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Aug. 24th, 2014

05:34 pm

Ferguson? Trayvon? Michael Dunn? Some people just don't get it. Or don't want to get it. I doubt it, but maybe this will help? Share it with those who "don't get it," if you wish...

You probably remember the guy no one liked and remember when someone put a "kick me" sign on his back. If not the story is so common you've at least heard about it happening.
 Now imagine someone born with that sign permanently implanted on their forehead, their arms, their legs: everywhere. And imagine a society that started on the basis that these, less than human, people were not only worthy of being kicked, but kicking them was how one kept these poor pathetic creatures in line. And even though eventually they won the right not to be treated that way, local municipalities came up with innovative ways to make kicking them OK: indeed approved. In fact they came up with ways to make it acceptable to kick them even harder.
 Despite supposedly winning their right not to be kicked, year after year, century after century, slurs, insults: over generalizations that could just as well apply to those without the "kick me" signs, remain acceptable conversation. When such words, such phrases, became unacceptable they simply find other ways to say the same things.
 Kick me people with less signs are somewhat more accepted, but usually accepted in a patronizing way, and only if they would cheer on those who do the kicking.
 They get accused of being lazy, yet getting and keeping jobs while wearing kick me signs is damn hard to impossible. Not getting stopped by cops while having kick me signs is hard to impossible.
 Other rejected folks are encouraged to blame the kick me people, because blaming those in power is so much more problematic for them. It's like blaming the bully who might turn on you.
 Now do you understand how blacks feel, how they're treated?
 The analogy isn't perfect by any means. Indeed how blacks are still treated is often far worse. The coddling of those who do the kicking is worse. The kicking often (but not always) more subtle... though not always as those who were angered by what happened to Trayvon and Eric Garner found out. The dog whistles have been plentiful.
 Look, there are a lot of people who have been oppressed for who they are: Atheists, Catholics, Protestants, gays and nationalities, ethnicity of all types. But most of these, no matter how bad it may be, aren't wearing "kick me" signs they can't get rid of, and shouldn't have to get rid of.
 As a recent caller to The Thom Hartmann Show said, "Blacks simply have the wrong paint job."
 The closest to this dynamic may be women. Women for years were treated as worse than second class citizens. Beating a wife was, at one time, considered a right, even a duty. But it was harder, overall, to keep this up. Without women there are no future generations. Since the merging of women and men is highly valued: especially by horny men, there's power there to be had. And being a majority of the populace also makes a difference: once women's rights, certain leaders and people willing to stand up for themselves did stand up.
 Much of this potential power does not exist in the black community, and we have seen what happens when that community stands up for itself. Indeed we see it today in Ferguson. I guarantee if those were white women the reaction would be quite different.
 A frequent, rather thoughtless, response is bringing up the fact we have a black president as "proof" everything's OK now. "Thoughtless" because if this were valid then the election of Abe Lincoln would have meant slavery was no longer a problem, the election of Reagan meant the USSR was already gone and the election of Roosevelt meant there was no more depression.
 One of the reasons for what's happening in Ferguson is the same reason that has helped ignite other riots and righteous, yet maybe sometimes overboard, reactions. In 2014 some teen walking down the middle of the street shouldn't be "kicked" to death, no matter what "sign" some cop may think he wears because of his color. Zimmerman, Dunn... there's a long list of deaths perceived as murders and hate crimes. And in these matters perception is what matters.
 If you disagree with me then be aware: the perception will continue and it will get worse. Not only black kids will die. Something must be done and bloviating about how righteous those who killed were will only makes it worse.
 Let's admit the obvious: although the long history of all this must be considered, we must admit there are many in society rejected for obscene, stupid, prejudicial and simply snob driven reasons. And there are those who ascend who never should have. Sons of the boss usually makes a horrible supervisor. The suck up who is otherwise a terrible worker is a poor choice for advancement. And here are always those snubbed by society for unworthy purposes: even generation after generation of some families. It sucks. So damn unfortunate. But despite all that they still have one hell of an advantage...
 They have the "proper" paint job.
 And not one damn one of them have what's been deemed a "please kick me" sign for hundreds of years.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Aug. 12th, 2014

07:18 pm - Inspection- We've Been "Robin"-ed

Robin Williams...
  Robin Williams?
  The suicide of Robin can't help but bring up movie moments. With the vast, multiple venue, career of Robin Williams, how can it not? As of now it seems, in part, depression; an evil internal golem if there ever was one, finally dragged down the Einstein of comedy. Maybe "Einstein" in drag, more than once? Took him away from us, and more important: from his family.
 We've been "Robin-ed."
  The movie my mind keeps going back to is What Dreams May Come, where Robin goes into Hell to save his depression-prone, suicidal wife. If only the immensely talented comedian, and superb actor, could have saved himself from extinction, as I'm sure he had so many episodes of depression before.
  If nothing else Robin has opened up multiple discussions on suicide.
  Perhaps I have a unique perspective on this. In 1973 I tried to kill myself. Oh, before that there had been attempts, but I dismissed them as mostly attention getting drama. I won't get into specifics, but this was the first time I had been utterly alone, everything falling apart, seemingly without a friend I could talk to and I looked at my life and felt there was a persistent pattern of eventual, utter failure, and, for some unexplained reason I was disliked without reason by people I hardly knew. Disliked, even tossed aside as unworthy of a modicum of respect, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how I changed, and sometimes especially because of both.
  People claim those who commit suicide are selfish, don't consider how it would affect others. From my own perspective I did "look at" how it would affect other people, and felt it might upset a very small handful, at first, but in the long run they would be better off, happier. I'm not saying such was rational. Obviously what we feel may be "rational" during those moments of desperation isn't always that rational. But it certainly seems so at the time, if we're thinking much at all.
  But Robin had none of that, or shouldn't have. So much praise, all the recognition for role after role, magical moments with Jonathan Winters; maybe the ultimate comedy team of our generation, our time. So why depression?
  That's a naive question. Sometimes with depression it's like asking a fish, "Why water?"
  I imagine age might have had something to do with it: a comedian who reached a height unimagined by most who thinks age may be slowly taking away some of the edge that brought him to that Mt Everest mountain top for so many years. A series he needed desperately to succeed had just failed. Perception colored by depression was far more important, seemed more real, than anything else during those moments.
  Then there's following a path of self destruction despite warning "signs" held by others, or noticed while traveling that final, horrible, destination. I know in the past few weeks several people I have loved, known, been friends with, have died: one I loved very much died in a way absolutely could have been avoided.
  But there's only so much you can say, so much you can do. Sometimes people insist on pursuing a path and you just have to let them go.
  Reminds me of lines from David Cook's Come Back to Me, written by Amund Bjørklund, Espen Lind and Zac Maloy...

I can't get close if you're not there
I can't get inside if there's no soul to bear
I can't fix you, I can't save you
It's something you'll have to do

  The sad fact is usually you can't "fix" someone else. Perhaps that's Robin's story, and part of the story of those closest to him who would know him far, far better than we do. Not unexpected for someone who also, reportedly, had a problem with being both North and South Pole. But perhaps that part of what drove him on, fueled his almost maniac, light speed, wit. And box office receipts, the love expressed for him, certainly proves millions, perhaps billions, were willing to buy... polar-ed.
  Yes, that's a joke. A joke I'm sure Robin would appreciate.
  I survived my own attempt because, early in life, I realized what was inside me: a potential for a deep darkness that could easily overwhelm me, and decided never, ever, to go back. And maybe because I didn't reach the same heights Robin rightfully soared to. My guess: whatever issues I had, or have, are nowhere near the level someone like Robin had. Talent and mental issues have always been close, and too often kissing, cousins.
  But, as much as society pushes the meme: Robin proves money doesn't equal happiness and satisfaction.
  As much as society glorifies it: Robin proves fame and respect won't always equal happiness and satisfaction
  Both come from inside, and that's the conundrum: those who push themselves to excel are often broken cups that will never be filled: sometimes due to mental issues, sometimes due to how they've been treated. This is why stars so often flare, go super nova. Robin, thankfully, gave us years of joy, and things to think about, ideas to consider, in his more serious moments.
  People think once someone reaches those kinds of heights that you have absolutely no reason to kill yourself, but money, fame and a family have their own pressures, their own problems that we probably will never understand. Reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkel song where the richest, most loved person, in town commits suicide. It reminds me of a childhood friend named Ernie who killed himself. Ernie always seemed a gentle, fun loving, soul, who would have been the life of the party.
  Seemingly no reason to commit suicide at all. But what was going on inside? How was life for them in their family?
 If you haven't been there, you don't, and won't, understand.
  But I do believe each suicide is an opportunity to examine how we treat people, examine how well we are dealing with, or not dealing with, psychiatric problems.
  Robin was living on the edge most of his life, and almost everyone I mentioned who committed suicide, or attempted, including myself, was. But I'm sure, over the years, Robin's "edge" was sharper, more intense, had more highs and lows, than we can imagine. Living on the edge, taking chance, taking risks, all have costs we can't even imagine on Robin's level of fame.
  But in a more metaphoric sense with Robin I have to go back to his wife in What Dreams May Come who killed herself. Having lost her husband, her kids, her medical condition: depression, finally got the best of her. Her Hell was to live out eternity in a nightmare version of the house she and her husband, Robin, shared. A house falling apart, moisture rotting everything. And that's all she saw.
  As you get older, like Robin, like me, the splatters of paint that are deaths of friends, lovers, seem to develop patterns, group together as if they have meaning, as if we're next. And, eventually, we will be. Meanwhile your mind can get less sharp, your fingers lose feeling, diabetes and other maladies can mean you're taken apart, piece by piece. Just seeing how short the time ahead is compared with behind is depressing in itself. And maybe, just maybe, you long to live on that edge again, if only in your last moment.
  Suicide is an edge.
  One hell of an edge.
  I hope, if Robin is anywhere, someone goes to get him out of that Hell depression is. But, to be honest, he is somewhere: in us.
  And we are far better for it.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jul. 30th, 2014

04:03 pm - Inspection- Be a Proud Tax and Spend Liberal

  To be clear: I don't consider myself a "liberal." Not because I have a problem with the term. Some of my opinions are more left, or liberal if you wish, some not. But I do have a problem with how terms shift in meaning over time. At one time I considered myself a proud Conservative when I thought the Bill Buckley brand: the more rational, intellectual, civil, side of that label, was the future. Now, the few times I find myself in agreement with my former more conservative self I still have a problem with that label too. The Savages, the Palins, the Bachmanns, the O'Reilly's have ruined it for me.
  Besides these labels are generalizations: what's inside may be quite different from person to person, but people treat you as a cliche' ready to be ignored if you adopt such. How many times have I tried to argue with those who go on and on with, "But you think this, and this, and this..." all the framing talking points they have swallowed whole posed by their fav talking heads. And before I can get through to them I'm not not some cliche' they're already already attempting to combat strawmen instead of me.
  But if they did call me a "tax and spend liberal," I say, "I'd be more proud to be called that than a 'spend, spend, spend without paying back right wing ideologue.'"
  Of course this will lead to a snide, "What does that mean?" And, of course, I willingly admit this "clever" comeback is also an over generalization, at best. But if the right wants to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc what happened during Bush is classic: keep most of it off the books then dump it into the next president's lap: especially if he's from the other party. But, more leftward presidents are famous for starting expensive programs too, I must admit. When it comes to funding them, well, at least a "tax and spend" liberal taxes to pay for what they spend, is my only point.
  So, that out of the way, can we have an honest conversation instead of snark? I'll start...
  First an point must be made. Comparing a government's budget to a family budget is a poor analogy, at best. They are not the same, and should never be considered such. For one, family's don't print money... well, they shouldn't. Please don't. Not all that legal.
  "Who's that knocking at your door, who's that knocking at your door..."
  "Hey, Bubba, Junior, shut off those damn presses or you don't get your pacifier tonight!"
  Got to put da little buggers to work doing something right?
  Anywhosie, if we must use this family analogy here's an explanation I think the right might understand...
  Dad, or Mom, gets a raise, or has a new job that pays more. More money is coming in. If you must spend more, that's when you would do so: more money coming in. You know: like taxes bring in for the government? Or you take out a loan but make damn sure you can make installments, and try to over pay if you can. The earlier you pay off the better, usually... except those who charge stiff fees for such... who IMO shouldn't even be in the business of making loans.
  Here's when a family shouldn't spend without trying to increase incoming: mother and father lose their jobs. Simple, right? But what if they lose their jobs then load down the credit cards and refuse to pay? They've made promises to pay for services rendered, you know: heat, electricity, gas, and refuse to pay. Now maybe some of those were extras, but the time to not pay is before the bill is due.
  That's what the debt limit does. Helps us pay what we owe.
  Roughly, that's what we have now. To blame the mess we're in on merely the left is not only nonsensical, but an outright lie.
  If you wish to no longer pay for programs then you change the program first, not steal from it and refuse to pay what you owe. But such is the nature of some: not "all," of those who dare call themselves "fiscal conservatives" these days. They're acting like thieves and con artists, instead of having an honest discussion.
 Good example: force the post office to prepay benefits 70 years in advance, then declare it to be their fault so you can sell off their services to your corporate buds.
 As Iraq, Afghanistan, gov shut downs, the 5,000th Benghazi hearing prove, folks like this have, literally, no problem with spending. They just wish to spend money on other things, and sometimes spend without the tax base that pays for what they spend. And, oh, how they love to sabotage the economy: like giving everyone a check from the surplus. Or giving pallet loads of money to warlords not to fight us: warlords who often also work for our enemies.
  This all started with bad decisions: like training bin Laden and his cohorts because we hated the Soviets more... giving weapons, gas and support to Saddam... trading with Iran to support an insurgency in Nicaragua. You know, the same Iran that held our folks hostage and the right has been so eager to go to war with? "Go to war with" despite the demand for austerity when it comes to any program they don't like?
  It's all a crock. The right, who I once supported over 40 years ago, has nothing to brag about these days, collectively. And much to embarrassed about when it comes to an honest, respectful, open, discussion about what we should be paying for: or not.
  For tis those who have misappropriated the "fiscally responsible" label who are the irresponsible ones. And tis they who caused this mess we're in now.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jul. 21st, 2014

02:22 pm - Inspection- Thoughtlessness

As with all my columns, yes: I will get to how this applies to society, politics....

  I was in Cincinnati, just having worked with after schoolers and then left to head north. My annual 4th of July gig was waiting for me. I was frustrated because it took 4 hours to go 5 miles, the loop around Cinci being messed up royally. My trailer and I had been shoved off into narrow road nowhere-land along with thousands of other pissed off drivers. Perhaps I had more of a reason to be frustrated. I was towing a medium size flat bed with a scooter, generator, beer for beer tasting at my annual Beaver River Beer Tasting and... well just say I had, well, a hell of a lot of stuff. The trailer probably almost 1½ the length of the Honda Element.
  I stopped at a Speedway to get coffee: one right on a busy intersection. When I went to leave I decide to pull left and find a turn around so I wouldn't have to pull right into a busy intersection. Young kid pulls to the left of me, blocks my vision, and revs his engine, car rocking back and forth. I can't pull left because I can't see and I certainly can't drive over him.
  So I said, "what the hell," and decided to turn into the intersection like him. I looked up: light's green. I step on the gas to go and he takes off passing a few inches in front of my hood: a quick stomp on my brakes prevent what was almost unavoidable. He stops in front of me as if waiting to get hit, then takes off. Traffic coming up fast but enough time to pull out, so I step on the gas again and...
  Afterward the sheriff told me it turned yellow as I entered the intersection, then red as I passed under it. Last thing I saw it had been green. All I knew is the front of the Element was by the car in the turning lane and, beyond that, cars took off regardless off this Honda Element and trailer mid-intersection.
  Cars behind, cars in front, speeding by north and south at maniac speeds. I did the best I could with my turning lane car blocked vision and, as soon as possible, pulled through the homicidal intersection.
  Sheriff pulls me over...

"Yeah, I screwed up, I know."
  "Ya think? Don't you know yellow doesn't mean step on it?"
  (I explained.)
  "Oh... OH! Well then I'll let you go, just be careful."

One of those scary, close: possible last moments in a life moments.
 I keep thinking back to the kid and his thoughtless actions that damn near could have killed me...
  Have you backed up in a parking lot like WalMart, Bass Pro, Target... ("Target?" How appropriate) ...and while you're in the middle of the aisle, backing up just a tad more so you'll be able to turn and leave, some family walks by right behind you? Not paying a bit of attention. Or maybe another car drives by as if you weren't there? Either not paying attention, or caring, or hoping to collect insurance if you hit them.
 Come to think of it all of that might apply in both situations.
  You know who will supposedly be "to blame" if you hit them, right?
 You know who is really to blame, right?
  What the hell is wrong with people?
  Do they teach defensive driving, or even defensive living, anymore? Or teach "watch in parking lots" or while crossing the road?
  Are they trying to get hit so they can collect insurance money? Seriously, there are scam artists out there: two cars, who will work as a team attempting to get you into accidents. One tailgates so close you speed up and some guy passes quickly, pulls in and stomps on his brakes. It's an old scam. Or: entering an interstate, the car behind you crosses over the painted on divider (illegal), then blocks your way so you can barely get in while another pulls in quickly in front of you and hits his brakes.
  It was such a common occurrence in Nashville I learned to watch. I pullout almost at the same time. They don't like it. They can't do anything about it. I had the right of way.
 As my high school friend, Kevin Conway, used to say...

 "Tough bananas Baby."

What you say, or do, to strangers hardly seems to matter anymore. Let's not even get into what we say and do to our own relatives. I wonder, was Albert Einstein treated like he was five again by any siblings at family reunions?

"Still a good for nothing, slow, jerk, little Allie, eh?"

Politics are the same: maybe worse. Over the years I can't count the times someone I don't even know lectures me, a stranger, about Bush, or Clinton, or Obama... I have no political stickers on my cars, I usually don't open up political discussions with strangers, rarely with relatives. Despite being an off and on columnist since 1972, I feel it rude to treat others as captives to my rants, lectures, and presumptuous that anyone must be held hostage by such, kind of like verbal version of what Kathy Bates' character did to her fav author.
  Though from time to time I secretly wish I could break their legs so I could get away from their self important, "I'm so superior, smarter and know better than folks who haven't solved this issue for hundred (even thousands) of years," rants.
  No, not really.
  Probably not.
  Uh... never mind.
  With texting, cell phones and everyone having their news based programs they watch or listen to: more like a long all you can eat buffet of mostly the same whacked opinions, we live in a culture that isolates us so much from each other we're like madmen and women ranting at those we treat as less human than mannequins. This isolation, and prevalence of so much one sided media, can't help but makes us more wrong rather than more right. And there seems to be some inverse relationship: the more some folks rant at others the more they're just repeating self serving propaganda.
 And when was the last time one of these folks turned to you and said, "So what do you think?"
 Of course even if they did they'd probably just interrupt after a few words then go on with their rant.
 People today too often remind me of an incident I went through involving a couple, their kids and my truck, at rest stop just into Massachusetts on the Pike. After going in to go to the bathroom I went to my truck: stuffed with props so I can't see directly behind... just the side mirrors. There was a couple walking far behind me in the parking lot with kids, carrying a picnic basket. I get into the truck, do a little paperwork, check my side mirrors and then start it up. Slowly I start to back up and I hear yelling. I stop, get out... and directly behind my small truck I see that the couple had spread a picnic out on top of the back of my truck.

"Sorry. I didn't know you were there, I can't see directly behind me. Well, I have to go now."

They nodded as if they understood. I get back in and think I hear them moving stuff off my truck. Look left, right, slowly start... and hear them yelling screaming, insults, again. I get out to see more stuff on the back of my truck. That's when I solved it. I started acting crazier than them: yell, scream curses, act like I'm chasing them... they gather the kids, their stuff and run away.
 Ah, ha, my evil planned worked!
 A lot of America these days reminds me of these "parents," if we dare call them that. We are losing our ability to see the perspective of the other, care for the other, be considerate. We're losing any vestige of common sense. It's all being replaced by less real than Mickey Mouse cartoons: one dimensional stick figures posing as human... promoted by a "news" media that's more partisan opinion than anything else.
 Barack Obama is a "weak, vacation all the time, indecisive president..." unless you want to use a different one dimensional image. Then switch to the "dictator" talking point hardly without taking a breath in your perpetual rant.
  But it's less a right/left thing than a fault of expanding lines of multiple means of communications. Multiple means of communication" with no checks, no balances, no objectivity and a hell of a lot of uncivil, rude and judgmental behavior. So many "means" too damn many of us only see, only hear, what we prefer. Which, ironically, makes us the ones who are becoming more and more one dimensional, not necessarily those we rant about.
  The better our communicative tools get seems the less we actually communicate, the more thoughtless we become.
  Not so long ago a girl was texting her parents how much she cared when she drove off the road and over a cliff. That's what our society is becoming, only I'm guessing some of us would still try to bumper car push others out of the way on the way down.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jul. 15th, 2014

10:14 am - Inspection- John McCain Proves There IS No “Liberal Media”

Let's start with some former Dem candidates who lost: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry; and then ask... how many of these folks have gotten anywhere near the coverage John McCain has?
  Answer: not one.
  Every time there's a debatable issue the media needs to get expert opinion on, let's say military related before Kerry replaced Hillary, do they go with the guy who was shot down and spent most of his time in prison, or the other war "hero?"
  Nope, they go with John McCain: damn near every time.
  Do they attempt to balance him out with someone from the left?
  Damn near never.
  Issues of State, do they go with the recently retired lady from the Obama administration?
  Nope, or anyone else for the most part. It's like were stuck on some retirement home-only episode trashed by Matt Groening as unworthy to air, starring who? John McCain.
  There he is, on my TV again and again: all albino-like with his age driven white hair. Once again he's reprising his perpetual part as the always mad, "get off my lawn" grump-filled grandpa who rarely met a war he didn't like, and has little concern for another soldier who was in captivity. We must remember there were also questions about McCain as a prisoner: talents as a pilot that got him there, and more important his patriotism while held by the Vietnamese.
  But, hey, regardless of all that you'd think they'd give the Republican Grandpa Simpson give a rest, maybe just to bring the blood pressure down. I'd be concerned someday he'll blow a heart valve out of his chest, squirting the camera lens with blood and pieces of heart... kind of like Gallager used to cover his audiences with juice and pieces of watermelon. But I hate to deny him his role being the rightward political edition of Jon Stewart's go to guy for fury: Lewis Black, so damn much. If only McCain was as entertaining.
  Yet one must ask: why so damn much of John? I can't recall any former candidate for president, or even VP, who has been so much the go to guy for Palin's supposedly "lamestream" media. Neither Caribou Barbie or Cheney even come close, and you see both of them more than most lefties.
  Al Gore gets very occasional coverage: more like "never" these days and that's usually when it's an environmental/global climate change issue. And these visits are often followed by swift snark. Jimmy Carter? Rare, if at all. Hey media, is his corpse buried in your backyard or something? Probably right next to Michael Dukakis.
  You'd think if we had a "liberal" media we'd be hearing from Al Gore at least as much as John McCain.
  And McCain?
  He's everywhere. He's a hot media interview. You'd swear he was the hottie man-babe all the cheerleader-like female anchors want to have their next baby, the secretly gay male anchors drool over and the program directors hope will be their Jeff Gannon.
  When have we ever had a losing candidate who is such a welcome oracle of "wisdom," such a media darling? Certainly not even Bob Dole, to go Republican for a moment. And it's not as if McCain is some pure white haired knight absent of controversy: questions about crashing his plane in Nam, how he was finally released, what "trades" may have been made and rumors McCain survived North Viet captivity because he was his captive's bitch are out there.
  Do I think any of these rumors true? I have no idea, and am willing to believe the best. But for every reason one can give not to use Gore, or Kerry, one can certainly find at least one against using McCain.
  Let's stop there, OK? I am not actually writing this with the ultimate goal to smear or slander McCain. And I do loathe the current smear-based, Rove/Atwater-inspired political environment: treated as if it's some holy news grail for news gatherers. Let's just leave the personal at this: McCain sure shows a lack of sensitivity towards another recently traded for prisoner who there are rumors and speculation about. One imagines McCain's captivity happened today there would be a ginned up, paid for, campaign to frame him poorly... if his release had been been achieved by a black Dem president.
  Sometimes it's so damn obvious such cruel efforts are less about the target than over the top partisanship.
  And my comments here are not just McCain-based. If you watch the Sunday talking head shows the claim they're all part of "Republican Sundays" is quite valid. And bringing back every architect of the bloody Iraq boondoggle to insist we need to pump more steroids into the boondoggle?
  Yup, oh so "liberal."
  The right has been crying like baby bullies wearing packed to the brim diapers about the "liberal media" since I was a kid in the 60s. Back then maybe they had a point, in that their story wasn't being told and the left's was simply because those who make noise get the coverage. Youngsters tend to make a lot of noise, especially so many of them. But without the mostly youth excuse, who makes the most obnoxious noises now still gets the coverage. The situation is the same today despite the boom having passed, and those making the most noise sure ain't ain't the left.
  But despite all the coverage they continue to hold their infantile tantrums over that mythical creature: the "liberal" media.
  The claim reminds me of what may be another myth...
  A trainer died because after he fed his huge charge way too much laxative he went back and used a stick to clean out the elephant. He did a little too good of a job "cleaning out the elephant," and suffocated much like the bully in Back to the Future could have when his car kept running into the manure truck.
  The concept of "liberal media:" at least these days, is what was in the truck, and what the elephant had been holding back the trainer suffocated in.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jul. 4th, 2014

11:41 am - Inspection- Making Things Worse: Intentionally

True patriotism means advocating what's best for the country. It means working with those who disagree even though you may not get what you want. On this 4th I wonder if those who wrap themselves in the flag might be the opposite by wishing more ill on their country for profit and political gain.-kwc

I've come to the conclusion the long term goal of much of the right is to make things worse, then offer "solutions" that make matters even worse than worse.

 "Don't bother rinsing. We want all that fecal matter all over everyone. In fact there's not enough. Stand still while we repeat."

 And the black water hose, under increasing pressure, opens up again.
 Example: guns. OK, you believe, of all the amendments, that this one, you know: the one that has this clause with the modifying words, "well regulated?" ...that this amendment actually means "no regulation whatsoever." I get it. But who in the hell in their right mind would suggest that if an entire theater had been filled with gun packing citizens, with no mandatory training, that this armor wearing, terrorist would have been taken down, and no other lives lost? Who in their right (sic) mind would be crazy enough to believe that a dark, noisy, theater would be better off with citizens taking pot shots at where they thought the danger was coming from?
 Yes, "terrorist." I know the right doesn't like that applied to anyone other than Muslims, or oddly: environmentalists who might hug a tree or two in protest. We'll get to that in a second.
 More guns would have solved the theater shooting, made it better, when even trained policemen have missed the target and shot citizens instead?
 No, in that case it would have made it worse.
 Yet I imagine if that had happened the suggestion would have been even more guns would have made it even better.
 You do know in the actually not so "wild" west most taverns insisted patrons check their guns at the door, right? Guns do not auto equal safer. Indeed it can be the opposite.
 But it sure sells guns, eh? Even more important for some on the right it makes less stable citizens among us more afraid. And that can be used to sell more guns and encourage them to hide behind the skirts of froth at the mouth gun advocates. Or just come out shooting at anyone they think might be a threat, you know, like Stand Your Ground encourages?
 Now there's a bad idea where the intent sure seemed to be to make things worse.
 Now, about that use of "terrorist." Every time some right wing crank shoots up some UU church, just for one example, the objection to the use of "terrorist" is loud and long. Bundy's defenders? I'm sorry,
Turner Diary-like groups are, by definition, using terror, therefore terrorists. But, if you insist it all comes down to one person's personal responsibility and the Limbaughs, the Becks, the Hannitys, the O'Reillys egging them on bear no responsibility whatsoever, well that "insisting" only encourages more violence, more terrorism. Hmm, is that the plan? It's like claiming the bullies who encourage the kid on the playground to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher are pure innocents when it happens. Better example, like Goebbels, Hitler, etc. were blameless... only the poor schmucks who followed their orders should be "responsible."
 Once again: more violence, more promises to fix with solutions that will make it worse.
 Privatization? Well, let's make the post office pay for benefits 75 years in advance. That will kill the post office and the right's business buddies will take over. You know, the ones to whom profit matters more than delivery to rural areas... so much so they have the post office deliver for them to many of those areas.
 Go back into Iraq, continue Gitmo, perpetual war in Afghanistan? Don't get me started.
 I can't think of one right wing wet dream that hasn't, and won't, make things worse: and it's not just right wing. Every administration we've had since at least Reagan (Carter somewhat) has been infested with "free traders." The oxymoron "free trade," by definition means we compete with the lowest denominators, economically. That way, unless we rely on prison labor, slave labor and hideous working condition: we lose. The end result: a country filled with an increasingly idle workforce, empty rotting factories, and a situation so bad that stats on unemployment are defined by "only for a brief time:" long term unemployment no longer counted as part of stats. But it does give out stats pols point to proudly. Fake stats. Phony stats.
 Sweep the people under the rug and everything is "better..." not.
  Empty factories?
  Idle workforce?
  Look across America today, and what do you see?


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jun. 20th, 2014

02:21 pm - Insepction- Our Media is Driving Us Mad

  Our media is literally driving us mad.
  I can hear it now...
  "You mean the liberal media? ...the right wing media? owned by big biz?"
  No, just "the media."
  The fact I even have to go where I have to go next shows the sickness our media has infected society with. But if I had to blame one side or the other, yes, I would blame the right: but not for the reason you might think, or as much as some on the left would demand. And not "blame" because there's any specific skew: you can't have media without at least some skew because humans have opinions, prejudices, points of views and directions they prefer to look. Reporters have editors and program directors, editors and program directors have bosses, bosses have owners and influences, and demands, don't stop there.
  Yes: there always will be some "skew."
  No, the reason a lot of the blame is pointed at the right is their insistence, years ago, on dismantling objectivity. I remember the arguments I had quite well, on debating sites, in the classroom: everywhere. Mostly "arguments" with folks on the right, but some on the left bought this "all or nothing" nonsense.
  I remember the blank stares I'd get when I'd respond to a supposed "logical" debating point...
  "There's no such thing as objective media."
  "Yes, but the goal has never been having an objective media, it's been trying to be objective as possible.
  And, from now on, I'll try to keep this discussion as "objective" as possible... at least for an opinion-based column. I'd expect better from an actual reporter, any actual news source.
  The problem is not necessarily FOX, or MSNBC, or CBS, or ABC, or CNN. The problem is, if you look at the collective damage caused by this "no objective media argument," is that it has been used as an excuse to discourage even the attempt to be more objective, encourage purely partisan media. "Dismantled" while mixing entertainment with what passes as "news" these days.
  We no longer have a collective "news" media. We have many different media outlets telling stories the way one partisan side or another wants them told. Or at least covering the news so half arsed, so unevenly, it's hardly "news" at all. In part because covering, telling, the most important news stories well: or at all, might offend one partisan side or another, an advertiser or some special interest group. Usually not just one, but more than just one of the aforementioned very persnickety, overly self righteous and super sensitive groups.
  When humanity began we passed on stories by the fire, each telling more elaborate, more skewed than the last version of the same story. We have gone back to that method of storytelling only, in some cases, it's worse...and spread at an incredible speed due to the vast improvement of communications.
  A few milder examples....
  ...outrage at a Muslim temple supposedly to be built on the site of 9/11 that was intended to be a nest for Islamic fanatics. Problem being it wasn't going to be built on the site of 9/11, and it wasn't supposed to be some sanctuary, or plotting place, for Islamic fanatics. Indeed: other faiths were to be welcomed. shopped upside down book being held by Bush on 9/11.
  Here's one more example: current. The Obama administration was openly mocked for claiming what happened in Benghazi was, in part, due to anger over a video. Recently captured ringleader of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, has confirmed it was revenge for that video.
  Now here's what going to happen. On the rightward skewed networks... ("networks" is dated terminology, but let's go with it) ...there will less coverage of that statement. When, or even if, they do mention it it will be with talking heads who will dismiss it because of who he is. I have no doubt some will even at least hint at some conspiracy theory, like the claim this capture was timed to help Hillary. On the left you'll have far more coverage and outraged talking heads: mad that the right won't admit to their error. Will they ever address timing with anything other than snark? Probably not, even though they were willing to go on and on about it during Bush II.
 There are plenty of examples from all over the political spectrum, I'm sure. In the end, no matter what you believe, we won't have "news."
  No, we're not allowed to have nice things. All because we're not supposed to have any "objectivity." The only other answer is not an ounce of objectivity at all. It's as if we had the attitude, "Well, since we can't keep our children perfectly safe, why bother doing anything?"
 Is Al Jazeera an exception? Well, does it matter? The same no objective news meme' has labeled AJ as that network that's a mouthpiece for terrorists, so I wouldn't be surprised if the American numbers on AJ make the past tense Current look good.
 One certainly can argue this kind of collective media creates mental illness across the country where narcissism, and living within oneself to the point of being a psychopath, results in us suffering from an odd form of psychosis. An "odd form of psychosis" because it includes drone-like group think. Folks think their group is the one filled with creative thinkers, the only ones truly "awake."
  News programs: real news programs, should be a service to the citizenry and report news... not just what suits one specific audience best. They should be marginally profitable at best, often somewhat of a money sucking hole that stations make up for with advertizing and actual entertainment.
  Actual entertainment... you know: fiction?
 The attempt to maintain objectivity is what used to keep a respectable distance between fiction and news. The attempt to be objective helped keep news "networks" from being filled with specific audience, advertiser, targeted Goebbels-like propaganda. The attempt to be objective helped inform the public what's happening in their world without trying to turn them into one sided talking point zombies.
 Yes, dear reader, brains are being eaten here, and those who have trouble thinking for themselves are the main course.
 Deregulating the media didn't turn out so well, did it? Seems there's a downside to many forms of media being owned by a few companies.
  I don't see any of this changing soon. After all if going the wrong way on an interstate made people rich we'd all have cars headed at us from whatever direction that suits their fancy. And that's exactly what we've been doing. In a moment where fiction addresses reality, it reminds me of the folks in the car talking to John Candy and Steve Martin in
Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
  "You're going the wrong way," and to make one last comment "re:" the next sentence, "You're going to kill someone."
  And that's what happens when news is abandoned: people become so ill-informed that bad decisions are made over and over again and, too often, far more than one someone gets killed. A lot more. No matter what your fav topic, or cause, an overly skewed media only makes it worse, and creates much more carnage than should have ever happened.
  "You're going the wrong way," indeed.


  Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jun. 12th, 2014

03:35 pm - Inspection- A Turn-er for the Worse?

The raw sore that is the recent shooting in Las Vegas reminded me of a column I wrote a while back. I tied together what I keep getting told not to tie together, but I shall continue to do so. We need, at a bare minimum, to be aware there may be a bigger picture we're missing in the recent mini-massacre.
 The only reason it didn't turn into less than "mini" is authorities arrived too soon for plans, and were too clever: Jerad and Amanda Miller had had hundreds of rounds of ammunition with them. Imagine if all it really did take was "a good guy with a gun." But this proves it often takes more than that. This time we had two of them.
 With a very sad emphasis on "had."
  To review, after a couple dropped off their cats at a friend's so they would be taken care of they went into a restaurant and murdered two cops: armed professionals. Unlike too many armed Americans, the two policemen had training: but to no avail. Their training with weapons still didn't save them. Then the couple ran to a WalMart and murdered a bystander. Eventually the couple committed suicide. They had obviously been anti-government types who, rumor has it, spent some time with the crew "defending" Bundy's "right" not to pay taxes, and his "right" to not recognize the federal government. They also added a swastika and a Don't Tread flag to the murder scene: flag draped over a murdered policeman.
 Meanwhile Indiana seems interested in making it easier for citizens to kill cops. More on that later.
  Once again we will be told this is just two people and that certainly other anti-government groups, or anti-government talking heads, had "nothing" to do with any of this no matter how suggestive, how encouraging, or aggressive their rhetoric may have been. We will be lectured that this is a case of personal responsibility and asked why we insist on blaming others; disregarding the fact that "personal responsibility" is exactly what many of those who use these talking points are trying to avoid like the plague.
 To address them directly, if you're so damn sure words mean nothing, have no affect, then why don't you shut the hell up?
 Of course you won't. I don't expect you to. I wouldn't insist you do. But your own insistence on mouthing off all the time, trying to influence others, means you don't mean this crappy talking point that what you spew can't translate into something you might be partially responsible for. Words have affect, and people should be held responsible for what they say. Otherwise some of the worst, most evil, humans in history would mostly blameless.
 However leaving those who talk up hate blameless is certainly a talking point that can encourage others to go on the rampage, much like any cheerleader encourages others.
 Hmm... Sean, Rush and Bill in skimpy cheerleader outfits. There's a picture I wish I won't have trouble getting out of my head.
  But, you know, maybe they have a point if part of what they really mean there's a bigger picture here...
 Years ago Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols woke me up to The Turner Diaries and those who follow the path set forward by a book, which to me, uses a fictional tale to provide a road map for others to work as loose cells of revolutionaries desiring to return America to its "roots." In this case very racist, anti-Semitic, worst than the Nazis, kind of "roots."
 That's the way McVeigh viewed it.
  Think this is hyperbole? It's not. A short synopsis is required here. Please pay attention to how the revolution is started...
  In The Turner Diaries the revolutionary groups are divided into cells: cells as small as one or two. You know, like the husband and wife? That way the movement won't be directly connected to such acts, denial is easy and, get this, those who try to connect the dots and warn others can be declared as conspiracy nuts, hate mongers... you know like every time the right wing goes nuts when some off script pol or talking head labels people just like the couple as right wingers, teabaggers, militia-types?
  The object here in Turner is to keep the populace afraid, confused and blaming everyone but them, or at least not turning against them enough to destroy their agenda.
 Their agenda in Turner? Well, once they win: take over the country. Then line up all the liberals, moderates, college professors, Jews, blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, non-believers, women who are "too assertive," those who had anything to do with abortion: or even slightly supported the right to have one, plus everyone not fundamentalist Christian. Then put a bullet through their heads, hang them from lampposts. Meanwhile those yet to be disposed of dig the mass graves.
  Hitler was just a bad boy in comparison.
  People like
Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. who shot up a Jewish Center (assuming he was killing Jews: he was wrong), Jim David Adkisson who shot up a Unitarian Church, and Eric Rudolph could be little more than foot soldiers in a bigger war. Groups like the Georgia militia group caught plotting to bomb a federal building and release ricin in Atlanta no more than cells in a bigger: Turner-like, beast. Meanwhile the extreme right wing certainly seems involved in propaganda campaign with the intent to belittle, destroy or at least divert attention when someone suggests there may be some "vast right wing conspiracy..." going back to Hillary's statement.
  Of course this could have nothing to do with those who attempt to commit mass murder in the name of anti-government theology, except that's exactly what happened with the couple and in Oklahoma City. Eric Rudolph certainly was a one man anti-government, anti-gay, anti abortion-ite who fit the bill here. While 9/11 was a bin Laden affair it certainly inspired many to kill those who didn't fit the pure profile the Turner-ites prefer, like Hitler envisioned a perfect Germany under the rule of the Ayran "race." The liberal hater: inspired by FOX talking heads like O'Reilly and Hannity, who marched into a Unitarian Church in Knoxville certainly would be welcomed as a hero at the end of any Turner revolution.
  Perhaps skinheads, sovereign citizens groups, Tea Party Nation, some Patriot groups, some Militia groups and more are no more than, as Joe McCarthy called them, a case of "fellow travelers." And I have no interest in any effort by the left to recreate the McCarthy-ism of the 50s to make everyone who has similar, but not the same, opinions guilty by association.
 We have too much of that out of the rotting, filthy pieholes of the Becks, the Limbaughs, the Hannitys... and admittedly not all of it spews forth from the right. But watching legislatures like Indiana recently giving those who loathe authority a right that goes beyond the right granted Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman: in this case the "right" to murder cops when they can claim they've been threatened, falsely targeted, makes me wonder. Are they, if nothing else, enabling those who are eager to create a more Turner Diary-like society?
Here's a short list of groups and individuals involved in such incidents.
  I am not insisting there absolutely must be some massive Turner Diary far right, secret conspiracy afoot.
  But I am watching.
 And from what I've read, from what I've seen, none of this gives me great comfort in assuring me I'm wrong about continuing to be concerned either.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jun. 8th, 2014

09:24 am - Inspection-A Smart Person's Guide to a Few of the Latest Idiotic Talking Points

Coal and Carbon

 The talk show topic: the new EPA rules, carbon and coal.
 The talking point: “Well it won’t make a difference. The Chinese will just buy the coal and the pollution will be just as bad.”
 OK, there’s an element of truth here for sure. China is certainly not the best neighbor on the globe, and pollutants do travel on distant winds. But let’s take the specifics out of the mix for the moment…
 Why does this remind me of some kid saying to his parents, “But my friend Dean doesn’t have to eat his spinach!”
 Maybe Dean should be eating his spinach, but that’s beside the point. If eating spinach is good for junior, then he should be eating it. How permissive Dean’s parents are is beside the point.
 And if cutting down on carbon is good, no matter what China is doing, we should be doing that.

At the Point of a Rhetorically Empty Gun

 Don’t like Social Security, welfare: and social services?
 ”Ready, aim…”
 ”Forced to pay at the point of a gun!”
 Look, if you’re going to use this idiotic talking point: insist on claiming if you don’t pay what you owe eventually it might come to having guns pointed at you, at least admit that the same is true of paying taxes for the military, paying more taxes because the rich pay less than they can, or should, and paying for special exemptions/grants/eminent domain for mega corporations: all these would also be “at the point of a gun.” You know, like the very services you seem to hate some much are bloated because mega-corporations intentionally pay low wages so their employees have to use those?
 No matter what government does, or even doesn’t do, “at the point of a gun” comes into play.”
 To use a more sensible rightward talking point, “Nothing is free.”
 ”But funding the military is an enumerated power!”
 Yes, just like “general welfare” is.
 Our forefathers never intended for us to have a standing army anymore than the extensive safety net we have now. But frankly going back to no standing army makes about as much sense to me as no safety net. How much and for what are different discussions.
 Besides, you have no problem with “the point of a gun” when it comes to Stand Your Ground, even when it results in the death of a teen who was standing his ground against an unidentified stranger who appeared to be stalking him, or a racist at a gas station who hated rap and claimed he thought he saw a gun: not a hard claim to make at all, really. No problem with “at the point of a gun” when gun obsessed folks march into businesses with firearms: businesses who have asked them not to do that. Or even crazy people, terrorists and homicidal maniacs being able to use “the point of a gun,” instead of having sane laws that might keep at least a few from getting them, displaying them, marching around, or into, our schools as security guards… poorly vetted by some company hired to do security. No problem with pointing guns when someone refuses to pay a modest fee for use of public lands: a fee ranchers have been paying for a long time. You don’t even have a problem with the government pointing guns as long as it’s at protestors you don’t like.
 No, you have no problem with “at the point of a gun” at all.
 This has nothing to do with “pointing guns.”
 It has everything to do with a talking point not unlike what might drop out of the south end of a moose headed north.

Clean Coal?

 Governor of Kentucky on Sirius going on and on about “clean coal,” how it’s “new technology” we need to invest in.
 Governor of Kentucky on Sirius going on and on about “clean coal,” how it’s “new technology” we need to invest in.
 Well, I keep hearing “clean coal” is as real as the Tooth Fairy, but I don’t know for sure. They’re always working on something. But I’m guessing if I brought up solar it would be framed as some “way in the future,” which as I explained in a previous column is untrue. I have solar at my place in the Adirondacks. Is it perfect? No. Does it need improvement? Hell, yes.
 But if there is “clean coal” tech that needs improvement, then improving solar is at least as valid an idea.

Voters are Turning Against Obama this Year

 You’re kidding right? Voters hardly know there’s an election. “Hardly know” probably because if there were that much noise Republicans might risk losing big. The outraged by FOX and the faithful will vote, for sure. Guaranteed.
 But that’s not your fault. Maybe the supposed “left wing media.” But not really that much.
 You know whose fault this is?
 The leaders of the Democratic Party.
 Silence enables the opposition.

Guns (Again)

 Please, please, please stop with the “Obama’s going to take your guns” and claiming every situation would be solved by more guns. Balderdash. A dark theater filled with frightened people all having guns with some gun wearing bulletproof gear would be a recipe for more death. Teachers having guns is an invite to kids getting a hold of them and bad teachers doing bad things. Look: for years now you’ve been pushing bad memes about teachers, now suddenly you support them?
 Once again: balderdash.
 I’ve been a gun owner all my life. I lived in hunting country. Most folks are fair shots at best, panic easily and have poor judgement.
 Look, here’s my point: want to prevent gun regulation? Stop using these idiotic talking points. You’re wearing down those who might marginally be on your side. “Wearing them down” so they won’t be.

Taliban and the “Deserter” #1

 You know I don’t know this guy’s guilt, or innocence, or: if as some on the left claim, this might be some kind of organized false flag campaign where there are fake, untrue, claims being orchestrated by the right because they will do anything to get rid of Obama.
 I make no claims whatsoever in either regard.
 But one thing I do know: as in all cases this is an innocent until proven society. That was true of Zimmerman and Dunn too. Innocent until proven guilty. Period. We may talk, but we don’t convict people by accusation or rumors. We certainly don’t leave soldiers behind who are ill due to accusation or rumors.
 Was the trade unfair?
 They often are: and certainly not just under Obama, or a Democratic administration.

Taliban and the “Deserter” #2

 Once again with this talking point I hear from callers, “You on the left are calling Bergdahl a hero!” You do know we know you’re lying and making up such shisen, right?
 I go nuts when talkers on the left respond don’t call shenanigans on this by demanding they produce one quote where any talker on radio, or TV, on the left call him just a “hero:” [u]no caveats.[/u] And I call it an outright manipulative lie when anyone turns an administration comment that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s volunteering to serve his country was honorable into “what he did was honorable.”
 Yup: you’re lying.


 Last I heard this was in regards to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but to be honest I hear many advocates doing this. When arguing with someone who disagrees with you, or making any point. please check your “facts” before claiming something is a “fact.” Allegations are not “facts.” And watch calling some talk show with claims that “no one is talking about” the allegations, especially while they’re talking about them.

 And, finally, remember that hyperbole is no rational talking point. Used and framed properly hyperbole can help you make a point as long as it’s made clear you know you’re using hyperbole just to make a point. But using it as some cheap tactic without context makes you look like a liar and an idiot, and sometimes reinforce the impression you’re a thug and a bully.
 Which pretty much defines some who so frequently use these tactics and idiotic talking points these days.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2014
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

Jun. 1st, 2014

06:26 am - Inspection- Getting a Charge Out of the Sun

 This column was inspired by a Thom Hartmann program that featured a spokesperson from SAE Group talking about solar power

 I am a supporter of solar, and having a house off the grid in the Adirondacks I know it's not as "far in the future" as some would like to insist. Indeed we should have more of it now by now in this country, at least as supplemental power.
 It's not just some "tree hugger's" radical left wing fantasy. And those who just say solar is far ahead in the future always make me suspicious: for that is the best way to make damn sure it's far in the future, if not kill it entirely.
 Yet, when it comes to solar I find discussions that are less cynical of solar often equally disappointing and bothersome. For I know all too well the issue really isn't the panels, or even placement. The real issue is storage. Repeat that with me: "storage." Everyone please stop arguing about solar cells and placement. Storage is the real issue.
 Because the sun doesn't shine every day, or even some for many weeks sometimes, in some places, you have to address the storage issue with an inverter pack and maybe a small generator like mine if this is a system for one household. I like my Hondas: they sip gas where the old Onan I used to have gobbled up a gallon an hour. You can run sensitive equipment like recording gear. The Onan was too big to move with ease, greasy and sat all winter long. I can pick up one of my Honda inverters with one hand. But, still, having to have a generator at all, well the less we can do that the better, right?
 The weak link is not the solar cells, or location, it's batteries. While battery tech has improved, it hasn't improved so much for solar/inverter applications. Indeed from everything I've investigated so far dated tech: 6 volt go cart batteries, are the most affordable, and best, solution for most folks.
 So instead of polluting our skies, having miners die in mining accidents, instead we dump acid filled batteries somewhere, or try to recycle them as best we can? We could use lithium, for example, but from what I've read they can catch fire and, well, I've heard there are other problems. Lithium is used to treat folks as a psychiatric medication and has been known to be abused. Not to mention the cost.

I use lithium batteries on stage for my wireless mics. Treated right they last a long time. But I also know, unlike other batteries, I have to keep many of them and keep switching. The charge dips down faster than other batteries and it takes a while for them to recover. For a 45 minute to one hour program that works. But when you need a constant, steady, power source well... that's a problem.
 There are no perfect sources of power, true. But we can always do better, like we eventually did powering our cars, our trains, our planes... our everything.
 There are so many people who know more about all this than me, but I view myself as an advocate for the better path and I think putting more solar power for the country first before batteries may be as if we tried to sell tickets for the masses to fly commercial jets across the ocean before we actually had a workable jet.
 So here's my proposal: why don't we have a crash program to improve battery tech? A year ago my first book was published: Autocide. In the year 2020 I imagined "bio bats:" batteries that worked with microorganisms, genetically engineered, that thrive on electrical charges. The knock off batteries in my alternative timeline: algae batteries. Imagine my surprise when I found out both concepts are being worked on.
 Now imagine a Mahattan Project, moon landing or Reagan's Star Wars-like funding going to develop these concepts and more? Awards and recognition for John or Mary Q. Citizen who imagine better or offer improvements.
 No matter what we do for a source of power, or sources, better, safer batteries can only help us, down to emergency flashlights used when broken down on the highway, or the power goes out. We could have better battery tech for our cars too. Businesses with bigger dreams could offer fully charged battery packs for electric cars, inverter packs and other uses. Standardizing such things the more applications, hence more customers you can sell to.
 Again this should be rewarded, financially and bring recognition. For too long, as a society, we have been rewarding folks for coming up with different ways to screw in a screw, despite the new way being no better, or even worse. Then rewarding maybe the same company for redesigning the head of the screw to make the new, maybe inferior, screwdriver work.
 Instead of driving up to the gas station we drive up to the battery exchange. Instead of the #2 oil salesman, or the propane man, the battery pack man stops by. The same sales woman who sells us our car batteries could provide batteries using the same tech for flashlights, cell phones... the only difference: the size and shape. And the more we can standardize those the better.
 Let's encourage creativity and entrepreneurship while also rewarding those who successfully make the best tech work in all applications.
 Will there be bumps in the road? Of course. Just like there were bumps in terrible roads to making better cars. Over a century ago the head of one of the biggest providers of transportation in this country from carriages to cars said gas powered cars were, "...clumsy, dangerous, noisy brutes which stink to high heaven, break down at the worst possible moment and are a public nuisance." That was J.M. Studebaker whose family did reluctantly switch from using electric to gas engines in their cars, saving his company for another half a century.
 Not an uncommon view by any means back then when gas engine technology was young, just like solar is now. The critics of solar remind me of JM. A man named Fred Fish, "fished" the company out of a premature grave by convincing JM to sell gas powered cars. Within a few years Stude stopped selling electric cars. And solar is far better, more reliable than those smelly, smoke belching, break down frequently monstrosities during the early years of automotive history.
 Maybe it's time to look forward to switching back?
 We need to get over our timidity, stop being frightened by people who hate change, or are more interested in serving the whims of any single industry. We need to get over enough to make a better, cleaner, more healthy and brighter future. And investing in the future of battery tech, energy storage, is certainly one way to do that.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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