Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kill a Pundit, Save our Sanity

Last Friday the New York Times spoiled a delusion I was purposely keeping myself under. The Delusion: That Pundits were just an accident, a quark, God's little joke on us all, and that soon they would fade away. Or maybe all be shot. (This is in no way a threat, I'd like to keep myself happily out of the FBI target list for as long as possible)

The article which brought about the demise of my sanity was titled "At pundit school, learning to smile and interrupt"

There is a frickin' school teaching people how to be pundits? I am left in aww.

Lets be clear, the word Pundit hasn't always been a curse word, and the person filling the position not always an ass. The first "pundits" were local Indians who advised the English judges on Hindu law in India under the colonization era. No, punditry became terrible upon the advent of the 24 hour news station.

For some amazing reason 24 hours is not enough time to pack all of the news into, which can hardly be argued against when Joe the Plumber, one of the least relevant celebrities in our time gets hours of time on-air a week. Since 24 hours just isn't enough time, there is no way to allow for two people to go on air separately and state what they think and support it. It is obviously necessary to put two, three or four pundits on screen at the same time and have them yell at and over one another, effectively offering less intellectual debating than the Jerry Springing show.

For this reason, in order to get a step ahead of the others, pundits are enrolling in classes which teach them how to destroy what was once the beloved debate.

Pundits need to "carve...[their] philosophy into bite-size nuggets — preferably ones that end with a zinger — and to avoid questions he doesn’t like."

Those three things are just terrible. Nuggets don't get the audience anywhere, we need substance, we need explanations. Nuggets are causing us all to go the way of the mentally retarded.

The school is teaching the students how to interrupt, avoid questions they don't like and steer a conversations in a direction where they can get their message across. This is just what we need, an off topic message for the simple reason of self-promotion. What we are looking at is the professionalization of a tactic most often employed in Ms. Teacher's third grade class.

My conclusion to the whole thing is that the pundit does not represent what journalism is all about. It is one of the very few professions which is supposed to work for the audience to inform and at times educate. The pundit in trying to break information down into nuggets, smiling while you're on the attack, and adding catch phrases like "flip flop" in to attract attention is simply distracting the audience from what is really going on in the world.

There is a reason that the debate as been beloved for so long, it allows for the free exchange of ideas and when done correctly can inform an audience on multiple side of an issue. Unfortunately in many ways it seems that the debate is going down the proverbial shitter and with it goes all of the benefits.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Write to Marry Day

*UPDATE* Contributed posts are up

I just wanted to pass along a some information I found at the Caffection blog about Write to Marry Day. This is an organized write-in of anyone interested in blogging against Proposition 8 in California. If you write or have written a blog against prop 8 before October 29 you can submit it at Mombian and together we can help show Californians why this proposal is despicable.

In related news the New York Times and Fox News (links are to the articles not main sites)each printed articles Sunday about the extreme attention (and $$$) this California Proposition is getting state, nation, and international wide.

I'm feeling a little short-winded tonight so I'll just leave it at: good reads, dig in. Even the Fox News one, hell even they can put out a fairly unbiased piece of news occasionally.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Proposition 8: Enough Already!

The California gay community has some of the strongest legal power in the country over their right to marry, however they have been dragged back and forth through the dirt more times than in any other state. The legal right for them to marry has been given to, and taken back from them, around six times. Five of which have been since 1977.

It is great to see that Apple and Google have stepped up to the plate in opposition to Prop 8. But let's be honest, it is quite sad that they even have to.

Prop 8 in essence does the same thing that Prop 22 did back in 2000. Prop 22 was found to be unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in May 2008. So just why are we going in circles? Should we expect that if Prop 8 gets passed on the ballot next month that the supreme court will come around in the next eight years and also find it unconstitutional? It seems as though at some point we need to draw the line on wasting all this time and money.

It is in my opinion that this is an issue best left for the Supreme Court. Obviously I have a biased view as I am supportive of gay couples right to marry, but the purpose of the Court system is better suited for this kind of decision. Voter initiatives and congressional votes serve the purpose of keeping the government running as a democracy. Unfortunately, in allowing for majority rule, sometimes the minority gets stepped on a little too much. In these cases, which include the current, the court system is a much better place to determine constitutionality.

UCLA estimates that over 11,000 gay couples have been married since the floodgates were opened in May until mid September. God hasn't sank it out of spite yet, so why not just leave the gays alone?

All Americans need to get behind the 'anti-anti-gay marriage movement' and help get prop 8 voted down. Even if the rest of us in the other 49 can't make the vote we need to make it clear that this proposition is a terrible thing. As I have said before, only 4% of the United States allows for gay marriage (that's two states for you math buffs), losing California would be a great loss to the cause.

See also my earlier, mostly relevant blog: The Hypocrites Dilemma

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Voting isn't for Idiots

In the world in which we find ourselves under a constant barrage of media from news stations, political satire shows, the blog-o-sphere and any other media outlet you can think of, we have become a culture in which voting is more difficult.

Some would argue against this statement,claiming that with such great coverage it is now possible to know more about the candidates than has ever been known before. This of course is a very good argument. The seemingly infinite number of outlets creates an infinite number of angles against the candidates. Information is going to come up that people wouldn't have even thought of 50, 75, or 100 years ago. Sure there have always been the sex scandals in politics, but only now can news articles, news programs, spin shows and bloggers all converge on topic of “Why Obama turned down a cup of coffee and asked for an orange juice instead”

Unfortunately it is this that is destroying so many people's ability to make an informed choice in the voting booths. This is not to say that I want the news, bloggers and satirists to stop what they're doing. That would be idiotic they need to continue to do their jobs. It is just unfortunate that to the untrained ear and eye this very news is increasingly turning candidates into celebrities with every election. There is so much information out there that people are reluctant to even try to dive down into it, instead they surf along the top of it absorbing a little information here and there. Unfortunately that information is more often than not the sketchy, superficial rumor mongering that caused the Great Orange Juice Controversy of '08. Or better yet they vote for whomever doesn't seem to be the biggest idiot when played by the actors of SNL.

This is not to say that everyone is an idiot and can't understand how to use the media to their benefit. There is certainly no way to calculate such ignorance anyways. I'm simply saying that those who are thinking about voting in this coming election should seriously consider if they are doing so under the proper knowledge.

A couple weeks ago Howard Stern featured a guest who did a street experiment, much like the Jay Walking part of the Tonight show. His experiment followed the premise that many black voters were going to vote for Obama simply because he was black. Obviously in listening to this you have to take into account the show it is on and the fact that this was in no way a scientifically controlled experiment. Certainly more people were interviewed than were put on the show, and of course it was the best ones that made the cut.

I'm not going to repeat what the goes on in the clip in it's entirety because it's not very long and I've included the link. But basically the guy asked the black participants who they were voting for, all of which said Obama for various reasons related to his presumed ability to be a better leader, or his agreement with them on issues. He then preceded to ask them which of two “Obama views” they agreed with more strongly. The twist was that the issues were actually of McCain's view and those interviewed fell for it, bad.

This was a dramatization that unfortunately probably appears in society more often than we would like to admit. (Oh and it's unfortunate that I have to say this, but no I am in no way trying to say that black voters aren't as qualified as white voters.)

We have been pushing to get young voters to the voting booths for a long time and in this election due to the Obama camp we may even see record numbers of them doing so like we did in the democratic primaries. Unfortunately we should be pushing for young INFORMED voters. If the young people of the country are too lazy to get out and vote just once, isn't it also a pretty good assumption that they weren't able to find the time in their busy schedules to actually follow the debates, news, blogs, other commentary? We vote on a Tuesday for Christ's sake, Monday isn't even one of the big party days. My opinion is that if they don't want to vote, don't make them because they're just going to make a stupid decision anyways.

And just to bring this whole issue to a head Orange County California opted today to allow a one day only drive-thru registration and voting system. The same way that we have managed to become fat, sloppy and lazy Americans through the fast food assembly line, now we can vote! And to no surprise at all it had a great reception. We need to keep this from spreading.

If people are too lazy to vote the old fashion way they probably shouldn't vote at all. Is voting really that hard? For most we're talking about once every four years. For the most dedicated voter twice a year. All you have to do is walk into a building sign a book and vote in the booth. Occasionally lines get a little lengthy during peak hours but districts do the best they can to keep these under control. If you can not do that once every four years, you shouldn't vote. I'm sorry, you're are lazy and would be better off following the rest of us around anyways. Stop fooling yourself, leading isn't for you please, please don't waste your time or mine.

We're better off with a tiny percentage of informed voters than a mass of ill-informed, lazy morons.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Reagan's Dead for Good and What That Means for You.

Sure his mind left us long ago, and his body left us a few years ago, but outlasting both were his treacherous financial plans. Now as we all sit back and watch our investments fall, college graduates unable to find jobs to pay off their student loans, senior laborers calculate the increased number of years they will have to work if their 401k's don't turn around, and the newly unemployed wonder if they're going to make rent among hundreds of more dismal stories, we can take to optimism in the fact that the Reagan era is over.

Apparently the problem is, is that human nature causes us to be-live for the moment idiots. Otherwise why would we repeatedly allow ourselves to be duped into allowing for less controlled markets for temporary gain? Reagan certainly wasn't the first Head of State to masturbate to The Wealth of Nations and unfortunately will not be the last.

It certainly is hard to say no to great economic gain. The Internet bubble of the '90s made a lot of people phenomenal amounts of money. Unfortunately the fall afterward cost many of those same people most or all of that money back. The current bank situation is just another example of how, when allowed to, greed takes over good sense and lot of people get hurt.

The reason that these greedy bastards running the banks were willing to make such shaky business decisions is because they knew that in a “pinch” the government would step in to save them. The same expensive suit wearing, limousine riding, caviar eating assholes that have been touting free market capitalism knew that if their greed got out of control socialism would step in to protect their investment. Suddenly Socialism isn't such a bad word.

It is an atrocity that the American taxpayers are forced to bail out multi-billion dollar companies because they are unable to make good business decisions. Isn't that the reason that they have boards make financial decisions rather than singular people? A room full of well dressed, white businessmen weren't able to realize that giving loans to people who have no chance in hell of paying them back was a bad idea?

This of course isn't to take all of the attention off of idiot American who borrowed too much and can't pay it off. I sometimes wonder if maybe the term “adjustable rate” only rings a danger bell in my head. If you're taking out a fifteen year loan with an adjustable rate, wouldn't it seem likely that somewhere along the line the rate would increase creating a situation where you couldn't afford your premiums? In fifteen years?!

But alas we were left with the decision, very possible financial ruin or a $700,000,000,000 federal bailout. It was a complete necessity, a shameful necessity. Not one penny will be seen by the millions of common people suffering joblessness, homelessness, and 'furturlessness,' This bailout is set up only to help those that already have to much money and want more. Unfortunately the way the system is built, without them we all go down.

So the moral of the story is, we as Americans need to stop being short sighted idiots. Sure we might not see skyrocketing profits when we have a little extra socialism stirred into our economy but at least when the time comes for the cyclical downward slope of the economy it drops like a bunny hill and not like the Atom Bomb.

How is your 401k doing? Aren't you glad we didn't privatize Social Security yet?

Update: "The stock market's prolonged tumble has wiped out about $2 trillion in Americans' retirement savings in the past 15 months [401k], a blow that could force workers to stay on the job longer than planned, rein in spending and possibly further stall an economy reliant on consumer dollars, Congress's top budget analyst said yesterday."~Nancy Trejos, The Washington Post