Less Than Honest Commentary

What else can you call it when a prominent columnist selectively edits a politician’s words to make him appear responsible (or at least not irresponsible)?

In his Washington Post column yesterday, conservative columnist George Will touted Texas Governor Rick Perry as a strong, attractive, and desirable candidate for president in 2012. However, in order to plug Perry, Will could not ignore the Texan’s previous highly publicized comments regarding the possibility that Texas might one day secede from the United States. Here is how Will handled this pesky presidential nominating problem for Perry:

“Supposed examples of Perry’s extremism evaporate in sunlight. One is that he intimated support for Texas’s secession from the Union. After people shouted ‘Secede!’ at a rally, he said that he understood their frustration but added: ‘We’ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it.’

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Does George W. Bush Belong in Jail?

If as U.S. president you authorize something immoral, and illegal by international standards, does that mean you should be in jail?

Former U.S. President George W. Bush proudly states in his new book Decision Points that he was just fine authorizing the waterboarding of 9-11 suspects, which most civilized nations consider to be torture. And then, to get the word out, defend his time in office, and make some money, Bush goes on a publicity tour to promote his ghostwritten book. People happily line up to get his autograph. TV and radio pundits treat him with deference and respect. Everything is hunky-dory.

But just a minute. Hold the phone. Am I missing something? Why are Americans not shunning Bush for his horrible admission instead of honoring him and buying hundreds of thousands of copies of his idiotic book? Don’t they understand that by showing deference to Bush and thus acknowledging him as an admirable person, we all become at least partially complicit regarding his sanctioning of torture? The sin for this then rests on all of our souls, as well as on Bush’s.

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Non-Believers are Non-Important

Fundamentalist Christians love their religion. Great. But must they always speak and act as if their ideas about the existence – or non-existence – of God are the only ones that count?

On November 2, 2010, after winning the election to become Florida’s next U.S. senator, this is how Republican Marco Rubio opened his acceptance speech: “We are all children of a powerful and great God.” By his words, Rubio clearly was speaking for everyone who had gathered with him at Miami’s Biltmore Hotel to celebrate his victory. But what about any agnostics and atheists who were in the Biltmore ballroom cheering him on? How did they feel about what he said? Lumped in? Forgotten about? Ignored? Not important? Disrespected? Like outsiders? All of the above?

The United States is a nation that guarantees freedom of thought and freedom of religion. This means that as an American, you can worship as you please, or not, depending on your particular beliefs. Yet, for Rubio, and indeed for 99.9 percent of all other U.S. politicians, as well as the nation’s thought and culture leaders, the presumption – ironically always made overt – is that, of course, “We are all children of a powerful and great God.” Message to atheists, agnostics, and all those who do not envision God as a great white father: “What you think does not count.”

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The Savin Seller

I didn’t make much money during my six-month anti-career as a copier salesman, but I did ruin one absolutely beautiful rug.

In 1971, I spent six horrible months trying to sell Savin copiers to shifty attorneys, nerdy accountants, stolid insurance executives, and creepy actuaries. None of them wanted to buy my office equipment, nor did they want to discuss doing so with me. During my short-lived and star-crossed anti-sales career, I experienced almost no success and much personal abasement. I was a frog in a fry pan, a fish in a barrel, an ant dodging feet in Times Square.

My sales territory was in downtown Pittsburgh. It included the Frick Building with its elegant bronze lobby lions, the Art Deco Koppers Tower and its green patina copper roof, and the massive Grant Building with its tower aviation beacon, visible for 150 miles on a clear night. The buildings were imposing and majestical. With no sales and overdue bills, I was a harried hound, looking stupid in a sleazy suit.

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What’s Up With WordPress?

I will never understand the WordPress business model.

Will someone please explain to me how WordPress makes money? The company develops and maintains this absolutely superior blogging platform, which it provides free to millions of users. The number of WordPress blogs as of September 2010: 13.9 million. They all need servers, which surely cost WordPress beaucoup bucks. WordPress pays talented designers to create hundreds of stunning themes, the WordPress term for blog formats. Besides being beautiful, these themes are easy to use. Tired of the one you originally chose? Just go to the WordPress theme library, preview how your blog posts will look with the new format, and if you like the way things appear, simply click a button and – Presto! – your entire blog and blog posts magically transform into the new look.

WordPress provides comprehensive and detailed statistics, constantly updated in real time, regarding how many people visit your blog, what they click on, and where they come from on the Internet. With WordPress, you can easily go in and edit your blog articles after they post. Again, all that’s involved is to click on the edit button, make your changes, click on the update button, and voilá, your changes are instantaneously made in your published article. Try to do that with a newspaper story that has already gone to print. (I have already changed this article online a half-dozen times.)

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Vipers Vile

Responsible Republican politicians have become an extinct species.

Republican politicians are a disgraceful bunch. Shakespeare would say false dogs, measureless liars, and vipers vile. However, Republicans have not always been so bad. Indeed, in the past, some were shining angels. For example, during the Civil War, Republican Abraham Lincoln freed most (but not all) of the slaves, a sublime achievement.

Shortly thereafter, the Republican congress passed the “Reconstruction Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution, that is, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which abolished slavery throughout the entire United States, and guaranteed citizenship rights to free slaves and anyone else born in the United States, as well as suffrage rights to U.S. citizens, regardless of race and color. This all took place in the 1860s, a century and a half ago.

Since then, however, except for the outlier Teddy Roosevelt Administration and during the 1960s when they helped push through President Johnson’s civil rights legislation, Republicans have pretty much been on the wrong side of everything good that has occurred in the United States, and in support of everything bad. This represents nearly 150 years of almost permanent political drought.

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Don’t Cry for the Star People

Chen Ziang, an ancient Chinese poet, cried because he felt all alone in a vast and endless universe. However, Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-king, understood that we are never alone: Our physical beings are an intrinsic part of the eternal domain.

In 1968, as a Marine stationed in Vietnam, assigned to the USMC Combat Motion Picture Team, I often went to Cholon, the Chinatown section of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. One day, while wandering by myself through the district, I bought a book of ancient Chinese poetry from a street peddler.

Someone had translated the book into English, while also retaining the lovely Chinese ideograms for each entry. The book’s poems were magical. As the translator wrote, and I paraphrase, they represented “the direct, bright light of the sun.” Their perfect images and sublime thoughts touched me deeply.

Now, 42 years later, the book is lost, a victim of one too many moves. However, for decades, except for my Vietnam campaign medals, the collection of ancient Chinese poetry was the only thing that remained with me from Vietnam; except of course, for my memories of that war, which have seared into my consciousness.

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We Don’t Stand a Chance

Do companies purposely screw everything up because they secretly hate us?

Why is it everything conspires against us? Think not? Call any company and you are quickly stuck in a never-never land of annoying voice prompts. After plowing through a long list of unhelpful options, you get to the one where you can speak to a live person. It is always at the end. This is what you wanted to do when you phoned in decades ago.

While waiting to connect with the individual, an unctuous voice informs that you have been chosen to participate in a survey (along with everyone else in America who calls). You punch up that you have no interest. Never-say-die, the voice asks you again to participate, maybe a couple more times. After another long wait, the telephone representative finally comes on the line. “How can I provide excellent service?” he brightly asks. The man’s heavy accent makes him barely decipherable. His phone name is James. His real name is Rahul. By this time, you are in sleepy-ville.

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The Sunbeam

I begin this simple blog with a borrowed, acute observation, as well as the sublime contemplation, of philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius, as expressed in his immortal Meditations: “The sun is seen to pour down and expend itself in all directions, yet is never exhausted. For this downpouring is but a self-extension; sunbeams, in fact, derive their very name from a word signifying ‘to be extended.’ To understand the property of a sunbeam, watch the light as it streams into a darkened room through a narrow chink. It prolongs itself forward in a straight line, until it is held up by encountering some solid body which blocks its passage to the air beyond; and then it remains at rest there, without slipping off or falling away. The emission and the diffusion of thought should be the counterpart of this; not exhausting, but simply extending itself; not dashing violently or furiously against the obstacles it encounters, nor yet falling away in despair; but holding its ground and lighting up that upon which it rests.” Such will be my future blogging plan. – Mickey Murphy, July 14, 2010, © 2011 MMMurphy

Note to Readers: You can quickly link to Mickey Murphy’s other online articles by going to Blog Posts Index, which lists all articles by category: History, Religion, Media, Observations, Business, Philosophy, Political Commentary, Satire, and Personal Communications. Article titles are hyperlinks.