Canada, the Arctic power…

July 31, 2009

Until last week, I’d been away and incommunicado for a couple of months, working on a ship without internet access, so I’ve been out of touch with the news. Pretty much all I heard while I was out was the NDP winning in Nova Scotia, the Pens beating the Wings, and Michael Jackson finally going to hell. I must have missed the bit about the federal Tories tanking in the polls, because that *has* to be what’s behind the recent Arctic bloviations by Peter Mackay and official non-pronouncements like the establishment of a web page to show how little much we are living up to our claims to be an “Arctic nation”. And please forgive my cynicism at pronouncements like the promised shipbuilding agreement from earlier in the week.

Speaking as one who works on Arctic issues and has to work with others from other Arctic nations frequently, these are utter embarrassments.


Media Madness: A Recent Example

July 31, 2009

As a follow-up to my post regarding the sorry state of journalistic ‘ethics’, I wanted to provide a link to this commentary by Nancy L. Cohen in the Huffington Post. As usual, there is historical precedent that the journalistic community has chosen to ignore and are therefore doomed to repeat.


Get ye to The Daily Show

July 28, 2009

Last night (July 27) on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart got Bill Kristol to admit that the federal government *can* provide better health care than the private sector.

What is it that Jon Stewart v Bill Kristol reminds me of? Oh yeah:


Unfortunately far from last words…

July 27, 2009

I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session in one’s last year in office

Sarah Palin

Get it? Those that actually finish what they start, that get elected and see their terms through to completion, those that treat those who elected them with enough respect to finish the term they were elected for, are dumb-asses participating in “unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session(s)”. Why would anyone want to vote for anyone so unproductive? If this was spoken by someone as stupid as Sarah Palin, I would attribute it to a rhetorical slip-of-the-tongue, a mis-reading of the sheet as it were. However, it was spoken by someone as egomaniacal as Sarah Palin, and she sees herself as bigger than the average “unproductive” politician. She has heard too many whispers from sycophants like Greta van Susternan and Bill Kristol, she believes her own press, she’s drank of the Kool Aid. And the Kool Aid is that strong that the fact she is quitting to avoid ethics scandals from an office in which she accomplished nothing aside from “going national” doesn’t seem to have registered with her.

And are the locals who call themselves “Palintologists” okay with being used as stepping-stones.?

“You betcha!”

These are of course sadly not the words of someone stepping out of the limelight of high office – it is larded with too many references to “free speech” and reverance for (hiding behind?) “the troops” for that. In short, it’s rote Republican fare. These are the words of one attempting ascention to higher office by first quitting a lesser one in some kind of reverse-failure ploy – a strategic Jedi mind trick in which a defeat is a “strategic withdrawal”, a Dunkirk. That this might work, that this incomprehensibly stupid person could potentially have even the remotest chance at high office in the once-most-powerful nation is a testament to the smallness and divisiveness of its domestic politic.

Should you want to bathe in her stupidity, please feel free, you can watch her entire speech here. In reality it’s perfect – a perfect collection of barely-related soundbites, just right for the 30-second journalism of the day. (A journalism that has been recently maligned around these here parts, I note.) I recommend a strong drink and a chair – she’ll make you dizzy. Or sick. Or, if you’re Bill Kristol, apparently hard.

Ewwww.


Reason 1: Mindless Superstition 0

July 26, 2009

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Hutterites’ cultural taboo against photography does not absolve them from the requirement to have their pictures on their Alberta driver’s license. The Hutterites’ belief is based on a selective interpretation of an arcane law a Commandment from the Jewish Book of Folktales Old Testament, and is on it own a demonstration of how religious bullshit works. The Commandment in question reads as follows:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

No likenesses of anything. Any thing. Any thing. What is a book if not a likeness of a thing?  The Bible is a book, isn’t it?

Think much?


Journalism’s Infinite Regression

July 25, 2009

The New York Times reports that media has started chasing its own tale over the ‘Birther’ movement – the group of fringe lunatics that believe President Barack Obama is not a natural-born American citizen, but rather a citizen of Kenya. I sincerely believe that, if nobody else has, that Jon Stewart effectively showed how absurd the whole idea is. If your plan consists of giving birth to a child in kenya, then announcing the birth in the Hawaii papers, then essentially sitting back and waiting for the plan to come to fruition by the child becoming President of the United States, well… It’s not really much of a plan, is it?

The problem is not that a small and dedicated group of nitwits believes that the whole idea is even plausible, but the fact that the media is paying attention to it. Psychologically, the human mind is designed to take note of novelty, or the unusual – these characteristics stand out and are remembered, even without benefit of context. If I write a headline saying that Stephen Harper is not an alien eater of kittens, the average mind wil remember the alien kitten eating over the ‘not’, nine times out of ten. Six months from now, the alien kitten eater will be the story, not the denial. So, by repeating the meme of non-citizenship, even in the context of a fringe belief, that element of the story will be remembered, not the fact that it is demonstrably false. Even in the slower summer months, there is no excuse to pay attention to these people, even in the increasingly condescending manner in which it is being done.

Reporter

Now, read the NYT story again – do you notice the actual theme of the story? It’s the media coverage of the fact that the media is reporting the story, not the story itself. The reporting is now about the reporting, not about the story.  I anxiously await the moment in which some intrepid journalist decides that the reporting of the reporting is worth reporting on, and the declining edifice that serves as an excuse for journalism will collapse in upon itself, a black hole of self-referential and poorly-formed ‘ironic’ rhetoric from which no intelligence, let alone news, can escape.

The most problematic part of modern reporting is that so much of it becomes about profit, not the importance of informing the public about important issues – this has, somewhat inevitably, created a culture that reveres the entertaining over the important, the popular over the truly necessary. I decided some time ago that I would make a terrible reporter, simply because I do not possess testicles large enough to let me forget that the weeping individual I am hounding for a quote has just lost a loved one, or that the non-white child is as important as the white one when they go missing. Priorities become misplaced, and ethics are forgotten, in favor of shareholder profits, translated through Nielson ratings or circulation figures.

In journalistic history, the importance of thorough and verifiable research has given way, thanks to the high-pressure, high speed requirements of the entertainment industry, to the quick source, the easy road, the fast payoff. Opinion becomes fact, or at least becomes the object that becomes important. The prominence of a public figure becomes the barometer that measures the reliability or news-worthy-ness of a story. If Bono, or Megan Fox, or ‘Octomom’ make a public announcement, that becomes news – the story of the day becomes the exploration of motivations for the statement, and then becomes about the other news outlets reporting the same story… Why? What possible justification, besides the quest for profits (whether overtly stated or implicit in methodology) can there be to even imply that something a musician, or actor, or mentally ill person has to say has even the least relevance to people’s experiences, or will have any long-term effects whatsoever?

I have written before about celebrity culture, and the sad commentary it provides on the priorities we as a society possess. We now, however, are experiencing the first instance of a manufactured, explicitly political individual who is carefully designed to exploit emotion and discourage independent thought: Sarah Palin. She has no actual qualifications other than her fame (or infamy) – she was a small-town Alaska mayor, and a Governor who didn’t even finish her first term, but she looks good on camera, and she has a troubling, yet undeniable populist persona that will motivate the faithful to follow her into the fires of her own manufactured armageddon, if that’s what she asks. She is a celebrity, without the benefit of an acting or music career, who parlayed her looks and folksy charm into small tastes of political power – and let there be no doubt that she likes it and craves more. Unfortunately, very few people in the media, who are terrorized by the fear of offending the joe six-packs in the viewing audience, will call “Bullshit!” on the whole affair and point out that she is a celebrity, not a civil servant. Nor will they point out just how dangerous charisma, raw emotion and popular appeal are without thought and reasoned debate.

The problem is not just that this idiot is wasting our time, but that the hunger for power and blind faith could lead people to react emotionally and viscerally to percieved threats that do not even exist – she is fuel for every paranoid conspiracy theorist and armed ‘revolutionary’ in the wilds of America. That is dangerous – people could actually die as a result. We need to acknowledge that paying attention to her is actually harmful, and does not constitute keeping the public informed in any valid way.

So, journalists, let’s see you grow some – call out hypocrisy, and ignore the fringe – that’s what they are, the fringe. They are called that for a reason, because the larger populace does not subscribe to their views. Covering them is promoting them, since the public probably can’t detect your snarky tone and will remember only the loudness of the message. And for goodness’ sake, don’t under any circumstances report on other news outlets – you may think you’re doing us a service, but you’re not. In fact, it’s been a long time since you informed us rather than trying to influence us. The Walter Winchells and Walter Cronkites (need more Walters – but not Barbara!) of the world have given way to the Charles Foster Kanes – if the story isn’t there, manufacture one, then decry the fact that others are doing it too. It’s not black and white anymore – all of today’s journalism has turned a vivid and troubling shade of yellow.


Important mid-week post!

July 23, 2009

Polymorph self?

No comments needed, really.


May I keep my testicles, officer?

July 17, 2009

Cop denies threatening Hyde before Taser used

At the time the scuffle broke out, Special Const. McCormick had just taken out a tool with a closed 10-centimetre serrated blade to remove the drawstring from Mr. Hyde’s shorts.

A barely distinguishable comment on the audio recording — that Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer representing Mr. Hyde’s sister, interpreted as, “We’re just going to cut one of those balls off” — apparently refers to a knot at the end of the drawstring.

Mr. Hyde became agitated at that point as Special Const. McCormick and two of his colleagues — all of whom are over six feet tall and weigh more than 200 pounds — struggled to subdue him. The struggle ended in a nearby hallway, where Mr. Hyde’s heart stopped before police revived him with CPR.

I don’t know about you, but if someone is approaching me with a serrated blade and says “We’re just going to cut one of those balls off”, I don’t immediately think that person is planning to cut the drawstring to my shorts. I might freak out a bit and panic, too. Even without the paranoia that often accompanies a schizophrenic episode, which is the condition Mr. Hyde was in at the time. I’d probably freak out enough that I’d be “doing the effing dance”, as some officer politely describes being tasered on the same tape.


Just when you thought the GOP was in danger of becoming irrelevant…

July 14, 2009

They sponsor a bill to prevent human-animal hybrids from being created! Take that, Democrats! What side were you on when the centaurs started taking over the planet? You were sitting on your freaking hands, not preventing the superior half-humans and their eggheaded genetic masters from ending our race as we know it! You didn’t foresee the hordes of satyrs from taking over the fields, the schools of merpeople from controlling the oceans, nor the flights of avioids from filling the skies! You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

Mermaids!  GAAHHH!!!!


Wow, That’s… Surprisingly Accurate…

July 6, 2009

Palin trash

Sometimes, the posts just write themselves.


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