The Proposed Tax Cut Rancor and the Riddle of the Day

I am a little confused here…while Republicans and Democrats battle back and forth as to whether to retain the tax cuts, discontinue the tax cuts entirely, or modify the tax cuts in some sliding scale that still hasn’t been settled upon, I am stuck with one simple question….

If keeping the tax cuts will encourage investment and put money into the economy, then why when the tax cuts have been in place for a number of years now, are we not currently seeing those very same investments that the tax cuts are supposed to assure?

The Guys Who Spied for China on Kindle Rank

I was pleased to see that my book, The Guys Who Spied for China, my Gordon Basichis roman a clef was listed on Kindle Rank as one of the Best Kindle Books.  It is always nice when one’s work is regarded, and I spent quite some time living and writing this novel.

Here is the link on Kindle Rank.  Just click on the Kindle Rank Link for the The Guys Who Spied for China, and you can read the first five thousand words.  You can order the book off of Kindle, and you can buy the trade paperback from Amazon.Com, Barnes and Noble and numerous other sites and spaces.

Considering the current tension in relations between the United States and China, many will find this a worthwhile read.

The People We Love to Hate

Not long ago, on one of the book blog sites, some guy went out of his way to tell me how indifferent he was to my work.   I responded once and asked him if he was so  indifferent than why did he go out of his way to tell me.  I thought if he had actually read the book it would be one thing.  If he hated my guts for some other reason, okay.   I realize I am not on everyone’s Christmas list.

My reply elicited further responses from him where he again reiterated that it was the subject matter with which he would be indifferent and would never read.   I finally thanked him for taking  time  from what I was sure was a frantic schedule to register his indifference to the extent he had.   Civil restraint prevented my real considerations on the probable status of his life.  I have not always been the world’s best practitioner of civil restraint, so I guess that is mark of  progress.

Obviously, there was something about me or the book subject that caused this intense reaction.   And then I started thinking of how when we as a society should perhaps feel indifferent we go out of our way to declare our own distaste for things.   In fact, with certain politicos and celebrities, certain hot button issues,  rather than just declare our displeasure or say nothing at all, we cannot leave it alone.  Doesn’t matter what side of the political or social spectrum you are own or how enlightened you may perceive your lifestyle, there is always somebody or something that causes us to rail on wherever and as often as we can.  And that becomes a trap where the logic of indifference is corrupted by our passions.  We end up devoting way too much time and emotion to things with which we should really care less.

We should know better.   Not that we should know better because we are above it all and should transcend the rancor by taking the high road and retaining an enlightened state of mind.   We should know better because we are of an age when it is the media’s main job to manipulate our thoughts and sentiments, our social belief,s and political perspectives in order to establish a multi-level marketing platform for its celebrity flavors of the week.   In short, we are being used as marks and proud of it.    We are either the support group, or we are the opposition.   In the hands of a manipulative media and those ringing up the cash register we are two sides of the same coin.

Stirring up the crowds is nothing new.   Professional wrestling has done it for years.   In professional wrestling you have the hero, the glowing and glistening symbol of virtue and skill, and you have the heel.   The heel is the bad guy, the one who fights dirty and says outrageous things, who thumbs his nose at the crowd.   The heel revels in the crowd’s hatred.   Hen needs the crowd as much as the hero needs the crowd.   The crowd with its boos and catcalls supports the heel as much if not more than it supports the hero.   The crowd loves to hate the heel.  In both instances without the crowd there would be no controversy.   There would be no sport.

With wrestling as with most things socio-political, the hero and the heel are interchangeable.   A wrestler has a run as the hero for awhile, and then when his adoring public grows tired of adoring him, he becomes the heel.   Those who loved him, suddenly hate him.   He is the one now prancing arrogantly in the center of the ring and thumbing his nose at the crowd.   He is now the one disparaging his opponent while making outrageous predictions about the state of things to come.     As the hero he sold tickets to the show.  As the heel he sells tickets to the show.  People pay money to see him get his ass beat in.  And when it doesn’t happen, when he prevails over the current heroic symbol of virtue and merit, the crowd gets to hate him that much more.

The socio-political spectrum is different in a variety of crucial ways.   Unlike wrestling, with things political and social we don’t just invest in tickets.  We invest with our lives.   But nevertheless we are manipulated by a media, or more directly the media conglomerates,  that have a financial motivation to work us into a frenzy.   Media or more to the point what passes for news media these days has realized there is no money anymore in providing objective news reports and thoughtful analysis.    As Campbell Brown, a recent CNN news show causality, remarked that the public does not want objective news anymore.  The public wants the type of news that supports its own points of view.    Apparently, we would rather cheer blindly from the sidelines than try to analyze the facts.

Whether the media conglomerates created the condition where news as opinion pieces or whether they responded to public taste I suppose is a matter of conjecture.   But they certainly have profited from its condition.  By eliminating objective messaging and critical thinking from what passes for news shows, the conglomerates were able to develop  media celebrities of every stripe, ethnicity, and political perspective.   These are the chosen who were developed to pander to the crowds by offering an alternating spectrum of simplistic solutions to complex challenges or a spectrum of crackpot ideas.   In short, like wrestling, they were able to develop opposing forces for any issue.   This in turn created a passionate fan base and multi-marketing platforms and the subsequent delivery systems that can offer everything from speaking engagements and books, to rallies and picnic baskets.

It could be claimed  that Fox News was the first to venture forth on television with the decidedly slanted news format.     I should say Fox News took the elements political talk radio. and carried them further.  While I am not the world biggest fan of Fox News  and while my total talk radio listening time, annually, is less than an hour,  I give credit, if that is really the word, to these two platforms for changing the dynamic of news and politics.  Both talk radio and its logical spinoff, Fox News,  determined from the outside that their programming didn’t chase after viewers’ minds as much as their emotions.

While political radio could raise the blood pressure by taking call-ins, Fox News  inflamed the passions  with the Fox good guys taking on the bad guys.   Like some electronic rendition of the Medieval Inquisition, Fox pundits in the name of “fair and balanced” were fond of dragging the progressives and liberals, and the rest, for the opposing point of view.  Between commercials, they would give these straw men  five seconds to explain their point of view before browbeating them like some  jingoistic weed whacker.   If you believed in what the Sean Hannity’s and Bill O’Reilly’s had to say, you felt yourself vindicated.   If you were the more progressive thought you would find your blood boiling over.

Of course, the progressives or liberals, or whatever you wish to call them this particular season, considered this a terrible process.   Not enough vitriol could be injected into any conversation that related to Fox News.   Progressives couldn’t hate them enough.   As a result, Fox ratings climbed even more.   As for the pundits launched by Fox they two experienced what one would consider notable improvements in their careers.   Of course the more the opposition hated Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, the more their fan base supported them by reading their columns and buying their books.

Coulter, Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and, later, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, represented a new dynamic in media marketing.    Unlike wrestling, where the character was either the hero or the heel, these pundits were heroes and heels all at once.  They were loved and they were hated.  The more they are hated, then the more they are loved.    The more they are loved and hated, the greater their revenue.   Let them say something outrageous and it is all over the media, conservative and liberal alike.  The only difference is where one side applauds the remarks, the other side regards them as Satan’s spawn.   What is conclusive is neither the veracity or the falsity of their written and spoken words, but that their polarizing effect generates some major bucks for both the players and their handlers, the media groups.    So not only is there a lot of money in saying things that people agree with, there is an equal amount to be gained by having your critics declare how stupid you are.

The liberals, of course, after decrying the conservatives for their crass statements and wanton venality, finally decided that taking the high road offered little assurance they would reach their final destination.   So they formed their own media platforms that is other than those of the “traditional liberal media,” where progressive pundits could offer their own brand of ridicule for the things they detest the most.   Hence MSNBC, after myriad incarnations, developed finally a workable format for progressive ideology.    There are the Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann who offer their own brand of competing self-righteous indignation to what some may consider the good fight.   There is also Progressive Radio or Air America, or whatever it was the last time I looked with Tom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes,  and the famously unfunny funny man  turned current and competent U.S. Senator Al Franken.

For progressive media, a fair share of the commentary includes the castigation of  conservative mainstays like, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly,  Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin.    Progressive hosts rail on about them like the fashion police dishing at high school.   This in turn inspires  lastest outrage from the Legion of the Outrageous, which in turn causes viewers and listeners to take ongoing umbrage and the latest indiscretion.   This not only boosts radio and sales for the support group, the progressive media pundits who now peddle their books, lectures, events and such, but gives food for the right to carry on with its own agenda, giving speeches, writing books and otherwise catering to their own support group.

In a world where many are concerned about ecological condition’s and environmental matters,  the socio-political  media is the primary example of environmental harmony.  If you say something your side likes and supports, you make money.  If you say something the other side hates, you make money.   The only time you can lose money is if you address complex issues with more than a sound bite or buzzword.  This tends to confuse the audience and tends to be off putting as critical thinking is required.  In a world we are programmed that solutions are simple and cinema heroes resolve international conflict in an hour and forty two minutes,  you don’t need the dynamics of complex critical issues and all that is required to solve them to go raining on the delusional parade.   The more you think about things, the less time you have for railing out your own particular party line.   Complex thinking requires deeper thought, which results in extended contemplation , which means fewer books and public appearances for those who actually have to explain themselves in greater detail.

While we are not exactly a nation worthy of our heritage as being born in the Age of Reason, we are not always stupid.  We recognize that these media pundits are not just out there for the well being of America or the general common good.  We recognize that Glenn Becks recent soirée  at the Lincoln Memorial is less altruistic and more for the benefit of Glenn Beck than anyone else.   We recognize that Rush Limbaugh didn’t make his few bucks by initiating a selfless campaign for the good of Mom and Apple Pie.   We realize Sarah Palin resigned as Governor of Alaska to devote more time to optimize her own window of opportunity to make money hand and fist.   We realize that every pundit right or left is dependent on their audience to stay on the air.  Former Congressman, Dick Armey, has feathered his nest as the spokes person for the Tea Party or whatever the hell it is called this season.   Al Gore didn’t go broke by promoting the environmental movement.   The more they incite their adversaries, the higher the ratings the more money they will make.

Yet,while we know these are puffed up entertainers posing as news analysts and politicians we cannot refrain from taking them seriously.   We care when Keith Olbermann rants on about Sarah Palin using bullets as symbols for the targeted politicians the Republicans believe are vulnerable to being unseated.   Obviously, Palin chose the bullet images as a ploy, in fact as part of her branding, but just about every commentator on MSNBC and elsewhere went for the ploy, revving it up disproportionately as if she was truly recommending the assassination attempts on these veritable  Moose Lodge Members.  Beware!  Oooohhh..     Served Palin well as it reinforced her branding, and served the progressive pundits as it reinforced their selling of  the great Palin threat.

There are hundreds if not thousands of examples.  A decade ago it was the Clinton’s, and now it is Obama.  Or it is what Limbaugh has to say about this or Pelosi has to say about that.  Dr. Laura, Al Shartpon…pick your poison and then go piss and moan.    People don’t just disagree, but they work themselves into a frenzy, inciting the blogsphere with incantations and variations on the theme.     And from it all we are farther and farther removed from any condition of unity or relative attempt at consensus.   We don’t exchange thoughts; we utter slogans.   Name the topic, name the person; each side has its jargon to address the issue.   Bite sized jargon that will fit nicely between commercials and book plugs.

I don’t discredit these pundits for self-promotion.  It is America, the land of opportunity.   It’s tough in an overpopulated world to rise from obscurity and make a name for yourself.   Especially when at heart you are an imbecile.  Well not really an imbecile, because despite all popular thought about some or our noteworthy media folk, it takes a  wily coyote to climb the heights of media recognition.   You can lack knowledge and you can have the intellectual depth that goes from A to B and back again, but there is a talent to manipulating the media to where you hold sway on public thought.

I guess in the end, I want to know why we even care about these people or what they have to say.  Obviously, most are a long way from scholars or experts on the subject.  And then, considering the state of things some of which are the result of the pondering of experts on the subject, why do we hold in such regard the positions of any of these people?   Logic would dictate that you delve deeper and conduct your own critical thinking, before this once easily accessible thought process is relegated to the junk pile of modern consciousness or turned into a lost art.   You would think we would regard most of these people as self-aggrandizing snake oil vendors and take their offerings no more to heart than we would a dancing bear.   You would think we would spend a lot less time pissing and moaning about them and tripping over their incomplete thinking and figure out in traditional American pragmatic process how to get ourselves out of this mess.

But we don’t.  Maybe as a nation we have too much time on our hands.  Without celebrity, we only  have ourselves.  And without the heroes and heels, we have only ourselves to blame and then we must shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding the country.   And that, media-wise, is a very hard sell.