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Rapping About a World at Risk

Michele Bachmann’s Handfull of Subpoenas

Michelle Bachmann recently advanced the idea that the new congress needs to go to Washington with a hand full of subpoenas to fully uncover and punish the criminal behavior of the Obama Administration.   Why does she want to do this?  Why does the Chairwoman of the Republican Tea Party Caucus think this is a good idea?

During President Clinton’s second term the GOP’s extreme partisanship led to impeachment proceedings and severely hampered the effectiveness of our government and its Chief Executive.  This distraction may have made some political hay for Republicans but crippled our Chief Executive’s ability to focus on and deal with the growing terror threat Al-Qaeda was preparing to launch against our country.  The GOP’s actions provided support, aid, cover and comfort to the terrorists and heightened our country’s vulnerability to attack.  Perhaps we should investigate their activities and motives for effectively becoming a Fifth Column for the Evil Doers?

Earlier in the year, Ms. Bachmann’s suggested to Chris Matthews that we should investigate the UnAmerican activities of congress and senate members to root out and expose those who hate America and are actively working for its destruction.  I’m not so sure about this; it may lead to the mass imprisonment of  the Republicans who obstructed President Clinton’s ability to perform his duties as Commander and Chief. With the GOP gone it would be impossible to form a consensus to effectively govern the nation so I’m kinda lukewarm on this one.  After all President Obama and the ruling democrats rely on the good will of the loyal opposition GOP party to show the country that democracy works and that we can all get along.

But because I don’t think Ms. Bachmann’s idea is a good one doesn’t make it bad. After all I’m coming from a pretty partisan place myself.  So in the spirit of consensus building I’m trying to understand why she would propose such a thing.  Though its a dangerous and scary place to visit, I have tried to get inside Ms. Bachmann’s mind to understand her reasoning why she thinks the congress should spend the next session investigating members for crimes against the republic.

I have comprised a list of 13 reasons as to why Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party may think this is a good idea for the country.  Please feel free to add your own.

1. Because its fun to shut the Federal Government down (ask Newt Gingrich)
2. It will heighten partisanship to levels yet unseen
3. Obstructionism is their preferred style of governance
4. Dissent is dangerous to a democracy
(America is long over due for another round of McCarthyism)
5. Enemy combatants sitting in congress must be imprisoned
6. It will demonstrate reactionary street cred
7. Sean Hannity thinks its a good idea
8. Rush Limbaugh thinks its a great idea
9. Glenn Beck tearfully pleads to show no quarter to “Wilsonian Reprobates”
10. Compromise/consensus forming is for sissies
11. Its how Michele Bachmann Mans Up and shows her pair
12. It plays well on Talk Radio and to the rabid dogs in the TP howling for fresh meat
13. 2012 GOP can say we did our best under trying circumstances now give us the White House and Senate. We’ll finish the job. Rove calls it the Coup de Grace campaign. A final silver bullet to the head of the democrats, democratic consensus and Federalism paid and financed by serious 527 money.

You Tube Video: Edvard Grieg, In the Hall of the Mountain King

Risk: consensus, governance, democracy

November 13, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, Clinton, conservatism, democracy, democrats, Federalism, government, politics, republicans, Tea Party, terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Forth Estate Crosses Over

There is this program that runs on the WE Cable Network.  It’s called Crossing Over with Jonathan Edwards.   Jonathan Edwards is a psychic medium.  He stands in front of a live gathering of 75 people and tunes into psychic vibes emanating through the audience.  The vibes are messages from deceased loved ones who have crossed over the Acheron.  The dead are keen to communicate warnings, good wishes and assurances to assist living  loved ones on how to navigate the tricky vicissitudes of life.   During the show, Jonathan walks about the room picking up on celestial chatter and begins to relay and interpret a soliloquy of the dead like a macabre game of supernatural telephone. Jonathan Edwards asks his audience to suspend all disbelief as he bestrides the nexus of the metaphysical spirit world and the pedestrian reality that most earthlings inhabit.

The most common messages the dead channel through Jonathan seek to absolve the anxiety and guilt of the tormented living.  Crossing Over is popular because it offers its audience an  absolution, confirms personal cosmology and rationalizes the pursuit of desires by affirming the consequences of decisions as a self fulfilling prophecy.  It safely places its audience in a self validating cosmic echo chamber.  Its an ongoing morality tale with only happy endings and unfortunately only a tenuous connection to authenticity and objective truth.

The state of the news media industry is very much like Crossing Over.  The Forth Estate once thought of as an objective arbiter, information dispersant and truth seeking medium it is now chosen and consumed as a branded version of reality.

The devastating earthquake that buried Haitians in heaps of rubble unleashed global battalions of news teams to cover the event.  Many of the news crews from large established networks beat first responders to the scene.  In some cases the arrival of news teams actually held up the arrival of rescue teams and supplies because the airfield and crowed airspace could not accommodate all the traffic.  The news teams were forced to hole up at the airport because blocked roads prohibited them from going anywhere.  I recall Robin Roberts and the GMA News team dodging fork lifts and supply trucks left with nothing more to do then to urgently interview themselves.  Correspondents were reduced to ghoulishly opining about the tragedy while eagerly mugging for the cameras with contorted faces to portray the human tragedy unfolding beyond the range of their cameras.

GMA’s presence added nothing and in fact inhibited rescue efforts.  I thought of all the drinkable water these crews consumed could have been used to quench the thirst of Haitians dying from dehydration. Thankfully the GMA News team soon left after spending a self indulgent weekend at the airport. Their moral outrage registered and attempt at ratings grab accomplished.  Their contribution to shedding light on the scope of this tragedy and placing it in a larger context of its meaning to the global community of nations was lost in deference to the tragedy’s emotional impact on GMA reporters.  For GMA the subjective condition of the emotional distress of their media stars had become the story.   Their viewers must have figured that if GMA’s News celebrities were hurting this story must be big.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was an example of how a newsman became part of the story in a positive way.  I recall with great admiration watching a camera crew following Dr. Gupta as he walked amidst the rubble of Port-Au-Prince.  He learned of the location of a hospital and went to investigate how it was delivering services to the injured.  Upon his arrival Dr. Gupta discovered the make shift hospital was little more then injured people being placed in the hallway of a building.  The dead were being stacked outside by a wall surrounding the compound.  The hospital had no doctors, nurses, beds or supplies.  The facility lacked water to clean wounds or salve thirst.  What the hospital did have was a constant stream of wounded arriving in greater numbers desperate for any type of care.  The scale of the quake, the massive amounts of injured victims and the overwhelmed capacity of  the hospitals ability to respond was reported in stark clarity.

Dr. Gupta was overwhelmed by parents cradling their broken children.  Dr. Gupta a licensed medical doctor took off his correspondent hat and put on his stethoscope.  He honored his Hippocratic Oath and started treating babies and the wounded with whatever he could cobble together.  Dr. Gupta was no longer a journalist but was now a doctor.  He asked that the cameras stop rolling so he could perform his duties as a doctor.  I’ll never forget the look on Dr. Gupta’s face.  It spoke volumes about the desperate conditions he was confronting and the firm resolve that he would perform his duties as a trained physician under trying almost impossible circumstances.

We could understand Dr. Gupta’s crossover from journalist to doctor.  It was proper and correct response as a human being but as a journalist all objectivity had been lost and in many respects Dr. Gupta had become the story in a constellation of a million stories emanating from the epicenter of one of the great human tragedies of the past century.  This is a departure from the norm of real time documentary reportage.  I can’t tell you how many documentaries I came away from cursing the producers and cameramen for doing nothing to prevent the baby wildebeest from being  consumed by the lion pack or for failing to offer a family of refugees in Darfur a bottle of water or a ride on their jeep to escape the marauding  Janjaweed.

News Corps, network media division Fox News belies the myth of the monolithic liberal mainstream media and its claim of balance in its marketing handle.   Fox News may offer a fair presentment of the news to its conservative viewership but its claim of balance that suggests the inclusion of a liberal perspective in their news product is specious.

Fox News really came of age following 9/11 and the growing conservative drift of the nation. Its useless to posit weather Fox News created the conservative drift or developed programming to market to this political demographic; but the political inclinations of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have always been decidedly conservative.  At its founding in 1996, Fox News started differentiating itself from the liberal mainstream media by supporting the Republican impeachment drive of President Clinton, effectively  setting the stage for its partisan approach to reporting the news.  In many respects its unabashed partisanship was a game changer in how news and information was being packaged, positioned and delivered in the emerging narrow casting market paradigm.   Its sentiment not very different from the golden days of yellow journalism practiced by William Randolph Hearst.

Liberals and progressives have criticized News Corp for its lack of objectivity and  balance.  Many believe it to be the official party organ of the Republican Party and its compromised coverage is more akin to propaganda then news.  I believe this to be true as well.  Fox News has countered that it provides both news and opinion.  Fox News employs many of the leading conservative voices.  Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee are senior GOP members on the payroll of Fox News.  They regularly appear on shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity who are conservative celebrities in their own right.  The trick is discerning what is news and what constitutes opinion and editorial content.  The line that demarcates them is increasingly a fine one.  Even the innocuous news blurbs scrolling along the bottom of the TV screen seep in partisanship.  Some may report objective facts like the closing level of the Dow or the latest sports score. These little factoids appear alongside pieces that consistently reinforce the conservative credo of the network.  Its also a practice for commentators like Karl Rove to opine on stories covered on news segments.  The pundits impassioned analysis of the story leaves the listener little room to doubt the interpretation as a validation of the viewers conservative  political sentiments and ideological disposition.  The ability to distinguish fact from opinion becomes increasingly lost in these clouds of obfuscation.

As the model of creating, packaging and marketing partisan news the advent of Glenn Beck as a political entertainer is symptomatic of the maturation of the industry.  Glenn Beck’s show is more of a political reeducation camp that tries to provide low information voters and political neophytes with a more robust framework to understand the history and philosophy of conservatism.  Beck extends the Fox News portfolio of infotainment products.

Beck’s role in encouraging the formation of the Tea Party expands the footprint of News Corp.  Some may consider this crosses the line into political activism but I believe it to be a highly developed form of call and response direct marketing.  Beck’s incessant rants about the imminent collapse of  American democracy, the downfall of free market capitalism and the advocacy of the purchase of gold to hedge against these terrible prospects has attracted  the sponsorship of gold marketers and other fear merchants living large and minting major coin in the time of terror.

Fox is not alone in this sin.  CNBC profited from the pre-crash market run-up and had a vested interest in fueling market speculation and excess.  The business channel owned and operated by NBC  took some heat on this issue in the wake of the market meltdown.  During the market run-ups and the creation of the numerous market bubbles CNBC was taken to task for its roll as a biased shill in creating a risk averse mania that fed into the speculative orgy.  The encouragement of reckless behavior would cost investors and Main Street citizens a good portion of their retirement savings.  Jon Stewart took on CNBC celebrity Jim Cramer for his role in stoking unhealthy speculation. The claim of caveat emptor is not a sufficient disclaimer to absolve CNBC of this perceived wrong doing.  Information and data is the fuel that powers the capital market engine and viewers perceived CNBC to be a critical channel for this type of decision support data and analysis.  As animated red bulls flashed across the TV screen screaming “buy buy buy” the speculative urge feeding the demon greed of Cramer’s viewers jumped at the prospect to secure easy profits and pushed the execute button to route a flood of orders to E-Trade.

Media outlets were not alone in profiting from the conflict of interest in their business model.  The rating agencies Moody’s, Standard and Poors and other issuers of financial health assessments were roundly criticized for a business model that accepted fees from companies  to determine their investment ratings investors use to judge safety and soundness of the companies securities.  Investment banking institutions like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley ran into trouble for trading securities that they advised their clients to hold in investment portfolios.  Large commercial banks have also been called on the carpet for the inherent conflict of interest in their mortgage lending business that integrated mortgage underwriters, originators, servicers, securitizers and investors under a single roof.

Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has given corporations a megaphone to direct enormous amounts of capital and influence on Americas political culture.  The exponential growth of the political industrial complex places media companies on the cusp of an emerging market.  News Corp occupies a well defined franchise in the vortex of this growth industry.  News Corp will be the predominant media channel attracting politically sponsored advertising from 527 corporations to advocate issues central to the conservative agenda.  The market for political theater is strong and growing and News Corp has one of the hottest theatrical properties in celebrities like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

If Fox News bends and packages information with selected editing in support of political narrative; Andrew “NAACP” Breitbart and James “ACORN” O’Keefe edits news to create a false narrative to affirm ideology.  The omnipresent  multi-channel digital world and the need for consistent real time affirmation justifies entrapment and libel as fair game in the political narrative. The specious political ethics of radical entitlement, means justify ends, medium is the message and relativistic ethics is the next step of  an ideologically mature ,technologically enabled infotainment industry.  The self affirming echo chamber that verifies fact and swears to any truth is blessed with selective amnesia and a self correcting mechanism of  a highly refined subjective fact checker informed by extreme prejudice.

Jon Stewart  use of satire and exaggeration to make a lager point of clarified and reified truth is old school stuff.  In the Age of the Avatar,  the real, the imagined, the intended and the manifested get confused in the digital clouds of form, delivery and content. The medium is the message, the network is the computer and Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity was a marketing event to stake a claim on the market of moderation.  No doubt a highly educated discerning market segment with lots of disposable income.  Its only downside its getting a little long in the tooth.

The Forth Estate is rapidly evolving due the dramatic changes in technology, market structure, business model and consumer consciousness.  The role of the free press and the constitutional protections it enjoys in a democratic society is under siege and on the verge of bankruptcy.  The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and LA Times are old media institutions struggling to stay financially solvent and culturally pertinent.  Time will tell of their ability to evolve and create a sustainable business model  that will be validated by a market economy.  We have learned that truth, disclosure and transparency are not priceless assets but virtues that must support a sufficient  p/e ratio to to survive in a capitalist economy.

The past few weeks we’ve had a few First Amendment martyrs.  Rick Sanchez, Juan Williams and Keith Olbermann learned that the sword was more powerful then the pen.  The more important lesson that managers could remove them on the whim of executive fiat if they failed to demonstrate restraint of pen and tongue.  In actuality the  removal of these gentlemen from the news desk was more of a business decision then a violation of  their right of Free Speech.

As we enter the second decade of our two wars on terrorism even the embedded journalists rolling through the distressed hamlets of Iraq and Afghanistan are getting a bit war weary.  Like a captive hostage the embeds could not help but to identify with their chauffeurs.  The brave soldiers driving the Humvees’ were always in control of what the embeds saw, was responsible for their safety and quickly became the reporters best friend born of dependency, admiration and the comradeship that develops during war.  Objective reportage was the first causality in this  type of arrangement.

We need to take a cue from Jonathan Edwards.  He is the real shaman of our time.  Blessed with unique skills to help his audience to realize that self affirming connection is only possible by crossing over and taking suggestions from the well placed authorities residing in an unseen mysterious supernatural world.

You Tube Music Video: Tom Waits, Lie to Me

Risk: First Amendment, free speech

November 12, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, banking, branding, business, Clinton, commercial, commodities, culture, democracy, democrats, economics, elections, government, history, investments, marketing, media, news, philosophy, politics, product, regulatory, sustainability, Tea Party, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Better Way (3): Vote Green Party

It was the summer of 75.  I was going into my sophomore year in college.  I just switched my major from business to political science and I was standing in front of a shopping mall on the outskirts of Boston getting signatures to secure ballot status in the State of Massachusetts for the Social Workers Party (SWP) Presidential candidate Peter Camejo.  That afternoon as I dodged shopping carts, roller skating kids and big finned cars spewing black emissions from leaded fueled V8’s,  I secured over 300 signatures from fellow citizens in support of a ballot listing for a socialist candidate for president.  I did so by engaging my fellow citizens in an appeal to their democratic sentiments.  I explained to each person who stopped to listen that their signature was an authorization to grant ballot status for the candidate.  Signing the petition was not an endorsement of the candidate or his views or an indication that they would vote for him.  The petition solely conferred ballot status to the candidate so that his views may be represented in the democratic market of ideas and voted on.  Most people readily if not eagerly signed the petition.  All felt it was critical that all opinions needed to be heard.  For many it was a passionate defense of the democratic process and a celebration of their commitment to the ideals of a democratic republic.  I doubt weather today’s voters would be so approachable.  The ability to listen with an open mind or being amenable to signing a petition to grant ballot status for a socialist candidate is rapidly disappearing from America’s political culture.  Pluralism is under attack.  It is being hunted down and eradicated like a species of animal unfit to live in a democratic landscape meticulously manicured by the Glenn Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.    Times have certainly changed.

In the interest of transparency and in the spirit of full disclosure I feel the need to admit that I have always been a registered independent voter ever since I was eligible to vote.  At the age of 54, I have been an active voter for 36 years and during that time I have rarely missed an opportunity to exercise my right and fulfill my responsibility as a fully enfranchised citizen in a democratic republic.

Like those who signed my petition back in 75 I consider it a privilege and duty to participate in the electoral process.  I always believed that free and open elections were a distinguishing characteristic of  America.  I consider voting a bedrock right that must be exercised to assure that democracy endures.   The US Constitution and The Bill of Rights remain the surest guarantor of our democratic freedoms and can only be defended by celebrating our enfranchisement through the consistent practice of voting.

The right to vote was hard won.  It was the a fruit of liberty watered with the blood of revolutionaries.  It was the full promise of liberation made to former slaves wrested from the peace won from drinking a long draft of wine pressed from the grapes of wrath.  Women right to vote was finally won well after the century mark of our republic finally securing true universal suffrage for all citizens.  When I vote I believe myself to be honoring the hard fought and dearly won suffrage victory of those who went before.  I scratch my head at learning that Meg Whitman only recently realized that healthy democratic societies requires its citizens to participate in the electoral process.  The growing preponderance of retired multi-millionaire businesspeople running for office is a curious development.  This new breed of politician comes before the electorate speaking about the poverty of the systems political values.  Emboldened with a perverse freedom from want these candidates approach politics as the next step in an enterprising career move.  Flush with cash channeled from their personal version of the American dream they testify to the sanctity of laissez-faire democracy and  are willing to use a portion of their treasure to keep hope alive for a very very select few.

During my 36 year voting career in national, state and local elections I usually vote for third party candidates.  I do this because I believe that the duopoly of our political system does not provide sufficient options for a differentiated choice between the two ruling parties.  I vote for progressive  third parties because I believe it important that we break the stranglehold of the two party system.  A precondition to breaking the control of the duopoly is to alter the political psychology of American voters.  This takes education, enhanced transparency and the visibility and honest engagement of third party candidates, not their demonization.    I try to vote for the person over party and I have voted for a Republican or two over the years.  If a third party candidate is not running for office I more then likely vote Democrat because I believe them to be a closer match to the political interests of my social position and political aspirations.

The expansion of choice, the delineation of positions, the articulation of differing visions and approaches to problems are important to the health of a democratic society.  The people who signed my petition for SWP ballot status knew and respected the importance that all voices need to be heard.  Some as I recall even expressed a dislike for socialism but voiced a love of democracy.  By signing the petition they demonstrated their commitment to cherished democratic ideals was greater then their political prejudices; believing that all voices needed to be heard and fairly judged by an open and free electorate.

The deep abiding respect for Americas democratic culture is in dire jeopardy.  The sickening video of a Rand Paul supporter stomping on a woman carrying a banner in support of his opponent has become an iconic symbol of American politics.  Last week, unlicensed security personnel for Sarah Palin’s handpicked Alaska Senate Candidate Joe Miller, handcuffed and forcibly restrained a reporter who dared to ask Mr. Miller a question.  These incidents are being played out against a backdrop of virulent attack advertisements playing in continuous loop on all media channels.  The unending stream of personal attacks demonizes the candidates that feature fantastic claims framed by blatant lies in service to a narrow ideology that protects the power and privilege of special interests.

Or consider the surreal parade of “I Am You” candidates.  These non-professional politicians speaking the hard truths political correctness refuses to utter, make comical faux pas that reveal damning personal virtues like witchcraft, Nazi affectations, knuckleheadism, opportunism and scoundrelism.  This off putting political theater erodes our faith and confidence in democratic process.

One can imagine the enemies of democracy gleefully advancing the careers of the political cretins presenting themselves as viable candidates.  These dangerous Fifth Columnists actually endanger democracy.  They are so off putting that the electorate will revile from the choices, like in Nevada which allows the voter to pull the lever for none of the above.  In fact an insidious Republican PAC is running ads aimed at Latino voters in the Southwest.  The ads advise Latinos to boycott the election and vacate the right to vote because the Democratic Party has abandoned them.  The advertisement concludes that not voting is the best way to send a message to the Democrats.

One also needs to evaluate and consider the big money moving into the campaign on behalf of  the two major parties.  The source of “big money” is big moneyed interests.  The Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has unleashed a tsunami of corporate money into the electoral process.  The money is buying favor from our elected representatives.  Lots of this money is flowing into the campaigns of Tea Party backed candidates who are running under the well worn moniker of Republicanism, exposing the sham masquerade of their avowed independence.

Big money is instilling fear and favor into politicians of the established parties.  Donkeys and Elephants are eager to avoid the scorpion sting of big money finance vehicles and are just as eager to mainline the addictive smack of big money contributions.  One can argue this has degraded and devalued the significance of our vote but I am here to assert that the value of our vote has never been greater.

Free people deserve more then a choice between the lesser of two evils.  If we value our democracy we must not squander our votes on candidates whose interests are antithetical to our own.  The Green Party offers a vision and solutions that are not beholden to the special interests that have a stranglehold over our political institutions and economic system. The political pornography polluting our airways is clogging the arteries of our body politic.  America can no longer suffer the paralysis of government engendered by extreme partisanship or the promulgation of  fear promoted by intractable power elites.  America is in desperate need for a cure the lesser of two evils cannot provide.  The greater or lesser evil can only be avoided by voting for a progressive candidate not bought or controlled by those who continue to thrive off the misery of our broken system.   The back and forth swing  of a pendulum that oscillates between the radical conservatism of the Republicans and the ineffectual liberalism of the Democrats united in service to a common master needs to come to a blessed end.  America can break with this cycle.  A vote for Green is a vote for the sustainable future of  a more democratic and just America.

The Ten Key Values of the Greens

Social Justice
Community-Based Economics
Nonviolence
Decentralisation
Future Focus/Sustainability
Feminism
Personal and Global Responsibility
Respect for Diversity
Grassroots Democracy
Ecological Wisdom

You Tube Music Video:

Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, This Land Is Your Land

Part 1: Tea Party Fundamentalism

Part 2: Damnation of the Democrats

Risk: democracy, elections

November 1, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, culture, democracy, democrats, elections, ethnic, government, Palin, politics, psychology, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Juan Williams Gets A Raise

The dismissal of Juan Williams from his correspondent position at NPR is a watershed event.  Conservative pundits will be screaming about First Amendment rights and the abuses of government controlled media.  Mr. Williams was fired by NPR for violating guidelines on a statement he made as a paid commentator on Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor.”  When asked about the racial profiling of Muslim’s Mr. Williams stated:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said Monday. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

At first glance it seems to be pretty innocuous stuff.  Mr. Williams citing his unease at seeing a woman of the veil on an airplane is well within his First Amendment right to do so.  The fact that I consider Mr. Williams fear to be based on a prejudice that prejudges someone based on appearances is beside the point.  Its synonymous with police officers stopping motorists on interstate highways because  of their race.  The crime of driving while black should not be sufficient to infringe a persons right to privacy or impede their safe passage.  Mr. Williams has the right to express those fears and prejudices and I will defend his right to do so.

Mr. Williams employer NPR also has a right to require that employees conform to certain guidelines that support the mission of a public news organization.  NPR requires that its employees refrain from making public editorial pronouncements on public media outlets.  It is understood  that editorializing correspondents may injure or cause harm to the NPR brand as a trusted source of objective reporting.  As such NPR is well within its right to protect its franchise by removing Mr. Williams from his position as a correspondent.  Professional athletes and corporate executives all have clauses in their employment contracts that stipulate unbecoming conduct that hurts the company franchise is grounds for dismissal.  NPR exercised that clause.

What is interesting about this event is the contrast of journalistic standards practiced by NPR and Fox.  NPR receives some government funding and was originally chartered to assure that radio broadcast services would be available to the smaller rural markets ignored by commercial radio.  Recently NPR programming consists of thoughtful up market features that has less mass appeal for profit oriented radio media outlets.  Its news programing, All Things Considered and Morning Edition offered in depth reportage that is thoughtful, fair and balanced.  It strives to be objective and for the most part is.

The contrast with Fox News is striking.  Belying its marketing handle of “fair and balanced reporting”, Fox News is anything but fair or balanced.  I find Fox News to be a consistent platform for the conservative movement and as such it’s reporting is hardly objective.  Its commentators routinely express an opinion on the news that is editorial in nature.  Fox News has built a profitable franchise on its editorial positions and its assemblage of commentators  (Rove, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Palin) that eagerly express the political bias of its corporate parent News Corp.  Fox News correctness has been vindicated in the marketplace of ideas as its corporate sponsors and large viewer ship endorses its editorial positions.

The complex amalgam of the commercial viability of media channels, the branding of ideas, news as objective reportage, editorialism as a media commodity and the subtle distinction of opinion versus news are issues laying at the heart of Juan Williams dismissal from NRP.  Though fired from NPR for expressing an opinion that NPR thought unfair and hurtful to Muslims, Fox News awarded Mr. Williams a $3 million contract to expand his presence with the fair and balanced network.  Clearly the free market of ideas confirms  that Mr. Williams prejudice and intolerance toward Muslims advances the commercial interests of Fox News.

Its alarming that the value of  prejudice and intolerance is rising and that major corporate brands like News Corp find it so intrinsically linked to it he price of its stock as a publicly traded company.  Truly a disturbing example of  bankruptcy of the free market of ideas.

You Tube Music Video:  Mott the Hoople, All The Young Dudes

Risk: free speech, commercial media, objective reporting, prejudice

 

October 22, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kristallnacht in America

The passage of the Health Care Reform Bill has incited an angry reaction by rightist militants.  These incensed and deeply aggrieved ill led people are self deluded uber patriots.  They believe themselves to be striking a blow for individual liberty when in fact their actions consistently undermine the central tenants of our democratic republic.   They are convinced that the new heath care legislation is  America’s decent into a fascist hell led by Il Duce Obama;  and are prepared to water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants and in some cases their own.   They spit on and hurl racist and homophobic epitaphs at those they disagree with.  Under the cover of darkness these imbecilic cowards have embarked on midnight drive-bys of the local offices of congress members who supported the legislation.  They smash windows, fire bullets and leave threatening voice messages to let the politicians  know of their anger and  resentment.  It’s an American version of a Kristallnacht.

There are some interesting parallels with Kristallnacht that goes deeper then a convenient metaphor of broken glass.  Though I don’t draw any equivalency with the severity and consequence of Kristallnacht with the rightists night of egg throwing and window smashing;  I believe similar motivational ideals triggered the emotional response of the midnight ramblers and the Nazi zealots that authored the first chapters of Hitlers Final Solution.

Indeed both are inspired and encouraged by pernicious and dangerous sycophants who are skilled practitioners in the fine art of The Big Lie. The Nazi’s were goaded into action by Joseph Goebbels; while our American Brown Shirts have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and mainstream media giant Fox News to instigate a 24/7 anti-Obama diatribe that whips the ditto heads into anger fueled action.  Right wing politicians like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo and a growing number of far right conservatives freely use the rhetoric of armed resistance to any government initiative.  They cull the support of angry Teabaggers and a growing Militia Movement that flies the Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The latter  are armed to the teeth and stand minuteman ready to exact swift retribution if you step on their toes.

Radical conservatives have waged a Rovian campaign to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama through red herrings like the Birther Movement.  The rightists deliberately work to confuse and frighten citizens to further their political careers and agendas.  Like Joseph Goebbels they are skilled practitioners in the use of The Big Lie.  The more outlandish the lie, and oft repeated the more believable it becomes.  Since assuming the office of President we have been harangued with negative messaging initiatives by radical conservatives.  Obama is a fascist.  Obama is a Muslim.  Obama is a socialist.  Obama is the Antichrist.  Obamacare will form death panels to conduct social triage.  FEMA is building concentration camps to inter  Teabaggers.  Obama will confiscate your guns and take away your right to bear arms.  Obama wants to address our nations school children indoctrinate them.  Don’t fill out the census because it will allow the government to better track your movements and whereabouts.  The  incessant repetition of these ideas and the complicit silence of conservative leaders to refute them has served to delegitimize the Obama presidency and undermine our nations ability to converse and form a consensus to address the deep problems of our country.

The political culture of America is a landscape of extremes.  The growing fissures are making it more difficult to form any consensus.  These fissures are exploited and exacerbated by competing media channels which define and shape political understanding and context.  A shared political vocabulary and nomenclature of understanding is increasingly undermined by words and symbology that are appropriated by political factions.  Meanings and concepts are codified to create a language and political context that is used to understand factional ideology to support a political cosmology that is understood and accepted by the faithful.  This makes dialog even more difficult if not impossible because the language of political discourse across the partisan divide translates poorly and in fact helps to solidify the meaning of otherness.   Martin Bubur’s  “I and Thou” is an instructive work on how the objectification of the other leads to  their dehumanization.  Once a person is dehumanized,  any action taken against them can be  justified.  Those on the other side of the isle are now the “other” who you cannot trust.  We wrote about McCain’s pejorative use of “That One” to describe Obama during one of their presidential election debates.  The “other” becomes  an actual suspect lying  at the root of the problem confronting the aggrieved.  The problem of incompatible dialects and protracted partisanship eventually leads to the dehumanization of the other.  It doesn’t take much of  a leap to believe that the elimination or suppression of the other will lead to a final solution to our country’s problem.

Kristallnacht was a watershed event in the history of German Nazism.  In response to an assassination of a German diplomat in Paris the Nazi’s initiated a wave of terror against German Jews.  On orders from Nazi zealot and the party’s Chief of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  a wave of hate fueled attacks were unleashed by gangs of SS , Hitler Youth and Gestapo thugs to attack and destroy the property of Jews.   The pogrom resulted in the deaths of 91 Jews and 25,000 to 30,000 were arrested and placed in concentration camps.  267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.  The broken glass that littered the streets from ransacked shops is how Kristallnacht (Chrystal Night) derives its ignominious name. Kristallnacht is understood to be the beginning of Hitler’s Final Solution, which lead to the Holocaust.  It is certainly one of modern civilizations most shameful and tragic events.

The howling yodelers of talk radio and the ministers of propaganda at Fox News intent on exercising their right of free speech by dehumanizing their opponents, inciting angry lemmings into vandalism,  racist diatribes and vigilante terror are stoking the flames of a bitterly divided nation that threatens to immolate our badly divided house.   More rightly this movement could be considered a Falange movement and is not without precedence in history.  Falangism advances a reactionary agenda.  Its  violent temperament is nationalist and often religious in character.  Falangism emerges in weak democracies  and are symptomatic  of a society in decline.  Falangists promise a return to the prosperity and values of the past  that are quickly dissolving in the embroiled clash of cultural, political and economic contradictions democracies find difficult to resolve.   Glenn Becks’s Brownshirts need to understand that their misguided faux patriotism leads to some very dangerous and ugly places.  Its easy to smash the glass encasing our fading constitution.  Its more difficult to come together to address what needs to be done.  I hope its not to late.  I hope Mr. Beck’s final solution is not an historical inevitability for America.

You Tube Music Video: Rolling Stones,  Sympathy for the Devil

Risk: political

March 26, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, Obama, Palin, social unrest | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments