupt departure from the commonly accepted norms and expectations for civil discourse on which I remember being raised.

Increasingly, we tend to shout in anger or fall silent. Between the anger and the silence stands a chasm of despair. To some, America is becoming great again. To others, America in 2018, feels more like the aftermath of a coup d’état than a moment of celebration.

1*wH41mwA4_K9A6Zr26Pq6_wThe young man at the Burger King was an adolescent when Donald Trump funded the Birther movement alleging that Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was illegitimate, a charge not based in fact, “faux” news that stirred the latent fear of poor white Americans to believe President Obama was out to take away their rights. Long before the Electoral College elected him President, Donald Trump had a bully pulpit of his own, and he bullied many into believing the lies about the need to rescue the country from the alleged black Muslim socialist who wanted to take away our guns —until the day he suddenly declared, without apology for his error, that President Obama had been born in the U.S.A, as though the Oracle of truth had spoken definitively — years after his false claim movement had accomplished its aim.

Earlier today, before news of the shooting of journalists in Annapolis, the free press informed the American public of U. S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire, leaving the vacancy on the Court for the President to nominate and the Republican Congress to give, or withhold, its consent and confirmation. The Founders’ intention of a nonpartisan, independent Third Estate — the necessary third leg of the stool of checks and balances that make for the American democratic republic — was idealistic, to be sure, but an independent judiciary is essential to the architecture of the U.S Constitution.

As we prepare for this Fourth of July observance, we do well to remember the architecture meant to preserve the nation by means of legislative and judicial boundaries that put constrain a bully from running away with the country. Doing my best to be hopeful, I still wonder: can a Whopper accomplish a coup d’état without bloodshed — within the architecture of the American democratic republic?

The Fourth of July 2018 celebration goes down hard. Hold the onions!

  • Gordon C. Stewart at the Burger King

Memorial Day 2018

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Views from the Edge has been silent for awhile. Given my state of mind, it probably should stay quiet longer. But Memorial Day gives the dumb a hook on which to hang some of what’s been banging around my weary head.

Flags are everywhere today. American flags. They decorate the graves of the fallen in our national cemeteries and wave in front yards across America. But things are different this year.

While driving to the cabin by the wetland here in Minnesota, I see a different flag — a blue one with the name of the current president — waving from a homeowner’s flagpole where the red, white, and blue stars-and-stripes rippled stood before 2017. The dead we honor on Memorial Day didn’t die for this substitution. They fought against it.


Trump flagThe dead are unable to see the American flags posted at their graves or hear the sobering “Taps” that honors their sacrifice. Nor can they see the other flag that has taken its place on the flag pole where Old Glory once waved on Memorial Day. They didn’t die for this.

Like the dead, Memorial Day 2018 leaves me speechless.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 28 (Memorial Day), 2018.

Ruminations of an Old Paper Boy

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INTRODUCTION: Views from the Edge publishes this reflection of John D. Miller, a fellow curmudgeon who looks at where and HOW we’re getting our news these days. John is serious, but he always has a twinkle in his eye. The links and photo have been added by Views from the Edge.

I was twelve years old when I got my first real job. I became a paper boy for The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin. It was an afternoon newspaper.

CapTimesMy bundles of papers would be dropped off at a certain place on the east side of the city. After school, I would fold them and put them into a big wire basket I bought for my bike. It was first business expense I ever had, but I did not know that at the time. Besides, Uncle Sam would not have cared.

I would peddle my papers in a six-square-block area between East Washington Avenue and East Johnson Street. About a third of the families in my entrepreneurial domain were subscribers.

On Sundays there was no Capital Times. Instead, I delivered The Wisconsin State Journal.The Times strongly leaned Democratic; the Journal was Republican. On Sundays, everybody in Madison was a Republican, I assumed.

This employment lasted for a year, until our family moved from the East Side to the West Side. Then, instead of peddling and reading The Capital Times, I just read it. When you’re in eighth grade, you don’t peddle papers any longer, for heaven’s sake, especially on the west side.

It is surprising that my parents, particularly my father, subscribed to the Times rather than the Journal, because they were Republicans. But Dad went to work before the State Journal could arrive. Neither he nor Mom had the time or inclination to read the paper in the morning, if there was one in our home to read. They wanted their news as fresh as possible in the late afternoon or evening when they sat down to read the paper. (This was before television came to Madison.)

In the nearly seventy years that have passed since I was a paper boy, the newspaper business has changed dramatically. In medium-sized cities, like Madison, there used to be at least two competing newspapers, a morning one and an afternoon one. In large cities there were three or more competing papers.

Now, in nearly every community large enough to sustain a daily newspaper, there is only one  paper, which is half the size it used to be. It also has well less than half the number of subscribers it used to have. Perhaps there might be another small struggling competitor on life support.

* * * *

My wife and I live in The Seabrook, a Hilton Head Island retirement community. When we first moved there, we had a young woman who delivered our Island Packet and USA Today to our door.  Before we moved to the retirement home, we also subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. I gave it up, though, because it was taking me at least two hours every morning just to read three newspapers, and I decided that was obsessively ridiculous.

After a while, our faithful, always-on-time young woman took another job. Then the papers began arriving at 8 AM or 9 AM or noon, or maybe not at all. We and our geezer neighbors were complaining. Geezers have taken a lifetime to learn how to become experts in the new avocation of their golden years, and they do it well.

So, unbeknownst to me, my wife called The Packet and said that if they would deliver all the newspapers for our entire retirement community to the door of our retirement building, WE would deliver the papers. Later, after I recovered from my shock of learning about my new journalistic position, she informed me that it is a community service, which it is, sort of. Its main drawback as a community service is that it begins at an ungodly hour each morning.

Thus, a year and a half ago, not long before I became 78 years old, I became a paper boy once again. I guess I’ll be one as long as I am able to wheel my sturdy wagon down the halls of The Seabrook.

* * * *

Since 1951, when The Capital Times depended on me to get the news to citizens in a six-square-block area just west of the East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, the news business has changed enormously. Television came in, much later cable network television came in, the Internet came in, and Facebook et alalso came in.

When cable news and the Internet were launched, newspapers started to lose subscribers. It was because they were an arm of the “cool media,” and thus were old-fashioned. Who knew?

In 1964, the Canadian philosopher and student of media Marshall McLuhan published an essay about the then relatively new medium of television. Soon thereafter he wrote a book which expanded on the essay. He intended to call it The Medium Is the Message.

When the proof for the book came back to him, the title has been miscopied. The typesetter had written The Medium Is the Massage. McLuhan was so delighted with the mistake that it became the new title for his book.

McLuhan’s thesis was that television is what he described as a “hot” medium. That is, it creates a symbiotic relationship between the individual and the screen. This does not happen in the print media, he said — newspapers, magazines, and books. The reason he went with the typo in the title is that he said that television “massages” us as the print media do not.

Most of us would probably agree with that. Surely that is correct for most of us. However, it should also be alarming to us, especially if we are easily massaged by television.

Furthermore, we would have to acknowledge that movies, live theater, speeches, lectures, and similar experiences affect us in ways that are markedly different from the way the printed word affects us.

On the other hand, for some of us there is something about reading words on a printed page that the hot media can never match. I shall call it “The Tactile Transfer.”

The word tactile has to do with touch. Physically to touch something is to engage in a tactile act of communication.

Reading is a tactile activity. We have to touch the pages to keep the newspaper, magazine, or book open.

But there is more to it than just that. Psychologically and mentally, some of us find reading a “hotter” way of gathering and storing information than the supposedly hot media provide us. By touching whatever we are reading, a transfer takes place to our memory and our brain. Reading, to us, is “cooler,” in the late twentieth century sense of that word, than it is for us to watch television or a movie or a play.

Only when I began writing this essay did I finally realize after several decades why I object almost so irrationally to the “technological media.” I would rather get my information from something I can actually touch than from the images or words on a screen, which I cannot touch; I can only touch the screen. The words are less “real” if they are digitalized than if they are imprinted onto paper.

I cannot scientifically explain the Tactile Transfer, but I can verify that for me it has happened for my entire life. For that reason there were many years I subscribed to as many as a dozen or fifteen magazines at a time. For the same reason I have read countless hundreds of books. Let me touch information with my fingers, and it transfers into my head far more readily than if I see it on a screen.

* * * *

Democracy is in trouble because newspapers are going out of business all over the world. For Tactile Transfer thinkers, that is a tragedy. We are convinced that all of us need newspapers and magazines. Everybody needs to touch printed news; it is the only news you can be fairly sure in accurate. Television and other such technological media will not be sufficient for us.

But why should democracy be in trouble if newspapers, magazines, and books become far less frequently employed as media for dispelling information? It is because we then will be forced to rely solely on the “hot media” to learn about the news of the world. And, as we have seen in the last few weeks, the Facebook debacle suggests that the hot media cannot be trusted as much as the “vetted media.”

To “vet” the news means that there are editors and experts and academics who look at news stories before they get publicized to determine whether what is proposed to go press or to go “viral” is accurate. To use a phrase much in the news for the past couple of years, is it fake news or is it real news? Is it truthful, or is it deliberately misleading?

Viral “news” can go out instantaneously from any computer operating anywhere in the world. There is no mechanism for checking its validity. It need not be accurate, and often it is not.

Nevertheless, increasing millions of people, perhaps in order to avoid having to pay for their news, are getting their news on-line. It is increasingly evident that they are not getting the straight scoop, to use a term of newspapers from long ago.

News that puts smudges of ink on your fingers is far more likely to contain vetted, accurate news than the Internet or your cell phone. Very unfortunately, hot media people have not yet widely admitted that. And until that happens, democracy will be in trouble, because elections can be won by means of what must be termed “genuinely fake news.”

All over the country most afternoon newspapers have gone out of business or have merged with the morning newspapers in those communities. Previously, one paper in those cities leaned toward the Republicans and the other toward the Democrats.

A friend emailed an article from The Washington Post that she had read on-line. Because it was from the Post, I considered it well vetted and thus reliable.

The article was entitled A once unimaginable scenario: no more newspapers. It was written by two Canadians, and it referred more to Canadian newspapers than American ones. They noted that two major newspaper publishing companies in Canada have gobbled up most of the newspapers there. They said it is predicted that one of those mega-journalistic enterprises will have fallen into insolvency within five years.

The writers also said that since 1994, American weekday print circulation of newspapers has gone from 60 million subscribers to 35 million subscribers. In that same period, advertising revenue dropped from $65 billion to $19 billion. No wonder newspaper corporations are consolidating or going bankrupt.

Who will uphold verification and balance in the news when newspapers are gone, the two writers wondered. Who will differentiate between vetted news and truly fake news if no professional journalists are involved in that process?

Many decades ago The Capital Times gave up the ghost in Wisconsin’s capital city. Now the Wisconsin State Journal is neither Republican nor Democratic; it is too much a blandly independent newspaper.

* * **

This morning I started my paper route in The Seabrook at the Fraser Center, our nursing wing, as I always do. The people there are up earlier than nearly everyone else in our neck of the woods.

When I walked by the nursing station, I saw a very elderly woman sitting in her wheelchair by the desk. She is 103 years old. I have known her for 39 years.

I asked her what she was doing at the nurses’ desk. In a typical humorous whispered aside, yet also with some degree of seriousness, she told me she was being held hostage there. A nurse overheard her, and said she had become confused, and had been trying to get out of bed. So they were keeping an eye on her until she became herself again, as she always does.

I tried to assure her everything would be all  right, but she seemed skeptical, and not altogether convinced. So I gave her her paper, and went to deliver papers to other patients. When I came back, she was busily scanning the pages of The Island Packet, as she has been doing for the past half-century, seeking the tactile transfer.

Old folks still love to read the paper. Too many people under sixty years of age do not. Part of the reason so many newspapers are going under is because too many of their elderly subscribers are going under the ground, and too few younger citizens are filling the gap.

It is dangerous for anyone to rely solely on the Internet or even on network televised news or cable news networks for their news. It behooves all of us as citizens to read newspapers and news magazines.

Being a paper boy was my first job. Being a paper boy may also be my last one. I’ll keep doing it as long as my elderly lower limbs will carry me.

Maybe McClatchy Newspapers should hire only old paper people to deliver papers. They are the ones who still believe in newspapers, and read them, and they want to read them early. However, no applicants should assume they will able to retire and live happily ever after in a retirement community on the remuneration thereof.

Nevertheless, as my wife correctly reminds me, it is a community service.

  — The Rev. John M. Miller has been the pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island for fifteen years. Prior to that he was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church from 1979 to 1996.

 

‘Code Red’ in America

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Our democracy is in serious danger. … 

“This is ‘code red‘. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”Thomas Friedman,”Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting Us Now,” NYT.

Thomas Friedman is known for being careful with his information, fresh in his analysis, beholden to no one. Friedman does not play partisan ‘Chicken Little‘ to gain an audience. Friedman’s NYT column calling this American moment ‘Code Red’ and the following conversation with Larry O’Donnell took place a month before yesterday’s disturbing news that on April 9 John Bolton, a discredited right wing hawk, will replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

I never thought I’d see this day in America. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. Unless Congress stops it, Dr. Strangelove will be the president’s right hand man in the White House Situation Room.

Sunday night ‘60 Minutes‘ is scheduled to air Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels. Stormy claims she’s telling the truth. It will be the irony of ironies in a democratic republic if it should come to pass that a truth-telling pornography star alerts Congress and the larger public to the threat to democracy in the White House?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 23, 2018.

A Presidents’ Day Reflection

Other writing has pushed Views from the Edge to the back burner lately, and when I do start a post here, it feels like yada-yada-yada. John Buchanan’s Hold to the Good piece on Presidents’ Day  is more than yada-yada-yada. It moves the discussion to higher ground.

via Presidents’ Day

Grandpa, what’s a shutdown?

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Elijah with Grandpa: “I don’t like that, Grandpa!”

Watching the news last night, Elijah was worried.

Grandpa! What’s a shutdown?

Well, Elijah, let me think. You’re just eight-months old. Let’s try this. If your Mom decided not to feed you anymore, that would be a shutdown.

Mom’s not going to feed me anymore? Mom and I were on the NEWS?

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Elijah with Mom

No, no, Mom’s not going to shutdown your feeding. She loves you very much. I’m just saying that’s what a shutdown is like.

So, who’s being shutdown?

The government.

What’s a government?

It’s what keeps us together in a democracy.

What’s a democracy?

Actually, I mis-spoke. We’re not a democracy. We’re a democratic Republic, a representative democracy. We govern ourselves by electing people to represent us in Congress and the Presidency.

Did all those people die? Did they get shutdown?

No, Elijah, they’re the ones who are threatening to shutdown the government.

Why, Grandpa?

Because they’ve forgotten why they’re there. They’re confusing government with a sandbox. It’s not. The government belongs to the American people. They’re acting like kindergarteners throwing sand at each other in the kindergarten sandbox. If they keep doing this, there’s be no sand left. The sandbox itself will be gone. It’ll all be shut down.

I don’t like that, Grandpa, and I don’t like the way you’re talking. You’re making fun of kindergarteners!

a36f2b6876f717951b27c34028ef12b3--sandpit-ideas-sand-table

Kindergarteners working together in the sandbox

You’re right, Elijah, I shouldn’t make fun of kindergarteners. Kindergarteners are better than that. They’re adults. They’re not acting like children. If they acted like children, we might be better off. Like the psalmist said,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 82:3)

Thanks, Grandpa. I like the psalmist. Will their Moms shut them down if they shut down the government?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 19, 2018.

AN AMERICAN DILEMMA

Kay in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Kay Stewart in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Gordon has asked me to write a post encouraging readers to feed their brains a most remarkable, very long, edited version of The Age of Outrage, a lecture by Professor Jonathan Haidt.

Once I disciplined myself to stay with it, I couldn’t get enough. Brain food provided by a most remarkable mind-chef. Haidt has thought about our present state of polarized dialogue for a long time.

This lecture illuminates and translates and fascinates. Best of all, it frustrates FEAR and illustrates HOPE—something sorely needed in our current collective stalemate.  Power-packed with research, it articulates the issues clear as a bell. But, only if you are patient and keep reading.

quote-hope-and-fear-cannot-occupy-the-same-space-invite-one-to-stay-maya-angelou-76-81-50

Haidt provided me brain food, lifting me from maze-filled conundrums of ugliness to a way to some light at the end of a well worn tunnel called civilization.

I do have hope and always have—this Eeyore-soul of mine just can’t live in doom for very long while alive—but I now see an articulated way through the despair, as this wise professor has a bigger brain than any I’m used to reading. So wise. So substantial.

Lifting up a few highlights from my personal enthusiasm:

  1. For years, I have been saying “If we don’t educate our children, teach them how to think, we simply won’t have a democracy to save.” Haidt says it too. Vindication is sweet. Of course others have said it many times, repeatedly, yet it still remains on the bottom of the list of our national priorities and funding
  2. Raising our children to handle “undifferentiated play”. When my youngest was in a progressive Austin, Texas elementary school, the school district eliminated the only free time in his entire day—20 minutes on the playground after lunch. The rest of his day was organized, supervised and regulated. Since the Vietnam War Moratorium days, it was the closest I ever came to carrying a protest sign in front of the school with other mothers who cared deeply about their kids getting a chance to develop social wisdom, a skill cultivated by kinds when allowed to be themselves with a pocket of free time all among equals on the school playground. A skill they will be required to be good at in negotiating the rest of their social lives.

So, in a nutshell, I recommend you read this transcript. Print it out and carry it around. Anchor it, tether it to the status quo. Believe in the power of a changing paradigm. We sorely need it about now.

  • Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN

Click “The Age of Outrage: What the current political climate is doing to our country and our universities” to read and comment on Jonathan Heidt’s reflections.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 19, 2018.

 

 

 

Oprah, Donald, and Jesse Ventura

Just when you thought it couldn’t get weirder, it got wackier.

A new candidate is being pushed to run for President in 2020. Maybe the last two digits of 2020 — or the first two, for that matter — offer a 20/20 look back at what’s happened to American society.

Maybe a personal anecdote from my 2003 Toyota Avalon experience will shed some light on the weirdness. Bear with me.

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2003 Toyota Avalon XLS 

The Avalon’s a great car. But, like the American Republic, it’s getting older. A month ago, the Avalon’s muffler died. I took it to the nearest shop, Arboretum Tire and Auto (yes, I’m using the real name here, rebuking any fear of a law suit), which replaced the muffler for $412.90 with tax. I thought all was well until a few days later a hard-to-describe grinding sound appeared and grew louder on a seven-hour drive to Chicago for New Year’s weekend with friends.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are not good times for car repairs. The Tuesday following New Year’s, Northbrook Toyota squeezed this out-of-towner into an over-crowded schedule for a look. The mechanic and I took the Avalon for a test drive. He was certain it wasn’t the engine or the transmission. “Sounds like a shield is loose underneath.”

Back at the shop, he put it up on the rack where he discovered the problem. The muffler had not been installed properly. He took photos that visually confirmed what he had found and assured me that I could get home to Minnesota with no problem. It would be an annoyance, but it was safe to drive home to Chaska.

Northbrook Toyota did not charge me for its hour of labor. Not a nickel!

The morning after returning to Minnesota, I took the Avalon to a different shop than the one that had installed the muffler. It was closing time at Chaska Auto Repair, but Jeff welcomed me to the shop, looked at the photos from Northbrook Toyota, saw the problem, and said he could fix it.

So now I had two skilled mechanics who confirmed the noise was caused by an improperly installed muffler.

I took the Avalon back to Arboretum Tire and Auto, explained the problem, and showed them the pictures and the diagnostic note from the Toyota dealer. “I don’t see it,” said the proprietor. “You can’t see it? The Toyota dealer could see it. Chaska Auto’s mechanic can see it. Even I can see it now, and I’m not a mechanic.” “Did Chaska Auto or the Toyota dealer say they would fix it? Get an estimate and give me a call. I don’t see it.”

This morning Jeff at Chaska Auto Repairs did the repairs. No springs had been inserted to cushion vibration, the bolts between two plates had been forced and stripped, and one of the braces that hold the muffler in place was loose, causing the vibration.

I drove back to Arboretum Tire and Auto with a copy of the Chaska Auto Repair receipt for $76.88 including tax that described the work just completed: “Exhaust rattle: Repaired muffler bolts with proper spring bolts and shortened one rear hanger.” Arboretum offered to give me a credit toward future repairs, or they could send me a check. I took the check and told them I wouldn’t be back.

So…back to the point this anecdote intends to illustrate.

Training, skill, experience, hard work, honesty, and a track record of competence in one’s field are no less important for electing people to public office than they are for choosing a mechanic. Oprah and Donald have never held elected office. Ever. They’re entertainers. So was Jesse Ventura, but at least Jesse had served the public as a mayor as well as a wrestler before becoming governor.

There’s a noisy muffler vibrating under America these days. It just got louder last night. Having learned nothing from recent experience, another billionaire entertainer with no qualifications for public office  — who doesn’t love Oprah! How can you not love Oprah! — was cheered on to run for President against the other billionaire entertainer in 2020.

If you want a country that works, get a real mechanic. One who is trained, skilled, experienced, hard working, and honest with a track record that demonstrates competence in the field. Otherwise, you may get a “credit” for future repairs done by a high profile entertainer or a bad business. Public office is not a show. Not a prize. Not a popularity contest. And it’s not dirty! It’s a nothing less than a sacred calling.

481px-Snellen_chart“Civil authority is, in the sight of God, not only sacred and lawful, but the most sacred, and by far the most honourable, of all stations in mortal life.” — John Calvin, 1559 version of Institutes of the Christian Religion.

On the way to 2020, maybe a little hindsight may help create 20/20 vision in America before it gets even wackier than it just got.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 9, 2018.

The End of Neutrality

Today’s FCC vote to end net neutrality is but the latest act in the tsunami of greed that is eliminating all things neutral.

Neutral in the case of the internet means non-favoring, as in protecting a fair playing field that does not favor large providers while dis-favoring others and looking out for the interests of the general public that uses the internet.

net neutrality 722

But it’s not just in the internet debate that neutrality is in trouble in America. Our traditional allies in Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia, among others scratch their heads and wonder what’s happened to America.

In Washington, D.C. the President and Congress are “reforming” the American tax code by lowering the taxes for corporations and America’s wealthiest individuals who are already reaping record profits on the pretext of lowering taxes on the middle class. The tax reform is anything but neutral. It’s greedy. It continues to widen the divide between the well-to-do and those who aren’t doing so well.

While a tax system that is anything but neutral moves forward, Congress and the President strategically malign the integrity of the independent counsel assigned the odious task of investigating foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The attack on Robert Mueller’s neutrality is undertaken in the name of neutrality, portraying the former FBI Director most everyone once respected as part of a partisan Democrat plot to embarrass and unseat the President.

There is, of course, no such thing as neutrality. Never has been and never will be. But the attempt to be neutral, the attempt to put our biases and vested self-interests behind us for the sake of the greater good is a bedrock principal of a civil society and of a democratic republic.

In the American thesaurus, neutrality and fairness are kissing cousins. So are power and abuse. American history is being re-written as we speak.

jeffersonbible2Thomas Jefferson took a razor to the Bible and cut out texts from the New Testament that seemed unreasonable according to the canons of the Enlightenment — things like miracles. But he never cut the teachings of Jesus — the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke — “Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers” — the Golden Rule  –“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — or “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” or the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Today in America those in power are cutting these most sacred texts from the Jefferson Bible in the name of God and country. Any semblance of neutrality, fairness, or compassion are being erased. But one text from the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Job will yet have the last word beyond the scissors of greed that scorn even the slightest attempts toward neutrality.

If you have understanding, hear this;
    listen to what I say.
Shall one who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn one who is righteous and mighty,
 who says to a king, ‘You scoundrel!’
    and to princes, ‘You wicked men!’;
 who shows no partiality to nobles,
    nor regards the rich more than the poor,
    for they are all the work of his hands?
  – Book of Job 34:16-19, NRSV.

 

May we all live to see the day.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 14, 2017.

DOOM DESTRUCTION AND THE DNC. AGAIN! – BY TOM CURLEY

Like Tom Curley of SERENDIPITY, I get apocalyptic, or hyped, emails every day that assume I’m a member of a certain club.

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

I wrote this on election day 2017. It reminded me of a post I wrote a while back that sadly is still as current as it was back then. And it will be current next year too. And the year after that.

I don’t know about anybody else but I usually spend about five minutes every day deleting the junk email from my account.

I’ve had an AOL account from literally when they first started. I briefly worked for them and got the account for free. Yes you had to pay for an email account back in those dark early days.

I have other email accounts, but I like this one. I’ve had it for over 20 years. I know that if you have an AOL email account millennials think it’s funny and it means you’re old.  And do you know what I say to that? Fuck you, you little…

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