12/18/2005

Good Morning National Security Agency!

Wakie, wakie N.S.A.! I have another blog entry for your review.

There is a chill in the air this morning and just knowing that President Bush authorized the N.S.A. to spy on Americans adds to that chill.

We have returned to the days of Cointelpro when the F.B.I. secretly infiltrated antiwar groups, political parties, black power organizations and even women's rights and environmental groups. They used direct infiltration by agents posing as members, but also used wiretaps and break-ins to collect information on individuals and organizations. Some individuals were put on blacklists so they could not obtain employment, even though these individuals had broken no laws and committed no crimes. All they did was support their country through progressive causes and exercise their constitutional right to dissent when the leadership in Washington took the country in the wrong direction.

Same thing is true today, but new technology allows the N.S.A. to use electronic keyword searches to eavesdrop on private telephone conversations and to intercept emails. The N.S.A. is also active in using agents to infiltrate progressive organizations, take video of rallies, and get the license plate numbers of people attending rallies and marches.

Shame on the N.S.A. for spying on Americans! The real danger to the United States is not terrorism from the citizens, but is the criminal policies of the Bush administration. Spy on the White House and expose the corruption there! The Bush administration -- with the help of Congressional leaders with their heads up Bush's rear end -- is shredding the constitution and Bill of Rights so Bush, Cheney, Rice Rumsfeld, and a growing list of international corporations, can cash in on weapons sales and line their pockets with Iraqi oil revenue.

Is this what America is supposed to by about? Killing and more killing? The rich get richer and the poor get nothing? Let us start being good neighbors in the world community by ending starvation and treating curable diseases. Let us close the gap between the rich and poor. Let us spend our tax dollars on schools and jobs here in the United States. Let us bring the troops home now and end this so-called war on terrorism. There is so much good we can do in the world if we can get our nation on the right track. Wakie, wakie N.S.A.!

9/14/2005

Democracy-building for Neo Cons

We found out too late that the war in Iraq was based on a pack of lies -- that it was not about WMD, al Qaeda, or 9/11 -- so you claimed that the war was about "building democracy" in Iraq.

O.K., let's look back at our own history so citizens realize what we are in for if we allow this horrific war to continue.

The first step in democracy-building is ethnic cleansing, a process that is well under way by the Shiite majority in Iraq. In our own nation, you will remember, we tried hard to exterminate the American Indians. When that failed, we tried to eliminate their main food supply, the buffalo. That weakened them enough that we could round them up and put them on reservations.

Of course, you can't build democracy without someone to do the manual labor, so you will need at least 200 years of abject slavery in order to ensure that the majority gets to live the good life while the ethnic minorities remain poor. You can keep the slavery going in different forms, such as wage slavery, indefinitely.

Perhaps the most sacred part of the democratic process is voting. One man, one vote. Of course, you will not want to allow women to vote for about 150 years (if ever). If you notice that any minority group starts gaining too much power in a particular area, just re-draw the voting districts. Make it as inconvenient as possible for minorities to vote by allowing them fewer voting booths so they will have to wait in long lines to vote. When you can afford it, invest in electronic voting machines that do not leave a paper record of the vote. These can be tampered with without the voter ever knowing it.

There you have it, ladies and germs. When you want to invade a sovereign nation under the guise of spreading democracy, you are deceiving yourselves if you think it will be quick and easy, or that it will even be democracy. You will always be seen as foreign invaders, as murdering pirates going from ship to ship. But democracy really isn't what you want, here or anywhere else, is it? You want total political and economic control. You want all oil and mineral rights. And there is nothing that you will not do to get your way. Nothing. No one is safe. Even your own citizens.

9/12/2005

Which kind of extremist are you?

One of these days, the levees around New Orleans will finally be raised and strengthened to handle a Category 5 hurricane, but land developers are already salivating over the "new" New Orleans.

They imagine a New Orleans of pricey hotels, condos, and shopping districts. The single-family homes will be bulldozed and replaced with high-rent apartments so landlords can further gouge the pocketbooks and dignity of the working class poor employed in the tourist and service industries -- waiters, cashiers, nurses aides, receptionists, cooks, delivery drivers, and so on. Instead of becoming a model city that pays a living wage to its citizens, that cares about the health and welfare of its citizens from the cradle to the grave, the "new" New Orleans will likely become a showcase for the very worst of modern capitalism. Greed.

The Garden district and Bourbon Street will still be the main tourist draw because of the name recognition, but the real character of the city lives in a gumbo mix of French-speaking people, families of former slaves, and Latin Americans and, if they are driven out by high rent, then Bourbon Street will be nothing more than an old facade. A page in a history book.

Cities are for people, for human beings of all colors. Cities should be planned logically so people can live near shopping centers, markets, and mass transit routes. City buses should be all-electric, biodiesel, or hybrid, to keep air pollution to a minimum. All employers should have to pay a living wage. National health insurance should provide for all health and dental care needs with a special focus on preventative medicine and patient teaching. Building codes should be strictly enforced in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. No exceptions for casinos and special interests.

I have heard people say that we are all extremists. Some of us believe that the Earth and human society exist for humankind, for all the people who inhabit the Earth, and that we should strive to live together, better ourselves, and share the planet with as much justice and harmony as possible. Others believe that the Earth can be divided up and owned, that its wealth can be exploited for the personal riches of a few while millions suffer from starvation, poverty, lack of clean drinking water, lack of health care, lack of housing, and lack of education. The real question then becomes: Which kind of extremist are you?

As images from New Orleans have reached the rest of the world, offers of assistance have come from many countries, including some of the poorest nations on Earth, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Venezuela offered a financial contribution to the Red Cross and offered to sell discounted gasoline through its Citgo stations to areas affected by the hurricane. The cash donation was accepted but the offer of discounted gasoline was refused by FEMA.

The Republic of Cuba, a Caribbean island nation with extensive hurricane experience, offered to send some 1,500 doctors to the Gulf coast. Because of US hostility toward Cuba, however, this offer was rejected by FEMA. At a time when the US may be facing a public health crisis beyond anything we have seen, these doctors could have been saving lives. Which kind of extremists control FEMA?

There's trouble a'brewin in the southland, folks. We don't need a war on terrorism; we need a war on poverty. We need a living wage movement. The land developers in the "new" New Orleans do not want the refugees back. Texas doesn't want them either. (Just ask Barbara Bush.) What will happen when the refugees start to return home as soon as the flood waters recede, even though government officials say they can't? Will the police or the National Guard be ordered to stop them at some razor-wire checkpoint? These are interesting questions -- food for thought, if you will -- that lead us back to our original question: Which kind of extremist are you? It's gut check time.

9/09/2005

FEMA seeks media censorship

The news reporting out of New Orleans has been better than we have been accustomed to. Some reporters have been getting in boats, going into neighborhoods, and have even helped save lives. Their cameras have shown us the bloated bodies bobbing in the toxic water, the joy on people's faces as they are rescued from their homes, and the sadness as a beloved pet is left behind. Even Geraldo Rivera broke down into tears at the convention center over the treatment of people stranded there without food or water and the lack of a response to assist them. This is the kind of reporting that shows us the stark, glaring truth and allows us to speak truth to power.

During the build-up to the Iraq war, this kind of reporting was AWOL. Reporters accepted the Bush administration's war justifications without dissent. No tough questions. No demands for proof. No pictures of war-torn bodies or flag-draped coffins. No complaints about censorship requirements for imbedded reporters. The government was able to control the war news to its liking by controlling the media. War looks very clean and sanitized -- and hard to oppose -- through the many filters of censorship.

In New Orleans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now asking the National Guard not to allow reporters onto boats and to prevent them from photographing dead bodies. FEMA claims it is to protect family members from seeing a loved one on TV, but the photographers have done a good job of documenting the horror with wide-angle and distance shots, not close-ups that would identify the victims on national television. FEMA is using this censorship as an excuse to restrict reporting, which, they hope, will result in less criticism of the Bush response to the disaster. Control the media; control the story.

It is very important to have witnesses in New Orleans, whether they are from the national media, local independent outlets, or individuals with video cameras. People need to document what is happening there at all stages of the disaster, right through the reconstruction process.

9/01/2005

A "public works" president must help New Orleans

George W. Bush, who slashed funds being used for New Orleans levee construction to help pay for the Iraq war, can do little to help the long-term humanitarian disaster created by Hurricane Katrina.

Imagine a city of 1.5 million people thrown into sudden unemployment and homelessness. Bush released federal disaster funds to help relief agencies with search and rescue, health, and security, but a much needed National Guard is stretched thin with 40 percent of the troops and most of their equipment in Iraq. Bush ordered seven Navy ships from Norfolk, Virginia, to Louisiana, a voyage that at best speed can take nearly a week.

In the short-term, time is critical. The human body needs water in three days or the vital organs begin to shut down. Today is the fourth day and the news networks keep interviewing federal officials who state the list of relief supplies that are "on the way." Yet from the pictures I have seen of crowds gathered in dry areas and people waiting to be rescued, I do not see anyone with water. Even in the field triage areas set up near the superdome. You would think there would be case after case of water there for people. You would think there would be portable toilets set up near these staging areas. You would think there would be water patrols or helicopters taking water to the neighborhoods while people are waiting to be rescued from rooftops. Drinking water should be available everywhere by now. There should be no more double-talk by bureaucrats.

And bussing people from New Orleans to Houston seems like an incredibly slow, wasteful process. Bus them to the airport and get them on planes. Get them on cruise ships. Stop wasting time negotiating with these companies. Bush could simply say he needs this equipment and he needs it now. This evacuation cannot be put off.

People in New Orleans who hamper the effort or who are caught looting guns, robbing others, or breaking into houses and pharmacies must be arrested. Stealing for food and survival is one thing, but stealing for fun or monetary gain hampers the relief effort to the extent that relief workers are afraid to go into the neighborhoods. This is where the National Guard could be of help if they were readily available and not off fighting an illegal war in Iraq.

What happens when the city is evacuated? How will people live and survive? Will there be 1.5 million refugees wandering the nation? Bush talks about getting people's lives back to normal. Does he mean back to the same impoverished conditions when they return?

If Bush wants to help New Orleans in the long-term, he can't do it as the war president, he must do it as the public works president -- even if the secret Skull and Bones Society revokes his membership and takes back his decoder ring.

First, the levees in New Orleans will have to be repaired and raised under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Then clean-up crews will have to be hired and whole neighborhoods likely must be torn down. More workers can then be hired to build modern, energy-efficient, sustainable housing. In the meantime, until public works employment is available, all displaced workers from the Gulf states must get federal relief aid.

This is not just about rebuilding houses, infrastructure, and creating short-term jobs. The people of New Orleans need a long-term stake in their city and in their future as they rebuild their lives. They do not need any more low-income housing projects, those disgusting symbols of poverty from the 1960s. The new New Orleans must be a showcase for the country and the world. For example, instead of using traditional shingles on new housing, use the new solar roofing designs that produce electricity. Thousands of grid-tied solar roofs will greatly reduce the city's dependence on fossil fuels and will eliminate electric bills for the residents.

It is fine for Bush to ask people to donate to the Red Cross to help with disaster relief, but he must repeal his tax cuts to the rich to pay for this massive public works program. Yes, the rich are going to have to get off their corporate welfare and pay for this. And pay for it they must.

8/25/2005

Pat Robertson: TERRORIST

When 700 Club president Pat Robertson advocated the assassination of democratically-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Robertson became an advocate of terrorism.

There is no difference between an Islamic extremist advocating violence against U.S. citizens and a Christian extremist advocating violence against foreign nationals. Both fit the definition of a terrorist.

The reaction to Robertson's statement was quite interesting. Most working people just thought he was nuts, but the U.S. government said he was speaking as a "private citizen." Other Christian extremists jokingly downplayed his comments and focused on his age and his propensity to speak before he thinks. Still others called his comments "anti-Christian," yet chose to divert attention to Chavez, citing as fact that he committed "election fraud." (Egads! One wonders if they have ever heard of Florida or Ohio.)

Hugo Chavez was democratically elected several times and the opposition -- funded by the United States -- claimed election fraud. In 2002, Chavez underwent an intense recall vote under international observation, including former President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, yet Chavez was elected again with 58 percent of the vote. No evidence of fraud was found.

Chavez won because he appeals to Venezuela's poor workers and peasants. He promised to use a percentage or his nation's vast oil wealth to begin literacy programs, provide access to health care, find a workable land reform solution, and to make economic pacts with other Latin American nations. While Robertson was busy untying his tongue, Chavez was in Jamaica, where he signed an agreement with Prime Minister Percival Patterson.

The agreement increases the supply of Venezuelan oil through Petrocaribe, a Chavez oil program than will save Caribbean nations about $1 billion per year. Jamaica will get up to 22,000 barrels of discounted oil at a cost of $40 per barrel to be financed with low interest loans. This is an example of fair trade that the world could use more of. During an earlier stop in Havana, Cuba, Chavez spoke of increasing poverty in the United States as oil prices climb, and announced his government's desire to sell gasoline directly to poor, organized communities. Chavez said this would reduce costs by cutting out the middle men.

Pat Robertson is no crazier than Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Rice. Venezuela accounts for 10 percent of U.S. oil imports and the Bush administration is not happy about a renegade leader using oil profits for human needs. This sets a bad example in the world. It makes the rest of the greedy bastards look like the greedy bastards they are.

Now, what to do about Robertson? He was speaking on the 700 club, not at home on his front porch. He was speaking as a Christian broadcaster, not as a private citizen, and the FCC has control over his broadcast license. Everyone should demand that ABC pull his show off the air and that the FCC revoke his license. The next step is to go after his advertisers and let them know they have a terrorist on their payroll.

Because Robertson advocated the violent death of the president of a sovereign nation, the Dept. of Homeland Security also needs to investigate his statement to determine if terrorism charges should be filed against him. According to my dictionary, he is a terrorist.

8/11/2005

The Anti-war movement grows in Crawford, Texas

Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq, is holding vigil outside the Bush compound near Crawford, Texas. She wants to ask him why her son had to die for a lie. And other mothers who lost children in Iraq are joining her. There were no WMD. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It was an elaborate hoax foisted upon the world by Bush and Blair.

While Sheehan and the anti-war movement in Crawford, Texas, await scant media coverage, the corporate media focus on sports, entertainment, celebrity news, and, of course, on crime stories. Our sons and daughters are dying in Iraq, yet we go on with our lives as if there were no war.

Consumers are shopping and buying. The smell of cotton candy and popcorn permeate the air at county fairs. NASCAR is in full swing. The NFL preseason is beginning. Wolf Blitzer is talking his usual blather and Bill O'Reilly wouldn't know the truth if it crawled up his ass. Christians trot off to church every Sunday, mistakenly believing that Bush is one of them.

I heard a woman on a C-SPAN call-in show say that she did not want the war in her living room. This is a post-Vietnam mantra repeated by right-wing pundits who blame the media for turning public opinion against the war. The media did its job during Vietnam and brought us the stories -- gore and all -- so we could see at least a glimpse of what was happening there. And yes, thankfully, public opinion had a lot to do with ending the Vietnam war -- another war in which we should never have become involved.

More than 1800 families in the US have made the same sacrifice that Cindy Sheehan has. More than 10,000 Iraqi families have made similar sacrifices. Yet here we are going about life as usual without having to think about the war. We are disaffected by it except when the media manipulates us like puppets. Thank you, Cindy, for reminding us that there is work to be done to bring the troops home safely and to make sure Bush doesn't get us involved in another bloody scheme. For more information or to write to Cindy, visit http://www.meetwithcindy.org

6/20/2005

Anti-semitism vs. civil criticism

Staunch defenders of Israel have created an interesting defense strategy so that critics of the Israeli government cannot speak against it without being accused of "anti-semitism."

"Anti-semitism," by definition, means prejudice against Jews. This definition is very straightforward and clear. It does not say anything about the Israeli government, which, like the United States government, is a civil order. When I criticize the brutal actions of the Israeli government, my many Jewish friends know that I mean no harm or criticism or prejudice toward them. They know I support the Israeli peace and justice movement and that my many criticisms of Israel are directed toward the Sharon government and its regional policies. I am practicing civil criticism. Same as I do here in the USA.

The term "anti-semitism" is often used incorrectly as an umbrella term to cover civil criticisms of Israel. How convenient! When former CIA analyst Ray McGovern gave his testimony at the informal Downing Street Memo hearing, he spoke briefly about Israel and recalled how he once suggested to his CIA boss that Israel may have financed 9/11, after which his boss called him anti-semitic for making that suggestion. Washington Post hack Dana Milbank used this off-subject remark to try to discredit McGovern's otherwise credible statement regarding the subject of the hearing -- the Downing Street Memo.

McGovern was in no way demonstrating prejudice toward Jews. He was making a comment of civil criticism that other intellectuals have made about 9/11 conspiracy theories involving the Israeli government. McGovern's only mistake was that he spoke off-topic on a hot-button issue and gave the critics an opening for a personal attack -- and his best defense now will be the dictionary. The worst thing he can do is to cave in to his critics or back down from his statement.

Personally, until convincing new evidence comes to light -- perhaps through a new independent 9/11 commission -- I still think Osama bin Laden and Saudi Arabia were involved in the planning and financing of 9/11, but McGovern is entitled to his opinion and he may have had access to secret information not available to ordinary citizens. There are a number of theories regarding Israel, including McGovern's, that a Google search can lead you to, but I just do not see the documentary proof at this point. Israel is already a chief U.S. ally and a heavily armed state -- perhaps even with nuclear weapons -- that can quickly respond to any emerging nuclear, chemical, or biological threat from its Arab neighbors without outside assistance. We owe it to ourselves to keep fighting for an independent 9/11 investigation. The Bush commission may have been bipartisan, but it was not independent, and the results turned into a whitewash and a cover-up of the truth.

6/03/2005

From Downing Street to Deep Throat

The Downing Street memo has received scant coverage in the U.S. media since its May 1 release, yet the criminal implications for a sitting president make Watergate seem like a school-boy prank by comparison.

The Downing Street memo is the official minutes of an August 2002 meeting between British PM Tony Blair, members of British intelligence MI-6 and various members of the Bush administration. The memo reveals that the Bush administration fixed the facts to shape its Iraq policy before going to war and in so doing deceived Congress and the American people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, nearly 1700 GIs have died, and thousands of brave, dutiful troops have been wounded or permanently maimed as a result of this horrific lie foisted upon the public by the Bush administration.

More than a month has passed since the memo has been released and few media outlets have mentioned it, let alone investigated it. Could it be that they are protecting the president?

Now, of course, we have Mark Felt, the notorious "Deep Throat," the person who confirmed the validity of information for Woodward and Bernstein after the Watergate break-ins (a small part of a much larger Counter Intelligence Program -- COINTELPRO -- against a number of progressive organizations, political parties and antiwar groups). Mark Felt was very much a part of COINTELPRO. He was convicted, and later pardoned by President Reagan, for illegal domestic spying on the antiwar Weather Underground. Also during the 1970s, Felt directed the violent FBI campaign against the American Indian Movement during the Wounded Knee standoff in 1975, after which Leonard Peltier was framed and imprisoned for the murder of two FBI agents even though the FBI has since admitted it does not know who actually killed the agents. (If anyone can provide more info. on Felt's relationship with AIM during this period, please email me or respond to this article.)

The media are portraying Felt as either a hero or a goat for his role as a whistleblower during the Watergate affair. Some commentators go so far as to say that Felt "brought Nixon down," when, if fact, it was Nixon's own criminal activities that brought him down, not Felt. There has been little mention of the illegal spying and wiretapping that the FBI was involved in during that period or what lessons we can learn today as the PATRIOT ACT takes over where COINTELPRO left off. If Felt is deserving of recognition -- and I believe he does deserve credit for speaking with the press, even if he just confirmed information as opposed to providing it -- maybe his recent "coming out" will spark more discussion of our constitutional rights and will inspire others in the Bush administration to grow a spine and speak truth to power. That should be some consolation for his family.

5/16/2005

Buy Your Gas at Citgo: Join the BUY-cott!

A new campaign called a BUY-cott (the opposite of a boycott} is now under way to encourage motorists to buy their gas at Citgo stations.

Why Citgo, you ask?
 
Media critic and author Jeff Cohen explains: Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. Venezuela is the only top oil-producing country in the world with a president -- Hugo Chavez -- who was elected on a platform of using his country's oil revenue to benefit the poor by providing health care, literacy, education and subsidized food to the majority of Venezuelans.

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And that is also why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.

Of course, Cohen continues, if you can take mass transit or bike or walk to your job, you should do so. And we should all work for political changes that move our country toward a cleaner environment based on renewable energy. The BUY-cott is for those of us who don't have a practical alternative to filling up our cars. So get your gas at Citgo and help fuel a democratic revolution in Venezuela.

(To find one of the 14,000 Citgo gas stations near you copy and paste the following link into your browser: http://www.citgo.com/CITGOLocator/StoreLocator.jsp

Jeff Cohen is an author and media critic (www.jeffcohen.org)

4/08/2005

George W. Bush, you are under citizen's arrest!

George W. Bush, you are under citizen's arrest! You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in an international court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the International Court of Justice will appoint an attorney for you. Do you understand these rights?

George W. Bush, you are being charged with violating the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and with violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and international law.

George W. Bush, you are being charged with committing the following heinous crimes against humanity:

1) Waging an unnecessary "first strike" war of aggression on and occupation of Iraq -- an independent and sovereign nation already ravaged by a 1990 invasion and 10 years of harsh economic sanctions -- resulting in the death and maiming of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American GIs.

2) Condoning the use of cluster bombs, the use of depleted uranium artillery, and ordering direct attacks on civilians and civilian facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

3) Concealing factual information from the public, fabricating evidence, and lying to Congress, the United Nations, and to the American people about the reasons and rationale for invading Iraq.

4) Authorizing assassinations, executions, kidnappings, the illegal detention of individuals, and condoning the physical torture and psychological coercion of prisoners.

5) Using racial and religious profiling, domestic spying, and the secret arrest and imprisonment of individuals, who are being held without access to counsel, due process of law, or appellate relief.

6) Refusing to disclose the identities, locations, and charges against individuals who have been arrested, imprisoned, or detained indefinitely by the U.S. government in the United States.

7) Producing fabricated news reports to publicize your agenda and for paying newspaper columnists and television pundits to support your policies.

George W. Bush, these are serious charges. You are being charged as a war criminal for acts of genocide against innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although you did not use Nazi gas chambers in your genocidal wars, you did use modern-day equivalents -- including cruise missiles, laser-guided missiles and cluster bombs -- to cause the indiscriminate death and disfigurement of your fellow human beings. Rather than call upon the world's help in apprehending Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, you chose instead to use the attacks politically in order to secure two Caspian Sea oil pipeline routes through Afghanistan and Iraq that have been long-coveted by your closest friends and allies -- the Big Oil companies. (As you know, the third pipeline route is to go through Iran, a nation that you have also been threatening with "regime change.")

George W. Bush, it is my duty as a loyal citizen of the United States and supporter of the U.S. Constitution to place you under arrest. You, along with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Colin Powell, are to be remanded in The Hague pending trial before the International Court of Justice.

3/16/2005

The Media Whores

We've all seen the pundits on local and national news programs, captivating us with their million-dollar smiles and their award-winning personalities. They are mostly white and mostly male and can be found on any television network, including the cable news channels. One thing they all have in common is that their news stories and commentaries could well have been written by the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, a public relations firm, or a Hollywood entertainment writer.

They are the media whores.

Just as MSNBC seems slightly more palatable than the "fair and balanced" Fox News, some of the media whores seem more professional and believable than others, but all are bad for journalism. They do not ask the tough, probing questions that try to get at some semblance of truth and hold a politician's feet to the fire, no matter which party they represent; rather, their questions are shallow and mushy, completely lacking in political knowledge and context. Many times, their pale cheeks red, white and blue with patriotic pride, the media whores gush out in agreement with their sources. The effect of this is nauseating to the audience and the legitimacy of news suffers in the end.

Where are the stories that matter? Where are the stories that show us the devestating effects of globalization, malnutrition, hunger and disease? Where are the stories that show us the effects of homelessness, layoffs, factory closings, unemployment, poverty and high health care costs? Where are the stories that show us what other cultures are thinking and doing? Where are the stories that show us the reality of war, which includes tremendous human suffering, loss of limbs, blindness, decapitation and death? Where are the stories that show the world as it is and do not sugar-coat it or accept imposed government censorship?

Instead, we get Britney Spears. We get Michael Jackson. We get the feel-good chitter-chatter of Katie Couric. We get the lies of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. We get a half-hour of network news each evening, with serious, professional, believable anchors. We get "video news releases," propaganda pieces produced to look like news stories, yet designed to promote specific government policies and agendas. These segments are often aired on news programs without comment and without mentioning that they were produced by the White House or other government agencies.

We get Robert Novak, the columnist who on July 14, 2003, illegally revealed the identity of an active CIA operative, yet is still writing columns. We get Jeff Gannon -- aka, pornographer James Guckert -- a fake news reporter who obtained White House press credentials under a false name, sat in on dozens of White House press briefings, and asked softball questions that made the Republican administration look good.

We get "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" news coverage from our local "newscenter." We get up-to-the-minute weather reports from our local "stormcenter". We get all the latest sports scores. We get game shows, survivor shows, crime shows, sit-coms and soaps out the wazoo. We get commercial after commercial after commercial and now, even, the half-hour infomercial. But why didn't we know how angry Osama bin Laden was about our military bases in Saudi Arabia? Why didn't we know what President Bush knew long before Sept. 11 -- that terrorists were planning to use commercial planes as bombs?

After Sept. 11 -- as the Bush White House made its cartoonish war plans to "smoke evil-doers out of their holes" in Afghanistan -- the media whores aided this war policy without reporting or acknowledging any alternative courses of action or without investigating the historical root causes of the World Trade Center attack. The media whores have become propagandists for U.S. war policy and largely do not tolerate dissenting opinions. They have become whores for a government that supports "good" terrorism (when the U.S. does it) and condemns "bad" terrorism (when other nations do it).

Before the "preemptive" war on Iraq, the media whores swallowed each government lie about Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S., possessing weapons of mass destruction, and supporting Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. No serious debate. No discussion about the 1983 handshake and meeting between Reagan's special envoy Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, which took place after Hussien had used chemical weapons. No raised eyebrows. No probing questions. Only the smiles and personalities of these government lapdogs. Only flashy propaganda graphics and entertainment.

But why call them media "whores"? Isn't there a nicer term, a less offensive term? Well, sure, there are indeed nicer, less offensive terms that are used all the time in media criticism, but when television news anchors, commentators and correspondents sell the soul of ethical journalism for a salary, and thus deprive millions of citizens of the opportunity to see and hear independent news reporting, then "whore" is the most appropriate term under the circumstances. When media pundits suppress the facts about the causes and consequences of war, then "whore" is the most appropriate term. When paid media pundits would rather drool over the technology of the latest attack helicopter or "smart bomb" than to discuss civilian war casualties and GI deaths, then "whore" is an appropriate term for them.

It is not media objectivity -- as some claim -- that we need to be concerned about; it's background and context. Today's mass media cover only the present and they do not travel back in time and show old film to establish background and context for the viewer. For example, when George W. Bush says something outlandish that contradicts what he has previously said, the media rarely pull up the old film to expose his new words as a contradiction or an outright lie. They just show the new film and get pundit reactions to it. In the world of the media whores, the past does not exist. This is one of the chief ways that reality is manipulated and controlled by the media. Thankfully, the Daily Show with John Stewart takes the time to dig up the old film and show the audience what it is missing from mainstream news.

Why should citizens have to wait for the Daily Show or for an occasional call-in program on C-SPAN or wait for a documentary on WORLD LINK TV in order to become better informed? If our free press were really free, then the news providers would be practicing independent reporting. The airwaves belong to the public. Isn't it time the public ensures that the airwaves are used for the public good by denying license renewals to broadcasters who act as pimps for the messages of the Military/Industrial complex?

We need a diverse, independent media -- and we need it NOW!

2/10/2005

Hands Off Social Security!

Mass media reporting on the all-important Social Security debate is turning out to be mere stenography. The media, as usual, are reporting what Bush says about Social Security as though that were the truth. The media are not doing enough independent research to either substantiate or disprove Bush's claims. When Bush says that Social Security will be flat broke by 2042, this lie is presented as fact in news stories. As we all learned during the build-up to the Iraq war, if a lie is repeated often enough in the media, it becomes accepted as the truth.

Social Security is a well-run federal program. Millions of retirees, survivors and people with disabilities rely on Social Security. The Bush plan will result in benefit cuts for recipients who rely on it, yet brokerage firms will reap big, new profits from management fees and commissions. Besides, we already have individual retirement accounts in which people can invest: They are called IRAs.

We, as a society, have to think about the greater good. We cannot allow people to withdraw their portion out of the Social Security system and gamble with it in the stock market. If any changes are needed in Social Security, then the rich and super-rich should have to pay more into the system so it will be there for the working men and women whose lifetime of labor made them rich in the first place. They owe us that much.

2/04/2005

The overthrow of the United States of America

The United States of America has been successfully overthrown and the vast majority of citizens do not even realize it. This ignorance is a testament to the enormous influential mix of television news punditry and public relations. The formula is simple: Just repeat your message over and over in the mass media, denounce your critics as deranged and unpatriotic...and the meek will follow.

The new United States of America has nothing to do with the principles of freedom and democracy that the nation was founded upon. Rather, the new United States is all about unbridled imperialism, privatization and militarization. Public monies are being shifted from the public sector -- which funds education, food programs, jobs programs, health programs and Social Security -- to the private sector, which includes big business, military contractors and the stock market. In other words, the people's money is being withdrawn from social programs and deposited into the bank accounts of the rich and the super-rich. The people's money is thus being gambled away in the largest casino in the world -- Wall Street.

The United States is no longer a genuine republic, although it continues to identify itself as a republic. In reality, the new United States is a corporate monarchy governed by the principles of state socialism. George W. Bush, like his father and grandfather before him, is a state socialist who believes in Hitler's imperialist dream of a powerful corporate state where a limited government functions primarily as a servant of the rich and powerful corporations that own the means of production, fund the nation's elections and dictate its political decisions. (State socialism is not to be confused with democratic, or scientific, socialism, which holds that the people must own and control the means of production and that government must function first and always as a servant of the people.) Another word for state socialism is fascism.

With the overthrow of the United States, the horrific future world foretold in the works of George Orwell is now at our doorstep. The government has spy satellites that can focus on a license plate. It has facial recognition software. It has a computer system that can pick out key words in private telephone conversations and emails.

Under the Patriot Act, we allow the government to break into our houses and download our computer files under the guise of finding supposed "terrorists." We allow the government access to our library records so it knows who is reading what.

We routinely accept government explanations for world events without even asking questions to determine if the explanations are based on valid assertions. We allow our government to assert its right to imprison and torture foreign detainees as "enemy combatants" even though they have not been charged with any specific crime or act.

We allow our elections to be purchased by the rich and powerful while denying the poor and working class proper access to voting machines. We allow computerized voting that does not even print out a paper record in case a hand re-count is needed.

We allow our government to grant oil, chemical and mining companies access to public lands, where they extract the natural resources with little regard for the long-term environmental impact, water and air pollution, and global warming.

We allow our young soldiers to become occupiers and nation-builders in foreign lands, even though history has shown that such occupations inevitably fail as one oppressor is replaced by another.

So, the United States of America has been slowly and methodically overthrown by a small group of economic zealots who believe in unrestricted corporatism. Now what? What can citizens do to take our nation back from these bastards when our state and national legislators do not even realize that our republic has been replaced by a monarchy? Well, the first step to taking back is fighting back. To do that, we must defend our labor unions and progressive organizations as they become targeted for extinction by the Bush monarchy. We represent the majority of citizens and if we stick together and fight together, we will win together.

Our responsibility is immense. Our responsibility extends to all citizens of the world who look to us as a beacon of hope for human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and justice. It we fail, the world fails with us.

2/02/2005

Open Letter to the Ford Motor Company

William Clay Ford, Jr.
Board of Directors
Ford Motor Co.
P.O. Box 685
Dearborn MI 48126-0685

Dear Mr. Ford:

After reading disturbing reports that the Ford Motor Co. was planning to destroy the all-electric Rangers it produced for fleet and lease customers, I am pleased to hear that the company reversed its position. Although I drive a gasoline Ranger, I have heard nothing but good things from owners of the electric Rangers and I would certainly be interested in an all-electric Ranger myself.

With world oil reserves dwindling rapidly -- and some estimates predicting a supply of just 20 to 40 years at the present rate of consumption -- it makes sense from a business perspective to begin phasing-in both all-electric and fuel cell vehicles now. Unfortunately, the corporate mindset of today is to secure the world's remaining oil reserves, especially ANWR and the Caspian Sea area, for the U.S. market, even if this means the deaths of many thousands of people in Iraq, Iran, and other Middle Eastern and Southwestern Asia nations under one pretext or another. Oil profits will be very high in a seller's market as supply dwindles and demand increases, but we, as a society, need to get beyond the quest for profit and focus on the post-oil world. Now is the time to begin planning to ensure that the remaining oil is available for agriculture and other critical areas. Rather than consume all of the oil until the last drop, now is the time to bring all-electric and fuel cell vehicles to the mass market.

The Ford Motor Co. is in a position to either go along with the flow or to be bold and innovative. While hybrid vehicles like the Ford Escape are helpful, they do not break away from fossil fuels and represent a last-grasp effort to hold on to a bygone world. Hybrids may help to buy a little time, but the result will be the same: The world is running out of oil! The sooner that auto makers understand and accept this, the better for all of us.

The United States of America is on the wrong road and our national leaders are taking us right over a cliff. This is a tragic consequence of the drive for profit above all else, including common sense. It seems to me that the Ford Motor Co, would relish the idea of marketing a line of clean, quiet, efficient vehicles such as the all-electric Ranger. But I would implore you to not stop there.

Think. Create. Inspire. Maybe others will follow and the world will be a better place.

1/21/2005

The Bush Coronation

As the rich and righteous celebrated the coronation of King George II yesterday, thousands more lined the parade route and turned their backs on Bush as he and Laura drove by in their limousine. Large, yellow ImpeachBush.org banners were visible to television cameras all along the route and C-SPAN covered a portion of International Answer's antiwar rally live until 3 p.m.

Earlier, several members of the antiwar group Code Pink were arrested for merely unfurling banners during the "no dissent allowed" swearing-in ceremony. Most were released shortly after being arrested while others, including Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin, were held in custody longer.

As Bush was being solemnly sworn in, 49 percent of registered voters around the the nation were also solemnly swearing to themselves, but if there is any good news in all of this, it is that we are now past the halfway point of the Bush reign. During the next four years, of course, Bush plans to shift even more public monies from the public sector to the private sector by attempting to privatize Social Security. And he no doubt plans to invade other sovereign nations under one false pretext or another, perhaps with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side if her nomination is confirmed by the Senate. Meanwhile, the Republican neocons will be quietly grooming brother Jeb Bush to be the next presidential candidate, unless the U.S. Constitution is amended to permit a third term for King George II. These bastards have no shame and no allegiance to anyone or anything but the almighty dollar.

Demonstrations are fine, but the most powerful weapon that citizens have over the corporate oligarchy and the entire military/industrial/media complex is the "General Strike." A general strike is a pre-planned work stoppage that causes a virtual shutdown of all major factories, transportation routes, mines, mills, shopping centers, banks, and so forth, with the sole purpose of effecting a change in government policy. Hit 'em where it hurts: their wallets. A general strike is a rarity because it is difficult to organize and requires a substantial number of participants to be effective. It is safe to say that many millions of people would have to be feeling quite desperate before they would participate, so economic conditions would have to degrade substantially before a general strike could become a political weapon.

Until then, demonstrations and civil disobedience are the best political tools we have to work with. The next major demonstration will take place on March 19, 2005, the second anniversary of Bush's Shock and Awe occupation of Iraq. Citizens will be organizing marches and other events throughout the country, so consult your favorite alternative media source for more information on a location near you. (Many locations will be listed on sites like http://www.antiwar.com/antiwar-actions.htm , http://www.answercoalition.org , and http://www.zmag.org/ZNET.php )