An Aug. 23 segment on NPR's Morning Edition about the 2012 drought touched my sentimental side when a Kentucky farmer's voice quivered while he spoke to correspondent David Schaper. "My wife and I just look at each other every night, and we look at our children's faces before they go to sleep, and we wonder, will this be one of the last days?" he said. The piece was titled "Drought Extends Reach, Some Farmers Ready to Quit." I've spent a lot of time in Kentucky and writing about the place. I've met guys like this one.
Sadly but predictably, nowhere in the story did Schaper mention the drought's relation to climate change. Neither did the one that preceded it – "How Smokey the Bear Effect Led to Raging Wildfires" – nor any other segment on that morning's story list. Indeed, a search for "climate change" on the NPR website shows no Morning Edition stories the entire month of August. Talk of the Nation, yes. All things Considered, yes. But Morning Edition, no.
While I do sympathize with this family, especially the children, I'd have to advise the Logan County cattle farmer featured in the piece to look in the mirror. He's a victim of manmade climate change. And as a Kentuckian, he bears as much or more responsibility for his fate as anyone in the world. He and his bluegrass neighors, along with all the rest of us, brought the climate-induced 2012 tragedies of drought and wildfires upon ourselves. Payback is indeed a bitch. And we've only begun to pay.
News of Alexander Cockburn's death pierced my life force as if it were the passing of a friend, which he wasn't. For as long as I can recall, I've read his work in The Nation and CounterPunch. For the past decade, I have had the honor of my byline frequently appearing alongside his on CounterPunch, the radical, online journal he and Jeffrey St. Clair co-edited. Jeffrey, who has been a friend of mine since the mid-1980s, was one of his best friends. Through Jeff, I feel I knew Alex like a friend.
Given the events surrounding his final days, however, I will always feel a spiritual bond with Alex, the man I never knew. Early last week, I began reading what turned out to be his final piece – "Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?" – in which his thoughts on the Occupy movement mirrored and focused my own, as usual. But I couldn't concentrate or finish it because I was fasting in preparation for cancer surgery in Indianapolis scheduled for July 18. The first thing I read when I got home on the 21st was Jeff's announcement that his friend Alex had died the day before at 71, of cancer.
NBC News, if that's what it is or can still be called, devotes a substantial amount of resources to stories on opinion polls. Its website boasts five such reports between July 11 and 13, 2012. Their subjects range from American confidence in organized religion and "wealthy friendly" attitudes to a growing anti-bailout mood in Finland.
Not surprisingly, the former home of John Chancellor, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley reported nary a word about a July 11 Gallup Poll that showed American confidence in television news, like that in religion, has plummeted to unprecedented depths.
"Americans' confidence in television news is at a new low by 1 percentage point, with 21 percent of adults expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it," the Gallup report begins. The figure has hovered in the 21- to 23-percent range since 2007.
Peace & Justice News is a collection of news items collected by Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene. Today's edition includes:
- 2012 likely to be journalists’ deadliest year so far
- Protestors charged with third-degree riot for defending house from foreclosure
- Aid for Haitian earthquake victims goes to build hotels
- Facts about inequality in the U.S.
- Community-labor alliance spurs unionization effort
- War Resister confined to sanctuary of Canadian church
- Military recruiting troops through motorsports marketing
- Texas Wal-Mart becomes nation’s largest single-story library
- Chinese Apple workers undergoing superexploitation
- Torture in CIA 'black site' secret prison in Poland
Lewis Powell Jr. identified by name only a handful of "Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries" as enemies of American business in his now-infamous 1971 memo "Attack on the American Free Enterprise System." Foremost among them was consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who, in the soon-to-become Supreme Court Justice's view, was the single most effective antagonist of American business. Nader was a "legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans," Powell wrote. He quoted a May 1971 Fortune magazine piece that cast the leader of Nader's Raiders in abject terms:
"The passion that rules in him -- and he is a passionate man -- is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison -- for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. … He emphasizes that he is not talking just about 'fly-by-night hucksters' but the top management of blue-chip business."
Lewis F. Powell's 1971 memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce --- "Attack on American Free Enterprise System" -- may or may not have been the first shot fired in the nation's late-20th-century right-wing revolution. But from the document's title to its ominous conclusion -- "Business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late" -- it was a literal call to the political arms that have subsequently driven the nation's devolution from democracy to oligarchy.
While the then-Richmond, Va., lawyer couched his message in noble-sounding calls for openness, balance, truth and fairness, his overall tone was doomsday and militant. Referring to the enemies that Powell said were arrayed against the Chamber -- largely on campuses, in the media and in the courts -- he used the term attack 18 times; revolt/revolution/revolutionaries five; war/warfare four; assault four; hostility two; destruction two; and shotgun attack and rifle shot one each. The stakes, he said, were tantamount to life and death.
"The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival -- survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people," he wrote just two months before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard M. Nixon.
Anyone whom Glenn Beck considers an anarchist radical, a black liberation theologian, a black nationalist and an avowed communist is clearly someone with a story worth hearing. And former Barack Obama advisor Van Jones, whom Beck drove from the White House with relentless, racist, red-baiting attacks in 2009, is telling his now.
Obama's former "green jobs czar" has written a new book titled Rebuild the Dream and took his message to MoveOn and Democracy Now! audiences on April 3, the day before the book's release, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
"Ultimately, this book is just the prologue to what comes next," he wrote in an email to MoveOn members. "… America is not broke. We are a rich nation, and we can do much better than we are doing. We need a game plan for victories now and in the years to come."
To the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain," from the Wizard of Oz
If you want some news that's phony, politicized baloney,
Fox News will lead the way.
They'll mislead and deceive you,
Be careful or they'll leave you
With only half a brain.
During a recent appearance on Pacifica radio’s Democracy Now!, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold openly criticized President Barack Obama’s decision to accept campaign contributions from Super PACs. Feingold succinctly characterized the president’s reversal on taking Super PAC money: “It’s not just bad policy. It’s also dumb strategy."
Feingold’s point is well taken. Obama’s acceptance of Super PAC contributions flies in the face of his stated opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision – a ruling that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate campaign contributions. This reversal may come back to haunt the president, especially as he and the Democrats attempt to capitalize on the popular discontent articulated by the Occupy movement.
This time of year, entertainment awards dominate the news cycle. From last month’s Golden Globes, Screen Actors and Directors Guild Awards to Sunday evening’s telecast of the 54th Grammy Awards, it’s all celebrities all the time. Then there’s Oscar’s big night on February 26th. Between all of the excitement and anticipation of award season, is it any wonder that US news workers have neglected a few important stories?
For readers weary of snarky comments from the Red Carpet fashion police, or otherwise bored to tears by George Clooney’s PR blitz for that elusive Best Actor Award, the Bloomington Alternative presents the Award Season edition of the annals of censorship.