It’s universal. We all gripe about how news media—TV and radio network news, newspapers, and Internet news sites—intentionally distort and selectively oversimplify reality, and we like to say so in letters to the editor and online comments. Complaints about media bias are as old as the town crier, and today are institutionalized online. A bunch of watchdog groups, such as FAIR and Media Matters on the left (progressive foes of corporate media) and Media Research Center to the right (whose “sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media”), specialize in skewering the press. They’re all worth considering if a balanced view is what you aspire to.
Both sides regularly take aim at the same targets for different reasons. One of them is NPR (National Pubic Radio), criticized by the right as a card-carrying member of the “liberal media” conspiracy and by the left as a corporatist sell-out. While it tends to steer left of and does more investigative reporting than our TV networks, its political liberalism stops just to the left of David Brooks. (Speaking of whom, should it appeal and you can spare $15, you can buy a roll of toilet paper printed with his visage and quotations. Monies fund The Baffler magazine’s crankiness.) Continue reading “Pity the Immigrant Warrior”
Remember good old Barney Frank, the loudmouth former legislator from Massachusetts’ 4th District? (Even after 50 years in the Bay State, he still talks Joisey.) He’s gay and proud (having first outed himself privately in the late 70s and then publicly in 1987), and still sports a progressive patina that over time has become a tad tarnished.
He first showed up on my radar as a twenty-something grad student at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics who ditched his dissertation to work for the Mayor of Boston. He soon entered politics as a state rep, taking a law degree from Harvard while he served his west-of-Boston suburban constituency. By 1980 he was a Congress-critter, and by the time he bowed out in 2013 he had risen to Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (demoted by the 2010 mid-terms to Ranking Member). Unless it happened in High School, he never lost an election. Continue reading “Franking Privileges: Barney and the Jet Set”
I wonder how Rex Tillerson feels about being the first high-level federal official to be fired publicly and online, in one brutal tweet. I’m sure he expected the hammer to come down on him, but not like that. And I wonder if he will come forward to describe what led up to it. Unlikely, as he’s an extremely wealthy and still influential corporate player who would have but book royalties and speaker fees to gain from breaking his NDA to tell all. Still, some intrepid journalist should take Rex to lunch and encourage him to cry in his beer. Continue reading “America’s Slow-Motion Coup d’état Advances”
President Trump has signed an executive order changing the date of President’s day, a national holiday established to celebrate President Washington’s birthday (February 22, 1732) and observed the third Monday in February. Most states have declared the day a holiday, often including Abraham Lincoln (b. February 12, 1809) and our third president, Thomas Jefferson (b. April 13, 1743).
His unexpected decree moves the holiday to the second Monday of June, a date he said is more favorable for shopping and parades. “No more schlepping to dealerships in a blizzard to get those great Presidents’ Day car deals,” he said, noting the change is effective immediately. “So this year, we’ll celebrate twice, and we’ll have the biggest military parade the world has ever seen, all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue. And I’m hoping the Marine Band will play ‘Happy Birthday.’ Nice if Xi could show up.”
“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it” Barbara Tuchman, The march of folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984. p. 245).
In the 20th-century but still fun party game called Telephone, people sit in a circle and someone whispers a phrase or sentence to the person to the left, who whispers it to their left, around the clock, until it reaches the original speaker, who enunciates what s/he sent and received. The final utterance may make sense, but it is almost never the one sent and is often complete nonsense. This is one form of truth decay.
Truth is a relatively scarce commodity. Science progresses by disproving theories, not proving them (that only happens in mathematics). In the real world, everything you know to be true just hasn’t been disproved yet, so it’s a good idea to stay tuned. Continue reading “Living with Truth Decay”
Watchbirds were those annoying little stick-figure birds who perched in some Munro Leaf children’s stories, always ready to instruct kids in proper protocols when they were misbehaving. Our current flock of watchbirds rarely have to instruct us because we mostly maintain civil decorum knowing they’re there. Talk about the nanny state.
Liked this by Dave Lindorff posted today at CounterPunch. His point’s almost obvious once you get it. Sad.
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
When Donald Trump referred to countries like Nigeria and really, all of Africa, and the long-suffering island of Haiti in the Caribbean as “shitholes” to a bunch of stunned members of Congress yesterday, he was not just showing his deeply-rooted ugly racist self, but also his profound ignorance about the world — and his own country.
The truth is that yesterday’s “shithole countries” often become today’s modern success stories. Norway is a case in point. As late as the early 1960s, Norway, as Paul Thornton, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, himself a descendant of Norwegian immigrants to the US, writes, once was “the shithole of Scandinavia,” its people viewed by more prosperous and modern Swedes and Danes as poor, ignorant farmers, Then the country struck oil in the North Sea, and since then, avoiding going the route of many oil-producing nations, has become one of the richest countries in the world on a per-capita basis, with a standard of living about 25% higher than ours here in the US, and with the wealth much more evenly and fairly distributed, too.
According to [Michael] Wolff’s book [“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”], various White House staff, advisors and acquaintances referred to Trump as an idiot, dope, moron and dumb as shit. However, another said he could be a halfwit if he applied himself. ~Humorist Ben Alper
Bottom line on top: We might make more traction against the empire if we quit name-baiting Donald Trump. The empire will strike back if we fail to prevail.
Even if you’re already convinced that the United States of America is a rogue nation under financial-military-industrial overlords, it’s well worth reading Jason Hirthler’s article in this weekend’s edition of CounterPunch, We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind, if only for the revealing quotation in its opening paragraph:
Shortly after the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, made a candid confession to the Army Times, “I’m running out of demons, I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung.” Amid the general bonhomie of the military interview, Powell nicely encapsulated a central truth of empire: it doesn’t want peace. Never did. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, is based on conquest. Peace is little more than an aftermath in the imperialist vision. It is the dusty rubble-strewn silence that descends on Aleppo when the jihadists have been bussed out. It is the silent pollution of the Danube when the NATO jets have flown. It is the quiet that settles on the Libyan square once the slave auction has concluded. Peace is an interlude between the birth of avarice and the advent of aggression. Little else.
One must also appreciate his spot-on assessment of the function that corporate media serve in legitimizing suspicions of uncooperative regimes and aggression on them, papering over the devastation created by US aggression, and fear-mongering terrorism while pretending it isn’t blowback. Depressingly few Americans understand how our empire works. It takes a while for it to sink in because we the people have been systematically deceived about America’s role in the world since the founding of the Republic. Hirthler’s superbly written diatribe is a badly needed civics lesson in how that works today. Read and share widely.
Most people send holiday letters for Christmas. To avoid the rush last year I got an early start and sent mine in November. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving day, everybody. Whether at the table or in any other room, give no quarter to those reactionary know-nothing relatives. Story syndicated from my pages at cowbird.com.