July 5, 2011

Zorro in Libya?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:19 pm

Purportedly one of the advantages of the computer era is that citizens with blogs will provide backup for the news media staffs that are stretched to the breaking point by cost cutting layoffs. There is danger in letting that bit of reassuring nonsense go unchallenged because if the backup capabilities of the citizen journalist is nothing more than an urban legend, then any unscrupulous villain who wanted to manipulate public opinion would have the public relying on a safety measure that was fictional and thus have a better chance of fooling the citizens with a lineup of meek and subservient lackeys providing the ruse of a Potemkin Journalism Industry which would (ostensibly) delight in reporting the very sham which they are helping to perpetrate.

Any blogger who uttered such First Amendment blasphemy would be expected to provide an example of a bit of news which would provide a text book perfect example of a news item that was being ignored by the media when it should be brought to the public’s attention. It would be even more convincing if such a blogger were to provide several stealth news items which if taken together would make a strong case for any wild conspiracy theory about how bloggers have as much sway with national media as Hans Brinker did with his neighbors.

Americans, who expect their media to use their Constitutional right to inform the citizens of any governmental misconduct, are often very condescending when evaluating the fact that in Germany during the Third Reich era, the news media there let national policy go unchallenged.

In the summer of 2011, are the journalists of America pointing out that after three months of conducting air strikes against Col. Qaddafi to protect that country’s inhabitants from his wrath, he continues to live? Beyond the irony of the fact that a small rag-tag band of fanatical amateur members of al Qaeda achieved their goal in one day and the USA with state of the art technical weaponry, the best spy information that money can buy, intelligence gathered by satellites, and a minor amount of anti-aircraft protection from the Libyans, they still haven’t been able to kill the one man who is their target and thereby opens up a chance that the USA will inadvertently bestow a folk hero status (a la Zorro?) on the elusive Libyan leader.

Will American media point out any collateral damage attached to the extreme effort to kill just one man? Other than one rogue story about one example of civilian casualties have American media reported any possibility that extensive collateral damage makes a mockery of the concept of unleashing a massive amount of explosives to protect the Libyans from the fellow who has been that country’s leader for almost 40 years?

A one hundred day series of air strikes to protect the citizens of Libya from their leader has been successfully marketed as a humanitarian effort. Shouldn’t the ever vigilant American media offer an explanation about whether the Libya mission ranks above or below the bombing of Guernica on the humanitarian effort scale?

If Col. Qaddafi were killed in an air strike today, would the air strikes continue? If so would Americans be provided with any explanation? Silence implies consent and the American free press is very silent about the effort to kill Col. Qaddafi.

If, as some outspoken progressive pundits would have their audiences believe, there is a concerted Republican effort to break unions, shouldn’t some of the sports departments assigned to cover American football and basketball games be offering up some conjecture about the possibility that two simultaneous lockouts in the USA sports scene are part of that political trend? Will a baseball lockout be next?

If a movie critic with a well respected reputation were to write a reevaluation of the 1980 movie, “The Formula,” and ask if the Germans during World War II were able to use coal to produce gasoline back then why isn’t that scientific achievement being used now to help stabilize prices at that gas pump in the USA? Wouldn’t the various editorial departments pick that up as a way to cope with the journalistic challenge of the dog days of summer? If the concept of citizen journalists providing backup for the national media is valid, wouldn’t a citizen blogger who asked these questions produce a mainstream media reaction?

[Note: An online columnist who asks questions that the mainstream media won’t is usually classified as a conspiracy theory crazy and is therefore ineligible to be an example of citizen journalism in action. The real question is: Should such unmanageable “loose cannon” writers even be considered to be human beings?]

One hand washes the other. If the idea that the German method for producing gasoline from coal would embarrass the big oil companies, then perhaps it is just an exaggerated example of “interline courtesy” to assume that media would be mum about such a footnote from the history books and let the oil companies maintain their high prices by perpetuating the “lost technology” myth about the German source for gasoline during World War II.

It has been suggested that the citizen groups in California that will assist in the efforts to redraw the new Congressional district maps are being swamped with applicants from the Tea Party side of the political spectrum. Aren’t the assignment desks at the New York Times and CBS sure to pounce on that story the first time a blogger mentions it? Or is the concept of “citizen journalist” just an urban legend?

If citizen journalism were a valid concept, wouldn’t there be annual awards for the best blogger scoops? You don’t expect the Pulitzer folks to hand out one of their awards to someone who scooped all of America’s editorial writers, do ya? To the best of our knowledge, there are no citizen journalist awards. Do they actually exist but suffer from an unknown gentlemen’s agreement among media to not give them any publicity? If you believe that, then you are eligible to apply for membership in the group that does give out awards for the year’s best new conspiracy theories.

Go back to sleep, America. On Saturday, this columnist noticed a story, posted online, with a headline indicating that President Obama has already lost the Budget Crises battle.

For the closing quote, we will allude to the movie line where Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman) says: “I’m just standin’ in the rain talkin’ to myself.”

Now the disk jockey will play “One is the loneliest number,” “Alone again, naturally,” and Patsy Cline’s version of “Crazy” (which was written by Willie Nelson [more than fifty years ago?]). We have to go make a design so we can get rich selling “Four more Years!” T-shirts. Have a “Tell Mr. DeMille I’m ready for my close-up!” type week.

July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day 2011


July 2, 2011

The corporatists vs. you & me: Why Palestine is important

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:31 pm

In America today, wealthy corporatists and oligarchs currently pretty much own our government. Wealthy corporatists and oligarchs also pretty much own our media. And wealthy corporatists and oligarchs also own our justice system, our banks, our educational systems and our voting machines. “Okay, okay, Jane. We get the picture!” Do you?

Obviously not.

I was just reading Al Gore’s latest article in Rolling Stone magazine, regarding the extreme emergencies created by climate change — and how climate-change deniers have blinded most of us to these immediate dangers. By 2090, within my own granddaughter’s lifetime, both most of Europe and most of America will be deserts, hard-hit by extreme droughts. Yet wealthy corporatists and oligarchs have deliberately covered up these extreme dangers — to you and to me as well as to our children and grandchildren.

According to Gore, “They are financing pseudo-scientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made ‘legal’ and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate change lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been as star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)”

But it isn’t just climate change that the Big Boys want us to doubt. They also want us to swallow the myth that we live in a democracy. You and I may think that we do. But wealthy corporatists and oligarchs all know that we don’t.

American corporatists have carefully taught us to doubt the fact that there is voting machine fraud. We’ve learned to doubt the fact that elections are bought and paid for by Citizens United. We’ve been taught to doubt that there have been major FBI wiretaps. We are told to doubt all the facts that keep pouring out at us from WikiLeaks. We doubt the patriotism of poor Bradley Manning.

We learn to doubt that habeas corpus is becoming a thing of the past. We even doubt that corporatist media tells us exactly what to think and when to think it. We are instructed to doubt that there is union-busting. We learn to doubt that women’s rights have been eroded. We are told to doubt that Mexicans, African-Americans, Gays, Muslims and Asians are being hounded and jailed. We also come to doubt that banks are illegally foreclosing on our homes. We now doubt that torture is un-American. And we’ve already been carefully taught to doubt that wiretapping and torture and false imprisonment and lord knows what all else could ever happen here in the USA, the Land of the Free.

Until it does.

We have been systematically taught to doubt all this stuff — until, like the heat waves in New England and the devastating floods on the Mississippi and the winters-from-hell in the Midwest, the reality that our democracy and civil rights no longer exist becomes real to us personally.

In the same way that we have been carefully taught to become climate-deniers by the corporatists who make a profit from pollution, we are also being carefully taught that Democracy still exists in America and that Justice is still available to all of us at any time. Yeah right. Like the Supreme Court represents us and not them? Like the corporatists who have sold us their infamous Bush-Obama-Bush sandwich can’t yank us out of our beds and water-board us any time that they please.

We have been carefully taught to hold onto this myth, this myth of freedom. Flag-waving. The Fourth of July. And hold on to it we do — until it may be too late and all the civil-rights trashing that wealthy corporatists and oligarchs have more obviously done to lesser, more third-world countries starts to become more and more obvious here too.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis, where all kinds of progressive topics were discussed — except one. The Palestinian third rail. None of the major speeches or the panels even mentioned the Palestine question, even in passing. There were approximately 120 seminars at NN 2011 and only one of them even mentioned the freaking Arab Spring.

What a shame.

“But why is Palestine so important?” you might ask. Here’s why. Today in America, a whole bunch of progressives are trying to initiate another American Spring of freedom and democracy here too. But that’s not the image of the future of America that the small band of wealthy corporatists and oligarchs who currently run this country have in mind. Their particular vision seems to run more along the lines of America’s new Palestinian Winter.

Think about it. High unemployment in America? Palestinians have up to 70% unemployment. Cheap labor? Palestine has set the bar really high here. But with a little bit of luck, corporatists can establish that high unemployment rate here too.

Intentional disintegration of the educational system? Palestine already has that too. And now American teachers are being dissed regularly. Why? Because an educated population wants democracy — while corporatists just wants the population to be servile (and dumb).

Rape of the environment? Palestine already leads the way. Corporatists in Israel already steal Palestine’s natural resources and pollute its air and its streams. And mountaintop removal is already huge in Palestine. Is West Virginia fast becoming the new West Bank? It certainly looks that way.

And what about freedom and personal rights? We’re fast becoming the new Palestine in this area too. Non-violent protesters are being shot at, beaten and jailed in Palestine. It’s basically a police state. Can America become an obvious police state like that too? I betcha anything that the corporatists certainly hope so. Just think of all that cheap prison labor! It’s already making our American oligarchs drool.

Palestinians are protesting their occupation, of course — but they are also protesting their corporatist abuse. And they are being vilified in the media for doing it. And vilification by the media of anyone who does not agree with the corporatist agenda happens here too. Wanna know what corporatists have in store for American journalists? Just go talk to a Palestinian journalist. That is, if you are even allowed into Palestine — or are given permission to go visit one in jail (or in the graveyard).

And the Israeli corporatists teach their young soldiers to become cold-blooded killers of “collateral” women and children in order to “defend” corporatist interests. Sound familiar? That’s already happening here.

Jails and torture in Palestine? They are a common part of Palestinian life. Will they become common and familiar parts of our lives too? These things are definitely on the American corporatist agenda already — as is control of American courts.

And the settlements in Palestine? You think there will never be “settlements” here in America too? Gated communities for the rich while the rest of us live in hovels and can have our houses taken away from us at any time? Settlements, gated communities and foreclosures appear to be occupying American corporatists’ wet dreams too.

Palestinians have been getting thrown out of their homes for over 63 years now. Americans are just now catching up.

This is why I fight so hard for justice in Palestine — a small place that is over on the other side of the world. Because if Israel corporatists, using American money for backing, can do all these horrible things to Palestinians and blithely get away with it, then what’s to stop American corporatists from continuing to do these things to you and me too?

The only thing that will stop corporatists is if we too, like Palestinians, fight back and say “No”. We too must also learn to say no.

On December 2, 1964, on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, a brave young student leader, Mario Savio, stated that, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

How much more relevant is Savio’s statement today, both in Palestine — and here.

PS: On the Forth of July, me and my family are going to go down to the Berkeley marina and watch the fireworks from the balcony of the Doubletree Hotel and contemplate the first American Spring — in 1776. And also barbecue hot dogs and eat olallieberry pie and celebrate my birthday (again).

Michele Bachmann in ‘Mother Knows Best’


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