Monday, September 29, 2014

Okay, Seriously, I Need a Little Help with Google Analytics

How the hell do I set it up for this Blogger account?  The internal stat counter is buggy.

Give me a heads up on Twitter to @PaulWartenberg or else email p.warten AT gmail.  Do not send spam or Chinese spam or spam spam baked beans and spam.  Please and thank you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hong Kong Up In Protest, Showing How It's Done

Holy sh-t dudes:

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and pepper spray on pro-democracy protesters on Sunday, after a sit-in that began Friday escalated into demonstrations involving as many as tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Holding signs saying “Disperse or We Fire,” cops threw cans of tear gas into the crows in the Admiralty district near the main government offices. The police struggled at times to contain protesters, failing to keep them from blocking traffic on a six-lane highway. Students and the Occupy Central movement have been leading pro-democracy demonstrations after China announced Hong Kong's 2017 leadership election candidates would have to be screened by a separate committee.

As part of the reunification of China and Hong Kong when Great Britain's lease was up in 1997 was that Hong Kong would retain some political independence:
In accordance with the One Country, Two Systems principle agreed between the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China, the socialist system of People's Republic of China would not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years.

Uh, pardon my American ignorance of math or calendar-reading, but 2014 subtracting 1997 is nowhere near 50 years.

Great.  The Chinese politburo couldn't contain themselves for 50 years, they just had to go messing with Hong Kong in 20.  You'd think the Chinese reputation for Zen-like patience would stick here, but noooooo.

Didn't some of the Tienanmen protesters end up in Hong Kong and stay there even after 1997 (I know a lot fled further to Taiwan and the US just to be certain they were safe)?  For what I know, Hong Kong is one of those places in China where freedom of expression and freedom to think was still taught and encouraged.

It's a good thing the Hong Kong residents grew up with an idea of the necessity of civil protest against some of the more negative things their home nation has done and can do.  None of that blind obedience to authority and their corporate overlords like they teach here in America, right Jefferson County School Board?  Yeah... right.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Be True - And Fact-Based - To Your School

I mentioned once that I took AP American History back in the day.  It was one of the various classes that helped towards earning college credits - studying for the Advanced Placement exams, where if you scored 3 to 5 on the exam(s) you garnered those credits on that topic - while surviving high school.

It's a big deal for any high schooler aiming to get a college degree.  Get a lot of AP credits through a national program, look good to potential universities while doing it, find yourself earning a way to a major institution - in this case William and Mary WILL do, thank you Steely Dan - that can open doors when you hit the job market.

So what happens when a county school board decides to mess with the Advanced Placement program?  When a school board controlled by a Far Right contingent obsessed with re-writing history - of white-washing it - decides to edit the books and the exam materials to remove any history of civil protest and questioning of authority?

You get Jefferson County (Colorado) School Board, where a thousand students marched in protest - I think this counts as irony, teacher - against the school board trying to remove the very concept of protests from the history books (via Digby):
Hundreds of students walked out of classrooms around suburban Denver on Tuesday in protest over a conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority, in a show of civil disobedience that the new standards would aim to downplay...
...Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read “There is nothing more patriotic than protest.”
“I don’t think my education should be censored. We should be able to know what happened in our past,” said Tori Leu, a 17-year-old student who protested at Ralston Valley High School in Arvada.
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law...”

Any honest American might spot the problem right away: the editing of texts to define what citizenship and patriotism are, the editing of texts to "don't encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."  So who gets to define citizenship?  Who gets to define patriotism?  Who says what encourages or condones civil disorder or disregard of the law?  Hint: the Conservatives (the same Conservatives who'll tell their own gun-toting followers to prepare for secession and Second Amendment remedies) will tell you that only Conservatives should...

The proposal from Julie Williams, part of the board’s conservative majority, has not been voted on and was put on hold last week. She didn’t return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday, but previously told Chalkbeat Colorado, a school news website, that she recognizes there are negative events that are part of U.S. history that need to be taught.
“There are things we may not be proud of as Americans,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be encouraging our kids to think that America is a bad place...”
Williams is one of those conservatives who thinks that because Jim Crow is no more that racism is a thing of the past (when it's clearly not), who thinks that we shouldn't consider the darker ramifications of Manifest Destiny, who probably prefers we never even remember things like the Sand Creek Massacre or the Tulsa Riots.
A student demonstrator, Tyrone G. Parks, a senior at Arvada High School, said Tuesday that the nation’s foundation was built on civil protests, “and everything that we’ve done is what allowed us to be at this point today. And if you take that from us, you take away everything that America was built off of...”

It's heartening to see the students rise up: they understand full well that an ideological re-write of their curriculum can well kill off their hopes of getting into good colleges.  It's also good news that the College Board - the organization overseeing the AP exam system - is telling Jefferson's School Board that if they mess with the AP materials by "censor(ing) essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the 'AP' designation."  Meaning no accredited university will accept it.

With luck, all this uproar will convince the conservative board members to back down (they've already delayed the vote).  But this is not the end of it.

We are under attack in this nation.  There is a movement among the conservatives to demolish the public education system.  Our schools, which have operated like this for decades if not centuries, are facing massive defunding efforts: the slashing of budgets, the wrecking of programs.  Our schools, once places meant to share a means of teaching our kids now getting revamped into privatized profit machines.  Our schools, which try to teach our children how the world is - our science, our math, our language, our literature, our history - are being forced to push political propaganda and religious nuttery.

This is a call to all Americans, all registered voters this midterm cycle: a lot of us are going to have school board elections and county board elections and state legislature elections and gubernatorial elections.  NOW is the time to look, really look, at the candidates for each office that will have a major impact on our communities and our schools.  NOW is the time to vote out every Far Right wingnut who wants to rewrite our history and shred our studies of fact-based sciences.  NOW is the time to clean out the greedheads trying to push vouchers and charter schools down our throats.

NOW is the time to save our schools.  Before the damage gets worse, before we lose our public schools to privatized money-grubbers who'll chew up all our taxpayer dollars while under-educating our kids into idiocy.  Before our kids get taught in biology that Jesus walked with dinosaurs, that the Earth is still flat and the center of the universe, and that it's all just 6,000 years old despite the record of human history going back further.

Time to get politics, greed, and fallacy out of our schools.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hark! A Ranking of U2 Albums!

The recent release of U2's latest Songs of Innocence had been a quick topic upon the Intertubes a few weeks back.  A lot of "what the hell" mostly due to how it came out - Apple paid the band $100 million to set up 500 million free downloads that automatically loaded onto people's iTunes accounts (even when they didn't want it) - and a lot of "does anybody even listen to U2 anymore" blowback.

Well, as a U2 fan since the days of War, I wasn't angry about the forced free download so those issues didn't bother me as much.  My biggest concern was "was the new album any good?"

Along with my fellow U2 fans in the world - okay, the Horde of the Lost Battalion - there came a quick Facebook discussion which quickly faded because other issues - and the homework assignment of reading The New Jim Crow - had to be addressed.  But for meself, well hey, this is Serious Business being a U2 fan.  So I had to rank the new album among the others.  As a result, I had to go back and rank all of them (the official ones and not the EPs or Greatest Hits).

As such, it's taken me awhile - and a couple of nights re-listening to half the albums to confirm my bias - to bring to you this list of relevant "Yes U2 Is Still a Band Worth Listening To" albums.  Ranked by weakest (oh dear God, Pop) to best (no-brainer JOSHUA TREE, DUH!)... with Songs of Innocence stuck in the middle of a ranking it can't get out of.  Yeah, I went there.

Ranking U2 Albums - Weak to Epic

Title: Pop
Reasons: Whatever self-indulgences cursed the band with their first big misfire Rattle and Hum came back with a vengeance on this atrocity. Delving ever further into their techno phase starting under Achtung Baby and continued over from Zooropa, Pop is exactly what it says on the box: songs with the “pop” flavor of European dance music, holdovers from the disco era of the late 70s. Having a rock band go disco is not only disorienting, it's horrifying. I honestly cannot recall a single song off this album other than the opening tidbits from “Discotheque”. It's telling that when the band released their Greatest Hits album covering this era, they had every song off Pop remixed as though the original released tunes were bad. Well, they were.
Epic Song(s): None
Great Song(s): Discotheque, Gone (the remixed version off the Hits album)
Good Song(s): Last Night On Earth

Title: October
Reasons: Sophomore albums rarely do well, for several reasons: they're rushed out to capitalize on the band's fame, it's relying on weak songs culled from the debut album, the band is trying to repeat the same songs that were successful on the first album, but comes across as stale, etc. This one's no exception, falling under the “band seems repeating themselves” problem in terms of the music. Lyrics-wise, the album goes deep into the band's Christian background, essentially the most overt religious album they'll ever make (other songs will go into faith well up to now, but not as blatant). There's still a couple good songs here – I have a personal liking for “Tomorrow” – but the album as a whole isn't required for any collection or casual listener.
Epic Song(s): Gloria
Great Song(s): Tomorrow, October
Good Song(s): I Fall Down, Rejoice, Fire

Title: How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Reasons: Admit it, you can't get that opening bit from “Vertigo” out – UNOS – of your head. DOS And yeah, I just put it – TRES – there on you like the evil earworm that it is. CATORCE! Bwhaha. While it's anchored by arguably the hardest-rocking song the band ever made, the rest of the album comes across as... disposable. You can live without having heard any of the other songs off this album, and probably will get into arguments with even hardcore fans about which ones are Great or merely Good. I had to re-listen to this album just to get a refresher on what's on here.
Epic Song(s): Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights
Great Song(s): Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, All Because of You
Good Song(s): Miracle Drug, A Man And A Woman, Yahweh

Title: Zooropa
Reasons: This got a hate-on pretty early in its existence, partly because it carried over the techno stuff from its great predecessor Achtung Baby but also because it foreshadowed some of the overindulgence that would kill the next album Pop. It didn't help that even the great songs on this album had an overproduced, throw-everything-at-the-wall feel to them (because the album ended up being rushed out the studio). Thing is, in hindsight and re-listening, this album isn't that bad. There's some great songs on here – “Lemon” in particular is very underrated – that can mesh well with the great songs from other U2 eras. I'd love to get a remixed “Zooropa” song that takes out that overlong instrumental bit in the opening (what worked great with “Where the Streets...” didn't work great here) and compresses into a more coherent mood-setter.
Epic Song(s): Lemon, First Time
Great Song(s): Stay (Faraway So Close), Dirty Day
Good Song(s): Zooropa, Numb, The Wanderer (with Johnny Cash)

Title: Rattle and Hum
Reasons: The first real Stumble and Miscue the band had. Pumped up by Joshua Tree and continuing their obsessions with American politics and culture, they jumped into this project looking to mingle live music with studio recordings in an attempt to capture the Joshua Tree roller coaster ride. Instead they created a muddled mess: the movie that came with this album did little as advertised, the live songs didn't jell with the studio songs, and the studio songs came across as the band trying to pat themselves on the backs for being so earnest. Yes, there are some decent songs on here, some of them must-haves, but I'm of the opinion they should have separated this into a studio album and a live album, that the live stuff should have been original tunes instead of covers, and that they should have done a better job with the studio stuff.
Epic Song(s): Desire, Bullet the Blue Sky, All I Want Is You
Great Song(s): All Along the Watchtower, Silver and Gold, When Love Comes To Town
Good Song(s): Heartland, God Part II

Title: Songs of Innocence
Reasons: The yelling and screaming over this album has more to do with how it was released – via a promotional binge by Apple, where they had iTunes automatically upload it for free (well, Apple paid $100 million for it) to 500 million accounts whether they wanted it or not – than what's actually on the album. Aside from a terrible cover photo (very understated but bleh), what else was there to hate about this? Probably because at first listen, and even second listen, there's no automatic hit here: no “Vertigo” or “Desire” to anchor the album. There's an attempt to make “The Miracle” (the Ramones tribute song) that hit, but seems forced. “Iris” and “Volcano” are more sincere songs deserving hit status, while “Raised By Wolves” can become a long-term classic. This ends up neither a great album nor the disaster the haters are crowing about.
Epic Song(s): Volcano, Raised By Wolves
Great Song(s): The Miracle (of Joey Ramone), Iris (Hold Me Close), This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now
Good Song(s): Every Breaking Wave, Song for Someone

Title: No Line On the Horizon
Reasons: Of the albums in the U2 roster, this is the one that comes closest to having a dark side, an anger to it not heard since War. But where War had a hopeful, We Shall Overcome protest vibe to it, No Line has a more jaded We're Stuck In Purgatory feel, making it Darkest Album. On the bright side it gives us some of the hard-rocking songs I tend to enjoy, but on the other hand it makes it hard to break out for repeat listens, and after awhile some of these songs like “Get On Your Boots” lose their appeal. Still, it's turning out to be a better album out of their most recent works. It'd be ranked higher if it had a more endearing rock song like “Beautiful Day” or “Vertigo” to it.
Epic Song(s): Magnificent, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Great Song(s): No Line On the Horizon, Get On Your Boots, Breathe
Good Song(s): Unknown Caller

Title: Under a Blood Red Sky
Reasons: Coming off the success of the War tour and off the insanely popular Red Rocks live concert looped endlessly on MTV, this presents the strengths of U2 as a live band like few other albums (and I'm surprised they don't release the exclusive live albums they've issued for the premium fanbase go to broader audiences). If this album has problems, it's due to the fact it's a hodge-podge of concerts across the whole tour instead of the epic Red Rocks performance: as though the songs from that one show had problems that the other recorded performances improved upon. I'd love to see a full album from that one show released some day...
Epic Song(s): Electric Co., 40
Great Song(s): Gloria, I Will Follow, Party Girl, Sunday Bloody Sunday
Good Song(s): New Year's Day

Title: Boy
Reasons: As first albums go this had enough good songs to get off on a great footing with audiences. Moody as all hell, thematically looking at the hazy yearnings of troubled youth, but impressive with Edge's haunting guitar work that would be a signature style well up into Achtung Baby. If this album looks higher-ranking than the other albums that have more Epic/Great songs, it's because the particular songs here are better, and this album (as the debut work) has more importance.
Epic Song(s): I Will Follow, A Day Without Me
Great Song(s): Twilight, Out of Control, Electric Co.,
Good Song(s): An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart, Ocean

Title: Unforgettable Fire
Reasons: After War, the band needed an album of hits to get a Number One song on the books. The result was this: using a sound that pulled away from the punk rawness of the first three albums but trying to keep that punk sentiment in the lyrics to generate crossover appeal. It ends up being a weaker album than War, but with at least one real epic must-hear song in “Pride”. It also has a set of songs that have a softer sound in the studio but which did so much better when done live. I have “Wire” listed as an epic song but it's noticeably one of their least-known songs from this album, kinda deserves more love in the world all I'm saying.
Epic Song(s): Sort of Homecoming, Pride (In the Name of Love), Wire
Great Song(s): Unforgettable Fire, Bad (the Live version off Wide Awake is SO MUCH BETTER), Indian Summer Sky
Good Song(s): MLK

Title: All That You Can't Leave Behind
Reasons: I remember some reviewer saying “This is U2's Greatest Hits album of fresh stuff.” Meaning it came across as a hodge-podge of all the previous stuff – the punk rock phase (“Beautiful Day”), the blues ethereal phase (“Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of”), the techno-industrial phase (“Elevation”), the Euro-Pop nightmare (“Kite”) – but with new tunes. Kinda what the album title implies, this was all of the baggage the band brought with them and needed to get out of their system before moving on. It also became known as their “third Great Album,” something I nitpick against but would accept in casual conversation. It does have a couple of epic songs to it, and great songs that lift it well above the questionable / disastrous efforts of the 1990s, but it's not a must-have album like the top three I got listed.
This was also one of the albums we – and I mean we by the American nation – listened to in tears and rage after the attacks on September 11. It'd been out for all of 2001 by then, but it had songs on there we needed to listen to, songs that echoed about what happened then and haunt us still. Dear God, I can't listen to “New York” without bursting into tears even now... damn them, U2 had a 9/11 song before 9/11 even happened...
Epic Song(s): Beautiful Day, Elevation, Walk On
Great Song(s): New York
Good Song(s): Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, In a Little While, When I Look At the World

Title: War
Reasons: I'm stunned that this one keeps getting overlooked in the Great Album discussion that has All That, Achtung Baby, and Joshua Tree. It was this album that got U2 from small punk band to major airplay on radio stations across the US, that got them on the map (which also provided the basis for their well-received US tour in 1983). Not only does it have a couple of epic songs that keep getting airplay to this day – “New Year's Day” in particular – but it has a lot of great songs that seem to fly under people's radar. It might be due to this being their last true punk album of the early years, with a lot of rawness to the songs. But this also includes one of my personal favorites, “Drowning Man”. If you gotta listen to Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, you gotta listen to this one too.
Epic Song(s): Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year's Day
Great Song(s): Like a Song, Drowning Man, Two Hearts Beat As One, Surrender, 40
Good Song(s): Seconds, Red Light

Title: Achtung Baby
Reasons: This one came out at the end of the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall gone, the US flattening Iraq in the desert, and the Soviet Union primed to collapse. Where all the punk earnestness had been burned out by Joshua Tree, and the obsession with Americana crushed by the flat Rattle and Hum, there was now this jaded “what's next” mindset that was settling in for the 1990s. Into this, U2 came out with a new sound more European/techno than American Rock... and proved they were capable of making more than one great album, putting them in the rarefied air of the great acts like the Beatles. Topped off by arguably the greatest song they ever made – “One,” which itself happened on the eve the band nearly broke up – alongside other hits like “Mysterious Ways” and “The Fly.” Christ, is this album more than 20 years old? It still seems fresher than that.
Epic Song(s): One, Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways
Great Song(s): Even Better Than the Real Thing, Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, The Fly, Ultraviolet
Good Song(s): Zoo Station, Tryin to Throw Your Arms Around the World

Title: Joshua Tree
Reasons: Can I explain to you what it sounded like when I got the vinyl album (CD was still new and very expensive) and put needle to disc on the first song “Where the Streets Have No Name”? Can I explain what it sounded like when that ethereal opening instrumental poured out of the speakers, an approaching wave of sound that echoed like sunrise into the room? And that was the opening song blowing my mind. God. It sounded even better when I finally got the CD version. This is the album that tops everyone's list, the one even U2 haters would admit having in their collection. If there's a weak song on this album, it's probably either “Red Hill Mining Town” or “Trip Through Your Wires”, maybe “One Tree Hill” depending on who's answering. Every other song is in the Great Song category at the very least however people argue which one's better than the others.
This is U2's Revolver, their Bringing It All Back Home, their Born To Run.
Epic Song(s): Where the Streets Have No Name, With Or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, In God's Country, Exit
Great Song(s): Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Red Hill Mining Town, One Tree Hill, Mothers of the Disappeared
Good Song(s): Trip Through Your Wires

I wanna see comments.  It can't be that hard to login and leave one... if not, then tweet me at @PaulWartenberg.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

There Is No Accountability For Being Wrong

I have to admit it was the headline that grabbed me.

Washington Is a Cesspool of Faux-Experts Who Do Bad Research.

As a librarian, this kinda pisses me off (per Conor, who's standing on the sidelines chewing the popcorn):

Drawing on nine years in the nation's capitol, Klein acknowledges one class of obstacles. "Washington is a cesspool of faux-experts who do bad research (or no research)," he explained, "but retain their standing by dint of affiliations, connections, or charisma." Sweet validation! I've often suspected that official Washington is populated by enough disingenuous, misinformation-spreading hucksters to fill an underground container of organic waste. No one has better standing to render this judgment than Klein, whose earnest, tireless embrace of deep-in-the-weeds wonkery is unsurpassed in his generation. He wouldn't assert a whole cesspool of intellectual waste product without having seen plenty of specific examples...

They're basically talking about the same set of experts who circle about the DC Beltway getting on the talk shows and getting into the think tank meetings.  They're the same idiots fear-mongering about foreign policy woes and the threats of inflation and wage increases would have against our austerity measures.  Klein and Conor are talking about the same idiots who get proven wrong - constantly, hi there Mr. Kristol - and yet even with a clear track record of failure keep getting invited back by the power elites and the media chains to sell even more faulty intel and questionable opinions.

Paul Krugman - Nobel Prize economist and someone who tends to do the research we librarians like - has been railing against the same faux-experts in the economic circles who keep obsessing over an inflationary threat that never comes: "The predicted surge in inflation has never arrived, but despite being wrong year after year, hardly any of the critics have admitted being wrong, or even changed their tune."

While Krugman worries about the effects that collective ignorance has on our economic recovery (or lack thereof), the thing he hints at but never openly states in that article is how those false predictors are allowed to keep shilling their bad advice. It's because those bad advisors have been in the Inner Circle of power in DC, and once you've been there your advice is always welcome, whether it's factual or not.

There is no accountability for being wrong.  The First Amendment as currently interpreted does not require fact-checkers and enforcement of sticking to the facts.  Whatever Fairness Doctrine we had as oversight for our media gave way to Anything Goes As Long As It's Not Libel (and even then libel is horribly under-enforced).  Journalism as a profession does not require much in the way of certification outside of a bachelors degree and even then it's not a requirement to get hired - just look at Sean Hannity, he doesn't even have a college degree in anything - and there's no association or bar or board of authority to govern how journalists or media outlets can behave.

Your plumber is better vetted than your TV news host.  And if your plumber does something wrong, he/she can lose his/her license.  If your TV news host does something wrong, he/she gets a freaking book deal.  If your TV news host keeps inviting a know-nothing or naysayer talking head who keeps getting the facts spectacularly wrong, that news host will get a contract extension because "it's good for ratings!"  /headdesk

As Raptavio notes on his Daily Kos blog:
With any semblance of real consequence for being so wrong (even willfully wrong) so consistently, there's little incentive for media outlets to pursue accuracy or integrity in their journalism -- and with the phenomenon of market share going to news outlets who present stories and analysis that reflect their audience's biases, this gives the media strong pecuniary disincentives to promote the values of fact-based reporting and instead to pander, irrespective of whether that pandering is grounded in reality.

Dear Beltway Media: stop interviewing (k)no(w)-nothing Senators and billionaire campaign blowhards, and start interviewing librarians and people who are, you know, ACTUAL EXPERTS on the topics being discussed.  You're not doing this nation any favors in your pursuit for ratings over BS.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Do Scandals Get Worse

The thing that always surprises me is how a bad story - someone being violent, someone being inept, someone being greedy - goes from minor league to nuclear catastrophe within a heartbeat of the story getting out.

It's not even when a revelation about a minor crime turns into an expose of a major conspiracy, like Watergate.  It's just in any situation where there's a powerful person or an organization suddenly confronted with a problem he/she/they just doesn't know how to handle it, and then BOOM the entire structure of that person's powerbase implodes or that organization's impressive administrative order collapses.

I'm bringing this up in the wake of the NFL's (and commissioner Goodell's) Very Bad PR Week of mishandling the Ray Rice incident.  What went from a horrifying interpersonal assault in an Atlantic City casino back in February - that could have been calmly handled in the courts and through massive amounts of counseling - instead degraded into a months-long argument over how poorly the NFL handles domestic violence cases overall (in short: not well).

When Goodell handed down a mere (!) two-game suspension on Rice in July, it opened up the arguments about how tone-deaf the sports league was towards how domestic violence literally destroys women.  That the punishment for assaulting a women was less than a punishment doled out to a player caught with marijuana in his possession or his biosystem (and while pot is illegal, so is assault: and you can forge a strong argument that assault is a more serious crime than pot).  You could see in real-time the scrambling and back-pedaling that the NFL Front Office went through looking to come up with a stronger punishment code...

And then this past Monday just as Week One of the regular season kicked in, the media got ahold of the full video of what Ray Rice really did to his fiancee-now-wife Janay.

By that afternoon Ray Rice had been kicked off his Ravens team and the NFL had banned him indefinitely (although he could always get re-instated).

But this was getting worse and not better for the NFL and Goodell.  Because it begged the question: how the hell could a powerful organization like the NFL - an organization known to have its own army of investigators, and had months to get it - fail to see this video?

Each explanation - each excuse - that Goodell tried to offer came up more hopeless and inept and ill-advised than any of the earlier ones.  Reports kept cropping up that the NFL did get a copy of the video, that at least one executive did see the video, that all the league had to do was ask the casino for it and not the police or prosecutors' offices.  It wasn't helping that other players in the league facing the same legal issues as Rice - Greg Hardy, Ray MacDonald are two - are still playing without suspension... even though Hardy especially has been convicted in court of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

The hypocrisy.  The sloppiness.  The willful ignorance of a powerful, money-driven organization.

How could the NFL - an organization that can successfully bully communities into building multi-billion-dollar jeweled stadiums for them even while generating profits from massive TV and marketing deals - be so clumsy, stupid and tone-deaf now over something like this?

Because of one simple, universal constant that happens to those in power: they lose any perspective about things like accountability and honesty.

It's not so much that power corrupts, it's that power puts people on a different level of authority and responsibility.  It's at a level where things like accountability - where you answer to a higher power than yourself - fade away, because you no longer have as many bosses or overseers watching your mistakes and correcting what you did wrong (either through training or dismissal).

That lack of accountability in high places creates a void of sorts: it creates an environment where the people in power believe themselves infallible, untouchable.  All because they rose to a level of prominence that makes them seemingly superior to all other mere mortals.

That's what happened, is happening here.  Goodell and the NFL - the owners, the players' union, the networks and corporations co-thriving with it all - view themselves akin to Gods On Earth: rich and powerful men (it's mostly men) who make life-and-death decisions about a money-generating sport/entertainment that enough people can't look away from.  Why should their judgment be questioned or their values argued?  Why are we blowing something like this out of proportion?  Don't we know who they are?

It's the same in politics and their media bubble, it's the same in any church of size and power, it's the same in any organization with money in its coffers and power to its name.  They simply can't comprehend why we'd raise a fuss over something they think they've already solved.

So they do the next step in the process of self-immolation.  The person/organization of power begins to lie about what they did.  He/She/They begin to claim "oh well we did X so therefore we're blameless", or "well it was someone else's fault".  They make up a half-truth story that slides into flat-out lying as the need to shift the blame elsewhere grows.

This is from the knee-jerk reaction: the self-defense.  The refusal to admit wrong-doing as that somehow looks worse than the growing web of lies to cover up the earlier mistake(s).  The person of power, the organization of power dare not consider the slight possibility of "OOPS that's on me," because such sloppiness and failure does not belong in "my" world.

And then those in power wonder why they fall.  They're compounding earlier mistakes with fresh ones.  Because lying at that level of responsibility and power is reckless: because there's bound to be someone out there with the evidence to prove you are lying.  Because the more you try to cover it up, the more people and resources you are dragging into the mess: people who may not want to lie to cover your ass; resources that may not fit the gaping holes in your faltering stories.

That's why scandals get worse.  The people in power refuse to hold themselves accountable and refuse to make genuine efforts to fix the problems that arise.  They'd rather lie, blame someone else, and let the problem fade away.

What's sad is why those in power already think that way: because that's how they acted on their way up the chain of command to the high seat they now hold... because they made all that money and gained all that influence through lying and blaming others in the first place.  Because there's a broken system of accountability in place already: they're merely profiting from the status quo.

We are as a nation and as a culture in dire need of reform.  Of bringing accountability and truth-telling back, of ending the fraud and spiritual wickedness in high places.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anniversary: Sadness Follows Thirteen Years Later

September 11 again.

Last year, I was worried about how the world had remained a bloody, violent place since 2001 as the Syrian Civil War was well into its third year.  It's now in its fourth, and due to the extremist group ISIL it's bled over back into neighboring Iraq which still hasn't recovered from the ill-planned Bush/Cheney occupation.

Last night Obama gave a speech outlining how we were committing airstrikes against the Islamist State psychopaths.  We are remaking military commitments to a nation we tried to exit back in 2011, mostly because we as a nation failed to leave Iraq in better shape than when we invaded it in 2003.  Mostly because we dove head-first into a Middle East quagmire out of anger and blind rage.

We had no reason to invade Iraq in response to what Bin Laden did to us on 9/11.  The reasons were fabricated by a Bush/Cheney administration that wanted to invade Iraq for other objectives (finishing off Saddam, placating our allies in the region who didn't like having a dictator for a neighbor, seizing all that oil and natural resources).  We had no plan for what to do with nation-building.  Well, there was a plan: remove Saddam and his ilk, put in pet Chalabi on the throne, sign up all the oil rights, exit Iraq.  When it happened that nobody in Iraq wanted Chalabi and he wasn't the puppy Cheney thought he was, it turned out we had no Plan B.

Because with the Middle East there IS no Plan B.  Just an ongoing, 5000-year cycle of violence and madness that will only end when everybody's dead.

And we are all stuck.  The innocent people in the Middle East trapped between warring factions.  Other nations tied to the region through all that damn oil.  A United States that's morally and politically obligated to keep dropping itself into that quagmire because we've been breaking things there since World War II and we're stuck paying the bills for the next century.

We're bombing away in Iraq today.  Because the Towers fell thirteen years ago.  We have no idea when we can stop bombing.