Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Broadcast Bread and Circuses
Deep down I have an utterly ridiculous but nagging suspicion that the population of the United States is being subjected to what is either a diabolical social experiment or the most epic practical joke ever attempted. Now given the times we live in there are actually several possibilities to consider, a few being the unprecedented level of morons inhabiting the halls of Congress, the fact that the national infrastructure of roads and bridges are a joke, and that despite the best efforts of many dedicated teachers American education continues to decline. No, today I will concentrate my incredulous amazement on how the profession of American journalism seems to be failing as badly as any of the other problems this country faces.
For a couple of years now I have strictly limited my viewing time of the 24/7 cable news channels. Each of the big three (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox) are in my opinion fatally flawed. Despite the fact CNN has the longest track record and is the least bias its coverage of the issues is often so superficial as to be worthless. Something Jon Stewart of Comedy Centrals “The Daily Show” has pointed out many times.
As for MSNBC, yes it is the closest to my political leanings but in its own way it has become excessively personality driven along with devolving into a commentator channel instead of reporting the news. Plus, what little actual debate that occurs between the usual conservative/liberal viewpoints is often perfunctory with some minor Republican party minion offered up as a sacrificial lamb.
This leaves Fox News, and all I can say is that I have no respect for any person who believes their slogan as to being “Fair and Balanced.” They have far more in common with the old Soviet Union's Pravda or Nazi Germany's propaganda than an actual news organization. In fact I firmly believe if there is cable access in hell Joesph Goebbels watches Hannity, or Bill O'Reilly with his toes curled in orgasmic glee.
Wanting to stay informed my main television news outlet has been reduced to what is offered up on NBC or CBS but even they are sorely lacking. Over the last several weeks large segments of their broadcast have been devoted to what is at best fluff pieces but in my darker moods I believe to be mindless crap designed to distract and confuse an all too willing public.
The first example was a segment about how a former sitcom actress was breaking away from the Church of Scientology. Needless to say it was messy but the kicker in all this was an almost blatant commercial endorsement of her upcoming tell-all book about how she realized the church was some big sham. The second was the outrage at how a former Disney teen star acted on the stage at some award show. Okay, I'll give and say both the former and the latter examples are in fact “news stories” but such frivolous fluff should be relegated to the likes of Entertainment Tonight or one of its lesser clones.
The final example I will mention came last night on NBC Nightly News. Of all the stories they could have reported involving wars, political corruption, homelessness, environmental degradation, voter suppression, or the United States about to default on its debts due to the morons I mentioned above they spent several minutes on french fries. In glorious detail they explained how Burger King has over the course of several years finally perfected french fries that are just mildly bad to eat. Supposedly they contain slightly less fat-but still taste the same-extending the time to someone's first heart attack. Glory Be!!! All the prayers of obese Americans have been answered!
Yes I admit, I am rather peculiar to make such an issue of this but I would much rather have had that time reporting on something like this.
From National Geographic.com:
Rain Forest Plants Race to Outrun Global Warming
From a 13,000-foot peak of the Andes Mountains in southern Peru, gazing east over the dense rainforests of the Amazon basin, all you see is undulating green—one of the most verdant places on the planet.
It's what you can't see that matters.
The plants are on the run, trying to move to higher ground, where the air is cool enough to support their existence.
"Most of these species are not going to be able to tolerate climate change," says Ken Feeley, a tropical biologist from Florida International University in Miami, "mostly because climate change is happening so fast." Feeley spoke as we hiked into the jungle with a small group of other scientists—through an area that contains more tree, plant, bird, and animal species than the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.
It is here that an international collective of scientists, called the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, has mapped one of the largest field grids of its kind for a wide range of climate change studies.
According to a decade of research by Feeley and his colleagues, including tropical biologist Miles Silman of Wake Forest University, tropical species are frantically migrating up slope as they reproduce. But they may not be moving fast enough.
Tropical Andean tree species are shifting roughly 8 to 12 vertical feet (2.5 to 3.5 meters) a year on average—the arboreal equivalent of a dash. Yet for those trees to remain in equilibrium with their preferred temperatures, they need to migrate more than 20 vertical feet a year.
"We are looking at what entire populations of these species are doing in response to climate change," Silman said. "It's fairly spectacular and quick. But it might not be quick enough."
As we hike, I notice a large, bushy schefflera with umbrella-like leaves. It looks just like the one I have in a pot on my porch back home in North Carolina. Silman says it could survive the race. Of 38 species tracked in the 2010 study, schefflera is migrating the fastest, as much as a hundred vertical feet a year. But ficus, another common houseplant native to the tropics, could be doomed. It is migrating less than five vertical feet annually.
Research models by other biologists project that more than 50percent of tropical species could die off by 2100 or sooner if average temperatures rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit, as climate experts predict. If the planet warms even more, which is possible,extinctions could reach 90 percent.