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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jesus Is Just All Right ... and other media notes

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 5:19 PM

So my Post-Gazette this Sunday came with a copy of the New Testament inside. And strangely enough, Jesus doesn't sound like columnist Jack Kelly at all.

Actually, the delivery didn't come as any surprise. We'd been warned about it awhile back, and there were a handful of P-G readers who threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Despite the uproar, though, there was a noticeable absence of "hallelujahs" or sudden sidewalk conversions on my street this weekend. 

I'm not in a position to criticize the P-G for the ads it takes. For one thing, my own paper accepts ads from "open-minded transexuals," strip clubs, and PNC Bank. With a motley crew like that, I'm not going to fault the P-G for making a buck off the Gospels. I only wish Jesus would advertise with us -- at least there'd be no danger of preaching to the converted. 

I guess it sounds like I'm not taking this very seriously. I've heard from friends who were irked by the insert, and there are people for whom being proselytized to is painful -- a reminder of historic oppression. As someone who once helped teach Sunday school for awhile -- I'll pause and let that sink in -- I suppose I'm less likely to feel that insult. Even so, those of us on the left ought to show the same religious tolerance we ask for from the right. Is it really so oppressive to see Christianity marketed as if it were a white sale? 

****

If any media story DID bug me on Sunday, it was the realization that CBS has opened up some restaurant near Foxboro Stadium, home of the Northeast Region Patriots (as Penn State professor Michael Berube calls them). It's not just the rampant product-placement I'm going to loathe -- it's all the Patriots-related vaporings we'll apparently be forced to hear all season long. Already, my Steelers-watching experience was marred by jokes like -- "It's easier to get a great meal from the CBS Scene than it is to get an injury report from the Patriots!

Haha. Ha. Heh. Hrrrrrrr....

***

In other media news, my old friend -- and former coworker -- Jim Quinn has again drawn the attention of Media Matters for America, the liberal media-watchdog site. MMFA has begun diversifying its targets from the usual Limbaugh/Hannity/Colter suspects to more regional voices, who otherwise tend to run below the radar. Now the group has started given an ear to Quinn, retaining a hapless intern to listen in. On the plus side, this means Quinn's silliness will be on display for all to see. Then again ... this means Quinn's silliness will be on display for all to see.

But the latest MMFA post is an amusing read, especially when Quinn gets pissy and starts acting tough. "[W]hat did I get busted for last week?" Quinn asks. "Oh yeah, 'The Bitch Is Back,' the Hillary theme song. Apparently this intern that they've got listening to our show every day, Greg Johnson, just started listening because we've been using that theme song for, oh, upwards of 13 years."

Let me get this straight: You've been doing the exact same shtick for 13 freaking years, you've finally found someone who hasn't heard it before -- and you're complaining?

*****

A final note. An interesting piece in today's New York Times that asks, "Is the definition of companies that are 'too big to fail' getting broader?" As the piece notes, financial companies like Bear Stearns and Fannie Mae are getting bailouts, while "the once-powerful American steel industry was allowed to shrink to a shadow of its former self." 

It got me to thinking: In my lifetime, this country has been content to shed many of the industries that generate wealth by actually, you know, making stuff. Whereas the financial firms, which merely shift wealth around, get all the attention. 

There are economic reasons why the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout was inevitable. For one thing, if the housing giants had failed it would have pissed off foriegn investors -- and they're about the only ones who still have any faith in this economy. So as much as it sucks to think my tax dollars are going to be spent preserving the assets held by a Russian plutocrat, I guess the alternative is worse. 

Even so, I'm reminded of the wisdom of Western Pennsylvania native Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire. "When the biggest, glassiest buildings in town belong to banks," he said, "you know that town is in trouble."

That's been Pittsburgh's fate for the past quarter-century. And now it's America's too. Our economy is more dependent than ever on what is often called the FIRE sector -- Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate. None of these businesses produce anything; they just find new ways of "securitizing" the wealth generated by others. It's a very slender thread for an economy to hang on ... but as we've seen, politicians are much more sympathetic to Wall Street titans than they are to, say, steelworkers from Monaca. And so billions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on bailouts -- not to make steel mills more competitive, but to "restore consumer confidence." 

You know what other business venture falls apart when people lose confidence in it? Ponzi schemes.

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