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On Missing My Generation’s War

August 31st, 2010 No comments

“Turn on the TV!” James shouted as he entered my college dorm room. “The war is starting!”

Are you serious? I’d just turned the damned thing off about a half hour earlier, getting sick of waiting for the fireworks that for all I knew wouldn’t be coming at all. I’d been glued to the TV all day, watching the cable news networks count down to the moment Bush’s 48-hour deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq reached 0:00. What an anti-climactic moment that had been. Once it came, the reporters started to remind everyone that this was just the count-down to the end of Bush’s cowboy-diplomacy deadline—that the actual fighting might not begin until the next day or later.

Thanks to James, I hadn’t completely missed the historical moment I’d been waiting for all day. The beginning of a war that might come to define my generation.

More than six years later, James reached me through a Facebook chat and informed me that he was enlisting in the military. That he’d very likely be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, but he’d given it a lot of thought and decided it’s what he wanted to do. The terrible economy had cost him his job a year earlier and in spite of his college-degree he couldn’t find any work elsewhere. The military seemed like his best option.

Throughout the years I’d also occasionally ponder joining the fighting, usually in my darkest moments when life seemed too overwhelming to figure out how to live it on my own. After graduating college with a relatively useless degree in philosophy, I spent the next couple of years just trying to figure out how to kill the remaining time I had left before death. The likelihood that there were far more years ahead of me than behind me would at times fill me with despair. I never seemed to fit in this world. What was I supposed to be doing here?

Important things were always happening, of course. Mostly too big to wrap my head around, too big to do anything about. Ever since September 11, the instant I heard someone in my high school classroom say the words, “They hit the second tower” I knew that I was probably one of those human beings cursed to live in interesting times. My sense of personal responsibility increased tenfold on that day and the weeks that followed.

After overcoming my initial reaction of anger and rage at the terrorists, I’d thought about it and decided that the best thing for the United States to do would be not to retaliate. We should go after the people responsible for the attack, but not invade an entire country. Not drop bombs that would kill innocent children and make those people hate us even more. After 9/11 we had a chance to show the world what an honorable nation we could be—to refrain from flexing our military muscles and instead focus only on the individuals responsible for the crime.

That was not a very popular position at the time, but I stood my ground and made my case to anyone who would listen. I pointed out that if we were in fact going to war, it would be people my age who would be doing the fighting. I asked everyone if they’d be willing to die for this cause. At that time, most said yes. Ultimately, most never did.

Had I believed in the cause, I might have enlisted. Had this been an event like Pearl Harbor in which my country had been attacked by an actual army from an actual nation that posed an actual existential threat to us, I would have followed in the footsteps of the “greatest generation” and gone to fight and die for my country.

But I never thought this was a noble cause. I didn’t think the fighting in Afghanistan was necessary, and I found the invasion of Iraq to be even less justifiable. If you’re going to put yourself in a position from which you might actually have to kill people—from which you might actually end up killing children—you’d better have a damned good reason, I thought. And giving my life a sense of purpose or direction never seemed good enough.

Those who’ve fought in these wars have my undying respect and admiration, but I just can’t make myself believe that their efforts have been for a good cause. They haven’t been fighting and dying for freedom. They haven’t even been fighting and dying for the United States of America. They’ve been fighting and dying (and killing and maiming) for Blackwater and KBR, for the military industrial complex, for neoconservative ideologues, and for multi-national corporations who have a vested interest in permanent warfare.

I could never be a part of that. All other considerations aside—the sense of accomplishment, the pride of my family, the benefits of being a veteran—none of these would be worth the sense of responsibility that I’d have to carry with me for the rest of my life for having been a part of one of history’s greatest crimes. And the invasion and occupation of Iraq was and always will be a crime in my mind, regardless of how it ultimately turns out.

But that doesn’t mean I consider the soldiers criminals. Far from it. They were following in the footsteps of their fathers, doing what they saw as the most noble thing they could do. In a sense I envy them. When the last decade becomes nothing more than a distant memory and the wars another chapter in the history books, they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren that they were there—that when their country made the call they stood up and answered it. No matter what the politics, that’s something to be proud of.

And what did I do? I partied with my college friends, I moved to California and relaxed on the beach, I flew to Germany to teach English to businesspeople, and I started a blog.

The Iraq war technically ends today. I’ve come a long way since that night in my dorm-room when James and I watched the bombs falling on Baghdad. I’m still not sure which direction my life is going, but I’m always thinking. These are interesting times, and the sense of historical responsibility is still nagging at me. And if I won’t fight, it seems all I can do now is write.

To all of my fellow millennials who fought in Iraq, who were injured, who died, or who watched their friends die: this one’s for you.

Blogramming Note

August 30th, 2010 No comments

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been secretly working on a secret project that I set tomorrow, the last day of August, as my own personal dead-line to finish. As I’ve still got quite a lot of work to do before it’s finished, I’m going to buy myself some time by not writing a proper blog entry today. But since I’m committed to posting at least one thing every single day, here it is.

Categories: Personal Tags:

An Interesting Approach to the Glenn Beck Rally

August 29th, 2010 No comments

I’ll write more about the Glenn Beck rally once I’ve heard more about what actually took place there, but for now I just want to make a quick comment about a piece I read this morning on the Huffington Post, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoration of Honor’ Rally by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly—people who apparently helped organize the original March on Washington.

Written before the rally happened, this piece is essentially saying, “The legacy of Martin Luther King does not belong to any specific group. If Mr. Beck wants to champion the values of the Civil Rights Movement, he has our blessing.”

The obvious reaction is to laugh, as it’s obvious Beck isn’t doing anything close to championing the true values of the Civil Rights Movement, and that he’s actually crapping on the memory of MLK by choosing the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech as the date of his rally.

He chose this date because he knew it would create a controversy, get the lefties yelling at him and thus cast himself in the role of the courageous hero standing against overwhelming liberal opposition. Those who’ve lambasted Beck for this are playing right into his hands.

But this strategy—the “God bless” strategy—is much better.

Just imagine if instead of mocking the Tea Party people, deriding them all as racists and dismissing everything they have to say, the entire progressive movement collectively said to them, “We think it’s wonderful that you are so concerned with the future of America that you’re willing to get out and march. We solute your patriotism. Now let’s talk about what the REAL problems are and how we fix them.”

What I Have in Common with Obama AND the Tea Party

August 28th, 2010 No comments

Have you ever criticized someone for being a certain way, only to reflect on it later and realize that you’re often guilty of the same thing?

I’ve recently engaged in some political introspection that I think might be worth sharing. I’ve found that what bothers me most about Barack Obama’s leadership style is something I do myself, and much of what frustrates me about the Tea Party is something I’m just as guilty of. I’ll explain what I have in common with these groups, but then defend myself by explaining how in my case, it’s different.

Is your hypocrisy-detector functioning? Then here we go…

Obama and Me

From the very beginning, Barack Obama presented himself as a unifying figure. In giving the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he catapulted himself to national fame with these words:

Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

His desire to rise above petty partisanship and bring the country together was one of the most admirable qualities he had as a presidential candidate, and it’s undoubtedly what drew a lot of right-leaning independents to vote for him in 2008.

The problem is that he actually tried to put this philosophy to practice when he became president, and not only has it failed miserably but it’s resulted in legislation being weakened to the point of impotence. In the name of “changing the tone in Washington”, Obama began his presidency by weakening the stimulus bill and loading it with tax-cuts in order to try and win a few republican votes that he didn’t get anyway. He tried to reach across the aisle on health care reform, and drove his presidency into a ditch by abandoning the public option. He managed to get Lieberman and a few other corporatist Democrats on board, but not a single republican, and average conservatives are still convinced that the bill is the End of America as we know it.

But as much as I want to scream, “No! Don’t compromise! Fight! Fight them with everything you’ve got!” I have to acknowledge that I too have a natural inclination to seek out the middle. When I debate someone, I’m not so much trying to win an argument as I’m trying to explain my position to the other side, to better understand theirs, and hopefully to find common ground. In fact I’ve taken some criticism from Team Left simply for suggesting that we try to reach out to conservatives and work together against the common enemy of corporate influence in government.

So how can I justifiably condemn Obama for a personality trait that I share with him?

The difference: I’m not the President of the United States. When I debate someone, there’s nothing at stake but our own points of view. The strength of the economy is not on the line. No lives depend on the outcome.

And more importantly, I’m usually not arguing with people whose primary goal is to destroy me. I’m all in favor of negotiation and compromise, but not if the other side isn’t acting in good faith. The republicans who signaled that that they might vote for a bill if Obama was willing to give up this or that were never interested in making the bill better—they only wanted to make it worse so that it would be easier to kill, and easier to campaign against if it passed. In some situations, compromise is the last thing you should do.

Which brings me to…

The Tea Party and Me

I am significantly to the left of the establishment Democratic Party, just as the Tea Party is significantly to the right of the establishment Republican Party. Just as I want democrats to be more liberal, the Tea Party wants republicans to be more conservative.

I hate this about the Tea Party. They are pushing the Republican Party so far to the lunatic fringe that even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t pass their ideological purity tests. Many say they’re hurting their own cause, as far-right candidates like Sharron Angle stand a much worse chance of winning a general election than more moderate, mainstream republicans. But they care more about their ideals than the success of a political party.

And this is a trait I share with them. If it were up to me, the progressive movement in this country would go after Blue Dog Democrats and corporate shills like Blanche Lincoln with just as much ferocity as we go after republicans. The Democratic Party, because it is so full of moderates and centrists, never draws a line in the sand and sticks to it. Even when the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives announced that it wouldn’t vote for a health care reform bill without a public option, they all eventually caved. Had they stood their ground, the bill might have died but at least everyone would understand that health care still needed to be addressed and that if any president wanted to accomplish anything in that area, they’d have no choice but to include some form of a public option.

To be clear, I’m perfectly willing to compromise and negotiate for the sake of the greater good. And when all was said and done I did think that passing the health care bill in its current form was better than nothing (lives did hang in the balance, after all). But I think that certain things should not be compromised—the things that are most essential. The public option was the most important part of the health care bill because it was the seed that could have grown to completely change the system, and I would have raised much more hell about it before considering voting for a bill without it.

So how can I justifiably condemn the Tea Party for demanding too much ideological purity when I often do the same?

The difference: My opinions are based on facts and logic. I don’t want to paint the entire Tea Party with too broad of a brush, but it seems to me that most of them get all of their information from conservatives propaganda outlets like Fox News. They are duped into believing that what they are hearing is actual news, “fair and balanced” and that the information they get on TV is all the information they need.

I get most of my news from liberal sites like the Huffington Post, but there’s a fundamental difference between getting your news online and getting it from TV. Watching TV is a passive exercise. You just sit there and let the talking heads tell you what’s going on and what you should believe about it.

Conversely, getting your news online is a very active process. Not only do you select what stories to read, but you can follow the links within those stories to do your own research and fact-checking when you’re so inclined. Furthermore, you can comment on the stories, thus inviting anyone who disagrees with you to challenge your opinion. Even on sites like the Huffington Post, there is a strong conservative presence in the comment threads and you often have to defend your opinion—which in turn motivates you even more to have your facts straight.

Conclusion

So…am I a hypocrite? How many contradictions did you spot? I said I’m a lot like Obama in that we’re both inclined to reach out to our ideological opponents, but I’m also a lot like the Tea Party in that we want leaders who will fight hard for our own ideological principles. I justified my criticism of Obama because when I reach out there’s never anything at stake and my ideological opponents don’t have any ulterior motives, and I justified my criticism of the Tea Party because my ideological principles are rooted in facts.

I’ll now open up the floor to anyone who wants to challenge me, though I warn you that I might try to reach out and find common ground.

Ground Zero: “As we forgive those…”

August 27th, 2010 No comments

I lost my faith a long time ago, but I’ll bet that most of the people making loud noises about the Park 51 Community Center (a.k.a. the “Ground Zero Mosque”) consider themselves good Christians.

Every day, or at least once a week, these people say the following to their God:

“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”

If one wants to live according to true Christian values, one has to forgive the 9/11 hijackers.

The things is—the people who are building this community center are NOT the 9/11 hijackers. They had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact one of their primary goals in building the center is to promote understanding of Islam and push back against the animosity that has risen against Islam in the wake of 9/11.

But not only do these “good Christians” not forgive the 9/11 hijackers (and personally, I don’t blame them for that) but they direct their anger and their hatred at a group of one and a half billion people, 99.9999999873% of whom were not responsible at all for the attacks.

Now at least they’re no longer saying that Muslims should be deprived of the right to build a mosque (that was too much Constitutional-hypocrisy even for them), but they’re saying that these Muslims should build somewhere else out of “sensitivity”.

We’re not saying you have to sit at the back of the bus, Ms. Parks, but you should be sensitive to those who think you don’t belong there and sit somewhere else.

We’re not saying you can’t build a synagogue, Jews, but you should be sensitive to those who blame you for killing Jesus and not build near any churches.

We’re not saying you can’t get married or serve in the military, gay people, but you should be sensitive to those who might not want…oh wait…right. You still can’t do either of those things.

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

Neither blacks nor Jews nor gays nor Muslims have actually trespassed against these people, but they refuse to forgive them anyhow. Apparently they don’t even listen to their own prayers.

Know Your Enemy: The Koch Brothers

August 26th, 2010 No comments

I often rail against the “power-elite”—wealthy individuals and corporations who use their massive amounts of power to influence politics, usually to the effect of funneling money from the lower and middle-classes to the wealthiest of the wealthy. I usually think of them as some kind of abstract, faceless entity—which is just how they like it. But today I can be more specific. I can show you the face of The Enemy:

America, meet Charles and David Koch. They were recently featured in a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, and in a segment on the Rachel Maddow show in which Mayer was interviewed. For anyone with the time to spare and the desire to know exactly who is destroying America and how, I’d strongly urge you to read the article, watch the clip, and tell everyone you know about Koch Industries—especially Tea Party conservatives.

For those with less of an attention-span, here is the basic story. It began with Fred Koch, who in 1927 invented a more efficient process for turning oil into gasoline. Seen as a threat by other American oil companies, he was shut out of the industry, and spent the 1930s building oil refineries in the Soviet Union where he witnessed the brutality of the Stalin regime. Upon his return to America he fell in with arch-conservative groups like the John Birch Society, and eventually passed on his fiercely anti-socialist ideology to his sons:

David Koch recalled that his father also indoctrinated the boys politically. “He was constantly speaking to us children about what was wrong with government,” he told Brian Doherty, an editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, and the author of “Radicals for Capitalism,” a 2007 history of the libertarian movement. “It’s something I grew up with—a fundamental point of view that big government was bad, and imposition of government controls on our lives and economic fortunes was not good.”

After his death in 1967, his sons renamed his business Koch Industries and used their oil wealth to promote libertarian ideals. So far, nothing too sinister.

Nor was there anything sinister about David Koch running for Vice President in the 1980 election on the Libertarian ticket. His party only got 1% of the vote, but that’s democracy. If people reject your ideas, you don’t win political power.

Unless you set out to directly instill your ideas into the public.

The Kochs came to regard elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” A longtime confidant of the Kochs told Doherty that the brothers wanted to “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they had to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.”

After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch receded from the public arena. But they poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations. Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. The Kochs and their company have given additional millions to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and lobbyists.

The Kochs have given hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that criticize environmental regulation and advocate for lower taxes on industry. They’ve poured millions into disputing the science behind climate change, and just to hedge their bets have pushed the idea that even if the earth is warming up, it’s actually a good thing: “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because far greater land area will be available to produce food” David Koch once argued.

Of course conservatives can point to people like George Soros, who spends millions promoting liberal causes, and say that the Koch Brothers are doing the same thing—merely using the capital they’ve earned through their financial success to promote ideas they believe in. The counter-argument is that Soros gives money to causes that actually go against his own financial interests, while the Koch Brothers put their money behind groups that do work which positively effects their bottom line. They “earn” their fortune by spending it on groups that help them increase their fortune, usually by lying and distorting the facts.

But it actually goes much deeper than that:

The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction. Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits. David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”

Koch Industries is the group behind Americans For Prosperity, one of the leading organizations behind last years’ Tea Party protests in which thousands of Americans were bussed from district to district and told to interrupt town hall meetings on Health Care reform. Tricked into believing that the bill was some kind of nefarious government plot to euthanize senior citizens, frightened conservatives held rallies in which they hung effigies of Democratic lawmakers, held up banners depicting corpses from Dachau, and relentlessly compared Obama to Hitler.

These protests are now widely believed to be the pivotal moment at which the Obama presidency began its slow downward spiral. When asked about the Republican Party’s efforts to kill the health care bill, conservative Grover Norquist replied:

The Republican leadership in Congress, he said, “couldn’t have done it without August, when people went out on the streets. It discouraged deal-makers”—Republicans who might otherwise have worked constructively with Obama. Moreover, the appearance of growing public opposition to Obama affected corporate donors on K Street. “K Street is a three-billion-dollar weathervane,” Norquist said. “When Obama was strong, the Chamber of Commerce said, ‘We can work with the Obama Administration.’ But that changed when thousands of people went into the street and ‘terrorized’ congressmen. August is what changed it. Now that Obama is weak, people are getting tough.”

The Koch brothers’ war on Obama seems to be succeeding. By staying out of the limelight, they’ve managed to avoid major scrutiny of their front groups like Americans For Prosperity, Patients United Now, and a whole host of other organizations with grassroots-sounding names. The tactic is as simple as it is brilliant—pour lots of money into groups that appear to be grassroots and thus create the perception that there is a massive resistance to the president’s agenda. But don’t let anyone onto the fact that the objections to the president’s agenda were falsehoods cooked up by your own think-tanks and spoon-fed to the American people.

“To bring about social change,” Charles Koch once told a reporter, requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.”

So now you know the Enemy, or at least a couple of their faces. The question is how you can fight it. Well, you can wait for Obama to do it for you. After all, they’re deliberately targeting him and his agenda so you’d think he’d fight back strong. After all, he did say at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser in Austin that:

the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.”

But apparently that didn’t get the message across. For some reason Obama doesn’t want to name names and call any of his enemies out for what they’re doing. He must be one of the most passive-aggressive presidents of all time. Maybe he’s afraid they’ll spend even more of their money to defeat him, as if they weren’t already going after him with everything they’ve got.

So I wouldn’t count on Obama or any of the weak and spineless Democrats to fight this battle for us. All we can do is take the time to learn who these people are and to let everyone else know as well.

Once we know, we can follow the money back to its source. Unfortunately most of it comes from oil, but there are plenty of other products that are brought to you by the fine people at Koch Industries, including:

• Brawny paper towels
• Dixie cups
• Georgie-Pacific lumber
• Stainmaster carpet
• Lycra

I for one don’t plan on buying Brawny paper towels or Dixie cups any time soon. I hardly think that’ll take down Koch Industries and be the end of the Tea Party Movement, but it’s an easy way to make a statement. These people hide from the limelight precisely because they don’t want their products associated with radical libertarian ideology and the destruction of the Obama presidency.

And even we do manage to take down Koch Industries, there are plenty of multi-billionaires who will quite happily continue their work of destroying the environment and funneling all the world’s wealth and resources into as few hands as possible. I may have an idea for how we can begin to tackle that problem, but it needs a bit more work. Stay tuned…

Is Fox News Evil or Stupid?

August 25th, 2010 No comments

I’ve been focusing a lot on Fox News lately, but this clip from Monday night’s Daily Show is too good not to share:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Fox News plays guilt-by-association at every possible turn, and now they’ve been playing the game with Imam Rauf to make the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” seem sinister. They tie him to the Saudi prince Alalweed bin Talal without mentioning the name of the prince, lest any of their viewers actually look him up and discover that he owns 7% of News Corp. (the second largest share behind Rupert Murdoch), the company that owns Fox News.

If the Ground Zero Mosque is a sinister terrorist plot because you can follow some of the money back to a Saudi prince, then by Fox News’s own logic, Fox News is a sinister terrorist plot as well!

Power to the Iraqi People (Literally)

August 24th, 2010 No comments

I’ll write a lengthy reflection on the Iraq war when it’s “officially” over at the end of the month, but there’s one aspect of the current situation there that Rachel Maddow did a superb job of highlighting and that I want to emphasize as well.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now that the troops are leaving and Iraq does not appear to be collapsing into complete chaos, the neoconservatives are going to start doubling-down on their efforts to paint the Iraq war as a victory. After all, we got rid of Saddam and left a [somewhat] functioning government in place. What more can the Iraqi people ask for?

Well, how about electricity? Life in Iraq may not have been wonderful under Saddam, but at least they had power—more than they do now anyway.

How many billions have we spent demolishing their nation’s infrastructure? Is it really so much to ask that we spend whatever it takes to get these people some electricity? Isn’t that the least we can do after plunging their country into violent inner turmoil and killing their friends and family members? Is sparing them the long summer nights boiling from the heat within their pitch-dark houses really so much to ask?

The neoconservatives are gearing up to start saying, “You’re welcome, Iraq”. And if life were really better now than it was under Saddam, they might be willing to overlook all those people we killed and find some small measure of gratitude in their hearts. But unless we can get the electrical infrastructure at least back to where it was pre-invasion, we shouldn’t expect them to thank us.

Categories: Political Tags: , ,

Glenn Beck’s Fools’ Gold

August 23rd, 2010 No comments

Why anyone takes Glenn Beck seriously is beyond me. Here’s him invoking the attacks of 9/11 to shill for Goldline, his biggest sponsor:

Here is a guy with a clear financial interest in making people think that civilization is about to collapse. Of course he’s going to go over-the-top and constantly tell everyone that the sky is falling, that Barack Obama is destroying the country, that the communists are taking over, the Muslims are invading, and that our only defense is to be ready to take up arms against the government and bring down the system.

Of course, once the system is toppled you’re going to need some sort of currency, and paper money won’t be worth anything.

However, here’s a thought that just doesn’t occur to people:

What makes you think that if civilization collapses, gold is going to be worth anything either?

Currency only has value insofar as people agree it has value. Without a system in place to guarantee that value, paper is just paper and you might as well wipe your ass with it.

But what are you going to do with gold? They’re just shiny rocks, after all. Just as useless as paper if not moreso (you can’t even wipe your ass with it).

Sorry, Glenn Beck viewers who think they’ve made some kind of incredibly wise investment and are now safe and secure should civilization crumble, but you’ve wasted your money. The human race is past the time in its history when everyone agrees that these shiny rocks have value.

If I’m living in a post-apocalyptic world and Glenn Beck comes to my farm asking to trade some of his shiny gold coins for food, I tell him to get lost unless he can offer something of real value.

Food, labor, and guns will be the only real forms of currency in that world. At least Glenn Beck’s viewers have plenty of that last one.

Fox News Reports, Fox News Decides

August 22nd, 2010 No comments

You’ve probably heard the news already:

WASHINGTON — With Republicans hoping to recapture a number of statehouses in November, the media conglomerate headed by Rupert Murdoch is inserting itself into the races in bold fashion with a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association.

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox News as well a few print outlets, has given a million dollars to help republicans get elected. This completely contradicts the whole “Fair and Balanced” façade that Fox News has been trumpeting since its inception to great effect. People who watch Fox News religiously actually believe that it’s not conservative propaganda, that it really provides a balanced political perspective. Repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it.

To keep up the façade, News Corp. needs an excuse:

But News Corporation executives said the political priorities at the Republican Governors Association and its emphasis on low taxes and economic growth dovetailed with the company’s own concerns. “News Corp. has always believed in the power of free markets, and organizations like the R.G.A., which have a pro-business agenda, support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy,” said Jack Horner, a company spokesman.

Right—it’s not that you support one political party over another, it’s that you support one political party’s agenda over the other. Nuance, people.

I can just imagine the Fox News people saying, “Look, we’re perfectly willing to report favorably on democrats, but only if they push for policies we like.” See—fair and balanced.

What Fox News and its audience don’t seem to understand is that to actually be “balanced” you have to give equal treatment to different perspectives, not just different parties. If you give the perspective from the Republican Party and then the perspective from the Democratic Party, that’s not balance—especially because there are so many people to the left of the Democratic Party in this country because that party has moved so close to the center. The same can’t be said for the Republican Party anymore, as Fox News has pushed it to the right-wing fringe.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s a free country and we believe in freedom of speech. If you can make a lot of money by presenting the news through a conservative-tilted lens, then go ahead and have at it.

Just don’t pretend that you’re fair and balanced. Don’t repeat the bullshit “We report, you decide” lie over and over again when you know damned well that you’ve already decided long before you report.

If you get all of your news from Fox News, fine. That’s great. I hope you enjoy it. Just don’t act like you’re well-informed or that you have a balanced perspective. All you’re doing is reinforcing the opinions you already have, and maybe that’s what you’re after. Maybe you have no interest in trying to look at things differently. All I ask is that you admit it, and recognize how that makes your opinion less legitimate than those of us who really do have an open mind.