Friday, March 04, 2011

Hillary Has An Attack of Progressivism ... Criticizing U.S. Media

The Secretary of State echoed one of the themes of this blog lately: (a) that the U.S. media (mostly MSM, i.e. corporate) sucks and (b) you should watch more Al Jazeera if you want to know what's really going on here and in the world around us. It's funny how these things happen. I was aware of Al Jazeera (the "terrorist network" right wing smear which was patent nonsense) and watched it infrequently. Then the Egyptian crisis hit, following Tunisia and Yemen, and the Huffington Post began streaming Al Jazeera's live video feed from Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was a revelation.

The only similarity Al Jazeera seems to share with the U.S. corporate MSM is that its foreign correspondents speak with a British accent — a vestige of Britain's imperial colonialism that is actually not such a bad a thing. After the MSM cut its news divisions to the bone in favor of reality-infotainment, Jersey Shore/Snooki et al, it contracted with a number of "foreign" foreign correspondents, guys and gals with amusing British, Aussie/New Zealand, and South African accents.

Aussies like Michael Ware are just plain crazy. Bravery, recklessness and the rush of war notwithstanding, there's no substitute for the cool and thoughtful reporting of Richard Engel, who knows the culture about which he reports and takes no unnecessary risks. NBC lucked out with Richard, but as good as he is, he can't carry their entire foreign correspondents desk, aka Richard's desk. Which is where Al Jazeera comes in. Here's Secretary Clinton:

Media critic Jeff Jarvis put it more bluntly contrasting our "celebrity-obsessed" MSM with Al Jazeera:
"Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one — not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can."
Case in point. The MSM has barely scratched the surface of two of the most important issues that go to the very heart of our survival as a species and manifest in ever-increasing social and political convulsions: Climate science and looming world food shortages.

Even as the wingnuts in Rightwingville treat climate change as a liberal conspiracy because (a) Al Gore is associated with it, and (b) Big Oil owns them, the scientific community has ever more urgently sounded the alarm that we need to begin addressing this issue in a serious policy way. Common sense tells those of us who haven't been sleepwalking for the past 20 years that climate change is real. Despite wingnuts parroting the polluters' propaganda, new studies just released by the authoritative scientific publication Nature confirmed what many of us surmised from observation alone: that extreme weather events are caused by (repeat after me, wingnuts at the Daily Caller:) global warming that "cannot be explained by natural, internal fluctuations of the climate system alone;" increased moisture in the atmosphere leading to heavier precipitation.
The research directly links rising greenhouse-gas levels with the growing intensity of rain and snow in the Northern Hemisphere, and the increased risk of flooding in the United Kingdom.
You wouldn't know it from watching Fox or reading the wingnut blogs. All you need to know about this climate change denial hit job, with the usual quotes lifted out of context from very detailed scientific analyses, is the name of chief global warming denier, Lord Christopher Monckton, cited as an authority on the science. Monckton is neither a scientist nor does he have any background in science whatsoever: "He shows up at events to make his global warming-denying case at the behest of groups funded by dirty energy interests such as Friends of America and The Heartland Institute." Naturally, this makes Monckton a favorite witness of  Republican/Teabaggers, witch doctors & alchemists like James Inhofe and those who don't care at all because the Rapture is coming to take them away.

A related and vastly under-reported story in this country is the looming worldwide food shortage leading to widespread hunger and political instability in many parts of the world. The uprising in Egypt and other countries of the Middle East was triggered in part by the rising cost of food. The region imports most of its food. Some staples, like wheat, were in short supply owing to climate change disruptions of the crop. And it's only going to get worse.

This is how Al Jazeera covered the question of global food shortages in a recent program. It's serious, comprehensive, and informative. The kind of thorough reporting that the MSM reserves in this country for the Charlie Sheen novella:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Which Side Are you On?

Natalie Merchant's powerful version of "Which Side Are You On" tells it all. Unions make us strong. ALL OF US. Unions built this country. Unions built the middle class. Unions gave us the 40-hour work week, the weekend, a decent standard of living wage and benefits, safety in the workplace, and a seat at the table for workers.

For those of you who do not belong to a union, and that is most working Americans, count your blessings that unions exist. Because of the union, you enjoy a competitive salary and your job is protected, to the minimum extent that it is, by fair labor practices rules. Because of competition from union workers, your corporate employer cannot drive wages to the ground, in a race to the bottomless pit of workers who do not and cannot earn a living wage.

If not for the union, the hostile corporate takeover of our lives would have been complete. Employers who run a non-union shop are compelled by the looming presence of the union to provide their workers with competitive salaries. They have been "persuaded" by the union to provide health and retirement benefits. Corporations, but for the few exceptions of mom-and-pop businesses in Frank Capra or Disney films, do not have a social conscience; they do not provide good salaries and benefits and good working conditions out of the goodness of their heart.

They do it because the presence of the union in our midst, in our lives, in our family, compels them to offer competitive salaries and benefits, or lose their best and brightest workers to competitors that follow the union standard, and offer union wages. The invisible presence of the union dictates the extent to which corporations can get away with abuses in the workplace and oppressing workers. There was a time in the United States when "Made in the USA" carried with it a union stamp that said "union made". There was a time in this country that Americans gazed upon that union label and knew this was the best product in the world made by the greatest nation on earth and the world's best workers. That symbol, that union logo proudly stamped on an American-made product embodied the American Dream.

The Wisconsin 14, the Democratic state senators who "fled" to the great state of Illinois, land of Lincoln, so they would not be a party to the further destruction of the American Dream are true patriots. It is the corporations who fled to China and India and to those "right-to-work" countries with inhuman sweat shops branded by Tom Delay as "the future of capitalism," in search of profit-driven slave labor in the land of communists and dictators — it is those corporations that are the traitors and seditionists. For hasn't a right wing Supreme Court determined them to be "persons"?

And it is this radical right Republican Party of Huckabee and Palin and Gingrich, of Teabaggers and Koch brothers, the political appendage of the fascist corporate state, whose propaganda arm is Fox and the Limbaugh network of right wing radio, that has been exposed in Wisconsin for its corrupt crony capitalism and dictatorial "overreach." Yes, overreach has become the word du jour among the few remaining Republicans of conscience who had deluded themselves into removing "fascist" from their political dictionary and who suddenly awoke to the realization that they have been part of a filthy scheme, a "classic overreach." It was a rude awakening, and they don't like it.

If you don't like the word "fascism"... or rather, your corporate owners forbid its use? — Fine. Be that way. With your head in the sand or, in the case of the ignorant Teabaggers, up their asses. Rachel is really really good at conjuring up a thousand-and-one euphemisms for the "F" word. Still it's unfortunate that only Noam Chomsky and a few independent souls dare raise the specter of fascism in America. Fascism easily adapts to its culture. That is why it isn't easily detected. After all, one characteristic of fascism is ├╝ber-nationalist. How about some useful myths about the Boston Tea Party, the Founding Fathers, and our Constitution, anyone?

Most people think "fascism" they think Hitler or Mussolini. But that's the European brand. The American brand is uniquely American. It's the KKK, the militias, the John Birch Society, elements of the Tea Party. And it holds a controlling interest in the Republican Party. Every time you hear someone like Mike Huckabee conjure up a story out of whole cloth that our President was influenced by the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, where he grew up (?) — think fascism. It is the classic fascist divide and conquer technique to pit us against them: Black versus white, American-born versus foreign-born (the lie here is to extend xenophobia, fear of foreigners — hordes of invading illegal immigrants — to President Obama), Aryan versus Jew.

Many delusionals out there still believe we live in a "free enterprise system." As if it can be found in crony capitalism and the big corporate monopolies, in Big Oil receiving government welfare subsidies, in chemical industries and mountain top removal mining polluting our rivers and streams, the air we breathe, and despoiling our environment forever, in Big Ag getting government subsidies and the food industry cutting corners with the safety of our food supply, or in the military industrial complex, the Halliburtons and tens of thousands of government contractors driving our perpetual war machine while lining their pockets with the taxpayer's money at a horrific cost of blood and treasure.

As if.

And if we dare decry any of this, the too big to fail banks playing casino games with our retirement funds and ravaging the only equity left the middle class, that of our homes — then these corporate sharks will deploy armies of lobbyists and bundles of cash to buy off every single politician in state and federal government that they can, and defeat us at the polls with lies upon lies upon lies whose unlimited funds were enabled by a radicalized right wing interventionist Supreme Court. An intervention which began with the judicial coup d'etat of the 2000 presidential election: Two decisions, Bush v. Gore and Citizens United closing the circle and shifting the balance in favor of crony capitalism and the fascist power grab we see today. The corporate elites have coordinated with their political and propaganda arms the final assault on the union aimed at destroying the last vestige of the middle class — public employee unions — that stands in the way of making this hostile takeover of government complete. And then the enshrinement of fascism as the ruling political doctrine of America will become a reality.

Fascism is exactly what is happening here and until it is recognized as such this cancer cannot be exorcised from our body politic. (My recommendation: watch more Al Jazeera, BBC, Democracy Now, and read the Guardian if you want to find out what's really going on. And of course, keep reading the independent progressive blogs. Because the state of American corporate "news" media is piss poor, and getting worse. In fact, it's one more sign of creeping fascism.) Arm yourself with the facts. And with the grounding that only true history can give you, because there's a lot of revisionism out there, so you must be diligent and persistent to know the truth.

And then act to take back our country. Stand with the people of Wisconsin. We are at a tipping point. This is a turning point in our history. We are approaching critical mass in our struggle to beat back the hostile corporate takeover of our country. This is a war on the middle class and an assault on the American Dream and on the values that made this country great. This is a fight we cannot lose.  

It's that important.
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech, Aug. 30, 1960

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.

CLARENCE DARROW, The Railroand Trainman, Nov. 1909

To a right-winger, unions are awful. Why do right-wingers hate unions? Because collective bargaining is the power that a worker has against the corporation. Right-wingers hate that.

JANEANE GAROFALO, Majority Report, Jun. 3, 2005

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


C'mon Rachel, all you MSNBCers, sing along ... You can do it!

The Voices of Wisconsin

This new ad from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is compelling. Watch it. This is our moment, people. This is when we stand with the people of Wisconsin and FIGHT BACK. This is the moment we begin to take our country back (yes, Teabaggers, you heard it right) from the corporate elites and billionaire activists like the brothers Koch. This is the moment we begin demanding justice and fairness and accountability from the politicians and criminals who nearly brought our country down and who still act as if they own us. They do not. With their arrogant sense of entitlement, they act as if the law does not apply to them, as if they can continue to rip us off with impunity even as we bailed them out. They cannot and will not. Enough, already. They have awoken a sleeping giant and we have begun fighting back. WE WILL WIN.

And while we may not have an ally in the White House, the President can still tag along and choose to lead. Mr. Obama is no Teddy Roosevelt. He's no FDR or Truman or RFK. But at least he's stopped sucking up to the oligarchs. Reluctantly. Rachel noted, correctly, that economic populism is at the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. The sooner President Obama realizes he cannot redefine big "D" Democratic politics as some kind of bizarre mutation between the Democratic Party and the corporate elites, the sooner he will stop trying to disparage and ignore the progressive heart and soul of the Democratic Party. When President Obama said to a gathering of Republican governors, "it helps no one" to vilify unions, he sounded hurt rather than angry, disappointed rather than defiant. He sounded like a moderate Republican struggling with divided allegiances. He did not sound like a Democrat.

There's still time to jump on this bandwagon, Mr. President. Because the people are way ahead of you. We could use a little more Obama drama from the White House. No pain inflicted on the enemies of the people, no gain.

The President's Speech

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Musical Interlude: Pete Seeger/Jefferson Airplane, VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA, "GOT A REVOLUTION!"

This is for our brothers and sisters and the good & valiant people of Wisconsin fighting back against the tyrannical Scott Wanker, GO/Tea Party, and the Koch-head corporations. We're fighting back! SOLIDARITY FOREVER!

Tea Party Remedial Ed: WE, The AMERICAN PEOPLE, REJECT Your 'Right-To-Work' States Nightmare

This is for those PATHETIC ignorant Teabagger TOOLS bused in FROM OUT OF STATE to Madison last week by the Koch brothers to pit their piggly numbers — a herd of hundreds compared to the 70,000 people who turned out to protest  Wisconsin governor Scott WANKER's TYRANNICAL regime — yo, Teabaggers, do you understand the meaning of irony? Saturday, the anti-Walker crowd swelled to more than 100,000 and the Teabaggers were nowhere to be found. I think the carpetbaggin' Teabaggers were SHAMED into not prolonging their sham demonstration by real GRASSROOTS people fighting for their LEGITIMATE rights.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll of the American people's attitude to unions and what is happening in Wisconsin follows:


61 percent of US think public employee salaries (averaging about $50,000 for college educated workers, including the top professions — doctors, lawyers, research scientists, teachers, police officers, firefighters) and benefits are about right or too low.

60 percent of US oppose taking away the collective bargaining rights of unions.

56 percent of US oppose cutting the pay of public employees in order to reduce state budget deficits. (It is important to note that the Wisconsin public employee unions have already agreed to the pay cuts and individual payroll benefits contributions demanded by the Governor.

48 percent to 37 percent of US believe the unions have the right amount or too little influence in American politics today. (This figure, a solid plurality just shy of a majority, reflects the effectiveness of right wing and corporate-financed propaganda to lie to, deceive, and confuse the American people with falsehoods and biased information.)

By 45 to 41 percent the American people believe states are trying to reduce public employee benefits to reduce deficits rather than weaken unions. Once again, this reflects the national picture, which includes states with Democratic governors and some Republican governors who are running away from Walker as fast as they can.

Given the choice of raising taxes, decreasing public employee benefits, decreasing roads and transportation funding, decreasing funding for education, 41 percent of the American people chose raising taxes. This is significant because it goes against the mantra and article of faith of the radical right Republican/Tea Party that they have some sort of mandate from WE, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE to cut essential spending programs in order to give us a tax cut. If the question were asked, should we raise taxes on the rich and the corporations in order to reduce state budget deficits WE, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE would have overwhelmingly said: YES!

A PPP Wisconsin poll shows that today the November election results would flip, with 52% to 45% of Wisconsinites saying they'd vote for the Democratic candidate, Tom Barrett, in a hypothetical re-do of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race.  

Heard on the radio from a retired educator, Margaret, in Wisconsin:
How's that for vivid, poetic imagery? See, that's the point. Our highly educated teachers deserve every last  penny they receive from us. AND THEN SOME. In Wisconsin, we have a governor who did not graduate college and has shown nothing but contempt for teachers and the critically important role they have in our society. Schoolyard bullies are typically dropouts; but they can go on to become statehouse bullies.  Walker's lack of formal education shows.

In a related development, Geekdom's revolutionary hackers vanguard —ANONYMOUS — infamous for "laying cyber siege" to opponents of WikiLeaks has jumped into the Wisconsin fray on the side of the workers. ANONYMOUS attacked the Koch brothers financed Americans for Prosperity website, posting this ANONYMOUS Manifesto on the Koch brothers front site Anonymous appropriated in the name of the people:
Dear Citizens of the United States of America,

It has come to our attention that the brothers, David and Charles Koch—the billionaire owners of Koch Industries—have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.

Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin. Governor Walker's union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly un-noticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch's have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state's power supplies.

The Koch brothers have made a science of fabricating 'grassroots' organizations and advertising campaigns to support them in an attempt to sway voters based on their falsehoods. Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and Citizens United are just a few of these organizations. In a world where corporate money has become the lifeblood of political influence, the labor unions are one of the few ways citizens have to fight against corporate greed. Anonymous cannot ignore the plight of the citizen-workers of Wisconsin, or the opportunity to fight for the people in America's broken political system. For these reasons, we feel that the Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere. As such, we have no choice but to spread the word of the Koch brothers' political manipulation, their single-minded intent and the insidious truth of their actions in Wisconsin, for all to witness.

Anonymous hears the voice of the downtrodden American people, whose rights and liberties are being systematically removed one by one, even when their own government refuses to listen or worse — is complicit in these attacks. We are actively seeking vulnerabilities, but in the mean time we are calling for all supporters of true Democracy, and Freedom of The People, to boycott all Koch Industries' paper products. We welcome unions across the globe to join us in this boycott to show that you will not allow big business to dictate your freedom.
AWESOME! Internet GEEKS of the World, UNITE! Let the ruling classes tremble at the people's revolution. The people have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Question No One Dared Ask: Are Rumsfeld And Cheney Lizard People Who Eat Human Flesh?!?

But comedian Louis C.K. did, at his first opportunity to question former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And did so insistently, while never getting a direct denial from Rumsfeld! He was speaking for a small subculture of patriotic Americans who believe there is a cosmic-Earth conspiracy by hostile alien lizard people to enslave humans and establish a one-world cosmic government. Sort of a "V" without the LCILF, which greatly reduces its credibility.

Here is the audio of the breakthrough interview:

And here is the astounding VIDEO EVIDENCE compiled by the Lizard People conspiracy buffs:

MY Oscar Goes To ... Anne Hathaway!

Is it just me, or didn't you think she was a breath of fresh air as Oscar night host — her sidekick, his name escapes me, was a simpatico second banana ... Sparkling, beautiful and "gorgeous" (she gave Kirk Douglas a rise), funny and charming, Anne's still a self-effacing sweetheart through and through, a Jersey girl at heart by way of Brooklyn. I'll bet she's a Mets fan, too!

Most disappointing aspect of the Oscars: In times such as these, when it's most needed, the absence of the political fire and brimstone of yesteryear. The few pro-union expressions, though welcome, were muted and wimpy afterthoughts by backbench honorees 'oh-by-the-way I'd like to thank my union crew' ... When it was the perfect occasion for someone, anyone, to raise a fist and shout, "Go union, Go Wisconsin!"

Not that it would have gotten through. The Oscars, like any self-respecting fascist entertainment program, has time-delay censorship in place with the corporate censor's finger flitting nervously between the mute and cut buttons from beginning to end. (Maybe that's why we don't see Jack Nicholson at these gatherings any longer; or for that matter, Alec Baldwin, this year.) Instead we got more of the contagion afflicting award shows: Narcissism gone wild. More 'how can I grab the most outrageous headline for memyselfandI' crap, this time from Melissa Leo, who milked her best supporting actress award for all of its self-promoting worth referring to last year's winner Kate Winslet, "it looked so FUCKING easy!"

Ironically, in an Oscar year in which class and social standing were front and center, from the regal King's Speech to the blue-collar Fighter, no one was there to connect the dots to the broader world context in which we live right now. This was Melissa's missed opportunity to say something for the hard-working people, for the unions, for the people who struggle from paycheck to paycheck every fucking day to put food on their tables.

Colin Firth is such a good actor that I actually thought he was about to have a heave-ho accident onstage, in front of billions. (Maybe he was!) It certainly added dramatic tension to his acceptance speech. And was there something wrong with Randy Newman's microphone? He won anyway, though. For the nth time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not All Republicans Are Idiots, Freaks, Racists, etc.

Only those who believe Barack is a socialist Kenyan-born Muslim and proclaim through their triple chins, between farts, in their racist cartoons that Michelle is an obese black woman who wants to steal our dessert. Although, that's most ot them, I think.

Israeli YouTube Spoof of Qaddafi Crazy(ness) Goes Viral — in The ARAB WORLD

This satirical video of the weird megalomaniacal Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has been embraced across the Arab Middle East as a symbol of the Lybian uprising and their own quest for freedom. What makes it cool and noteworthy is that it was created by Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internaut, in Tel Aviv. Alooshe was inspired to create this spoof by Qaddafi's speech vowing to go “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway” pursuing protesters. Alooshe defined the speech as a "classic hit." What followed was a remixed tune which he created in a few hours setting Qaddafi's words to a hip-hop rap centered around Qaddafi's repetition of the word "zanqua" which means alleyway. The uploaded tune was titled "Zenga-Zenga" and soon went viral on YouTube with more than 400,000 hits, and counting.

Not to overstate its significance, given the intractable and byzantine nature of the quest for peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East — but this could well be the beginning of something new and exciting; the instant, generational rapport, a communion between young Arabs and Israelis in a language they understand far more intuitively than their backward-looking elders. It is the language of the new social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — and in the ease with which it creates a common culture, it transcends ancient tribal rivalries and blood feuds. It is an internet culture with a language that is spoken and created by 30-somethings and under, one that recognizes no artificial boundaries created by European colonial powers and knows little of ancient enmities and religious wars, or Jihad. It is a culture and a language that empowers Lybian youth to embrace a video created by an Israeli as a symbol of their struggle for freedom against the tyranny of Qaddafi's dictatorial rule. With no pride or prejudice of ownership — what a radical concept!

The closest historical comparison that comes to mind is America's opening to China in 1972. When President Nixon set foot on Chinese soil he might as well have been a visiting dignitary to an alien world at the other end of the galaxy. It was such an amazing thing that a close-up of Nixon's handshake with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai "was at least as powerful as Armstrong's lunar step. It sent the world a clear message that the two countries were resolved to move forward with relations." But the first glimmers of a thaw in relations really began with a much more random occurrence between the young people of both nations:
The rapprochement process was stalled by U.S. actions in Indochina until on April 6, 1971 the young American ping pong player, Glenn Cowan, missed his U.S. team bus and was waved by a Chinese table tennis player onto the bus of the Chinese team at the 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan. Cowan spoke with the Chinese players in a friendly fashion, and the Chinese player, Zhuang Zedong, a three-time World Men's Singles Champion, presented him with a silk-screen portrait of the famous Huangshan Mountains. While this had been a purely spontaneous gesture of friendship between two athletes, the PRC chose to treat it as an officially sanctioned outreach … According to sources of information from the PRC, the friendly contact between Zhuang Zedong and Glenn Cowan, as well as the photograph of the two players in Dacankao, had an impact on Mao's decision making.

The U.S. table tennis team was invited by the PRC to tour mainland China for a series of exhibition matches in a nation that prides itself on its ping-pong prowess. The tour was dubbed “ping-pong diplomacy.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Like those young athletes who forged a bond of friendship based on the common language of their sport, the video created by a young Israeli has become a symbol of the Arab youth's quest for freedom and dignity quite apart from official sanction or artificial cultural differences at the geopolitical sphere. Then, as now, the kids were way ahead of the "grown-ups." They ended the war in Vietnam and paved the way for a thawing of the Cold War. Who can say what history is yet to be written by this new generation of protesters in these heady days of deep social and political transformation? Their message for the "grown-ups" and tyrants is, resistance is futile. The time is now for America and our UN allies to stop Qaddafi's bloodshed and jump aboard the freedom train blazing its way through the Arab world. They're asking us: "America, whose side are you on?" Our values demand that we stand with the people. That is our answer.

Not to overstate the significance of a video satire, created by an Israeli, that went on to become the symbol of aspirational Arab freedom — but it could be the start of something big. Something profound.