Friday, October 22, 2010

The commercialization of politics

CSPAN Washington Journal: Former Members of Congress for Common Ground

I heard one of the gentlemen in this interview remark that the cost of getting elected has increased a hundred fold since running in the 70's.

It got me to thinking--$150,000 in 1970, $15,000,000 in 2008, hmm.  There is a market here, and not metaphorically speaking.  There is a vibrant market place around the buying and selling of opinion and policy.   I'm not just talking about the old school corporate pay-off and congressional extortion types of trade.  No, this is new, it is in fact a swap-meet for commercialized politics.  The commercialization of politics should be a scary thing.  It brackets an insidious movement.

I hear over and over the cry for "campaign finance reform,"  but I now see that it won't help, and here is why.  Ask yourself what creates a market?  It's a demand for something on one hand and a supplier of that something on the other.  It takes a supply and a demand to create a market.  Now when a political campaign accepts that it must compete in our commercial reality its strategy has already been fixed in a fundamental way.  That is, create effective memorable sound bytes and play them to the most people for the least dollars.  We are responsible, you and I, for creating that demand, and we shouldn't blame our media industry for stepping up to supply it.  They are just doing what all good capitalists do.  But we all see what kind of government is being grown in the soil of this culture.

We may think we're demanding transparency, but we're really demanding something completely different and much darker.  It is the true elephant in the room.  You and I must end the demand, turn off the commercials and find better, more productive ways of informing ourselves about the issues and people addressing them.  When we are willing to accept this responsibility, it won't take long for the media to respond, or our government for that matter, their livelihoods depend on it.  We should stop blaming Congress and look to our own capabilities in this matter.  We are not required to watch commercials just because there is an endless supply of them!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Understanding conservativism and liberalism

I heard an excellent discussion this morning between conservative and liberal scholars. The moderator asked the representative from the American Enterprise Institute "why are you a conservative?" The answer was:

I believe in individual liberty. A government should only have the powers required to protect personal freedom. But that freedom must not be allowed to go so far as to hurt other individuals in the society, hence liberty and justice for all.

Then the moderator asked the representative from Progressive Policy Institute "why are you a liberal?" The answer was:

I believe a society is only as strong as each individual's sense of responsibility to the community. A government must be entrusted with the power to implement policies that cultivate and nurture such a culture of activists.

The more I reflect on these answers, the better I like them!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How I get my news

Two years ago I started using these services for my news, in this order:
Project for Excellence in Journalism
Media Matters for America
Fact Check Public Policy Center

One year ago I turned off all commercial broadcast, cable, and satellite services!

Now I've become an avid C-SPAN radio listener and an adept Google Reader user. Judging by the commercials I see at sports bars, in magazines, on billboards, I'm not missing much.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

another Barzun quote

There is but one conclusion: human beings are unmeasurable. It follows that equality is a social assumption independent of fact. It is made for the sake of civil peace, of approximating justice, and of bolstering self-respect.
[From Dawn to Decadence: The Forgotten Troop, p436 pp2; emphasis additional]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We are but expressions of the culture we live in (or, clueless in Atlanta)

I often tell my friends that nobody thinks in a vacuum; we can not separate who we are from those we live among; we understand and express ourselves with language and metaphors that our culture has taught us.

So you can imagine the laugh I had when I read AP: Teacher in trouble after students don Klan robes this morning.  My wife thought I was laughing about the lunacy of the situation, but that's not true.  I found it humorous to imagine the discombobulation (minus the embarrassment maybe) of the students when they came to class and found a note on the door informing them the teacher had been suspended.

I'm going to hazard a guess that they were stunned, and some of them quite likely still have not figured out what's going on.  It was not, I'm sure, the instructor's idea.  Probably the deed was enacted in the plain light of day not so much for ideological reasons, but rather as the result of mundane scheduling concessions.  Couldn't get everybody together on the week-end.  But I'm also sure it never even occurred to them that some bystander's grandfather (yes, that recently!) may have been lynched.  The evidence indicates the individuals in that troupe are almost certainly beneficiaries of white privilege and have no idea of what feelings this kind of image might produce in others. 

But they wouldn't, you see, because of the culture in which they exist.

Maybe I'm getting cynical, though not inconsistent with my age group, but I find it laughably ironic when the reality of one's inherited status slaps one in the face so abruptly.  I'd wager that the teacher (who should be fired, but not destroyed professionally) is feeling somewhat bemused at the moment, yet I hope that she has the grace to see the error of her ways and encourages by example a classroom of impressionable young minds to become a little more aware of their brashness.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Gigrich slays me again...

I heard Newt Gingrich on C-SPAN Washington Journal this morning.

He was spouting crap about Radical Islam and Secular Socialism.

Got me to thinking, where is this guy coming from--I made a magnificent effort to understand him.

I heard him actually say "... the spiritual side of life is more important than the secular...".

I wonder, should that kind of premise be welcome on the public stage? Is there a valid argument that considerations informed by religious belief are or are not helpful?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

on the words conservative and liberal

I believe it may help to consider, for a moment, those two words as rhetorical devices.

Within the rhetorical form referred to as argument there are several important developmental phases including, point of view, audience, persona, etc.

An overarching theme though, is delivery--which concerns the strategy and mechanics of presentation.  This consideration answers the question: what is the best approach to win consensus? I'd like to suggest two strategic models: conservative and liberal.

A conservative model takes the posture that the argument is dealing with some given, or set of givens, e.g. self evident truths.

A liberal model does not enjoy such solid support.  It must assume a posture granting unknowns, an explicit admission that the unknowable exists.  A liberal argument will always impart some sense of an ethical consideration, a qualitative value position. Frequently sentences begin with "In my opinion."

You can always recognize a conservative argument because it is closed, and can not be countered, short of inflicting trauma on the subject.

You can always recognize a liberal argument because it is suggestive and may even encourage alternative interpretations.

It is important to understand that both are useful devices, both are important, both have a place and time.

True of any tool.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Can anybody save the GOP?

Tsk, tsk, it's just too bad. The Republican platform does (really) have some important ideas. But it's impossible to hear them because of...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why I'm down on reporters

The article Why reporters are down on Obama by POLITICO's Gerstein and Gavin does seem to make sense, but it's superficial. And it also underscores what it is about reporting that just bugs the hell out of me.

Of course Obama's administration enforces a policy of closed doors to these tattlers. The typical talking head in today's media has simply forgotten the journalistic principle: Unbiased reporting is a fantasy. Hell, as the article shows, even good grammar appears to be out of reporting fashion. Good journalism insists we understand and accept the reality that all people have opinions. It should be evident that our perceptions are colored by who we are. The trick, the art of journalism, is to convey our opinions outright and in plain sight, but at the same time admit that there are cogent alternative perspectives!

Our so called reporters of today's glitzy glamorous media circus have failed to learn that lesson. I too would close my door to any tattle tale who's sole objective was to sensationalize every word out of my mouth.