Saturday, March 25, 2006

AM News Radio sucks.

As I was walking to the WAWA this morning, instead of listening to WHYY, which I normally do, on my portable radio ---the weekend schedule is all cooking shows and gardening tips --- I had the local 24-hour news radio station on, KYW. If you want to know why most Americans are so ignorant of what's going on in the world AM news radio is a great place to start. KYW sounds like one of those Clear Channel stations ---they claim their CBS radio ---that gives you weather and traffic every 5 minutes and right-wing propaganda 'round the clock.

This morning for example, there was the story about the Russians having a spy in the U.S. command center in Doha before the war that was supposedly feeding Saddam secrets about the invasion plans. "Russia is no friend of ours" the news reader said. "They've been spying on us!" And that was pretty much all there was to that story. What they left out was the rest of the story, though, which was that most of what the Russians told Saddam was misinformation. In fact, this is basically such a non-story that the NYT put in a little 8 paragraph box below the fold on page A-7.

Another big news story on KYW was about Laura Bush on the Larry King Show (King of the powder puff questions) responding to a "Dear Laura" piece by Sally Quinn in the WaPo telling her she was the only person who could tell boy W. the truth about the problems he faces. The lead-in to the story went something like this: "Laura Bush may be more popular than her president husband, but she doesn't have to make the difficult choices." Maybe, if he ever actually did make the right choices, he wouldn't be so unpopular.

Then there was the news on all the immigration demonstrations around the country on Friday. In case you were wondering why thousand of people are out on the streets in all the major cities it's because, "the protesters are against a law that would make felons out of people who employ illegal immigrants." End of story. Actually what they're protesting against are bills Congress is considering that would, "Make it a felony to be in the United States illegally, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and erect fences along one-third of the border with Mexico." [NYT] Also, as I've written here before, it would make it a felony to help illegals, potentially turning Catholic Priests and others who provide services to the poor into criminals.

But you don't need to know all that, what you want is a very brief synopsis of the major stories of the day You're a busy mover and shaker and you don't have time for all those confusing facts. Just give us a minute and we'll give you the world. It's as easy as that.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Revenge and Moussaoui.

The government is doing their best to make sure Zacarias Moussaoui lives a long and healthy life behind bars. In the ongoing death penalty trial, the prosecution, after recovering from the Carla J. Martin fiasco, has managed to show that 9/11 was pretty much no surprise to anyone in the government. It was an open secret to just about everyone, but no one bothered to do anything about it. The testimony of FBI agent Harry Samit was the real nail in the coffin for the prosecution's case when he said he had sent seventy emails warning of an attack involving the hijacking of planes and his superiors did nothing. In fact, he called their inaction "criminal negligence." [WaPo]

The NYT reported that, "The F.B.I.'s top counterterrorism official at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Michael Rolince, told a jury...that he did not know that a bureau agent had filed a report three weeks earlier detailing his suspicions that Zacarias Moussaoui was involved in an imminent airline hijacking plot." In a perfect example of the pigheaded arrogance of this administration's serial blundering, he testily asked Moussaoui's public defender, Edward B. MacMahon Jr, "Can I ask what document that's coming from?" MacMahon answered, "That's Mr. Samit's communication to your office, Aug. 18, 2001."

Nice! I feel a promotion coming on. That's how this administration rewards incompetence at every level. If I were a family member of a 9/11 victim sitting in that court room, I'd be madder at the governemnt than I would be at Moussaoui. So what, he lied about his conection to 9/11? You know, criminals lie to the police all the time. What we're paying the FBI and the CIA to do is use all the resouces they have to figure out the truth before we get attacked, but they didn't do it. They blew it.

Is the death penaly in this case really justifed? Is all the time and resourses being expended to put this guy to death really worth it? The threat of death is not exactly a deterent to these people, they actually want to die. If the death penaly isn't a deterent in this case, then what purpose does it serve? Is it all about revenge? Revenge is undertsandable, but I don't think it's a part of our jurisprudence, is it? Is it all about an eye for any eye? Sounds more like Middle Eastern justice to me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

FDR and Oprah fight the man.

After years of working at book stores I've always been a little annoyed by Oprah sending her viewers in like lemmings to buy those books with her "Oprah" stickers on them, which they would never in a million years actually read on their own. But then I thought, I guess it's OK because at least they're reading something.

As much as I've been tortured by being forced to watch her by my girl friend, I must say she did a really great service yesterday in showing the ugly underbelly of our supposedly booming economy. She really went to town to expose the travesty of our society's toleration of the true depths of poverty that exist here in the richest country in the world.

We shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking, though, that Oprah alone can spur people into doing something about poverty when they're inundated daily with a steady diet of economic happy speak from the media. Even a usually trustworthy show like WHYY's Radio Times had some scheister on as a guest from Moody's to discuss the booming economy.

According to Mark Zandi, the economy is bursting at the seams with high paying jobs. I really wish he could have told that to the guy Oprah interviewed who has to sell his blood twice a week to buy enough gas to take his daughter to school every day. It's funny that during the whole hour he didn't get around to mentioning the 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. And, that 37 million number, by the way, (also the total population of Canada), is from the official poverty line calculation, which is itself outdated and flawed.

He didn't get around to talking about the people living in the streets and in their cars, many of whom are actually working, and the millions of others just barely getting by. You know, the people who go to work everyday and are only able to pay their rent with very little left over for anything else. There was a study done a while back that showed that there were only four counties where "someone working full-time and earning federal minimum wage (could) afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment in the entire U.S. [AP]

If you lose your job, due to outsourcing or the place you work just goes out of business (which has happened to me twice) Mr. Zandi says, 'don't worry, be happy.' If you don't want to work at Wendy's or Wal-Mart, rocket scientists are in demand in this new economy. The job market is just lousy with all kinds of high paying jobs out there, from software engineering to legal services. There's one little problem with that happy scenario, though, which is; for those who don't have these types of professional skills, school --- or "retraining," the great answer to all problems from these hack economists --- is not an option. If you're making sixteen or seventeen thousand dollars a year, there's no way you're going to be able to afford to go back to school. And the federal government is busy cutting financial aid to students, so forget about that.

How do the working poor or the 37 million who have reached the point of no return get back into this great economy, anyway? I'm just wondering, Mr. Zandi. How about the 49 million who don't have health insurance? He says, oh yes, we've got problems with our health care system, but we wouldn't want to do anything crazy like switching to universal health care, because you know about all those problems other countries have with it.

They do? Ask any Canadian, any Brit, any German, or any Frenchman whether they have problems with their health care system or if they would ever allow their government to force them to shop around for it. Half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by people becoming sick and losing their health insurance because they can't work anymore. Then they lose their house and everything they own to pay for their medical care. Wasn't there a time not too long ago when a sick person was a "patient" and not a "customer?" When you're sick, you don't have time to shop around and clip coupons to save money.

The great "consensus" of mainstream economists is the same old argument that says, anything the government can do, the private sector can do better. It's as old as the hills but FDR had an answer for it:

"Government's can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warn-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference."

That's the problem we've got today, the same economic despotism that FDR thought he had banished with the New Deal: big business, big money, running the government into the ground to prevent it from protecting the people from the greed of the moneyed interests. You don't build skyscrapers by not exploiting the weak. These snake-oil salesmen masquerading as "economists," these shills for the money changing houses, who talk up the economy to keep their commissions sky high, are given free rein on on TV and radio to promote their dogma of indifference. They are bloodsucking parsites that need to be stamped out.

Anybody who would dare to say that the government should rein in these robber barons and redistribute some of their ill gotten gains would be burned at the stake as a heretic. The prevailing wisdom is best summed up by John Snow, the great pubah of the money temple, who said just the other day that CEOs who make over 300% more than the average worker is a good thing, that this raising tide is lifting all boats (I think he really meant his new yacht). The fact that real wages have been stagnate for the past five years only means you need to go out and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get one of those great new high paying jobs in the food services industry.

For all the nonsense coming form the media on the great employment numbers etc., the fact is, people are worried. The price of everything is going up and their paychecks aren't getting any bigger. What most people not living in an ivory tower know is that they're working longer hours for less pay. You work and you work and you get bubkus.

FDR said, "Liberty requires opportunity to make a living --- a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for." Right now, all we're living for is to pay the rent and maybe have a little left over for a six pack of Soma to dull our senses, while W. keep telling everybody to fear "fear" itself.

What this country is desperately in need of is another New Deal. What Roosevelt said in Philadelphia on June 27, 1936, might as well have been about what's going on today:

"For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor --- other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer followed the pursuit of happiness."

We need this man!

Letter to the editor: Philly Inquirer

One of my side hobbies is writing cranky letters to the editor in papers all over the country. If you look to the links on the right you can find a page where I put up all the letters I wrote in 2004, 11 of which actually got published.

Since I've now lost the program I had to create the web page I was using, I've been using non sum dignus to post my most recent letters. If you've been checking in regularly, you've probably notticed I was out of business for a little while a few weeks ago. Here's what happened as I wrote it to the Inquirer about a million years ago:

Marciene S. Mattleman of the Free Library Foundation in a March 6 letter praises the expansion of the library downtown and extols the educational benefits of more room and more computers. I wholeheartedly agree and thank the governor for restoring the funding to extend the hours at satellite branches, including the one I use in Port Richmond. However, as wonderful as proposed upgrades for the downtown library are, my branch continues to suffer from a lack of new books, DVDs and videos.

More important for me and others who rely on the library for Internet access, the nine public computers rarely function. On the day the Free Library unveiled its revamped Web site, the server went down at Port Richmond. Service wasn't restored for seven days. People all over the world could enjoy the many advantages of the money spent on making the Web site better, but none of us could.

I doubt anyone who has the financial resources to afford the Internet in his home would tolerate such an extended interruption of service. If there is any better example of the digital divide Mayor Street talks about, I don't know what it is. Before spending more to spruce up the library downtown, perhaps money would be better spent providing basic services to the rest of the city first.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Rummy's march of folly.

Lately Rummy has been busy writing Op-Eds justifying his warmongering by equating the "war on terror" with the Cold War. Since he hasn't had much luck defeating the terrorists on the battlefield, he's decided to take his agit-prop to the opinion pages. This Sunday, he contended that victory over the Soviet Union was achieved in part through the creation of the "Many new institutions and programs of the Truman years," meaning the National Security state. What he doesn't mention, of course, is that the military industrial complex --- which Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against --- was the natural outgrowth of these new institutions and programs that made a new perpetual war on something --- anything --- inevitable after the Cold War. Filling this vacuum of peace is the real purpose of our new declared-undeclared war.

After the fall of an atrophied and bankrupt Soviet Union, Rummy and his buddy Dick-shot Cheney and their benefactors in the defense industry, desperately needed to come up with a new boggy man to justify their continued bloated defense budgets ad infinitum. The threatening specter of a "peace dividend" was anathema for the neocons and their new American century. Just as their predecessors after WWII had to sell the threat of an ill-defined "Communist menace," the Rummy/Cheney cabal now has to push the equally dubious "long war" against the global "struggle against violent extremists." This constant fear mongering is imperative in order to keep the vast majority if tax-payer money flowing into the coffers of Halliburton and away from health care, education and other social programs designed to mitigate the ravages of unrestrained capitalism.

This dovetails nicely with corporate America's master plan to grow and maintain an impoverished and ill-educated underclass that will provide a steady stream of pliable employees going into low wage jobs, trained just enough to run a register at Wal-Mart. As an added benefit, this also ensures an endless supply of disadvantaged youths willing to play Russian roulette on the battlefield in the hopes of eventually getting a better education from the GI bill, which they've been priced out of being able to afford on their own. The new military/corporate paradigm, which requires putting the "infant" back in the "infantry," is designed solely for those not able to buy their way out of it, like Dick Cheney and all the neocons were able to during the Vietnam war.

It is now essential that all Americans, who actually do believe in peace and freedom, stand up and let their voices by heard. As Rummy writes, "Many critical battles in the war on terror will be fought in the news rooms and editorial board rooms," and he's right. So it is up to all of us to make sure, through our letters to the editor and our blogging, that we speak truth to power. People of good conscience must put an end to this march of folly, this immoral perversion of our long cherished values of democracy and fair play before it’s too late. The great nation we grew up in is in imminent danger of disappearing off the face of the earth unless we do something to stop it from happening.
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