Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birds of a Feather

The more I am involved in local politics and neighborhood issues the more I am coming to realize that most people tend to seek out those who share their already held beliefs and look for reinforcement versus critical analysis. Have we become a country that is so entrenched in ideology that facts have become nonessential to rational discussion? My fear is that we have become a nation of intellectually lazy people who would rather have their news and facts spoon fed to them by the likes of Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. It appears that the more technology we incorporate into our society the less many of us read, study, and work to understand the nuisances of different issues. Instead of witnessing accurate and factual discussions we have become spectators to a drunken family brawl, where facts are replaced with family indignation.

To see evidence of this phenomenon one only has to look as far as the popularity of not just “news shows” that encourage cacophony versus discussion but also the daily blurring of the line between entertainment and news. So much of what we call news today is manufactured news designed to sell dog food. Regardless of what you feel about Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and their ilk they sell a lot of dog food. If you are able to garner an audience of 10-20% of 300 million people that makes you a player in this new world of newstainment. Facts are optional and if you misrepresent the truth you can always state that you have been given the ability to read minds and know the hearts of others. Remember, the goal is to sell dog food and once you accept that fact and you still rely on these “news outlets” to provide you with your information then you have gone beyond intellectual slothfulness and have graduated to dim-wittedness.

How many times have we been told by these news insiders that the public option was dead? How many times have we been told that President Obama was not tough enough, not engaged enough, not you “fill in the blank” enough? I am reminded of the news coverage of the past election and how we were led to believe that the election was always in doubt despite huge leads in the polls these pundits continued to tell us how it was too close to call. I wish I could say it is just the wingnuts who perpetrate this fraud on the American public, but all of the networks play this game. They are all in the business to sell dog food. Many people believe that television is about the shows and that the commercials are just the filler, the truth is that the shows are the filler and the commercials are why television was invented and maintained the way that it is. I say all this to say that I think much of our intellectual stupor has been supported by the wealthy and crafted by the media so that our population remains easy to govern and easily deceived.

Even politicians have become well schooled in the art of the sleight of hand. As these health care bills proceed toward passage watch how many of these anonymous small or unpopulated state politicians try to hold sway on the debate in an attempt to elevate their status and take advantage of their 15 minutes of fame.The latest contestant in the health care sweepstakes is Joe Lieberman that stalwart of independence that was all set to become John McCain’s running mate until the demographics proved that the day of two old white guys ruling America had died a fitting and long overdue death. Much has been made by the pundits and the “news outlets” concerning Mr. Lieberman’s intention to side with Republicans to filibuster a health care bill with a public option. Since the election when was the last time any of us have seen Joe Lieberman on primetime anything? He was close to making his “Dancing with the Stars” debut, but like a modern day Lazarus he continues to rise and be the gift that keeps on giving to the Democratic Party. Who among us that is not selling their prescription for Prozac on Craig’s list believes that Joe Lieberman is an Independent? But let no one be fooled, Joe Lieberman needs the Democrats and recognizes like the rest of us that the chances of the Republicans coming out of the wilderness anytime soon is like the proverbial snowball in hell. The Democratic Party and this administration have the keys to the city and will have them for some time to come, so while Connecticut maybe the epicenter for insurance companies, Joe Lieberman has to deliver more than 40 million new customers to the insurance lobby. So despite his proud display of Republican colors not even Lieberman wants to be the one man who blocked healthcare reform in America.

So cheer up folks, there will be healthcare reform this year. Will it be everything that progressives want? Of course not, but what troubles me the most about progressives is that sometimes they are as intellectually as lazy as wingnuts. If you study history and large scale legislation they were all begun with the foundation being laid and each subsequent Democratic majority has added to it to make it what it has become. The social security we have today is not the program created by Roosevelt. What is important here and must be different for real reform to take place is that there must be a solid foundation upon which future Congresses can build. By the time this debate is over there will be a number of no’s that will turn into yeses and more than a few birds whose feathers will change. And don’t forget to keep buying that dog food.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Disputed Truth

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Opinions are like…

As I watch more and more coverage from media outlets of interviews with “average Americans” giving “their opinions” I become less believing of the common political and media mantra of the intelligence of the average American. While there are many Americans who are politically, financially, and socially savvy, there is also a large number who are not. My question is, “Are all opinions of equal value?”

An example would be a major medical operation, is my opinion as layman of the same value as that of say a neurosurgeon? Is an uninformed, illogical opinion of equal worth as someone who has spent years studying, reading, and researching an issue? I believe there are three categories of thought in this country and most of us fit into some combination of the three.

• There is the category of critical thinkers who research and study a broad range of issues. This group not only seeks information that reinforces currently held beliefs but also information that challenges these beliefs. This group is not led by a personality but by the pursuit of information wherever it may lead them.

• The next category is the group that is ignorant (they don’t know something) and blissfully so. They don’t hold any concrete ideological views. This group is content to be ignorant but entertained. They will seek information only when it is relevant to something going on in their lives at that moment. This group is not led by any personality per se, but by the media or entertainers. They gain much of “their opinions” from television dramas, sit-coms, and shows like Oprah, Entertainment Tonight, etc.

• The final category is the group who is also ignorant (they don’t know things) and are opposed to learning them. They chant with pride we don’t know anything and we don’t want to know anything. This group is anti-information that does not reinforce their currently held positions. This group is led by personalities like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

One of our greatest strengths as a nation is our defense of the individual. One of our greatest weaknesses as a nation is the elevation of the individual over the group. I don’t believe people around the world are smarter than we are, but are raised in a different culture. Many of them are raised in a culture that understands the need that sometimes the group’s survival trumps the individual. They appear to have a better understanding of their place in the world. There are many in this country that still believe in a certain manifest destiny that we have somehow been selected by some supreme being to rule the world and if anyone disagrees with our world vision then damn them. It is this attitude that has made nations that were once allies, now foes. It is this belief that allowed George W. to declare that God had chosen him to be President and so many people never batted an eye.

As our new President accepts the Nobel Peace Prize I hope we all remember that he does not have the accomplishments of some past recipients, but he is still our President. We should all feel a sense of national pride that the rest of the world thinks enough of him to give him such a great honor. If I am at a game and as an American I am cheering for a team and I look to my right and see Hamas wearing the same jersey I am and I look to my left and see al Qaeda wearing the same jersey I am wearing you would think maybe I would begin to wonder if I am cheering for the wrong team. But that’s just my opinion and we all know that opinions are like buttholes, everybody has one and most of them stink!

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - Elbert Hubbard

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Are Expendable

This blog is to that 20-25% of the population that has now become expendable to our economy. When we switched from a manufacturing based economy to a market based economy the need for a large work force became unnecessary. As our manufacturing infrastructure was being dismantled more and more of our people became expendable and many of those workers were the low skilled and under educated. In a manufacturing economy there is a need for low skilled and low educated workers to learn repetitive skills to keep the manufacturing machinery humming.

We as a nation must come to grips with the fact that we are a declining empire. Instead of reinvesting in our infrastructure and in our people we have chosen to invest in those whose only job is to perpetuate this false notion of selling crap as if it were gold. Our markets today are based on this notion that things that have no value are valuable. When you discontinue manufacturing products then the only methods for creating wealth is to create false markets of false worth. A good example would be the derivatives market that were bought and sold globally as valuable commodities when the reality was they were worthless. What we have created as an economy is a giant ponzi scheme where those on the top continue to prosper while those in the middle and especially those on the bottom continue to suffer. What has always amazed and intrigued me is how the wealthy have convinced the middle class to vote for policies that are in direct contradiction to their own interests. Policies that have allowed the top 1% of our population to double their wealth in the last decade while their tax liabilities have continued to decrease. As any historian knows the great empires of the past have not fallen from the assaults of outside foes but because of internal excesses that were allowed to fester until they crushed these empires.

The question now becomes what do we do with these expendable people. The answer we have come up with is to warehouse them. We warehouse them in our inner city ghettos and in our prison system. We have created a permanent underclass with little or no hope for mobility. These folks live on the margins of our society. These folks don’t vote nor do they participate in the larger efforts of our society. We have created a false economy for them to participate in (illegal drugs) but it is an economy where we control the winners and losers. We control this false economy by the people we target to prosecute for their illegal activities. Can any of us honestly believe that if we as a nation did not want illegal drugs in this country we could not prevent their introduction or at least decrease their availability? We lie to ourselves and say we want to educate, train, and employ them, but my question is this even if you educate and train them what jobs will they have? It is not enough to train and educate people if you don’t have industries to employ them. We must create industries to provide employment opportunities for these forgotten people. If we don’t then we will not have enough prison or ghetto space to house them.

We need to have an honest conversation with ourselves and with our politicians and stop the lying. We have to as a nation be willing to accept the truth and the reality of our position. Those of us in the bottom 99% of the population who has not seen their wealth double must unite and demand that the wealth of our nation be distributed in a more equitable manner. We need political leaders who have the wisdom and the political will to create a new deal that focuses on reestablishing our manufacturing infrastructure. We must put an end to this giant pyramid scheme we currently call our economy. Let’s be clear those other empires saw the issues that would be their undoing, but chose to ignore them and continue down the path of self destruction. My fear and my guess is that we will do likewise and sit quietly on the airplane as it continues to descend into the ground. We will continue to focus on the minutia that the wealthy continues to feed us to keep us from discussing the real issues that we face as a nation. An example would be the current healthcare debate. Who among us does not believe that our current healthcare system is broken and will bring our economy to a crashing stop? Yet, rather than be able to agree on what we all know are the facts we allow the wealthy to turn this into a partisan debate of philosophy. Why do we believe that we are right and the rest of the industrialized world is wrong? The only thing we are missing is Nero fiddling. Nero where are you when your country needs you?

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