Wednesday, December 13

'Tis the Season for Change

Walk a Mile In These Shoes

Look for the Shine

 May all beings know love, peace, and find the wonder in change.

Friday, October 6

All Hail the Losers

Might Fall Down Go Boom!

Importance of Cultural Continuity

Keeping It Real

Why does today’s media put their very costly and influential focus on losers? And, not just losers but sore losers, the playgroundbully-type-loser that uses threats and violence to dominate the contest. Today’s “free press” no longer tells people about the who, what, when, where, and why of news. It must create a feeling, an emotional connection to the person, place, or thing under the spotlight to keep readers and viewers coming back. Years of consumer and voter research reveal that strong emotions, especially anger, fear, disgust, sell. The emphasis on selling emotional news vs. reporting factual news has created a vital instant “clickbait” readership that is good for algorithms and marketing but bad for trust in America’s Fourth Estate. The media manipulators labor daily to hook consumers and voters into their sphere of influence without spending millions of advertising dollars.

How much does an average 30-second advertisement cost on American TV? The answer varies, but each ad is estimated at $100,000 or more. How about print ads? What’s the average cost of a full-page print ad in a national newspaper? Again, the answer is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Both forms of advertising are one-time-only events. So, repeated paid promotions of the product or brand can cost millions of dollars over time.

Realizing the high cost of just two forms of traditional marketing, I understand why producers of saleable items use relatively free press outlets and digital social media platforms. Daily rants on X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, etc., and the relentless press reporting of outrageous behaviors of politicians and celebrities are worth hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars.

Marketing and its sister, “branding,” is king in today’s political world. Getting free press and thousands of “likes” on social media is the goal of campaigners everywhere. Informing voters of their plans and goals for bettering the communities they seek to represent are secondary if they even exist. These media outlets are hungry for sizzling stories that sell the products of paying advertisers and will slant the messaging to create drama, outrage, and addiction. Yes, addiction to fear and anger. Russian troll farms, who have cultivated a wide range of online media sources from the least prestigious “influencers” to respected pundits, influenced the approach to reporting information. The internet trolls and flamers dominate by repeating the same spin and lies until the messages resonate in mainstream media outlets such as Fox Corp., News Corp.,  Comcast, and high-circulation newspapers. A recent example of this fear-mongering is the slanted report of the  “disappearance” of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs. Misinformation trolls created a frenzy, which turned out to be her one-day attendance at a Washington, D. C. meeting about the border. Other examples include the constant spotlights on 2020 election losers and deniers such as Kari Lake and others in the republican party too hideous to name.

Advertising philosophy has always been to ferret out the habits and proclivities of consumers. The internet and its privacy sieves deliver mountains of valuable information, and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms parse the info so almost every person on the planet has a marketing target on their backs. Despite the many categories each human falls into, there are consumer categories that override all others. Convenient labels slot each of us into how much we can spend, how much we influence others, and how easy or hard a seller has to work to make us part with our power, otherwise known as our time and money. Who has power over us, and what can be achieved by convincing us to give up our power? Sellers try to gain power by convincing us they have something of value we want. In the past, sellers expected consumers to want goods and services that have value, are available, and are priced right. One other component was recognized in the late 90s and early 2000s: authentic experience.

According to author and business consultant Joseph Pine, consumers have transformed from seekers of commodities to seekers of experiences. In his 2004 TED presentation titled “What Consumers Want,” he explains that we still need necessary, reasonably priced goods with value, but our overriding desire is to experience such things authentically. He clarifies this concept at the 12:10 minute mark by using the Starbucks approach to selling coffee. Pine even co-wrote a best seller titled Authenticity. Earlier in his TED presentation, he delves into fake experiences that are often lies and how betrayed consumers feel when saddled with an item or event dishonestly promoted. He refers to such events as “fake fakes” but explains that people are less upset when an item or event is advertised as fake or not authentic up front.

So many popular reality TV shows are now featuring “authentic,” deception, backstabbing, and “hookups” that used to be far outside of common decency and reasonable behavior but are fake enough to reassure watchers that “no people were killed in the making of this movie.” I’ve watched one episode each of the reality TV shows, “The Apprentice,” “Survivor,” and “The Amazing Race”. What struck me was the harshness of the overall experience. Many manufactured dangers throughout each competition and an unpleasant emphasis on winning at all costs create fierce antagonisms. Good sportsmanship lessons are jettisoned for a general every-man-for-himself-winning mentality. Millions of viewers accept that the dirtiest game players do what it takes to win. Buying unethical and corrosive behavior makes it easy to swallow and dismiss Trump’s political and business losses. His supporters like watching train wrecks and waiting for the fantasy of Trump’s losses to turn into wins.

With the news and entertainment media promoting cutthroat popularity reinforced by AI algorithms, consumers and voters are herded into pens of familiar and comfortable content. When a Fox News pundit pushes his opinion as fact, viewers accept that he is promoted or “branded” as a  “straight shooter.” Viewers are influenced by his persona, not so much by the facts or lies of his reporting. He is the authenticity being sold, so viewers crave him, not the news he’s reporting. Although Fox is the most prominent media outlet for opinion-backed news vs. fact-based news, most of our media continue to put the very costly and effective spotlight on the dysfunction of the republican party headed by loser Donald J. Trump. Somehow, beating the drum for the losers is becoming the norm in our news media. It is especially galling to witness so many news stories about hypocrites getting paid by the US government to represent, not rule, their constituents, who then turn around and tear down the government institutions that support these voters.

Reality Bites

In a recent PBS Nightly News interview with newspaper editor and reporter Marty Baron, he said,

 “The problem now is that people can't agree on what's a fact, that we don't share a common set of facts. We can't even agree on how to establish that something is a fact.”

The old “Who, What, When, Why” fact-finding journalism needs to be reborn. Opinions are often found in our algorithm-reinforced bubbles and should not overtake truth. Fantastic opinions, projections, and conspiracies only promote losing. Staying in touch with reality, keeping a critical yet open mind, and breaking out of our comfort bubbles can only help support the winners in this world.

 May all beings know love, peace, and truth.


Thursday, June 29

A Life Lived Fully

Beloved Mother, Geraldine 

Ticking Clocks
by Kathy Mackey

In time, you will struggle to

understand why a day can be

too long when you are grieving,

too short when you are joyful,

and without limit in your dreams.

You probably know these things

about time and its brother, endurance.

You probably feel these boundaries

as you grope in darkness for light.

If you’re like me, you may never understand.

You may, instead, realize that time

has become your friend, your taskmaster,

and the ticking hands of every clock

measure out heartbeats, breath and tears

until your shortest day on earth ends.

May all beings know Mother love, compassion, and peace.

Thursday, May 25

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Free Lunches


“What do you think about the Washington state proposed legislation providing free lunches for every child in the public school system?” I asked our houseguests after dinner one evening.

“It didn’t pass because taxpayers should not provide lunches to students that can afford to pay? How would this system distinguish between needy and not needy kids? Education already costs too much. No need to add more expense to an already bloated system.” responded Lawrence, a father, grandfather, and retired teacher in the Washington state education system.

We talked about other state and government programs in cost/benefit terms until a question was posed regarding the purpose of our taxes and what they are intended to fund. While we all agreed that defense, clean air, water, utilities, and economic stability are essential, we argued about how to provide them. Lawrence was locked into the concept of big government waste and misdirected democratic party priorities.

I expressed concern that the republican political platform fashioned in 2016 and reaffirmed in 2020 wants to roll back legislation beneficial to people by gutting implementation and enforcement of necessary regulations. By eliminating funding (i.e., “waste”) for regulatory agencies, the laws, restrictions, guidelines, requirements proscribed by legislation cannot be achieved, and blame for the resulting disasters can be put on the ineffective agency and/or current democratic party representative. It’s the favorite “catch-22” tactic of the political far right. Another tactic is to cut taxes and continue to borrow while criticizing the federal government for not keeping wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, illegal immigrants, budget deficits, high costs of energy, and groceries, contained. To add insult to injury, the republican House majority is now deciding not to pay bills, approximately 25% of which were racked up during Trump's administration.  Their defense of this position is the old and bogus republican solution that beats up the poor and vulnerable while reducing taxes on the 1%, but only when this political party is in the majority. The current republican led Congress is taking this critical moment to cause the Biden administration to fail, thereby helping them to win in 2024. Do they really care about us? No. Power is their only motivation. 

Most of us adult Americans recognize that you get what you pay for. Expecting guaranteed prosperity and safety without increased taxes is never going to happen. However, some still believe that eliminating social safety net programs will reduce government spending enough to create a middle-class lifestyle for the deserving. This begs the question about American core cultural beliefs...

“Should the benefit of a free lunch in public schools be only for the deserving whether rich, poor, middle class, or for all children without exception?” Put this way, we all thought taxpayer money should try to ensure that no child goes hungry in America.

Two Views

Finally, we discussed what we would want our tax monies to pay for. Health and safety topped our list. In our benevolent fantasy government, no child would go hungry or be shot to death on our streets, schools, churches, or public events. No one mentioned protecting the populous from transgenders, critical race theory, libraries, teachers, voting machines, liberals, and whatever else the right-wing culture warriors drum up to mask their unpopular “kitchen table” economic positions.

We talked for quite a while about immigration and what can be done to address the rise in undocumented migrants. My opinion is that the alarming numbers of asylum seekers and migrants trying to enter the USA are indeed a persistent problem, much like global warming. In fact, some of the increases in refugee asylum demand on our southern border may be attributed to the effects of global warming and the damage it causes in failed or floundering nations.  For decades illegal immigration has been on Congress’ agenda, and though many actions have been taken over the years, including adding barriers on the southern border, the issue persists. Some problems do not have solutions, and people have to be satisfied with finding ways to cope with the issue vs. eliminating the difficulties. It is a fact that many immigrants contribute as well as benefit from living and working in America. Maybe that’s as good as it gets. Perhaps we would get better results if we expended money and energy on improving the countries ruled by gangs and corrupt governments. Fewer people would flee? We were not hopeful about this strategy.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding

Time to take a break from hashing over these issues. I wondered if our kitchen table discussion was one of the millions taking place tonight; and if more than a few of us have been left with the thought that life is hard and there are no free lunches.

Saturday, January 7

Live in Wonder

 It is sunny outside. Each sunbeam warms the windows, reaching into the winter house gloom and pulling us out to see the dripping trees. Glorious life. Abundant life. All the grime of the indoor life is whooshed clean. We are refreshed. Be grateful and love each other.