God, Guns and the Press in Newtown

Posted December 15, 2012 on 11:26 pm | In the category U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

There is little to add to all that has been written or talked about in the media. The killing rampage in Newtown, Connecticut is a transcendently horrible tragedy, almost impossible to comprehend. But of course there are always fanatics to make it worse.

Former Republican presidential candidate and current Fox TV Analyst Mike Huckabee did not disappoint, saying, “Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. … Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

I guess the Reverend Mike’s point is that 20 innocent children are dead because we didn’t let them say Christian prayers in school.

But perhaps an even better example of how incredibly stupid people can be is the comment from the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”

So our choice is to blame the framers of the Constitution for separating religion from politics, or gun control supporters, for the  assault weapon murder of 27 people. We are not to consider the lack of effective controls over the availability of assault weapons of semi-mass destruction as relevant. Nor are we to consider inadequate and antiquated mental health systems as relevant. Or that Huckabee’s version of God is really only his personal fantasy.

There are over 300 million guns in American households; they account for ca. 48,000 deaths each year, more than half by suicide, but thousands by homicide. Our country used to be able to address national problems but in the world and time of Tea Party ignorance, Koch Brothers money, Roberts Court sycophancy and a House of Representatives inhabited by a large number of people 6 eggs short of a dozen, we seem to be totally screwed by the forces of ignorance, stupidity, and greed. So for those of us wishing for a rational approach to downsizing the violence we can only hope against hope.

From time to time this blog tries to hold the press to some standards of truth. The work of the press during this slaughter of the innocents has reminded me of the incredible damage the internet has done to journalists’ efforts to report the truth. In the race to be first with “breaking news” the following non-facts have been reported by so-called “reputable” news sources over the last couple of days.

The prime case was the rush to name the killer as Ryan Lanza.. It was his brother.

The killer was allowed into the school because they knew him..Wrong, he broke a window and forced his way in.

The killer’s mother was a teacher at the school. Not true..

The killer shot his mother in the school where she was a teacher—wrong on both counts – not a teacher and not killed in the school.

An investigation in New Jersey led media to announce that there was a death there – one source said it was the father of the perpetrator, none of this was true.

The semi automatic rifle was in the trunk of the car and the perpetrator had only two pistols when he entered the school. Wrong again.

At one point media reported that the killer’s father was one of the killers.

All of this is an  example of what happens when the Internet and Twitter take over; no actual reporting, no control, no truth.


Who has charisma? I’ll tell you who: Angela Merkel

Posted December 5, 2012 on 2:03 pm | In the category Germany, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

In “Schubertiana” one of his greatest poems – and he has written more of them than anyone else alive – the matchless Tomas Tranströmer – incredibly he is  a Nobel prize winner who actually deserved it – presents the  composer  Franz Schubert like this: “And the man who catches  the signals from a whole life in a few ordinary chords from five strings who makes a river flow through the eye of a needle is a stout young gentlemen from Vienna, called “the mushroom” by his friends, who slept with his glasses on and stood  at his writing lectern punctually in the morning.  And then the wonderful centipedes of his manuscript were set in  motion.”  (Trans. Robin Fulton).  What Tranströmer is driving at here, among other things, is that the superficial outer shell of  beauty that  plagues so many contemporary politicians;  think in terms of Obama’s wife and kiddies, Romney’s religious zeal, Sarkozy’s phoney aristocratic bearing, Berlusconi’s bizarre displays of burlesque pleasure, the no-name British prime minister’s ridiculous portrayal of a person of power, etc.  In all of Europe there is now only one politician who has real power and she has  gained it by not playing a role that  is based on poor theatre, but on hard work and policies that have brought results.  This is Angela Merkel, the 57 year old former East German physicist, who displays none of the silliness of her colleagues in supposed power, who dresses without flair (we have to mention the one extraordinary exception to this that proved the rule when she wore a dress to the opening of the new Oslo Opera House that was so low-cut that the puritanical Norwegians missed watching the opera), and whose husband, an eminent physicist, is never seen at political events.

Against all odds she has now been in power as  the first female chancellor of  Germany  for 7 years,  and today she was reconfirmed as leader of her party, the conservative CDU, by the largest majority she has ever received:  80% of the party delegates voted for her.  Even the most conservative wing of the conservative party for whom she is too liberal, admitted that they would be “blöd” (nuts) to not give her their full support in the upcoming election, which they will certainly win, (but by how much is unclear).  In a stunning display of solidarity, the leader of the even more conservative Bavarian sister party (CSU), which has usually been  at odds with anyone governing in Berlin (no wonder when you experience  the splendid condition of the Bavarian capital München compared to rundown bankrupt Berlin) admitted that his party will be a “purring cat” during  the pre-election months, content to snuggle up to the warmth provided by Mama Angela.  Now that is charisma.

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