Last year, the week before Christmas I was thanking Bill Moyers for his great journalism, this weekend’s program requires the same. Benjamin Barber on modern capitalism:
BENJAMIN BARBER: "Tell us what's going on? What's wrong with American consumers?" Which is kind of what you and I have been talking about. But the trouble is we're looking the wrong way. It's not what's wrong with American consumers, it's what's wrong with American capitalism, American advertisers, American marketers? We're not asking for it. It's what I call push capitalism. It's supply side. They've got to sell all this stuff, and they have to figure out how to get us to want it. So they take adults and they infantilize them. They dumb them down. They get us to want things.
And then they start targeting children. Because it's not enough just to sell to the adults. You've got to sell to that wonderful demographic, first it's 12 to 18 year olds. Then it's the 'tweens. The 10- to the 12 year olds. But then it's the toddlers.
BILL MOYERS: You used a word that went right past me. Infantilize? What do you mean?
BENJAMIN BARBER: What I mean is that grownups, part of being grown up is getting a hold of yourself and saying, "I don't need this. I've got to be a gatekeeper for my kid. I want to live in a pluralistic world where, yes, I shop, but I also pray and play and do art and make love and make artwork and do lots of different things. And shopping's one part of that." As an adult, we know that. But if you live in a capitalist-- society that needs to sell us all the time, they've got to turn that prudent, thoughtful adult back into a child who says, "Gimme, gimme, gimme. I want, I want, I want." Just like the kid in the candy store. And is grasping and reaching.
and here with Sanford Levinson on the dangerous defects in the Constitution:
BILL MOYERS; Let me briefly list some of what you called the grievous defects in the Constitution. And you tell me why they're-
SANFORD LEVINSON: Okay--
BILL MOYERS; --so grievous? The allocation of power in the Senate. You say the Senate is among our most grievously flawed institutions?
SANFORD LEVINSON: Well, just on the one person, one vote notion. That to give Wyoming, with one 70th of the population of California, the same political power. And I'd mention one other feature. We have a bicameral system in Congress that gives each house a power absolutely to veto the other. So, that the Senate can block anything the House does, which makes Wyoming and the other upper-Midwest states so powerful in the Senate.
The modern Senate works, frankly, as the worst sort of affirmative action program for the residents of small states. It doesn't protect the values of federalism, state autonomy, diversity and the like. Rather, it means that senators of small states, particularly the small states that are clustered together in the upper-Midwest, quite frankly can make out like bandits. So that-
BILL MOYERS; That's where they get the bridge to nowhere?
SANFORD LEVINSON: We--the bridge to nowhere. You also have what is widely agreed to be a dysfunctional-- agricultural program.
BILL MOYERS; Oh, yeah.
SANFORD LEVINSON: That has all sorts of consequences, ranging from the obesity epidemic, to whether Africans who grow some of these crops can get a fair share of the world market. And the reason that candidates from both parties-- support the ethanol subsidies are unwilling, at the end of the day, really to touch the sacred cows of our agricultural programs is because of the power these states have in the Senate.
BILL MOYERS; The small states-
SANFORD LEVINSON: The small states.
And if these weren’t enough for one week, there is Moyer’s analysis of the steroid scandal as a symptom of a society with a terminal illness.
In our drugged state, we cheer the winners in the game of wealth, the billionaires who benefit from a skewed financial system -- the losers, we kick down the stairs. We open fire hoses of cash into our political system in the name of "free speech." Television stations that refuse to cover government make fortunes selling political bromides over public airwaves. Pornography passing as advertising assaults our senses, seduces our children, and pollutes our culture. Partisan propaganda gets pumped up as news. We feed on the flamboyance of celebrities. And we actually take seriously the Elmer Gantrys who use the Christian Gospel as a guidebook to an Iowa caucus or a battle plan for the Middle East. In the face of a scandalous health care system, failing schools, and a fraudulent endless war, we are as docile as tattered scarecrows in a field of rotten tomatoes.
As for that war, you may have heard that a quarter of the heavily-armed æshooters' working in the streets of Baghdad for the Administration's mercenary Blackwater foreign legion are alleged to be chemically influenced by steroids or other mind-altering substances.
If this doesn’t become a classic text for the analysis of the United States during the past thirty years it will only be because the species has gone extinct.
In one of her columns a while before she died, Molly Ivins proposed nominating Bill Moyers for President, and that’s a great idea if he’d take the job. I suspect that having been close to that kind of power he would rather tell the truth to the present generation and for the ages. But if I’m wrong I’d suggest to John Edwards that he approach him as a running mate. I can’t think of many things that would help his campaign more or which would help an Edwards’ presidency. Bill Moyers has no illusions about anything, he has a vast knowledge of populism and politics and he will do what no politician would dare to do, tell the plain truth in language people can understand. He would stand up to the hack advisors and DC insiders who condescendingly mention their forays into “the heartland” or “outside the beltway” as if they were doing missionary work in an alien culture. He knows that a politicians’ job in a democracy isn’t to look down at the people or to pretend to be looking up at them on a pedestal but to look them in the eye and tell the truth. And that's why he's head and shoulders above just about any journalist today.
Update: Digby is also indispensable in the real news media today. Her column from yesterday is essential reading for getting beneath the surface of our present day politics.
The founders worried a lot about the power of political parties or factions. In Federalist 10, Madison defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."
Ironically the major concern was that the rubes would use the power of faction to take away the property of the Big Money Boyz. Obviously, he needn't have worried. When it comes to common impulse and passion, nobody has it over the conservative movement in service of its wealthy benefactors.
It might be that we are building up for a rewrite of the Constitution, which is needed if we are to avoid a dictatorship. It could take years to get there but we have to start agitating for a truly democratic system now.
Even more necessary than making the Senate equal and democratic, or, preferably, junking it altogether, and almost as necessary as ending that longest enduring insult from the “founders” to The People, the electoral college, we have to insure that the phony “persons”, the corporations, created by the aristocratic idiocy of the Supreme Court. Real people always lose when these stitched together monsters are given “equal” power and rights. Political rights belong to real people. Maybe if this was done the protection of Peoples’ lives, health and rights would take precedence over the law of contracts and our legal system would stop being the disreputable sewer that it so often is today.