Thursday, March 30, 2006

Flagging the Debate

When I talk to fellow travelers about the dangers of the plague of wing-nut Talk Radio, I am met with knowing, dismissive yawns. The wing-nuts are just talking to each other, they say. Let the guys in the tank tops and crew cuts sip their High Life and confirm their Angry-White-Maleness with Limbaugh everyday. It's harmless and keeps them off the highways. Who needs more NRA bumper-stickers and road rage?

But, actually, it is Talk Radio that built up Junior Bush and tore down Clinton and Gore -- relentlessly, 24 hours a day. It is Talk Radio that ridiculed and promoted the Swift Boat lies about John Kerry, easily making the difference with a divided electorate that did not want to re-elect Bush, but, for some reason, wasn't comfortable with the alternative.

But those are only the Big Picture results. Where Talk Radio really does its damage is in inflicting the small cuts that cause every off-message opponent of the regime to bleed just enough to lose their credibility, no matter how solid their arguments. Wing-nuts don't argue; they damage and destroy. More importantly, their poisonous inquisitions leak into the MSM, where the guilt-ridden Big Feet throw bones to the wing-nuts by treating their "issues" as legitimate.

For instance, I was in my car for all of two minutes tonight (getting it off the street, the preference of the City Fathers here) and still managed to here one of our minor local wingnuts "discussing" the display of Mexican flags during the very impressive rallys held about the country this week (including 30,000 here in Milwaukee). There was, of course, the usual uncreative blather about them Mexicans coming here to get our welfare and get their kids in our schools (everything but calling them "wetbacks", which local repulsive wing-nut Mark Belling did about a year ago -- and he's still on the air). Now that's playing to the base.

But there were also a couple of themes developed by Karl Rove, no doubt, that I heard on both national and local shows. One was that the protests were promoted sneakily on Spanish radio and TV. I don't know what that has to do with anything -- the people still had to show up on their own; I don't think they were flown there by Telemundo traffic helicopters -- but the implication that those foriegners using those funny words are always talking about Us is meant to delegitimize the success of the rallies.

But the other non-issue was the display of the Mexican flag during the rallies. Whole industries -- well, kiosks in the malls, anyway -- are built on the desire of people throughout our supposed Melting Pot to display the flags of their national heritage, from St. Patrick's day to Milwaukee's famous German restaurants, etc. But, no, if these people want to object to an oppressive anti-immigrant policy, only U.S. flags shall be displayed. To what nation are they loyal, anyway?

Notice what both of these talking points do: They cast aspirtions on the advocates of a point of view, without ever getting into the real substance of the issues involved. This is what the wing-nuts do. Distract and destroy.

But the real success of this particular smear campaign won't be clear until the MSM takes these non-issues and discusses them on thier editorial and op-ed pages. "Some question display of Mexican flags at rallies", the headline will say, and there we go. People will know more about the flag displays than they will about the details of the proposed law, including the 700-mile fence at the border. Chalk up another one for the bad guys.

Next: What we can do about it (maybe).

57 Channels

Really, can you believe Joe put "Our House" on his hot playlist just because he heard it on some lame paint commercial? Hell, why not "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida", fer cryin' out loud. Makes me want to just rip those damn earpods out of his head. No, but, really, the "Kitty's Back" ringtone is to die for and...

Did you ever notice that the more freedom and media outlets we have available, the less we do with it? There are now, what, 500 cable/sattilite channels available and what the hell is on but a bunch of recycled junk, bad Hollywood product from the past 20 years and niche programing for the over-served (golf, cooking, funny animals). For every gem like the Daily Show/Colbert Report hour, there are thousands of hours, channels and bandwidth wasted on brainless programming designed to keep (or make) you stupid. As Springsteen sang 12 (!) years ago, "57 Channels and Nothing On". Try 500, and counting.

Now multiply that by millions on the internet. Instant publishing and distribution hasn't exactly led to open doors for new ideas. The only truly reliable sites for news are run by the major news organizations, with sites like Salon and Slate adding slightly to the national conversation, but mostly through the regular prism of the Washington Press Corps.

Blogs are given great credit for moving something somewhere, but only when they get noticed by the Mainstream Media (now known as MSM). Blogs on the right are a well-financed sub-section the Bush Surrogate program, cited by radio wing-nuts for affirmation of this or that and introducing the outrageous in order to probe the soft underbelly of the electorate for brain neuron stimulation ("Damn illegal immigrants! Why can't they speak English?").

Blogs on the left are more diverse, by nature, and tend to offer small snippits of wisdom and observation and tons of links to other places that show how right we are. Some are mentioned on the MSM -- some of the dippier bloggers even get face time on cable news -- but only for their novelty status ("Yeah, I'm a blogger...tee hee") and seldom for the substance of their writing (such as it is) or their ideas. I'm sure there are some wonders out there that I just haven't found yet (just like there are bands playing and CDs proving that rock-and-roll is not Dead), but the impact on the national discussion is: not much.

I'm going to try to get some ideas out there and try to get a serious discussion going before the 2006 election cycle gets into full gear. The bottom line is that the oppressive regime of Talk Radio will get worse and we have to find a way to counter it. More to follow.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

French Freedom Fries

My son is working on a project this month about his heritage. I was able to give him lots of information about the Plaisted liniage -- all the way back to Normandy in 1100 (then to England; across the ocean to Maine in 1650, etc.). He decided to concentrate on France as one of his countries of origin.

After school yesterday -- before heading out to Lake Park to play catch on a sunny day -- I had him sit down to watch some live video of the authorities trying to clear demonstrators from a square in Paris. The smart-ass 20-ish students and workers dared the jandarmes to hit them with the robot water cannons, and so they did. It is always interesting to watch the supposedly powerless toy with the determination of the supposedly powerful when they try to move them. I'm sure most of the crowd would have moved on hours ago, were it not for the ridiculous show of force. It was too much fun for the young people to play with the tin soldiers.

There has been much tut-tutting about the French protests, objecting to a change in the French law that would eliminate job security for young workers -- apparently they get the first two years for free, or something like that. This has been charactorized as downright un-American by the suck-it-up crowd, most of whom have agent-driven contracts and golden parachutes.

But, really, what is so wrong with government-sponsored job security? Not that it will ever happen here, but does everywhere in the world have to convert to our survival-of-the-luckiest version of trickle-down capitalism? I always admired the fact that everyone in France and other parts of Europe take August off as a paid holiday (not to mention their nationalized health insurance).

We need to lighten up and not be so damn virtuous about working our asses off for less pay and no security. We need to get a real life. The French already have one.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dead to Me

It's taking a while to get started again.

I last blogged in earnest in 2004, leading up to the re-coronation of Junior Bush, an otherwise insignificant speck of dust who has served as the front for an enormously poisonous regime that has twisted political logic and destroyed any independent media that might otherwise stand in its way.

My last blog on the old site (a Salon mechanism that, for some reason, demanded $39.95 annually) had to do with the death of a counter-culture icon (back when there was a counter-culture), Hunter Thompson, who decided to take things into his own hands 20 years after his greatest achievements, and left it for others to appropriately blow his ashes out of a cannon.

As I write now, the bodies of Casper Weinberger and Lynn Nofziger are lying in some funeral home, getting dressed up for their somber ceremonies and fitful resting places. Screw the bastards.

Weinberger was scheduled to go on trial for lying to Congress and before he was summarily pardoned by Daddy Bush as he was on the way out the door in 1992 ("Where's the Outrage" case number 3492: Imagine if Bill Clinton had done the same thing...). He was a top-grade fixer, when he wasn't drawing big checks from the likes of (insert your favorite defense contractor here).

Nofziger, on the other hand, was a acolite of pioneer poison pig-fucker Lee Atwater, who more appropriately met his demise of self-imposed death-by-karma much earlier. Nofziger used his professorial goatee and bald head to snow the chattering classes into believing (or at least pretending to stomach)the nonsense sold by the Reagan and Bush I administrations. A mere piker compared to Karl Rove, Nofziger seemed capable of chuckling beneath a stein of Irish beer with Buchanan, et. al. at D.C. watering holes while the victims of the contras and other GOP-sponsored criminals bled into shallow graves.

Reagan, Weinberger, Atwater and Nofziger now dance with the other-expired in an undisclosed location. Hell is now hotter and Hunter laughs from above with the Dance of the Just.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blaming the Victim

I've been listening to talk radio a lot lately. Maybe I just have too much time on the road, going from here to there. Maybe I can't seem to tear myself away from the poison dripping from the speakers. Maybe I'm amazed.

For all of the self-flagellation going on with progressives and/or Democrats these days, no one seems to grasp the real impact of the Echo Chamber on political dialog in this country. Wing-nut talk radio -- and its various cousins on cable TV and the internet (although the internet just gives the stooges an excuse to talk about something as if it has actually been "published") -- have had an enormous impact on the political landscape. Even the nuttiest, graveyard-shift clear-channel AM mystery voices start rumors and introduce ideas that eventually find their way into the mainstream press.

The Democrats can't get a word in edge-wise. And I'll be damned if I can figure out how we possibly could.

Some dismiss the wing-nuts because it is assumed that they are only preaching to the converted. Who cares how the hopelessly-fooled confirm and maintain their delusions? But the impact -- entirely intended -- of the continuous drumbeat of Roveian talking points is that issues and leaders are seen through the distorted prism of an ingenious alternate reality; one where the hopelessly manipulated, wrong and inadequate Junior Bush is a just and pure leader of men and any Democrats who might threaten his reign with new ideas or just plain old common sense are universally savaged and characatured as lame and ineffective.

As I examine the dark caverns of the wing-nut world, I have noticed how all of them devote more time to defining their real or imagined enemies than they ever do discussing any of their "ideas". After all, Bush "won" in '04 not by any confirmation of his own wonderfulness -- voters were done with his sorry ass a full year before that election. But, besides making sure his wealthy contributors fixed the paper-trail-less voting machines in Ohio (OK, maybe, but I wouldn't put it past these bastards), he "won" by making sure people thought the worst of John Kerry. "OK, he's a dick," the Average Voter thought of Bush. "But, Kerry?"

I'm going to explore this for a while. Stay tuned.