Archive for December, 2010

Heroes and Villians

I am happy to have recently ‘discovered’ these good people and their great works for the first time. They are all modern day heroes.

Some people seem to contribute to the problems of the world and ‘society’ and other people seem to try to clean up those first people’s messes. I certainly think the Koch brothers have been enjoying making a big mess of the world for their own greedy-grubby, villainous sakes. I have already gone on about them though, so now I want to focus on the positive: those who help clean up the messes that people like the Koch brothers make.

My new heroes are an interesting assortment of unusual types, even for me. None of them ride bicycles fast, nor spin kayaks down rapidly running rivers, nor even play guitar loudly, but, they do all certainly make a lot of noise. Three of them wear glasses and have gray hair. Two have brown hair, are middle-aged, and are pretty normal looking. The other is only about seventeen years old.

Keith Olbermann has developed his career a lot since his earliest days as a sports-caster (or TV journalist talking about only sports). Now, he is a political commentator and apparently one of the most influential people within the ‘cable network’ partly owned by Microsoft, hence the ‘MS’ at the start of the network’s name MSNBC.

Recently – actually exactly one month ago today – he was suspended from his job for having paid the maximum amount of money possible for anyone else  to the political campaigns of three politicians. It turns out, however, that any amount of money from someone is a position of public communication, as is he, is not legally allowed to contribute financially to political campaigns.

I want to suggest the possibility that Olbermann did this deliberately, embracing the risk that he might face a disciplinary action such as a suspension from work. He may have done this so as to highlight the absurd and hypocritical difference between the law as it disallows him from openly supporting one set of politicians with a few thousand dollars, as against the covert yet currently legal influence of the millions of dollars spent by the Koch brothers and their supper-wealthy board-room buddies.

Whatever the case, Olbermann has certainly played a leading role in online and televised moves to raise awareness about the Koch brothers and their evil antics:

Rachel Maddow is another face representing the MSNBC. She’s astute and she is funny. Where Keith Olbermann describes himself by saying: “I’m not a liberal; I’m an American,” Maddow describes herself by saying: “I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.”

In the clip below she speaks very fast while introducing the background to the Koch brothers, but then she interviews Jane Mayer, who speaks a bit more slowly and clearly, and explains a lot more information about them.

Jane Mayer was not the first person to write about the Koch brothers, but she did more background research on them and their influence, and she wrote a very good, clear piece for the New Yorker magazine which really ‘lifted the lid.’ I hope she wins the Pulitzer Prize for this piece. Here she explains in person much of what she helped uncover.

US Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the loudest, clearest, and most direct voices of reason audible within US politics these days. Here he does not name the Koch brothers, but he describes their actions very clearly; every word of this speech is powerful, accurate, and important:

Here he is again being described as a hero by that example of mainstream media CNN as he makes the connection for the average non-political news watcher between the influence of the likes of the wealthy Koch brothers and their ‘lobbyists’ and representatives in and outside of US government buildings, and the poor average US voter:

Jane Elliott is a sweet little old lady who is very very good at making grown-ups cry. She used to be a primary school teacher, but now she is a diversity trainer. She had the idea of teaching her primary school class with her 100% ‘white’-skinned students segregated as according to their eye colour. She first did this the day immediately following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Junior, in 1968.

Jane Elliott is an expert at pointing out the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts.

Elliott quickly became both so famous and so notorious that she left teaching primary school and has continued to teach that one single lesson ever since, but, now she teaches it to adults. She has noticeably less patience with adult students, although this may be in part because she needs to create an emotional reaction and make a point within the time pressure of a workshop of only an hour or two, rather than with students whom she will see on an ongoing basis. Whatever the case, her point is always startlingly clear and razor sharp: racism and all forms of discrimination are so uncool that they make people feel like this big man with blue eyes crying after only minutes:

One of the first things I learned about modern Korean culture when I first arrived here about ten years ago was the importance of being ‘cute’. This has always struck me as being at best merely inane, but at worst both dangerous and painful. I wonder how this kind of lesson could be adapted for Korean culture. Do you have any ideas? If so, please let us know in the comments section below. In the meantime, let’s “get over cute” [check from 7 minutes 30 seconds]:

If you want to watch the whole of the first TV show made about her starting this work, you can see it uninterrupted, here.

Finally, I do not know the exact age of this guy, and I do not know all the details of what happened, nor what was reported as having happened. Actually, I don’t even know this guy’s name; but here is one young guy who really seems to be a naturally powerful, inspirational public speaker, as proved at a very recent and fairly important meeting in the UK:

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Update [6/12/2010]:

Chip Berlet is certainly a person needed in this day and age. His life’s work has been to keep tabs on the development of right wing groups within the US political scene that are so far right they are really ‘out there.’ He just had an interview published in The Sun online magazine which is one of the best round-ups or summaries of information about the Tea Party movement I have found yet. In his very first paragraph he ‘connects the dots’ between the funding provided by big business such as the Koch brothers and oil companies for the establishment of this movement, and conspiracy theorists. It is a bit long, but I highly recommend this piece.

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