Category Archives: Journalism

What Rachel Maddow missed in her interview with Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow spent the better part of their one hour interview discussing Stewart as a media and political figure and how his rally fit into that point. However, they were discussing two separate structures and failed, especially at a point in the conversation 40 minutes into the show, to connect their separate paradigms. However, the difference is simple.

Jon Stewart is a comedian who satirizes the news, in particular the 24-hour news cycle.

Rachel Maddow is a commentator who comments, sometimes with satire, about political conflict in America.

The primary difference between them, and why according to Jon they’re not on the same level, is that Jon’s focus is on the news process while Rachel’s focus is on the political process. However, Jon’s show is so overtly political in nature that it’s hard to separate his content from political content. Jon’s show, at least according to the argument he put forth in the interview, is only accidentally politically focused. He talks about politics because news stations talk about politics. Rachel, on the other hand, talks about politics because she’s a news person, and politics is news. Therefore, her show’s focus on politics is purposeful and limited, basically different from The Daily Show’s purpose.

Therefore, the “game” that Jon references isn’t the political game, to say that he could become a political force. He’s not particularly critical of politics in general. The positive influence he seems to regret not having is on the news process: he regrets that he can’t create a news station from scratch that focuses on conflicts in the country other than the political. Rachel, on the other hand, is part of a major news network and has, presumably, the leeway to use different rhetorical approaches on her show than has been seen in the past. Jon referenced Keith Olbermann as one of the first movers in MSNBC towards the left to take up the polarizing begun by Fox  News. And while MSNBC seems offended at the accusation that they’re trying to be to the left what Fox is to the right, the change that Jon wants to initiate is that MSNBC be something other than the left to Fox’s right: he’s essential asking Rachel and others to find something other than politics and a narrative other than left vs. right by witch to define their news programs. He, being a comedian that comments on the news rather than a journalist who comments on politics, cannot initiate that shift.

Essentially, Jon wants to remain a comedian who satirizes the news, but he wants journalists to grow beyond people who comment on politics. The new conflict Jon proposes is corruption vs. not-corruption, which he seems to think is the primary purpose of news in the first place. Is this the type of news set forward by sites like and sites dedicated to the open sharing of governmental data? I’m not sure that’s what he means, because that process would allow the focus to remain only on politics and the political divide. But at least it would make the political conversation a little more complex and thereby a little more realistic.

Perhaps if Jon set out in particular terms what he means by the axis of corruption vs. non-corruption, news stations could pick it up and run with it. He is clear, however, that he is not a news person; he is a comedian that comments on the news. Rachel would do well, in my opinion, to realize that she is not a news-commentator but a news commentator, not one who reacts to the news but one who relays news, and thereby is much more fundamental, as Jon Stewart recognizes, in setting the tone of our nation’s media than Jon, whatever his ratings and media prowess.


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Bridging the Gap: The American question of authority

I sent this @NYBooks article to my father the other day, and he responded that the article was elitist crock. My father supported Ron Paul, the grassroots libertarian  movement among the Republican party that, as I understand it, attempted to take the Republicans back to the party’s idealistic roots from the 40s and 50s: small government and less taxes as opposed to the near-totalitarian powers that George Bush imbued his office with post-9/11.

I thought, when I read the article, that a disenfranchised public would hail the article as an answer, as in “Yes, that’s where our power went, and that’s where those idiots came from.” But apparently that was only my reaction. All things considered, NYBooks must look to old fashioned Republicans like part of the liberal elitist power structure, those nanny-government supporters who want to tell us what to do with our money and are okay with the government ruling us as long as it’s their government–which is the exact same stance as Rush Limbaugh, according to my father. And as long as we have two parties fighting to control what we do with our money when we’d rather do what we damn well please with it, how are we supposed to make a choice?

Our political situation

That’s been the status quo of politics since I began becoming politically aware: the choice is between the better of two evils. We assume, supposedly since Nixon, that politicians are hacks who will disappoint us but someone has to go into office, so it might as well be the evil closest to us instead of a more distant evil. We approach politics like this on a mass level, but it leads to a destructive cycle: whether we know it or not, selecting the better of two evils means that we are already powerless; sensing however obliquely this powerlessness, we become passionate in politics in an attempt to reclaim the lost promise, selecting the voice we feel most closely identifies with us, generally a candidate for the presidency despite that office’s isolated power; that voice fails because the political arena is such that the majority vote is always fleeting while a term lasts for several years; and then the individual who became passionate about politics once again resumes his powerless grumbling. Frustration is the name of the game.

The modern American scene reflects this cycle exactly on all counts even as the political arena suffers several specific changes. The Republican party is no longer (if it ever was) a conservative party. As I see it, the Republican party is focused on centralizing military power it then exercises for economic purposes. The Republicans do not want to tell you what to do with your money, they want to centralize all the world’s wealth into their pockets. This is done through low corporate regulations and high military power, but the military power requires government growth, which we saw under George W. Bush, and the agenda will not have ended with his presidency. Republicans are growing government.

However, as we repeated under the tutelage of our highschool government teacher, Republican is supposed to mean “small government” (supposedly attached with “big economy”). This contradiction can only be addressed by witnessing the Republican party’s drift into demagoguery vis a vis the Tea Party movement.  Lack of government control is the birthplace of Republican wealth, giving them the assumed advantage in their attempt to claim the voice of the outraged independents. But as the Democrats move left and the Republicans (seemingly) move right, both in attempts to reengage shrinking support bases, we the people don’t trust either the Democrats or the Republicans to build government control that will be worth anything to us in the end. Hence the Tea Partiers, a libertarian movement, therefore supposedly more closely connected with the Republican party, but really just an amalgamation of angry but powerless independent voices.

The recalibration of both major parties has blown a large hole in the echo chamber of our political scene, and while Lilla focuses on Fox News and the Republicans role (he is talking specifically about the Tea Party, loosely and mistakenly affiliated with the Republican party), Americans have lost faith in our political institutions for any number of historic and prgmatic reasons. But I see distrust in politicians and political institutions as two different things. We distrust politicians because we assume they are hypocrites (sort of defines the job) but political institutions because they are bloated and inefficient. Government bureaucracies are all-around stuck in the sixties when they last received a major vote of confidence, according to Lilla. And while the world and private institutions have changed to meet (partly) the capabilities of rising technology, bureaucratic offices themselves have made little or no movement towards convenience or efficiency.

Addressing elitism

The above is, with a little modification, what I take from the article. How can my reading be justified against my father’s?

Perhaps as the common criticism of me states that I am arrogant, I portray myself as part of the elite or at least consider myself a part of the elite. But I don’t take that criticism of my personality seriously, no matter how often it is flung my way, and so let me put move past it.

Perhaps it’s that being young and not living through Nixon or Reagan I never lost faith in authority per se even though I grew up with a complete distrust of politicians. But then what is the definitive split I see between authority and politicians that allows me to trust the one and not the other? I would say it’s my perception of the echo chamber.

First off, as Lilly alludes to, I do not see myself represented in any politician, but all things considered, it would be difficult for a politician to represent me in the face of America’s power structure. I am anti-corporate, I support open use rights’ managements, I believe in transparency on all levels even despite the undirected rage towards the status quo that I see around me. How would you represent that in a Washington so obviously ruled by special interest and corporate agendas?

Second, I sense a difference in having my voice echoed back to me versus finding one of my ideas in another voice. The echo chamber works as sound waves do: when one compression wave is met by another compression wave of equal frequency and force, the compressions negate each other. This type of silence makes me very wary. On the other hand, when I see an idea or observation I’ve had offered by someone else idly or in an argument–even if that argument is not necessarily connected to the way I would have used the observation–I feel that this instance reacts as energy does: transverse waves complement each other just as two flames grow in size when touched together.

I believe that this is the core separation between how I read Lilly’s article and how my father reads the same material. My father is looking for a politician that will offer his ideas back to him wholesale, increasingly difficult as the parties slide away from the independent zone towards a mutual growth of government power. The only politician that still espouses the ideas of my father’s youth is Ron Paul, who he supported emphatically, but Ron Paul failed as a presidential candidate and I do not realistically believe that there is any going back to the age of basic Republicanism he argues for.

The libertarianism of Ron Paul and the Tea Party movement are not directly connected. As Lilly says, the neoconservatives are trying to control the Tea Party by following it, but if this tactic works it will end in more government power, not less. Even while the rhetoric of the Tea Party is less government, the result will be the further increase in military and presidential powers as we witnessed under George W. Bush post-9/11. However, in politics the first party that can use the keyword without impute wins the debate, and as Lilly says it’s only a matter of time before the people who want less government realize that the Republicans onboard with the Tea Party want more government.

I’m not sure it’s all likely the fall out the way Lilly projects, but I do appreciate his analysis. My father does not appreciate his analysis. I will either have to find a way to bridge this gap or relegate myself to the liberal elite and watch my future book sales suffer. What a challenge.

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Corporate free speech

We live in an age with the most advanced propaganda machines the world has ever seen. We call them, euphemistically, marketing departments. Public relations. The primary function of these branches, having worked closely with them myself for years, is to get people to purchase without thinking overmuch about what it is they’re buying. The most effective advertising has little to do with the product itself but rather associates a brand with a happy lifestyle. It is public knowledge, in that the public is capable of seeing marketing mechanisms at work, that there is a disconnect between message and purpose. And yet we watch them daily, as a nation. We watch as many of them as the marketers think we can stand without revolting, without being sick to death of them.

We also live in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that grants corporations the power of free speech. We are going to allow, in our national debate, the most widely successful propaganda campaigners into our political arena. This is one large step down the road America has already started upon: we have fought tooth and nail for our freedoms, but we would rather sacrifice them to those already in power than use our votes ourselves. It’s a logical outcome of our faith in the division of labor, an outcome of the long hours brought about by our longstanding work ethic.

The problem with propaganda is that it’s polarizing. These effects exist already in our bipolar government, but the arm of marketers and publicists has always been limited by scrutinized  means. A politician has a speech written; he reads it off a teleprompter; he hands a press release to FOX News and CNN and waits to see what they do with it. Corporations are much more savvy. They write a press release, they offer no information other than their press release, they purchase some advertising space, and then they watch their press release and their ads appear simultaneously, side by side, unquestioned by the very arm that’s pushing them out.

Now we’re going to allow these propagandists into the most closely waged war of this country, and I expect an escalation of violent proportions. We slung mud before, but that was when we were too poor to afford farmers’ tools. Watch us march ahead, torch and pitch fork in hand, and the pandemonium screams ever louder around us, amplified in the way only professionals could accomplish. Watch it lead to political turmoil the like of which America has not recently endured, perhaps to a second civil war, caused only by the irresponsible voices of profit-hungry but incorporeal pseudo-individuals.

This is not an instance in which greed, functioning as a primary virtue, will overcome all lesser obstacles. This is not an instance in which self-interest will stop with victory. Self-interest will go further. The corporate powers that be will not stop until they have secured a stable puppet on the thone, not just in the presidency but across all of Washington, and this kind of tyranny the people will not stand. At least, I hope they won’t stand it.

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Giving Value: A practice in blogging

It’s about time I put an actual blog post on this blog. Mostly people have contacted me saying I should call it an ezine since blog seems ill-used here. I don’t often post my opinions, and I don’t cover popular topics. Is this, really, a blog?



The echo chamber

A general word of advice in blogging is to give value to your readers, to provide some service that they find worthwhile. This theory is so well accepted that I hear it at least five times a day through various social networking sites and how-to-blog services.

The very existence of such an echo chamber should serve to make the irony of a statement about providing value so stark that serious readers couldn’t ignore it. However, the statement merely provides the words which the reader should repeat as the writer so that his reader can repeat them, (seemingly) ad infinitum.

However, it is also said that, while web viewers claim to view the internet for entertainment and education, they in fact expect to learn nothing and, while browsing hundreds of pages, somehow manage to learn nothing. Also, the subjects of their entertainment are so abused as to weather away fascination, and yet they, the readers, keep plugging away at article after article waiting for some new tidbit to come up that they can gleam or meme, twist or copy as long as they can link. Millions of readers of this type exist, just as do millions (probably only thousands, but what the hell) of blogs.

To change tactic a little bit

Gold. The word looks closely related to God. For all intents and purposes, it doubles, either critically or actually, for a god. It replaced the materials in the scales of justice. It has moved countries and reshaped societies. It has single-handedly killed more men than any other artificial force on this planet, fueling wars (even [or especially] the religious ones), driving slaves, falsely empowering some men over others. In its mythic power, gold has generated false cities and idols, and even fabricated tales of glory.

One story in particular matters to us today because it shows a symptom of blogging as a means of American entrepreneurialism, which we usually hold so high. The people of the gold rush weren’t concerned with adding to the wealth of our nation, though a drive for success fueled them as mightily as any tycoon; the rushers wanted, as many of us dream, to get rich, preferably for as little effort as possible, but who’s going to complain about a few days’ worth of digging?

Unfortunately, quite a few of them died trying (for a fun expiriment, research how many actually died), and the ones who survived their trials merely settled wherever they ended up. The greatest problem they faced, as anyone playing the game Oregon Trail soon learns, was a lack of planning. The thoughts that run through your head–generated by the basic managerial imagination we each have, honed to greater or lesser extents by experience–are not sufficient to survive the trip. Even the people that did survive found out quickly that they had no idea how to look for gold or even where to find it. But the west coast looked pretty good by the time the Rockies were behind them, I bet, and you can read a brief history of Seattle if you want to see where the survivors’ remaining entrepreneurial instinct took them.

Blogging, to writers, resembles these traits. We put our ideas onto electronic drives where they appear as pixels to whatever ghostly visitor happens to stumble across them for whatever reason. Just like the ’49ers, we bloggers barely grasp the technology, hardly fully or in a way that would benefit us most, and more importantly we understand or misinterpret the tools and benefits of social media. Yet despite the technical inability of most writers and our lack of ambition to succeed in the ethereal communities of the internet (as opposed to our ambition to succeed in the commodifiable community of publishing), we press on into this dream. Why?

Blogging: A mythopoetic

Because we hear tales, of course, great tales of success. The recent movie Julie and Julia highlights the basic success fantasy that lies under most of our attempts: write blog, gain readers, break the media ceiling, get published. In what ways is social media most useful to us? Doesn’t matter; people will find the blog somehow, and my uneducated efforts will help. How hard do I have to work at generating compelling content, and what does that even mean, anyway: compelling content? I can write, we answer; I have thoughts.

To these arguments, I answer with an Eve6 lyric: “The liar in me says something’s gonna happen soon because it must.”

Despite our overpowered fantasies, there is no moment in which, climactic, the phone will suddenly ring, filling our voicemails with phonecalls from studios seeking our hands. In the current market, where blogs are a cute fuzzy place where MFA students and other writers post their cute fuzzy brains, there’s only one instance in which that might happen, and I promise you that you don’t want to follow that path.

Ashley sent me an email copied from her friend Steuart [sic] that addresses this hope:

I think that there are some individuals that understand social networking sites and how to leverage them effectively, but most don’t. Typically, the larger the company/corporation/label/band the more they -don’t- get it.

The power in social networking sites doesn’t have anything to do with your own individual or your group’s/company’s presence on it. You don’t need a twitter account to leverage twitter to your advantage. The power of social networking sites are in the PEOPLE that comprise it. From a marketing standpoint, twitter is best viewed as the ultimate in word-of-mouth amplifiers, NOT just another place to plaster plugs for yourself.

Marketing over social networks and the internet, as things sit now, is not about yelling the most and yelling the loudest yourself; it’s getting other people to do the yelling for you. As it pertains to the music business, people will be happy to start ‘yelling for you’ IF your music is good, with very little extra effort on your part. But if that takes up 95% of your efforts…well you’re doing it backwards and doing it wrong.

The only way in which Steuart’s breakdown of social marketing rings true is through viral marketing. It works one way: you produce something so astounding that it constitutes a freakshow, it doesn’t matter whether it’s genteel or actual freakishness. Child prodigies, the “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE” guy, Shamwow… the list goes on quite a while and is mostly comprised of multimedia, not text. Companies trying to break into viral marketing attempt to break it down to a list of rules, but really it flows from this basic socio-instinct: one thousand quirks snap quite suddenly and almost inexplicably. That’s all it takes to generate a meme, as irrational as it is unpredictable.

Social networking as marketing

If you’re serious about your work and the work you make has value on its own, people are less likely (in my own, brief experience) to take the effort to spread it around. If anything, they’ll expect you to succeed on your own without their help outside of their continuing to view what you produce.

So what’s the right answer here? Buy a spambot that will get a thousand other spambots to follow you so that you have a thousand viewers, none of whom are listening to you because they’re all just bots that help you feel cozy at night? Well, no; the answer is work hard and do your research, even though I know that doesn’t sit well with some of you.

My strategy for maximizing my Twitter experience is relatively simple and, if I knew how to code, could be mostly automated.

  1. If the tweep have over two thousand followers, it’s unlikely we’ll be friends.
  2. If the tweep has a follow ratio larger than 1.5, same goes.
  3. New tweeps are found only by crawling retweets from friends and follow fridays, though some friends prove their recommendations more worthwhile than others.

I’m beginning to add people by channels, but it’s proving largely unnecessary as I’m fairly aggressive about following the tweeps my friends retweet. I use several websites to aggressively cleanse my list of followers and followees (contact me if you want a list, but I’m not certain I’ve got the best tools). If you don’t follow back after a few weeks, toodles. If you follow me and you’re a spambot, you get BLOCKED. If you follow me and I’m not sure I want to follow you back, you have three weeks to respond to any of my posts via mention or retweet or get blocked. I strictly maintain a near 1:1 ratio and keep Twitter bloating to a minimum.

Also remember that despite the upgrade in technology, this basic axiom still applies: You will be your greatest supporter. Connections through a network will amplify your advertising, but if you don’t speak out on your own behalf, how can you expect that of others? Rather, even if your fans/viewers are inclined to send out a message on your behalf, it will generally be in the form of a repost/retweet, which necessitates that you have something fresh in the stream for them to repeat when the mood strikes.

But such a force will strike rarely and in full force only on others who are paralleling your struggle. You have to work hard and work reasonably. You have to sing like an angel and then shout like a demon about it. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re not prepared to succeed. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re setting out on the Oregon Trail without a shovel. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re chasing the myth rather than living the dream.

And for those of you who are prepared to tread down the well-worn path of celebrity and political gossip rather than make the psuedo-tantalous trip up the path of creativity, fair you well with your immediate success, and may you keep your viewers. May you carry your banner into the mudpits that might’ve been fields, and may bugs sting your ankles forever.

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Author: Greg Freed


Filed under Criticism, Humanistic, Journalism, Publishing

What we talk about when we talk about the economy

Recession, the end of fun

Recession, the end of fun

We talk about numbers. Hundreds of banks per month, hundreds of thousands of layoffs, unemployment and unwillingly idle statistics. I theorize that in allowing the corporations to set the tone of journalism, we’ve lost site of the fact that stories should both give us facts and highlight the humanity behind the story. In an attempt to provide this illumination, here’s a story.

As desired entry-level positions are replaced with internships and other “opportunities” slaves wouldn’t consider worthwhile, the number of young people deciding to attend graduate school rather than settle for mind-numbing internet-addicting laze jobs is rising. Well, a lot of that is my theory: the quality of entry-level positions is dropping such that people won’t choose to maintain the position for long, and rather than take another job just like it, they move back into the academy, hoping to bypass the schlock with a graduate degree. Whether the schlock ever goes away or simply becomes more refined I have yet to see.

As the unemployment percentage moves to break 10% and underemployment moves to break 5%, people like my parents fear for their jobs. Articles such as this one, which makes it sound as though the layoffs were lagging behind and have finally caught their stride again, make me worry for my parents. My father is in mainframe software sales support and my mother in middle-management quality assurance, both software related fields. And my mother’s company is military-based, so as we argue over the Lockheed Martin F22s, look to see other military-funding decisions like it that will directly impact my mother’s security. My father has already been laid off four times in ten years and has no fantasies about the security in his current position, though he loves the flexibility of his current job.

Idle grandparents watch the news and don’t know which fearmongering to listen to and which to let roll on by. They fear for their banks, for their children, for their grandchildren. They fear for their savings and for their children’s social security, which they’ll be able to collect on within the next ten years. They watch the news, and a faceless fear that is the abuse of our current media oversaturation takes hold, an ignorance that’s both attacked and perpetuated by the media status quo. In their houses alone, they wait for phonecalls from the people they love that will turn their whole world upside down, that will interrupt the forced peace of their retirement.

Broaching the subject

Broaching the subject


“How are you, man?”

The question took me off-guard. So busily did I contemplate how I would make everything work, I didn’t give my status second thought.

I paced the dark, broken street. Construction barrels blocked my natural path, and I dodged them unconsciously.

“I’m fine, Steve. Fine. I got to see Ashley and I side by side with my parents this weekend. That was creepy.”

“Yeah?” His voiced buzzed through the phone, old and tired and needing replacement.

“Yeah. I never realized how similar she was to my mother. I couldn’t deny it, though, not side by side.”

He laughed but didn’t reply.

The broken down Boston neighborhood hovered like a menace. People didn’t linger in the street but to smoke; no sounds of life or celebration. Those were reserved for the bars. How could Ashley do well in this broken down West End neighborhood, lively only when BankNorth Garden held an event? But it was packed tonight, Trivia Tuesday.

I saw her bounce out the door, smiling after all. “She’s coming, I’ve got to go. Thanks for the chat.”

“No problem, man. Anytime, you know that.”

I closed the cell.

“I made a hundred and fifty tonight! Oh, it was so hectic! I ran that whole room myself!” She was all beams and glee, and my world shifted up a notch in brightness.

On the way home, we discussed for the first time not how to make ends meet but what to do with the extra money. We splurged on sandwiches at The Federalist, an expense we could finally afford. Our relationship was filled with expenses we couldn’t afford; clothes at the Goodwill to keep her in good spirits, a brownie for me with lunch, a personal-sized French press for her to use at work, a Virgil’s rootbeer to make my nights a little sweeter. A trip to New York when she just couldn’t stand Boston’s rain anymore, and a trip to the North End when both of us just wanted out of town. We couldn’t afford a dime of it, and yet somehow all our money came together. That night, we discussed Harry Potter; we should buy tickets before they sell out. We didn’t; they sold out.

She, feet and, I would imagine, cheeks, fell asleep. I checked my email, my blog stats, facebook, and then played Bejeweled Blitz while waiting for my mind to surrender consciousness. In between games, I received the following email:

I am afraid I won’t be sending any more bonds for a while, maybe not till next year.  I have just read in the paper that my bank is losing money and is trying to get some of the “bank stimulus money” from the govt.  I really feel nervous about it and I am not sure how it will affect my checking and savings accounts, so I am going to hang on to the bonds in case I need them for emergency funds, etc.  I am not sure if they will be able to get a loan from the govt. and how it will play as far as getting cash, etc.  I hope it won’t put you in too much of a bind.  The bank is Guaranty and it is not a local bank, I believe the main office is in Austin.  I may have to open a checking account with the local Community bank.  We will see.  I will hang on to the bonds and hope that I won’t have to use them to tide me over.  Love always, Nana

Take our rags, sponsored by Guaranty

Take our rags, sponsored by Guaranty

I turned away from the computer, ashamed. But it wasn’t our fault that we couldn’t make ends meet; we were relying on so many things, banks staying open, savings holding out, social security. I looked at Ray, my husband, and I knew that we were making the right decision, and yet shame permeated my heart, and I could see a similar sadness in his eyes.

My grandson is in graduate school. He went away to Boston, alone to chase his dreams, and we’re all so proud of him. I’m so proud of him. I bought a five-thousand dollar savings bond for him in 1987, when he was four. I had planned on giving it to him when we passed away, Ray and I, and while he’s been in school I’ve sent him five-hundred dollar sections of it every other month so that he doesn’t blow it all at once; youth has its irresponsibilities. He sends me emails every now and again to tell me how appreciated the money is, that it makes the difference between making ends meet and living a comfortable life. I know he appreciates them, and that he loves us, and we love him.

But with my bank on the verge of closing, depending on whether it gets this federal loan or not, how am I supposed to send away the money? We may need it; Guaranty has all of our savings! How could things get this bad again? They tell us about mortgages and stimulus packages on the news, but I know we’re not getting the whole story. I know that something insidious is happening right now to bring all of this back to us again. America the brave, the true. Sure. I’m still scared, and so is my husband.

At least my daughters are alright. Donna and Curt are alright. No matter what happens to us, even if we need the bonds, Donna and Curt can look out for Greg.


“It doesn’t make any sense,” my father said, “but there’s no reason to tell her that. It’s all FDIC insured, so she won’t lose a dime.”

“I know that, but I don’t want to confuse her. It does make me wonder how I’m going to make rent in August, but we can talk about it later.”

I heard the conference call he had muted drone on in the background; a symptom of our economic failure is lodged deep in that unrecorded conversation and its hardly conscious participants and all calls like it. I remember something my mother had said earlier in the week, that she wasn’t a trust-fund kid but a work-until-they-kick-you-out kid. My father had laughed, had said that he hoped he could work another four years without being laid off again.

“Yeah,” he said, “let’s talk about it later. 10 o’clock on Friday might be too early, but I think I can work it out.”

“Don’t worry, I can wait at the station. I’ll bring a book or something.”

“Alright, I’ll talk to you later.”

And we hung up.

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Author: Greg Freed


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Everybody Panic! Six reasons to read "The Economy Is Even Worse Than You Think"

This post is a response to the WSJ article of the same name (minus Everybody Panic!, of course), found here.

First, a “thank you” is in order: Thank you, Mr. Zuckerman, for levelling with the American populace and calling an end to the bullshit about how everything is fluffy and peachy keen. It’s about time someone with some clout said so.

Second, a “fuck you” is in order. Your closing paragraph destroys the majority of the respect that I built for your voice in this article:

“No wonder poll after poll shows a steady erosion of confidence in the stimulus. So what kind of second-act stimulus should we look for? Something that might have a real multiplier effect, not a congressional wish list of pet programs. It is critical that the Obama administration not play politics with the issue. The time to get ready for a serious infrastructure program is now. It’s a shame Washington didn’t get it right the first time.”

A steady erosion of confidence in the stimulus bill is occurring because the happy-happy joy-joy news is vastly at odds with what is occurring in the United States, and it’s only a matter of time before people will see that. I wouldn’t put it past you political types to have foreseen that the charade was wearing thin, making your aggressive coming-clean with the American people a political ploy so that the WSJ could be the first mainstream media to report of monkeys throwing feces. Well, congratulations, I guess.

Also, look at your last three sentences. Obama playing politics. Infrastructure now. Shame on Washington. Well where the fuck were you, Mr. Zuckerman, when the first stimulus bill was going through? Where’s the link back to previous articles where you’re talking about how we need to spend money on infrastructure? Oh yeah, you were on FOX news lobbying for a second stimulus package and sitting on FOXBusiness sitting in some snazzy bar talking about greed. Come to think of it, where’s your infrastructure plan suggestion now? Alright, we need infrastructure investment; so what’s your big idea? What notion do you support? Oh, you’ve never mentioned it before? Don’t have an idea just yet? Well thanks for the tip, you old windbag. Go back to the drawing board until you can stop being political and come up with an opinion that matters.

Now that I’ve made friends, let’s talk about the good things in this article and why I think my modest readership needs to see it.

One, there’s a ten-point list of why things are fucked and will continue to be fucked. As far as I see, it’s on point, so read it and pay attention.

Two, despite a lack of definition, there’s a call for infrastructure spending. Fucking duh, but why aren’t we talking about it yet? The best idea I’ve seen so far is a redux of freight train lines. Got a better idea? Post it in a comment or, better yet, SEND IT TO YOUR SENATOR. We can, after all, hope that senators are still representatives of the people and worth their governmental paycheck, an idea I’ve always doubted but is sure time to put to the test!

Three, this article gives you real and adequate reasons why you should be concerned about the unemployment rate. Yes, in general the unemployment numbers are a lagging indicator of the economy. BUT IN THIS CASE, we have wiped out all industry growth from the previous economic expansion: 9 years of growth gone in 6 months.

Four, it gives you a more realistic breakdown of the statistics than can be seen by the raw numbers, including the adding of unemployment and underemployment, which puts our nation at a total of 15-20% sum. One in five Americans is either unemployed or underemployed, and those are the ones who are currently seeking employment. In the meantime, why not get a job on a cruise, since they’re hiring? Dear Business Week: Nobody else may tell you this, but you’re a bunch of fucking assholes for posting that article/blog post.

Five, it shows that people are doing the wrong reflex in this time by saving money. It often happens in the course of a human life the one does exactly the wrong thing when simply reacting; you see someone running a red light and you slam on the brakes instead of the gas, guaranteeing that they’ll hit you. You see an accident coming and you tense your body, which will cause you more pain than if you have relaxed instead. During economic slumps, interest rates for savings accounts go down while inflation goes up, making any money saved worth less over time instead of worth more. The proper time to save is in economic expansion; recessions call for spending. It’s important to note, even though it’s obvious and natural, that people are reacting the wrong way because the situation won’t change until people react the right way en masse.

Six, there’s a realistic discussion our country needs to have about why giving money to the managers and bankers is not a good idea. In capitalism, MONEY DOES NOT TRICKLE DOWN. The basic theory states it, for god’s sake: The circulation of wealth gives rize to the centralization of wealth. The stated incentive to own a business is to centralize wealth (called profit when a business is working correctly), and while I suppose that one might give it back once one has it, one often doesn’t. The great benefit that infrastructure projects have over any other type of stimulus is that they put money back in the hands of workers, who spend it such that it eventually ends up in the hands of business owners and once again needs to be given back to the people where it once again rises to the hands of the business owners ad infinitum. We’ve corrected this psuedo-Marxist critique time and time again in American history with the highway project and the development of national parks and with massive wars; anything that puts money back in the hands of the people allows the economy to thrive a little bit longer. Think of it as a gravity clock: sand falls from the producers to the centralizers, and eventually the sand runs out. Or think of it as a convection cell: the material at the producers’ level gets spent and rises to the businessman’s level where it cools and falls back to the producers, except our capitalist system artificially cuts out the part where the material falls back into the hands of the producers. Well, guess what? That’s the primary problem that we’re seeing; too much money is centralized with the business owners such that it’s not circulating anymore, and the first symptom (probably not really the first, I guess) showed up when producers couldn’t pay their mortgages anymore. NOBODY IS AT FAULT HERE, not the bourgeois or the proles, not the banks who aggressively gave out mortgages to people who probably couldn’t afford them or the people who took out mortgages they probably couldn’t afford. There’s a system in place that has yet to be understood, but the reason infrastructure programs work to reignite slagging economies is because it puts money back into the peoples’ hands, in this case allowing them to pay their mortgages, which makes money rise to the businessmen who own the bank. So do it!

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Author: Greg Freed


Filed under Criticism, Journalism