|August 30, 2013||Bursting the bubble||no comments|
|August 14, 2013||The healing, part 2||27 comments|
|August 06, 2013||Back in the U.S.S.R.||10 comments|
|July 22, 2013||Let the healing begin||10 comments|
|July 17, 2013||Hell just froze over!||1 comments|
|July 11, 2013||Sick gun fantasies realized||12 comments|
|July 02, 2013||July 4 reality check||1 comments|
|June 25, 2013||Gandolfini: big man, big heart||1 comments|
|June 13, 2013||Make up your mind||3 comments|
|June 04, 2013||Right call on terror||13 comments|
Those who consume news and opinion exclusively from conservative sources, eschewing the so-called mainstream media, are living in an information bubble that’s often devoid of reality. A lot of my critics who post here come to mind.
I came across a great example that demonstrates how this process works. As a media expert and as a public service, I will dissect it for readers:
On August 13, Fox News’ “America Live” program featured Christian Whiton, a former state department official. The host began the segment by telling viewers “a new theory” on the Benghazi attacks had emerged: the CIA, the host said, was running missiles through Libya and a “bunch of those missiles were stolen.”
The host then offered a sound bite from one Joseph di Genova who claims his “sources” told him “400 missiles were diverted” and had “gotten into the hands of some very ugly people.” Di Genova suggested the missiles might be used to shoot down an airliner.
A viewer would be left understandably shaken and angry, especially since this allegation is layered on top of so many others about Benghazi presented by Fox News.
This story is based entirely on Joseph di Genova’s allegation so, question one, who is Joseph di Genova? Is he a former CIA spook? Was he in Libya during the alleged theft? From whom did he learn that missiles fell into the hands of “ugly people,” i.e. Islamic terrorists?
These are very basic journalistic questions any objective producer would ask in order to establish a source’s credibility - but not at Fox News.
You see, Joseph di Genova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, are both high-profile Washington lawyers and long-time Republican operatives who have a record of playing fast and loose with the truth while trading on bogus controversies like Benghazi. At best, di Genova’s credibility is compromised so no self-respecting journalist would take him at his word.
Now that we know who di Genova is, the second question is, why is Fox News providing a platform for a compromised source to make an unsubstantiated and inflammatory allegation?Most everything the administration has said about Benghazi has been corroborated by multiple independent and credible sources ranging from former CIA Director, Gen. David Petraeus to Greg Hicks, one of the so-called Benghazi “whistle blowers.” There is no scandal, explaining why the investigations looking for one have gone nowhere.
But the Benghazi non-scandal supports Fox News’ relentless assertion that Obama “let Americans die,” a narrative it has pushed for nearly a year. Thus, Fox News must keep Benghazi alive.
Third question: Who is Christopher Whiton? Answer: Whiton worked in George W. Bush’s State Department. He’s a conservative and a frequent critic of the Obama administration on Fox News. Whiton, like di Genova and Fox News, is also heavily invested in the Benghazi non-scandal, having mouthed phony allegations in media interviews.
Whiton was probably supposed to support di Genova’s allegations, so the Fox host must have been shocked when Whiton said the lawyer’s theory “didn’t add up.”
It doesn’t matter. Viewers heard “400 missiles,” “stolen,” Libyan “ugly people,” and “airliners,” so the Benghazi non-scandal lives on at Fox.
If all goes well, the latest non-scandal story sticks and gets repeated by other right wing media types, eventually finding currency inside the conservative bubble. Sure enough, World Net Daily, Town Hall, CNS News and other anti-Obama conspiracy theory web sites and media have repeated di Genova’s unsubstantiated charges.
To summarize: a cable news network headed by a former Republican operative, Roger Ailes, which has invested its tattered credibility in pushing the Benghazi non-scandal, presents another Republican operative’s baseless Benghazi “theory” as fact, then hopes a third Republican operative will support it.
All of this depends on one thing: an audience gullible, stupid or lazy enough to believe it.
I have news for these conservatives. America is a long way from racial harmony and black civil rights leaders know it even if some Pollyannas want to stick their heads in the sand or blather on about how we don't have "colored" drinking fountains in the South anymore.
I recently offered here some pungent examples of the nasty race baiting that has polluted the nation's airwaves since the Martin verdict. Many black Americans were stunned that George Zimmerman could stalk and gun down an unarmed black teenager and walk away from his crime, rightly believing that if it had been the other way around, Trayvon would already be on death row in Florida.
Rush Limbaugh, who (shamefully) speaks for today's conservative movement, chortled on about he could now say "nigga" with an "a" because that's not racist.
I take issue with the comments of another MDJ columnist who recently wrote, "We know we have worked hard to improve race relations, only to have the nation’s first black President join (Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson) and become a divider."
No, President Obama spoke out, quite eloquently, on the shooting of Trayvon and how many African-Americans feel justice was not served in his case and that, as Americans, we can do better. His remarks were even applauded by his 2008 nemesis, Sen. John McCain. The president has also addressed, repeatedly, black-on-black violence while noting that the lack of economic opportunity for young black men leads to a disproportionate number of them committing crimes.
Perhaps the writer didn't listen to the president's speech. If he had, he would have heard this:
"I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean that we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues.
"(W) e should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union -- not a perfect union, but a more perfect union."
"My sense of betrayal and frustration lies in the total failure of our first black president to be the reconciler he could have been," writes the MDJ columnist.
Reconciliation is it?
Perhaps he didn't hear Fox New's Geraldo Rivera say this: The George Zimmerman jurors "would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did…You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug."
Is that how we whites of good will help sooth the raw emotions most all of our black friends and neighbors feel as they watched Zimmerman go scot free especially after one of his six jurors now says he "got away with murder."
The reason Rivera, Limbaugh and dozens of other far right media types can get away with this is because they know too many of their white, aging, male, conservative audiences agree with them. But if Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host who drew national attention to the Martin case, expresses outrage over the verdict, he's hurting race relations.
"My purpose is to emphasize how they and President Obama are making things worse instead of better, and how they are saying 'No thanks!' to citizens, including white conservatives, who have worked diligently to promote racial harmony," the writer continues.
Diligently is it?
Somebody who calls himself "Cobb Co Guy" noted on my blog: "Novelist Stephen Hunter put it best: '[The] presumption is that the African-American community is immature, impulsive, prone to violence and incapable of understanding the nuances of the case.'"
That kind of harmony? Or this kind, from National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent: African-Americans can solve “the black problem” if they put their “heart and soul into being law-abiding...”
Reconciliation comes when you have mutual understanding and a productive dialog, acknowledging and accepting each sides' grievances, and working together toward resolution, which is exactly what President Obama is calling for.
We’re supposed to be impressed because local Russian émigré Oleg Ivutin once lived in the old Soviet Union. Ivutin would have us believe he is authoritative enough to declare the United States is on the “fast track” to becoming the Soviet Union.
I don’t know which proves how utterly uninformed Ivutin is; his absurd comments before the Georgia Tea Party, as reported in the MDJ, or his woeful ignorance of American politics.
It sounds suspiciously like Ivutin is getting his political education from Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and other far right radio conspiracy theorists.
Ivutin says the recent disclosures about domestic metadata spying by the National Security Agency means America is devolving into a Soviet-style “evil empire,” to quote Ronald Reagan. This fits neatly into the bogus tea party narrative that President Obama is a secret Commie.
“Obama’s argument for all this is always, ‘Well, I have this power, but we’re never going to use it. And time after time again he uses it, and whatever is going to happen after Obama we don’t know.”
Ivutin is evidently unaware of 9-11 and the powers President George W. Bush demanded in the wake of the worst terrorist attack in American history. Those powers were timidly handed over by Congress and have been in effect ever since.
We’re told the spying has prevented dozens of terrorist attacks. I guess we have to believe that, but blaming Obama for the scope and scale of NSA spying is nonsense.
Speaking of spying, the KGB, Ivutin says, encouraged Soviets to spy on one another. The FBI, Ivutin added without offering any proof, is doing the same thing through the non-profit group Infragard, which is actually designed to prevent cyber attacks, not report on what your neighbor is doing.
Ivutin bizarrely goes on to compare Soviet and U.S. prisons.
“In Russia, they were benefiting from slavery when they were putting people in jails. Here, private prisons make money off of prisoners. So when prisoners go to prison the prison owner gets money, part of that is profit.”It’s called privatization, Oleg, a concept thoroughly embraced by conservatives like you who contend private industry can do most all things better than the government. It’s also a concept that has been disproved time and again. In fact, the privatized prison system is a national disgrace.
No talk Ivutin delivers would be complete without some old fashioned tea party Red-baiting:
“I look at John McCain and Hillary Clinton. I don’t see any differences on any issues,” Ivutin said. “These people should openly admit that ‘Yes, we’re socialists’... This is why the tea party movement, the Ron Paul movement, the liberty movements are so popular is because everybody understands it finally.”
Except the tea party isn’t popular anywhere but in far right strongholds like Cobb County, where Ivutin and his pals bask in each others’ glow. In the rest of America, only 8 percent of Republicans self identify as tea partiers, according to a January Rasmussen poll. As for Ron Paul, he finished fourth in the Georgia primary last year.
Having failed to make his central point, that the U.S.A. is the next U.S.S.R., Ivutin concluded with the usual hollow tea party talking points:
“(W)e tell … the (GOP) establishment, ‘Look, we go this far. You will split the party of the conservative movement if you go along with this.’ I will be perfectly OK with that…in the future someone will remember that this country was made up of ideals and people who were willing to stand by them, not people who were willing to, just for political conveniences, adjust to things.”Ivutin doesn’t comprehend compromise – those “political conveniences” he speaks of – is a founding principle of the Republic. Americans understand, contrary to the tea party and Soviet dogmas, nobody gets everything they want all the time in American politics.
Now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted by a Florida jury for stalking, shooting and killing 17-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin, let’s turn to conservative media thought leaders for a sensitive and serious discussion on how we can ease the resulting racial tensions and begin the healing process.
Rush, you’re the voice of the modern conservative movement, so why don’t you start us off:
"I can now" say "’nigga' with an ‘a’" because "it's not racist.” A caller used the same slur and Rush warned him "not to try it on the street.”
How about the National Rifle Association’s deep thinker, board member and aging rocker Ted Nugent?
African-Americans can solve “the black problem” if they put their “heart and soul into being law-abiding...”
What say you, Bill-o?
The 104-year-old civil rights organization, the NAACP, is a "the grievance industry."
Laura Ingraham always has something inclusive and constructive to say:
"The Justice Department is humoring the race hucksters" at the NAACP.
Eric Bolling of “The Five”?
Tucker Carlson looks thoughtful:
Civil rights leaders are "hustlers and pimps who make a living off inflaming racial tensions."
Maybe former White House spokeswoman Dana Perino has something cogent and cohesive to add:
Liberals are "angry at Hispanics" after the verdict.
How about the man with the porn actor mustache, Geraldo Rivera?
The Zimmerman jurors "would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did…You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug."
Ann Coulter carefully considers both sides of an issue:
“It is only when the victim is black that we must have a show trial…and the threat of riots.”
Wait. I just noticed all these leading lights of conservatism are white people. Surely Dr. Ben Carson, a newly minted Fox News conservative commentator, has an important and positive contribution from the African-American perspective:
“(T)here must be something we could learn from this situation in addition to not creating a big racial divide."
After years of dismissing global warming - or "climate change," the euphemism that seems acceptable to conservatives -
Fox News did the unthinkable last week. It actually reported on the consequences of human-created green house gases.
The science behind climate change, like the science behind the theory of evolution, is pretty much conclusive. Still, right wingers like to pretend there is some big debate raging in the scientific community over global warming.
There is no debate.
Some 97 percent of all scientific papers that take a stand on the issue agree global warming is happening and we're seeing more and more of it's effects around the world. Likewise, 97 percent of all climatologists agree global warming is caused by human activity.
Of course, the conservative media dolts in the pay of the carbon-producing industries run by people like the Koch brothers always like to point at record cold snaps in an attempt to discredit global warming, ignoring the fact that these weather events along with drought, wildfires and flooding are actually part of the growing problem as scientists predicted.
On Monday the high was 95 degrees in New York City and 73 degrees in Dallas, Texas, just one example of disrupted weather patterns scientists say is caused by global warming.
So it was astounding that Fox News cited the Department of Energy in a report that warned "power disruptions that were caused by Superstorm Sandy" will become more frequent as global warming worsens.
Maybe now that the preferred source of information for conservatives is finally getting around to acknowledging what most all right-minded thinkers have known for years Fox News will stop mocking the irrefutable science and start getting serious about learning what global warming is doing to the planet.
As if we didn’t already have enough gun violence in America, along comes Zombie Industries with a series of shooting targets, dummies made up to look like those who support gun safety laws, one of which is the president of the United States.
Everything wrong with the gun industry and its allies can be summed up in what Zombie Industries is selling.
We already know the gun industry and its front group, the National Rifle Association, are completely irresponsible, refusing to consider even modest proposals to curb gun violence including universal background checks, something the NRA supported a decade ago. Zombie Industries squares the circle.
So, for $89.95, you can buy “Al” a human torso dummy that resembles Al Sharpton. When shot, the life-size dummy “bleeds.”
The company offers a disclaimer saying the dummy “represents fictitious characters” then tells the dummy’s back story this way: “Poor Al he was a Sharp guy…”
Sharpton, an African-American ordained minister who hosts MSNBC’s popular “Politics Nation” has been an outspoken supporter for sensible gun safety laws. He called out Zombie Industries on his show after the company exhibited a dummy in the likeness of President Obama at the NRA’s national convention.
We haven’t had enough gun violence directed at presidents?
Another dummy target, presented as a “gun control lobbyist, the most dangerous zombie in the USA today,” no doubt thrilled the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.
This isn’t funny. This isn’t good clean fun. It represents the basest, most disgusting underbelly of America’s gun culture, appealing to the sick fantasies of some who would love to turn their weapons on anyone who knows gun safety legislation saves lives.
Opinions diverge at this point as to what precisely that means.
To the Founding Fathers and the other landed, white men they represented, it meant becoming a new aristocracy akin to the old one in England, where moneyed gentry protected by royalty lorded over the common folk.
When freedom was won, the new American aristocrats consolidated power. Women, minorities, the poor and others not part of the new “aristocratic” class were deliberately excluded.
“All men are created equal” meant just that: white men of wealth were equal. They modeled Congress on the Parliament in Britain, with the aristocracy in the upper chamber, and even considered at one point crowning George Washington king.
In the century and a quarter that followed, America’s faux aristocrats pretty much had free rein to do as they pleased and the results weren’t pretty.
This is where the self-government part comes in. We the people came to understand the guiding principles of our Declaration and Constitution, intentionally or not, applied to everyone, not just the wannabe aristocrats.
America is far different today than it was in 1787. Most notably, every American enjoys the same rights but we must vigilantly safeguard them. The self-interest of modern day aristocrats is almost always at odds with the rights of everyone else.
The old robber baron aristocrats believed they had the right to clear cut entire forests, dump their factory and mill waste into rivers, and let the smoke from their furnaces blacken the skies. How this harmed others didn’t matter.
It became necessary for we the people, exercising self-government, to correct this inequity with new laws and the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce them. Not surprisingly, modern aristocrats want the EPA abolished.
Similarly, other aristocrats thought they had the right to put small children paid pennies to work in mines and factories for excruciatingly long hours. It never occurred to these self-interested white men that what they were doing was immoral.
The parents of those children likewise endured endless hours of toil in unsafe conditions at whatever pay the aristocrat decided he wanted to give them. Starvation was the alternative. This was exactly the way things were in England, after all.
We the people recognized the inequality and made laws curtailing these exploitative practices putting in place the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce them. OSHA is nonetheless reviled by modern aristocrats.A conservative MDJ writer suggested the other day that the EPA, OSHA and other federal agencies are ruled by despots ignoring the “letter and spirit of the Declaration and the Constitution” as if these agencies weren’t lawfully founded by the people to protect the rights of everyone; as if these agencies are not accountable to the people through Congress.
Change is inevitable. Change is constant. But I’m always amazed by educated people who fail to evolve their thinking and accept that change is a permanent part of our existence. The good old days, conservative types maintain, were the best days despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
These same conservatives consider anything new and different as evil and misguided. Look no further than their pathological hatred of the first African-American president as proof positive.
We the people have much to be grateful for. And what makes America great, what makes the American people great, thankfully, is the majority’s willingness to evolve despite the conservative minority always screaming “stop!”
Happy Fourth of July.
As Tony Soprano, the amoral, overbearing New Jersey mob boss with issues, James Gandolfini demonstrated his enormous acting talent, ranging from ruthless killer to shivering bowl of emotional Jell-O, sometimes in one episode.
Tony could be a charming dining companion one minute and viciously beat some poor mook with a pool cue the next, his family of hit men, thieves and miscreants living in abject terror and undying love of their capo de capo.
"This is the man I'm going to hell for," muttered Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperiale, one of The Soprano's outstanding cast members.
Over the last decade, the New Jersey born and bred Jim Gandolfini enjoyed tremendous success on the stage and screen in addition to television. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway comedy "God of Carnage" and played Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in last year's Oscar-nominated film, "Zero Dark Thirty."
So his death last week at age 51 while vacationing in Italy came as a shock, for Gandolfini seemed to be just hitting his stride.
One project that did not receive as much public notice as it should have was Gandolfini's documentary, "Alive Day Memories, Home From Iraq," in which the actor interviewed American servicemen and women wounded in battle about their injuries, their mental health and their hopes and dreams. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j08fvUk67U
Aired on HBO, "Alive Day" is a startling, sometimes shocking look at what our wounded warriors endured and what they are enduring as they re-enter civilian life. Some are missing limbs while others suffer post traumatic stress disorder. All of these young men and women volunteered to serve and deserve whatever it takes to help them assimilate and thrive in their post-war lives, which is the point of Gandolfini's film.
His friends and family remember Jim Gandolfini as a quiet, shy and generous man who, unlike a lot of stars, used his international celebrity for the greater good.
In expressing their wonderment, however, what conservatives actually reveal is their abject ignorance. It's another shining example of the epistemic closure I wrote about recently, in which right wingers live in their own information bubble stuffed with incorrect assumptions, falsehoods, distortions and lies.
They conclude that, because the Times isn't, say, Fox News, where virtually all coverage is tilted heavily to the right, it can't possibly be "objective".
I doubt few Cobb County conservatives bother reading the New York Times, so I can attest as a regular reader that Obama and his policies are routinely castigated or questioned by the Times' editorial and op-ed writers as well as in its White House coverage. Yet local conservatives are convinced - possibly because the newspaper is based in the Northeast - that the New York Times, one of the America's newspapers of record, is an unapologetic liberal rag that rolls over for Obama.
Realty check, please.
In the wake of 9-11, President Bush rushed to seize power, capitalizing on the fear and trepidation many of us felt after we watched the Twin Towers fall. The debate at the time, to the extent there was one at all, was that new, high tech tools were needed to fight international terrorism and we must unleash these against America's enemies.
We - you and me, friend - timidly allowed our elected representatives to ram through legislation like the Patriot Act that gives government busy bodies more, not less, power to intrude into our lives.
Now we're shocked these programs under Obama continue to cast a wide net, pulling in telephone and Internet communications records that can be used to zero in on, so we are told, suspicious traffic that could be terrorists...or might be just you or me chatting politics with friends, or visiting anti-government web sites, or reading about armed insurgencies.
Here's the thing: You allowed this to happen. So did I. As the comic strip character Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Do you want your security or do you want your freedom? Make up your mind.
To his everlasting discredit, Lyndon Johnson ginned up the rationale for all out war in Vietnam with his bogus Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Realizing what he'd done not long afterwards, to his everlasting credit, Johnson refused to run for a second term.
George W. Bush didn't have Johnson's courage or capacity for shame, otherwise he too would have declined to run for a second term after his bald-faced WMD lie was exposed.
None of this has stopped right wing commentators, many of whom assiduously avoided military service, from pushing their "Obama is surrendering the war on terror" B.S. It should be noted that many of these are the same people who were dead wrong when they were screaming for a war with Iraq 10 years ago.
As Gen. George Patton said of the Saturday Evening Post's editors, "(They) don't know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about (sexual intercourse)."
Unlike Vietnam, there was no conscription during the war on terror. If we had a draft, there would have never been an unprovoked invasion of Iraq without irrefutable evidence that Saddam had WMD. And there would have been a lot of hard thinking before U.S. boots were put on the ground in Afghanistan, history's cesspool.
Bush, who turned down a Vietnam tour, would never permit his wealthy friends to send their sons or daughters to Iraq.
I guarantee you, the College Republicans and Bush's Skull and Bones at Yale would have been the first guys protesting in the streets in 2003 if they had actually been compelled to go fight and perhaps die in Baghdad or Kabul.
I was in high school during Vietnam. My recollection is that protesters like the ones at the University of Wisconsin didn't want to be forced to put their lives on the line in a pointless conflict with no exit strategy. Nevertheless, Richard Nixon escalated the war when he took office in 1968 even though, by then, anybody with a brain knew Vietnam was a lost cause.
With neocon and right wing media chicken hawks cheering him on, Bush's response to a horrifying terrorist attack was to unleash America's military might on a relatively small number of stateless terrorists holed up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was like using an nuclear bomb to kill flies; no real thinking, no long range planning. Just blindly swinging massive fists and hoping to connect.
We accomplished almost nothing in Iraq and next to nothing in Afghanistan at a cost 7,000 dead Americans and at least $2 trillion. For the first time in American history, taxes were not raised to pay for either war. Rather, Bush put his wars on the national credit card.
God forbid the wealthy should be asked to sacrifice even one dollar of their precious earnings.
Meantime, until Obama had the guts to give the politically risky order to kill him, Osama bin Laden was giving the finger to America. Now bin Laden and scores of his lieutenants are burning in hell and al Qaeda is a shell of what it was in 2008.
President Obama is exactly right to call off the dogs of war. It was the wrong answer to the terrorism threat from the get-go. Investigations, surgical strikes, black ops, espionage and all the rest is how you take down vicious international thugs, not sending hundreds of thousands of American troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to "nation build."
(And to my usual critics: No, I didn't serve in uniform. The Vietnam war was over and the draft abolished by the time I graduated from high school. America went to an all-volunteer military and I chose not to enlist. I honor those who do serve and never, ever want to see our young servicemen and women committed to unnecessary wars where they are asked to risk their lives for the sake of some politician's "legacy" or a military contractor's profitability.)