Tag: Media

#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

October 19, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

I was at our local #occupy protests on Saturday for what organizers were calling a “Global day of action”. This week marks one month since #occupywallstreet began their occupation in New York City, and have proven to be an inspiration to people around the globe.

Omaha is not exactly known as a hotbed of radical activism or sentiment. Protests here regularly turn out a half-dozen or so committed activists, but rarely much more than that. My wife and I decided that the time had come for us to express our discontent with the existing socio-political environment here, and so we headed out to #OccupyOmaha on Saturday morning. Expecting low numbers, we were surprised when we could see people streaming towards the meeting site from blocks away.

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The so-called Iranian terrorist plot

October 12, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More
The so-called Iranian terrorist plot

About a year ago, I was speaking to man whose son was serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. Without any provocation the man announced to me that we ought to simply drop a nuclear bomb on Iran and “take care of that problem once and for all.”   I was not surprised to hear such a blunt call for such widespread sterile violence. I’d heard talk like this before on AM talk radio, and I’ve heard it since. I’m well-aware that many of our conservative citizens and politicians are wired up in this Manichean/essentialist way, where all people residing in the Middle-East are suspect (or worse) and America is the greatest nation in the history of the entire galaxy, no matter that it refuses to take care of its own while burning $2 billion/week in Afghanistan. I’ve heard far too many people speak simplistically of burning millions of Iranians in a nuclear fire, all the while racking up such a proposed mass-murder with a shrug after labeling it “collateral damage.”   This is what it’s now like in the horror-carnival that much of America has become. For those of us who are able to pull our minds out of tribal mode even a bit are witness to hordes of blindered fellow citizens who have been turned intensely incurious by a mass media obsessed with conflict pornography and urged on by psychopathic politicians.

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How to bring journalism back to life

April 13, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
How to bring journalism back to life

Robert McChesney and John Nichols have written an excellent new book: The Death and Life of American Journalism: the Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again (2010). This book precisely articulates a litany of bad news with regard to journalism:

  • Newspapers are dying. Only 16% of young Americans read the paper. The death of newspapers has not been caused by the Internet; they been dying for two decades. They are dying because they are not exposing readers to new challenging ideas. Rather, they excel at presenting us with “weather reports, celebrity gossip, syndicated fare and exercise tips.”
  • Newspapers are dying because corporate chains gobbled them up and milk them by cutting their new status, virtually eliminating investigative journalism.
  • Modern-day journalism relies far too much on officials in power to set the agenda, thus making news cheap and bland; they explore important issues only when those in power bicker amongst themselves about those issues.
  • Because of the loss of journalists, 50% of our news is now based on press releases issued by PR specialists and uncritically repeated on the pages of America’s newspapers.

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Anti-communist propaganda alive and well

September 14, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Anti-communist propaganda alive and well

For some reason, our government and its propaganda arm, the mainstream media, refuses to give up beating the dead horse that is Cuba. We’ve had it in for them ever since they went Commie, and we’re not about to quit now! I just noticed this article from Newsweek entitled “Castro tells the truth about Cuba” which gives us the current bad news:

He has outlasted eight U.S. presidents, survived countless CIA efforts to do him in, and his communist regime has remained in power for a generation after the collapse of his Soviet sponsors. So what does the leader of the 1959 Cuban revolution think now of the system he created? Last week The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported Fidel Castro’s startlingly honest assessment: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Some observers suggest that the 84-year-old Castro’s unexpected honesty may be a belated attempt to throw himself on history’s mercy. After all, they say, Cuba is in tatters. According to Andy Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami, tourism on the island has declined 35 percent this year, and remittances are expected to drop to $250 million—far below the peak of $800 million earlier this decade. Cuba’s own National Statistics Office has reported that economic indicators, such as construction and agriculture, were down significantly in the first half of the year. And last month, President Raúl Castro began a process of dismissing or transferring some 20 percent of state employees—a major move, given that the government employs more than 90 percent of the country’s labor force. Says Gomez, “The Cuban economy is the worst it’s ever been.”

How dare Castro “survive countless CIA efforts to do him in”, who does he think he is?? Anyway, some of these numbers are meaningless without comparison, so let’s look at the good-old U.S. of A.

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BP now controls federal, state and local law enforcement

July 6, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
BP now controls federal, state and local law enforcement

This headline sounds absurd. It MUST be hyperbole, right? Wrong. Glenn Greenwald has the details. There is a war against the press and BP is operating a police state, thanks to BP largess and government acquiescence.

Obviously, the U.S. Government and BP share the same interest — preventing the public from knowing the magnitude of the spill and the inadequacy of the clean-up efforts — but this creepy police state behavior is intolerable.

Greenwald links to Raw Story for more details and a video featuring Anderson Cooper.

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Boston newspaper tailors news for remaining readers

June 11, 2010 | By | Reply More
Boston newspaper tailors news for remaining readers

As always, The Onion is on top of this important story:


Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers

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How to force access to public records through freedom of information acts

June 10, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
How to force access to public records through freedom of information acts

Given the journalistic collapse of much of the commercial media, and especially given the disturbing absence of investigative journalism, it is increasingly up to bloggers and other citizen journalists to expose the wrong-doing of public entities. But what can you do if government agencies won’t hand over their public records? You force them to hand them over by making use of the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or by making use of your state’s public records act. After all, the information possessed by government entities doesn’t belong to the government; it belongs to you and me.

This principle that records should always be open and available to the public has been articulated by almost every prominent politician. Consider this quote:

Fundamental to our way of life is the belief that when information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and—eventually-incapable of determining their own destinies.

Who said this? Richard M. Nixon.

How does one learn how to make use of the various public records acts? One could go to the kind of seminar I recently attended. David Cuillier gave such a talk in St. Louis. Cuillier is the Chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. He provides ongoing news and tips about FOI here and here. During his talk Cuillier offered quite a few resources for those wanting to force the production of such records. Most of those resources are contained in a pamphlet, titled “Unlocking the Power of Public Records.” Cuillier specifically invited those attending to freely publish this immensely helpful resource on the Internet. Thus, I am making it available here.

Cuillier indicated that ¾ of journalists are generally not doing the work to force the production of information that could be valuable to their stories. He offered a long list of important stories based on public records. For instance, the Seattle Times reported that in 2003, 159 coaches were reprimanded or fired for sexual misconduct in one state, yet 98 of them were rehired in comparable positions. He also mentioned an immensely important story regarding toxins in drinking water written by Charles Duhigg at the NYT. Consider this excerpt:

In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.

None of this could have been done without extensive use of public records. I’ll mention a few of the most important resources discussed by Cuillier. The site of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) offers “great information” that is searchable. It also offers “tip-sheets,” which are handouts from the IRE conferences (“these alone are worth the cost of membership in IRE”). He also recommends the SPJ website, which is loaded with resources. PIPL is a “private site offering valuable information assisting the investigation of people (Cuillier is correct—I PIPL’ed myself and it did offer quite a bit of information).

An unusual site Cullier mentioned is Government Attic. Cuillier describes this as a site created by an “eccentric guy who puts lots of FOIA records online.” Yet another site getting accolades from Cuillier is “OGIS,” “a great federal agency that helps requesters.”

Open Government Guide offers links to guide you through the open records laws of each of the states. This resource is extremely impressive. Those from Missouri (my state) might also want to consider the Missouri Municipal League, which offer guidelines to Missouri municipalities (but these can also be helpful to those seeking information from municipalities.

Cuillier explained that getting police department records is much more difficult today than it was several decades ago. Several veteran reporters in the room concurred. Cuillier explained “This is dangerous—we need to take back government from the secret police departments that are growing.”

For much more information, view the attached pamphlet and visit the many websites linked above. Beware that there are many hurdles erected by many government entities (e.g., exorbitant copy fees for the records), but there are also many strategies for overcoming these hurdles.

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We’re letting our children down.

June 1, 2010 | By | Reply More
We’re letting our children down.

Look what advertising has so often come to: img_2567The advantage of going with this company is that they won’t hit you with “hidden fees.” They won’t cheat you. Much food packaging and advertising is comparable. We won’t poison you with strange chemicals! Zero grams of trans fats! All natural!

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

– Hunter S. Thompson

But it gets worse. In our schools we work hard to teach our children civility and kindness. For instance, take a look at this wonderful set of “Rules to Live By” displayed at New City School, in St. Louis Missouri. Who could possibly dispute the importance of any of these rules? These characteristics precisely describe the kinds of children we want to raise, right?

img_2593

Now consider the accusations that we commonly hear as the centerpiece of media stories, especially political media stories. They are full of untruths, untrustworthy characters, refusal to listen and tons of vicious put-downs. Our conflict-pornography obsessed news media works hard every day to undo the lessons we so carefully teach our children.

There is something terribly wrong with us. Fixing this lack of truth and civility should be one of our highest priorities. One easy suggestion is to turn off the television or radio whenever they report fake news that is really conflict pornography. Label it as not-news and just shut it off. Or, better yet, switch over to real news like Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, where you’ll hear truth from a trustworthy reporter, who will actively listen to her guests and offer absolutely no put downs.

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What’s more interesting? War or Peace?

April 8, 2010 | By | Reply More
What’s more interesting?  War or Peace?

What’s more interesting? War or Peace?

I ran a query on Google Trends, and you could probably have predicted that war is far more interesting than peace. Here’s the graph that resulted:

war-and-peaceWar is always more interesting that peace. That’s how we are wired. We find conflict so interesting that the news media creates conflict when there isn’t any naturally occurring. We are have thus become a society addicted to conflict, the more the better, it seems. Thus, with media reinforcing our dark urges to be entertained by violence, we have become a war-mongering society. In this post, I called our addiction “Conflict Pornography.”

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