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The Real Story on South Carolina’s Subversive Activities Registration Act

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As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. This applies to the latest fiction circulating the internet about this “new” law in South Carolina — the Subversive Activities Registration Act — which requires subversive groups to register with the Secretary of State and pay a $5 processing fee, or face a $25,00 fine and/or up to 10 years in jail.

For starters, this law is nearly 50 years old, a relic from the McCarthy era Red Scare — no different from the laws that still exist on the books in many states. The fact that this dusty South Carolina law is on the books is not new, nor is it news.

However, the fact that four South Carolina state senators recently filed a bill to repeal this law may very well be news. Think about it. What would compel four Republican senators from South Carolina (the first state to secede from the Union and the next-to-the-last state to relinquish Jim Crow segregation) to repeal a law requiring subversive groups to register with the Secretary of State?

I’m just saying.

Think about it. Take a closer look at these four Republican senators — all of whom jumped onto the tea party bandwagon with both feet, all of whom have spent the past year as part of the “tenthers” movement and any other movement that constitutes an affront to the Obama Administration — and ask yourself: What do you suppose would compel them to want to repeal this dusty old law?

Senator Lee Bright: Sponsored Senate Bill 424 in February 2009 to “remind” the U.S. Congress of South Carolina’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. It took a year of fighting with South Carolina Democrats, but the Republicans finally won out, as — just a few weeks ago — the S.C. Senate officially and for the record declared our state’s right to just say no to the federal government. Afterward, Senator Bright said he was “glad to be finished with the protracted battle,” then added with a laugh, “If at first you don’t secede, try again.”

Senator Kevin Bryant: Made national headlines in July 2008 when he posted a photo of an Obama-Osama T-shirt on his blog (see webshot, below) which read “The difference between Obama and Osama is just a little B.S.” Naturally, Bryant was flummoxed when fellow South Carolinian leaders called his decision to post the photo “classless.” When asked to explain himself, Senator Bryant said,

“It was meant tongue in cheek. I’ve got some questions about Senator Obama’s ties to — such as his comment that we should negotiate with Iran. Iran’s a country that would like to destroy Israel, that bothers me. But is this picture appropriate? I don’t know.”

Senator Larry Martin: After serving for 30 years in the South Carolina legislature, Senator Martin is what you’d call old school. He doesn’t pull dumb stunts like posting classless photos on his blog, nor make jokes about seceding from the Union. But he’s firmly in the camp of the tea baggers. And he’s on board with the tenthers, too, having served in the forefront of the later movement in South Carolina, which began shortly after Obama’s inauguration, when Senator Martin — sensing a state of emergency — astutely urged the S.C. chamber to give priority status on the Senate calendar to the 10th Amendment Resolution so that South Carolina could wage a war of redundancy and hopefully reaffirm, ASAP, our sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. Sen. Martin also does favor for good old South Carolinians. In 1998, for instance, he rallied on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — and the Confederate flag for which they stand — during the infamous Battle of the Azaleas. (What say? You’ve never heard of that battle? Read the SCV’s blow-by-blow account here.) And, lest we forget, it is Senator Martin who is also heading the move, as introduced in the bill last week,  to repeal the Subversive Activities Registration Act.

Senator Lee Cromer: A relative newcomer to the South Carolina ratpack, Senator Cromer has flashed enough racial code, through the teabagger, tenther and other anti-Obama movements to ensure a long political career in South Carolina politics. You do the research.

Think about it: What would compel these four South Carolina senators, who have been riding Obama’s ass ever since his inauguration — resurrecting the ghosts of John C. Calhoun, nullification, states’ rights and secession — to repeal a law that targets seditionists? What would compel four senators who — having just recently celebrated their latest state’s rights victory (as reported here on the “tenther’s grapevine”) to introduce a bill to repeal the Subversive Activities Registration Act?

Think about it: nullification, sovereignty, state’s rights, secession, repealing the Subversive Activities Registration Act…. Could sedition and/or civil war be far behind?

Rust Never Sleeps

To truly understand the tea baggers, the tenthers and this latest effort by these four South Carolina senators to repeal a dusty old bill aimed at thwarting communists and other subversives, it’s helpful to remember that — once upon a time in South Carolina and elsewhere in the South — civil rights activists and the NAACP were considered to be subversive groups. Billboards were erected throughout the South to warn us about this communist threat in our midst. President Truman became a subversive, too — at worst, a communist, at best “soft on communism” — after he proposed efforts to end discrimination, after he integrated the military and proposed integration of public places, after he proposed (but never followed through) on the idea of enacting anti-lynching laws. It was the height of the Red Scare. Astute Southern politicians — finding themselves backed into a corner — seized the opportunity: they hijacked McCarthy’s House un-American Activity Committee and made it their own; they capitalized on the Red Scare by painting blacks as communists; they exploited state laws on subversive groups as yet one more tool to deny civil rights to blacks.


Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a communist plot against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a communist.

Flash forward to the mid-1970s (only 5 years after South Carolina had finally been forced to fall in line with the rest of the South and actually integrate its public school system — and with various anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws being passed at the federal level) and you’d find South Carolina legislators dusting off those old McCarthy era laws. Even as the Supreme Court had long-since ruled such laws unconstitutional, and even as the rest of the country had put the McCarthy witchhunts behind them — Southern leaders began warning us again of the subversives among us. Borrowing from fears of the communist threat of Viet Nam, they chastised the rest of the country for growing complacent about the subversives among us.  In 1976, a handful of South Carolina legislators (Senators Gilbert McMillan, Cooley and Wise, and Reps. Fewell, Klapman and Hines, not to mention the venerable U.S. Senatory Strom Thurmond)  grew so concerned that they revived the state’s Internal Security Committee, an offshoot of McCarthy’s HUAC. They began meeting again and watching “certain” blacks for signs of subversive activity. Rep. Hines even named a few blacks in the state who he said, “might bear watching” for signs of communist activities. These leaders could at least take some comfort in the fact that NAACP members —  being deemed along with the Ku Klux Klan as part of a subversive group — were not allowed to buy guns.

It was Lee Atwater, in the Reagan era, who perhaps saved us from this pathetic attempt to resurrect the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, as Atwater found a new tool for disenfranchinsing blacks — the fiscal conservative movement. Through this nifty tactic, Southerners could now deny equal rights to blacks by pointing out the cost of any program that might benefit or level the playing field for blacks. In the wake of the Atwater era, minorities and the evil liberals who promoted their causes were deemed fiscally irresponsible and to blame for the national debt and our chronic deficits. No matter that it was, and has since been wars and the defense industry sucking our national coffers into the red  — the Southern leadership capitalized on the Atwater offensive and used it to wake the slumbering beast that is racism. Atwater’s movement was so successful, in fact, that — in the early 1990s — South Carolina leaders deemed that dusty old law obsolete and took a mind to repeal it. In 1994,  Bill 4654 was introduced to repeal South Carolina’s Subversive Activities Registration Act. While it initially generated some enthusiasm, it was ultimately referred to committee, where it fell back into obscurity to collect more dust.

It is no coincidence, today, the timing of this latest effort to repeal that law. Call our legislators knuckle-draggers, call them what you will, but they are nothing if not law-abiding citizens.  They make the laws and they keep them. And when the laws no longer suit their purposes, they get rid of them. Or they make new laws. When all else fails, they cry “States’ rights!” and wage war.

This is why the Civil war was about state’s rights, not slavery, and certainly not about morality. The Jim Crow era was also about state’s rights, not white supremacy. The battle against desegregation — the bombing of black churches, the torching of houses, the killing and violence committed against blacks during the civil right era — this, too, was about state’s rights.  The ongoing battle with the Obama Administration, just like the battle against the Truman Administration, is also about states’ rights. And — courtesy of Lee Atwater’s legacy — it is also about that sleeping beast that was awoken at the moment Obama took office: the fiscal conservative movement.

Nevermind that these same fiscal conservatives sat on their hands for 8 years, raising nary a pip while the Bush Administration nearly doubled the debt per family (teabaggers and evil liberals alike) to $82,292. Nevermind the economic armageddon — the collapse of our economy, the soaring unemployment, the skyrocketing foreclosure rates — that Obama inherited from the Bush Administration, prompting the stimulus bill that added another $10,000 to this total.  This is not about race, folks. It’s about saving our country.

To this end, our state leaders find themselves between a rock and a hard place — between a black president and the laws of the land. They are staring down the barrel of a long gun, realizing that unless they do something drastic, blacks might actually —  despite centuries of slavery, Jim Crow law and the myriad subversive efforts to institutionalize discrimination –make gains in their long struggle for equality. What the fiscal conservatives need is a transformative figure. To this end, they have resurrected the ghosts of John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman, Joseph McCarthy, Westwood Pegler, Ronald Reagan and Lee Atwater. But what they need is a flesh and blood leader, a living demagogue to serve as a lightning rod to their cause.

Several have applied for the position — from Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, to Joe the Plumber and Joe Wilson. While these folk have made impressive inroads, none have gained quite the degree of fervor necessary to inciting violent rebellion. If history is any indication, however, it may be just a matter of time before some capable hand lights the fuse. And when that time comes, our leaders will be ready. They are, if nothing, law-abiding citizens. To this end, there’s that dusty old law on the South Carolina books that needs to be repealed — an effort whose urgency should be self-evident to anyone who knows the history of our country.

FROM THE BLOG AIKEN CHRONICLES

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Joe Wilson, the Know-Nothings and the Great Lost Cause: The South Rises Again

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(LEFT) A 9-12 protester, dressed in camouflage, carries a sign with a picture of an assault rifle pasted to the front. The caption reads: "A PICTURE this time. DON'T make me come back!" (RIGHT) D.C. Protester sporting a shirt that reads, "God & Guns ~ Back by Popular Demand."
(LEFT) A 9-12 protester, dressed in camouflage, carries a sign with a picture of an assault rifle pasted to the front. The caption reads: “A PICTURE this time. DON’T make me come back!” (RIGHT) A man wearing a shirt that reads, “God & Guns ~ Back by Popular Demand,” is flanked by D.C. protesters carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

 

Doomed to repeat
  
Unless we choose to learn something from this particular chapter in our history, there’s no point in belaboring Joe Wilson’s outburst or gawking over the stream of vigilante protestors who commemorated 9-11 this past weekend by issuing thinly veiled threats to kill the President of the United States, along with certain Democratic members of Congress.  The fact is, until men like Joe Wilson cease being revered as the patron saint of the great Lost Cause, we can make no claim to have learned one of our country’s greatest history lessons.
 
 
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The Lost Cause

Growing up in South Carolina, I developed a mental block toward history, beginning sometime in elementary school. What child of 1960s South Carolina could possibly keep straight which was our state flag (the pretty blue flag, with the palmetto tree? or the scary red flag, with the big blue X in the middle, that flew from the yards and pick-up trucks of certain people?) — much less keep straight all of the Important Wars that our state had fought over slavery: the War Between the States, the Civil War, the War for Southern Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, the War of Secession, the Lost Cause?

Had someone told me then, what I know now, I might not have been a C-student in history and would have understood — long before the Lee Atwater era and the rise of the Southern strategy that has given birth to today’s tea baggers, deathers, birthers and twelvers — that the Lost Cause by any other name is still just a bloody war that has to be conceded. 

Before the Civil War, both the President and Vice-President of the Confederacy of newly seceded states (Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, respectively) named slavery as the primary cause of the war. After all, until the Civil War, slaves were chattel property — not human beings. What right had the Federal government to stand between a man and his property?

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite [from the U.S. Constitution] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.  — Alexander Stephens in March 1861, comparing the new Constitution of the Confederacy with the “old” constitution — the U.S. Constitution — which Stephens claimed was built on a “sandy foundation ” as it “rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. “

It [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts. — Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

After the war, Davis and Stephens backpeddled a bit, trying to divorce slavery from the equation. The emphasis was put entirely on states’ rights and secession, as if slavery had nothing to with either. It was during this period that the “Lost Cause” moniker was born.   

The Lost Cause was a purely Southern term, intended to convey for posterity the nobility of the Southern cause against the overwhelming force of the North. To this end, the Lost Causers made clear that the war was never about slavery. It was about state’s rights. It was not about the Federal government’s increasing encroachment upon the institution and expansion of slavery; it was about the South’s justification for seceding from the Union. According to this revised history, the South seceded from the Union because it was their right to resist Northern aggression toward their independence, their “Southern way of life.”

Understandably, it must have been difficult to continue infusing nobility onto a bloody war that decimated the Southern economy and humiliated its people; even more so to continue justifying the loss of 620,000 lives in a war that sought nothing more noble than the right to continue enslaving 4 million people.

dc obama massaMuch like today’s protesters who carry signs that read, “I want my country back!” — all the while insisting that their cause has nothing to do with racism — Jefferson Davis spent the balance of his life deriding the North for destroying the “Southern way of life,” all the while insisting that the war had nothing to do with slavery. Just like the protesters of today –who see today’s struggle for equal rights in health care as an assault on the Constitution and who decry Obama’s stimulus money and proposals on health care reform as the greatest assaults ever committed on our economy (even as these same protesters were perplexingly silent throughout the 8-years of the Bush-Cheney Administration’s unprecedented assaults on the Constitution and the federal budget) — Jefferson Davis was never quite able to connect the dots, never quite able to see what he was blind to seeing: the real motivation behind his selective memory on history.    

Writing in 1881, Jefferson accused the North of arriving, “like the serpent of Eden” tempting slaves with “the magic words of ‘freedom.'” If not for North, Jefferson said, these slaves — whose “servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot” — would never have succumbed to their “humble but emotional natures” and been incited to take up the cause of the North to “devastate their benefactors [slaveowners].”

And so it has been for 150 years and counting, with the torch of the Lost Cause being passed from generation to generation by various “historical” orders and “benevolent” societies thoughout the South, whose nativist, racist agendas are, at best, thinly veiled — and nearly always laid on the altar of God, Christianity and the Bible: from the Ku Klux Klan, to the  Junior Order of United American Mechanics, to the League of the South, the Association of Confederate Soldiers and the United Confederate Veterans of yore, to today’s Military Order of Stars and Bars, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group to which the now-infamous Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) belongs, and which still embraces, today, the charge issued to them in 1906 by Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee, Commander General of the United Confederate Veterans:

To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. 

And thus Joe Wilson’s Confederacy took the torch from Jefferson Davis, carrying it into the 21st century, their mantle cloaked in the noble language of abstracts: virtues, principles, ideals. No overt mention of the actual cause for which they fought — a cause which, by their own admission, they are committed to vindicating. You’ll find no overt pro-slavery sentiments among their literature; no overt mention of racism or oppression among the Lost Causers of today, even as their politics seek to institutionalize racism, and even as their politicians — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to the Bush Dynasty — employ men such as Harry Dent, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, whose job is  to groom the Southern vote by exploiting old hatred. As Lee Atwater explained in his description of the Southern strategy he used in Reagan’s campign:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites….. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

This is the secret language of the great Lost Cause. This is the language being spoken, today, by politicians who seek to romance the racist vote. This is the language of those who have hijacked Christianity, using it to justify their evil deeds, exploiting religion as a tool to claim moral superiority over those whom they seek to commit oppression and violence. This is the language of corporations who exploit old hatreds and fears to incite protest against laws that would counterbalance their corruption and abuse of the American people. This is the language that will be spoken in the upcoming event being hosted by Joe Wilson’s Sons of Confederate Veterans: The American System of Liberty: Nullification, Secession and States’ Rights.  It is the adopted tongue of the common everyday man — birthers, deathers, teabaggers and twelvers alike — who, in the process of doing the dirty work for their politicians and the corporations that line their re-election coffers,  shoot themselves in the foot, under the misguided notion that they are fighting a nobler cause than the oppression to which they, themselves, will be made victim by these same politicians and corporations.  

A riddle: How to say the N-word without saying the N-word?

Here's a riddle for you: How to say the N-word without saying the N-word?

The Lost Cause and the Bogeymen

The Lost Cause, then, is why, when I was a young child — during our night-time drives home from family weekends at the lake — I used to cover my eyes and hide on the floorboard whenever we got mired in slow traffic, as passers-by gawked at the sight of men in white hoods, burning a cross in the middle of a field. The Lost Cause is why my teachers used to turn a blind eye to my classmates, who issued my daily ass beatings to punish me for being friends with a black child. The Lost Cause is why, every year, Civil War re-enactors descend on our town to reserruct the glory of that war.  

As much as this phrase is overused — those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it — it is apropos to Joe Wilson’s outburst, pertinent to his rebel yell, “You lie!” which served as a lightning rod to draw together the forces of fear, power, money and hatred into a single hot lick of flame. This is how the torch is passed — always, always ignited by fear: fear of blacks, fear of immigrants; fear of other religions; fear of things that are different, unknown, unknowable; the fear of the bogeyman that creeps in the shadows, hiding under our bed at night, lurking in our closet, stalking us from the cradle to the grave.

The bogeymen Joe Wilson conjured in those two words were not just the stereotypical black man archetypes that white men have been inventing for the past 350 years: the arrogant Negro, the militant African American, the lazy welfare buck, always trying to pull something over on whitey. No, Joe Wilson also specifically designed to conjure the fear of the immigrant bogeyman: that foreign enemy that relentlessly steals into our borders, into the American dream — OUR American dream — the greedy Polish, German and Irish immigrants intent on stealing our jobs from under us, the gluttonous Hispanics and Latinos content to suck dry the milk of human kindness on the taxpayers’ dime, the conspiratorial Catholics, Muslims and Jews seeking to undermine and, ultimately, overthrow the American democracy and capitalism, replacing these with communism, socialism, Nazism, facism…. Or worse. This is the immigrant Joe Wilson conjured in the lick of flame he passed to his audience during President Obama’s speech — the immigrant of the Know Nothing Party.

Joe Wilson and the Know Nothing Party

Rising to power in the decade preceding the Civil war, the Know Nothing Party was born from a fear of immigration — specifically Irish Catholic immigrants. The Know-Nothings were convinced that the Pope and his Irish Catholic minions were secretly plotting to take over the U.S. government in an effort to kill freedom and democracy, and to subjugate Protestants. The Know-Nothings worked in secrecy, helping to elect leaders sympathetic to their cause. Hence, the origin of their name: Whenever asked about their activities, they answered, “I know nothing.”

On the point of anti-immigration, the Know-Nothings were united, working behind the scenes to elect leaders who promised to deliver the goods. Specifically, to institutionalize their xenophobic agenda by enacting laws to restrict immigration; by barring immigrants from working at certain jobs; by excluding immigrants from voting or holding public office; and by requiring a 21-year residency as a prerequisite to citizenship. By 1855, with their numbers swelled to a million-strong, the Know Nothings jubilantly came out of the closet and formed the American Party. 

Had the only issue been immigration, the American Party would likely have survived intact into the 21st century. However, they were divided on points of prohibition and slavery, with the issue of slavery putting the final nail in the coffin of the Know-Nothings and their American Party. The anti-slavery faction migrated into the newly-formed Republican Party of the North, while the pro-slavery faction moved their numbers to the Democratic Party of the South, joining forces in what was to become the Lost Cause. 

The rest is history:

  • the Pope and his Irish Catholic minions did not overthrow the American government, despite the Know Nothings fears;
  • the emancipated black slaves did not go on a rampage and kill white people, nor overthrow the American government in the wake of the Civil War, despite the predictions of the Southern Democrats, the Red Shirts, and Ku Klux Klan;
  • the influx of immigrants in the early 20th century was not, as the Ku Klux Klan warned, an attempt to bring the Bolshevik Revolution to American soil
  • the labor unions of the early 20th century did not topple capitalism or turn our country into a communist labor camp
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms (e.g. the FDIC, SEC, organized labor and the Social Security Act) did not turn America into a fascist state, as myriad detractors cried would happen
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower was not a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy,” as the suggested by John Birch Society
  •  President Harry Truman and the civil rights activists, artists, intellects, writers, actors and independent-minded politicians of the 1950s were not communists conspiring to infiltrate and overtake our government, as Joseph McCarthy believed to the core of his being.
  • President John F. Kennedy, it turns out, was not the AntiChrist. And history has since shown that, despite the concerted fears of Southerners and Protestants everywhere, Kennedy’s presidency was not a secret plot to incorporate America into the Catholic hierarchy, nor to decimate our First Amendment rights. 
  • the Medicare Act of 1965 did not turn America into a socialist country, as was warned in the early 60s by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
  • Martin Luther King was not a communist, as Joseph McCarthy insisted, nor was the civil rights movement part of a larger communist plan to overthrow the American government. 
  • blacks did not overthrow the American government or subjugate white men in the wake of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of 1964-65, nor was America transformed into a communist regime, as the John Birchers predicted 
  • the idea of allowing blacks equal access with whites to schools, restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains and other public places did not spring from the minds of “communist philophers,” as George Wallace and others had insisted, nor did desegration “forever” kill America’s freedom
  • Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village,” was not a Marxist manifesto calling for the destruction of the American family unit, so that our children could be placed under the care of a socialist Big Government. Nor was her health care plan.

Since the history has not yet been recorded, it will be a few years before we can offiicially add what we already know to this list:

  • health care reform is not a secret socialist plot by the Obama Administration to take over the government, subjugate Christians, empower immigrants and minorities to overpower whites, rob us of our rights and freedoms, topple capitalism, institute death panels, install fascist rule or turn American into a communist state
  • the closest America has ever come to being a fascist state was under the rule of Dick Cheney, during which time the birthers, deathers and tea baggers were asleep at the wheel

Still, hope springs eternal. Maybe one day we will no longer be a nation doomed to keep repeating this same sad, pathetic history, marching to the tune of the Know Nothings and the great Lost Causers.

 

A view of the 9-12 protest march in DC: the Confederate flag and the South Carolina state flag frame the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

A view of the 9-12 protest march in DC: the Confederate flag and the South Carolina state flag frame the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

The National Association of Retarded People and Joe Wilson’s flag

Even as the Confederate “bars and stripes” flag was never the official flag of South Carolina, nor the Confederacy, it is the official flag of the Lost Cause and all who have yet to concede the outcomes of the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act , the Civil Rights Act and desegregation.

The Confederate flag was planted on the South Carolina State House in 1961, ostensibly to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. And there it remained for 38 years, during which time the Confederate flag grew to be symbol of the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the banner under which the white supremacists marched during the Civil Rights era, then later, during the Reagan era, the flag carried by the rising movement of white supremacist skinheads and neo-Nazis. While the Civil War revisionists have long-insisted that the flag is a cherished part of our history and has nothing to do with racism, anyone who lives in the South knows the de facto symbolism. We can argue the point ’til we’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that we all know the sort of people who fly Confederate flags in their yards, or plaster its image onto their pickup truck bumpers, or proudly boast it during their Civil War re-enactments. 

And one needn’t scratch far below the surface to elicit the racial animosity that attends to this adopted symbol of our “cherished” history. In 1999, for example — after the Confederate flag had been flying over the S.C. State House for 38 years in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, and despite many efforts to have it removed — the  NAACP threatened a boycott of South Carolina tourism if the Confederate flag were not removed from the State House. In response, S.C. Sen. Arthur Ravenel announced that he wouldn’t be pressured by “that organization known as the National Association of Retarded People.” For his part, then-Senator Joe Wilson defended the flag as a “very honourable” part of his Southern heritage: 

That’s offensive to me that they would take my heritage and make it into a Holocaust era type description. I find that very offensive, and it’s not true. The Southern heritage, the Confederate heritage is very honourable.

The fact is, slavery WAS a 200-year holocaust commmitted by Christian white men – not only against blacks, but against Native Americans and any other non-white, non-Christian race that could be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Those Native Americans who were not slaughtered, were sold into slavery to fund the African slave trade, in which millons of blacks were kidnapped from their homes and stacked like common cargo into the bellies of ships for their trip to America, where they were sold  into slavery, forced to work as beasts of burden for white men. This was written into the laws, called Slave Codes, of each and every slaveholding state in our great Christian nation:

All servants imported and brought into the Country…who were not Christians in their native Country…shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion…shall be held to be real estate.” — from the Virginia Slave Code of 1705, defining slaves as those non-Christian people of color — a population that encompassed Africans and Native Americans alike, none of whom were deemed human beings in the eye of the law but were, rather, held as “real estate.” The Virginia Slave Code of 1667 had already established that Christian baptism did not alter the state of bondage.

It would be difficult to make a factual case that any of these slaves were “contented with their lot” as the Jefferson Davis-Joe Wilson school of historical revisionists would have us believe. The punishments for escape, or for stealing food, were prescribed by law and were anything but “honourable”:

For the slave first offense of petty larceny (stealing or destroying goods valued at less than twelve pence) the punishement was to be publicly and severely whipped, not exceeding forty lashes… second offense shall either have one of his ears cut off or be branded on the head with a hot iron that the mark thereof may remain… for his third offense shall have his nose slit… a fourth time shall be adjudged to suffer death or other punishment as the said judge shall think fitting. — from the South Carolina Slave Code of 1712. Similar punishments were meted to runaway slaves, with the letter “R” branded on the right cheek for a second offense. Upon the third attempt to run away, males were castrated. Should a slave die as a result of the castration, the slaveowner was compensated our of the public treasury for the value of the slave! Upon the fifth offense the “cord of the slaves legs” would be cut above the heel or, alternately, the slave would be killed. Slave owners who failed to carry out these punishments were subject to punishments ranging from fines to forfeiture of his slave.

The South Carolina Slave Codes of 1722 and 1735 took a more charitable view toward the “pretence of hunger” that might compel a slave to steal food, changing the law to reduce the number of lashings from 40 to 30 for any slave who stole “fowls, lambs, pigs, hogs, calves or pountry or any other edible matter or other thing under the value of twenty shilings.” Too, the law reflected on whether it was really in the master’s interest to kill his slave for such thefts: 

Negroes and slaves, under pretence of hunger, do frequently break open corn houses and rice houses and steal from them corn and rice…. If these slaves sought food when inadequate amounts were provided, was it in the master’s interest to kill them for burglaries committed to alleviate hunger pangs?”  from the South Carolina Slave Code of 1722

These Slave Codes remained in effect until the Civil War era, when they were replaced by a new system of laws called Black Code, then Jim Crow, then the “racial code” of the Atwater era that is with us today. For 100 years of this time – from the 1860s to the early 1960s, lynchings were the rule of vigilante justice throughout the South. Throughout this century, Southern politicians, such as Joe Wilson’s  old boss, Strom Thurmond,  fought tooth and nail against Federal anti-lynching laws — all the way into the 1950s —  insisting on the preservation of their beloved “states’ rights” for handling lynchers, sans the intrusion of the Federal government. It worked. Despite nearly 200 anti-lynching bills introduced into Congress, not a one passed, due entirely to the power of the filibuster by Southern politicians.  As some compensation, the Senate apologized in 2005 for their failure to pass antil-lynching laws.

And Joe Wilson is offended by those who would take his “heritage” and “make it into a Holocaust era type description”? Untold thousands of blacks were wantonly murdered from the 1600s onward into the earely 1960s, with a near absence of laws to protect them, much less to punish their murderers. During this time, millions of Native Americans were targeted by the U.S. government for extermination. It’s an ugly and shameful history, to be sure — one that no man or flag could, in all honesty, claim as an honorable cause. Yet, they do.  

As Joe Wilson’s own group, Sons of Confederate Veterans puts it: 

The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight.

This is all fine, so long as we understand what that fight was — and still is — really about. It’s about the cherished belief among some people in this country that the  American ideals of liberty and freedom were never more fully realized than in the days of slavery — when white men held an entire race under bondage.

This is why, when I heard Joe Wilson bellow, “You lie!” in the Senate Chamber, I knew I wasn’t hearing the voice of a principled politician fighting for a noble cause. What I heard — what we all heard — was the collective voice of the slaveowners and Know Nothings echoing their Lost Cause. It was the voices of  Jefferson Davis, Strom Thurmond, Joseph McCarthy and Lee Atwater whispering from the grave. It was the voice of schoolchildren spitting the words “Nigger lover” as they kicked their classmate in the head. It was the voice of the men in the fields, their hands raised to their hearts, singing, “God Bless America,” their dark faces lit by the glow of a burning cross.

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Joe Wilson: Dog-Whistling Dixie in the Senate Chamber

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dixie tooAs one of Joe Wilson’s constituents, I feel compelled to weigh in on his “You lie” outburst during Obama’s speech. After scanning through the comments posted about the internet, I’ve noticed there’s a prevailing misperception that,  by virtue of being citizens of this state, we South Carolinians are all — each and very one of us — responsible for repeatedly re-electing this neanderthal to the House. 

Unless you have the misfortune to be a Democrat in South Carolina, you can’t possibly appreciate the futility of trying to elect intelligent, principled leaders of integrity in certain districts of South Carolina. Joe Wilson’s district covers some of the state’s largest concentrations of the poorest of the poor, juxtaposed with the richest of the rich.

Allendale County, in Joe Wilson’ district, holds the highest unemployment rate in the state and, in fact, vies with some of the highest in the country, at 22.5% — up from  its 15.9% high of one year ago. The state of South Carolina currently has the 6th highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.8% (following right on the heels of  Nevada, California and Oregon), having nearly doubled in the past year. It has long been the distinction of South Carolina to rate among the worst in the country, concerning the health, education and well-being of its citizens.

We have politicians like Joe Wilson to thank for this — for cultivating and nourishing a climate that places South Carolina among the most backward states in the country.  We have been doing this for so long, that it’s become a tradition, of sorts.

One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank (and you won’t Joe Wilson bellowing these words on the Senate Floor) among the top ten  highest states on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th), and unemployment (we were at 48th in May 2009, with the recent drop to 45th place likely due to folk giving up on the futility of looking for work). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

With such deplorable health statistics for his state, in general, and his district, in particular, you’d think Joe Wilson would have something on his mind besides going to tea bag parties and spreading disinformation to kill the health care reform that would benefit the majority of his constituents. You’d think he’d be obsessed with something other than assuring the lords in his fiefdom that their tax dollars won’t (for the record, anyway) go toward paying medical care for the illegal migrant workers on whose backs their economies covertly depend. You’d think that, perhaps, Joe might have something more helpful to offer the national dialogue than, “You lie!” Joe’s actions only make sense when you consider the health of his corporate campaign contributions  (see bottom of post), as opposed to the blood and guts health of his constituents.

In South Carolina, as elsewhere in the country, the poor and the minorities are among the most disenfranchised citizens.

AN ASIDE: To be fair to Joe Wilson, Obama was just as guilty as any Republican last night of negating the existence of the poor. While discussing the number of uninsured in this country, Obama said, “These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans,” thereby dispelling, in one fell swoop, the existence of upwards of 30 to 40% of Americans who are neither on welfare, or in the middle-income bracket. This is the demographic which (scalawag notwithstanding) John Edwards fought for during his brief bid for the presidency — a mantle for the swelling numbers of poor in this country, which was not picked up by either Clinton or Obama.  

The careers of Republicans are made or broken, depending on their ability to make clear where their loyalties lie, without appearing blatantly racist. Last night’s outcry by Joe Wilson was a perfect example. 

 

dog whistleDog-Whistling Dixie

To understand the politics of South Carolina and men like Joe Wilson, one must first understand that the South Carolina Republicans have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the desegration of public schools. To understand South Carolina politics, one must first understand the politics of Lee Atwater, the architect of the modern-day Southern strategy. 

Our politicians still fight as dirty as they did during the reigns of the Red Shirts, the Klan and the Jim Crow era. The only difference, today, is that in order to  disenfranchise minority voters, undermine education to the poor, and blackwash humanitarian and social programs that could elevate these people from the bondage of servitude and poverty, a politician must be subtle. 

Remember, it’s been only 50 years since South Carolina politicans were forced, in the name of political correctness, to hang up their  white hoods. In the interim, the burning cross has been  replaced with a system of verbal winks and nods that equally convey the same message. This strategy, as described by  South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, works something like this: 

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…..  You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Joe Wilson’s outburst last night was not, as he would have us believe, a spontaneous, impassioned eruption of frustration. No, it was an intentional, calculated  hard wink to his largest campaign contributors in the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries — as well as to his well-heeled constituents:  Not to worry, fellas. Joe Wilson’s got your back. 

In the realm of South Carolina politics, those two words, “You lie!” were pure genius — capturing, in one fell swoop, the continuing generosity to his campaign coffers from the health, insurance and drug industry, along with the continued support of his “people” — knuckle-dragging racists and elitists alike.  

Already, one group has declared Joe Wilson a hero, naming him “Tea Party Patriot of the Day” —  deeming his outburst a “major victory” against the radical left and the evil liberal media.  

None of this comes  as a surprise from a man who cut his political teeth working as an aide to Strom Thurmond, Or from a politician who — in 2002, long before it was in vogue — resurrected the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, declaring one of colleagues in the House, Congressman Bob Filner as being “viscerally anti-American” with a “hatred of America,” after Filner had factually reminded the body, during an Iraq war debate, that the U.S had, in fact,  supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons.  

Wilson later apologized for this outburst, much as he did last night, saying that he hadn’t ( perish the thought!) intended to insult Filner. Working from the time-honored Republican strategy that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to resist the compulsion to engage in reprehensible political theater, Wilson  did what South Carolina Republicans do best: he put on a show.  And he wasn’t just dog-whistling dixie.

That’s what keeps the re-election coffers filled: stoke the old hatreds, replenish the ignorance, stroke the priviledged and the kings of industry, and you are assured of a long political career in South Carolina.  Joe Wilson has many beaus in industry, the greatest being “health care professionals,” who, along with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry filled his coffers to the tune of $97, 235 in the 2008 election. His 2010 re-election is all but assured.

But if worse comes to worst, and the voices of the poor and the minorities in the state threaten to change the status quo, Joe can always revert to that thing that Southern politicans do when all else fails: redistrict. 

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Potent Quotables from the Joe Wilson’s Town Hall Meetings

In the following statement, Joe Wilson is showing “concern” for his constituents in the poorest counties in his district — for whom he predicted dire results, should they be allowed equal access to medical care. His concern for this particular population, which holds the 2nd highest diabetes rate in the country, was that they might  “fall through the cracks” of “a big government system.” 

 We know that diabetes causes many other collateral health conditions, and quality of life is destroyed, families are destroyed because of diabetes. So, by adopting a big government system where people fall through the cracks, there are a lot of people, particularly people in the rural community I represent, who are going to be hurt. 

Joe Wilson on “Obamacare” and death panels, aka Bill 3200:

It will be the government determining the care you get and ultimately whether you live or die.

American Health Care Reform: Socialist Plot or Evil Conspiracy? You decide.

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(NOTE: If you want to cut to the chase (thereby skipping my 24-paragraph editorial hooplah, below) simply skip to page 2 of this piece for info and links on the 3 health-care options currently under consideration: the single-payer plan, the public option and the status quo.)

 

 

DrowningWhen you’re drowning, you don’t notice the color of the hand throwing you a rope.

 

Welcome to American health care!

The same band of thieves that brought our economy to our knees has brought our health care system to its knees. The only difference between the banking industry and the health care insurance industry is that, with the right propaganda, the health care industry hopes to buy just a little more time — time enough to shake the last dimes out of our pockets before the damage becomes so catastrophic that, at last, the deluded mobs will click into survival mode and grow color-blind to the hand throwing them a rope.    

Until then, it appears that our health care debate will continue to be poisoned with wild-haired fears about socialist plots, scary black men, Nazi death panels and birth certificate conspiracies.  It appears, too, that Obama fully intends to continue with this quaint notion of forging bipartisanship with the very corporate propagandists and their paid political hacks on Capitol Hill who have been spending millions upon millions to sabotage his adminstration and, by extension, America itself.

Remember all that talk during the campaign about appeasing terrorists?

Who’d a-thunk: Here we are, one year later, and darned if Obama’s not appeasing a small faction of violent extremists, who believe it is their eminent right to deem certain politicians (any, by extension, the majority of Americans who are in favor of health care reform) as being so evil, that anything and everything — up to, and including murder — is a justifiable means to silencing the opposition. It is of some irony that many of these extremists, much like their al Qaeda counterparts, believe that their God has appointed them to this agenda — that He is calling upon them, personally, to bring our country and its leaders down in flames.

This would be the same God who called upon the Puritans to hang witches; the same God who called upon white men to enslave blacks like beasts of burden; the same God who called upon white men to exterminate Native Americans; the same God who called upon the Klan to lynch blacks, Jews and union activists; the same God who, today, is calling on conservatives and the evangelical Right — many of these working under the invisible auspices of the infamous Doug Coe and The Family —  to lynch and  assassinate their political opponents.   

The complicity of the the Republican Party in this is most unholy and undemocratic process is testament to the power of the insurance industry (existing, as it does, in financial partnership with Wall Street, the evangelical Right, the pharmaceutical industry and, yes, the giants in the oil industry). The abject failure of conservative politicians to condemn the violent rhetoric is testament to the power of money: to the millions upon millions of corporate dollars that have been paid into the coffers of Republicans and blue-dog Democrats who — while they may not be among those openly fanning the flames of violence — are merely sitting on their hands, while death threats are being waged against their Democratic colleagues.

 

VIDEO BELOW: Rep. David Scott of Georgia reads the racist hate mail he received in the wake of a town hall meeting on health care reform

 

It all started innocently enough….

Back in August 2008, Obama laid out his vision for the type of health care debate he hoped to pursue under his adminstration:   

I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.

Had Obama delivered on this promise — handing the reins over to actual health care reformers and the American people they represent, rather than handing the reins over to the giants who serve the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — the tone of today’s health care debate would not have devolved into a mob war, peppered with incendiary rhetoric about socialist plots to kill old people and babies. We wouldn’t be witnessing the faux outrage of paid protesters shouting shoulder-to-shoulder with genuinely terrified (albeit sadly misinformed) people who have been deluded into believing that health care reform is a secret plot to turn America into a facist, socialist state, with Obama conspiring to use health care as the vehicle for a eugenics/euthenasia program. 

Had Obama placed the health care debate in a public forum, the word “lynching” would not have made its way out of a congressman’s mouth and into the health care debate.  But the Republicans abrogated their integrity long before this. They lost it the instant they openly wished failure on the Obama Admnistration. They lost it the instant they embraced the ghost of the 1920s era Klan to carry their mantle. In order for bipartisanship to work, both sides have to engage in debate. It doesn’t work when one side is hanging effigies and issuing death threats against the other.    

This is nothing new. The entire history of our country has been one long struggle to forge bipartisanship between the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the Christians and the non-Christians, the violent and their victims. It has only been by sheer force of constitutional law that the noble principles of our Constitution ever held in check the baser nature of our society: slavery, Native American genocide, Black Code, Jim Crow, lynchings, McCarthyism, segregation, racial code…. And, even then, change always occurs too late — if it occurs at all — and only after decades or even centuries of intimidation and violence.  

Change has never, ever — not one single time — occurred through mutual agreement. Think about it.

 

VIDEO: Rachel Maddow interview with former Republican evangelical activist, Frank Schaeffer, on the mob violence being organized by the Republican party and the insurance industry.

 

Perhaps Obama believed that bipartisanship could be forged by appeasing the corporate giants and the politicians whose pockets they line. After all, these people don’t play nice. Obama surely figured that out early-on in his administration. Perhaps he believed it would buy their cooperation if — instead of real health care reform — he offered up a token gesture to the American people: something that constituted a change, of sorts, but would — first and foremost — do no harm to the profit margin of these corporations. Perhaps Obama believed he could buy their peace by silencing the voice of true health care reformers — which was accomplished by giving the bums-rush to the single-payer advocates, as they were ushered away from the ‘big table’ with police escorts. 

This is what happens when you make back-room deals with ruthless people: you give them the reins to power. And they take it.  

By giving the power to these corporations and the politicans they serve, Obama gave them license to hijack health care reform. And in doing so, he robbed ordinary American citizens of their voice in the political process; robbed us of the opportunity to talk, as a nation, about the actual costs — the dollars and cents — of our existing for-profit insurance coverage vs. a single payer plan; robbed us of the opportunity to study the feasibility of  incorporating “Medicare for all”  into our health care stystem — extending this government plan to cover more than just senior citizens, veterans and the disabled.  

He robbed us of the opportunity to discuss the quality of health care in this country as delivered by the for-profit insurance industry vs. single-payer Medicare type coverage; robbed us of the opportunity to learn the facts (as opposed to the fallacies) about health care systems in other developed countries, such as France, which the World Health Organization rated as #1 in health care quality, vs. the #37 slot held by the United States. It’s a safe bet that the rabid protestors carrying angry signs about socialist takeovers would be impotent to explain the health system in France, which enjoys a hybrid system — a mix of private, “for-profit” insurance and government insurance, similar in theory what has been proposed for the United States. 

Americans assume that if it’s in Europe, which France is, that it’s socialized medicine. The French don’t consider their system socialized. In fact, they detest socialized medicine. For the French, that’s the British, that’s the Canadians. It’s not the French system…. The French want pretty much the same thing as Americans: choice and more choice.– historian Paul Dutton at Northern Arizona University, author of Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France.

What would have happened, had Americans been presented with a one-paragraph bill, reading something like this?

Americans, you now have the freedom of choice: You may either pay your insurance premiums to a private, for-profit health insurance carrier, or pay your premiums into a government single-payer insurance plan, similar to the plan that has long-been enjoyed by senior citizens and veterans. Or, if you like, you can do both. The private, for-profit insurance industry, being an integral part of  the free market, is free to set their own policies. Should you choose to pay into the government’s single-payer plan, you will be covered from birth to death for all medical care, period, with no co-pays or deductibles. 

Obviously, one paragraph wouldn’t suffice, but this would be a workable starting point for plainly stating health care reform, in a nutshell. Regarding the cost for this plan, Obama could take a page from the for-profit insurance industry in the U.S.  Because they have proven, if nothing else, that insuring people can be an obscenely lucrative business. How else could UnitedHealth Group afford to pay a single executive $819,000 per day? That’s a almost $103,000 per hour paid to just one CEO! How else could the insurance industry afford to shell out $1.5 million per-day to wage a campaign to convince Americans that single-payer health care = a facist, socialist plot to take over our country and kill old people and babies?  How else could the insurance industry afford to spend 1 out of every 3 health care dollars on lobbying, PR and executive compensation packages? You think those folks haven’t calculated the net worth of this campaign? More to the point: Does anyone honestly believe that the  insurance industry gives a whit who lives or dies in America?

VIDEO: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films and sickforprofit.com answers the question, “What does UnitedHealthcare CEO Stephen Hemsley have to lose if Congress passes real healthcare reform this year?” 

 

What the insurance industry does not want us to know is this: Human health is a commodity that generates shareholder profits and billion-dollar executive compensation packages. So long as this is the case, there will always be the built-in incentive to deny medical care — not on the basis of medical advice or science, but by its relationship to the profit margin.

The insurance industry would like us to believe that, under Obama’s plan, health care decisions would be made by government bureaucrats. The insurance industry would like us to believe that it is superior to have our health care decisions made — not by doctors, but by insurance industry executives, armed with actuary tables that tell them exactly who is (and is not) profitable to insure, as well as which diseases and treatments must be denied for the sake of the industry’s profit margin.  

As a disabled American who is insured by a single-payer plan — Medicare, for which I pay a $100 per month premium — I can tell you that no insurance bureaucrat, nor government bureaucrat, has ever stood between me and my doctor, nor dictated which providers I am “allowed” to see, or disallowed any treatment my doctors recommended. 

My point is not to extol the virtues of the Medicare system, nor to entirely demonize the insurance industry, but to suggest that there is absolutely a happy medium to be struck between the debt-plagued Medicare system, which provides efficient and unobtrusive health care, vs. the insurance industry, which  generates billions upon billions in profit by denying care.   

What the lynch-mobbers have yet to understand is their backers (politicians and insurance execs alike) don’t give a whit about the plight of sick people, or about the evils of socialism. The insurance execs funding this propaganda campaign aren’t losing sleep over the idea that health care reform is a secret plot to kill old people and babies (although the insurance industry would have to plead guilty, were they being honest, to the crime of delivering death sentences to people of all ages and walks-of-life). No, what keeps insurance executives awake at night is the elephant in the room:

It is not only possible to insure millions of people without going bankrupt, it is possible — as the insurance company has been proving for decades — to generate obscene profits doing this. It only stands to reason, then, that a well-managed insurance program, such as the single-payer plan, could exist as a break-even proposition, generating neither catastrophic loss or obscene profit.  

France has proven this. To be fair, the system in France is not perfect. They are currently tweaking their system in the response to a $9 billion debt in their health care system. Nine billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at. The U.S. has been spending this much every two weeks in Iraq, and expects to spend this amount every 18 days, after our “troop withdrawal,” for the next five years in Iraq.     

empty chairObama’s folly has been the belief that he could buy peace and cooperation from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by putting a gag order on the true advocates of health care reform and serving up a 1,000 page bill that is so ambiguous and inscrutable that no will know just how many times the Democrats cried “Uncle!” to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by the time all is said and done.

Maybe this is America’s destiny — to keep learning the same bitter  lesson over and over: that equality, liberty and fidelity to the spirit of our Constitution can only be realized after a protracted rein of inequality, human suffering and lawlessness. Granted, the lynch mobs represent only a small fraction of Americans, but history proves that it takes a million-fold human lives chained to misery and oppression to offset the power, wealth and influence of just one slave trader, one lynchman, one assassin, one corporate giant, one crooked politician, one Christian warrior gone amok. 

And, even then, the peace is only temporary, for it’s only a matter of time before the torch has been re-ignited, passed on to the next generation. Which is to say that it is a sad state of affairs when the best we can hope for, come September, is not honest bill for health care reform but, rather, that the death threats being issued by the henchmen of the corporate giants will not be realized.

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Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more information on the specifics of the 3 health care plans, see page 2 of this article.

The Infidelities of Mark Sanford: A Tale of Pitchforks, Lust & Lies

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lipstick Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Mystery solved. We now know what compelled Governor Sanford to seemingly disappear into thin air. We know why he impulsively hijacked a S.C. State Law Enforcement vehicle (fully-equipped with weapons, lights, sirens, bells & whistles), driving at high rates of speed as he departed in the middle of the night for parts unknown, abrogating his sworn duties to the citizens of South Carolina, and leaving in his wake a trail of lies as treacherous as certain passages on that very footpath  he was hiking. (psyche!) Mystery solved. The governor can now add dereliction of duty to his resume.

God hates lawlessness and is tireless in His desire to dissuade man from his fascination with lawlessness. Our hearts are lions’ dens of devouring lusts. Lawlessness torments righteous souls every day.  — Mark Sanford’s spiritual advisor, Warren “Cubby” Culbertson, whom the governor terms “a spiritual giant.”

Fortunately for Sanford, he was a Christian before embarking on his second trek to Argentina, making forgiveness pretty clear-cut, regarding matters of God and mortal sin. That leaves just us. Can we, the citizens of South Carolina forgive Governor Sanford for his marital infidelity — even as his hypocrisy makes him an even bigger liar than Bill Clinton?

Under the right circumstances, most people —  even athiests, heathens and other non-Christians — are pretty compassionate when they see another human fall. But the fact is, the extramarital affair of King David (as he’s now annointed himself) is ultimately a painful and private matter between the governor, his family and his concience. But what of the governor’s conscious decision to walk off the job — leaving his state unattended  and vulnerable to catastrophe for 6 days? 

I don’t know how the folk in Sanford’s circle handle such things, but where I come from, when you pull a no-show, no-call on the job, that’s it. Unless you’re laid up in the hospital or dead at the morgue, you’re fired, I don’t care who you pray to.   

lieTo be clear, South Carolinians couldn’t care less about the governor’s private life, even as his private lies reflect certain truths about his character. We are most concerned with his on-the-job mendacity —  including any pertinent fascinations with lawlessness that torment his righteous soul every day. These infidelities and lies — which have become somewhat of a pattern under his watch — belong entirely to the citizens of South Carolina, on whom the governor has been cheating for years. 

Several years before he absconded to Argentina, the governor secretly tried to sell (aka privatize) the state’s largest utility, Santee Cooper, to Credit Suisse. Then he lied about it. And, for years, he’s been running around with some sugar daddy scalawag from New York. Jenny Sanford has her own story to tell about the governor’s infidelities, which can only hope to scratch the surface of his lies. Here’s ours. 

Bibles, Pitchforks & Patriots: A South Carolina Tradition 

The longstanding object of Mark Sanford’s devouring lust is a real estate millionaire mogul from New York named Howard Rich, who has not only made a whore of Mark Sanford, but has purchased the loyalties of every Palmetto State politician whose ethics could be bought. As such, it is increasingly the idealogy of a man ironically named “Rich” that drives the political agenda of our state. The pity is that the sordid details of Governor Sanford’s affair with Howard Rich are not sexy enough to warrant wall-to-wall national media coverage. In fact, Howard Rich’s agenda — (dismantling public education in South Carolina) — is so unsexy, that it doesn’t even warrant mention outside the state.

I view guys like him as patriots. He’s a guy that passionately believes that choice in education is better education.Governor Mark Sanford, speaking of Howard Rich, who donated a total of $21,000 to the governor’s campaign

It is our state’s well-deserved reputation for backwardness makes South Carolina fertile ground for a man like Howard Rich. One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank among the top ten  highest states (and you won’t hear these statistics from Howard Rich or Governor Sanford) on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th) and unemployment (48th as of May 2009). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

Lucky for us, Governor Sanford and the rest of Howard Rich’s political henchmen have a solution. Rather than address the pathology of our diseased state, they’ll simply ignore it. Rather than aspire to unshackle South Carolinians from our historic bondage to poverty, illiteracy and disease, they’ll  legitimize it. It worked in the Jim Crow era; it can work today: simply make make laws that will disenfranchise all but the rich white folk. The trick is in getting the poor white folk to go along with the plan.  

One way to doing this is to blame the “other folk” (them’s who ain’t rich or white) for everything  that’s wrong. Another is to wave the flag and give the Bible a few good thumps. If you play your cards right, you can convince the poor white folk that — no matter how much it hurts ’em — it’s their patriotic duty to their country and God to do whatever our flag-waving Bible-thumping politicians tell them to do.   

USA-POLITICS/

To this end, the Rich-Sanford message has been crafted to appeal to the same classes of wealth, racism and religious zealotry that have been ruling this state since the first slaves arrived on our shores. Howard Rich — for all his talk about improving education — would be powerless, if not for his appeal to the most narrow-minded of South Carolinians. Lucky for him, the state still holds a majority of whites who have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for giving blacks the right to vote in 1965.

 

tea party

So far, so good. To date, Howard Rich and his gang have made substantial progress toward convincing South Carolians that:

  • Public schools, being a form of socialism, are ineffective and inherently evil.
  • By privatizing our school system, we will lower the cost of education and raise the quality, due to the hoo doo magic of that same free market competition that did such wonders for Wall Street and the U.S. health care system.
  • It’s cheaper, per child, to subsidize private school tuition than it is to fund a public school education.
  • Therefore, a better use of our taxpayer dollars would be take that money out of the public school system and use it, instead, to subsidize private school tuition for those families who “choose” to send their kids to private school.  

To those of us who worry that taking money out of the public school system to subsidize private schools for rich folk might further degrade our public schools — or that it will (and, in practice, does) resurrect the institution of racial segregation — the Rich-Sanford folk have an answer. See, there’s nothing barring minorities and the poor from enjoying these tax cuts and school vouchers. All they have to do is cough up the $3,000 out-of-pocket tuition, per child, per year — or, alternately, choose from the many charitable organizations that will no doubt be clamoring to give scholarships to blacks and poor people who cannot afford private school tuition. 

This is how we do things in South Carolina. This is how we “get around” inconvenient laws. This is nothing new. The roots of South Carolina politics were born in the plantation system, with our entry into the 20th century driven by wealthy plantation owners who had a gift for exploiting the ignorance, fears and racism of poor whites. It was Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman who crafted the 1895 S.C. Constitution on the backs of these ignorant, fearful masses — giving birth to the Jim Crow era that disenfranchised blacks and the poor, and granting license-to-lynch to the second era of the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized this state for nearly half a century. Things have changed little since.

The same bogeymen conjured at the turn of the century by S.C governors “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and Coley Blease are the same bogeymen being conjured today by Rich-Sanford and their henchmen: socialists, communists, blacks and any one else who poses threat to the sensibilities of the red-blooded, God-fearing, white American citizens of this state. The only difference, today, is in the semantics — a code, of sorts, which has evolved from the fiery rhetoric of Pitchfork Ben’s day, to the infinitely more polite racial code being used today. The architect of these semantics (South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, aka “the Boogieman”) plainly described the evolution of this code during an 1981 interview, while explaining the Republican Party’s Southern strategy in the Reagan campaign:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964… and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps…?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Today — courtesy of the Rich-Sanford plan — the words “school vouchers” and “tax credits” and “school choice” are part of this code, interfacing nicely with the economic concerns invented by Atwater. Could the Boogieman and Pitchfork Ben only hear as well as they speak from the grave, they’d be tickled pink: 

 

Hey, I grew up in South Carolina. I remember the mass exodus of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I remember the mass exodus to private schools in the wake of integration and, later, to home-schooling in the wake of Reagan’s moral majority campaign. 

And when I listen to Howard Rich’s spin on saving taxpayer money and cutting spending, I hear the dog whistle loud and clear. I know exactly who and what he’s talking about when he says:

The other side is in it for one thing: taxpayer dollars. They love it every year when the legislature gives them more money for what they call [insert finger-quotes —->] education.

I’ve also been the recipient of the Howard Rich robocalls, attack ads and slick mailers, smearing the records of those candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) who have refused to jump in bed with Daddy Howard’s money. I’ve been witness to those malicious smear campaigns — always cleverly delivered last-minute before election day, just in time to ensure that these candidates couldn’t effectively defend themselves against the dirty lies and accusations waged against them. I’ve seen enough of Howard Rich and his paid henchmen to know that they represent that most backward element of South Carolina politics that keeps us all chained to the dark ages. 

I’ve also watched Governor Sanford’s uncanny rise  to the call of fiscal responsibility — refusing stimulus money, organizing tea parties and being just generally contrary to anything and everything Obama — even as the good governor sat on his hands for 8 years while the Bush-Cheney Administration pilfered our economy, running up the largest federal deficits and debt in U.S. history. The old axiom is true enough in South Carolina: the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will. — “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman

But, hey, we must like it this way. We must care very little for the integrity and well-being of our state and the people who live here. We must also like being the butt of late-night jokes. We must like the fact that our state’s name is synonymous with stupidity. Otherwise, we  wouldn’t keep electing these politicians over and over — politicians whose agendas are little more than thinly-veiled attempts to correct the outcomes of the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act and school desegregation. And we wouldn’t continually be drawn — out of malicious spite, it seems  — toward policies that disenfranchise some folk at the expense of all. We wouldn’t self-righteously cling to the nativist ignorance that has earned us every negative statistic and stereotype we’ve ever earned. Namely, that we are a state of backward, illiterate racists. We would, instead, call the Rich-Sanford solution exactly what it is: a school system even better-equipped to keep us chained to our ignorant past.  

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Ambition  

Every politician has a bad moment from time to time, but viewing Governor Sanford’s infamous July 2008 interview with Wolf Blitzer carries new meaning today, given the contrast of his overflowing wordiness in the now-infamous emails to Maria, written during the same week as this interview. As we now know, the governor was not only basking in the limelight as a VP potential on the McCain ticket, but was also basking in the glow of consummated love. Here, we get a truer portrait of the man who has been governing the state of South Carolina for the past 6 years.

This is not the portrait of a fiscal conservative, much less a politician of stature or substance. Governor Sanford is simply a garden-variety “good old boy,” politician, doing business as-usual in South Carolina. It’s just like Lee Atwater said: 

…. fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster… You can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

Fortunately for the entire country, Governor Sanford — who was poised to take his infidelities and his lies (along with his gentry-class sense of priviledge, his selective obedience to morals, his veiled racism and his Bush-esque approach to fiscal responsiblity) all the way to the White House — never got a chance to make his pitch to a national audience. And he never will.

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Governor Sanford at a recent tea party, protesting Obama’s evil ‘socialist’ agenda

There Must Be a Special Place in Hell for Those Who Would Vote for McCain, Based on the Color of Obama’s Skin

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On an altar of prejudice we crucify our own, yet the blood of all children is the color of God. — Don Williams, Jr., American poet and novelist

As American voters head off to stand in line for two (or three or five or eight or ten or more) hours today to cast their votes, the question bears repeating: Exactly why would anyone vote for McCain?

We’ve watched over the past two months as Republicans of sound mind and good conscience have jumped ship to Barack Obama, citing, among other things, the differences between Obama’s and McCain’s temperament, judgment, ability to handle crises, the moral tenor of their campaigns and — last but not least — their inclusiveness (or not) within their vision of the American story for ALL Americans: people of every class, race, generation, nationality, across every region of this country. 

Except for the criminally stupid and gullible — those hapless souls who, God bless them, actually believe Sarah’s stump speeches and are convinced that Obama is not only the anti-Christ, but is an Muslim, socialist, abortion-crazed terrorist, bent on turning our country into a communist state and shutting down the coal industry, to boot — who is left to vote for John McCain?  

Only the racists — those voters to whom issues of economy, jobs, education, health care, war and peace take a back seat to the color of a man’s skin. God help us all if the Republican vote stealing campaign trumps the voice of the American people. God help us, because these people have been whipped into such a frenzy by John McCain, Sarah Palin and their sidekick, Joe the Plumber, that they’re ready for blood. Anyone’s blood. And John McCain is just the leader to deliver.

Got War?

Lost in the flurry of the economy over the past 2 months has been discussion on the wars. Not just Iraq, but the wars of the future — those wars we have yet to see. As John  McCain would be the first to tell you, war is his specialty. Peace is not. As Pat Buchanan says in the video, below, about McCain: “He will make Cheney look like Gandhi”

Veterans for Peace: Commie Appeasers or Reality Checks?

What do these veterans of the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the Iraq War have in common?

For Now We See Through a Glass, Darkly

If we learned nothing over the past 8 years, it’s that the only thing worse than a warmonger is an ignorant, dishonest warmonger. 

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