Thursday, December 27, 2007

And Back to the Propaganda

I'll let you all in on a secret: this blog is partially an exercise in learning to not-know (see previous blog.) As an Observer-in-training, it's essential that my eyes, heart and brain are opened every day to what's happening around me, and most times I just have to act AS IF I am already an accomplished Observer. (Some call that pretending. That's OK. Turns out, that psychologically acting AS IF something is already a fact is the surest way to get there.) One thing about not-knowing, it gives "open-mindedness" a whole new meaning:

1--The WSJ reports yesterday from the December 19, 2007 issue of the New Statesman, a left leaning British weekly,that global warming may have stopped. Why is that? Because apparently the earth's temperatures have held steady since the year 2001."The world's temperatures rose sharply from 1980 to 1998 but have leveled off since then according to Mr.[David] Whitehouse's reading of U.S. and United Kingdom government statistics. In other words, he says, global warming has ceased. While scientists have proposed a variety of theories for the recent plateau in temperature, those explanations are inadequate, said Mr. Whitehouse, who spent 18 years covering the sciences for the BBC and holds a doctorate in astrophysics." It is not surprising that "Mr. Whitehouse's observations didn't go over well with many New Statesman readers" (p. B8.) And so the global warming conversation continues.
2--Brian Cox, an accomplished actor, said something worth quoting. It might give a person something to mull over in its simplicity: " 'You've only arrived when you're dead. Until then the options are open' " (WSJ, 12-26-07, p. D6.)
3--There are over 4 million bloggers out there, talking, opining and yakking it up. Many like myself take no risks in doing so; we just sit down and blog away. Others, take great risks in presenting their world to others. One such person is a Ms. Sanchez who WSJ reports blogs from Cuba at risk to life and limb every day. This courageous lady
,disguised as a tourist, sends her blog from wireless internet cafes and is quoted as saying: " 'You have to believe that you are free and try to act like it. Little by little, acting though you are free can be contagious.' " Seems that she already knew about acting AS IF.
4--What caught my eye first was Toyota's front page ad "Between theory and practice reside two words. Why not? The next time you are faced with a challenge ask yourself these two words. To see how Toyota is inspired by them every day, visit" And on the next page was the headline Toyota's Expected Sales Could Put it Ahead of GM: "Toyota Motor Corp said it expects global sales of blah blah blah. . .a level that could put it ahead of rival General Motors Corp. as the world's largest auto seller on an annual basis"
(WSJ, 12-26-07, p. A7.) 30 years ago, anyone would have laughed right out loud if asked about Toyota's chances of EVER overtaking GM in car sales. Then, the carmaker sold a really tinny, small cheaply made automobile only bought by poor college kids (I'm exaggerating, but you get the picture.) I guess the laugh is on us and now we know their secret. Instead they asked, "Why not?"
5--On that same front page yesterday was a small blurb that read: "Opposition leader Bhutto accused President Musharraf of failing to stop the spread of Islamic militants and vowed to crack down on the groups if she wins Pakistan's parliamentary election." I had intended to include it here with the comment that I feared she was a dead woman walking because she could not possibly survive with that revolutionary attitude. Guess I was right, but didn't know it would be proven true by day's end.
6--Harkening back to Mr. Putin's front page TIME Person of the Year cover, WSJ reports that the editors did not view this as an endorsement nor an honor. They were merely highlighting the fact, as observers, that he had a huge impact on the world in 2007 but "the verdict is still out: 'whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to the era of repression--this we will know only over the next decade' " (WSJ, 12-20-07, p. B6.) Enough said.
7--A WSJ reporter interviewed Michelle Rhee,the new superintendent of the Washington DC school system, which she is turning on its head. How has she done something that everyone thought was impossible? By having the full backing of her boss, the Mayor who recruited her from outside the system,and not being committed to keeping her job. What's more she got rid of the ostentatious furniture in her office because she said she wouldn't be using it; does not believe that her mission is incremental change; and doesn't plan on making this job a career. She is quoted as saying: "This is a one-time gig for me. So, I can make every single decision in a way in which I think is in the best interests of the kids--without the politics, without owing people, just with that [kids] in mind" (WSJ, 12-22-07, p. A11.) If education had more of these mavericks, it might be good for the profession. But more than that, it might be wonderful for the kids. It is certainly proving to be true in Washington DC for the first time ever.
8--After seeing the zillionth ad about CO2 reduction by corporate America, I am starting to be convinced that this trend may be here to stay. Canon was the latest to throw their hat into the ring with a full page ad that read: "Sustainability is our standard for measuring CO2 reduction. One Canon energy saving technology has reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 7 million tons, the amount assimilated by the seas surrounding the earth's corral reefs each year." These words surrounded a gorgeous picture of the Blue Hole in the Belize Barrier Reef. The ad concluded: "Produce. Use. Recycle. CO2-emission reduction throughout the product lifecycle" (WSJ 12-21-07, p. A7.) Keep it up corporate America. We like what we see--now let's see the words turn into action.
9--And finally, it was startling when Venezula's President, Hugo Chavez, lost the recent referendum on a proposed constitutional revision to keep him in power for life and other reported democracy reduction measures. It was equally surprising when he accepted the results, even if begrudgingly. What was more startling was learning about the man who made it happen, Gen. Raul Baduel, the 52-year old retired general, who was one of Chavez's best friends until recently. Back when they were young bucks in the barracks, they made a secret pact with a few others to bring down the "oppressive" Venezuelan government and later did just that. Ironically, Gen. Baduel was the force that brought Chavez back to power in 2002 after a failed coup. Since retiring last July, however, he has had a change of heart and is considering running against Mr. Chavez in the next election. WSJ says this of the General: "Now Mr. Baduel holds a unique place in this divided society: He is respected by both the president's supporters and detractors. Long a hero to one side for cutting off the coup against Mr. Chavez, he is now a hero to many on the other sideBut he
for staving off a kind of coup by Mr. Chavez himself."

But here's the real interesting part: "Mr. Baduel, a vegetarian with a deep and eclectic interest in world religions, is not a typical Latin American military man. He has spoken publicly of his belief that he has been reincarnated. Although a practicing Roman Catholic, he is fascinated by the orient and is also adept in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. In his office filled with statues of Catholic saints and Chinese warriors, he keep a Koran as well as a Bible and meditates and works amidst burning incense while listening to Gregorian chants" (WSJ, 12-24-07, p. A9.) Amazing, I would say, but take care Mr. Baduel because Mr. Chavez strikes me as potentially a very vindictive man.

That's it for today, folks! Tomorrow we talk about enlightening cancer research. Stay tuned.

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