Should government save failing newspapers?

hundreddollarbill

 

Uncle Sam has heard from another American industry that needs a bailout.

This time, it’s newspapers. But they aren’t just another business. They’re one of the pillars of our democracy, and they’re crumbling.

They’re in the same position as buggy whip makers after Henry Ford’s Model Ts started rolling off the assembly lines. This time the Internet is the technological advancement threatening old ways.

Nineteen U.S. senators have joined a group of journalism professionals and nonprofits in asking Congress for stimulus money to keep newspapers publishing.

Would there be a conflict of interest in covering the Newspaper Czar who decides which papers get money? Of course. Accepting money from any source can raise that problem for newspapers. Nonetheless, newspapers sometimes bite the hands that feed them in order to do their jobs.

To see the proposal in detail, check out “Life-saving news needs a stimulus” at https://newsguild.org/.

Then subscribe to a newspaper. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable getting your news from the likes of Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Too Good a Job

Capt. Brett E. Crozier addressing the crew of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in November.
Capt. Brett Crozier; image by U.S. Navy, via Reuters

It’s one thing to get fired for not doing your job: for slacking off, taking too many sick days on Mondays and Fridays, leaving a copy of your resume in the office copier.

Getting fired for doing your job is much harder to accept or explain.

Brett E. Crozier captained a nuclear aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy, the Theodore Roosevelt. While stationed at Guam, crew members began falling ill with the coronavirus. Within days, 114 among more than 4,000 crew member were sick. The close quarters made social distancing impossible.

So Capt. Crozier sent up a distress signal, a letter to multiple recipients asking for immediate evacuation and quarantine of his entire crew while the massive ship was scrubbed down.

Crozier’s letter surfaced in the San Francisco Chronicle. A couple days later, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly fired Crozier because recipients of his letter included persons outside the Navy’s chain of command.

Crozier’s crew gave him a rousing ovation as he left the ship for the last time.

Also recently sacked for doing his job was Michael Atkinson, inspector general (chief watchdog) for the intelligence agencies. Last September, he alerted Congress to a whistleblower’s report that President Trump had asked the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of rival presidential contender Joe Biden. This triggered an impeachment trial of Trump. He was acquitted.

The Atlantic magazine this month reports that thousands of government scientists, lawyers, diplomats, law enforcement officials and intelligence officers have fled their jobs while political appointees gutted their agencies and browbeat the employees over loyalty to the president.

For those federal workers willing to do their jobs anyway, help is available at the National Whistleblowers Center at whistleblowers.org. Also, check out a book by Anonymous called “The Art of Anonymous Activism: Serving the Public While Surviving Public Service.”

Lutefisk, or chicken-and-waffles?

lutefisk

Image from thespruce.com

If President Trump had his way, we’d be a country where more immigrants have come from Norway than Haiti.

Imagine what our national culture would be like today if Scandinavians had dominated the Deep South and African-Americans had settled mostly in Minnesota.

We’d have chain restaurants serving lutefisk instead of barbecue or chicken-and-waffles. Pull up to the drive-through window. No aromas of sweet, crunchy waffles topped by crispy fried chicken; you’d get the smell of salt-dried whitefish chunks soaked in water for up to 10 days and in lye for two days. The result is jelly-like. Add a traditional side of mashed peas. Sole food, not soul food.

Forget rock-n-roll, hip hop, blues and jazz. There’d be no drumline competitions, just fiddling festivals. No steppin’, just a kind of minuet incorporating the chicken dance. Ice hockey, not basketball.

Would the U.S.A. still be a great country? You betcha!

chicken and waffles

Image from foodnetwork.com

Red-Tailed Hawk

The woman at Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources tried to reassure me that capturing an injured red-tailed hawk was doable.

red-tailed-hawk

Photo from therockpile.com

 

Get a box, a towel and a pair of thick gloves, she said. Throw the towel over its head so it can’t see. Pick it up from behind and put it in the box.

From behind?

“You don’t want its talons to get you. Hold it away from your body.”

A moment of silence followed while I regarded the curved claws on the bird, picturing how easily they’d pierce flesh. She heard my hesitation.

“It’s really not that hard,” she said into the phone.

As the bird glared at me, I noticed the sharp tip on his beak, used to rip bloody chunks of flesh from prey. The notion of grappling with this predator looked risky.

The hawk and I were just off Interstate 65 in Gary, Indiana. Mention this town to anyone who doesn’t live here and they’re likely to think of steel mills belching pollution or a deserted downtown of boarded-up, graffitied buildings. They wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s more to the place than that.

There’s a surprising amount of still natural land. Patches of open prairie, forests and dunes stretch in a series of local and national parks along Lake Michigan from Chicago to Indiana’s western boundary and beyond. In my neighborhood abutting one of these parks (and often in my yard), it’s common to see deer, coyotes, sand hill cranes and occasionally even an elusive fox.

Red-tailed hawks are common, too, typically circling high above the trees. This one, however, had perched on a guard rail along the highway just before an exit. He was impossible to miss – maybe 15 inches tall, as big around as my cat. His back was turned to the traffic as if he wouldn’t deign to acknowledge it. His bearing exuded invincibility. You couldn’t tell he had an injury that amounted to a death sentence.

I pulled my car onto the shoulder and edged it closer, hoping to gawk at him for a minute.

His head swiveled. He saw the car creeping up and tried to fly away. I could see that half of one wing was almost broken off and hanging limply. He couldn’t gain altitude or get far. He landed about five feet below the guard rail on the downward slope of a weedy berm.

Now that he was on the ground away from the busy highway, he was even more vulnerable to predators – raccoons, foxes, great horned owls. I’d made his bad situation worse.

After talking with the woman at DNR, I drove home and assembled the recommended equipment: a cardboard box, a cat bed to cushion the bird, a large beach towel, a pair of leather gloves and a pair of insulated barbecue gloves to put over those.

He hadn’t moved when I returned 25 minutes later. I put the box with the cat bed in it on the ground, donned the two pairs of gloves, unfolded the towel and slowly advanced on him from behind.

Again, his head swiveled. He turned his body to face me. With each step I took, his unbroken wing lifted higher, his feathers puffed further out and his beak opened wider in warning. It felt like he was daring me to look down his gullet. I imagined being a small animal struggling under his talons as that sharp point lowered towards its meal.

His yellow eyes never wavered. He showed no fear. He was all threat.

Three feet from him, I froze. Fortunately, the U.S. Army came to the rescue.

A young soldier, seeing a woman on the berm holding a beach towel open on a gray January day, pulled over to find out what I was doing and whether I needed help. He hadn’t seen the hawk. The sight of it impressed him.

Still, this was a combatant he could easily handle.

hawk-and-snake

Still from YouTube

He held the towel in front of him so it shielded his entire body; only his head and his booted feet were visible. The bird ended his threat displays. The soldier slowly stepped closer, talking softly to it, until the two stood toe-to-talon. He dropped the towel. Then he bundled the bird, gently lowered it into the box and placed the box in the back seat of my car. He even strapped the seat belt around the box to keep it from tipping.

It was a half-hour drive to the DNR-designated vet who would take the hawk. The back of my neck prickled the whole way. The bird was secured in a box with a lid weighted down by my purse, but I was nervous. How strong was he? Could he bust out? I imagined the car careening while I flailed my arms as he lunged, screeching, towards my face.

For one moment, his talons had scratched briefly against the box. Other than that, he didn’t make a sound.

The vet discovered that the hawk’s wing wasn’t just broken; it was rotting off. He was too badly injured to be healed. He had to be euthanized.

That hawk was the wildest creature I’ve ever encountered up close, without a thick plate of glass or bars between us. The experience was thrilling and humbling. Even half-dead, boxed up, and much smaller than his captor, he scared me. He showed me what “untamed” means.

Here we go again

newport_spanish_cruelty

Engraving, 1598

This month’s issue of National Geographic magazine features an article about human efforts to get to Mars. It has a gee-whiz tone about the technology involved, describes participants’ devotion to the quest and quotes justifications offered.

Its focus is limited to one question, put in big, bold type. “Everyone seems to agree: If humanity has a next great destination in space, Mars is it. But how attainable is it?”

No question is raised about whether we have the right to colonize and plunder another planet.

“…the spreading of life to what is now barren territory, is a morally desirable endeavor for reasons beyond how it benefits humanity,” according to the National Space Society  (NSS), whose corporate members include aerospace contractors and an adventure travel company.

Lucky Mars, to be the beneficiary of these generous imperialists (ed: strike that) forward-thinkers! Though survivors among colonized peoples may question whether it was life that was being spread or that their territory was barren, typically it became so after natural resources were extracted and much of the native population unfortunately perished upon contact with more civilized cultures.

Nobody knows whether there are living, sentient beings on Mars, or whether they’d want to share their planet, but let’s assume there are not. Why should we go?

Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company aims to land people on the Red Planet in 2025, believes a colony on Mars would be mighty handy in case some possibly self-inflicted catastrophe makes life on Earth less feasible for many. It’s not just for the bragging rights.

“There’ll be fame and that kind of thing for them,” he says. “But in the grander historical context, what really matters is being able to send a large number of people, like tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people, and ultimately millions of tons of cargo.”

But what would people do up there? Not to worry – there’ll be jobs on Mars!

“We can reduce the human population of Earth not by reducing the total human population,” (thank goodness!) “but by moving people to space settlements,” say the visionaries at NSS. “Much of our mining, agriculture, and industry can also be moved to space settlements.

“The Earth can largely become a very environmentally friendly wilderness area with some parks and places of historical interest.”

No doubt that adventure travel company with the NSS will be happy to arrange vacation transport back to Earth for anyone who can get several years off from the farm, factory or mine and scrape together the $500,000 fare.

Maybe the fare will include a souvenir “Occupy Mars” T-shirt, worn by SpaceX employees, which they probably think are tongue-in-cheek. Unless, as Musk suggests, they put it in a grander historical context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From words to deeds

alec cook by john hart wis state jrnl.jpg

Alec Cook, accused of multiple sexual assaults. Photo by John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

Men are entitled to sex with women and women are not entitled to say no.

This bone-deep belief is the bedrock of rape. It’s so embedded, in men and women alike, that we have trouble identifying it and bringing it to the surface for examination.

It’s simultaneously masked and enforced by stereotypes about male aggression and female passivity: expectations that being manly means being forceful,  put-downs and taunts about women being “over emotional” if they object or “unladylike” if they so much as raise their voices.

The most insidious aspect is that women have been taught they aren’t entitled to trust themselves. If you are constantly told you are too emotional to think straight and that your reaction is not justified, you’ll doubt yourself and what you saw, felt and know.

Thus the confusion of the young woman who texted to her brother how the accused had held her in a “death grip” and kept yanking her back to him as she tried to leave: “I don’t feel like I was assaulted…I don’t think. But I feel very weird.”

trump

Donald Trump, Republican candidate for president.

The behavior that becomes rape starts with words that express the attitude that women can’t be trusted. “Women have one of the great acts of all time,” today’s self-proclaimed alpha male, Donald Trump, said in The Art of The Comeback. “The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are killers.”

So, no need to believe women’s protests when men take what they feel entitled to. In this view, the lying, manipulative bitches are getting what they deserve.

Too much of a stretch? Not fair?

One of these men publicly boasted about grabbing women’s crotches. The other jammed his fingers inside them. Not a big stretch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Loser

toddler

The closer we get to election day, the more candidate Trump morphs from bully to whiner.

My microphone was faulty! The media’s out to get me!

Next will come the crybaby: I was robbed! It was a conspiracy! No fair!

Despite dire predictions of chaos and revolution after the ballot count shows Clinton won, I think it’s safe to say most people just will heave a sigh of relief that it’s over. And some of us won’t be able to resist yelling at the self-proclaimed victim of injustice as he stomps, pouting, out of the schoolyard:

Nyaaa, nyaaa – LOSER!