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Guest Commentary (5291)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 10:59

Discovering Fire


"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Egyptians lock arms, a dictator tumbles. Let's think about this, shall we? How could such a thing have happened? I ask this knowing the hard part is just beginning. The hard part is always just beginning.

Egypt - brutal dictatorship now under military rule, key caretaker of Western interests in the Middle East - has yet to transform itself institutionally into the type of society its people have indicated over an extraordinary 18 days that they want and deserve; and much could happen in the coming weeks and months, from pressures both internal and international, to thwart, co-opt and derail the January 25 Revolution.

But a force has nevertheless been summoned on a corner of this planet that too many people still refuse, or are unable, to recognize. Gandhi called it satyagraha: "seizing the truth." I think it's time to take it seriously; indeed, to take it far more seriously than we do the forces of violence and coercion around which we heedlessly assume that human society is organized.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 10:35

Why The Media Should Fear The People


The current media model's state of disrepair becomes more evident every day. From its failure to adequately question the shamelessly dishonest lead up to war in Iraq, to embedded reporters claiming
objectivity about soldiers they rely on for protection, to false equivalencies cowardly presented as balance - today's media is failing in its responsibility to inform and contextualize - and the people it's failing are you and me. Recently, two potentially paradigm-shifting stories whisper of a more effective media model, a model whose foundation isn't the seemingly objective paid voices of an exclusive group of contributors but instead the democratization of information. The role of social media in Egypt's revolution and the existence of Wikileaks form the thin edge of a wedge to a brand new media reality: the reality of crowd sourcing.

While Egyptians struggled to topple their dictator, traditional media outlets stumbled to tell their stories. Arriving to the populist uprising more than a week late, the western media focused its 24-hour
media cycles only after violence fulfilled its most sacred determinant of news: televisable, soundbite-suitable conflict. Even then the traditional media's inability to explain a story without presenting two equally culpable opposing forces distorted facts on the ground. While western media outlets crowed of pro- and anti-Mubarak protestors, many of the thugs who flooded Cairo's streets in support of the regime were revealed to be carrying national ID cards indicating they were state employees. These revelations came mainly through tweets and twitpics posted by protestors in Tahrir Square.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 11:08

Journalism Vs. Corporate Propaganda


Just this past summer news veteran Bob Schieffer was called upon to eulogize the passing of Daniel Schorr-one of the last "giants" in the journalism profession.  Schorr had the fortitude and integrity to leak documents on Watergate to the Village Voice when the mainstream press would not run the story.  Schorr saw it as his duty to democracy.

That was then, this is now. Now we have the likes of Andrew Breitbart via Rupert Murdoch spouting half-truths and innuendo as news.  Glenn Beck is not only permitted, but encouraged by Tea Party officials and CPAC heads to broadcast the type of murderous fantasies more likely to be seen in a pornographic "snuff" film than investigative journalism.

Finally, fellow St. Louisan and Tea Party Grand Dame Dana Loesch has been officially hired by CNN as an "expert" political consultant.  Her expertise is limited to Tea Party activities, home schooling her children and shouting down any dissenting opinions which question Tea Party motives.

Journalism vs. Propaganda

During one broadcast at CBS News, Schorr was reading from the official Nixon "enemies list," only to find his own name near the top.  Schieffer went on to say that Schorr was fighting the good fight against government censorship and was punished for not being "manageable" in terms of government needs.  Schieffer added that the corporate heads at CBS News were very worried about government dictating the news.  Today we have Julian Assange of WikiLeaks notoriety/fame fighting extradition efforts by our DOJ seeking to silence him in a permanent detention similar to that of Bradley Manning.  Assange's crime was posting information sent or "leaked" to his site from various battlefield situations clearly proving acts of torture or genocide committed by our military, or leaked information proving corporate crimes which are international in scope.  That is not criminal-that is journalism.  What a difference some 30 years makes.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 10:43

Sleepwalking Toward Plutocracy


"Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln [1]

This grim vision caused Lincoln to "tremble for the safety of my country," as he wrote on November 21, 1864.  It foretold of Plutocracy (rule by the wealthy) in America.

Today, we watch his vision coming true: the richest 1 percent of Americans now take home 24 percent of U.S. income, up from 9 percent in 1976. [2] America's wealth is "aggregating in a few hands" right before our eyes, in plain view.

And we stare uncomprehendingly, like deer in the headlights.

Perhaps our inertness is understandable.  For nearly 150 years since Lincoln's awful premonition, who has worried about Plutocracy?  The last time greedy corporations threatened our country, President Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting broke up their monopolies quite handily.

Since then, Plutocracy disappeared from America's headlines.  Until recently.  We are now slowly waking up to the tsunami of money drowning democracy.  But we're a bit late.  We've slept through an epochal shift in American politics: the Plutocrats (huge corporations, Wall Street, and billionaire oligarchs) have been quietly busy, hijacking the Republican Party.


In her second major address on Internet freedom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road. Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever."

At the same time the Obama administration is going after WikiLeaks trying to shut them down any way they can and trying to manufacture criminal charges against its' founder, Julian Assange. Although his publications are controversial, no one is saying that they aren't true. It should not be a crime to tell the truth.

If the Internet existed at the time of the Revolutionary War our Founding Fathers would have included protection for it in the Constitution. The Internet is the tool that is used by the People to keep the Government in check. As the Internet protects freedom in the Middle East so does it here in the United States. We must learn from what is happening in Egypt in case the People in our country need to rise up against our Corporate Overlords.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 10:07

Obama's $36 Billion Nuke-Powered Giveaway


Barack Obama's 2012 budget marks a major escalation in the nuclear war against a green-powered future, whose advocates are already fighting back. 

Amidst massive budget cuts for social and environmental programs, Obama wants $36 billion in loan guarantees for a reactor industry that cannot secure sufficient private "marketplace" financing for new construction. 

In the past decade the reactor industry has spent at least $640 million lobbying for these massive advance bailouts. But since 2007, safe energy advocates have succeeded in keeping them out of the federal budget. 

The $36 billion Obama wants to underwrite new reactor construction would be added to $18.5 billion set aside under George W. Bush. In 2010 Obama allocated $8.33 billion of that for two reactors under construction in Georgia. The Continuing Resolution for funding the government until the end of the 2011 fiscal year slashes all loan guarantees for energy except those for nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment. 

Monday, 14 February 2011 11:03

Scapegoating Public Employees


Let's pause for a moment to recognize some of our most important, yet most maligned workers. They are teachers and librarians. Police officers and firefighters. Bus drivers, doctors and nurses. Judges, lawyers, gardeners. They're laborers and other maintenance and construction workers, and many others who provide us vital services.

They are public employees. There are millions of them, who every day do the essential work that keeps our country going.

It is they who keep our streets and highways, our parks and playgrounds safe and clean, who collect our trash. It is they who help educate our children, who provide emergency health care, who convey us to our jobs and back home after our day's work, who sometimes risk their very lives to protect us from harm.

Yet despite all that - and more - public employees have come under heavy bipartisan attack by politicians who find them easy targets to blame for the budget shortfalls that have beset government at all levels.  Labor costs, after all, make up the bulk of government spending everywhere.

There's no way around that basic fact. So if we want all those vital services public employees provide - and we do - that's the price we must pay, and should be happy to pay. Certainly no group of workers has done more for us, none who are more important to our welfare, none more deserving of their wages.


A Nonviolent Exchange of Views in Four Parts
1. Don't You Know That You Can Count Me Out - In
By David Swanson

Ted Rall's new book "The Anti-American Manifesto" advocates for violent revolution, even if we have to join with rightwingers and racists to do it, and even if we have no control over the outcome which could easily be something worse than what we've got. We have a moral duty, Rall argues, to kill some people.

Now, I much prefer a debate over what radical steps to take to a debate over whether it's really appropriate for President Obama to whine about people's lack of enthusiasm for voting. Should we try to pep people up for him or gently nudge him to appoint a new chief of staff who's not a vicious warmongering corporatist? Decisions. Decisions.

Rall's book is packed with great analysis of our current state and appropriate moral outrage. I highly recommend it for the clear-eyed survey of the tides in this giant pot of slowly boiling water where we float and kick about like frogs. To an Obama proposal to create 17,000 jobs, Rall replies:

"The U.S. economy needs to add one hundred thousand new jobs a month to keep up with population growth and keep the unemployment rate even. At this writing, in March 2010, it would require four hundred thousand new jobs each month for three years to get back to December 2007.

"Seventeen thousand jobs? Was Obama still using drugs?"

I recommend Rall's manifesto as a call to action. The only question is what action?

Monday, 14 February 2011 10:50

The Two Roads Out of Recession


Recent events in Washington, D.C. should provoke fear and outrage in the average American worker. As the jobs recession staggers on, politicians and labor leaders alike seem bizarrely distanced from reality, unable to advance any ideas that remotely correspond to the basic demands of those tens of millions of unemployed, under-employed, or poorly paid workers. 

Instead, what we get is President Obama's recent groveling to the corporate-dominated Chamber of Commerce, pleading with them to hire workers. The President's recent speech to the Chamber implied many dangers, which neither labor federation - AFL-CIO and Change to Win - bothered to point out. In fact, the AFL-CIO applauded sections of the speech, rather than condemning its sinister motives. If labor unions align themselves with the President's and the Chamber's pro-corporate path out of the recession, a workers' road to recovery will be bypassed.

What is the corporate route out of recession?  Economist Robert Reich explains: 

"[The Chamber of Commerce] has a deep, abiding belief in cutting taxes on the wealthy, eroding regulations that constrain Wall Street, cutting back on rules that promote worker health and safety, getting rid of the minimum wage... fighting unions, cutting back Medicare and Social Security, reducing or eliminating corporate taxes, and, in general, taking the nation back to the days before the New Deal." (February 8, 2011).

This is the group that Obama insists that it's possible to "work together" with to create jobs. Under Obama's vision, these pro-corporate policies will make Corporate America the best competitor on the global market, a goal he seems nearly fanatical about.

Monday, 14 February 2011 10:28

Outsourcing Potential, Forgetting Workers


"We need better intelligence, the kind that is derived not from intercepting a president's phone calls to his mistress but from hanging out with the powerless."

That was one of columnist Nicholas Kristof's lessons for U.S. foreign policy drawn from Egypt's revolution. In the New York Times this weekend he pointed out that American journalists and foreign policy experts alike missed the warning signs of what was coming in Egypt in part because they talk to the wrong people.  Aha. That's not exactly a revelation to consumers of independent media.

It's not just revolutions in far off places that we miss when reporters ignore the everyday working people, though. Another piece in the very same paper on the very same day examined the consequences of this country's outsourcing-only manufacturing policy. The question raised there was pretty fundamental. It went to the entire justification for globalization.

We've been told that going global serves American interests because increased profits produce innovation, creativity, and investment in new improved products. Right?

The question raised in Louis Uchitelle's deep-inside-the-paper story is, is it even true? Can a country continue to innovative if it's not making the stuff it innovates?

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