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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time

“There are two forms of the "Future Changing Force" of prediction
­. One is the "Self-Fulf­illing Prophecy", such as the doomsday religions, and the other is "Crisis Averted Warning" of soothsayer and science-fi­ction fame.

The "Network Neutrality­" debate is made by those who understand the danger of informatio­n technology and the power and profits to be made in controllin­g media. We are not predicting the end of the world, just a lesser world than could be, if corporatio­ns are allowed to own the means of communicat­ion.

It always strikes me as paradoxica­lly ironic that those 'business people' who want to 'limit government regulation­' are perfectly willing to form corporatio­ns, which are of course legal fictions created by government regulation to limit their personal responsibi­lity.

If the debate is between corporate ownership of internet communicat­ion and government monopoly of internet communicat­ions, then we don't win either way. But that is what the corporate owned media is pushing in its propaganda­. The real debate is between private or public ownership of the media.

Without equal access to informatio­n, without fair public access, we have no democracy.”

- Blogger/Commentator, Michael E. Russell on "The Most Important Free Speech Issue of our Time" in the HuffingtonPost by U.S. Senator - Al Franken, dealing with the Network Neutrality Debate, 2011
This comment got me 25 Fans on HuffingtonPost. When I came across it 10 months later, I thought it was a brilliant quote, but I didn't recognize it as my own writing. It seems too clear and well said to be me, yet HuffingtonPost has no reason to lie. I've never experienced this before. Every other time I've re-read my old writing after enough time to forget, I thought it was shit. I must be getting better.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Politifest 2011 for the rest of us.

voiceofsandiego.org has inspired people across the country to launch various projects similar to it. The crisis in the news industry brought on by struggling newspapers and a sour economy has made communities everywhere anxious about the future of local news, investigative journalism and civic discourse.
Some of those projects that followed our lead have become so successful that they're now teaching us a thing or two.
One of the things they taught us is that we needed to put together a big event.
Not long ago it occurred to us that San Diego — which is so good at putting on festivals for the arts, food, neighborhoods and culture — needed a festival for public affairs. It needed a field day-type setting where people could gather to talk about the future of the city but in an atmosphere where the kids would have something to do, where beer and good food might be had and where serious topics were treated seriously but where we also might have a laugh.
We all do want to make this place better, no matter how much we disagree sometimes. Why not build an event around that?
Subscribe to the Morning Report.
The idea for Politifest 2011 became real when a couple of visionary sponsors agreed it was worth a try. I'm writing to ask you to join us Saturday (details below).
More than 80 political groups and nonprofits have confirmed they'll have a booth at Politifest (check out our program guide) — from right wing to left wing to no wing, media, authors, humanitarian groups, candidates and parties, they will represent our diverse civic discussion unlike any event I've been to recently.
The mayoral debate is set. The Idea Tournament — an American Idol-style contest pitting almost 50 contestants and their ideas against each other — has generated so much buzz we moved it to the center stage and even one of the top mayoral candidates called repeatedly asking to get a spot in the tournament in addition to his debate.
We followed through with our promise to make it family friendly. Thanks to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, we have a bounce house and we'll have kids activities including hippity-hop races and tugs of war (I think we might even have some adults in on one of those). SeaWorld and the Chula Vista Nature Center are bringing some of their furry friends at which the kids can gawk.
And there will be beer: Thanks to Stone Brewing Co., a beer garden and band will be ready. Right nearby, our beloved voiceofsandiego.org members will have lunch courtesy of Donovan's Steak & Chop House. Fine food trucks and other vendors are lined up.
NBC 7 San Diego and its many talented reporters and anchors are helping us run the show. Best of all, for some of you, might be the news that I and some of our most provocative reporters will sit for a turn in the dunk tank. NBC's news director, Greg Dawson has agreed to take a turn as well. If you've been dying to take out some aggression on the news world, you'll have no better chance than Saturday.
I got an angry note from a reader this week who was offended by this "circus." He said that "politics isn't fun! Politics, like being a good mother, is a hard job, requiring discipline, motivation and self-sacrifice, not FUN."
We are in a depression, he said. It's the wrong time for this.
I wrote him back and respectfully disagreed. We're in a deep recession because people aren't confident enough to invest, to take risks, to try out ideas, to share information and to fix problems. We won't solve this by sitting at home and grumbling. We won't get people engaged by holding exclusive, serious debates, reserved for only the select few who can get away on a Thursday evening.
Let's celebrate the spirit of debate and ideas. Whether it's about Balboa Park, or city pensions, or medical marijuana, let's disagree thoughtfully, under the sun, in a beautiful grassy area. Let's set a new San Diego tradition so that, in September 2012, when politics is at its feverish peak, we can get together again in a warm, respectful setting.
Let's have a festival!
Thank you for your support and thank you especially to our sponsors Hughes Marino, SDG&E and Cox Communications. They gave us the opportunity to try out this idea.
Now, come bring us yours.
Saturday, September 17
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ingram Plaza at Liberty Station — 2640 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA 92106 (map)
Mayoral debate at 10:30 a.m.
Idea Tournament begins at 12 p.m.
You can contact me directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!):

Monday, September 12, 2011

Project Censored is Back for 2012

Is the Corporate Media Still Censoring Stories?

by: Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview

Project Censored has an illustrious history of drawing attention to stories that the mainstream press overtly censors or ignores through a corporate media culture that dismisses the existence of topics that threaten the status quo. The organization also promotes media literacy by educating the public about strategies that are used to disseminate misinformation and propaganda.

With the forthcoming publication of the newest edition of Project Censored, Truthout interviewed long-time project Director Peter Phillips and current Director Mickey Huff to gain a sense how this project began, and how it intends to continue making an im
pact in a constantly transforming media landscape.
The Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week, "Project Censored 2012" (Book) is available (advance order) by clicking here.

Mark Karlin: Some progressive critics have asserted that Project Censored is no longer relevant because of the openness of the Internet. How do you respond to that charge?
Peter Phillips: The Internet is huge with a lot of misinformation and managed news. One of the reasons we started both our Validated News site and News We Trust was that one of the major questions asked over the years has been “whom do you trust?”
We have created these online sources and repositories: Validated News & ResearchDaily Independent News, and we also have a Spanish site, Daily News in Spanish.

The big problem still is that well over half the world has never made a phone call, let alone seen the Internet.
MK: Although you didn't found Project Censored in 1976, you oversaw it for the longest period of time. What was the “spark” that caused the founding of Project Censored?

PP:  Actually, in 1976 Carl Jensen was trying to explain how Richard Nixon got elected in '72 despite Watergate.  He went back in the corporate media and found that they had mostly ignored Watergate until after the election, and he began to ask what else are they (the media) skipping or delaying publishing stories about.  So he had his students - in the sociology of media at Sonoma State University - research stories from the alternative independent press that were not covered by the mass media. His list was quickly picked up by the independent alternative media and republished worldwide.
MK: Journalistically, when a story is literally censored, is it known as being “spiked” by an editor or publisher. How are subjects censored in the modern-day corporate press due to the current “culture of mass media” as compared to actually being “spiked”?

PP: Stories are still deliberately spiked!  We call this managed news.  And it is quite widespread.  On October 25, 2005 the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) posted to their website forty-four autopsy reports, acquired from American military sources, covering the deaths of civilians who died while in US military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002-2004. The autopsy reports provided proof of widespread torture by US forces. Twenty-three of the reports said the cause of death was homicide. The balance of the reports mostly indicated that the cause of death was heart failure.  The conditions of the bodies indicated clearly that these people were tortured to death.  A press release by the ACLU announcing the deaths was immediately picked up by Associated Press (AP) wire service making the story available to US corporate media nationwide. A thorough check of Nexis-Lexis and Proquest library data bases showed that at least ninety-nine percent of the daily papers in the US did not pick up the story, nor did AP ever conduct follow up coverage on the issue.[1]

In a January 2008 report, the British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reported that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003.  ORB interviewed 2,400 randomly selected families in 15 of 18 provinces in Iraq, asking the question has anyone in your family died from war violence. The data resulted in a report that stated, “We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000.”   
The ORB report comes on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Lancet medical journal that confirmed the continuing numbers of mass deaths in Iraq.  A study done by Dr. Les Roberts from January 1, 2002 to March 18, 2003 put the civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. A second study published in the Lancet in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion.  The 2006 study confirms that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths and that over half the deaths are directly attributable to US forces.
The Associated Press, which reaches over one billion people in the world, released three times in 2009 the story claiming only 87,000 Iraqis had died as a result of US invasion and occupation. The story was originally published April 23, 2009: updated July 25 and October 14.
MK: Have you seen Project Censored having an impact on news coverage over the years?
PP: It is hard to tell but over 1/3 of our stories go on to receive some corporate coverage
MK: Given your long experience with Project Censored, how do you regard the emergence of WikiLeaks?

PP: Outstanding!
MK: Mickey, can you explain briefly how this year's book is structured? It's a lot more than the 25 “censored” stories that are recognized.

Mickey Huff: Each year since 1993, when the first full length Project Censored book was published (prior to that there were smaller publications dating to 1976), we have researched, vetted, and voted on the most important censored (or under reported) stories of the year.  Indeed, it is what the Project is known for, the Top 25, or the Top 10 censored stories.  This is certainly important, and this year, we have organized our analysis of the top stories in what we call censored news clusters, to highlight the overall architecture of censorship along topical lines in the corporate media.
Year after year, and now more than ever, the book itself contains more sections, chapters, and investigative reports and scholarly studies on not only what is wrong with mass media in the US and the failures of the free press, but on what can be done about it, and what is being done in terms of solutions to achieve the concept in practice of a truly free press - how the founders philosophically intended (think theory, not practice). A journalism that keeps the public informed on crucial matters of the day so that they may participate meaningfully in the maintenance of democracy, in order to attain a state of relevant and representative self-governance.
MK: Project Censored is somewhat unusual in that students at Sonoma State University (California), as Peter mentioned, do much of the work on identifying the top 25 articles. How has this worked out over the years??

MH: In the past few years, Project Censored has grown and now includes student and faculty researchers at over 30 colleges and universities across the US, and we have participants in over half a dozen countries. We are a student centered, media literacy education organization at heart, but there are many more facets to the project as evidenced in our coverage of what we call junk food news and news abuse (looking at the increased tabloidization of news coverage); signs of hope and health (showcasing the many positive community building stories); media democracy in action (highlighting activists for media freedom); the truth emergency section of the book on propaganda studies; and the Project Censored International section that looks at media democracy issues in the US and around the globe.  So, we are ever expanding and are seeking participants in educational fields, we are looking to hear from teachers, students, concerned citizens of the world who understand the importance of fighting for the right to be informed about the world in which we live.
MK: On the Project Censored web site, you refer to section two of the book focusing on “the truth emergency.” Can you explain the relationship between a “truth emergency” and propaganda?

MH: This truth emergency we face is a result of the lack of factual reporting by the so-called mainstream media over the past decade. This truth emergency is the result of a lack of source transparency and factual substance in news transmission. Americans are subjected to mass amounts of propaganda, from misinformation to disinformation, on a daily basis, about some of the most significant issues of the day. Whether this involves the post-9/11 wars in the Middle East, the health care reform fiascoes, election fraud, or economic collapse and bailouts, most Americans are unaware of all the facts of how we got where we now are as a society. It is the duty of the constitutionally protected free press to report factually to the public on these matters. However, as shown by Project Censored’s work dating back to 1976, that is not happening.
One way of combating this truth emergency is by understanding the nature of propaganda. This year, our truth emergency section is a primer on propaganda studies, which includes a brief history, theory, application, and case studies all presented to enhance media literacy among the general public.
MK: Getting back to the “truth emergency,” to what extent is US government propaganda about many issues in congruence with corporate media propaganda?

MH: Often times they are one in the same, from the view in government and corporate media on WikiLeaks and transparency to the current NATO actions in Libya, the two have a similar view because there is so much overlap of interest in both involved parties (which in and of themselves have great overlap - from the corporate world to government posts or lobbyists and back again). 
Both the US government and the corporate media essentially have a duopoly on manipulating the public mind for political or commercial gain. Leading the public to one view or another is the name of the game, rather than reporting all the facts and letting the chips fall where they may.
This clearly represents a crisis for democracy; the truth of major issues remains illusive to the public. The antidote lies not only in exposing the charlatans of the establishment order as propagandists, but also in providing a broader understanding of how propaganda works, what it looks like and how to detect it, and what the public can do about it. Namely, the solution is to create an independent free press, one not beholden to moneyed interests, but rather one that tells people the truth about all matters, regardless of which powerful parties may be exposed.
MK: If you look at Berlusconi's ownership of media in Italy and Rupert Murdoch's de facto influence on the government in the UK, aren't we facing a worldwide problem of the media representing the ruling elite?

MH: Yes, we are.  And that has been a growing trend that seems to be unabated, save for the recent actions in the US to investigate and possibly block the latest AT&T merger.  But overall, that is a rare action by the US government.  The trend over the later 20th century has been in support of consolidation of ownership and a shutting out of public participation, oversight, and inclusion of views from everyday people.  In fact, the FCC just recently drove another nail in the coffin of the Fairness Doctrine, which was mostly dismantled under the Reagan years.
Despite many well-intentioned people in the so-called media reform movement, reform measures via government agencies have rarely worked at the federal level. This is why we must all be the media, we must create and share our own transparently sourced, fact-based news, and we must support independent voices that are doing the same.  We cannot depend on those that have created the problems of the news media, contributed to problems of the news media, and benefited from those conditions to take heed and go about fixing said problems in the public interest.  That has not, and likely will not happen. 
1. For more on the ACLU study “U.S. Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq” from 10/24/2005, click here; and for more on the bias of The Associated Press see Project Censored’s study online.
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Media Networks Fumble Reasons for Debt

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Extra! September 11, 2011

Deficit-Obsessed Media Misinform on Causes

By Carolyn Cutrone and Steve Rendall

At a time when the federal budget deficit is so prominently featured in the news, with pundits and “experts” (falsely) touting it as a leading concern of the U.S. public (FAIR Blog, 1/21/11), you might think corporate journalists would be well-practiced in explaining the chief causes of the deficit.

Unfortunately, if you rely on network nightly news programs for your information about the economy, you are likely to be misinformed about the main causes of the current deficit—in order of importance, the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the recession and these policy changes, the deficit would barely exist (Economic Policy Institute, 5/18/11).

The economic crisis has been a huge contribution to the deficit; less economic activity means less tax revenue and increased social service costs like unemployment insurance. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP, 5/10/11) estimates that 34 percent of the 2010 deficit and 28 percent of the 2011 deficit can be attributed to the economic downturn.

The Bush tax cuts dwarf all other policy changes, costing the country an estimated $375 billion this year, or 24 percent of the deficit, according to CBPP. Newsweek (8/1/10) acknowledged their overwhelming contribution; in comparison to other policies, like the prescription drug bill and war spending, “the tax cuts were by far the largest, adding up to $2.3 trillion over 10 years.” Forty percent of the tax cuts’ benefits went to people earning over $500,000 (Salon, 8/2/10).

With cumulative spending of over $1.2 trillion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Congressional Research Service, 3/29/11), the post-9/11 military escalation rounds out the list of top deficit culprits at 14 percent, CBPP found. (The cost could reach up to $4 trillion, including future veterans’ expenses—Brown University, 6/11.)

But you wouldn’t know this from the 69 nightly news segments in which the budget deficit was discussed during the first half of the year. FAIR looked at six months (1/1/11–6/30/11) of ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News (including weekend news editions), analyzing segments that included the words “budget” and “deficit.” Fifteen ABC reports included these words, as did 31 CBS segments and 23 from NBC.

Only three of these 69 segments named any of the three main causes of the deficit: ABC (1/25/11) said the “slow economy” contributed to the deficit, and later (6/26/11), illustrating the contribution of the wars to the deficit, noted that the “U.S. spends more than $20 billion a year” just on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan. NBC (1/26/11) explained that “The [deficit] estimate was raised after tax cuts were extended last month.”

In three quarters of the segments, no cause was mentioned, and 12 identified inaccurate or misleading causes. CBS was the most frequent misleader, discussing causes eight times and pinning the blame in seven of them on the cost of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. ABC twice blamed those three programs, and twice mentioned Social Security as the deficit’s cause.

Actually, Social Security and Medicare contribute nothing to the deficit; they have their own dedicated revenue streams, which since 1987 have taken in $3 trillion more than they have paid out in order to build up a trust fund for when the Baby Boomers retire (Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report Summary, 5/5/11).

Social Security and Medicare’s surpluses have been invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, and these will sooner or later need to be paid back; if they are not, trillions of dollars will have been extracted from U.S. workers under false pretenses. When these debts are paid back, though, U.S. taxpayers are not paying for the retirement programs a second time—rather, they are paying for the programs (and tax cuts) that the Treasury borrowed the money from the retirement programs to pay for in the first place. Thinking of these bond repayments as Social Security and Medicare adding to the deficit is like imagining that the Chinese are contributing to the deficit by building highways with the proceeds of their investments in T-bills.

But TV journalists have frequently given the public the false impression that Social Security and Medicare are responsible for the deficit. On CBS (6/17/11), Scott Pelley reported: “Social Security consumes 20 percent of the federal budget, so it’s part of the debate over how to manage America’s $14 trillion debt. When countries don’t manage debt, the trouble reaches far and wide.”

A few months earlier, CBS reporter Chip Reid (2/20/11) said, “The elephant in the room, so far largely ignored, is entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which make up more than 40 percent of the budget.”

ABC (2/15/11) also contributed to these claims when Jake Tapper reported, “Entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, have ballooned to a full 57 percent of the budget today.”

Even in the sole segment that mentioned tax cuts as a contribution to the deficit, NBC anchor Brian Williams (1/26/11) still added to the ongoing confusion, reporting, “And Social Security now projected to run a deficit of $45 billion this year.”

The FAIR findings show that little has changed since Janine Jackson weighed in on causes of the deficit in these pages (4/10), where she found the media coverage of the policy change that contributed most to the deficit, the Bush tax cuts, was “tenuous at best.” From December 2, 2009, through March 2, 2010, the Washington Post and New York Times had only mentioned the Bush tax cuts in 12 of 44 stories on the deficit, or 27 percent. In the first half of 2011, with the deficit debate more heated than ever and most Republicans refusing to consider any tax increases, the network news mentioned the tax cuts in a single story out of 69, utterly failing to give proper context to the discussion.

See FAIR's Archives for more on:
Social Security

(Blog Editor's Note: This FAIR Report lists the RECESSION, The Tax Cuts, and the Wars for the real reasons for our expanding U.S. Budget Deficit and Debt. See image above., but what it doesn't do is assign a cause for the recession, responsibility for the tax cuts, or blame for the wars, so I shall.

The "RECESSION" is not a recession, but a DEPRESSION, I call it the BUSH Depression, but BUSH was nothing but a patsy, elected by a greedy few, the arrogant Neo-Conservative Republicans with their war profiteers, their 'banking' contingent, their real-estate developers and the religious fanatics who control their crazy masses. These are the real people responsible for deregulating the financial industry, allowing USURY and market manipulation to run rampant. It is important that you realize that the accountability for this depression is spread over the broad spectrum of the American Right, the small-businessmen who rob at the local level, as well as some similar groups of land-lords and industrialists in other countries and cultures, and even extends to those of us on the American left who enjoyed the economic benefits of these greedy bastards, and ignored the consequences. That said, the responsibility is not spread equally, it rests mainly with the elite leaders of the Republican Neo-Conservative War Banking Industry. These parasitical opportunists see every catastrophe as an chance to profit themselves by manipulating the public psyche and accessing government coffers. They have manipulated the rules of the game, and robbed us of our potential, our moral standing, and our future.

The Bush Tax Cuts are the biggest chuck of deficit spending. With that revenue from those 1% of American Citizens making over $500,000/yr. we would be able to fund our Federal Government. But the fault lies not just with Bush, but with both parties in Congress who approved these laws. The elected leadership of these United Sates has failed us, having fallen into the influence of the rich through our legalized systems of political bribery. We are all at fault for allowing the campaign finance system to recognize money as political speech.

The Wars, as mentioned, in Afghanistan and Iraq, were unnecessary, based upon lies, and created for empire to steal resources from the worlds masses, including the citizens of the USA.  The proper response to a terrorist attack like the events of 9/11/2001 would be a massive, international police effort to investigate and apprehend the real culprits of the crimes [which were not the people publicly blamed for them]. Thus the American Afghan war was unnecessary, a misdirection to gain access to Caspian oil and sell weapons and 'security' to the US Public. The war in Iraq was more sinister,  a remnant of the earlier Regan/Bush CIA Wars of the late 20th century, when Rumsfield and Cheney made pacts with the world's other despots, like Saddam and the bin Ladens, to wage secret cold war strategies against China and the U.S.S.R.  But the opportunity for Halliburton and KBR and other war contractors to profit was too great to pass up, and again used as a distraction as the 'Homeland Security' expansion of Top Secret America was set up. Now we have collectively sacrificed both our security and our Bill of Rights, and live in a secret police state where our money is siphoned away in secret, paid out to a few million government contractors and their thuggish minions in a clever misdirection from the real threats to our democracy.

"If evil prevails when good men do nothing ... where are the 'good' men?" - Michael Russell )