Monday, December 14, 2009

Feeling Alright for a Lefty

I Didn't really get into Twitter until a few months ago, but it sure has paid off. I've met some great and interesting people, not to mention, a few saints.
I met @larrydhalstead (LarryHalstead) yesterday. He is a Political Scientist, into natural health, adopted 5 children(drug babies), and tweets like all of us who care about this world we live in. Twitter can be such a great activism tool, but I feel we really need to recruit more free-thinkers. progressives, and liberals to the medium. Please ask any and all friends and acquaintances to join, and be a mentor for them to get started.
Check back, as I will update more frequently!
Thanks everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

From: Dan Froomkin

Pretending that Fox News is fair and balanced only serves the right wing, in the same way that it only served the Bush administration when traditional-media reporters pretended Bush didn't have a credibility problem -- and didn't call him out for his lies -- for fear of appearing partisan. It's self-muzzling, plain and simple

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fox News hits a new lowest common denominator

Little did Hal know at the time, Fox would get much, much lower.

By Hal Crowther

It's the first rule of democracy that all politicians will praise the wisdom of the people — an effusive flattery that intensifies when they ask "the people" to swallow something exceptionally inedible. What the people never hear from anyone, or from anyone with further ambitions, is the truth. If a public figure wishes to leave the stage forever, a sound strategy is to offer his fellow citizens a candid and disparaging assessment of their intelligence. In the aftermath of the conquest of Iraq, as we awake to the bewildering possibility of a United States of Asia, the patriotic pageantry and premature gloating call to mind an obsession that once gripped the great French novelist Gustave Flaubert. (In my recklessness I ignore the halfwit embargo on all things French.) Flaubert, according to W.G. Sebald, became convinced that his own work and his own brain had been infected by a national epidemic of stupidity, a relentless tide of gullibility and muddled thinking which made him feel, he said, as if he were sinking into sand.

At his low point, Flaubert convinced himself that everything he had written had been contaminated and "consisted solely of a string of the most abysmal errors and lies." Sometimes he lay on his couch for months, frozen with the dread that anything he wrote would only extend Stupidity's domain. Flaubert became a scholar of moronic utterances, painstakingly collecting hundreds of what he called betises — stupidities — and arranging them in his "Dictionary of Received Opinions."

The wondrous blessing God bestowed on Gustave Flaubert — and on America's own great chroniclers of contagious stupidity, Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken — is that they lived and died without imagining a thing like Fox News. It's easy to laugh at Rupert Murdoch's outrageous mongrel, the impossible offspring of supermarket tabloids, sitcom news spoofs, police-state propaganda mills and the World Wrestling Federation.

Fox News is an oxymoron and Cheech and Chong would have made a more credible team of war correspondents than Geraldo Rivera and Ollie North. Neither Saturday Night Live nor the 1973 film Network, Paddy Chayefsky's corrosive satire of TV news, could even approach the comic impact of Geraldo embedded, or of Fox's pariah parade, its mothball fleet of experts who always turn out to be disgraced or indicted Republican refugees. If Ed Meese, Newt Gingrich and Elliott Abrams couldn't fill your sails with mirth, you could count on the recently deposed Viceroy of Virtue and High Regent of Rectitude, my old schoolmate Blackjack Bill Bennett.

With its red-faced, hyperventilating reactionaries and slapstick abuse of lame "liberal" foils who serve them as crash dummies, Fox News could easily be taken as pure entertainment, even as inspired burlesque of the rightwing menagerie. But the problem — in fact, the serious problem — is that Fox isn't kidding, and brownshirts aren't funny.

Harper's reports that Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly became so infuriated by the son of a 9-11 victim who opposed the war — "I'm against it and my father would have been against it, too" — that he cursed the man and even threatened him off-camera. A Fox TV anchor, one Neil Cavuto, celebrated the fall of Baghdad by informing all of us who opposed the war in March, "You were sickening then, you are sickening now." If reports are accurate, these troubled men are neither bad journalists nor even bad actors portraying journalists — they're mentally unbalanced individuals whose partisan belligerence is pressing them to the brink of psychosis.

But the scariest thing about Fox and Rupert Murdoch, the thing that renders them all fear and no fun in a time of national crisis, is that they channel for the Bush administration as faithfully as if they were on the White House payroll. Like no other substantial media outlet in American history, Fox serves — voluntarily — as the propaganda arm of a controversial, manipulative, image-obsessed government. To watch its war coverage for even a minute was to grind your teeth convulsively at each Orwellian repetition of the Newspeak mantra, "Operation Iraqi Freedom." I swear I hate to stoop to Nazi analogies; but if Joseph Goebbels had run his own cable channel, it would have been indistinguishable from Fox News.

Fox's truculent patriotism is misleading, of course. Rupert Murdoch is not exactly an American patriot, he's not even exactly an American. Though he became an American citizen in 1985 (solely to qualify, under US law, as the owner of a TV network), the Australian Murdoch was already 54 and his tabloid formula had already polluted the media mainstreams in Australia and Great Britain. Murdoch is an insatiable parasite, a vampirish lamprey who fastens himself to English-speaking nations and grows fat on their cultural lifeblood, leaving permanently degraded media cultures in his wake. Rabid patriotism is a product he sells, along with celebrity gossip, naked women and smirky bedroom humor, in every country he contaminates. And a little "white rage" racism has always gone into his mix for good measure. ("He tried so hard to use race to sell his newspapers that he became known as "Tar Baby' Murdoch," Jimmy Breslin once charged.)

Murdoch's repulsive formula has proven irresistible from Melbourne to Manhattan, and now, by satellite, he's softening up Beijing. His great fortune rests on his wager that a huge unevolved minority is stupid, bigoted, prurient, nasty to the core. In America today, it's hard to say whether Rupert Murdoch is an agent, or merely a beneficiary, of the cultural leprosy that's consuming us. But the conspicuous success of Fox News, lamentable in the best of times, is devastating in a shell-shocked nation that sees itself at war.

It is and has always been true, in Samuel Johnson's famous words, that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" — by which, of course, Dr. Johnson meant patriotism as a political and rhetorical weapon, not as a private emotion. Belittling other people's patriotism to achieve political leverage is the lowest road a public scoundrel can travel, the road where neo-conservative meets neo-fascist. In flag-frenzied Fox, an unscrupulous administration found a blunt object ready-made to hammer its critics.

Liars With Secret Agendas

Years ago in Moscow, at the dawn of perestroika, a pair of Russian journalists showed me headlines from the New York Post that made Kruschchev's "We will bury you" sound like "Have a nice day." How can there ever be peace, they asked me, if America hates us so much? Handicapped by the yawning gap between our respective press traditions, I tried to explain that the Post had nothing to do with our government or even the American media machine, that it was owned by an Australian whose Red-baiting and saber-rattling was an act designed to sell newspapers to morons. That he was unconnected to our government was something I believed about Murdoch in 1984, though no doubt Ronald Reagan was eager to naturalize a lonely immigrant with billions to invest in right-wing media.

But now? Is it sheer coincidence that the president's stage manager, Greg Jenkins — responsible for the notorious flight-suit landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and for posing George Bush against Mt. Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty — was recently a producer at Fox News?

If these elaborate tableaus Jenkins choreographs for President Bush seem clumsy, tasteless, condescending and insulting to your intelligence, you must be some kind of liberal. They bear an uncanny family resemblance to the red-white-and-blue show at Fox News, and heavy-handedness has never harmed its ratings, nor the president's either.

How stupid are we, finally, how easy to fool? Fox News is run by the insidious Roger Ailes — image merchant for Nixon, Reagan and Bush senior, producer for Rush Limbaugh, newsman never — and Fox is not what it seems to be. It's not a news service, certainly, nor even the sincere voice of low-rent nationalism. It's a calculated fraud, like the president who ducked the draft during Vietnam, and even welshed on his National Guard commitment, but who puts on a flight suit stenciled "Commander-in-chief" and plays Douglas MacArthur on network TV.

"I almost choked," said my mother's friend Doris, who's 90. "I had to lie down." It's possible that even old George Bush, who served with distinction in World War II, had to stifle a groan over that one.

The invasion of Iraq was in no way what it seemed to be, either. Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the United States. His "weapons of mass destruction" remain invisible, his terrorist connections remain unproven, and he had absolutely nothing to do with the destruction of the World Trade Center. Most cynical of all was the "liberation" lie, the administration's sudden concern for the helpless citizens of Iraq. Saddam, as grotesque as he was, wasn't getting any meaner, and "liberators" like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were doing brisk business with him when he was in his murderous, citizen-eating prime (and in Cheney's case, as recently as 1999). It would take half a page to list all the US-sanctioned dictators, killers of their people, who will be sharing hell's hottest corner with Saddam Hussein.

Liars with secret agendas are treating Americans like frightened children. If that sounds like a cry from the Left, get a transcript of Sen. Robert Byrd's remarks to the Senate on May 21. Byrd, nobody's liberal by any stretch of the imagination, accuses the White House of constructing "a house of cards, built on deceit," to justify its war on Iraq.

According to polls, at least half of us were so eager to be deceived, we believed the one lie Bush never dared to tell us, except by implication: that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

According to a CNN poll, 51 percent believe this — "The Moron Majority," declares the headline in The Progressive Populist. And at that point, like poor Flaubert, I feel the sand around my ankles. I want to lie down and give up. On the wall above my bed of pain, two familiar quotations: "The tyranny of the ignoramuses is insurmountable and assured for all time" — Albert Einstein; and "Perhaps the universe is nothing but an equilibrium of idiocies." — George Santayana.

It violates democratic etiquette to call your fellow citizens "idiots." (Unless they're liberals — "We all agree that liberals are stupid," writes Charles Krauthammer.) Fortunately, the PC wordworks has coined a new euphemism to replace the ugly word "retarded." It's "intellectually disabled," and we have it just in time. How else could we describe a majority that accepts the logic of "supporting the troops"? Protest as I might, a local columnist explained to me, once the soldiers are "locked and cocked" I owe them not only my prayers for their safe deliverance but unqualified endorsement of their mission, no matter how immoral and ill-advised it may seem to me.

According to this woeful logic, whoever controls the armed forces in the country where you live owns your conscience and your soul. It mandates unanimous civilian support for King Herod's soldiers smashing Hebrew babies against doorposts. It holds our soldiers hostage to silence our common sense, independent judgment and moral autonomy — the foundations of each thinking individual's self-respect, not to mention the foundations of every theory of democratic government.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public," said President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Madhouse Choir

They don't make Republicans like they used to. The troop-support doctrine, so universally and smugly conceded, is logic for the intellectually disabled, for people who've been hit in the head repeatedly with a heavy shovel. The stupidity of those who buy it is no more astonishing than the hypocrisy of those who sell it — Republicans who preach our sacred duty to the army's morale and simultaneously cancel $15 billion in veteran's benefits and 60 percent of federal education subsidies for servicemen's children. If you can't believe that, look it up.

When is it too late to wake the sleeping masses? When a Fox TV show for amateur entertainers turns up more voters than Congressional elections? The marriage of television and propaganda may well have been the funeral of reason. In the meantime, Iraq is a bloody mess and Afghanistan a tragic mess, and most of the earth's one billion Muslims think the US and Israel are trying to conquer their world and destroy their religion. America's economy is suffocating ("A sickly economy with no cure in sight" says this morning's paper), her currency is in free fall and her reputation flies below half mast on every continent. We've been instructed to hate the French, our allies since the days of Lafayette, because they dared to tell us the truth.

What our best friends think of us is epitomized by a new play in Paris titled George W. Bush, or God's Sad Cowboy. Another in London is called The Madness of George Dubya. Our only original enemies, the terrorists of Al-Qaeda, seem to be thriving — and quite naturally gaining recruits. There's a chilling suspicion that major architects of our current foreign policy are insane. Listen to Bush adviser Richard Perle, known since his Reagan years as the Prince of Darkness: "If we let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage total war [my italics], our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Is that the children I hear singing, or the madhouse choir? (Calling Dr. Strangelove ...) But polls tell us that through all the wars and lies and logical meltdowns that followed 9-11, 70 percent of adult America declared itself well satisfied and well served.

"I think it is terrifying," said the late Bishop Paul Moore, a Yale aristocrat who, like most mainstream clergymen, did not support the Bush wars. "I believe it will lead us to a terrible crack in the whole culture as we have come to know it."

I believe it has, and I believe that the split between liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican is inconsequential compared to the real fracture line, between Americans who try to think clearly and those who will not or cannot. What hope, a cynical friend teased me, for a country where 70 percent believe in angels, 60 percent believe in literal, biblical, blazing Armageddon, and more than half reject Charles Darwin? He didn't need to add that creationists, science-annihilating cretins, have now recruited President Bush, who assures fundamentalists he "has doubts" about evolution.

Whether the president is that dumb or merely that dishonest is beside the point. He knows his constituency. New research published by the National Academy of Sciences asserts that human beings and chimpanzees share 99.4 percent of their DNA. Would the polls (or the elections) change if subjects had to submit to DNA tests to prove they possess the qualifying .6 percent? American readers have purchased 50 million copies of Tim LaHaye's gonzo Apocalypse novels, still more evidence that what awaits the United States of America is not a physical but an intellectual Armageddon.

Was it dry, desert sand or quicksand that the despairing Flaubert imagined? When we look down, can we still see our knees? Novelist Michael Malone, a notorious optimist, offered a faint ray of hope when he urged me to ignore all the polls — if the government has intimidated most of the media, he argued, what makes you think the polls are credible?

When the sand begins to grip us and no lifeline appears, we clutch at straws. Yet there's anecdotal evidence that the polls could be wrong. Brownshirts targeted the Dixie Chicks, and they survived handsomely. At the Merle Watson bluegrass festival in rural Wilkes County, singer Laura Love ridiculed President Bush from the main stage and harvested thousands of cheers to perhaps a hundred catcalls. At a crowded bookstore in Charlottesville last month, I tossed aside the book I hoped to sell and read a white-knuckled antiwar essay I wrote in 1991. One woman walked out, but everyone else applauded and grinned at me. Come to think of it, nearly everyone I know hates these wars and these lies as much as I do.

Are we so few, or are the numbers we see part of the Bush-Fox disinformation campaign — like Saddam's missing uranium and his 25,000 liters of anthrax? This faint last hope will be tested in the presidential election of 2004. If the polls are right and Malone is wrong, as I fear, it's going to be a long, sandy century for the United States of America, for our children and grandchildren and all those sweet singing children yet unborn.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Many Progressive issues are interrelated

No one, of course, has the authority to decide who is a progressive and who isn't. Yet if the label "progressive" has meaning at all, it is only because of some shared criteria we have in mind when we use it. So it might be worthwhile to put these criteria on the table, not to draw boundaries and hand out membership badges, but to spark a conversation about the common ground of ideas and values on which progressives stand, and to underscore the point that the center is not the left.

So who is a progressive? You might be one if ...

You think health care is a basic human right, and that single-payer national health insurance is a worthwhile reform on our way toward creating a non-profit national health care service.

You think that human rights ought always to trump property rights.

You think U.S. military spending is an obscene waste of resources, and that the only freedom this spending protects is the freedom of economic elites to exploit working people all around the planet.

You think U.S. troops should be brought home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and most of the 130 countries in which the U.S. has military bases.

You think political leaders who engage in "preemptive war" and invasions should be brought to trial for crimes against humanity and judged against the standards of international law established at Nuremberg after World War Two.

You think public education should be free, not just from kindergarten through high school, but as far as a person is willing and able to go.

You think that electoral reform should include instant run-off voting, publicly-financed elections, easy ballot access for all parties, and proportional representation.

You think that electoral democracy is not enough, and that democracy must also be participatory and extend to workplaces.

You think that strengthening the rights of all workers to unionize and bargain collectively is a useful step toward full economic democracy.

You think that as a society we have a collective obligation to provide everyone who is willing and able to work with a job that pays a living wage and offers dignity.

You think that regulating big corporations is a necessity in a Democracy.

You think that the legal doctrine granting corporations the same constitutional rights as natural persons is absurd and must be overturned.

You think it's crazy to use the Old Testament as a policy guide for the 21st century.

You believe in celebrating diversity, while also recognizing that having women and people of color proportionately represented.

You think that the state has no right to kill, and that putting people to death to show that killing is wrong will always be a self-defeating policy.

You think that instead of more leaders, we need fewer followers.

You think that national borders, while sometimes establishing territories of safety, more often establish territories of exploitation, much like gang turf.

You are open to considering how the privileges you enjoy because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and/or physical ability might come at the expense of others.

You believe that voting every few years is a weak form of political participation, and that achieving social justice requires concerted effort before, during, and after elections.

You recognize that an economic system which requires continuous expansion, destroys the environment, relies on rapidly-depleting fossil fuels, exacerbates inequality, and leads to war after war is unsustainable and must be replaced. Score a bonus point if you understand that sticking to the existing system is what's unrealistic.

No doubt some readers will say this list is incomplete. It is. Many policy issues of importance to progressives go unmentioned. Others might say that the list leans too far to the left, or not far enough. It could also be said that some items are vague (what does it mean to say that human rights ought always to trump property rights?). These are all useful responses. If we hope to work together to transform the social world, we need to know what we agree on, what we don't agree on, and what needs further hashing-out.

In the end, however, it's not labels and identities and criteria for bestowing them that really matter. Political terms have consequences, but only because of how we use them. Which suggests another item for the list. You might be a progressive if you think that it's important to take seriously the meaning of political identities, but that what really matters is living out those identities in ways that help to create more peace, justice, and equality.

From Common Dreams, edited by Steve Souza, by Michael Schwalbe who is a professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His most recent book is Rigging the Game: How Inequality Is Reproduced in Everyday Life (Oxford, 2008).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The new John Birch Society?

Bury Obamacare with Ted Kennedy”

Signs were not from a small group of extremists, but a much larger, well funded conservative Catholic organization, founded by One of the most senior Catholic pro-life activists in the United States. American Life League (ALL) founded by its President Judie Brown, appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy for Life, said of the Kennedy funeral affair: “The entire travesty, from the television cameras to spectacle itself, goes beyond anything I have witnessed in my more than 65 years of life. In fact, while we all thought the appearance of President Barack Obama at the University of Notre Dame was a scandal, the very idea that he offered a eulogy in a basilica, while the real presence of Christ was in the tabernacle, is perhaps the most dastardly thing I have ever seen.”

The American Life League is a Catholic tax-exempt charity and one of the top fundraising Catholic organizations. Judie Brown is better known as the "grandmother of the modern anti-choice movement" who popularized aggressive clinic blockades and sidewalk "counseling" tactics to harass health care providers and clinic patients beginning in the 1980s. In a mass email sent September 14, Judie Brown asked supporters to purchase her “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” signs in order to declare their “outrage” at the current national debate about reforming the health care system. Ms. Brown also expressed pride that her signs were featured prominently at an anti-government rally held in Washington, DC on September 12 and hosted by conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck.

Although many Catholic organizations condemned ALL's actions, there is no doubt that many in America, and elsewhere, wonder how Catholics could denigrate a family who's helped so many, not to mention, a family that produced America's first Catholic President.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

William Safire and the MSM that he helped to change

"Nattering nabobs of negativism."

The words that William Safire penned and that Spiro Agnew mouthed actually had enormous impact that has lasted until this day. They helped foster among conservatives and the folks that Nixon called "the silent majority" a growing mistrust of the mainstream media, a mistrust that grew over two generations into a form of hatred. It also started a dangerous spiral of events -- journalists started bending backwards to kowtow to their conservative critics, beginning in the time of Reagan, an ill-advised shift that did not win back a single reader or viewer on the right. Instead, it caused a lot of folks on the left and even the center to wonder why the national media had stopped doing its job, stopped questioning authority.

Today, the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- don't believe the "nattering nabobs of negativism, a.k.a. the mainstream media, in record numbers. In the long run, a New Media is emerging that may ultimately prove to be better than what it is replacing, but in the meantime the cost to America in the journalism that was lost during the run-up to the Iraq war and Wall Street's hijacking of the U.S. economy is incalculable.

Taken from Will Bunch -

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Stephen Souza
Born in 1955
Worked for private industry since age 11, then self employed for over 20 years and now semi-retired raising my kids.
I'm a Californian whose Catholic Irish ancestors moved from Ireland to the Bay Area sometime before 1864. My mother and stepfather still live in the house bought by my relatives in 1864 in downtown Vallejo, BTW the 1st city in the state to go bankrupt.
Married to a 1st grade public school teacher and we have 2 children, a 6 year old son and a 4 year old daughter.
We live on a 80+ acre ranch in the Coastal range mountains, which has most of its wildlife still intact - Fox, Bear, mountain lion, Bob cat, raccoons, Grey squirrels, ground squirrels, lizards, snakes, Chipmunks, etc...
The only domestic animals we have are chickens and a cat.
We have an organic orchard, with apricots, peaches, plums, apples, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, and nectarines. We sell a small portion of our fruit at our (Honor system) fruit stand 3 miles from our house.
I developed and maintain a natural spring for our water supply for 3 homes. Water gets low in late summer, so I invested in 20,000 gallons worth of water storage tanks. I pump the water with solar photo voltaic panels 400 feet up a mountain for a gravity feed water system. I also use solar for heating our water. We live a mile from the closest neighbor, but about 8 miles from Interstate 80.
Being a self described environmentalist, I very much enjoy and feel very lucky living here.
We are doing very well, but many are not, and that is one of the reasons I'm online, to hopefully help change that.
The Environment is, and probably always will be my biggest concern, although many progressive issues touch me in sensitive places. Iv'e been an environmentalist ever since my grandmother, Mary, turned me on to Jacque Cousteau, as well as National Geographic magazine. My surrogate father also inadvertently turned me green by taking me hunting, camping, and fishing throughout my childhood. I still love these activities, but realized long ago that our environment was being degraded at an alarming rate. For example, some of the fish I caught as a child were not even existent when I reached adulthood.
In adulthood, my most "Teachable moments" as George Will says, was traveling to other countries - Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, Fiji, Australia, China, Hong Kong, and Costa Rica. Of all, Latin America is my favorite, mostly because it taught me about the connections we North Americans, in the United States, have with all Latin American cultures, especially concerning the "conquering" of this continent by the "Conquistadors", and the many changes that took place since then.
The natural environment in these places are also being hit hard, in a rapid rate that is unsustainable for this planet. The proof isnt just in science, but everywhere you look. The pollution around the world, even in this country is horrendous, and not just with the tons of chemicals we use everyday, but with all of our natural resources that we literally flush down the toilet. When I say "toilet", I mean the Oceans that surround us. We allow our soil and sediment, not to mention pollution, to literally wash away from our land into the oceans that we use as big toilet.
Scuba, and free Diving, in, and around the coral reefs from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef, I have seen 1st hand the damage this runoff has done with our great oceans.
Global Warming, even if completely wrong, doesn't change the fact that our planet is being degraded at an unsustainable rate.
I feel the media is a big part of the answer to these problems, as I have been studying the effect media has on people for over 10 years. I'm a fan of the late George Seldes, who was a great investigative reporter/journalist for over 90 years, almost the entire 20th century.
A must see documentary is his Academy-Award nominated film by Rick Goldsmith - Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press

More to come in the next few hours and days.