Monday, October 31, 2011

Further Proof that NCLB Isn't Working

Nearly 99% of high schools in Illinois failed to meet the AYP (adequate yearly progress) prescribed by NCLB this year (Chicago Sun Times). Unless this is a Mensa-entry exam or used to pick finalists for the next astronaut to set foot on the moon, I'm thinking the results are a tad ridiculous. Either the test is too difficult or Illinois schools are among the worst in human history. So which is the case? Well, the eight schools that actually met their AYP had over 85% of their student population (including in each subgroup) passing the test. This includes special education and ESL students; a requirement that always left me with an inkling that NCLB was proposed in 2001 by the Bush administration to fail. This would serve as a strong argument to privatize public schools, coupled with attacks on other fronts including recent documentaries like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman, books by conservative and even liberal pundits (often who have no background in education) and statements by politicians about the failure of schools and the promise of charter schools and vouchers (lest us forget that McCain made this the centerpiece of his educational platform in 2008). These arguments tend to ignore the reality that charter schools do no better (except the exemplar schools they use to make their arguments), rely almost exclusively on young, hungry teachers that spend upwards of 60-70 hours a week working (at least at the model Kipp schools) for worse pay and have a self-selection bias that tends to limit the "problem students" from their schools. 

The reality is that test scores are actually going up in Illinois and more kids are passing in grades 3-8, but that overall, a lot of the high school students are having problems. This begs the rather salient question of whether we should really expect 100% of students to pass high school with this minimum standard of skills (and ability to pass tests)? Is there any other country in the world that has a requirement even close to as ambitious? The answer is a resounding NO! Most countries in the world, including those in Europe, Japan and China do not expect all students to succeed to the college-prep level. In fact, they tend to stratify schooling at a much earlier age than in the U.S. As some like Jean Anyon have argued, this appears to be a huge mistake, particularly as there are still plenty of vocational jobs that students can be trained for starting in high school.

I am not arguing here against the rather meritocratic goals of NCLB and its founding principle that every student has the right to quality education. I'm just arguing that the goals of NCLB are unrealistic, particularly  if we are asking the growing ranks of special education students to meet these standards. Even putting aside the larger question of whether this incessant testing of all students makes sense at any level is the reality that the disconnect between the current (and probably future) labor requirements of the country and the NCLB requirements are so suspect as to really beg the question of whether many supporters of the law really do just want to privatize public education. The only good news is that our President has seemed to awaken to this reality and allowed some to escape its absurd clutches. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wal*Mart Exec is a Socialist!

The second article (see below, as I just realized I did this backwards), "Economy Casts Shadow on Advertisers' Forum," details the sad state of affair at the recent Association of National Advertisers conference. The group, who are the real engine of the economy if you consider that 70% of GDP in the U.S. is consumption, were not feeling very sanguine about the future given the state of the economy. But some thought these were "exciting times" because they had to be more creative and that targeting the wealthy might be the best strategy. Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing, strategy and corporate development officer at Visa (well that's certainly a mouthful) noted that the company is studying how "the affluent segment is growing, growing very fast," and what that means for the company (umm, tailoring to the new gilded class maybe?). 

But the most startling news came from Stephen Quinn, an executive at Wal*Mart. He argued that "although we're finally seeing growth coming back into our stores, things are fundamentally different , and permanently different with the U.S. economy and U.S. consumers." So what changed? Well, among other things, "the hollowing our of the middle class" which is creating "the hourglass economy where our country is being divided between the haves and the have-nots." Obviously a socialist and class-warfare advocate. Why haven't Fox News grabbed the story yet! Well, maybe because only those calling for tax increases and regulation are socialists. The rest are just talking about a yucky topic that distracts us from  being angry, victimized white folks.

Brother Can You Spare $10,000,000

I used to read the New York Times business section most days back when I actually read papers in print. I still occasionally do and happened to grab that section from last Monday's paper this morning. In it were two interesting articles  that both serve as apt exemplars of where we stand today. The first, "Why Not Occupy Newsrooms?", detailed the long discussed decline of the newspaper business from a slightly different light, exploring the outrageous bonuses the executives at the companies are getting as they drive the business into the ground. 

The main example they provide is Gannett CEO Craig Dubow who ushered the company from a stock price of $75 to $10 in six years, reduced the workforce from 52,000 to 32,000 and thus seriously reducing the quality of the 82 newspapers they own. So he resigned having essentially failed at his job -- to keep the company profitable and its stock price up. What did the board do? Well they offered him plaudits for having "championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information." Hmm, why bother with sour grapes when someone leaves, I guess. But there weren't just kind words. There was a $37.1 million package including retirement, health and disability benefits. And this comes on top of the $16 million in compensation for just the past two years. So let's quickly run those numbers, 20,000 people lose their jobs, those who own the stock lose as much as 86.7% of their money and the CEO receives compensation of $53.1 million in just two years. 

Sounds fair right? I mean CEOs shouldn't be judged by the bottom line, should they? They shouldn't be judged by saving jobs obviously? Or the stock price? The profitability? No, not that either. Well, then obviously they are judged by ... hmm, there is no obvious. And this isn't an isolated situation today. The same has happened across the economy for years. CEOs and top executives do a bad job, screwing their workers, stock holders and sometimes their customers as well, but leave with tons on money in their pockets. To go back to the numbers, that salary that went to the CEO could have kept 1,000 of those employees at $50,000 a person. While that's only 5% of those who lost their jobs, wouldn't it make more sense than a golden parachute for a guy who clearly wasn't good at his job. It's yet another example of my contention that we live in a world where the relationship between quality and success has become wider and wider, and in fact one could argue today that there is no relationship anymore. Exhibit A is probably George Bush, but we could really go on endlessly from pop music to the fine arts to movies to our politicians and of course business leaders. As just one other example is the coverage of Steve Job's death, which while as tragic as any other death, ignored the fact that he has been gouging consumers with overly inflated prices and the shortest planned obsolescence schedule of any company in history.

Back to the newspaper business. The Gannett story is not unique as one can look at the equally troubling case of The Tribune Company, who runs among other papers the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times. The steep cuts in staff at all of these papers have been well-reported and total over 4,000. So the management of course took pay cuts? Um, actually they will receive over $115 in bonuses over the next three years. This is the level of insanity that prevails today. But it is important to note that in this case it relates in essential ways to the very problem, with the decline in news coverage arguably heavily influenced by the large corporations that now control so much of it. That they are failing in their jobs in some cases and succeeding in others simply shows that the bottom line (whether good or bad) has completely supplanted the idea of the media serving as the fourth estate, instead seemingly serving to buy the fourth or fifth estate for its executives, who one can assume are really not that interested in stirring the masses to actually revolt against this revolting state of affairs. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Heart Arsenal!

At half-time of our epic win over Chelsea this morning, I started to write a rather negative blog entry. The goal right before half-time again showed our frailty against set pieces and all the missed opportunities left me cold. But then a different team showed up in the second half, a team that (dare I say it) looked a little like the invincibles, moving forward of course. Van Persie is a god at the moment, but this is not a one man team! Walcott put in the best performance I've seen from him in a very long time. He actually should have had two assists within the first 10 or so minutes but for misses by Gervinho and Van Persie, scored a lovely goal and looked dangerous throughout the game. Gervinho looked truly wonderful, his mixture of speed and skill really starting to reek havoc on the left side and another assist to Van Persie for an easy tap in. And Aaron Ramsey gets better with each game. He actually looked magical at times and almost scored a spectacular goal. 

But that's not all! The defense actually showed up for the second half, and but for a moving pick (are Chelsea playing basketball these days?) and a spectacular goal by the Spanish dude we probably should have bought, they would have kept a clean sheet after the half-time whistle. Mertesacker looked better, after really being guilty on both first half goals, Santos woke up from his worst performance of the year in the first half to play much stronger in the back in the second and, of course, score a crucial goal. Kocielny is becoming one of my favorite players, making key clearances when the inevitable breakdowns in the back occur. Arteta was much better and Song actually had his best passing game in quite some time. Our passing was great and we not only controlled the midfield but moved forward into dangerous positions over and over again. When you add it all together it was the kind of win that can truly turn a season around.  

Not only were we down 2-1 with a goal right before the half -- the sort that used to often lead us to fall apart (remember the Barca away leg last season or the Tottenham score (both from Fabergas errors)?) -- but the late Chelsea equalizer, after a very questionable no call by the refs, looked to have robbed us of two points. Instead of settling for the draw or giving up a heartbreaking fourth, we kept putting the pressure on and an errant pass from Malouda to Terry, who fell down, led to the go ahead goal and then we finish it off as time is running out. There seems to be something apropos in that exchange between Malouda and Terry, but the key point is we again showed that mettle whose absence has cost us so dearly in recent campaigns. I truly believe that while we have to shore up the back with some additional signings and still probably need some more strength in the midfield, we have largely proven all of the naysayers wrong. 

To put it bluntly, I think we might actually have a team that has more heart than the more talented one that kept losing finals, fading toward the end of each season and finding rather astounding ways to lose games. The heartwrenching defeats last year too often showed a frailty of spirit, heart and balls that this bruised but not broken team appears to have discovered in the wake of the Man U and Blackburn debacles. Consider how ridiculous the British Press and many of our own fans have been in writing off the squad for the year, calling for Wenger's head and essentially claiming this team is a lost cause. Yes they don't have the bench or talent of Man City (or Man U or Chelsea for that matter), but this team appears to have something else -- something missing from Arsenal for a long time: the ability to keep fighting, win ugly and even win games that matter late. This game won us no silverware, but it was a huge, huge victory none-the-less.

Let's deconstruct the season for a moment. Wenger was clearly stubborn in failing to realize that Fabergas and Nasri were going and really should have completed the transfers for Cahill and Mata (who, by the way, played a part in two of Chelsea's three goals). But the past is the past and what happened instead was the signing of the players who now comprise our squad and who are growing into their roles week by week (except Mertesacker who I fear might need to be replaced. He really does seem too slow for the Premiership). So the season began and Gervinho was egged into a questionable red by ahole Barton after pulling him up for what was perceived as a dive. A nil nil result that was disappointing, but Newcastle haven't lost yet this year. Then we score a huge 1-0 victory over the current Series A leader Udinese, essential as it brought us halfway to securing Champions League football for the season. It wasn't spectacular, but we really needed it. Then we play Liverpool and are in the game until Frimpong gets a red and we lose a tough match 2-0 with two late goals (and maybe both were offsides). Then we go to Udinese and need to at least score a goal and keep them in check to qualify -- and win 2-1. Four days later is the infamous defeat, 8-2 to Man U. But the rhetoric surrounding that defeat has been rather ridiculous, given the number of injuries we had and the young, inexperience team we were forced to field. Like the Man U loss to City last weekend, many of the goals came late, and Arsenal actually missed a penalty in the first half and had several chances to make it a one goal match before the wheels came unhinged. Next up we play a tepid match against Swansea, but our little Russian scores a cheeky goal and we pick up three very important points. We follow this up with a great result against the German champions from last year, almost pulling off a 1-0 victory before a last second miracle goal (even as our defense seemed porous the whole match). Maybe our season is turning around? Well, not quite yet as we suffer an ignominious defeat at the hands of basement dwellers Blackburn, 4-3, with three ridiculous goals against and chance after chance squandered. It felt like the Newcastle collapse from last year. So the team would fall apart right?

Well, as Arsenal fans know, the fact is we awoke from that defeat and have won 8 of 9 matches. The one defeat, unfortunately to hated rival Tottenham, could easily have gone the other way particularly as the first goal appeared to be a rather obvious hand ball by Van der Vaart. Many will argue that many of the wins during this period have been rather ugly performances. The Sunderland match almost went the other way, but for a spectacular save by Szczesny. The Marseille game was pretty ugly for large parts, but we pulled it out 1-0 with the late Ramsey goal. Van Persie had to come in to save the day at home against Stoke and our second squad came from behind to beat Bolton in a close Carling Cup match just a few days ago. But I think these ugly performance are a positive. We have won a number of games we could easily have lost, unlike last year where we had the Carling Cup final nightmare, the last gasp Liverpool penalty, the two goal lead ceded back to Tottenham, the Newcastle disaster and a host of other games that we clearly should have won. Now we are winning those tight games and getting ourselves back in contention. I've seen a lot of memorable Arsenal moments over the years that I have been a fan (though obviously those memories get more distant with each passing year), but this had to be the most exciting since the come from behind win against Barca last year. We have a nice run-in until Christmas now (beside Man City) and really need to keep the momentum pushing forward and hope that Newcastle and Tottenham start to drop points. Go gunners! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Supercommittee a Super Joke

I have a great band title for the new Republican Party: "One Song Sally and the Half-Wits." Apparently, the more things change the more they stay the same. Republicans have just rejected the latest Democratic proposal after the Democrats did the same to the GOP proposal earlier this week: Slate. The difference? A mere one trillion dollars and, of course, those pesky taxes that Democrats want to increase at the top of the income ladder and Republicans hopes to bankrupt the government one tax cut at a time. Interestingly, there is another negotiation going on between two parties where greed appears to be at the center of it all -- the current NBA lockout talks. There the players and owners are only a mere six percent apart though, a three percent move from each side could solve the matter, although neither side appears to be budging yet. 

This begs an interesting question -- is there really debate in America anymore? And if not, why? The party of no has essentially created a negotiating environment in which, even when they are the minority party, they get some concessions or don't talk at all. There is no movement from their side of the aisle towards the middle. The same can be said of many of the most popular talk shows where one would be as likely to be surprised by the position of the hosts as the Cubs are of winning a World Series any time soon. Instead we hear the same tired old conversations over and over again. And these men are worth millions. So is there room for real debate and discussion any longer (beside by the tired, half awake Charlie Rose)? It appears that there is little and that not only are people more inured to their positions, but they take pride in their unwillingness to listen or think.

That has become the American past time really, hasn't it: say what you think, ignore any arguments or logic against it (even if it's pretty compelling) and if challenged just say it louder or walk away. What made this democracy great, as de Toqueville so eloquently wrote, was our ability to debate and engage in the public spirit -- our fundamental belief that we had a meaningful voice in the state of affairs of our communities, and even the country. Where has that gone in a world where there are two positions that are treated as polar opposites, even as they really aren't that different? Corporations rule the day and the power elites can sit back and laugh at a DC culture that is so dysfunctional it can't do anything to stop the upward transfer of wealth that has continued largely unabated since the early 80s. 

This leads to the last question: why? Is it popular and consumer cultures that extol the virtues of stupidity, ignorance and steadfast refusal to respect authority of any kind? Is it an education system that has become a laughing stock to the rest of the developed world? Is it the press themselves, who have cultivated a sense that shouting at each other and he said/she said is the appropriate register for political debate? Or is it technology and our current tendency to talk at rather than to each other? I would argue it is a compilation of all of these memes and that if we don't do something to change it we will be left in a quagmire of inactivity that essential not only maintains the status quo, but slowly dissolves our democracy and the future of our children and country. The call to arms today should simply be: think before you speak ... and after too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


It is hard to gauge exactly when the Republican Party lost their mind, much less when they lost their soul. It is hard to believe that this was once the party of Lincoln that pushed the country forward and ended slavery. Today they have eliminated even a semblance of a dedication to the many, instead relying solely on their impressive acumen for obfuscation  and victory. And, as has been well-reported, the party appears to have largely gone over the deep end in recent years, particularly since the election of Obama. 

Among the crazies that now get substantially more news than seems fitting for the seriousness of what they say is Herman Cain. The latest imbroglio in his nascent position as a competitive force in the Republican primary race is over an ad where his campaign chief of staff says some rather generically positive things about Cain and then takes a puff from his cigarette: You Tube. So what's the big deal? Well, obviously is the millions of people smoking kills, the negative message it portrays to the public and the ways that it makes the campaign seem inept. But is Cain and his team really that stupid? I think not. Instead my sense is that they are trying to play to those millions of Americans (like me until recently) that continue to buck the doctors, the media and common sense and continue to light up. The ad is really an FU to the whole liberal establishment that is trying to get into our lives and tell us what to do from one moment to the next. The interesting question for me is whether the positive of appealing to this group outweighs all the negative press he is currently receiving (although one could argue any press is good press this early in the process) and whether these people are really going to vote for a rich Black man, no matter what he says and does? At the deeper level, though, it begs the question of just how low the GOP will go in the limbo pole dancing spectacle of trying to win an election with ideas most people don't like.

Review: Somewhere (2010)

What should we make of Sophia Coppola's Somewhere (2010)? Is it anywhere that anyone sane would want to be? In the space between the lifestyle porn of Entourage and the maudlin, saturnine world of Funny People stands this moody, plodding existential tale. The film, the fourth in the director's canon, offers a stark window  into the enticing but largely empty life of our biggest celebrities (a secondary theme of Lost in Translation obviously). In this case it is Stephen Dorff playing the megastar Johnny Marco, so big he takes private jets to press junkets in Italy and stays at hotels with small pools inside the room. Johnny lives at the Chateau Marmont, sleeps with a lot of interchangeable blondes, goes to the occasional party, follows orders from a publicist and others without much enthusiasm (or spite to be fair) and, we find out, has an 11-year old daughter Cleo (Dakota Fanning). As the "plot" unfolds, we learn that his ex-girlfriend or wife has had some sort of break down and thus daddy has to take care of the daughter for several days before shuttering her off to summer camp. I put plot in quotations because there really isn't one, nor an arc to speak of. The daughter provides the closest thing as Johnny clearly grows a little as the two spend time together, before her departure and his call to a random girl telling her he is "nothing." The film ends with him heading away from his Ferrari and into the void of a hot, endless desert, while many filmgoers I imagine left the theatre wondering where their $12 and hour and 37 minutes went.

So is the film good, you might ask? A few critics, like A.O. Scott (NYT) and Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), loved it, a few others kind of liked it, but many others despised it (NY Post). Where do I fall in this continuum of taste? I'd have to say the film is largely a failure, while it's ambitions are admirable. It seems to largely follow the neurotic relationship we have with fame in the U.S. We treat our stars like gods (even the ones who are merely good at pretending to be other people), lavish them with untold wealth, celebrate their lives in magazines, films, television and the net, create shows around the mundane details of their daily existence and sometimes take them seriously as people we should listen to (including a President I wish had just stayed in the business). On the other hand, we love it when they fail; a whole cottage industry tasked with unearthing their darkest secrets and pictures of them without the makeup team in place. We have reality television shows that really make fun of them more than celebrate their lives. And we have a host of movies over the years from Sunset Boulevard to Celebrity to reminds us that fame isn't necessarily that great after all; even as the popular culture message to kids is largely get it at any cost.

What then do we make of a women who grew up in this opulent world and decides to take it down? Should we give her some credit for her nuanced perspective that neither celebrates nor condemns the lifestyle of the rich, famous and bored senseless? Is it the insider view we've been waiting for? These questions are really left to the viewer who has the patience to sit through the hour and 37 minutes of pure drudgery, with a deeper point that is really as banal as a 25 cent pulp fiction novel, without the action or lurid sexual detail. On the other hand, it has to be said that there is something inscrutably compelling in the performances of Dorff and Fanning. And there is something equally brave in creating a film that relies so much on the nuanced performances of the leads rather than any meaningful dialogue or plot structure. Like the much discussed 20-minute silent scene from P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007), the entire film relies on the camera work and actors to tell us the tale. Yet Dorff and Fanning are not even in the same league as Daniel Day-Lewis and Coppola has a long way to go to even approach the brilliance of Anderson.

In the end, I believe the film misses the mark, even as I appreciate her attempt to bring back the moody, meandering technique of Michelangelo Antonioni or the French New Wave directors. The difference is they ultimately relied on some deeper narrative to bring their films to life, together with compelling filming and editing that brought the milieu's they were dissecting alive. They still had something more important to say than being famous is exciting but ultimately unfulfilling. The film appears really to be just the latest rendering of the age old biblical question, asked in an endless array of films from 1941's Citizen Kane to the 1990 flop Bonfire of the Vanities, for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he forfeits his soul. Somewhere left me with another related question in mind -- who cares?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arsenal Wins Again!

Is winning becoming contagious at Arsenal? What should we think of the narrative that this team is on the decline when they've won 7 of their last 8 matches. What is particularly striking about this winning streak, is it has not been based on playing great football for 90 minutes. Instead they've been toughing out victories. The team with no heart and little mettle appears to have found some. No it is not against the best teams in the world, but I think it is a positive trend, particularly our younger players showing up and performing in the Carling Cup and Champions League. But, of course, we need to win the big games and it remains to be seen whether we will. This weekend should provide an early answer to that question -- as it must be admitted that we lost to Man U, Liverpool and Tottenham (and tied the surprising Newcastle) -- the best teams we have faced. We did beat Udinese, who are top of the league in Italy and Marseille, who were good last year. But otherwise we have been beating up on teams below us in the standings.

One hopes we show up and actually perform well against Chelsea. Good news on several fronts from the 2-1 win though. Vermaelen is back and after an injury scare appears to be ready to go Saturday. Arshavin continued to show signs that he is getting back to his old form, with a goal and assist on the winner. Park finally started a game and, of course, scored -- and it was a beautiful finish (and also had another sure goal saved, though I didn't get to see that one). Chamberlin apparently came back to earth in the game, but I don't think that should allay us from giving him a real shot to displace the terrible Walcott (with the latest rumors having him shipped off to Barca). A victory over Chelsea would actually move us only 3 points behind them, so I will at least dream of glory at the bridge for the rest of the week. 

P.S. It has been an odd year overall, really, with only two draws so far. Besides them we are 10-4 this season. Three of those losses are against top teams and the fourth, to me the real low point of the season, was the terrible but unlucky loss to Blackburn on September 17. Since then, the only chink in our armor was the disappointing defeat at Spurs. All this being said, a win or draw against Chelsea could be a huge one for the team and really get us back on track.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Things They Say ...

This morning's news is ripe with the sort of Republican statements/proclamations that would make most rational people blush. Let's take a look at a few:

1.  Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, instrumental in killing the Obama jobs bill, claimed on CNN's "State of the Nation" that it was not the federal government's role to keep emergency responders and teachers from being fired: "“I certainly do approve of firefighters and police. The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.” (Talking Points Memo) This seems logical, right? Unless, of course, you consider that it is mostly Republican-led State Houses that also refuse to do anything about the prospects of increased unemployment and it is the federal government that can enact the will of 75% of the public and actually increase taxes. Yet this is probably the most reasonable thing said yesterday ...

2. Michelle Bachmann admitted on Fox News that Gaddafi would probably still be in power if she were President (as she critiqued Obama for assisting the effort to unseat him). The rather long quote sums up the insanity that addles her confused brain: "Well, he may be," Bachmann agreed. "I stand by that decision. I think it is wrong for the United States to go in to Libya. Barack Obama said we were going in to Libya for humanitarian purposes. It wasn't humanitarian purposes. It was regime change. And what's the result? We don't know who the next leaders will be. It could be a radical element. It could be the Muslim Brotherhood. It could be elements affiliated with al Qaeda. We don't know yet who that regime will be, but worse, we've seen the MANPADS go missing and the shoulder-fired rockets that are very dangerous, that could fit into a trunk of a car. And there are some reports out there that they may have even gone as far as Gaza and of course, that could be used to bring down a commercial airliner. This is a very bad decision, and it's created more instability in that region, not less." (Crooks & Liars (with video link)). I hate to exaggerate a point, but couldn't we have said the same of Hussein, or I don't know, Hitler?

3. On a related topic, not one but two conservatives claim that Obama is to blame for failure in Iraq. Obama, of course, is also to blame for the financial crisis and there is talk that he might be implicated in the JFK assassination as well. More to follow. Senator Lindsay Graham (TPM) claimed that Obama had lost the war in Iraq, where we need more troops to secure victory, and was too slow in acting in Libya and Afghanistan. I assume he will soon argue that he should have gotten bin Laden faster as well. More directly to the point, Presidential Candidate and confirmed asshole Rick Santorum claimed Obama had "lost the war." (Crooks & Liars). I have always read that history is written by the winner, but it's hard not to claim history is written by losers in America -- oops, I mean "the losers." 

4. On that topic, let's get to the exciting new book Suicide of a Superpower from consummate hater Pat Buchanan, a guy that just won't go away. Among his many claims, he had this to say on the fall of White America, "Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution—to “insure domestic tranquility” and “make us a more perfect union”? Or has our passivity in the face of this invasion imperiled our union?" And this on "reverse racism": "Half a century after Martin Luther King envisioned a day when his children would be judged ‘not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,’ journalists of color are demanding the hiring and promotion of journalists based on the color of their skin. Jim Crow is back. Only the color of the beneficiaries and the color of the victims have been reversed." And though one could go on endlessly, as he does, one final quote should show his startling knowledge of American jurisprudence: "Not until the 1960s did courts begin to use the Fourteenth Amendment to impose a concept of equality that the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address never believed in. Before the 1960s, equality meant every citizen enjoyed the same constitutional rights and the equal protection of existing laws. Nothing in the Constitution or federal law mandated social, racial, or gender equality." (TPM).

5. And finally, our day wouldn't be complete without former frontrunner Republican candidate Rick Perry chiming in. He is now trying to salvage his candidacy by turning to the birthers, who can keep a conspiracy theory without wings going longer than Agent Mulder. Read this exchange that could very well have been an Abbott and Costello bit, if not for the final statement: TPM.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Manchester Darby -- Man U Embarrased at Home!

Well I have to say a dream day for me on the pitch (after scoring a brace myself yesterday in our humble little Saturday game). Arsenal, of course, won but almost equally as exciting Manchester United lost (and lost ugly). That they lost to the club that has been poaching us for years is itself troubling, but watching Man U lose 6-1 at Old Trafford is well worth the cost. I must say that Man U still looks dangerous going forward, but really do seem rather porous in the back. I heard Vidic played midweek, but wonder why he wasn't suited up today. He was clearly one of the best defenders in the League last year. Without him, Man U is lucky to have only lost one this year. The youngsters have a lot of learning to do and I think it's time to admit that Rio Fernindand's best days are behind him.

Norwich could easily have beat them, Stoke had chances to take the full three, Liverpool really should have won at Anfield and they almost gave the game fully back to Basil before pulling off the late draw. Man U looks like a team in a little trouble at present though surprisingly Chelsea couldn't take advantage, losing to newly promoted QPR 1-0 (they themselves arguably should have beaten Man U but for a few missed opportunities). A few thoughts from the game:

Balotelli is quickly becoming one of the best strikers in the league -- not only is he a cool finisher with a wicked shot and great creativity, but his passing is quite good as well. And Dzeko is spectacular as well. Tevez who? On the flip side, Rooney appears to have had a drop in form of late after looking unstoppable early; I think the same could be said of Young and, to a lesser extent, Nani. It's extraordinary how things have changed. Man City has beaten Man U in the FA Cup and at Old Trafford, with only the meaningless Community Shield in between (which they gave back after being up 2-0 one should note). This could be the changing of the guard in the Premiership, which is both promising and troubling for me. Promising in that I despise Man U and would love to see them fall off their perch. Troubling because one can't escape the idea that Man City bought their way to the top.

This is increasingly the reality in professional sport, but it is still troubling in the same way that increasing wealth and poverty are the trend of the past 30 years. When one looks at City, they see a team where the players on the bench are often better than the top positional players for other teams. Let's take a quick look at a few positions: 

- One of the best goalies in the league, and obviously the England #1.
- Dzeko and Balotelli are two of the best strikers around at present. Sergio Aguero looks to become a superstar. And, of course, is that guy named Tevez that has become "excess to requirements" at the club -- even as he was arguably their most important player last year.
- In the middle, you have what might be the best attacking player in the League (David Silva), together with Milner, Nasri and Johnson as strong wide players, Toure as one of the strongest midfielders around, and Barry and De Jong to round things up.
- Defensively, Kompany is one of the best around, Lescott is starting to look really good again, Michaels is strong in the back and moving forward, Clichy might be getting older but is still good on the wings, Wayne Bridge is still a good player to me and there is still Kolo Toure, Zabaleta and Kolarov to mention (god I'd like just a couple of those players for Arsenal).

Essentially the best (or maybe second best) defensive squad in the Premiership last year added so much offensive talent that they are arguably the best team on both sides of the pitch. It's really extraordinary to consider, but again begs the question of whether sports should be decided by the amount of money the team has to spend (much like politics these days). The Yankees and Lakers are obviously examples of two teams with a lot of money and a lot of trophies, but one of the great things about sports is that you still have to go out there and play the games (and neither team won this year). Beyond Man City, there appears to be a lot more parity this year than in previous campaigns. QPR beating Chelsea? Liverpool settling for a point against Norwich? And on and on. 

In any case, but for a Tottenham win, a great weekend for Arsenal and hints of a new power at the top of the League.

Gunners, Gunners, Gunners!

A huge victory for Arsenal today! After taking a 1-0 lead, they gave one back and then their play started to look negative and discombobulated. But for all the talk of how far they've fallen (and they have fallen pretty far to be fair), the club is back in 6th or 7th place I think (still have some games to get through before I check the table). We have now won six of seven and are clearly on the rise. Next week is obviously a tough fixture, but it should show us if we really are on the ascendancy, or will be pushing really hard for that 4th spot all campaign. I must say that Liverpool looks shaky of late. Now to the report card ...

Gervinho: today looked like his coming out party, with a goal and two assists, but I have noticed a real upping of his form game by game. I think the commentators will shut up soon and admit that he was a good signing. He is fast, creative and appears to link up really nicely with Van Persie.

Van Persie: what can you say except that he is probably the best striker in the Premiership today. The winter transfer window is key to bring in some reinforcements to hopefully convince him to stay. But pure quality and beauty in his footballing skill and finishing touch. He now has 25 goals in his last 26 games, I believe. Incredible!

Ramsey: pretty good game for him, including a beautiful chip to assist on the first, Gervinho goal. I think he is slowly evolving into the midfielder we hoped we would be. Should be noted that he just missed an early goal as well.

Walcott: terrible, terrible, lemon terrible. When is Wenger going to give Chamberlain a chance to start again? Walcott too often loses the ball, his crosses are terrible, his finishing touch suspect and his general demeanor on the pitch largely negative (and often clueless). I would love to see a sale to Juve in January, but if Wenger is dedicated to making this kid decent, I suggest he bench him for a game or two to at least make him think (something he rarely does on the pitch, one should note).

Arshavin: I am probably one of the few Arsenal fans that likes the little Russian, but if we ignore the pathetic midweek form in Marseille, I'd say he's had two good showings in a row. He can get around defenders quite easily when he's in good form, and pushed forward to start the setup of the second goal. It will be interesting to see if he can score some goals and get back to the quality he once appeared to promise. 

Djourou: Not a stellar performance, but pretty good. I like how he pushes forward, there were no attacks that started on his side and he appears to me to be a better right back then centre back by several degrees. Did almost cost us a goal with a silly back pass, but it was really Szez's fault.

Koscielny: A second great start for him in a row. A couple little errors here and there, but he is really growing into the centre back position and had a couple key clearances. 

Mertesacker: I keep going back and forth on him, but I am really worried he is too slow for the Premiership. I have seen him beat on the right several times and that was true at least twice today. Also had some really stupid passes out that were almost costly and the promise of his height in the box has not materialized yet (except in the crucial miss that could have leveled us late at Blackburn).

Szczesny: not his best performance, as he really does need to work on his positioning sometimes, but continues to grow. He needs to watch when he sneaks forward out of the box though, as two of the last three games he almost got caught out.

Arteta: He is solid in the middle, but I think it's time to admit that he has been a disappointment for the club. He doesn't lose the ball that often, but his passing forward is average at best, his corners not much above average and his goal scoring threat essentially non-existent for well over a month now. My main issue with him is he appears to want (or need) to take three to four touches before he passes. This is often costly, as openings are closed while he dances around. This is one critique I have of Ramsey as well, but his overall quality at putting balls in dangerous spots is much better at present.

Song: steady as ever, but as I've mentioned all season, I do think he needs to work on his play in the final third, as he too often tries to slide tight passes through in the middle that aren't completed when there might be the opportunity to slot sideways or push to one of the wings. I'd also like to see him shoot a little more, after seeing that lovely goal he did score.

Chamakh: time to say adieu to this striker, that actually looked promising upon his arrival last Fall. Rumors are abound of his departure and I really hope it happens. He should have scored at least one, if not two and just can't seem to find the finishing touch.

Santos: not a terribly impressive performance. I'm starting to worry that he was another average signing for the club. He needs to think more in his decision-making and stop with the stupid plays and fouls. 

Refereeing: I don't know if being an Arsenal fan means paying too much attention to the calls, but ugh. The ghost free kick to Crouchy actually led to Stoke's goal and if pulling a player down right as the ball approaches him isn't a penalty, I guess I don't know what one is. There were also a host of other baffling calls and no-calls, but can't complain too much in a 3-1 win.

Now, where do we go from here? After Chelsea, we have a series of very winnable games (forgoing the probable loss to Man City). We are in good shape to win our group in the Champions and will hopefully field quality line-ups for the Carling. I have to reiterate that something must be done about Walcott. He is essentially useless on the pitch and that means that one third of our attacking three are actually a negative force. Yes he can reap havoc with his speed, but how often does it amount to anything? Please, please, please give Chamberlain a chance. As to Chamakh, I really hope we unload him in the winter. Park needs to get on the pitch so we see what he's about and I'd like to see Ryo get a shot some time soon (in the Carling if nothing else). I also wonder what will happen when Vermaelen comes back? It's hard to see Koscielny sitting on the bench, so do we push him to the right back spot until Sagna returns? Or can he play on the left? We will have to see, as that eventually is almost upon us.

Last point for today, and it's a rather obvious one. We need to work on set pieces on both ends of the pitch. We rarely score on corners or free kicks (forgoing the essential Van Persie scorcher last weekend) and too often give up goals on opponents dead ball opportunities. This needs to be a main focus moving forward. I don't know how much work is done on this, but we need to step up and grab some clean sheets in the Barclay's. We need to stop the dead ball leakages (which were prevalent last year as well, when we led the league in that ignominious category) and find a way to be more dangerous ourselves in these situations. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Arsenal Wins! British Press Protests

Arsenal pulled out a last second 1-0 victory over Marseille in the Champions League tonight, but the British media is protesting the result, arguing that it undermines their grand narrative for the season (dubbed the "Fall of the House of Arsene"). The press has consistently argued since August that Arsenal is underperforming, that they lack quality, that Wenger must be sacked, that the team can't compete at the highest level and that really they should just accept relegation now to avoid the disappointment of actually playing the remaining 40 or so matches in all competitions. Unfortunately, Arsenal has decided to go off script and actually surge to the top of their group in the Champions League (a feat that only Chelsea can match -- Man City (3rd), Man U (2nd)). But the media hopes to see a quick turnaround to the disappointing form they so adore decrying. 

On a more serious note, how should we judge this result? Well, one thing to consider is the argument that this team has no character or winning edge. The  truth is they have won several games when not playing at their best (including the crucial road game against Udinese and a nervy 2-1 victory over Sunderland last weekend), and I can't remember a recent game they actually won this late. This is huge for our confidence and there were some surprising and heartening performances. Gervinho showed a lot of energy and verve after coming in and either purposefully or serendipitously assisted on the 91st minute goal. Ramsey scored the huge goal, hopefully increasing his confidence going forward on the rebound from his injury. Djourou was actually the key player in setting up the score and was decent on the wing, maybe finding a better home when we do use him. Koscielny was pretty solid in the back (with a few errors) and might have saved a tap in in the second half. The back four kept a pretty good line (I was paying attention), fixing some of the errors that have cost them since the season began. And we won without a goal, or really great performance, from Van Persie -- who seemed a little off today including missing on a relatively easy header; though he was offsides.

Now to the other side of the equation. Santos looked lost for huge parts of the game, making some questionable decisions, missing several passes and seeming a little shaky on defense (particularly in the first half). Mertesacker got beaten relatively easily a couple of times and I really do wonder if he has the quality to lead us out of our defensive malaise. On the other hand, a clean sheet is a clean sheet and our first on the road in the UCL in 3 1/2 years is nice. I also have to join the chorus and say it's time to give Oxlade a chance to supplant Walcott on the wing. Yes Walcott has incredible speed and creates the occasional opportunity, but he should have scored in front of the goal, missed several opportunities for good crosses and just doesn't have the quality in the final third necessary to be a top player week in and out (even as some very smart football analysts like Warren Barton still love him). I think I have to reiterate my point from last weekend -- Arteta is pretty disappointing so far and needs to up his game or find a spot on the bench while others take over. It is clear to me how much we miss Fabergas now as we control the ball in the middle but have a hard time moving forward with any consistency or verve. Jenkinson looked a little better and at least is getting down on the right side and trying to send crosses in, but still has a lot of work to do to get to top flight form. And Song is strong on defense (though almost had one costly mistake) but really does need to think about his attempts at forward passes, as too many are cut off en route. Arsenal looked better on set plays and throw ins (I can't believe how many they have given to opponents this year rather than the simple toss and flip back). They showed nice control of the midfield and had some nice movement forward. But the team is too predictable and slow in its buildup and that hurts us in actually scoring goals. We need to find more creative ways to move forward, use the wings on the approach on occasion and make good crosses and cuts in the box. When I think back to the invinsibles, I yearn for one attack that smooth. 

In a broader sense, it must be acknowledged that this team has a lot of promise for the future, particularly if we can pick up some talent in the winter and summer transfer sessions. Chamberlin, Ryo, Miguel, Frimpong, Campbell, Ramsey, Wilshire and a host of other youngsters mean the future of the club might be quite bright. If we can start climbing up the table again, putting some pressure on Tottenham and Liverpool, I don't think the top four is even close to out of reach for us. But we need to build on our successes and put the best team possible on the pitch. One clear critique of Arsene in recent years is continuing to play players who underperform -- like Bendtner, Dennilson, Arshavin (starting to show glimmers of his old form again) and Djourou (last year). Why haven't we seen Park once? Particularly as he may be the player that killed the Hazard deal last summer and maybe cost us Eden for good. Why hasn't Chamberlin played in the last two games, given his incredible form of late (and Walcott's lackluster efforts)? I'm sure the press will find bad news to cull from the game, but I think we may be on the road to turning things around (without anyone really noticing, we have won 5 of 6, and really lost that darby against the run of play with a bad call thrown in for fun). 

P.S. It's hard not to at least note another bs call from the refs in a UCL game. If that isn't a clear hand ball, what is? We really do get the worst calls of any team I can think of.

How TV Ruined Your Life

I rarely provide endorsements on this blog, but have to do so for a very funny and incisive media critic I have recently discovered: Charlie Brooker. His series How TV Ruined Your Life (You Tube) is a wonderful example of how to mix humor and critique in a way that is both engaging and thought-provoking. I showed a part of this series in class today, and my students loved it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Public Service Announcement from Slate ... Blacks are Different!

Slate's William Saletan, who appears to depart further and further from reality with each passing year, has written an article today that would be laughable if it wasn't so tone deaf (Slate). In it he argues that .... wait, you better sit down for this one ... not all Blacks in America think alike. I don't believe it! Is he serious! It can't be! Aren't Blacks one monolithic group with similar views on everything? And gays too, right? Of course Mormons are all the same, though (psst, they can marry more than one women, wink wink)?

He is, of course, discussing the surprising rise of Herman Cain to consideration as a viable candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. Articles have appeared arguing that this proves the Tea Party is not racist, that Cain is the future face of the GOP (hmm, me thinks the media doth protest BS too little) and from angry Black intellectuals arguing that he is "callous to the poor" and "the perfect racist" (those both sound about right based on what I've heard). The most troubling aspect of Cain's run, to me, is his connection to the cynical Koch brothers and their relentless plan to take down Obama, and maybe the entire progressive movement while they're at it (Slate) -- a connection the mainstream media finally appears willing to address. Cain is a self-made man and like many self-made Americans, has little sympathy for the poor, downtrodden or annoying liberals trying to mess with his bottom line. But in typical fashion, the media will put a huge focus on his race and ignore the class dimensions of his personality, which are probably substantially more relevant here (as they were with O.J. Simpson, one might add, though potentially murdering the future prospects of 99% of 300 million is a little more serious).

Back to Saletan. He is providing important advice that I really should heed when planning future menus for visiting Black friends (maybe they don't all like fried chicken and catfish? Say it ain't so). Of course, one could ask the more serious question of whether a reporter who writes this tripe is actually figuring this out for the first time. But, no, I'm sure he just realizes how nearsighted the rest of the public is and figures he can help. So stereotypes aren't always true. Hmm, a real eye-opener. Thanks, Will!  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Media Bias in Images ...

I often talk of media bias on this blog, but this is a perfect example of that predilection at play: Washington Post. The story from the Washington Post includes an image of a crazy looking protester with a burning car in the background. There is a long tradition of treating protesters as marginal, insane figures, but this has only become more common in recent years. Luckily the internet has the power to challenge the mainstream media's visual and linguistic framing of those seeking change. 

Arsenal Wins!

A much needed victory for Arsenal, but less than convincing. What can you say any more? This team is really average since the Birmingham loss last year. The thing that is most annoying is how often we don’t even have our best team on the pitch. Why isn’t our most exciting player at present (besides Van Persie), Chamberlain, even playing in a game we need to win? Why did we spend money on Park if we are never going to use him? We clearly need to be active in the transfer window and hope we can put some victories together to stay in the hunt for fourth. A report card of the game:

Free kicks: Can we please get a free kick on goal (and please never let Walcott kick one again)? I wrote this before Van Persie’s saving FK, but really, it is a troubling trend overall.

Arteta: what happened to our big signing? He started with some promise but seems to get worse with every start. His corner kicks were too low, his free kick too high and when he has an open shot in front of goal as time is running low (around 70 minutes) he completely scuffs it. On top of this, a silly foul led to one of Sunderland’s only chances (which Seb Larssen converted; as he promised, one should note).

Gervinho: up and down performance from him. He is starting to look more comfortable and could become a real danger. What I have trouble understanding is why we so infrequently get it out on the wings. We play too much in the middle without a Fabergas or replacement to do the effective distribution that used to make us so dangerous.

Walcott: is a really, really average player with an ego that almost matches Bendtner (who actually does have talent, as far as I’m concerned). He thinks he can run around defenders and often just ends up losing the ball, his free kicks are almost always terrible, his crosses generally average and his decision-making really pathetic (note: a foul in the box near the final whistle could have drawn a whistle and equalizer from the spot). As many Arsenal fans write, he just doesn’t seem to have a good football brain; or to put it more directly, sucks in the final third. He has glimpses of brilliance, but they are often based on service from others. If Juve wants him, I say we bid him a fond adieu and let Chamberlain start or move him to the center.

Benayoun: please go back to Chelsea!

Rosicky: his best days are gone. It’s still nice to watch him dance around, but it never appears to amount to much anymore and he rarely shoots when he is open near the net. We need Ramsey to be in that position and perform better than he did against Totti.

Santos: bad free kick, but solid going back and overall once he came in. Might end up being the best signing besides Chamberlin this summer. Gibbs was fine, though not spectacular (didn’t do much going forward).

Mertesacker: better job for him, though he does telegraph his passes too often, lumbers going back and did have an error that would have led to a second Sunderland goal but for a great save from Szczesny. But I do believe he’s starting to grow into his role in the middle. Koscielny was fine, nothing much to report – which is good news for our centre backs.  

Jenkinson: I’m still not convinced by the player, but was pushing to go forward and did a good job defending, though his services weren’t needed that often. It’s incredible how far Sunderland have fallen without Bent.

Arshavin: second best player on the pitch once he came in. Danced around four defenders and almost scored, a nice cross, decent shot, drew the foul that allowed Van Persie to win it and showed the creativity and danger largely missing from this side these days.

Song: maybe our most solid defender, even as he returned to his holding midfield role. But too many of his forward passes were not completed today. Needs to work on that aspect of his game. But has become a favorite of mine of late.

Van Persie: our MVP week after week. Without Fabergas and Nasri, there is just such a lack of creativity it’s sad to watch this once great team (and we’re talking about 8 months ago really). Even without great distribution, he scores twice and maybe saves our season.

Howard Webb: actually had a decent game. I mention him because I often think he is one of the worst refs in the league. A couple of missed calls here and there, but good job overall. Given how often the refs have a say in our games, we should thank him for a job well done.  

We have some winnable games coming up and need to grab more points to qualify for the knock-out stage of the Champions League, but I feel the key for us right now is to move forward in the Carling Cup and push our way up the table. News in recent weeks has included the realization of how far we’ve fallen: Martin said no thank you to a January transfer, long time target Hazard appears set to go to Real Madrid instead and, of course, there was Mata who also said no thanks to Arsene (along with a host of others this summer). If we need evidence of our decline, it is the young players who no longer are drawn by the prospect of tutelage under Wenger, going for the bigger money and better teams. Rumors have also started to spread on some possible replacements for Wenger if he does step down (or is given the boot). Among them are Bergkamp and Ancelotti. I would take either, really. The key is to do something to give this team a winning spirit again. There is just a sense that the team feels much as the fans do – waiting for something bad to happen even when we’re ahead. But a win is a win and something to build on. Go Gunners!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Art in the Age of Creative Exhaustion

Performance art is again pushing the proverbial envelope into new and exciting places with a live birth on stage. Artist Marni Kotak, who previously reenacted her grandfather's funeral, the night she lost her virginity and teenage masturbation on stage has decided to bring the magic of childbirth to a Brooklyn gallery that may or may not be near you. While some will decry the bad taste of the event or invoke the tired ole "this ain't art" argument, what's more interesting to me is how emblematic this is of the rather limited vision of art these days and the ways reality television and social networking culture have influenced the entire cultural landscape. 

Interestingly, Kotak argues that she doesn't like social networking sites because they take time away from authentic experiences with family and friends. I agree with the thought, but have to wonder how having a baby in public in any way challenges the social networking logic of sharing the intimate details of our lives with anyone and everyone we know (or at least kind of remember from that night at the bar three years ago or that random meeting in the elevator on a rainy Thursday afternoon in November 2007). Does rendering an event in public really give it more authenticity, or is it merely a new way of mediating our experiences and creating a world where the only thing that seems to legitimate experience is sharing it with others. 

At the deeper level of deconstructing art itself, it does continue the rather tired postmodern penchant for calling anything and everything art. When the dadaists argued that "only stupid people see beauty only in beautiful things" and started the anti-art movement, they were making a profound statement about the elitism of avant-garde art and our rather limited aesthetic tastes. But one wonders if pop art wasn't really sufficient to make the point complete. Do we really need to create a world where every experience is called art if it is placed in the confines of a context that can be labeled artistic? Has creativity completely devolved into various incarnations of appropriation? And what does this augur for our collective future? I believe that art is answerable to no one but the artist themselves, but do sometimes pine for those days of modernist yore when artists were actually trying to say something profound and maybe even change society.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Empathy's Swan Song? ... GOP Style

In a recent post, I explored conservative statements that seemed to reinforce the notion that empathy is a dying animal in America today. As the Wall Street protests continue and spread across the country, the response from GOP Presidential candidates has been telling. First and most prominently is Herman Cain, the millionaire founder of Godfather's Pizza (who clearly had little empathy for the people forced to eat his crappy food). He argued that the protesters were "anti-American" and engaged in, you guessed it, "class warfare." As to the first point, it is clearly anti-American to protest anything Republicans or the wealthy do, though he did suggest protesting the policies of the President (who the GOP led House have blocked from doing much of anything). The second point continues the tiresome trend in American political discourse of calling any attempt to address growing inequality in the country as "class warfare." Rather than attacking the absurdity of the claim, maybe it is time to just admit that we need some good old class warfare in the U.S. Cain also claimed that those protesters are simply "jealous" and should shut up and get jobs. Where those jobs are is a wholly different issue.

Fellow also-ran Newt Gingrich also got involved in the fray claiming that our "bad education system" spreading "really dumb ideas" is to blame. Hmm, I'd be more apt to believe it is behind the eight year Bush debacle except that he went to the most elite institutions in the country. 

A final argument from Cain is potentially the most revealing. He claimed that his parents never played the "victim card," and that may very well be true. But that is the essential strategy of the Republican party since the 90s (if not earlier), as I pointed out in another post. Of course, not all victims are equal. Rich and middle-class white victims are clearly in the right while poor and minority victims are just sore losers.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Bending the Truth Beyond Recognition ...

Republicans have become very good at bending the truth to support their worldview and help get them elected. But sometimes the lies are so big the media actually feels compelled to call them out. And the Wall Street Journal, of all outlets, did the job yesterday (Twitter) when presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed that he would reverse the military "cuts" instituted by Obama. The exact quote: 

"As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood."

The problem? Well, let's take a look at the numbers ...

Defense budget by year

Hmm, the GOP is often pretty bad at math, but this seems a little ridiculous.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Liberal Media?

One of the strengths of conservatives is the ability to make themselves and their supporters victims, even when they are in charge. There are numerous ways that this is accomplished. Among these is the ways that gays, blacks, feminists, illegal immigrants, Muslims, liberals and, of course, the media are working to destroy their lives and America itself. This discourse works well because America loves a victim who they can then bitterly rant out against as one of the forces working to undermine their faith, hard work and patriotism. Conservatives rarely focus on the actual source of so many Americans discontent (and diminishing quality of life), their corporate angels. One critique that is used relatively constantly is the charge that the media is liberal and thus constantly working against conservative hegemony. 

I have often written on this topic over the years, but wanted to delve into it against here after the media finally starting paying attention to the Wall Street protests that have now spread across the country. The same can be said of the protests in Wisconsin, the anti-war protests in 2003 (the New York Times actually wrote a story after the first huge DC protest claiming the organizers were upset with the turnout, until those organizers came forward and said they never spoke with that reporter) and the Seattle protests of 1999. So is it true that the media is liberal? I think there was certainly a time when one could make that argument, thinking back to the days of the muckrakers or the time when the Washington Post took down a President. But what of today? Since the 80s, the media has been moving decidedly to the center and even right. Certainly there is a long tradition of arguments against a liberal media bias (Manufacturing Consent being an obvious one), but the charges have become much easier to support in recent years. Beyond the fact that there are now five giant media conglomerates that rule over 90% of what we see, read and hear, is the reality that the media is not comprised of the kind of reporters that once challenged power. The reporters, news chiefs, anchors, editors and pundits are part of the elite now, and thus don't have a real stake in challenging a power system they are a part of.

In fact, the media now fits smugly into that "new managerial class" that scholars starting writing about in the 70s and 80s. At the time, it comprised professors, teachers, government workers, scientists and the like, who were middle class but essentially served the interests of the power elites. That group has grown in power and stature, while it may have actually strunk in size. And the media stands at the forefront today, as the in locus parenti for not only our children but large swaths of the overall population, who are often more interested in who wins American Idol than who their Congressman or even the President is. In fact, it is true that by the late 90s the media was actually to the right of the general public on two key issues: economics and foreign policy; while being to the left of the masses on social and environmental issues (according to a large survey by the Pew Research Institute). This reality actually serves the conservative rhetorical machine perfectly.

The media maintains the perception that they are to the left of center by reporting on stories about social issues and the environment in ways conservatives can attack, while actually supporting wars, the war on terror, tax cuts and the like. In fact, it is really hard to make the argument that the media is liberal at all after 2000, when they offered a completely unsubstantiated argument that the people just wanted a decision in Florida when poll after poll showed the opposite. Lest us forget that three years later, it was the "liberal" New York Times that largely supported the war in Iraq and their own Judith Miller who fooled so many Americans into believing we found Weapons of Mass Destruction. Or consider the specific case of the Saddam Hussein statue being pulled down and how it was covered by CNN in the U.S. versus CNN live. The former just reported the story as symbolic of American victory in Iraq and how much the people their supported our efforts while the latter juxtaposed these images with the actual costs of war -- including children in hospitals with missing limbs, dead bodies and the like. How is this explained? Why would the liberal "CNN" treat Americans differently than the rest of the world? Why were the two best sources for accurate information during the buildup and subsequent period BBC and Al Jazeera? 

The reality is that reality is just an inconvenient truth that can easily be combed over these days. Conservatives are much better at this than liberals and thus the "liberal" media in fact too often supports conservatives in their daily effort to spread anger, fear and victimization to the masses. Liberal media? Only in their grappling with the truth ...

CEO's Suffering

I think this chart speaks for itself: