Faith, Patriotism, and the Administered Consciousness

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After a week of contentious struggle in the U.S. Senate that left the nation not just red and blue, but black-and-blue, I harkened back to “the administered consciousness” (Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man) that mutes Cain’s question after he had slain his brother Abel: “Am I, or am I not, my neighbor’s keeper?” And “who is my neighbor?”

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week. (Beyond Comprehension…)

87 Elephants Slaughtered in One of the Largest Poaching Incidents in Africa (Sept 3, 2018, LiveScience.com)


(Photo via Newthom)

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The Day America Changed

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How did we get here?

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The National ENQUIRER and other tabloids at a supermarket checkout counter

Looking back at what led to the election of Donald J. Trump, historians and cultural anthropologists may mark the day in the 1960s when the National ENQUIRER first appeared at supermarket checkout counters, where Americans buy our groceries, as a turning point in American culture.

The National ENQUIRER (click the link) is not a newspaper. It’s not the New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times. It’s a tabloid that substitutes sensational photos and titillating headlines for responsible journalism. The National ENQUIRER and the Star, both owned by American Media, Inc., are not driven by the search for truth. They’re driven by profits that appeal to shoppers’ appetite for entertainment — sex, scandals, and alien visitations — purchased at check-out counters across America.

The story of the ENQUIRER’s origins and sudden omnipresence at America’s checkout counters one day in the late 1960s is captured in the following summary of Paul David Pope’s book, The Deeds of My Fathers. The book’s subtitle — How My Grandfather and Father Built New York and Created the Tabloid World of Today” — tells the story of those deeds.

Thrown upon his own devices, Gene [Pope] spies a newspaper he wants to run, the New York Enquirer. With a loan from “Uncle Frank”—mobster Frank Costello, his real-life godfather—Gene buys the paper, reinvents it as the National Enquirer, and forces its distribution onto grocery checkout counters nationwide. With an unerring sense of his audience, Gene sees his newspaper as appealing to a prototypical female reader dubbed “Missy Smith.” Increasingly tyrannical and eccentric, he scolds reporters who hand in weak copy: “I’m not crying,” which meant Missy Smith wouldn’t be, either. Gene gives readers what they want, as he covers the paranormal, medical cures, celebrities, ever mindful of the dreams and fears of everyday Americans. The result: a new species of modern media—the supermarket tabloid. Circulation soars, peaking with the 7 million copies sold of the Enquirer’s 1977 exposé on the death of Elvis Presley.

This week we learned that David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., the parent company of the ENQUIRER, has accepted immunity from federal prosecutors in New York for agreeing to cooperate regarding the ENQUIRER‘s “hushing” of salacious stories about Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 national election.

American Media, Inc describes the ENQUIRER’s editorial mission on its website.

Enquiring Minds Want To Know!

The National ENQUIRER has a proud 92-year history. Insatiable headlines, scandals and unforgettable stories have made this title a household name! We report the unvarnished stories about celebrities: their antics, celebrations, loves, mishaps.

Plus, the ENQUIRER covers high profile national and international scandals like no other with exclusive breaking news. If it’s a gritty true crime story, or political scandal, no matter what is reported, National ENQUIRER readers are first to know!

Enquiring minds might wish to have read Karen McDougal’s suppressed story before casting votes in November 2016. But money is money, profits are profits, and supermarket tabloids like the National ENQUIRER remain indebted to “Uncle Frank”.

 

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“Uncle Frank” — Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying before The United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce (Kefauver Committee), 1950.

How did we get here? We got here as a result of contracts with supermarkets and drug stores that slowly erode the fabric of the culture on which a democratic republic depends. The ENQUIRER’s longer history includes open support for fascism and a not-so-open deal with Uncle Frank whereby the ENQUIRER would never criticize the mafia.

The 2016 national election says as much about the change in American culture — our obsession with entertainment and entertainment culture’s preference of crying over thinking — as it does about the National ENQUIRER or about a sitting president who rants about “fake news” while whittling away at what still remains of our respect for truth, decency, real news . . . and the rule of law.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 25, 2018.

Remembering the Music Man

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Turning 76 reminds me of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man. Every town loves a parade. What’s a town without a parade? Or a big marching band? The Music Man, Harold Hill, arrives in peaceful little town of River City, and convinces its citizens that “they got troubles”. He’s a con man who sells musical instruments, promising to create the greatest marching band the world has ever seen, led by 76 trombones.

Sound and look familiar? No parades. Please, no parades.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 12, 2018.

A Uniquely Grateful Graduate

Some people’s stories are priceless. Austin Wu’s is one of those. Austin shared his last night at Chaska High School’s commencement.

Austin is a neighbor and friend recognized in Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, published in 2017. He will begin his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in September.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 9, 2018.

Grandpa, do I need lawyers?

Oh, my! Why would you think you need a lawyer, Elijah?

IMG_0255I didn’t say ‘lawyer’, Grandpa. I said ‘lawyers.’ Sometimes you don’t hear so well or just don’t listen. But that’s okay. So, how many lawyers should I have? How many do you and Grandma have?

Right now we don’t have a lawyer, Elijah. We don’t need one.

Why? 

Well, we don’t have need for one, and our lawyer retired, so she’s no longer practicing law.

You have to practice to be a lawyer? Can we practice being lawyers?

It’s confusing. Practice doesn’t mean trying, like trying to walk or say ‘Grandpa’ or throwing the ball to Barclay. It’s a different kind of practice.

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Fred Trump

Yeah, and you can’t practice alone if you’re a lawyer, right? I’ve been watching Ari on The Beat. Michael Cohen’s a lawyer and he has lots of lawyers. President Trump has lots of lawyers. He keeps hiring and firing them. So how many lawyers should we have, Grandpa. You need at least ONE.

Okay, I see where you’re going. But Grandpa doesn’t need a lawyer right now. Neither does Grandma or your Mom. We’re not in any trouble.

I’m in trouble, Grandpa. ICE is coming to my daycare! I know my rights under the Constitution! But Juan and Carlos don’t have rights like me. Their parents don’t either. We’ve been practicing what to do if ICE comes to our daycare. I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up!

Good for you, Elijah. But before you think about practicing law, let’s practice saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Grandpa’. So far ‘Uh-oh!” is your only word. You need more words, not more lawyers.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 21, 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.

MARTYR – I’M NOT AND YOU AREN’T EITHER

Marilyn Armstrong’s SERENDIPITY piece on martyrs and not-martyrs brought smiles, a few chuckles, and nods of the head. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

I don’t know any martyrs. Historically, there are plenty to choose from, but in the context of “real life,” I don’t know any.

I’m not a martyr. Not even close. Whatever sacrifices I have made on behalf of my beliefs, they never came anywhere near martyrdom. Discomfort or disruption to your normal life does not make you a martyr. Taking care of your kids, working at jobs you don’t like, or struggling to survive? None of these make you a martyr.

This is one of those greatly overused words, along with “awesome,” “resonate,” and the ubiquitous “back in the day.”

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How many times have I read “I’m a martyr to housework.” Really? What strange belief system do you follow?

You are not a martyr, even if you are depressed and miserable. If merely being miserable were enough for martyrdom … well … who wouldn’t be one? These days, there…

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HOLLYWOOD SEX AND OTHER DISTASTEFUL STUFF

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

I’m afraid there won’t be any men left in Hollywood. The way things are going, they will all be out on sexual assault charges. This is not me saying this stuff didn’t happen. I’m positive it did. I always thought it was going on. Everything I knew about people in show business said that powerful men abused women pretty much all the time and got away with it because … they were powerful men.

Some guy I know suggested he had thought that it was a mutual thing. Sort of humorous.

No, it wasn’t. Not mutual nor humorous. Guys who force women to have sex don’t look like a young Robert Redford. Guys who can have any woman by saying “Hey baby … ” and she faints in his arms, don’t need to force anyone to have sex. Okay, well, there are some pretty weird guys out there, so who…

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