A sad state of affairs - is anyone paying attention?

A Sad State of Affairs
Photo credit: Corbis

After a few days away camping and enjoying a whole bunch of live music I have been immersing myself, slowly, back into the world of media. It wasn't that I was entirely off the grid out in Happy Valley; I managed to stay pretty quiet with my mobile Twittering [the real thing in the woods was much better,] but I did take a laptop so that I could upload pictures from the festival.

Late Sunday night I returned home to a pile of newspapers stacked on my porch - yes I still read the print versions. Last night I thought I'd catch up with current events by simply reading the Week In Review section of the Sunday New York Times.

Unfortunately, nothing is quite so simple anymore.

In a mere ten pages every piece I read was incredibly depressing; in short, this collection of words, written without malice, painted the bleakest of pictures re the current state of this once great country. That may sound harsh but read on before you shoot the messenger.

I started here: Jobless And Staying That Way "The "new normal"...envisions an economy in which growth is too slow to bring down the unemployment rate." The "new normal" should concern you as it means a consistent unemployment rate of 10%.

LeBron James Portland
Followed by: Epic Confusion: The Narrative of the Superathlete a story of doping and hubris in sports where our "heroes" are looking increasingly mortal through the madness of their narcissism - and I'm talking about A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and LeBron James [who by the way, has CHOSEN 1 tattooed across his enormous shoulders. Think about that for a second.] These guys are self-proclaimed "heroes," but unfortunately, as the writer points out "..there is an ancient lesson, as well, to be understood in modern sports culture. The status of sports hero, to the extent that it existed, was conferred, not proclaimed. The greats of the past — Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Unitas, Bill Russell, Hank Aaron — did not declare their own greatness; in their time, that was unseemly.

Up next: I'm American. And you? - you probably know where this one's going.. "Last week, a group of senior Republican senators called for hearings on repealing the 14th Amendment; that’s the one that affords children born on American soil automatic citizenship. At the same time, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich were among those posting outraged Twitter updates over the decision to allow an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the fallen trade center towers." I have no comment, I'll leave it at that.

This one speaks for itself. Exit Strategy, Meet Your Challenge: Iraq

Then there's this - Let Us Now Praise the Great Men of Junk Food

Finally there's Frank Rich on the upcoming elections and the NY Times editorial In Search of a New Playbook. And Google and Verizon want to hijack our internet. Is it Google who's motto is "Do no evil..?"

If you take these stories at face value you see a distorted reality. It appears that we are a nation of xenophobic narcissists who eat junk food; a people who will raise their ire at "other" religions and not understand that hounding Mexicans in Arizona gets awfully close to the actions that the Taliban take in Afghanistan. They bray for the election of politicians who will end welfare for the poorest and the unemployed - until they lose their own jobs.

We know instinctively that this is not the American way, nor do the angry few represent the majority of Americans. Yet the country is being hijacked.

There are those in the Tea Party and on the far right who demand that we "balance the budget" and stop the "bailouts" and put an end to "government spending," people who don't understand that $160 billion of the current government spending is on unemployment checks, and that "government spending" includes Medicare and Social Security. They appear not to know, or perhaps conveniently ignore, that the Wall St "bailouts" resulted in a stabilizing of the financial markets and the return of that money to the Government - with interest.

Paul Krugman sums up the bizarre logic of the complainers when he writes "We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade."

While the country is looking the other way the wealthiest top two percent in the USA are being looked after by their pals in Congress and the Senate. Meanwhile the Wall St Journal reports today that Student-Loan Debt Surpasses Credit Cards - "Americans owe some $826.5 billion in revolving credit, according to June 2010 figures from the Federal Reserve. (Most of revolving credit is credit-card debt.) Student loans outstanding today — both federal and private — total some $829.785 billion, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com."

How can we have a highly-educated and talented workforce - the backbone of every country's economy - when those very people leaving college find there are no jobs and that they collectively owe $829.785 billion?

Meanwhile Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve folks did as little as possible to help stimulate the economy yesterday.

All of this reminds me of a bumper sticker that popped up during the end of the Bush administration - "If You Are Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention."

This is not about politics. Collectively, the American people, are far greater than this and deserve much more from our elected officials. We should all be paying more attention.