Archive for Media

A Culture That Condones The Killing Of Children And Teaches Children To Kill

The Sandy Hook massacre isn’t just about the need for gun control laws, it is about a culture that condones the killing of children and teaches children that killing is okay.

It is about a country addicted to violence on television and movie screens.

It is about cuts in education spending.

It is about giving the military free access to our schools where they regale our children with romanticized delusions of military righteousness.

It is about environmental and health policies that expose our children to all manner of toxins in the air, land and water.

It is about thinking we have the right to kill children with drones or by dropping toxic munitions on their countries that cause birth defects and miscarriages.

It is about saddling our children with crippling education debt and no prospect for jobs.

It is about telling boys (and men) they have to be tough and to fight and kill for what they want or think is right.

It is about a national policy that denies children basic rights and systemically teaches them that violence is okay.

And it is about a media so insensitive that it thinks it is okay to shove a microphone in the face of young victims in the name of sensationalized 24/7 cable “news” while under-reporting the root causes of this tragedy.

Sandy Hook did not happen because of a lone, disturbed young man and it is not an isolated incident. It is an epidemic and we are all to blame.  And today (and tomorrow and every day after that) is the time to confront this self-inflicted tragedy.

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Map Of Occupied DC For The Benefit Of The Media

If you’re just tuning in, there are two occupation movements happening in Washington, DC.  Occupy DC, which has been going on for over a week, is based at McPherson Square and Stop The Machine/October2011, which has been going on since last Thursday is based at Freedom Plaza.  But for love or money, as I pointed out yesterday and earlier today, the media still can’t figure out which is which.  Once again tonight, both the Washington Post and ABC7News were tangling it up in their Twitter feeds.  So in the interest of clarity, I am providing this handy dandy map:

Map of Occupied DC

 

Got it?  And while we’re pointing to Lamestream Media Fail, Yahoo posted a headline today referring to the pepper-spraying of protesters as a riot.  Really?  Sorry, no didn’t happen.  Minor altercation and right wing agitator yes, pepper spraying cops causing museum to be shut down yes.  Riot, no, despite the efforts of the agitator and that kind of ‘journalism’ is part of the problem.

Here are some screenshots of Mainstream Media #TwitterFail:

Looks like ABC finally figured it out.


 

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The Media’s Failed Look At What Is Happening On The Streets And A Personal Reflection

Occupation for Dummies

There has been no shortage of media confusion in DC this week regarding the OccupyDC and October2011 Stop The Machine actions. I got into a conversation yesterday with a reporter from a local television station who was interviewing people at OccupyDC, she seemed to genuinely want to understand the difference. I pointed out that it seemed like very few members of the Mainstream Media had bothered to check the websites for the two groups which would clarify quite a lot.

Isn’t this sort of like the opposite of the Tea Party, she wondered. I pointed out that these movements represented people who were out of work, had lost their homes, had no health insurance, and wanted an end to  militarism without end and the number of people impacted by those issues is a lot larger than the number of people who identify with the Tea Party.

But the most idiotic media confusion in DC this week has been who was where. It wasn’t so complicated–OccupyDC at McPherson Square, Stop The Machine at Freedom Plaza. Yet in Sunday morning’s Washington Post, with OccupyDC at McPherson for over a week and Stop The Machine in place since Thursday, the caption writer for this photo still got it wrong.

The WaPo caption erroneously reads, "A crowd gathers Thursday at Freedom Plaza for the first day of the OccupyDC rally..."

And the headline–hello? It isn’t the same as the one used online, but, “The common man”? Really? Which century is this? They also apparently didn’t look at the photo which rather clearly shows the common woman.

With this kind of media, no wonder many people are confused about what is happening in the streets.

The best way to understand the movement that is taking root everywhere is to go find out for yourself.  Yes, there is an Occupy near you.

Several people have said to me, oh it is just a bunch of kids.  No, it is not.  And it’s not just a bunch of hippie peaceniks either.  It ranges from toddlers who are there with their parents (there was a little area with toys and crayons at OccupyDC yesterday) to elders with plenty of folks in between.  I talked for a bit with a young man in an army uniform. It was very courageous for him to be there. He had been to Iraq once and was due to ship out again soon, but he said he wasn’t planning to re-deploy, what he had experienced on his first tour had made him realize that militarism was deeply flawed.  He looked sad and wise beyond his years.

And do not underestimate the numbers, it isn’t just a hundred here and a thousand there, it is far, far larger than that.

A crowd shot at Occupy Wall Street--that is A LOT of people

This isn’t about one issue, it is about the American people connecting all the issues and finally saying enough.  There are those who have criticized what is going on for not having a clear statement of purpose or intent.  What they miss is that people everywhere have decided to take back the commons, and that is intention enough.

There is more to say, much more, the time I have spent on the street this last week has been transformative.  I have re-connected with old friends, made new ones and for the first time in a long time felt genuine hope.  Don’t be afraid, come out and join us.

Addenda:  The amount of inaccurate reporting involving Occupy DC and Stop the Machine is becoming epic.  Today the Washington Post reports that OccupyDC may stay in Freedom Plaza past the time time they have a permit.  Sorry, wrong group.  Yahoo News is now calling the pepper-spraying of protesters at the Air and Space Museum on Saturday a riot and ABCNews7 tweeted this morning that at least one person planned to stay past the permit time in Freedom Plaza although the article they linked to actually says a number of people plan to stay.  And that is just today.  The amount of media stupid when it comes to reporting what has transpired over the last week plus in DC is to the point where it is hard to see it as anything but deliberate.

 

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How To Respond To KO Being KO’ed–KO MSNBC On Monday Night During KO’s Timeslot

I haven’t been watching Keith Olbermann since his damaging and self-centered behavior regarding rape and the #MooreAndMe protest.  In the aftermath of that, I felt a strong need to just not listen to those who insist on operating from a position of patriarchal arrogance and ignorance.  The quiet reflection that has become possible in the absence of those voices has been wonderful and something I’ll write more about later.

But the result is that I am reacting to his departure from MSNBC with mixed feelings. Yes he has often said what needs to be said, but as the #MooreAndMe episode illustrated, not always.  He was a white guy working for a large, white-guy preserving corporation. And some of his behavior on Twitter of late has been quite childish.  I have no idea all the factors that have led to that–the enormous stress of his job, his father’s death, etc.

So there is a bit of tarnish there, and while it is not clear whether he got fired, left or what–one thing is for sure–even if he did quit–Comcast should have begged him to stay.  But that was never in the cards and is a first very ominous indicator of just how bad their takeover of the NBCs is likely to be.

Differences aside–we can rant all we want about this, but here’s a better idea–a one night viewing stoppage.  Don’t watch  MSNBC on Monday night during Olbermann’s timeslot.  Turn it off.  Read a book, go for a walk, water your plants, talk to your neighbors and your children–whatever it takes to deal with the dt’s but turn it off and turn away. No it won’t solve the problem but Comcast bought MSNBC to make money and they need to hear that flipping off their viewers is not a good business model.  And aside from that, everybody gets a bit of tv detox, and that could be the start of a good thing.

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Dear Keith

In case you missed it, the other day, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann flew the coop on Twitter after numerous people called him out for giving a pass to Michael Moore’s inappropriate comments about the rape charges against Julian Assange.  He informed the Twitter world that he didn’t like being under attack and announced that he would quit Twittering, the online equivalent of taking your marbles and going home.

Not a great way to treat your viewing public to say the least but for a moment, tis the season, let’s be charitable and cut the guy some slack–it has got to be exhausting to have your very own well-watched show and sometimes we all do dumb things in the heat of the moment.  So Keith, take a break, rest up and maybe ask yourself this–in fact, let me re-phrase it–I’m asking you, call it my holiday wish–please ask yourself whether you are perhaps the victim of your own show.

Week after week, most of the people who you invite on your show are men.  Most of them are white.  They look a lot like you.  They sound a lot like you.  The impression one gets is that white dudes are the most important voices to listen to.  It sends a message and not a good one.

But the truth is, if you stop and really listen to what was said to you on Twitter, sometimes white dude myopia gets it very wrong.  In fact that happens a lot and it needs to be called out.  And when it is, covering your ears, or in this case your computer monitor is not the right response.

In fact it is kind of scary because let’s just consider this–Over the last few weeks, a concerted effort has been made to knock Wikileaks off the internet and cut off their funding. The U.S. military is cutting off access to the New York Times and other news outlets because they have participated in the release of the Wikileaks documents.  These actions point to the very real vulnerability we face regarding our access to the internet and information. Right now Comcast, a major internet service provider and media outlet is trying to buy the NBCs.  And what happens if they don’t like what you say?  All they have to do is pull the plug and take their marbles and go elsewhere.  So please, enough of this juvenile behavior.  Realize the possibility that you got it very wrong and open yourself to listening and learning.

If there is anything we should learn from Wikileaks, it is that the communications business has changed.  Corporate media can no longer say this is the frame and walk away without expectation of being challenged. It’s not a one-way street anymore, the traffic now flows both ways and  goodnight and good luck won’t cut it anymore.

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Unpacking Wikileaks–A Few Observations

When I saw that Wikileaks’ Julian Assange was scheduled to do a live chat via The Guardian a few days ago, I had this fantasy that this would be a bit like the scene in The Sound of Music where the Von Trapp family escapes while they are supposed to be receiving an award.*  And maybe it was–with reports that he has been in England and that British law enforcement know where he is–and yet funny thing, The Guardian site glitched out due to overload when the chat was supposed to happen and they then posted not so live answers to viewers questions  instead.  Assange never appeared live and as I write this, still no word of arrest.

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But the question of whether Assange should be arrested bears some examination.

The U.S. government is doing its best to paint him as an electronic terrorist. A large part of this latest release of documents has certainly been an embarrassing collection of diplomacy-speak accusations about various players on the international stage that has all the sophistication of third grade playground cooties banter.  Not flattering to be sure but if anything, it should  give us pause to consider the nature of what passes as ‘intelligence’.

Then however, there are those pesky cables documenting things like a scandal involving the private contracting firm DynCorp which paid for young “dancing boys” to entertain Afghan policemen that they were training in northern Afghanistan.  It really shouldn’t take us long to decide that the criminal in this case is Dyncorp, not Assange and like Abu Ghraib, this is a story that should be exposed.

Be that as it may, whether or not what Wikileaks is doing is a good thing or a bad thing, it is definitely not acceptable to be dismissive of the rape charges that have been brought against Assange.  Is it possible that they are trumped up?  Of course.  But as Reclusive Leftist points out, they should not be brushed aside by those who champion Assange merely because of the importance of his work.

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Perhaps one of the strangest parts of this story is that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon.  Who knew Amazon offered webhosting.  And how ironic it is that Amazon is perfectly willing to sell books by George Bush, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck, all of whom do not hesitate to play fast and loose with the truth, but when someone uses their services to tell the truth, that sends Amazon running for cover.  As Amy Davidson observes on The New Yorker website,

WikiLeaks may be a brilliant sort of classroom—full of books that, unfortunately, one can no longer find by way of Amazon.

Human Rights First is asking Amazon to explain why they removed Wikileaks from their servers.  In addition, PayPal has cut off Wikilieaks from receiving donations via their service and in a major weird, disturbing email,

Talking about WikiLeaks on Facebook or Twitter could endanger your job prospects, a State Department official warned students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs this week.

An email from SIPA’s Office of Career Services went out Tuesday afternoon with a caution from the official, an alumnus of the school. Students who will be applying for jobs in the federal government could jeopardize their prospects by posting links to WikiLeaks online, or even by discussing the leaked documents on social networking sites, the official was quoted as saying.

“[The alumnus] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter,” the Office of Career Services advised students. “Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”

As one observant student pointed out,

“They seem to be unable to make the distinction between having an opinion and having a contractual obligation to keep a secret,”

That the University sent out such a warning is deeply disturbing and sounds uncomfortably like, ‘nothing to see here, move along, move along’, go about your business, it’s dangerous to know or think about this.

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The Wikileaks documents should definitely give us pause to consider several issues.  First there is the question of what should and shouldn’t be state secrets.  When a nation or a company perpetrates crimes against humanity, such as the Dyncorp exploitation of children, it shouldn’t be a secret and those who keep those secrets are the ones who should be called to account.  As for the diplomatic backstabbing, who really cares and if, as my children were taught in grade school, people used there words appropriately, no one would have their feathers ruffled.

Another thing that is indeed quite worrisome is the denial of service by Amazon and PayPal.  With so many people using services such as Gmail or Yahoo, collecting funds via Pay Pal, getting our internet service from corporate giants like Comcast and the like, we need to consider that our access to these services can quickly be cut off, with little recourse.  We’ve known that for quite some time, and this is a grim reminder that freedom of information can be disappeared faster than you can say, “blue screen of death.”

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*The other metaphor that came to mind was the old television series about Carmen Sandiego.  Enjoy:

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After We Blacken Our Fish, We Marinate It In Corexit And It’s Still Okay To Eat. Really (Not).

Guess, what, no worries about that nasty Corexit dispersant stuff toxing out the seafood you eat. Never mind that the stuff has been banned in Europe, if the FDA says it is safe, well by golly, it must be safe, safer than dish soap even:

Dead fish along Louisiana shore

How cool is that--it kills the fish which then float right up to shore, no need to worry about whether you can catch it with your trusty fishing rod any more.

“The ingredients include propelyne glycol, a chemical permitted by FDA as a food additive and used in medicines, cosmetics and toothpaste; 2-butoxyethanol, which is found in cleaners, liquid soaps and cosmetics and quickly degrades in the environment; and a proprietary form of sulfonic acid salt, which is “moderately” toxic to freshwater fish and invertebrates but which the manufacturer says degrades quickly. In addition, Corexit contains volatile organic solvents that are made from crude oil and are not considered by the FDA to pose a public health concern because they do not accumulate significantly in the flesh of fish, according to Ireland.”

Want a side of fries with that? And just in case you don’t believe the FDA, here’s a video of a dude who works for Nalco, the company that makes Corexit demonstrating how it works. You can tell that it is perfectly safe cuz he’s wearing the industrial strength rubber gloves while he does the demonstration.

“The FDA is not monitoring fish and shellfish for the presence of Corexit in seafood because it is not considered a health risk, Ireland said.”

Well that is convenient, then we don’t have to worry for another 20 years that there might be health risks that don’t show up immediately because even if we all suddenly keel over and die, we won’t be able to blame it on the Corexit because no one bothered to study it.  But I’m sure BP and the Feds were looking out for our best interests and just didn’t want to waste any money on silly ol’ monitoring.

And shame on the WaPo for just giving them a pass on this in their coverage.

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We Know Depleted Uranium Is Highly Toxic And We’ve Known For A Long Time

While I”m delighted to see this piece in Truthout about the horrors of depleted uranium, it erroneously refers to, 

“a previously undisclosed 1993 Defense Department document written by then-Brigadier Gen. Eric Shinseki, now the secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), shows that the Pentagon was concerned about DU contamination and the agency had ordered medical testing on all personnel that were exposed to the toxic substance.”

Not quite. I wrote about it here in 2005,

“It is the military’s use of Depleted Uranium that should cause the most alarm. Not only is the evidence of irreparable harm becoming undeniable, it is also quite clear that the U.S. government has been aware of the lethality of these weapons for quite some time. Despite denials of health risks, a 1950 Army pamphlet states, “Although there is negligible danger from uranium and plutonium outside the body, it is possible for dangerous amounts of these elements to enter the body through the lungs, the digestive system, or breaks in the skin.” (14) An FAA Advisory Circular written in 1984 stated, “if particles are inhaled or ingested, they can be chemically toxic and cause a significant and long-lasting irradiation of internal tissue.” In 1990, U.S. Army Armaments, Munitions and Chemical Command (AMCCOM) reported that depleted uranium is a “low level alpha radiation emitter, which is linked to cancer when exposures are internal.” AMCCOM’s radiological task group also pointed out that the “long term effects of low doses [of DU] have been implicated in cancer, there is no dose so low that the probability of effect is zero.” The risk to our own military personnel was spelled out in a 1993 letter from the U.S. Army Surgeon General stating that, “When soldiers inhale or ingest DU dust, they incur a potential increase in cancer risk.” And in 1995, a U.S. Army U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute report to Congress says that depleted uranium has the potential to generate “significant medical consequences”. (15)”

So enough already, we’ve known about the risks for decades, at least back to 1950, it is time to stop using these toxic chemicals.  Not only do they harm our “enemies” in ways that violate the Geneva Convention, not to mention human decency, they also harm our own soldiers and citizenry and while the first part of that might be hard to understand, being our own collateral damage defies all logic.

Addenda:  Truthout has changed their wording to, “little-known”, which is much better wording.  I think an issue this does bring up is that it isn’t so much that this stuff is un-disclosed than that it is there,hiding in plain sight. It just requires some digging and some persistence by the media to make sure that it gets seen.  In that, I am appreciative that Truthout is bringing it up and broadening the base of people who are aware of these atrocities.

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Let’s Quit Calling It A Spill

There are many ways in which to describe the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Any of the following will do:

Ecotastrophe

Disaster

Greedy, Criminal Corporate Arrogance

But spill? Not so much.

When I think of a spill, I think of this:

NOT this:

What happened should not be allowed to be framed in terms of oops, my bad. It is the catastrophic aftermath of the perfect storm that is the result of our very failed national energy policy and the persistent prioritizing of corporate greed over the public good.

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Snake Oil Salesmen

The gulf oil disaster is beginning to become a predictable story–too little oversight, lax laws (and if you want to know why, just follow the money), profit over environment rather literally blows up in our faces and we got nothing except a lot of Congressional hearings, hand-wringing, brow-beating and good old fashioned buck passing, maybe a quick trip to bankruptcy court which will lead to lack of financial culpability and then surprise surprise, BP will be back to profitability in no time while the fishing and tourism industries die, along with the flora and fauna and we’ll keep drill baby drilling. Another episode of mourning in America and still we don’t get that this can’t continue.

Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster 2008--They called that a spill too.

Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster 2008--They called that a "spill" too.

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I saw a story this morning about the media being denied access to the disaster response headquarters which makes me grateful for the media heroes who are determined to tell the truth even if they do get turned away at the door.  Watching Alabama resident John Walthen’s fly-over video of the slick reminds me of the citizen videos of the Tennessee coal ash disaster, absolute environmental destruction.

In Walthen’s words,

“At nine miles out, we began to smell the oil… What I see on the horizon–nothing but a red mass of floating goo.”

Watch Walthen’s devastating video.  And then cry.  And scream.  Do not let BP and Halliburton, or the government or the media push this story to the back page, do not let them frame it as an accident, a spill.  It is neither of those 2 things–it is an eco-catastrophe caused by negligence and greed, no matter what the snake oil salesmen tell us.

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