All the news

The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage.

Carl Bernstein

mexico city passerby005There was a time in my life (high school and junior high school) when I read the New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune and weeklies such as Time and Newsweek:  the rest of my family favored the New York Daily News. I tried to read monthlies, too, such as The Atlantic, The Nation and The New Republic. Then college came and I switched to watching televised news in the morning because I got home too late after working the swing shift as a billing clerk at a trucking company to watch the news at 11, and I remember waking one April morning to news from Memphis and two months later to news from California; so many of my ideals departed with the deaths of MLK and Bobby Kennedy. I was drained. All of a sudden news wasn’t so important, politics were no longer important. Whoever “they” were, “they” were in control, there was nothing civilized society could do to stop those intent on stopping the people.

It is easy to believe in conspiracies when one is powerless, when one must view from the outside a constant swirl of events designed to eat away, like salt air on iron, until one’s protective covering blisters, until one changes color, then crumbles to dust when poked.

We get what we deserve was a refrain I heard growing up. But future generations do not deserve the erroneous solutions sought by earlier generations.  Trickle-down economics that served as a gushing oil well solely to those with wealth, sending money up the economic ladder instead of down, proved to be true voodoo economics.  The middle and lower tiers of the economic ladder were duped, abandoning power for protection from phantom social threats; this has gone on so long that the upper rungs believe they are entitled to working people’s money. It is ironic, is it not, that Republicans, Libertarians, and other me-firsters talk disparagingly of people who want access to services and funds for which they’ve already paid through payroll taxes into what was supposed to be a trust?

As wealth continues to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands, there has been a corresponding decrease in the quality of American public education. After all, why should the wealthy contribute to a system they do not use?

If mega churches in the United States were truly willing to help the common person – which I seriously doubt is an interest of theirs – they would not fight against local taxation of church property, some of which is prime real estate in urban settings. Government’s involvement with religion in this matter speaks against the separation of church and state and is, instead, state support of organized religions and thus benefits a few at a cost to all. Why should churches be given preferential treatment to other non-profit organizations? Or to for-profit organizations that rent to non-profits?

The ruse continues as the current President offers a solution to an economic crisis (really, does anyone believe there is still a crisis as the Dow-Jones Industrial Average flirts with daily all-time highs? If stock markets are indicators of moods, what, exactly, is this current mood?). His solution is to again take from those in need by cutting social security and Medicare benefits that were paid for by workers and employers; I hear no talk of federal pension holders (including elected officials [read Senators and Representatives] and Executive branches), appointees such as Supreme Court and other federal judges and the scores of federal line and staff employees. whose pensions are funded completely by taxpayer dollars, being asked to sacrifice a portion of their futures. True, these federal employees made contributions to their pensions, but the contributions were from salaries and wages paid through tax dollars. Make no mistake:  we are not all in this together.

As far as I know, even my current news reporting hero Jon Stewart hasn’t broached this topic.  I don’t read the news these days, although I occasionally watch it via the internet:  I just cannot read news from subtly biased sources such as Yahoo, which I feel is far more powerfully manipulated as was any other form of media.

There are expats here in San Miguel who talk only of events in the United States, debate what they think is wrong, of how to fix things, of lying politicians and so forth. I feel so out of touch, yet listen, and find myself no longer willing to oxidize.

From time to time I learn of someone – like historian Ken Burns – who tries to put things right, who tries to keep the past in clear and true focus. Click here to see Burns’ appearance on The Daily Show in which he discusses his most recent project, The Central Park Five. The Ken Burns segment begins near the 13-minute mark.

Missed it again

Every Tuesday the UUs meet at someone’s home to discuss a topic. I’ve never attended one of these get togethers – I just can’t seem to get myself out the door that early but once a week. Their topic most recently was “Where does humor come from?” Years ago my friend Grace said that humor is always at someone’s expense (misfortune). I doubted her, but in the intervening years I haven’t come up with a single instance where that wasn’t true. That leads to …

My current news source

Russell Howard



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