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Sarah Palin & Tickle-Me-Elmo: A Historical Perspective

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elmo1According to a new poll from Rasmussen, published Friday, ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Sarah Palin, including 65% who say their view is ‘very favorable’. A staggering 64% name Sarah Palin as their top choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. 

Here, a little historical perspective seems in order. 

Remember in 1996, when Tickle Me Elmo dolls were all the rage? Remember how parents were so desperate, they were screaming, biting and clawing at each other in toy departments across America, just to get their hands on one of those giggling monsters? Remember how some of these folks even shelled out upwards of $1,000 apiece on eBay? A similar phenomenon happened in 1983, with Cabbage Patch Kids.

83274791CS009_JOHN_MCCAIN_CIn years to come, we may be able to chalk it up to temporary insanity, the autumn of 2008, when certain members of the Republican Party grew so fearful, angry and paranoid, they thought it made perfect sense to threaten death to an Amercian presidential candidate. They grew so misguided, they truly believed they’d discovered a national hero in a dishonest, tax-evading, opportunistic welfare deadbeat, called Joe the Plumber. They grew so fervored over the stage presence of a charismatic, evangelical, xenophobic, ignorant, red-baiting racist named Sarah Palin, that they felt as if the entire future of the planet hinged on electing her to high office — despite that she’d just recently been found guilty of executive abuse of power. They became so unmoored from their bearings that they saw fit to elect the first convicted felon (Ted Stevens) to the Senate.

One thing is for certain: Come 2012, if Sarah is still — as the Republicans are calling her — the brightest shining star in their party, that doesn’t bode too well for the integrity of the Grand Old Party, much less their future. Which is just fine by me.83456115JP016_PALIN

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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

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.