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McCain, Palin, Media & Co. — The Death Knell of Democracy? Not If You Can Help It

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It’s hard to believe that in the greatest democracy in the world, we need legislation to prevent the government from writing and paying for the news. — Sen. John Kerry

It’s pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only campaign strategy is to make a mockery of democracy and the entire polical process by parading out caricatures like Sarah Palin and Joe the so-called-Plumber to slander their opponent with racism, xenophobia, McCarthism and a slew of outrageous lies. It’s also pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only real hope of winning this election is to systematically steal the votes from Democrats. It’s even more pathetic that our media aid and abet them by turning a blind eye. 

If you’re not outraged by the pathetic state of the U.S. media, you’re either a Republican or you never, ever, ever read, watch or listen to one iota of corporate-generated “news.” I’m not here to justify this statement. Either you get it, or you don’t. I’m here talk about what’s wrong and how we might hope to fix it. 

In this vein, I saw a glimmer of hope when I read on Huffington Post a piece titled, “Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom? ” Herein was mentioned the Reporters without Borders’ recently released “Press Freedom Index” for 2008, which is essentially a report card for 173 countries around the world. Iceland rated the highest, at #1, while the U.S. ranked at a disgraceful #36. Intrigued, I researched Reporters without Borders (hoping it’d be a worthy forum to protest the state of our media) but found instead that, despite their seemingly noble agenda, Reporters without Borders is, in fact, on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. According to SourceWatch, its budget is primarily funded by the Orwellian-named “National Endowment for Democracy,” which operates under the auspices of the CIA.

It is no coincidence, then, that Reporters without Borders’ ranking system coincides more closely with Washington’s black list, which explains the low ratings of Cuba & Venezuela that oddly bear no correlation to this organization’s stated criteria for ranking countries. (for more on this, see links at end of post).

One would naturally wonder, then, why Reporters without Borders gave the U.S. the somewhat unfavorable rating of #36? If you look closely, you’ll see that the U.S rating is actually much lower, but this truth has been cleverly disguised. If you look at the actual report, (available here at Wikipedia), you’ll see that the U.S. and Israel, alone, enjoy the priviledge of having two separate ratings: ‘national territory’ and ‘extra-territorial’. Look more closely, and you’ll see that the U.S. is actually ranked #36 (national territory) and #119 (extra-territorial), which not only waters-down the U.S.’s actual ranking on freedom of the press, but effectively exonerates the U.S. for violations committed in territories it occupies.

In Other Words, It’s Just Another Big Lie

Frustrated to scratch the surface of yet one more democratic cause, only to find a corrupt agenda, I researched other media watchdog organizations which claim to work toward the cause of fairness in the media and freedom of the press. Over and over, I found (with two notable exceptions) only a preponderance of navel-gazing. For instance, what is the value of an ‘analysis’ that divides news coverage into negative vs. neutral vs. positive reporting, when the same criteria used to evaluate the McCain-Palin ticket’s lies (categorized as ‘negative’) are used to evaluate the Obama-Biden ticket’s response (also categorized as ‘negative’) to said lies? It’s apples and oranges, folks: one is lies, one is truth. Since when is truth categorized as a negative? Ever since our media lost their bearings: ever since our media became deregulated and consolidated.  (see links below for more on this).

It’s funny, in an un-funny sort of way, that McCain & Palin spend so much time frothing at the mouth over socialism/communism, considering that — over the past 8 years — our media have fallen under the control of the government/corporate conglomerates (two heads, same monster), to the extent that our national media are essentially state-controlled, just a stone’s throw from the sort of media traditionally enjoyed by socialist/communist regimes. 

Democracy or Not: Your Choice 

It’s with some hope that I offer two worthy exceptions to the above-mentioned navel gazers: Free Press (see links, below) and FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). If we hope to restore the integrity of our media, these organizations are deserving of our time, attention and money. I’m particularly impressed with FAIR, which, first of all, takes no corporate funding, government grants or advertising of any kind. Secondly, they have a firm understanding of what’s wrong with the media and what needs to be done. Here is their stated perspective:

Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised.

Ultimately, FAIR believes that structural reform is needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting, and promote strong, non-profit alternative sources of information.

Third, they have a powerful network of activist tools that encourage the public to become critically engaged with media. See something unfair in the media? A particular instance of media inaccuracy or bias? Their toolkit includes everything from tips for detecting bias in the media, to resources for contacting media outlets and journalists to demand more responsible reporting. Their activism gets results. They’ve forced rewrites of stories, propelled undercovered stories from the sidelines to the mainstream and succeeded in getting different perspectives into the news.

All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men

Should our country survive this election (meaning, should Barack Obama be rightfully elected, despite the media’s 24-7 infomercial coverage of the McCain-Palin-Joe-the-so-called-Plumber ticket, and despite the epidemic of  voter fraud being committed by the Republican Party, aided and abettted by the media’s deplorable indifference toward their criminal engagement in these practices) then I would urge all Americans of good conscience to cast your energies toward restoring the integrity of our media.

Yes, I realize that there are myriad pressing issues in need of our attention — in between wars, a disintegrating planet, recessions, depressions, and attacking voter fraud. But until we have a truthful voice in the media, all other efforts toward restoring our democracy and healing the myriad wounds inflicted over the past 8 years will be rendered impotent. To repeat what has already been said: Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. And we’ve not seen hide nor hair of that for at least 8 years. And if we don’t do something about this — beginning now — you can be sure that, 4 years from now, there will be enough swiftboats, Joe the Plumbers, McCarthyism, evangelicals and vitriolic Sarah Palins to incite those rabidly ignorant mobs to finally put democracy out if its misery, once and for all. 

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more reading (this is not a comprehensive list, just a starter):

Global Research: The Deceit of Reporters Without Borders

Counterpunch: Reporters Without Borders Unmasked

ZNet: The Reporters Without Borders Fraud

Links to Media Watchers & Activists (a mixed bag)

For background on MEDIA DEREGULATION/CONSOLIDATION:

New York Times (Oct. 2007) Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners

 Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part I

Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part II

FreePress: Media Consolidation (while this site is guilty of navel-gazing, they also have the right idea)

FreePress: Who Owns the Media? (The Big Six)

Salon: Justice: Propaganda is A-OK

canarypapers: The White house Propaganda Machine: When the Truth Just Won’t Do

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Poor Ol’ Joe the Plumber: McCain’s New Poster Child

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At long last, John McCain has found a star upon which to hitch his wagon: Joe the plumber — poster child for the downtrodden wealthy. Joe couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time. With McCain’s campaign wagon reduced to a wheel-less junkyard contraption, drawing little more than scorn and pity from the masses, the old maverick was in sore need of a lift. Through Joe the plumber, McCain hopes to scare us so bad, that we’ll forget, once and for all, that his campaign is little more than a shoddily repackaged version of the Bush Administration. 

To do this, McCain will need to simultaneously inspire and scare the bejeebers out of us, in a Berlin Wall-esque fashion, to help us realize that we — each and every one of us — are  Joe the plumber. It is our noble and heroic struggle for the American dream that is being squashed by the evil, socialist/commie terrorist Obama, who is secretly scheming to funnel the wealth of hard-working Americans straight into the pocketbooks of cadillac welfare queens. It’s a tall order, to be sure, but if ignorant greed prevails, McCain could soon see a bump in the polls.

The whole thing started when Joe the plumber ostensibly** approached Obama in Ohio and posed the question that has been plaguing so many middle-class Americans during these troubled times: “I’m getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000 to $280,000 a year. Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?”

Obama acknowledged to Joe that, yes, that may very well be the case. Before the two men parted, Joe the plumber voiced his support for a flat tax. It is only natural that Joe the plumber would be in favor of a tax that — according to factcheck.org, benefits the wealthiest people in the country, while penalizing lower and middle income wage earners. According to Treasury Department figures (see table, left), Joe the plumber would see a 7.6% decrease in taxes, while those earning between $15, 000 and $200, 000 per year would see a .02% to 4.3% increase in their taxes.  

Alternately, under Obama’s tax plan, Joe the plumber would see a relatively modest tax increase. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, punched the numbers and found that — assuming that Joe’s entire taxable income comes from his plumbing business — Joe would see an increase from 33% to 36%, for a tax rise between $0-$900 per year. This amount could hardly be blamed for thwarting Joe the plumber’s aspirations to buy a company that makes between $250,000 to $280,000 per year. But, if John McCain plays his cards right, he may be able to use Joe’s plight to “grow” his campaign’s numbers in the polls. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect to hear less about Ayers and terrorism, and more about Marxism. After all, it was Obama and his socialist lending practices that led to the Wall Street crisis. Heaven knows, it was not the reckless policies of the past 8 years, nor the Bush-McCain deregulation orgy.  So get used to words like: socialism, communism, spread the wealth, tax and spend liberals, hard-working Americans, class wars (huh?) and maybe even a welfare buck or two thrown in for good measure. McCain is depending on the fumes from these words to drive his defunct campaign to the finish line, come election day. 

Will the tear-jerking tale of Joe-the-plumber inspire very many of the 95% of Americans who make less than a quarter-million dollars per year (and who would receive some sorely needed fairness and relief under Obama’s tax plan) to vote against their own best interests? It’s entirely possible, if the past 8 years are any indication. But if the past two months are any indication, it’s also possible that Americans have wised up. Regardless, McCain is banking on the stupidity of the American people. From the looks of his campaign and his support base, it appears that’s all he has left to him.       

 

For more reading:

**Washington Post: Joe the Plumber: Not a Licensed Plumber — Joe the Plumber is not exactly a plumber, he’s “not even close” to making the kind of money that would result in higher taxes from Democrat Barack Obama’s proposals and has such an aversion to taxes that a lien was filed against him by the state of Ohio.

Wall Street Journal: Fair Tax, Flawed Tax: Does adding 30% to the price of every house sold sound like a good idea to you? by Bruce Bartlett, deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy from 1988 to 1993.

The McCain-Palin Gag-O-Rama (If laughter’s the best medicine, how come I don’t feel so good?)

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Meanwhile, back on the, uh, suspended campaign trail…. Sarah Palin walks (and talks!) in an interview with Katie Couric

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Good news, John! While you’ve been huddling with your buddy, George and orchestrating the dog & pony show photo-ops, Sarah Palin has taken the reins to your, uh, suspended campaign. You’d be amazed to see how well she can talk once the gag is removed. As you can see in the videos, below, she’s proven to be a fast study in passing the buck, both literally and figuratively. The only problem is that, while she seems to have more or less memorized the talking points, she’s yet to figure out how to coherently place them in their proper context and syntax. Not to worry, tho, I’m confident she’ll get better at this with practice.

BELOW: Palin’s interview with Katie Couric, in which Sarah praises McCain’s magnanimous heroics to single-handedly save the economy against the evil deregulators (while berating Obama in that very special, suspended-campaign-kind-of-way), only to find herself bereft of any actual examples of anything McCain has ever done during his past 26 years in Congress to push for more regulation of the banking industry. 

BELOW: More of Palin’s interview with Katie Couric, wherein she offers an explanation on how she gained her foreign policy experience, via osmosis, with Russia. 

The Rise & Fall of McCain-Palin: A Shakespearean Tale of Junked Mavericks and Junkyard Dogs

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The mavericks have surely seen better days. It’s difficult to say which candidate is more guilty of wrecking the ticket’s facade of competence:  Her oily highness, whose primary role on the ticket, thus far, has been to smile, pose for pictures and recite bumper sticker slogans while simultaneously thumbing her nose at media questions, ethics investigations and subpoenas? Or the main maverick, who simply can’t help himself, as — in times of both crisis and calm, either of which offers golden opportunities to ‘act’ presidential — he instead shows his true colors, behaving, in the words of George Will, “like a flustered rookie, playing in a league too high”?

Grinning from ear-to-ear, the cats who swallowed the canary

One thing is for sure, the McCain-Palin ticket is a walking, talking wreck, and it’s only a matter of time before enough people say, “Enough!” It can’t happen soon enough for me. I, for one, will not miss their jubilant smiles from the campaign stump — those cat-who-swallowed-the-canary grins as they secretly gloat at their daily success of pawning a counterfeit platform full of lies onto another credulous crowd. Nor will I miss the cheers, jeers, hisses and chants of their lie-guzzling fans — their appetites perpetually whetted for cheap, dirty campaign slogans and smears, yet devoid of a hunger for truth and substance.  

 

This is what junkyard dogs do: they curl their lips into a vicious snarl, teeth bared, ready to sink their teeth into someone’s flesh. Friend or foe, it doesn’t much matter. Junkyard dogs will as easily lick the hand that feeds them one day, as they will bite it the next. And sometimes it’s hard to tell a grin from a snarl. To be sure, between McCain and Palin, there’s enough slobber and lies to foul the national dialogue for another 41 days. 

The history books may one day accurately record the demise of the McCain-Palin ticket as the logical conclusion of fiery rhetoric colliding with an even fierier reality. Facts are facts: reality always (eventually) trumps illusion, and truth always (eventually) trumps lies. But I’m hoping for a more timely arrival of the truth this election season. The good news for Americans is that, this year, we see some promise that truth may actually arrive on time, in its own time, instead of post-election, when it’s far too late to be of any use.

At the same time, I’ve become too wise to hope too much, too soon. I’ve seen enough over the past 8 years to know that anything (anything) is possible. “Enough” has yet to be enough. For the next 41 days, there still remains the possibility/likelihood of a September surprise or an October event of such magnitude that Americans would again be blinded by fear and panic (I’ve seen it happen) into doing something reckless (I’ve seen it happen) like appointing another fox to guard the henhouse — or, in this case, electing a pair of junkyard dogs to restore the finer points of truth, law, order, justice, humanity and scruples to our American government. 

No doubt about it: the mavericks have seen better days. And today — for all their strutting and fretting, their sound and fury — the two of them are poised mid-air in the jaws of the forlift. All that remains is for the American people to push the “HELL NO” lever on the McCain-Palin ticket and send their mangled platform to the polical junkyard where it belongs. Below is some tangible evidence for those who, like me, are in sore need of hope that, this time around, things will be different: truth will indeed trump lies, before it’s too late to matter. My perusal of the past week’s headlines, alone, has given much fodder for hope.

HOW ABOUT THAT SARAH?

Ever hear of an American political candidate barring the press outright? Well, to be fair, the McCain team didn’t completely block the press. The rules were: cameras yes, journalists no. This was, after all, a photo-op. Sarah’s whirlwind diplomatic tour this week — designed to dispel ugly rumors that she’s not ready to handle world affairs — is instead confirming what we already know: the McCain campaign doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of convincing any but the dumbest and most gullible of Americans that Sarah Palin is qualified to even act as mayor of Wasilla or the governor of Alaska, much less as vice-president or (gulp) president of the United States. Still, the McCain team perisists in erecting a facade, of sorts. Hence, the gag order on Sarah Palin’s mouth, juxtaposed with pics galore from carefully staged photo-ops. This manipulation of the press, by barring reporters access to a candidate, is unprecedented — not just in presidential politics, but in the entire history of American politics. Even Fox News was at a loss to pretty this one up: 

There’s not once chance that Governor Palin would have to answer a question. … They’re eliminating even the chance of any kind of interaction with the candidate — it’s just unprecedented.

To be fair, the media were officially allowed 29 seconds in the presence of her oily highness, in which they were able to glean a glimpse of Sarah’s foreign policy finesse during her meeting with Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, with their dialogue — from beginning to end — duly reported by the New York Times

“What is his name?” Ms. Palin was heard to ask, referring to the birth of Karzai’s first child least year. 

“Mirwais,” Mr. Karzai replied. “Mirwais, which means, ‘The Light of the House.'”

“Oh nice,” Palin responded.

“He is the only one we have,” Mr. Karzai said.

 

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GEORGE WILL COMMENTS ON McCAIN’S TEMPERAMENT

McCain was his own worst enemy last week as, in desperation, he impulsively mis-fired one sure-fire gaffe after another. George Will commented on this Sunday, then again yesterday, in the Washington Post

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama…. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are “corrupt” or “betray the public’s trust,” two categories that seem to be exhaustive — there are no other people…. 

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either….. It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

SAM DONALDSON ON McCAIN’S DEREGULATION HYPOCRISY & THE INFLUENCE OF AGE

Sam Donaldson , equally unimpressed with John McCain’s “presidential” presence and economic finesse, commented on McCain’s two-decade-long support for deregulation (which McCain quickly flipped into a newfound criticism of deregulation last week):   

The question is, who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and unflustered? It wasn’t John McCain….His talking points have gotten all mixed up and I think the question of age is back on the table. 

We deregulated in the beginning of ’99 and 2000 the banking industry, Phil Gramm and others, I think that Obama ad is correct. He was one of the prime movers. Now we’re going to have to clean that up at great expense. So I mean, I think for John McCain, though, who has the heaviest burden here, since he voted for all the deregulation, for him to now say he would be the toughest re-regulator is kind of a hard thing to swallow.”

(PHOTO, LEFT) McCain at an appearance this summer with Phil Gramm, his long-time financial adviser and campaign co-chair (until this past July). As one of the architects of the deregulation and decapitated laws that have so crippled Wall Street, Phil’s name has become a household word, as well as a favorite four-letter word.  

SPEAKING OF DEREGULATION….

Shooting himself in both feet, Sen. John “I’m-always-for-less-regulation” McCain penned an article for the September-October issue of Contingency, wherein, he makes a case for maverick-style health care reform. Paul Krugman brought this article to public attention yesterday, drawing our focus to one particularly disturbing passage, in which McCain presses for a “freer market” for health coverage, making the argument that health insurance would benefit from the same sort of innovation enjoyed by the deregulated banking industry. In McCain’s own words:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Oh, if only McCain could eat his own words, erase them from the annals of history…. Then maybe his campaign’s recent deathbed conversion to anti-regulation would be believable, and his recent attacks, blaming Obama (instead of deregulation) for the Wall Street crisis wouldn’t be so laughable. 

 

AND SPEAKING OF PAUL KRUGMAN…

In a recent NYT op-ed piece titled, “Blizzard of Lies,” Krugman sees the McCain-Palin campaign’s smears and lies as bellwethers of what they’d bring to the presidency. 

How a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern….The Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

BUT I THINK SHAKESPEARE SAID IT BEST, SOME 400 YEARS AGO:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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