Class Warfare Blog

April 12, 2017

Why the “Mainstream Media” Has Lost Our Trust

Filed under: The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:27 am
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The corporate media always seems to take the side of other corporations. Another example, still in the news is here.


February 3, 2017

Ignore Trump

Filed under: Politics,The News — Steve Ruis @ 12:37 pm
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Yes, I am advocating that we do just this, at a time when people are running around with their hair on fire screaming “Trump wants to do this … Trump wants to do that.”

Ignore him I say.

There are two good reason for doings this. The first is that Trump doesn’t have an ideological or policy-driven mind. He has no ideas. He takes other people’s ideas that seem to resonant and attract attention and runs with them himself, but the ideas are not his.

We need to be laser-focused on what members of Mr. Trump’s administration are doing, though. (How that term ever got promoted is beyond me, lasers can’t be focused.) Mr. Trump himself is the embodiment of distraction. If we watch him, we miss how the magic trick is done. Ever second we watch him, is a second things are done out of out sight.

Pay him no attention.

This is the second of my two points: Mr. Trump seems to need attention … more than anything else and that includes money. If we withhold our attention, then maybe … maybe … we can get him to do something for us, rather than his current work for his puppet masters.

It is a long shot, but it might work. If not, you will have the satisfaction of denying him his heart’s desire.

So, from now on, do not use his name. Talk about “this current administration,” or “this official” or “that agency,” do not use his name and pay no attention to his antics. If you do, we lose.

January 15, 2017

Trump Trumped?

Filed under: Politics,The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:17 am
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The NY Times has joined a chorus of writers on a singular topic: should the recent accusations associated with Russian claims to have a “hold” on Mr. Trump have been released to the public (“Was BuzzFeed Right to Publish Accusations Against Donald Trump?,” 1-11-2017).

I find this puzzling. Mr. Trump was elected because the news media provided many millions of dollars of free television coverage precisely because Mr. Trump made outrageous, unverified, untruthful claims about his opponents and the state of the nation.

So, when were they supposed to stop? And why?


December 6, 2016

All the “Fake News” that Is Fit to Publish

Apparently the latest hot topic for political pundits to pontificate upon is the idea of “fake news,” otherwise known as lies. What they are decrying is not that lies exist or that there are so many of them, but they are so easy to “publish.” Hah!

There are more lies now than any other time in human history and I am confident in that statement because there are more people alive that ever before in human history and all humans lie. And it is also true that each of us has more reach than ever before. You are, for example, reading this blog, which in effect is my personal publication organ. This was not possible even a short time ago.

What is lacking is not control over the sources of such material, after all we do pride ourselves in having a political system that protects the freedom of speech, but that people are apparently not at all skeptical about the “information” they have available.

I must insist that all news is fake news. It is the case in which every time I have been interviewed for publication that I have felt that the interview and what was published were at odds. Local papers never seem to get it right. I have heard that same criticism over the years about larger publications.

“I must insist that all news is fake news.”

The manipulations of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war were willingly embraced by major “news” publications, even though they turned out to be made of whole cloth. What, the utterances of our politicians are no longer trustworthy? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … that anyone ever thought they were. Politicians look at the “press” (now “the news media”) as something to be managed or controlled, not as something to embrace as a bulwark of democracy. The “press” no longer looks at itself as the protector of democracy, nor does it have the role of scourge of dishonest politicians.

What is needed is for all of us to be a lot more skeptical. We need to ask “Where did you hear/get that?” On Facebook? Oh, that explains a lot. Apparently many Americans get a substantial amount of their news off of Facebook. WTF? Well, Facebook has a well-known reputation for journalistic integrity I guess. (No, it does not; I am being sarcastic!)

Come on, people! Get a pair! Show the whole world that you are not the gullible idiot who thinks that “if it was on the Internet, it has to be true.”

We need more guidelines. How about “Breaking News!” — Breaking news means we got it wrong, but we got it fast! And “this was verified through a confidential source” means (a) if I told you who told me, you’d laugh at me or (b) I am willing to be manipulated by someone who is unwilling to be quoted.

Our news media were on an upward trajectory away from “yellow journalism” and toward greater integrity but that trend has been reversed. In today’s journalism, opinion is promoted as fact and to make money news organs are peddling opinions without any facts. The newspaper guideline “If it bleeds, it leads” has been replaced with the 24-hour news cycle’s “Look at the shiny object, how does it make you feel?”

September 13, 2016

Why Sense Isn’t Common

If you have gotten any serious news lately you have probably heard about the Wells Fargo Bank debacle. Basically, over the past five years, Wells Fargo created more than two million checking and credit card accounts that weren’t authorized by its customers. Employees, who had strict sales quotas to hit, would secretly open and transfer money in and out of those fraudulent accounts, costing thousands of customers millions of dollars in fees.

So WFB had to fork over a fine of $145 million but none of its officers went to jail.

The reason none of its officers went to jail? Simple, they were no longer working for Wells Fargo Bank.

Since when did where you work become a criterion for whether or not you did something illegal? WTF? How about “I’m sorry, Mister Brown, we can’t prosecute the person who murdered your wife, he is no longer a murderer, he is now in the protection racket.”

Find the bastards responsible, drag them out of their new plush offices, wherever they are, and throw them in jail. Who cares if they left WFB? They did something wrong (otherwise why was WFB paying such a fine) so they should be held accountable.

At least put the sick fucks in the stocks out in front of WFB headquarters so we can rub rotten vegetables and excrement on their faces and then post their photos on SnapChat.

September 9, 2016

Scaring Ourselves to … Bad Policies

The NYT posted another “investigative journalism” report, this one is on crime, specifically murder (Murder Rates Rose in a Quarter of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities, 9-9-16).

If one looks at their graphics, though, another headline could have been “Murder Rates Either Fell or Stayed the Same in Three Quarters of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities.”

“’The homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was real and nearly unprecedented,’ wrote the study’s author …” yes, but this highlights another disturbing trend in modern journalism, the examination of the gaps but not the actual amounts. So, education reporters talk about how the gaps between black and white students has stayed the same or risen but ignore the fact that both Black and white students scores has risen considerably. Black students have increased their performance on standardized tests substantially. In one generation, Black students knowledge of mathematics has increased almost two whole grade levels (e.g. fourth graders can do math that their parents did in sixth grade)! That news somehow does not make it above the fold, below the fold, or anywhere in the paper apparently.

And, in crime reporting, how about the fact that murder rates in those cities has declined substantially since a high around 1990? They even include a graph showing this general decline but they are reporting only on an up-tick at the very end of the graph that may be part of a trend … or may not be.

Journalistic narratives are leading us astray. Violence is on the decline (per capita). Murder is on the decline (per capita). Crime is on the decline (per capita). But that doesn’t sell newspapers. The lede is still “if it bleeds it leads.”

September 4, 2016

The Decline of Journalism, Part 2 (Of a Long and Sad Series I am Afraid)

I have commented before about the decline of journalism. One aspect of that decline is the ascendance of journalist narratives, which occur when a journalist, rather than report the opinions of others more expert, inserts their own narratives, the ones that will get them advanced in their position at their workplace.

In a recent article on the Samsung cell phone recall, which centers on their batteries having a disturbing tendency to burst into flames, the journalist answers his own question “If the batteries are problematic, why do companies continue to use them?” with “Battery technology has been slow to advance, largely because the products must pass rigorous safety testing.”

So, the problem is not with manufacturing defects in batteries that have been used quite safely for well over a decade, it is “guv’mint regulation.” And if it weren’t for those pesky safety standards battery technology would zoom ahead.

What BS!

I remember reading a Scientific American article about the advent of solar power. One conclusion stuck in my memory, namely that solar power was set to explode as soon as a “more viable alternative to the lead-acid storage battery is developed.” The lead-acid storage battery is the one you have in your car. The article was dated 1906. When I was reading that article, we did not have NiCad (nickel-cadmium) batteries or lithium ion batteries; they hadn’t been invented yet. Interestingly, both of those fabulous “new” batteries, without which we would have no portable electronic devices at all, are variations on the same design as the zinc-carbon battery, the first design of “flashlight battery” invented decades ago. (The zinc-carbon battery was the first “dry cell” battery in that it was the first that didn’t have liquid sloshing around inside (like your car battery still does) and which dates back to the 19th century.)

There are no whiz-bang, new fangled, high tech batteries because we can’t figure out how to make them. All batteries are based upon the same thing: a chemical reaction that when placed in an appropriate container, can created electricity and, if designed correctly, can be recharged by forcing electricity back into the battery, causing the chemical reaction to reverse itself and so to be able to produce electricity again.

This is the inherent weakness of all of these batteries, the dependence upon chemical reactions, the chemicals of which refuse to stay put where we want them to be. This is why all such batteries wear out, why your car battery needs to replaced every five years or so (and has been for over a century), why “rechargeable batteries” aren’t rechargeable indefinitely.

This is why every rechargeable device has batteries that can be replaced easily (unless you buy Apple products). My wireless earphones have ordinary rechargeable batteries behind the earpieces. When they stop recharging, I can prize out the old batteries and pop in a fresh set and we are off and running again. You cell phone has a removable battery, it is not hard-wired in, for the same reason. (You probably haven’t done this because “you just gotta have a new phone” before the battery wears out.)

“Many of our problems would be solved if government
would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American knowhow.”

There have been advances in battery technology but the basic design has stayed the same, just new materials and design tweaks have made them lighter, able to pack more electrical charge in them, and to be recharged faster and for more cycles before replacement is needed.

It is not because of government safety regulations, for Pete’s sake!

I wonder why the drum would be beaten so strongly against “guv’mint regulayshuns?” The government is us. The regulations that exist are in place to safeguard us. Where they have been circumvented and bastardized through the political process, it has been at the behest of the plutocratic powers that be, not the Ralph Naders of today. (Ordinary people can’t get anything through Congress, you know that, yes?)

So, to create support for these anti-democratic usurpations of political power, a narrative is needed. Ah, here’s just the one: “many of our problems would be solved if government would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American know how.”

As just one example of  how “good, old American knowhow” is in the world of commerce, and in tune with the topic of “batteries” involves a California remanufacturer of car batteries. These batteries contain a goodly amount of the element lead, both in solid form (the electrodes) and in water solution. You know that lead is poisonous, don’t you? It has been known to be quite poisonous for centuries. If you are old enough you have seen lead banned from gasoline and house paint, etc.

Now, to rebuild these batteries, the old solution, containing a great deal of dissolved lead as well as sulfuric acid, had to be removed from them. Do you know what their disposal process was? Yep, they poured in on the ground and it sank in and voila, it was “gone.” They did this for over fifty years! When the “guv’mint” got around to investigating they found significant lead pollution of ground water over 150 miles away. When the company was accosted with this result, they did what you expected them to … they closed their doors and left it to the guv’mint, aka “us,” to clean up the mess.

This is what happens when “government just gets out of the way” of good, old American know how. What the “know how” really is, is knowing how to make money, and messes, and letting others clean up afterward.

And incompetent journalists are selling us this “system” as a good idea.

August 6, 2016

The NYTimes: On the Slippery Slope and Accelerating

Journalism is suffering or, rather, we are suffering from a steep decline in the quality of journalism. Schlock and shoddy journalism has always been with us and always will, because it is cheap. If I may quote an executive of the National Enquirer magazine in court, “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

High quality journalism, though, is expensive. And, unfortunately the funding base for high quality journalism has evaporated. First on TV, where news divisions were not expected to make money but now they do, to newspapers, which used to be somewhat profitable and now are marginal at best.

The result has been that a great many journalists have been fired and a great many good journalists have retired and been replaced by, well, poorer journalists.

I was reading a column in today’s Times (“We’re in a Low-Growth World. How Did We Get Here?” by Neil Erwin, Senior economic correspondent at The New York Times’ The Upshot column in which he refers to an interview with Larry Summers, economist and former Obama administration economic advisor:

Mr. Summers, in an interview, frames it as an inversion of ‘Say’s Law,’ the notion that supply creates its own demand: that economywide, people doing the work to create goods and services results in their having the income to then buy those goods and services.
In this case, rather, as he has often put it: ‘Lack of demand creates lack of supply.’”

Apparently the good reporter missed something in translation, because the “framing” is a bit upside down. Say’s law has been widely discredited (and in economics that means “doesn’t work” rather than it is flawed logically or whatever) and the fact that demand drives supply is long standing economic principle.

The way it is stated it appears that Say’s Law is the operative principle, but in these unusual times it has been inverted (“In this case, rather …”). So, “normal” is declared to be an aberration.

Do realize that many folks still quote Say’s Law as if it were valid because it supports the fiction that is supply-side economics (which has also been thoroughly discredited (aka doesn’t work), just look at the last 35 years as evidence).

So this piece implies that Say’s Law is valid and an unwary reader would have that “factoid” reinforced.

Only a savvy journalist would note that either Mr. Summers misspoke or he was speaking ironically or was actually trying to counter the zombie idea of Say’s Law (zombie ideas are those that refuse to die because they are propped up for various reasons).

In any case, we lose when the quality of journalism declines and decline it has. We are on the slippery slope and accelerating. Soon, someone on the N.Y. Times staff is going to say “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

May 20, 2016

Plane Crashes, Speculation at 11!

An EgyptAir flight (MS804) disappeared from radar recently and has been presumed to have crashed. This announcement set off a flurry of speculation as to whether is was mechanical failure or terrorism or a communications failure or some other cause of the purported crash. This was before a crash had been confirmed! Not only were the typical news outlets speculating as to why the plane crashed but so were our political candidates. (Yo, candidates, let the others speculate. The odds they are wrong are very high and then you can nail them for irresponsibility. Trust me, it works. True leaders recommend calmness, not running around like chickens with their heads cut off.)

We have seemingly fallen into a speculative trap. The 24-hour news cycle leaves many hours of time needed to be filled on various news and discussion channels and web sites and therefore we fill them with … uniformed comment, most of which is pure speculation, based upon nothing but the speculator’s imagination.

In sports programming, every game seemingly has to be preceded by predictions on the parts of the sport’s talking heads as to who will win the contest. Some sports even keep score as to how good of a predictor each sportscaster is. Who cares? It does not affect how the game will come out once played and nobody remembers who predicted what afterward (unless they are reminded ad nauseum).

I have a novel idea … let’s wait until there is some real information. (I don’t want to use the word “facts” and put off the Republicans who believe they are a liberal conspiracy.)

Soon enough the air crash will be confirmed or not. Soon enough the debris will be examined and a cause found or not.

In our current passion for “Breaking News! *** Breaking News!” we end up with coverage that supplies 90% speculation 9% noise and 1% fact. Casual listeners will only recall the speculation. And there are already enough people believing lies (Obama was born in Kenya! Obama is a socialist! Atheists eat babies!), we don’t need more people believing uniformed speculations are facts.

Just wait, people. All things come to those who wait.

Addendum Yes, this is an aspect of Class Warfare. remember the Roman strategy of “bread and circuses?” This is the circuses.

April 7, 2016

American News Sucks

My Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who in my opinion is to be much admired, wrote an op-ed piece regarding tax avoidance schemes by the wealthy (If You’re Rich, You Can Avoid Paying Tax; That’s Got to Change, The Guardian Online, April 7, 2016). I got to read this because it was published in The Guardian. In case you are not aware, The Guardian is based in the U.K.

Time and time again, I have to get local and U.S. centric news from outside of our borders. Why is that? There is something very, very wrong with U.S. news organizations. Important news dissemination is taking a back seat to eye candy, so far back that one cannot find important stuff.

This obviously is in the best interests of the corporations and plutocrats who currently own our government. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

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