Saturday, July 25, 2015

Confessions of a Former Fox News Junkie

A recent comment from a friend on Facebook has caused me to reflect on my social media posts. In the sense that I have an eclectic group of connections - family, personal friends, business friends from past and current associations, writer friends, golf friends, friends of friends, etc. - and, depending on the nature of my post, whether it's a photo of breakfast or a screed against corrupt politicians and corporate executives, some will find a post amusing, some annoying, many won't care and will stream by. (The NSA will search for possible terrorist code words.)

My Facebook posts tend more to reflect personal interests and how-I'd-like-to-change-the-world peeves. My Tweets are almost exclusively aviation related, though I follow others of interest there such as journalist Glenn Greenwald. Haven't been too active on LinkedIn, as I'm not looking for a job, but I may start using that for selective "change" commentary.

For the record, or maybe just for personal reflection, I thought I'd summarize where I think I stand on some key issues. You may have already picked up on these from what I share and comment on. If you find you significantly disagree, you are free to Unfriend me and I won't be offended in the least. Though I will miss reading your thoughts.

When I lived in the States, the TV was routinely turned to Fox News. I thought they were over the top at times, certainly one-sided, but I saw myself as a "conservatarian" - a libertarian with a conservative flavor. The relatively few people I spent time with were conservative, leaning to Tea Party. To them, Rush Limbaugh was the political messiah. I had a few colleagues who saw the world otherwise - one called it Pox Ooze - and I was fine to be friends with them and agree to disagree. My Facebook friends range from uber-conservative to socialist; others I cannot gauge politically because most of their posts are about kids, which I also enjoy seeing as a glimpse into their lives.

I can't say that in the 20 years I lived in Texas that I ever critically examined what I thought I believed or was for or against. I was too busy trying to keep a job, pay the bills from having too big a house and too many 'things', and hope to have a little time left over to play golf now and then.

I knew relatively little about the rest of the world. An occasional tsunami. Constant wars "over there" somewhere. Fox didn't present much beyond politics, politics, politics. Bush good. Obama bad. Republicans are saints. Democrats are the devil. Clinton was Ross Perot's fault. I thought Hannity's red-face rants revealing but felt sorry for the token liberals on his panel whose thoughts were routinely interrupted or shouted over. O'Reilly, to me, was the most 'liberal' of the Fox snarl pack, but way too self-important. Megan Kelly was cute, especially with the shorter hairstyle, and quite tenacious. At least she stood out from the 100 other blondes on the network. Many of the guests interviewed seemed inept (from either side of the political spectrum) but maybe that was by design to make the hosts look good.

Living in Europe, we don't get Fox. We glean our news from a variety of sources - BBC and Sky in the UK, France24, even RT (Russia Today) and Al Jezeera, sometimes CNN when we travel. On the web we'll check Common Dreams and Comedy Central, and I still touch base with Drudge because he links to original sources (though his clever headlines sometimes mislead from the true story). In other words, we see a much wider variety of news from a diversity of viewpoints. Then make up our own minds as to what's relevant and what we think about it.

I've thought a great deal more in the past couple years about with I am willing to stand for and against.

In (relative) brief:

- I despise the corruption in the government, whether it's the US, the UK, France, or elsewhere. I think we need to get the big money out of politics and impose term limits on office holders, judges, and bureaucrats. Too many are entrenched, and the longer they are there they tend to pursue their personal wealth interests, not the long-term interests of the people they are supposed to serve. They are bought by billionaires. The three branches of the US government have become the Koch Congress, the Soros Green House, and the Adelson Court. Vote them out, you say? The process rarely allows a worthy candidate to even make it to the ballot. There may be a few good politicians, but not many; by and large both parties are riddled with unbridled graft. Cameron, Hollande, Merkel - no different. Puppets, not leaders.

- In the same vein, I despise the corruption in business and banking. This goes hand-in-hand with political corruption, and the system has been rigged to favor the very wealthy few. They flaunt laws with impunity, hide revenues overseas to avoid taxes, and then get bailed out with fiat taxpayer money when they screw up. The growing inequality is a serious issue that fuels the frustration of the populace and, I believe, will one day lead to revolutions in Western countries, or at least massive uprisings, including the US. Some of the laws need to be changed back to preclude the reckless risk-taking and wealth accumulation, and a few top bankers and corporate execs need to go to prison for their crimes as a deterrent to others. (Though even the prisons have become a corporate money machine.)

- America is drifting, with little consistent opposition, into a Police State. Unbridled spying by the NSA and other agencies on everyone. Police departments armed with intimidating military-style weapons. A seemingly growing number of killings by police, especially of minorities, with no apparent punishment or justice. Police confiscation of peoples' property without warrant or even arrest, much less conviction. BTW, similar is true of the UK and other countries. Yes, there are many good cops, but the number of rotten apples acting with impunity tend to negate them - can we agree the reputation of the police is not improving? It also surprises me how many people are willing to give up personal liberties for the false promise of security. 

- You may not be altogether shocked, then, to learn that I interpret the 2nd Amendment to mean individual citizens have a right to own guns. I do not like the trend to open carry. And I never owned a gun, mostly because I was concerned about a child or grandchild accidentally getting ahold of it. (And I figured I could do serious damage to a burglar with a well-placed 9-iron.) However, I believe I have a right to defend myself, my family, and my home from intruders. And I believe that citizens have the right to armed uprising against an oppressive government, much as the colonists rebelled against King Georgie. Should there be background checks for gun ownership to keep them out of the hands of nutcases - yes. Are the police and National Guard better armed than the citizens? Yes, but better to be poorly armed than completely defenseless.

- Living closer to "war zones," knowing people personally from Syria and other countries, I have become more anti-war. It seems much too easy when living in the States to be gung-ho for dropping bombs halfway around the world. It seems many wars are fought (and never 'won') primarily for the benefit of the arms merchants - the more bullets used, the bigger their bonuses. And then when the veterans come home, we treat them like pariahs.
- I have become much more conscious of what's in the food I eat. In general, food in Europe is not laced with pesticides, and more countries are banning GMOs. I find the DARK act which is working its way through Congress to be despicable - people have a right to know what's in their food, and if food producers do not provide it, then to me the food is suspect. (Just one more example of politicians sucking up to the money-grubbing corporations that pay them off.) I try to eat fewer pre-processed, packaged foods and make our own meals with locally grown veggies, etc. as much as possible.

- I'm not sure I yet believe in the certainty of climate change. I simply have not studied it enough, but I plan to. The science seems pretty overwhelming, but the climate change crowd has not helped its cause with the manipulation of data. The deniers fudge as well, especially when Big Oil and Big Coal money is involved such as the Koch Brothers. My take is that we would be better off applying alternative methods such as solar and wind power, and eliminate the pollution of coal and oil and the Three Mile Island / Chernobyl-style danger of nuclear. For sure the atmosphere will be much improved for everyone (except the dirty energy corporations.)

- I have become much more of a minimalist in terms of life style. Accumulating material things never was high on my personal agenda, though the size of your house and the brand on your car seemed to be the way success was scored. My wardrobe now fits in the space of a 3-foot closet. I drive a 16-year-old car with more than 200,000 kilometres on it, though we often go 2-3 weeks without ever using it. We take the train a great deal for longer trips, walk around Argeles, bus in Geneva.

- The older I get, the more I value personal relationships: family, family of choice, friends in the multiple places we are fortunate to live, respected business associates. There is immense satisfaction in caring and doing something for someone else - whether because they need a hand or just because. And it matters little to me where they came from, the shade of their flesh, religious persuasion, sexual orientation, or political leanings.

- Similarly, I have come to value experiences more than possessions. (Sometimes possessions, small mementos, are reflections of experiences, though.) Seeing the majestic beauty in nature or in grand man-made structures that are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Artwork of all hues and materials and subjects. No matter where you choose to live, there are places within reach - monuments, museums, parks - which are worth visiting for their educational and inspiration value. Take your kids, take yourself.

- One the current issues which is very personal for me - and for 8 million other Americans who live overseas - is the oppressive new US banking law known as FATCA. It is, quite simply, ruining normal life for us by preventing us from having regular bank accounts, credit cards, etc. at the local banks where we currently live. Most "Homelanders," as we refer to people who still live in the States, are not aware of this law or its impact. Nor do most care. But I advise you that you will see plenty of posts about this appalling overeach by the US government to the point of forcing other countries to change their laws about privacy, etc.

So the short of it - I don't trust Wall Street (or its weak-kneed regulators), nor Big Insurance, Big Medicine, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, etc. Certainly almost no politician and no government agencies (in almost any country). I favor a simple, leave-me-alone lifestyle, spending time with the people we care about, doing those things which we enjoy, helping others as we are in a position to do so.

I recognize I am only one voice raising alarm on these issues. But perhaps others will join the chorus, and when our collective voices cannot be ignored, maybe change will start to happen. Edward Snowden, whom I regard as a hero, was one voice. Certainly he has made a significant difference, if not in the way the US, UK, and the other Five Eyes spy on the world, at least in the way people are now aware of the spying.

Thanks for reading through to the end. See you on Facebook.

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