4/18/2006

Iran for Rednecks

Cast of Characters
Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Iran
Junior’s car as Iran’s nuclear sites
Jeff Gordon as the U.S.
Gordon’s pit crew as the U.S. military
NASCAR as the United Nations
Other drivers as other countries
The fans as the U.S. mass media


Pretend for a minute that Dale Jr. wins Daytona. While Junior is celebrating his victory, Jeff Gordon complains to NASCAR that Junior has been illegally altering his car’s engine. NASCAR and other drivers know this is not true, but Gordon keeps insisting that Junior is breaking the rules and ought to be punished. The fans believe what Gordon says even though they can offer no proof to back up his claims and Gordon gets upset because NASCAR is not doing anything about it. Gordon then gets his pit crew and surrounds Junior’s car. He tells the fans that he will destroy Junior and his car no matter what NASCAR says. The fans all cheer except for a few dissenters in the back who cannot be heard over the noise.

4/16/2006

Open letter to FCC Chairman Martin

April 16, 2006

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Television is the most powerful educational tool in history and could be used much more effectively to keep the general population informed. The airwaves belong to the public, but this great educational tool is being squandered away by private corporations interested only in profit. Meanwhile, the informational needs of the public go unmet.

Consider the state of the union today from a citizen's point-of-view:

1) U.S. troops are occupying Iraq in a war that could have been prevented if television news had been used in the public interest. In the lead-up to the war, virtually all of the national news stations and cable stations banged their drums for war. Voices of truth who knew that the war was based on lies from day one had no mass media forum to express their views other than the internet.

But the internet alone is not enough. Television could have been used as a national forum for inquiry and education about Iraq, but the corporations have so much control over news content that it becomes easy to simplify and manipulate the news through sheer repetition. How many times did we hear Condoleezza Rice's references to the "mushroom cloud"?

The manner in which news is presented should be a critical part of the FCC licensing process. All news and news-related programming offered by CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS are hosted by moderates (presented as "liberals") and/or conservatives. Genuine alternative positions are rarely presented. More programming like Democracy Now should be widely available because this is what genuine public interest programming looks like when stacked up against the formula programming offered by the mass media barons. The media corporations will not provide public interest news programming on their own, so it will be up to Congress and the FCC to ensure that the public interest standard is met.

2) Political campaigns are presented in the media as popularity contests -- all style and no substance. Television could be used to educate the public about the past record, financial ties, and opinions of the candidates, but all we get are slick PR commercials and attack ads. These ads should be stopped and replaced by nonpartisan, factual candidate information spots and unscripted televised debates that allow unscreened audience questions.

3) Pharmaceutical companies are big businesses that provide a lot of advertising revenue to stations, but there is no way for consumers to find out about preventative medicine techniques or alternative therapies unless they do their own research. All we get are a barrage of ads promoting this or that drug product and stating possible side effects. Drug advertising is a disservice to the public and to the medical profession and increases consumer prices for these medications.

4) It is important to keep the internet as it is by not allowing private corporations to carve it up for their own profits at the expense of alternative news and information. As it is today, the internet is the last bastion of democracy in the United States and it must be defended strongly by the FCC against the corporate broadband wolves.

In 1934, the FCC was given a broad mandate to grant licenses in order to promote “the public interest, convenience and necessity” and “full power to investigate and study the business of existing companies." As a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, however, I believe the 1934 public interest mandate is not given nearly enough weight and that the FCC Commissioners ought to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between corporate ownership of the mass media and the absolute failure of these corporations to provide critical news and information in the public interest.

4/01/2006

The Life or Death Struggle for Unity

The world’s population is growing at a rate of about 74 million each year. By 2050, there will be approximately 9 billion people living on our world -- maybe more -- each with hopes and dreams of family, friends, good health, decent housing, and a living wage.

The consumer nations, led by the United States, must change their selfish, wasteful habits or this planetary population growth will be unsustainable. There will be an increase in greenhouse gases, further complicating an already dangerous global warming. There will be a reduction of both tillable land and drinking water resources. The oil supply will dwindle and prices will skyrocket. And because of today’s corporate greed and irresponsibility regarding agriculture, untested, nutrient-deficient GE crops will lead to an increase in hunger and increased vulnerability to new diseases and famine.

If there were a chance that the people of the United States would rise up and take back the power of the people, then maybe there would be room for optimism regarding the future. But we are too preoccupied by the rampant disease of warmongering, wasteful consumerism, and the lack of political will for planning. We are too divided over our red and blue states to realize that we need to unite around the very planet that sustains us. This is the common bond we share with all people and all nations.

The United States has a shameful record on recycling and reusing, as consumer goods such as televisions, VCRs, printers, furniture and appliances are often dumped into landfills. It has become cheaper and more convenient to simply throw away rather than repair. Computer printers, for example, have become so cheap that when an ink cartridge runs out, some of us throw the printer in the trash and buy a new one, as the replacement cartridge may cost more than the printer. Of course, some cartridges are refillable, but information about refilling them is omitted from the printer documentation.

The secret message behind all of this is buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend! Corporations are so out of control in their greed for profit that the needs of the future are not even considered. And Americans are so uninformed by a corporate media that focuses on news as entertainment rather than as a public forum for serious discussion that the possibilities for a change of priorities look bleak. It is imperative that we unite for the sake of the planet. It is imperative that we take back our public airwaves. Our very lives depend on it.