Tuesday, November 16, 2010


     "By the time the flames reached their height, the arsonists had slunk off, and only the firemen were left for people to take out their ire on. The result is a kind of political cognitive dissonance. Frightened by joblessness, “the American people” rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits. Alarmed by a ballooning national debt, they rewarded the party that not only transformed budget surpluses into budget deficits but also proposes to inflate the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the least needy two per cent. Frustrated by what they see as inaction, they rewarded the party that not only fought every effort to mitigate the crisis but also forced the watering down of whatever it couldn’t block.
     Part of the Democrats’ political problem is that their defense, confusingly, depends on counterfactuals (without the actions they took in the face of fierce Republican opposition, the great slump would have metastasized into a Great Depression), deferred gratification (the health-care law’s benefits do not kick in fully until 2014), and counterintuitive propositions (the same hard times that force ordinary citizens to spend less money oblige the government—whose income, like theirs, is falling—to spend more). Another part of the problem, it must be said, is public ignorance. An illuminating Bloomberg poll, taken the week before the election, found that some two-thirds of likely voters believed that, under Obama and the Democrats, middle-class taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program are gone, never to be recovered. One might add to that list the public’s apparent conviction that illegal immigration is skyrocketing and that the health-care law will drive the deficit higher. Reality tells a different story. For ninety-five per cent of us, taxes are actually lower, cut by around four hundred dollars a year for individuals and twice that for families. (The stimulus provided other tax cuts for people of modest means, including a break for college tuition.) The economy has been growing, however feebly, for five straight quarters. Most of the TARP loans have been repaid and the rest soon will be, plus a modest profit for the Treasury. And the number of illegal immigrants fell by close to a million last year, thanks in part to more energetic border enforcement. The health-care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says, will bring the deficit down."  —Henrick Hertzberg

[Read more of this terrific analysis of the recent election in the whole New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece from the Nov. 15th issue here.]


Tore Claesson said...

The biggest problem is probably that we longer listen to reason or think for ourselves. Facts don't mean a thing. Perception is everything. Lies go unchecked. We vote like sports fans. We're either republicans or democrats, like we would be club a or club b fans. Same goes for the politicians, they are no longer representing reason, their are party marionettes. And voting at all is another issue. A large portion of Americans simply don't vote. Especially not mid term. Which can have huge consequences on the outcome.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Time out everyone.


Ronnie Chasen, a noted entertainment industry publicist, was shot and killed while in her car in Beverly Hills early this morning. Ronnie was a client of mine early on in my photography career twenty years ago. She has always been highly esteemed and, while professional and sometimes tough in business, Ronni has always been a good, kind-hearted, fair-minded person.

Whether this shooting was random or pre-meditated, the fact is that there are ridiculously too many guns in our nation, they are too easily obtainable, and the act of using them on other living beings (something that should be unthinkable) is all too thinkable. And Hollywood does little or nothing to help. In fact, Hollywood perpetuates thinkability and makes it worse.

I've spoken with a number of people from Australia recently and handguns are banned over there. Whatever happened to the idea of talking something out? All our tv shows, movies and video games depict people shooting each other whenever they can't immediately resolve their differences or when things don't go their way. Even Saturday morning kiddie cartoons show animated figures shooting each other and wreaking violence on each other. I'm no angel and am a hypocrite too - as I work on such films in order to support my family.

If we could pour all the money going into our incursions back into education, maybe, just maybe, it would make a difference. Giving people mental capability and mental roadmaps to navigate our way through situations where we might otherwise "hit the wall" and go postal.

Above all else, this is to me the most pressing issue and I call on Hollywood and all who work in it to press for Social Responsibility. Don't write and make scripts that fall back on gunfire just because there's precedent. Take the lead and push for entertainment that enlightens and inspires and doesn't employ gratuitous violence.

Lally said...

Robert I am so sorry to hear about this. What an atrocity. And I second your passionate call for an end to the glorifying of violence. Movies and TV shows certainly are guilty, but the main culprit in recent years is video games as well. When I did voice overs I was given the chance to do voices of bad guys in violent video games and turned them down and let my agents know that I don't do violence. Obviously I don't want to censor artists and art of any kind, but most of the time violence is just an easy ploy for a writer or creator to use to get an instant and easily predictable reaction. It's a shortcut to making an audience feel something, even if used repetitively it leads to a reduction in feeling, a hardening of perspective on what is and isn't allowable. You might remember that poem of mine "The healing" that called for an end to that kind of simple exploitation in Hollywood creations, it was even quoted in The Hollywood Reporter and other places and I read it all over that community back in the 1980s. But one voice, one poem, one song, one article or essay or speech etc. isn't going to make much of a dent in the mentality that takes the easy way out (which I have also been guilty of). The movie code when I was a kid was restrictive, but it led to at least some more creative ways to impact an audience then raw and fatal violence.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Every voice helps, I believe, Michael. Every choice and deed have consequence. What else can we do but keep speaking, writing and doing, as individuals?

Lally said...

I hear you Robert. And I thank you for yours.

Miles said...

Wow, Hertzberg's quote really sums up our nation's predicament neatly. The arsonists/firemen analogy is a perfect fit. The ignorance of the public is tragic. Too bad some people are benefitting immensely from the public's ignorance.

Robert, I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, real education innovation would reduce public ignorance. Doing this would threaten the dominant class's advantage.

On a moderately uplifting note, while studies show that viewing violence increases violent behavior, it has also been shown that if one receives the message that violence is not acceptable then viewing violence results in much less violent behavior. Would gangster rappers do PSA's against violence? Maybe not, but I'm sure some movie stars would.

Lally said...

Miles, Well said.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Good idea Miles, I'm going to look into it.

Miles said...


Let me know what you find.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Don't blame the gun. If it were not available a knife or other utensil would have been used. Through the course of history we are reminded that violence is our natural state. Animals are not violent because they are evil, but because it is their nature.

Concerning the TARP

TARP Summary January 2010
U.S. Treasury / American Bankers Assn.
- 61 banks missed dividend payments. (Mostly small banks.)
- U.S. Treasury has invested $6 Billion in these 61 banks.
- U.S. Treasury could lose $2.6 Billion in banks that have already failed.
- U.S. Treasury could still make $19 Billion from its TARP investments.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

It would have been hard to throw a knife through the window of a moving car. I don't agree with your viewpoint, in fact, people can go either way and the vast majority of people on this planet prefer non-violence and want a peaceful life. It is up to our culture to foster and support that. I blame the plethora of guns and the gun mentality. I've lived my whole life without a gun and have been through many situations and have walked in places considered dangerous because I listen to and respect people and view myself first as a living being, second as a human being and several steps beyond that a male, light skinned, jewish, hetero, american, these things are all peripheral to my core identity. Don't get me wrong, I ain't no fool, well maybe a bit of one. But 90+% of what people feel they need guns for I can talk my way through, and so can you, Anon.

-K- said...

I have to admit, I had a hard time getting through Hertzberg's little essay. It's just too disheartening. But there might be more to it than that. The Republicans can draw cartoonish stick figures based on absolute thin air and they absolutely work.

Give the Devil his due, as my mother would say.

(If I didn't know better, I'd think that Jlm (sic) has returned as "Anonymous.")

JIm said...

Not I K. I sign my comments.