Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The world is changing. Not for the better. Our lives have sped up, but it's not giving us a better quality of life.

Americans work long hours. That hasn't made us individually richer, on average.

Averages can be deceiving. Take for instance, income. One person--probably a man--making $1,000,000 will raise the average income of a hundred people making $40,000 by $9500 each.

Statistics lie. Economics seem particularly vulnerable to distortion (and politicians equally prone to extort them.)

Things can look great...for a while. Then the distortion created by the bias of the statistical methods chosen succumbs to the reality it was so vainly trying to explain through numbers, the real picture, not the statisticians'.

Karl Rove would ponder polls relentlessly. On the surface, Rove presents himself as a partisan zealot. Deeper down, he's a crackerjack political analyst and cunning mastermind.

Rove has done more to shape the current political environment than anyone else this millennium. Both students of politics and his enemies alike would benefit from studying Rove's methods.

Even with their inadequacies, polls offer a great way to understand what the American people are thinking. If followed obsessively--as was Rove's daily habit--polls can reveal deep and sometimes dark insights into the American public's psyche.

Of course polls play to the majority viewpoint. The Founders did not create majority rule, and to cater to simple majority on every issue is clearly wrong.

They say all is fair in love and war. In our highly polarized climate, presidential elections so far this century appear to qualify as the latter.

Rove mastered the nuanced use of wedge issues. He understood  the need to stay on message and reinvigorate the base. So wedge issues were chosen quite carefully.

Rule #1 is to find a villain. This dates to the days of Hitler, who managed to convince a whole nation that the Jews were the reason for their plight. The Nazi Hermann Goering made simple light of the ease with which "the people could be brought to the bidding of their leaders" by conjuring an enemy into existence then blame other political parties for failing to adequately confront the threat.

Obviously Osama bin Laden was the boogeymen. Then later Saddam. Just like the Germans, it didn't matter who was picked, just that the threat manifested itself, whether by 9-11 or the Reichstag fire.

Greatly exaggerating the scope of the threat doesn't hurt the fascists' cause for war. If anything, a threat that's illusory, or ideological, allows the war-seekers to predicate an outcome on an impossible achievement, like the Drug War.

If the threat were tangible, of course the German or American militaries could destroy it. Then where would be open-ended war? What would happen to the bloated budget and bureaucracy created by the war machine, were it to actually win?

The brilliance of open-ended wars like that against terror, or drugs, is that they can never be won. Only the bureaucracy can win, or the war profiteers.

The people giving sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers to the un-winnable war suffer but not the war-creators. They sit idly by, direct beneficiaries of funneling more and more money into the black hole which is the endless war.

Pathetic it is that the fourth estate, the media, has fallen so low. Like the Germans, we have made the mistake our Founders warned us about and accepted what our political leaders tell us to be the truth.

Of course the media failure is by design. During the Bush years, independent media outlets were swept up in an unprecedented wave of consolidation.

In a quid pro quo, the FCC and government regulators looked the other way and authorized consolidation to the point four companies controlled over 90% of all media!

In return for the government's acquiescence, media barons like Fox's Murdoch used their vast financial resources and corporate authority to support Bush and his side, essentially by cleansing their media empires of any opposing political viewpoints.

This is a story all Americans need to know. To prevent the ever-growing power of our centralized government from getting even further out of control, it's become necessary for the people to act. To act, the people need t be moved from a state of ignorance to knowing what is really happening.

Options include 1) doing nothing. Don't laugh--doing nothing has been scientifically proven to be the most desirable course of action by human beings for millenniums. This is due to the fear of change and the general inclination to do as we've always done. Machiavelli, the Karl Rove of five centuries ago, said nothing was more perilous than the introduction of change.

The second option might be to participate politically--if you are able. Turns out one thing fascist governments do in order to take over is marginalize their political enemies. Hitler and the Germans just grabbed the labor unionists and shot them; our government isn't there and may never get to that point. That doesn't mean however that the people are safe in their efforts to limit the powers of government. Government, like the machines in the Terminator series, are self-aware. The institutions and their hacks will resist quite vigorously any change.

Voter disenfranchisement is also part of the political process, unfortunately. Technology has made black box voting possible. The presumption is that the voting process is immune from the kinds of tampering we see occurring to our computers on a near-daily basis. Turns out, voting machines are easier to hack than a PC! (An experiment by Leon Co., Florida's Supervisor of Elections Ion Sanchez aired on HBO and showed how easy it was to do. )

We know we're smarter than that. Why then do we assume the system's not been compromised? Why not start from a presumption that the machines are hackable, and that a motive exists to hack them, especially in our hypercharged political climate? I guess it's just easier to go with the flow and accept whatever results the machines offer, especially if preventing hacking is impossible due to the fact many of these machines can't provide an audit trail or reveal if they've been tampered with. Hmm, I wonder qui bono, or who benefits; perhaps we can start with an audit of all the voting machine makers executives and employees to follow the money.

Well, if our democracy is truly spent, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Democracy has led to the greatest expansion of our government and its powers, which is not a good thing if a despot were to come to power atop the mighty beast that now lords over us in so many ways. Hitler, it's worth remembering, came to power in a democracy. So maybe the Founders' premonition to create a Republic instead of a democracy wasn't such a bad idea.

If we can't limit the size of government, then we can't limit the damage it can do at the will of the majority. In our age of consolidated media, hot button issues can be introduced into daily talking points by zealous political activists. The mechanism works, as is proven by Rove and will be in every Presidential election forward.

The German people woke up to the scope of the fascist disease after it was too late to protect their country. I can only wonder if we still have the time left to correct the path we're on.

Paradoxically, I don't think it matters which party wins. At some point, our Federal government will become so vast and controlling that it will serve the interests of just a few instead of the great majority of Americans. This is nothing new in the history of the world, or even our own. The corruption isn't new and the problem isn't insurmountable although deciding on the best course of action to contain the growth of government--not just how much it spends but its powers and bureaucracy--may not be so easy.

The Top 1%, the people benefiting the most from the status quo, are sheltered from the day-to-day political  issues and events associated with running our government. They are unseen and continue to menace the democratic process. I won't say there's a Star Chamber or some conspiracy, but suffice to say George Carlin was right when he says "it's their club, and you ain't in it."

We can choose to pretend that the system isn't broken, or being manipulated by the benefit of a few. Perhaps doing nothing doesn't seem that bad an option...for now. But what we must come to fear most from a overpowerful central government is that it will come under the control of someone bad. In this respect, accepting our true masters' economic motive, greed, might not be the worst thing--it's known quantity.