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December 15, 2010

Fruitcake is forever

Kevin E. Dayhoff

I’m not a psychic and I have never read much of the work of Michel de Nostredame. However, as December stumbles to a close and writers begin to run out of evergreen material on the Top 10 best uses for fruitcake, or do Christmas trees have a soul, our keyboards will often drift aimlessly to the real meaning of the past year and what the heck will happen next.


Perhaps it is only fitting that the birthday of Nostradamus occurred yesterday – on December 14, 1503.


I have recently been asked to opine on the fate of the new leadership in Congress, the five-member commissioner form of government in Carroll County, President Barack Obama, whether Michael Jackson will join Elvis Presley in future apparitions, and what will happen to the media in 2011.


Yesterday was also the birthday of Shirley Jackson. Often as I look back on the elections which took place in November, I have visions of Mrs. Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” first published in The New Yorker, in June 1948.


Mrs. Jackson’s saga depicted a dark, cold, and bone-chilling tale in which every year the small town conducts a festival, the highlight of which is a lottery in which the winner is stoned to death. For more on Mrs. Jackson, “The Lottery” and some of last year’s insight into the future; please re-read my column from last December, “The Lottery – Congressional Style.”


In context with much of the politics of this past year, one ponders a remark by H. L. Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and hence clamorous to be led to safety] by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”


And don’t forget Mrs. Jackson’s quote: “I have always loved to use fear...  I delight in what I fear.”


As for Nostradamus, I agree with Garrison Keillor’s insight. In yesterday’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” Mr. Keillor noted the many things that Nostradamus is credited with predicting.


However, as Mr. Keillor observed, the predictions of Nostradamus only appear to be prophetic when people “have looked back at his writings after a major event and found a verse that might fit…”


In other words, most people promoting the relevance of Nostradamus are using a one-sided series of facts arrayed to support a point of view.


Which brings us to the fate of the media. I was amused when The Associated Press created yet another scandal involving the traditional media’s favorite target, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.


Recently Governor Palin traveled to Haiti to spotlight the continuing human tragedy of the now-cholera stricken Caribbean island nation – and draw attention to herself.


According to various media sources that were only too happy to carry the story, AP accused Mrs. Palin of superficially bringing along a hair stylist to make sure she looked good for her photo-ops. The AP promoted a photo captioned:


“Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, has her hair done during a visit to a cholera treatment center set up by the NGO Samaritan's Purse in Cabaret, Haiti, Saturday Dec. 11, 2010. Palin arrived Saturday in Haiti as part of a brief humanitarian mission. Dieu Nalio Chery/AP”


As The Free Republic noted, the “photo and caption set off rabid attacks on Mrs. Palin from The Huffington Post, the U.K.'s Daily Mail…”


The only problem with the story captured by the trained eagle-eye news photographer was the supposed “hair stylist” was none other than Palin’s daughter, Bristol.


“The AP photographer who sent the caption would have known that it was Bristol Palin, but by not mentioning her, the AP was able to do a media hit on Palin but still be able to claim they told the ‘truth’ with the caption,” lamented The Free Republic.


And there’s the rub, by arranging a one-sided series of facts arrayed to support a point of view, AP was “factual” but did not tell the truth.


I was amused by the final line of The Free Republic account: “To reiterate, a daughter helps fix a loose strand of her mother's hair, and it becomes an international scandal. Amazing.”


Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters provided yet another example of the persistent media bias that continues to pollute our nation’s media. This time involving one of the key players responsible for the traditional media losing its credibility with the public, CBS’s Katie Couric, who among many examples, processes the wisdom of Nostradamus...


According to Mr. Sheppard, “On December 3, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave CBS's Katie Couric a much-needed lesson on why America invaded Iraq.


In a recent interview of Ms. Rice on an “HBO History Makers Series” interview, Ms. Couric delights in her fears and spewed forth the same old tired canard – now repeated so often it is accepted as fact:


“Documentaries have been made about how intelligence was incorrectly analyzed and cherry-picked to build an argument for war, and memos from that time do suggest that officials knew there was a small chance of actually finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”


At which time, Ms. Rice “stopped the host dead in her tracks…”


In the ensuing dialogue, Ms. Rice systematically refuted Ms. Couric’s flawed premise.


Yes, it is amazing, but true. Almost 15 years into the era of the Internet, the traditional media still believes that it will not be held accountable when it spews misinformation.


Year after year, the annual year-end prediction is that the traditional media is doomed if it does not stop spinning stories with obvious bias. Like fruitcake, which dates back to the days of ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, it persists.


Now, we may not be able to predict the future with any degree of accuracy, but of one thing we may be sure, fruitcake is forever.


I’m just saying…


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