Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
While slamming Democrats, [American Postal Workers Union president Mark] Dimondstein reserved special condemnation for Issa, the Republicans’ leading voice on postal reform. Noting that Issa had proposed eliminating Saturday postal service as part of a bill undoing veterans’ pension cuts, the union president called the congressman “a pure enemy of the Postal Service…”
This is, of course, a half-truth. In fact, Issa has shown himself to be an enemy of all public services, including free parks and libraries. He has consistently advocated the privatization of all govt functions, proposing that even police and military be replaced by private security firms and fire depts be paid for by subscription. So it really isn’t fair for the postal workers’ union to single him out. Still, it’s typical of the Issa wing of the party (the wing which is, after all, in control of the party) to attach an attack on a public union to a bill cutting veterans’ benefits. Sort of a Pub’s Dream Two-fer.
An Issa “spokesperson” (you can never get these guys to reply personally to any communication from the hoi-polloi) replied to the union’s criticism this way:
This false claim about privatization is being pushed by entrenched special interests who oppose common sense and bipartisan reforms in both House and Senate postal modernization bills.
“Special interests” may be accurately considered as a reference to unions since Issa defines “public interest” as anything a corporation wants, but the interesting word here is “false”. Whenever Issa and his people have claimed that some unpleasant fact reported about this peppy little stooge of the powerful was “false”, all the evidence proved it was true, which in turns mean this flat denial likely proves it’s exactly what this is all about.
The most obvious question here is: did Staples contribute to Issa’s campaign and if so how much? But Salon’s reporter, Josh Eidelson never asks – let alone answers – that question. Instead he delves deeply into Dianne Feinstein’s husband’s connections to Staples (to no very great effect) because he’s suspicious of La F’s refusal to support the union’s preferred bill (offered by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders), a bill he doesn’t bother to explain.
It seems that even “progressives” can’t bring themselves to directly attack extreme corporate puppets like Issa, who has never had a thought a corporation didn’t put in his head.
PS I don’t have to explain why privatizing the Post Office is a really bad idea, do I?
Magicians use misdirection to pull off most of their tricks. While you’re watching the hand they’re waving, the other hand is hiding the goodies. American news media used to pride itself on seeing through the distractions to the truth underneath, but that was in the days before Richard Viguerie, Roger Ailes, and the rest of the AEI-inspired right wing noise machine showed everybody how much ordinary people hate anybody who fucks with their precious illusions, and how much more money news media outlets could make if they tossed Truth down the disposal and concentrated instead on feeding into the fantasy.
Now, after 30 years of corporate media whose idea of professionalism is healthy quarterly increases to the bottom line by refusing to challenge the illusions of their “audience” or make them uncomfortable in any way, we have a news media so degenerate that when a conscience-stricken NSA nerd blows the whistle on the largest govt spying operation since the fall of the Wall turned the Stasi into traffic cops, the single element they choose to key on is…the whistleblower. Read the rest of this entry »
When people who have no respect for law are teaching law, you know you’re fucked.
And yes, he’s stupid, too.
There was always some question about whether there was anything that explained the long, pointless, childish GOP refusal to allow Sen Al Franken to be seated until every last legal option had been worn to a frazzle and the Minnesota electorate with it beyond the inherent stubbornness of bad losers to admit they lost. Well, maybe. Look at the first thing Franken did: submit a bill to embarrass a favorite Republican contributor/contractor and Cheney’s ex-corpo (yeah, right), Halliburton, by refusing to let them walk away scot-free from the Jamie Leigh Jones kidnapping and rape charges. The WaPo’s Katherine Parker is apparently having a problem understanding why they fell so easily into Franken’s trap. It’s a good question but the answer is ludicrously simple. Read the rest of this entry »
Oscar Wilde said that a cynic was someone who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. The dictionary says a cynic is someone “who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view”. Those are both pretty negative definitions. Yet there’s another aspect of cynicism, a positive one, that rarely gets any press: a cynic is someone who assumes that anyone who tries to sell him a pig in a poke is a crook.
It’s that aspect that we might consider re-energizing in America after 30 years of being conned, manipulated, lied to, and asked to swallow mountains of shit they told us was chocolate pudding. We have lived through an era in which the worst one could say about a person was that s/he was negative, pessimistic, untrusting, and had no “faith” in his/her leaders; that that lack of faith meant s/he hated America and was at the very least a terrorist cheerleader who wanted to see America go down the tubes because how could s/he doubt that everything s/he was told was true unless s/he was a faithless, pessimistic doom-monger? Everything was the best in the best of all possible worlds and anybody who didn’t believe that was a) a worthless liberal/Commie simp and b) a TRAITOR.
Only it turns out we weren’t. It turns out that even the most cynical of us nevertheless underestimated the greed, mendacity, arrogance, and cruelty of the leaders we were expected to put absolute faith in, were supposed to trust with our country and our lives. It turns out that expecting what we considered to be the worst possible outcomes, we missed the mark by a mile-and-a-half. Skepticism wasn’t enough. We should have been much more than skeptical. We should have been cynical. As much distrust as we had, we should have had more. It was justified.
Once upon a time a Russian expatriot who hated the Soviets because they destroyed her father’s pharmaceutical business emigrated to the United States and wrote a few books about how wonderful money and the people who make it and spend it are. She postulated a “philosophy” called “Objectivism” that 15 yr-olds with untreatable acne and rich people who fancied themselves Masters of the Universe found fascinating and rewarding. This “philosophy”, by her own definition, was one that was built around the concept of man as a heroic figure as long as he was making a lot of money and a useless wimp who was a boil on the ass of the universe if he wasn’t. Perhaps that explains its appeal to the two groups mentioned above.
Paul Krugman reminds me to remind you that the VRWC is still fully operational. In fact you can see it playing out RIGHT NOW in “The Great (Fake) TeaBag Caper“.
[I]t turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
This is, of course, precisely the technique they used to drown the newspapers of 1983 in letters and demonstrations and (canned) phone calls demanding that they stop “picking on” St Ronnie. Paul may only go back as far as 2000 but I go all the way back to the beginning.
Ronald Reagan was neither an intelligent nor a well-read man. When members of the Congress first met him in person, almost universally their first impression of him was that he was astoundingly ignorant. He knew nothing about how government actually operated, nothing about other countries, nothing about treaties, and little about the functions of his own agencies. In The Power Game (1989), Hedrick Smith draws a clear picture of a man who was extremely good at acting the role of a “president” yet lacked nearly all the knowledge and most of the governing skills one would consider minimum in the leader of the most powerful country on earth. Or any country, for that matter.
In other words, Ronald Reagan was pretty much a stooge/figurehead. He looked good on tv but the real work was being done by others. Reagan bragged about being a “delegator” and he was. He delegated virtually every responsibility of his office to others. On closer inspection his vaunted political skills, for instance, turn out to have been not his but Bush Family consiglieri James Baker’s, at least in the first term. Baker beat back his sillier ideas and protected him from his own political and intellectual stupidity. When Baker left in the second term to become Treas Sec his place was taken by a member of the California Mafia Reagan had brought with him to DC, Atty Gen Edwin Meese, who had been Reagan’s Chief of Staff when he was Gov of California. Meese was an ideologue, not a politician. Like most far-right ideologues, including Saint Ronnie, he looked down his nose at politicians and made no attempt to cultivate members of Congress. As a result of his arrogant naivete, Reagan’s so-called “political skills” deserted him in the second term and in pretty short order we had the public relations disasters and Constitutional crises of Bitburg, Reykjavik, and Iran/Contra. Among others.
But if his political skills actually belonged to someone else and his intellectual quotient was negligible, it’s undeniable that he looked good on television. He was the Grandad we never had, the old man whose pithy comments sounded like wisdom if you didn’t think about them for more than 12 seconds and who gave you quarters for ice cream cones when your parents wanted you to wait til after supper. He was sweet, he looked harmless, and if he said stupid stuff once in a while (OK, a lot), he was nevertheless kind and mostly harmless. We liked him. And we didn’t like it when the press kept picking on him, making fun of him for saying that trees pollute and debunking his funny stories, like the one about the welfare queen and her Cadillac. So what if it didn’t happen? So what if she didn’t even exist? So what if he heard it at a cocktail party for his rich corporate executive sponsors and believed it? What difference did that make? Leave the guy alone.
The reason for Reagan’s huge popularity has always escaped me. He struck me as an incompetent clown who had somehow escaped from the John Birch Society Circus. I could believe California could take a mental midget, raging right-wing fruitcake and professional corporate mouthpiece seriously – everybody in CA is nutz – but it never occurred to me that the country-at-large would do anything but tell him to shut up, go home, eat his porridge and quit bothering the grown-ups. I should have known better. We voted for Tricky Dick twice and he was a paranoid-schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur and a mean streak. But our feeling for Reagan went far beyond mere approval. It approached love, and that baffled me. Still does. But then as a director and actor I’m used to separating actors from the roles they play. The country clearly wasn’t. They fell for all of it, the whole childish performance, cowboy boots and all. In fact, they adored it. And him.
The SPI has been one of my favorite online papers for several years and regular readers of this and my other old blogs have probably noticed how often I link to it. There have been rumors swirling for weeks that the paper was about to go under, and last week it seemed that the only question left was “When?” The answer is…today.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will roll off the presses for the last time Tuesday.
The Hearst Corp. announced Monday that it would stop publishing the 146-year old newspaper, Seattle’s oldest business, and cease delivery to more than 117,600 weekday readers.
Though not quite at McClatchy’s level, the SPI has been a font of alternative (to the mass media) news and opinion that I relied heavily on in the early years of Bushism when the national news giants were busy kowtowing to Bush/Cheney hysteria and playing stenographer instead of, you know, reporting.
I have been afraid this day would come and sorry for it but I was wrong. For me, actually, it’s not coming. Hearst has done what Mark Gisleson at Norwegianity has been advocating for, I think, decades. They’re dumping paper and publishing exclusively online.
The company, however, said it would maintain seattlepi.com, making it the nation’s largest daily newspaper to shift to an entirely digital news product.
“Tonight we’ll be putting the paper to bed for the last time,” Editor and Publisher Roger Oglesby told a silent newsroom Monday morning. “But the bloodline will live on.”
In a news release, Hearst CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said, “Our goal now is to turn seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region.”
The new operation will be more than a newspaper online, Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said. The so-called “community platform” will feature breaking news, columns from prominent Seattle residents, community databases, photo galleries, 150 citizen bloggers and links to other journalistic outlets.
It may be that we’re about to find out just how viable Mark’s idea is. Advertising revenue for the website seems to be solid (more than it was for the paper edition) but the organization lost $14M last year, so Hearst isn’t going to risk more than it thinks it has to. They’re only going to keep 20 staffers for the online edition and another 20 to keep the advertising flowing. Everybody else is laid off, as of today (no actual number of lay-offs is given).
Some of the best-known writers and support staff will be going to the Seattle Times, but most will be unemployed. There isn’t a single word in the article about what will or might happen to the grunts at the publishing house who actually produced the physical paper. Even if the SPI farmed out the publishing to a commercial house, the loss of a contract like this has to hurt.
Hearst was at one point expected to buy the ST and simply shift people over but that didn’t happen and the reason it didn’t may say something about the future of news.
Hearst had long been expected to buy The Seattle Times, but it became clear in January that the idea had been abandoned. Swartz said that an acquisition wouldn’t be prudent, but the decision not to buy the Times was not specific to the Times’ finances.
“In no way do we feel that newspapers won’t turn around from where they are now, but when you’re looking at making acquisitions, you have to look at where could the cash flow fall before it turns,” he said. “In the current environment it just didn’t seem prudent to be bidding for any newspapers.”
Food for thought, eh?
The change that turned our hard-hitting investigative journalists into weenie stenographers, government propagandists, and apologists for the administration (as long as it was a conservative Republican administration, that is) was driven neither by financial necessity nor some elemental and irresistible cosmic force. It was a deliberate conservative conspiracy that had definite origins, sponsors, centers, designers, and strategic planning. It’s time to take a look at who – and what – they were.
The American Enterprise Institute
In 1943, Lewis Harold Brown, the CEO of Johns-Manville, primary manufacturer of asbestos, decided that FDR was a Communist, that his programs were at best socialist, and that what the country needed was a think tank for the development and spreading of conservative ideas. He founded the American Enterprise Association and hired about a dozen of the country’s top conservatives to staff it and to figure out how to get conservatives into power positions with the aim of killing the New Deal and eliminating personal and corporate income taxes. Brown was one of a number of far-right industrial barons at the time who were enraged with FDR and wanted him impeached or otherwise put out of the way.
They weren’t just PO’d and they weren’t the kind to sit on their hands and let democracy take its course. They were the kind who hired strikebreakers to kill unionists and arranged for union leaders to be murdered or even framed for murders they didn’t commit. They were the kind who corrupted local police and bought & sold local and state politicians. They were the kind who, like Jerry MacGuire, a top Wall Street bond salesman and former Commander of the Connecticut American Legion, and William Doyle, Commander of the Massachusetts American Legion, fantasized about a fascist military coup that would remove Roosevelt by force and replace him with a pro-Wall Street dictator, and then went out and tried to engineer it.
Brown wasn’t quite that flamboyant – or that stupid. His approach was much quieter, much deeper, but it didn’t grow much fruit during his lifetime. Three years after he died in 1951, William Baroody took over the AEA and renamed it the American Enterprise Institute. Baroody was much more in line with the MacGuire/Doyle brand of thinking, if he wasn’t willing to take it quite as far as they did. He was a proponent of aggressive, take-no-prisoners conservative political action, and he was focused almost single-mindedly on infiltrating far-right-wing conservatives into the US government. He saw himself, as Rick Perlstein wrote in a profile two years ago, as “a conservative empire builder”.
William J. Baroody Sr., the son of an immigrant stonecutter from New Hampshire, I relate in my book on the rise of the conservative movement, “was cagey, Machiavellian, hungry – a conservative empire builder”: he turned a humble business lobby against wartime price controls, the American Enterprise Association, into a full-service conservative “think tank,” the American Enterprise Institute. What a hustler he was! He told reporters, “I really can’t say whether I am a liberal or a conservative.” He put up pictures of himself with Hubert Humphrey up on his office walls; thus was AEI’s status as “non-partisan,” suitable for tax-deductible donations, vouchsafed.
He also, when it came time for his man Barry Goldwater to run for president, made of himself a sort of money launderer.
In early 1965, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch studied the expenses of the American Enterprise Institute for the previous, presidential, year. He found that the budget of AEI had suddenly and inexplicably grown 22 percent. Baroody Sr. spent the year on “paid leave”—indeed, earning a more than 10 percent raise from the employer he did not work for that year; instead, he occupied the office next to Goldwater’s at campaign headquarters, running his research operations, with several AEI employees on staff beside him. The AEI offices might have mostly been empty. Nonetheless, the outfit’s biggest budget item for 1964 was, fishily, “overhead.” Plainly, people were sluicing money to the Goldwater campaign through AEI as contributions to a tax-exempt “educational” institution.
Baroody built AEI into a conservative powerhouse. By the 1970′s, Baroody had grown it exponentially, ” from a group of twelve resident ‘thinkers’ to a well-funded organization with 145 resident scholars, 80 adjunct scholars, and a large supporting staff. This period of growth was largely funded by the Howard Pew Freedom Trust.” According to SourceWatch, “The Howard Pew Freedom Trust is one of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Financed by the Sun Oil fortune, it played an important role in the 1970s in greatly expanding the budget of the American Enterprise Institute, giving the AEI a total of $6 million between 1976 and 1981.”
Baroody used the money to buy influence and, not surprisingly, succeeded. By the 80′s, the Reagan Administration was hip-deep in AEI Fellows and Members – Richard Perle, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Fred Kagan, Newt Gingrich (a first-term Representative at the time), Norm Ornstein, Dick Cheney, Michael Ledeen (who was a courier for Oliver North during the rogue arms-for-hostages op), “Fat Tony” Scalia, Michael Novak, and even one Cabinet Sec, George Schultz at State.
All 155 passengers were rescued from the US Airways jet that crashed into the Hudson. What the media has failed completely to mention is that the rescuers were all union members. For instance:
Sullenberger is a former national committee member and the former safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association and now represented by US Airline Pilots Association. He–and his union–have fought to ensure pilots get the kind of safety training to pull off what he did yesterday.
Studs Terkel complained for years that while every newspaper had a Business Section, a Lifestyle Section, and a Travel Section, none – NONE – had a Labor Section. In fact, most newspapers, magazines, and electronic news shows ignore Labor until somebody gets caught with their hand in the till or some employer shafts his emloyees so badly they go on strike. Even in the latter case, the papers and news shows (teevee, as usual, is the worst offender this way) usually approach strikes as demands for money, rarely bothering to go into other issues – workplace safety, job security, health insurance – that make up the background to most job actions.
And then we wonder why unions have such a lousy reputation. But of course the corporate media doesn’t under-report unions because it’s biased against Labor.
No, no, it can’t be that.
Reprinted from 12.24.06
This would be the time, if ever there was one, to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, but before we can do that to any purpose we need to clear away some of the dead wood by exploding a couple of the myths that have built up around it since the holiday became popular in the late 19th century. Chief among these is the legend that Christmas is Christian, or even religious.
Myth #1: That Christmas used to be a religious holiday but has been turned into a consumer carnival
It may seem obvious that Christmas is a Christian holiday. The very name of the day suggests a celebration of Christ, and certainly many have bemoaned the fact that Xmas seems to have lost its religious meaning under a barrage of commercialism. Back in the 1950′s the satirist Stan Freberg released a classic record called “$Green Christmas$” which savagely criticized what Christmas had become even then; its chief sound effect was the ringing of a cash register. Behind all the criticism was then – and is now – a belief that Christmas had once meant something it no longer means, that what was originally the celebration of a religious figure has been twisted into a callous, materialist frenzy of buying stuff.
The truth is somewhat different.
This arrived in the mail.
You too can intimidate, embarrass, or humiliate your friends into voting for Obama by pre-blaming them for a McC win. Just click “Customize This Video for Your Friends” and fill out the form. You can send it to dozens of shirkers li8ke me and nmake them feel really bad. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Over at Suburban Guerrilla Susie is asking if maybe the netroots‘ priorities are all backwards.
For a while now, I’ve had the very strong sense that things have been exactly ass-backwards, upside down in the blogosphere – that the peak of Maslow’s triangle is nowhere near roomy enough to carry the weight of a meaningful movement. And yes, of course telecom immunity is an important issue – but where would you place it on the triangle? Fight first to make sure people are fed, take care of their most basic needs and build the netroots coalition from that.
…See, to me, progressive values have always been about economic and social justice…
I get her point. I even thank her for it. But there’s something she’s not considering.
Yes, the online netroots is to a degree elitist, no question. In order to take part, you need either the money or the time, preferably both. And yes, there are real-world needs (as opposed to virtual world desires) that have actual consequences attached to not meeting them, like starvation or poverty or no education. But beyond all that there is a deadly political situation to be considered – deadly for us, down here in the trenches – which, if it isn’t turned around, will almost certainly wind up killing us and the nation, and the netroots may be (I said may be) our only way to affect that kind of change.
You see, we’re not much for politics down here even though it is politics that determines the economy that feeds and houses us (or not, like the Bush Economy). We’re kinds too busy making ends meet to get organized in our spare time, which we don’t have much of in the first place because either we don’t work at all and have to hustle 24/7 or we work 16 hours a day and take care of the kids at night and spend our weekends (if we don’t have to work overtime for straight pay) cleaning the house, food shopping, cooking, and so on (and on and on and on….).
So we need the netroots. They got the time, energy and money we don’t have to fight the people who are making us miserable, and they’re trying to figure out how to do that. We’ll help when we can but first we have to ensure our own day-to-day survival – you know, those things you were talking about earlier. Besides, the PTB don’t listen to us anyway. We know that. But they do listen to the activists, to the media, and, of course, to that virtual combination of the two, the netroots. Oh, not about everything. But some things, and that’s already more than we could make them do.
See, that’s kinda how it works. The establishment learned a long time ago that if you keep slaves busy and worn out, they’ll be too tired to revolt. And so we are. We have been pushed so far down that we have no energy left for anything but mere sheer survival. We struggle with everyday matters trying to keep our heads above water, which leaves no room for giving the Boss a hard time about – well, about much of anything.
And it’s important to us that we eventually have access to the net. If they shut us off from that, too, we will have lost one of the last tools of non-violent protest available to us. They’ve closed or cut back the libraries, or attached fees to library use that we can’t afford to pay on the meager salaries they give us; they’re taking away analog (over-the-air) tv so we have to buy cable; they’re even trying very hard to make radio a pay service. Short of the local papers, which are as big a joke as local news shows, the best way to find out what’s going on, respond to it, and even organize around it, is the internet. We need it, and right now we need somebody to save it for us.