Monday, August 31, 2009

Change You Can Bank On


Via FAIR's blog:

Way Cleared for More 'Excessive Media Consolidation'

08/29/2009 by Gabriel Voiles

On news that "today, a federal court threw out the Federal Communications Commission's rule to cap cable ownership at 30 percent," Free Press (8/28/09) comments "the rule served as an important consumer protection from media consolidation and growing cable cartels, and encouraged diversity in ownership in the cable industry."

The media advocacy group's Ben Scott further calls it

regrettable that the court tossed out an important public interest protection against excessive media consolidation. Congressional intent in the Cable Act of 1992 is very clear--the goals of federal policy in the cable industry are to promote competition, consumer choice and a diversity of programming. And yet today we have a cable cartel--the video industry is dominated by only a handful of large cable operators and studios.

Today consumers experience perpetual price hikes by large operators that already have market dominating purchasing power to decide the fate of new channels. The promises of lower prices through competition from satellite and telecom companies in the video business have never been realized.

While today "the court ruled the FCC's action as 'arbitrary and capricious,'" Free Press reminds us of how "the same court threw out the rule in 2001, but it was reinstated by the FCC in 2008 due to fears of growing market power of big cable companies."

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Further Comment On Schooling


Educators know pretty much, now, what works. They/we have more or less figgered out (within fairly broad limits) how learners learn (cooperatively, and constructively--what's called "cheating," in school)), why they learn (relevance, interest), and the best ways to teach 'em (Zone of Proximal Development, e.,g.). They (we) worked it out mostly by 1990.

What works is an active pedagogy (c.f., Vygotsky, e.g.). Watch a kid teach another kid to play a video game. You'll get the idea. Not included anywhere in the knowledge base is the relentless devotion to slavishly learned, rote, formulaic recitation. But that is essentially the mandate of the federal "school acountability" program called No Child Left Behind. "Accountability" = Testable/measurable. Spelling and phonics are 'testable.' Such tests yield "real" measures, quantifiable, scalable results. What works and what's testable are not in the same conversation.

But as with the program discussed below, Reading Rainbow, priorities--never much favorable to emancipatory pedagogies, ways of learning that actually EMPOWER learners--have changed and hardened, as the Education officialdom tries to avoid the implications of the single most revealing statistic in all education: That over 60% of ALL variance on students' performance on standardized tests, in between groups measures, are accounted for by ONE and ONLY one variable: the socio-economic status (SES) of the students' family. The only way to reliably "improve" students' performance is to reduce economic inequity and disparity. In which NOBODY in the official structure of ANY government of any corporate state has the slightest interest.

As you can imagine, this empirical reality is inconvenient in a regime in which BILLIONS of dollars are being harvested off 'test scores." Tests which hold to "standards," and 'criteria," and 'knowledge." It's a racket, and everybody who is anybody (Arne Duncan, e.g.) has more than an academic stake in the outcome. The stakes are very very high.

How high? Well take a look at the ad for the "Disney" (Branded) "Learning system" marketed in the ad below. Imagine how much "R&D" money was spent on the Mickey Mouse phonics kit in the ad with the post below. That the Mickster himself is the iconic emblem tells you they intend to make hoardes of cash off this trivial piece of shit.

There are a LOT of people who have taken the time to expound on this matter, quite lucidly. Alfie Kohn is one. Susan Ohanian is another. Read anything by Gerald Bracey, a regular at HuffPost, and previously the resident gadfly at the Phi Delta Kappan.On "reading," read my former colleagues Ken and Yetta Goodwin, Frank Smith, Shirley Brice Heath, Jim Gee or Donna Alvermann.

The academic Vygotskyans are many. James Wersch for one prominent example. Vygotsky watched kids teaching and learning from one another, all with varied experiences and skills. Out in Turkmenistan, in the '30s. He got it.

But that kind of insight is anathema when there are billions to be made testing, and disqualifying thousands of students from participation in the good life. All tests do is to provide retrospective evidence with which to sustain and retroactively justify decisions made about students before they ever entered a classroom, based on their zip codes more than their IQs.

The "reformers," like that villain Duncan and his coterie of sycophantic, corpoRat henchfolk, are the militarists, the CorpoRatists. They do not seek to promote democracy, which was the underlying telos of the public school movement of the 1840s and '50s. They are trying to implement a wholesale transformation from democratic education to corporate indoctrination. For what that looks like i n practice, read last month's (August, '09) Harper's article on going to school in Toyota-ville, Kentucky.

And with the enthusiastic complicity of the Corporatist, neo-liberal President, they are succeeding. They've been up to trying to find the appropriate formula since 1980. With Obama's embrace of the Corporatocracy of Duncan, I guess it's a fucking done deal.

Reading Well Is The Most Democratic Art...

Which, of course, is why Arne Duncan and the CorpoRat/Militarist/Authoritarian mafia he represents--the skill/drill and accountability nazis--are so ardently endeavoring to seeing it rendered useless and despised. A truly literate polity would be the bane of the techno-tyrants who reach for the reins of law and custom by restricting 'meaning' and how it is constructed. Phonics and spelling do not prepare the reader to think critically about the text, its context, and its authority.

They don't have to control what you read if they control HOW you read (or don't, in the optimal case).

Another step along that path was taken today, when the producers of "Reading Rainbow," an honored and long-lasting childrens' tv show which promoted reading for its own sake, for entertainment, and for fun, announced they were being forced to cancel the show for lack of funding. Think Progress has a piece up today describing the situation, with an episode:

Decision to end ‘Reading Rainbow’ traced to a ‘shift’ in priorities during the Bush administration.

“Reading Rainbow,” of the most beloved and long-running children’s education shows, is airings its last episode today. The show, hosted by actor LeVar Burton, started in 1983. John Grant, who is in charge of programming at Reading Rainbow’s home station, explains that part of the reason the show is ending is because no one — including PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) — wants to continue funding it. The other reason can be traced back to a “shift” in priorities during the Bush administration:

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
Love a book? Love literature? That's Fahrenheit 451-territory. Subversive, anti-authoritarianism. Obviously, that kind of seditious behavior cannot be practiced under the imprimatur of the State.
"The Bush DoE...wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling."
That's not even correct. Phonics and spelling are not the basic tools of reading. They are the basic tools of CONTROLLING reading, of SCORING reading, of ROBBING reading of meaning and usefulness, and rendering it an odious chore...

The reason that "what" books one reads in school matters is that the fundamental national curriculum discourse basically assumes those books will be the only books students will EVER read.

There's a woman named Susan Ohanian who blogs relentlessly on this subject. I taught her books when I was professing reading pedagogy a decade and more ago, and I seldom saw and do not in any case recall anyone with a better grasp of the issues and arts of reading and teaching it effectively. Sign up for her daily newsletter/link page.

Military Officials Are "Profiling" Reporters, Even Stars & Stripes

From CJR, yesterday (though the story was around elsewhere),
At The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman flags a pair of stories from Stars and Stripes reporting that journalists who seek to embed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan are screened by a D.C.-based PR firm, which examines “whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light.”

Military spokesmen insisted to Stars and Stripes that the profiles are innocuous, and that, to the extent a journalists’ prior reporting is evaluated, it is for accuracy only. But those claims seem to be undermined by the preamble of one of the profiles obtained by the paper, which reads, “The purpose of this memo is to provide an assessment of [a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper] … in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on an embed mission in Afghanistan.” In a subsequent story, the paper writes that "it remains unclear whether military commanders in Afghanistan have ever acted on [the firm's] suggestions about how best to steer journalists toward 'positive' coverage."

As it happens, the September/October issue of CJR—arriving soon!—contains a story by veteran Iraq correspondent Jane Arraf about how the U.S. military is now discouraging almost any coverage of the war there. After a period of openness during the “surge,” the military now offers “reduced access and reduced engagement with reporters” in Iraq, Arraf writes. And it's not just the embed process that's more difficult—simply getting information from the central press office has become a challenge. In light of that fact, news that the Pentagon is paying a PR company $1.5 million to pull together information on reporters—whether or not "rating" is occurring—is disconcerting.
It would seem that even reporters for Stars&Stripes itself are screened and profiled for their pro-war ardor.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is ABC Putting John Stossel In Charge Of "Health Reform" Coverage?

Both C&L yesterday, and TP, today, have had pieces up about ABC handing the "anchor" role in the network's coverage of the Health Care reform debates over to John Stossel. Stossel is a feckless, soi-disant "libertarian" lightweight, a vicious liar, and a whining coward. No story to which John Stossel's name is attached should proceed without reference to the following vid (which is just about my favorite bit of video EVAH!):


John Stossel is a chickenshit.

Btw: I have often wanted to do that to asswipes who diss teachers, too. Just bitch-slap the fuckers, and kick 'em when they're down, so's they'll stay down, and shut the fuck up...

Interviewing RNC Chair Steele, Today, Insqueak Showed Faint Traces of Vestigial Reportorial "Stones"


I thought my ears were deceiving me. I shook my head in wonderment at what my senses beheld. Awesome, unusual, astonishing QUESTIONS? From NPR? For a Puke Functionary? I was fuukin AMAZED.

Little Steevie Insqueak sounded almost like he had a couple of tiny, vestigial STONES rolled up under his usual fluff and anal tongue-laving of the powerful. It made me a little nostalgic. ThinkProgress has a (non-working) link and a transcript

And Steele was obviously non-plussed at the reception. He was clearly expecting the usual, deferrential, ass-licking posture NPR usually accords the satraps of the Right. GOPukes NEVER get asked hard questions on NPR (Remember: You cannot spell REPUBLICAN without NPR!)...

But there's Insqueak, relentlessly almost badgering Steele to answer a question, straight up.
I’m still having a little trouble with the notion that you’re going to write to protect Medicare, you’re going to preserve this program, that you’re going to make sure that this government-run health care program stays solvent in the long-term –

STEELE: Let’s get it to run right.

INSKEEP: — and yet you’re opposing “government-run health care.”
I was as surprised as if Cokie Roberts had admitted the real origin of her nickname...

Now if NPR will just start naming "Wan" Williams, when he's introduced as NPR's "senior" lick-spittle analys, as the odious, venal, mendacious, sycophantic flunky for Murdoch and O'Reilly that he really is, you might begin to hope that the Network is turning back to its roots (well, you'd have to fire Robert Siegel, and the feckless, useless ombud, too).

SOCIALISM!

I never go to Kos. I was forbidden ever even to register. I find much of the commentary, there, banal. However, this is pretty good.

DOTOF™: George Cullinan/FB.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Glenn-zilla /Democracy Now: On CIA Interrogation Probe, Obama and Why the Media Failed on Covering Torture

Greenwald:
...I think Eric Holder’s announcement that there will be at least some investigation at least takes away the idea that all of this conduct, this torture regime, ought to be immunized from the rule of law and the mere fact that it was done in the name of terrorism means that somehow breaking the law is permissible in a republic that is supposed to live in accordance with the rule of law. So I think that’s a positive step.

I think the problem with the announcement, though, and it’s a significant problem, is that he has indicated that anybody who complied with the OLC torture memos, the memos that essentially gave permission to the CIA to engage in what was obviously torture, and who did so in good faith will receive immunity from investigations and prosecutions. And what that, I think, is intended to do, and what it almost certainly will accomplish, is to mean that the high-level political officials who actually implemented the torture regime—the Bush officials in the White House, the high-level CIA officials—will never be held to account. And at most what will happen is some low-level sadist in the CIA who went beyond the torture permission slips given by the Justice Department might be held accountable, in the same way that in Abu Ghraib low-level grunts were held accountable for what was clearly the policy of high-level policymakers. And I think that’s quite problematic. (Emphasis supplied. W.)
"Problematic?" Yuh FUCKIN' THINK? That's diplomatic. It's a goddamn CRIME!

RIP: Edward M. ("Half-A-Loaf") Kennedy


The "liberal lion of the Senate" succumbed this morning to a brain tumor at age 77.

Kennedy's legislative motto: Why stand for principle when compromise is sooooo much easier than actually fighting for the people?

And you get credit for it, too? They call you a "lion." Even when you lie down with a Chimp...

The idea that half-a-loaf is better than no loaf at all is exactly the same sort of argument which urges that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Which only makes sense if you regard "the good" as good enough.

And it is infinitely easier to make that decision to make if you already have 'enough.'

Kennedy lost a LOT of my respect when he went along--indeed, he endorsed--the Bushevik monstrosity, No Child Left Behind. Even when, last year, he seemed to pull back from NCLB, he was still apparently supportive of the educational philosophy of the "drill, skill, and kill" bill. He approved the appointment of Obama's CorpoRat Edn Sec, Arne Duncan.

Kennedy's was an early and ardent supporter of Mitt Romney's (FAILED!) Massachusetts health plan. His HELP health legislation leadership was squishy, too, though of course he was already dying by them. The plan, preceding him, was DOA. It was essentially ignored both in the "press" and in Congress when it was introduced in June, this year. His celebrity couldn't defeat the Gang of Six cynicism.

I, and the more ardent partisans of the efforts on which he compromised, probably, would have preferred if he hadn't been so "loved'; if he'd died honored but despised by the likes of Orrin Hatch, or John McCain, for his intransigence on matters of principle, I believe his legacy would have been greater.

His rhetorical sympathies were with 'the people,' it's true. He could give a speech. He had good writers.

But his class loyalty was inseparably with the Owners. Probably, he was about as good as "noblesse oblige" gets, these days...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Fearless Max Blumenthal's Newest Documentary

DOTOF™;: Lenin's Tomb

In his own words:
Max Blumenthal and the Daily Nuisance present the trailer for their forthcoming documentary exposing rising repression inside Israel as the country moves rapidly towards authoritarianism. An activist faces jail for blocking bulldozers; the Knesset attempts to criminalize the Nakba and all opposing "Jewish and democratic" state; feminists investigated for incitement to draft dodge; Palestinian-Israelis arrested for election protest -- where is Israel going? Featuring interviews with Ezra Nawi, Breaking the Silence, Sameh Jabarin, Naomi Chazan, Bi'ilin Popular Committee, New Profile and others facing extreme repression from Israel's right-wing government.
Fearless! Rawk Awn!

Israel will never cease to try to expel from or assimilate (preferably the former) Arabs into what it deems its "natural' hegemonic sphere: between the Jordan & the Sea. Israel, by any 'rational' (real-Politik) standard cannot countenance the existence of a separate, sovereign State within its borders. It will NEVER enter into any agreement which provides for anything like a co-equal Arab state in Palestine. Can you see Bibi Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman telling a bunch of settlers to pull back, or explaining to a bunch of kibbutzim why they have to share water with the "filthy Arabs?"

Me neither....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Postal Post- Script: Court Affirms Separation

Imagine you lived in some dilapidated little cross-road town somewhere in the middle of rural Connecticut, and to get your stamps, or mail a package, you had to submit yourself to
the church operate(d) ... contract postal unit in Manchester, Conn. Community residents objected to the religious advertisements and pamphlets, prayer cards, ministry videos, a donation box and other religious items displayed in the same space where the post office is maintained.
Putting it mildly. Americans United Friday (8/21) issued the following statement, praising the Circuit Court for its decision.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended a federal appeals court decision requiring a church to separate its religious outreach from the activities at a church-run postal unit.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church must separate its preaching and proselytizing from the work it does on a contract basis for the U.S. Postal Service.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Americans look to houses of worship if they need religious counsel, not post offices. We expect Uncle Sam, and those he contracts with, to deliver the mail, not preach or pass the plate.”

In the dispute in question, the church operates a contract postal unit in Manchester, Conn. Community residents objected to the religious advertisements and pamphlets, prayer cards, ministry videos, a donation box and other religious items displayed in the same space where the post office is maintained.

The residents sued, represented by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and a federal district court ruled in Cooper’s favor.

The appeals court has now done so as well, requiring the church to clear its postal counter of religious materials and divide the church’s private property from the space used as a post office.

Said Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser, “This decision upholds the important constitutional principle that religious proselytizing must not be injected into the delivery of public services.”

Americans United filed a brief in the Cooper v. U.S. Postal Service case on the residents’ behalf in October 2008. The brief was joined by the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Social Policy Action Network.

“When the state contracts with a private entity to fulfill a governmental obligation in the government’s name and under the government’s banner, the state has a special burden to ensure that its power and identity are not used to advance constitutionally impermissible purposes,” said the AU brief.

The brief was drafted pro bono by attorney Murad Hussain, who was then with the national law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, in consultation with Arnold & Porter attorney Ronald L. Johnston, AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, and Luchenitser.

According to media reports, there are some 5,000 contract postal units around the country, serving small communities where the U.S. Postal Service does not find a full-time post office financially viable.
On one level, putting the station in a church building makes some sense in a rural, relatively undeveloped area, because the church in such a place is highly unlikely to change hands or go under. I imagine the church also hosts a (the?) polling station, as well, for the same reason. Which also raises separation questions...

A New Church-State Dilemma: Can Atheists Adopt?


A silly question, you say?

But, Non, mon cher, it is not a silly, empty question; not in New Jersey. A couple who declined to specify their "faith" affiliation on an adoption application were denied.

No, really!. You can't make up shit like this.
After six years of childless marriage, John and Cynthia Burke of Newark decided to adopt a baby boy through a state agency. Since the Burkes were young, scandal-free and solvent, they had no trouble with the New Jersey Bureau of Children's Services—until investigators came to the line on the application that asked for the couple's religious affiliation.

John Burke, an atheist, and his wife, a pantheist, had left the line blank. As a result, the bureau denied the Burkes' application. After the couple began court action, however, the bureau changed its regulations, and the couple was able to adopt a baby boy from the Children's Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange.

Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 31, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. Since the agency endorsed the adoption, the required final approval by a judge was expected to be pro forma. Instead, Superior Court Judge William Camarata raised the religious issue.

Inestimable Privilege. In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes' right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes' "high moral and ethical standards," he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." Despite Eleanor Katherine's tender years, he continued, "the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being."

The Burkes are now living in Carterville, Ill., near Southern Illinois University, where John Burke has worked for the past year as a speech pathologist. Nevertheless, Judge Camarata ordered the parents to send David's sister back to the New Jersey adoption agency. Two weeks ago, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Burkes appealed directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. If they fail in their appeal, Eleanor Katherine may have to leave the only family she has ever known and await adoption by another couple whose religious convictions satisfy the State of New Jersey.
I detest meddling Christians; Camaratta's probably a mackerel-snapper, too, which makes it even worse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hey Texas? Just Go The Fuck AWAY, Will Ya? Secede. PLEASE!


This is one of the most depressing reports I have read in weeks. At LEAST the equivalent of forcing 'creationist' crap into the science curriculum, the Texas school board now seems intent on rewriting "history" to reflect the vanished glories of the the Reagan Revolution, featuring such exemplary Americans as Phyllis Schlafly and New Gingrich to displace references to Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.

No, really.
Back in April, the Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education had named both David Barton of WallBuilders and the Rev. Peter Marshall, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality, to its social studies curriculum “experts” panel.

When Barton and Marshall released their recommendations for changing the curriculum, they suggested, among other things, dropping mentions of both César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.

"Review committees" are now putting together a draft of a new curriculum based on recommendations from the "expert" panel and it looks they are set to fill their history books with figures like Newt Gingrich, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schlafly:
Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks, but nothing about people or groups considered more liberal.

...

The first draft for proposed standards in "United States History Studies Since Reconstruction" says students should be expected "to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority."

...

Conservatives form the largest bloc on the 15-member State Board of Education, whose partisan makeup is 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, one of the conservative leaders, figures that the current draft will pass a preliminary vote along party lines "once the napalm and smoke clear the room."

But not all conservative board members share that view.

"It is hard to believe that a majority of the writing team would approve of such wording," said Terri Leo, R-Spring. "It’s not even a representative selection of the conservative movement, and it is inappropriate."

Another board conservative, Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, said he thinks that students should study both sides to "see what the differences are and be able to define those differences."

He would add James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the list of conservatives. Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.


Mercer says he would also mention groups like the National Education Association, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and the Texas Freedom Network so that students will be "able to identify what’s conservative ... [a]nd what is liberal in contrast."
This seem stupid, and narrow and parochial, and it would be if it wer only the poor, god-blighted students of Texas who will be affected by this lunacy. The problem is that, because purchases ALL its "approved" texts centrally, it has enormouus influence on the content of those books which, althugh written for Texas, are also inevitably fobbed off on other states because there are NO OTHER EDITIONS.

There used to be a couple of fire-breathing fundies named Gabler who pretty much single-handedly brow-beat the Texas School Bards into submission, And their fell influences are still felt.

It should be made known that, should such changes be inserted into the Texas curriculum, citizens of other states will immediately thenceforth ignore--and treat as a nullity--any Texas educational credential submitted for the fulfillment of any academic pursuit.

The "Dump Wan Williams" Movement Grows

On the staid and studious Balloon Juice today, stand-by/alternate blogger DougJ let fly on the matter of Juan Williams' clearly undivided loyalties to Fox, despite his nominal status as a :
"senior" factotum on NPR. Quoth DougJ: I’m not giving those fuckers a dime until they can Juan Williams. I suggest you all follow my example. I realize that this lapses into boycott territory, but honestly,(the MONEY QUOTE:) why should anyone pay for what we can get for free on Fox?
Well you can do as I do and listen in merely for the headline/summaries, and listen to music the rest of the time. Bloggers, libs in particular, have no reason other than entropy to listen to NPR. Who remembers when Michael Harrington had a weekly segment (iirc, on Fridays?). Harrington was the president of the Social Democrats (Democratic Socialists) of America, a prolific author on poverty and injustice, and an occasional candidate for office. There is no equivalent voice on NPR at ANYTIME today.

Juan Williams is a deplorable hack. He gladly carries water for the racist pigs at Fox. I suppose he's well-paid for it. But it gnaws at me that when he is introduced on NPR, his other (obvioulsy superior) loyalty --and the inherent conflict of interest involved--never gets a word! You'll NEVER hear the words Fox News/Entertainment spoken by any NPR host.

I wish there were a way to contribute to the local station's local/community orientation without also funding NPR. But the funds are fungible. The local contract stipulates so. But since there isn't any alternative, I don't contribute.

If you are a critic of NPR, allow me to direct you to the NPRCheck blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Joe Bageant: "Health Care Debate?" It's "Mob" Extortion!


We've all thought it.

Somebody finally says it, though:
There ain't any health care debate going on, Bubba. What is going on are mob negotiations about insurance and which mob gets the biggest chunk of the dough, be it our taxpayer dough or the geet that isn't in ole Jim's impoverished purse.

The hoo-ha is about the insurance racket, not the delivery of health care to human beings. It's simply another form of extorting the people regarding a fundamental need -- health care.


Unfortunately, the people have been mesmerized by our theater state's purposefully distracting and dramatic media productions for so long that they've been mutated toward helplessness. Consequently, they are incapable of asking themselves a simple question: If insurance corporation profits are one-third of the cost of health care, and all insurance corporations do is deliver our money to health care providers for us (or actually, do everything in their power to keep the money for themselves), why do we need insurance companies at all?

Answer: Because Wall Street gets a big piece of the action. And nobody messes with the Wall Street Mob (as the bailout extortion money proved). Better (and worse) presidents have tried. Some made a genuine effort to push it through Congress. Others expressed the desire publicly, but after getting privately muscled by the health care industry, decided to back off from the idea. For instance:
* Franklin Roosevelt wanted universal health care.
* Harry Truman wanted universal health care.
* Dwight Eisenhower wanted universal health care.
* Richard Nixon wanted universal health care.
* Lyndon Johnson wanted universal health care.
* Bill Clinton wanted -- well we can't definitely say because he made sure that if the issue blew up on him, which it did, Hillary would be left holding the turd. Is it any wonder that woman gets so snappy at the slightest provocation? First, getting left to hold the bag on health care, then the spots on that blue dress.
So why did American liberals believe Barack Obama would bring home the health care bacon? Because they live in an ideological cupcake land. It's a big neighborhood, a very special place where "Your vote is important" and "by electing the right candidate, you can change our beloved nation."(The specifically Murkin sub-continent of "Delusiana." Emphases supplied. W.)

Most of America lives in that neighborhood, even though they've never personally met. It's a place where the shrubbery and flowerbeds of such things as "values" and "hope" bloom. Hope that our desires coupled with the efforts of a good and decent president can affect "change." Evidently these voters never heard the old adage, "Hope in one hand and piss in the other, and see which one fills up first."

The slaughter of the innocents by the health care lobby has pretty much extinguished the political usefulness of the word hope. Nobody, especially Obama, uses it now.

The first on-stage scuffle of the Obama administration, government-assured health care, quickly settled down into the accustomed scenario of very rich and powerful people in expensive suits "finding middle ground," otherwise known as the status quo.
It goes on, and I earnestly abjure you to read the rest. But the point is utterly clear by now: "Hope" and "change" are now, and always have been illusory, ephemeral lies. Nothing changes; and hope? Fuggeddaboddit!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Health Care A "Moral" Issue?


Speaking in front of a group of religious leaders on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the health care debate was a "core ethical" issue and should be treated as such.

If he said that, he made another big mistake. Murkins have been thoroughly schooled in the ethic "anti-altruism" (FUIGM: "Fuck you, I got mine") since the Raygun regime sanctified 'greed' 30 years ago. (Which regime, I wish you to recall, "thePrez" continues to admire.)

But mainly, it's a non starter because when White, Middull Murka (WMM) hears appeals to the morality of public spending, what they are thinking is:
"Shit! More of my tax money going to those damn, lazy, shif'less, immoral, baby-packin, fornicating, alcoholic, drugged-out (fill in the racial/social epithet)s! I ainta gonna have it no more!"
Such is the nature of Racism (capital R denotes embedded, institutional Racism) that WMM would rather not themselves have access to improved conditions if that would also thereby improve the lots of the "inferior," despised, "others." A "classic" case of the often difficult to specify Capital R Racism...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our man In Kabul


My pal Seamus is working this year in Kabul, teaching at the new American University there. He's also an experienced reporter, and a good writer, and he blogs his observations and experiences. Today he's been attending to the Afghanistani 'elections.'
Violence, claims of fraud, low voter turnouts mark Afghan vote
KABUL, Afghanistan—In the cool of the early morning on election day, the sound of children playing football in the street is mixed with only a few workers erecting a small brick building next door, the cries of mourning doves, and the occasional crow of a rooster. None of the human activity can be seen from inside my guest house, which is surrounded by high walls—metal plates extend the reach of the original plaster ramparts—ringed with razor wire. For our two armed guards, it appears to be just another day as the polls prepare to open at 7 a.m.

By 9:30 in the morning, Reuters was reporting that scattered rockets had fallen on several Afghan cities, including Kandahar in the south and Kunduz in the north. The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the elections and the Karzai government has asked news media outlets to not report on any election day violence for fear it will suppress the turnout.

In Kabul, shops and businesses were closed and the early turnout was reportedly light. The construction activity next door has ceased.

BBC News at approximately 10:30 a.m. reports a gun battle in Kabul between militants and local security forces and that that voter turnout continues to be low in the city. Before noon, Afghan police are claiming they have killed two militants.

Shortly thereafter a police chief in northern Baghlan province is reportedly killed by the Taliban. Virtually no one is voting in Wardak province, an hour’s drive from Kabul, reports a BBC stringer. There are reports of voting irregularities in at least two provinces.

Kabul radio and TV stations appears to honoring the government’s cynical request not to report election-related violence. The BBC News web site appears to the best news source in English at the moment. Our guards say they have heard nothing from the local news media about the gun battles that BBC News is reporting. The university security service is passing along private security reports by email that indicates continued violence at several Kabul polling stations.

An informant tells BBC News at 1:30 p.m. that 16 rockets have landed so far in Kandahar and voter turnout there is very low.

I refer to the government’s attempt at limiting news coverage of election violence as cynical because it tells me the Karzai government is more concerned about the achieving a high turnout, which will help establish legitimacy for the process here and abroad, than the safety of voters.

By mid-afternoon, BBC News continues to report more cases of voter fraud, light local turnouts, and scattered violence, including the purported death of six Taliban militants killed in a gun battle with police in Baghlan province and the death of a woman and the injury of a child as a result of a rocket attack in Kandahar.

Contrary to claims from multiple sources, the head of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission “insists voter turnout has been very high all over the country,” according to the BBC at 3 p.m. At approximately the same time, CNN reports that police in northeastern Afghanistan have prevented two bomb attacks.

The polls closed at 5 p.m. amidst multiple but scattered reports of low voter turnouts and numerous allegations of voter fraud. The most commonly reported irregularity involved the supposedly indelible ink, which was used to mark the right index finger of people who voted. However, from several parts of the country there were eyewitness claims of voters washing off the ink stain and returning to vote one or more additional times. Many news sources interviewed people who said they did not vote because of the threat of violence or Taliban retaliation. In some areas of the country, for example, Taliban spokesmen said they would cut off any ink-stained index fingers they saw on election day.

The Lottery


Bernard Chazelle, who writes smart, incisive, provocative posts from his professorship (American Lit? Lit Crit? No, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science) at Princeton, for Jon Schwarz' lapidary site, A Tiny Revolution, today had a post addressing the problem of maintaining the integrity and independence of y/our elected officials. Select 'em the way we select jurors. Here's the good Professor:
Jury Duty Democracy

By: Bernard Chazelle

I suggest that all US senators and representatives should be picked at random among the adult population. Like jury duty. Except that if you're chosen you can say no. The job will be prestigious and well remunerated, so most lucky winners will say yes. I've given this idea a lot of thought, that is, as much thought as one can pack in 2.5 seconds, so maybe there's a GIANT flaw but here are the pros and cons.
PROS:

1. We'd get politicians of average intelligence: no difference.

2. We'd get politicians of average honesty: huge improvement.

3. We'd get the thin Bell curve tail of lunatics, sex perverts, and psychopaths: huge improvement. Right now we get a "only-the-crazies-join-the-crazies" power-law distribution that produces the Joe Liebermans of the world.

4. We'd get no elections hence no electoral campaigns hence no campaign financing hence no lobbyists hence no corporate pimping: huge improvement.

5. We'd get true representation of the American people, and not true representation of the super-rich: huge improvement.

6. We'd get more women and minorities in government. We'd get an average of 2 lawyers in all of Congress. Yes, 2! (They'd probably sue each other and cause no harm.) Again, huge improvement.

7. If jury duty is any indication, we'd get people who often take their job seriously: huge improvement.


CONS:

1. You don't get to choose your representatives. Like today. Right now you get to choose people but they are not in any way your representatives, so there would not be the slightest difference on that score.

2..... I dunno. I am sure there's a second flaw somewhere. You have to help me here.
PS: I don't recommend this for the US presidency because the variance is too high.
It seems unlikely that, on average, we'd do any worse than the corrupt, venal, mendacious scoundrels that the present system procures for us, Pandarus-like...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

RIH* Robert ('Novakula') Novak

Robert Parry, over at ConsortiumNews, delivers a fitting eulogy for the lately deceased, but largely unmissed, house-organist for the GOPuke ShiteHouses of Reagan and both Bushes, and reliable apologist for Rightards, fucktards, flying monkeys and fascisti in general, Robert Novak, dead yesterday of brain cancer at age 78. He was a venal, mendacious, aggressive bully. My glee at his timely demise is practically boundless.

*RIH = Rot In Hell! Motherfucker!
Washington’s punditocracy is in mourning over the death of right-wing columnist Robert Novak, with many warm remembrances about his outsized personality and his supposed love of reporting. But Novak often served as a dishonest propagandist and would have been condemned in a healthy journalistic world.

For instance, not only did Novak disclose the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame in 2003 – in line with a White House campaign to discredit her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing the deceptions behind the Iraq invasion – but Novak continued a jihad of lies against Wilson and Plame for the next several years.

In one such attack on March 22, 2007, Novak reprised right-wing myths that had been disseminated about the Plame-gate case to protect the political flanks of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other participants in the anti-Wilson campaign.

Despite containing a litany of lies, Novak’s column was uncritically published in the Washington Post’s editorial section, which even cribbed from Novak’s disinformation for use in the Post’s own ugly attacks on Wilson, whose principal sin appears to have been that he was the first Washington insider to accuse Bush of having “twisted” the WMD intelligence on Iraq.

The March 22 column stands out as a particularly notable measure of Novak’s dishonesty because it came almost four years after Wilson began challenging Bush’s false claims about Iraq allegedly seeking yellow-cake uranium from Niger. Novak’s article was not some early rendition of a story that wasn’t fully understood; it was a premeditated act of lying in defense of a cover-up.

For one, Novak couldn’t seem to let go of a favorite right-wing myth – that Plame wasn’t a "covert" CIA officer overseeing a sensitive network of spies informing the United States about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

That right-wing lie – insisting that she wasn’t “covert” – was exploded at a March 16, 2007, hearing of the House Oversight Committee when Chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, read a statement approved by CIA Director Michael Hayden referring to Plame’s former status as “covert,” “undercover” and “classified.”

The Hayden-approved statement added that “Ms. Wilson worked on the most sensitive and highly secretive matters handled by the CIA” and dealt with “prevention of development and use of WMD against the United States.”

In the column six days later, Novak reported that Hayden’s statement shocked Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, a hard-line Bush loyalist who had chaired the House Intelligence Committee when the Republicans were in control.

According to Novak, Hoekstra called Hayden, who reaffirmed the statement that Plame indeed had been “covert.” But Novak then resumed the right-wing quibbling over whether Plame would qualify as “covert” under the special definition of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.

This legal technicality apparently was so important to the Post’s editors that they headlined Novak’s article, “Was She Covert?” But the column, like an earlier Post Outlook article by right-wing legal expert Victoria Toensing, gummed up how the law actually defines a “covert” agent who qualifies for special legal protection from exposure.

Toensing, who depicted herself as one of the law’s authors, said a “covert” agent must be “stationed” abroad during the previous five years to be covered. In testimony before the House Oversight Committee, she slipped in another definitional word, saying that “the person is supposed to reside outside the United States.”

In his column, Novak reverted back to Toensing’s earlier word “stationed.” However, for all the interest in this legal technicality of whether Plame was “covert” under the narrow provisions of the 1982 law, Novak, Toensing and the Post’s editors shied away from actually quoting from the law.
The column continues, leaving a pretty foul taste in the mouth, and eliciting no sympathy for the foul fucktard who is its subject.

Rot In Hell, indeed!

A Full Deck Of War-Criminals

Antemedius, this morning, is carrying David Swanson's latest "After Downing Street" entry, in which he lists the 50 (plus 2) most egregious, most conspicuously (still) unencumbered offenders.
Compiled below, in hopes that it may be of some assistance to Eric Holder, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy, active citizens, foreign courts, the International Criminal Court, law firms preparing civil suits, and local or state prosecutors with decency and nerve is a list of 50 top living U.S. war criminals. These are men and women who helped to launch wars of aggression or who have been complicit in lesser war crimes. These are not the lowest-ranking employees or troops who managed to stray from official criminal policies. These are the makers of those policies.
(The Particulars) The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have seen the United States target civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, use antipersonnel weapons including cluster bombs in densely settled urban areas, use white phosphorous as a weapon, use depleted uranium weapons, employ a new version of napalm found in Mark 77 firebombs, engage in collective punishment of Iraqi civilian populations -- including by blocking roads, cutting electricity and water, destroying fuel stations, planting bombs in farm fields, demolishing houses, and plowing down orchards -- detain people without charge or legal process without the rights of prisoners of war, imprison children, torture, and murder.
The list below does not include those responsible for war crimes prior to 2001. Nor does it include those currently in power who are making themselves complicit by failing to prosecute or cease commission of these crimes. The list could be greatly expanded. It could also be narrowed. I would argue, however, that it presents a more reasonable starting place than Holder's reported proposal to investigate only CIA employees who failed to comply with criminal torture policies, of whom there are no doubt more than 50.

Because each of the people on this list should be nonviolently protested everywhere they go (more on that below), I have organized them by location. Please post updates on where they are as comments at http://afterdowningstreet.org/warcriminals.
The list begins with John Yoo (who, unbelievably, is still teaching "law" at the prestigious University of California's Boalt Hall), and includes all the usual suspects, plus a few you mightn't expect, and several who are STILL in (Obama's) government. Go to the link to find out which of these felons might be residing in your vicinity; then scroll down to that part of the piece headed "No Justice, No Peace," for advice on how you may exercise your right as a citizen to apprehend these scoff-laws.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Compromised

Obama's apparent penchant for bi-partisanship, compromise, and negotiation has ALWAYS bothered me. It has seemed to me, from the outside, that Obama's style of negotiation was to decide, in advance, what he was willing to concede, without having in mind to what he was conceding, or what he was getting in return. If you walk into negotiations already ready to give up or give-in, you're not gonna wring anytghing of significance from your antagonists.

It's always bothered me, as well, that Obama's admirers would believe that a "striver" like Obama (or Sonia Sotromayor, for that matter), who ferociously sought and struggled for approval and reward his whole life from the Owners would have the courage to bite the hands that curried him...

The Health-Insurance debacle suggests I was, unfortunately, once again, correct.

Support TheRealNews!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why The "Public Option" Is Doomed, Even if It Does Pass


Via Avedon, BDBlue, on Corrente, struck a winner the other day (and, oh, by the way, here's a citizen with whom I could share a brew)...BDBlue sez:
Here's how Obama described how the public option will affect private insurers:
He said an audience member raised a "legitimate concern" about how a government-run health-care program might affect private insurers.

"My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining -- meaning taxpayers aren't subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do -- then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time."

Then he invoked the Postal Service:

"I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It's the post office that's always having problems."

That comment provoked laughter from the audience.
...(S)o the public option will be like the United States Postal Service.

It will be constantly undermined by elected officials who insist it compete with private companies as an "equal" even as they ensure that the private companies get all the really lucrative customers and the postal service gets stuck with all the thankless, unprofitable work that requires them to drive every back road in this country to deliver a letter for less than 50 cents while also giving deep discounts to help mail-based business, regardless of whether such deliveries or discounts make sense from a business perspective.*

And the Postal Service is expected to do all of this while the Government insists it do things that none of its private competitors have to do (such as prepay future retiree health benefits).

Then when the public option, like the Postal Service, cannot win its race against private companies blindfolded with its legs tied together, it will be mocked by the President of the United States.** That does sound like a good plan.

What could go wrong? Well, for starters, this losing set up has led the Postal Service to repeatedly raise rates in recent years (since "deregulation" started under Carter) and threaten to cut back services to the poor people who can't afford to spend $25 dollars to FedEx a letter to their mother in Bumfuck, Idaho. That's what this public option competing against private carriers has gotten us - a service that costs more and provides less for the neediest among us.

...The Postal Service is not an example of why private companies are better than public ones or how they can compete with the government successfully when we're talking about a core government service. It's an example of how far the government is willing to go to hamstring itself from doing its job so that a handful of companies can make more money at the expense of Americans who depend on a government service.

That's exactly how I expect any public option to work, thank you Mr. President for being honest about that, which is why I won't support it.
PS: The Sept. Harper's came today. These are the first three items in the Index:
Percentage change since 2002 in the average premiums paid to largye US health-insurance companies: + 87.

Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: + 428.

Chance that an American bankrupted by medical bills had/has health insurance: 7 in 10.
This whole thing is a fucking kabuki, full of stern faces and high, screechy notes...

"Mourn On The 4th Of July": John Pilger Cuts "Official" Obama-dom No Fucking Slack At ALL!

At Antimedius, today, the invaluable Edger posted the following evisceration of USer pretenses with regard to the "heart's and minds" of USer antagonists. He starts with this excerpt from Pilger's July 4, 2009, address to the "Socialism, 2009" Conference. Pay attention:

Then follows the transcript of much of the address, which I include, uncut:
The monsoon had woven thick skeins of mist over the central highlands of Vietnam. I was a young war correspondent, bivouacked in the village of Tuylon with a unit of US marines whose orders were to win hearts and minds. "We are here not to kill," said the sergeant, "we are here to impart the American Way of Liberty as stated in the Pacification Handbook. This is designed to win the hearts and minds of folks, as stated on page 86."

Page 86 was headed WHAM. The sergeant's unit was called a combined action company, which meant, he explained, "we attack these folks on Mondays and we win their hearts and minds on Tuesdays". He was joking, though not quite.

Standing in a jeep on the edge of a paddy, he had announced through a loudhailer: "Come on out, everybody. We got rice and candy and toothbrushes to give you."

Silence. Not a shadow moved.

"Now listen, either you gooks come on out from wherever you are, or we're going to come right in there and get you!"

The people of Tuylon finally came out and stood in line to receive packets of Uncle Ben's Long Grain Rice, Hershey bars, party balloons and several thousand toothbrushes. Three portable, battery-operated, yellow flush lavatories were kept for the colonel's arrival. And when the colonel arrived that evening, the district chief was summoned and the yellow flush lavatories were unveiled.

"Mr District Chief and all you folks out there," said the colonel, "what these gifts represent is more than the sum of their parts. They carry the spirit of America. Ladies and gentlemen, there's no place on earth like America. It's a guiding light for me, and for you. You see, back home, we count ourselves as real lucky having the greatest democracy the world has ever known, and we want you good folks to share in our good fortune."

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Davy Crockett got a mention. "Beacon" was a favourite, and as he evoked John Winthrop's "city upon a hill", the marines clapped, and the children clapped, understanding not a word.

It was a lesson in what historians call "exceptionalism", the notion that the United States has the divine right to bring what it describes as liberty and democracy to the rest of humanity. That this merely disguised a system of domination, which Martin Luther King described, shortly before his assassination, as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world", was unspeakable..

As the great people's historian Howard Zinn has pointed out, Winthrop's much-quoted description of the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony as a "city upon a hill", a place of unlimited goodness and nobility, was rarely set against the violence of the first settlers, for whom burning alive some 400 Pequot Indians was a "triumphant joy". The countless massacres that followed, wrote Zinn, were justified by "the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained".

Not long ago, I visited the American Museum of History, part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. One of the popular exhibitions was "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War". It was holiday time and lines of people, including many children, shuffled reverentially through a Santa's grotto of war and conquest where messages about their nation's "great mission" were dispensed. These included tributes to the "exceptional Americans [who] saved a million lives" in Vietnam, where they were "determined to stop communist expansion". In Iraq, other true hearts "employed air strikes of unprecedented precision". What was shocking was not so much the revisionist description of two of the epic crimes of modern times as the sheer scale of omission.

"History without memory," declared Time magazine at the end of the 20th century, "confines Americans to a sort of eternal present.. They are especially weak in remembering what they did to other people, as opposed to what they did for them." Ironically, it was Henry Luce, founder of Time, who in 1941 divined the "American century" as an American social, political and cultural "victory" over humanity and the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit".

None of this is to suggest that vainglory is exclusive to the United States. The British presented their often violent domination of much of the world as the natural progress of Christian gentlemen selflessly civilising the natives, and present-day TV historians perpetuate the myths. The French still celebrate their bloody "civilising mission". Prior to the Second World War, "imperialist" was an honoured political badge in Europe, while in the US an "age of innocence" was preferred. America was different from the Old World, said its mythologists. America was the Land of Liberty, uninterested in conquest. But what of George Washington's call for a "rising empire" and James Madison's "laying the foundation of a great empire"? What of slavery, the theft of Texas from Mexico, the bloody subjugation of central America, Cuba and the Philippines?

An ordained national memory consigned these to the historical margins and "imperialism" was all but discredited in the United States, especially after Adolf Hitler and the fascists, with their ideas of racial and cultural superiority, had left a legacy of guilt by association. The Nazis, after all, had been proud imperialists, too, and Germany was also "exceptional". The idea of imperialism, the word itself, was all but expunged from the American lexicon, "on the grounds that it falsely attributed immoral motives to western foreign policy", argued one historian. Those who persisted in using it were "disreputable purveyors of agitprop" and were "inspired by the communist doctrine", or they were "Negro intellectuals who had grievances of their own against white capitalism".

Meanwhile, the "city on the hill" remained a beacon of rapaciousness as US capital set about realising Luce's dream and recolonising the European empires in the postwar years. This was "the march of free enterprise". In truth, it was driven by a subsidised production boom in a country unravaged by war: a sort of socialism for the great corporations, or state capitalism, which left half the world's wealth in American hands. The cornerstone of this new imperialism was laid in 1944 at a conference of the western allies at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire.. Described as "negotiations about economic stability", the conference marked America's conquest of most of the world.

What the American elite demanded, wrote Frederic F Clairmont in The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism, "was not allies but unctuous client states. What Bretton Woods bequeathed to the world was a lethal totalitarian blueprint for the carve-up of world markets." The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank were established in effect as arms of the US Treasury and would design and police the new order. The US military and its clients would guard the doors of these "international" institutions, and an "invisible government" of media would secure the myths, said Edward Bernays.

Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. "Propaganda," he wrote, "got to be a bad word because of the Germans . . . so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations." Bernays used Freud's theories about control of the subconscious to promote a "mass culture" designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism. It was Bernays who, on behalf of the tobacco industry, campaigned for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation, calling cigarettes "torches of freedom"; and it was his notion of disinformation that was deployed in overthrowing governments, such as Guatemala's democracy in 1954.

Above all, the goal was to distract and deter the social democratic impulses of working people. Big business was elevated from its public reputation as a kind of mafia to that of a patriotic force. "Free enterprise" became a divinity. "By the early 1950s," wrote Noam Chomsky, "20 million people a week were watching business-sponsored films. The entertainment industry was enlisted to the cause, portraying unions as the enemy, the outsider disrupting the 'harmony' of the 'American way of life' . . . Every aspect of social life was targeted and permeated schools and universities, churches, even recreational programmes. By 1954, business propaganda in public schools reached half the amount spent on textbooks."

The new "ism" was Americanism, an ideology whose distinction is its denial that it is an ideology. Recently, I saw the 1957 musical Silk Stockings, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Between the scenes of wonderful dancing to a score by Cole Porter was a series of loyalty statements that the colonel in Vietnam might well have written. I had forgotten how crude and pervasive the propaganda was; the Soviets could never compete. An oath of loyalty to all things American became an ideological commitment to the leviathan of business: from the business of armaments and war (which consumes 42 cents in every tax dollar today) to the business of food, known as "agripower" (which receives $157bn a year in government subsidies).

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this "ism". From his early political days, Obama's unerring theme has been not "change", the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America's right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, "we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good . . . We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people." And: "At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders."

Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala (see William Blum's histories). Bombing is apple pie. Having stacked his government with warmongers, Wall Street cronies and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, the 44th president is merely upholding tradition. The hearts and minds farce I witnessed in Vietnam is today repeated in villages in Afghanistan and, by proxy, Pakistan, which are Obama's wars.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter noted that "everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but "US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all". It is as if "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening . . . You have to hand it to America . . . masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

As Obama has sent drones to kill (since January) some 700 civilians, distinguished liberals have rejoiced that America is once again a "nation of moral ideals", as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times. In Britain, the elite has long seen in exceptional America an enduring place for British "influence", albeit as servitor or puppet. The pop historian Tristram Hunt says America under Obama is a land "where miracles happen". Justin Webb, until recently the BBC's man in Washington, refers adoringly, rather like the colonel in Vietnam, to the "city on the hill".

Behind this façade of "intensification of feeling and degradation of significance" (Walter Lippmann), ordinary Americans are stirring perhaps as never before, as if abandoning the deity of the "American Dream" that prosperity is a guarantee with hard work and thrift.. Millions of angry emails from ordinary people have flooded Washington, expressing an outrage that the novelty of Obama has not calmed. On the contrary, those whose jobs have vanished and whose homes are repossessed see the new president rewarding crooked banks and an obese military, essentially protecting George W Bush's turf.

My guess is that a populism will emerge in the next few years, igniting a powerful force that lies beneath America's surface and which has a proud past. It cannot be predicted which way it will go. However, from such an authentic grass-roots Americanism came women's suffrage, the eight-hour day, graduated income tax and public ownership. In the late 19th century, the populists were betrayed by leaders who urged them to compromise and merge with the Democratic Party. In the Obama era, the familiarity of this resonates.

What is most extraordinary about the United States today is the rejection and defiance, in so many attitudes, of the all-pervasive historical and contemporary propaganda of the "invisible government". Credible polls have long confirmed that more than two-thirds of Americans hold progressive views. A majority want the government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for everyone. They want complete nuclear disarmament; 72 per cent want the US to end its colonial wars; and so on. They are informed, subversive, even "anti-American".

I once asked a friend, the great American war correspondent and humanitarian Martha Gellhorn, to explain the term to me. "I'll tell you what 'anti-American' is," she said. "It's what governments and their vested interests call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America's citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the South with the civil rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional."(Emphases supplied. W.)
Here's the whole vid. Listen and regard y/ourselves in a not-flattering mirror:

Worth recalling is that the Obama "campign" won world-wide awards for the most effective advertizing campaign of 2008. The fucking country is being led by a fucking BRAND!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Big Lie: "Right" At Home In The 24-Hr News Cycle

Across the bottom of this map, it reads: "Map published in Germany in
1934 to create fear of Czech bombing."

If I were a professional propagandist, adept at the creation and promulgation of the iconic propaganda gambit called the "Big Lie," and the 24-hour news cycle on cabloids dod NOT exist, I would be compelled to invent it.

Because no other mode of infotainment lends itself so seamlessly to the requirements of the media to support the success of the Big Lie.

To briefly review:

The Big Lie is the result of the insight alleged to have been formulated by Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf (but more likely the fruit of Edouard Bernays' fertile imagination, a decade earlier): that of the willing credulity of most people to the most outlandish tales and fabrications if 1) they are said with/by authority, and 2) they are repeated often enough. Think Christian homelitics, for instance: It's a load of codswallop, but it has been repeated so often, and by so many esteemed figures that a pretty fair portion of the Murkin electorate takes it for literal truth.

Repetition.

By Authority.

Hitler (or Bernays) realized that even the biggest lies could be told to a willing public, because most people usually refrained from telling even minor lies on most occasions, fearing the opprobrium attendant upon being discovered to be liars. Such strictures are not in play when the "State" is the speaker. No government in recent history has been reproved by its citizens for lying to them. No politician since Nixon, perhaps, has paid a public price for his mendacity. (I forgive Clinton because the illegitimacy, the impropriety, and the irrelevance of the questions relative to his functioning as President; I would not feel constrained to answer honestly questions the answers to which were nobody's business than my--and my correspondents'--own).

This is by way of introduction to this piece from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Media), whereby the relevance of the apparent digression will be explained in the hed:

From Lie to Official History, via 'Simple Repetition'
Consortium News Robert Parry (8/13/09) is citing media-promoted "'deathers' who claim that President Barack Obama's healthcare plan would promote euthanasia," along with how the U.S. "population was persuaded that Iraq was some lethal threat" and "fear-mongering about Iraq somehow sending small remote-controlled airplanes across the Atlantic" as strong arguments against "hopeful slogans that 'the truth will out.'"

To Parry, "truth is a battle" and "the reality is that there are no automatic mechanisms for stopping lies and distortions":
What I have seen during more than three decades in Washington is that many truths remain effectively hidden, even if technically they have been revealed. A rare moment of truth-telling can be easily overwhelmed by a steady barrage of falsehoods and an infusion of well-calibrated doubts.

Before long, it is the oft-repeated faux reality that is remembered. It becomes Washington’s conventional wisdom and then the official history. [See, for instance, Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

In the United States today, there is a massive infrastructure for spreading lies and distortions--a right-wing media machine that reaches from newspapers, magazines and books to cable TV, talk radio and the Internet.

By simple repetition, this machine can transform any crazy theory or bald-faced lie into something that many Americans believe.
Case in point is "when the right-wing media... pushed the lies about Iraq's WMD and intimated that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9/11 attacks." See the FAIR magazine Extra!: "From Speculation to History: 'Saddam's Bluff' Becomes Conventional Wisdom--With No Evidence Presented" (5–6/04) by Seth Ackerman.
Goebbels couldn't have said it better.

Twain, I think it was, who said "the Lie has aready circled the globe before the truth is out of bed." The thing about propaganda is that truth is totally irrelevant. What matters is that what the propagandist wants heard is out there, being heard, and repeated, and repeated.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ready or Not: Here's What "Health Insurance Reform" Will End Up Looking Like


OF COURSE, there's a "need" for a "public plan," but that does not by ANY means mean there will be one in the bill Obama signs in January, right after the Super-Bowl, and the first anniversary of his "administration." Via AFN (America's Future Now)

Co-ops, Exchanges, Gateways, and The Need For A Public Plan

By Jonathan Walker
August 14, 2009 - 5:03pm ET
In 2000 the General Accounting Office did a study of health insurance purchasing cooperatives. This study should shed important light on the issue of insurance co-ops pushed by Senator Conrad and the problems of health insurance exchanges without a public option. The study found that:
Despite efforts to negotiate lower premiums, cooperatives have only been able to offer premiums that are comparable to those in the general small group market. The cooperatives we reviewed typically did not obtain overall premium reductions because (1) their market share provided insufficient leverage, (2) they could not produce administrative savings for insurers.
These purchasing co-ops may or may not be part of the co-op proposal promoted by Senator Conrad. (Note: Conrad has repeatedly refused to provide any concrete details for his co-ops idea.) The study makes it clear that collective purchasing co-ops will be useless at reducing premiums or controlling the spiraling cost.

The five purchasing co-ops that the GAO investigated work in a manner very similar to the state based health insurance exchanges that are likely to be a part of health care reform. Like the state based exchanges, they pool together health insurance purchases for small employers.

The California and the Florida co-ops at one time were both larger than many of the state based exchanges are projected to be. The CBO calculates that roughly 11% of the Americans will get health insurance from an exchange. The California co-op once had more members than that 11% that state exchanges are expected to enroll. While state based exchanges should give individuals and small businesses greater choice, they are unlikely to do anything to reduce premiums.

Another model of how new health insurance exchanges are likely to work is the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The FEHB is a health insurance exchange for federal employees. It does a great job of offering many choices but a terrible job at controlling cost. From 1985-2002 the premiums in the FEHB program grew only 0.1% slower than the rest of the private insurance market. The FEHB does not include a public option.

Finally, there is the example of Massachusetts. They implemented reform that would be similar to what Baucus is proposing. It also created a new health care exchange for small businesses (called the Commonwealth Connector) which did not include a public option. Massachusetts' reform did a good job at reducing the number of uninsured, but failed to control the spiraling cost of health insurance. Now Massachusetts is looking at some massive structural reforms to control cost. (Probably, the only way to do that is to reduce services, thereby effectively RAISING the price of even minimal coverage, nest paw? W.)

There are only two “successful” health insurance companies which are co-ops, Group Health Cooperative in Washington and HealthPartner, Inc. in Minnesota. Conrad wants to replicate these instead of a public option. Even the National Cooperative Business Association admits that competition drove most of the health insurance co-ops out of business or forced them to abandon the co-op structure. While Group Health Cooperative provides a good quality of care, its premiums are still spiraling out of control.

Whether it is the Federal Employee Exchange, Commonwealth Connector, gateways, or state based purchasing co-ops; efforts to pool individuals and small businesses in a single health insurance marketplace does not help control cost. State based exchanges should help provide individuals and small business employees with greater choice. But without a public plan or massive structural changes, they will do basically nothing to arrest the devastating increase in cost of health insurance.

Crossposted on The Walker Report
Shorter*: It will be what's already been tried and failed, but which protects the BIG interests in the "health/death" industry.

There is, as you already know, only one way to contain the madly increasing death-spiral (for citizens) in health insurance premiums, if we cannot have (as it seems we may not) universal, single-payer insurance: Outlaw "for-profit" health insurance providers (health insurance parasites, that is). Because no country, no nation, no people is worth a bucket of runny shit whose citizens' health is hostage to the wealth of its elites, elites who fatten on the illness, injury, and desperation of its ordinary people.

As I recall my history, the story is that "Nations" were kinda invented (and proud 'monarchs' beheaded) to interrupt shit like this.

‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. We are aware of all Internet traditions.™

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Net-Roots Are All Moist Between Their Legs Today

Jonesin' for the "Big Dog!"

Bill Clinton, back from his celebrity/hero tour of the Far East, where he rescued not one but TWO "girl" agents provocateurs from a North Korea the women had gone to China to antagonize, addressed the gathering Friday morning, enjoining them to ever-more progressive activism. He urged the Net-rooters on to even greater efforts to found and foster 'progressivism.' (More, better Dims, I guess?)

And the Net-Rooters were so grateful for the attention (they're bloggers!) that the only thing they asked him about was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Talk about a free ride! These are the models of a 'new,' critical, citizen 'journalism'?

I for one was not impressed (yeah, yeah...when am I ever?).

Bill Clintoon is not now, never was, and never will be a "progressive," unless it be thought "progressive" that a nominal Dim were the most successful REPUBLICAN president since Eisenhower at advancing the CorpoRat agenda. He's a smart guy. I met him once, before he was president. Formidble fella.

But, let's remember 'triangulation," shall we? He 'ended' that horrible 'welfare as we know it' which rolled up the social safety net. He pushed through NAFTA. He signed and approved, loudly, the repeal, by Phil Gramm and the rest, of the Glass-Steagal Act, and thereby facilitated the 'crash' of 2008. He rammed through the revision of the 1933 Communications Act, which gave the CorpoRats unrestricted ability to consolidate--and then, predictably, to eviscerate--"the Press." Bob Barr has apologized for pushing DOMA through Congress, but Clintoon has never apologized for not vetoing the obscene fucking thing. Sure, he'd have been overturned. So what? I'll not deny he had his moments, but's not mistake his policies as "liberal," or his views "Progresive."

Lew Lapham has this assessment:
"I think Bill was a tremendous talk-show host—I think of him the same way I think of Oprah. He’s a very clever politician. I’ve met him a couple times, and he’s the kind of person who can remember everybody’s name having only seen them once before. He’s formidable. But I don’t know what he’s about except the greater glory of Bill Clinton...

Well, I wrote a lot of columns about the Clintons when he was in office, and I guess my favorite description of him was as a piñata: You could hit him and anything would come out—scandal, gossip, friendship, a speech. I think of them as terminal narcissists. I can remember when Gore was running for office in 2000, he made a speech here in New York, and Clinton came to make a speech as well. It’s the middle of the summer, 2000, Clinton is talking to the entire New York media somewhere down at NYU. The entire speech was about himself. He didn’t mention Gore’s name once.

And here we were supposed to be in the middle of an election that was important to win. I think of the Clintons as being out for only themselves. I still remember the photograph of the 16-wheeler truck that was pulled up in front of the White House when they departed, carrying with them everything that could be moved."
Lapham's posthumously naming Tim Russert the "Head-waiter" to the Village people's Sunday news buffet was one of the nastiest, sweetest, most necessary and most welcome instances of saying ill of the dead since I was banned at Eschaton for exhibiting too much glee at the demise of Jerry Falwell.

Clintoon as talk-show host makes eminent sense. He was the first President since Kennedy whose personality actually exceeded the Office. Considering his 'progeny,' you may judge for yourself what sort of development that has turned out to be...

(Edited, 8/15, @ 1:00 pm MDT)