Freedom to depress

So there I was, scratching around the web looking for a little perspective on how the hell our expectations of journalists fell so far that Glenn Beck gets to use the same job description that Walter Cronkite used on his tax returns, without getting sued for defaming the entire profession.  My guess is, half the population don’t notice and other half don’t give a shit.

I used to think it was pretty cool that Comedy Central were doing their bit in the name of journalism. And, to be fair, Jon Stewart’s beatdown of Tucker Carlson on CNN’s now deservedly-extinct Crossfire was pretty badass. But really, once you think about it, it’s just another reason to hop on a barstool and stop thinking about it.

Fair and balanced?

How did we get here? In lieu of mine own hazy ponderings, enter Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Giving the 2009 Stuart Bullion Memorial Lecture in Journalism, Chris tells it like it is…

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. And this assault has been a body blow to a free press, which is, like the humanities, designed to promote intellectual and moral questioning.

But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of cake!

We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome’s bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. Societies in decline, as the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, see their emotional and political passions subsumed by the excitement and emotional life of the arena.

*sigh*

The joys of home rentership

More cheery financial news spotted in this morning’s LA Times:

Nearly one-quarter of U.S. mortgages, or about 11 million loans, are “underwater,” i.e. the houses are worth less than the balance of their loans. While home values are regaining ground — median prices rose 10% in Southern California last month to $275,000 compared with a year earlier — they remain far below the July 2007 peak of $505,000.

Now, I may just be a grizzled old bugger with a liver like a cricket ball, and I’m not what you’d call a…a … (whaddayacall those guys on Wall Street? Not thieving bastards, the other one…) economist. I’m no economist, but it looks to me like my being too half-arsed to get into the red-hot jump-right-in-it’s-awesome property market back in 2007 has paid off to the tune of around two hundred and thirty grand.

I’ll take it in fifties, thanks.

Nearly one-quarter of U.S. mortgages, or about 11 million loans, are “underwater,” i.e. the houses are worth less than the balance of their loans. While home values are regaining ground — median prices rose 10% in Southern California last month to $275,000 compared with a year earlier — they remain far below the July 2007 peak of $505,000.

Electile dysfunction

I was surprised to find this gem buried in the opinion section of the The Onion instead of the front page where it belongs. I’d find it a lot funnier if I wasn’t reminded just how much truth lies behind it every time I turn on the TV.

My Constituents Care Way More About Political Gamesmanship Than Jobs, Health Care, And The Economy by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

Among the gems:

My constituents deserve better… They deserve someone on their side who will ask the tough questions, such as how will painting Democrats as radical ideologues play in, say, Arkansas? Can we vote “no” on the health care bill and still make it look like we give two craps about the welfare of ordinary Americans?

But wait, there’s more!

My constituents had to be proud. They must have loved the way I blatantly ignored the truth and put quotation marks around “stimulus” so as to delegitimize the whole project. And I bet they noticed that, with just one sentence, I slyly preyed on America’s inherent distrust of big government. Pretty good, huh? It’s all bullshit of course, but it’s a great political play.

And finally…

More than anything, average, workaday Ohioans want me to play politics at the shrewdest, most despicable level, not to waste their time making surgery affordable or offering tax breaks to small businesses. And my constituents are so thankful that I took a nation that was actually hopeful at the beginning of 2009 and turned it into a paranoid, demoralized country unsure of whether it made the right choice in 2008.