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Opinion Editorial

We now have a fourth branch of government.

This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is allknowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance, but I prefer “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.


“Schadenfreude” is a German word for the “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” Psychologists believe that this sentiment has a correlation with envy and low selfesteem. However, I have a feeling, that virtually no one is immune from occasional bouts of schadenfreude. Maybe this explains why the daily news tends to be pessimistic. Perhaps we are only being served the madness and mayhem that our psyches crave.

The perception that there is too much “bad news” is a complaint often made by people who read, listen and watch a fair amount of it. It's depressing, but they can't turn away. I've gone off on a news bender a time or two and know the feeling. Digesting too much news is like chewing bubble gum way after the flavor is gone. It just makes your jaw sore.

A study done last year at Canada's McGill University demonstrated that most people, even those who claim to prefer positive news, tend to seek out the negative. Participants at computer terminals were told that they were part of "a study of eye tracking," when actually it was articles they chose that were being tracked. (Doesn't everybody know by now that studies like these are a ruse in order to test something else?) The majority of the stories read by those tested were on the dark side of the news spectrum.


The latest trend in job interviews is the situational question. “What would you do if you observed your co-worker stealing?” or “Describe an unpopular decision you have made and how you dealt with it?” are examples of questions that presumably will cut to the employment chase and reveal an applicant's true nature.

Human resources, formerly known as personnel, futurely hoping to be called “talent acquisition,” is perpetually coming up with the latest and greatest techniques for screening prospective employees. A strong work ethic is passé. Who cares what you can actually do, when you can scam your way though a gauntlet of hypotheticals?

I use the word “scam,” because effectively answering situational questions is a technique that can be mastered without necessarily having the actual ability to handle the situations described. Articulating what you should do is not the same as being able to do it. This is a variation of “teaching to the test,” where applicants can learn the methodology of the test without necessarily knowing the subject matter.


Recently the President mused about making voting mandatory. Mr. Obama said, "It would be transformative if everybody voted – that would counteract money more than anything." The plan probably would end up with even more money being spent on elections. Hordes of additional disinterested voters would be ripe for cheesy catch phrases with attack ads showing candidates filmed in black and white, while moving ominously in slow motion.

It might be transformative if everyone decided voluntarily to vote, but the mandatory part is a little spooky. There's something odd about being forced to exercise freedom. Imagine compulsory recitations of the pledge of allegiance. Sure, we make the kiddies say words they might not understand, but we grownups aren't going to be told what to do. A lot of folks enjoy flying American flags at their homes but that pride and satisfaction would scatter to the wind if flag display was required under penalty of law.


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