Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

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

Advertisements

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

Evacuate to Where?

Tomas,  a dangerous tropical storm is bearing down on Haiti.  No doubt, Tomas carries with it the potential to drop perilous amounts of rain as it makes its way across the distressed Caribbean nation.   The millions of refugees living in tent cities in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake are now menaced again by potential flooding and landslides caused by the threat of torrential rains.

In response to the threat, government officials have issued a Code Red warning and advise the people living in the tent cities to evacuate.

The distressed situation of the Haitian people approaches biblical proportions.  It would seem that Moses himself has raised his rod against them to deliver pestilence, plague and destruction on this vulnerable island nation.  As Tomas approaches the defenseless people of Haiti, it threatens to wash them away in torrential rains forever swallowing them in an avalanche of mud.  Let us pray that the entombment of  tent city refugees in the good earth of Haiti is not  the final solution to this humanitarian nightmare.

A call to evacuate?  Evacuate to where?

You Tube Music Video: Charles Mingus, Haitian Fight Song

Risk: environment, refugees, natural disaster

November 4, 2010 Posted by | disaster planning, ecological, environment, geography, government, homelessness, poverty | , , | Leave a comment

Life in the Time of Cholera

The nightmare unleashed by the earthquake in Haiti boarders on the surreal.  We are simultaneously drawn into the epic disaster that repulses and threatens to overwhelm our sense of empathy and compassion.  The  outbreak of cholera compounds the suffering of the Haitian people as the unfolding tragedy escalates into an unimaginable spectacle whose severity, scale and complexity daunts comprehension.

The heroic efforts of the Haitian people assisted by aid workers, foreign governments and NGOs have diligently engaged the urgent mission to combat the carnage wrought by the disastrous earthquake.  The efforts to rescue, resuscitate and rebuild a nation entombed by the earthquakes rubble and a crippling legacy of poverty and underdevelopment must now also battle cholera in the multi-front war against this disaster.

It is believed that the earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 and made 1,000,000 homeless.   It is estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.  Its ability to respond to the cholera outbreak is severely compromised due to the lack of administrative capability and an infrastructure to provide potable water, waste disposal and deliver medical services to the distressed population.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the absence of simple remedial medical care let thousands of minor untreated wounds fester.  Tiny cuts grew into major infections, turned gangrenous and required amputation of arms and legs.  These amputations could have been avoided with a timely treatment of simple antiseptic and a band aid.  The inability to quickly extract the trapped, the blockage of debris strewn roads, the disruption of  water, flattened hospitals and the nonavailability of trained medical personnel  transformed a patient with a minor treatable injury into an amputee.  Haiti is now a nation of amputees.

As the threat of the cholera plague grows, the growing desperation of a desperate people in a desperate situation also grows.  In the absence of simple and timely remedies small treatable wounds becomes terminal. The world can ill afford to abandon the ravaged people of Haiti to scavenge the countryside and roam through the rubble strewn streets of Port-Au-Prince in search of a cure for a nations ailments.  Life in the time of cholera in Haiti does not have to be long lived.  The timely delivery of small and simple treatments can repress this growing nightmare and put an end to this ongoing human tragedy.  The required aid to remedy this festering wound on the body of humanity is tantalizingly close and we must not allow it to remain just out of reach for those dying from the want of a cure.

To help please consider supporting the work of Doctors Without Borders.

You Tube Music Video: Rara Music

Risk: humanity

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is a component of Chaos Theory.  A butterfly flaps its wings in a far away place creating tiny ripples that begin a flow of cause and effect energy that eventually creates a hurricane force wind.  These tiny ripples, seemingly irrelevant can precipitate and contribute to a major event. The right set of factors comes together and a major event takes place.  Can the humble service of an single person create a butterfly effect?

Last year President Obama designated Martin Luther King Day as a day of service.  It seems a fitting designation for a day dedicated to a man who lived a life in service to others and willingly gave that life to realize his ideals.  MLK, Jr. offered his life to the struggle for civil rights to protect the human dignity of all people.  There is no higher calling for citizens of a democratic republic.  Civil rights and the protection of human dignity is the foundation of a democratic society.  Equal protection under the law for all citizens and unfettered access to all its rights and privileges are the surest safeguard of a peoples security and liberty.  MLK, Jr. perished in the struggle to enlarge and protect that liberty for all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, creed or color.  It is the responsibility of all citizens to place themselves in service to protect and enlarge the dream of liberty and freedom.  A failure to assume this responsibility risks failure of our democratic culture and the relinquishment of personal liberty.

As individuals,  we are overwhelmed by the massive problems that confront us.  We freeze in place as we witness an avalanche of cataclysmic world events.  The endless duration of incomprehensible wars, the vicious repression employed by intractable power elites, the posturing and threats of great nations intent on projecting their power, global economic calamity and disenfranchisement brought on by institutional excess and governance failure, cultural intolerance spawning sectarian violence and the massive natural disaster calamities intent on assaulting  our humanity by delivering devastation to the most vulnerable among us; conspire to immobilize us.   As a people we are left to stand mute unable to comprehend and unwilling to act out of fear of wasting good efforts to no effect.  Ambivalence of conviction, vacillation of intent, cynicism in thought are subversive elements that are more powerful then 1,000 Al-Qeada cells because the subversion of terror nests securely in the minds of seemingly free people.  These subversives incessantly whisper “distrust liberty for all and learn to loathe the responsibility that freedom requires of free people.”

This weeks Haitian earthquake is an event that startles, humbles and hopefully shakes us from our torpor and ignites a desire to serve.  The massive destruction and sweeping misery of its aftermath is a clarion call for a humane response to address this assault on our shared humanity.   Yet in its wake, leading televangelist Pat Robertson opines that the earthquake was God’s way of delivering retribution on the people of Haiti.  Mr. Robertson believes the old Haitian superstitious folklore that Haiti made a pact with the devil to free themselves from the colonial domination of France.  Mr. Robertson’s theology proves Thomas Paine’s wise maxim that “a belief in a cruel God makes for a cruel man.”    Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of President Obama’s immediate call to marshal aid to the stricken country prompted the Ditto-head and Chief to state that the President’s call to aid Haiti was a political ploy designed to gain favor with the light and darker shades of people of color.

We recoil in horror at Pat Robertson’s vision of a God that keeps score.  A God whose patience spans generations,  eagerly waiting to notch another victim into the wooden handle of his deadly cosmic six shooter.  Such spiritual poverty and moral bankruptcy is a self evident truth.  We are equally appalled though hardly surprised at Mr. Limbaugh’s deep cynicism and his gleeful celebration of racism and partisan vindictiveness.  What both pronouncements share is an offer of absolution for moral ambivalence to their constituents and a warning to remain politically suspicious of institutional  response to this massive human tragedy.

God weeps at the peril of his children and the Beneficent One is moving nations and people to serve and respond to the pressing need of the Haitian people.  Individuals from all over the world are giving time, treasure and prayers in response to this tragedy.  People of good will everywhere are placing themselves in service to the people of Haiti out of compassion to relieve suffering and a compulsion to protect the sacredness of our shared humanity.  The world goes up in a collective cheer each time a search and rescue team extract another small soul from the hell of a mountain of rubble.  Refusing to walk away from the plight, refusing to avert our eyes from the pressing need of a people in need is a desperate rescue mission of a most fragile respect for our shared humanity.

Small people everywhere are flapping tiny butterfly wings, creating a gale force wind to knock down the walls that divide us.  It is the only way to solve the massively complex  global problems that work to undermine us.  The collective desire to change overcomes the sense of our powerlessness to change.  Just like a Baptist Minister from Montgomery, or a tiny woman who refused to go to the back of the bus, big things emanate from the smallest places.  All one must do is begin to spread the wings and flap.  Today is a very good day to flap our wings and offer prayers that our small individual actions taken together will blow down the barriers that divide and address the problems that vex humanity.

You Tube Music Video: Mavis Staples, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Risk: ambivalence, paralysis, cynicism,

 

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, culture, democracy, faith, government, holiday, LGBT, MLK, politics, seasons, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments