News Addiction

If you are depressed stop wallowing in the outrage culture. Think happy thoughts, you’ll feel better.

That was the gist of the suggestion offered to a friend who posted the image featured in yesterday’s article Depression. As if depression is something you can turn off, like a switch. It isn’t like that.

I do follow the news closely these days, as does my friend. I was a news hound for decades before Meniere’s took my joie de vivre. I was active in the Travis County Libertarian Party, taking a hands-on role in as much local politics as I could handle while still holding down a full-time architecture job. I listened to news and radio talk shows constantly while working on whatever architecture project was in front of me that day so as to keep informed of whatever the current trends were. It was crucial to know what was happening if you wanted to have a hand in changing it. I switched to podcasts for my news well before most other people even knew that podcasts existed. I read newspapers and news sites. I immersed myself in the political realities of Austin, of Texas, of the United States, and did my best to be the positive change that I thought the world needed. Just as every good citizen of the world should do.

But then I got sick, and I didn’t get better. I didn’t have a livelihood any longer and I couldn’t look forward to finding one again, probably ever. The constant stream of information about what was going on in the world became a distraction from what it was that I needed to deal with. The barrage of things that I couldn’t change externally just drove home how helpless I was to even be able to alter what was happening in my own body.

That was what was important. Figuring out what was wrong with me. Finding ways to cope with the new reality of my disabilities. I didn’t have time to spend on informing myself about things that weren’t directly impacting my health until I found a way to stabilize my own internal situation.

So I quit the news.

I quit listening in 2006-ish. I just quit, cold turkey. I’m not saying that I didn’t know what was happening in the world, I simply quit seeking out that information. There is no way to stay completely uninformed (a perfect idiot) so long as there are people who tell you things they think you want to hear. But I put science, medical and skeptical podcasts at the top of my queue starting at about that time and stopped even listening to news feeds that didn’t include other information that I might personally find useful.

I only started back listening to the news directly, for news content, when all the hatred for Barack Obama made me decide to find out what all the fuss was about. That was when I realized that the news culture had split into two camps that couldn’t even agree on basic facts. While I hadn’t been paying attention, FOX had lead conservatives and Republicans down a dark alley that lead to a thousand foot cliff and then expected all those lemmings following them to walk off the cliff in blind subservience.

In determining what the facts were I came to realize just how poor my understanding of the world was prior to that point, and just how poorly the average American, the average human, understands anything that isn’t forced into their stream of consciousness. I stopped seeing Rachel Maddow as someone who brought up questionable narratives about accepted truths and instead saw her as the accomplished storyteller that the current crop of news consumers clearly see her as today.

However, It’s going to take an American version of the Extinction Rebellion protests that have been taking place in London and New York to also take place in everytown, USA to wake the average FOX news watcher up to the requirement that we do something about climate change. I’m not even certain that anything short of re-education will make them understand just how scandalous their behavior and the behavior of their leaders are.

The Extinction Rebellion Returns | Jonathan Pie | 9 October 2019

But I remain hopeful, for the time being.

After all, the Wife was telling me “they won’t impeach Trump” just two weeks ago. Now Rachel Maddow has said it is a foregone conclusion that they will impeach him. I have to agree with Rachel. I don’t see any way for them to not impeach him given the crimes he has committed that we know of, to say nothing of the crimes we suspect him of but still don’t have the proof to convict him of. The sticking point remains the Senate and Trump’s co-conspirator, Moscow Mitch McConnell.

I’m reserving judgement until after the power hand-off that should occur in 2020-2021, impeachment or no impeachment. We’ll see just how bad things really are at that point. To draw this circular argument to a close and tie it in with the title, I quit listening to the news precisely because I felt that my health was suffering from spending so much time obsessing about what was going on in the world and what the proper solution to the problems were. I’m glad I stopped paying attention then. The solutions that I would have embraced back then are completely different than the ones I would embrace today. 180 degrees different.

So I improved my health by breaking the news addiction. I’ll break it again if I feel that following the news is negatively impacting my health. So long as the authoritarians that back the Orange Hate-Monkey lose power, I’m pretty sanguine with whatever else happens along with it. Which means, my depression isn’t based on my news consumption. But I do appreciate the suggestion.

Wildly expanded from Facebook comments.

It’s been three years now. In order to get a sense of the history of what OHM means, I will link a few crucial posts. I wrote The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) when it became clear that the Republicans were going to nominate Donald Trump.  I wrote The GOP Cuddles Up To the NSDAP when the GOP refused to ostracize the OHM for his dangerously xenophobic populism. I wrote Caveat Emptor on the day Trump lied with his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the US constitution. I wrote Bullshit is Bullshit on the day I stopped even trying to catalogue the blatant disregard of the truth by the OHM. It mystifies me why people still listen to him, and why the OHM still holds the office of the president. #MAGA means Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. Anyone who believes differently is a MAGA themselves.

The US Economy in Two Headlines

Here’s a quote from the first story,

Wealthy households and individuals are pouring money into asset managers, betting on companies that lose $1 billion a year, bonds from little-known Middle Eastern republics, and giving hot Silicon Valley start-ups more venture capital than they can handle.

And private equity has seen so much cashflow that firms have $2 trillion of unused capital.

Axios, Dion Rabouin, Jun 6, 2019 – Too much money (and too few places to invest it)

Here’s a quote from the second one,

“Relatively small, unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance, can be a hardship for many families without adequate savings,” the report said. “When faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, 61% of adults in 2018 say they would cover it, using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement,” it added.

Bloomberg, Matthew Boesler, May 23, 2019 – Almost 40% of Americans Would Struggle to Cover a $400 Emergency

43% of Texans (and about that many Americans) are poor. Explain to me again how we cannot afford to deliver a dividend to those people, the half of America that is poor, that is struggling (if you must insist on soft language instead of harsh reality) we could make them have to struggle less, at the very least. Or is suffering what you really want your fellow humans to do?

From a Twitter reply.

The Next Generation is Smarter Than We Are. Fortunately.

A few words for all you people who still read physical papers. Still read actual newsprint and can’t figure out why those irresponsible young people don’t read them. There is nothing wrong with reading your news on a screen, as long as it’s accurate information that you are getting. Listening to news on the radio/podcast is also completely fine, as long as what you are getting is the truth. TV news is generally at best a waste of time (Unless you are watching All-In or Rachel Maddow) and at worst an active propaganda agent (FOX or your local TV affiliates owned by Sinclair media) but I also don’t know anyone under 30 that watches TV. I don’t know anyone under 30 that owns a TV that they don’t use almost exclusively for video gaming.

The Economist/Slate The Secret History of the Future: From Zero to Selfie Oct 10, 2018

The reason we have a reality TV star in the presidential office is that old white people went to the polls in greater numbers than anyone else, and they voted for the guy who was the star of The Apprentice a show I’m very proud never to have watched. They still think that is the guy who now sits behind the White House desk. The camera lies. Reality TV is all lies. Every bit of it. Cut the cable and never look back. That’s what I’ve done.

But my children and most of their friends are far more informed than any older person I know, people who are still afraid of the Soviet Union twenty years after it fell. Old people are on Facebook. Ask any younger person and they’ll tell you. Facebook is for old people. They aren’t getting their information there. They get their information from other sources. Not necessarily better sources than your antique newsprint, but probably sources that are as reliable as they are. So don’t fret too hard. I’m sure they’ll find a nice home for you to antagonize the nurses at when the time comes. Drink your Ensure and tune in for more Hannity. Just remember he’s lying to you. 

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It is the easiest thing in the world to belittle the weak, and the Texas Democratic party has been almost catatonic since J.J. Jake Pickle and Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Democratic force fell by the wayside. Texas Democrats had a brief resurgence in the 80’s and 90’s with Ann Richards as governor and with the Clinton’s in the White House; but truthfully, the Texas Democratic party of old died with Jake Pickle at about the turn of the century.

Which is probably a good thing, because the way the Democrats used to do business is mirrored in the way that the Texas Republicans currently do business. Gerrymandering. Stuffing ballot boxes. The outright purchase of votes and candidates by the wealthy class.

Media pundits know who holds the power now. It’s evident in every broadcast you listen to, every telecast you watch or any article you read. Oh, sure, they pay lip service to the notion that the Democrats are due for a comeback; but the corporate media, the corporation, that most feudal of all still existing human social structures, they make their money ass-kissing the powerful, just as their forebears did to kings and sultans, czars and sheiks. They ass-kiss the Republican party because the Republican party has shown their willingness to engage in a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence by letting a known money launderer and populist dictator wannabe take the reigns of power in the US.

As an example, here is the darling of the liberal press, NPR’s weekly politics podcast, talking about the first in the country primaries in Texas this Tuesday,


MARCH 7, 2018 Takeaways From Texas, As Midterms Kick Off

Even a casual listener of that podcast and the one that follows it can’t help but notice that the only voices heard aside from the hosts are conservative leaders. They even play the entire Ted Cruz ad, as if I haven’t heard it several times already on other liberal news organizations, as well as an interview with Ted Cruz! Free advertising and free airtime for the sitting Senator from Canada, er, Texas. Do we hear anything from his opponent in this race, Beto O’Rourke, aside from their making fun of his showing and his name, yucking it up right along with that son of a dominionist Cruz?

No, of course not. He’s never going to have any power, in their eyes. He’s just not pulling the interest of the news consumers, that skewed demographic that sits at home watching FOX news as if this was still the 1990’s or something. One might think the media would have learned a thing or two from the mess they made of the 2016 races, following the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) around like little puppies afraid they’ll miss the next tidbit of tasty gossip. All the while certain that their free advertising for this dangerously jingoist, nationalist, uninformed conspiracy fantasist wouldn’t help earn him the White House all on its own. Never consciously realizing that their dismissal of the favorite, a savvy, political insider who had been hounded by the press for nearly 40 years would end up creating a vacuum that something had to fill.

No, they just go on blithely doing the mindless reporting that they always do, looking to see what will get them the most viewer or listener numbers. Never really asking if these were the stories they should have spent their precious time talking and writing about. And so the numbers stack up in the conservative column, and the people follow the media who follow the assumed power, none of them ever asking if that leadership is a judas goat or not.

Let me break this down for you, the layman who doesn’t live and breath politics like I do. Republican primary turnout in Texas is high because in Texas you can only vote in one primary for one party. So if you are interested in selecting the leadership of your county or state (cities are generally non-partisan races by design)  you will go and vote in the primary of the party you think will carry statewide offices. And that party in Texas has been the Republican party. Democrats last won statewide office in 1994, the longest dry spell in recent US history. Only a fool votes in a primary for a party that will not control the state after the next election, or so the average voter thinks.

Ted Cruz was essentially unchallenged in his primary race, so Ted Cruz got every vote of every Texan who voted in the Republican primary unless they took the time to not vote for him. And since most Texans voted Republican he got more votes than the Democratic candidates did. Does this mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Only that most people want to be on the winning side in an election and will change their stances on subjects after the fact just to prove how right they always were.

If Texas had jungle primaries like California does, you would see something you’ve never seen in Texas before, cross-party voting on the primary ballot. You would see a lot less racism and persecution of the transgendered and homosexuals, because there would no target demographic that would vote on issues that arcane without partisan primary grandstanding. If Texas had districts that weren’t gerrymandered to a fraction of a percentage point on average party turn-out (like Pennsylvania) but were instead drawn by a non-partisan commission, you might see people voting for the other party just to get a change of government in their district. But we don’t have those things, and so the self-fulfilling prophecy of Republican victory is underscored by pundits who aren’t interested in how the opposition is hobbled in Texas, they just want to congratulate the victors no matter how rigged the races are at the outset.

Back in LBJ’s day, the Democrats did all this stuff too. It’s hard for them to criticize the Republicans for doing things that they did, that they will do again if we let them. The trick is to inform your leadership that you want a level playing field before you send them to office. That you want maximal voter turnout, sensible districting, wide-open primaries and real discussion of issues. Good luck on getting the media to stop following the easy story, the quick click reward. In the meantime you could just stop believing that pundits know what the future holds anymore than you do yourself right now. Then you might at least stop fulfilling the prophecies that they keep making.

Ballotpedia.org

The Blue Wave was real, and then it wasn’t, in the course of about a week. Stranger still, the made-up national story arc seemed to influence in-state coverage as well. Even though Democratic turnout was better than in any midterm primary since 2002, and more than than double 2014, commentators have consistently described the night as at least a mild disappointment, where the Democrats “fell short” of a goal that had been imagined for them.

Texas Observer


The thing is, the way the state goes on the electoral college map doesn’t mean very much at all for the way Texas is governed. And while it’s possible that the party jumps back to life with the shock of winning one or two statewide elections — that there will be a proof of concept, and then everyone suddenly gets serious — it’s more likely that things change slowly, over an extended period of time, and that small gains and positive signs feed bigger gambits. What’s most important in the long run is the overall composition and strength of the Texas Democratic Party at the local and state level.

In that light, the fact that Democratic turnout doubled in urban counties while Republican turnout stayed essentially flat is significant. There are quite a few winnable legislative districts around those cities. The whole ballgame for the party is getting people to vote and to make a habit of voting. Trump is helping them do that — the trick now is to get it to stick, which it most certainly did not after the elections of 2006 and 2008. – Christopher Hooks for the Texas Observer, The All-or-Nothing ‘Turning Texas Blue’ Narrative Needs to Be Retired

The interview with Christopher Hooks on the Texas Standard today spells out exactly what I’m talking about. The media, focused on national races and their outcomes, never even considers the fact that the truism all politics is local holds sway even in places as large as Texas,


Texas Standard, Is It Time To Stop Talking About ‘Turning Texas Blue’?

Progressives are making inroads in Texas, and there isn’t a damn thing that Republicans and conservatives can do about it. For Democrats to win they have to offer real improvement on what the Republicans are doing now. Funding schools. Improving safety. Protecting the environment and moving Texas into the the next century. Listening to the OHM and his canuck croney Cruz talk, you would think that there aren’t fields of windmills in West Texas providing essential electricity to the grid. That solar wasn’t the future and that the emergence of electric cars in the cities isn’t a thing that is happening. You would think that Texas lives and dies by coal, which was never true, and that we’re still in the wildcat days of the oil boom in Texas, which we aren’t.

It’s time to put the conservatives where they belong, in the past with their fear of the transgendered and the homosexual. Their need for their religion to be front and center in everything they do. We cannot afford to be side-tracked into meaningless crusades against the different and the strange. There is real work being left undone because of their fear-mongering and immigrant hating. Time to roll up the sleeves and get back to work. 

Money in the Internet Age

I keep getting links to The Wall Street Journal articles. This is a regular occurrence on Nuzzel, one of the news aggregators I rely on for my daily news. These links are useless to me; I never pass them on and I never read them. Why? Because  The Wall Street Journal has erected an impenetrable paywall around their site and I simply don’t have money to give to publications in general, being a person living in poverty.

Even if I had money I wouldn’t pay a subscription fee to most publications (except maybe The Atlantic) because 9/10’s of what they report is available on Reuters or the AP feed. Why would I pay to read stuff on  a newspaper’s website that can be read other places for less money? Micro-payments for specific articles, if I had money to spend, would be something I would agree to, but not subscription.

I won’t pay subscription fees for other cities papers. I’ve never paid for the daily paper in my hometown (currently the Austin American-Statesman) I have never paid a lump sum for delivery of a daily paper; a paper whose content is actually paid for by advertisers who want to sell me cigarettes or alcohol or some other addictive substance that I couldn’t afford to use even if it wasn’t addictive. I borrowed newspapers at lunch or listened to the radio (NPR) for my news.

After the internet became available I started reading more news than I had ever read before and my understanding of the world improved. But this understanding came at a cost to the journalists and publishers of the newspapers who hadn’t figured out how to monetize information consumption on the internet. They’ve tried, and failed, to make advertising work on the internet. It doesn’t work because people like me don’t want to be sold to. We aren’t here to be pigeons targeted by businesses that want to make money off our browsing habits, although many of us (including me) don’t mind if Google (Now Alphabet) makes money off our information in exchange for providing services.

NPR – Hidden Brain – Buying Attention

Unfortunately for most internet businesses, there’s only so much room on the internet for businesses like Google, and competing with Google is hard work. Ask Microsoft if you don’t believe me. So how are the businesses going to make money online if advertising (the backbone of information delivery since the invention of the printing press and the mural) doesn’t work online? If the internet is (as I say in The Information Tollway) a replacement for the library, newspaper, radio and television? We’re going to have to admit that everyone who lives and consumes in society deserves some kind of stipend, some basic cost of living allowance.

They deserve it, and we need them to have it, because their consumption habits need to be accounted for. The easiest way for this to occur is for them to be able to spend money for what they need, just like everybody else does. Go to the doctor? spend money. Go to the grocery store? spend money. Read an article online? spend money. I doubt we will ever evolve to not need money for accounting purposes, but it is pointless for us to continue believing that money comes from work when not everyone can work, and the most important work (raising children) continues to be done essentially for free.

In the meantime, places like the Times, the Post and the Journal will have to do without cash from people like me, because people like me have to save what little cash we have to keep roofs over our heads and food in our stomachs. We already economize with our health unless we have medicare, and the GOP tax bill will cause seventeen million more people to do without healthcare in the near future, if passed. So there will be more people getting sick and just ignoring it as time progresses. We will economize with our knowledge and understanding as well if forced to. You can see that in the #MAGA‘s (Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans) election of people like the OHM and the GOP congress that is shafting the same misinformed people who put them there. But that is a story for another article. 

Defining Normalization

The NPR Politics Podcast,  Weekly Roundup: Thursday, February 16 (transcript) is a textbook case in how to define normalization,


NPR Politics Podcast,  Weekly Roundup: Thursday, February 16

The hosts utter not one single word about the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) persecution of minorities and immigrants. Not one word about the OHM’s continued violation of the Constitution, profiting personally from the running of the country. You can hear how much these reporters accept the OHM as one of themselves, another member of the media. This is how democracy dies. A series of small quiet deaths that ultimately end in fascism. Dictatorship. Wake up, America.

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