Sunday, January 23, 2011

All the News that Fits (or The Newspaper Reader)

I lifted the title for this blog off the news page of our own web site – Native Oaks Farm and Sheepy Hollow at Native Oaks Farm.
by Charlie Leck

State of the Union Speech
I read a couple of pieces this week that question the significance or importance of the annual state of the union speech. Some years I find myself with the same attitude, but not this year. There are a whole bunch of reasons that make this year’s speech an important one.

Let’s observe behavior! Following the awful moments in Tucson, we are suppose to be moving into a period of greater political tolerance, understanding and cooperation. Let’s watch how divided, or how respectful, the houses of Congress are as they gather and listen to the President. Let’s watch, too, just how far toward the center the President tries to move. [Read the Washington Post story about the upcoming speech here!]

Oh, no! Not Glenn Beck again!
I’ve kept no secret about my dislike of and disdain for the malodorous talking-head, Glenn Beck. He’s a slimy kind of guy who arouses hatred in people and seems to enjoy doing it. He scares me! Recently he’s been after a professor at the City University of New York (CUNY), criticizing the woman he portrays as a hopeless liberal and essentially blaming her for our nation’s economic woes. Beck characterizes her as a national enemy!

We’re talking here about an elderly lady and the radical plan Beck is criticizing was published nearly 45 years ago. Is Beck crazy, or what? He knows he has a volatile audience; and yet he does this kind of stuff regularly. Thanks to Beck, the poor woman is receiving death threats from the crazies who follow this radical right winger. [Read the NY Times story about Beck and Professor Piven here!]

Greatest Classical Composers
I mildly enjoy symphonic music – especially when it’s that of the great classical composers. Give me some wonderful Beethoven, Bach or Mozart and I’m okay with it. Keep me away from some of the contemporary monotonal composers. I can’t stand them.

The music writer, Anthony Tommasini, at the NY Times, has recently published a piece in which he selects the top 10 classical composers in history and shows you how he did it. You can see video and also listen to some of the marvelous pieces these guys wrote. Here’s a video that introduces Tommasini’s project.

You can almost guess the names that make the list – even if you’re not an aficionado of classical music: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Debussy, Stravinsky, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner and Bartok. [Here’s the NY Times report on the project!]

Do you really understand why we’re involved in wars in the Middle East?
We’re a broke nation, out of money and our credit is not so good any more. Who do we blame it on? The poor, the homeless, the elderly, the unemployed? Immigrants – legal and illegal? All of them? It’s their fault. If you listen to right-wingers, like Michele Bachmann, that’s who we’ve got to blame.

Then I read the numbers about how much we’ve spent in our two on-going, unceasing, no-end-in-sight wars and it is absolutely staggering. It’s now approaching four trillion dollars. Right! Four trillion!

Now that doesn’t even count the cost of heart-ache! The fathers, sons, daughters and lovers that have been lost or so seriously injured that their lives are essentially derailed, count up to even greater expenses. We’ll be caring for seriously wounded and maimed soldiers for decades to come.

That’s the kind of reaction I have when I read front-pages stories, like the one in this morning’s local newspaper, about more local troops going off to the wars. The Minnesota National Guard will send in excess of 2,400 more troops off to the wars during this year. Damn! How many of those boys and girls will be seriously injured? How many may not come home? [You can read the story about the deployment here!]

Michele Bachmann is running for President! Really!
You want to watch and listen to a politician who should never, ever, ever be a candidate? [Watch these You Tube videos of her speech in Iowa, kicking off her campaign.] Oh, my! Watch Bachmann in what appears to be a trance on election night in November, in which she keeps answering every single question with the same, same answer. [Click here to watch the You Tube video!]

Is global warming real? You bet your biffy!
It’s been a cold winter in our nation – from Minnesota to Georgia! It causes the ordinary guy and the idiots in politics to claim it as evidence that global warming in a myth. That’s dangerous! Read this extraordinary story, For Many Species, No Escape as Temperature Rises, from the science section of the NY Times.

Talk about danger!
Here’s a story in the Los Angeles Times by Julia Damianova. Oh, my! Talks with Iran about nuclear disarmament have ended in failure.

The central question, to which Iran has answered in the affirmative, is: Does each and every nation have the absolute right to develop nuclear technology?

The European Union’s foreign policy chief said that Iran’s unwavering position was "crushing."

The popular opinion about where this is all going to lead may be correct; that is, Israel is not going to stand for this because it poses such a direct threat to its own safety. What does that mean? Perhaps it means a direct and sharp military attack by the Israeli air forces! This wouldn’t be good for any of us.

Even the strong, wealthy Arab states are worried about this one and have pleaded with Iran to be sensible.

Two stories for the serious newspaper reader!
Now, here are two stories by NY Times reporters that will take some time to read, but one is very important and the other is odd, surprising and intriguing.

First, is Mark Lander’s Diplomatic Memo: Trying to Break the Logjam, Scholar Floats an Idea for a Palestinian Map. Everyone’s pretty exhausted by the complexity of the question of Israel and the Palestinians. Seems like most experts have given up.

David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, considered a pro-Israeli think tank, rolled out a newly created, color-coded map of what Israel might look like by going back to a pre-1967 version of the nation of Israel. He is trying to show how a new Palestinian state might be created even though hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live there.

Makovsky doesn’t like the idea of giving up. He thinks there are still things to talk about and still fresh ideas. If this is a world problem that sticks in your brain as unsolvable, you might want to read Mr. Lander’s piece.

Second, just for the strangeness of it, a page one, top of the page article in today’s NY Times really fascinated me. It’s about a private C.I.A. in America, run by a former agency operative who, though 78, runs his own, private intelligence agency to gather information in Afghanistan and in the mountains of Pakistan. He’s after secrets about the Taliban, its militant fighters and also about the ruling classes in Kabul. Duane R. Clarridge runs his private spying operation out of San Diego and funds the work through money raised from “like-minded private donors.” The reporter, MarkMazzetti, calls it "Free Market Espionage." [If you are as fascinated as I, you can read it here!]

Late Letter Names – some thoughts from Freakonomics that might freak you out!
Why not close with some interesting humor – and some strange facts? If your last name starts with a Z you may have trouble competing against guys who have last names that begin with A… really! [Read all about it here!]

And that’s all the news that fits!


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