Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amusing Ourselves to Death

How to define our current condition... over the past two years in this blog, I've suggested the puppet master is pulling the strings and creating a population that spends it's time more concerned with American Idol than that which really matters.

Neil Postman's book - Amusing Ourselves to Death - does an amazing job of expanding and clarifying this issue. And this video does a nice job of summarizing his argument.

A number of books I've been thinking about lately are relevant to this topic:

It's interesting when you start thinking about an issue that you often find others thinking along the same lines... click here for a very good (not only because it brings my hero Joe Bageant into the conversation)piece on the subject.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More stuff that we don't care about...

The talking heads will spend this evening talking about Haley Barbour, or Sarah Palin, or the latest poll numbers, but they're not talking about this-

"The Nigerian government has dropped bribery charges against former Vice President Dick Cheney after Halliburton agreed to pay Nigeria $250 million dollars in fines"

and they sure as hell aren't going to talk about Camden, NJ. Which is sadly a model many of our communities may soon be following. As detailed in this great and disturbing piece.

And even when they do, they don't go anywhere deep enough, they never help people put stories like this last one in any context:

"This year, Wall Street’s five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses."

And because they don't when these young, bright Wall Street guys are returning home for Christmas visit their family and old friends in Toledo, Richmond, Jackson, and Dallas, the parents will gush with pride. The Wall Street boys will call a few old friends and talk about their new summer house in the Hampton’s, skiing in Jackson Hole, their own kids who are doing well at Philips Exeter and Andover Academy. The old High School friends will listen attentively and secretly long to be like their more successful friends, and they'll work to conceal their jealousy.

But because the media never connects the dots not one of these old friends will say, “Your ass needs to be locked up! Remember that old guy we went to school with? Well, he’s serving 5-10 for robbing a convenience store of $500. You’ve robbed the taxpayers of billions, and for that you got a 7 figure Christmas bonus! How do you feel that your kids got a trust fund, while his kids got a pack of underwear from a local charity for Christmas this year?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What do they really want to get done?

Do we need a better example than the last 8-10 years that the power elite play the people as complete fools?

The Republicans had the House, Senate, and Shrub for 6 years. How did they do on: abortion? balancing the budget? Hell, name any major Republican issue that they roll out every election and ask not only did they get it done, did they even bring it up for debate or a vote?

Then the Democrats had the House, Senate, and Obama for 2 years... Did we get Universal Health Care? A progressive tax rate? Increased wages for working people or more union membership? An end to these damn wars?

Neither got the job done... were they incompetent? Perhaps. Did they actually get done everything they wanted done? More likely. The rich get richer and the people still fuss and fight over trivial bullshit, spend their time watching Dancing with the Stars/American Idol, and buying cheap junk at WalMart...

Edward Bernays designed it and Noam Chomsky analyzed it... and we don't have the energy to break out of the haze.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What if the Tea Party was Black?

It's the Debt, errr Taxes, Stupid!

Ya gotta love this tax deal... the Republicans won the House by slamming the President on the debt, "lord were leaving this debt to our grandchildren" they cried. So their first big act since the election is to add BILLIONS upon BILLIONS upon BILLIONS to the debt. And the Republican base believes it's a great thing. The party has literally figured out how to to pull the strings over night. The conversation went something like this, "tell them it's about the principle of lower taxes, they'll buy it" and they did. Like the PGA Tour motto, "These guys are good"...

And the Democrats, who have shown no evidence of a backbone in years, decide after they get their arse kicked to take a stand. And it's pretty obvious they're not going to win... which probably works out well for many of them, because they can say they tried their best and still get the contributions from those that get to keep their gold via the tax cuts.

If you have tried to watch any of the major media try to talk about this issue you have probably wanted to stab you eyes out with a butter knife, it's just not watchable. But, considering that the networks are catering to the advertisers and the advertisers know the customers who buy their product, well we know that the coverage we're provided is about what we deserve. In his new blog post Joe Bageant pegs these "everyman" customers really well:

"Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman's right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That's why they are called dumb.

But throw in sixty years of television's mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain't a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk."

No, it's ain't pretty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

View from Europe

A fascinating piece here that highlights how poorly the US media does at informing, and how well the US does at propaganda...

A few excerpts:
"In the midterm elections politicians have promised to "do something" for the middle class. The kindest thing they could do is tell the truth: Americans have been living a middle-class lifestyle on working-class wages – and bridging the gap with credit."
"Some 17.4million U.S. households - 50 million people - were classified as ‘food insecure’ which meant they regularly skipped meals even if they wanted to eat. Others went for entire days without eating and handed round smaller portion sizes to make their meagre offerings suffice.

The news comes as it is revealed that top U.S. executives saw their pay and bonuses shoot up last year in the face of the worst recession for 80 years."

"Did you know that the British Telegraph newspaper says America has the least generous unemployment system? Let's consider that in Britain, their unemployment benefits never run out. Another example is in Germany, when your unemployment benefits ran out, you get unemployment assistance called HartzIV and it also never runs out. Under HartzIV, while unemployment, their people still get medical coverage. Why do the unemployed all over the European Union get medical coverage and the unemployed in America don't? Why is that? More over, why isn't the mainstream American media telling you this? Because most people in America don't know this."