Posts Tagged ‘America’

Oscar, Yes. Promotion, No.

Jessica Chastain won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the CIA operative whose obsession with al-Qaeda’s network of couriers led to the discovery of Osama bi Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Chastain in Zero Dark 30
However, it might surprise you to learn that the woman on whom Chastain’s character is based was denied a promotion which would have earned her an extra $16K per year.

Apparently, the real-life Maya (not her actual name) is, shall we say, “assertive” and as one of her colleagues explained to a reporter not Miss Congeniality. However, another colleague pointed out that jerks are not in short supply at the CIA so the woman’s abrasive personality shouldn’t be an impediment to promotion.

The CIA says that she received a financial bonus after bin Laden was found but the agency was reticent about discussing why the operative’s promotion from GS 13 to GS 14 was denied.

Here’s the Washington Post story:

You’ll notice that this story was published in early December and it did get some press coverage then. But, as Charles Peters observes in The Washington Monthly, it’s odd that this story hasn’t received much wider media attention. Especially, following Chastain’s Oscar win.

Happy Thanksgiving !

May your blessings outnumber your regrets.

Norman Rockwell’s “Thanksgiving”

September 11th

Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” –

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

[Chorus x2]

And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

(Written & sung by Alan Jackson)




Here Comes Trouble

Let me begin by stating my belief that, whether you’re having a conversation, writing a book, posting a blog, sending a Facebook message, tweeting, doing a radio show, podcasting, or making a movie, it’s all about story-telling.

A recent article in Miller-McCune magazine reports that, based on scientific research, psychologist Jonathan Haidt has determined the beliefs you and I hold are really more the result of our genes and environment rather than immutable truths. Having established that ideology isn’t based in rationality, Haidt and his colleagues have come up with a framework of 5 moral foundations. They are care/harm, which makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need; fairness/cheating, which alerts us to those who might take advantage of us; loyalty/betrayal, which binds us as team players; authority/subversion, which prompts us to respect rank and status; and sanctity/degradation, which inspires a sense of purity, both literally (physical cleanliness) and symbolically. The conviction that abortion, euthanasia, or gay marriage is immoral arises from the sanctity impulse.

Haidt says that American liberals respond most strongly to the care/harm and fairness/cheating impulses and tend to dismiss the others whereas conservatives (and the majority of people in the rest of the world) take all 5 moral foundations into account. Another way of interpreting this information might be that liberals tend to be more optimistic and see the glass half-full while conservatives tend to be more pessimistic and see it as half-empty.

There’s little doubt that Michael Moore is more influenced by the care/harm and fairness/cheating factors than by the others described. He waves his symbolic “freak flag” proudly and merely mentioning Michael Moore’s name provokes viscerally negative reactions from political conservatives and many independents, too. He’s viewed as a caricature of an old, unwashed, left-wing hippie troublemaker.

So it will be easy for those who disagree with Moore’s politics to reject this book as irrelevant. I think that would be a mistake.

I was surprised by the humanity that emanates from this collection of stories. I listened to the audiobook , which Moore narrates himself, and was struck several times by the thought that those who despise this man might gain some useful insights from hearing his stories about growing up in working class Flint, MI, his staunchly Republican mother, his encounters with Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Harry Chapin, and John Lennon. And the life experiences which shaped Moore into the Quixotic documentary filmmaker that he is today.

You might laugh, you might cry, slam the book shut or shout at the dashboard, but you won’t be bored by the stories in HERE COMES TROUBLE.

The Greater Journey-Americans In Paris

In this book, I learned about the author, James Fenimore Cooper and creator of the Morse Code, Samuel F. Morse in school but I never knew that they were best buds in Paris when they were young. I never knew that Cooper would walk the 25 miles from New York City each week to his weekend house upstate. I never knew that Morse actually started out as a painter. These are some of the insights provided by David McCullough as he does his usual terrific job of helping us understand and develop a relationship with people who’ve shaped our history.

My youngest daughter attends Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. Turns out that Emma was one of the young Americans who traveled to Paris along with folks like Cooper and Morse in the early 1800s and that the things she learned and saw there helped to shape the kind of education that my daughter receives today. In fact, McCullough got this book’s title from a comment which he read in one of Emma Willard’s letters home.

Recently, McCullough told Charlie Rose that he had the most fun he’s had writing a book when he wrote about these Americans in Paris. Whether you read the book or listen to the audiobook (read by Edward Herrmann who also voiced the John Adams book), you’ll learn something you didn’t know and have a good time doing it, too

Isn’t It Lucky?

Last Sunday night, I have to admit to feeling uncomfortable watching the spontaneous celebrations outside of the White House following President Obama’s announcement that Osama bin Laden was dead.

My friend, Joe Templin, author of FINANCIAL MISTAKES OF NEW COLLEGE GRADS, provided some perspective. Joe reminded me that most of the people we saw celebrating were either in elementary school or middle school ten years ago. In their minds, they’ve lived most of their lives under an impending threat of terrorism. For them, it’s similar to the threat that we Baby Boomers felt about the potential for nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. Joe’s explanation helped me to better understand the students’ reaction. To them, it probably feels like an ending. I suspect that isn’t so.

Don’t get me wrong. A person with bin Laden’s list of crimes against humanity deserved a death sentence. However, as I watched the student’s celebrations and listened to their joyful shouts of “USA! USA!” the word tawdry came to mind. Perhaps the word I was really looking for was inappropriate. Probably, it’s my primarily English heritage and New England background but It seemed to me that a more reserved reaction would have been more dignified. We know we’re #1. The world knows that America’s #1. Why rub their noses in it. Isn’t our tendency to do so a major reason why they hate us?

I remember watching an old movie, “Saratoga Trunk” in which the character played by Ingrid Bergman is told that she’s beautiful. She responds: “Yes. Isn’t it lucky?” I’ve always admired that response and the sentiment behind it. Bergman’s character acknowledges that her natural beauty is a blessing which has been bestowed upon her rather than an attribute for which she is responsible.

It’s the same for us Americans. We take so many of our privileges and liberties for granted. We believe that it’s our right to vote even though we make little effort to actually be informed about what we’re voting for or against. As one friend defined that attitude, who needs facts when I can have an opinion!?!

I have faith that the core American values of fairness, equality, justice, industry and integrity will eventually win out against fear, evil and ruthlessness. When we triumph, I hope the primary image that history remembers won’t be of a Styrofoam index finger pointed skyward bearing the words “We’re #1!”.

Photos courtesy of DoctorMacro and CBS News