Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'


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I hate the labels politicians slap on hot-button issues to make them more palatable, because it’s propaganda of the most base kind, and I hate even more that such painfully obvious maneuvers are done mostly because they work. ‘Pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice,’ for instance, instead of ‘pro-abortion rights’ and ‘anti-abortion rights.’ ‘Sanctity of marriage,’ instead of ‘anti-gay marriage.’ Each label is bathed in assumptions about the in-defensibility of its opposite.

Among these is ‘right-to-work,’ as opposed to, I suppose ‘forced-unionism.’ At least, as far as libertarians wish they were called. There was a Daily Show rerun on with Ron Paul espousing the “strength” of the Southern economy thanks to its right-to-work laws, backed up by such statistical mindfucks as the fact that the South has gained jobs and its average wages have risen faster than the North. The only problem is… the South had fewer jobs and a much lower wage rate to begin with. It has more to gain. As pointed out in my last blog, average wages nationwide have gone down and national job growth has been anemic for a decade. This sort of business tomfoolery has been instrumental in depressing wages in this country overall, much like casinos only work when there’s a larger neighboring economy to mooch off of.

But most of all, I’m sick of the freakin’ label. ‘Right-to-work’ just means that workers that receive benefits from collective work bargains don’t have to pay into the unions who got them those benefits. Here’s the thing: Does anybody really give a shit about the piddling union dues? I have lots of stuff taken out of my paycheck – or did, at any rate – and union dues were one of the smallest parts of it. I can’t imagine that workers are fighting so hard to get rid of that charge. I can see why businesses would want to get rid of them – because they starve unions – but, honestly, what in the fuck?

See, here’s the thing: If my job sucks and pays shit and all that, and I’m pissed off that I’m paying $22 every paycheck for the union, my preferred solution is not that I stop paying $22 every paycheck. My preferred solution is that the union do something to stop my job from sucking and paying shit. This sort of proposed solution in right-to-work is the exact opposite of rational sense. I want better unions, not dead unions. And that’s the crux of the issue: This ‘right-to-work’ premise was invented not by workers, but by businesses, who do not have workers’ best interests in mind.

But, then, I’m one of those guys who thinks the only social worth of private business in this country is to provide the highest living standards possible for the most people possible. Y’know, the latter half of that Henry Ford quote. Instead, we seem to be getting Alabama as an ersatz Mexico of the North.


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I’ve always pretty much worked under the assumption that Republican party was the party of the rich, maintained largely through the manipulation of the heartstrings of the non-rich in order for them to vote against their economic interests.

As it turns out, this describes the Tea Party “movement” perfectly: People who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about being cynically manipulated by people who wish to hold on to their vast wealth. In fact, I think this is the closest I’ve ever seen the New York Times get to running a Daily Show skit.

It’s too bad that under their collective shrill tantrums – people collecting unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicaid complaining about government size and spending, during a time when taxes went down for practically everybody – meticulously directed and publicized for ulterior motives (on Fox! And now: CNN!) drown out the voice of reason.


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thy name is Marc Thiessen.

The Daily Show aired interview basically went like this: Thiessen raved on a McCarthyite tirade for three quarters of the airtime, venting how legal defense of criminals in a court of law is treason so long as the Feds declare said criminals “enemy combatants” first, and wanted the names of such public defenders released publicly so that they could be hunted down in this all-encompassing witch hunt. John Adams? Fuck John Adams. Our terrorists were freedom fighters. Their freedom fighters are terrorists. Even when they’ve never actually done any fighting.

That was the substantive portion of the rant. The methodology was equally awe-inspiring: He spoke over Jon Stewart most of the time – just straight through him – in a rage that quickened his words, raised his voice and had him literally shaking by the end of the interview in sheer will that he be able to dominate the debate by sheer volume of words, and the brief moments he wasn’t talking he was berating Jon Stewart for not letting him talk. It was as if he had expected all viewers to have suddenly lost the capacity to tell time – where the laws of physics would bend to his worldview.

It’s at times like this, coupled with on-air chink in Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories during his ill-researched interview with Eric Massa, that I wonder whether people are watching the same hypocritical bullshit I am – that the terms “conspiracy theorist,” “faux-populist,” “extremist nutjob” aren’t strong enough to describe the barefaced hypocrisy prominent in the kinds of people allowed to be on the air. Reporting isn’t dying. Reporting is dead, and The Daily Show has been a ten year eulogy on its corpse.

Who’s Out Of Touch?

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John Oliver says it best.

Manufactured Distractions

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The Huffington Post is “reporting” on a “feud” between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly. That this takes up the space of real news is not news, but the commentators to the article are, thankfully, beginning to push back. To repost a comment by jungpatawan:

This is exactly what is wrong with the MSM today – “fairness” to them has devolved into giving a sound-bite soapbox for every wandering kook and a bully pulpit for useful idiots (Hello, Joe the Plumber and his new radio show!)

There is a huge miss going on here, and it is symptomatic of the whole problem with public discourse filtered via the media today. Essentially, they are not making a distinction between legitimate protest and crazy ranting.

It was legitimate to protest Bush’s policies which led to thousands of American deaths and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the whole Fertile Crescent, and the devaluation of the American “brand” throughout the diplomatic world. This level of cause and effect was demonstrable, and the only debate possible was whether the results were worth the cost.

Today’s “patriots” as they are being described by Fox, are protesting a death-panel which doesn’t exist, an embryonic Naziism which was a fitter description of the previous administration, and socialism, which some can’t even spell, judging by their signs, much less define.

Bush protestors were consciously trying to stop a war. Obama protestors are unwittingly (sometimes wittingly) trying to protect corporate profits. Bush protestors were self-motivated and self-organized. Obama protestors are astro-turfed.

Jon Stewart is more trusted as a newsman than actual newsmen. We have a 24 hour news cycle with little to no in-depth coverage (a statement one commenter misappropriated to David Frum). What we have are not news networks but propaganda machines – with the Huffington Post among them – and hopefully enough people are beginning to pay attention that we may turn this around before we lose our place in the world.

Court Jesters

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It’s only the court jester who’s allowed to be honest.

It remains to be see whether Jim Cramer’s capricious behavior will be curbed in a surprisingly amenable acceptance to be held at a higher journalistic standard, or if he’ll go like Tucker Carlson of Crossfire infamy after such a thorough grilling by Jon Stewart, but either way it was a breath of fresh air to see such honesty poured over the airwaves.

I don’t regularly watch TV (hell, I’ve been following Stewart’s ministrations online) but from what little I see I’d say there’s a little intelligence shining through all the usual marketing bullshit. Carlson was a fool; Cramer was still shown to be an intelligent and thoughtful person – at least capable of change – even after that drumming. An uplifting piece after all.

It’s nice to have a temporary reprieve of lucidity amidst the bile, invective and outright drive for destruction currently blasting on all channels. Cramer himself made some very salient points: In the beginning of the interview, he answered to Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC by saying, “he must have come from a different economic background than me.” Now that was pointing out a 500lb gorilla in the room, in an interview that was all about prescience.

That said, that the NYTimes deemed this spat worthy of the ‘front page’ of its online edition and NBC’s playing up the division (even to the point of having Martha Stewart interview Cramer, opening a whole new can of worms when it comes to hypocrisy) speaks to Jon Stewart’s point about the dissolution of journalistic integrity. After all, the heart of the issue is that Jon Stewart is on a channel devoted to comedy on basic cable. Jim Cramer is on a news network. The New York Times is a newspaper. Why is Jon Stewart the one making the news?

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