Archive for May, 2014

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Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Have you ever wondered why your local TV weatherman is such a  jackass?  Now we know the reason.  Weather forecasters who are  actual scientists are not allowed on TV.  For over 30 years, the  mass media have pursued a systematic effort to keep people from  knowing the truth about sudden climate change.  The result has  been that your TV weather staff, cleansed of anybody who might  mention a scientific finding about climate, has devolved into a  collection of whores and fools.

It’s not just weather forecasters, but all newsmongers that have kept us ignorant and misinformed.  And they never admit their fault.  Take the last big case of journalistic malpractice, coverage of the hurricane that emptied New Orleans  of most of its African-American residents.  The weathermen were dancing in the streets as the hurricane made landfall east of the city–”Looks like we dodged a bullet, Steve”–even as the levees were giving way.  Thousands died, stranded, taking the reporters’ unanimous word that evacuation wasn’t necessary.  It was reporters who kept rescue boats from flooded neighborhoods, warning of armed looters who were shooting at rescue workers.  Turned out the shots were coming from the rooves of flooded homes, cries for help that were heard but not heeded.  Nobody apologized for any of this that I ever heard.  On the contrary, reporters patted themselves on the back for seeming sympathetic on the air.

Maybe you noticed the transformation that corrupted our media.  If you were a supporter of public TV in the 1970s, you remember the early episodes of Nature, which seldom failed to warn of shrinking habitat and depletion of resources, and Nova, where we were invited to understand scientific inquiry.  They still called it educational television in those days.  Factual coverage ceased in the 1980s, and any substantial discussion of climate science has been suppressed in the interim.  On today’s Nature, the wild animals all have cute names, and Nova invites us to learn why we enjoy riding carousels.

We don’t know exactly why our media have misled us.  They never acknowledge their own failures, much less explain them, and they refuse their critics any and all exposure.  They know that an essential element of censorship and bias is suppression of all mention of censorship and bias.  Still we can guess what’s behind all the disinformation.  News publishing is business, and business has to make money.  For a newspaper to make money, it has to have an audience, it has to have advertisers, and it has to have investors and financiers.  There’s a vast body of important facts that lots of potential audience members would rather not hear and another, overlapping body of knowledge that advertisers and investors would rather not publish.  There’s money to be made by withholding such facts.

If there were an obligatory code of ethics for journalists, it might forbid editors and publishers from allowing the profit motive to interfere with reporting, but there is no such code.  In fact, the only source of accountability for this industry, the one industry explicitly protected by our constitution, is the news-consuming public, which ought to be just about everybody.  There was a time in my city when it was easy to hold your paper accountable.  If you didn’t like the evening paper, you could subscribe to the morning paper, or you could get both (for a dime) and make critical comparisons every day.  Today we have just one newspaper in Hartford, and it runs the same stories in virtually the same words as every other paper in the USA.  It’s a lot more expensive now, too.    Pay more.  Get less.  Not a lot of accountability there.

Because most people can’t or don’t read, a big segment of the public gets its news from TV news-readers.  TV news-readers shouldn’t be mistaken for journalists, even though they play them on television.  Their qualifications seem to center on how they look and sound on the screen.  Their scripts are pretty much what’s printed in the newspaper.  It’s not wise to alienate one of these personalities.  You’ll never appear on TV if you do.  In fact, the worst public relations move a writer can make is to criticize the media.  Ralph Nader won’t do it.  He knows he’ll be silenced if he defies these people.  The exposure Glenn Greenwald has received lately is unprecedented, as critical as he is of the corporate press.  I have a feeling he’ll be shut down soon, never to be seen again by most viewers.

We can put the blame on ourselves for failing to hold our mass media accountable, but the corruption of journalism has to be cited as the principal cause of our trashing of the atmosphere.  We’ve been fed a steady diet of lies about pollution for the better part of two generations.  Any bit of information that could have threatened the status of rich people, like a fact that might prompt a big change in personal consumption habits, has  been banned since at least 1980, when we ceded the White House to the upper class with the election of Ronald Reagan.  The collapse of the natural environment was no secret then, but you would never guess that from a review of the intervening record.  Reporters have gone along with the censorship because reporters who didn’t go along have been purged.

The disinformation dispensed by the mass media has led us to a state of permanent warfare, a failed economy, a government of thugs, constant bombardment with advertising, the utter alienation of each and every one of us from each and every other one of us, the abandonment of values, and, now, a future of hardship and hopelessness for our grandchildren that will be without precedent in modern history.   I don’t suppose I’m the only person who wants retribution for the injury the mass media, especially the news media, have done to his family.  I would certainly keep my eyes open if I were one of those attractive celebrity news-readers I keep seeing on TV. I want to say to the weatherman, “There’s probably somebody out there who wants to lock you in the trunk of your car.  You maybe want to look both ways before you pop it open.”

No Rant

Monday, May 5th, 2014

I wrote a work of fiction for young people that might not be suitable for young people, so I thought I’d take a poll.  Below is a chapter of my book.  The poll question is “Would you get in trouble with your brother/sister/in-law if you gave this book to your teenaged niece or nephew.”  Takes about five minutes to read the chapter, which will give you an idea of the content.  I’d be grateful for any answer (email guy2k at guy2k dot com) to my poll question.   So far, the book, Ciao, Verdi!, is available only in digital form, from Amazon, with a print edition coming soon.     Steve

Chapter 10: Little Sister

She’s short, the sister.  Darker than Angela, but they have the same face.  The eyes are a little intense, and she looks like somebody who’s used to getting her own way.  As girls do.   My mother says all human relations can be summed up in two sentences:  Boys tease.  Girls are bossy.

Slash seems to take an immediate dislike to this one, name of Tina.  ”Do you know anything about Guy Touquet?” he inquires.

“Cheez, you do get right down to business, don’tcha?”   She’s sitting at the  kitchen table with a little brown dog in her lap.   It’s a dachshund, a hot dog with four legs and a pretty face.

“Sorry, but this whole thing has been driving me nuts.  This person or machine or whatever.   Says it’s taking over everything.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but . . . ”  Slash sits opposite Tina at the table, salt and pepper shakers and a napkin holder between them.

“Yes.  Well.  You want to know if it’s possible,” Angela says.  ”Could a computer own assets?  Buy and sell them?  Run a business?”  Tina shrugs.

“Could one?”

“Could an eleven-year-old?”

“You’re telling me you run a business?”

“Not exactly, but I own property, and I buy and sell.  On-line auctions.  Programmed trading.  I’m a hacker, didn’t you hear?”

“So that’s how my . . .  my . . ”  He stammers for a second.  ”. . . my Guy.  That’s how my computer guy knows you?  As a hacker?”

“That would be funny.”

“Funny how?”

“Hackers are not meant to be known.”

“You’re a hacker, then.”

“Right.  Picked it up in Rome.  From my cousin.  She’s an MBA and a genius, and she helped me get started when we went back there last year.  It’s addictive, programming.  You get instant feedback.  I can hardly get up from the computer.  My big sister thinks I should get a life.”

“What’s this programmed trading?  Sounds like online gambling.  You’re into that?”

“All you need is a credit card.  Once you get plastic you can do pretty much anything.  I put together some birthday money, started  a bank account with an ATM card, signed up for online banking, and it got easy after that.”

“How much are you worth?”

“More than any amount of money.  None of your business. ” She points her thumb at me. “What’s the deal with him?  Does he talk?”  I haven’t taken a seat, and I’m backing away from the table.   A white cat is rubbing against my leg.

Tina strikes me as a tough customer.  Sometimes you run across a little kid who scares you.  Not that this one is all that little.  She’s small enough, all right, but she’s also smart-talking and smart-seeming, and she thinks she’s grown up.  You get the feeling she’ll take you in any sort of mental contest.  So I have to close my mouth to answer her.

“I might talk when I’m not listening.  I was listening.  You’re saying a computer can do what this computer guy claims to be doing.”

“You think a computer can talk to you like a person?”  She obviously thinks I’m an idiot.

“OK, so it’s not possible.  Slash should forget about the whole thing.  It’s a fraud.”

“Boys are idiots.  Does it have to be one or the other?  You’re the dude that wants to debate human extinction, right?”

“How did you know that?”  I’m wearing a foolish look, I’m sure.

“My sister’s in the club with you, remember?  Suppose you’re right.  Suppose human beings are a cancer on the earth.  Where does that leave me?  Where’s it leave you?”  She waits for me to say something.  I don’t.

“Suppose it’s true that around the time I turn 60, a big chunk of Greenland ice is going to slide into the Atlantic Ocean.” She’s glaring at me and petting the dog at the same time.  ”That’s gonna make a #&*# of a splash.  Some people are saying there won’t be drinking water within 50 miles of here after the river backs up.  This room will be under water.

“Did you know Southern California is turning into a desert?  Where your food comes from?  Over 200 different kinds of frogs and toads will be extinct in our lifetime.  Two degrees climate change and they’re dead.  Forever.”

My slack jaw reforms itself to a grimace.  She starts pointing her finger.

“You,  you’re worried whether you’ll reach five feet before age 21.  Well, here’s something to worry about.”  She brings her little fist down on the table, hard.

I speak.  ”There’s going to be a lot of praying, is what you’re saying.”  It’s a tentative suggestion, an effort at wit.

“Might as well pray to the Tooth Fairy.  This boy’s Guy” she points at Slash, “claims he’s going to solve all that.  How is this a bad thing?”

“Don’t get so worked up about it.” I caution her.

“You should be worked up about it.  Our parents and grandparents are planning to stick us with a huge mess and no solutions.  Their so-called democracy is a joke, and the people who run it are crooks.   They demolished two skyscrapers with people in them in front of our parents’ eyes, and they pretended to pretend it didn’t happen.  You know what an albatross is?”

I shrug.  ”Some sort of bird”

“It’s a big white sea bird, lives on some of the most deserted coasts on the planet.  They find their skeletons in the sand a thousand miles from the closest town and where their stomach ought to be there’s a pile of disposable cigarette lighters, bottle caps and tiny bits of plastic bag.  They fill their bellies with our trash until there’s no room for fish and they die of hunger.  There’s an island of plastic trash the size of Iowa in the South Pacific, where the ocean currents come together, and it’s getting bigger.  You can read about all this and see pictures if you have the stomach.  You hear the grown-ups talk about global-this and postmodern-that as if it’s nothing.  It is cancer.” She’s so hot, she has to catch her breath.

She lowers her voice and slows down.  ”They have a lot to be ashamed of, the grown-ups.    In the meantime, while they’re popping pills to try to keep back the tears, you people, the smart kids, so-called, are trying to decide whether to go to film school or take up #&*# basket-weaving.”

“Look,” Slash cuts in, “I didn’t come here for a lecture.”

“Yeah, well, you get one anyway.  Free of charge.  You want to know whether a computer can control the world  by acquiring assets on its own account.  I doubt it.  Guy Touquet is a braggart of a computer.

“But I’m sure you both know that a computer can buy and sell property, run businesses, direct human beings, and make lots of money.  They already do it all the time.  Could a computer arrange to have somebody killed?  Can’t imagine why it would want to, but yeah, I guess so.”