David and Lili's World Tour

USA

December 2004 - Visiting Home

I'm at my brother's house in Houston, but not for long. I'm off to Puerto Rico and Brazil. The big news is that LILI (last seen in London) will meet me in Rio and travel with me for the duration. Our plan, in a word, is AFRICA. That's exciting :-)

I spent Thanksgiving with family in Arizona, then drove with my uncle Bill to Texas. We had great Mexican food in El Paso, saw the Alamo compound in San Antonio, and went out for beer in the town of Fort Stockton, where there was one bar, the Good Times Lounge. The people were friendly, but I think the name Good Times Lounge constitutes wishful thinking. Or maybe it was just a slow night.

November 2004 - Bush and the Liberal Media

Regarding the re-election of George Bush, I console myself with the following thoughts:

1) Monkey Planet, Chimp in Chief.

2) We are minuscule specs in the infinite cosmos; the Universe will be just fine :o)

I have been challenged by the assertion in my last post about the Republican Party owning the media. Some say the media is liberal. OK, I exaggerated to make a point; the Republican Party does not own all of America's news media. But I stand by my assertion. Here's why...

There are "liberal" journalists and celebrities, but the overwhelming effect of the mainstream media in America is a bias in favor of profits for corporations at the expense of fair and accurate reporting, and this is not a liberal bias. The news has been corrupted. It is driven not by what is true, but by what sells - to audiences and advertisers and corporate bosses. It goes without saying that information corruption is inherently bad for democracy. My contention is that this mainstream bias in favor of the Republican Party enabled George W Bush's victory. And we have no vote to change media ownership.

There are blatantly "conservative" or "right wing" media outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and they have shockingly high ratings and wide distribution. But educated and intelligent people can see through such obvious propaganda. The problem is worse where the bias is more subtle. The bias in the news is a profit bias, not a right-wing bias per se. For giant corporations, the mandate to maximize profits is the only mandate. These corporations manufacture consent for the politics of corporate greed.

What we have seen in America over the last twenty years is mergers, really big mergers, with the end result that now pretty much all of the mainstream media has been bought by giant corporations. This used to be illegal. The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed the rules to allow media monopoly. This is not in the best interests of we the people. America's founding fathers would not be happy.

Here are some examples: GE (one of the world's largest military suppliers) owns NBC News. Time Warner does something like $25 Billion in sales every year. This mega-corporation owns CNN. Disney owns ABC and ESPN. Note that Disney is not all about wholesome cartoons for children. Michael Eisner, the mega-corporation's CEO, is quoted as saying "We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective." And of course Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation owns Fox. Rupert not only promotes a radical right-wing bias, but he is buying up media on a vast scale globally (profit bias is a problem in Europe, too). Just watch Fox News to see what I mean; it is the mouthpiece of Republican Party extremists.

In Portuguese, the word "Propaganda" means "Advertising." Giant pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars each year on advertising, and they are pro-Republican as a matter of policy. It would be naive to think that their financial muscle has no influence over content. It does.

The profit motive is clear. It's not a conspiracy, per se (except maybe at Fox News); it's a conflict of interest inside each of these board rooms. The corporate owners want lower taxes, less government regulation, more defense spending, cheap oil (even if that means going to war), and they want to keep those advertising dollars flowing. The circle of corruption is now complete: corporations support Republicans because Republicans support corporations.

The top directors of media corporations select content editors who promote their desired bias (nothing objectionable to the money people). This is easy for them to do. Instead of reporting the inconvenient facts, they distract people with rubbish and regurgitate spin. This saves them money from doing independent research, too. Reporters are pushed to go along. Who do you think gets promoted?

MSNBC is the exception that proves the rule. Its news show Countdown with Keith Olbermann is not pro-Republican. Keith is quoted as saying, "I'm not a liberal. I'm an American." Note from 2009: Thanks to the popular demand for "liberal" news (great ratings = cash), MSNBC added another "liberal" news show with Rachel Maddow. Good. Note from 2011: MSNBC cancelled Keith Olbermann, proof that MSNBC does not have a "liberal" bias.

The facts do not favor Republicans. Investigations of the numerous Bush scandals do not favor Republicans. Tough questions do not favor Republicans. Regurgitating spin does, especially when most of the "news makers" like Dick Cheney are Republicans. Few truly liberal or left-wing pundits exist. Most Democrats are centrists. Liberals like Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, and Michael Moore do not get equal time. Cheerleading for war favors the Republicans, too. And the so-called liberal media cheered.

And there are huge errors of omission. The media makes the issues. They make the talking points. They control the debate. For example, there was an enormous amount of time spent before the election devoted to the conservative issue of banning gay marriage, and little time devoted to the liberal issue of protecting the environment from corporate raiders. There was no serious coverage of the police brutality at the Republican convention (described below). Now that's news! No pictures of dead soldiers have been allowed. And when a million people in London protested against the war, I saw CNN dedicate about 20 seconds of coverage, explaining little, and then spend several minutes interviewing regular, patriotic Americans waving flags to support the troops. (If you ask me, the way to support our troops is to bring them home).

Michael Moore offered his award-winning film, Fahrenheit 911, FREE to America's television networks if they showed it before the election. Only the Independent Film Channel took him up on his generous offer. The media protected Bush. Note however, mainstream outlets did air a documentary by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that falsely attacked and distorted Kerry's Vietnam service record. Liberal bias?

News stories that have a truly liberal or left-wing bias have been virtually non existent. Television "debate" has become Democratic and Republican pundits talking spin. This is the center debating the right. Where's the left? What are the facts? There's no better way to cover up this profit bias than to promote the false notion that the media is "liberal." There's no better way to cast doubt upon any truth than to assert the opposite, with no independent fact checking. That's what the media does.

Some scientists say there is global warming; others disagree. As with evolution, the media reports the controversy not the facts. End of story.

Did you know that Bush skipped military service during the Vietnam war? No? Maybe because Dan Rather at CBS News bungled the story. Bush denied the allegation, then CBS fired Dan and hired Katie Couric (and the first guest on her Free Speech segment was none other than Rush Limbaugh, a man who already has a megaphone to spew hatred and lies). Now, shouldn't this story have focused on Bush skipping the Vietnam War (indeed, he was allegedly AWOL in 1972), and not Dan Rather's sloppy reporting?

Bush was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for felony insider trading when he was CEO of Harken Energy but the SEC stopped investigating him because his daddy, the President, hired the SEC chief. Where's the story? What happened to investigative journalism? Bush's checkered past is rife with scandalous behavior, and some of it was apparently illegal. Come on liberal media, get to work!

Remember Monica Lewinsky? Yeah, I know you do.

Check out some truly liberal media outlets, and compare:

The Nation, a weekly news magazine.

AlterNet, truly alternative.

The Huffington Post, up to the minute.

TruthOut, truth, out.

Democracy Now!

Free Speech TV is only on the Dish Satellite Network - not on cable (in Colorado). On HBO: Real Time with Bill Maher. Also on Television: Countdown with Keith Olbermann (not any more) and The Rachel Maddow Show. . . The News Hour on PBS is non-partisan; I wouldn't call it liberal, but they do go into depth on issues.

When driving in the USA, tune into the Air America AM radio, if available (you will ALWAYS be able to listen to Rush Limbaugh and friends). Also look for community-supported public radio like Boulder's KGNU, as they do not sell advertising to corporations, and thus they are free from their influence over content.

Back in 1949, the FCC established a fairness doctrine for broadcast media which held that the media, being "public trustees," had an obligation to air balanced and fair programming on all issues of public importance. This was upheld by a Supreme Court case in 1969 (Red Lion Broadcasting versus the FCC). But the FCC dissolved the fairness doctrine under Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, arguing that it was not written as law. So congress attempted to pass legislation to make it the law, but Presidents Reagan and Bush the first, both Republicans, vetoed it. And that was the end of the fairness doctrine.

Refer to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Media Matters, and Fact Check.

Therefore, it is fair to say as an exagerated generality that the Republicans own America's mainstream media. And so we're in big trouble with the Bush win. Aside from his horrible domestic and international policies, expect even more media consolidation in the hands of multinationals that only care about money. Expect even less factual reporting.

If the media were liberal, or even fairly and accurately reporting facts, then Bush would not have won. If people knew what was really going on, they would have voted him out on his ear. But they don't know. Ignorance is widespread. Ignorance favors Bush. Thank God for the Internet. The tactics of the corporations work. Propaganda works. Make it look fair and balanced by giving "both sides" (the center and far right) equal time. Then call it liberal. Allow just enough soft criticism to give the illusion that the media is independent. Do not go into depth. Do not investigate the facts. Repeat the lies. Bush says... Oh! That liberal media!

I think Bush and co. believe the media is liberal; it's liberal compared to them. But they're from another planet. My friend JBC calls them Klingons. But they're easy to spot; they're the ones who say the media is liberal. Sure, it's culturally liberal, with all the sex and violence and whatnot, but we're talking about news, politics, and factual information.

Democracy requires a well-informed population. Inform yourself. Turn off that TV and bookmark some of the "liberal" web sites listed above. Support the ones you like, because democracy requires media for we the people. But if you must get your news from TV, I recommend The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.


November 3, 2004 - BUSH WON ;-(

It is great to visit friends and family. I traveled from New York to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Illinois to Colorado. From here I go to Arizona then Texas, Puerto Rico, and Brazil...

I volunteered to help the John Kerry campaign, sadly in vain. I did data entry, phone calling, and door-to-door canvasing with MoveOn.org. I went to the vice-presidential debate in person. And on election day, I was a bilingual poll watcher in a heavily Mexican precinct.

This country was founded on the idea that there should be checks and balances in the wielding of power, a great idea (albeit inefficient). Now, the Republican Party owns it all. Watch out. Today, November 3rd, 2004, I am dressed in black.

September 2004 - New York City

I used to live in New York state, and I visited THE CITY often, but now I see it differently. Moscow is not Russia. Paris is not France. And New York is not America. After such a long time in India and China, I see similarities with Europe more than differences. New York reminds me of London with taller buildings. So the culture shock of returning to America wasn't that severe; I am used to Western culture.

But there was shock. First of all, there's the crappy American television propaganda. I hadn't seen it in more than a year. And it is shocking. They say that Bush is ahead in the polls. Sigh.

My friends Sheilah and Bert protested at the recent Republican National Convention and their daughter got arrested. Here is her story...

Jess saw cops beating the crap out of a young protester, so she yelled SHAME. Cops grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground. While handcuffed, she was doused with pepper spray. They took her to a place for temporary political prisoners, a special detention area, allegedly paid for by the Republican Party. Jess was charged with 5 felonies and 2 misdemeanors, all lies. She was eventually released on $10,000 bail. The next morning at 4:30 am, police visited her apartment to interrogate her flat-mates, asking about Jess' political ideology, etcetera. And at 6:00 am, police visited her parent's flat. They also went to her workplace. As of today, the felonies have been dropped to misdemeanors, but the story is not over yet... All in all, some 2000 people were arrested over the duration of the convention on bogus charges. The cops arrested people who were not even protesting, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shock. Welcome to George W Bush's America, home of strict security and thorough searches (even at the bus station), legal assault weapons, obesity, junk food, credit-card debt, and nationalism, where there is a Clear Skies Act that rewards polluters, where the Healthy Forests Act is designed to help loggers to rape public lands, where there is a perpetual war in the name of peace, where any dissent is labeled as unpatriotic, and the media is controlled by a handful of multinationals that only care about money, where Big Brother is watching you and can throw you in jail without charging you with a crime, indefinitely, secretly, ala the Patriot Act. In my opinion, this is some really scary shit! Welcome to the USA.

Prior to the 2000 election, I wrote the Shrub Roast (or, Why even Republicans should vote for Al Gore). I sent it to hundreds of news organizations, sadly in vain. But it is still relevant.

Under no circumstances should We The People allow W to win re-election.

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