I’ve been corresponding back and forth in email with someone over the past week or two, and among the topics is the subject of this little blog. The conversation has been interesting, covering a range of items, but on the specific subject of this little corner of the interwebs, he has had things to say, including one specific factor, the length. This is someone who I take very seriously, a very intelligent and educated and well informed fellow who pays attention and has been around the block a few times, through quite a batch of circumstances over the course of his life.
Brevity. I was told to be more succinct. Keep it short and simple and easy, because people don’t want something that takes some time. Some topics, such as our petroleum and general energy predicament, might be too laborious.
Heavens. It might be almost like work, and take more than a minute to read.
Now, the thing is, I know that he’s right, up to a point. Brevity, being concise, and succinct, is something important, and I could do way better in that department.
But only up to a point. Here’s the thing. Are some things laborious? Might it take more than a few seconds of attention? Is that too hard? Well, that is just too fucking bad.
Some things require more than a few sentences of text or 30 seconds of talk. Not everything fits into a bumper sticker.
We have a severe national cultural attention span problem, and that is no joke.
Dude! So many words!
In a world of sound bites, bumper sticker sized slogans and memes, Twitter and mobile phone text message brain farts, this is too wordy, long winded. It’s no mystery how we can find ourselves in a kind of culture of twitching reflex reactions and general confusion and ignorance, while we’re supposedly (and in a way, really are) living in an “information age”.
For anyone who has never read it, I must recommend Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. He covered very well, in a book written back in the eighties, the kind of problems of attention deficit and superficiality brought into the public realm by television.
Like some type of “snap to grid” function in computer software, a lot of people will just tend to snap into line with whatever sort of simplistic cliches and party line is seen as conforming to their club. This gets worse when times are complicated and problematic, and every time around, that attitude never works out any better. Simplistic is not the same as simple.
I’ve already written loads about the pervasive problems of a kind of tunnel vision in present day America. There’s an entire subculture in the United States of people who have entirely, completely, swallowed the poison pill of deceptions, confusion, obfuscation, and delusions contained in a constant repetitive narrative of telling them there’s “liberal media bias” everywhere except the medium selling this idea (Fox News, AM radio yapping, assorted websites). It’s a self reinforcing bubble, where anything that contradicts anything within that world is seen as further evidence of “liberal media bias” and “leftist propaganda”.
It locks people in, trapped in some twisted spell. Little to nothing gets in unless it’s seen as matching the narrative within that echo-chamber bubble. And in that kind of self-reinforcing delusion, simplistic “works”, in the sense of applying that word to successfully enabling dysfunction. Little easy simplistic bits of subtle reality distortions to full out blatant lies and full on delusions are easier to digest for their victims than the truth of reality.
Reality can get complicated. That’s the deal.
In alternate reality bubble worlds, people can get themselves locked into all kinds of nonsense that make them feel like a complex and problematic world has been simplified, like believing that President Barack Obama is a left wing radical Marxist Kenyan Muslim part of a conspiracy to destroy America, we can have as much limitless and cheap hydrocarbon fuel as we wish if we just punch more holes in the Earth, and endless and endlessly growing prosperity for all will ensue forever, if only wealthy people and corporations didn’t have to pay taxes and ruled everything, even while none of these notions are supported by events and facts of reality.
Dissecting, correcting, and explaining what’s wrong with deluded nonsense of the kinds I just mentioned takes more time and thought than it does to state or accept that kind of nonsense.
Just within the past couple of weeks, I took the time to put together a short “petroleum primer” page to help quickly get people tuned in and up to speed on some of the basics of our petroleum predicament. That is about as succinct and brief as simple as I can do, myself, and that’s cut down by some very broad simplified explanations, along with pointing to more detailed explanations of things elsewhere via links. You can’t pare it down much more than that.
Latest news reports that Federal Reserve Bank head Ben Bernanke says that the state of the US economy is “far from satisfactory“, while giving a speech to an audience of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a place that seems to be a kind of vacation getaway destination for the American plutocracy.
Perhaps he’ll let us eat cake.
Writer James Howard Kunstler, who I refer to often, calls his weekly blog Clusterfuck Nation, and that’s just a perfect name for the here and now. I find myself repeating myself here frequently that we have a batch of interwoven serious complex problems, and we are, collectively as a society, being ridiculous and pathetic about facing and understanding what they are.
The avoidance itself is varied and complex. We avoid it by pretending and lying to ourselves and each other to astonishing magnitudes, and too often people give things only a superficial glance. People avoid digging into anything enough to really grasp the facts and relevant concepts and principles and stay with it enough to really understand it.
People want short, simple, easy answers, and that just isn’t in the cards.
There are a few voices of truth and reason around to help unravel the complex mess of economic and financial matters, and one of them is Matt Tiabbi. His article Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital will give you a good look at the reality of “Mitt Romney, successful businessman”.
If you’re still puzzled about what has happened to the American economy, take a look. Read that. There you have a pretty good look at a large portion of it.
The fact that Willard now wants to be president of the United States based on the idea that he’s the guy who can make everything wonderful in the American economy because of an assertion that he’s a guy who knows what it takes with authority based on business success, with lines like saying he knows how to build a business and create jobs is just staggering absurdity. He’s one of the kind of people who wrecked the American economy.
Willard is a rich kid who grew up in a life of wealth and privilege, not that this should be counted as something wrong with him on its own, but in context of the rest of his life, and his political ambitions, it’s relevant. More importantly, he grew up to be a professional looter, using borrowed money for “leveraged” buyouts, scavenging as much from businesses as possible, collecting as much money for himself and associates as possible, and frequently leaving formerly good businesses wrecked and leaving behind massive crippling debt for others to pay off, with that debt actually being the source of Romney and associates’ “wealth”.
This man talking about “job creators” makes you wonder if anybody should be standing close to him in case God gets fed up and there’s a lightning strike.
Let’s be clear on something. A “job creator” is somebody who hires people to work for them and pays people for their work.
The business history of Willard Mitt Romney has evidently been much more of a role of being a job destroyer, leaving assorted job creators behind as one of his victims (while Willard got more and more wealthy from these exploits).
The fact that anybody could seriously consider Mr. Romney as a suitable possible president based on his business record, to perform some kind of national economic rescue, is absurd beyond comprehension, literally unbelievable, and I can only assume that this is probably largely explained by people just not taking the time and putting in the thought to take in and process the whole story. Instead, people stop at “oh, he’s rich, so I guess he must be a guy who understands business and economics!“.
But then, reality and Willard have a troubled relationship. This is easy enough to see for anybody honestly paying attention.
An article in the Washington Post gives one good example, in Fact checking for thee, but not for me. Anybody watching American television recently has surely seen the constant repetition of a campaign ad making completely false claims about Barack Obama and welfare programs.
“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABC News and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”…
The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed.
“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.
Seriously. This isn’t a parody. That’s for real. I swear to God, I am not making this shit up (unlike Willard and his henchmen).
As I said, reality and Willard have a troubled relationship and this is already clear for anybody honestly paying attention. Mr. Romney is a chronic pathological liar. This isn’t “political rhetoric”, it’s simple fact. I mean, during the circus of the Republican primary campaign for the GOP nomination, Newt Gingrich was on Romney’s case for his chronic and blatant lying. Somebody being so blatantly bad that Newt Gingrich is calling them on their ethical problems and dishonesty is just hilarious.
I think it’s probably a waste of time to actually go through all of that, once you understand how disconnected from truth Romney is, but it’s good that this stuff is there, given how many people don’t quite seem to understand this. Maybe more to the point and more important, it’s there for reference for the people who seem determined to pretend Willard is not a constant pathological liar.
Looking at Matt Taibbi’s report on Bain Capital and the actual reality Mr. Romney’s version of “building a business and creating jobs” tells us a lot about a whole sucking vortex of economic and financial and business misbehavior coupled with political deception, but there is more than that.
In the blog piece from Jesse’s Café Américain: Reprise: Simon Johnson On the Quiet Coup d’Etat in the Anglo-American Financial System, we get an even more disturbing glimpse of things people would like to not face and acknowledge. It’s hard to not think about this when considering that little gathering in Jackson Hole.
Of course, getting into knotty and frankly unpleasant subjects like this also runs into more noise factor, since for some people, that prompts them to open doors to babbling borderline psychos like Glenn Beck or Alex Jones, the sort of characters who might in fact occasionally come up with some little bit of an actual true fact, but then immediately bury and obfuscate it among piles of sheer nonsense, plain fiction, delusions, wild-assed speculations, and confusion.
My email correspondent is very intent on the goal of Obama’s reelection along with election of enough Democratic party members into office to properly support him. I have to say that I generally agree with him, but with some qualifications.
There’s no doubt in my mind that, in fact, Obama was the best choice for president out of the bunch seeking the office in 2008. Right now, he’s the only reasonable choice of the two “major party candidates”, which, unfortunately, are the only choices presented in realistic terms of how things are working in the political circus. That, however, is still another topic.
Willard Romney as president is absurd to even consider, and the fact that anyone is seriously considering him is a statement of how royally absurd things are now. As should be painfully clear by now, he’s not only an absolutely astoundingly dishonest son of a bitch, he lives in his own little bubble world detached from most people, and is beyond obvious as being one of exactly the kind of characters who drove the economy of the United States into a train wreck.
The notion of electing Willard Romney as president with the notion that he’s a guy to “fix the economy” is probably right up there in quality of judgment with hiring a convicted child molester to manage a day care center.
Having Romney as president would make it a completely foolish absurdity to even pretend that the government of the United States would not be, at that stage, a complete undiluted plutocracy.
There are certainly very serious criticisms to make of Mr. Obama as president over the past three and a half years, but as I’ve said before, you can hardly even get to those through the noise of the bizarre fiction claimed about him as Secret Kenyan Muslim Left Wing Radical.
It’s difficult to avoid thoughts that Obama has been essentially held as a hostage of an American plutocracy, looking at things like how the financial crisis was dealt with when he entered office, treating the banksters responsible with gentle delicacy and complete indulgence, and the complete, I mean absolute lack of any legal action on this.
One thing that I think was, and is, clearly needed was a simple restoration of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933, that was repealed in 1999 by a bill from three Republican members of Congress and signed by President Clinton. Instead we got the lame “Dodd-Frank bill”, a cobbled mess that was made worse by determined Republican sabotage.
He had a very good plan to change the insanely dysfunctional world of health insurance in the United States, which basically makes some people very wealthy while financially destroying others, namely, people who have the audacity to become injured or ill. But he dropped the ball, handed it over to Congress and people like Senator Max Baucus, and the resulting Affordable Care Act resembled very little of Obama’s plan, and from what I can put together from this complex matter, basically is a composite of previous Republican plan propositions, mostly resembling the plan that went into effect in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney.
We probably won’t hear that criticism, instead we get howling that it’s “Obama’s socialist takeover of healthcare”, an absurdity of falsehood about the final legislation, in more than one way, and now GOP presidential nominee Willard Romney attacks the final product of the ACA modeled more or less on Romney’s plan in Mass. But then that’s back to Romney’s general wandering dishonesty of convenience.
Related to that, there’s the whole episode of confusion and lying about the Medicare program.
The short version? Team Republican likes to criticize Obama saying “he’s failed to reduce government spending”. As part of the health insurance reform epic, apparently something like 700 billion dollars of costs in redundant spending and ineffective bureaucracy was found and eliminated, without any reduction in actual benefits to medical patients from Medicare. Republicans then point at this huge trimming of “wasted spending”, and instead of giving Obama a big thumbs-up approval, they’re on a continuous loop of shouting at the citizenry that “Obama is cutting Medicare benefits to seniors”. By coincindence, it seems to be the exact same people who say “Obamacare” is coming to kill babies and your grandma.
Then, Congressman Paul Ryan, now of Team Romney/Ryan, proposes the exact same waste/redundancy cost reductions in Medicare, but Obama doing it is “cutting Medicare benefits to seniors”, while the same thing from Ryan is “saving Medicare”, and, on top of this, proposing to “save Medicare” by essentially killing it, and replacing it by giving money vouchers to Medicare beneficiaries and telling them “here, go buy medical insurance with this, good luck, you’re on your own”, when the whole fundamental concept of the Medicare program was to be the health insurance program, to just take care of it.
But all that requires a substantial amount of detailed examination of facts with complications.
Obama’s “energy policy” is a lame joke, a feeble collection of token gestures, but the problem here is that the problems, ommission, and general avoidance of that is a very different batch of issues from the criticism from Team Republican rattling about what they call “Obama’s failed energy policy”.
In that nonsense, what it all comes down to is a mob attack on Obama about “failed energy policy” from Republican party actors, because, in short, Obama’s energy policy is nowhere as completely delusional as the Republican party line about “energy policy”, which essentially combines avoiding any grasp of physical reality with an attitude of “I want to have my cake and eat it too!“.
I’ve hopped around among a batch of different issue topics here, just to barely touch on them, for a reason. The point is, everything here, all of that, all these things, get pretty involved, even if we had a situation where nobody was lying about the stuff.
In the email conversation I have been having, the other corresponding was talking about the importance he saw in reelecting Barack Obama as president, with Democratic party members who will support the president. As I’ve said, I have to agree with that, for reasons that should be clear now, and with that, considering the reactionary twitching found so much in current events, I should point out that I have never held any political party loyalties.
I don’t much believe in political parties. The problems are many, mainly all coming down to replacing being accurately informed about things that matter, and thinking and understanding, with just conforming to “my team”. We now have two dominant parties. Between them, Team D is, in my opinion, mostly an inept clown act, and Team R has never been very good, profoundly wrong on so many things all my life, and more and more dominated by liars, lunatics and morons.
Nobody has ever heard (or read) me saying “I’m a Democrat”. Generally, over my lifetime, the tendency for me has been for me to favor politicos of the Democratic party bunch, not because I think very highly of the modern day Democratic party, but simply because the Republicans have just consistently been so much worse.
Among other things, let us not ever forget Senate Republican Leader Mitchell McConnell of Kentucky coming right out and blatantly stating right out there in front of the American public, news media, God, and everybody that his prime goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. This is clear, profound, and really ugly dysfunction. That’s how some of our elected public servants work.
Just voting for “my team”, or being an “independent” who chooses by simply alternating flipping the switch back and forth between “D” and “R”, with every election being a matter of “throw the bums out” every time and simply voting for whomever is not the incumbent, by itself, as a practice, is not really doing anything.
The fundamental point is, to have a functioning democratic republic, it requires some things. It requires an informed citizenry, and this means having true, accurate, correct facts about actual facts of reality that are relevant.
More than once, I have found myself looking at a situation where I have tried to point people toward some article about actual facts of reality that are relevant to public matters, like, you know, actual proper journalism, and encountered somebody reacting with a scattered batch of irrelevant nonsense, for a start, responding with a darting series incoherent and wildly digressing diversions that were not even relevant to the subject. With these came comments like “you liberals” and “you Democrats”, even though I had not said a thing anywhere along the line about taking any particular political position or loyalty. In these cases, these responses never included anything about what was supposedly, according to them, actually factually wrong about the stories in question. It was some sort of indignant objection because they just didn’t like what was being reported in the stories.
That’s beyond useless and dysfunctional and edging into the realm of mental illness.
We need an accurately, truthfully informed citizenry, and the same in terms of public servants, dealing honestly and rationally with goodwill with actual reality. If nobody is doing this, just selecting “my team” faithfully doesn’t do much good.
Dealing functionally with relevant matters of reality requires honest informed thinking people, who can think themselves, and not just repeating what they’re told to think by people happy to manipulate them like dancing meat puppets.
This requires some things, and it might take some active effort to do our fucking homework.
I’ve come to be particularly focused on what we could call the Three E subjects of Energy, Economy, and Earth (or alternately, environment, ecology), because under these headings are masses of vitally important topics and issues (that are not inherently political issues), that are also extremely complex, interacting and interwoven and complex.
These things require a lot of information to deal with them, accurate, true, factual information, along with understanding of some complex conceptual matters.
And very little of it can be covered in any useful way in 250 words or less.
To wrap things up, in the picture worth a thousand words department, this week’s Republican national festival of mendacity still managed to inadvertently reveal a bit of truth and unintended honesty: