Blog Archives

The Crisis of Capitalism (11 minutes of Economic Education)

Before you get into unwinnable arguments, here’s a great animation which shows us where Capitalism is taking us:

Cartoon of the Week

M. Wuerker in Politico:

Once more, dear friends, unto the breach…

Media maters has a lot on the Fox News vs. White House controversy.

Let’s take a look, first, at months of Fox News’ comments on “opinion shows” and “reporting” on “news shows” as it pertains to the Obama Administration:

That done, here is what Eric Burns, CEO of Media Matters, presented this morning on HuffPo (I’m reproducing the whole thing):

Fox News Channel is twisting American politics in an unprecedented way, and too many members of the press still aren’t getting it.

The White House has exposed Fox News for what it is: not a news organization, but a partisan political entity that is waging a war aimed at destroying the Obama administration and its progressive agenda. Fox’s Glenn Beck said so himself last Friday, predicting that he would soon “take the administration down.”

Despite such unambiguous proclamations and the truths about Fox that they reveal, many mainstream reporters and commentators, and even some progressive ones, have spent their time effectively circling the wagons around Fox by focusing their attention not on the network, but on the Administration’s comments about it. The entire matter has largely been treated as a political game — should the White House have so bluntly criticized the press, or will the tactic backfire?

“The Obama administration’s war on Fox News is dumb on multiple levels,” wrote Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post. “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself,” added John Nichols of The Nation. “[T]he motivations of the White House are clear,” wrote Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Mike Allen. “Fire up a liberal base disillusioned with Obama by attacking the hated Fox. Try to keep a critical news outlet off-balance.” That same article quoted Project for Excellence in Journalism director Tom Rosenstiel: “You should beware of politicians playing press critic.”

All of this completely misses the point. The issue is not whether it was a good idea politically for the White House to say that the emperor has no clothes. The issue is that the emperor actually has no clothes. In other words, the administration’s comments about Fox News aren’t the story. Fox News is the story.

And yet, during a recent press conference, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Robert Gibbs how Fox News — “one of our sister organizations,” as he put it — is different from any other network. His question indicates the pervasive unwillingness among members of the media to officially kick Fox News to the curb of the press club. By legitimizing Fox News as a news organization, reporters and commentators are enabling the network to continue conducting a massive conservative political campaign under the guise of journalism. In the process, they are permitting Fox News to dominate the national discussion by spreading smears and lies — smears and lies that become conventional wisdom. They are also defending an organization that has nothing but contempt for journalistic standards — hence undermining their own profession and the public interest at the same time.

Criticizing Fox News has nothing to do with criticizing the press. Fox News is not a news organization. It is the de facto leader of the GOP, and it is long past time that it was treated as such by our nation’s media.

The evidence supporting such a reality is overwhelming. To begin with, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has described his station’s confrontation with the Obama administration as “the Alamo.” Fox News senior vice president Bill Shine said Fox was “the voice of opposition.” In other words, the entire operation has an explicit political agenda, not just a few hosts. There is no separation between Fox News’ “opinion” programming and its “news” programs. Bret Baier’s Special Report, the closest show Fox News has to a straight newscast, portrays Obama in a negative light 77 percent of the time, according to a recent study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

But the story goes well beyond the conservative bias Fox News has historically reflected. Like all major political entities, Fox News is now coordinating grassroots (or, more accurately, astroturf) political activities, lobbying for or against legislation, and fundraising for conservative causes. The network called April’s protests “Fox News Tea Parties.” It encouraged people to attend town halls last summer and then broadcast only the statements of those who opposed Democratic health care proposals. The 9/12 rally in Washington was the work of Beck, who claimed that 1.7 million people showed up (it was actually closer to 70,000). A video soon emerged of one of the station’s producers coaching marchers before a live “report” from the scene.

Fox news routinely implores its audience to call Congress and oppose progressive legislation. Fox’s Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee have both used Fox News airtime to encourage donations to conservative political action committees.

Again, these are unambiguous campaign activities, not the work of a news organization. It is no wonder that Fox’s new website, FoxNation.com, has repeatedly cheered legislative developments it favors as a “Fox Nation Victory!”

Fox News relishes its newfound activism. “The conservative media is winning now,” Bill O’Reilly said on September 17. “They’re damaging the president of the United States.” But the damage Fox News causes isn’t just political. Every day, it undermines serious journalism, misleads millions of Americans, and distorts our national discussion on crucial issues. Fox News represents an attack on democracy itself.

Much of the channel’s “reporting” takes the form of obsessive and factually inaccurate efforts to smear progressive organizations and discredit Obama administration officials. To give you a sense of priorities: over a three-year period, shows hosted by Sean Hannity and Beck mentioned ACORN 1,502 times, saying it was a corruption scandal. By contrast, their programs mentioned Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney 109 times combined.

Fox is currently conducting a witch hunt against administration members. After Van Jones resigned, Hannity told a crowd, “We got rid of one, and my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other one.”

Exposing improper conduct is one thing. Inventing it is another. Fox News breathlessly reported claims that an ACORN employee had murdered her husband without confirming the story. It wasn’t true. Similarly, Hannity reported that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings had concealed the “statutory rape” of a high school student. It was soon revealed that the student was 16 at the time (the age of consent), and by his own account had not engaged in sexual activity with his fictitious assailant. Hannity never apologized.

Fake stories like these are what Fox News is built on. Health care reform will create death panels? False. Cass Sunstein believes in mandating that people become organ donors? False. John Holdren advocates for “compulsory abortion and sterilization,” as Hannity put it? False. Fox reported them all as fact — and the list goes on.

Never in American history has a media organization this powerful been so willing to misrepresent reality in order to achieve a political goal. The right-wing press ran a similar campaign targeting Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but for most of that time period, it lacked the national, real-time reach and impact Fox now possessed.

The impact of Fox News’ long campaign of misinformation should concern any citizen. Fox has repeatedly misinformed its viewers on everything from the non-existent connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to the contents of health care reform legislation. Such misinformation can have serious consequences, and Fox News should be called out for propagating it.

There is nothing wrong with the White House standing up to its most powerful, unprincipled, and self-declared political opponent, one that clearly started this fight. And beyond politics, there certainly isn’t anything wrong with exposing an organization that unapologetically harms our democracy by poisoning our national discourse with falsehoods on an hourly basis.

The channel knows what it’s up against. “If they repeat this long enough,” said Fox News’ Bernie Goldberg on Monday, “and often enough — that Fox News is not a real news organization, it’s an arm of the national Republican Party, it’s not to be taken seriously — if they say that long enough, it might become part of bloodstream of the American culture.”

Fox News’ own media analyst got the story right, while so many others in the media are still getting it wrong. For once, the channel was actually breaking news, even if it is merely the simple truth.

Now that you have looked at Burns’ commentary, and seen the montage of Fox News’ slants on the Obama Administration, you can form your own opinion. I tend to agree with Media Matters, but I think the folks in the Obama Administration have to modify their approach a little. Just trying to cut Fox out of the game will actually encourage Fox News to treat itself… and the other networks to treat them… as the main news story when there are so many other things to cover.

What on Earth do we do to combat such obvious action?

As every day passes and we find Republicans and Corporate Lobbyists continuing to stream their amazingly obvious invented crap through the media: questioning Obama’s citizenship, claiming the idea of Death Committees that will exterminate the elderly, comparisons to Nazism, calling health care reform socialism, etc. etc. etc.

It is so clear what is being done here that the inability to convince vast amounts of the American people that it is just crap is proving to be the biggest problem of all.

Why?

Are Americans uneducated?  Are they unable to see that they are being used in such a way that it perverts their own best interests? Have they lost the basic principles that made us a country at one time… got us through WWII, the Depression and helped us triumph in the Civil Rights Movement?

I tremble when listening to the garbage that comes over the radio by talk spewers who tell the same lies over and over until many believe  them to be truth. I am shocked when I bump into right-wing blogs that push the most horrible anti-Obama, anti-liberal-, anti- democracy statements. Yet I am afraid that nothing will improve the situation with the exception of a major uniting incident like 9/11 was and which the Bush Administration used to carry out the destruction of a ton of American Values.

No, I am not advocating another 9/11. We don’t need to be attacked by anti-American terrorists when we have the rise of the Right Wing and an elected body of minority Republicans who have made it perfectly clear… often by public admission… that they will do anything possible to destroy the current Majority rule, whether it is by dishonorable means or not.

I think the Majority Party better come together as a cohesive unit, whether they are Blue Dogs or Liberals, and discover that they have only themselves to fall back on… and they had better do it soon.

The Health Care Challenge grows clearer as the Right disrupts Town Meetings.

It is now the day after Senator Benjamin Cardin’s Town Hall meeting in Hagerstown, MD, and I have had plenty of time to see what the local papers and television news have covered on it… plus I spent some time looking into the web sites of organizations that pushed attendees to the meeting (like Resistnet.com) and the prearranged instructions they put out to make sure nothing was reasonably discussed.

And this is what amazes me the most: a couple of hundred people who are my age or older who came to protest the benefits which, for the most part, would serve them well and which they actually need. Thinking back to where this kind of behavior, in which ordinary citizens are convinced to work against themselves, started… the incoming of Ronald Reagan 40 years ago… I am as confused now as I was then.  How do middle-class and lower-middle-class individuals justify campaigning for the things that make their own lives worse?

Before the coming of Reagan, things were paid for with taxes on income… including a substantial amount by the income of the upper classes, banks and investments were Federally regulated so that things weren’t stolen from individual Americans and trade unions protected so many people… defended their lives and investments, made sure they got into colleges, etc. Then, with the progress of years, administrations and changing controls in Congresses during times of Republican domination, regulations were removed one by one until banks and insurance companies could set up investments that crewed the public in favor of gross profit margins for a very few individuals, unions were squeezed out… beginning with the air traffic controllers, 401k plans were substituted for strong and subsidized retirement plans, and slowly but surely the middle classes sank lower and lower in the overall economy.

Until we got to where we are now… the money that had been built up in Social Security was grabbed and payed out… and substituted with outrageous credit statements… by people like George W. Bush, the cost of health plans like Blue Cross… once a public service non-profit changed into a profit making Insurance company… rising faster than the amount of money people were earning until insurance costs took up 1/3 of extremely high medical bills, and our National Debt grew to unbelievable numbers leaving the current administration in a situation where, in order to eventually reduce it, it needed to be increased now in order to keep functioning until laws and regulations could be changed.

But those Insurance companies and others, represented by growing numbers of lobbyists… many former Congressfolk who had long ago realized what side of the bread was buttered… who could spend 1 and 1/3 million bucks a day to make ordinary people get scared to death of “socialism” and “federal control of their lives” and any other lie they could put out… these creatures of Reagan’s previous revolution were ready to work as hard as possible to make sure the 1% OR SO OF UPPER-CLASS FOLKS kept their income and rest of us gladly gave them the opportunity.

After all, if we kept things the same, someday we would all be rich and benefit from this kind of life. We would all be in the .02% of citizens who didn’t lose money on State Lotteries. We would maintain our belief in American Success.

So now, at a Town Hall meeting like the one I went to yesterday in Hagerstown, where Cardin was screamed at about a bill that hadn’t even been written yet, and people believed that their grandparents were going to be put up in front of “death panels” who would notify them that the end had come, I could see the Triumph of the Right and could only hope that the Left would wise up to their majority and screw the idea of bipartisanship ( a joke which the Republicans have made their strongest moves with ), that they would start the march back to the normalcy of Government given us by FDR and Harry Truman and, yes, even Eisenhower … who no longer seems like a Republican a all, and JFK and LBJ.

There is a slim chance that we can get there and health Care is the test. It has been the test since Truman tried to get it. It has been the test since Johnson kept the Right from killing Medicare. And it is the test today.

The question is: Will we pass?

If you haven’t read this yet…

… you’ve missed something that’s all over the Web:

I AM AN AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE SHITHEEL

this morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issed by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to ny house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it’s valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on freerepublic.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.

Are we at the end of American-style Capitalism?

There’s a thought provoking article in the new Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, which evaluates what the current financial situation Joseph Stiglitzthroughout the world means to America’s position in it.

It is worth reading and thinking about, since it lays most of the responsibility on a “free-market economy” as foisted on the world by a greedy and thoughtless Wall Street, which set very different standards for other countries than it adopted for the U.S. This from the article:

Among critics of American-style capitalism in the Third World, the way that America has responded to the current economic crisis has been the last straw. During the East Asia crisis, just a decade ago, America and the I.M.F. demanded that the affected countries cut their deficits by cutting back expenditures—even if, as in Thailand, this contributed to a resurgence of the aids epidemic, or even if, as in Indonesia, this meant curtailing food subsidies for the starving. America and the I.M.F. forced countries to raise interest rates, in some cases to more than 50 percent. They lectured Indonesia about being tough on its banks—and demanded that the government not bail them out. What a terrible precedent this would set, they said, and what a terrible intervention in the Swiss-clock mechanisms of the free market.

The contrast between the handling of the East Asia crisis and the American crisis is stark and has not gone unnoticed. To pull America out of the hole, we are now witnessing massive increases in spending and massive deficits, even as interest rates have been brought down to zero. Banks are being bailed out right and left. Some of the same officials in Washington who dealt with the East Asia crisis are now managing the response to the American crisis. Why, people in the Third World ask, is the United States administering different medicine to itself?

So, as our influence in the world diminishes and that of countries like China increases, we are watching a situation where Wall Street has actually been brought in to handle what’s wrong with Wall Street. Stiglitz thinks that Americans “will realize that what is required for success is a regime where the roles of market and government are in balance, and where a strong state administers effective regulations. They will realize that the power of special interests must be curbed.”

If we do realize this, will we do so too ate in the game to make the kind of recovery which protects our lifestyle and influence? If you realize that of the top 5 banks in the world, the first 4 are Chinese and America has number 5 where it used to be number 1, then you now our position in the “free-market” economy is shaky at best.

And he goes further:

There used to be a sense of shared values between America and the American-educated elites around the world. The economic crisis has now undermined the credibility of those elites. We have given critics who opposed America’s licentious form of capitalism ample ammunition to preach a broader anti-market philosophy. And we keep giving them more and more ammunition. While we committed ourselves at a recent G-20 meeting not to engage in protectionism, we put a “buy American” provision into our own stimulus package. And then, to soften the opposition from our European allies, we modified that provision, in effect discriminating against only poor countries.

Are we weakening the sense of “global trust” necessary for “global recovery?” Stiglitz thinks so, and I have to agree with him.

Read the article and see what you think.