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Archive for March, 2011

Hmmmmm

with 17 comments

Okay.

Terrible title for a post.  It is, however, very early in the morning, and I’ve decided that I’m going to ditch the last chapter of the new Gregor I edited and start again.  Part of the problem with having nonstop family crises is that it makes it difficult to get past them and into the characters’ heads.

That said, it’s first thing Monday morning and I have Frescobaldi playing behind my head.  It’s a CD I don’t play very much, so I’m going to let it loop and just keep going until I’m ready to take off for school.

Last night I corrected a stack of papers that made my teeth hurt.   I don’t care if you think students should study literature or not, I think  eighteen and twenty year olds ought to be able to write a paper about three poems that is more than just writing down what they think each of the lines means.

Or, worse, simply copying out the poems and going “the first one shows how the poet was really affected by his unique circumstances” and think that amounts to analysis.

In the meantime, I found out accidentally that Jose Saramago, the Portuguese writer who wrote the book I’ve been reading, and one of my favorite writers on the planet, actually died back in June, 2010. 

That means Death With Interruptions was probably his last book, although I’d have to look it up.  Sometimes there’s a lag between a book being published in Europe and a translation being published here, even with a writer like Saramago, who had a regular American publisher.

But a couple of things occur to me.

The first is that this book is an interesting meditation on death from somebody who was very old at the time he wrote it, and I thought, all the way through, that he might have been thinking of the subject for deeper reasons than just because it came to mind on Tuesday.

But as meditations on death go, this book is blessedly free of solemnity.   It’s not a moan or a deeply felt gaze into the unknown.  For some reason, that feels more authentic to me than the usual run of thing does. 

Maybe it’s just that I’ve been thinking about death myself a lot lately, for  obvious reasons.   I have not been thinking about it like this, but then, that’s why there are writers. 

The plot has twisted and turned a bit since I reported on it last.  Death has decided that going on a long break wasn’t working out, and come back.  It turns out coming back is more complicated than she’d thought.  I could do the whole thing, but Saramago does it better.

But the plot in and of itself isn’t what intrigues me.  Mostly, it’s the angle.  Why not, if you’re writing a “what if,” consider the bureaucratic response to it? 

Most books, if they try to do this, go at it with the “this is our armed forces fighting the problem” or “here’s the bad way people will behave.”  But Saramago is right.  In the world of the bureaucratic welfare state, the problem of how that state would go on paying old age pensions or disability welfare would be acute.   The vaunted European “social contract” on which the legitimacy of such a state rested would be blown to smithereens.  People would get old and decripit and would not die, needing to be taken care of pretty much forever.  The number of people in that state would rise with every passing day, while the birth rate would never be able to cope with it by bringing in new young lives to support the old.

It’s odd to think how well Saramago understood a situation that he refused to acknowledge in his day to day life at all.  He was both an atheist and a Communist, and a very committed Communist–although I sometimes wonder if his Communism was somewhat like that of people like Paul Robeson.

For those of you who don’t know, Paul Robeson was an African American singer of the thirties and beyond who was later accused, with some accuracy, of having been a member of the American Communist Party. 

Whether he was a Communist or not is not entirely clear, because when Robeson went looking for people who wanted to end segregation, almost all the ones he found were either Communists or Communist affiliated.  For better or worse, nobody was taking on that issue at that time.  And for Robeson, as well as a number of other African American leaders of that era, there was a certain amount of dance with the one that brung you.

In case you’re wondering, yes, there is a fair amount of what goes on in Saramago’s fiction that makes me question whether he was ever a Communist at heart, for all the rhetoric he spouted in his regular life.  I can think of only one book with a Communist theme, The Cave, and it’s the single worst thing he did of what I’ve read of him. 

The very good books–Blindness, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, All The Names–don’t really have politics at all.  They’re largely books about identity or about the ways in which people treat each other.

In Death with Interruptions he manages to do that without a single named character other than death herself.  Everybody else is identified by function–the minister of defense, the president of the undertaker’s union.

It’s a strange little book. 

Maybe the reason Saramago sounds so little like anybody else is that he didn’t have any of the formative experiences of most contemporary writers.   Poverty forced him to leave school early and go to work to help support his family.  Not being genteel, he did a lot of manual labor.   Later, he did a lot of fighting on one front or another.

I still think I’m right.  I think that making writing an academic career may make life easier for the writers, but it makes the writing worse.

In the end, though, I find myself hoping that I can stay sane and out of dementia long enough to still be writing–and still be being published–at an age like that.

Or, even better, at an age like Manoel de Oliveira, who makes films, but is still doing it at 100.

I’m off to try to explain why “Keats had a painful childhood, not least of which because he died at twenty-five” is not a sentence that makes sense.

Written by janeh

March 7th, 2011 at 6:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Mea Culpa–Almost

with 5 comments

So, this post starts today with an admission:  sometimes I write this blog because I feel like it, and sometimes I write this blog because something has me incensed or annoyed, but sometimes I write this blog to keep myself out of trouble.

I have, I will admit, a tendency to fly off the handle–there’s a cliche for you–when I’m angry.  Not upset, mind you, or just nervous or frightened, but world-class, dyed in the wool pissed off.

This poses a couple of problems.

The first is caused by the fact that it isn’t all that difficult to get me world-class, dyed in the wool pissed off, at least for very short amounts of time. 

These short sessions are usually political, and, oddly enough, they can be set off by either side of a debate.  In fact, they can be set off by opposite sides of the same debate on back to back days.  I’ve thought about these some, and I’ve decided that what I’m actually reacting to is not the content of the arguments but the tone.   There’s something about a certain tone that just blows all my corks, and blows them even when I agree with the sentiment involved.

For the kind of world-class, dyed in the wool piss of that lasts, though–and is likely to last for years–you’ve got to do something egregiously wrong, and I doubt if I’ve had more than four or five of those over the entire course of my life.

I am, for reasons far too complicated to go into here, having one of those now. 

And the problem is, my instinct is to sit down and write a letter–or an e-mail–just nuking the entire joint.   The nuking would be entirely deserved, I think, but the party I’d direct it at, but I’ve gotten old enough to realize that it might not be the best way to proceed from here. 

My older son has dubbed this particular type of letter “the kind of thing that makes your lawyers want to put their heads in a toilet and flush,” and I get that.  I really do get it.  In a legalistic and bureaucratic  age, I’m likely to end up with more of what I want at the end if I keep my mouth shut and let the diplomatic hands take over.

But.

Big But.

There’s something about this particular way of doing things that makes me crazy.  It feels to me like I’m giving in to a modern ethos I disapprove of entirely, to moral and ethical relativism of the worst kind, to the world where nothing is right and wrong any more but only appropriate or inappropriate.

And it occurs to me, as well, that there is something here about the differences between–ack.  Not urban and rural life, exactly, but contractual life and relational life.  Maybe.

Okay.  Those words probably make no sense.

On the one side of this mess are a group of people for whom nothing more than a word and an agreement has ever been necessary to get something done.   If I tell you on Tuesday that I’m going to buy your two million dollar house on Friday next, then I’m going to buy your two million dollar house on Friday next.   If I tell you that, fifty years from now, I will do X as long as you do Y for me–then when the fifty years are up, that’s what will happen.

On the other side I have someone whose every response to a complex web of obligations is, “but there wasn’t anything on paper, right?”

So I’m going slowly through the afternoon, wanting sincerely to cause an enormous fuss before I can talk to my lawyer on Monday, and knowing that that would only make things worse.

And I’ve got about thirty people angry at me, because they think that the reason the obligations are not being met is that I’m not meeting them, when in reality I have no control over whether they get met or not, at least for the time being.

And I think that this ties in with something I was talking about yesterday a bit and that I’ve talked about before–the reduction of everything and anything not just to personal advantage, but to personal material advantage.

And now I feel like I’m blithering. 

I’ve spent the evenings almost every night since my mother died watching endless DVDs of old Perry Mason television shows, not because the mysteries are so wonderful, but because I like the sense of living.

Okay, that’s really blithering.

I like the general assumptions, let’s say:  that most people are good and honest if you treat them right; that we all have an obligation to be good and honest ourselves even if it costs us something; that integrity is more important than getting what you want.

I’m beginning to think that sort of thing is something worse than out of fashion, and I am thoroughly depressed.

Corned beef for dinner, though.

That won’t be bad.

Written by janeh

March 5th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

And Now For Something…2

with one comment

I am definitely having one of those days when I think I should post regular FB status reports on my frustration levels, because they might have something to say about whether or not I end the day without doing something rash.

So to speak.

But instead of that, let me make a book report.

Actually, I want to make a two book report.

The first is on something called Nothing Personal, by Eileen Dreyer.

In general, I try to make a point of not commenting on contemporary mystery writers.   I don’t think it really matters who I do or do not “like,” and who I do or do not like certainly does not say anything about whether the book is “good.”

But a friend of mine sent me the book, and he wanted a report, so I thought I’d give one.

Nothing Personal is a light mystery without being a cozy, written by a woman whose main work before that date had been in romance. 

In most cases, this would not be a great recommendation for a book for me.   I think romance tends to get the least talented genre writers out there, and romance publishing is so anal-retentive about controlling content that writers who survive in that milieu get far too used to taking orders and following other people’s “tip sheets.”

As it was, this turned out to be one of the better forays from romance I’ve read, and it also managed to come to me at precisely the right time.   I was, on the day it arrived, desperately in need of something light and diverting.  It was the right thing at the right moment in the right place. 

And the plotting was not bad, the mystery actually had a twist to it at the end that I didn’t catch, and I read it right through without stopping in the course of a day.

And there was an underlying issue which I am very concerned with at the moment–what I sometimes call the “bureaucratization of everything,” so that the purpose of all institutions becomes not something they do but simply the survival and the aggrandizement of the entity itself.

In the case of this novel, the institution is a hospital, once a charitable foundation run by and staffed by nuns, now locally known as “St. Serious Money.”

But.

I wish I could put my finger on the but.

Everything was balanced.  Every element existed, it fit the overall framework, it wasn’t a bad set up if she wanted to start a series (which she may have done, as this was published in 1994).

The best I can do to explain it is to say that the writing felt like she was spending all her time on autopilot–the thing lacked, I don’t know.  Narrative drive?  Emotional intensity? 

It was making me a little crazy, because on one level I liked the book a lot, and on another I kept feeling as if the writer didn’t really care one way or the other. 

On that, of course, I’m almost surely wrong.  But that’s the way it felt.  I would read another book by Dreyer, but only under the kind of circumstances I read this one in–circumstances in which I needed to fail absolutely safe.

Safe is not what I’ve been feeling reading the other book–admission, I’m only about a third into it–Death With Interruptions, by Jose Saramago.

Yes, yes, I know.  Most of you have rejected Saramago out of hand, because what I say about him makes him sound “literary,” but he’s still my favorite writer on the planet at the moment, so you’ll just have to live.

He isn’t my favorite human being, but then, he doesn’t have to be.  A lot of writers live in one moral universe in the things they write and another in day to day life.

Suffice it to say that Mr. Saramago, who won the Nobel for literature in 1998, is a Portuguese Communist of the old school, and close to 100 years old.   They seem to like to work a long time in Portugal.  There’s a Portuguese film director who is 100 years old, and still making movies.  He’s the only person on earth who has been working in the business the entire time it has existed.

Death With Interruptions has the kind of premise that would make a fairly standard sci-fi movie:  on the first of January, in one country and one country only, people just stop dying.

They don’t get better if they’re sick.  They don’t stop deteriorating if they’re very old or in a coma.  They just don’t die.  At all.  Ever. 

You can cut their heads off.  You can run them over with trucks.  You can fill them full of strychnine.  It doesn’t matter.  They just don’t die.

That is, they don’t die unless you take them into a neighboring country, where they die just as they would be expected to, given their age or their injuries or their illnesses.

This book may be different from any other book by Saramago and end with some explanation of what has happened here and why, but I’m not counting on it.  

The novel reminds me a lot of Blindness, the only one of his books I know of to have been made into a film.  In Blindness, everybody in Lisbon (or almost everybody, there are one or two exceptions) is struck blind for no reason anybody can tell.  A few weeks later, they regain their sight.   The only explanation officialdom can come up with is that it must have been a virus–but the cause of the blindness isn’t the point.  How people behave in the midst of the crisis is.

Death With Interruptions  is that kind of thing, and right now it’s very funny.   The undertakers have gotten together and demanded government relief of various kinds, since immortality will mean that they don’t have an occupation any more, and their occupation should be kept alive.   The owners of nursing homes are losing their minds over patients who hang on forever.  The hospitals are drowning under an influx of patients who will never get well or pop off.

And, and the Churches don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad one, but they’re inclined to think bad, and have started praying that God will start letting people die again.

Then, in the middle of all this, all order breaks down, and society becomes largely ruled by “maphias,” so spelled because the leaders want to distinguish themselves from the Italian kind.

This is largely what Saramago writes about–the nature of and our relationship to the increasingly bureaucratic state.  And he does it without preaching or writing treatises.

He’s got a book called The Stone Raft in which the Iberian peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and goes wandering around in the ocean on its own.

The symbolism in that one was, probably, as direct as it’s possible to get. 

But I’ll go finish this, which, like most of Saramago’s work, is shortish, and then on to more conventional mystery novels.

Written by janeh

March 4th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

First: Define “Lying”

with 2 comments

Yes, I know.  I said I was going to disappear for a while.  But it turns out I’m far too stressed to have nothing constructive to do, and these days I’m defining “constructive” very loosely.  At any rate,  what I really want to do is scream at some very specific people, and that probably wouldn’t be the best idea right now.

So, let’s get to this other thing.

The beginning of it is this:  how do you define “lying”?  If I say something that is objectively, provably untrue, but honestly believe it, am I lying?

How about if I report something as true that I believe is true but that is in fact an interpretation of raw data that is at least questionable?  Am I lying?

Cheryl’s report of the proposed change to the Canadian media law would have addressed that question by requiring you to prove that somebody knowingly told an untruth on the air. 

It was opposed, I can only presume, by people who thought that it would be much harder to convict and punish someone for “lying” if you had to prove not only that his statement was untrue (or an unlikely and tendentious interpretation), but that the speaker had known it was untrue.

Which brings us to our second question:  have I ever seen Rachel Maddow and/or her program?

The answer to that is:  yes.  Quite often.  When Keith Olbermann was still on the air, her show followed his every week night, and most week nights I watched the two back to back right before bed.   I’l admit I was a bigger fan of Olbermann’s, but then I like combatitive types, even when they’re not all that accurate all the time.

Maddow is, certainly, the calmest and most even-tempered of a very hotly tempered bunch.  And yes, she’s got that PhD and went to all the right schools and has all the right markers of high academic achievement that are so important to her audience–and for that matter, to me.

But precisely what one commenter found “better”–that Rhodes Scholarship, the PhD, the measured reasonableness–my working class relatives find repugnant and abhorrent.  They find her “smug,” “self-satisfied,” “snobbish” and “deceitful,” where they find people like O”Reilly, Beck and Palin “down to earth” and “regular people.” 

At the risk of causing a firestorm of howling and gnashing of teeth, I don’t think this makes my working class relatives stupid and resentful any more than I think those of you who think her attributes are “better” are self-satisfied and smug.

I think what we’re looking at here are class markers, pure and simple. 

And this time, by class, I’m not talking about money.  I’m talking about a web of attitudes, tastes and behaviors that cement us to that group we think of as “one of our own.” 

And no, I don’t think conservatives are less likely than liberals–or working class people less likely than the educated upper middle class–to be “accepting of difference. 

I think it depends on the difference.  The educated upper middle class will surely be more accepting of you if you are gay, and they’ll champion the institution of gay marriage, too–but their tolerance is likely to go south fast if you’re a gay member of Dignity who thinks homosexual sexual practice is objectively morally wrong and that gay people can only live morally by being celibate.

As for why I said I think Rachel Maddow lies–it again depends on how you define “lying.”  If you mean it simply as saying something that is objectively untrue, whether you know it or not, I’m good.

But here’s something else:  we all tend to feel that if X person claims Y is true and we “know” it’s false, that X must know it’s false, too, and the only reason X is saying it is for advantage or gain or spite or something…either that, or X is just too stupid to know what we know.

My first eye-rolling moment came during a week when Maddow presented a special set of programs on “right wing domestic terrorism” that were as silly, over the top, and skewed in their “evidence” as anything Glenn Beck has every presented.

(Well, as to Beck–that I’ve seen.  I’ve got a low tolerance for him, a larger one for O’Reilly, so I might be better off sticking to comparisons with the latter.)

Yes, of course, there are militias, and silly people who decide to “go sovereign” and drop off the grid, and these groups and people increase during liberal administrations.

And, exactly once, there were a couple of them (Nichols and McVeigh) who did something really bad.

But it takes a truly Herculean effort to distort the evidence to imply that these groups are as dangerous, as active, as well trained or as imminent a problem as al Qaeda and its various couins. 

Excuse me if I think that the reason one does something like that is to cut off discussion of the other side of an issue without giving it an honest hearing. 

The other thing I’d mention is the extent to which Maddow has bought into the conventional wisdom that “the only reason the Tea Party hates Obama is that it’s racist!”

I’m sure there are some racists in the Tea Party, but if you really think this, you should go back and take a refresher course in the Clinton administration.   Clinton was white, and yet the hysteria over Clinton himself and his administration in general and the prospect of “Hillarycare” in particular was, if anything, far worse than anything the Tea Party or anybody else has managed to say about Obama.

No, they never accused Clinton of not being a United States citizen–but they did accuse him of hiring a hit man to murder Vince Foster, and an actual US Congressman from Georgia used to invite people to his home and shoot bullets into a pillow to demonstrate how the death of Foster “had to be” a Clinton-ordered “hit.”

And, while we’re at it, the left wing response to George W. Bush wasn’t exactly a model of reasoned thoughtfulness.

(Does anybody remember the Die ChimpHitler!  Die! Die! incident?)

For what it’s worth, I find all this enormously frustrating.  I make it a point to actually read both sides of the issue, or the spectrum of both sides.  I know what the actual objections to government health care reform are, and I know what the Tea Party actually means by “small government,” and I know the difference between the Tea Party and establishment (corporate) Republicans. 

And I spend day after da reading and watching people set up straw men and knock them down, and nobody discusses the issues.

I could do this from either side, but since I’m responding mostly to pro-liberal posts these days, let me pose a question for that side for the day.

I’ve spent a lot of the last fifteen years taking care of and/or dealing with people with terminal illnesses, and in the process I’ve arrived at a decision that’s very important to me.

At the end of my life, I want to be able to choose a hospital in which it is absolutely forbidden let patients “die with dignity.”

I want a hospital with an absolute, unquestioned, and unmitigated commitment to keeping people alive as long as possible.

I’m not being completely idiotic here.  I’m not asking to be kept alive on respirators and machines that make my heart beat.  What I am asking is that I be in a place where nobody will ever, under any circumstances, be allowed to cut off food and water to me as long as I’m able to ingest them. 

You can shut down the rest of the machines, but you can’t shut off my food and water.  And I want a hospital that would refuse to do such a thing to any patient inside its walls, ever.

Now, please note–I am not asking that all hospitals be like that.  I am not asking you to end your life in such a place, if you’d rather be in a place that goes by “die with dignity” rules.   Personally, I think the “die with dignity” movement should be called the “kill off the old people when they get to be too bothersome movement,” but you may not feel the same way.  You should have a hospital that runs by your rules in this matter, as long as I can have one that runs on mine.

ALSO note–it would NOT be acceptable to me to be in a hospital that says it “follows the patient’s wishes” and lets some people “die with dignity” and others hang on as long as they want.

Climate matters.  I’ve been around dying people and the doctors and nurses that treat them a lot in the last few years.  I know that there’s way too much of “she isn’t being reasonable, if she was, she’d know she doesn’t REALLY want to live like that.” 

I know that, when I’m sick and dying and not able to do for myself, the closest thing I have to protection against “she doesn’t REALLY want to live this way, she’s just not thinking straight,” and a grave earlier than I want, is an institution that does not compromise–no, not ever, period, no exceptions.

Now, if that is what is most important to me–can you tell me if, under a nationally standardized system as this new health reform bill aims to create, I would be able to find a hospital like that?

Or would every hospital be required to allow “death with dignity” and “living wills”? 

So that I’d be told–oh, don’t worry!  They’ll honor patient wishes!–even when I know that that isn’t true, and has never been true when such rules have been instituted, anywhere?

And if that is the answer, and this is the most important health care issue for me–should I support the new health care law?  And if I don’t, because of this, does that make me a “racist”?

I brought this particular issue up for a reason.  It’s what the “death panel” “hysteria” is all about, and on Rachel Maddow’s show as on Olbermann’s, all I ever heard about this “issue” was a disingenuous disclaimer that no such panels exist.

But saying that the people who were worried about that were just stupid or emotional, or that the people who targetted the end of life counseling as “death panels” were “lying” about them.

They were instead zeroing in on an approach to a certain problem that’s actually pretty well established–a “way of thought” that they recognize in the wider world and don’t like.

Oh, and one more thing.

I am, in spite of my reservations on this particular issue, a big supporter of a single payer health insurance system.

I do, however, understand why most of my working class relatives are not, and I understand what they’re afraid of, and I don’t think they’re being hysterical, stupid, or led around like sheep by the evil minions of Wall Street.

I’d be interested in a program where the two sides actually discussed this particular issue without just assuming that their opponents or evil, stupid or venal.

But if we’re going to go by the Canadian law’s definition of lying–which apparently doesn’t include the requirement that the speaker know that what he’s saying is untrue–well, Rachael Maddow isn’t the only person who has lied about this issue.

Written by janeh

March 3rd, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Signs and Portents and Lying in Canada

with 4 comments

I don’t believe in signs and portents,  of course, at least not on any conscious level, but I’ve been having an interesting couple of days.

The thing this morning was just peculiar.  I have a 40 ounce tea cup, a huge thing, but not a very well made one.  In fact, I’ve got three identical ones, one I use every morning, one that I left at my parents’ house and that is probably now in storage somewhere, and one that I keep as a spare on my kitchen counter.

It turns out to be a really good thing I keep a spare, because this morning, while I was pouring boiling water over my usual two Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea bags, the thing just cracked apart.

And it made a really good job of it, too.  It came apart into three pieces and drained weak tea water all over my living room floor, since I’d decided to go in there and listen to some music this morning before I went off to teach.

I recouped and got the spare and made myself another pot of boiling water, but the thing was strange. 

I bought those cups as part of  a big gift package of coffee that was being offered in grocery stores a many Christmases ago, and then I brought them to Florida with me.  My father was still alive.  The hurricane that killed his roof was still far in the future.  And my mother still recognized me at least half the time when I went to visit her in her nursing home.

At any rate, it turns out that I’m just too restless to do nothing.  So here I am, and I’ll have you know that I sat down last night and did an entire set of grades and alphabetized the hand backs. 

I got my galleys sent back to St. Martin’s, too, and a ton more paperwork signed and sent for Greg’s surgery.  I think Matt thinks I’m crazy.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy.

At any rate, I’ve got two things, one a response to one of yesterday’s comments, one new.

The response to yesterday’s comments is this:  Robert noted that if you get your degree at one of the extension campuses of the main state university, all anybody knows is that you got it at the university.

And, I agree–the University of Connecticut does indeed have extensions.  In my day, they were limited to the first two years, with the rest to be completed at Storrs.  That might be different now.

But what I was talking about was not UConn extensions but a separate state university system.

Connecticut–like, I think, California–has a three tiered system of public tertiary education.

At the bottom are the community colleges.  At the top is UConn and its extensions.  In the middle are the old state “colleges,” now predictably called “universities”:  Western Connecticut State, Southern Connecticut State, Central Connecticut state.

These are more selective in their admissions than the community colleges, but not by much.  And they are a lot less selective in their admissions that UConn and its extensions.  The standards are middling, too.

And the graduate and professional schools–at least the good ones–keep sliding scales for judging the transcripts of different institutions.   If want to go to Harvard Law or the Yale Graduate School, you will in fact get less credit for an A from Wesconn than you will for an A from UConn. 

What’s more, if you want a traditional academic major–which you can get at UConn and its extensions–you can’t always get it at one of the States. 

I’ve never thought it was the case that only “trust fund babies” could, or should, or could benefit from a liberal education–but in a situation like this, only relatively well heeled ones can afford one.   It’s rapidly getting to the point that only the most expensive places offer a student the chance to get what was once universally considered to be a college education.

The last thing is about a link that showed up on FB from several people this morning, and that is about the Canadian Parliament’s rejection of a bid by the prime minister to get a law repealed that forbids “lying” on the Canadian airwaves.

This, the article exulted, was a great victory for “civility” in public discourse,  and it just went to prove that lying is what Fox and those right wing radio talk shows hosts know they do.  If they didn’t, why would they need to repeal a law against lying in order to get on the air?

It was one of those times, you know, when I had to sit there and wonder if people were actually this obtuse, or only this disingenuous.

So, first let me clear up a few things.  Do I think that Fox News and right wing radio talk show hosts like Limbaugh lie? 

Yes, all the time.

The problem is, I also think that MSNBC and Keith Olbermann lie. 

Fox lies about liberals and MSNBC lies about conservatives.   They lie outright, they lie by omission, and they lie by deliberately misrepresenting the positions of their oponents. 

I’ll admit that I don’t listen to talk radio–mostly because I can’t stand all the yelling–but both Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are former radio talk show hosts, so I figure I have an idea.   Both of them either lie about their oponents or do absolutely no real research into their oponents ideas and views before they blast off with an opinion.

The problem with a law against “lying” on the airwaves is that the “lying” is always going to be in the eyes of the beholder.   When the American left wing was sending out nearly daily bulletins about how Bush and Cheney meant to declare marshall law, suspend the Constitution and install a fascist Republican regime that could not be voted out of office–all while stuffing ballot boxes and practicing wholesale election fraud–they were lying. 

When Canadian media repeated this sort of thing, it was lying, too.  But nobody, as far as I know, prosecuted any part of the Canadian media for doing it. 

My guess is that if Fox moved into Canada and started saying the same thing about Obama, they would be prosecuted for lying–and they would, in fact, be lying.

It’s the selective enforcement that’s the problem, and such selective enforcement is inevitable.  That’s why Swedish television wouldn’t allow Alan Dershowitz to be interviewd about his book The Case for Israel unless the station wanting to interview him also interviewed an opposing Palestinian view–but never required any station presenting the Palestinian review to also interview somebody defending Israel.

I wouldn’t go in to a country that had such a law even if I expected to tell nothing but the truth twenty-four seven, because I could not be assured that what I honestly believed to be the truth wouldn’t be labeled a lie and used to harass me simply for disagreeing with the conventional wisdom.

And I would know, up front, that my opponents could lie all they wanted to and never get called on it.

The Canadian Parliament’s decision not to repeal that “law against lying” isn’t a victory for “good journalism,” or for “civility in discourse.”

It’s a victory for censorship, pure and simple. 

My teacup seems to be holding up.   And I need the caffeine.

Written by janeh

March 2nd, 2011 at 6:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Just a Few Things

with 8 comments

And not very coherent.

First, Mike–college loans may be a Republican plot, but the situation that got us there was squarely a project of Democrats. 

It was liberals, not conservatives, who wanted “everybody” to graduate from high school, and liberals–and liberaly theory–that responded to the fact that not everybody was doing that (and some minorities were not doing it in higher percentages than whites) by dumbing down standards to make the “goal” possible.

If high school graduation standards were now what they were in 1950, we wouldn’t need to be having a discussion about college loans.  Most people would not go to college, but they would reach the same skill levels most of them do now by going to high school with no out of pocket expense.

Employers would not need a college degree to have of hope of getting somebody literate, since a high school diploma would already guarantee that.

And since people would graduate from high school at the same rates they now graduate from “college,” there would not be a tidal wave of high school “graduates” to weed through when trying to fill a position.

I really, really, really don’t want the federal government paying for college, and I don’t much want the state governments to do it either, except for the state university systems. 

Centralization means standardization.   He who pays the piper calls the tune.

And I want lots of alternatives to the present state of university “education” in the US, because it is not, by and large, education.

Second, Robert–alas, you’re a good two decades out of date on college fees.

Tuition, room and board  for the University of Connecticut this year comes to $21,198. 

Granted, that’s better than a private college, but it’s still not low enough to make it possible for most people to work their way through the way they did in my father’s time.

Of course, you could reduce your costs even further, by doing two years at a community college and then two at one of the lower level state university campuses, like Wesconn or Southern.

The problems with this are two fold.

First, employers and graduate and professional schools tend to read community college as “so bad in high school he couldn’t get in anywhere else.”

And second, the fields you can “major” in are limited, and largely restricted to the vocational.  If you want an academic degree, you’re largely out of luck.  But even if you want something more substantive than “business administration” on any level, you’re largely out of luck.

If you want teaching or nursing, though, you’re golden.

The third thing has to do with something completely off the wall, but I couldn’t help noticing it.

Charlie Sheen seems to be going completely nuts, but on one level I sympathize with his rants.

I don’t know how Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Step Programs because “accepted science” and people who specialize in them became “addiction specialists,” but when you’ve got “doctors” who fail to fix 95% of all the patients they “treat”–a number, by the way, that represents exactly the percentage of people who kick their addictions with no help at all–I think it’s breathtaking we call them experts in anything.

And now, I’m likely to be off the blog for a day or two. 

I just got a phone call from my mother’s nursing home, and she died at 3:45 this morning.

I’ll talk to everybody when I can breathe again.

Written by janeh

March 1st, 2011 at 7:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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