Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bob Herbert's Last Column For The New York Times

This is the second high profile defection from the New York Times in the span of a few weeks. First it was Frank Rich. And now, Bob Herbert. They were quick to note that it isn't a knock on the Times. But, in my view, it's a symptom of the troubled state of American journalism and of our politics and society at large. Increasingly, print media has been shuffled to the back of the relevancy line, and although the Times continues to set the standard in depth of coverage its quality has declined, succumbing to Gray Lady staidness while more aggressive advocacy publications like Rolling Stone and Mother Jones have scooped the Times on some big stories.

As the Times' capacity to influence and inform public opinion wanes, it has been replaced by the venomous propaganda of right wing media dominated by Fox and its minions. When Fox's principal competitor in defining not only the parameters of the public debate but separating truth from lies is half-owned (it was fully owned before the Comcast merger) by the nation's largest corporation, GE, which, it was recently reported, did not pay a cent in corporate taxes, then the scope of the problem with American media today becomes clearer.

And this is only part of the problem. The extremist, corporatist GOP has launched a frontal assault on public broadcasting, namely National Public Radio (NPR) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS). For those of us who rely on public broadcasting for news that is objective, incisive and truthful, this is a tragic development. In the place of very modest public funding  from your tax dollars and mine, increasingly we see PBS and NPR having to accept money from right wing billionaires like David H. Koch with his baggage of an aggressively partisan and anti-democratic agenda. As a result of a carrot-and-stick strategy from venal right wing corporatists stepping into the funding breach, public broadcasting is cast in the position of supplicant, afraid to offend its new patrons. The influence of these  repulsive corporatists is insidious. It can be seen in how the News Hour reports (or rather fails to report) the seminal events in Wisconsin and America's heartland in favor of softball interviews with Republican governors, in which the hard questions are not asked and remain unanswered. Except when Scott Walker reveals his true intent to a fake Koch brother or in a Talking Points Memo report.

The Koch brothers are not to be confused, for example, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose philanthropy is aimed at improving education for low-income kids and ending the spread of contagious diseases in third world countries. The Koch brothers are pursuing an agenda that is inimical to what poll after poll indicates are the American people's priorities: Taxing the rich to pay down our debt as President Clinton did, no privatization of Social Security and no reduction of Medicare benefits, Defense cuts first before slashing education, and opposing laws aimed at stripping collective bargaining rights from public employee unions.

The GOP's brazen disregard for the expressed wishes of the American people is a reflection of the right wing corporate agenda of its master funders — the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among them. It draws upon the cocky conviction they can keep poking us in the eye with one outrage after another, and we won't react. Whether it's defunding NPR, Planned Parenthood, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tsunami relief, or the Financial Consumer Protection Agency — a death by a thousand cuts of amazing programs that are part of the fabric of our lives and distinguish America as a modern state from just another third world oligarchy. They believe they can stomp on people who earn less than six figures because we've fallen into a kind of media/propaganda-induced stasis that makes us unable to react and fight back. And if we do, they will pit us against each other, whether it's the working poor or the struggling middle class, or the unemployed, or the medically uninsured that have been identified for demonization.

They have the arrogant conviction that they can pull the wool over the people's eyes at the most important juncture — our electoral system — by which we reaffirm this democracy, because under the Citizens United decision they can now spend unlimited funds and blanket the airwaves with 24/7 propaganda. The latest, a crude Koch-funded anti-union ad urged We, The People to tell our elected representatives, "you're not going to take it anymore." Not, as Rachel noted, "we're not going to take it anymore" — no no, it's "you're not going to take it." A revealing Freudian slip, perhaps. They, the super-rich millionaires and billionaires are not to be confused with We, The People. And don't you forget it! They are supremely confident that they can sell us anything, because they control and own everything: The media, most of our nation's wealth, and our government. They may be right.

Ironically, PBS's coverage of other countries is far more penetrating than their coverage of what is happening in our own backyard — which has never been more relevant to our lives. This is but another symptom of the poisonous influence of right wing money and corporate ownership of government and media. The right wing's noxious influence is everywhere. You can no longer do a Google search on certain topics and expect to find a wide range of factual information that informs rather than distorts. Such topics can include "hot button" issues such as the KKK or Islamic terrorism. Wikipedia, the open source internet encyclopedia, is being rewritten by agenda-driven propagandists to project a distorted right wing point of view.

When I looked up the KKK on Wikipedia I found a revisionist partisan screed which skillfully sought to link the KKK with the Democratic Party to the exclusion of the GOP. For example, the one president pictured in a photo and mentioned eight times is Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. Nowhere are the Republican presidents and (alleged) Klan members William McKinley, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge cited. Harding was buried with full "Klan regalia and honors." (Correction: This is what Klan sites proudly claim of their "history." There is no evidence for this whatsoever, that I could find. Nor is there evidence for Coolidge's membership, despite Klan claims, although his Democratic rival, Al Davis, hurt himself in the South when he denounced the Klan in a speech in the election of 1924.) Further, contemporary history of the Klan's close ties to the GOP, no pun intended, is a total whitewash.

Similarly, when I tried to research the Islamic Brotherhood I was redirected to a plethora of right wing Islamophobic sites with the usual fearmongering speech about the threat of Islamic extremism that one hears from Glenn Beck. The Wikipedia entry for the Islamic Brotherhood was a cut-and-paste job from an ultra-right wing anti-Islamic site that doesn't even list its members. Nowhere could I find a scholarly, balanced, objective examination of the Islamic Brotherhood. This was not the case only a few years ago. Today, once reliable and objective reference sites on the internet — Wikipedia chief among them — are being polluted and distorted by right wing propaganda.

Rachel's fabled "Google machine" isn't so reliable anymore as a source of unbiased information. Not that it was before, but at least then certain search terms weren't appropriated by narrow political and ideological interests. It's one of the least reported stories in the "culture wars" and all the more disturbing because it's part of a larger pattern of historical deception and misinformation that can be traced to the rewriting of history and science textbooks by right wing ideologues on the Texas Board of Education rather than by university trained historians.

The result is the dumbing down of America, as related in a recent Newsweek article that found most Americans are incapable of passing a citizenship test, lacking the most basic knowledge of our history. Some of its most incredible findings are: 70% of Americans do not know the Constitution is the "supreme law of the land;" 63% do not know how many justices sit on the Supreme Court; 81% could not identify some of the powers of the federal government under our Constitution. Or how many years a U.S. senator is elected to serve (61%); or who was the president during World War I (80%); or what did Susan B. Anthony do (59%). The parade of ignorance just goes on, and on. And on. It's stunning. And it explains a lot about our present condition.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is by Thomas Jefferson:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
He was right, of course. We may well be living in revolutionary times in which the people are slowly awakening to the realization of who and what their real oppressor is. Another favorite quote, this one by Lincoln, known to most of us, dovetails nicely with this theme:
“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”
We can see this happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey. We can see it in the plunging poll numbers of the corporatist Republican governors with their extremist agendas. People are waking up everywhere, and they may find there is no choice but to fight back by any means necessary. For if the ruling oligarchy believe they can commit economic violence and repression to people without pushback or consequences, then they have misread their history and have deluded themselves into believing their own propaganda. Bob Herbert writes of this in his last column; the parts that resonate — the historical fault line on which the American Dream ends — I have highlighted.

Fortunately for us, Bob Herbert is not leaving the Times to drop out of sight. He is leaving to join the fight, rather than just observe and report it.

March 25, 2011
Losing Our Way
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

This is my last column for The New York Times after an exhilarating, nearly 18-year run. I’m off to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society. My thanks to all the readers who have been so kind to me over the years. I can be reached going forward at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Newt’s “I was For It Before I Was Against It” Moment On Libya

Rachel does this one best. Even on her show, which is scrupulously wedded to the facts and her  “did-I-get-all-this-right” (“because I want to make sure I give the wingnuts every opportunity to save themselves and go to Heaven”) longing to be fair in every way, including religious salvation, to the lying wingnut hypocrite bastards of this world (brownie points from Jon!) — EVEN ON TRMS Newt comes off spayed and neutered. Here's more. (And we love Rachel for being such a sweetheart.)


Even The Wingnuts Don't Want Any Part of This Hustler ...

I mean, it's not like they don't have the money: Where are the Koch brothers when one of their own is in dire need of their financial support? Koch brothers —> $12 million —> Tea Party —> (measly) $500 —> James O'Keefe. Is that how it works? How about Andrew Breitbart; isn't he chummy with O'Keefe? Breitbart practically took him under his wing, and now he's throwing O'Keefe under the bus ... just because the wingnut pimp wants 50 grand to pay off his credit card? How about Limbaugh the Pigman, leader of the radical right GOP (he's a millionaire, what's $50,000 to him) ... or Glenn Beck, multimillionaire ... Pfft, really just a drop in the bucket for him, or Rupert Murdoch? Bill-O'Reilly The Clown, maybe? Greta! Hannity — hmm, he's big on charity even if it's to line his pockets instead of donating to any veterans that may need help.

C'mon guys! Where's the love? You've all used the wingnut runt's amateurish video hit jobs. Even the toe-sucking fetishist with the creepy girly voice could probably come up with the cash from his fetish specialty hookers fund. Here's an idea: Why not hit Tucker Swanson Carlson up for the money? He's good for it, I'm sure. I'm told he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Just hired a Supreme Court Justice's wife to expand the Court's conflicts of interest in a Rightwingville political porn rag. Hmm ... but I must have missed O'Keefe's fundraising plea in the Daily Caller. Strange.

Didn't catch DC story of union member Tucker bashing teachers on Fox, either. The DC wingnut frat kiddies usually like to promote their boss with a big suck-up brown-nosing piece every time he shows up in the MSM. But nothing except Big Eddie's take(down) on it. Strange.

I wonder if any of the frat house wingnuts at the Daily Caller took up Big Eddie's challenge to do a write-up defending their boss, or go on the Ed Show to defend him in person? I think they might be shakin' in their boots skeert of Big Eddie ... Here's Big Eddie's Takedown of Tucker Swanson Carlson and his casual LIES (it's a prerequisite for working at the Daily Caller, which isn't a burden for wingnuts for whom lying comes naturally, then compulsively) — once they start, they can't stop:

I only hope O'Keefe the wingnut hustler, who's seemingly been disowned by the Big Hitters in Rightwingville, doesn't hit on our buddy Jim "the Digger" Treacher for the money. The trusting Treach has already been burned by the dude. But I can't seem to find the story on the DC site. You would think ... O'Keefe being one of their own and all ... Maybe they're all shakin' in their bootsies it was a GLENN BECK SITE spelling Media Matters that did the debunking of O'Keefe this time. Whoops!

Even for truth-challenged Rightwingville, that's hitting a new low in O'Keefe's cred.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preventing Genocide = A Just War

Of the many rationales criticizing our intervention in Libya, none adequately addresses the task at hand, to prevent Khaddafi from committing wholesale slaughter of his people. Given the urgency of a looming humanitarian crisis, the tribal roots of the conflict or whether the uprising against the dictator fits the definition of a civil war take a back seat to the reality on the ground: Colonel Khaddafi has all the heavy guns while his opponents have brought a knife to this fight. Rep. Anthony Weiner is one street smart liberal who said, sensibly, that where we have a chance to do some good, we should, understands this isn't a fair fight.

Some of those opposing intervention are quick to call it a war, i.e., war is the organized killing of people. To which the pregnant question is left unanswered: What then is genocide? Why not ask Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian Lt. General who begged the international community to intervene in Rwanda because the UN failed to give him the resources to stop the genocide, and the international community stood by and let it happen. International law has evolved since Rwanda. The treaty establishing the International Criminal Court defines genocide as:
[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
– Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II
UN Security Council Resolution 1674, adopted in 2006, "reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". The resolution committed the Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.

Weirdly, one progressive staunchly opposed to this action, wondered about Hillary's purported "emotional" response — interesting how Mr. I-don't-want-to-say-anything-sexist implies Hillary's decision was based on emotion. And how could we not notice that some in the Idiot Punditocracy have framed the internal debate in the Obama administration about the merits of intervention in Libya as a "girls (Hillary and Susan Rice) against the boys" in which the "emotional" girls prevailed. How's that for sexism, hmm?

How war is defined versus, e.g., a "police action" or a "humanitarian" intervention is open to interpretation. Our own recent history against Khaddafi reflects that ambiguity. In 1986 after a series of skirmishes with Libya over its territorial claims to the Gulf of Sidra and a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe culminating in the bombing of a German disco, President Reagan ordered an air raid on Libya. The disco bombing didn't claim many victims, but pointed directly to Libyan operatives. That was enough for the U.S. to strike at Libya. Khaddafi narrowly escaped death when his tent was not hit. Was that an "act of war" or a preemptive shot across the bow to warn Khaddafi his terrorist activities would not be tolerated?

Two years later, when it was equally clear that Libyan operatives were responsible for the bombing of Pan An 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, there was no military action against Khaddafi for reasons best known to Britain and the U.S. Instead an economic sanctions regime was imposed. So much for the wingnut claim by crazed Teabagger Rep. Allen West that after Reagan bombed Khaddafi "he didn't say a word for the next 30 years":
"You know, back two or three weeks ago, we could have taken care of this situation if we had done the exact same thing that Ronald Reagan did back in the early 80's to Muammar Gaddafi, when he dropped the bomb in his back yard. Muammar Gaddafi didn't say a word for the next 30 years."
(What a pathetic imbecile.)

Evidently, Lockerbie escaped Westie's selective memory, not to speak of Khaddafi flipping Reaganauts the Bird by staging a hero's welcome for the Lockerbie bomber's triumphant homecoming. Outrageously, a Scottish court had ordered the terrorist's early release from prison on humanitarian grounds. Apparently he had days to live from terminal cancer which magically entered remission upon his return to Libya. In the current situation, imposing another economic sanction (I'm sure West would approve, since that's what his hero, Ronnie the Wimp, chose to do) is not a viable option in the face of  a credible and imminent threat of genocide perpetrated by Khaddafi against his people.

War is hell. But not all war is the same; not all war is preventable; and not all war is unjust. Military intervention to prevent genocide, it seems to me, is the very embodiment of a just war.

On a point of personal privilege, I used the intransigent wingnut verb "dithering" to describe President Obama's seeming hesitancy to act as Khaddafi threatened to hunt his enemies down to "the last drop of blood." The President had said earlier that Khaddafi "must go" and we were "tightening the noose" around him. At that writing, he had not made his decision public —the presumption was that the President would choose not to act. But in concert with Hillary, President Obama patiently and deliberately worked behind the scenes to line up international support from European allies and the Arab League. UN Ambassador Rice proved to be outstanding in securing the 10 Security Council votes and the necessary abstentions from Russia, China, Brazil and others that gave international legitimacy to this action. No cowboy diplomacy here.

As it turns out, the President had very good reasons to be patient before taking the plunge. Patience and deliberation are among his finest qualities as a leader, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Predictably, Sarah Palin took the opportunity on a trip to India to lob another cheap shot at the President (get in line, Republicans): After she said Americans have a "tradition" of not criticizing the President's foreign policy on "foreign soil"... in the very next sentence Palin criticized Obama for "dithering." Sarah Palin is an embarassment to the United States as our "any dumbass idiot can be a heartbeat away from the presidency" embassador — particularly in light of this Newsweek story.

In the last analysis, President Obama did the right thing and deserves our full support.  However this military intervention in Libya turns out — plenty of fodder for Rachel's "master narrative"— it can never be said that we stood idly by and did nothing as Khaddafi systematically slaughtered innocent civilians. Instead we had the means and the will to stop the genocide. And so we took preventive military action. That's a pretty good standard to get behind.

Radiation From Japan Reaches Our Shores. YAY!

Tell me I'm wrong, but it seems the consensus from "experts" about radiation from Japan reaching our shores is that it would be diluted at sea before any radiation ever made its way to our Pacific coastline. Many said CATEGORICALLY (which is a dishonest position to take) that there is no cause for concern. Now we have this report from the AP:
State Department of Health officials say they have detected trace levels of radiation in Washington from Japan's damaged nuclear reactors.

Monday's announcement says that the "minuscule" amounts of radioactive iodine are millions of times lower than levels that would raise health concerns. Officials say that despite the new readings, overall radiation levels in the state have not risen.

The department reported that reading levels by the state are on par with federal and Canadian measurements. The radiation from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors is not reaching Washington in high levels because of the distance and air mixing.
Worse yet for the people of Japan, even with electric power restored, those crippled reactors have not been brought under control. There was more release of radioactive clouds from two of the reactors. As expected, the radiation in the afflicted area has entered the food chain, milk and vegetables. As for the low-level radiation detected in Washington, one can only imagine how severely marine life between Japan and the United States is impacted.

I still think investment in radiation detection devices, like geiger counters, as well as in iodine pills, is a prudent measure for anyone in the direct path of this spreading radiation. This is an open-ended crisis with no end in sight. But then, I'm not an "expert." New, disturbing revelations just keep popping up every other day. As long as  the reactors are not stabilized, radiation release will continue. The amount released, in measurable terms, still remains somewhat of a mystery. The low-level radioactive dust apparently did not need the Jet Stream to be carried in the winds all the way to Seattle.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tea Party Remedial Education: This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

This is one more object lesson in DEMOCRACY for those pasty-white sclerotic beached whales known as the Teabaggers, bussed in from out of state (Wisconsin) by Koch brothers money to dump on events like these (below) in  which the media milquetoasts actually outnumber the tea cups but are nowhere to be seem in the real outburst of genuine people power exercising their constitutional rights to reddress their government for grievances, or — overthrow the tyrant. And another lesson in DEMOCRACY, Teabaggers: For all the Tea and American jobs flight in China that your selfish, treasonous activities have spurred, there still remains in this country a system of CHECKS AND BALANCES in which ONE JUDGE can STOP a tyrannical OUTLAW governor dead in his tracks. Look up Judge John Sirica, you ignorant farts — know who he is?

Consider NOT Donating A Friggin' Penny To PBS!

The other day I was watching a NOVA documentary on the mating habits of wingnuts (kidding, but it might as well be true) crash of that Air France flight over the Atlantic, from Rio to Paris, when the credits started rolling and I saw in big, bold type that seemed to linger and dwell on the screen, like an evil incantation or the mark of the beast — 666 — that that program had been funded in a very LARGE part (maybe entirely) by David H. Koch. I was stunned. So I did a little research, and came upon the PBS Ombudsman's "Mailbag." Now, I'm not going to dump on the Ombudsman; it's a thankless task. He or she must justify and rationalize programming that edged up against some invisible propriety border without the power to do much of anything about it. And he's got to take a LOT of kvetching from the viewers, on top of everything else. Here's what PBS had to say about accepting the David Koch money:
A Response from NOVA Senior Executive Producer Paula Apsell:

WGBH is committed to the editorial integrity of all our programs, adhering to the strictest journalistic standards. To maintain that integrity, and the trust of our audiences, funders are prohibited from any involvement in the editorial process. NOVA, like all WGBH programs, maintains complete, independent editorial control of its content.
With all due respect, Ms. Aspell, that's not the point. Would you receive money from a rapist? Or a murderer? How about a crony capitalist, union-buster, highly partisan political contributor involved in various shady and barely legal schemes to destroy the American middle class? Would you accept money from such an individual? You may have built a firewall around your programming in which funders are "prohibited" from "any involvement in the editorial process." I've got news for you, Ms. Aspell: David H. Koch is already involved, only you're too blind to see it, or more likely, you just don't want to see that your company is in survival mode as a result of actions ruthlessly undertaken by your "funder" David H. Koch. There's no firewall that can protect your credibility.

The Ombudsman, Michael Getler (who gives me the impression he's frequently sweating bullets), added his own cheerful note:
(Ombudsman's Note: One rarely knows when or how, if at all, influence works its way. If it is a factor, it can come from outside or from within. As a viewer of what strikes me and a lot of others as a consistently first-rate program, I trust NOVA.)
This is a typical example of the Ombudsman's dilemma: When reason and logic fail, there's always blind faith to fall back on.  I wouldn't know, because I'll be watching a whole lot less of PBS.

But then, having been duly sensitized to the PBS sellout to right wing corporate America, I fired off this rant in their general direction:
I used to be a regular News Hour viewer. Still am, to some extent, because I like the other anchors, besides Jim and Judy, and the weekend wrapup with Mark Shields and David Brooks. But I must say, your coverage of politics has become so biased in favor of corporate elites, so unreal in its whitewash of what's going on in the country regarding the radical right wing Republican power grab, in all its dimensions, as to be utterly irrelevant.

I used to think Jim Lehrer was an objective anchor — the image he so carefully cultivates — until I saw his coverage of Wisconsin Gov. Walker signing the bill stripping unions of collective bargaining rights. There was something in the tone of Jim's voice that was almost gleeful, reporting Walker's Pyrrhic "victory." Then when Mark Shields rightly opined that this was a "victory" for the Democrats Jim retorted with exaggerated incredulity, for effect: "REALLY? THE DEMOCRATS?" Showed me which side of the fence he was on.

As for Judy Woodruff, it was comical to see her interview GOP governors Barbour (MS) and McDonnell (VA), taking their GOP talking points at face value (might as well interview Frank Luntz: Did you tell them to say "job killer" and "budget crisis" and what about this word, and that?) in a complete whitewash of their lies. Asked for some reason to speak on behalf of Walker and against the unions, McDonnell kept distorting the truth, insisting unions had to make financial concessions — which they did! They gave Walker everything he wanted — when the crux of it was union-busting and stripping workers of collective bargaining rights. Not a manufactured budget "crisis" in which a large portion of that budget shortfall was in tax cuts for rich people like Jim and Judy.

How can you ignore demonstrations of more than 100,000 people supporting workers' rights in Wisconsin while providing a forum for GOP governors to plug their talking points? You call yourselves journalists? And why didn't you make a more spirited defense of NPR? With all the problems confronting us, the extremist right wing Republicans in Congress call an "emergency" hearing to defund NPR — to take funding away from programs like "Car Talk" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"? You should have been taking these Republicans to task. Shame on you.

For all of your cosmetic enhancements, you have become increasingly irrelevant as a reliable news outlet. And you have the gall to ask the viewers for money, with all the economic pain that's happening outside your cloistered walls. It would be a different thing if you were actually honestly reporting the news on our behalf. You don't need, nor do you deserve, our money. The corporations are bankrolling you. And it shows.

West's Intervention in Libya Creates Strange Bedfellows

How else could one get Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball and celebrated Dean of the Beltway media, aka, the Idiot Punditocracy, Noam Chomsky, a leading academic thinker on the Left, and Pat Buchanan, MSNBC's resident nativist, to agree on anything? Pat's claim to fame is the original "lock and load" and a blood-curdling GOP convention speech about taking "back our cities ... block by block."

Colonel Khaddafi must have had Pat's speech in his YouTube "favorites"— no doubt the kind of rhetoric he fancies. Pat could charge Khaddafi with plagiarism for his notorious “Zenga Zenga” music video speech, in which Khaddafi pledged to hunt Libya’s rebels like rats “house to corner, alley to alley, inch by inch ... to the last drop of blood.” Echoes of Buchanan for the mad Colonel who said, “I will call upon millions from desert to desert. We will march to purge Libya inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley.”

Here's the Buchanan original: "Here were 19-year-old boys ready to lay down their lives to stop a mob from molesting old people they did not even know. And as those boys took back the streets of Los Angeles, block by block, my friends, we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country." When Pat says mob, he is tweaking the voter's racist subconscious fear. Think rampaging mobs of inner-city blacks and invading mobs of non-white illegal aliens. These are common themes — purging, cleansing, disinfecting — in fascist rhetoric.

But that's not all Khaddafi said. Some of my friends on the Left balked at this new military action, just as they balked when NATO intervened to stop "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia. The opponents of intervention were wrong then, and they're wrong again, now. The two rationalizations they make are absurd: (1) That Libya is a "civil war;" and (2) that's it's all about "OIL."

With regard to the civil war argument, YES, it is a civil war; so what's your point? How is the Left's reticence today any different from that of the world's democracies that stood idly by as Nazi Germany tipped the military scales in favor of Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascist military coup against the ELECTED republican government of Spain? Back in those days, the only Americans with the balls to fight Franco's fascists and his Nazi patrons were the socialist and communist volunteers of the storied Abraham Lincoln brigade.

The Spanish Civil War was Hitler's laboratory to test his war tactics and new weapons on the Spanish population and the valiant international volunteers who defied him. The abject timidity of the democracies to confront him then only served to embolden the dictators and their grand designs. For nearly 40 years Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist and was toasted by disgraced U.S. president Richard Nixon for his anti-communism.

That worked out really well for the Spanish people.

Bosnia was a civil war, too. It took images of concentration camps reminiscent of Hitler's extermination camps, and the forced evacuation — ethnic cleansing — of Kosovo's predominant Muslim population, reminiscent of Pol Pot's Cambodian killing fields, to get NATO off the block. Should we have not intervened because it was a civil war? When the West stood by and failed to intervene in Rwanda, critics on the Left skewered the West for not acting, and made the specious charge that it was because the victims of genocide were black — they did not look like us — and Rwanda did not have a vital resource, like OIL. Considering the boo birds in the peanut galleries will criticize any decision the West takes, they may as well take one based on principle and humanitarian grounds.

If the critics thought about the OIL argument logically, they would realize it's ridiculous. Khaddafi has remained in power for decades, not by defying the West (which he did, initially, but then reversed himself after the Lockerbie terrorist attack was met with harsh economic sanctions, and earlier military skirmishes with the U.S. in the Gulf of Sidra followed by a Libyan terrorist attack of a German disco triggered the bombing retaliation from the U.S. in which Khaddafi narrowly escaped death when the bombs missed his tent). From then on, Col. Khaddafi became Mr. Cooperation and his oil flowed freely to the West.

As is often the case, the West had made a pact with the Devil by allowing Khaddafi to remain in power in exchange for free-flowing oil. So if OIL were the main motivator here, it would be in the West's interest to stand down and let Khaddafi slaughter his civilian population. The Arab League, terrified as they are of the "Arab Street," wouldn't mind at all. Moreover, many of those fighting on the rebels' side were once allied with Al Qaeda against the United States. So a Realpolitik explanation, that the U.S. is some kind of evil empire out to subjugate and colonize Libya, just doesn't hold water.

Ethnic cleansing is a synonym for genocide. How soon the boo birds forget the example of Canadian Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, who commanded the UN forces in Rwanda and was practically broken by his inability to save hundreds of thousands of human lives, whose genocide he bore witness to. General Dallaire's humanity, his searing and raw torment shamed many of us to action, or at least to a recognition that if we have the means to stop it, STOP the wanton slaughter of civilians we must.

How soon we forget. Often enough, the simplest explanation is the correct one ... Occum's Razor. And though we may criticize the U.S. for its double standard regarding Bahrain and Yemen, two wrongs don't make a right. Never did. Doing what's right is a standalone proposition; it's not dependent or contingent on whether or not a related action is right or wrong. In the case of Libya, Khaddafi has made credible threats that he is prepared to commit wholesale genocide against his people. That is unacceptable, by any standards of civilized behavior.

President Obama had a lot more to do with Mubarak stepping down and the initial peaceful conclusion to the Egyptian Revolution, culminating in the dictator's departure, than he is given credit for. Mubarak certainly didn't agree with the boo birds. In interviews, the bitterness he felt toward the United States for not standing behind him was evident. President Obama threw Mubarak under the bus, and he's about to clip Khaddafi's wings and given the Libyan rebels a fighting chance. I applaud the President for doing the right thing. Let the ideological critics carp. Common sense trumps ideology.