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Friday Night Smackdown - A Sign of the Times

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Today, January 30 is my 64th birthday. (Hold the "happy"s, that's not why I included the note.) I'm among the first of the "baby-boom" generation, which demographically commenced January 1, 1946. For those unaware, the generation was so named because so many American men served for years at a time during World War II that when the war concluded and they returned home the men also returned to doing what men and women have been doing together from time immemorial: making babies.

A byproduct of the fact of my parents' generation serving such a noble cause is another fact, having an elevated sense of citizenship and its moral imperatives is an almost inbred trait of boomers. The trials, the tribulations, the sacrifices on behalf of country were characteristics that were conveyed in story form over and over and over through at least our toddler years. And it was expected of us that we would honor those who served, the reasons they did, and that we would in turn do our turn when we reached age. Civics 1.0 was accompanied by Civics 2.0, with 2.0 being a broad class survey that minimally included US and world history and the fundamentals of American government.

The sense of it all was encapsulated in President Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." What a clash with "go shopping."

What a clash with today's tragic general level of shameful ignorance concerning anything that isn't entertainment oriented. Pew Research recently released the results of what I thought was 7th-grade bare-bones general knowledge; like, what's going on in the world. To me, the survey findings are for a functioning democracy more terrifying than anything al Qaeda or bin Laden could ever conjure. (click here)

The questions:
1.) The current unemployment rate is closer to 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%.
2.) If any, how many women currently sit on the Supreme Court; zero, one, more than one?
3.) Which foreign country holds most US debt; Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Canada?
4.) How much US oil is imported; 1/3, 1/2, 2/3s?
5.) How many Republican senators voted in favor of the health care reform bill; 0, 5, 10, 20?
6.) How many senators are needed to break a filibuster; 51, 60, 67, 75?
7.) Where do intelligence officials believe the Christmas Day pants bomber was trained and got his materials; Israel, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen?
8.) Through 2009, most US casualties occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan?
9.) The Dow Jones is closest to 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000?
10.) The current senate majority leader is Harry Reid, Al Franken, Mitch McConnell, Hillary Clinton?
11.) Stephen Colbert is a member of congress, a comedian/talk-show host, an Olympic athlete, a Hip Hop artist?
12.) The chairperson of the Republican National Committee is Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich?

Disclosure: I got all 12 correct. Tragedy: Only 2% of respondents did. Worse: Only 25%, one in four, got Question 6 correct; reflective of the survey's overall results. (Think about it: Just how dumb does one have to be to not do better than that on a multiple-guess test?) Which explains precisely why this country is in such terrible shape.


However I'm unaware whether any survey exists asking about John Edwards' love child and the state of the John and Elizabeth marriage, the NBC late-night programming issues concerning Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, or nearly anything else that can only kindly be classified as insipid, dumb, moronic, my biased guess is that more Americans would fare better with those matters than they did with the just basic stuff Pew asked.

***

Which brings us to the Friday Night Smack-down in Baltimore. (Yes, I know, it wasn't at night, or even evening. But Friday Night is a better ring tone than Friday Morning.)

As synopsis, congressional Republicans, holding their annual retreat in Baltimore, invited President Obama as a guest wherein he would make a 20-minute opening speech, then stand for an hour's worth of Q&A; questions to come from the Republicans. The idea, to invite Obama was Minority Leader's John Boehner, and the session was organized by Indiana's Mike Pense. It was the White House's idea that the proceedings would be televised, and what a mistake it was for the GOP to agree. C-SPAN and the major networks and cable news stations broadcast all or part of the tête-Ã-tête. I report "part" because Fox cut away in short order, to give its viewers summarizations, rather than supposing they could form their own opinions. I watched first on C-SPAN (click here), then again on MSNBC (click here). As the president, to my disapproval, has done so frequently, through his preliminary speech and through his A part of the Q&A, solicited, beseeched, cajoled, sermonized greater civility and diminished sound-bite politicization of the issues from the GOP. As contrasted with some, or most, but rather in every instance the Republican questions were barb- and falsehood-laden campaign assaults, albeit flung with due respect, and in every instance the president's responses were calm and factual.

Just a couple of the Republicans' proffered examples intended to contradict the assertions they are the party of "No" and have no ideas includes Boehner's claim their substitute health care reform bill would have lowered costs without setting up a "big government bureaucracy." What Boehner did not include was the fact that version would insure only 3 million of the currently estimated nearly 50 million who are uninsured. Similar to what Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee wanted to argue, Tom Price of Georgia claimed one of the Republican proposals would insure everyone, yet without "raising taxes by a penny." (Sounds like a perpetual motion machine.) Representative Price's scheme would offer tax credits to $5,000 for a family of four, to help them purchase health care insurance. The current average family-of-four annual premium is $15,000. Clearly the Georgian believes Americans are not only deficient in civics, they're also just plain too stupid to solve the basic math problem or notice the "catch" in the 8th-grade story-problem, "If a family today cannot afford . . . how much health care insurance will they be able to buy with a $5,000 tax credit that comes into play during the next tax filing year, and after they've spent $15,000 the previous year for health insurance?" Beyond this I'll not remark concerning more details.

What I will add is that I expect everyone who would like to pretend he or she is an American who gives the first damn about America will, if he or she hasn't seen the event, actually take the time to connect to one of the above links to view what was a historic engagement, then compose his or her own independent opinion. For all who have not the quite modest intellect required, I don't know what recommendation to offer. The site (http://www.foxnews.com/) has no reference to a complete airing of the event that I could locate, regardless there are numerous criticizing critiques highlighted, including one by actor Mel Gibson. They report. Brain-dead sponges soak it up.

Drawing from another sad note, the passing this week of Howard Zinn, the self-proclaimed radical whose life was devoted to such radical ideas as all Americans ought to be respected as having full, equal civil rights, regardless of their physical characteristics (including sexual orientation) and that there should be a preference for non-military solutions to every international situation, opined that "If there is going to be change, real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves -- that's how change happens." This is a charge to each and all of us to be informed participants, not contented, uninvolved spectators.

Okay, I admit it: I'm an elitist, I truly do not like to associate with dullards. I expect that an American will care enough about the country that provides him or her life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness to be able to get at least 10 out of the very simple Pew questions correct.

It's my birthday, and I'll cry if I want to.

 

An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."

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And those were never asked: :::::::: 1. As a futu... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010 at 1:57:46 PM
Without attempting to answer all 12, and the sub-q... by Ed Tubbs on Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010 at 3:40:13 PM
I am 54 this year...... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010 at 5:22:49 PM