Category Archives: The Media

What passes for news these days…

Mario Piperni and the Fox Fact-Free Zone

Abortion and Guns – The Link You Didn’t Know Existed

MARCH 20, 2013 BY 

Stupid  -  http://mariopiperni.com/

Just when you thought you had heard every vacuous argument against gun control possible, we are now told that there exists a link between universal background checks, abortion and mental illness.

Conservative columnist, Star Parker appearing on Hannity’s show.

“…they’re saying if you’ve had any mental problem in your background, well, does that mean that they’re going to ask questions about abortion? Because people who have had abortion, according to studies, have a tendency to have mental challenges later on.”

“Are we going to start asking about divorce? Because when you look at what happened at Sandy Hook, the woman who bought the weapons that her son stole, she had gotten a divorce and she had been drinking…”

In truth, the “according to studies” part of this winger’s argument is total bullshit. The studies actually find, as expected, that there is no link between abortion and mental illness.Obviously, no lie is too ridiculous for Hannity’s show if it helps support whatever right-wing crap-du-jour they’re pushing.

But Parker wasn’t done doing stupid. Gun control, she claims, is a carryover from the days of slavery with the intent of keeping guns out of the hands of blacks.

“I thought it appropriate to remind Americans that we’ve been here before. How is it that 5 percent of the population, the KKK — six million people in a country of more than 100 million — how is it that 5 percent were able to wreak havoc over 4 million new citizens, the former slaves? And one of the ways is because they systematically — the Democrats in power, the Democrats in political power in the South — systematically passed gun control laws in black code so that blacks would not be able to exercise their right to bear arms.”

Any call for a background check on Star Parker to determine a history of mental illness would be a totally reasonable request.

http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2013/03/19/29318/fnc-hannity-20130319-hannitygunsabortion

And there you go – just another episode of Fox’s Fact-Free Zone where race, slavery, the KKK, abortion, divorce, alcoholism and gun control are all somehow linked and not a single attempt to validate any of it is made.

One day I’ll learn to stop reading any article that starts with, “On Fox News today…”
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A Kindred Spirit from the Wilds of Alaska

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Naked Capitalism on Media: Frontline’s Astonishing Whitewash of the Crisis

Several of my savviest readers wrote expressing disappointment and consternation with the Frontline series on the crisis, “Money, Power, and Wall Street.” The first two parts of the four part series have been released, and it’s probably safe to say that this program is far enough along to be beyond redemption.

It’s a recitation of conventional wisdom, with just enough focus on some of the numerous things the banks and the authorities did wrong so as to make it seem daring for mainstream TV. But anyone who has been on this beat will find the first two segments cringe-making (one advantage I had was that of reading the transcripts, which makes it much easier to parse the construction). Despite the obligatory shots of Occupy Wall Street protestors, displaced homeowners, and stymied officials, much of the story line is remarkably bank-friendly.

The first segment is particularly troubling. It heavily cribs from the Gillian Tett book Fool’s Gold, which to be blunt was not very well received by reviewers. Fool’s Gold discussed the development of the credit default swaps market from the perspective of JP Morgan executives and staffers, with the result that it verged on hagiography. Oh, those great, intrepid, innovative bankers who just wanted to make the world better, and maybe make a buck or two in the process.

The book at least explained that the reason for the creation of the CDS was to solve a rather big problem for JP Morgan, that it was carrying a ton of loan risk and could use a way to lay it off (the broadcast, by contrast, made it sound like this was a market just waiting to happen, as opposed to one JP Morgan, and later its competitors, cultivated).

And no one clearly explains that CDS, as currently used, are certain to produce periodic blowups of undercapitalized guarantors (the monolines and AIG are prototypical). Tett and pretty much everyone in the segment perpetuates the industry PR that CDS are derivatives. A derivative is an instrument whose price “derives” from an actively traded underlying instrument. CDS, by contrast, are the economic equivalent of unregulated insurance contracts. The pernicious feature of CDS is that the CDS protection writers (the guarantors) aren’t regulated for capital adequacy, the way other insurers are. They instead are required to post collateral to reflect the current value of the contract. But that is no guarantee that the CDS protection writer will be able to pay out. When a default or other credit event occurs, the price of the CDS spikes up, and the guarantor may not be able to make good on the new, higher collateral posting. And requiring CDS protection writers to put up enough margin to allow for “jump to default” risk would make the product uneconomical.

But none of this is explained. Tellingly, there are clips of Brooksley Born, but no mention of her failed effort to regulate CDS. It is instead presented as a benign product that JP Morgan understood (did they sponsor this broadcast? Blythe Masters gets a big promo) and no one else did:

MARTIN SMITH: Did top management at JP Morgan understand credit derivatives?

TERRI DUHON: Yes, they did. Absolutely, they did.

MARTIN SMITH: Did they at other banks?

TERRI DUHON: No, not all other banks. Certainly not.

It’s more accurate to say JP Morgan was once burned, twice shy. It took significant losses in the first test of the corporate CDS market, the bankruptcy of Delphi in 2005. That led it to pull its oars in just as the market for asset backed securities CDS was taking off. Fool’s Gold makes a great deal of noise about how JP Morgan couldn’t figure out how other banks were modeling the risks on mortgage-related CDS and presents that as the reason they were largely out of that market. That may be narrowly true, but I wonder if that sort of caution would have reigned had they not had to reassess the adequacy of their risk metrics in the wake of Delphi.

Similarly, the account hews to conventional lines in making Goldman out to be the poster villain in the CDO market, yet merely in passing, has Deutsche Bank CEO Joseph Ackermann admitting to being one of the banks that stuffed Landesbanken like IKB full of toxic debt. Crisis junkies know that Deutsche Bank trader Greg Lippmann was the most aggressive middleman in helping subprime shorts like John Paulson create and sell CDOs designed to fail (and they had their own program, Start, which was a synthetic CDO series just like Goldman’s better known Abacus trades).

Typical of the program’s attention to fine points, it manages to work in a reference to the formal dismantling of Glass Steagall without saying why it was important (answer: it wan’t, but the gutting of the rule over the preceding decade and a half was). There is also some interview material that is flat out wrong on product spreads and CDO structures. The segment provides anecdotes of the crazed subprime lending, but fails to explain how mortgage backed securities and CDOs were linked to lending (or most important, that CDOs came to drive demand for RMBS, which in turn drove demand to the worst loans). Here, Inside Job was vastly better in covering technical material (with one lapse, in confused RMBS and CDOs) and providing data in an accessible manner.

The next segment is even more troubling. It treats the crisis as if it started with the failure of Bear Stearns, when that was the third of four acute phases, and was in full There Was No Alternative mode. It repeated the thesis I believe, but I’ve never seen confirmed, that it was concern over Bear’s CDS exposures that led to the bailout. It also says that Hank Paulson thought Bear was an isolated case, which would explain why the officialdom went into Mission Accomplished mode rather than trying to get to the bottom of the CDS exposures, pronto (We pointed out in March 2008 that Lehman, Merrill, and UBS were next on the list. If we could see that, that meant it was bloomin’ obvious). But it ignores the fact that the Fed first offered a 28 day loan, which it then changed to overnight and the original loan also would have tided Bear over into having access to a new Fed facility. I’m not convinced that Bear would not have made it, and no one has ever explained why the Fed retraded the deal.

Incredibly, this segment also presents the idea that Obama was seriously interested in and campaigning on the economy. Huh? Obama was stumping on the issues of 2006. It also presents other pro-Obama propaganda in the form of the meeting McCain called to discuss the financial implosion-in-progress, which Obama wound up dominating. This has just about zero relevance in explaining the crisis, and strongly suggests that there were multiple agendas in producing this series.

But worse is the Lehman-AIG meltdown. The markets were tanking! The world was about to come to an end! The authorities had to Do Something! No mention of the Fed’s zillions of special facilities (or previous interest rate cuts). Instead we get the TARP, and the story makes much of Congress critters sounding miffed at being asked to act over a weekend (as opposed to sign off on a soi disant bill that was all of three pages demanding $700 billion while putting the Treasury Secretary above the law). It also fails to mention the Treasury bait and switch, that while the bill did give the Treasury remarkable latitude, it was sold as being used to buy toxic assets (which we said at the time would never work under the parameters Treasury set forth), not a direct bailout to the banks.

We also get the lame excuse for Doing Nothing after Bear (“we lacked the authority”) when the officialdom had no compunction about bringing the banks to heel in October 2008 (note that there are several layers of kabuki here: as we described at the time, Paulson threatened the banks to take the TARP before revealing the terms, and the banks were quietly pleased when they learned how favorable the deal was. So the “forcing” was theater so the ones who wanted to pretend they didn’t need it could keep that story up. But even if this wasn’t a lot of play acting, this threat illustrates the sort of thing regulators have at their disposal but have become timid about using).

DICK KOVACEVICH, Chmn., Wells Fargo, 2005-09: I don’t know how much further we went before I was interrupted by Hank, who said, “Your regulator is sitting right next to me. And if you don’t take this money, on Monday morning, you will be declared capital-deficient.” I was stunned.

Aside: I also wondered if Wells Fargo sponsored this program. There was gratuitous statements by Wells that they were better lenders (not true if you limit it to banks, we’ve commented often on Wells’ sanctimoniousness).

The show defended the false dichotomy of bailout or disaster, when there were other options. Comments like these were throwaways, not taken up in a serious way:

SHEILA BAIR, Chair, FDIC, 2006-11: If the government hadn’t intervened, those counterparties would have taken huge losses, so there was some leverage there. At least tell them, you know, “You’re going to take 10 percent.” That just— that would have helped. But there was just willingness to kind of throw lots of money at the problem. And I don’t— I think we threw more money at the problem than we needed to. Absolutely….

ROBERT REICH, Secretary of Labor, 1993-97: They don’t have to modify any mortgages. They don’t have to put limits on their own salaries or their own compensation or their own bonuses. They don’t have to do anything differently than they were doing before. They don’t even have to agree to major regulatory changes. Basically, they are sitting fat and pretty and happy.

So thus far, we have some populist decorating of a profoundly pro-Establishment account. Yes, the system got really out of control, but whocoulddanode? It just got SOOO complicated no one could understand it, not even those super well paid top Wall Street executives. There isn’t a single mention of ideas like looting, bogus accounting (remember the fictitious Lehman balance sheet, or Merrill’s CDO-hiding Pyxis, or the $40 billion of Citi CDOs that appeared out of nowhere?) or abuses in other areas (like swaps sold to municipalities all over the world, or rapacious privatizations, the auction rate securities blow up, or chain of title abuses). Nah, it’s just a bunch of fundamentally good ideas taken too far. And they really expect you to believe that.

LUV News on the Lapdog Media

The reason so many citizens are unaware of the corporate media propaganda system is that it is everywhere, so one cannot see the forest for the trees. It is the most important thing a citizen can know, if one is to be successful in opposing corruption in the land.

Most of the people working in the mass media are unaware they are pushing propaganda, so effective is the world’s most sophisticated propaganda system ever devised.

At the top of our system there are people who are aware, and they think of the masses as idiots for the way we are herded into going against our own interests. These wealthy investors put their money into the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution and the Cato Institute, libertarian and conservative “think tanks” corporate-funded to twist messages in the mass media, as much as possible, to benefit the ruling Forces of Greed.

As Michael Parenti points out, editors and producers don’t have to be told what news to put out, they are hired for their subservience, the kind of people who don’t have to be reined in.

As for a secret conspiracy, there really is no need. Everything is out in the open. If you want to screw the working class, you just do it, and there is not a peep from anyone in the mass media, who are inured to it as normal perspective. On rare occasions when someone does raise the issue, they are quickly accused of class warfare, and are immediately shut up.

Of all the propaganda campaigns currently going in our mass media, justification for attacking Iran is king. Surreal war is all that is allowed in mass media, no pictures of children with limbs blown off — all from the viewpoint of the wealthy who are protected from suffering themselves, as they profit immensely from privatized war, blinders firmly in place.

We are given bizarre euphemisms for the start of such wars, including “surgical strike,” as though advocates of such bombing are unaware of the people who die. Should bombing begin, they are then prepared to shift to surprise with the “justification” of “collateral damage,” as though they had no idea it would happen. Knowing how the propaganda works is our only defense from what passes for news on our TVs. —Jack

The Plots Against the President

A good — and quick — read is Sally Denton’s The Plots Against the President, dealing with the intrigue against FDR because of his New Deal legislation. It bears looking at because of the unmistakable parallels with today and the heavy-handed conservative assault on remaining New Deal safeguards.

FDR’s predecessor, Herbert Hoover, as Denton notes, was your typical right-winger:

Ideologically opposed to what was called the “dole,” Hoover thought government assistance to individuals would become addictive and undermine their work ethic. As unemployment swelled to nearly 25 percent, that attitude seemed not only uninformed and indifferent but also morally untenable.

Sound familiar? And this was in 1932, the “cruelest year,” a time when America hit rock bottom,” as historian William Manchester described it:

Financial capitalists had bilked millions of customers and had been “permitted to rig the market and trick the public,” said a New Yorker editor. As the Nation magazine put it: “If you steal $25, you’re a thief. If you steal $250,000, you’re an embezzler. If you steal $2,500,000 you’re a financier.”

Also all too familiar, a time when one percent of the population possessed 59 percent of the nation’s wealth.

“Wall Street was not merely accountable for the country’s dilemma,” historian Steve Fraser said of the widespread perception, “it was its perpetrator, the principal villain in a national saga of guilt, revenge, and redemption.” Joseph P. Kennedy, himself a businessman and Wall Street speculator, wrote of the pervasive loss of confidence in the system: “The belief that those in control of the corporate life of America were motivated by honesty and ideals of honorable conduct was completely shattered.”

And the times had their own Rush Limbaughs:

Testimony revealed how Wall Street insiders hired publicity agents, journalists, and radio announcers to hawk certain stocks, thereby manipulating the market; how National City Bank (forerunner of today’s Citigroup) sold worthless bonds; how bankers systematically abandoned their fiduciary responsibilities; and how J.P. Morgan, who wielded extreme personal and unregulated power over billions of dollars in profits, created elaborate machinations to dodge taxes. Morgan partners, in what was effectively a cozy and exclusive men’s club, held 126 directorships in 89 corporations. Most infuriating to the Depression-era public were the disproportionate compensations and bonuses to those who had deceived and thieved common Americans….

[N]either Morgan nor any of his partners had paid income tax for the past three years, and he intended to rely on loopholes to avoid paying any in 1933.

FDR, who was planted firmly in the upperclass, had radical ideas (for the time) about how to turn around the Depression:

It was Roosevelt who had complained that “fewer than three dozen private banking houses and stock-selling adjuncts in the commercial banks have directed the flow of capital within the country and outside it,” and who had vowed, while campaigning for the presidency, to implode the “economic oligarchy.”

One of his appointees, Ferdinand Pecora, headed up the investigations leading ultimately to the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act:

The testimony had brought to light a shocking corruption in our banking system, a widespread repudiation of old fashioned standards of honesty and fair dealing in the creation and sale of securities, and a merciless exploitation of the vicious possibilities of intricate corporate chicanery. The public had been deeply aroused by the spectacle of cynical disregard of fiduciary duty on the part of many of its most respected leaders; of directors, who conveniently subordinated their official obligations to an avid pursuit of personal gain; of great banks, which combined the functions of a bank with those of a stock jobber; of supposedly impartial public markets for the sale of securities, actually operated as private clubs for the individual benefits of their members.

Strong parallels with current events, though as Timothy R. Smith wrote in the Washington Post, the right wing was far more militarized:

American fascist parties formed paramilitary groups called the silver shirts, the khaki shirts or the black shirts, a Crayola box of colors inspired by Hitler’s brownshirts and Mussolini’s blackshirts. “Dangerous or not,” Denton notes, “America was awash with right-wing groups overtly bent on government takeover outside the bounds of the democratic electoral process.”

The largest effort was a well-financed Wall Street plot to organize the American Legion to march on Washington, seize the White House, overthrow the president and install a famous military hero, Smedley Darlington Butler, as leader of a fascist state modeled after Italy. Butler, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient and firm supporter of Roosevelt, turned the ringleaders in.

Butler was an odd choice, as a Roosevelt supporter and unashamedly vocal in his politics:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

The “mainstream media” of the day didn’t exactly cover itself in glory, chosing to basically ignore the plot, as cowed then as now:

The role of the press was similarly confusing. Was the story downplayed because of potential embarrassment to influential figures, or was it marginalized because the plot was so absurdly far-fetched that it resembled one of the potboiler adventure stories that Butler wrote for various magazines, if not a Marx Brothers zany comedy? “An apparently serious effort to overthrow the government, perhaps with the support of some of America’s wealthiest men, largely substantiated by a Congressional Committee, was mostly ignored,” wrote Clayton E. Cramer in History Today. “Why?”

Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, would charge an alliance between the American Liberty League and the country’s major newspapers, which distorted and covered up the news “in the interest of both their advertisers and in defense of the capitalist class.” In any event, the Liberty League was fast becoming the most significant anti-Roosevelt organization in the country. With infinite resources, much of it from the du Pont family, it would spend millions to destroy the New Deal. Providing editorials to thousands of newspapers, radio stations, and libraries, it was described as sponsoring “one of the most extensive propaganda campaigns of the twentieth century.”

Until the Koch brotherss came along with ALEC, that is . . .

LUV Update

Missed posts while out of town and out of touch:

MICROSOFT FRANKENFOOD

Bill Gates is selling us out again, now pushing frankenfood on behalf of his agribusiness friends, using false claims. A cursory glance shows Gates has invested in Monsanto and other agribusiness giants.

We’ve pointed out in the past that he’s undermined his own Microsoft employees by bringing in foreign workers who work for less pay. His Gates Foundation, for which corporate media praise him, is used as a tax writeoff, not the noblest reason to do “charity” work [emphasis added].

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) requires the poor farmers of the world to pay the corporation with the patent for seeds, so that they can’t have the traditional free seeds they keep from the previous year’s crop, making farming prohibitively more expensive. We also have no idea if GMO crops can survive disasters, as the natural seeds have endured ice ages, droughts, insect infestations, floods and other disasters. If we become dependent on GMO seeds we may find ourselves in periods of mass starvation at some future date.

We have long said that if Bill Gates wants to effectively spend money to make a better world, he could back a cable company or satellite network capable of reaching the masses with public interest viewpoints and news, which would cause an outbreak of democracy to occur (which can’t happen in darkness), in which the people would demand a fairer system without the hunger, homelessness, and other side effects from creating billionaires.

* * *

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Just as protest movements are full of protesters, they are also full of infiltrators. You won’t have one without the other. Even though history is ripe with examples, newcomers are still often surprised. During the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, 1 out of 6 participants was a government agent. So it was inevitable that the Occupy movement would also be beset by infiltrators and agents provocateurs — people from outside trying to stir up trouble. Then when the media reports that “protesters turned violent,” credulous readers believe it. Thus the movement is discredited. Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, two of the organizers of the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC last year, identify the most common behaviors of infiltrators in this piece at Truthdig.

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MILITARY LIES

Andrew Cockburn puts his finger on one of our biggest problems with the Pentagon — lies.

Interviewing generals and admirals, we’ve been told that many of them are offered lucrative jobs with the Nuclear Mafia as they retire, for their Pentagon contacts, to sell out the American people by pushing taxpayer-funded corporate weapons systems that are not needed, may not function as promised, and cost fortunes to build.

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FIRST ANNUAL LOWER THAN WHALE POOP AWARD

LUV News is proud to present the first annual Lower than Whale Poop award to National Public Radio, for their tireless efforts to keep public interest candidates out of the presidential race.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Campaigns

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions

Republican Hypocrisy; Democratic Complicity; The Press’s Malfeasance; and  Why You Don’t Have a Job and if You Do, Why it Doesn’t Pay Squat


by John Atcheson

The United States is headed for a plutocratic dystopia where a few gated communities sit like islands amidst a sea of bitterness, misery, and want.

Why?

Because the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions. Not surprisingly, they aren’t working very well for us.

Let’s run through a few of the most destructive lies and myths.

  1. Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators: Uh, no. Corporations are sitting on over $2 trillion dollars in un-invested profits. What jobs they are creating are in China and other countries – which, by the way, engaged in huge government funded stimulus programs when the Great Recession first hit. Which brings us to our next myth…
  2. Government can’t create jobs: This particular whopper is just plain counterfactual. Obama’s much maligned stimulus program created some 3 million jobs and would have created more if he hadn’t caved to Republicans and limited its size and agreed to put 40% of it into unproductive tax cuts. In short, government does create jobs – no one else can or will when there’s not enough consumer demand to justify corporate expansion. And as long as the middle class’s wealth is getting siphoned off by the 1%, there will not be enough demand.
  3. The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget: The story line from deficit hawks is that a deficit will spook bond markets and make it difficult for the US to borrow. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, demand is so high for our bonds, we’re able to borrow at record low interest rates. And while folks are practically lining up to buy our debt instruments, they’re eschewing investments in countries which instituted austerity plans. Yet the Obama Administration continues to join with the Republicans in insane hand wringing over deficits. Yes, we must bring down the deficit eventually, but not in the midst of a jobs crisis. In the long term, there are two ways to cut the deficit: grow our way out of it, or cut spending to the bone, and face a stagnating economy for the foreseeable future. If we’re to avoid the latter, right now we need government investment to stimulate growth.
  4. Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country’s debt — an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President’s combined (including Obama). Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
  5. Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
  6. Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth: The fact is, laissez-faire, free market policies have failed miserably every time they’ve been tried. They have a nasty habit of causing grotesque income inequalities, huge market volatility and severe financial collapses. In fact, the Great Recession we are now climbing out of should have been strike 3 for the Free Marketeers. Strike 1 was the Panic of 1893 and the depression which followed it. Strike 2 was the Great Depression of the 30’s. In all three cases, these collapses were preceded by conservative, laissez-faire policies featuring deregulation, low taxes and weak governments.
    Three tries – each resulting in severe income inequality and the catastrophic economic meltdowns they inevitably cause. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this strategy doesn’t work.
  7. Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets. And we know that the costs of not acting to prevent it are going to be far more than the cost of taking action, and it goes up with each year we delay. Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
  8. Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course.

So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate?

Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in.

Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%. Red meat issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception, family values, and immigration do their part. Bald-faced lies like “Obama apologizes for America,” or he was born in Kenya contribute as well. But it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit.

It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough. No doubt that explains why they act like the class cowards and cringe in the last stall in the bathroom every time one of these faux issues get raised.

But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information. Several weeks ago, New York Times “reader’s representative” Andy Brisbane actually asked readers whether reporters should be concerned with the truth. Honestly. He did.

We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth. As Eric Sevareid said:

“Our rigid formulae of so-called objectivity … have given the lie the same prominence and impact that truth is given; they have elevated the influence of fools to that of wise men; the ignorant to the level of the learned; the evil to the level of the good.”

This is more true today than it was then. And without a press devoted to honesty and accuracy, our ship of state runs on yarns, myths and the modern day equivalent of “bread and circuses,” and we are at the mercy of the evil, the foolish and the ignorant.

As long as that’s the case, the whims of the 1% will rule and your pay will continue to erode, or your job will exported to China or India or Honduras or anywhere the plutocrats are free to exploit workers and the environment. Or to places like Germany, where they don’t buy into the myths, and an active government role assures high-wage jobs and general prosperity.

At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%.

LUV News on the Lapdog Media

MASS MEDIA CONTINUE TO PUSH IRAN ATTACK BY TWISTING FACTS


Robert Parry points out the corporate media talking heads are shifting the argument from “Iran is making a nuke,” to “Iran has the capability to develop nuclear weapons.” These “journalists,” who justify the wars, bankster bailouts, global pollution, starvation and other horrors, can’t seem to find the bottom in how far they are willing to sink in order to please the ruling Forces of Greed.

Of course Iran has the capability to make a nuke, although there is no evidence they are doing that. So does every country on the planet, but we’re not talking about bombing the children of Japan or Australia on a hunch that their parents decided to join the nuclear madness club.

Glenn Greenwald follows up his last report of corporate media’s rush to war with Iran in a new piece about Diane Sawyer pushing exaggerated hype to demonize Iran, as the entire corporate media spectrum readies public support for shock and awe. We’ve had a critical eye on Diane since the year she spent with Richard Nixon in his San Clemente home after his resignation to keep from being impeached. She’s always shown clearly where her loyalties lie, which is why she has the high paid anchor job at ABC.

[Editor’s note: Those of us with long memories remember Diane Sawyer well from her time as lapdog of Richard Nixon, and hence cannot watch her on TV.]

Bill Moyers Lays It Out for All to See…

How Wall Street Occupied America

This article is adapted from a speech Bill Moyers gave in October at Public Citizen’s fortieth-anniversary gala.

During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains in 1890, populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”

She should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as “fat cats,” then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.

That’s now the norm, and they get away with it. The president has raised more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.

Let’s name this for what it is: hypocrisy made worse, the further perversion of democracy. Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy—fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.

Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking, “Why are you here?” But it’s clear they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country. And that’s why in public places across the nation workaday Americans are standing up in solidarity. Did you see the sign a woman was carrying at a fraternal march in Iowa the other day? It read, I Can’t Afford to Buy a Politician So I Bought This Sign. Americans have learned the hard way that when rich organizations and wealthy individuals shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they get what they want.

In his Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, historian Gordon Wood says that our nation discovered its greatness “by creating a prosperous free society belonging to obscure people with their workaday concerns and pecuniary pursuits of happiness.” This democracy, he said, changed the lives of “hitherto neglected and despised masses of common laboring people.”

Those words moved me when I read them. They moved me because Henry and Ruby Moyers were “common laboring people.” My father dropped out of the fourth grade and never returned to school because his family needed him to pick cotton to help make ends meet. Mother managed to finish the eighth grade before she followed him into the fields. They were tenant farmers when the Great Depression knocked them down and almost out. The year I was born my father was making $2 a day working on the highway to Oklahoma City. He never took home more than $100 a week in his working life, and he made that only when he joined the union in the last job he held. I was one of the poorest white kids in town, but in many respects I was the equal of my friend who was the daughter of the richest man in town. I went to good public schools, had the use of a good public library, played sandlot baseball in a good public park and traveled far on good public roads with good public facilities to a good public university. Because these public goods were there for us, I never thought of myself as poor. When I began to piece the story together years later, I came to realize that people like the Moyerses had been included in the American deal. “We, the People” included us.

* * *

It’s heartbreaking to see what has become of that bargain. Nowadays it’s every man for himself. How did this happen? The rise of the money power in our time goes back forty years. We can pinpoint the date. On August 23, 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell—a board member of the death-dealing tobacco giant Philip Morris and a future justice of the Supreme Court—released a confidential memorandum for his friends at the US Chamber of Commerce. We look back on it now as a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.

Recall the context of Powell’s memo. Big business was being forced to clean up its act. Even Republicans had signed on. In 1970 President Nixon put his signature on the National Environmental Policy Act and named a White House Council to promote environmental quality. A few months later millions of Americans turned out for Earth Day. Nixon then agreed to create the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress acted swiftly to pass tough amendments to the Clean Air Act, and the EPA announced the first air pollution standards. There were new regulations directed at lead paint and pesticides. Corporations were no longer getting away with murder.

Powell was shocked by what he called an “attack on the American free enterprise system.” Not just from a few “extremists of the left” but also from “perfectly respectable elements of society,” including the media, politicians and leading intellectuals. Fight back and fight back hard, he urged his compatriots. Build a movement. Set speakers loose across the country. Take on prominent institutions of public opinion—especially the universities, the media and the courts. Keep television programs “monitored the same way textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance.” And above all, recognize that political power must be “assiduously [sic] cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination” and “without embarrassment.”

Powell imagined the Chamber of Commerce as a council of war. Since business executives had “little stomach for hard-nosed contest with their critics” and “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate,” they should create think tanks, legal foundations and front groups of every stripe. These groups could, he said, be aligned into a united front through “careful long-range planning and implementation…consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and united organizations.”

The public wouldn’t learn of the memo until after Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court that same year, 1971. By then his document had circulated widely in corporate suites. Within two years the board of the Chamber of Commerce had formed a task force of forty business executives—from US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, and ABC and CBS (two media companies, we should note). Their assignment was to coordinate the crusade, put Powell’s recommendations into effect and push the corporate agenda. Powell had set in motion a revolt of the rich. As historian Kim Phillips-Fein subsequently wrote, “Many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.”

They chose swiftly. The National Association of Manufacturers announced that it was moving its main offices to Washington. In 1971 only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in the capital; by 1982 nearly 2,500 did. Corporate PACs increased from fewer than 300 in 1976 to more than 1,200 by the mid-’80s. From Powell’s impetus came the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy (precursor to what we now know as Americans for Prosperity) and other organizations united in pushing back against political equality and shared prosperity. They triggered an economic transformation that would in time touch every aspect of our lives.

The Chamber of Commerce, in response to the memo, doubled its membership, tripled its budget and stepped up its lobbying efforts. It’s going stronger than ever. Most recently, it called in its agents in Congress to kill a bill to provide healthcare to 9/11 first responders for illnesses linked to their duty on that day. The bill would have paid for their medical care by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations with business interests in America. The Chamber, along with nearly 1,300 business and trade groups, urged Congress to pass the new tax bill, signed into law just before this past Christmas and filled with all kinds of stocking stuffers, including about fifty tax breaks for businesses. The bill gave some of our biggest banks, financial companies and insurance firms another year’s exemption to shield their foreign profits from being taxed here in the United States; among the beneficiaries were giants Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, all of which survived the financial debacle of their own making because taxpayers bailed them out in 2008.

The coalition got another powerful jolt of adrenaline in the late ’70s from the wealthy right-winger who had served as Nixon’s treasury secretary, William Simon. His book A Time for Truth argued that “funds generated by business” must “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes to uproot the institutions and the “heretical strategy” of the New Deal. He called on “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount “a veritable crusade” against progressive America. BusinessWeek (October 12, 1974) somberly explained that “it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”

Those “men of action in the capitalist world” were not content with their wealth just to buy more homes, more cars, more planes, more vacations and more gizmos than anyone else. They were determined to buy more democracy than anyone else. And they succeeded beyond their expectations. After their forty-year “veritable crusade” against our institutions, laws and regulations—against the ideas, norms and beliefs that helped to create America’s iconic middle class—the Gilded Age is back with a vengeance.

If you want to see the story pulled together in one compelling narrative, read Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. They wanted to know how America had turned into a society starkly divided into winners and losers. They found the culprit: the revolt triggered by Lewis Powell, fired up by William Simon and fueled by rich corporations and wealthy individuals. “Step by step,” they write, “and debate by debate America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

There you have it. They bought off the gatekeeper, got inside and gamed the system. As the rich and powerful got richer and more powerful, they owned and operated the government, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors, and taxpayers.” Now, write Hacker and Pierson, the United States is looking more and more like “the capitalist oligarchies, like Brazil, Mexico, and Russia,” where most of the wealth is concentrated at the top while the bottom grows larger and larger with everyone in between just barely getting by.

The revolt of the plutocrats was ratified by the Supreme Court in its notorious Citizens United decision last year. Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five pro-corporate conservative justices gave “artificial legal entities” the same rights of “free speech” as humans, they told our corporate sovereigns that the sky’s the limit when it comes to their pouring money into political campaigns.

The ink was hardly dry on the Citizens United decision when the Chamber of Commerce organized a covertly funded front and rained cash into the 2010 campaigns. According to the Sunlight Foundation, corporate front groups spent
$126 million in the fall of 2010 while hiding the identities of the donors. Another corporate cover group—the American Action Network—spent more than $26 million of undisclosed corporate money in just six Senate races and twenty-six House elections. And Karl Rove’s groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, seized on Citizens United to raise and spend at least $38 million, which NBC News said came from “a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls”—all determined to water down financial reforms that might prevent another collapse of the financial system. Jim Hightower has said it well: today’s proponents of corporate plutocracy “have simply elevated money itself above votes, establishing cold, hard cash as the real coin of political power.”

No wonder so many Americans have felt that sense of political impotence that historian Lawrence Goodwyn described as “the mass resignation” of people who believe in the “dogma of democracy” on a superficial public level but whose hearts no longer burn with the conviction that they are part of the deal. Against such odds, discouragement comes easily. But if the generations before us had given up, slaves would still be waiting on their masters, women would still be turned away from the voting booths on election day and workers would still be committing a crime if they organized.

* * *

So take heart from the past, and don’t ever count the people out. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution created extraordinary wealth at the top and excruciating misery at the bottom. Embattled citizens rose up. Into their hearts, wrote the progressive Kansas journalist William Allen White, “had come a sense that their civilization needed recasting, that their government had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, that a new relation should be established between the haves and have-nots.” Not content to wring their hands and cry “Woe is us,” everyday citizens researched the issues, organized to educate their neighbors, held rallies, made speeches, petitioned and canvassed, marched and marched again. They plowed the fields and planted the seeds—sometimes on bloody ground—that twentieth-century leaders used to restore “the general welfare” as a pillar of American democracy. They laid down the now-endangered markers of a civilized society: legally ordained minimum wages, child labor laws, workers’ safety and compensation laws, pure foods and safe drugs, Social Security, Medicare and rules that promote competitive markets over monopolies and cartels.

The lesson is clear: Democracy doesn’t begin at the top; it begins at the bottom, when flesh-and-blood human beings fight to rekindle what Arlo Guthrie calls “The Patriot’s Dream.”

Living now here but for fortune
Placed by fate’s mysterious schemes
Who’d believe that we’re the ones asked
To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams

Arise sweet destiny, time runs short
All of your patience has heard their retort
Hear us now for alone we can’t seem
To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams

Can you hear the words being whispered
All along the American stream
Tyrants freed, the just are imprisoned
Try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams

Ah but perhaps too much is being asked of too few
You and your children with nothing to do
Hear us now for alone we can’t seem
To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams

Who, in these cynical times, with democracy on the ropes and America’s body politic pounded again and again by the blows of organized money—who would dream such a radical thing? Look around.

LUV Newsletter on NPR’s Arab Spring

Caught up in the U.S. doublespeak on the Middle East, NPR vacillates on supporting dictators vs. the Arab Spring:

Steve Inskeep interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition. Hostile toward those seen as enemies of Israel, Inskeep dramatically changed his tone when speaking with this last major supporter of Israel in the Arab world.

When the subject came up about the Arab Spring and overthrow of other dictators in the region, Inskeep showed his concern for this particular dictator, asking, “Given the realities in other countries, how do you keep a lid on it, how do you avoid an explosion?”