Wednesday, January 31, 2007

R.I.P. Molly Ivins...

Molly Ivins died today. A terirble loss for American journalism and for anyone who longs for a just society run by competant, caring individuals (rather than what we usually get).

So many of her pieces said so much so concisely it's difficult to imagine how to begin to fill her big, Texas-sized, muckraking shoes.

Good bye, M.I. You will be sorely missed.

Molly Ivins, In Her Own Words.

Molly's Self-description

“I don’t have an agenda, I don’t have a program. I’m not a communist or a socialist. I guess I’m a left-libertarian and a populist, and I believe in the Bill of Rights the way some folks believe in the Bible.”

Her Final column: Iraq

“Every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them, and that’s why we’re trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets. Bang pots and pans. Demand, ‘Stop it, now!’ ”

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Well Wishes for Molly Ivins

Long beloved independent, muckraking, Texas journalist Molly Ivins is currently battling cancer. She has been one of few consistently truthful and powerful commentators on Shrub (as she coined him) since his days as TX governor. Molly's unique, vernacular, tell-it-how-she-sees-it approach is one we could use more of...for more information, see the following links.

Texas Observer

Harvey Wasserman's piece

See some of Molly's columns here and here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Defend a Free Press

Since the Bush regime arrived on the scene, and more so after 9/11, Americans have been treated to unprecedented amounts of government and private sector propaganda. From framing 9/11 as an "opportunity" to the bogus connections betwwen Osama and Saddam; from Armstrong Williams and No Child Left Behind to Judy Miller and WMD's, we've all been treated to one lie and half truth after another. Now the Bushies are continuing their assault on the constitution with further attacks on journalsits to create a chilling effect concerning the first amendment- this time with Sarah Olson.

There is a great piece below by PR Watch's John Stauber that really sums up how big of a problem this is for our democratic institutions, especially a now defunct people's press and a virtually totally corporate controlled media. The watchdogs of power are in the lap of power and licking themselves all the way.

See Stauber's piece here. And, read Phil Donahue's urge for supporting Olson and free press rights here.

UPDATE 1/30/07

Two charges dropped against Watada- Olson seems to be spared (for the moment).

Friday, January 26, 2007

A History of Media in the United States

A new class at Berkeley City College, Spring 2007!

Welcome Spring semester, 2007, Berkeley students! There are many links on the blog that may (or may not) prove useful to you! Feel free to browse around and I'll make mention or send e mails when there may be posts/issues of particular interest for class. There's much to cover on selected topics...and away we go!

Books can be had from Revolution Books on Channing and Telegraph. Course texts include:

1) McChesney, Robert. The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century
2) Phillips, Peter. Censored 2007: The Top 25 Censored Stories
3) Snow, Nancy. Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech, and Opinion Control Since 9-11

Here are some links to course author sites:

Free Press Media Reform

Speaking Truth to Power

Project Censored

Snow Machine

Some sites of interest I am involved with include those from my 1/7/07 post on this site. Also, of course, several links to the right of the page...more to come (and all included in class handouts which include links from far left to right on media issues and commentators). Remember, we'll be meeting 1/27, 2/24, 3/10, 3/24, 4/21, and 5/5. Looking forward!

I'd like to digress for a moment. Below are some additional links from a wide variety of angles on media and history- history of media, history and media, and media technology and its impact upon politics, culture, and society. Even though the course, History 46E, focuses on media and its relation to democratic institutions and the public from past to present, there are interesting approaches to using new media to better understand and teach about the past and forge into the future as well. Our interests for the course are different than the links below pursue, as we'll use more of a sociological history of media and its impact on self governance and the importance of a free press in democratic culture. However, here are some interesting examples we won't have much time to deal with that pertain more to media technology and its historical development...just fun fast food for thought. So, the course is NOT about a history of media technology...just a clarification. Still, these may be of interest to some.

Media History

The International Association for Media and History

History of Media Technology

Media Initiatives in History

Epic film

Media History Journal

Of course, there are many other links in the syllabus we WILL be using...Here's to a great term! Check again for updates! And more tangents...



Monday, January 22, 2007

Where's this Speech Today?

Martin Luther King was a man of many interests. He understood the interlocking and interrelated nature of the struggles against injustice. While most know him from the struggle for civil rights and equality, many do not know or forget his staunch opposition to wars of imperialist aggression, in particular, to wars against the third world and people of color, fought by disproportionate numbers of the poor and people of color in the United States.

Indeed, who among our political circles today would give this speech? Obama? Hillary? Richardson? Biden? Unlikely. Where is the oppositional leadership today? Selling out to new corporate lobbyists maybe.

MLK text

MLK speech

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Welcome Molly Luna!

On Sunday, January 14th, my wife and I had our first child, our daughter, Molly Luna! See details!

Life on the Plantation...

Bill Moyers' address to the Media Reform Conference in Memphis can't be missed...

"Worrying about the loss of real news is not a romantic cliché of journalism. It has been verified by history: from the days of royal absolutism to the present, the control of information and knowledge had been the first line of defense for failed regimes facing democratic unrest." BM

Fight on at Reality Checker!

More to come...Media Reform is the central issue at hand on all topical fronts.

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of
speech.” Benjamin Franklin

“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.” Abraham Lincoln

“Three things can not hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth” -- Siddhartha

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Forgotten War at Home...

With all the hub bub about staying the course, surge in troops, and we must perservere rhetoric abounding in Washington (and echoed throughout corporate media), it's easy to be distracted from the war at home. What is happening here, in America, to Americans? What is the true cost of war? But this isn't just about corporate oligarchies and transnationals, per se. It's about their control of information, too!

Here's some wisdom to ponder...

Published on Saturday, January 13, 2007
The Boiling, Surging, Churning and Corporatizing Economy of the United States
by Ralph Nader

The boiling, surging, churning and corporatizing economy of the United States is racing far ahead of its being understood by political economists, economists, politicians and the polis itself. Tidbits from the past week add up to this view, to wit:

--The giant, shut-down Bethlehem steel plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania will soon become a $600 million casino and hotel complex. With tens of millions of Americans lacking the adequate necessities of food, fuel, shelter, health care and a sustaining job, this project is part of a 25 year trend by the economy, moving away from necessities and over to wants and whims. Among the fastest growing businesses for three decades in America are theme parks, gambling casinos and prisons.

--Our Constitution launched "we the people" to "establish justice, .promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves." We're losing ground year after year on all three accounts. Yet to what does Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. devote his /entire/ annual report on the federal judiciary this January 1, 2007? He called for a pay raise for judges, calling the current pay ranging from $165,200 to $212,000 (with a great retirement plan) a "constitutional crisis."

--General Motor has introduced yet another prototype electric car-called the Chevrolet Volt-to distract attention from its ongoing engine stagnation and provide a little cover for its gas guzzling muscle cars displayed at the Detroit Auto Show. This procrastinatory tactic by GM has been going on since the 1939 New York World's Fair to keep people looking far into the amorphous future so as to not focus on the dismal today year after year while gasoline prices sky rocket and oil imports swell. We're still waiting for some of GM's engineering prototypes from 1939 to hit the road in the 21^st century.

--Just as there are stirrings behind more shareholder rights over the companies they own and more disclosure by management of large corporations relating to executive pay and accounting information, the rapid rise of huge pools of capital controlled by private equity firms and Hedge Funds are buying larger and larger public companies and taking them out of the regulatory arenas into secrecy.

Corporate morphing to escape public accountability has been going on for a long time. Note the coal corporations digging deep under residential streets in Pennsylvania and other neighboring states decades ago. As the homes began to cave in (this is called 'subsidence'), the coal companies disappeared by collapsing themselves only to be succeeded by their next of (corporate) kin.

Today, this corporate morphing is far more ranging and far larger in the economy, drawing trillions of dollars from pension funds and institutional investor firms which themselves are largely closed off from workers and small investors whose money they shuffle around. Corporate attorneys are super-experts in arranging ways for corporate capital to escape not just the tax laws of the U.S. but also the public regulatory frameworks of the Securities and Exchange Commission and other public "law and order" entities.

Independent and academic corporate analysts have barely begun to figure out the consequences of this seismic shift of capital structures.

--"Private Firms Lure C.E.O.'s With Top Pay" was the headline in the January 8^th edition of /The New York Times/. The subtitle was astonishingly worded as "Less Lavish Packages at Public Companies." The reporters go on to say, in essence, if you think that Home Depot's departed C.E.O., Robert L. Nardelli's $200 million plus take home pay package was a lot, you haven't seen what's happening behind the curtains at the large private equity firms buying up ever bigger public companies. "Public company chieftains are deciding that they no longer want to be judged by their shareholders and regulators, and are going to work for businesses owned by private equity," write the authors.

One such migrant executive, Henry Silverman, went from big riches running the conglomerate Cendant, to making $135 million just from selling one piece of Cendant, Realogy, to a private equity firm. "There is no reason to be a public company anymore," said this happy corporate prophet.

Now go to the other side of the tracks. In the last quarter century the value of the U.S. corporations has risen 12-fold, according to /The Wall Street Journal. /C.E.O. pay has skyrocketed similarly. But workers today, on average, are still making less, in inflation adjusted dollars, than workers made in 1973-the high point of worker wages!

Citing data from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, /New York// Times'/ columnist, Bob Herbert, reports that between 2000 and 2006 the combined real annual earnings of 93 million American workers rose by $15.4 billion. That rise is "less than half of the combined bonuses awarded by the five Wall Street firms for just one year."

Class warfare in reverse is what's going on. The super rich and their corporations against the workers, redistributing the workers' wealth into their own pockets and coffers. Mr. Herbert frequently frets about no one in the political parties saying or doing anything about this state of despair. He defines "political parties" as the two major Parties, though knowing full well that there are smaller parties and independent candidates who have campaigned across the country trumpeting the need for economic justice in very specific terms.

So long as most progressive writers ignore these people in the electoral arenas who are laboring to break down the barriers that keep these issues of economic justice over corporate power abuses from moving into elections and government, they will be bellowing in the wind.

Social justice movements in the United States have come from small starts that are duly recognized.

--So, where are the corporate media and "liberal" elite? Where is the free press protected by the first amendment? Where are the muckrakers of days of old? In Memphis! Free Press lives on! We must do what we can to support it.

Without knowledge among the general populace there is little power to the people. Without intelligent action, there is no road to a better world. If information is the life's blood of a democracy, then the U.S. is badly in need of a transfusion.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy New Year Again!

Just a reminder of some great sites to visit! More soon...


Whose News

Lifting The Fog

9/11 Scholars for Truth and Justice

Old Crit Think Blog

More upcoming on the importance of a free are some interesting quotes on just that!

Retropoll Launches New Blog!

Check details for the alternative polling group Retropoll.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

Thomas Paine

Let's get busy!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year! You've Got Mail and the Leader Wants to Read It!

"A time comes when silence is betrayal." - Rev. Martin Luther King

We must be slient as a people no more.

Just in time to ring in the new year, Bush, in yet another signing statement (close to 800 now), claimed the right to snoop though our mail without a warrant. All in the name of liberty. All in the name of security. Feel safe yet?

Just like with phone tapping, data mining/trolling, no fly lists, suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the like, Bush claims he is above the law, that's what a signing statement is. It states how the president will execute a particular law through his own interpretation, not the courts' or congress. He's the decider. He makes decisions with war on his mind. But why does it seem like he is at war with his own country and the constitution ("It's just a god-damned piece of paper" W once blurted). See here, too. Welcome to the fourth reich... Let's take a peek behind the curtain, shall we? We may not like what we see.

Like it or not, and the ridiculous of historical analogies aside (i.e. Bush is not Hitler and we are not Nazis), it is difficult not to notice how much we are sharing in terms of political dynamics with faultering Weimar Germany through the 1930's (read Milton Meyer's "They Thought They Were Free," William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," maybe Friendly Fascism by Bertram Gross, or even Sinclair Lewis "It Can't Happen Here"). Fascism is a movement and force of government that comes from a democratic structure and mutates into, well, something like this and this. The three part series from Heather Wokucsh, just prior, is quite instructive with all its links, though it is difficult to have a reasonable discussion due to possible red herrings, hysteria, and paranoia. However, if the fish fits...endless wars, spiraling debt, curtailment of rights...

"All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it." - Alexis de Tocqueville

Remember that Benito Musolini once stated, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." Corporatism. We should really ponder what that means today in America. We should look at the military industrial complex and it's impact on American democracy. We should notice the effects. They are not hard to measure.

Let's hope for a better world in '007. Not off to such a great start in the Old American Century. Checks (and Balances) are in the mail...