Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tintin May be Huge & Influenced Indiana Jones, But Had Racist Past

There are some things that are a bit tiresome and frustrating when you like and/or admire certain things that are readily available in Europe, but which are absent in the United States. Important things, like universal, affordable healthcare, taking climate change seriously enough to actually take serious steps towards reducing it rather than just denying it exists, serious vacation and benefits, among others. But those are political issues, so let's move on. I also miss castles and cathedrals, as well as strolling through old narrow streets, or sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe in some of the charming old sections of towns. An appreciation of soccer/football, and people who do not assume that if it's not American, it is not worth paying attention to. Indeed, just the smaller scale of things in Europe tends to hold a certain attraction, especially contrasted with the Texas style mentality of the bigger, the better, that too often prevails here in the United States with everything from houses to cars to meals to almost everything else.  . 

Most Americans probably still do not accept a lot of European trends and the overall European mindset, although it probably is getting a bit closer to Europe on some levels.

However, we have a long way to go before we can appreciate some of the cooler aspects of European life.

That said, one thing that I have always closely associated with France, or Francophone culture in general, is Tintin. I say that because Tintin is actually a Belgian cartoon that has had some decent success around the world, although once again, that success is quite limited here in the United States.

Yes, Tintin was always one of those things that, for me, kept those French and/or European cultural ties intact, which was more often than not a refreshing change. 

It should be mentioned her that I grew up partially in France, and particularly when I was young. You might never know it if you meet me now, but French was my first tongue, and my first schooling experience (and not a pleasant one, I might add) was in France. One thing that I remember from back then was Goldorak, which actually is Japanese in origin, but which so completely dominated the landscape of toys and cartoons and comics back then when I lived there, in a small suburb northwest of Paris called Bois d'Arcy, that Goldorak still conjures images of France, and cultural and linguistic ties to the old country. 

But other than Goldorak, which dates back to when I was between the ages of three and four (maybe up to around five), the next oldest thing like that for kids which I was into, and which always reminds me of life in France, was Tintin. There were other such figures of comic books (literally books), such as Lucky Luke and Asterix. But Tintin reigned supreme for me, and it was always Tintin that I seemed to turn to the most, and tried to collect. It almost felt like Tintin was the Beatles, while Lucky Luke or Asterix were like the Rolling Stones. Good, but not as good as Tintin. 

For me, it felt a little like reinforcement of my grandfather's stamp collection, which is to say that it felt worldly. 

Okay, I know what at least some of you are saying now, that the first two Tintin books in particular were generally negative, with the first being a condemnation of communism in the Soviet Union, and portraying that country as very backwards and almost demonic. Then, Tintin in the Congo was pretty much blatantly racist and pro-colonialism, something which Hergé more or less seemed to apologize for later on.

Otherwise, Tintin felt a little bit like a glimpse of what traveling the world might be like. This was so much the case, that Stephen Speilberg was greatly influenced by Tintin, and used this influence as the basis for creating the also very well traveled Indiana Jones. Both of these fictional characters had adventures all around the world. 

Tintin came first, though. He went all the way to China and Tibet (before it was absorbed into China). He went to South America and some banana republics in Latin America. He traveled to the United States, and he also traveled widely across Europe. He visited Saudi Arabia as well. Hell, he even visited the moon!

Yes, Tintin was worldly, and it kind of buttressed the seeming importance of learning more about the world - in fact, of knowing that there is a whole world out there, something that I suspect my fellow Americans (regardless of their political persuasion) of generally losing sight of.

So, how did Hergé come about with the genesis of the idea of Tintin?

“The idea for the character of Tintin and the sort of adventures that would befall him came to me, I believe, in five minutes, the moment I first made a sketch of the figure of this hero: that is to say, he had not haunted my youth nor even my dreams. Although, it’s possible that as a child I imagined myself in the role of a sort of Tintin”.

I grew up on Tintin and, now as a father, I have a son who is growing up on Tintin, too. He loves Tintin, and this has been allowing me to relive certain parts of my own youth in this regard, which seems awesome.

However, it is a bit troubling to think that Tintin can and has been rightly viewed as racist, and reinforcing the European white supremacy of the first half of the twentieth century, particularly that second book, "Tintin in Congo". 

For his part in reflecting on that many years later, Hergé said:

“For the Congo as with Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, the fact was that I was fed the prejudices of the bourgeois society in which I moved … It was 1930. I only knew things about these countries that people said at the time, ‘Africans were great big children … Thank goodness for them that we were there!’ Etc. And I portrayed these Africans according to such criteria, in the purely paternalistic spirit which existed then in Belgium”.

Indeed, there is no denying that dark past for what may seem to be, on the surface, a relatively innocent cartoon geared more for children, although not exclusively so. Still, there are so many things in our world that are tainted by some skeletons of the past, and I for one am not about to abandon Tintin and Hergé's books, even if they receive some just criticism for a murky past. The later books are generally quite enjoyable, and it has been a pleasure rereading them and reliving my own past as my son, who is an enthusiastic fan of Tintin on his own now, enjoy them together.

The first volume of the famous Belgian comic “The Adventures of Tintin” was an anti-Soviet propaganda, indoctrinating young readers with anti-communist ideas

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mark Twain's Version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is Very Relevant Today

Every now and then, you read something from certain writers that just knock your socks off. Sometimes, this happens from someone quite long ago in the past, and this is the second time that I felt that way about a very short work from Mark Twain. 

The first was his War Prayer, which I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

But there was also this, and I highly recommend reading it right now:

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword; He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored; He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored; His lust is marching on.   

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps; They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps; I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps— His night is marching on.   

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel: "As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal; Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel; Lo, Greed is marching on!"   

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;* Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat; O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet! Our god is marching on!   

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch, With a longing in his bosom—and for others' goods an itch. As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich— Our god is marching on.

Twain wrote this in 1900, but if anything, it seems perhaps more relevant now than ever before in this nation's history!

As soon as I saw it, it felt like something that needed to be shared here, and so here it is!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Some Major Differences in Environment Probably Account for Different Political Outlooks

This was a very interesting and eye-opening article!

Here, the author, Loey Nunning, explains some of the things that are often overlooked, but might account for the generally differing political viewpoints of people who live in rural communities, versus those who live in urban communities.

The experiences of people living in city or urban dwellings, as opposed to people who live and work in the countryside, are entirely different. As the author points out, going out for a drive in the countryside is a pleasant activity, while doing that in an urban area can often mean a significant hassle. Trust me, I know this particular point very well. The last three years, my son and I have taken vacations that required some considerable driving. Driving in these mostly rural areas, and listening to music that we both love, essentially helped to make these trips great! That was particularly true when the drives were long and when we were on mostly empty roads, doing the speed that we wanted, and usually without anyone around to bother us.

However, living in suburban northern New Jersey, the driving experience is considerably different here. There is always the chance that you might get stuck in some serious traffic. I have been stuck in traffic in this state literally at all hours, from the predictable normal rush hour with heavy commute, to the daytime hours in between. But also, I have gotten stuck in heavy traffic jams later in the evening and during the wee hours of the night/early morning.

And yes, this detracts significantly from the pleasure of driving, trust me. I live near a major artery that almost always seems to have heavy traffic, and a simple trip to the local market, which is maybe a couple of miles away as the bird flies, will wind up taking the better part of half an hour, taking traffic and traffic lights and all into consideration. Speaking of traffic lights, I would be surprised, even very surprised, if New Jersey was not the worst state for traffic lights. Trust me, I know some stupid traffic lights, and that is especially true in Rahway, the town that I work in. Never seen as many ridiculous traffic lights as I have since starting to work in this town beginning in January of 2011.

So, my perception of driving varies wildly, depending on the situation and especially where I am. When driving in Arizona the last couple of years, it was a real pleasure! We were listening to good music, enjoying the exquisite Arizona scenery, and all of it (or almost all of it) while dealing with minimal stress from traffic conditions. The same could be said for the time spent driving through other states, including California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The exceptions? When we were near cities, in heavily populated urban areas. We hit traffic jams in San Francisco, Phoenix, Tuscon, and Las Vegas. At those points, the driving suddenly was not much fun anymore.

So it is with a lot of differences between rural areas and urban areas. The cost of everything is significantly more expensive in urban areas. Parking for less than four hours in San Francisco cost $40, and everything there cost an arm and a leg. Being from the greater New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, I am quite familiar with these kinds of outrageous prices. Nothing new to me. That is one of the major stresses of living in an urban area, is how expensive everything is. Before you know it, you get the impression that everyone is out to take your money, whether it is through nickel and diming you with fees and/or services provided, or perhaps just some gigantic scam. The more people you meet (and you meet a lot of people in urban areas), the better the chances that you meet some shady people who are clearly trying to scam you out of some money.

In short, living in an urbanized area is stressful and annoying on many levels. Yes, there are advantages to it, as well. Proximity to everything, including highways, businesses, schools, events, and so on. There are any number of things that you can do within a fairly short drive, and that is indeed quite convenient. But most likely, it will cost money, and you always could run into traffic, to boot.

Yes, many of the things that we have here are advantageous, and as the author rightly points out, that includes government services, of which there are many. Most everyone that I know has been to college, at least to some extent, even if they did not wind up graduating. Out of those people, a good percentage, probably a decent majority, needed some form of loans and government assistance to pay for it. There are plenty of people around here who have government jobs, and there are plenty of signs of government being a part of your life here, from government officials (including schools), to postal services to street cleaners and snowplows during the winter months.

Plus, we see things here in urban areas, such as homelessness, and such as immigrants - both legal and illegal. In cities, you see slums, and you see violence. Indeed, here in more urbanized areas, many, if not most people, are suspicious of guns, because that usually means something really bad is about to happen.

By way of comparison, the experience of rural folk would understandably be quite a bit different than all of that, and one can understand how they might view the city as untrustworthy, as suspicious.

Indeed, this describes the experiences and/or needs of people who live in both quite accurately.

This is the kind of journalism that we need, the kind that bridges gaps between us and allows us to peak on the other side to see what they see, and understand how they feel the way that they do, as opposed to simply demonizing the other side.

Here is the link to the article, which I highly recommend:

6 Big Differences That Turn City Dwellers Into Liberals By  Loey Nunning Loey Nunning · February 18, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 24th: Hindu Celebration: Great Night of Shiva

The largest of the Shiva celebrations in the Hindu tradition came just last night, although unfortunately, I did not get this particular blog entry out on time for that.

Still, better late than never, and getting something out was a priority. That said, apologies again for this being late.

According to Leigh Melander's article, MythBlast: Shiva and the Great Dance", the evening of February 24th honors this:

Lord Shiva performed the Tandava, the dance that is the source of the cycles of creation, dissolution, and destruction. Tradition also holds that it was on this day that Shiva and Parvati were married. Religious penance may be found during Shivaratra through a night long practice of meditation and yoga.

MythBlast: Shiva and the Great Dance BY LEIGH MELANDER · FEBRUARY 24, 2017

The Stresses That Led to a Rare Visit to the Doctor's Office & the Stresses That Followed

Right off the bat, let me start by saying that I do not go to the doctor's office very often. It had been years since my last visit to the doctor's office, which was a couple of years ago, when I got seriously sick. Prior to that was a few years before, as well, and that was a required visit because of a job that needed me to get a physical.

For the most part, I go without seeing the doctor. When I get sick, and even when I feel pain, I just do not go to the doctor's, and generally assume that these problems will heal themselves in time. 

Probably what you are asking at this point is why? Why not go to the doctor's office when a problem arises?

That would be a legitimate question. A fair one, to be sure. And here's the reason: in this country, doctor's seem to be in it generally for the money more than anything else. Now, I am sure that there are exceptions to this rule.  Surely, there are good doctors out there who are genuinely interested in the good health of their patients.

However, it is hard for me to get past the fact that most doctors seem to view their patients as a means for profit. This is particularly true here in the United States, where we are the only industrialized nation that fails to provide a universal, affordable healthcare system for it's citizens. That is something that, to me, clearly makes the United States stand out for all of the wrong reasons. It is an issue that has been a source of shame to me as an American since I first really began to understand it, some time in the late 1980's. My father, who is European, would mention that every European nation, and indeed, every industrialized nation back then save for South Africa (which was under white minority apartheid rule at the time) had some form or other of universal healthcare except for the United States and South Africa. It was not much of a source of comfort that South Africa did not have it, since it was an officially racist country, after all. 

So what was our excuse?

Of course, apartheid ended in South Africa. One of the first things that they did once apartheid ended was institute a form of universal, affordable healthcare there, which made the United States the sole remaining industrialized power that did not have such a healthcare system in place. That was in the mid-1990's, fully two decades ago now. Among the other areas where the United States shamefully lags behind, including with the environment, as well as with salaries and benefits, including paid medical leave, childcare, and vacation, this lack of affordable healthcare for tens of millions of people has proven to be a source of shame for this country, a true stain and blemish, that the rest of the world judges us by. And with good reason!

For my part, that meant that I did not fully trust doctors. Fairly or unfairly, I often view them in the same manner that I view lawyers and mechanics: as people who have you by the cajones, and who will apply pressure as they see fit to get what they want out of it. They often have a preset list of preferred medications to give to their patients, and often times, they are encouraged to push these on them, whether or not they are truly what is best for the patient or not. And frankly, since we have a for profit healthcare system, the most obvious suspicion would be that doctors and others in the medical field need a continual source of income to make their healthy profit. This they have, if they can be sure that their patients remain unhealthy. 

There is good reason to believe that they will remain unhealthy, because this is America, after all. Home of the Big Mac and the Whopper, and why not supersize that? This is the land of excess, of unhealthy lifestyles, where tens of millions of people are obese. We are the fattest country on the planet, and it is not even close! When you see some of the "ingredients" in today's mass produced food, you have to wonder about it, as well. All of these pesticides in our produce, and all of these hard to pronounce chemicals in other foods. And that has not even including the topic of all the medications that Americans take, many of which had unfortunate side effects! Yet, millions of Americans take these without question! I am convinced that a large percentage of them probably never seriously gave thought or did research as to what they were putting into their bodies. Many people take numerous drugs, and who knows why kinds of side effects these combined drugs might have?

Finally, it appears that more and more people are waking up to all of this, and are growing ever more mindful of all of this nonsense. However, much of this crap food and medications continue, and the practice does not show significant signs of truly slowing down.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

Point is, I do not go to see the doctor frequently. However, about a month back, my back was giving me problems. This is a normal thing, rather routine, although this particular episode was a bit more serious. And unfortunately, for the second time in my life, that pain spread from my back and eventually to my leg, which somewhat surprisingly, seems worse than my back.

Now, I was waiting for a while for it to get better on it's own and, for a while there, that was what seemed to be happening. Late last week, the pain seemed much less than it had been, and I was feeling optimistic. Perhaps another few weeks, and this would pass. Then, I could start doing serious stretches in hopes of not only getting in shape, but of preventing this kind of thing in the future.

But somehow, it started hurting a bit more during my work shifts last weekend, and it probably did not get better when I decided to be active last weekend. As you might recall from a post about last weekend, I went hiking. The weather was so beautiful, and not only do I like to go hiking, but I want to encourage my son to do some hiking and get some fresh air, as well. So, we went.

By the time the weekend ended, my leg was starting to seriously hurt, and it reached a point where I actually had to hobble a bit when walking. It is strange, because the pain kind of comes and goes. There are times when it does not hurt at all. Certain positions while sitting or lying down, and sometimes even while on my feet or walking.

In other words, it got bad enough that it was unavoidable. Like it or not, I had to make a doctor's appointment, the first in years.

I opted for Thursday, which is my normal day off after working the night before. I figured that the doctor would give me advice and some meds to ease the pain, and I was hoping it was obviously not more serious than that. Also, Thursday night would be a night off, the first in ten nights or so, as I worked some overtime last weekend, and definitely needed the rest!

For the most part, the visit went as expected. He told me it was sciatica, which I pretty much figured anyway, and that he could not do much about it, which also came as no real surprise. He would give me muscle relaxants to help ease the pain, and told me to stop hiking, and not to lift anything heavy or do anything to crazy on it for at least one month.


But when I went to pick up the muscle relaxants at the pharmacy, they were not ready. Waited for a little while longer, but still nothing. So, I took my son to eat dinner, and then we came back.


By then, of course, the doctor's office was closed, so there was nothing that I could do. Had to wait until morning, and call then. Which I did, to find out that doctor's office was closed on this Friday.

And the pain was definitely not getting any better, although the night off, and some adequate rest, did make me feel better.

Still, the pain in my leg was real, and it was certainly limiting what I could do, and how well I could feel. I woke up a couple of times in tremendous pain, perhaps moving the wrong way while unconscious. Who knows, maybe that was what woke me up?

I finally did get the medicine on Saturday evening, although even here, there were problems. Despite an email message and voice message to the doctor explaining that it would be way more convenient for me to pick the medicine up in Hillsborough, rather than nearby his office by William Paterson University in Wayne (more than an hour's drive away!), he sent it to that one, and left me a message. I was able to get the medicine transferred to the much closer CVS, but then I had to have the prescription number. Since the doctor had sent everything electronically, this was something that I did not have, and they were not letting me have that without it.

In my mind, a familiar question was rising: who the hell else has these kinds of problems? Does anyone have to deal with this level of confusion for things that should, on the surface, seem simple and straightforward?

They "offered" to call that other CVS and see if they could get the number, and within a few minutes, indeed, they had gotten it. Finally, the medicine was in my hand - Diclofenac Sod EC.

Went back home after that, and ate, because my girlfriend insisted that this stuff could not be taken on an empty stomach. So, I ate, even though there was no real hunger or anything. Then, the medicine.

At first, it worked remarkably well. Ten or fifteen minutes after taking the medicine, there was no pain. I could walk normally and comfortably, instead of half limping or hobbling around.

"Wow! This stuff is amazing!" I said to my girlfriend, looking at the tiny little bottle.

But before the hour was out, the pain started coming back. By maybe four hours afterwards, it was almost like I had not taken anything to begin with, and I was only supposed to take 1 tablet twice a day at most.

Suddenly, it was not looking like the miracle drug, and my girlfriend was saying that this was not doing anything, and was hardly worth the ordeal.

As of right now, that is where I am at. Sitting here in front of the computer, kind of leaning forward and trying not to think too much about the pain in my leg. Trying to be positive and to assume that everything will indeed get better soon.

The doctor did mention that it will likely take a month or two before everything is better, and that sure feels like a long time, does it not? There is little to nothing that they can do for issues with the sciatic nerve, though, and I knew that coming in. Having dealt with it years ago, I remember how it felt like it was taking forever, and how there were points where it was hard to believe that it ever really would even get better.

Of course, I hope that it will. It hurts right now, and I have to be prepared for it to hurt for several months to come now. Not much that I can do about it.

However, my focus has not been overly strong with a lot of things just lately, and that includes the writing. These past weeks, there has been a lot to write about, yet that pain sometimes makes me feel a lot less energetic and focused. So, I just wanted to be honest about that and address it here, to kind of explain why this has been so.

Thank you on your end for your patience and understanding!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Remembering Pearl Jam's First Collaboration With Neil Young at the 1993 VMA Awards

Back in the good old days, when Pearl Jam had just a ton of energy, their collaboration with fellow rock legend Neil Young was a cross generational collaboration. Here was an artist who had performed at Woodstock getting together with one of the bands that helped to make Lollapalooza the defining rock tour for a new generation.

Of course, that was a different era in music. Kurt Cobain was still alive and, in fact, had only recently altered the musical landscape when Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" catapulted rock into a whole new chapter. Far from proclamations that rock was dead, which have become quite popular and numerous these days, all of this energetic angst simply injected some much needed energy and new blood into rock. 

At that point, you would not be faulted to think that rock was going strong, and that it had a very bright future. After all, bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana, just to name two of the biggest young bands at the time, were inspiring a new generation of musicians, and that seemed to bode well for the future! In the early 1990's, new rock groups with different and interesting sounds were emerging everywhere, seemingly. And the popular culture was so intimately linked and involved with these young rock bands, that it seemed at that point, indeed, that the popular cliché that rock would never die held more than a little truth to it.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and everything has changed. There hardly seem to be any young rock bands making a big cultural splash, let alone the kind of tidal wave that Nirvana and Pearl Jam, among others, had back in the early nineties. Now, we have some attractive people who have a team of people producing music and selling their image, and this is what we hear on the radio, time and time again. Long gone are the days when rock bands wrote their own music and lyrics and relied on the sounds from their own instruments, hoping to make do.

These days, it seems that young people just want to sing, just perhaps want to get on some reality television show and get enough support to win it all and get that record deal and be able to make it big, almost overnight. The idea of buying secondhand instruments and getting together with friends during the high school days and learning to play the instruments both individually as well as in tandem with the other emerging musicians, and learning your way? The notion that music might sound raw and not overly synthesized? Of playing small bars or clubs, and working your way up, hoping to attract attention or to put together some kind of music album and sell the sound to a record label? Those ideas seem to have largely gone by the wayside.

Yet, since this week happened to have reminders of those days, with what would have been Kurt Cobain's 50th birthday being the root of it all, I found myself reminiscing about that time, about those days. About all of that music.

And so, here was one of my favorite musical moments from the early nineties, when Pearl Jam and Neil Young first teamed up:

Remember When Neil Young and Pearl Jam Lost Their Minds Playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the 1993 VMAs? Jeremy Gordon // January 27, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dan Rather Has Become One of Most Iconic Voices Against Trump

Perhaps one of the most surprising individuals to speak out consistently against Trump, and to advocate serious resistance, is former CBS news anchor Dan Rather.

It is not surprising that he would be opposed to Trump. After all, Rather was not a friend of President Richard Nixon, and the same could be said of President George W. Bush. I still remember election night in 2004, which I had considered the very worst and most depressing election that I could ever remember, prior to the 2016 election. There were very few silver linings in that particular election, although one of those few highlights was Dan Rather, who really showed just how funny he can be. I still remember the laughter he received on live television when he announced that Pete Coors had been defeated in Colorado's Senate race. At that point, Coors beer was promoting it's silver bullet line, and Rather mused that the election results effectively were the silver bullet through the heart of Coors' political ambitions.

Even now, more than 12 years later, recalling that makes me laugh, and there was precious little to laugh about on that evening.

Of course now, as impossible as it seems, the situation seems even more dire. After all, I never thought that I would see the day when George W. Bush would actually appear like a moderate. But with the narcissistic megalomaniac now in charge, having somehow found his way to the White House, this has indeed come to pass.

Rather, many years now removed from when he was the anchor of CBS News, and some of course questioned his relevance. Indeed, he seemed to disappear from the scene for a while there.

But he has once again emerged, and done so with a vengeance!

Yes, Rather has been urging people to resist Trump, and has mentioned that the time is now, the level of urgency is already at a point that requires strong action and activism.

Not surprisingly, Rather speaks from experience, having battled other unpleasant and borderline tyrannical presidential administrations in the past. Those experiences have informed him of what we all need to expect, and Rather has been frank about it:

Rather mentioned what needed to happen, and what journalists and activists could expect:

“One way a reporter should be judged is how well he or she stands up to the pressure to intimidate.” 

He mentioned specifically how the powers that be would try to discredit opponents:

“We’re going to hang a sign around you which calls you some bad name. Anti-military, anti-American, anti-war.”

“Then when Watergate came into being was the first time I began to hear this word ‘liberal’ as an epithet thrown my way. People with very strong biases of their own, they come at you with a story.”

Yes, Rather has some experience with this, but he also knows just how important it is to stand up to authoritarian figures who forget that they are public servants. Many reporters will allow themselves to be intimidated, and will bend, if not break, to the pressures of a powerful set of leaders. What is needed is reporters who remain brave and focused on what they have to do, and not what any given administration would want them to do:

“If you won’t report it the way I want it reported, then you’re biased,” Rather said in alluding to the authoritarian line that the Nixon administration took toward journalists.

“Now, it is true about me, better or for worse, if you want to see my neck swell you just try to tell me where to line up. Or mostly what to report.”

“I have my weaknesses,” Rather concluded. “But the one mistake I’ve tried hard not to make is to say ‘Okay I know which way the wind is blowing and I’m going to tailor my reporting to fit that.’”  “Are you going to do it,” Rather said. “Haven’t, don’t, won’t.”

WATCH: Dan Rather Releases Video to Challenge Donald Trump. Watch and SPREAD.


‘Words fall far short of deeds’: Dan Rather rips Trump for denouncing anti-semitism — and keeping Bannon Elizabeth Preza ELIZABETH PREZA 21 FEB 2017

Standing Rock Protests Forcibly Removed

Well, we were warned that a Trump presidency would lead to this.

Sure enough, this is exactly what happened.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced a few months ago that they were going to rethink the pipeline running through this particular stretch of land so close to the Standing Rock reservation, and so there was a delay.

At the time, it was seen as a victory, although some voices warned that this was just deception, and that the delay would conveniently bypass the remaining days of the Obama administration (not that he did much to end the Dakota Access Pipeline) and that continued construction would conveniently resume once Trump was in office. 

That is exactly what happened, too.

Yes, the use of force by militarized police has forced the peaceful protesters at Standing Rock away from the land. 

Once again, the oil industry scores a victory not only at the expense of cleaner alternative energy sources, but also scores another in an already long and growing list of victories for corporations over the American people. 

Drinking water is obviously a key issue in the 21st century already, and it will likely grow even more important. Unfortunately, big corporations seem to win out, whether it was those who had invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, or if it is some huge multinational corporation like Nestlé, who's head has stated that he believes people do not have the right to clean water, as his company continues to grab more and more clean water sources so that it can privatize and profit. 

A sad day in America, and indeed, for the world. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Memories of Kurt Cobain Honor Him & the Music That He Brought to Everyone

Kurt Cobain would be 50 years old now, had he lived to see this day. It is interesting to think about what he might have to say, and how he would have responded to today's musical scene, which is dominated even more exclusively by pop music than it used to be just before "Smells Like Teen Spirit" launched the alternative music revolution of the 1990's.

Nowadays, some people are saying that rock music is dead. Not sure that I fully agree, although I can see that, in terms of the music that many, if not most, young people are making that is actually played on the radio, then it may appear to be for many people. We no longer have bands like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones of old, or the emergence of the kinds of bands that emerged from Seattle, and who came to dominate that early part of the 1990's. 

That raw sound and energy has been replaced with far more manufactured sounds and music, and the emphasis among most of these new artists is happy, as opposed to the angst and anger that bled through much of the music of the 1990's, or the protest and activist music of the 1960's. 

Some people are happy about this. And some, like me, feel a bit cheated, like we are going backwards. Like music is going the way of so much else, which is to say, it is getting more processed and exclusive. More manufactured. Prominent musicians today are starting to also be "too big to fail" musicians, and that seems a bit of a shame to me. 

This might make me sound old, but whatever happened to the times when kids would strap on an old guitar and just jam in the garage, just try to make music? Sure, it would not sound overly polished, but that was the point. We did not know it at the time, but that explosion of this kind of garage music in the 1990's was the last time that we had that kind of music being popularly accepted and hitting the radio waves, and inspiring kids for a new generation to produce similar music.

Now, in this age of reality television shows and Youtube videos and no actual music on MTV, we have some artists like Beyonce and Rihanna and Taylor Swift who have come to dominate. They can hardly be said to have a raw sound, or to produce music that is accessible to everyone, including young kids. Hell, most of the popular artists today do not even write their own music. Often times, they need machines to enhance their singing voices, which just reinforces how exclusively the music scene these days is about image above all else. If you have the right image, if you can be trendy and cool and sell not only your music products, but your image, than you have got it made. If you do not, even if you have something to say (perhaps especially if you have something to say), chances are you will not reach a very wide audience. 

It's a sad state of affairs.

So, what would Cobain have to say about that? There were hints that he was gravitating towards a major shift in his musical career, that he was interested in joining Hole or pursuing a solo musical career, perhaps just him and an acoustic guitar. Would Nirvana have even continued to exist for much longer? Would they have been one of the many bands to get back together after a certain number of years? What would Cobain's music, and message, be today?

All interesting questions, but of course, also just purely speculative, because Cobain is not here. It is unbelievable to think that he has been gone now for almost a quarter of a century!

Still, his memory lives on, and we have not only the music that he did produce with Nirvana, but also the music that Nirvana's rise helped to bring to the airwaves and, for a while at least, came to dominate those same airwaves.

So long as we keep Cobain's memory alive, we can always have that, and can then hope that a Cobain and/or Nirvana for a new generation can once again wrestle away some of that excessive popularity, and all of the egotism and narcissism that comes with it, and bring music back to the people. That was what was best about the punk spirit which most of the Seattle bands, and many of the popular bands of the nineties in general, had. To make music more accessible and more meaningful. And to inspire a younger generation to create their own music, instead of dreaming of being the next big pop star with all of the advantages and pitfalls that go along with that.

In the article below, the memory of Kurt Cobain is clearly remembered, as his daughter and mother honor him. It was just two days ago that he would have turned 50 years old. Perhaps right now is when we need to remember Cobain the most, and the spirit of the revolutionary music that he produced! In this day and age of fake music and fake news and massive egos to those controlling these kinds of things, we need that punk spirit now more than ever before!

This was the article that I got me on this topic to begin with. Not sure why the author uses Mark Lanegan and members of Pearl Jam and Nirvana in the title, because he barely mentions them in the actual article, and he does not specify exactly how they honored Cobain to begin with. However, it was an interesting article nonetheless, and so I used it.

Mark Lanegan, Pearl Jam and Nirvana Members Honor Kurt Cobain By Brett Buchanan -  Feb 21, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Roger Waters Seriously Considering Performing 'The Wall' at U.S.-Mexico Border

Roger Waters, the legendary front man of Pink Floyd who went on to have a successful solo career, is giving some serious thought to the possibility of performing his former band's legendary album, "The Wall" near the Mexican border with the United States.

This concert would have some things in common with "The Wall" performance that he gave in Berlin shortly after the Berlin Wall fell, although perhaps this concert, should it happen, would be more important for the differences, as well.

After all, that Berlin concert came during more hopeful times, following a series of mostly (but not exclusively) peaceful revolutions in eastern Europe that essentially ended the Cold War and seemed to bring new stability and freedom to lands where these things had been suppressed for a very long time. 

Now, however, Waters might wind up performing this concert as the actual construction of another wall, this one much bigger and arguably more symbolic, could be erected at the U.S.-Mexican border. This proposed wall has been the center of controversy ever since then candidate Donald Trump first proposed it. It has increased in controversy as Trump came closer and closer to the White House, first taking the lead and then outright beating out his Republican challengers, and then surprising millions with his election victory in November.

Some people had speculated that Trump would not even be able to build the wall, let alone make Mexico pay for it, which was another key component of this particular campaign promise. 

However, this is something that now President Trump apparently is insisting on, and it appears that indeed, plans are going through to go ahead and begin construction on the wall that would divide the two countries. 

Of course, Trump has encountered resistance - serious resistance. The price tag is staggeringly high, and it sure looks like those who mocked Trump for claiming that he would be able to make Mexico pay for the wall were right. Mexican presidents past and present have all definitively rejected any notion that their country would pay for any wall, no matter what. It is an expensive wall, and so Trump had to appease his supporters by trying to place a tariff on imported Mexican goods, except that he discovered he did not have the authority to do this. Also, this would be bad for the economy for both countries. And since construction was about to begin anyway, at American taxpayer expense, the additional costs that such a tariff would place still additional costs on American consumers. That means that, far from making Mexicans pay for it, Americans would pay for it - twice over!

Obviously, that's a campaign promise that Trump could not possible keep. But try telling his supporters that, and they'll find any excuse or out that they can, or will insist that the president will somehow get this done, and make Mexico pay for it.

Anyway. to say the proposed Mexican wall is a controversial issue would be an understatement. It is indeed reminiscent of the old Berlin Wall, before it was a cool reminder of the largely peaceful and positive 1989 revolution. But it is also reminiscent of what is often called the "Apartheid Wall" in Israel, dividing affluent Israeli communities from largely impoverished Palestinian ones. The Mexican wall is, after all, being built by a wealthy country (the United States) to keep out illegal immigration from a much poorer country (Mexico).

As such, it is bound to be a politically divisive, polarizing issue. And of course, Roger Waters never shies away from these kinds of controversies, having an extensive history of being quite vocal on such matters. In fact, despite the opinion of many that musicians should remain silent on social issues and just focus on their music, Waters believes that musicians have an obligation to speak out on social issues:

“Music is a legitimate place to express protest. Musicians have an absolute right, a duty, to open their mouths to speak out.”

There are concert dates for Waters later this year in southern California (specifically, the Staples Center in Los Angeles), and there is sufficient time in between the concerts to possibly make such a concert a reality. So, we need to stay tuned!

Roger Waters mulls performing Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' at U.S.-Mexico border by George Vargas, February 20, 2017:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Today Would Have Been Kurt Cobain's 50th Birthday!

It's kind of hard to believe, isn't it?

Had he lived, Kurt Cobain would have turned 50 years old today. Of course, he did not survive his own worst enemy: himself. Yes, that probably sounds cliche, but it is also true. He basically predicted his own life and death with striking accuracy, seeing himself becoming the biggest rock star on the planet (which he was for a while there) and then blowing his own head off (which he basically did).

That is obviously a tragedy, which makes this a difficult subject for me to think of or talk about at length, especially since he was able to produce some unbelievable, and highly influential, music and art.

Image by: www.dooyoo.co.uk

Let me just say, right off the bat, that this is a very well written and concise book! I don't know how Charles Cross got his hands on some of this information, but he puts it to good use. As you read this very vivid biography, it comes alive almost to the point that you feel you are witnessing Kurt Cobain living through these times, from his childhood through the teen years, and into adulthood, before and after he catapulted to stardom. You almost feel that you are getting to know the real person, rather than the hyped rock star.

I always knew that Kurt Cobain had been tormented, although at some distant level. You can see it in his works, in his words. Even in his facial expressions during some musical videos.

But Charles Cross really gives a great diagnosis of the life and times of Kurt Cobain, and those around him. This book is extensively researched. So well researched, frankly, that I don't even know how he managed to get his hands on some of the stuff that was used in writing this.

The effect is that you feel almost like you are there, so vivid is the description. That is a sign of very strong writing skills.

You really get a feel for his native town of Aberdeen, Washington, and the happy childhood that too soon yielded to family tensions and fights. You can relate to the rebellious and angry young teenager who dreams of being a rock star, and you can sympathize with his nervousness before playing his first ever gig at what amounted to a frat party. You watch Nirvana begin to take form, as they struggle to find their identity and make a name for themselves, even spending a night on a highway median at one point, and then you witness their rise to superstardom with a bang. You also see Cobain's self-destructive tendencies clash with the excesses of success, and as the book goes along, you bear witness to what proved to be the inevitable crash from the heights.

Somehow or other, all of this is done while making you feel like it is coming to life, rather than history. You begin to pull for Cobain, and it seems that there are so many choices out there that he could have made to change the outcome. Yet, the past cannot be undone, and although Cross has been criticized for taking liberties with the final aspects of Cobain's life (that being his suicide), he really makes it pack an emotional punch. Even though he was completely alone and feeling the weight of an all too familiar isolation, Cross almost seems to take you there, to witness a tragedy unfold, as a young, heartthrob rock star who seemed to many to have everything hits rock bottom, and takes his own life, leaving behind a beautiful young daughter who will have to live on with such a legacy that her father left her.

Cross has also been criticized for not talking to Dave Grohl, the longest lasting drummer that Nirvana ever had, as well as the one who was with them during the salad days, and obviously, the most famous drummer for Nirvana, and perhaps the most famous surviving former member of the band, period. He has also been criticized for siding too closely with Courtney Love. I cannot, or at least will not, speak to that at present. What I will say is that you are not likely to find a more thorough, or vivid, account of Kurt Cobain's life, or a history of Nirvana, that is as thorough and detailed as this.

There were a lot of contradictions in regards to Kurt Cobain, and Cross does a very good job in highlighting some of these. Cobain seemed to embody paradox, at times. For example, he seemed to suggest that he despised popularity, yet he complained when his videos were not played on MTV as much as he wanted them to be played. Also, he had a great deal of empathy and a great conscience. Yet, at times, his actions defied logic, as with his first sexual experience (which seemed abusive at best, and could almost have been defined as borderline rape), or his leaving a beautiful young daughter with a lifetime to cope with her own father's suicide, at an age when she was yet too young to understand what happened.

One thing I was surprised by was the lack of mention to Kurt Cobain's animosity towards fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam, although Cross does detail the feud that existed between Nirvana and Guns N' Roses. But Cobain's constant mention of Pearl Jam at the time that they were rising I think illustrates some of the contradictions in Cobain's character.

But Cross does get a lot right in this book. A hell of a lot, actually! There are some descriptions of the shows that are spot on, and you can almost feel the success (or the lack thereof, depending on the situation) involved. What makes it even more fascinating is the background story leading up to, and immediately after, shows.  For example, you gain a far better understanding of the legendary MTV Unplugged, and the circumstances surrounding it. If you're like me, you'll never watch or listen to that show, or Nirvana in general, the same way again!

All in all, an excellent read! Informative and everything you could want out of a book like this, and I highly recommend it!

Hiking With My Son on an Unseasonably Warm Day

Late February is not usually a time for weather warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts, at least not in northern New Jersey.

Yet, this past weekend, that is exactly what happened. We got some unbelievably beautiful weather. To say that it was unseasonably warm would be an understatement. At some point, the temperature gauge in my car read 75 degrees Fahrenheit (that would be 23 degrees centigrade, and coming close to 24 degrees)!

Of course, unusually warm days like that (and frankly, I cannot remember the last time that we had a day in February that was quite as warm as that) tend to make me think that such days are not cause for celebration, but actually worrying symptoms of climate change. It just feels completely unnatural, because there used to be times when winter was...well, winter. When you would have to bundle up every day, as a rule. And that was especially true of February in particular, since it fell dead smack in the middle of the winter, and was in what some people have referred to as the "deep freeze" part of the season. I even remember that from my own childhood, when we would get a ton more snow than the winters we see often these days, and when a truly spring-like day in February (let alone a week's worth of them) would seem truly unfathomable!

When we have a day like we had yesterday (and frankly, the forecast calls for unseasonably warm temperatures for the entire week, until at least Friday), then you cannot help but scratch your head and wonder what is going on. Again, it does not seem like an entirely good sign, does it?

Now, all of that said, I am not going to go out of my way to be miserable throughout the day, and refuse to take advantage of the amazing weather. This is especially true when I have my son, like I did yesterday!

So, it seemed like a good idea to go out to the local wooded park at Sourland Mountain Preserve, in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

When we arrived, we were amazed to find just how crowded it was! Never have I seen it anywhere near this crowded (and I have come here probably at least fifty times over the years, if not more)!

The parking lot was not only overfilled, but even the surrounding grassy areas were, too. I was lucky enough to have someone parked on the grass pull out right as I was arriving, and so parking was not an issue. But it was good to see so many people taking advantage not only of a beautiful day like this, but also taking advantage of public parks to take a hike and get some fresh air!

Of course it goes without saying that the hiking trails were far more packed than I had ever seen them, as well. We never were out of sight or hearing range of people also hiking on the trails, although if we had gone farther, there might have been a chance that we could have possibly lost some of these people. Still, this was not so much a source of concern or stress, because it felt encouraging to see so many people wanting to take advantage of the day by being out in the wilderness, spending time in the woods, as opposed to going to a mall or shopping in general, or seeing a movie or out to a bar or simply staying home and watching television or movies or playing video games all day.

My son and I did the hike, and we stopped here and there also to do some mild rock climbing. There were some people there who really were making a point of doing some seriously challenging rock climbing, and it was fortunate on more than one occasion that they had these makeshift mattresses to help break their fall. Otherwise, it surely could have been a painful afternoon for them, as well.

We spent the better part of two hours outside, getting exercise, although I had to get dinner ready, which meant getting back home. So, we could not go for an even longer hike, although I felt grateful for the opportunity to enjoy this day with my son!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Looking Back at the Foreman-Moorer Fght

This was one of the last boxing fights that stunned the world.

It also was one of the last truly big fights in boxing, and perhaps the last major heavyweight fight to really capture imaginations. Yes, this one resonated with people, as George Foreman dropping to his knees in his own corner after knocking Michael Moorer out to win the heavyweight championship of the world.

The fight was billed as "One for the Ages" (you see what they did there, right?), and it took place on the evening of November 5, 1994. 

Moorer had won the title by defeating Evander Holyfield, although it was later discovered that Holyfield had been fighting with a severe disability, having a hole in his heart.

Still, Moorer was the champion, and he gave George Foreman, himself a former heavyweight champion, a rare shot at winning the title again.Foreman was 45 years old, and had not been champion for the better part of two decades.

Yet somehow, on this night, it happened. 

Moorer entered the fight with an impressive, perfect record of 35-0. And while Foreman's record was not quite perfect like that entering the fight, he had a remarkable record of 72-4, with most of his wins coming by way of knockout. 

Most people believed that the only way that Foreman could win was if he landed a lucky knockout punch. Moorer was much younger, after all, and so had more energy and speed. Also, he had to have some fight knowledge, 

The end result in the fight, however, would have many people questioning his approach to the fight, particularly after receiving repeated warning from his trainer, Teddy Atlas, that Foreman was setting him up. 

Indeed he was, although Moorer somehow remained oblivious, right up to the point when he received that knockout punch, which is probably what Moorer is best remembered for.

This fight helped Foreman to overcome the bad memories of one of his own title losses, when he lost to Muhammad Ali in the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" that has endured. In that fight, Ali used the now famous "rope a dope" strategy to allow Foreman to wear himself down punching Ali as hard as he can, with Ali weathering the storm and then hitting Foreman with a combination of his own that floored the then undefeated champion.

Foreman had a great career to that point, and by the 1990's, his mostly unfair image as an unlikable thug in the ring had already given way to his much more likable personality, as a preacher, an old man in the ring who was easy to cheer for, and finally, of course, for his Foreman Grill.

But on this night, he would finally erase the stinging legacy of that defeat to Ali by flooring Moorer, and becoming the oldest unanimous heavyweight champion in the world. This surprise result served as inspiration for many people.

For Moorer, surely, this was not unlike the defeat the Foreman himself suffered two decades ago. This was not unlike the humiliation of being defeate dbefore a national audience in a fight that would live on in popular imagination for years and years to come.

Yet, for his part, Moorer recovered. He did win again in the ring. In fact, Moorer has some impressive credentials, although you might never know it unless you specifically make a point of looking. He is one of only four men to have won heavyweight titles on three separate occasions, and also one of only four men to have won titles in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight categories. 

Still, he is best remembered for this loss to Foreman. And despite his impressive achievements during an illustrious boxing career, he is not remembered anywhere near as well as Foreman or Ali. Hell, he is not in the same category as either of those guys, or any of his major contemporaries, either. Nobody remembers him anywhere near as well as they do Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, or even Riddick Bowe. Bowe can claim some lasting memory, because he managed to get th better of a rivalry against Holyfield, and also won the undisputed heavyweight title more than one. Also, he is remembered for having been somewhat of a poet, in the style of Muhammad Ali before him.

Yes, Moorer is not remembered to the extent of any of those guys. Why? Probably because he beat Holyfield when Holyfield was clearly vulnerable, then he lost to Foreman by knockout, and lost the rematch to Holyfield convincingly. He also did not fight either Tyson or Lewis or Bowe. Also, he lost one match to David Tua in 30 seconds, and was laid out on the mat, lights out. All of that combined to compromise what otherwise might have been an enduring legacy, had he won more than that one huge match against Holyfield, when Holyfield was clearly not at his best, and was in fact suffering from a seriously debilitating condition. The other two huge matches that he was involved with, against Foreman and the rematch to Holyfield, were both losses by KO. That is why he will not be remembered as one of the true greats of his age, despite all of those impressive achievements.

For George Foreman, this was probably a career defining kind of championship fight. Sure, he had been champion before, and was the dominant fighter of his time for a while - kind of the predecessor to "Iron" Mike Tyson in the 1980's. His loss to Ali, however, had knocked him off from that perch, and had defined his career in a somewhat negative manner. At least until he came out of retirement, although this comeback was not complete until this most memorable fight, when he won the championship that he had lost twenty years earlier, to become the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing's history. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Post About These Early Days of Trump

I meant to publish this several weeks ago, as the month of January was coming to a close. Somehow, it slipped my mind, and I almost forgot about it, until earlier this morning, while sifting through some of the unpublished posts. This one stuck out like a sore thumb, and so it seemed like it was time to get this particular blog entry published already. 

January is basically over, and in many ways, this month felt somehow like it was both very short and incredibly long.

Yes, I know that probably sounds very contradictory, but let me explain. One a personal level, this month kind of flew by. I was anticipating this new year, hoping it would be a fresh start. As with most months since I have become an adult, I turned around and noticed that this first month of the not that new year anymore was almost over already.

But this month was different than most others, though. Today is January 31st, and we have a new president. He was only inaugurated 11 days ago. Yet, it already feels as if he has been in office for a deceptively long time. I am not one of those guys who longs for the good old days of President Obama, and glorifies him more than he deserves. However, the Obama administration felt a lot quieter and more sane than what is coming out of the White House right now, and that relative sanity somehow feels like it was a long time ago already.

Why? Because so far, the Trump administration has launched an all out blitz, with offensives coming every single day. We hear about all sorts of incredible news, and it seems that the world has hardly caught it's breath from the latest shock before the Trump administration announces some new major shock.

Do you think this is part of his strategy? I think there might be something to that, as well as the general feeling of confusion about it all. Yes, my suspicion is that all of this is very intentional.

Indeed, in more ways than one, the Trump administration seems to be testing new water all of the time, every day. And they are not wasting any time with it, are they?

Have we ever seen such unbelievable news (almost all of it bad) so quickly into a new presidential administration? An ultra nationalist and shallow inaugural speech that most of the rest of the world feels signals that the United States is a lost cause, and our long cherished position of "leaders of the free world" is basically already gone. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are under attack, while science and other facts are actively being suppressed. Prominent members of this government are urging Americans to trust Trump as the true source of facts, although he makes claims that are demonstrably untrue (such as with the size of his inaugural crowd, or claims of massive voter fraud in an election that he officially won without offering any shred of evidence). They have even gone so far as to offer positively Orwellian doublespeak with "alternative facts" to counter inconvenient facts not flattering to this administration, and sales of Orwell's classic "1984" have made it a bestseller again. Former head of Goldman Sachs, and now Trump's top economic adviser, gets a $100 million severance package, and they are making absolutely no effort to conceal this anymore from the public. Meanwhile, Trump freezes hiring and pay for government workers, including vets. He has now told the American taxpayers that, in fact, they will be paying for the border wall after all. There are signs that he is going ahead with the Muslim registry. The president overreached with his authority with an executive order to force the Dakota Access pipeline through, and Republicans who cried foul with Obama's executive orders have absolutely no problem with this. Trump himself keeps showing that he is petty and cannot let one single thing go, as he has to have absolutely the last word on everything. There are already major legal challenges to many of this administration's actions, and opposition in general is gearing up. And now this.

All of this, and he only took power a week ago today!

Well, he can be criticized for many, many things, but you certainly cannot criticize him of being lazy during this first week in office, can you?

First, he announces that American taxpayers are going to pay for his damn wall. Now, he is imposing tariffs on imported Mexican goods, clearly suggesting that this, in fact, will be the way that the wall is paid for, although with construction set to begin very soon, it will still fall on the American taxpayer, clearly. Is this his way of making Mexicans pay for this stupid wall after the fact? By imposing a tax on imported goods that, ultimately, American consumers are going to pay? This is running the country like a business, and clearly, it does not work. What a cruel joke, but the joke is on us. We've been conned by the master scam artist. 

Being a dual citizen myself, I sometimes have felt that collectively, Americans actually are the ones who too often lack the objectivity and proper distance to see themselves and their actions, and to judge them accordingly. Other than the argument that everyone is special and unique, there really is no justification or rationale behind this. Yet, many, if not most, Americans of all political persuasions seem to truly believe this, often to their very core! When you hear the president and other political leaders continually and relentlessly remind you that this is the greatest country in the world, and God Bless America, and that this is God's country, and hear things like "USA #1" or "America First" constantly and without ever being challenged, and you see the flag literally everywhere, and your children recite the pledge of allegiance every single day before school, then you might lack the proper perspective on your own actions, and not understand how other countries cannot relate to your thinking and your actions. We are conditioned to see ourselves not only to recognize ourselves as the world's leading superpower, but that somehow, this was something given to us by divine intervention. I had a history teacher once describe to the class that we Americans "are the good guys...with the white hats." When you see yourself as superior, than the natural logical next step is to be dismissive of anything outside of these sacred American borders, which is how we wind up being not the only country that fails to provide it's citizens affordable, universal healthcare, and which denies basic science, or enthusiastically invading another country, but on top of it, is damn proud of itself for so doing! So it seems to me that Americans themselves too often cast quick and decisive judgment on people the world over, often relying on silly and outdated stereotypes to judge others. Some of the constantly recurring themes we are hearing once again lately, Muslims are all terrorists, Mexicans are all criminals, Russians are the bad guys. Yet, when other countries in the world simply cannot relate to this kind of thinking, we quickly dismiss their criticism, often in an insulting way, or we rely on the impenetrable but intellectually dishonest argument that we are unique, and that other outsiders just do not understand us and our uniqueness throughout history. It really has become a vicious cycle!

A Clarifying Moment in American History by Eliot A. Cohen, Jan. 29, 2017:

The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, and We’re Falling For It by Jake Fuentes, January 30, 2017: