An Ill-Informed Electorate: Not Good For Democracy

Buried in this story was evidence of a theory I have about the level of American awareness on certain subjects – gasoline prices, crime, the economy, the deficit, etc. It’s more of a worry than a theory, which is that the complete detachment between perception and reality is going to be a big issue moving forward and very well may mean the end of our democracy. Continue reading An Ill-Informed Electorate: Not Good For Democracy

Cancel Culture Fighters Had Themselves Quite A Week

Cancel Culture warriors have demonstrated over the past few years that they are terrible at reading the room. For starters, one of the Big Moments in the cancel culture fight was the now rather infamous Harper’s Letter, published and signed by a group of elites, some of whom later regretted it, in the summer of 2020. Imagine during that particular summer, with the George Floyd protests, an increasingly obvious and growing threat to American democracy *being led by the occupant in the White House*, and general fear that maybe the pandemic was the end for us, that was your focus. … Continue reading Cancel Culture Fighters Had Themselves Quite A Week

Ukraine Is Not Weak, As Putin Is Finding

Sometimes you watch or read something, think nothing of it at the time, and then suddenly due to some random event it becomes significant in an odd way. This clip from Seinfeld has become strangely relevant, prophetic, even. For those who are not Seinfeld fans, this clip is the culmination of a heated game of Risk between characters Kramer and Newman, which is abruptly ended by a Ukrainian man who overhears Kramer say “Ukraine is weak” while they are playing in the subway. Not a great idea to play a board game on a subway, of course. Now, I am … Continue reading Ukraine Is Not Weak, As Putin Is Finding

What COVID Can Teach Us About Climate Change

We are nearing a million Americans who have lost their life to COVID. It’s one of the leading causes of death in the world, and the level of mortality caused by it is almost certainly undercounted. Despite this, there are still people like Possible Sociopath David Leonhardt who are trying to argue it’s all no big deal. To be fair, no idea if Leonhardt is a sociopath but some of his Tweets and writing are, well, coming off like he has minimal care for his fellow humans and just wants to be able to go to a restaurant without a … Continue reading What COVID Can Teach Us About Climate Change

CPAC = Crazy People Acting Crazy

The Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) held its annual shindig last week. It was, as always, a display of insanity. In case you missed hearing about it given Everything Else, no worries. Famous Trump Antagonizers The Lincoln Project, in response to CPAC, did the only thing they do well, create social media content. Here’s a helpful 105-second summary of the batshit madness that is CPAC: We watched it so you don't have to. CPAC day one in 105 seconds. pic.twitter.com/gNYEUFnEsL — The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) February 25, 2022 Thanks, folks. That video points out some (but not all!) of the … Continue reading CPAC = Crazy People Acting Crazy

Life During Wartime

The attack on Ukraine has begun, and it is definitely a time of uncertainty and fear. A good look at what it is like inside is here: On a Thursday morning in Kharkiv, Ukraine wakes to war. Read @jscros’s latest dispatch from Ukraine: https://t.co/jQZuVA7eMy — Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) February 24, 2022 This is a combination of heartbreaking and surreal. Some people going to work, some people bugging out. I thought, of course, some people would go to work if America is attacked, for the combination of necessary services still needed and, well, think about some aspects of American business leadership. … Continue reading Life During Wartime

When Taking Precautions Is A Threat To ‘Freedom’

This is going to go down in history as one very strange period of time. A fairly large portion of the population has, apparently, decided that the COVID pandemic is over. When these people came to this conclusion varies anywhere from two weeks ago to two years ago. I honestly do not know how some of the more recent “the pandemic is over” converts will react if/when there is another variant. Perhaps they will accept going back to mask-wearing, or perhaps they will click their heels three times and pretend that will be protection. Where we go from here is … Continue reading When Taking Precautions Is A Threat To ‘Freedom’

Uninvited Democratic Messaging Ideas

I am not a political operative but I do have over 30 years of experience working in communications. No idea if these hold up to any scrutiny, but I have a few suggestions on how to improve the Democratic messaging problem. Thanks to a combination of a generally unfriendly media, a shit-blast of misinformation, and strategic errors, the Democratic Party has somehow found itself behind the 8-ball just over a year after the worst presidency in history, executed by a Republican, has ended. So, here are my suggestions, which probably don’t matter that much, coming from a communications professional who … Continue reading Uninvited Democratic Messaging Ideas

The Super Bowl As A Cultural Marker

football on the field at the Los Angeles stadiumWhen I was a journalism/communications student at then Point Park College, now Point Park University, one of my professors had a saying about sports and its impact on American culture: “Sports can be news but news can’t be sports.”

The point is, events in sports both on and off the field can seep into the world outside of sports. From Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the barrier blocking Black players from participating in Major League Baseball to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling to protest police brutality, sports often reflects the culture in real and interesting ways. One of the reasons why I like the “intellectual approach” to sportswriting, the style of George Plimpton, Frank DeFord, Christine Brennan, and Charles Pierce, who understand how sports influences culture and vice versa.

Last night’s Super Bowl was a pretty good example of sports as a cultural marker in several interesting and at times, disconcerting ways. First off, the part of the Big Show that always seems to get the armchair critics rushing to social media with their Hot Takes: the halftime show.

Last night’s spectacle was fitting for the location of the venue: A salute to hip-hop, a recognition of sorts of its impact on our culture, and one that was heavy West Coast/Los Angeles-focused. Full disclosure: having grown up in York, Pennsylvania, the hip-hop part of my music fandom was mainly falling on the East Coast/Native Tongues side, so my favorite part of it was New Yorker Mary J. Blige, and less L.A. denizens Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre.

Such a full-on embrace of hip-hop at the Super Bowl probably was a long-time coming, given how long hip-hop has been an American cultural force. After all, we are about 45 years out from the birth of it. Caught up in racial controversies recently, the NFL probably was looking to look good by showcasing Black American music. From truly canceling Kaepernick over his kneeling protests (funny how the Cancel Culture Warriors remained quiet about an actual canceling, isn’t it?) to most recently, a lawsuit that brought a ton of scrutiny on the NFL’s coach hiring practices, recently the league has not really looked too good.

So, they offered up a slate of mainly classic hip-hop, since outside of Kendrick Lamar, the performers’ ages range from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. In my opinion, they put on quite a show.

Of course, given the propensity for white conservatives to treat Black music not as something that isn’t their cup of tea but instead, The Greatest Threat to Our Way of Life, the right-wing is having a moment. Semi-Sentient Pile of Pig Poo Charlie Kirk, who is apparently the World’s Oldest 28-year-old, went on the Twitter thing to shake his cane at the heathens. Yes, despite the National Narrative that it is those darn mean progressives who want to cancel everything, here’s Chuck stating that the halftime show shouldn’t be allowed on television.

In addition, Bush-Hiding Chump Sean Spicer leaped in to DEMAND WHAT THE MESSAGE IS. I guess Eminem kneeling was a trigger moment because someone paying tribute to a Black athlete who sacrificed his career to speak out about police killing Black people was too much for them. I guess you have to be white and whining that people want you to do something that would help others for it to be a legitimate protest.

Along with the halftime show, the commercials are always a subject of attention, as people talk about which ones they love and which ones they hate. This year, just how many were focused on money itself has been a subject of discussion. Lots of crypto-focused commercials, which depending on how you feel about cryptocurrency are either going to be remembered similarly to commercials by failed Internet companies in the late 1990s or a sign of great things to come. Continue reading “The Super Bowl As A Cultural Marker”

Is American Exceptionalism What We Think It Is?

Back before Trump and COVID, I used to hear and see people lecturing others that America truly was The Greatest Nation in the World, telling tales of grateful immigrants now and in the past, sharing how they feel when they see The Flag, and oh yes, we have Barack Obama as president!

This was, of course, rather offensive to non-white Americans, who saw what we were even before we elected Trump. If you spent a little time in an online Native American or Black community in 2016, for example, you did not see a whole lot of “the America I know would NEVER elect Trump” because they knew, that yeah, America could elect Trump. So we did. But this near-religious fervor in believing in Amerian exceptionalism was also ignoring some other clear signs of where our nation was. Namely, in many cases, our global rankings compared to other, similar nations were not great.

“We’re Number One, Right?!” Well…

In December 2014, Bloomberg reported that the United States ranked 44th in health care efficiency. According to the 2014 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace, we ranked 101st. In World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2013, we ranked 23rd in gender equality. In 2009, we tied for 151th in child mortality with Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates, and 34th in maternal survival (FYI, this last thing has become much worse).

There are certainly some things we are doing decent enough at. We have dropped some from several years ago but are still in the top 10 overall as per this ranking. But none of this really points to “exceptional.”

That leads me to this Tweet by MSNBC Host and Perpetually Exasperated Human Chris Hayes yesterday:

Should Have Known This Was Coming

What Hayes is talking about there is one of the things that had me unnerved heading into the pandemic. There is no doubt we have one of the best research infrastructures in the world, as it draws a lot of brilliant minds from elsewhere to America to work in places like Penn State (as a science writer there, I see a lot of that brilliance every day). We also spend, by far, the most per capita on health care than any other nation in the world. However, we have this as a result:

American life expectancy has decreased since 2014, even before the pandemic. While other developed nations have kept rising, we are unique in our level of backsliding.

COVID, of course, only made that worse, dropping it a whopping 1.8 years, the largest post-World-War-II decline in American life expectancy. We stand out, we are exceptional, in this case.

We are also exceptional in how likely you are to die from COVID compared to other countries. Despite this, the drive to make it all normal is winning, as even Democratic governors are lifting mask mandates. Understandable, as the pressure from the Worst Voices on the Internet (seriously, Nate Silver went from data guru to kinda-sorta-sociopathic about COVID) to let our normal flags fly and it’s only the stinkin’ scaredy-cat hippies that are worried has really gone overboard. You’d think they’d have learned from this – from last May! Plus, there’s a midterm election to try to win, because the other party is so out-of-control every election is an existential dread moment for the nation (at least the sane ones and the ones actually paying attention). And truly, people are pandemic weary.

These Democrat leaders also see other countries dropping mask mandates, but those nations aren’t exceptional as ours is as far as the number of people refusing the vaccine for insane reasons. So, dropping mask mandates is probably not going to be as successful here as it is in other countries.

A Paradise for a Virus

Hayes’ Tweet also speaks to how it makes perfect sense that the virus is thriving in early 21st-Century America. A lot of what is wrong with America are choices we make as a society, and that includes some instances where we just shrug at mass death. Despite estimates of 100,000 to 200,000 Americans dying from air pollution annually, articles like the one I am linking to are often written right after a new study and get limited play in the media and next to no political action. Air pollution especially harms low-income people and people of color. Yet, there is not a lot of evident concern, as we just ignore it as a society. As you can see, we have some experience simply turning our back on people dying.

Continue reading “Is American Exceptionalism What We Think It Is?”

I Promise I Won’t Bear Spray You – Maybe

So over the weekend, I had a disagreement with a friend about mask mandates and I bear-sprayed them and hit them with a metal pole. Actually, that never happened. But last week, the Republican Party declared such actions “legitimate political discourse.” This was part of a resolution censuring Shred-of-Decency Holders Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who are the Republican Congresspeoples now on the outs with the Grand Old Party for being part of an investigation into an insurrection. It’s a pretty shocking statement to come from a major political party, and of course, Head GOP Bullshitter Ronna McDaniel leaped in … Continue reading I Promise I Won’t Bear Spray You – Maybe