Monday, February 28, 2022

Webcams In Kiev and Moscow -- You Can Watch Live If You Like

This is fascinating. In today's world we can play Peeping Tom 
on the world's capitals via live webcams.

Here's a webcam view of Sophia Square in Kiev.
They even give you the weather. It's 2 degrees right now.  

Webcam Link:

Here's what's happening in Moscow. 
A lot of traffic at City Center. Too many ads, though.
I guess they have to make a living and pay for the technology.
The temp is minus 2.

Webcam Link:

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Media Coverage of Russia-Ukraine Conflict Criticized

How the world has changed. It used to be, during the Vietnam War, that there were essentially three networks and we'd be fed updates once a day in the evening news. You could also pick up newspapers for a little more and magazines for in-depth stories. But these media bytes were relatively brief. 

Most of the news was produced by professionals who, even if slanted, sought to give the appearance of neutrality, of being fair and balanced. With the advent of cable television people could become news junkies, engaged in covering happenings 24/7 as they happened. With so many hours to fill and stories to tell, it should not be a surprise to find the caliber of reporting to be uneven as regards accuracy.

On Friday evening I was listening to NPR's coverage of the Russian incursion into Ukraine. A journalist on the air made a statement that went something like this. "This is the first time since World War II that a major superpower invaded a lesser state." Those may not be the exact words, but it was incredibly absurd of an assertion. 

While driving, the countries rolled through my mind. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan twice (Russians in 1980, the U.S. circa 2003), Iraq, Yugoslavia.

Newspapers regularly contain a page or two for editorial opinion pieces. These are generally vetted by the editorial staff which sometimes, as in the Duluth News Tribune, includes a citizen or two. With social media, the Twitterverse and blogs have produced a deluge of opinions that are sometimes quite shrill and silly, but often they are exceedingly perceptive. 

When the talking heads speak, their biases and ignorance can emerge despite their best efforts to be intelligent. The example above is one case in point. And in the Twitterverse, the audience response can be immediate and brutal.

This article from Al Jazeera has a lot of good examples of this point.

‘Double standards’: Western coverage of Ukraine war criticised

Social media users accuse the media of hypocrisy in its coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine compared with other conflicts.

The first example is a CBS news correspondent who said that this invasion (Ukraine) is all the more shocking because it is taking place in a civilized nation not a backward one like Afghanistan and Iraq.  Here's one response:

Utterly stupid and ill informed statement. Afghanistan was also a peaceful and “civilised” place in 1979 before the Soviets invaded (and became the battle zone between the West and Soviet block). Ditto for Iraq (before the American attack in 2003)

You can follow a full thread of comments on Twitter in response to that transgression.

The next illustration in the Al Jazeera piece is of a high official from Ukraine being interviewed by BBC in which he says how emotional this is because he sees "European people with blonde hair and blue eyes being killed every day with Putin’s missiles and his helicopters and his rockets."

The immediate response from Twitter again:

But people with 'blue eyes and blonde hair' dropping bombs over the Middle East and Africa is OK.

Social media is a minefield indeed.

When Sky News broadcast a video of brave Ukrainians getting lessons on how to make Molotov cocktails, the response was illuminating:

If this was done by Palestinians, Afghanistan or other nations resisting occupation, it would be terrorism. And during Mandela's anti-apartheid era, it was also dubbed terrorism. For Europeans facing similar situations, it is resistance!. Western duplicity knows no bounds.

The article contains more thought-provoking examples. You can read the full Al Jazeera piece here:

And I'll close with this interesting Tweet that I saw this a.m. 

Going to be awkward when the war in Ukraine is over and the left have to go back to being against nationalism, borders, and an armed citizenry

Whatever happens, this is a a good time to exercise caution and to embrace a measure of humility.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Flashback Friday: Nietzsche Quotes and a Few Comments on Sex

"Sensuality often hastens the growth of love so much that the roots remain weak and are easily torn up." 
--Friedrich Nietzsche

This blog post was originally published in 2018 as I was reading Beyond Good & Evil.  The book is a collection of aphorisms, including the one at the top of this page which I've been thinking about lately because one can hardly escape from noticing how much we live in a sex-obsessed culture. 

Unrestrained sexual activity is a normal part of the landscape in Huxley's dystopian portrait of the future of humanity, Brave New World. As sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll became a mantra for many in the Boomer generation, they may have been blind to the corrosive effect it was having on long term relationships as they became trees without roots. This may explain why the U.S. divorce rate exploded in our generation. 
* * * 
May 2018
I Think, Therefore I Am... Or Am I?

The past couple weeks I’ve been accompanied by Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil (audiobook) while commuting here and there. Nietzsche is probably one of the most maligned philosophers in history, pigeonholed as either a kook or as the author of the provocative “God is dead” proclamation.

The reality is that the feisty German was an astute observer with quite the sense of humor at times. He loved his mustache, for example, which he gleefully wore like a mask. He also got a kick out of kicking over sacred cows. At least that’s been my take.

In one place he takes aim at Descartes, who after a lengthy attempt to determine whether he existed or not concluded, “I think, therefore, I am.” The declaration, Nietzsche explains, rests on a questionable foundation. That is, do we really think? By way of illustration he notes how thoughts frequently pop into his head out of nowhere. Where do these thoughts come from? Is that really thinking?

It made me think of Martin Luther’s response to a person whose mind is being pestered by evil thoughts. Luther said, “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.”

In other words, in that scenario our thoughts (often) come flitting in from elsewhere like birds or, more annoyingly, mosquitoes.

And yet, my brain is working as I work out how to construct this series of statements to make a point of sorts. To what degree am I thinking and to what degree are associations being assembled by my subconscious or unconscious, thus bypassing real thinking? I dunno. I suppose it’s something to think about.

* * * *
10 Nietzsche Epigrams and Interludes*

Some pointed, some pithy, some that make people apoplectic--Nietzsche was famous for his epigrams and aphorisms. 

Many a peacock hides his peacock tail from all eyes--and calls that his pride.

What? A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal.

If we train our conscience, it kisses us while it hurts us.

In music the passions enjoy themselves.

Sensuality often hastens the growth of love so much that the roots remain weak and are easily torn up.

When we have to change our mind about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him.

The abdomen is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god.

Poets treat their experiences shamelessly: they exploit them.

Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.

Praise is more obtrusive than a reproach.

* * * *
Related Links
Notes from a Lecture on Nietzsche
Nietzsche's Concept of Eternal Recurrence

* Extracts from Beyond Good & Evil

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Mardi Gras 2022 -- Photos and a Little Backstory

Well, I learn something new every day. For some reason, I always thought that Mardi Gras took place on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. I assumed it was a celebration related to the Catholic tradition of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period of fasting and prayer that begins on January 6 and ends on Holy Thursday, the night Jesus was betrayed, the day before Passover.

As it turns out, Mardi Gras is a season, not a day. It runs from January 6 to the night before Ash Wednesday. When I lived in Puerto Rico, I discovered that Christmas wasn't really a one day event. It was a season from Christmas Day (December 25) till Three Kings Day, January 6. Note the connection. Christmas "ends" the day Mardi Gras begins.

Every region of the country has its unique culture. How did it come about that New Orleans created and community environment so different from anywhere else? It's useful to look back on its roots. New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718, hence many of its influences. In 1763, as a result of a war with Britain, it was ceded to the Spanish, but returned to the French. In 1803 the French sold of the central portion of the continent to the United States in what was called the Louisiana Purchase. The price was a steal.

Tribute to Tennessee William?

In addition to French and Spanish influences we find Creole, African American, Cajun, German, Irish, Italian, and Jewish. 

It's my understanding that the music is what makes New Orleans sizzle. That was my experience the two times I was there, neither time being Mardi Gras. 

I had planned to do a Wordless Wednesday yesterday but went further.
It feels strange on some levels to see life going on as normal 
(people going to work, TV shows and advertising uninterrupted)
while simultaneously we have a Russian incursion into Ukraine, 
with tanks, troops and missiles, along with a hundred talking heads
spinning their interpretations of these unfolding events.
Alas, what's really happening?

Today the president reminded us of the united power of NATO.
If Putin attacks one, he attacks all, because we stand together.
This covenant between nations brought to mind the manner in 
which the European powers were interconnected preceding WWI. 
The implications make me uncomfortable.

Meantime, life goes on... 


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Nevada Bob's Bad Movie Blues

Nevada Bob Gordon in Minneapolis. Photos by Gary Firstenberg

Nevada Bob has been making progress on his memoirs. His book 50 Years with the Wrong Woman is slated for release in the second quarter of 2022. I will keep you posted.

Bob has also been recording in Nashville these past couple years. If you may recall, Bob Dylan recorded several albums there, and now Nevada Bob has done the same. For both Bob and Nevada Bob, the session musicians were superb. And for each, one of the players was the much heralded Charlie McCoy.

After completing Long Train To Nowhere, which features Carol's Song, Nevada Bob's tribute to his wife, Bob Gordon returned to Nashville to record an album with numerous other songs he's penned. "Bad Movie Blues" is the first track on his most recent CD, Everyone Needs a Little Lovin'...And a Lot of Beer

Bad Movie Blues
Copyright 2021, Nevada Bob Gordon

Life today is like a bad movie,
you go to bed, the movie is gone, 
and when you awake to start the next day
you find that bad movie's still on.

I'm an old man, happy most of my days,
life was good then, no doubt.
I look around now and wonder
what's this new world all about.

World leaders today seem more greedy
using power to gain your respect
but before long, you wish they were gone,
they're not the person you helped elect. 

Life today is like a bad movie,
you go to bed, the movie is gone, 
and when you awake to start the next day
you find that bad movie's still on.

People today seek power and wealth,
what's more important I couldn't tell which
but I know for certain when they drop my last curtain
I'd rather die happy than rich.

Marriage today doesn't have the respect
where families remain intact;
married twice or never at all
has become an unfortunate fact.

When I look around and see, I think you'll agree,
I think people should take this advice:
take your old time to find a good mate,
you don't need to try marriage twice.

Make a good movie,
hold through bad weather,
face problems together,
make a good movie your life. 

* * * 

His smile may not be as effervescent as Amy Owens, and he has 
nothing to do with trying to hit high notes, but Nevada Bob Gordon
has lived a colorful life and he's got lots of stories to tell.
Nevada Bob at the Armory in Duluth where
young Bobby Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly.

Ay Gettysburg. "One Civil War is enough, thank you.
Another Nevada Sunset...

Meantime, life goes on. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Escapes: The Innovative Bio of Hampton Fancher

The movie Escapes is an unusual documentary about a man who lived an unusual life. When I took it out of the library I had no idea what I was in for. I initially assumed it was about a Harry Houdini type of character, an escape artist. In the end, I'm not sure how the title entirely relates to the stories, other than to suggest that each phase of his life had been an escape from whatever preceded it. 

I'd never heard of Hampton Fancher, but it hardly matters. The original manner in which the story is told is what holds your attention. The entire documentary is comprised of Fancher telling the story of his life. What you see on the screen, though, are an abundance of little film and cartoon snippets illustrating the narrative. It's a cinematic montage. Some are brief outtakes from his bit parts in various television shows of the 50s and 60s. Some are from other Hollywood films and bits swept up from cutting room floors maybe. It's both innovative and strange as Fancher's commentary gallops at an almost manic, frantic pace. 

The guy has had quite a life, though. At 15 he runs away from home and goes to Spain to become a Flamenco dancer. How many kids did that when you were growing up?

Eventually by a circuitous route he ends up in Hollywood garnering roles as cowboys, cops, cads and killers, and as an occasional hero. 

His claim to fame was being producer and screenwriter of the film classic Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dicks's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Most of us recall it as a Ridley Scott film featuring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Darryl Hannah. It's a dystopian vision of Los Angeles in the future in which synthetic humans known as replicants are manufactured to do work on space colonies. A group of replicants escape back to earth and Harrison Ford, a burnt out cop, agrees to hunt them down. 

Hollywood loves taking us into the future. Back to the Future II was an imaginary snapshot of the year 2015. Blade Runner had a 2019 setting. Cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger came from the year 2029 to kill Sarah Connor in The Terminator. I doubt robots will rule the world by then though. And we're still quite far off from seeing the fulfillment of Kubrick's 2001: A Space OdysseyBut the themes these films toyed with were more important than the accuracy of their timelines.

As for Escapes, the film won't be for everyone, though people who make movies might find it stimulating as a catalyst for developing new ways to tell stories. Whether this was Director Michael Almereyda's concept or Fancher's I do not know. It was a story worth telling. From the outset Fancher's life was outside the norm.

For the average person, 5 stars out of 10. For unconventional creatives, 7 stars.

* * * 

Extra Point Questions
Are you trying to escape from something?
What are you escaping from? What are you escaping to?

Related Links

The page

Hampton Fancher page on Wikipedia

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Ecclesiastes: Gaining a Better Perspective on What Matters

When I was younger I'd read or heard that Reformer Martin Luther had a problem with the book of Ecclesiastes. He did not believe it belonged in the canon. How many times does its author declare "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." Or as the NIV translates it:  

“Meaningless! Meaningless!"
 says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!    
Everything is meaningless.”

That's a rather dire starting point. Not a lot of basis for hope there. It would be easy for a scholar, priest or reformer to want to yank it from the sacred texts and leave it in an alley somewhere. 

Now personally, I have found it to be one of my favorite Old Testament books, along with Proverbs and Psalms. And it didn't bother me to be out of sync with Luther on a point of relatively minor contention, so I never gave the matter much thought. It had always been a bit of interesting trivia, nothing more. 

NOW just this past week I came across a blog that dug a little deeper on this matter, and brought to light some facts that weren't highlighted when I first learned of it. The blog is titled Beggars All -- Reformation & Apologetics. The site's subtitle spells out its aim: "Setting the Record Straight on the Protestant Reformation."

The title of the blog post of November 12, 2016 is Luther: "Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it..."

Ah, but did Martin Luther really say this? It would appear, digging through the details of James Swan's analysis, that Luther was referring to the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, a.k.a. The Wisdom of Sirach, which is not included in our Protestant Bibles.  

* * * 
One reason Ecclesiastes is a favorite for me personally is that it is so intellectually stimulating. And on another level, it is simply beautiful writing. It is lively prose, and a very direct presentation of true truths that help keep us grounded in a world that promises the moon, sun and stars. 

For those Narcissists who think they're hot stuff, who delight in projecting an image of self-importance, the author offers this reminder:

No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

* * * 
Much has been written about Ecclesiastes. One of the books that caught my eye recently was  David Gibson's Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End. I've not read the book (yet) but grasp almost viscerally its central precept.

As reviewer Jesse Green puts it, Live with an understanding and a constant view of death. This may seem morbid but will lead to a joyful life. 

Having lost a few friends recently, and turning seventy soon, the message is utterly relevant. My time on earth is finite. Don't squander it.

Another reviewer's summary similarly goads one to find a copy to read. If Ecclesiastes is a book for our times, then Living Life Backward is the book to unpack it.

* * * 

Jacques Ellul, in his book of meditations on Ecclesiastes, Reason For Being, explores the real meaning of the word translated as vanity in some texts and meaningless in others. Wordsmiths love digging into the roots of words because of the imagery words often evoke. In this case, the first word of the book, after the author's introduction, has been somewhat slippery. Or rather, misty, smokey. The word is hebel which some scholars have translated as vapor.

What I like about that idea is illustrated in C.S. Lewis's wonderful novella, The Great Divorce. The story is about a busload of people who leave earth's shadowlands and are transported to the edge of heaven. Although their bodies seemed so substantial on earth, when they reach heaven they are so vaporous that the grass feels hard when they step on it. 

That's but one picture that comes to mind for me with the word hebel. For scholars who have studied the word's usage in other ancient literature it conveyed mist, smoke and breath. Getting a handle on what the word conveys seems fairly important since it is used no less than 33 times in this book alone.

Ellul suggests that the word is also associated with destiny, that destiny being insignificance, and life is a mist that dissipates as it rises from the ground in the morning sun. Elsewhere in the Old Testament it is translated as something fleeting, deceptive, without result. 

And yet, are our lives really meaningless?  The right way to understand Scripture is in the context of the whole. How does this verse relate in the context of the chapter? And this chapter within the context of the book? And this book in the context of the canon?

They say it is a mark of intelligence to be able to hold two opposing thoughts in our mind simultaneously. On the one hand we are made from dust and to dust we shall return. We are dust. Or vapor, a fleeting mist. On the other hand we are persons created in the image of God. We were designed to reflect that. Therefore every person we meet is worthy of honor or respect. 

Related Links
Ecclesiastes, Chapter One
The Viewpoint of Ecclesiastes: Realism or Cynicism

Friday, February 18, 2022

Flashback Friday: Presidents Day Trivia Contest

This Trivia Quiz was created in 2012, 
but should be just as much fun today.

With this coming Monday being Presidents Day, this is as good a day as any to think about presidents. By presidents we're talking about U.S. presidents here. Sorry, I mean no offense to my readers in Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Zambia or Laos who were not required to memorize U.S. president-trivia in their schools while growing up. For the rest of you, here's a quiz to help keep your brain cells from atrophying. You can check your answers against my guesses at the end of this quiz. Be sure to keep score.
Disclaimer: This quiz is for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as having any usefulness for passing your U.S. citizenship exam. 
1. Which president was nicknamed His Accidency? 
a. Harrold Wilson 
b. John Tyler 
c. Chester Arthur 
d. Grover Cleveland Alexander 

2. Which President was called The Do-Nothing President? 
a. Pat Buchanan 
b. William Buckley 
c. William Howard Taft 
d. James Buchanan 

3. Which president was sometimes called The Big Lub? 
a. Grover Lightfoot 
b. William Howard Taft 
c. Teddy Roosevelt 
d. Herbert Hoover 
4. Who was the only president with a Ph.D.? 
a. Charles Smedley 
b. Woodrow Wilson 
c. Calvin Coolidge 
d. Benjamin Harrison 
5. Who was the first president to actually dine with a black man in the White House? 
a. Abraham Lincoln 
b. Ulysses S. Grant 
c. Teddy Roosevelt 
d. John F. Kennedy 
6. Teddy Roosevelt was evidently into pets. Match the the following pets to their names. 
a. Guinea Pig 
b. Snake 
c. Bull Dog 
d. Chesapeake Retriever 
Their names were: Pete, Father O'Grady, Emily Spinach, and Sailor Boy... but in which order? 

7. Who was the first president's wife to be called the First Lady of the Land? 
a. Letitia Tyler 
b. Lucy Hayes 
c. Eliza Johnson 
d. Frances Clara Cleveland 
8. Who was the first president to fly in a helicopter? 
a. Silent Cal 
b. FDR 
c. Ike 
d. Harry S. Truman 
9. Who was the first president to fly in an airplane? 
a. Herbert Hoover 
b. Teddy Roosevelt 
c. FDR 
d. Calvin College 

10. This president raised 11 children, none of whom were his own. (He is one of three presidents to have had adopted children.) 
a. Chester Arthur 
b. Andrew Johnson 
c. Andrew Jackson 
d. James Polk 
11. When he was vice president, he presided over the Senate wearing a pair of pistols, as a precaution against the frequent outbursts of violence. (See? Contentiousness in the congress is nothing new.) 
a. Hebert Hoover 
b. Andrew Johnson 
c. Martin Van Buren 
d. Lyndon Johnson 
12. Which president was the first to see a baseball game and saw the Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Senators 7-4? 
a. Benjamin Harrison 
b. Teddy Roosevelt 
c. William McKinley 
d. Woodrow Wilson
13. How many presidents did not win the popular vote yet won the election? 
a. 5 
b. 8 
c. 15 
d. 11 
14. How many Americans understand how the Electoral College works?
a. 5
b. 8
c. 15
d. 11 
15. Who was the first president not born on the continental United States?
a. George Washington
b. John D. Rockefeller
c. Andrew Johnson
d. Barack Obama
Bonus: Which website did I borrow all this information from?
d. None of the above. I took good notes in school and remembered all this stuff. 

1. (b) 2. (d) 3. (b) 4. (b) 5. (c) TR dined with Booker T. Washington. 6. Some of the pets TR had in the White House for his family included a Bull Dog named Pete, a Guinea Pig named Father O'Grady, a snake named Emily Spinach and a Chesapeake Retriever named Sailor Boy. 7. I think it was Lucy. 8. (c) 9. There is a dispute here as my sources conflict. One source says it was Teddy, the other says FDR. 10. (c) Yes, Jackson had 11 adopted children. 11. (c) 12. (a) 13. (c) 14. Trick question. Nobody knows how it works. 15. (d) He was born in Sasketchewan. No, wait, Rio. Actually it was Hawaii, which was not a state until I was in elementary school. Bonus Question: a, b and c. Score five points for having read this all the way through, and one point for each correct answer. If you did better than 18, you're pretty sharp. Take a bow.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Shifting Tides of Sports Journalism

Jane Leavy's book about Mickey Mantle is more than the story of a baseball hero. The Sports Illustrated journalist titled her story The Last Boy because sports journalism was moving into a new era. Up till Mantle, the innocence of our heroes was preserved because of the unwritten rule that journalists protect the privacy of person's of importance. They helped maintain the images that had been carefully crafted.

In the political sphere it's well-known that FDR's physical handicap (polio) was veiled in order to project his strength as a leader of the free world. JFK's womanizing was equally well-known yet concealed by the press. In the same way, sports heroes were designed to inspire us. Their foibles were not to be our concern. 

Leavy essentially states that at a certain moment in time a shift occurred. Up until then, if you revealed what you knew about a player, you were bad. You were slapped on the wrist and sent to your room without supper. Post-Mantle, in the new era of sports journalism, if you failed to reveal something you knew, you were punished. Writers were no longer permitted to conceal. It was their job to reveal.  


More recently the tide has shifted in another direction altogether. According to the documentary Shadows of Liberty, journalists--and not just sports journalists--have been reigned in again. This time, it is not for the purpose of protecting the privacy of our heroes. Rather, it is for the purpose of not offending the corporate sponsors. They pay big bucks to fund not only the games and cover the massive salaries of the players as well as the media, from moguls to minions. 

Shadows examines the media monopoly by corporations and the challenges this presents with regard to truth and democracy. In other words, money controls the narratives we are being sold daily that we're expected to accept. According to this 2012 documentary, the pendulum has swung back the other way. Journalists are gagged or prevented from covering issues deemed too controversial. 

Though one reviewer on stated that "it didn't age well," it does offer a pretty good background regarding how our current media malaise was birthed. Another reviewer wrote this:

We still talk a good game in this country, but the Reality is far harsher than most would care to admit. A great deal of what's wrong with the U.$. is thoroughly examined in SHADOWS OF LIBERTY; i.e., the manipulation of the Masses by The Media and those who control it. Nike's purchase of CBS's silence regarding sweatshops in Vietnam is just one of the dark deals this doc sheds light on; another is a case I don't recall even hearing about at the time: the possible accidental downing of a passenger plane (TWA 800) by the U.$. Navy. The circle-the-wagons efforts to bury the story are dragged kicking and screaming into the light- although nothing's been done about it to this day, as far as I can discern. SHADOWS OF LIBERTY doesn't stop there, but I'll leave it up to you to track it down and see it. In a company- uh, country- where politicians are bought and sold at their own version of a stock exchange, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Commission, or Politico$ For $ale, for short), I think that it's about time that Republicans and Democrats who accept bribes (from "lobbyists") should be forced to wear the logos of their True Employers on their clothes.

Whereas freedom of speech and freedom of the press are specifically underscored as essential rights in the Constitution, the reality is far different. 

"Every journalist who isn't asleep understands that corporate power has made it impossible for them to do the job that needs to be done."--Journalist Norman Solomon, "Institute for Public Accuracy" Founder 

Between 1998 and 2005, media corporations spent $400 billion on lobbying and political contributions. The executives of these media corporations undoubtedly expect something in return for all this cabbage. 

Round and round and round it goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.

Related Links

Ken Burns' Baseball and a Memory of Mick

He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People

Shadows of Liberty  

Wag the Dog

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Sarah Brokke at Wussow's

For Duluthians, Wussow's on Central has been a favorite haunt for live music, great coffee and a meeting place for friends. Jason has also been a supporter of the arts, and we always look forward to who's work will next grace the wall of the front room. This month it's Sarah Brokke on display. Sarah's work has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. Stop by, grab a coffee and a bite to eat, and let her colors fill your day. 

Related Links

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Springboard for the Arts Selects OACC as a Host Site for the Creative Community Leadership Institute

When Glenn and Emily Swanson moved into Carlton's Oldenburg House ten years ago, they had a vision to replicate the spirit of the family that established it in 1894. The Classical Revival-style home would be more than just a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It would become a touchstone for the community.

One bi-product of their original vision was the Oldenburg Arts and Cultural Community. According to Executive Director Lori Peterson, "The OACC's mission is to encourage our region’s vitality through locally inspired, arts activated community development. The geography, wisdom and talent abundantly and irreplaceably around us guides us toward a vision of an inclusive, equitable, healthy and sustainable future where all residents prosper."

This year, the Springboard for the Arts has chosen the OACC as one of three host sites for the Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI).

CCLI is an intensive, in-person, cohort-based training program with real-world practice for artists, culture bearers, community organizers, community development practitioners, and other leaders seeking to deepen their impact in creative community building.

The OACC's artistic vision is grounded in the belief that artists and culture bearers have a special responsibility during this intense time of pandemic recovery and racial reconciliation. Their aim is to help us remember that beauty, change and loss have always co-existed and that we are always capable of expressing care, empathy and stewardship.

CCLI’s program aligns perfectly with OACC’s Carlton Area Creatives Collaborative begun in 2021. "We know the degree of impact possible from a project like CCLI based upon its previous success," says Peterson. "This is an opportunity for this area’s artists to shine and make a difference while broadening the economic impact of the creative community."

Follow the links below to learn more, to sign up for info sessions, and to apply to participate. Creatives, YOU are the most important part to this process!

Application closes 2/27/2022. East Cohort meets online and at Cloquet Forestry Center.     

For more information, follow the link CCLI or visit:

The CCLI venture serves the arts community throughout this region. Though the meeting site is in Cloquet, it is inclusive for artists throughout the Arrowhead. 

OACC was selected because of all the great arts and culture work happening here that we all know and care about—all of it highly recognized because of your talents and contributions as artists—and valued by our community partners and supported locally by various funders such as Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, Minnesota State Arts Board, Northland Foundation, Fond du Lac Reservation and Tribal Community Council, Minnesota Humanities Council, and numerous other cities and counties in the region.

About the Oldenburgs

Henry Oldenburg left a legacy that included the establishment of Jay Cooke State Park as well as a lead role in the restoration of dozens of communities destroyed in the great fire of 1918. His wife Margaret was similarly dedicated to the community, hosting civic and social occasions as well as playing a role speaking out for the rights of women.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Our Democracy Is Broken. Can We Fix It?

John Locke*
Despite being over ten years old, Niall Ferguson's The Great Degeneration remains must reading for those who wish to understand our current cultural malaise. For this reason I have devoted a number of blog posts to sharing the insights he offers us in this perceptive book.

As I've noted previously, the four cornerstones of Western Civilization's achievements are Democracy (representative government), Capitalism, Rule of Law and Civil Society. Here are some of my gleanings from his discussion of representative government. The basic tenet here is that "it is generally better for government to be somewhat representative of the governed than not." The reason this is so, he says, is because a representative government is more likely to be responsive to shifting popular preferences. 

Ferguson is emphatic in his defense of representative government, despite the increasing cacophony of voices complaining that Democracy is broken. Yearning for a Beijing model of a one-party state is not going to bring us the satisfaction we long for.  (Look no further than the Chinese system of technocrats instituting five-year plans.) Some decisions--such as their economic zones--may have good results, but population planning like the one-child policy has been a disaster.

Critics are correct, though, in noting how unhealthy our economic state is today. Look no further than the massive debt we have accumulated. We just recently surpassed the 30 trillion dollar mark, or 7 trillion dollars more than our GDP. Don't know where it's goin' but that debt pile just keeps growin'.

The problem with public debt is that it allows our current generation of voters to live the lives they want at the expense of those too young to vote or as yet are unborn. Even now, we have leaders offering universal health care, free college tuition and a host of other benefits in exchange for votes. But who will pick up the tab? Just as our Founding Father passed the slavery issue on to the next generation, so we're passing the consequences of our fiscal irresponsibility to future generations. 

There are only two reasonable future scenarios, states Ferguson--either increased taxation or drastic cuts in public expenditures. Neither course is likely to be popular.

This is precisely what Madison was privately concerned about when the Constitution was being hammered out. Once the public figures out that they can elect leaders who will give them whatever they want, the two party system will become a competition between whoever can offer the most toys and candy. 

To eliminate the current fiscal gap--which has grown since Ferguson wrote these words--would require a 64% increase in Federal taxes or "an immediate 40% cut in all Federal expenditures." Now how many voters have the stomach for that? 

At this point the author cites Edmund Burke who wrote that we have a social contract that is greater than ourselves, a responsibility to our forebears who sacrificed to provide us a better world as well as a responsibility to our offspring that they might be unimpeded in the pursuit of their own destinies and dreams. In other words, there is a Social Contract between the generations, from our forebears to our offspring. 

Ferguson makes the case that this Social Contract is broken, and if we are to survive it must be restored. Can it be? How? "I recognize that the obstacles to doing so are daunting," he writes.

The hurdles ahead of us are many, not the least of which is having confidence that we can pull it off. Why make sacrifices and put in all the work necessary to restore things if you don't have faith that it will pay off? And how can the State be our partner when we, the people, constantly see decisions made that make us feel it's our adversary?

For Ferguson there are only two scenarios that will get us out of this mess. The first involves getting the young--and their parents and grandparents--to elect leaders who will commit to a more responsible fiscal policy. (The hard part here is that such a move by leaders will inflict short term pain for the sake of long term gains, and few people want short term pain. We've been trained to "want the world and we want it now.")

The way to do this, the author believes, involves altering the manner in which governments account for their finances. The current method is fraudulent. They bury the facts and the truth. Says he, there are no regularly published factual balance sheets. Future liabilities are hidden from view. This is why one of the chief criticisms of government is its lack of transparency. 

A better way would be to have a government's liabilities (including future commitments) arranged so they can be compared with their assets. Governments should adopt the generally accepted accounting principles of legitimate businesses. Finally, our government should make absolutely clear the intergenerational implications of our fiscal policies.

The alternative, he writes, goes like this: "If we do not embark on a whole new reform of government finance, then I'm afraid we are going to end up with a bad but more likely second scenario. Western democracies are going to carry on in their current feckless fashion until one after another they follow Greece and other Mediterranean economies into the fiscal death spiral that begins with a loss of credibility, continues with rising borrowing costs and ends as governments are forced to impose spending cuts and higher taxes at the worst possible moment."

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While reading these things several thoughts come to mind. First, I get an image of creepy crawly things slithering in the muck beneath rocks that everyone is afraid to overturn because of what they might find there. 

Second, because our flabby, inefficient, bloated government bureaucracy is dependent on keeping existing systems alive, because the gravy train is so nourishing, there's no incentive to change anything.  

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Maybe there's another solution. Instead of griping about the Federal mess that seems so out of our control, maybe we can roll up our sleeves locally and do the work of getting better informed here in our home communities. It won't solve everything, but it's a start.

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* John Locke expanded on Thomas Hobbes's social contract theory and developed the concept of natural rights, the right to private property and the principle of the consent of the governed.

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