This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
At 12:01pm EST, as Barack Obama took the oath of office to become President of the United States of America, the White House website, whitehouse.gov, switched over to its new format. The list of menu items on that website includes “Our Government.” It is OUR government, the People of the United States joining together to manage our affairs.
One feature of the new website is a blog. The first post at the blogs promises Communication, Transparency and Patricipation. For example,
“One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.”
Note to Reddit users: This is a GREAT post, but Reddit screwed up and the post titled “Palin Is Not Even On Fox or Rush” is at http://www.seeingtheforest.com/archives/2008/09/palin_not_even.htm
We now continue with our What Is Obama’s Story? post:
Almost every single thing Palin said in her speech the other night turns out to be just a lie — and it doesn’t matter. She now has 58% favorability among the public. And she has a story. Within a day of the Palin announcement a well-informed, liberal, Democratic, pro-choice friend told me that Palin is “a reformer” — “just like McCain.”
Here is what the Republicans understand: facts don’t matter, stories do. So knowing this, they just lie and say anything they want as long as it reinforces the story. How do you fight this? Getting bogged down refuting the lies can never work because they’ll just make up a ton more lies for you to refute and you can’t keep up. Meanwhile, they keep reinforcing the story while you’re mired in the refutation. This is why almost every single thing Palin said in her speech turns out to be just a lie. But look how her STORY has taken hold! The story overcomes all the lies, even though the entire story is based on the lies.
The Obama campaign was the beneficiary of just such a story during the primaries. Obama became the great progressive transformation that we all want, while Hillary came to represent the past. She became NAFTA and DLC and lobbyists. Once these stories took hold there was nothing at all Hillary could do about it. Everything started to reinforce it. “Experience” came to mean “Bill” which meant the past.
THAT is how a story works. Facts just get in the way. (NOTE I am not saying that Obama’s story was based on lies, I am saying the power of a STORY took over and swamped Hillary.)
This is the power of – and the reason for – the “elite” storyline they are trying so hard to establish. If it can take hold there is nothing that can be done about it. So far it is just a little bit too unbelievable. But we have seen how they have tried to tell one story after another, to see if one sticks.
So what IS Obama’s STORY today? The FISA swing and a few things like that got rid of the “great progressive transformation” story that won the primaries. What does he represent and how do we drive the new story? How do we establish a negative story about McCain that sticks?
Remember how at the end of the Kerry campaign people still were saying that they didn’t understand what Kerry and the Democrats were about, were for, etc? They were saying that there was no story. What is the Obama story, in a sentence? McCain is the maverick who will change Washington, and so is Palin-the-reformer. That is a story. It is a story because they said it is.
What is the Obama story?
At least one major right-wing smear attack on Obama may be gearing up. I’ll call it the “Who Sent You” campaign. As weird as it sounds — and it is weird stuff — the gist of it is that Obama’s birth was part of a secret plan by communists, Jews and one-worlders to take over the world. As you read this it is going to sound so fanatically wingnut/John Birch Society/black helicopter/precious bodily fluids weird that you are likely to dismiss it as the rantings of crazy people. But I have learned over the years that this stuff resonates with a certain crowd, and they are remarkably effective at tapping the fears of Americans. Keep in mind how weird and unbelievable the Swift Boat accusations seemed — and remember the powerful effect they had on the public and election results. In The Swiftboaters Are Back in the Water I wrote about the effectiveness of the dishonest accusations,
. . . [one] reason it works is because it is (excuse the pun) offensive. They say that the best defense is a good offense, and considering their candidates, the Republicans certainly needed a defense.
[. . .] So with swiftboating you spread a smear to raise questions with the public about the opponent’s patriotism or service. It doesn’t have to be true (how quaint) it just has to raise questions. This “neutralizes” the honorable record of or otherwise “discredits” the advantages that opponent has against a Republican with a poor (like George W. Bush’s) or no (like Saxby Chambliss or any number of other “chickenhawks”) record.
That post also cited the following description of the results of that smear:
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?”
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 berequired 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 extentin 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
The big irony here is that while Obama has done extremely well for himself in our very unique free-market economy, he has the “audacity” to demonize others who have done well for themselves, and to propose economic policies that, if implemented, would radically change our nation into something more akin to a Western European socialist state.
OK, let’s examine that for a minute. Aside from the implications that they are communists, what does “Western European Socialist State” really mean? European citizens get 5 weeks paid vacation per year for everyone, free full-coverage health care for everyone, generous pays and pensions for everyone (with retirement earlier than here), corporations required to benefit the public, modern public transit systems, child care, clean public-oriented cities, governments responsive to the people instead of the wealthy, the corporations and the big military contractors, … oh I could go on and on about the terrible state of things for Western European citizens…
And what are some of the examples of Clinton and Obama’s supposedly communistic policies?
Obama has proposed a federal crack down on what he deems “excessive pay” for corporate executives. He has proposed that the federal government begin taxing people’s capital (not just earnings or interest payments, but, yes, capital itself). He has proposed that the capital gains tax rate be raised to 28%, nearly doubling its current rate of 15%. And he has made it a constant theme of his campaign to lament “Bush’s tax cuts for the rich,”
. . .[Clinton] has berated the reality of America being an “ownership society” (despite the recent increase in mortgage foreclosures, home ownership in America is still at an all-time high), saying that in reality we are an “on your own” society. Her remedy for the “problem” is for us to become a “we’re in this together society,” a nation of “shared responsibility” AND “shared prosperity.”
Conservatives lament that people should have to actually give back a bit to the public by paying taxes, after the public’s investment in roads and bridges and law enforcement and military and schools and the legal and financial infrastructure made them rich. The writer thinks that the roads and bridges and schools and everything else that enabled that ecosystem which enables people to get rich just magically appeared. The writer doesn’t seem to know that it was taxes that built that system — OUR taxes — and thinks the beneficiaries of this public investment should just freeload off the rest of us.
Taxes are the reason we have a thriving economic ecosystem. Tax cuts make us poor. And people getting rich off of our public investment and giving nothing back is the reason we don’t get 5 weeks vacation, health care, and all the rest here.
If the conservatives are trying to scare me away from voting for Clinton or Obama by claiming that if elected they will bring us 5 weeks paid vacation a year, free health coverage and the rest, and that the cost will be taxing rich CEOs and corporations — well I gotta tell you I want to get me some of that!
Guest Post by Michelle Kraus
There is a promise of hope in the Beijing Olympics if global leaders come together for the Dali Lama and human rights. The image of the torch is not just the Olympic Torch, but rather the beacon of hope for the people of the world.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
Stepping back and taking a moment and to consider him carrying the Torch or stepping onto the podium at the Opening Ceremony – perhaps there is a chance for peace. Maybe what we must do is take baby steps and lobby for his presence at the Opening Ceremonies and that would be enough.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
A bold, online campaign launched today at www.humanitariandream.com proposing a solution to all the controversy surrounding the Beijing Olympics this summer. Amidst all the outcries for boycott and the resulting acrimony, businessman Steve Varon proposes a plausible solution.
“With controversy and strife surrounding the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay over the past few months, this proposal is the first publicly announced solution to the dilemma. Imagine the Dalai Lama carrying the Olympic torch along the torch relay route, past the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet – or anywhere else on the relay route. It has the potential to quell the violent protests and return the focus of the torch relay to a celebration of peace through sport, inspiring hope for all people around the world. Corporate, civic and government leaders globally have been encouraged to support this opportunity. The idea has been warmly embraced publicly and privately.”
See the video and hear the words of this quiet man, a businessman, who has committed himself to this one moment of light.
Sign the petition online and form the human link to this one moment.
All the political and global forces are wrong for this to have a prayer of success. The Chinese own a substantial amount of the US debt at a time in which the economy is teetering on recession. Human rights activists have lost their spokesperson in the late Congressman Tom Lantos. A United States boycott of the games is impossible, and not the answer.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
Sports should be about freedom, not politics. So let’s have the games and abide by this Call to Action. Sign the petition and consider the solution is of finding a way to unify the Dali Lama and the Chinese government on this one day.
“If constructive dialogue with China could result in the world seeing the Dalai Lama carrying the torch” said Varon “it would send a powerful message about the Olympics as a force of good, and truly symbolize the ‘One World, One Dream’ slogan of this year’s Games.”
One image, One moment, One World, One Dream – On the Road to Beijing.
The Nation has a great article out on the Obama smears that are circulating, and looks at where they come from. Smearing Obama
The purpose of the smear is to paint him as an Arab-loving, Israel-hating, terrorist-coddling, radical black nationalist. That picture couldn’t be further from the truth, but you’d be surprised how many people have fallen for it.
[. . .] We may not know who started the smears, but we do know who’s amplifying them. The “Obama is a Muslim” rumor began in the fringe conservative blogosphere. “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim,” blogger Debbie Schlussel wrote on December 18, 2006. Schlussel had a history of inflammatory rhetoric and baseless accusations. She said journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in 2006, “hates America” and “hates Israel”; labeled George Soros a “fake Holocaust survivor”; and speculated that Pakistani terrorists were somehow to blame for last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech. Yet her post on Obama gained traction; one month later, the Washington Times’s Insight magazine alleged that Obama had attended “a so-called Madrassa” and was a secret Muslim.
I’m not endorsing either Hillary or Obama, for various reasons. Both would be great Presidents. Hillary is ready on day 1. If Barack can pull it off, he could be transformational. But I’d like to see Medicare-For-All, an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions along with massive green infrastructure investment, bringing corporations under citizen control, balancing the budget and paying of the debt ASAP by taxing the rich and corporations (get the money from where the money went), cutting the military budget by about 3/4, and a few other things.
Here’s a couple of Obama videos that are great.
Baby Got Barack:
A guest post by Bettina Duval
First Iowa . . . then New Hampshire . . . and once again in Nevada! Women voters are dominating at the polls!!!
In all three contests the percentage of female to male voters was a consistent 60% to 40%. The reality behind these percentages is even more significant because the number of total voters is also greater than ever before.
Why is this happening? It was former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil who said, “All politics are local.” Local issues are often about education, health care, child care – issues which resonate most strongly with women. Our individual experiences define our needs and our dreams and in turn our needs and dreams mold our opinions. Women are voting in greater numbers in this primary because there is a woman running for president.