Press Clips: The Professor, the Policeman, the President and the Press

Posted July 30, 2009 on 3:42 pm | In the category Press | by Jeff

In case anyone was on Mars and missed it, the big story the past week was the arrest of African-American Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for “Disorderly Conduct” (that is defined as “whatever the police think it is”) when caught living in his own home. But that story only became the REALLY BIG one when President Obama opined in response to a press questioner that it appeared to him that the “police acted stupidly”. This has led to the press bombarding us with critiques of the president’s choice of words and lengthy displays of support for the country’s brave policemen. Only later did some of the press consider the realities of black men’s history with the police in this country and the press largely missed the point by focusing initially on the “acted stupidly” comment and then on the race issue – but with no real depth of understanding. Perhaps the most sensible comments were from Christopher Hitchens in the online journal, Slate, in which he reminded readers of the constitutional guarantee of a “man’s home as his castle”, that there is “no legal requirement to be polite in the defense of this right”, that police are not always drawn from the best and brightest (my paraphrase of his comments), and that “Gates should have taken his stand on the Bill of Rights and not on his epidermis or that of the arresting officer”

Read Hitchens’ full piece at this link.

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Walter Cronkite and Intelligent TV Journalism, RIP

Posted July 18, 2009 on 4:57 pm | In the category Press | by Jeff

On hearing that Cronkite had died almost my first thought was that we will never have another like him – honest, a real journalist, modest, – a guy who simply and effectively reported the actual news. Hard to know what he would have made of Sarah Palin, the Senate hearings on Judge Sotomayor, the death of Michael Jackson, or the meanderings of Governor Sanford. My hope and belief is that he would have nailed Palin as a fraud, spent 2 minutes on Michael Jackson, largely ignored the sins of Governor Sanford and castigated the old, white, Southern male Senators who embarrassed us throughout the Sotomayor hearings.

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Speedo’s the name, Mr. Speedo

Posted July 9, 2009 on 5:16 pm | In the category Free Speech, Public Diplomacy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Okay, hands up – How many of you were mortified by the first appearance of Sean Connery as James Bond, when, dressed in natty boxer bathing trunks, he saved the even nattier (un)dressed Ursula Andress from the clutches of Dr. No. No hands? I thought so. But how many of you caught the unwholesome sight of James’ unhappy successor, Sir John Sawers, Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, as he exited the sea on his wife’s Facebook page in his tiny Mr. Speedo bathing suit, a fashion item that has broken up many a transatlantic romance. Of course, James Bond didn’t have to contend with dangerous females who would expose him to such ridicule, only those who would cut him in two with golden laser beams.

In poor Lord Sawer’s case, however, the threat came from within as Lady Sawer, perhaps on the advice of her half-brother Lord Hugo Haig-Thomas, felt compelled to present her husband to the Facebook world in his Mr Speedo suit, in honour of the supposedly secret naming of him to be Head of the British spy agency that was run by men called m or zed in Bond’s day. We know that Sawer’s new name will be “C” because Lady Sawer’s wall also included messages like: “Congrats on the new job, already dubbed Sir Uncle “C” by nephews in the know.” It also included names and addresses of all family members and their favourite vacation spots, in case potential kidnappers had trouble finding them at home.

The British Foreign Secretary, ever alert, explained to the BBC that “It’s not a state secret that he wears Speedo swimming trunks, for goodness sake”, and promised to close the Lady’s facebook site as soon as his vast technical staff could figure out how to do it. Unfortunately those chaps did finally succeed in shutting down his wife, and you will have to click on You Tube to see the current Mr. Bond in his (almost) full splendour. Where oh where are Lords Gilbert, Sullivan and Python when you really need them?

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Obama and the Politics of Disappointment

Posted July 8, 2009 on 12:23 pm | In the category Obama, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

As the Obama presidency approaches the six-month mark the record is decidedly mixed. Our friends, the brothers Mackenzie, have indicated their disappointment in a recent posting critical of the “Buy American” element of the stimulus package and lays the blame on the “Obama regime”. While American presidents do not normally have the luxury of leading a “regime”, Bob and Doug point out the need for a more vigorous political stance by the president.

“Buy American” represents a gut response from politicians unwilling to provide leadership to the electorate, and unable to resist foisting easy answers onto a population whose inability to accept the reality of the decline of America leads them into a mythical America Uber Alles. A Buy American campaign fails to recognize that foreign companies hire many Americans and it begs for retaliation by other nations, leading to even greater trade imbalances and reduced employment in the future. Globalization is here to stay and politicians need to recognize that and deal with it honestly and realistically.

While the Republicans in Congress continue on an obstructionist journey to oblivion, Democrats in Congress share the blame for Buy American sentiments as well as for more serious failures looming on the horizon. Solidarity is not a keystone of the Democratic Party so while the Republican Senate and House of Representatives could support just about anything George W. Bush dreamed up, Democratic Senators and Representatives lack the kind of party discipline needed for a Democratic president to move the country toward major change – change perceived by some as threatening to lobbyists and major campaign contributors. Obama’s apparent commitment to  “pragmatism” in working with Congress in developing policy leads inevitably to disappointment.

While disappointments are there, more are sure to come. Prisoners remain in Guantanamo while members of Congress from both parties cower in fear over the possibility that any of them might be housed in prisons in their states; the stimulus package is far from successful and may very well end up an economic fiasco; a variety of security programs of questionable legality initiated by the Bush administration remain in place; the war in Afghanistan is beginning to look like a project of questionable value to the national interest; the health care debate seems headed toward the continuing of private insurance programs with no public alternative; the Congress  is unlikely to allow the Department of Defense to shake off the influence of the military industrial complex and  many major  public welfare initiatives are likely to fall victim to the economic  recession.

The current Congress lacks the statesmanship, ethics and intelligence necessary to deal effectively with domestic policy that has been built on a long history of private gain at public cost. There is an argument that capitalism has been the great strength of the United States but as we become increasingly committed to bailing out inefficient and even crooked industries, capitalism as we’ve known it begins to look more like the problem than the solution. If Obama is to have success it appears that it may have to be in foreign affairs, where presidents have more power and less need to coddle members of congress.

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