Is The Corporate Media Deciding This Election For Us?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Are you following the election coverage? Here are some recent stories: The media pounds candidate Hillary Clinton to release her tax forms, because the public has a right to know. And she does release her and her husband’s returns, going back a decade. The media trumpets how much income they have been receiving, how rich they are, and drills down into details. If you follow the news, it is inescapable. At the same time candidate John McCain releases only partial forms that show all assets are now in his wife’s name, and he won’t release his wife’s tax returns. The media is mostly silent on this; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.
Another story: Candidate McCain won’t release his medical records. Again from the media there is mostly silence; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.
And here is the big story: Unless you have been in a coma you know that for several weeks video clips of statements by Barack Obama’s former minister have been aired nearly 24 hours a day on the news shows, especially on FOX News. These clips are considered scary by certain demographic groups who are not familiar with the speaking patterns of black ministers
Interestingly, at the same time as this “Obama’s minister” story is saturating the news there is another Presidential candidate with a “scary minister” problem of his own. But the news media is not providing the public with any information at all about the things this minister has said. In this case the Presidential candidate is John McCain and the minister is John Hagee. This minister has issued statements condemning Jews, is described as “virulently anti-Catholic,” and says that 9/11 and Katrina are examples of God punishing America. Yet John McCain sought out this minister’s endorsement and insists that he is “proud” to have received it.
While saturating the airwaves with scary video clips of Obama’s scary minister the corporate media is providing the public with almost no information about McCain’s. In the article, The McCain-Hagee Connection, the Columbia Journalism Review asks, “Why is the press ignoring this hate-monger?
Why, indeed?
A well-functioning democracy depends on an informed public. There is no question that the public deserves to know these things about Senators Clinton and Obama. The information in the examples cited here could and should have an effect on the election, because the public will weigh these factors into their voting decisions. But the public also needs the information about Senator McCain, presented with equal emphasis. And clearly this isn’t happening.
So with nearly identical stories — a relationship with a minister who makes scary and hateful statements — the corporate media chooses to present the information about only one to the public, and does so in a way that is guaranteed to scare the … excuse me … bejeesus out of everyone. The other is given a pass and a free ride, and the public is left without the information it needs to make an informed choice.
Why is this happening? Here is some background on our media:
In the United States the broadcast media used to be required by law to serve “the public interest” ahead of profits. Use of OUR airwaves was licensed out to private interests that were allowed to use them to profit to a limited extent in exchange for providing the public with information and news. We did this because it served our interests and those of our democracy.
The rules allowed very limited commercialization of this public resource. For example, in exchange for the license to make a profit from the use of the public airwaves the companies were required to provide educational content for children, news coverage, documentaries, arts and other public interest content. And by law the information had to be objective and balanced.
At certain times of the day the companies could then present commercialized content. But even then the commercialization was to be limited. They were limited in how much time during a show could be used for commercial advertisements — and the shows themselves were not allowed to be commercialized. There were even restrictions on what the commercial advertisements could say. Public benefit was the priority, commercial profits were limited.
It was an exchange – they get to make some money using our resource, and we get news and information that educates us and strengthens our democracy. Why else would we have allowed private companies access to our airwaves, but to serve the public?
This changed. In the early 1980s the Reagan administration unilaterally dropped the requirements that broadcast media serve the public interest and these companies promptly stopped serving the public interest and started serving their own corporate interests. As happens with any for-profit corporate interest commercialization became the only use of our public airwaves.
Shocked by this seizure of a public resource for corporate commercial interests the Congress immediately voted to restore the public benefit requirements, but Reagan vetoed this. Then, under President George H.W. Bush the Congress again voted to restore the public benefit requirements, and this was again vetoed. Under President Clinton the requirement was against brought before the Congress and again a majority voted to restore placing the priority on public benefit but Senate Republicans filibustered and blocked the bill.
So today there is no requirement that our mass media serve the public interest. Instead the only interests that are served are private, corporate interests and the only information the public receives through these outlets is information that benefits the corporations that control them.
Is this why we are seeing such dramatic disparities in the way information about the candidates is presented to the public? Should we be surprised?
Control of our information sources is now in the hands of corporations with no requirement that they serve the interests of democracy. So shouldn’t we expect that corporate interests are placed ahead of the public interest? If for-profit enterprises control the information the public receives then why wouldn’t they promote candidates who would be more favorable to their commercial interests?
Let me provide a clear example of how this affects all of us: When was the last time you saw or heard on a corporate outlet information about the benefits of joining a union? Of course you haven’t, and you wouldn’t expect to. And, in the years since the requirement that the broadcasters serve the public interest by providing balanced information, we have seen a dramatic decline in the percent of the workforce that is unionized. At the same time we have seen a dramatic increase in commercialization of everything, and in the power of corporations over the decision-making of our government.
What else should we expect?
Click through to Speak Out California

Limits On Treasury Bond Purchases?????

m4s0n501

I just received this email:

Dear TreasuryDirect Account Holder:
The Savings Bond Purchase Limitation has been changed to $5,000 per series
and TIN per calendar year. Please cancel any pending purchases that exceed
the yearly $5,000 limit.
This is an automatic message from TreasuryDirect.

WTF?

Industrial Agriculture Bad

A new independent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that the big industrial penal colonies for animals are causing long-term harm people and the planet. Never mind the horror inflicted on the animals and on our souls.
See You Animals! | Grist
The report (PDF) is: Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America

Today’s Housing Bubble Post — How Low?

This morning I wrote,

We’ll see a bottom when the average person can afford to buy an average house – and wants to. We are a long, long, long way from that now — and keep in mind that we’re about to see a big reduction in what the average person can afford as the recession takes hold.

CNN’s Money.com today: No brakes on housing prices8

As housing price losses extend, he said, the fall-off in demand for homes will deepen. And Schiff expects to see a national price decline of 30% – and by as much as 50% in the worst hit markets.

50%? In my area a 50% drop from the peak would bring houses down to maybe $400K. Will the average person around here be able to afford a $400K house a year from now, after a year of recession and after a tightening of loan standards? Not a chance. The price runup here saw a tripling to quadrupling of prices. And then they build thousands and thousands of houses in areas surrounding the SF Bay. So prices will have to fall by more than 50% – and the recession will have to end, and loans have to be available, and gas prices will have to fall a lot so commuters can drive to these houses – before houses will start selling again. Sorry for the bad news.
Yes, I do understand the cascading implications of that. It means that pretty much everyone who bought a house (or borrowed money on their home equity) since about 2001 – at least in this area – is going to be owing more on their mortgage than the house is worth. In many cases they will owe a LOT more. And they will decide to either be “good consumers” and sacrifice to protect the bank’s profits by making payments for 30 years on a house that is worth hundreds of thousands less than they owe (while their neighbors move in to the foreclosed house next door with payments that are less than half what they are paying), or they will make an economic decision to “walk away,” giving the house back to the bank, and make a fresh start. What do you think most people will do?

Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law

Please read Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law | Center for Media and Democracy.
Note that “Pentagon” means the Republican Party appointees in the administration who run the Department of Defense, which resides in the Pentagon.
The Pentagon was conducting “information operations” targeting the American public. This program was blatantly illegal.
Note that almost NO news outlets involved are reporting on this story at all. What does that tell you?

Today’s Housing Bubble Post — Prices Down 12.7% Feb. Year Over Year

It’s just getting started and home prices dropped 12.7% in February from the previous year. Home prices fall record 12.7% in past year, Case-Shiller say,

The decline in U.S. home prices quickened in February, with prices down a record 12.7% in the past year for 20 key cities, according to the Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor’s. “There is no sign of a bottom in the numbers,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. Prices in 19 of the 20 cities have fallen over the past year, with prices in all 20 cities falling month-to-month for six straight months. The biggest declines were in Las Vegas and Miami, with declines of more than 20% in the past year. Prices in Charlotte, N.C., are up 1.5%.

Remember, this is before the impact of a recession on housing sales.
When will we see a “bottom?” (The point where prices stop falling.) We’re nowhere near a bottom. We’ll see a bottom when the average person can afford to buy an average house – and wants to. We are a long, long, long way from that now — and keep in mind that we’re about to see a big reduction in what the average person can afford as the recession takes hold.

Bring Back The 90% Top Tax Rate!

When Eisenhower was President the top income tax rate was 91%. But you had to have already made a LOT of money before you hit that rate. (Eisenhower, by the way, supported that 91% top tax rate.)
That 91% tax rate is what got us out of the depression, and helped create a middle class (with the help of strong labor unions). It payed for fighting World War II and the GI Bill, and helped build our highway system, education system and other infrastructure that is in place today (albeit crumbling now from maintenance deferral resulting from tax cuts.) We did all that without borrowing, and the rich still got richer.
Think about this: If tax rates at the top were 91% today, hedge fund managers would STILL be bringing in over $300 million EACH YEARbut the rest of us would be able to get health care, fix the roads, good schools, and the other benefits that were the reason we – yes, we – enabled this economic system in the first place.
And think about this. If that top rate is 91% it reduces the incentive for corporate CEOs to bribe politicians to put policies in place that funnel all the wealth up to the top.
Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

The Middle Class Squeeze Is A Result Of LOW Taxes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
It is a popular misconception that taxes add to the squeeze on the middle class. But it isn’t tax increases that have squeezed the middle class, it’s tax cuts. It may be hard to believe (after so many years of constant anti-tax rhetoric) but here is why.
The middle class IS squeezed these days. There are pressures and long hours at work, long commutes, health insurance costs, housing costs, food and gas prices rising, and wages are not keeping up — they haven’t been for a long time. But it is not a coincidence that the middle-class squeeze began at the same time as the corporate-funded anti-government, tax-cutting fervor. In fact a good case can be made that many of the reasons the middle class feels squeezed are the result of pressures brought about almost entirely FROM the effects of tax CUTS and cutbacks in government services, regulations and enforcement that went along with the tax cuts.
There are direct and indirect relationships. One example of a direct relationship is the dramatic rise in the cost of a college education. Sending kids to college has become extremely expensive. And this places a very hard squeeze on parents who want their children to get a degree. But here in California tuition was very, very low before Proposition 13. Tax cuts directly led to this squeeze on the middle class. (And remember, most of the property taxes that were cut were on business property.)
Indirect results include rising energy prices from cutbacks in government R&D and subsidies for oil alternatives as well as longer commutes as the government cuts back on transit solutions like buses, trains and roadbuilding or improvements. Health care costs continue to rise because of government inaction and deregulation — the result of the anti-government sentiment encouraged as part of the the anti-tax campaign. And insurance costs rise while coverage is reduced or even denied as the government cuts back on regulation and enforcement. (My wife is the one who brings in the health insurance for our family. Every year she gets a raise, but every year the amount taken out of her check to cover her portion of the health insurance payment goes up by more than her raise, and her take-home pay is lower. So more squeeze.)
Other areas where the anti-government, anti-tax campaign has increased pressure on the average person is at work. Anyone that works for a corporation is feeling the extra pressures there. As government of, by and for the people declines corporate power fills the vacuum.
And there are so many more areas where we are squeezed by this increasing dominance of corporations in our lives. As government — the power of We, the People — diminishes, the corporations swoop in to pick us clean. How many examples of corporate power coming to dominate over people power can you think of?
Click through to Speak Out California

Mail I Get – Subprime Crisis Hits Japan

This came in the mail just now:

Sub-Prime Rate Problems hit Japan
Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run on Northern Rock in the UK, uncertainty has now hit Japan.
In the last 7 days
* Origami Bank has folded,
* Sumo Bank has gone belly up and
* Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches.
Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived.
Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, and Ninja Bank are reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black.
Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.

Ouch.

Pentagon Propaganda Story

Did Anyone see John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy on the Newhour yesterday? PBS was the first outlet to even mention the New York Times story about the government waging a huge propaganda campaign to sell the war to the public. All the networks, the Pentagon and everyone else involved refused to take part in the segment.

Here is an article by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Pentagon Propaganda: So Much Worse Than We Thought,

Thanks to the two-year investigation by the New York Times, we today know that Victoria Clarke, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, launched the Pentagon military analyst program in early 2002. These supposedly independent military analysts were in fact a coordinated team of pro-war propagandists, personally recruited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and acting under Clarke’s tutelage and development.
[. . .] Since the 1920s there have been laws passed to stop the government from doing what Barstow has exposed. It is actually illegal in the United States for the government to propagandize its own citizens. As Barstow’s report demonstrates, these laws have been repeatedly violated, are not enforced and are clearly inadequate. The U.S. Congress therefore needs to investigate this and the rest of the Bush propaganda campaign that sold the war in Iraq. (Emphasis added)

Ari Melber: PBS Breaks Media Blackout of Pentagon Propaganda Bombshell – Media on The Huffington Post,J

ohn Stauber, coauthor of “Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq,” contended that the Pentagon’s “surrogate” program violated federal law against domestic propaganda and called for a congressional investigation. “This war could have never been sold if it were not for this sophisticated propaganda campaign,” he said.

Other news outlets are ignoring this huge story.

Flag Pins And Hypocrisy

I was thinking about the “flag pin” question, and went and looked at the video. Sure enough, the woman accusing Obama of being unpatriotic for not wearing a flag pin … wait for it … isn’t wearing a flag pin. The smarmy anchorman implying Obama isn’t patriotic for not wearing a flag pin … guess what … isn’t wearing a flag pin.
And, of course, if you go to Google Images and look for pics of John McCain, none of them show him wearing a flag pin. Of course, that means that Google in unpatriotic.

The Republican Plan On Obama — “Us” vs “Them”

Townhall.com::Is He One of Us?::By Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan lays out the basic story that the Republicans are going to try to tell in this campaign. Read the whole thing. Buchanan is telling it like it is for the Republicans, and lays out what they are going to do:

Journalists disagree on whether immigration, Iraq or the economy will be the major issue in 2008. The real issue may be — and this is what is causing heart palpitations among Democrats — is Barack Obama one of us, or is he one of them?

This is going to be one nasty, racist, smearing, fear-mongering campaign. It’s all they have.
And from the comments:
“Hundreds of white Yankee Soldiers died for freedom for blacks and they never thank anyone.”