Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Poor Sarah’s Almanac

I was one of the 5 million viewers that caught Sarah Palin’s Alaska Reality TV show last night.  As one would expect,  Alaska  effectively mixed a number of conservative informed Sarahisms with a scripted version of her common man family life.   If you consider common having airplanes pull up to your dock to fly you off to Denali for a day, or a luxury RV trucking you around the Alaskan Outback or having a TV studio room in your home so husband Todd can video you for this afternoons Fox News segment, Sarah is pretty much like the rest of us.

As America’s foremost conservative political celebrity,  Alaska keeps the myth of Sarah alive and well.  America’s impish sweetheart, Sarah is the adoring girl next door who might become president.  Alaska will showcase Sarah in a most positive light to reinforce her connection with the millions of hockey moms and Joe the wannabe plumbers who can’t get enough of the Momma Grizzly in Chief.   The segment I watched followed Sarah and family through a typical week of quality family time and the demanding work political celebrity requires.  Last nights segment showed Sarah and Todd scaling Denali, navigating cravasse laden glaciers, baking cookies, RVing around with the extended family (while  ignoring each other as they texted on Blackberries) fishing for sockeye and watching momma grizzles (brown bears actually) defend their young.  Alaska combines image interlaced with conservative messaging that is produced to give Sarah’s countrymen reason to pause to consider what her role will be in America’s most compelling tale of  political theater.

I’m will attempt to record some of Sarah’s comments from the show that capture the spirit and thoughts of this great political thespian.

The following Sarahisms were spoken last night:

On a journalist who rented a house next door to write an unflattering book about Sarah.

“He spies on us.  So Todd built this fence to block his view.  See how easy it is to keep the undesirables out.” If only Sarah were governor of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California.  Maybe we can make her Viceroy of Southern Territories, Prefect for The Gadsden Purchase.

Returning from a day of flying over Denali with family, disembarking plane and going into the house.

Said Sarah to her youngest daughter, “See the nosy journalist neighbor trying to get a good look at us.  He was stuck in his house all day while we were out having fun.” Girls just wanna have fun.

On a gate that blocks access to upstairs rooms for baby Tripp.

“See this gate, it keeps boys out of upstairs bedrooms.” Kinda like closing the barn door after the horse got out?

On watching a mother brown bear chase off another brown bear getting too close to her young cubs.

See how the momma grizzly protects the future of the species.” If only the oil companies would be so concerned.

On Todd landing a sockeye during their fishing expedition.

“Thats the way it should be.  A man brings home the bacon to his family.” Whats TLC,  Fox and Sarah’s PAC get paid with, chopped liver?

On Todd when he was video taping Sarah for a Fox News segment.

“Todd don’t speak much.  He’s a man of few words but when he speaks he really got something to say.  His  words carry  real weight. Still waters run deep.” So the First Iron Doggin Dude can actually speak!  No Comment.

When Sarah was rock climbing, her progress was momentarily halted.

“I got to keep going.  Nobody is going to rescue me.” At least she was attached to a safety rope.  Thats more protection offered the millions of people falling through the cracks of America everyday.

Can’t wait till next week.

You Tube Music Video: Northern Exposure Theme

Risk: political theater

November 16, 2010 Posted by | media, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Forth Estate Crosses Over

There is this program that runs on the WE Cable Network.  It’s called Crossing Over with Jonathan Edwards.   Jonathan Edwards is a psychic medium.  He stands in front of a live gathering of 75 people and tunes into psychic vibes emanating through the audience.  The vibes are messages from deceased loved ones who have crossed over the Acheron.  The dead are keen to communicate warnings, good wishes and assurances to assist living  loved ones on how to navigate the tricky vicissitudes of life.   During the show, Jonathan walks about the room picking up on celestial chatter and begins to relay and interpret a soliloquy of the dead like a macabre game of supernatural telephone. Jonathan Edwards asks his audience to suspend all disbelief as he bestrides the nexus of the metaphysical spirit world and the pedestrian reality that most earthlings inhabit.

The most common messages the dead channel through Jonathan seek to absolve the anxiety and guilt of the tormented living.  Crossing Over is popular because it offers its audience an  absolution, confirms personal cosmology and rationalizes the pursuit of desires by affirming the consequences of decisions as a self fulfilling prophecy.  It safely places its audience in a self validating cosmic echo chamber.  Its an ongoing morality tale with only happy endings and unfortunately only a tenuous connection to authenticity and objective truth.

The state of the news media industry is very much like Crossing Over.  The Forth Estate once thought of as an objective arbiter, information dispersant and truth seeking medium it is now chosen and consumed as a branded version of reality.

The devastating earthquake that buried Haitians in heaps of rubble unleashed global battalions of news teams to cover the event.  Many of the news crews from large established networks beat first responders to the scene.  In some cases the arrival of news teams actually held up the arrival of rescue teams and supplies because the airfield and crowed airspace could not accommodate all the traffic.  The news teams were forced to hole up at the airport because blocked roads prohibited them from going anywhere.  I recall Robin Roberts and the GMA News team dodging fork lifts and supply trucks left with nothing more to do then to urgently interview themselves.  Correspondents were reduced to ghoulishly opining about the tragedy while eagerly mugging for the cameras with contorted faces to portray the human tragedy unfolding beyond the range of their cameras.

GMA’s presence added nothing and in fact inhibited rescue efforts.  I thought of all the drinkable water these crews consumed could have been used to quench the thirst of Haitians dying from dehydration. Thankfully the GMA News team soon left after spending a self indulgent weekend at the airport. Their moral outrage registered and attempt at ratings grab accomplished.  Their contribution to shedding light on the scope of this tragedy and placing it in a larger context of its meaning to the global community of nations was lost in deference to the tragedy’s emotional impact on GMA reporters.  For GMA the subjective condition of the emotional distress of their media stars had become the story.   Their viewers must have figured that if GMA’s News celebrities were hurting this story must be big.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was an example of how a newsman became part of the story in a positive way.  I recall with great admiration watching a camera crew following Dr. Gupta as he walked amidst the rubble of Port-Au-Prince.  He learned of the location of a hospital and went to investigate how it was delivering services to the injured.  Upon his arrival Dr. Gupta discovered the make shift hospital was little more then injured people being placed in the hallway of a building.  The dead were being stacked outside by a wall surrounding the compound.  The hospital had no doctors, nurses, beds or supplies.  The facility lacked water to clean wounds or salve thirst.  What the hospital did have was a constant stream of wounded arriving in greater numbers desperate for any type of care.  The scale of the quake, the massive amounts of injured victims and the overwhelmed capacity of  the hospitals ability to respond was reported in stark clarity.

Dr. Gupta was overwhelmed by parents cradling their broken children.  Dr. Gupta a licensed medical doctor took off his correspondent hat and put on his stethoscope.  He honored his Hippocratic Oath and started treating babies and the wounded with whatever he could cobble together.  Dr. Gupta was no longer a journalist but was now a doctor.  He asked that the cameras stop rolling so he could perform his duties as a doctor.  I’ll never forget the look on Dr. Gupta’s face.  It spoke volumes about the desperate conditions he was confronting and the firm resolve that he would perform his duties as a trained physician under trying almost impossible circumstances.

We could understand Dr. Gupta’s crossover from journalist to doctor.  It was proper and correct response as a human being but as a journalist all objectivity had been lost and in many respects Dr. Gupta had become the story in a constellation of a million stories emanating from the epicenter of one of the great human tragedies of the past century.  This is a departure from the norm of real time documentary reportage.  I can’t tell you how many documentaries I came away from cursing the producers and cameramen for doing nothing to prevent the baby wildebeest from being  consumed by the lion pack or for failing to offer a family of refugees in Darfur a bottle of water or a ride on their jeep to escape the marauding  Janjaweed.

News Corps, network media division Fox News belies the myth of the monolithic liberal mainstream media and its claim of balance in its marketing handle.   Fox News may offer a fair presentment of the news to its conservative viewership but its claim of balance that suggests the inclusion of a liberal perspective in their news product is specious.

Fox News really came of age following 9/11 and the growing conservative drift of the nation. Its useless to posit weather Fox News created the conservative drift or developed programming to market to this political demographic; but the political inclinations of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have always been decidedly conservative.  At its founding in 1996, Fox News started differentiating itself from the liberal mainstream media by supporting the Republican impeachment drive of President Clinton, effectively  setting the stage for its partisan approach to reporting the news.  In many respects its unabashed partisanship was a game changer in how news and information was being packaged, positioned and delivered in the emerging narrow casting market paradigm.   Its sentiment not very different from the golden days of yellow journalism practiced by William Randolph Hearst.

Liberals and progressives have criticized News Corp for its lack of objectivity and  balance.  Many believe it to be the official party organ of the Republican Party and its compromised coverage is more akin to propaganda then news.  I believe this to be true as well.  Fox News has countered that it provides both news and opinion.  Fox News employs many of the leading conservative voices.  Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee are senior GOP members on the payroll of Fox News.  They regularly appear on shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity who are conservative celebrities in their own right.  The trick is discerning what is news and what constitutes opinion and editorial content.  The line that demarcates them is increasingly a fine one.  Even the innocuous news blurbs scrolling along the bottom of the TV screen seep in partisanship.  Some may report objective facts like the closing level of the Dow or the latest sports score. These little factoids appear alongside pieces that consistently reinforce the conservative credo of the network.  Its also a practice for commentators like Karl Rove to opine on stories covered on news segments.  The pundits impassioned analysis of the story leaves the listener little room to doubt the interpretation as a validation of the viewers conservative  political sentiments and ideological disposition.  The ability to distinguish fact from opinion becomes increasingly lost in these clouds of obfuscation.

As the model of creating, packaging and marketing partisan news the advent of Glenn Beck as a political entertainer is symptomatic of the maturation of the industry.  Glenn Beck’s show is more of a political reeducation camp that tries to provide low information voters and political neophytes with a more robust framework to understand the history and philosophy of conservatism.  Beck extends the Fox News portfolio of infotainment products.

Beck’s role in encouraging the formation of the Tea Party expands the footprint of News Corp.  Some may consider this crosses the line into political activism but I believe it to be a highly developed form of call and response direct marketing.  Beck’s incessant rants about the imminent collapse of  American democracy, the downfall of free market capitalism and the advocacy of the purchase of gold to hedge against these terrible prospects has attracted  the sponsorship of gold marketers and other fear merchants living large and minting major coin in the time of terror.

Fox is not alone in this sin.  CNBC profited from the pre-crash market run-up and had a vested interest in fueling market speculation and excess.  The business channel owned and operated by NBC  took some heat on this issue in the wake of the market meltdown.  During the market run-ups and the creation of the numerous market bubbles CNBC was taken to task for its roll as a biased shill in creating a risk averse mania that fed into the speculative orgy.  The encouragement of reckless behavior would cost investors and Main Street citizens a good portion of their retirement savings.  Jon Stewart took on CNBC celebrity Jim Cramer for his role in stoking unhealthy speculation. The claim of caveat emptor is not a sufficient disclaimer to absolve CNBC of this perceived wrong doing.  Information and data is the fuel that powers the capital market engine and viewers perceived CNBC to be a critical channel for this type of decision support data and analysis.  As animated red bulls flashed across the TV screen screaming “buy buy buy” the speculative urge feeding the demon greed of Cramer’s viewers jumped at the prospect to secure easy profits and pushed the execute button to route a flood of orders to E-Trade.

Media outlets were not alone in profiting from the conflict of interest in their business model.  The rating agencies Moody’s, Standard and Poors and other issuers of financial health assessments were roundly criticized for a business model that accepted fees from companies  to determine their investment ratings investors use to judge safety and soundness of the companies securities.  Investment banking institutions like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley ran into trouble for trading securities that they advised their clients to hold in investment portfolios.  Large commercial banks have also been called on the carpet for the inherent conflict of interest in their mortgage lending business that integrated mortgage underwriters, originators, servicers, securitizers and investors under a single roof.

Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has given corporations a megaphone to direct enormous amounts of capital and influence on Americas political culture.  The exponential growth of the political industrial complex places media companies on the cusp of an emerging market.  News Corp occupies a well defined franchise in the vortex of this growth industry.  News Corp will be the predominant media channel attracting politically sponsored advertising from 527 corporations to advocate issues central to the conservative agenda.  The market for political theater is strong and growing and News Corp has one of the hottest theatrical properties in celebrities like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

If Fox News bends and packages information with selected editing in support of political narrative; Andrew “NAACP” Breitbart and James “ACORN” O’Keefe edits news to create a false narrative to affirm ideology.  The omnipresent  multi-channel digital world and the need for consistent real time affirmation justifies entrapment and libel as fair game in the political narrative. The specious political ethics of radical entitlement, means justify ends, medium is the message and relativistic ethics is the next step of  an ideologically mature ,technologically enabled infotainment industry.  The self affirming echo chamber that verifies fact and swears to any truth is blessed with selective amnesia and a self correcting mechanism of  a highly refined subjective fact checker informed by extreme prejudice.

Jon Stewart  use of satire and exaggeration to make a lager point of clarified and reified truth is old school stuff.  In the Age of the Avatar,  the real, the imagined, the intended and the manifested get confused in the digital clouds of form, delivery and content. The medium is the message, the network is the computer and Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity was a marketing event to stake a claim on the market of moderation.  No doubt a highly educated discerning market segment with lots of disposable income.  Its only downside its getting a little long in the tooth.

The Forth Estate is rapidly evolving due the dramatic changes in technology, market structure, business model and consumer consciousness.  The role of the free press and the constitutional protections it enjoys in a democratic society is under siege and on the verge of bankruptcy.  The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and LA Times are old media institutions struggling to stay financially solvent and culturally pertinent.  Time will tell of their ability to evolve and create a sustainable business model  that will be validated by a market economy.  We have learned that truth, disclosure and transparency are not priceless assets but virtues that must support a sufficient  p/e ratio to to survive in a capitalist economy.

The past few weeks we’ve had a few First Amendment martyrs.  Rick Sanchez, Juan Williams and Keith Olbermann learned that the sword was more powerful then the pen.  The more important lesson that managers could remove them on the whim of executive fiat if they failed to demonstrate restraint of pen and tongue.  In actuality the  removal of these gentlemen from the news desk was more of a business decision then a violation of  their right of Free Speech.

As we enter the second decade of our two wars on terrorism even the embedded journalists rolling through the distressed hamlets of Iraq and Afghanistan are getting a bit war weary.  Like a captive hostage the embeds could not help but to identify with their chauffeurs.  The brave soldiers driving the Humvees’ were always in control of what the embeds saw, was responsible for their safety and quickly became the reporters best friend born of dependency, admiration and the comradeship that develops during war.  Objective reportage was the first causality in this  type of arrangement.

We need to take a cue from Jonathan Edwards.  He is the real shaman of our time.  Blessed with unique skills to help his audience to realize that self affirming connection is only possible by crossing over and taking suggestions from the well placed authorities residing in an unseen mysterious supernatural world.

You Tube Music Video: Tom Waits, Lie to Me

Risk: First Amendment, free speech

November 12, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, banking, branding, business, Clinton, commercial, commodities, culture, democracy, democrats, economics, elections, government, history, investments, marketing, media, news, philosophy, politics, product, regulatory, sustainability, Tea Party, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say It Ain’t So Keith

Everybody knows the story about Shoeless Joe Jackson.  When the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” star  Joe Jackson emerged from the courtroom after admitting his guilt for taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, a boy implored his hero to uphold the integrity of the game by asking, “say it ain’t so Joe.”  A newspaper account  reports that  a shame filled Shoeless Joe admitted his guilt to the crestfallen young fan before walking away through a raucous crowd.  The next day, Commissioner Kenesaw  Mountain Landis kicked Shoeless Joe out of the game and forever banned his name from inclusion in the Hall of Fame.  Such are the wages for the actions of unscrupulous cheaters.

On learning the news about Keith Olbermann’s  suspension from MSNBC I feel like that young adoring fan.  I refuse to believe that my favorite news commentator would violate the sacred tenant of a free press and compromise his integrity by making financial contributions to candidates running for public office.

The reported amounts of dollars Olbermann reportedly contributed to 3 democratic congressional candidates is minuscule.   Citizens are limited to a contribution ceiling of $2,400 per candidate and Olbermann allegedly hit that limit in support of two candidates from Arizona and one in Kentucky.

Its hard to believe that Olbermann would compromise his integrity for such a paltry sum.  If these allegations are true, the greater irony is that  as a result of his ill considered action, the priceless value of Olbermann’s nightly critique of reactionary republicanism is now jeopardized.  The risk of losing a vital and robust voice of progressive politics on a major cable channel is a real possibility.  This one really hurts.

Some have offered a defense for Olbermann by pointing to Fox News extreme partisanship and financial support of Republican candidates.  Rupert Murdock reportedly made a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association and point to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party activism or the use of GOP leaders like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin as paid political commentators.  This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass.  Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same category.  Olbermann violated a term of his employment that prohibits news reporters from making contributions to political candidates.  In my mind that’s a fair rule if a network wants to maintain a semblance of objectivity.  We expect news professionals of Mr. Olbermannn’s stature to uphold a level of integrity that protects the sacred mission of the free press in a free society.  Edward R. Murrow would expect nothing less.  Olbermann’s violation of the rule prohibiting contributions to political candidates goes to the heart of a compromised free press.  With no transparency or disclosure, Olbermann’s actions has demeaned the MSNBC brand by compromising its ability to present the news without fear of favor. There is no equivocation or quid pro qou when it comes to upholding the standards of excellence for ethical behavior.

We know where Fox News stands in its political deposition.  We also know the space that MSNBC tries to occupy.  Fox’s shameless partisianship is not the issue.  Fox’s corporate rules of behavior and standards of ethics for employees is not the issue.  The issue is MSNBC’s standards of ethics for its employees and how they enforce those standards when they are broken.  If Mr. Olbermann violated that ethical standard he should in all good conscience resign from MSNBC.

Please, say it ain’t so Keith.  Please.

You Tube Music Video: Ludwig Von Beethoven: 9th Symphony, 2nd Movement

Risk: free press, ethics, disclosure, transparency

November 7, 2010 Posted by | ethics, media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Juan Williams Gets A Raise

The dismissal of Juan Williams from his correspondent position at NPR is a watershed event.  Conservative pundits will be screaming about First Amendment rights and the abuses of government controlled media.  Mr. Williams was fired by NPR for violating guidelines on a statement he made as a paid commentator on Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor.”  When asked about the racial profiling of Muslim’s Mr. Williams stated:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said Monday. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

At first glance it seems to be pretty innocuous stuff.  Mr. Williams citing his unease at seeing a woman of the veil on an airplane is well within his First Amendment right to do so.  The fact that I consider Mr. Williams fear to be based on a prejudice that prejudges someone based on appearances is beside the point.  Its synonymous with police officers stopping motorists on interstate highways because  of their race.  The crime of driving while black should not be sufficient to infringe a persons right to privacy or impede their safe passage.  Mr. Williams has the right to express those fears and prejudices and I will defend his right to do so.

Mr. Williams employer NPR also has a right to require that employees conform to certain guidelines that support the mission of a public news organization.  NPR requires that its employees refrain from making public editorial pronouncements on public media outlets.  It is understood  that editorializing correspondents may injure or cause harm to the NPR brand as a trusted source of objective reporting.  As such NPR is well within its right to protect its franchise by removing Mr. Williams from his position as a correspondent.  Professional athletes and corporate executives all have clauses in their employment contracts that stipulate unbecoming conduct that hurts the company franchise is grounds for dismissal.  NPR exercised that clause.

What is interesting about this event is the contrast of journalistic standards practiced by NPR and Fox.  NPR receives some government funding and was originally chartered to assure that radio broadcast services would be available to the smaller rural markets ignored by commercial radio.  Recently NPR programming consists of thoughtful up market features that has less mass appeal for profit oriented radio media outlets.  Its news programing, All Things Considered and Morning Edition offered in depth reportage that is thoughtful, fair and balanced.  It strives to be objective and for the most part is.

The contrast with Fox News is striking.  Belying its marketing handle of “fair and balanced reporting”, Fox News is anything but fair or balanced.  I find Fox News to be a consistent platform for the conservative movement and as such it’s reporting is hardly objective.  Its commentators routinely express an opinion on the news that is editorial in nature.  Fox News has built a profitable franchise on its editorial positions and its assemblage of commentators  (Rove, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Palin) that eagerly express the political bias of its corporate parent News Corp.  Fox News correctness has been vindicated in the marketplace of ideas as its corporate sponsors and large viewer ship endorses its editorial positions.

The complex amalgam of the commercial viability of media channels, the branding of ideas, news as objective reportage, editorialism as a media commodity and the subtle distinction of opinion versus news are issues laying at the heart of Juan Williams dismissal from NRP.  Though fired from NPR for expressing an opinion that NPR thought unfair and hurtful to Muslims, Fox News awarded Mr. Williams a $3 million contract to expand his presence with the fair and balanced network.  Clearly the free market of ideas confirms  that Mr. Williams prejudice and intolerance toward Muslims advances the commercial interests of Fox News.

Its alarming that the value of  prejudice and intolerance is rising and that major corporate brands like News Corp find it so intrinsically linked to it he price of its stock as a publicly traded company.  Truly a disturbing example of  bankruptcy of the free market of ideas.

You Tube Music Video:  Mott the Hoople, All The Young Dudes

Risk: free speech, commercial media, objective reporting, prejudice

 

October 22, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kristallnacht in America

The passage of the Health Care Reform Bill has incited an angry reaction by rightist militants.  These incensed and deeply aggrieved ill led people are self deluded uber patriots.  They believe themselves to be striking a blow for individual liberty when in fact their actions consistently undermine the central tenants of our democratic republic.   They are convinced that the new heath care legislation is  America’s decent into a fascist hell led by Il Duce Obama;  and are prepared to water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants and in some cases their own.   They spit on and hurl racist and homophobic epitaphs at those they disagree with.  Under the cover of darkness these imbecilic cowards have embarked on midnight drive-bys of the local offices of congress members who supported the legislation.  They smash windows, fire bullets and leave threatening voice messages to let the politicians  know of their anger and  resentment.  It’s an American version of a Kristallnacht.

There are some interesting parallels with Kristallnacht that goes deeper then a convenient metaphor of broken glass.  Though I don’t draw any equivalency with the severity and consequence of Kristallnacht with the rightists night of egg throwing and window smashing;  I believe similar motivational ideals triggered the emotional response of the midnight ramblers and the Nazi zealots that authored the first chapters of Hitlers Final Solution.

Indeed both are inspired and encouraged by pernicious and dangerous sycophants who are skilled practitioners in the fine art of The Big Lie. The Nazi’s were goaded into action by Joseph Goebbels; while our American Brown Shirts have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and mainstream media giant Fox News to instigate a 24/7 anti-Obama diatribe that whips the ditto heads into anger fueled action.  Right wing politicians like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo and a growing number of far right conservatives freely use the rhetoric of armed resistance to any government initiative.  They cull the support of angry Teabaggers and a growing Militia Movement that flies the Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The latter  are armed to the teeth and stand minuteman ready to exact swift retribution if you step on their toes.

Radical conservatives have waged a Rovian campaign to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama through red herrings like the Birther Movement.  The rightists deliberately work to confuse and frighten citizens to further their political careers and agendas.  Like Joseph Goebbels they are skilled practitioners in the use of The Big Lie.  The more outlandish the lie, and oft repeated the more believable it becomes.  Since assuming the office of President we have been harangued with negative messaging initiatives by radical conservatives.  Obama is a fascist.  Obama is a Muslim.  Obama is a socialist.  Obama is the Antichrist.  Obamacare will form death panels to conduct social triage.  FEMA is building concentration camps to inter  Teabaggers.  Obama will confiscate your guns and take away your right to bear arms.  Obama wants to address our nations school children indoctrinate them.  Don’t fill out the census because it will allow the government to better track your movements and whereabouts.  The  incessant repetition of these ideas and the complicit silence of conservative leaders to refute them has served to delegitimize the Obama presidency and undermine our nations ability to converse and form a consensus to address the deep problems of our country.

The political culture of America is a landscape of extremes.  The growing fissures are making it more difficult to form any consensus.  These fissures are exploited and exacerbated by competing media channels which define and shape political understanding and context.  A shared political vocabulary and nomenclature of understanding is increasingly undermined by words and symbology that are appropriated by political factions.  Meanings and concepts are codified to create a language and political context that is used to understand factional ideology to support a political cosmology that is understood and accepted by the faithful.  This makes dialog even more difficult if not impossible because the language of political discourse across the partisan divide translates poorly and in fact helps to solidify the meaning of otherness.   Martin Bubur’s  “I and Thou” is an instructive work on how the objectification of the other leads to  their dehumanization.  Once a person is dehumanized,  any action taken against them can be  justified.  Those on the other side of the isle are now the “other” who you cannot trust.  We wrote about McCain’s pejorative use of “That One” to describe Obama during one of their presidential election debates.  The “other” becomes  an actual suspect lying  at the root of the problem confronting the aggrieved.  The problem of incompatible dialects and protracted partisanship eventually leads to the dehumanization of the other.  It doesn’t take much of  a leap to believe that the elimination or suppression of the other will lead to a final solution to our country’s problem.

Kristallnacht was a watershed event in the history of German Nazism.  In response to an assassination of a German diplomat in Paris the Nazi’s initiated a wave of terror against German Jews.  On orders from Nazi zealot and the party’s Chief of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  a wave of hate fueled attacks were unleashed by gangs of SS , Hitler Youth and Gestapo thugs to attack and destroy the property of Jews.   The pogrom resulted in the deaths of 91 Jews and 25,000 to 30,000 were arrested and placed in concentration camps.  267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.  The broken glass that littered the streets from ransacked shops is how Kristallnacht (Chrystal Night) derives its ignominious name. Kristallnacht is understood to be the beginning of Hitler’s Final Solution, which lead to the Holocaust.  It is certainly one of modern civilizations most shameful and tragic events.

The howling yodelers of talk radio and the ministers of propaganda at Fox News intent on exercising their right of free speech by dehumanizing their opponents, inciting angry lemmings into vandalism,  racist diatribes and vigilante terror are stoking the flames of a bitterly divided nation that threatens to immolate our badly divided house.   More rightly this movement could be considered a Falange movement and is not without precedence in history.  Falangism advances a reactionary agenda.  Its  violent temperament is nationalist and often religious in character.  Falangism emerges in weak democracies  and are symptomatic  of a society in decline.  Falangists promise a return to the prosperity and values of the past  that are quickly dissolving in the embroiled clash of cultural, political and economic contradictions democracies find difficult to resolve.   Glenn Becks’s Brownshirts need to understand that their misguided faux patriotism leads to some very dangerous and ugly places.  Its easy to smash the glass encasing our fading constitution.  Its more difficult to come together to address what needs to be done.  I hope its not to late.  I hope Mr. Beck’s final solution is not an historical inevitability for America.

You Tube Music Video: Rolling Stones,  Sympathy for the Devil

Risk: political

March 26, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, Obama, Palin, social unrest | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Team Captian Quits in MidSeason!

palin bbThe captain of Team Alaska has quit in mid season to the astonishment and dismay of many. At a press conference yesterday, the irascible Sarah “The Barracuda” Palin said she dished her last assist to the states inside big man Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Fans and teammates of Sarah the Barracuda are miffed wondering how the talented point guard and team captain could just walk away after driving to the hoop for the last time.

Elected by fans only two years ago, the Barracuda has had enough. The game got to her; pointed elbows, hard fouls, and a nagging slew of injuries, stresses and minor hurts led her to chuck in the towel. According to some, “The Barracuda never seemed to live up to her self proclaimed abilities as a high scoring tough team leader who could always be counted on to be a game changer. The Barracuda said she would always bring her A Game; now she just quit and took the ball home with her. What a loser.”

In last Novembers contest against the powerful Chicago Machine, the Barracuda was outscored and outclassed by a much more seasoned team. During the contest, the Barracuda at times seemed confused and way out of her depth. It was readily apparent to many that she was not ready for prime time big time. Though she did well well with Hockey Mom’s, plumbers and guys named Joe who drank six packs of beer; her gaffs and inexperience showed on the court. This started a reversal of the Barracuda’s fortunes that she never really recovered from and her season went into a tailspin.

Though the Barracuda quit on Team Alaska she is expected to join Team Fox. Team Fox would love to have the Barracuda on its team. Filled with many liberal media pundits like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove; Fox is looking for a conservative voice like the Barracuda to create a more fair and balanced presentation of its news, reportage and editorial offering.

You Tube Video: Harlem Globetrotters, Sweet Georgia Brown

July 4, 2009 Posted by | government, Palin, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Name Is Legion

stempedeOne of the more disturbing Gospel passages for me appears in the fifth chapter of Mark.  It is the story of Legion;  a man possessed of many demons.  Legion lived amongst tombstones and took to cutting himself.  The townsfolk were terrified of Legion and bound him with chains.  Legion would break his chains and he could be heard howling and cursing his fate as he roamed the night in lonely exile through his mountainous domain.

One day Legion saw Jesus approaching the village and went to him begging not to torment him.  Jesus saw that the man was possessed of demons and commanded them to leave the stricken Legion.  When the illness left Legion the demons asked Jesus if they could inhabit a heard of pigs foraging nearby.  Jesus consented and the pigs went mad and rushed off a cliff into the sea where all the pigs drowned.

Though the story may be the first accounting of a human sickness causing a swine flu infestation it always bothered me.  Jesus’ consent to infect a heard of innocent pigs whose sickness compelled them to leap to their deaths is disturbing.   Perhaps there is a cultural justification to the story for the prohibition of eating pork and the classification of pigs as haraam but upon rereading the story,  it was the desire of the illness to enter the swine.  The story is a wonderful examination of the non-discriminate nature of illnesses and disease.  Jesus provides the reader with an important lesson not to shut out the ill and to take considered action to engage the malady to effect the cure.

Who amongst us does not have demons or illness lurking within?  Indeed we are all Legion.    As a person in recovery, I identify with Legion’s state of possession and find great comfort in Jesus’ example of the necessity to heal. He rebuked the use of chains, showed tenderness and empathy to the infirm.  He effected the cure and commanded the ill to rejoin the the community as a whole and healthy human being.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 is very similar in the importance of community in dealing with illness and tribulation.

Jesus’ understanding of illness and his example as a healer stands in direct contradiction to some of the inane proscriptions for dealing with the swine pandemic that have been put forward.  Guided by fear and the desire to politicize the pandemic some politicians are using the swine flu as an opportunity to collect some political capital.  The Stepford Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman; observed with great intelligence and insight that the the last swine flu outbreak occurred while another democratic administration held the White House.  Ms. Bachman apparently suspects that the pandemic may be politically inspired and connected to the platform of the Democratic Party in some way.

Twitter and other social networking sites are alive with tweets proclaiming this is evidence of another terrorist attack.  Ive seen a bunch of tweets stating this pandemic is clear evidence of Al-Qaeda activity in Mexico using our open borders to destroy America.

This type of thinking is very dangerous.  I remember when AIDS first surfaced as a disease.  Little was known about its origins and causes.  What was known was that many Gay men were becoming infected with the disease and if I recall correctly it was referred to as the Gay influenza or virus.  This categorization of AIDS stigmatized the disease and those who were infected.  This stigmatization contributed to the spread of the disease because homosexuals who were infected with AIDS would avoid treating the disease because of guilt and shame.  Non-gay men who were infected with the disease may have been slow to seek treatment because they believed themselves not to be infected because they did not engage in homosexual activities.  In either case the misinformation, stigma and shame attached to the disease by people for the purpose of political gain were responsible for the spread of the disease.

The howling yodelers of Talk Radio and Fox News are also crowing about the political dimensions of the flu.  Some want an immediate closure of our borders and question the political resolve of of the Obama Administration to live up to their pledge to protect the Homeland.  Glen Beck of FOX TV states that President Obama is a prisoner of his liberal PC convictions.  Beck cries through a river of alligator tears about  the failure to close the borders is synonymous with an act of sedition that seeks to destroy America.

While Mr. Beck professes a great love for his country he demonstrates a poor understanding of  what distinguishes America.  Just lurking underneath the surface of Mr. Beck’s demagoguery is blaming Mexicans for the pandemic just as Ms. Bachman blame of democrats for the spread of the disease.  Science  instructs that illness is an equal opportunity malady.  It does not discriminate on the basis of people place or color.

In Mark’s story about Legion, Jesus took action.  Jesus didn’t say use a more study chain nor did he say build a wall around us to protect us from this scourge.  No Jesus touched Legion.  In story after story Jesus touched lepers,  blind people, crippled and the dead to cure them.  Jesus was available during his ministry to all people and allowed others to touch him so that their faith would free them from their demons.  Jesus understood that a wall of ostracism is a poor defense from a pandemic.  Ironically its isolation that incubates the disease of body, mind and soul.  Jesus  stressed that the ill be part of the community to witness and teach others about restoration, rehabilitation, the importance of action and the need to serve.

Politicizing problems obfuscates solutions. The mother of fear is ignorance and the thinking exemplified by Ms. Bachman and Mr. Beck is enough to create 10 pandemics of fear, suspicion and resentment.  Little do they realize the real gold that can be mined through the challenge of tribulation. We’ll close with these words from John Donne’s Meditation 17.

Writes Donne:

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary

Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Bible, community, culture, democrats, gay rights, jazz, LGBT, Obama, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment