Thank you for being there and for really listening.
How fitting. General David Petraeus giving a “Freedom Award” to his “hero,” the “honorable” Henry A. Kissinger (in a ceremony as tacky as it is absurd). He even kisses ol’ Henry, just to reiterate the depth of his subservient affection for one of history’s most amoral manipulators of power. Kissinger then blows off a man who personally confronts him with questions, calling the questioner a “self-serving coward.” In the standard parlance of psychology, this is called “projection.”
I hope the words “you know this is a lie” ring over and over in his ears on his deathbed. Perhaps there will be a moment of existential dread as he takes his final breath, in realization of what a monster he has been in this world, and the literally millions of people who have suffered due to him and his actions.
And watch this for some background on just how free the ‘Freedom Awards’ are. This gives you a pretty good idea of the type of hermetic, insular, and extensively protected bubble that power exists within.
And as for David Petraeus? That Golden Boy of American war and clandestine services (both the ones he managed, as well as those personally rendered), has, as Tom Engelhardt reported, taken the next spin through the revolving door of “rehabilitation.” The general “who never had a victory and yet never stopped rising” has now reemerged on, yep, you guessed it…Wall Street.
According to Gawker, “David Petraeus’ road to redemption has reached its gilded destination. As we first reported in April, the disgraced former CIA director will join Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the private equity giant best known for ‘large debt-fueled corporate takeovers’.”
And for more insight on the depth of the criminogenic duplicity of one Henry A. Kissinger, there are few places better to start than Christopher Hitchen’s detailed expose’, The Case Against Henry Kissinger. For those of you who may not have time for the literary edition, you can watch the movie version, as well.
A friend of mine, historian Harvey J. Kaye, has a new book out on FDR and the Fight For The Four Freedoms, and the need for reinvigorating the fight for them today. This is a project he’s been working on for many years, and it strikes me as more relevant and needed today than ever.
Our society loves to celebrate the “greatest generation” and the heroes of World War II and all. Harvey sheds some essential light upon what exactly they were fighting for, and the type of society that most Americans were setting out to protect and advance through the sacrifices made in that war (principles that have been sold out from under us by our recent generation of neo-liberal market fundamentalists).
You can also watch Harvey talk about FDR, as well as the legacy of Thomas Paine, in an hour-long interview with Thom Hartmann. Kaye also makes this short appearance on another of Hartmann’s programs in to talk about the fight for the Four Freedoms.
Formed in September 2009, Move To Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.
We are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.
Legalize Democracy is a documentary film by Dennis Trainor, Jr. about the movement to amend — why it is needed, and how you can get involved.
I referenced this interview between Bill Moyers and acclaimed journalist and television producer David Simon in a previous posting, but it is so good, so lucidly candid, so completely on the money in its analysis of just what is happening to America politically, economically, socially, that it needed to be highlighted again. I cannot emphasize enough as to the how and why the points presented here by Simon should be seen by all Americans. This should be required reading/viewing in every social studies and political science classroom in the country.
It is well worth the 20 minutes of your time it will take to watch it.
We’ve changed and we’ve become contemptuous of the idea that we are all in this together.
The monetization of human beings like that, you know, anybody tells you that the markets will solve everything, the libertarian ideal.
I can’t get past just how juvenile the thought is that if you just let the markets be the markets, they’ll solve everything.
You know, America worked when there was tension between capital and labor, when there– when neither side won all of its victories, when they were fighting. It’s in the fight that we got healthy, that we transformed a working class into a middle class, that we became a consumer economy that drove the world for about half a century.
And yet that’s the kind of argument that supply-side economics is. Give us, the job makers, the money and we’ll make jobs. Not with all of it you won’t. A lot of it’s going to Wall Street and it’s going to sit there and it’s going to be subjected to much less tax liabilities, the capital gains. You know, the scam of it, the scam of what America’s become, you know, give the money to the rich and they’ll see that you’re not poor. Is that really what you’re saying?
But ultimately, capitalism has not delivered on the promise to be a measurement of anything other than money, of profit. And if profit is your only metric, man, what are you building? Where does the environment fit into that? Where does human potential and you know, for anything other than having some money in your hand, you know, where does, where do people stand when they have health needs or when they make a mistake in life? You know, it was said a long time ago you judge a society by is hospitals and its prisons. By that standard we’re, you know, we have a lot to be ashamed of.
You know, I’ve had the sensation over the last twenty — and before The Wire, even, I mean, when I was just a police reporter in Baltimore — of hearing people inside the beltway speak about the American city or about urban issues or about things that I actually knew a little bit about. And they would talk about it you know, I’d be listening to, you know, a Gingrich or even some well-meaning liberal. And I would think, I would love to have these guys in my Volkswagen Passat and just kick them out on the corner at Monroe and Fayette and you know, and just leave them there for a month, you know, and just see if they can you stop them from saying this stuff with just a little bit of aware.
You know, government and democracy in particular, it is about constant battle, it’s about nothing ever being fixed or ever being right. We will never solve a problem to the point where we can walk away from it and the machine will, you know devour the problem without our attending to it.
There will always be conflict, there will always be competing interests that force us to engage in the hard job of governing ourselves. And so the anti-government thing strikes me as a perversity. I don’t think the founding fathers would recognize it. They were constructing a government of the people. That’s their language and I think that’s their belief.
And the idea that the government is some, you know, once we start regarding it as some alien force that we can’t control, we’re done, democracy’s done. That’s the last stage of walking away from the responsibility of governing ourselves. If we can’t control it, if it is going to be a purchased government, if we can’t institute the reforms that are necessary, then we’re done, we’re done right now.
David Simon, a journalist and producer of the popular television series The Wire, delivers one of the most succinct descriptions of the problems that are ailing the United States - politically and economically - that one will hear anywhere.
We at USTV Media are enthused about posting this presentation, because it echoes the major points that we have been striving to make over this past decade plus; that you cannot have a workable society if it is run on market principles devoid of social values. You need a society in which neither capital or labor is allowed to dominate. Simon discusses how we either have a representative government or we don’t, and if it is not serving us in that capacity, that should be a call to arms towards rehabilitating and restoring it. Wall Street and the market logic as a guiding parameter for organizing society is doomed to failure, and reversing its destructive qualities will either be done in some practical way when things get bad enough, or it will keep going until people get desperate enough to resort to violence. Today, the triumph of capitalism has become complete, to the point that it has bought the electoral process, he one venue for reform that remained to Americans.
This goes to the heart of another point we’ve been making at USTV Media, that when your democratic society is ruled by the market, you become a market society, one in which everything becomes a commodity and is for sale. Including the rules. And when you can buy the rules, you win the game.
There are so many interesting points raised in this talk, we couldn’t begin to outline them all here. What do “small town values” mean in a mass, urban world? There is the role that race plays, and why class has become the real dividing line in our current political dynamics, and much more. It is well worth taking the time to watch.
Simon provides a written synopsis of his talk in this piece which ran last fall in The Guardian, There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show.
For as Simon recently told Bill Moyers…
We’ve changed and we’ve become contemptuous of the idea that we are all in this together…
The horror show is we are going to be slaves to profit. Some of us are going to be higher on the pyramid and we’ll count ourselves lucky and many many more will be marginalized and destroyed…
I don’t think that you can call the American government anything other than broken at this point. And I think the break has come at the legislative level. I mean, that’s the part of the government that has been purchased.
If a consolidated media system can deliver these kinds of results in reference to holiday gift giving, can you imagine what a concerted effort to sell specific talking points for an agenda regarding, say, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, or the supposed imminent threat that a select Middle Eastern nation would be?
UPDATE: A friend and colleague made some good points in reference to this video compilation, and its relevance to the ongoing issue of media consolidation. They are definitely worth sharing, as the bring more focus upon the depth and nuances of the problems inherent in our media system today…
Not sure media consolidation is exactly the problem here. These stations rely on wire services for “video of national or international stories”… Matthew Weesner, the news director at KHGI in Kearney, Neb., one of the stations O’Brien included in the self gifting montage [said] “We’re doing six and a half hours of live programming a day, and we’ve got a lot of space to fill with a pretty small newsroom.”
I’m not condoning the practice but instead of worrying about consolidation we should look at alternative ownership models. It’s not as if the public interest was much better served when the number of private media owners was significantly higher than it is today.
An article posted on Poynter shed further light on this… Conan’s Comedy Bit Hints at Serious Issues for Local TV News
The points he raises, and the article on Conan’s montage, are both good, and I wholeheartedly agree with the need for new ownership models. It is true that the media consolidation thing is not the exact problem here. However, I do think it has had an effect. With ever-increasing consolidation, resulting in the merging of fewer and fewer resources, including more staffing reductions for less overhead and increased profit, the incentive to get “lazy” about resorting to more “rip and read” among news personnel has increased. It is no longer a matter of stations simply looking to wire services and such to find ideas for content, which they have always done. Today, they simply take fully formed pre-packaged product, including VNR’s (video news releases), and just run them straight off the production line.
As for the point about the number of private owners before, and whether that actually meant better quality coverage, my colleague makes a valid point. But then again, the media terrain was also different then, too. Now with less one-to-many models of media production and distribution, and with more many-to-many, that kind of bottleneck through ownership has the potential to change for the positive. But if this kind of consolidation process continues in regards to not just the sources of production (individual stations, etc…), but now subsumes whole networks (i.e. the internet itself, thanks to all those issues we know well enough these days, especially with net neutrality, SOPA, etc…), then things could really get bad, and quickly. So yes, ownership models are a major key here.
His response to these points was even more lucid and insightful…
Yes I think that’s all true. I just think media consolidation is the logical outcome of a profit-driven news structure. The whole “media consolidation” complaint also seems emotionally wedded to “big = bad” which I think is silly (not that you’re drawing that connection). For instance, my local newspaper, which is financially independent and locally owned, is a bastion of right wing ideologues, and hosts way too much frivolous reporting. And the media consolidation critique can treat media consumers as if we’re all passive vessels who play no role in what we choose to read or watch. I don’t agree with that.
I’m with him on this important point, in that “big = bad” is a correlation that isn’t a causation per se. Big is bad when “big = small,” as in small numbers of people deciding and controlling the content over large swaths of distribution. Again, the issue keeps coming back to ownership.
This is a great talk by Gar Alperovitz, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative. Referencing his work What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, Alperovitz provides some excellent insights and advice about how we can most effectively go from here in addressing the profoundly challenging issues of our time.
Alperovitz challenges our “vested interest in pessimism,” which forgives apathy and inaction, for if one “believes nothing serious can be done, you don’t have to do anything.” Transformation rarely happens overnight. It’s all about every action we take, step by step. What can seem like a futile action in one sense, is actually part of the building blocks, laying the seed for further action, until a tipping point is reached. Alperovitz puts a healthy emphasis on what we do locally, for if we can’t change our own communities, we aren’t (and can’t) change anything. Also, some good descriptions on why the problems we face are fundamentally systemic, and how and why politics as usual is a dead end. It’s all good, but starts to dig in even deeper about 12-14 minutes in.
This is one of the the key issues in the advancement of human rights in the 21st century. Yes, human rights, in that communication and information rights are the nexus of power in our modern, digitally-networked “Information Age” (much the same way labor was the defining point of rights-based struggles during the Industrial Revolution). This short video does a good job in explaining some of the ramifications involved in what happens to the Internet, how it functions, who controls it, etc., and why we need a new series of updated laws to that protect our constitutionally-protected rights to speech and privacy. Well worth the six minutes it takes to watch it.
Michael Woodridge makes some good observations about the video on Truthout…
“…the infrastructure [of the internet] - the “tubes” that connect us - in the United States are all owned by a handful of private companies, such as Comcast and Time Warner. The platforms we use on the Internet, such as Facebook and Google, are also run on servers owned by those private companies.
We relinquish any rights we have the moment we sign up for any of these companies’ services. The Bill of Rights does not apply to this privately owned space, nor do these companies honor those rights. Our data and information is theirs to package and sell, censor and limit.
Laws to protect any of these rights don’t exist. The laws currently governing the online realm date back 20 years, when the Internet was in its fledgling state. Currently, Internet-related bills that are up for discussion threaten to make things worse.The Stop Online Privacy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (often referred to collectively as SOPA/PIPA) would have severely crippled the way we can create and distribute content online. A new bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) currently being marked up in closed hearings in the House would take away our right to sue private companies for turning over our information to the government or each other. Reform of the vague Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which many criticized after the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, threatens to become more narrow-minded and harsh.
Insist that your representatives oppose these dangerous and corrupting laws. They have no place within a free society.
An informative discussion with Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken, regarding the corroding effects of unregulated political campaign financing, and how an increasingly wooden adherence to one fundamental American value, “freedom,” is undermining another of the major tenets upon which American society was originally founded: equality.
Of particular note is the insightful acknowledgement contained within her argument that it is not so much the presence of money in politics that is the problem; you’re always going to have money as a necessary fuel for helping to enable the processes involved in social and political action. The real issue needing to be addressed is one of transparency. Gerken is implicitly touching upon a primordially important point here in regards to communication rights (and their accompanying brethren, the right to information). It is once again demonstrative of why communication rights can be defined as “the hole in the death star,” in that if we change the parameters of what information can and should be accessible, and provide the communicative systems in which it can be made effectively available, then many of the other problematic symptoms of our troubled society will be much easier to deal with.
“We are today in an environment in which any lie or falsehood can be peddled by major power factions, and where no traceable accountability can be assigned for those doing the speaking, or who is enabling the speech.”
BILL MOYERS: Everyday people, the polls show they realize, 70, 75 percent realize that there’s too much money in politics. And they just say, they throw up their hands and turn away. Is that your experience?
HEATHER GERKEN: I think the better way to think about it is there’s always going to be money in politics. But it matters where the money goes and how it gets there. So just to give you an example, even with independent spending which has been really terrible in the last few years, if we could trace where the money came from, that would make a big difference. If when you see one of these ads run by Americans for America and it seems really wonderful and it tells you how great coal is, I think if people — and people hear Americans for America and they think it’s just an ad. I think if people heard at the end of that ad, this was paid for by the coal industry, they’d think differently about the ad. When we, you were talking about, you know, this all goes back to voters. If we just give voters the tools they need to see what’s actually happening to realize where money is in the system, it might give them the weapon they need to fight back.
BILL MOYERS: Well, in his majority opinion written for the court at the time for Citizens United, Justice Kennedy said disclosure is perfectly acceptable here, if we’re going to make the system work. But when the disclosure provision was put before the Senate, Mitch McConnell and Republicans filibustered it in effect, they throttled it, they did not let the Senate vote on disclosure.
HEATHER GERKEN: Well, this is another example of what you would call chutzpah. Because when McCain-Feingold was being passed, what Republicans like Mitch McConnell would say over and over again is, we don’t need to cap anything. We don’t need to shut down the money, we can just have disclosure and transparency, and that’s all we need. Now, a few years later, it’s not just that they’re refusing to pass basic disclosure and disclaimer rules, but it even gets worse than that. The lawyers are now arguing that corporations are intimidated if their money was disclosed. So you see lawyers in court and outside in the public arguing that giant companies like Walmart or Target or Exxon are scared to give money into politics because they’re feeling so intimidated by threats. Now and this is just where it goes beyond the level of absurd. They invoke precedent from the Supreme Court from the battle days in the, when the NAACP membership was being threatened with lynching. So it’s one thing to say that, you know, in the 1940s and 1950s people might get lynched for expressing their political viewpoints on race in the south and that there’s reasons to protect that. But it’s quite another thing to say that we should worry about Walmart and Exxon when they’re giving money in politics. That is not a first amendment concern.
BILL MOYERS: If in fact the Supreme Court says disclosure is fine as the court said in the Citizens United decision, yes, we should know and it’s okay to know and it’s legal to know, why are Senator Mitch McConnell and others in Congress preventing disclosure from happening, from passing it, from approving it, from saying, yes, let’s disclose the source of this money?
HEATHER GERKEN: Because the people who support Senator McConnell and the Republican party would prefer to give this money anonymously, secretly through shell corporations. An example, the insurance companies put a lot of money into the Chamber of Commerce. And it was the Chamber of Commerce that was saying things about the Obamacare, not the insurance industry. It looked clean, right? It looked like it was just the business interests being expressed by the chamber of commerce. But it was really insurance money funding that. That’s a problem. That’s a problem because you can’t evaluate the message if you don’t know who the messenger is.