don’t forget to text your vote of this election’s MVP

•October 20, 2008 • 2 Comments


Grab your pom-pons and your red or blue foam finger (sorry, no greens allowed) and get ready for the Pep Rally! Cable news is taking cues from ESPN and this race has turned into just a pregame show. it is astounding to me that in 24 hours, cable news programs are not able to cover the issues in any depth.

CNN provides the viewer with the latest state by state SCORES so every news consumer can cheer their team on. Issues are not banned of course but they just don’t carry the sex appeal and lack of substance that our MTV generation requires. We need graphics and maps and meaningless lines. The constant loop of repeating, reporting the candidates smears in place of objective discussion of the dire issues has made this election into just a game complete with online gambling sites and CNN showing the spread daily but not the true stakes.

courtesy of CNN

courtesy of CNN

You can’t miss the rating line omnipresent in the bottom third of the screen on CNN during the debates giving the consumers a reason to not pay full attention to the the candidates serious avoidance of the issues. This media misbehavior and paid PR-performances are not called out because this election is just a damn game played out in front of you with scores, pre- and post- game analysis and all the gossip you could want. I hear people everywhere in the media simply reciting the memes played over and over again more like parrots than pundits. Decorating our society are yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and mugs sporting your favorite brand, team, candidate.

THIS is American democracy and currently the only thing we’re exporting, but even those markets are quite hostile these days.  In America we have choice- cubs or white sox; mets or yankees; senator or senator. Don’t forget to exercise your right to choose digital cable or dish; HD or blu-ray; red or blue… iPods. We have the power to change Washington and I hope you take your responsibility to our society more seriously than the media who are just selling ad space and filling the gaps with maps, memes, smears, slogans and scores but no substance. Is this your media or Rupert Murdoch’s? Don’t put up with this, support independent media and pursue discourse so that our democracy doesn’t get cancelled before next season due to low audience participation.

Are you above this General Election season?

•May 15, 2008 • 1 Comment

In my last installment of this usually sporadic and erratic writing experiment, I demonstrated what I felt were the probability and variables of an Obama presidency. One of the comments jarred me out of my six month long trance long enough to step back and question my own obsession with every facet of this faux democratic process faking about a third of America into thinking that there is more at stake than which face or name brand will CEO this business park nation of ours.

Howard Zinn’s words shook me enough to look at my own democratic political involvement in a process about as democratic as choosing between Unilever’s line of Axe products or Proctor and Gamble’s Tag. Either way, I am going to pay about the same price, smell about the same (that very briefly pleasant aroma that then makes people question what odor you are trying to mask. By the way, leave me alone, its medicinal).

“Well… this one has a prettier package and I like their commercials. I am going to choose Tag” Consider Yourself Warned. Also, consider yourself warned that the phrase ‘consider yourself warned’ is trademarked by Proctor and Gamble, oh and they own about 20% of everything in the Western Hemisphere. (Editor/Writer’s note: this blog has high journalistic ethics and the 20% figure was hyperbole and not actual data). According to PG.com:

Three billion times a day, P&G brands touch the lives of people around the world. Our corporate tradition is rooted in the principles of personal integrity, respect for the individual and doing what’s right for the long-term.

The prevalance and hegemony of one brand scares me and is it me or does the last part sound like they used the same marketing sloganeering as our current candidates?

I find the Axe/Tag analogy particularly apt because with either company/candidate you are going to have subjugation of environmental preservation to business profitability and a quiet acceptance of child and otherwise unethical labor practices abroad (for hard proof, Chumbawumba wrote a song about Unilever).

On this election process, Howard Zinn* writes:

This seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. It is a multiple choice test so narrow, so specious, that no self-respecting teacher would give it to students.

I totally agree, Howard, and in this case, its a multiple choice test with no right answer.

In the same vein that propaganda is most effective when it is not percieved as propaganda… the most effective way to eliminate our choices is through convincing us that choices in fact do exist. Whether it is cable television news programs, men’s body sprays or candidates for the US Presidency: its all the same and you do not have a real say. Let’s focus our attention elsewhere and try to make real changes.

Anyone have suggestions?

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Howard Zinn is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University and noted author of “A People’s History of the United States”

 

 

Can Obama Win the General Election?

•May 9, 2008 • 5 Comments

It seems rather self evident that even if Hillary Clinton’s campaign has not officially closed for business (i.e. she’s still fund raising to recap her losses) at least her path to the white House is ultimately blockaded by deficits in popular vote, states won, delegates and at this point, maybe even superdelegates, the one indicator that she was consistently (albeit decreasingly) ahead in. Her campaign continues to “fight for those unrepresented voters in Florida and Michigan” but this noble facade can not cover the fact that she ignored agreed upon terms regarding those states prior to the primaries and she did not cry for their inclusion until after the Obama campaign pulled away. The sad part of the matter is that inclusion of those states’ delegates will only marginally help her campaign and would only negligibly alter the lead Obama has built.

The leading media outlets have already claimed the race for Obama including Rassmussen, Tim Russert, as well as dozens of other pundits, experts, publications and any average person who takes a passing glimpse at the math.

Now that even the shrillest supports of HIllary outside of her campaign are conceding that she’ll be watching the big fight from the sidelines, new tactics to undermine Obama’s chances are emerging.

Dick Morris on Fox News Channel’s O’Reilly Factor asserts:

There will be a lot of that, but John McCain is a given in this race. The variant is Barack Obama. John McCain is like the lever in the middle. And Obama’s positives and negatives seesaw. And that will determine the race. And the determinant in the election will be whether we believe that Barack Obama is what he appears to be, or is he somebody who’s sort of a sleeper agent who really doesn’t believe in our system and is more in line with Wright’s views?

Dick Morris is right, if the nation looks at Obama’s issues, his intelligence, his integrity and adaptability* then the race probably won’t be much of a contest. If Obama is routinely smeared, associated with bogeymen like Rev Wright and William Ayers, then he will have a hard time.

Stump speeches, political commercials, leaflets and other campaign material inform some voters on their choices for president, however the bulk of how our society perceives a candidate is molded by how they are portrayed by our news programs and (unfortunately) the pundits possessing these pulpits.

Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has been chronicling Fox’s coverage of Obama and the video below entertainingly recounts the FAIR AND BALANCED coverage provided by Fox News.

As the video concludes, it shows that Fox News’s tactics against Obama have spread into the debates on other networks. Fox is controlling the debate around this election by ignoring the issue and repeating over and over again his loose ties to Rev. Wright and Ayers while McCain gets a complete pass on his connections to Rev. John Hagee (whose endorsement he sought out and embraced).

I fundamentally disagree with disparaging a candidate for their former and brief associations and think the guilt by association moniker should be reserved for politicians whose associations impact their policy decisions. Of course by this litmus test, Obama’s former pastor and the host of a fund raiser he attended a decade ago fall quite short of qualifying.

The fundamental issue of “electability” comes down to a couple key points. In our country one of the most important aspects is the perception of the candidate’s personality and values- voters flocked out in 2004 to vote against gay marriage, abortion and gun restrictions when really what was on the table were predatory lending, trillion dollar wars and economic stagnation. These are blatant examples of policies that harmed average people voting for that good Christian white guy who protected their right to have guns in case gays tried to do something dangerous and subversive like get a marriage license. As a result, the voters were packing heat and their marriages weren’t destroyed by homosexuals but their sons were off fighting in illegitimate wars and their houses being foreclosed upon. I am not saying Al Gore or John Kerry were saviors, but the media maligning of those candidates delivered our nation the Cowboy who never appropriately learns boundaries.

Fox News (the embodiment of this thesis but by no means the only outlet participating) seems to be aiming to ensure that no one believes Obama can win the general election because of fake scandals that are repeated on air constantly to make sure viewers can not escape the association of Obama with kooky black nationalist pastors and domestic terrorists. This obsession with ignoring policy and repeating faux scandals is evidenced effectively below on Fox’s morning show:

The electablity question lastly comes down to one thing, will Fox news and other media outlets continue to play a constant loop of maligning faux scandals or will the media during the general election ignore this anti-democratic smearing of candidates and propagandistic personality attacks (arugula eating, NPR blasting in his volvo, elitism) and foster a true debate between two parties.

These two parties represent different directions for America… it will change our place in the world, change our economy and foreign policy and we can either give the American people a chance at picking the candidate they truly want through honest information, or we can give them no choice by irreparably and unjustifiably smearing one of the candidates.

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*By adaptability, I draw the line between intelligently adjusting to policy when new information is presented. This is different than “flip-flopping” which is a form of pandering and changing your position depends on what you feel your audience would like to hear.

Sunday morning political shows’ environmental amnesia

•January 12, 2008 • 3 Comments

Democracy Now on Thursday reported on a study done by environmental advocacy group, The League of Conservation Voters (or the LCV) regarding the impotency and inconsequentiality of questions asked to presidential candidates in 2007 with a special focus on the Sunday morning political shows. Links to the transcript of that program as well as to the streaming video of the program in its entirety can be found below.

According to a site created by the LCV, out of 2,679 questions asked on Sunday morning politcal shows in 2007, only 3 have mentioned global warming while a mere 22 have discussed the topic in other terms. In other words, less than 1% of questions asked to the current and former elected officials and future leader of this nation have questioned their stance, commitment and record regarding global warming. Personally, I agree with the LCV that this is a disservice to the American voters due to the growing importance of the issue.

More on the subject as well as a video can be found after the jump Continue reading ‘Sunday morning political shows’ environmental amnesia’

chronic pain musings

•December 5, 2007 • 3 Comments

The first snowfall of the season gently spreads the clean, pure blanket over the dirty polluted world and for one compendious moment the banality of everyday sights appear fresh and beautiful. A new world emerges but the artificial brilliance quickly deteriorates as the roads turn gray; the crisp blanket is wrinkled and soiled; and the filth that lies beneath extinguishes the brief deluded illumination.

The flame used to burn bright and light up this place. Day after day the oil supply was neglected and the flame lost its brilliance. The flame idled trying to maintain but struggled and waned. A mere ember remains. You want to put out that tiny fleck of light but the bitter smoke will burn your eyes. The tiny glow creeps to an abrupt stop and explodes the glow to nonexistence. Only the memory persists in this and give it time and that too will desist into listless bliss.

Don’t be alarmed if you missed it; the dull gray smoke hangs unemphatically in the background barely perceptible but its presence undeniable. Its unacceptable that the oil ran dry as the withering wick cried but some things are inevitable.

You can always relight the flame as long as the lamp wasn’t left in the rain

every toker left behind

•November 6, 2007 • 1 Comment

MARIJUANA AND COLLEGE AID
(Source:New York Times)

02 Nov 2007

New York
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Anything that keeps ex-offenders from attending college makes it more likely that they will be caught in the revolving door that leads to prison. Tens of thousands of people have been pushed in that direction since the 1990s when Congress passed a law that barred even minor drug offenders from receiving federal education aid. The law applies even to offenses so minor that they are normally punished by probation, a small fine or community service.

Congress softened the law last year, eliminating a provision that denied assistance to people with even petty drug offenses more than a decade old. Now it’s time to repeal the remaining part of the law, which affects students who commit crimes while actually receiving aid.

The law is wrong-headed on several counts. It primarily affects low-income students and exempts the wealthy, who don’t need aid to attend college. It targets young people of color, who are disproportionately prosecuted for drug offenses and already less likely to complete college. It does not deter drug use, especially among addicts who need treatment to break their habits.

Beyond that, young people who commit errors in judgment, as young people can be counted on to do, are penalized twice — once by the courts and once by the student aid system. They are also placed at risk of never getting an education at all.

Federal college aid was never intended to be used as a weapon of enforcement. Any attempt to employ it that way inevitably results in perverse and unintended results.


Powered by MAPMAP posted-by: Richard Lake

MAKING THE CASE FOR LEGALIZATION: CLEAN LUNGS, CLEAN MONEY

•October 18, 2007 • 1 Comment

by William Min, Columnist, (Source:Pipe Dream)

16 Oct 2007

New York
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You’re probably thinking this is another article on legalizing marijuana or a step-by-step guide of how to smoke weed while avoiding the police, but it’s not. No, I’m just here to correct some misconceptions of little Miss Mary Jane ( have your Urban Dictionary ready ).

Most people think marijuana is illegal because it is harmful for your health. Yes, our federal government cares for our well-being; that’s why we have free nationwide health care! Or at least they give us free medical advice. Laughter is the best medicine, right? I heard a dose of the chuckles will cure your herpes in a jiffy.

I’m sorry ( or pleased ) to inform you that scientists and doctors have found that there is no connection between marijuana and lung cancer. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist who studied marijuana for 30 years at UCLA, held the largest study on marijuana funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse ( funded in part by the Redundancy Coalition for Repetition ) in order to support a link between marijuana users and cancer development.

Tashkin asked 1,200 patients with head, neck or lung cancer about their lifetime use of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco, and then compared their answers to answers given by 1,040 people without cancer, matched up by age, sex and neighborhood. The heaviest potheads smoked more than 22,000 times ( sounds like a good weekend ) and moderate cannabis users were placed between 11,000 and 22,000 instances.

After his initial claim that marijuana caused lung cancer was proved wrong and that it may even help prevent cancer, we can officially declare Tashkin bitch-slapped by irony.

“We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” Tashkin said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.” Marijuana contains THC, which has the power to make “Alice in Wonderland” the best movie ever made. It can also kill aging cells and prevent cancer cells from thriving and living ( kind of like the relationship between humiliation and reality TV stars ).

While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study’s findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference ( who throw great parties ), did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day . which makes it ironic that a study on marijuana and cancer would prove that cigarettes are as dangerous as sitting in a dark room with OJ Simpson ( but somehow more legal ).

The real reason why marijuana is illegal is simple: it’s not profitable for Big Tobacco. Congress is made up of old, white, ghoulish-like creatures who get paid by lobbyists of wealthy corporations to keep their businesses alive.

And thus cigarettes are simply regulated instead of simply being illegal.

I’m really not trying to endorse marijuana ( its sponsors haven’t paid me yet ), but it’s important to hear both sides of the argument before making up your own opinion on the subject. The federal government is in control of its citizens – we should listen ( excluding President Bush’s speeches ). However, people in power aren’t necessarily always right. Just ask Saddam Hussein. What? He’s dead? Wow, I need to get out more.

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This article appeared in the NORML news feed.