Whiskey Tango Foxtrot … again

28 08 2009

Sometimes, I wonder why it is such a shock (to me) that the regular media outlets fail so astonishingly at providing anything which vaguely fits the description of “news”. Instead of the hard-hitting journalism of Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite, we are treated to a journalistic, infotainment-like art product.

For example, when the people of  Iran were struggling against the despotic control of their government, the media profoundly and unbelievably dropped the ball. After ignoring the story for weeks in the desperate hope that the whole thing would just go away if they pretended it didn’t exist, the mainstream media giants finally dipped a toe into the waters of actual journalism. For a moment. The media giants were saved from having to provide meaningful content by the death of an aging pedophile 1980’s pop star.

Astronomers announce that they have detected clouds of methane on Titan. A woman who had been kidnapped by religious nutjobs, then imprisoned and raped repeatedly for eighteen years was finally freed. The Afghan election results are still unpublished amid rumors of scandal. The state of California is auctioning off public assets in a frantic attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Wars continue in Africa and parts of Asia. Mexico is on the verge of dissolving into warring bands of narco-warlords. With all of this important stuff going on, what are we treated to in the mainstream media?

The life and miracles of Saint Chappaquiddick.

Here is yet more evidence of the media’s inability to deliver actual news:

political-pictures-jon-stewart-journalist-appalled

It is (or should be) deeply disturbing that the best news delivery services come from a late-night comedian on basic cable and a news-aggregator website which was started with a picture of a squirrel with large testicles. Both of these sources (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and FARK.com, respectively) made their bones making fun of media hypocrisy and mocking journalistic failures. And yet, more and more people are getting in-depth coverage of important stories from these sources.

Local news programs are not immune from the lure of journalistic bubble-gum. The most watched news program in the Shallow South ran in-depth features on Michael Vick’s return to professional football for the first ten minutes of each broadcast for weeks. The daily rag in my town is just as bad. It is becoming a chore to search out real news anymore.

By contrast, Jon Stewart gets policymakers and other newsmakers on his show all the time. In-depth interviews are frequently conducted. Since The Daily Show is just a half-hour long (22 minutes of actual airtime), these interviews are often truncated when the show runs out of time, but the full, unedited interview is always available for free on Comedy Central’s website immediately after the broadcast. Why can’t the mainstream “news” organizations do this better? They have manpower and budgets many times greater than Jon Stewart and his band of happy wombats at The Daily Show.

Worse still is the miserable showing of the large news conglomerates in comparison to FARK. When major events take place, FARK is usually far ahead of the major media news programs- often by hours. Thousands of people, many of them local to the story or even part of it, post comments on FARK’s message boards. Facts are checked against available evidence and sources are vigorously vetted for bias by a totally unpaid army of basement-swelling troglodytes. Several hours before the regular media released information about the Garridos (from the kidnapping and rape saga in California this week), people on FARK had already searched out their names and aerial photos of their home. The man’s blog and website were posted on FARK at least a day before that information was released in the national media. I have already written at length about the media’s failure to cover the turmoil in Iran.

Once, there were giants. People who strode through the most important stories of their time and got at the facts behind the public story. Men and women who actually wrote the things they later reported on TV or radio or in print. Those men and women are all gone, now. All we have left are empty-headed mouthers of gibberish masquerading as news, who are too incompetent to be trusted to write their own material. Plastic Barbies and Kens with so little intellectual capacity that they would read a murder confession if it happened to be displayed on a teleprompter.

Assuming I am not typing these words for my own sole amusement, you may ask yourself how this happened. I can answer that. We made it happen.

Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow would never be stars if they were getting started in journalism today. They aren’t pretty. At best, they might get jobs writing material for the animatronic droids in front of the cameras to parrot. We are apparently more comfortable getting our news from soulless drones who look nice than from someone who actually knows whereof they speak. As long as the talking head on TV is attractive and generic, we don’t seem to mind that our “news” sources have dumbed-down the material they present to the level single-celled organisms can accept. “Oooh! Lookit! A scary fire happened on the way to work today. You like looking at pretty fire, don’t you? Yes, you do. There’s a good little consumer. Aren’t you a good little consumer? Yes, you are.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Worlds Away by Strange Advance

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Sick and Tired

23 08 2009

Against my better judgement, I’m going to hurl myself into the breach of rational debate regarding the proposed reformation of health care in the US. This action I deem necessary due to the total lack of rational debate on the subject. Demagogues and pundits on all sides are substituting volume for facts.

Please take a moment and review the Constitution of the United States, particularly Article I. This article identifies the powers and limitations of Congress. Please note that this was written a long time ago by men who were among the intelligentsia of their place and time. They realized that they could not possibly foresee every aspect of future life in their newborn nation, and accordingly wrote the operating instructions to be a broad as possible.

This particular section (Section 8, appropriately enough) of the article seems to be the operative one:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Note that there is nothing specifically written permitting Congress to deal with something as complex as modern health care. Congress was never intended to be so deeply enmeshed in the private lives and businesses of the citizens. This was originally assumed to be a power relegated to the States. That said, the first paragraph might contain a loophole, sufficient for Congress to interfere in the day-to-day lives of the citizens.

provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

Here’s where the baby goes out the airlock: Congress is empowered to provide for the general welfare of the United States.

The Founders made their Constitution deliberately ambiguous to allow for changing circumstances in a future they could not foresee. Many legislators are lawyers. Lawyers just love to make hay by wringing whatever meaning they can from ambiguous legislation. And therein lies the problem today.

Looking at the offending paragraph one way, Congress must provide for the general welfare of the United States as an entity. Therefore, Congress should not have the power to get involved in health care. On the other hand, the citizens are part of the United States, so one could use the exact same paragraph to justify Congress getting mixed up in private health care decisions. It is the nature of Government to create more government. Given that, Congress will interpret their operating instructions (the Constitution) in such a way that suits Congress’ purpose.

I am personally horrified at the idea of the US Government providing health care. I have lived through that while I was on active duty and since then through the Veteran’s Administration. Due to my service-connected disabilities, I am entitled to “free” medical care from the VA. And yet, I have private health insurance. I pay roughly five thousand dollars a year to a health insurance company because government-managed health care sucks donkey balls.

It is a truism that Congress is the opposite of progress. The US government is patently incapable of efficiency or cost-effectiveness. It is not possible for the Government to make a profit- government is inherently wasteful. It is often, however, useful and necessary.

Let us now cut through the layers of bullshit being tossed about by everyone involved in this alleged “debate”. There are US citizens who- for a variety of reasons- do not have access to adequate health care (however one defines “adequate”). Most of those citizens are living below the poverty line or are otherwise on government assistance of one sort or another. The government programs put in place to help those people are so badly managed that they risk bankrupting the entire nation and still fail to deliver adequate health care to those dependent upon it. We, the People, have a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. It is an inherent responsibility in our status as citizens and as humans.

If Congress insists upon trying to “fix” health care, let them create a program to help those who need it. The vast majority of Americans do not need the Gummint’s help to get adequate health care. Junk the Medicare program and replace it with a program allowing people making less than the poverty line to get medical care for a nominal fee per month. This care would be in the form of an identity card issued by the Government which would allow the card holder to get whatever medical care is required at any hospital. Card-holders who manage to get themselves out of poverty and no longer require the card will be required to maintain the nominal fee until any costs incurred while in the program are repaid.

As for the rest of us, we’re going to have to pay into this program as well. The hundred and fifty million or so workers in this country are going to pay a little more in taxes to cover this program. Done properly, this could take care of the so-called “health care crisis” without violently ass-raping the Republic to death. All of the various bills being bandied about in Congress are horrible examples of legislation. Here’s a clue to everyone in Congress: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Because the current “debate” is making me sick and tired.

Current status: Annoyed

Current music: Bad Day by Daniel Powter





Scraps of Consciousness

16 08 2009

For those of you might be paying attention, I’ve been absent for a bit. In lieu of the usual rant, here are some bits and pieces.

MOONBAT ALERT

Can somebody please tell me why Cynthia McKinney continues to get press coverage? She is not a member of congress- or any other elected body. She does not fit the usual definition of “celebrity”. And yet, she continues to attention-whore her way into the news cycle at least once a month.

ATHLETES FOOT ON THE TONGUE

Queen Nancy has managed to win the Hypocrite of the Month Award just before undergoing surgery to remove both feet from her mouth. Despite her outspoken support of organized liberal groups disrupting town hall meetings, she has apparently decided that organized conservative groups disrupting town hall meetings is some kind of sinister conspiracy. An “un-American” sinister conspiracy, no less.

This was stupid back when the Bush Administration tried to classify all dissent as treason, and its still stupid now. A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but stupid inconsistency is the trademark of the hypocrite. How does this imbecile continue to win re-election? Are the other choices that much worse? Since she is from California, I am forced to concede the possibility.

DEADMAN DICK SPEAKETH

Speaking of weapons-grade hypocrisy, ex-Veep Cheney has been holding forth (at length) in the media about his thoughts and opinions. For those of you who couldn’t bear to pay attention over the last eight years or so, this is the same man who willfully dodged media attention, public scrutiny, and even Congressional subpoenas when he was in office. When his opinion actually mattered, he was nowhere to be found. Now that he’s a used-to-be, we can’t seem to avoid him.

Clue time: Hey, Dick! When the majority of the country sees you as a sinister, Machiavellian figure, complaining that the President started ignoring your advice and acting “independent” is not going to win you any points. Just take your retirement check and fade into oblivion as quietly as possible.

SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATER

As I predicted, the American people rapidly lost interest in the tragedy happening in Iran. Driven by the lack of overt, graphic video coverage from the feckless media, the masses of US consumers drifted blindly off to the next manufactured outrage. In the meantime, thousands of people have literally disappeared, violent oppression of all dissent continues unabated on the streets in Tehran and other cities, and spasms of protest keep recurring every forty days or so. Oh, yeah- Ahminadinnerjacket was sworn in as President of Iran. The rest of the world greeted the news with a collective yawn.

SICK AND TIRED

I’ve tried to avoid weighing in on the health-care debate. I rarely watch TV, but the little I do watch is saturated with the trials and tribulations of the various health care reform bills being bandied about. Here’s my take:

The system we have now (more or less private industry and free market controlling prices and access to health care) is chaotic and inconsistent. Anecdotal evidence from the UK, Canada, and other places seem to indicate that government-run health care is somewhat less chaotic and somewhat more consistent. Several people who probably don’t know any better have chimed in that the US military has government-run health care. This idea sends a shiver down my spine. The country at large does not- repeat, NOT– want to be subjected to military-style healthcare. Military health care (Tricare for active-duty personnel and the VA for veterans) are hardly models of efficiency and high standards. I have lived through both, and they suck. We already have a government health care plan. It is called Medicare. It sucks. It is marginally better than nothing at all.

Given that the Gummint is incapable of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, I fail to understand why anyone would be interested in a government-run health care system. Those who can afford health insurance and want it already have it. Those who want health insurance and cannot afford it are eligible for Medicare. If they want better medical care than the Gummint provides, they’ll have to pay for it themselves, somehow. Forcing me to pay for everyone else’s health care is hardly a viable option.

SHRILL AND IGNORANT IS NO WAY TO GO THROUGH LIFE, SON

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, the media managed to manufacture another tempest-in-a-teapot to distract the viewers from the real issues. President Obama was going to be speaking at a high school about health care, and thousands of citizens showed up to advocate one side or another of the debate. Instead of providing actual journalism, however, the media decided to focus on the fact that one of the people outside the venue was carrying a pistol on his hip.

Alarm! Fake outrage! Shrill screeching and squawking from the talking heads! Frantic gesturing and pontificating!

Let’s take a look at the actual facts, shall we?

1- New Hampshire is an open-carry state. This means that any citizen can carry a loaded firearm in public at his or her discretion. There are a few restrictions on places where firearms are not permitted, but the law is fairly clear that wearing a pistol in a holster is not a problem. In addition, according to friends of the man in question, he always carried a gun.

2- The man in question was not a threat to the President. He was contacted by the Secret Service and the police and reminded to stay 1,000 feet from the school, and he complied immediately. If the Secret Service (who are understandably jumpy and disinclined to laxity on the subject of Presidential security) did not have a problem with the armed citizen, why did the media start foaming at the mouth on the subject?

3- When interviewed later by one of the talking heads, the armed citizen was asked if the gun was loaded. WTF? Carrying an unloaded gun would have been stupid beyond belief. I have always held that the media talking heads are ignorant fools, but this was a stupid question- even for them. Here’s a much better question: Were you trying to foment an incident, or are you just stupid? See? That wasn’t too difficult, and I never took any journalism classes in college.

BAREFOOT BUM

I note with sadness that the Barefoot Bum has chosen to quit blogging. He and I rarely saw eye-to-eye, but he always presented a sound argument and had an excellent grasp of fact and theory. He’ll be missed.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time for more observations of the idiotic and ridiculous.

Current status: Annoyed

Current music: Coffee Song by Soul Coughing