Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Circle Jerk

A republic, if you can keep it
--Benjamin Franklin

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, 
people will eventually come to believe it.
-- Joseph Goebbels

We try to hustle them, 
try to bustle them, try to cuss them
Another day, another dollar, 
another war, another tower
--Who Will Save Your Soul,

[War is our stock in trade here at Ranger. Apropos of that, this is the first of a three-part critique on our media's descent into madness, thereby committing a war for your mind, and why you feel so perturbed and menaced today, and think things are falling apart. They may be, but not in the way you think they are.]

Do you love me, now that I can dance?

The mainstream media (MSM) has pulled off a great moral and ethical heist, and it all happened so quickly -- in their would-be twilight -- as the cultural critics were singing their swan song.

Papers across the nation were shuttering their doors (166 since 2008) and the reporting profession lost more than 50% of its rank and file over the last 20 years (most in the last five years.) But just before the casket lid was closed -- in this watershed moment -- the media made a pact with the devil to save its skin.

To staunch their bleeding, they co-opted billionaire entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar's model in his oxymoronic "opinion news" tabloid, The Intercept (refashioned lately as a "national security blog.) Media "reportage" became a circus seemingly overnight, the players dancing madly under the protection of diaphanous Big Top of former respectability.

No longer was the oxymoron absurd, dastardly or a piker's error, and Omidyar's model provided to the media the way to the greatest resurrection since Lazarus came back from the dead. Five years ago, the standard press was moribund --DOA. Now, the MSM were players once again.

While the papers and reporters are still gone, the press has gained cachet by adopting a new paradigm: All furore, all the time, with no pretense of rigor, and no apparent goal to their delirium and agitation. The holy grail of fact-checking has melted away in favor of the newsish, "bystander cell phone footage caught ...", or "In a leak today, ...".

Righteous indignation projected towards the solution of a moral offense is one thing (we have laws to cover legal transgressions.) But that is not what we have now, though we may trick ourselves into believing it is so, or that such a thing might be quantifiable, adjudicatable or in fact, newsworthy.

What we have is a free-floating angst focalized toward any crumb we are fed. Smut is the coin of the realm, and if the news makers have no thing, insinuation and sneers will do. The goal is pandemonium, and an instantaneous and white hot fury is the expected response from even previously thoughtful and informed consumers.

Now, we are ridge runners all. Thomas Hobbes had it right: it is a war of all against all. The media found the keys to the kingdom when they learned to transmute itself into a Zippo.

"Fire 'em up!

The old woman at a 2007 South Carolina church rally for candidate Obama had it right. A controlled candidate Obama was trying to appear down-home. He requested that attendees get stereotyped cousins "Ray-Ray and Pookie" up off the sofa to vote.

The speech was dwindling down on its own enervation when the woman in the back (Edith Childs) harnessed the power of "call-and-response" with her well-placed shout out, "Fired up, ready to go!"

While the scholastic Obama himself did not quite light the fuse, once the bodies started swaying and fist-pumping, it was all she wrote. The crowd had self-ignited, and like a stadium wave, its momentum carried itself.

That was an instructive moment in modern politics. People LIKE to get agitated, whether for good or bad. Since we have now abdicated our rationale, we easily turn "Hatfield and McCoy" when our media overlords sound the alarum.

Judicious reportage is no longer needed in the face of vanity social media feeds. The New York Times' Jim Rutenburg asked if it was o.k. to cover Mr. Trump's Presidency solely from a position of opinion, so malignant, so sui generis was it to the average NYT's reader.

Our nation's paper of note decided that the President demanded a new way of being covered, despite the fact that he won the Presidency in a most mundane fashion. It had the look of a plebiscite, but it was a foregone conclusion.

Writer Matt Taibbi said that the news was signing its death warrant if it bought into this, and trust in press impartiality would be gone. It was a last stand for dignity. (Mr. Taibbi soon joined the other side, seeing on which side his toast was buttered.)

Turns out, we do not want impartiality; what we want is to be able to whank off with others who think like we do. It feels so good that we have ceded our wits to them. Dopamine and adrenaline are powerful motivators, and we will do anything to keep the supply coming. We may now be too ill, too drunk on the toxic brew, to give up our fix.

Co-opting and Re-directing Anger

President Obama's administration oversaw a renascence in the news of police clashing with black citizens, an issue which appears like a sine wave in the media. This time, however, the events combined with the ubiquitousness of social media, allowing the images to be uploaded and shared in real-time.

Nothing was off-limits, and speculation ran rampant before the least fact could be vetted. Nothing new was happening in actuality under Obama, but the presentation and reaction to is WAS new. WE now created our reality out of bits and pieces ingathered from the sources which spoke to our predilections.

This "news wobble" became obvious several years ago when noticing the headlines from the same major news outlet delivered to my two email accounts differed considerably. After pondering the matter, the only difference was that from the older email address I wrote to mainly conservative friends; the other, primarily liberal.

The news which arrived in the first box box tended to be more optimistic and "news-like", of the old ilk. However, my newer email received only incendiary coverage, angry and rarely offering balanced viewpoints.

The media is trafficking in your fear and anger, and selling it back to you with the halo of righteousness. You are co-opted into their project when you re-send their content to 5,000 "friends". You have become small-time Soma pushers and fail to realize your complicity.

News goes on auto-pilot, as you function like HuffPo's unpaid "content generators", adding your own glib comment. But unlike the HuffPo non-wage-slaves, there is no hope of gaining a writing day job for all of your efforts.

You are mental bondsmen, compelled by habit to "help the revolution". It's just what you do, sun up to sundown, and beyond.

Bad Brilliance

So, the MSM (which was on oxygen) made a life-saving move. They would co-opt and harness the anger of the black community. They have subverted a moral and institutional failing, stripped it of its facticity, and are using the ensuing white hot fury as bellows to keep them alive.

This should make you mad. Your outrage can now be directed to any issue of their choosing. You are like bulls with ringed noses.

Think about it: they did not raise your ire against president Obama for his inability to contain the racial violence which erupted under his terms, and the media now owns that real estate (i.e., your violent impulses). They are practicing their dark arts now, and have led you to another pasture, re-directing your anger upon a focalized point of easy derision, President Trump.

This is as fine a work of agit-prop as I have seen in my lifetime. It is legerdemain of the highest order.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017


--The White Rabbit, running behind

We can do "The Innuendo"
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done 
we haven't told you a thing
--Dirty Laundry,
Don Henley

Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation 
that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. 
This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; 
this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; 
this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force 
in the whole godless world
--Network (1976)

Just think of those shocks you've got 
And those knocks you've got 
And those blues you've got 
From that news you've got 
And those pains you've got 
(If any brains you've got) 
From those little radios
--Anything Goes
Cole Porter

The story here is not the story.

What is this madness engulfing our news? Y'say you are shocked that tribalism and racism exists in America? Really?

If you are in the above category, you have fallen prey to the media's skulduggery.

In a true democracy, the events in Charlottesville were a law and order failure, not a civil rights one. In the absence of a proper threat assessment, there were not adequate police on site to maintain order, and violence happened.

The new normal should be: lots of police on-station when people will be exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly, if it is a situation the press may conceivably exploit to pump up viewership. There will be a flash mob on-site -- count on it.

The recent Charlottesville march should have been a quiet affair. The United States is a Republic, and contains multitudes. We have freedom of speech and of assembly. The marchers in VA had a permit (and the blessings of the ACLU) to do so.

Had agitators opposing the march not made a rumpus of it, and the press not shined a spotlight upon it, it would have been an event of no moment. Tension requires two things in opposition.

In a democracy, we are allowed to hate who and what we hate, love who and what we love. There are no thought police. To borrow from founder Thomas Jefferson, the beliefs of another "neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg".

The only rule is, we may not deprive another of life and liberty. Further, if we do so motivated by our hatreds, there will be an added designation of "hate crime" appended to the charge.

In 1978, the KKK marched in Skokie (IL) with the blessing of the ACLU. In contrast, today we are cudgeled en masse into outrage over the press's non-p.c. image du jour.

Meanwhile, within days the news cycle will direct your attention to something new to raise your ire, and you will have forgotten what had seemed so important yesterday. You will have invested no analysis into the things to which you are responding so viscerally, as there is no time or encouragement for you to do so.

Your opinions are handed to you, and they are designed to make you feel a constant undertow of menace. You have become Henny Penny, much to the delight of the press, for they are the dope pushers, and you are now a user mainlining their drivel.

The NYT recently ran a story on the "antifa" or "anti-fascist" movement. (The antifas are the liberal fascists, as opposed to the conservative ones.) They see their mission as muzzling the free speech of those with whom they disagree.

One of the group's members is quoted as saying, “You need violence in order to protect nonviolence ... [t]hat’s what’s very obviously necessary right now. It’s full-on war, basically.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi would be rolling over in their graves at the madness. As liberal darling Noam Chomsky wrote, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all."

What the news will not tell you is, the antifas were illegally attempting to abridge the marcher's rights. That is all.

Do I really need to say this?

--by Lisa

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dog Day Afternoon

And when you turn on the evening news 
Mass confusion is the only thing you see 
Well there's no question that we need a new direction 
Cause we all could use some peace and harmony 
--Love Will Save the Day
Whitney Houston

 You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together 
--Ya Gotta Be,

There is a choice. One may make a realistic threat assessment prior to taking a discretionary action (Like the Afghan and Iraqi Wars), or one may leap upon the braggadocio of an adversary who may be acting out of a feeling a threat and call it a legitimate casus belli.

The rational player should realize, if you have an insane adversary, to even reply is an insane act.

In the case of NoKo's Kim Jong-Un, a little sabre-rattling is most probably an adequate response. A display of force, like deploying an aircraft carrier group off of his shores, would allow Kim to save face. He may spin it to his people as he wishes. ("You see how important I am? Just look at their response!")

Instead of President George Bush's schoolyard bully reply ("Bring it on!") to Saddam Hussein, the President may instead choose to ignore the prod of inflammatory rhetoric, not chomping at the bit after every word. Like mothers used to advise when dealing with bullies, "Pay him no never-mind!", or "Like water off a duck's back". "Do not go down to his level." Bullies usually act from fear.

The President could act as a hostage negotiator with Kim. If we take his threat as viable, Mr. Kim is taking the NoKo people and the world hostage. It is important to note, the hostage negotiator cares as much for the dignity and survival of the hostage taker as he does for that of the hostages.

When dealing with various threats, politics is often hostage negotiation at an international level.

Bush disallowed Saddam his dignity; there was no way out for either man. In hostage negotiations one never corners the hostage taker. On an international level, especially when dealing with an autocrat -- and especially in the orient -- the leader should be allowed to save his respect. This all part of the game of realpolitik.

President Trump betrays his campaign platform of non-interference when he engages in tit-for-tat inflammatory rhetoric. He should be curtailed from his trash talk; following in the footsteps of GWB is not winning (as Charley Sheen might say.)

At the end of the day, Kim likes his Emmenthaler, American Basketball and Dennis Rodman. He should be satisfied with the opportunity to wallow in a bit of puffery.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Size Matters

--Gen. Colin Powell and his pictures at UN (2003)

 ~How long do you think this can go on 
before something happens?
~It's a circus, isn't it?
--The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Sometimes... believing is all we have
--Team America: World Police (2004)

"I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."
--Colin Powell on his UN speech, before he read it,
as reported by U.S. News and World Report (2003)

We at RAW try an avoid the daily news cycle (the media having proven that it is outrunning the facts). But the North Korean manufactured crisis du jour requires comment.

The question is not, "Does NoKo have a bomb?", but, "Do they have a miniaturized bomb that could be delivered via missile?" If we believe United States intelligence, then the answer is, "yes".

If so, the question becomes, "How did NoKo come to build and minitaturize a bomb?" Further, "Can it be delivered by means other than missile?"

Beyond that, "Can NoKo's intent to deploy the missile be verified?" If the possession and the intent has been confirmed, then, "Why do we always wait to counter such threats until they become a crisis?"

Of course, this is the same U.S. intel community that assured us that Saddam Hussein had mobile miniature bacterial warfare production facilities, run by a Frau Farbissina ominously dubbed, "Dr. Death". Because we had been so traumatized by the incessant media coverage of the events of 9-11-01, the Greatest Nation on Earth believed laughably cheap artists's renderings on an easel as evidence to strike up a war.

We and our representatives failed to demand photo intel to verify Powell's assertions. We saw the General's stripes and believed that he was telling the truth, and that he and his would protect us. He gave us what we thought we wanted and needed.

It was easy to follow him since false media-promulgated events like "The Sinking of the Maine!" and the Gulf of Tonkin (sans the Teddy Roosevelt spirit) which sparked other wars had predated Powell's presentation of the (not) Death Mobiles.

Beyond the bombastic rhetoric of Kim Jong-Un, an autocratic leader like Saddam who promised the U.S. the "Mother of all wars" in a show of unrealistic strength for the benefit of his countrymen, what have we?

RAW does not trust one bit of data filtered to us through the press, and especially nothing got via supposed government leaks.

We may use Kim's words as a casus belli, much as President George Bush did with Saddam's. Or, we may simply ignore the bravado as the posturing which it most likely is.

Let us hope the U.S. leadership takes the latter position.

Size matters, but so does intent.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Affordable Care Act , 2017

Let me explain to you how this works:
you see, the corporations finance Team America,
and then Team America goes out...
and the corporations sit there in their...
in their corporation buildings, and...
and, and see, they're all corporation-y
... and they make money.
--Team America: World Police (2004)

Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
Then you burn your mansion to the ground
--Hold On
Tom Waits

Does the legislative branch exist to enact or to destroy legislation? Or is a grand Mobius make-work strip in which everyone is guaranteed a job (either building or destroying)?

Every President wants him some flagship legislation, so we have former President Obama's hobbled Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Almost 7 million people opted-out of the plan last year, incurring a tax penalty in 2017 of $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher. For most, this was not an ethical protest, and came down to how to best disburse limited family funds.

Further, just because you can manage to pay for insurance does not ensure that you will be able either pay for or be seen by a doctor. The ACA will never deliver a high level of care. (Lisa's associate Dr. Lickerman actually read most of the 1.500 pages of the abstruse document, and offers a gloss HERE.)

This is the same legislative branch that wants to put sanctions on North Korea and Russia (our sometime ally ... when convenient.)

In a nutshell, they cannot rule the united States, but they are intent to use their same ineptness to dominate foreign powers.

Both parties agree that any ACA-type arrangement must have an individual mandate; otherwise, the effort fails. The healthy must be forced to buy-in, to subsidize the medical care of the grossly unhealthy. Also, in a nutshell.

For some wide-ranging perspective, the U.S. committed a Cold War against the communism of the Soviet Union because, well, collectivism is a bad thing for Capitalists. (This is also why unionism has always been eyed with suspicion, as it is collectivism writ small.) Capitalism is good; socialism and communism, bad. Ranger-simple, at its finest.

Forgetting for the moment the reality that humans are the common denominator making anything either good or bad, let us consider the ACA  and "skinny" clones, for they are socialism in action.

If we were faithful to our capitalist ethos, we would allow people to be uninsured, and not care whether the old or poor die, or anyone else, for that matter. Capitalism is about profits, and not the welfare of the individual. Free choice is its mantra.

With the ACA, we have confused capitalism with socialism and arrived at a gryphon which defies all of our sensibilities. But we can't be seen as being mean, can we? Spin is all -- just watch evening news if you have any doubts.

When the healthy are forced to subsidize the unhealthy, this is the definition of socialism. Insurance is a capitalistic vehicle; forcing it upon unwilling citizens is socialism.

Interesting that neither party calls it for what it is.

(ed. addendum): In keeping with its dour, wet-rag demeanor, The New York Times coverage continues its hope for this administration's failure on this topic in their editorial board position: "Capitol Shocker: Democrats and Republicans Start Working Together on Health Care By THE EDITORIAL BOARD. But Republican leaders could still block their efforts."

Never miss an opportunity to put the kibosh on any sincere deal-making before it has even begun.

Mystical Judaism believes that in every generation there are 36 righteous people. They are the enlightened. Let us hope we have even a couple in our government.

We know the Times is a wash.

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Country Club Set

There's a reason for the twenty first century
Not too sure but I know that it's meant to be
--21st Century,
Red Hot Chili Peppers

For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased;

and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
--Luke 18:14

America is not a happy place. We are disgruntled, disorganized and disputatious, and this is not due to Russian interference in our elective process.

There are two Americas. (Maybe three, if one believes in a "deep government".)

My life has represented the middle class of America. As immigrants, we worked and struggled to integrate into American life. We carried union cards and served capitalism, as required of any citizen.

We bought the myth that any man (if not woman) could become President, and all the other platitudes of citizenship. We saluted the flag and pledged allegiance, and even marched off to war when asked to.

When we returned, it was not to a membership in the country club, which is the place the Others occupied. These are the folks blessed by capitalism, and they are the source of our leadership class.

Nobody in my family visited or were petitioned for membership in a country club. Our elections seldom placed working men in leadership positions. Yet we elect into positions of power people who live in artificial communities, people who live in a foreign land, for us.

The same was true in the military. The men of destiny had played golf, and had not worked, at the country club. This was doubly true in the Reserves. Those blessed by capitalism also excelled at promotion boards

We pretend to be a democracy when in fact we are a class-riven society dominated by and for those favored by capitalism. Even our new religion of Prosperity Gospel supports the idea of success as being a favor of God.

So the power struggle ensuing in the United States now is not for the soul of democracy but for the rights of capitalism to continue predating upon the workers. Strange that for capitalism to work, the people that elect our leaders must vote from among a small stable of the privileged.

The People are played when they buy into the lie that the system is democratic and designed to benefit all.

Seeking external corruption is merely a distraction aimed at keeping us obediently in our places, in thrall to the media scions and the country club set.

The only thing that matters to our power class is that we believe that whatever party they hail from represents the Truth and The Way. That they are public servant saviors giving it up for us, offering the hope of a bit of power and glory in the form of a company COSTCO membership.

The fact is, there is no salvation in any political system. Golf balls and tennis rackets are the basis of capitalism, and life can be devoid of both.

--by Jim

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