“Them’s Years:” 3 Montages on America’s Political Promise

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The Creepy Things

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The creepy things are starting to creep into the Republican campaigns; the things so ugly and wrong they shut us down and leave us dispirited. How can Democrats find a path to victory through . . . → Read More: The Creepy Things

Ego Flashes: The Surreal Side of the Campaign

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American television has an ego bigger than Donald Trump’s: why else would an industry run video replays of the same 30 seconds endlessly and pretend it is news? And . . . → Read More: Ego Flashes: The Surreal Side of The Campaign

At the GOP Debate: The Evidence of Things Unseen

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Has everybody has noticed that the media is treating last night’s three hour unscripted but predictable appearance as a major source of content and performance for determining which . . . → Read More: At the GOP Debate: The Evidence of Things Unseen

Media's Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

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DDGrowing frustration exists about the role of global media in sharing the truth and facts about politics. Even the media’s cherished idea of balance has taken a slant. The American media’s direct reporting omits deep backgrounds. In print and broadcast, anonymous sources are assigned the duty of representing an ideology and attacking those who disagree. In live reports, face time is more important than oral intelligence. And no news broadcast is complete without a YouTube clip.

What recent stories has the media missed and how have the omissions affected the country?

The biggest missing story is about the media itself: it has abandoned analysis. Instead of being shaped by insights and history, or by conflict and values, stories are “blocked.” They are packaged for immediacy rather than viable information, and immediacy has come to mean any story which zooms in on a crisis in the social order, a threat to well-being or life.

Blocking a story means it will be limited to reviewing events without examining causes; limited by sensationalism that ignores the mainstream; limited by the next big story without any follow-up on the previous big story. But the story’s limits always include speculation, no-rules chatter about what happens next. Speculation, and its inaccurate prophecies, unleashed fears and violations of logic and common sense, is featured without critical review. By offering speculation, media abandons the idea of wrong or right; its stories are blocked to show who is for and who is against.

For example, in one recent big story about Ebola, a deadly, contagious virus spreading in three West African countries, media helped generated mass fear and hysteria in America. Justified by media stories, rather than experience, experts and successful protocol, civil liberties went flying out of the window faster than domestic cases of the disease, amid calls for restricted travel to and from the region.

States demanded medical professionals be quarantined even when displaying no obvious symptoms of fever and coughing. Twice-a-day telephone monitoring was put in place for persons returning from countries experiencing the Ebola epidemic. Hours of hard news time were devoted to tracking each single potential threat as the source of an impeding holocaust. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bad-mouthed a nurse who had demonstrated the courage to travel to the medical front to fight the disease by caring for infected patients.

In the midst of the Ebola fear, Congress members proclaimed the likelihood of legions of Ebola-infected terrorists arriving in Mexico, walking like zombies across unsecured borders—yet so heavily monitored by manpower and technology that enforcement agents intercepted nearly 40,000 unescorted children last year. Many of the same Congress members who conjured a deadly and imminent link between terrorists and Ebola believed this undocumented children’s crusade also had come to destroy the American way of life, stain the American Promise, and end freedom as we know it—by busting public budgets and demanding the right to education. Continue reading Media’s Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

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We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don't We Know Biomass?

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DDThe US Congress perseverates. Its new leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, have it bad. John McCain holds its longest recognized precondition. It is incurable and resists every treatment. Perseveration is a state of thought and speech, a mindset on a loop that repeats and repeats and prolongs an action long after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. Think Keystone XL. Think Keystone. A political mutation from the perseveration of Obamacare.

Perseveration is a dangerous condition. It is a frequent condition that infects terrorist leadership who carry it to inhuman extremes. At home, perseveration often occurs as a host/carrier relationship between politicians and the media. Media is highly susceptible to its effects and has created recent epidemics and panics that stem from the main condition. Fears of Ebola’s spread to US soil is one such recent incident. The grand jury verdict in Ferguson is now another.

Congressional Republicans are single-minded and love to perseverate. About the XL, they ring memes: “thousands of jobs,” thousands of jobs,” “thousand of jobs;” the loud repetition masking that the pipeline has many dirty little flaws—beginning with the misleading jobs claim. Perseverating Republicans have a wild XL jobs math that includes school crossing guards anywhere near trucks with XL equipment, the counter and register workers at the doughnut shops where the truck drivers have coffee, and the supermarket worker who sells the bread for their sandwiches and the banker who receives their mortgage.

Here’s a more accurate picture: As we know, XL pipeline construction jobs will be less than the number on any NJ-NY highrise, less than those involved in building the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The XL requires infrastructure (mainly grading, bed prep including stone and rock beds, drainage, installing braces), but is easy construction (mainly bolting and welding); these jobs will turn over swiftly as it builds out. The main impact will be in transportation and heavy equipment jobs (engaged hauling pipe sections, parts and instruments; then in lifting and positioning sections for installation, transferring and moving equipment and parts along the pipeline). Total new jobs: less than 500! New jobs lasting for more than six months: 150. Permanent jobs added to the economy: 50. Mainly for pipeline monitors, reading instruments and driving along to visually inspect the pipeline for damage and leaks.

The impact on refineries? The Texas Gulf refineries aren’t empty or idle. And no one proposes building new capacity. Net result: Jobs will remain constant; output will increase. China benefits. No tanker leaves Houston or Port Arthur empty.

The Washington Post says the economy adds the numbers of jobs provided by the XL every 10 minutes and nine seconds. Exactly the time it takes Republicans to perseverate about their lie of thousands.

The danger of perseveration is not only its exaggerated realities, but it how it pushes out new ideas and solutions and keeps them away from public attention.

Biomass is perhaps the most important green energy technology no one has heard of and for which Congress has not taken up a banner of support.

At its most basic, biomass is producing energy from organic matter; burning wood in a stove or fireplace, for example. At its most advanced, biomass energy is sustainable and an efficient recycler of bio products considered waste and left abandoned by lumber and agricultural industries. It is one of the most scalable of green technologies, and breakthroughs are happening swiftly, improving the process and dropping the costs of production and transmission.


Beaver Wood Energy, a Vermont company, reclaims forest waste from logging operations. Within a 50-mile circumference of its facilities site, 2.6 million tons of logs are harvested annually, leaving behind nearly a million tons of waste, mainly in the form of tree tops and branches stripped from the stem trucks to be used as timber in construction and craft. Continue reading We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don’t We Know Biomass?

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The Lena Dunham Press

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I didn’t know the Season 2 premier of HBO’s Girls was a monumental political event until it was covered like one by my favorite progressive magazines, TV shows, and national blogs. I was confused about why there was an avalanche of stories in political publications that don’t usually focus on entertainment.

Then I started looking at the bios of the writers. They were nearly all women in their 20s from New York, Massachusetts, and occasionally California, all with degrees from an Ivy League school or a similarly exclusive, expensive college where the wealthy send their children for finishing school. That’s, understandably, who you would expect to write a story about Girls, but I also noticed that the vast majority of stories I read in those publications come from people who share a similar background.

It’s no wonder. The shrinking news industry lays off experienced writers and reporters who are then replaced by more recent graduates at lower wages. With very few positions in the national press available, the top jobs go to writers with Ivy League degrees and the most impressive internship their parents’ connections could get them. Journalism is a fluid, fiercely competitive profession that increasingly appeals only to those who have the privilege of not needing to worry about job stability or supporting a family on their income.

Consequently, we have a national press and pundit corps filled with excellent, well-educated writers with relatively little experience and a background unlike most of their readers. They find it completely relateable and realistic to watch a show about a young woman living in the nation’s most expensive apartment market, whose major life crisis is that her parents might cut her off, making it marginally more difficult to live a lifestyle completely out of reach for 99% of the country.

The national press based in NYC and DC have long had trouble covering stories in “flyover country” and anything related to organized labor. It’s hard to see that getting better with a press corps who are more likely to have visited Denmark than a factory in the small town South. It might be why, for example, I see a string of national stories about fracking in New York, but rarely anything about the much more damaging impacts of coal mining in rural Illinois and Kentucky. Continue reading The Lena Dunham Press

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Free Speech and Those Rubbernecking Toilet Smells

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The new Republican marketing plan is a reset; it says it is still okay to restrict the rights of women regarding their own bodies and their incomes, it is okay to stop accusing Hispanics of taking American jobs as long as they are not offered US citizenship any time soon, and it is okay to curse blacks long and loud since they now can’t be lynched or fired. (Remember, this is Republican thinking.)

The media continues to sidestep the GOP’s widening ideology of blame, especially the ideology’s populist use of speech as a hammer to forge negative action and ideas. Although heavily rooted in politics, blame is maintained primarily as a social media form. It’s adapted from hate radio (different from talk radio!), which develops and disperses its inverted ideas of denial and blame.

It develops among those whose priorities see the word as a weapon and put violence before peace. Its world view assumes those with whom its practitioners disagree have a hidden, winner-take-all agenda leading to a society regulated and controlled by occupation and door knocks. This world view equates restraint with control; its practitioners feel suffocated by any social responsibility. Its expressions give voice to the triggered temptations of wanna-be warriors to take down their perceived foes as they themselves fall. Having failed in defining progress and gaining power, or in protecting the status quo, the temptation to defile one and all is strong among them, and even defeats undeniable logic.

Their ideology of blame wears the mask of freedom (the idea of unconstrained freedom, free of responsibilities or constructive engagement) and uses the web, (Twitter, blogs and websites, YouTube) as its negative amplifier, looping and streaming its feedback. It behaves as hundreds of Peeping Toms, prowling digital windows for targets. Words are their stones.

Recently, a woman was fired for posting a picture online of two men engaged in inappropriate conversation about the First Lady; it continued after she reported it. Her employer, hit with a denial-of-service web attack, blamed her; it was the excuse for her firing.

Behind her firing was the ideology of blame. It found a sympathetic supporter in her employer. No longer about error, blame now implies and commands silence. It doesn’t mean limit your protest; it means limit yourself. Accept the great lie of because. Continue reading Free Speech and Those Rubbernecking Toilet Smells

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Dear Alleged News Reporter/Journalist

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As I read the various articles, blogs, and political message boards discussing the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I can’t help but be reminded of the brave men and women of the mainstream media, who – as the nation stood poised to launch on a misadventure of mammoth proportions and unimagined consequences – picked up their poms-poms and cheer-led a president and an administration that had already proven themselves to be incompetent decision-makers at best, and lying warmongers at worst.

Of course, we all now know the latter proved to be the case, beyond all reasonable doubt.

So I thought this would be an appropriate time to ask a few questions of our illustrious “news reporters/journalists”, with a view to getting some answers that might enlighten us all as to exactly what it is that causes once-aspiring truth-tellers to turn into people who will lie to their own countrymen in order to make a buck.

My questions are as follows:

When you find your vision completely obscured as though you are trapped in a narrow, dark tunnel, do you immediately realize that the sensation is caused by your head being, yet again, stuck firmly up your own ass? As a follow-up question: When your head is stuck up inside someone else’s ass, can you tell the difference between one asshole and another?

At what point in your career did you lose your ethics? Was it all at once, or was it due to a gradual wearing away of that part of you where your obligation to your profession and your loyalty to your fellow citizens also used to be?

Has the term “journalistic non-integrity” become part of the reporters’ lexicon, or do you pretend amongst yourselves that you still have integrity, all evidence to the contrary? Or have you simply changed the definition of the word “integrity” to now mean a lack thereof , in which case you can proudly boast that you are indeed – uh, full of it.

Does your paycheck include bonuses for things like (a) being a spineless shill for the corporations that own your network or sponsor your “news” programming, (b) perfecting the art of “going to commercial” when someone confronts you with the truth, (c) standing outside in a hurricane because your viewers are too fuckin’ stupid to know what a hurricane is without constant visual reminders each time one occurs?

Are fledgling on-air newscasters expected to be able to lie convincingly from their first day on the job? Or are occasional slip-ups, where actual facts might be inadvertently blurted out, overlooked due to whatever remaining vestiges of truth-telling they learned in journalism class having not been completely expunged – yet?

Do you ever experience a twinge of conscience when you look straight into the camera and lie to the American public? Or was your conscience surgically removed as part of the terms of your employment?

Did you ever want to grow up to be a conscientious news reporter? Or did you always want to grow up to be a professional propagandist who will say anything for money?

Can you pinpoint the day you decided to sell your soul for financial compensation? Do you celebrate the anniversary of that day each year by buying yourself something extravagant as a reminder of exactly why selling your soul was worth it? Continue reading Dear Alleged News Reporter/Journalist

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A State of the Union Address Filled with Common Sense

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My first college course in anthropology instilled in me a profound appreciation for best practices. It’s been a personal mission to uncover the best ideas and chart how they work, identifying their structures and functions. One discovery has been that even bad ideas can work well. It sounds strange, but the success of an idea often has nothing to do with its truth or level of insight. Its power and influence has more to do with its context and how it functions with other assumptions and tasks.

We would all prefer strong ideas that work well. Alaska’s Iditarod grips my imagination most winters, more than the State of the Union. The long distance grit of lead dogs Andy, Larry, and Granite guiding teams through 50-50-50s—winds 50 miles an hour, temperatures 50 degrees below, with visibility less than 50 feet—across wilderness and glaciers is a test of endurance rarely seen in politics. And the Iditarod offers equal opportunity. Susan Butcher won three in a row and four out of five between 1986 and 1990, and once had two dogs killed mid-race by a pregnant moose.

Last night’s State of the Union had Speaker Boehner making pregnant moose faces; his uncomfortableness with the President’s proposals was obvious—but was it a bad idea that served, from Boehner’s view, a good intent? Did it function to keep the GOP brand alive, apart from the pockets of craziness where they are winning elections, winning not really based on their platform of budgets (most states have laws that require balanced budgets), but more on hot button issues like immigration and race, or winning in one-party states out west?

The President, often criticized as a poor team player, continued to prove he is an effective leader (Susan Butcher’s dog Granite suffered from the same criticism!) with good ideas.  He has also proven he can outrun the lumbering herds of opponents who have not adapted to the new environment and are using outmoded best practices.

The silent test of last night’s State of the Union was to outflank Ronald Reagan. Even President Obama has described Reagan as someone who reset the arc in America’s politics. Yet we forget the circumstances of that reset. Reagan created the meme that all of the problems of society were created by government excess. But what were the problems?

Women pushing for access to opportunity and self-determination, blacks refusing to be exploited, physically intimidated or discriminated against; massive resistance to corporate interests; food purchased from the bins of co-ops rather than on sale in plastic packages and cans stocked by chains. Reagan realized that the government protected those actions and had played a major part in expanding these rights. He coined the idea that government “created” these problems and caused the disturbing sight of school kids being bused and women deciding about pregnancy, and colleges graduating more critical thinkers who challenged the system and the status quo. The government didn’t reflect the will of the people, the people reflected the will of the now all-powerful government. But without the help of government, the gains of the people probably couldn’t be sustained.

In Reagan’s view, stop government, stop the advance of the people. He couldn’t sell an attack against the people—couldn’t demagogue blacks, women, youth as the problem (which for conservatives, they were!)—so he brilliantly assigned blame to government and used exaggerated stereotypes to knock it down. The welfare queen and other non-existent stories were repeated until the bad idea of government’s bad ideas became the Republican best practice for winning elections. Even Reagan’s ideology of cutting taxes to provide greater wealth to the rich didn’t happen during his administration, but the idea survived and is the basis of Republican policy today.

Despite widespread thinking that liberalism (again a code word for blacks, women and youth, packaged as “growing government”) was dead, Barack Obama somehow made it through and revived it in his first term. No matter; the new GOP plan was to blame his success and go after the old groups with a vengeance. If the stimulus succeeded, blame Obama for its size. If the economy recovered, blame entitlements, loudly arguing it could be even better without them. Turn obstruction into patriotism. Sprinkle the discussion with a little of the sour sickness of race—always heretofore cured by blaming the victim. Continue reading A State of the Union Address Filled with Common Sense

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