Exactly

This is a wonderful article from Alter.net, which expresses exactly how I’ve been feeling. This is the first page of several, so be sure to read the whole article.

America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?
U.S. culture is going down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.
December 9, 2010

JoeBageant.com / By Joe Bageant

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

Directly or indirectly, they understand that the real function of American social institutions is to justify, rationalize and hide the true purpose of cultural behavior from the lumpenproletariat, and to shape that behavior to the benefit of the institution’s members. “Hey, they’re a lump. Whaddya expect us to do?”

Doubting readers may consider America’s health institutions, the insurance corporations, hospital chains, physicians’ lobbies. Between them they have established a perfectly legal right to clip you and me for thousands of dollars at their own discretion. That we so rabidly defend their right to gouge us, given all the information available in the digital age, mystifies the world.

Two hundred years ago no one would have thought sheer volume of available facts in the digital information age would produce informed Americans. Founders of the republic, steeped in the Enlightenment as they were, and believers in an informed citizenry being vital to freedom and democracy, would be delirious with joy at the prospect. Imagine Jefferson and Franklin high on Google.

The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of cherry picking the blogs and TV channels to reinforce their particular branded choice cultural ignorance, consumer, scientific or political, but especially political. Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman’s right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That’s why they are called dumb.

But throw in sixty years of television’s mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain’t a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk.

The other half, the liberal half, concludes that Bristol’s bad dancing is part of her spawn-of-the-Devil mama’s plan to take over the country, and make millions in the process, not to mention make Tina Fey and Jon Stewart richer than they already are. That’s a tall order for a squirrel brained woman who recently asked a black president to “refudiate” the NAACP (though I kinda like refudiate, myself). Cultural stupidity accounts for virtually every aspect of Sarah Palin, both as a person and a political icon. Which, come to think of it, may be a pretty good reason not to “misunderstimate” her. After all, we’re still talking about her in both political camps. And the woman OWNS the Huffington Post, fer Christsake. Not to mention a franchise on cultural ignorance.

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Asst. Attorney General, Clearly A Closet Case, Attacks Gay Student

Exactly.

Don’t Miss This Article

Please take a moment to read ••this article•• about the “aristocracy” at the top of the so-called Tea Party movement. It’s excellent.

An excerpt:

Take National Tea Party Convention organizers Judson Phillips and Mark Skoda.

Phillips has described himself as a “small-town lawyer” and former prosecutor, and appears to have specialized in personal injury and DUI cases. According to the watchdog Web site SourceWatch.org, “during the past decade he has had three federal tax liens against him, totaling more than $22,000.” No wonder why he might be part of an anti-tax movement.

Skoda, according to his bio on the National Tea Party Convention Web site, has “held executive positions with United Parcel Service, Federal Express and Penske Logistics (where he served as Chief Executive). He currently serves as a Vice President for One Network Enterprises, a Dallas-based technology company.” Not exactly the image of the small businessman being railroaded by “Big Government” that the Tea Party movement wants to portray itself as representing.

Skoda gave a glimpse into his personal mentality at the Nashville convention, when he told the crowd: “Have we grown so much into socialist culture that people criticize a for-profit event? We put thousands of our dollars into the Gaylord Hotel and the Nashville economy. We didn’t ask for a tax benefit, or tax break, or subsidy. Just because this is grassroots doesn’t mean I have to dress in cloth and beg for alms…I shouldn’t be punished just because I choose to be successful.”

There you have it. Success is a “choice.” It just so happens that this “choice” seems to come more easily to the wealthy elite who pull the strings in the Tea Party movement.

Phillips and Skoda in particular have taken heat, even from some Tea Partiers, for their announcement earlier this month of the formation of the “Ensuring Liberty Corporation” and the “Ensuring Liberty PAC.” The organizations will be used to further the Tea Party cause, but, they announced, will accept corporate money…and perhaps money from Washington lobbyists as well–something that is supposedly verboten to the Tea Party movement.

While the Ensuring Liberty PAC will be subject to laws requiring financial disclosure, the Ensuring Liberty Corporation won’t be legally required to disclose its donors. The goal for 2010, say Phillips and Skoda, will be to raise and spend $10 million on this year’s midterm elections–but where all that money comes from will remain a mystery.

FreedomWorks was one of the main forces behind last year’s April 15 Tea Party anti-tax and anti-Obama rallies that took place in several cities across the U.S. At those rallies, virulent racism was often on display–encouraged by organizers–as well as nasty slurs against Obama for supposedly being a Muslim, and even occasional threats of violence.

Since then, FreedomWorks has taken credit for organizing “hundreds of Taxpayer Tea Parties across the country, from Santa Barbara, California to Amarillo, Texas, and all the way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

FreedomWorks is far from a struggling grassroots organization. According to SourceWatch, in 2008 alone, the group reported $4,346,782 in total revenue. Armey’s FreedomWorks salary in 2008 was reported as $250,000–for 18 hours of work per week–plus $300,000 from related organizations.

In addition to Armey, Steve Forbes–the son of wealthy publisher Malcolm Forbes–also sits on the FreedomWorks Foundation Board. Then again, Forbes has sat on the boards of plenty of other right-wing foundations in the U.S., including the American Enterprise Institute and the National Taxpayers Union, and his name has been associated with the pro-imperialist Project for the New American Century.

Living a sheltered life as part of one of America’s richest families, Forbes has displayed a stunning ability to stick his foot in his mouth. While running for president, he complained, “My father once spent $5 million on a birthday party for himself in Tangiers. Why can’t I spend a few more running for president?”

As ThinkProgress.org noted, Americans for Prosperity is well-practiced in creating fake populist “front groups” around a variety of issues. In addition to its involvement in Tea Party groups, it also created “Patients United” to oppose health care reform:

Patients United follows a familiar pattern AFP has used for their other front groups: create a new stand-alone Web site, fill it with lines like “We are people just like you” to give the site a grassroots feel, and then use the new group to recruit supporters and run deceptive advertisements attacking reform. This “astroturfing” model has been used by AFP to launch groups pushing distortions against other progressive priorities:

— The “Hot Air Tour” promoting global warming skepticism and attacking environmental regulations.

— “Free Our Energy,” a group promoting increased domestic drilling.

— The “Save My Ballot Tour,” a group that pays Joe the Plumber to travel around the country smearing the Employee Free Choice Act.

— “No Climate Tax,” a group dedicated to the defeat of Clean Energy Economy legislation.

— “No Stimulus,” a group launched to try to stop the passage of the Recovery Act.

Senator Franken Grills NBC and Comcast Execs

Here’s the video:
1. Sen. Franken’s Opening Statement

2. Questions

From the Huffington Post:

Senator Franken Rips Into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC President Jeff Zucker testified in front of House and Senate subcommittees Thursday as regulators decide whether to allow the proposed merger of the two media giants. Comcast is the largest cable TV and residential high-speed Internet company in the nation. NBC is one of the largest content providers.

The House hearing opened with several politicians waxing poetic about how the merger is great for America. While nobody in the room cracked a smile, their enthusiasm is laughable. The only people who could believe that the largest media merger in a generation is good for the public are either: 1) on the receiving end of the massive campaign contributions from said media companies; 2) bending to the phalanx of industry lobbyists swarming Capitol Hill; or 3) hoodwinked believers in the “all regulation is bad” approach that brought us Enron and the financial meltdown.

Not everyone is swallowing the snake oil Comcast is peddling to grease its takeover of NBC. None shone brighter yesterday than Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who aggressively interrogated Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker — all but accusing them of lying to his face.

“You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t trust these promises, and that is from experience in this business,” Franken said. “It matters who runs our media companies….the media are our source of entertainment, but they’re also the way we get our information about the world. So when the same company produces the programs and runs the pipes that bring us those programs, we have a reason to be nervous.”

We sure do. Here are 10 more reasons to be very afraid of the proposed Comcast/NBC merger:

1) Comcast Buys Influence
The communications industry is, after all, second only to Big Pharma in Washington influence-peddling. Comcast spent more than $5.5 million in campaign contributions since 2006 alone to have their way in Washington. That’s not counting more than $50 million they’ve spent on lobbying in the past three years!

2) How Much Is Enough?
Comcast earned more than $3.6 billion in profits in 2009 while claiming they didn’t have enough money to invest in faster Internet networks … and while raising rates as much as 50 percent over the past five years in some markets.

3) Fat Cat CEO
In 2008, CEO Brian Roberts was ranked as one of five “Highest Paid Worst Performers” in America. 2008 income: $40.8 million. Sitting on Capitol Hill yesterday, he raked in more than $100,000.

4) Bad Customer Service

Comcast ranked second only to AOL in poor customer service, according to a 2009 Zogby/MSM Money poll. Comcast service is so bad they drove a 75-year-old woman named Mona Shaw to wreck one of their stores with a hammer.

5) Comcast Lies and Plays Dirty
In official 2006 testimony, Comcast Vice President David L. Cohen said: “If Comcast were to try to ‘deny, delay, or degrade’ the Internet experience that our more than 9 million cable Internet customers have paid for, how can we possibly expect to keep them as customers. … Any provider that does not meet the needs of users will suffer from a serious backlash from consumers and policymakers.”

In 2008, after being caught illegally blocking content Cohen admitted: “Comcast may on a limited basis temporarily delay certain P2P traffic.” That’s the same year Comcast was caught paying for seat fillers at a public FCC hearing into their illegal Internet blocking. Only this year, after being censured by the FCC, did Roberts admit to the company’s “mistake.”

6) Comcast Censors Political Speech
Comcast prevents ads from running that criticize the company’s political friends. They even fired a newscaster who dared to question an award they were bestowing on Bill O’Reilly.

7) Comcast Blocks Independent Voices
Despite digging up our city streets and enjoying a near-monopoly for decades, Comcast has consistently tried to shirk its community responsibilities – including trying to kick public, educational and government channels into the cable-tier equivalent of Siberia.

8. Goodbye Free Online Video
If this takeover goes through, Comcast will likely pull free NBC content from sites like Hulu and put them behind a “paywall.” In Thursday’s congressional testimony, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts claimed he wouldn’t, but he left wiggle room for his “TV Everywhere” scheme that would force you to pay for a cable subscription to watch your favorite Comcast- and NBC-owned shows online.

9) Launching a Merger Wave
Think this deal stinks? Just wait. If approved, a Comcast/NBC deal would set off a wave of mega-deals as other companies try to keep up. If this deal goes through, you can be sure Verizon-Disney or AT&T-Viacom won’t be far behind.

10) Comcast Can’t Be Trusted
It’s clear Comcast will say and do anything to sell this deal and try to keep Congress and the federal regulators from getting involved to safeguard the public interest. The spin cycle is already starting.

So I’ll give the last word to Senator Franken: “I worked for NBC for many years, and what I know from my previous career has given me reason to be concerned–let me rephrase that, very concerned–about the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal……..so while I commend NBCU and Comcast for making voluntary commitments as part of this merger, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t just trust their promises.”

Side-By-Side Lies of the Bush Administration

A powerful presentation highlight the outright lies of Bush and company.

Sleazy Senator Gets Grilled on Sleazy Affair