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Media, Politics, and Reality

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Gayle King, friend of Oprah and editor of Oprah's magazine, O, appeared on Morning Joe, where she, Joe Scarborough, and the other assembled notables (e.g., Mike Barnicle) lauded Oprah's volunteerism project. Among the laudable activities -- organizing vegetable gardens with inner-city children.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been ubiquitous on the media -- in neatly pressed khaki pants and open-buttoned shirts -- insistently demanding action to counteract the effects of the BP oil spill on the Louisiana coastline. Jindal is urging the construction of sand berms to block the flow of oil into the Louisiana wetlands.

Our own Arianna Huffington has lately been appearing around the dial beseeching the President to reconsider his decision to pour more money and troops into a war in Afghanistan that has no chance of succeeding, and which in fact has already demonstrated it has failed.

What all of the events above signify is that the United States functions almost entirely at the media level -- with virtually no regard (I hesitate to say none at all) for the underlying reality supposedly being addressed.

NO amount of vegetable gardens planted by Oprah's colleagues (or the First Lady) will have ANY impact on the overwhelming obesity of American children, particularly those in the inner city, who are force fed corn-based-foodstuffs mass-produced by the giant American agro-business complex -- which even the First Lady's husband dares not take on.

The myth that volunteerism is the solution to America's woes -- in a country that long ago waved goodbye to its community basis for social and political action -- is actually a fantasy endorsed by Tea Partiers, including "chicken lady" Republican Senate candidate from Nevada, Sue Lowden. For better or worse, the United States has thrown its lot in with government solutions to otherwise -- or should I say still -- intractable problems like health, education, and environment. War has always been under the federal government's purview.

As for Jindal's seat-of-the-pants, photogenic environmentalism, while (dubiously) making him look manly and forceful, it violates decades of scientific research and EPA recommendations. Creating new, unchanneled waterways and resulting erosion is exactly what caused the loss of buffer wetlands that was such a major part of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

And, of course, Arianna's plaintive wail that the President exercise better, more humane judgment rather than spending additional billions of tax dollars and sending American troops off to die is likewise bound to disappear in the wind. Obama has obviously made some kind of dense political calculation that requires that "our brave men and women fighting in Afghanistan" (as he and others refer to them) will continue to die while we look for a road map out of there.

And, speaking of eyewash, Mike Barnicle persists in presenting himself on Morning Joe as the gruff man of the people, after finally being dumped by the Boston Globe a decade ago for fabricating and stealing his stories about working class Boston down-and-outers (only to be picked up without hesitation by the Boston Herald -- and MSNBC). As Boston colleague Tom Masberg wrote at the time: "Barnicle's pals in the national media like to paint him as a street scribe who boldly sets foot where J-school nancyboys daren't tread. But the truth is that Barnicle has been making it up and mailing it in from his manse in suburban Lincoln for 15 years."

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