communicate-the epilog

Well, alright, then. I had not intended to do a follow up part 2 to the previous note, “communicate”, but things just continue on.

Flipping on a television, I came across something that was a positive counterpoint to some of the empty nonsense or outright deception I was talking about before. I turned to C-Span, which, while it often shows nauseating displays of zombie madness in what we have today in American politics, often has programming that is much more useful. You get actual serious speaking and discussion, which is allowed to proceed at length, without interruption. You can sometimes get people who know what they’re talking about, speaking about things that matter, saying at least some of what there is to say. What a concept!

To at least some extent, it’s a good thing, a great thing, as some amount of antidote to what we could call “talking head television”But, then, among the general American population, how many people will sit and listen to that on C-Span?

What I encountered today somewhere in the middle of the program was a speaking appearance by Dylan Ratigan. He spoke for a considerable time, then opened things up to questions from people in the audience. Nobody was barking at a camera trying to shout over somebody else in short one-liner exclamations. Ratigan talked about a range of subjects, with relationships among the subjects, at length, articulating full thoughts without somebody interrupting him every five seconds.

Ratigan, in case you are not familiar with him, does a daily show on MSNBC. He’s one of the good characters in American media, actually knowing what he’s talking about, and doing what he can to communicate to people to inform them about things that matter, based the reality.

A brief interjection here, if you’ll forgive the digression. It’s late Sunday afternoon. After the C-Span program with Dylan Ratigan, I thought, hey, let’s check something quickly here. I switched over to CNN for a moment before I turned off the television. What was happening on CNN? They were talking to character I don’t know, with them and the CNN anchor each in separate studios staring into their own cameras, rambling about….. can you see it coming?….. the funeral of Whitney Houston (which happened yesterday).

Anyway…. where was I? Oh yeah. One obvious problem, as I wrote the last time here, is that for the people who have been completely and thoroughly snared by the Fox News operation, doing so much as even mentioning the MSNBC network will probably send them into reflex reactions about “leftist liberal propaganda!”. MSNBC has changed over time into a network that is almost entirely programs of editorial opinion, commentary, and discussion, rather than a news reporting medium, but the simple bottom line is this. Even while you’re watching something listening to somebody speaking about their observations and opinions, you are much more likely to be listening to somebody speak at what is some length in commercial television terms, explaining some set of relevant facts on a subject that are true and accurate, that inform what they think and they relay to you to evaluate yourself, with the articulation of their own train of thought leading to their conclusions.

It’s not all the greatest, but they have some particularly good people in Dylan Ratigan, Rachael Maddow, and Lawrence O’ Donnell, intelligent, well informed, rational, articulate, and by all I have to judge, earnest and honest and straightforward people. The operate in facts, run through relevant facts, for you to assess yourself, and articulate their reasoned thinking with the facts and principles involved. In short, even if you end up not agreeing with the opinions of these people about the state of some situation and how some thing or another should be, they lay things out as clearly as they can for you to consider for yourself. In other words, they’re not spewing bullshit and telling you what to think.

There is a pretty stark contrast to the noise on Fox, and irony level is off the scale when you consider the Fox News slogans; “Fair and Balanced” (their capitalization), “we report, you decide”, and then listen to what you get from the Fox talking heads, and then listen to one of the people I just named on MSNBC actually being fair, and honest, and spending a reasonable length of time actually reporting facts, saying what they think about the matter, and letting you make your own conclusions, while being honest about the fact that they do see the matter as they do, and are making a case to convince you about some point.

Where I am, the cable TV service has Fox News and MSNBC on adjacent channels, and that can be just amazing, and even flat out comically absurd now and then if I do something like turn on the TV between 9 and 10 PM and flip back and forth between the Rachael Maddow show and Sean Hannity. Spend maybe ten minutes or so as Maddow goes through a report of an involved set of facts and context and explaining her thinking about a story or issue, then flip over to Fox just in time to hear Hannity say “why are Obama and liberal leftist extremists trying to destroy America?!”.

A few months ago I turned to C-Span at random, and I came in on the middle of a program. The program consisted of Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan sitting at a table across from each other, just the two of them. They were discussing some book by Buchanan, if I remember right. If this had been on CNN or Fox, there would have been some talking head host meddling and directing, with regular interruptions for advertising, obnoxious musical bumpers and flashy video graphics, possibly with Nader and Buchanan in separate places staring into their own cameras, with some big bombastic presentation of the whole thing like “The Right versus The Left, Ultimate Smackdown!“. You know, infotainment for idiots. Instead, there on C-Span, you had an hour or more of a pair of guys paying attention to each other, listening to each other talk, back and forth in turn, having a real, serious, intelligent conversation.

There was no typical talking head host interrupting and manipulating the conversation and keeping it shuffling along into the next commercial break. As I recall, the host was actually Ralph Nader, there to interview Patrick Buchanan. There were no commercial interruptions pushing everything along and choking any flow of conversation and train of thought into little tiny blurted sound bite chunks as some kind of infotainment snack bits. There were no short snippets of big bombastic musical themes, no expansive TV studio sets and wall sized video screens with the latest dazzling computer graphics. It was just a pair of human beings having a serious conversation.

It was the way televised programs about public matters should be done, but something like that is now so unusual, extraordinary, that I suspect that for much of the citizenry of the United States, it would be just strange, really odd. I have to wonder about an obvious question. How many people would sit through maybe a minute or three of something like this, declare it “boring!”, and start switching channels to find something more dazzling, something where they don’t have to hold focused attention on what somebody is actually saying for more than a few seconds at a time, and, if it’s what passes for discussion of subjects of public interest these days, something that will seem to validate some easy simplistic neatly packaged conclusions? If it falls under the broad domain of “politics”, how much of that will be something that’s more about some strange kind of sporting contest than informing people, stimulating thought, and helping the general path to understanding something?

You can find actual real, serious, attentive conversation in some circumstances on television, like the Charlie Rose show, another is finding Bill Moyers interviewing somebody at reasonable length, in a real conversation working through things and getting to the heart of the matter, these days turning up on the PBS show “Need To Know”, but now, even mention those things to some people, and they’ve been so trained to have some idiot automatic Pavlovian reflex reactions that they will probably lurch instantly into some stupid squawking about the PBS network and “left wing radical liberal elite biased propaganda”.

People who might pay a little attention to the things I write in this little corner of the web might skim my frequent theme of the circumstances in the general subject of “energy”, particularly petroleum resources, and possibly think I’m a little repetitive, somebody might even think “obsessive”, but there are reasons for the frequency. It affects everybody, at least everybody in what we would describe as technological industrialized civilization, and it’s pretty obviously definitive that by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, and this is text relayed via computer systems and the internet, that includes you. The other part of this; so few people seem to even pay any attention to the matters involved, never mind seeming to really get it.

As I write, today brings the regular weekly Monday edition of Clusterfuck Nation, the blog of writer James Howard Kunstler, and as it usually is, it’s timely and relevant. This edition opens with the paragraph:

The misalignment of politics and reality threatens to scuttle both major parties, but it’s especially gratifying to see the Republicans sail off the edge of their own flat earth on the winds of religious idiocy. For forty years it has not been enough for them to just be a conservative party. They had to enlist the worst elements of ignorance and reaction, and they found an endless supply of it in the boom regions of the Sunbelt with its brotherhood of TV evangelist con-artists and a population fretful with suburban angst.

Please go and read it. In the meantime, the very first sentence contains a very concise nugget of essence of truth in the opening words, “the misalignment of politics and reality“. Hot damn. That covers a lot under one simple phrase. There are probably thousands of pages that could be written under the theme heading of “the misalignment of politics and reality”.

On that note, an article turns up on the web in the New York Times, Rising Gas Prices Give GOP Issue to Attack Obama.

There we have a perfect example of what I’m talking about, on a couple of interrelated topic areas. There’s the subject of “the misalignment of politics and reality”, and there’s the problem of the almost ubiquitous general public failure to be even generally aware of the reality of the situation of the broad subject of petroleum. Even thought retail pump gasoline (and diesel) prices have bounced around wildly in a kind of permanent state of volatility for pretty much the past decade, the general broad public consensus, fed by a parade of politicians, is that it’s all about the retail price of fuel, because that’s as far as people see. They’re conscious about how much money they fork over when they fill up the ultimate behemoth SUV or pickup truck. Pick a bunch of random people and inquire, and you’re likely to the point of being almost certain to get a batch of opinions and maybe some severe crabbiness about the price of a gallon of gasoline and what, supposedly, is the reason for that. In short form, for any politician or group of politicians to get credit or blame for the present or recent price of gasoline at a retail pump in the United States is about as realistic as the same people getting blame or credit for the fucking weather.

This particular article in the New York Times is a good glimpse of a whole gnarly mass of ignorance, confusion, obfusctation and sheer delusion among the politicians who see gasoline prices as a way to undermine President Barack Obama.

Here’s one extract from there worth a quick look as an example:

“Newt Gingrich wrote on Twitter on Friday that “gasoline prices are unacceptable. We can do better!” He urged his supporters to sign a petition on his Web site calling for a return to $2.50-a-gallon gas. “Drill here. Drill now. Pay less,” the petition says.”

Where to start? For a start, higher costs than expected for petroleum fuel are, indeed, a problem in an era and place where virtually everything revolves around assumptions of cheap and effectively unlimited petroleum to feed the whole works. What virtually nobody seems to mention here is that, here in the US, we have pretty consisntently been paying a retail cost per unit volume for gasoline and diesel fuel that’s less than half the prices paid by people in continental Europe and the British Isles.

The whole idea that some political actor who expects to be taken seriously, and, to my perpetual astonishment, apparently is taken seriously by a disturbing number of American citizens, would ask people to sign such a petition, is one of the endless items providing evidence that American politics today is dominated by absurdity. Just to consider the idea that somebody puts forth a petition to demand a particular price of gasoline, and could consider this a serious act, is comedy, except that it gets much less funny when you consider how many people apparently take something like this seriously.

In all the accounting of the political squabbling games in the Times article, what you don’t find is exactly what I keep pointing out, to the point that it might seem to be redious repetition. I’m tired of shouting into a void talking about it. Nobody even mentions the peak of US oil production over four decades ago, and the way the world as a whole has been bumping up against a plateau limit since about 2004-2005, which is obvious looking at the data if you eliminate the deceptive fudging of including any liquid fuels as part of “petroleum”. You don’t find anything about the Prudoe Bay area of Alaska being, from what I gather, the single biggest oil resource discovery within the US in history, produced a sort of sub-peak in oil flow rate for the United States that itself peaked around 1986 and still didn’t get the rate up to the level of the 1970-1971 all time US peak.

Lots of contentious chatter, little to no reality.

Also found there is this:

“They want higher energy prices. They want to push their radical agenda on the public,” Rick Santorum said at a campaign event last week, accusing Democrats of pushing alternatives to oil. “We need a president who is on the side of affordable energy.”

Get this one snippet: “accusing Democrats of pushing alternatives to oil”. “Accusing“? Like this would be something wrong?

But, then, this brings us around to one of the current players in the alternate reality surrealistic circus of current American politics, Rick Santorum. Over the past weekend, he really topped himself, quite an accomplishment given his standards of being a general sanctimonious douchbag. This is obviously the item that stimulated Kunstler’s piece for the week, and I will say that this one specific item, Santorum’s speech comments, is just one piece of a gigantic parade of crazy.

I’ll refer you to one article touching on this item, again from the New York Times, for a glimpse.

From there:

On Saturday in Ohio, Mr. Santorum described the “president’s agenda” as being “about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible.”

Apparently I am not the human person in America who heard about this comment and had a “what the fuck?” moment, thinking, what does that even mean?

Attempts at clarifying this odd and not mildly puzzling comment followed, with comments popping up in assorted media from both Santorum and assorted supporters, which didn’t exactly make anything much better. More from the Times article:

“Obviously, as we all know in the Christian church, there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity,” Mr. Santorum said. “I’m just saying he’s imposing his values on the church, and I think that’s wrong.”

Questioned further about the remark on Sunday, Mr. Santorum said he had meant that Mr. Obama’s worldview placed care of the earth and natural resources above human needs.

“The earth is not the objective,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS News. “Man is the objective, and I think that a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.”

This kind of thing is certainly not unique to this particular character. In that kind of mindset, it’s probably useless to point out the obvious facts of reality, that human life is part of the systems of the Earth, we exist as living beings as part of the Earth because of the Earth and its natural resources and the whole complex interplay of all its systems as a whole integrated functioning system.

This kind of mentality and attitude as personified by Santorum has long existed, an attitude that the Earth was created all just for us. Elsewhere in the following bits about this episode in the news, there were assorted comments of explanation of the comment about Obama’s “phony theology” meant to be about his energy and environmental policy.

The general attitude and position is obvious and clear because it is consistent with a lot of people proclaiming themselves as “born again” or “evangelical” Christians of the American kind, which essentially holds an attitude that says we can wreck and poison the planet as much as we want, and God will just keep fixing the place like an indulgent father who keeps buying new toys for his children as they keep destroying them, and we can just strip the planet like locusts and God will just keep refilling everything and give us all we want, because we want it, as long as we keep swearing a loyalty oath to Jesus. (Never mind whether they forget or ignore virtually everything Jesus said during his time on Earth.)

This isn’t new, and it’s publically visible without looking far, and I’ve personally encountered it many, many times in my life.

Go back a few centuries, and you found the same thing. People proclaiming themselves as personal representatives of God as justification of authority and power over people generally persecuted, tortured, and murdered people who might dare to suggest that the Earth was not the center of the universe, with the sun circling around a flat Earth, and us decreed by God as special.

Despite all the nonsense poured out by some people today about “the Founding Fathers”, one of the most basic elements in the minds of the people who formed the United States was a knowledge of the history of Europe of the preceeding centuries (and what was the present era, for them at that time), featuring malevolent domination of rule by deluded megalomaniacs claiming authority and power as God’s personal representatives.

They’re back.

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