“I Voted.” Small sticker, precious step

Today I’m as powerful as Sheldon Adelson, Sean Hannity, Paul Ryan, John Roberts, David Axelrod or Elizabeth Warren.

My vote counts as much as each of theirs. And as I cast my vote today my heart lifted. I could feel it. For too many months I’ve been worrying and griping and moaning and arguing and living in fear of the unthinkable. An hour ago I took action. I feel empowered.

img_5163Our country has flaws. Disparity of rich and poor. Gross overconsumption of the planet’s resources. Poor education and a paucity of hope for too many. A system designed by those who already have the most to assure they get more. And our election system is far from perfect. Voter suppression. Hanging chads. Too much influence by the wealthiest. Gerrymandered districts that permit little challenge to incumbents.

But I just cast a vote that counts the same as Barack Obama’s. And it will be counted. The regular citizens who handed me the ballot and watched me slide it in the machine are the volunteer custodians of the dream the founders dreamed. My Uncle Bob died in World War II to protect the vote I cast today. John Lewis had his skull cracked to preserve the right of all of us to not just speak up about where we’re going as a country but to put our hands on the wheel.

There was a man standing at the corner of the street that leads to our local government center where Lisa and I voted. He was showing the world a life-size picture of Hillary Clinton behind bars. I firmly believe he’ll be disappointed a week from today. And as we drove past him I felt less of the despair I’ve been feeling for months, despair that the candidate he supports might actually, how could this possibly be true, win the election. I felt less depressed because I had just taken action. I had voted. To turn away that man’s vision and to bring my own closer to the light.

In a world full of despots I stood up and said to the preposterous, self-absorbed, ignorant, immature poseur who would be president: “I banish thee. Slink back under the foul rock you crawled out from. Begone.” Little old me, a guy of scant power, wealth or influence. But a guy with a vote.

In the car, Lisa and I did a Barack-Michelle fist bump. Is this a great country or what?

— Bruce Benidt

Welcome to the First 2016 Republican Debate

NEW SLAUGHTERAnd … welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first debate of the 2016 FoxNews/Clear Channel radio Republican Presidential candidates, live from the Federal Premium Ammunition grandstand on the Neshoba County Fairgrounds in beautiful, well-defended Philadelphia, Mississippi.

I’m Ted Nugent. Y’all know me, and I’ll be your MC this evening as we introduce an entirely new format, flushed clean of liberal bias and BS. A format that gets right to what you want to hear.

As all of you know, because we’ve told you, Republicans haven’t been able to get a fair shake from bought-and-sold New York-elite debate moderators for a good 20 years. Over the years too much time has been wasted talking about crap in 2000-page boondoggles and what a bunch of moochers in some damned ghetto needed you to pay for.

Continue reading “Welcome to the First 2016 Republican Debate”

Michele, My Belle …

NEW SLAUGHTERMichele Bachmann announcing she’s bailing on her beloved Sixth District completes a neat triptych of synchronicity. First there was old Bob Dole saying the current Republican party is such a godawfiul mess Ronald Reagan couldn’t make it out of a primary and that they ought to hang a “Closed for Repairs” on the party’s office door until they get an act together. Next came the study of the Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact archives that conservatives have a rate of flagrant lying three times higher than your average prevaricating liberal. Then … came Michele, my belle, a woman who like Richard Nixon, I’ll miss more (as a piece of street theater) than I dare say outside a confessional.

The connection is fairly obvious, especially when you consider how heavily Bachmann’s routine abuse of fact and logic skewed the PolitiFact numbers and that what Bob Dole was alluding to was the contempt for legislation and government that is the primary feature of the Congressional Bachmanns’ of the world.

Continue reading “Michele, My Belle …”

It’s Nerd-TV, and I Like It

NEW SLAUGHTERI really didn’t need that annual “State of the News Media” Pew survey a couple of weeks ago to tell me how badly TV has fallen out of the news business.

If you missed it, the gist is this: “In local TV, our special content report reveals, sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts studied while story lengths shrink. On CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around deep reporting, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012. Across the three cable channels, coverage of live events during the day, which often require a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012 while interview segments, which tend to take fewer resources and can be scheduled in advance, were up 31%.”

Like I said. Pretty much what you already know. Only with hard-edged percentages.

Local TV news was particularly notable for a substantial reduction in government reporting and a heightened emphasis on “live reports” which translates into “stuff we can shoot this afternoon and have on the air tonight”. What has been sacrificed is dissection and analyses of what government and business news actually means to viewers.  (No wonder you thought that Vikings stadium funding package was such a wonderful idea, if all you know about it came from TV).

To follow this devolution in “community service” to its natural conclusion, restaurant reviews and Lindsay Lohan sideboob will soon replace what is left of relevant civic issue coverage.

The cable story was notable for MSNBC being declared the clear leading perpetrator in the cheap and easy “interview” segments that have replaced what we used to think of as “news”. Why? Because actual reporting, international style, requires reporters and crews on airplanes and in faraway hotels running up a tab that diminishes shareholder value.

The shot at MSNBC is legitimate … as far as it goes. Never mind that MSNBC never was much a competitor to CNN, much less NBC News, (which seems to spend more money on medical segments for geezers and women than rattling cages on Capitol Hill).

But the Pew survey played in the same cycle as MSNBC was rearranging its primetime line-up (again), and this time for the (much) better.

Continue reading “It’s Nerd-TV, and I Like It”

Bad info-tainment begets low information voters.

Ever since the right-wing entertainment bubble began expanding back in the early 1990s, I’ve wondered what it would take to pop it. Despite sharp, specific criticism from apostates like David Frum and others, I doubt this year’s ass-kicking will flush the misbegotten authority of self-interested hucksters from modern conservatives’ primary information conduits. The world outside the bubble of crazy-assed nonsense doesn’t have enough martial conflict.

The phenomena of “the conservative entertainment complex” has fascinated/obsessed me for years. Locally, I covered, got to know (and on some levels enjoyed) people like Jason Lewis and Bob Davis. And hell, “RINO” Sarah Janecek and I were, briefly, placeholders at a Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel station while it tried to lure Lewis back to town. (Officially we were there to offer a “new balance in political talk radio”, unofficially it was understood from the get-go we were toast as soon as Lewis signed.)

I’ve been face to face with national consultants explaining how the talk radio game works, ratings-wise. (Essentially; feed your average 40-something male just enough to let them have an opinion in an argument at work.) I’ve listened to station managers encouraging me to, “play back” and “let them win”, in terms of an ideal commercial model for a left v. right radio “debate”. I fielded hundreds of calls from obsessive, low-information listeners absolutely convinced of everything Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the usual characters had told them — about WMDs in Iraq, about “overtopped” levees in New Orleans, about … well, you get the idea.

Point being, I get the knucklehead factor. There are plenty of people out there who either don’t know much, or who desperately want people around them to believe they know a lot more than they actually do. Those people — predominantly white, male and middle-age to elderly  — are a highly exploitable demographic. By themselves they are enough to keep the hosts — the entertainers — in a nice living, even if, they add up to barely 10% of the population. More to the point, the hosts of these anger-stoking shows are actually in a better position in defeat, when they can level the full force of their invective at the opponents in the White House. Their message is founded on victimhood.

Post-election, what is astonishing — even to me — is that by all reports very highly paid operatives and consultants … and … the GOP’s two top candidates were also huffing the very thin air on “Bullshit Mountain”, as Jon Stewart calls it.

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan claim to have been gobsmacked by the results. Are you kidding me?

The only way that happens is if they too dialed out “the reality based” world and invested their grandest ambitions and hundreds of millions in wealthy donor money in the alternate universe of conservative entertainment logic. That universe is a zone out beyond the Oort Cloud where among other things, Donald Trump was briefly a viable presidential contender, where anything Sarah Palin says is worth hearing, where women who want birth control through their health plans are “sluts”, where Barack Obama is still a Muslim, where Dick Morris has a regular audience, where “death panels” will decide Grandma’s fate, where Socialism is swamping capitalism in 21st century America, where climate change is a liberal hoax, where the simple math of poll aggregation matters less than anything cherry-picked off Rasmussen or phoned in to Laura Ingraham’s radio show and where the attack on the consulate Benghazi has spawned a cover-up as big as Watergate.

It’s a message that appeals most to an aging, anachronistic slice of the population … that happens to sustain a small class of entertainers (and their corporate shareholders).

At the moment it appears the conventional wisdom among the modern GOP’s intelligentsia is that every office seeker in the next election cycle must wear a sombrero and mutter a few lines of Spanish. Never mind creating substantially improved policies instead of vague verbiage. Such a revolution — which is what is needed —  would require risking the wrath of the lords of the entertainment complex. Almost no one has shown the guts to do that. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, currently refuting Romney’s claim that “gifts” to minorities swayed the election, will be an interesting test case for whether any Republican can maintain viability while out of step with Rush Limbaugh.

I meant to post a couple of post-election appearances — by yours truly —  before this.

Here’s your fourth-favorite Rowdy on Fox 9. And here’s the same seer on Christopher Gabriel’s show on WDAY radio up in Fargo. Bon appetit.

I’m not sure what went on with the Tea Party this campaign season. I think I’ve said before that if that “movement” had any true ideological fervor beyond beating the illegitimate black guy in the White House it would have parted ways with the GOP establishment the minute Rick Santorum conceded the last primary. Lovers of good conspiracy theories would like to know if any SuperPAC money was sprinkled around to the myriad Tea Party insurgencies to shut up and play along with Romney’s adventure? How else do they explain not exploiting their moment in the (pale) sunlight and running their own candidate?

But, bottom line, I fail to see how the GOP — truly, a “Mad Men” party in a “Modern Family” world — reestablishes broad-based appeal to minorities of any kind and women under the age of 65, not to mention people young enough to regard Jay-Z as a role model and not Ted Nugent or Pat Boone.

For those groups and everyone who has come to regard the party’s supplicant status to the “entertainment complex” as a kind of pathetic, sick joke there simply is no “there” to the much-parroted modern conservative message.

What does “limited government” mean in, you know, the real world?

What are you actually talking about when you campaign on “economic freedom” Who doesn’t want that?

Ditto “respect for social institutions” like the family. Does anyone believe the average Democrat is trying to undermine Mom, Dad and Thanksgiving dinner?

And “respect for national defense and law enforcement”? Just because your average wild-eyed liberal thinks the Pentagon is a sacred cow never to be challenged on waste, fraud and cronyism doesn’t mean we’re in favor of letting terrorists take over the New York Stock Exchange. (Hell, most of the worst economic terrorists are already working a couple blocks away.)

This election tore back the curtain on the buffoonery of the modern conservative information machine. But until the movement’s high priests on radio and TV — the crowd motivating their caucus and primary-goers —  are cancelled for lousy ratings, I don’t see any way the party can change.

Not that I’m complaining, you understand.

Ten Things That’d Go Down Today, if I Were King, God Damn It.

Eventually I lost track of how many “10 Best/10 Worst” lists I slogged through at the end of 2011. Suffice to say none of them covered the stuff that I consider critical to maintaining, A: A functioning democracy in our troubled times, B: The possibility of  victory in the eternal struggle between intelligence and bullshit-lubricated shilling, and C: My sanity.

Hence, my annual list of “Ten Things That’d Go Down Today, if I Were King, God Damn It.”

1:  Hear ye, hear ye … in our modern hyper-connected, Google-ized, information at the tap of a smart phone wonderland there is no reason — none at all — to but up with the astonishing bombardment of fact-free bullshit in what passes as “news” programming. Therefore and henceforth, all cable, satellite and broadcast programming purporting to be/marketing itself as “news”, be it “reported” or “personality driven” shall be placed on a 30 second delay. During that delay a “Truth Squad” of a half-dozen or so techno-geeks will run a check on all statements presented as fact. The results will run in a constant banner at the bottom of the screen. For example, when Sean Hannity says, “Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim with a secret proto-Socialist appeasement agreement with the Iranian ayatollahs”, the banner beneath him would read: “Nothing about this statement bears any resemblance to reality. As usual, Sean is completely full of shit.”

 2: The aforementioned “Truth Squads” would be paid for a by … A Tax on Perfidy.  Monetary fines adjusted in proportion to audience size at that moment would be channeled back into the system, steadily adding more and more fact-checkers. For example, if Brian Williams describes Mitt Romney as “an executive with an unequivocal history of job creation”, NBC would pay a fine of say one cent per viewer. Assuming an audience of 13 million, that’d be $130,000 into the fact-checker hiring kitty.

3.  Computing power would also be deployed in removing the single biggest obstacle to Congressional Gridlock … gerrymandered, incumbent-protected redistricting. All pertinent data would be fed into Watson the Monolithic Deep Blue Number Cruncher which after a few seconds of humming and blinking would spit out 435 new Congressional districts with no consideration whatsoever of protecting the careers of the incumbents who have signed the most oaths, pledges, vows and taken the most four-star dinners with Big Pharma lobbyists.

4:  Recognizing that Newt Gingrich has had at least one good idea … Lincoln-Douglas style debates … it is hereby ordered that the top 12 leaders of the two major parties submit themselves to a regular, free-form debate process … with the wild card that the debates be moderated by acknowledged experts in the subject matter at hand. For example, by the luck of the draw Eric Cantor would be required to appear in debate with say, Chuck Schumer, on the topic of government deficits, moderated by Joseph Stiglitz and Simon Johnson. Live. Two hours. No toilet breaks. No under-the-suit wiring. No microscopic ear buds.

5:  Jazzed by the success of the Tax on Perfidy funded Truth Squads, I hereby order a similar … Tax on Brain Sucking Inanity. Scrolling through the current 500 channel TV universe is one of the most profoundly depressing exercises imaginable. Cajun pawn shops. Swamp coots ‘rasslin’ alligators. Functionally illiterate yobs and gimbals shrieking insults and throwing drinks, talentless society bimbos with freakish hypo-plumped lips and no instinct for decorum carving up each other’s egos … and Sean Hannity. Lost tribes of the Amazon are better served by their signal drum media. Hence, another per viewer tax for every … tattoo, Botox injection, absence of teeth, faux hawk, catty knife-in-the-kidney remark and reference to anything Kardashian. Billions will accumulate in a single week.

6:  Similarly, based on the astonishing response to Your King’s mandatory debate decree, it is hereby ordered that as a condition of any candidate filing for state-wide or national public office they be publicly vetted by a similar panel of acknowledged experts in the fields of foreign policy, tax policy, economics, American history and, if necessary the difference between a Kleenex and a paper towel. Live. Two hours. Not that brains matter, of course. But the likelihood of a sheer public humiliation might at least spare us six months of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

7: In addition to a (far) more enlightened, skeptical and informed political media Your King hereby decrees on an infusion of similar virtues into the realm of …. business reporting. Since money is the only thing that matters, each public relations profile  masquerading as journalism must be off-set with a persistent stream of curiosity into any endeavour making disproportionate profits in any industry. Or … any industry making disproportionate profits amid recessionary collapse. Similarly the CEOs of such companies must submit themselves for public cross-examination by a panel of indisputably skeptical journalists. The phrase “shareholder value” is NOT an acceptable explanation for gross violation of labor and environmental laws.

8: The next variation on “Lost” — like this “Alcatraz” series for example  — must have an ending written and filed in a safe deposit box prior to the airing of the pilot episode. Granted, anyone with two neurons left in operating condition shouldn’t be watching network TV. But Your Royal Highness is not pleased — to the point of going all Henry VIII — on the next Hollywood slickster who sucks us in to a “Twin Peaks”/”X-Files”/”Lost” puzzle drama … without the faintest attempt to tie the loose ends together and make sense of years worth of tantalizing sub-plots. If not beheading, The King is seriously considering yet another tax.

9: Noting the $10 million spent on television advertising prior to the absurdly unrepresentative Iowa caucuses — which drive fewer low-information religious crazies to their caucus sites than fans to the average Ohio State-Michigan football game — The King correctly senses that this maelstrom of nutbaggery is a boon only to the Pizza Ranches and TV stations of Iowa. Unable to think up anything punitive enough for Pizza Ranch managers, the windfall income to (mostly corporate-owned) TV stations shall be (bitch) slapped with a 50% surcharge, or $5 million in this year’s cycle, which will be re-distributed to public schools for courses in critical thinking.

10:  Finally, Your King recognizes that royalty such as his is a residual quality from the Dark Ages … not that that bothers him all that much. But just because we wallow like happy swine in this rank sewer of Kardashian-Hannity-Swamp People-botox-wives-of-New Jersey effluent doesn’t mean we have to spend as much time as we will this year counting down to the end of the Mayan calendar. Bug-eyed jeremiads will be heard all about the land. But The King hereby decrees that he finds prophets of doom-for profit tedious … and usually in arrears on their taxes. Therefore they shall all be arrested by The King’s Bullshit Police and given the choice of either summary beheading (The King’s preference) or being caged in broken elevator for the next 12 months with a Kardashian and … Sean Hannity. (After a week the knaves will plead for the guillotine.)

That is all. Now, back to the fields with you.