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July 28, 2004

Fairness and Balance

'Love is the shit that makes life bloom.
You never know when you might step in it.'

-- Michael Franti

Every morning I hit Google News to gather material for the day's thoughts. This morning I noticed that they have different versions. So naturally I accessed the UK version of the page. What a shock.

The entertainment section alone shows why it is that I listen to the BBCs World Service with increasing frequency these days. It's top three headliners: The Bolshoi Ballet, Laurence Olivier and the fine imposed on an X rated satellite feed. US headliners: Jay-Z, Michael Moore & Courtney Love. Where do I sign up for expatriation?

I read a story in the NYT the other day about how many feet of fiber optic cable Verizon had laid for the sake of the Democratic Convention in Boston and the Republican gig in NY. I went on to consider why this is a big news story every four years. It's all about a boondoggle for broadcasters as they build their skyboxes. Remember good old days when you could tell how important a speech was by counting the number of microphones at the podium? That's the recurring theme. Even Al Jazeera is getting in on the madness.

But I don't watch broadcast news. I haven't for about 12 years, and then it was only a steady diet of Charlie Rose. I am hoping that someday there will be a digital subscription service available online so that I can catch the highlights of Charlie Rose as I can with Terry Gross and Brian Lamb. In the meantime, the editor I trust is Google.

Every once in a while, a story pops up in Slate or Salon that's worth reading, especially if its Hitchens or Saletan (whom I much prefer in print than on Day to Day). And it's true that I am just as likely to read the WSJ and the NYT for my regular diet. Now that I'm solvent again, I have renewed my subscriptions to Wired and the New Yorker, but I tend to read more of the fiction than I ever have in the latter. But that's about it for print. I sorta miss reading The Economist on the regular. I ought to but I don't.

Instead, my main courses are NPR as I commute two hours a day & eat lunch in my car to hear The World, and the blogosphere. Blogwise, I have travelled in ever narrowing circles. I can't remember the last time I read OxBlog or Volokh. I like Abiola's new format but I don't read enough. Negrophile is still excellent but I only skim. I check out the Conservative Brotherhood mostly, and LA Observed which is annoyingly specific. LA Observed is a perfect blog, it is a fly on the wall that speaks English instead of buzzing self-consciously like most blogflies do. It is local and specific. On the other hand it often smells like the inside of the Beverly Center, full of Westsiders who take the oddest tangents on stories about what is authentic about Los Angeles.

I'm too informed, and my life is relatively devoid of intimacy. It's a strange thing to desire fairness and balance, because the synthetic intelligence of Google provides it best. Yet we must be anchored in the desparately unique, or at least this is part of the lesson I am taking from three films that are on my mind these days, I Robot, Speilberg's A.I. and Minority Report. That desparation, that small circle, that intimacy is what gives us pain - the inescapable pain of loneliness, the barren empty feeling of being filled up with the idiosyncrasies of a few co-dependent humans. That gotta get outta here urgency of emotional stuffiness and lack of fresh oxygen. That's the crud that makes us biased and subjective. That's flavor, like built up carbonized chicken fat in a rusty iron smoker, we heat up and pass it on to the next raw recruit to be roasted over the coals of life.

I don't like our shit. I don't like Jay-Z or Michael Moore or Courtney Love. I don't want their flavor in my life. But I know this means I am rejecting humanity, sacrificing intimacy for some supernal plane of thought. As I stepped out of the shower this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that my life was truly altered the first time I saw Visicalc. A spreadsheet changed my life. I love numbers. I love economics. I build financial data warehouses for a living. I made a database yesterday that ranked 500 retail stores by the percentage of returned merchandise. The highest was 11.83%. The lowest was a store in Alaska with 2.71%. The query came back in under 3 seconds.

I'm going to work now. I'm late. I'll be listening to NPR in my car. I don't want to because they're only going to rehash the naive hope of the millions of Courtney Love, Jay-Z and Michael Moore fans who listened with rapt attention and applause as Barack Obama publically praised everything about John Kerry except the moles on his bung. Who knows what the credentialled bloggers will report? I'll turn to AM for a moment, suffer through commercials about mattresses and calcium supplements done in nasally voices, then I'll turn it off. Or play my same favorite four songs off the Bad Plus CD once again.

You know it's really too bad I don't know anybody who's 26 and could fuck my brains out. I might be in a better mood. Then again, I've already seen 'Lost In Translation' and I know that's how it goes. I'm too thoughtful, sensitive and responsible for nutbusting abandon, besides it would cause me to make funny faces and strange sounds and you never know who's watching. On the other hand, this kind of mood somehow makes my comic better.

Posted by mbowen at July 28, 2004 08:21 AM

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Hey Cobb, sorry you're feeling so shit. I don't think Obama was praising Kerry at all; it seemed to me like he was mostly praising himself. Now, Dick Gephardt, Ted Kennedy, and the rest were all sucking Kerry's ass, but I don't see how you could accuse Obama of that until the end of his speech. I mean, it is the national convention; he had to do it somewhere. I want to have his love babies. Not really. But somebody does. His wife better be on guard.

You know, I could never quite figure out how to address the question you pose sometimes -- what is it that the Democratic party actually gives to the black community.

I've come up with it, though, since working at this horrid place.

The answer is that, aside from you, not that I know you, the vast majority of the republicans I meet are ignorant sons of bitches. The kind that (if you look at my blog entry today July 28, which you might or mightn't) will deny a person of color a job in the very same breath as they deny discrimination exists still. It's not just about the black community anymore, as Obama said pretty eloquently yesterday (and this is something I've been thinking for quite some time, and have expressed, also) it's about banding together as non-whites, and sticking up for one another. An injustice against one of us is... you know the rest. The Republicans have you duped. They are the racists, they (like you) think gay people are doing wrong. but it's more than that. They can't just let people be./ Republicans used to be all about free enterprise, and now it seems they are all about using legislation to change everyone into various versions of george bush, in different colors and shapes and sizes, with and without vaginas.


What I'm saying, with absolutely no clarity, is that by and large, Republicans are the bigots. Why would we want to side with the bigots? mayeb the majority of Republicans are kind Christians (deluded by definition, if you ask me, but you didn't), but I have yet to meet one of those. I keep meetign the ones that think poor people just need to get up and work. That think gay people are abominationss. That don't want to hire Indians. That don't want to give jews time off for Jewish holidays. That resort to name calling instead of debate. Or slogans. These are individual people I'm talking about here, not politicians. They use slogans!

And that say I am being too negative for pointing it out.

One girl here said that she just trusts her party to make her decisions for her, simply because they know so much. As if they are a collective brain that has had the same mind since the GOP began.

There are only two powerful parties. You wanna vote for the one that fucks you less.

That's my answer.

Posted by: TLL at July 28, 2004 09:02 AM

You realize of course that if I ever get to NYC, I'm going to buy you coffee and a bagel at that little joint downtown.

Moderate Republican is what I am, it's all I could ever be I think. I've been complaining since day one that the party has been hijacked by the likes of DeLay and Ralph Reed. The intolerance and fundamentalism is not the Republican's real legacy, it's just what they have become in their latest efforts to become the 'big tent'. I say they let too much rabble in. But the Democrats let you be something just by looking at how hyphenated you are. Where is an ordinary white man to go?

Check out The Manhattan Institute, where McWhorter is in residence. This is the kind of joint that makes sense to me as a Republican, and it's what I hope can gain more influence as time goes by. There are fiscal conservatives like me who are pissed off at Bush, but we're outnumbered.

If we had a third party, things could be different. Before the WOT, that was still something of a possibility. But until that happens, I don't think the Right can moderate its bigots any easier that the Democrats can stifle LaRouche.

I only listened to a few minutes of Obama, but oh what a surprise when Salaten comes on NPR and asserts the dichotomy, that he did the Harvard Law speech and the 'rhythms of the black church' speech all in one speech.

Whatever. I'm rocking to Black Sheep on the headphones today.

Posted by: Cobb at July 28, 2004 10:08 AM

"...[Republicans] that resort to name calling instead of debate."

This after "...[the] vast majority of the republicans I meet are ignorant sons of bitches..," and "[t]hey are the racists..."

So TLL, just what kind of debate do you want?

Posted by: bains at July 28, 2004 11:33 AM

First of all Bains, I wasn't debating, I was ranting.

I see your point anyway, but did you see mine? I have yet to meet a Republican who isn't hating on me in some way. CORRECTION -- I have yet to meet mroe than ONE who doesn't hate on me in some way (and Cobb doesn't count, cuz I havent' actually met him).

When you wanna hire an idiot instead of someone who is qualified because the qualified person is Indian, as I have witnessed here amongst the New York Republicans I work with, you're an ignorant son of a bitch and a racist. There's really no other way to put it. I suppose I could take the curses out.

I am in the financial services industry. A brokerage house. I talk to Republicans all day long. You tell me how I should someone who thinks it's okay to call gay folks faggots, and can't think of a reason why not. I can call them Republicans, is my point. It's practically a synonym, at least in my experience.

Seriously. Respond to this. I think Cobb's reaction was a strong one--that the bigots in the Grand Old Party are as much a part of them as the LaRouche is part of the donkey's ass are a part of mine (not that I'm anti-anarchist, but no anarchist is getting into office anytime soon, unless it's a community board, and my community board member is the one who got shot and killed, so watch out)--but I'd be interested to see what you think.

Posted by: TLL at July 28, 2004 01:55 PM

Generalizations/stereotyping lead to much of the bigoted statements one hears. Your rant was just such a thing. There are however, seeds of truth within most generalizations. While I'd agree that Republicans tend to be bigots towards gays, I dont think the racist charge is valid (as a generalization). That said, from my experience with New Yorkers, they can be quite caustic, so your work experiences dont surprise me. I'd argue its a function of an big east coast city upbringing rather than political affiliation though.

But that reminds me of a college aquaintance - frat boy adorned in Polo, drove a Saab, mediocre student, and a college Republican. His father told him he needed the business degree before he could assume his rightful position as VP of daddy's bank. Of course there were plenty of trust-a-farians railing against the evil corporate/republican cabal all the while living comfortably on daddy's Exxon generated stipend.

Posted by: bains at July 29, 2004 10:43 AM

Now you are generalizing, and your generalizations appear to be based on nothing but what you are hoping to be true. Actually only one of the people I work with lives in the city part of New York City. They are all commuters from Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut. The one New York City person that I work with now, besides me, is from Queens (arguably not a part of the city). I'm not talking about a total of 6 people either. I'm talking about the over 100 people I've worked with (this is possible because there's so much turnover in financial services, and I've been through several mergers and reorgs).

I wonder why you feel comfortable telling me that my observations are invalid, and why you feel justified in making up reasons why.

Whether or not the Saab-driver was gonna become VP of daddy's bank has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I was saying that by and large, I've met precious few Republicans who weren't racists.

Some of my experiences:

- I'm really fucking smart. Yet somehow, I keep meeting people who don't know this until they hear through the grapevine who my alma mater is, then (and this has happened several times) they tell me how multicultural New York is, and how they love it.

- My favorite was when my boss asked me for some ideas of "black names" we could use in our marketing materials

- Take a look at my blog to learn all about the Indian girl that almost wasn't hired because my Republican bosses wanted to hire a less-qualified white girl who they "felt sorry for."

- What about the Republican dude in our offices downtown who has no problems talking about how MLK Jr day is a waste, and black have equality now, so why are we still thinking about it. Then he laughs and says, "I looked around before I said that!" Not knowing, of course, that one fo the folks he's talking to is half black.

I wonder if you are always this dismissive of other people's observations.

Posted by: TLL at July 30, 2004 06:40 AM

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