Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Think When You Can Have Someone Else Do The Thinking For You? Part One of a Commentary on the Current State of the Media

The media and I are engaged in an abusive relationship... When we got hitched, we were both young, idealistic and most importantly naïve. She looked fine to me once, she engaged in hard-hitting/ investigating journalism that looked out for the little guy and rocked my world... Then she was seduced by the glamour of a world that we were not members of and the affairs with her bosses began. Woeth me, I tolerated it because of the woman she once was... But she is unrecognizable to me now, if she is not carrying on about her bosses political philosophies then she prattling on about some vapid celebrity gossip. Needless to say, it has make dinner time intolerable.

Much like religion and government, the media and politics were meant to be separate --in an ideal world-- from the particular political belief system of those who own it. (Or at least make an attempt to hide the bias) In fact, the government went as far as mandating requiring equal representation during election cycles among other requirements. (Admirable but no one adheres to such things.) We live in a completely different media landscape now as six --its really 5... CBS and Viacom are essentially the same company--separate media entities control a vast majority of the media outlets in this country. This was achieved through a series of "mergers and acquisitions, allowing for the concentration of control over what the average citizen sees, hears and reads."

There certainly exists a frightening potential for abuse that is aided by the apathy of the average media consumer. Hark, do I hear the usual criticisms already off in the distance... "Who gives a crap?," "Oy, Chicken Little is the sky falling again?" or "Are some kind of idiot, the concentration/ privatization of industry is what makes America great."

Honestly, it is very unlikely (ever the hopeless optimist) that the six media conglomerates will relinquish their stranglehold on American culture, commercial and ultimately thought. One also has to consider that several of these companies have holdings diverse enough that government interference would be nigh impossible. Now, remember that when you are enjoying that awesome episode of "Heroes," NBC's parent company, GE --General Electric-- is busy building engines for the U2 bomber, Apache attack helicopter and F-16 among many other machines of war.

The point remains the same, you cannot expect a company nor a system to abandon business practices in which they make a profit. (Which is the point of man's existence, naturally) Do they know they are selling tripe to the masses? You bet, that's why there is an obvious reluctance to try anything that goes against a proven formula. Why do you think there are so many "reality" based "talent" competitions/ game shows or poorly scripted medical/ cop dramas on television. The problem is not whether or not you watch copious amounts of television but rather if you are aware that you are being sold the message of a multinational corporation --either for commercial or political purposes-- through the airwaves. (The latter depending on what you watch) The more I think about it, the less convinced I am about a person's ability to delineate between what it sees on television or the opinions read and heard on the radio and the entities that control these media outlets. They called it the Age of Information but easily has become the Age of --Filtered-- Information packaged to specific demographics... It has become a process that promotes complacency in the viewer, with the goal to have said viewer vote a certain way and consume products that one does not really need. This is the unpleasant truth that is buried beneath a deluge of commercials and commentary beamed to millions homes daily.


I came across a quote by Jaron Lanier that summarizes my point exactly: "Without an independent press, composed of heroic voices, the collective becomes stupid and unreliable." He also says that history is full of ample examples that demonstrate this position... I suppose I will leave that to the next installment.

A Bumper Sticker is not the Venue to Discuss Your Deceased Relative... Have You Put Thought Into a T-Shirt?

Let me set the scene, I was driving down the freeway, on my way to work, attempting to enjoy the sights the city in which I live has to offer. Who doesn't enjoy granite factories and mining operations, Commies and big city liberals with their fancy private school educations... I reckon... Excuse me, I have to spit my snuff into my brass spittoon...P'ting! I digress...

Usually, I spend my time in rush hour examining the bumper stickers of cars and airing my frustrations with them to myself. For the most part, I hate bumper stickers --since most of them are on beat up trucks and their messages tend to whine about how the Democrats are taking our guns, immigration or conversely praise an oppressive form of government... "thank a cop..." Ugh.-- unless they are clever and can elicit a chuckle. The following is an example of why I hate bumper stickers.

However, I saw one this morning that was --to be honest-- slightly odd. It read: "Someone I love was murdered" and was promoting Victims Rights. I still cannot make heads or tails about this. Who does not support Victims Rights? I think it is in poor taste to the deceased's memory to plaster this to the bumper of an automobile. I am still a little bothered by that. Its one thing to advocate victims rights --in fact good on you--, it is quite another to broadcast that someone was murdered, someone you love no less. Then I immediately assumed she just purchased a bumper sticker that had "shock value" for an issue, not that she actually suffered the trauma associated with loss such as that. As I pushed the bumper sticker to the back of my mind, I pulled up next to her, shot her a smile (What can I say, I am a nice guy)... To which she responded with a scowl. After cursing up a storm --while condemning bumper stickers of all shapes and sizes-- and holding up traffic, I composed myself, only to finish my commute in the sourest of moods.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Political Novice Announces Candidacy, Warms the Cockles of This Writer's Heart and Obtains First Vote in Process.

In an effort to seem more light-hearted and fancy free, I have devised a series of mini-blogs devoid of the ever-present cynicism of the others...

You know the 2010 midterm elections are right around the corner and the decision of who to vote for to represent your state as Senator can be a difficult one. (Unless your state does not have a seat coming up for election) Not for me though... It is a no-brainer.

I am a resident in a state where no candidate is compelling. The Democrats usually run the first guy they meet on a street corner. Whereas the Republicans are currently engaged in a bitter turf war between a corrupt ex-Congressman/ Sportscaster and the man who introduced Sarah Palin to the American political scene.

I know what you are thinking... Not third party, Manny... No! Anything but that, why don't you just throw your vote away. Have no fear Kodos; I am hitching my proverbial wagon to this third party candidate, he is not only the most qualified but also the most adorable... Sorry John McCain.

Meet Roscoe P. Meowington III, he's an American Shorthair with a simple agenda, a fish in every home stewing in a pot. He is good with kids and professes to be "lovable, playful and has a working knowledge of the litter-box." His platform is standard "green" fare, he has strong environmental ties and thoroughly despises corporate intrusion into government. There is a downside however, he has strong antipathy to canines... I suppose they all can't be perfect.

Still not convinced? Please consider Roscoe's manners when meeting dignitaries. Always the consummate showman.

VOTE Roscoe P. Meowington III for US Senate: Because there is no one better!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Remember the Wuss You Stole Money From, Who Instead of Fighting Back Merely Peed Himself and Sobbed? On a Grand Scale... That is the Democratic Party.

There is an inherent difficulty when one attempts to eulogize the living. One must conjure grand visions of eloquence, phrasing meant to inspire, witty anecdotes about times spent and company enjoyed to those who knew the deceased. While it would certainly be valid to assert that the Democratic Party is in the midst of its "death throes," I doubt many would agree with such a bold declaration. It might seem to be melodramatic but at the very least the Democratic Party in America is suffering from an acute case of impotence.

I imagine you are wondering how I came to such a conclusion especially with a Democratic president and controlled Congress. Elementary, dear Watson. During the course of the last 40 years, the Democrats have mainly been the opposition --feebly... More on that later-- to the Republicans hegemony over American politics. Case in point... 3 presidents elected during this span (Carter, Clinton and Obama) and only one of them has been reelected to a second term (Clinton). Why has electoral success eluded them for so long? In addition to the failure of devising a platform and message, Democrats --as a party-- exhibit an odd mixture of passivity and cowardice.

Let me first preface, I am liberal (a leftist at heart) and unabashedly so, yet I am sickened at what this party --has reduced itself to. It has made a firm movement to the center to "woo" and "schmooze" undecided voters, even though the party has the most registered in the nation. (Allegedly, 72 million voters are Democrats against 55 million registered Republicans) I understand the desire to remain competitive in a climate that is growing increasingly Conservative, however one does not sacrifice the principals the "party" was built upon to achieve this... Especially when one has an electorate edge. Previously, there was a resemblance of caring for the less fortunate... Strides were made to increase educational access, civil and social rights... In short, there was a progressive agenda. This has been abandoned with the rise of the New Conservative party, whose message of Gays, guns, god and security has proved to far more effective than any platform adopted by the Democrats... Which is a middle of the road --watered down-- version of the Republicans'.

In terms of its ability as an opposition party, the Democrats have left much to be desired. During the Bush administration,__ the Democrats willingly engaged in bad policy/ politics voted in droves -- Feingold was the lone 'nay'-- for the Patriot Act and 29 out 50 Democratic Senators (61% of their congressmen did as well) for the Iraq War... These and other issues of mass importance (Bush stimulus), their collective voting record fails to delineate them from their Republican counterparts. (The House statistics are marginally better)

If they continue down the path they currently tread, the Democrats are going to find it difficult to return to the White House --and secure Congressional seats-- let alone retain it. It is time to return to the progressive ideals of the party's admirable past and offer a true opposition when in the minority. You have allowed the Republican carte blanche in legislation and actions... When faced with corruption at the highest levels of government, you have rewarded such behaviors --Assuming that "The question of impeachment is something that would divide the country" when the country is already divided is absurd. Then again, this is irrelevant now.-- for reasons unknown. You were decent once and could be again, if and only if you adopt a clear political message that definitively shows that you are the party of the mass man and not an merely extension of the elite. Your behaviors or rather the "predictable capitulation" needs to change or you will be on the outside looking in... Maintaining your "charade of opposition." As the saying goes: "Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It," the Democratic Party has been doing that for the last forty years, lets not continue it on into the next forty.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You Mean This Tea Party Does Not Have Any Earl Grey or Scones? Gyp!

I would be hard pressed to find an individual(s) who has not heard of the Tea Party "Movement." Now, I know what you are thinking... The original Tea Party ended nigh two and a half centuries ago and thus such notable Sons of Liberty members as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and Patrick Henry have returned from the dead --natch-- to feast upon the flesh of the living. Put down that twelve gauge and fear not, for dead hath not risen to lay siege to the living... Quite simply, the Tea Party "Movement" is the hot new craze sweeping Conservative politics. Perhaps, it was a tad premature to ask you to refrain from mass panic.

From the perspective of the most casual observer, the Tea Party "Movement" is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. While the group claims to not be partisan in its disdain for politicians, Democrats are the favored victims (or anyone who voted for health care reform) of this groups misguided wrath. I am not going to hop onto my trusted steed, Wally and charge to the aid of the Democratic Party that would be entirely pointless. For you see, the thought-process of the individuals who participate in this particular method of political action is illogical.

My detractors with assume --incorrectly-- that is just me tapping into my fervent distaste for all things Conservative. Before thoust protest much, allow me to illustrate my point. The Tea Party Movement is about as objective as Fox News is to Fair and Balanced. The principle beliefs or tenets of the movement are the oldest plays in the new Conservative manual. They are the golden oldies... "hatred" for large government, excessive spending, the stimulus, the budget and --number 5 with a bullet-- the financial bailouts. You might noticed that these themes have been present in American politics before. They are --verbatim-- positions spearheaded by the Republican party to obtain votes from those who are ignorant of American politics. The message never changes nor does a Republican Administration or Congress ever deliver on its promises (consider 2000-2008), however, they do enjoy tax cuts, excessive deficits and cream soda. (Everyone loves cream soda)

Furthermore, this "Movement" is the most inorganic "grassroots" organization (it is for all intents and purposes, a product of AstroTurfing) in the history of grassroots politics. Chris Good explains organizationally, the Tea Party "Movement" is guided by "three national-level conservative groups," Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, dontGO and Americans for Prosperity, so its label of not being partisan is well... absurd.

I understand it, people are a tea'd off and rightly so, we (collectively, regardless of our political dispositions) have been failed by those who we elect, they hold Corporate interests before their constituents and the nation they serve. Chomsky--ahead of the curve yet again-- argues "People want some answers. They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin." It is time for people to start marching to the tune of their own respective drummers and formulate their own beliefs... not to cling to aging political cliches and rhetoric.


When did it become fashionable to be a dissent again? I spent the last decade being told that I was a coward if I didn't goose-step in line with the political sentiment at the time. Outrageous. Where's my paper bag? I seem to be hyperventilating again...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do You Like Books? Do You Like Clubs? Then You Will Love a Club That Reads Books.

Who does not like books? Philistines and heathens... that's who... oh and Communists (They hate everything). Not you though, reader of this blog, you are not only intelligent and discerning but good looking too. After weighing the pros and cons of such an undertaking, the magnanimous folks here at PORTEmaus have agreed to form a book club (Take that, Oprah) with the simple hope --nay dream-- that others might join in and get those mental juices flowing. (We are but humble men attempting to do the same)

If thought-provoking discourse is not your thing, please consider this poll taken from the Times, "70% of those polled agreed that not only are readers cool but they are considered to be far sexier than their non-reading counterparts." Now, who can argue with a statistic such as that? For those who do not consider reading their "bag," we have you covered... We'll do the reading for you, granted you would still have to "read" the review.

The specifics of the club will be discussed with the announcement of the first book... on June the 1st.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Absurdity of the Environment as a Controversial Political Issue

I had the most profound epiphany in regards to the environment while cruising through the local industrial park. With my eyes planted firmly on the enormous coal power planet expelling a constant stream of white smoke into the sky, I began to ponder why the environment exists as a partisan political issue much like defense, taxes or social services in this country.

After a few moments, it became clear that arguments relegating the environment to the domain of one political party (in this fantastic two-party system of ours)--you know the one-- is specious. The following might sound obvious but we ALL live on Earth and thus we ALL have the responsibility to ensure that subsequent generations can inhabit this planet.

Of course, the inevitable rebuttal is "there is not enough evidence to support the existence of global climate change" or "the destruction of natural habitats is a natural byproduct of progress." The sad fact is sentiment such as this completely misses the point and merely illustrates how the environment is constrained within the political polemic in the United States.

Whether or not a person's stance on Climate change or holes in the ozone should not be a catalyst to say... influence one's desire to recycle nor should it be the basis for a political platform. This is not a matter of political ideology, beliefs or opinion, it is a mixture of common sense and obligation on the part of humanity. The environment should not have ever been politicized, the point remains the same, humanity has not fulfilled its unspoken agreement with the world which sustains and supports it as a species.

A disturbing passivity has been borne out of a collective laziness. It has become easier to thrown one's trash out the window while speeding down the interstate or to engage in the consumption of wasteful products then recycle or purchase products comprised of said materials. This is not a condemnation or a "finger-wagging," for I am as guilty as the next. All this begs the question, "what is to be done?"

This is a question --while simultaneously appearing deceptively simple-- with a solution chock full of difficulty. Honestly, I cannot answer it as I am not an environmentalist, I am but a simple and altogether willing iconoclast illustrating the point that environmental politics is not a question of party affiliation. It is a question of willingness to make slight behavioral changes... like recycling a plastic bottle in lieu of tossing it in the trash.