Tag Archives: Media

The Good Old Days

The tagline of this blog refers to the decline of America, which we hope to stem by creatively presenting some of the problems and an occasional solution. Jeremiah is an old man, though, and open to the charge of nostalgia. Were things really better in the old days? Indeed, the simple topic of whether things are getting better or worse has become politicized. The incumbent party always wants us to feel rosy, and no one wants to talk about a secular decline.

Oswald shot Kennedy and the straitlaced bulwark gave way to the gargantuan banana republic – Philip Roth

Another crabby old man, Philip Roth, wrote that America went to hell after President Kennedy. That would mark a decline starting in 1963, which is the same year identified by Jeremiah. But don’t take our word for it. Below is a chart of America’s trade balance, with annual deficits from the 1970s, and approaching $800 billion in the new century.

Trade Balance

Here are some key dates that marked America’s peak in the 1970s.

  • Nixon ends gold standard, 1971
  • Real weekly earnings peaks, 1972
  • End of Apollo space program, 1972
  • Personal saving rate peaks, 1975
  • Trade balance goes negative, 1976

Some trends, like mortality, stature, and income continue to be positive, but lag other advanced economies since roughly 1960. See infant mortality, for example. The income trend is not so rosy once we correct for inflation. See chart below.


Civil rights have improved since 1960 but, again, not in comparison with other countries – and now we seem to be backsliding. The security state represents an attack on everyone’s civil rights, regardless of race or gender.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Our purpose is not to diagnose the problem (links for that are here and here) but to make plain that there is a problem. This is the first step in any treatment program – and maybe the hardest. That’s why our collective American consciousness is in such deep denial. Try replacing “alcohol,” in the sentence above with, say, “consumerism.”


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Written by the Victors

We need the truth in order to make sound decisions, but truth is a slippery thing.  Look at all the disinformation we have today, and consider that what we know of history is just yesterday’s propaganda.  If the American revolution had failed, the names of Washington and Jefferson would be unknown today.

If the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy was limited to Oswald and a second gunman, its main societal significance may be in the realization that agencies of the U.S. Government inadequately investigated the possibility of such a conspiracy.

The Economist presents this chart showing that the conspiracy theory of Kennedy’s murder is on the wane.  More people are coming around to the “lone gunman” theory, which the Economist believes.


Jeremiah does not believe that the moon landing was faked, that the president is a spy, or that the CIA bombed the World Trade Center, but he does believe that JFK was killed by a conspiracy.  This is not a fringe view.  It is a finding of the House Select Committee.  The committee was also frustrated by an FBI cover-up.

If you discount all such theories, then you will be blind to actual conspiracies – and there have been a few.  Imagine if Watergate had not been zealously pursued by Bob Woodward.  You would be looking at the Economist’s timeline of foil hat crazies who still believe Nixon was involved.

Recall that the protagonist’s job in 1984 was routinely to falsify historical records.  The party had such complete control of the media that they could airbrush history at will, and it wasn’t even a high level job.

The next time you hear a far out theory, think – who is running the investigation?  Who would profit from denying the theory, or supporting it?  Today, Nixon could storm the Watergate with artillery and you wouldn’t hear it on CNN.

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Tragic Shooting in Detroit

KymWorthyOh, joy.  Another racially charged shooting.  The facts in brief are – drunk girl wrecks car, staggers off to the wrong house and bangs on the door, gets shot by homeowner.  The prosecutor says that race is not relevant.

County Prosecutor Kym Worthy (pictured) can probably obtain a conviction without playing the race card.  The legal standard for self defense is that you reasonably believe your life is in danger.  That will be tough to defend, with no evidence of a break in.

“In this case, the charging decision has nothing whatever to do with the race of the parties,” she said. “Whether it becomes relevant later on in the case, I don’t know. I’m not clairvoyant.”

Ms. Worthy has been doing this a long time, and she has been doing it in Detroit.  We sympathize with a prosecutor who just wants to do her job without a media circus.  As usual, this tragedy is “racially charged” because that’s what sells newspapers.

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Color Blind

JusticeImagine reporting on the Zimmerman trial without reference to race.  Imagine a country like Canada, with no history of racism.  There are people and places outside America where “color blind” is more than a metaphor.  They really don’t see it.

In such a place, the Trayvon Martin story goes like this, “the chubby guy shot the teenager, and then the court ruled it was self defense,” followed by these two observations:

  • Americans sure do like their guns, and
  • Americans talk about race a lot.

Yes, we talk about race a lot.  It sells newspapers, and it supports the race baiting industry.  The color blind story is not newsworthy.  The race element gives it “punch.”

… investigation of a racially charged case that polarized and outraged many in the state and nation.

Recently, three black teenagers shot and killed a visiting Australian student.  No, wait – one of the murderers is mulatto so, as a group, they’re only 83% black.  George Zimmerman is the world’s first “white Hispanic,” a racial category invented by CNN.

Because of our history, people are receptive to these stories – but that’s no excuse for media pandering.  Remember the Duke lacrosse team?  The Harvard professor?  Tawana Brawley?  In seeking, sensationalizing, and outright inventing racist news stories, the media perpetuate a divided America.

When President Obama says, “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin,” he is talking about race.  We should all consider that Trayvon Martin might have been our child – and George Zimmerman, too – regardless of race.  That’s why Lady Justice wears a blindfold.

See also:  Is This Sill America?

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Abandon Ship!

jumping_shipWe had seen enough of the Zimmerman trial, and we pressed the channel button until Howard Kurtz appeared.  But, wait – that’s not CNN.  Our favorite media analyst has jumped ship.  Howard was on Fox News complaining, coincidentally, that CNN is spending too much time on the Zimmerman trial – and the Arias trial before that – soap opera, he said, to the exclusion of real news.

The next Bob Woodward is not going to come from CNN.

It is possible that CNN programmers have made a conscious decision to go after a larger and dumber audience, much as Rupert Murdoch likes to move his editorial down and to the right.  Another possibility is that CNN, a faithful supporter of the Obama administration, doesn’t have much to say.  CNN was strong while Bush was in office, and now they’ve gone soft.

To be a reporter, you have to dig, and you have to attack – no matter who is in the White House.  The next Bob Woodward is not going to come from CNN.  If you are a rising young reporter, like John King or Anderson Cooper, your only hope is to get a Republican target in 2016 – or else, follow Howard.

See also:  Elisabeth Hasselbeck Joining Fox News

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Fight Media Bias!

This is a serious issue, and it gets – surprise – almost no attention from the media.  America is dangerously polarized, largely because we consume only media that feed our existing prejudices.

When you watch multiple news channels, it seems they are covering two different planets.  Within each sphere, the outlets compete to be the most strident.  This leads to what is known as an “echo chamber,” in which the participants develop ever stronger and more extreme views.

The right believes that President Obama is a crypto-Muslim sleeper agent, for instance, while the left believes that Governor Romney has no economic plan beyond skinning the poor and wheeling Grandma over the fiscal cliff.

This is a serious issue because, from our observation, the red and blue partisans have dangerously little tolerance for each other.  Jeremiah has seem them come to blows in the parking lot.  It is tragic that the glowing rectangle has so thoroughly brainwashed and divided the American people.

Media bias is not new.  What is new is mindless credulity and a paucity of engagement with outside opinions.  In Jeremiah’s day, we had the network news on VHF, and then we had the BBC World Service – not to mention Radio Moscow – on the short wave.  Informed opinion was gleaned through triangulation.

Watching the evening news is not a time to be in your “comfort zone.”  This is bad for your brain, and bad for America.  The news should provide new information and new opinions.  That’s why it’s called “news.”  If you are not challenged by the news, then you and Wolf are both getting lazy.

Start today!  It is imperative that you hear what the other side has to say.  If you are a Democrat, you will not enjoy Fox News (start with Bret Baier – he’s the most moderate).  If you are a Republican, CNN will make your blood boil (stay away from MSNBC).   “Seek first to understand,” as Saint Francis said.  Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use multiple news sources, as above.
  • Use foreign news sources, like The Economist, FT, and the China Daily.
  • Look for both sides to a story, and learn to spot bias.

When the newspaper writes that the latest zoning change is a good idea, Jeremiah was taught to count the number of arguments given for and against.  It’s fine if the paper only gives one side of the story, but now you have to go and find the missing arguments.

When watching TV news, note whether the anchor says “critics say,” or if she gives this opinion as her own.  Listen for expressions like, “in fairness, our guy did the same thing.”  We, as consumers and citizens, must change the channel on media bias, and tune to objectivity instead.

See also:  Fact-checking the fact checkers

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