Monday, June 29, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thought for Today

"The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."

~~~~~ H. L. Mencken

Friday, June 26, 2009

As the Stomach Turns

Normally, I'm a stalwart Fox News fan. The AT&T U-verse TV service I've been enjoying since last February brings me something like 120 channels, but 119 are wasted on me, because I almost never watch them.

Actually, I don't spend nearly as much time watching Fox News as I do listening to it, talk radio-like, from the next room while doing something else. If I hear something particularly interesting, I walk into the living room and watch for a few minutes.

Yesterday afternoon, though, just after 4 PM local time, Fox News ran off the rails. As soon as the rumors about Michael Jackson's demise began to spread, Fox preempted its regular programming and replaced it with 100% Michael Jackson coverage. First there was the sappy, saccharine, sanctimonious Shepard Smith, my least favorite of the Fox anchors.

After three solid hours of Shep running on about Michael Jackson, I couldn't stand it any more. I dashed off this note to Fox's Viewer Comments mailbox:
Enough already!

Among other stories, Congress is about to vote on Cap and Trade tomorrow, Iranians are dying in the streets in quest of freedom, and North Korea is threatening us with nuclear annihilation.

So what is Fox News talking about wall to wall?

Michael Jackson!

Please, let's see some of the maturity and balance for which Fox has been known until now. Stop pre-empting your regular programming. Get Shep off the air. Let your regular programming resume.

Certainly, I don't expect you to ignore the Michael Jackson story, but for Heaven's sake, let's set some priorities. There are other important stories out there, too!

Shortly thereafter, I got part of my wish, anyway. Mercifully, Shep's shift ended – to be followed by the self-promoting histrionics of Geraldo Rivera. Geraldo has long had the reputation of somehow shaping every story to be about him, and he did not disappoint. To hear him talk, he was Michael Jackson's best friend, and the only reporter on the planet to whom the Gloved One would entrust the Real Truth.

This morning, I checked National Review Online's The Corner, and found that I was not alone. Jonah Goldberg (no relation), who often appears on Fox News, was equally dismayed, and far more eloquent. In a post called, simply enough, Some Quick Thoughts on Michael Jackson, here's what he said:

[NOTE: Normally, I just quote the first few paragraphs, but in this case, I'm making an exception. I hope that NRO doesn't mind.]

Generally speaking, I’m a believer in the rule that we should not speak ill of the dead. Or at least we should wait a decent interval before doing so (if we never spoke ill of the dead, history would be meaningless). But, I must say I find the media’s instinctive rush to sanctify Michael Jackson disgusting.

Look, I understand that Michael Jackson was an “icon.” I understand that some people loved his work and that many people who never met him believed they loved the man too.

But I didn't, and I’m hardly alone. If Michael Jackson were just another famous person, I’d probably stay silent and let the pro forma celebration of his memory roll by without comment. (For instance, I have no problem whatsoever with the media taking a moment to pay respects to Farah Fawcett).

Sure, I liked the Jackson Five. I liked “Thriller,” too, when I was a teenager. Michael Jackson was an “icon” for me too.

But let’s pause for a moment on that word “icon.” It seemed the consensus adjective for the news networks. NBC ran a special on two “American Icons” — Fawcett and Jackson. Every cable network (including Fox, for the record) used the word “icon” to describe him as if this was some sort of safe harbor, a word everyone could agree on. “Love him or hate him,” the implied logic went, “he was an ‘icon.’”

Yes, well, maybe so. But that doesn’t let you off the hook. Even though the term sounds neutral, it isn’t. An icon, technically speaking, is a religious symbol deserving of reverence and adoration. The networks may not have intended to use the word that way, but they certainly showed an unseemly amount of reverence and adoration for the man.

I think part of it is the narcissism of our celebrity culture. Here was a guy so many of “us” read about in People magazine for so long. His passing, therefore, isn’t a loss in the sorrowful sense of the word, but in the selfish one. It’s a loss of an interesting subject, a creature to gossip about and to fill a few minutes on E! or Entertainment Tonight.

Everyone likes to invoke Lord Acton’s axiom that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But nearly everyone forgets that he coined this phrase not to indict powerful men, but to instruct the historians who write about them. Historians tend to forgive the powerful their transgressions. Likewise, journalists (for want of a better word) tend to forgive the famous.

Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything.

I say: Who cares who his famous friends were? Who cares what a “fascinating” person he was? If you want to talk about his death as an end of an era, have at it. But that’s not what the Barbara Walters set is doing.

I know that Michael Jackson wasn’t convicted of the despicable crimes he was accused of. And that’s why he never went to jail. Three cheers for the majesty of the American legal system. But in my own personal view, he wasn’t exonerated either. Nor was he absolved of his crimes because he could sing, moonwalk, or sell 10 million records. (Though many of us suspect the money and fame he made from those things is precisely what kept him out of jail).

And, while I merely think he was a pedophile, I know he was not someone responsible parents should applaud, healthy children emulate, nor society celebrate.

And while we’re at it, his relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world. He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own.

Meanwhile, in the last ten days, we’ve seen or heard of remarkable people who’ve given their lives for freedom in Iran. We’ve heard of innocents killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the last decade, America has lost thousands of heroes in noble causes and thousands of innocent bystanders who were denied the simple joys of life through no fault of their own. Those deaths are tragic, and we're hard pressed to think of more than a handful of names to put with the long line of the dead.

If anything, Michael Jackson’s life, not his death, was tragic.

Every year at the Oscars they show a montage of people who died over the previous year. Invariably, the audience only applauds for the really famous people. This has always offended me. Not necessarily because the famous people don’t deserve praise but because it’s so clear that the audience is clapping for the fame. Michael Jackson had many accomplishments. But the press is sanctifying him because he was famous, deservedly so to be sure, but not because he was good. So much of the coverage seems to miss this fundamental point, as if being famous made him good.

I feel sympathy for Jackson’s family and friends who understandably mourn him. But I can't bring myself to mourn him any more than I mourn the random dead I read about in the paper everyday. Indeed, I confess to mourning him less.

Every channel says this is a sad day for America. I agree. But not for the same reasons.

Well said, Jonah!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thought for Today

"Once conform, once do what others do because they do it, and a kind of lethargy steals over all the finer senses of the soul."

~~~~~ Michel de Montaigne

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Old Jarhead: I'm Tired

I'm Tired is a truly great blog post written 4 months ago by Marine Vietnam veteran Robert A. Hall. It has spread virally all over the internet, and finally made it into my mailbox a little while ago. If you haven't read it yet, you need to. Here's how it begins:
I’ll be 63 soon. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce, and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I’ve worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven’t called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there’s no retirement in sight, and I’m tired. Very tired.

I’m tired of being told that I have to “spread the wealth around” to people who don’t have my work ethic. I’m tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy or stupid to earn it.

I’m tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to “keep people in their homes.” Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I’m willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the leftwing Congresscritters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them—with their own money.

I’m tired of being told how bad America is by leftwing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the religious freedom and women’s rights of Saudi Arabia, the economy of Zimbabwe, the freedom of the press of China, the crime and violence of Mexico, the tolerance for Gay people of Iran, and the freedom of speech of Venezuela. Won’t multiculturalism be beautiful?

You can read the rest of it, along with the many comments it has attracted, here.

Thought for Today

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

~~~~~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thought for Today

"America wasn't founded so that we could all be better. America was founded so we could all be anything we damn well please."

~~~~~ P.J. O'Rourke

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thought for Today

"Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others."

~~~~~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sarah Palin on the Holocaust Museum Shooting

Yesterday, Governor Sarah Palin issued this simple, elegant statement following the National Holocaust Museum shooting:

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the shooting victims at the National Holocaust Museum. The museum itself remembers and honors the lives lost in one of the world's most horrific genocides. To have an act of intolerance further spread hatred at this place of reflection, further adds to the grief. My heart goes out to all those impacted, especially the brave guards who acted so selflessly to prevent further injury. May God Bless the Jewish community."

President Reagan couldn't have said it better.

Middle Tennessee Liberty Rally

A huge Tea Party rally on the Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee is coming soon. It's called the Middle Tennessee Liberty Rally, and it will be held at high noon on Monday, June 29th. If you live anywhere within driving distance and you can get away from work for a couple of hours, come join us. So far, the scheduled speakers are Nashville talk show hosts Phil Valentine, Ralph Bristol, and Steve Gill, along with Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt and Ken Marrero, the Blue Collar Muse. By the time of the rally, there may be one or two more.

Here's a brochure (click to enlarge):

For the most current information, and to sign up for the mailing list, go to the Tennessee Tea Party website.

See you there!

North Korea As Seen by Zack Rawsthorne

Here's the Diversity Lane take on the North Koreans and how not to handle the situation:

Thought for Today

"The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us."

~~~~~ Paul Valéry

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thought for Today

"It is as useless to argue with those that have renounced the use and authority of reason as to administer medication to the dead."

~~~~~ Thomas Paine