Monday, April 18, 2011

How Political Power Controls the Media: A Lesson From Kent State


Preface by Dan Perin

Our personal experiences play a major part in the development of our philosophy of life, our belief system and ultimately our politics.  I have known Lloyd since the “heady” days of the Whole Life Learning Center in Denver in the 70’s.  I first met him not too long after his first-hand experience at the Kent State student killings on May 4, 1970.  It has always been clear to me the profound influence that experience has had on him.  Rather than simply filling him with rage—and there was that—he directed his life more into constructive actions personally as well as in his teaching career.  As we approach the 41st anniversary of the Kent State affair, I hope that in the sharing of his personal experience readers will find reasons to more deeply review their own politics and belief systems, and especially bring a critical eye to the “news” they accept as gospel truth.

By Lloyd Agte

My experience at Kent State University, particularly the aftermath of the killing of four students by the Ohio National Guard May 4, 1970, educated me on how the government controls the media.  Nothing like being in the eye of the storm and then looking out at how the storm is being reported to sear into consciousness a life-long skepticism about what is reported through the mass media.

As a harbinger of things to come, my wife and I drove from Laramie, Wyoming past Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention on our I-80 trip to our Doctoral studies and Teaching Fellowships at Kent State University in Ohio.  The radio was full of the conflict, and I was sorely tempted to join the demonstrators who were trying to pressure the Democratic Party to adopt an anti-war platform.  But I was driving a friend's new Ford (she had left Wyoming to attend graduate school in Buffalo and had gone back by plane or with her husband in his car), my wife was following in her Corvair, I was pulling a U-Haul trailer, and I was unfamiliar with Chicago, so caution dictated prudence, and we journeyed on to Kent. 

Kent State was hardly a hotbed of radicalism, but there was considerably more politics permeating the school and area than I had previously experienced.  And the Student Movement wave that had sprung up on the west coast and eastern campuses had reached tsunami proportions that fall following the Chicago Police Riots during the Democratic Convention, when young and old, rich and poor, politicos and bystanders fell under the clubs, batons, fire hoses, tear gas and bullets of the Chicago police which Mayor Daley turned on everyone.  This violent response was a catalyst at campuses across the nation for heating up activist groups such as the American Indian Movement, Black Power, Women's Liberation, Student Rights, Gay Rights, and the anti-war movement.  All this political activity at Kent, a story in itself but beyond the telling here, culminates in the event leading to my "media lesson": the May 4, 1970 hail of 67 bullets (armor piercing and dum-dum) fired by the Ohio National guard in 13 seconds at a peaceful anti-war rally, killing four students and wounding nine.

Lies for the Politics of Fear

The flames of fear in local residents over some downtown property damage Friday night, May 1, and the burning of the ROTC building on Saturday night were fanned by Ohio Governor James Rhodes who called in the National Guard and then deliberately instilled fear in the local people. Campaigning at the time for a U.S. Senate seat on a right wing "get tough with the students" ticket, he lied to the local populace in a radio/television broadcast from the Kent Fire Station that the community of Kent was being overtaken by professional "outsiders," i.e., out-of-state radicals who were going from campus to campus stirring up trouble and fomenting riots.  He told the listeners that these terrorists were worse than the Brown Shirts (Hitler's Storm trooper thugs) and the Nightriders (terrorists in Kentucky forcing farmers to join a tobacco trust), and that "no one is safe in Portage County." Thus, one set of official lies was already in place two days before the massacre. The timeline of events May 1 through May 4 is rather complex one, suffice it to say the origin was triggered by President Nixon's widening of the Viet Nam War through his invasion of Cambodia
 

A Tragedy of Errors:  False Headline

At noon, May 4, the Ohio National Guard marched on a peaceful assembly near the Liberty Bell in the center of campus, eventually firing upon the crowd, killing students Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder (an ROTC student who was just watching) and Sandra Scheuer (who was skirting to the assemblage to get to her client in her student-practicum speech therapy class). The University was then closed, locked down, and all the students, faculty and support personnel banished from campus for six weeks.  The local people, who were already traumatized by the events and the official lies, awoke on May 5 to find that their local newspaper headlines read that two National Guardsmen had been killed by student rioters.  This, it turned out, was an error caused by the local paper, the Ravenna Record-Courier overhearing at paper deadline time a message or rumor on a police radio, and unable to confirm it, went ahead with the headline.  It was changed in a later run of the paper but not before a sizeable run had gone to press and been delivered on local doorsteps.  (I heard this personally from the editor Dix himself, and had no reason at the time not to believe it was an honest, though irresponsible, mistake.) 

First Official Lie: Student Sniper 

On May 24 the Akron Beacon Journal and members of the Knight newspaper team released a thirty thousand-word report, which later received a Pulitzer Prize, exonerating the students and criticizing the Guard.  On July 23 the Akron Beacon Journal summarized the contents of a Justice Department summary of the FBI's investigation of the Kent incidents, noting that there was no sniper, the Guard was not surrounded, there was minimal rock-throwing and that the shooting was "not proper and not in order."  But when the first emotional reaction is fixed to an event, it does not get erased completely by subsequent information (unless, perhaps, one is "born again" in some way that casts off that old emotional investment).  Most people had already made up their minds and had blamed the victims.  And what is the power of a dry report on the populace vs. the action-adventure melodrama of live events?

Local Political Lies

The Portage County Prosecutor Ron Kane, trying to create his 15 minutes of fame, raided all the dorm rooms for weapons and proudly displayed them on a table and encouraged photographs for the world to see the violent potential of the students.  Among the clutter of objects were a couple of Civil War replica swords, a BB gun or two, a few athletic-race starting guns, a cross-bow, a few broken pistols, baseball bats, a nautical flare gun, a working shotgun and a hand gun or two--this from a University with over 20,000 students.  But in the photo, with a few guns in the foreground, to the casual observer seeing the picture and reading the suggestive story heading, it appeared that a stockpile of weapons had been confiscated from the student dormitories.  My next-door adult neighbors, both of whom were illiterate, in alarm showed me the picture in the newspaper of "student arsenal." I read the story to them and pointed out the paucity of weapons in the heap on the table.  But for the locals who wanted to believe the students were violent and the Guard was justified in their murder, the lie seemed to work.

Second Official Lie: Students Overrunning the Guard

"Guard surrounded and feared being overrun."  That was the second big lie to justify the shooting.  This then was the lie that went through the summer 1970.  A later variation being there was a surge of violent students charging the Guard at the last minute, forcing them to in self-defense.

First Official Lie Discredited: No Sniper

On May 24 the Akron Beacon Journal and members of the Knight newspaper team released a thirty thousand-word report, which later received a Pulitzer Prize, exonerating the students and criticizing the Guard.  On July 23 the Akron Beacon Journal summarized the contents of a Justice Department summary of the FBI's investigation of the Kent incidents, noting that there was no sniper, the Guard was not surrounded, there was minimal rock-throwing and that the shooting was "not proper and not in order."  But when the first emotional reaction is fixed to an event, it does not get erased completely by subsequent information (unless, perhaps, one is "born again" in some way that casts off that old emotional investment).  Most people had already made up their minds and had blamed the victims.  And what is the power of a dry report on the populace vs. the action-adventure melodrama of live events?

Second Official Lie Discredited: I.F. Stone Leaks FBI Report

I fully expected the FBI, who had gone over the entire campus, every dorm room and every inch of campus and conducted countless interviews, to issue a report sympathetic to the Nixon Presidency establishment.  But I was wrong.  Indeed, the FBI report with its series of photos from various student amateur photographers re-constructed on a time-line showed no surge of students, no threatened Guard.  On the contrary, some students were gawking casually about, and some students near the Guard were walking away from them.  I dope-slapped my head and said, of course! You could not have the FBI constructing a phony report.  That is the job of politicians.  A political leader has to have accurate information on what has happened, conclusions based on evidence and verifiable facts.  Not that Nixon on his own would ever have released the FBI report.  Rather, part of it was leaked by famous journalist I.F. Stone in his book The Killings at Kent State: How Murder Went Unpunished. (Available at Amazon.)  Stone's book popped the entire balloon-bouquet of lies that had been officially huffed and puffed up by State and Federal Governments.  But Stone's book, coming out in 1971, did not make much dent on the general public, whose opinion had already been formed around the initial official lies and who had emotionally gone on to other issues.

Local and National Early Reaction: Killings Good More Needed

Reading the letters to the editor that poured into the Record-Courier, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other papers in the aftermath, I reached the stunning (to me) and depressing conclusion that if one were to tally up the reactions, overwhelmingly the largest percentage of them reflected the opinion (which many blatantly stated) that it was good that the National Guard had killed and wounded the students, that they should have killed more, and they should have done it sooner.  In the process of writing this, I surprisingly came across in my files an old Record-Courier, the local Kent paper, dated May 12, 1970.  The editor had dedicated a page to letters to the editor, eighteen in total, of which about 70% are clearly anti-student and in support of the National Guard.  Ohio National Guard General Canterbury elsewhere stated that they were overwhelmed with letters and that they supported the Guard 18 to 1.  But what would one expect after the initial waves of deliberate official lies, reinforced by the President and Vice- President. 

The Formula: And the Beat Goes on

Tell the big lie on the front page and on Breaking News on national television, and if it has to be corrected, offer a correction after a few days or weeks go by and bury the correction in a few lines at the bottom of page 13 or in a short comment at the end of the 10:00 news.  Or today, in the era of total corporate control of mass media, ignore the correction.  The public forms its initial emotional reaction around the first release of information, and it seems the human psyche is loathe to ever fully give up that initial reaction.

And the Beat Goes on

Official lies are still with us, of course.  A contender for Oscar for the Big Lie in Gulf War I would be shared by Kuwait, who hired Hill and Knowlton, and Hill and Knowlton, the public relations firm that pulled off the propaganda coup.  I'm referring to the 1990 "news" story coming out of Kuwait that Saddam Hussein's invading troops had attacked a hospital in Kuwait, unplugged the incubators containing premature babies and taken the babies out of the incubators.  It was picked up by the news media and President Bush the First who parroted it until it grew to where 300 such babies were destroyed.  It was all an invention of the PR firm hired by Kuwait and supported by the testimony of the 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S. before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October of 1990.  But it does not stop there.  According to fair.org, CNN, in their docudrama of the First Gulf War, Live from Baghdad, tried to put a spin on it and present it as if it had really happened and that Saddam had let CNN into Kuwait to interview a doctor who said it did not happen but the doctor's testimony is so feeble that the viewer is led to believe that it really did happen and the doctor is playing his part in the cover up.

The public lies were so rampant in Bush and Cheney's warm up to the Second Gulf War as to stagger the imagination: the hidden weapons of mass destruction, Niger nuclear yellow cake, the imaginary centrifuges, the irrigation pipe that was allegedly for centrifuges, the drums of nerve gas, the rockets with nerve gas heads, hidden nuclear reactors, drones capable of reaching the U.S. with nerve gas, and on and on. Colin Powell is suing now because he was fed the lie about rocket-launching trailers and thus made a fool of himself on world television.  Undoubtedly there are still people out there who think that Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction will still be found in Syria one of these days, so powerful is the imprinting of fear from those official lies.

The Fake Acorn Sting

The deliberately deceptive Acorn "sting" on ACORN (Association of Community Action for Reform Now) by the pathetic fake journalist loser James O'Keefe is one of the most telling recent examples of contemporary media lies.  Note: this was intentionally deceitful conservative media propaganda, not official state propaganda, and thus deserves its own specialized study.  But the formula of how it works through emotional judgment on initial impact is nevertheless the same.  However, with the corporations both owning the media and sponsoring the politicians, one can question whether there is any real substantial difference today between government, corporate and political propaganda.

According to the faked story, in the Fall of 2009, O'Keefe entered an ACORN office dressed as a Super Fly era pimp with an accomplice, Hannah Giles, dressed as a young prostitute, Their story was that they were seeking housing and transportation to bring under-age prostitutes from Honduras into a Mexican border town or the United States.  From the video it appeared that the ACORN employees were encouraging them and providing moral support and implying possible future economic support.

The falsehood of the video is detailed in The Pensito Review, which reports on California having cleared ACORN of having done anything wrong.  In short, O'Keefe wore sport clothes, not a pimp suit; the ACORN employees did not encourage him (rather O'Keefe took a female employee's encouragement to his co-conspirator to keep looking for housing and she would succeed and over-dubbed on other words to suggest her encouragement was for their prostitute scheme).  The male employee was asking him questions, feigning sympathy in trying to get more information on him and his operation so he could help the police arrest him.  As soon as O'Keefe and his partner left, the employee immediately called the police.  But the deceptive video hit the Fox News and other media and the employee was fired without a hearing.  Such is the racist and partisan nature of much the American Public that they were eager to believe the lies. The plot was to destroy ACORN, and it worked.  ACORN subsequently folded.   Some of the media outlets printed retractions when they found out they had been duped and suckered, but others, such as the New York Times stubbornly refuse to print a retraction

Domestic and Foreign Policy as Action-Adventure Melodrama

Moral:  A skeptical eye is the best eye. Don't trust the corporate news, or the Internet news, for that matter.  Don't participate in an emotional reaction to a news event until you have confirmed the facts.

 The government's method of presenting domestic and international politics, and the method increasingly used by the corporate-owned news outlets since the Reagan era has been the Hollywood movie formula of action-adventure melodrama: oversimplified, larger-than-life characters; forces of extreme good and extreme evil; terrible, nefarious acts by The Evil One; salvation by the good, pure cowboy in the white hat or the Christian Knight in shining armor.   How could we not sympathize with that innocent girl tied to the railroad tracks by Oil Can Harry, or sympathize with the innocent babies pulled from the incubators by that epitome of EVIL, Saddam Hussein, or not laugh with glee with the disguised film-makers exposing a corrupt group of community organizers eager to support under-age prostitution.  And how could we not salute with the hand over the heart the courageous National Guard in Ohio fighting for their lives against drug-crazed Communist radicals hell bent on destroying America?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The “Birther” Craziness Is Just the Beginning!

By Dan Perin

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the &%@! Birther” crap!

This non-issue and the folks trumpeting it so loudly all over the political spectrum is capturing the attention of the generally poor, often uneducated and those seldom involved in the real political process.  You cannot be “educated” and believe the nonsense that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, unless you think that Hawaii is not a state or a commonwealth territory.  It is so ridiculous that we must look beyond the obvious to figure out exactly what is going on in current politics.  It is much more than the Birther movement.  That is simply the door that opens onto more dangerous behavior on the part of radical politicians.

Here is what is happening: 1) lying, 2) intentional deception, 3) racism and bigotry, 4) opportunism, and much more.  So let’s examine what is going on here (if you give a damn!)

1)                 The only way the birth of Obama could become an issue is that the Big Lie was pushed so hard and so long that it became the supposed “reality.”  Anyone can get a certified copy of his/her birth certificate from any state in which they were born.  No state will remove from its historical records the actual birth certificate and give it out to anyone!  For that matter no actual legal record will be released other than as a certified copy to anyone requesting such information.
2)                 Intentional deception comes about when someone presents a set of “facts” purported to be one thing, when in fact, they know them to be something else.  The Republican Party is complicit in this deception.  They discovered that a significant number of the general population seemed to be gullible enough to believe the propositions presented to them (for example, the “death panels” during the health reform debate).  After that there has been no limit on the things they have offered as facts.  Of course, how can we leave out Senator Kyle’s remark that 90% of Planned Parenthood funding went to providing abortions, when it actually was more like 3%?  His explanation:  It wasn’t intended to be a factual statement.  Can’t be much clearer than that!
3)                 Racism may be a little more difficult to prove, but my personal experience with actual persons has shown me that it definitely exists.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented many of the publicized racial comments.  For some people in this country, not only in the South, there is just no way that a black man is smart enough on his own to be President.  That reasoning leads one to believe he is the “tool” of radical elements bent on turning the country socialist. So we engaged in a real battle against an imagined enemy.
4)                 Opportunism, on the other hand, is easily recognized in the political climate today. For beginners, consider the Koch brothers.  http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/04/09/big-bucks-help-koch-brothers-influence-run-deep-on-capitol-hill/ They are pouring millions of dollars into political coffers in order to influence elections and economic policy.  There are supposed altruists out there who just cannot believe that anyone would do such a terrible thing in our “wonderful” country.  Did I mention gullibility? Consider that even other countries recognize this farce. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/apr/08/koch-brothers-lobbying.  Every politician seems to want his/her fifteen minutes of fame.  The Supreme Court, now largely a Conservative Republican front, has made it possible for corporate money to flood the election process without having to identify sources.  That is how the newly elected Republican governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey and others are able to propose the union-busting legislation that they have.  Reasonable people have seen this for what it is and are responding with recall petitions.

We have much more at stake in the political climate today than simply the Birther idiots.  We have an increasing number of people who are genuinely upset with the way things are today . They are ready to believe just about anything that seems to salve their anger.  They are ready to support even the most ridiculous of arguments because they are fed up and not gonna take it any more!  Well, I’m fed up too, but I refuse to believe the baloney being shoved down our throats by the Republicans and their cronies.  Let’s get real before it is too late.




Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stories for a Crumbling Empire: Beck, Soros and Trump

By Lloyd Agte

Dan emailed me on April 10: "Beck's paranoia has so grabbed his die-hard followers that there is no reasoning with them." 

Heyday of the Empire

Yes, true, Dan, and I think it is going to get worse, not better in the near future.  As members of the Global Ruling Empire, Americans personally have not had to worry much about foreign policy, the politics of foreign governments, etc. through the last half of the 20th century.  Oh, there was the "Communist Threat," in the Cold War, but 90 percent of that was manufactured for political and economic reasons and to control our country through fear.  Vietnam did shock the American psyche, but Reagan and Rambo came along and we relaxed with a great sigh hearing their stories that we had actually won the Vietnam War.

 As the only standing kid on the block after 1945 with a developed and undamaged industrial infrastructure, we ruled the world in manufacturing and research and development and had the world's most powerful export economy as well, all managed by an educated management and a disciplined labor force.  Our economic growth was propelled by a consumption contest among our citizens. Today, we are 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of its energy.  Citizens of the developed world, Europe, Australia, U.S., etc. currently consume 32 times more resources than countries in the developing world. 

The World Plays Catch-up, U.S. Plays Waste

But, surprise, surprise, the rest of the world has started playing catch-up.  Having ingested great quantities of American exceptionalism, we Americans started believing there was something innately superior about America and by extension American citizens, and extrapolating from that, there was something innately inferior about other countries and other peoples. Now, as other countries are growing in dominance, we feel that our empire is getting weaker, that something or someone is sabotaging it.  

Of course our empire is getting weaker in proportion to the growing strength of the rest of the world, but it is also getting weaker through our internal growing inequity in wealth, our consumption of energy (tripled in per capita usage since 1950) and particularly weakened by the wealth-draining wars launched by the Bush Administration.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the neocons dreamed would assert our power over the Mid East (and approved by the populace through the re-election of Bush and Cheney) and bring American Democracy to the region as well as a goodly supply of cheap oil to us as an incidental by-product (a guffaw permitted here) have instead weakened us internally and globally.

The heady days of increasing real-estate prices through the early 2000s up to the financial bust in 2008 distracted Americans somewhat from the trillion dollars wasted on the Mideast wars, the escalating national debt and the cost of the deliberate lack of governmental oversight and the increasing deregulation of the domestic financial system.  Real estate had become a Ponzi scheme, but while some noticed, most did not care, as long as they could get in on the action.

The Double Whammy

Then came the double whammy for many people:  the financial system crashed and then the United States elected its first African-American President.  For some people, the latter was simply unacceptable.  When the country celebrated it bicentennial in 1976, it was also celebrating 200 years of historical and residual racism--that is, slavery and its aftermath.  (This leaves out the racism toward Native Americans, but just imagine the reaction if a Native American from some Indian Reservation in Oklahoma had been elected president!)  But Barak Hussein Obama?  A Negro as President?  And someone with the same middle name as the Satan of Baghdad?  To an uncomfortably large minority, this was totally unacceptable.

Conspiracy theories

And so there evolved quite rapidly the personal, emotional and political strategies to delegitimize Obama as a sitting President.  His name and a brief period of grade school in Indonesia were harvested to prove he was a Muslim.  His socially correct head nodding before a foreign dignitary or head of state, a custom in the Mideast and Asia, was interpreted as kowtowing to his Masters.  His place of birth was questioned, such that the "Birthers," as they came to be known, those who argue he is not a U.S. citizen, still constitute 41 percent of the Republican Party.  His entire scholastic history has been argued to be fraudulent by some, claiming there is no proof that he attended any of the schools on his record.  The plot gets thicker, for Obama is sometimes projected as a mere sock puppet created by Puppet Master financier George Soros, according to Glen Beck and others[i] and is carrying out the secret plan to turn the United States into (take your pick): a Moslem caliphate, a Socialist haven for liberals and the poor at the expense of Christian Capitalists, a Communist stronghold where the citizens are slaves. I just heard today that Trump said the planning for Obama has been so elaborate and long-range that a fake birth announcement was placed in a Hawaiian newspaper to legitimize his later rise to power.  I can see it all now, the Hollywood movie produced by Donald Trump: "The Chosen One."  

Socialist/Communist Takeover

In addition, in the economic collapse of 2008, Bush dumped billions into the economy for stimulus effect. To most Americans, that seemed the prudent thing to do at the time.  But when Obama came to office and continued the policy and in addition bailed out the car industry and the banks, it was, "Oh, My, God, he is creating Socialism, Communism!"  The health care plan for the poor and uninsured and uninsurable was met with equal cries of "socialism" and "communism" (though most people don't even know the meaning of the words and merely rely on their function as name-calling devices popular in the Cold War).

Shuddering Empire 

While Americans are still living in denial, they can feel the empire decline.  Job layoffs.  High unemployment.  Jobs going and gone to China.  China on the rise-- economically and militarily. Gas prices up. Deep in debt to China.  State budgets cut.  College costs increasing.  Rising health insurance costs. Central and South American economies rising.  Dead-end wars in the Mideast.  Rising democracy movements across the Arab world.  Increasing personal debt.  High national debt. An increasingly diverse ethnic population.  Illegal immigrants.  Moslems in the heartland!  Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer.  And on and on. 

Simplistic Solutions to Complex Problems

Thus, we arrive at the paranoia that Beck is capitalizing on that Dan mentions.  Those who do not read (about 60%), and who do not seek out information on the Internet or elsewhere, are desperately looking for an easy answer, a convenient scapegoat--an easy solution.  Many find elaborate conspiracy theories seductively attractive.  They blame the President for the seismic shocks felt from the foundations of the Empire slowly cracking and crumbling beneath them.  It is a VERY complex world out there, what with global economies interconnected and now all of us personally connected around the world through the new media such that it we look into the issues on the internet for a few hours we are overwhelmed with data overload. 

How do we make sense of it?  Who can give this seeming chaos meaning?  That is what Glen Beck does: he creates meaning.  He makes sense of it all.  At least that is what he is pretending to do.  He tells stories in which many elements are tied into a narrative of cause and effect until we arrive at our contemporary problems.  And in the case of Beck, his emotionalism, his fake concern and his theatrical tears apparently connect with the emotional distress that many are apparently feeling now.  So let's have a little cry with Glen, then find a bogeyman to blame and put our hate on him.  Then show how it all interconnects on a blackboard and explain it all. There, feel better now do we?

But on an optimistic note, Beck has recently gotten his marching orders from Fox, as his audience abandons him, his ratings fall, and his advertisers abandon him.  So are Americans getting smarter?  Or are they merely getting bored with his formulaic performances and increasingly absurd conspiracy theories?  Apparently not the latter, since Donald Trump, who is running for president is a Birther.  Since the conservative corporations control the media, we will just have to wait to see what they dream up next. With the 2012 elections coming up, expect some real nightmares and greater cunning and sophistication than what Beck performances have been providing.

[i]   Ann Coulter called Soros a Nazi collaborator; her words were apparently lifted from the title of what seems to be the original Soros-bashing article,  "George Soros, Nazi Collaborator," at http://standupamericaus.com/who-is-george-soros:35062. (A blog commentary discussion on Soros' comments in the Steve Croft interview is at snopes.com.)  A typical posting of the article on the Internet (or one version of it) is posted on the fourwinds10.com site, with the title  "ONE EVIL Son of Satan," and the author listed as "from Steve Croft (60 Minutes)."  At the end of the fourwinds10.com article is the following statement: "Above information researched by CBS Steve Croft (link below)": but the link was neither to Croft nor to 60 minutes, nor to CBS, but to the above mentioned standupamericaus.comsite, which states at the article's head, "Published on 07/09/10 BY Multiple Sources."  So there you are, about a dozen lines of interview get harvested, distorted and twisted to suit the purpose of the propagandists, who pretend they are Steve Croft at CBS putting all this out, and a whole edifice is constructed about Soros being out to take over the world and in the process utilizing his Puppet Obama for his nefarious purposes.  And who is responsible for this false diatribe?  Multiple Sources.  So the sons-a-bitches posting at standupamericaus.com launch a dishonest, fabricated political smear and don't even have the guts to sign their names.




Thursday, April 7, 2011

Right-on Dan, Dodge Those Right-wing Torpedoes!


Commentary on Dan Perin's "Damn the Torpedoes"
by Lloyd Agte

Dan is correct in his "Damn the Torpedoes" post advocating more pump priming by the Federal Government.   He states: "The deficit can be managed by getting infrastructure projects going (Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway program, for example) and getting money back into the economic flow."   Obama made a good start with the work projects and aid to the states, but there was such a conservative backlash about running up the deficit and a deliberate and successful dishonest conservative strategy to deliberately confuse bailouts with infrastructure investment that he pulled in his horns. 

If we look back on the federal projects in the West we can see the long-term benefits gained by them.  Coulee Dam, a Roosevelt "make-work" project, along with Hoover Dam and countless other dams in the West have been supplying us with power and irrigation for seventy years.  (And it's "green" energy, but generations of dead fish stopped by the dams don't think so.) The CCC and the WPA built structures (Heyburn State Park in Idaho two miles from me) schools, community buildings etc. that the people are still using three quarters of a century later.

 The dams on the Mississippi HAD to be built because private industry had over-harvested the timber to build the towns and cities along the Mississippi River. This destroyed the watershed and caused massive flooding.  Did the private companies and corporations that caused the disaster come to the rescue?  Of course not. That job fell to the Federal Government.  When the BP oil disaster happened in the Gulf last summer, did everyone expect private industry to quickly solve the problem?  No. Suddenly it became: "Fix this, Obama!" Today the right is still firing their torpedoes, calling the Gulf Oil spill "Another one of Obama's failures."

The federal government makes these massive infrastructure investments because private capital is unwilling to take the risk.  But once the project gets built and private industry sees the economic potential, it starts screaming that the government should not be in the business of (take your choice) selling power, running highways, regulating drilling, building space ships and so on.

Capitalism expansion and contraction runs in unpredictable cycles.  When a severe contraction hits, such as the greed-based last one caused by the financial industry, only the Federal Government has the capability of using existing funds or borrowing money to have a counter-cyclical effect.  The states do not have access to these reserves nor do they have much borrowing power, so they tend to slash budgets, pulling money out of the hands of the people and thus become pro-cyclical, exacerbating the contraction problem.

But in this economic downturn, we still keep making weapons of mass and group and individual destruction.  If these lethal devices are used they create massive damage to people, buildings, and all living plants and animals.  They are devices of destruction, not building.  And if they are not used they become obsolete soon and then the expense of housing or destroying them costs more money.  In both cases, they create waste.  Compare this waste with what is created with the money that government grants might put into a quality-built school, which might last for a hundred years, or a park.  Or a hiking or bike trail.  Or a public transportation system.  Think of all the thousands and thousands of people who will use and benefit from such structures.  Dan is right.  Pump the money into America's infrastructure.  It will be money well worth spending and something the next couple of more generations will thank us for.

Greed Never Sleeps

By Lloyd Agte
                                                
The title, which I hope Neil Young will forgive me for partially ripping off, suggests one of the major curses of modern democracy, particularly as it is nested in modern Capitalism.  For it seems that greed breeds greed and thereby justifies its own rapaciousness.  Crises arise, wars happen, terrorists strike, a country is overthrown, a hurricane happens, a dictator is overthrown, a dictator gains power.   It's breaking news one day, a follow-up the next day, and ho hum, back to a fascination with Lindsay Lohan's addictions the next day.  But throughout all our distractions, the greed goes on.  How can we keep track of it all while keeping track of our money, our families, our energies and the promises that America made to us?  How do we keep from being fleeced by this corporate/political/economic Greed Machine?  How can we stop the top 20% of U.S. citizens, who now own 83% of the wealth, from owning 95% of the wealth in the next two decades. Or stop the top 1%, whose share of income has risen 125% in the last 30 years from doing the same in the next thirty?  Meanwhile, in the same past thirty years the bottom 10 percent's share of U.S. wealth has fallen by 30%   (http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph). 
 
Unfortunately, it is impossible to keep track of everything happening in the world that the U.S. has its finger in, and the U.S. Oligarchy, the Ruling Elite, counts on that.  Events are born and die, as do people, but corporations live forever, thanks to the Supreme Court rulings in the 1930s. And now that corporations have the political free speech rights of the individual (thanks again the Supreme Court) they can pour into political races (and already have poured into the 2010 elections), millions of dollars.  And the unmitigated greed of the walking-dead corporations, vampires in an age of weak Garlic, can outlast and outmaneuver the most vigilant of civilian watchdogs.  Melville's famous novel set in the whaling industry in the last half of the Nineteenth Century, "Moby Dick," gives a glimpse of Capitalism's unleashing of greed that a few decades later nearly made extinct the Sperm Whale.  Shares of a whaling ships were sold to speculators, forcing ever more efficient and lethal and indiscriminate harvest until the Sperm Whales were an endangered species, which they still remain.  While we might hope that "the invisible hand of the market" tempered the preying on Whales, Capitalism can not take the credit.  What saved the Whale was petroleum, which made obsolete the use of Whale oil in oil lamps.  But what goes around comes around, and so now petroleum (or the lack thereof on these shores), seems to be making Americans an endangered species.

It would appear the only chance that the U.S. taxpayer has is hiring a governmental watchdog committee to ride herd on the greed.  Gone are the days of the minister railing from the pulpit of the Seven Deadly Sins, which put Greed in the number two sin slot, just behind Anger (hear that Tea Partier ragers?), and just ahead of Sloth (hear that welfare cheaters?). Greed, also known as Avarice or Covetousness, has been seen by the church over the past two thousand years as a sin of excess. Related terms, as seen through the eyes of the church over the millennia, are "bribery, "treason," "scavenging," "hoarding," "theft," "robbery," "violence," trickery," and "manipulation of authority."  Looking over the 2008 economic meltdown, it is all too easy to apply all of the alternate terms multiple times to multiple people, to multiple banks, and to multiple businesses, corporations, and financial institutions.

So it is not as though we were not aware of the historical admonitions against such behavior as was demonstrated by the financial institutions that created our last World economic stumble.  The Bush II Administration called off all the financial watchdogs, or defanged them, and the Democrats stood idly by and said "Good Dog."  The mantra by the mid-2000s was not Greed is a Sin but rather Greed is Good.  And now the "invisible hand" of Capitalism that Adam Smith saw as overseeing the automatic and benevolent adjustment of the market is not-so-invisibly raiding the middle and lower classes of what little financial security they have--trying to abolish collective bargaining, slashing education funding, laying off government workers, raiding Social Security and Medicare.  Clearly, trying to balance the budget on "discretionary spending," a mere 12 percent slice of the Budget Pie, is not only ludicrous but obviously not an accident.  It is a deliberate, mean-spirited attempt to create a serf class of workers who, when the Chinese workers get themselves elevated up to a comfortable living wage, can once more take over those work stations in the United States when labor is cheaper in the U.S. than in China and the corporations have moved production back to these shores. Steve Breyman, assistant professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reports that "Each and every citizen in the United States – man, woman and child – pays some $5,000 or so per year for U.S. defense spending much of which is associated now with the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."  He goes on to say, “You can have healthy public finances or you can have war but you can’t have both." Yet military spending is "off the table" for the budget vampires trying to suck the last bit of blood from the veins of the middle class, the workers, the teachers, the students, the old and the infirm.
If the government does not control the greed, who will?  Obviously, the economy is not self-regulating, as the 2008 meltdown proved.  It's time Obama filed the teeth on his financial watchdogs and took them off the lease.  And if the Wisconsin and Ohio union-busting schemes are tolerated, expect the U.S. Presidency to be passed around to corporate heads or their shills for the rest of this century.  Will the super-rich then have their greed satiated?  Of course not.  As the ancient church leaders recognized, greed is a pathology that must be controlled, and since the church can no longer do it, the government must.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Damn The Torpedoes!


By Dan Perin

During the Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864, the Federal fleet commanded by Rear Adm. David G. Farragut, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Adm. Franklin Buchanan.  Admiral Farragut is remembered in popular culture for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay, usually paraphrased: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" by U.S. Navy tradition. (Wikipedia)

Those words came to mind as I followed the economic news one recent morning.  I have the feeling that a significant segment of our Congressional Representatives are taking that same attitude about resolving our budget and other fiscal issues.  The problem is that they are heading into much more dangerous waters than Admiral Farragut was facing.  They seem oblivious to the potential fall out from precipitous actions to cut programs no matter what.

Every Saturday the Oregonian newspaper prints commentaries by Paul Krugman juxtaposed with David Brooks, both New York Times columnists.  Often they provide two sides to an issue of the day, usually to do with the economy.  Even though in a recent morning’s paper they each dealt with a different subject, I was again struck by the reality of divergent views of economic principles by the Democrats and Republicans.

Years ago while taking a college business course I wrote a paper detailing briefly the basic principles of the economic policy of John Maynard Keynes[1].  One of the aspects of his view of economics had to do with the principle that when the economy slowed to a point where consumers were not spending money and output contracted, the government was the resource of last resort for pouring money into the markets so that jobs were created, income restored and consumers bought goods.  This would likely create a temporary deficit that eventually would be balanced by the increased financial activity, including taxes on goods produced and bought.

This economic theory generally has been the basis of the Democratic approach to the economy.  The Republicans, on the other hand, believed that stability came through tightening government spending and giving tax benefits to businesses thinking they would then invest their “saved” money in the economy restoring confidence in consumers allowing them to again begin spending.  This was called  “trickle down economics.”

We are again in a heated debate over these opposing policies.  Certainly, we can see where the economic policy of the Bush years led us—serious debt and decline in production.  When faced with the disastrous conditions in 2008, the final months of the Bush administration, drastic action needed to be taken to avoid another “Great Depression” as we had in the 1930’s.  The government began to pour money into the economy to keep the financial wheels on the auto industry, to attempt to protect investors and consumers from a total melt down.  Were it not for those actions, it is most likely our recession would have become a major depression taking many additional years to overcome with untold human losses of personal economic stability.  As it is turning out, much of the money the government invested in “saving” the economy is being returned with interest, so the actual cost of the effort is considerably less than the original investment.  (This is one of the ways it is supposed to work!)

Back to the realization of Admiral Farragut, that some situations call for heroic action no matter what the appearances to the contrary.  Damn the torpedoes of doubt!  We have a Democratic President with a majority of support so it is time to bravely negotiate the minefield of fear and forge ahead.  The deficit can be managed by getting infrastructure projects going (Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway program, for example) and getting money back into the economic flow.  Big business, on the other hand is banking cash in unprecedented amounts and that has the effect of removing money from the economic flow. 

Unfortunately, we are at deadlock once again between the philosophies of the Republican and Democratic parties.  Although I am a registered Independent, my political philosophy lies somewhere between Democratic and Libertarian.  I like not being “pegged” to an overall political position.  That flexibility allows me to choose from all points of view those I most clearly identify with.  Then I can make electoral choices based on who comes closest to my values.  It seems to me that if we all did that, rather than blindly follow one political party or the other, we would provide ourselves with a more productive slate of Representatives and Senators.

Finally, I admit to my bias on this particular issue.  Unless businesses begin to use their huge cash reserves to invest in the economy through new hiring, new production, and the startup of new businesses (entrepreneurship), it will take much longer to get back on a stable economic platform.  The circulation of money is key to stability.  Typically, circulation involves labor (doing a job), receiving payment for your work, buying goods (food, housing, clothes, etc.), which creates more jobs to produce more goods and services.  If there is a breakdown anywhere in that cycle, circulation stops, stagnation and/or recession occurs and finally depression.

Damn the torpedoes!  Let’s get government working again producing jobs, salaries, products and needed infrastructure recovery.


[1] "We are all Keynesians now" is a now-famous phrase coined by Milton Friedman and attributed to U.S. president Richard Nixon. It is popularly associated with the reluctant embrace in a time of financial crisis of Keynesian economics by individuals such as Nixon who had formerly favored monetarist policies. (Wikipedia)


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Crucifixion of Christ, American Style


As Easter approaches it seems fitting to reproduce here an article written in 2005 and rediscovered by Lloyd in his abundant files of “things to be remembered.”  This is a long article, but I think you will find it not only appropriate to our current time—considering the political and religious craziness running rampant—but also it may provide a mirror allowing each of us to take a good look at ourselves, our beliefs (or lack of them), and our priorities. (With thanks to the author and Information Clearing House)   -- Dan

By Jerry Ghinelli

08/29/05 "ICH"
-- -- “For God so loved the world...” he returned his only begotten son to the land where he shed his grace on thee.

Vindication for the faithful, rejoicing for the true believers, it was the second coming of Christ—and he was coming to America. Not to bring Armageddon, but to save mankind from Armageddon.

Jesus will make his first appearance at the intersection of the streets appropriately named “Liberty” and “Church” in New York City, located at what has come to be known as “Ground Zero.”

Lower Manhattan was virtually shut down as millions of the faithful and curious flooded the streets to get a glimpse of the second coming of their lord and savior.

Even the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading as the crowds swelled from the Battery to midtown Manhattan. The joy and hope that Christ was bringing was palpable—breathtaking, you might say—in the near carnival-like atmosphere that was created in lower Manhattan.

Songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” played from loudspeakers where the Twin Towers had once stood. American flags and crosses were everywhere.

Martin Luther King’s “dream” was now a reality, as black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, young and old, "red staters" and "blue staters," even atheists and agnostics, all joined hands in love and friendship at this celebration of the second coming of the Prince of Peace.

The media frenzy was unprecedented.

It was “all Jesus all the time”: round-the-clock coverage as priests, rabbis, and even an ayatollah appeared as expert commentators to explain what this all meant and what we should think.

(Go to full article)