Media and the Message. CNN; Retain Bush Tax Cuts

 

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says the easiest way to cut the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The day was Sunday, August 1, 2010.  Former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan appeared on Meet the Press.  When asked to discuss the Congressional debate on tax cuts, the man known to move markets, a person who leans to the “Right,” offered a decisive decree.  In direct disagreement with Republican officials and the profitable corporations that fund countless political campaigns, Mister Greenspan declared, “Look, I’m very much in favor of tax cuts,  but not with borrowed money.  And the problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day, that proves disastrous.  And my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here on it.”  

This statement was as a slap in the face to corporations, or more correctly to the tycoons who head these firms.  Multi-millionaire media moguls might understand this best.  These television and radio Executives experience firsthand that influence over an industry can translate into influence over an outcome.  Cable News Network Chief Officers are among those who actively make use of this truth.  Tax cuts expired?  “Never;” say network Administrators and the newscasters such as Allan Chernoff, who do their bidding.

Prominent persons in the Press know a snappy slogan, a simple statement repeated over and over again, an authoritative analysis, will yield a colossal return.  If the powerful exert pressure, they can sway the public and those who will persuade Congress to act, or not take action.   Without resorting to force, the wealthy need not worry. Forceful levy loopholes and tax rate reducers were long ago secured and still loom large.

Companies, most of which pay no United States taxes are often led by the affluent who, for years, sought greater protection for their wealth..  Indeed, many corporations forfeit less in levies in 2010 than in previous years.  Deductions are a delightful indulgence.  Even the electorate has grown to appreciate this pleasurable pursuit.

Individuals influenced by industry infomercials have insisted on the luxury.  Tax bills in 2009 are at the lowest level since 1950.  Regardless, many moneyed Americans want these lowered, if not eliminated in total. Thus, the public sees what they have for days, or is it weeks, a flood of news stories that speak in contrast to Economist Greenspan’s pronouncement.  The powerful understand that the former Fed Chairs statement was quite a severe blow to those invested in a taxless ideology.

On the same date, on Cable News Network’s a distinguished Anchor, Newsweek and Washington Post Columnist, Fareed Zakaria concurred.   The time to cut the deficit and let the Bush tax cuts expire is now.  Editor of Newsweek International and a New York Times bestselling Author, Mister Zakaria asserts, “Were the tax cuts to expire, the budget deficit would instantly shrink by about 30 percent, or more than $300 billion. But Republicans are now adamantly opposed to any expiration of the Bush tax cuts because they say that would weaken the economy.”  This contention, with consideration for a credible source, was a second slam to commercial interests and to the political Party that promotes their causes.  

Mister Zakaria’s editorial would not be aired endlessly on various outlets. Nor would Alan Greenspan’s words be heard on many a local channel.  Another expert on policy, one who also speaks for the “Right”,  David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan would also be kept out of sight.

Only a day earlier, an article penned by Mister Stockman appeared in The New York Times.  In the missive, Stockman, once identified as a man with “Lincolnesque credentials”  expressed the angst he feels when his cohorts’ claim the need to extend the tax cuts.  The Reagan Budget Director cynically summarizes “How my Republican Party destroyed the American economy.”  The treatise titled Four Deformations of the Apocalypse, was the final strike.  

These slams could not stand, high salaried Chief Executives and their shills, such as Cable News Network, calculated.  Turner Broadcasting Systems decided to turn the ultimate key.  Media is the message.  The Press is able to manufacture promotional presentations and produce alternative authenticities.  The company realized the need to take restrained; yet aggressive action.  Slick salespersons, public relations professionals in the Press are well aware of the sound adage; a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.  People like sweetened solutions.

While true; each of the three esteemed experts spoke eloquently, and with abundant authority, the more persuasive and popular drone can and does drown out a meaningful message.  Cable News Network has vast resources and knowledge of how to deliver decisively, the populace demands, words of woe and whoa!  The Turner channels, with Corporate Chiefs interest at heart, transmits, as many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents wish to believe; life as we have come to know it cannot change.  

Regardless of Party affiliation, in America the public professes, “We are taxed enough.” En masse, citizens clamor;  “No new taxes!” “No tax increases!” We do not want to pay the price, is the consensus.  Most do not want to acknowledge, as Alan Greenspan and Fareed Zakaria have, Americans have paid for their own indulgence and chosen ignorance dearly.

In accordance with the adopted corporate mission, the wishes of Chief Executives, and possibly his own penchant, Correspondent Allan Chernoff compiled   a report that would please the common folk. This puff-piece touts as the public wishes to believe; the people need not contribute to the greater good of the community.  The innocent “documentation” that passes for fact, or is passed on as the truth, floods the airwaves.  It appears on local stations and hour after hour on network programs.  

This “news story” [sic] makes no mention of how the quoted sources benefit from a promoted belief, “In planning to let taxes rise, President Obama hopes to chop the budget deficit. But if families have to cut back on spending to pay those taxes, that may hurt the economy. It could de-rail the recovery.”

The Press hides what threatens the wealthy; the words of Alan Greenspan, He said “The problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is that spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day that proves disastrous and my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here.”  

The “Right” and media moguls who used to anxiously await Alan Greenspan’s advise now reject the man once titled an oracle.   David Stockman, once characterized as a wunderkind is no longer welcome at the White House, on Wall Street, or in the Mainstream Media studios.

Interesting, or possibly, as expected, the words of the esteemed Mister Zakaria are also void in the less than honest, well honed, and more aired, Cable News Network account. “Federal tax receipts as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest point since 1950, and they had dropped to very low levels even before the recession. Half of Americans now pay no income taxes.”

Instead, the report that invites Americans to retain Bush Tax cuts is broadcast farther and wider than the more informed elucidations.  Contrary to the tax cutters claims that President Obama plans to punish the Middle Class, Bloomberg reports, “Obama and congressional Democrats want to extend [the tax cuts] for households earning up to $250,000 and let them end for wealthier taxpayers.”  Fareed Zakaria and perchance more surprisingly, in another forum, David Stockman, wish this were true.

Truthfulness is often tweaked when expert and powerful prose point to a vapid veracity, one that is less desirable to the self-defined blissful spenders who were featured in the ubiquitous Cable News Network account.  

The no tax and spend only on self throng condemn the acumen Mister Zakaria avows; “We have to be willing to pay for the government we want, which by the way is among the smallest in the industrialized world or we have to dramatically cut the government, which means cutting popular middle- class programs, since that’s where the money is.”

No, the pious people proclaim loudly, we will not pay taxes, then assert, we want no government in our lives.  Tax cuts advocates forget the foundation that our forefathers fashioned.  Essayist, Pamphleteer, Philosopher Paine espoused as Fareed Zakaria did today.   The two understood and addressed the necessary apprehension for Administrative rule while each concedes the commonweal must care to invest in the greater good.  Were we to forget that no man is an island, we will forsake the future as we have in recent decades.  Rarely remembered or recited is the founder’s resolve to embrace an elected Legislative and Executive Branch.  Perchance today, Fareed Zakaria spoke to the practical reality.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing.  This necessity . . . will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Instead of Paine’s and Zakaria’s profundity, the language Americans long for is the sentiment expressed by profiteers highlighted in the Chernoff commentary.  Scott Hodge, President of Tax Foundation, an institute that Nobel Prize recipient Paul Krugman acknowledged as an unreliable source, reinforced the accepted alarm.  Mister Hodge affirmed, “If Congress does nothing, it could lead to one of the largest tax increases in American history.”  Robert Traphagen, a partner with Traphagen Financial, and a man who makes money when affluent clients invest in purely personal wealth, affirmed, “If new tax legislation is not implemented, it would be a dramatic effect to the middle class.” Indeed, it would.

Were we to adopt as Fareed Zakaria, Doctor Greenspan, and David Stockman think wise, Americans would have more money for schools, streets, services. The middle class would thrive.  Media moguls would have less money to survive. Hence, the mantra, the message, If Bush tax cuts expire this will  hurt America

References for varied realities . . .

A Sweet Profile



Lynn Sweet “Surprised” Obama Said Cambridge Cops “Acted Stupidly”

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was not the first time.  Many individuals fear it will not be the last.  Last evening, during a Presidential press conference, millions witnessed the characteristic wonderment that is Lynn Sweet.  Whilst citizens in this country anxiously awaited more words from the President on what, for most is truly a tangible issue, Health Care coverage, Ms Sweet decided to move the conversation in her own memorable manner.  Provocateur , otherwise known as Chicago Sun Times Columnist Lynn Sweet did as she often does.  She changed the subject.  

For her, it seems entertainment, or that which might expand her now illustrious career is far more pleasurable than the tedious text that has the potential to improve life for every American.  Sweet might justify her stance by saying; “racial profiling” affects us all, or does it.  Perchance, her personal profile is the priority.

As she had done in the past, on the evening of July 22, 2009, this previously little known Journalist diverted attention.  Lynn Sweets said it was not a plot.  She had no intention of inciting the American people.  It was merely a matter of “timing.”  The White House Press Correspondent thought it “appropriate” to speak of what no one had throughout the night.  “Noted Harvard African-American studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior,” and his arrest at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts was, in her mind, the more meaningful matter.

For a long while, Lynn Sweet has defined what her readers must think of as imperative.  Her personal desires and chutzpah drive her.  “I do come from a place where people are not shy about mixing it up a little bit.” If Ms Sweet is not interested in a subject or a soul she will ignore what she thinks irrelevant.

In 1999, a  virtually unknown Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced himself to the Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief.  The author handed the Chicago tabloid Writer his autobiographical account, “Dreams From My Father.”  Five years later, in June, she belatedly began to leaf through the pages of the tome.  It was not until late in 2004, after United States Senator Obama  delivered his address at the Democratic National Convention, and the book was re-released that Sweet thought of the read as other than a bothersome endeavor.  

Once read, the Columnist offered quite a critical review of what had become a widely praised publication..   Perhaps, in 2004 and in July 2009, Sweet preferred to deviate from the norm, if only to distinguish herself as different.   No one can know with certainty.  Nonetheless, Americans were able to observe the Chicago Sun Times Correspondent created this distraction much in the way she had previously done.  Perchance, her style has helped advance her personal prominence.

Surely, she would later say, people have a right to know what the President thinks about issues other than Health Care reform.  Indeed, in her own blog post Lynn Sweet reminds Americans that two other reporters spoke on themes not related to Health care.  However, each of these asked what the Administration might do as it pertains to policy.  

The Sun Times Bureau Chief however, chose to ask the President for a personal perspective.  Intentionally, she presented a problem that evokes much passion. She stated, “What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?” Certainly, Lynn Sweet defends; she did not consider how much the public loves to engage in divisive discussions.  The innocent bearer of information did not ponder the known veracity.  Conflict sells papers.  Assuredly, it never occurred to Ms Sweet she would garner greater visibility if her question were emotionally charged.  

However, history gives us pause.  We have seen in the past, when Lynn Sweet does what she does best; create a scene, her pocketbook and professional status profits.  A sensational story will cause her numbers to soar.   And so it was.

Damn the proposed reforms.  Forget what Americans think vital, possible alternatives that would improve medical practices.  Lynn Sweet wants to talk about race, racism, police, anything but policies that could benefit average Americans, Black, white, and every shade in between.

Friends, fellow reporters, readers of her articles, and of her blog understand.  Barack Obama was not able to charm Lynn Sweet.  she is not characterized as one who has an axe to grind.  Ms Sweet is sincerely on a mission.  She has her own plan.  The Correspondent’s mission began but a short time ago.  The Washington Bureau Chief said of herself.

“I started looking at a lot of blogs and I realized you need a sensibility!” she said. “Why am I here? What can I give you? I suppose I could make a blog on ‘Lynn Sweet’s thoughts about … whatever!'” . . .

“If I had choice between writing about something Bush did, or a congressman did, or Obama, why wouldn’t I go to something I saw people were backing? I just knew from the enormous amount of coverage Obama was getting that oooh, I knew I should be all things Obama. I never had a meeting; no one ever told me to do it. It was just like, I, I just smelled the coffee. I just understood that’s what I could be about.”

Thus, Ms Sweet became the news writer most closely associated with anything Obama.  Frequently, on radio, she speaks on the subject she claims to know best, Obama. The go-getter from the President’s hometown, Chicago, appears on most every television network.  The ascent of the man who now resides in the White House helped boost Sweet’s visibility.  Today, she is considered as she designed herself to be, an acknowledged expert on the President. As reported in The New York Observer,

When Andrea Mitchell introduced Lynn Sweet for her mid-afternoon show on MSNBC on May 16, she said, “Lynn Sweet is with the Chicago Sun-Times and has been covering him for years.”

That’s partially true. She has covered him for less than two [now near here] years. She has spent the majority of her other three decades covering any other number of political stories in Chicago.

Yet, the depth of her knowledge matters not.  Lynn Sweet has realized her dream.  She is the media and the message.  Since Barack Obama entered the scene, Sweet’s inquires have become the dominant news of the day.  

It matters not to Ms Sweet that each day, “If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance.”    She does not seem to think it exceedingly significant that “These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.”  What the President might wish to say seems meaningless to someone such as her.  She rather know what Barack Obama thinks about topics that might propel her career. It appears, fame and fortune is her mission..

Americans might assume that this Reporter is not interested in what affects the electorate most.  She made no reference to a reality that affects all Americans.  Near fifty million citizens have no health care coverage.   2.3 million more people lose health coverage each year.  The tale that might titillate, was Sweet’s temptation.  What was the President’s reaction to a story on race.

She did not address the disparate treatment whites receive. Nor did she find her way to  studies that show the ranks of the underinsured are on the rise.  The invincible Lynn Sweet had other ideas.  While countless worry that the cost of such a climb could be disastrous, the Columnist with a stated singular focus acted as though this might be superfluous.

For Ms Sweet it would appear that a moment of personal fame, or public fury, is her preference.  Health Care reform will not be a concern for her as long as she remains popular.  Perchance, the better word for what Lynn Sweet hopes to achieve is the term that currently defines her calling.  She is without doubt a provocative and profitable professional.

References for the raiser of public rancor . . .

Press; Personality, Opinion, and Profits



Top Ten most ridiculous news stories

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Throughout America, the sun rises, sleepy souls awaken, and people turn to the media of choice.  Millions move towards the radio.  More power-up the television.  Countless persons do as their parents did before them; they pick up newspapers, which lie in wait on the porch.  People want to know what is the news across the nation, or at least they did just a short time ago.  Today, perhaps surprisingly, most forms of media have far less appeal than they had just a few years ago.  The ethnic press is still productive.  What Wall Street classifies as “hyper-localism” appeals to the masses.  It seems what survives and thrives in the press is personality and opinion.  Unadulterated accounts are not of interest to those who think them selves highly informed.

In survey after survey, Americans state they know their community and are very familiar with happenings in this country.  They watch television.  The public listens to the radio.  People in this country read.  Yet, indeed, the evidence demonstrates despite a wealth of information accessible to most, if not all, citizens of this country grow increasingly ignorant, unaware of more than what a popular program or a chosen channel wishes to air.  No matter the age of the audience, according to The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Americans know far less now than they did in 1989.

In recent times, a Presidential Election, consumed the  constituency for near two years.  Yet, the electorate, who thought themselves actively engaged, actually knew less about politics than they had in decades past.

Those who reside in the United States correctly speak of the incredible transformation; however, they do not wish to acknowledge Americans have been dumbed down.  Sure, people may posit their neighbors are not as bright, but let no one question the quality of the facts the more fluid are familiar with.

Let us suppose, by some freak accident, change truly came to America.  Would the public comprehend the climatic arrival of transformation?  Might the people imagine the impossible had occurred.  Would anyone in this country be the wiser?  Probably not.  There is reason to believe people would continue to be inspired by the trivial, the trite, the trials, and tribulations of a temptress, the taunts, all that can be seen in seconds on television, in a YouTube video, or on a social network site.  The information revolution has not altered affairs, at least not for the better.

In the last half century, the Information Age has given birth to greater conformity.  There are seemingly more options, and in actuality, fewer.  Five-hundred cable or satellite channels translates to the abandonment of an honorable agreement ‘in exchange for serving the “public interest,” TV stations get to use the airwaves for free.  

Currently, that creed is but a dream lost to the six major corporations, General Electric, Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, News Corporation, CBS, and Viacom, serve as town criers.  These organizations persuade, propose, pontificate, and profess to be without bias.  Rarely do the reports attempt to be objective or reflective.  

Why should these private, for profit industries report what may be most relevant to people who trust the press to inform when sex sells.  Scandal sweetens the pot, or return on revenue.  Smut can be spun, and it is always time for silly season.

American audiences, people of every age love what bring the broadcast business lots of loot.  People are happy to absorb all the “news” transmitted by these radio and television stations.  Citizens in this country seek entertainment, forms of escapes, and enthusiastically  entrepreneurs furnish the fun.  Media moguls call what titillates profound and the people buy the bull.

For the most part, the public is generally satisfied with the press.  Most believe that the word they receive is fair and balanced or at least a reliable source of information.  In 2008, stories of Sarah sizzled.  Paris was a plus in the dull day of an average American.  Lindsay looked good and then she appeared to be less lovely.  Barrackamania was a beautiful distraction.  The now President Elect proved to be the change America could believe in.  However, as the country settles into a time of transition, some wonder what will they do for excitement.

A few murmur; might change have come and then left.  Citizens, spectators, the American audience awaits the next trend.  What will be the talk.  They tune in, turn on, and hope talk radio, television, or the technological wonder known as a computer will bring the latest American Dream.

More and more, those anxious to consume the news, check out celebrity hype.  People search for the stars.  They soak up any and all information online.  Too much technology is never enough.  To few reliable references; well, typically that goes unnoticed.

Print is still thought profound, although there is less of it to be found.  No matter the medium, the message is massaged and the words are probably, the product of a merger.  One paper is as another.  Each network is owned and operated by the very few persons who prosper from an ill-informed public.  Knowingly or not, most Americans turn to familiar forms in search.

People peruse the titles prominently known papers produce online.  They read blogger rants that reference mainstream media sources.  Indeed, well over 1 in 4 Internet users in the United States blissfully log into AOL Time-Warner accounts.  The world’s largest media corporation controls one fourth of media dissemination in cyberspace.  While that may all be well and good, if the news were hard, and the audience hearty.  Neither seems to be the case.  Today, Americans view reality television, car chases, crash, or trash.  Tune it in.  In America, the people say turn it on, morning noon, and night.

In the competitive world of commercialism, in-depth, quality news coverage, has not survived.  In a 2001 study, executed by the Joan Shorenstein, of the Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, dramatic changes in what was once critical journalism are documented.  Did anyone notice?  Was this topic covered on the news?

Soft news (that is, news that is typically more sensational, more personality-centered, more entertainment oriented, and more incident-based than traditional public affairs news) has increased sharply in the past two decades.  News stories that have no public policy component have increased from less than 35% of all stories in 1980 to roughly 50% today.  In the early 1980s, about 25% of news, stories had a moderate to high level of sensationalism; today, nearly 40% of news stories have this feature.??

Critical news (that is, news about the failings of leaders, institutions, and policies) has risen steadily in recent decades.  Negative coverage of presidential candidates is an example.  In 1960, about 25% of the evaluative coverage of candidates was negative in tone.  In the past three presidential elections, more than 50% of the coverage has been negative

Negative or nonsense; that may be the truer assessment.  The press pretends to enlighten; yet, for the most part it seeks to entertain.  Few realize the folly of what has become the American way.  In this country, the average Joe or Jayne consumes junk food and junk news.  

In recent months, change was the theme.  The issues of import during this recent election were those most frequently covered.  Each day Americans awoke to eat it up. . . the goodies, the gossip, and what makes the public grunt.

10. Hillary Clinton citing Obama’s Kindergarten essay titled, “I Want To Become President”

9. Mike Huckabee’s ongoing “buddy cop movie” with Chuck Norris

8. Obama Girl

7. Paris Hilton for President

6. “Terrorist Fist Jab”

5. Hillary Clinton’s drinking beers and taking shots of Crown Royal

4. Barack Obama bowling, or, “The Altoona Massacre”

3. Wardrobe-Gate: Sarah Palin’s $150K (or more) clothing caper

2. Joe the Plumber

1. “Lipstick On A Pig”

In 2008, the electorate considered the profundity of these topics and then selected a President, or perhaps, the mainstream media conglomerates chose for them.  Few knew more than what was delivered through airwaves, more than what was mentioned in print, more than the prominent six companies that comprise the press wanted them to know.  Hence, Americans must wonder, if change were to come, would we the people read of the transformation, or might the possibility of a true revolution never be realized, or at least, it is likely not to be seen on a computer screen, heard on a radio, or watched on television.

Reliable Sources . . .

Full of Gas

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

People may wish that the fuel tanks on the automobile they drive were full of gas.  Yet, recently, due to the rising price of petroleum, many crude containers are empty.  American citizens feel the crunch, the energy, and economic crunch.  They have cried.  They clamored.  The public craves attention for what they think is issue number one, the cost of Texas Tea, Alaskan oil, and fossil fuels from foreign sources.  John McCain hears the call.  His Vice Presidential pick, Sarah Palin feels the pain of the poor persons, of all Americans, who scream for relief at the pump.  Even Barack Obama has proposed a compromise on a previously held position.

Politicians, sensitive to the pleas hope to provide more petroleum to the people of the United States.  They offer plan after plan.  Nuclear power will ease the pain at the pump.  Offshore oil drilling will end a dependence on oil from overseas.  Each energy initiative is an attempt to appease an anxious electorate.

What is not said is that fission produces electricity.  It does not drive our cars.  Domestic resources for electrical power are abundant.  The supply Americans rely on could be cleaner; however, that topic will wait for another time and treatise.  

Today, while the evidence suggests, Americans will not reap an instantaneous reprieve from the crude crisis, or any real relief at all if the Outer Continental Shelf is probed for petroleum, the public, politicians, and the press continue to focus on what each hopes is the cherished find.  None seem to reflect upon the fragile balance of Mother Earth.

As the cost of oil climbs and affordable creature comforts fall from view, the environment has become less of a consideration.  Americans who grapple with what is of greater importance to them, economics, or the cash that helps create a cozy lifestyle conclude consumption is preferred to conservation.  

Perchance that is why the press is able to alter the conversation.

To care for the planet’s preservation seems beyond the scope of human nature.  Indeed, to think that a single human might affect the milieu seems silly to those who are besieged with the business of everyday survival.  People claim to have bigger problems.  

Can they pay for health care.  Might someone find a cure for a husband’s cancer.  Will employers ship jobs overseas?  Could a son or daughter be called off to war?  The mortgage payment is due and there is no money in the bank.  Foreclosure may be unavoidable.  In the United States, there is much angst.  The ecosystem  and its balance are the least of the average citizens’ worries.

Daily deeds are the priority.  Most activities involve an automobile.  In this industrialized nation, people are expected to drive to school, to work, to the mall, and to town hall.  Once of age, individuals steer to the store.  They visit those they adore.  Most every movement is made from within a vehicle.  The American people pride themselves on their mobility.  

For more than a century fuel was cheap and the possibility for travel endless.  Thus, today, people ask why did this change.  Most Americans are certain ethanol need not be so expensive.  They care not of the climate crisis.  They are convinced such a conjecture is but a hoax.

The press promotes the view politicians control the cost of petrol.  The public is persuaded.  Polls pass for “demonstrable facts.”  Then, the media draws an artificial analogy.  The message is massaged.

David Fiderer, a Huffington Post Journalist, and an Energy Banker, explains;, the media manages the gaseous discussion.  Correspondents carry the communication as calculated.  Science is not stressed in the search for solutions to the propulsion problem.  Minds are maneuvered to the advantage of a political Party.  The press is the source of a less than productive  discussion of the energy policy.  Might Americans inquire, who manipulates the media or owns the message.

In an American Public Radio broadcast of On the Media, aired August 29, 2008, this expert on the effect of energy economics helps to provide perspective.  

Please listen to David Fiderer as he opens a window into the world of fuel and finances.

Dear reader, you may also wish to read the article the author, David Fiderer, refers to . . .

Energy for Dummies: The GOP’s Secret Weapon Is A Clueless Media, By David Fiderer.  Huffington Post. August 25, 2008

Resources Refined . . .

Associated Press: Accuracy in Reporting

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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

What is black and white and read all over?  Associated Press reports written by the “respectable” albeit some would say disreputable Ron Fournier.  Few Journalists foment interest in this Presidential election in the way this whimsical writer does.  His prose is not dry.  Detachment does not define the Washington Bureau Chief.  Conventional standards, set by the information industry, might label this laudable lackey as less than logical.  For logic is rarely found in flaming rhetoric.  Fournier describes his approach as “accountability journalism” and “liberating . . . the truth,” as well it should be.

The employer of this esteemed Correspondent, is the much admired Associated Press.  The establishment is a formidable favorite in the news industry.  The company’s facts fascinate.  Its mission mesmerizes.  “The Associated Press is the backbone of the world’s information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in all media and news in all formats.  It is the largest and oldest news organization in the world, serving as a source of news, photos, graphics, audio, and video.  AP’s mission is to be the essential global news network, providing distinctive news services of the highest quality, reliability and objectivity with reports that are accurate, balanced and informed.”

Yet, the articles Mister Fournier submits have a factual flavor.  The zest and zing leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many, or at least those on the political Left.  His black type is not a savory chocolate.  The white behind the words is not a plain vanilla.  Some may call the work of Ron Fournier yellow journalism.  

Each essay Fournier inscribes favors a political Party, the Grand Old one.  Readers might review but a few captions and columns to gain a sense of the slant.  The title On Deadline: Obama walks arrogance line, captures the conceit of a candidate or a columnist haughty with the power to influence an attentive audience.  The text within the article enriches the essence of this tasty tidbit, which passes for “news.”

He’s bordering on arrogance.

The dictionary defines the word as an “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.”  Obama may not be offensive or overbearing, but he can be a bit too cocky for his own good.

Might we wonder if Ron Fournier, the reporter can be a bit too overconfident?  Within this “objective” story the Journalist believes he can aptly assess the mettle of the man as evident in the essay Analysis: Obama a ‘Courageous Leader’?

Women are not exempt from scrutiny that is if the female is a Democrat.  Hillary’s Flight of Fancy, a discussion the former First Lady’s memory and actual experience in Bosnia, while newsworthy is unfairly ridiculed by this Associated Press reporter presumed to be committed to the organizations mission.  Again, the Associated Press pledges to provide reliable and objective reports that are accurate, balanced, and informed.

Thus, the question might be asked; is the Washington Bureau Chief a columnist or a correspondent.  Another headline might answer this query.  Sen. Hillary Clinton an Artful Dodger.  Journalist Fournier wonders in print; What does Clinton want?  A reader might contemplate what does Ron Fournier long for?  

A reader might accept that this reporter inquires as he informs.  An avid learner who looks for news could chime, such curiosity benefits the public, and well it might.  However, the presumed neutrality of Ron Fournier is not evident, his alliances are.

Associated Press  reporter Ron Fournier, in his missives, supports a Presidential aspirant, John McCain.  The maverick McCain is equally enamored with the veteran political reporter.  Indeed, the Senator was a suitor of the correspondent.  Perchance, the Arizona Senator saw the prosaic phrase Mister Fournier inscribed in a mail to Karl Rove, “Keep up the fight,” and he knew.  Ron the Republican could and would fight or write for him too.  Perhaps, he does, although he is paid by the Associated Press.

Hence, with such a respected and widely read source to spread the word, the articles offered by Ron Fournier pass for objectivity.  A credulous citizen may not suspect a seemingly credible Correspondent.  A reader of any of the many prestigious periodicals that carry AP stories may be unaware of the connections this columnist has with those on Capitol Hill.  The people can only muse of the media, the power of the message, and the messenger, and perhaps they must for  . . .  

Fournier Is At It Again

By Steve Benen

CBS News

(Political Animal) – Fournier Is At It Again  . . . The latest piece from Ron Fournier, the AP’s Washington bureau chief and the man responsible for directing the wire service’s coverage of the presidential campaign, on Joe Biden joining the Democratic ticket, is drawing a fair amount of attention this morning. More importantly, McCain campaign staffers are pushing it fairly aggressively to other reporters, in large part because it mirrors the Republican line with minimal variation.

By choosing Biden, Fournier argues, Barack Obama is showing a “lack of confidence,” and is siding with “the status quo.”

If, such slander, or the source, evokes exasperation, readers of what is printed in black and white by the Associated Press and read all over, may wish to react.  Articles, which appear in most every paper worldwide, may wish to communicate such distress to Executives at local or national newspapers.  Readers may wish to write  letters to the editor such as . . .

Dearest Editor . . .

I write of what troubles me.  Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier weaves quite a tale as he tells readers what to think of elections and candidates.  His essays are as rumors, rants, or a rage against anyone in the Democratic Party.  Readers such as I seek more than tantrums.  We yearn for quality accounts.  I, personally, do not appreciate diatribes.

The most recent invective was “Biden pick shows lack of confidence.”  The text screamed its skewed vision.  “The candidate of change went with the status quo . . . Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness -inexperience . .  The Biden selection is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative . . .”

Surprised by such barbs, I studied the author.  I learned, scorching satire could be expected.  Apparently, Ron Fournier spoke with the McCain campaign of his being a senior Political Adviser in 2007.  While one malicious missive might be excused, a slew of such essays offer ample cause for concern.

Mister Fournier words are frequently more Republican than reasoned.  The “journalist” writes . . .

“Poor Hillary.  After trying to save her sinking candidacy with awkward turns of flattery and sarcasm, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton resorted to a new tactic in Tuesday night’s debate: self-pity.”

Editors, such statements do not reflect fair and accurate reports.  Please tell those at the Associated Press, the recent reports penned by this wire service reporter, Ron Fournier, lack objectivity.  Your readers want no more tirades; we long for impartial accounts.

Betsy L. Angert

Florida

Possibly, if readers write the Associated Press will be reminded; periodical readers seek enlightenment in black and white text.  A newspaper is read all over for it resonates as reasoned.  Those who love current affairs do not wish to have the truth obscured.  They read for fact not fiction.  If the people write, newspaper Editors flooded with fervent letters may feel the wrath of citizens eager for ingenuous information.  Perhaps, the Associated Press will come to understand, the people are unwilling to be silent or consent to a commentary flavored by the reporters bias.

Readers of rhetoric that obfuscates all but a Republican perspective, please speak.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

~ Martin Luther King Junior

References for readers . . .

An Unsavory Media Crush; ‘The New “Objective”‘




To view the original art, please travel to ‘The New “Objective”‘

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

An Unsavory Media Crush; Build Your Own Portfolio

It’s ironic that John McCain, once a media favorite, finds himself on the short end of increasingly lopsided news coverage. Barack Obama has proved a master of modern political stagecraft, and the U.S. media seems content to lap up his spoon-fed goodness. While such unquestioning acceptance might make good television, the media is failing to play its critical role in the political process. Similar just-swallow-the-message behavior helped lead this nation into an unjustified war. Obama is no Bush, but the press owes the public more than the fawning adoration they’re passing off as “The New ‘Objective'” [Archive No. 0828].

Before signing off, a reminder that I’m offering a limited-edition portfolio to help cover the cost of books for my upcoming semester of grad school. Since sales were tepid on the selections I made, I’ve tweaked the portfolio offer so you can pick out your favorite toons. For only $20, you get reproductions of your five favorites, professionally printed on 8×10 photo stock, along with an original pen sketch of George W. Bush.  Order soon, as this offer only lasts until 20 sets are sold:

Back in seven . . .

Cheers . . .

Andrew

toon@offthewahl.com

Restricted Sorrow and Sainthood

Mrn

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

I stroked the chair, caressed the spirit.  I cried.  She was gone; yet here.  Not forgotten; forever her presence would be with me.  Then within a wink of an eye, seven days passed.  Luke Russert appeared before me.  He stood; head bowed, and touched another chair.  This overstuffed piece of furniture once held the frame of his dearly departed father.  While some thought the moment sweet, many expressed exasperation.  They tired of the coverage.  Timothy James Russert was dead.  We need not canonize him.  A few were critical.  They wondered did cable television have nothing better to cover.  A “fellow” Journalist commented, “Will somebody please e-mail me when the eulogies for Tim Russert are over?”  Perhaps, tributes only end when we, the mourners pass. Possibly, memorials are personal, as are the parameters on grief.

Three weeks ago today, I looked longingly at the place she occupied forever.  My Mom could always be found seated at the kitchen table, that is unless she was cooking, baking, or gardening.  When Mom boiled, broiled, fried, or roasted victuals she did so with a lack of restraint.  Recipes were not to be followed.  They were guides, as was her nose, and the tip of her tongue.  Mommy was an eager explorer.  If not in motion, she read voraciously while erect in a straight back wooden chair that I stood and admired twenty-one days ago.

Mommy reveled in being productive and creative.  Her hobby was critical thought.  She lived, breathed, and was a being who constantly researched, reviewed all she encountered, and reflected.  Mommy was, and is authentic.  Berenice never pretended to be perfect.  She did not believe in the possibility.  My Mom learned as she lived.  All aspects of live were her lessons.

In our home, an error was an opportunity.  Mommy evolved eternally, and had faith all beings do.  I have no reason to believe that she has stopped or was stilled by a physical trauma that took her visible presence away from me.  My father does not fear that she passed on to nothingness; nor does he conclude that  her progression ended when her eyes closed here on Earth for the final time.

Indeed, that very morning, less than a month ago, while in my parents’ home, my father did as he diligently did each week.  He placed flowers in a beautiful crystal vase and put them in front of the chair where Mommy often sat.  She was not there that morning; at least most people would not have been able to see her.  Berenice passed more than eight years ago.  Nonetheless, for my father and I she is always present.  

On this date as on every other, my mother, his wife, would smell picturesque peonies.  She would admire the crimson color.  Red was her favorite hue.  Fresh flora, picked from her garden, and presented with great care was never a vacant gesture.  Mommy loved life in every form.  Plants were no less important than people.  The kitties some would call “pets” were also considered equal to humans in my Mom’s eyes, although., I wonder if others ever understood that.

I think, at times, some felt as though Mommy was closer to the “cats” than she was to them.  Perchance, she was.  From the “babies” she received unconditional love.  They, as my father and I, knew all her flaws and thought them fun.  Those unique qualities were the source of endearment for father, the furry felines, and I.  Food and feedings did not bind a mammal mother to her daughter, her husband, or to the purrfect little ones who sat with her every chance they could.

Mom and the four-footed cuddly children expressed empathy for each other in ways that could only be felt.  She and some humans, not me, had never connected with such compassion.  I suspect those who know us only from afar cannot fully grasp the wholeness, the whoness, that makes an individual great.

For me, Berenice was and is beyond belief.  Perhaps that is why, all these years later, I gaze upon her station and shed a flood of tears.  For me, it is as though she has yet to pass.  Yet, in my heart I know of the looming doom.

Some would say my moans and the notion that I might mourn my loss silly.  Near a decade has passed.  Certainly, I must be over the occurrence.  We are here; then, we are gone.  People live and then they die.  That is it.  Enough already.  I have reason to believe some who knew Mommy do not grieve as I do.  Still the ache I feel at the mere mention of Mom is sincere.  The pain of her passing will likely never leave me.  Nor will her words or ways be lost on me.  She is as alive within me and for me as she was the last time we spoke, face to face.

On the Sunday I last spent in her home, before I left for the flight back to my own abode, I turned and kissed a photograph of her.  It stood in memorial in the dining area, on the sideboard.  There, Mommy could see the flowers my father picked for her.  From where she was, my Mom could also study the pile of books Dad left for her to read.  He, as I, trusted she would wish to remain current.  Just as they had when Mommy filled a more Earthly presence, volumes on various subjects, were stacked on the table.  Mommy and Dad would read and discuss onto infinity.

Yes, my father is as foolish as I.  

We recall the wondrous women who taught us to believe in love.  Dad and I cannot forget the fondness of a being who had faith; there are no limits.  While we understand that several persons think my father and I need to “get over” her “death,” we must “move one,” each of us experiences that we have evolved.  Mommy has been integrated into our soul in a manner that shifts us farther forward.  Neither of us ever imagined we might grow as we have.  Our horizons have become more expansive.  Might we be the flowers Mommy now nurtures from an ethereal garden?  I can only wonder just as, I ponder the posture of those who easily leave loved ones behind.

Frequently, I marvel as I observe those who dwell on the hate, hurt, or the resentment they felt and possibly still feel.  As Timothy Russert was laid to rest, several of those who survive were not at peace.  Headlines blazed across page after page.  Columnist crooned.  In The Nation Alexander Cockburn penned all but a acclamation.  He wrote in an article titled The Canonization of St. Tim, Beat The Devil . . .

The delirium in the press at Tim Russert’s passing has been strange.  As a broadcaster, he was not much better than average, which is saying very little.  He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted and when courage was required.

This short stanza is the kindest portion of the prose.  A reader might ask, was Tim Russert expected to be perfect.  Are we to believe that one is beloved only if they are flawless.  Could it be that homage is reserved for revered Saints; humans need not apply.  While I am able to relate to the frustration the author expresses, I also acknowledge the importance of what Tim Russert saw as his mission.  The broadcaster wished to create a historical record, “My views are not important,” Russert explained.  The man mused; the audience is intelligent.  Viewers will think for themselves.  Timothy J. Russert honored each of us when he offered a forum, a foundation on which we, the people could build.

For me, the vision Tim Russert spoke of defines love, unconditional, unconventional, unique, and exceptional.

Perchance, that is why I admire and appreciate what those who were close to him continue to venerate.  Mommy forever offered, “No one has the right to tell another what they should think, say, do, feel, or be.”  Timothy James Russert, just as my Mom trusted that each individual would decide for him or herself what was right, correct, and best.

An anguished viewer may have wanted the host of Meet the Press to attack a guest, to confront a purported corrupt Congressperson, or curtly cajole a public official.  Many an MSNBC spectator may have wished for an on screen war.  As a reader of numerous periodicals might surmise, several persons hoped to hear Russert rant and rage.  Yet, the gentle man could not, would not.  Perchance, the Journalist and Jurist was a peacenik to the core as my Mom was, or conceivably, he was just polite.

Russert said his mission is to learn as much as he can about the guests’ position on issues beforehand and take the opposing side, while maintaining a civil atmosphere on the show.

“I’m in a position to call them out and try to bring them back to the point where they’re giving an honest answer to an honest question,” he said.

Ah, the best policy.  As my Mom taught me, one must seek truth and trust that veracity for one may not be reality for another.  Wisdom grows; it is a progression.  The sources for information are infinite.  We must investigate, not castigate, or so I believe.  I recognize this principle is contrary to the opinions of many a media specialist.  Nonetheless, as one who intends to weep for the Mom I miss forever, I cannot spew words such as “How the Russert Test Failed America.”  

I inquire, might it be that America failed the Russert test; the key to a meaningful life is understanding.

Granted, judgments may differ; and I, for one hope they will.  For I cannot learn from those who agree with me, forever and always.  I embrace a philosophy that serves me well.  Mommy helped me to realize, perfection is not precision.  Facts are fluid.  A stagnant specific is as flawed as the falsehood, we must grief a loss for only as long as it entertains a particular person or audience.  

Tim Russert may have provided us with an unexpected opportunity, a chance to learn what most erudite elitists missed in educational institutions and esteemed ivory towers. If we wish to be excellent, we must embrace empathy.  Only when we walk in a world that differs from our own, as Timothy James Russert hoped to help us do, can we garner a genuine depth.  While conventional wisdom may teach us accepted rights or wrongs, I trust only exceptional insight allows for an awareness that the man or the Mom who sat in a chair teaches through his or her all too human being, more than they might through a supposed intellectual expertise.

Sources of sorrow, and serenity . . .

Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



Fear Itself

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

By Associate Press.

Time Magazine

April 4, 2008

(New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

The Next Slum?

By Christopher B. Leinberger

Atlantic Monthly

March 2008

Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

Pew Hispanic Center

August 10, 2006

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

Plastic Card Tricks

The New York Times

March 29, 2008

Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

[W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

Kucinich Excluded From ABC Debate. Free Speech Expelled From Elections



Constructing Public Opinion

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

America is faced with an interesting dilemma; whom might the citizens place in the Oval Office.  November 2008 will arrive quickly.  January 2009 cannot come soon enough.  Many qualified candidates vie for the attention of the people.  Among the Democrats, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, and Barack Obama cross the nation each day.  All wish to meet expectant constituents.  The aspirants ask for only one favor.  “Please give me an equal opportunity.” Presidential hopeful, Congressman Dennis Kucinich might make this request with more fervor and with reason.  Kucinich excluded from ABC debate.

Sadly, few in the States will have a chance to see the hopefuls up close and personal.  Three-hundred and one million Americans live in this nation.  Each has a concern.  All are affected by the decisions a President makes, no matter their age, class, race, color, creed, sex, gender preference, or religion.  Four years ago, 221,256,931 were of age and could vote.  More persons, eighteen or older call this country home now.

Of these adults, some see themselves as Democrats, others Republican.  In recent years, most Americans declared they have and are Moving On.  Numerous feel no need to be part of the two Party system.  They are Independent and proud of it.

Moving On

More Voters Are Steering Away From Party Labels

By Rhodes Cook?

Washington Post

Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page B01

Meet a friend of mine.  He is a successful lawyer who lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, has two grown children, and has been a registered Republican for almost his entire adult life.

That is, until now.  Increasingly disenchanted with the GOP, but no fan of the Democrats, he is thinking about re-registering as an independent when he completes a move to a new suburban home and has to change his place of voting.

My friend has plenty of company.  In this starkly partisan era of Red and Blue America, we may need a third color to describe those who formally call themselves neither Republican nor Democrat.  When it comes to registering voters, the two major parties can only look in envy — and dismay — at the swelling ranks of unaffiliated voters.

Since the waning years of the Reagan administration, or basically since the last periodical cicada mating cycle, the number of “other” voters has proliferated.  In the 27 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have been registering voters by party since 1987, the Democratic share has plummeted 8 percentage points, declining from an aggregate total of 51 percent to 43 percent.  The Republican share has stayed steady at 33 percent.  But the proportion of voters who have not identified themselves with either of the major parties has jumped 8 percentage points, from 16 to 24 percent.

What’s impressive about these numbers (at least in the view of political analysts such as me) isn’t the phenomenon itself, but its staying power.  Myriad polls over the past two decades have shown that voters, when asked to identify themselves politically, divide about one-third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third independent.  But in terms of registration, most have opted for one major party or the other — perhaps because, in some states, that was the only way they could vote in a party primary.  Only recently, have registration figures begun to reflect the poll numbers.

What’s so significant about the rise of the unaffiliated?  Well, it’s one thing to tell a pollster that you consider yourself “independent.”  No particular consequence arises from that self-identification.  But to register as unaffiliated is a stronger statement of preference (or lack of one).  Political parties talk about the “base,” and how to energize it.  These numbers suggest that the base is eroding, or at least is harder to identify and rely on.

Regardless of this reality, in the twenty-seven states that require a Party affiliation, eight [8] percent] of those once registered as Democrats now think themselves ruggedly Independent, researchers and the “objective” news media conclude, if they ask Democrats to discuss only Democrats then they have conducted a comprehensive survey.  Researchers believe a rational judgment is made when Republicans reply to an inquiry such as, what do you think of the candidates in your Party.  It seems only Independents and those outside the mainstream take the actual pulse of the public.  When they do, the results are startling, and quite different from conventional “norms.”

‘Long Shot’ Kucinich Buries Democratic Rivals in Nationwide Poll Among Independent Voters

December 21, 2007

Washington, — Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, who has been the runaway winner in polls of the Party’s progressive, grassroots base in recent weeks, scored another huge win yesterday by capturing almost 77% of the vote in a nationwide poll sponsored by a coalition of Independent voting groups across the country.

Of the more than 80,000 votes cast for Democratic candidates at http://www.independentprimary.com by self-described independent voters, the Ohio Congressman received 61,477, burying second place finisher, former Senator John Edwards, who received only 7,614 votes, or 9.5 percent. . . .

This is the latest in a string of exceptionally strong finishes by Kucinich in national on-line polls.  Last month, he topped all other candidates in 47 of 50 states in a poll sponsored by Democracy for America (DFA), in which he received almost 32% of the 150,000-plus votes cast — more than Edwards and Senator Barack Obama combined.  In that poll, Kucinich won both Iowa and New Hampshire.

In a survey by the 90,000-member Progressive Democrats of America, Kucinich took 41% of the vote nationwide.  And, in a poll conducted by the progressive The Nation magazine, he won with 35% of the vote.  Obama came in second with 24%, and Edwards was third with 13%.

The creators of IndependentPrimary.com said their poll was designed to measure the impact of independent-minded voters on the Presidential election and was “part of a movement bringing together ordinary Americans who think that the good of the country is more important than the good of the political parties.”

Nonetheless, Party politics continues to thrive in the television arena.  After the Iowa caucus, the first election year “contest” in the United States, and before the first vote was cast in New Hampshire, ABC News hosted another debate.  The premise was people would have a chance to hear the candidates, in each Party prior to an actual primary election.  

Rather than present all the Presidential hopefuls to an eager public audience, the network decided to restrict the forum.  Regardless of the fact that secret ballots nation wide were not yet submitted, ABC declared, it was time to set standards.  Certainly, only the supposed “electables” could appear on stage.  Thus, the gauntlet was thrown down.

Candidates hoping to be included will need to accomplish any one of three tasks: (a) place in the top four positions in the Iowa caucuses, (b) obtain 5 percent or higher in recent national polls, or (c) obtain 5 percent or higher in recent state polls.

If, as the rules state, a Presidential hopeful must achieve one of these criterion, based on the Progressive polls, it seemed Dennis Kucinich would easily qualify to appear.  Yet, he did not.  Apparently, ABC News prefers to honor only specific surveys, those not fully representative of the nation as a whole.  In an era, when the populace craves change, conventional wisdom rules.

Many muse and malign Iowa as not reflective of the nation, which may or may not be true; yet, they are happy to embrace the polls that offer a far less accurate snapshot of what American voters think.  The results in Iowa call the researchers and the media into question.  Democrats did not come out in mass for Clinton.  The race was not as close as predicted.  Nor did Obama come in second.  Independents made all the difference in Iowa.  Perchance, these unaffiliated voters have loud voices.

Astute analysis reveals what most say is true, the elite, the acceptable thought police control the masses nationwide. People with little opportunity to meet and greet a candidate in person peruse the polls, see numerous advertisements, and possibly read what a few hundred canvassed persons say, and then decide what they will do.

White House 2008: Democratic Nomination

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Dec. 19-30, 2007. N=556 registered voters nationwide who are Democrats or lean Democratic. MoE ± 5

“I’m going to read you the names of some Democratic presidential candidates. Which one of the following Democratic candidates would be your first choice for president: [see below]?” If unsure: “Just as of today, would you say you lean toward [see below]?” Names rotated

Hillary Clinton  46 percent

Barack Obama  26 percent

John Edwards 14 percent

Dennis Kucinich  3 percent

Bill Richardson  3 percent

Joe Biden  2 percent

Chris Dodd  [The name appears with no percentage listed]

Mike Gravel  0 percent

None (vol.)  2 percent

Unsure  4 percent

Days before the main event, the Iowa Caucuses, according to this reputable Pew survey, the Clinton coronation was certain to occur. With Bill by her side, the public expected to hear an acceptance speech from Hillary Clinton on January 3, 2008.  ABC News certainly understood this momentum.  Before they decided who would appear on their stage they also polled the public.  Registered Democrats and those that lean Left, were interviewed, or at least a full thousand plus were asked of their possible vote.

ABC News/Facebook poll. Dec. 16-19, 2007. N=1,142 adults nationwide. Fieldwork by TNS. Results below are among leaned Democrats.

“If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were [see below], for whom would you vote?”

Hillary Clinton  44 percent

Barack Obama  27 percent

John Edwards  11 percent

Dennis Kucinich  3 percent

Joe Biden  2 percent

Bill Richardson  2 percent

Other/None (vol.) 4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

Again, only weeks before the Iowa caucuses, a study states Clinton is the candidate of choice. Yet, clearly she was not.  A third place showing is not the ceremonial introduction to her inauguration.  Perchance there is much to learn from the Iowa caucuses.

Iowa ‘Entrance Poll’ Offers N.H. Clues

By Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen?

Washington Post

?Saturday, January 5, 2008; A08

Do the outcomes of the Iowa caucuses offer clues to what will happen in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary? A look at the “entrance poll” taken Thursday night in the Hawkeye State offered five things to watch for next week:

1.  Independents matter.

Independents were a small but powerful force in the caucuses of both parties, and an even higher percentage will vote in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, independents made up 20 percent of caucusgoers and contributed heavily to Sen. Barack Obama’s victory margin.  . . .

In 2000, the last time both parties held contested primaries in New Hampshire, about four in 10 voters called themselves independents. McCain won the GOP primary that year by prevailing among independents, while Republicans went for George W. Bush.

Unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire can choose to participate in either party’s primary, and the fortunes of Obama and McCain may hinge on which way independents break.  Washington Post-ABC News polling last month found that more than six in 10 of the state’s independents planned to vote in the Democratic primary.

America is in ruin.  The sub-prime disaster is daunting.  Once solid citizens seek relief; homes are in foreclosure. Credit crunches cause banks to bleed; they fear the red fluid may flow.  Soldiers die daily abroad.  More hemorrhaging.  Very few industrial jobs exist in the United States.  The dollar is devalued. American children are less well educated.  Forty-seven million plus are uninsured. Citizens grasp for straws, even for straw polls.  The State of the Union is fragile.

People are in a panic.  When we contemplate the future, according to a Harvard Report, the National Leadership Index, more than three quarters of Americans think we are in a leadership crisis.  Yet, often, our fellow citizens turn to corporate accounts for accurate information.  This may be most true among the Independents.

34% of Independents believe that the press is not politically biased.

Perhaps, that is part of the problem; people have faith in polls.  Millions trust flawed data.  Fallacies flaunted by the elites that favor the status quo have much influence.  We might ask own owns the media?  The answer is, it is not the average American.  Nevertheless, most Americans rely on the press for fair and accurate reporting.  Even those aware of what is, often forget.

In 2004, Bagdikian’s revised and expanded book,  The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric’s NBC is a close sixth.

Still, millions presume opinion polls are the perfect gauge, or at least as good as it gets.  However, ultimately, people are unpredictable.  Yet, every news organization declares they know what will be come election day.  The press maintains the people tell them what they think.  Might we ask, do the media, and the profiteers who own these broadcast organizations tell the people what to believe?

Prominent among the pollsters is the esteemed Wall Street Journal [now owned by billionaire Hillary Clinton backer Rupert Murdoch] and NBC News, a division of General Electric, and a network that energizes the people.  Noteworthy, and also a General Electric company, Newsweek Magazine coupled with prestigious Princeton researchers cannot be discounted.

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Dec. 14-17, 2007. Asked of Democrats, and non-Democrats who said they would vote in a Democratic presidential primary (from a total sample of 1,008 adults nationwide).

“Let me mention some people who might seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. If the next Democratic primary for president were being held today, for which one of the following candidates would you vote . . . ?” If unsure: “Well, which way do you lean?”

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2007. N=433 registered Democrats and leaners nationwide. MoE ± 6.

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

If the margin of error pendulum travels in either direction, we must ask, how many more Democrats might vote for Dennis Kucinich.  Granted there are those who wish to identify this Presidential hopeful as too extreme or not electable.  However, if we assess the assumption of those that claim to speak for the majority we understand the rationale is flawed.

Dennis Kucinich is not viewed favorably by likely voters — 24 percent have a favorable opinion of him, 31 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him, 12 percent are neutral, and 33 percent don’t know enough about him to say. Kucinich’s net favorability rating is -7 percent.

With much help from the media and the moguls who own these resources, many Americans have no idea who Dennis Kucinich is!  However, they are intimately familiar with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even John Edwards.  

Edwards’ supporters say this is not so.  “John is being ignored by the media.”  Wife Elizabeth spoke of this on Hardball with Chris Matthews. The supportive spouse contends; although John placed second in the race, the focus was on Hillary and Barack.  Others picked up on the campaign cry.

Just after the Iowa caucuses, the periodicals were flooded with the premise, Edwards: ‘The People’s Candidate,’ does not receive the attention the other front-runners do. The theory now espoused is, former Senators Edwards’ proposals threaten the corporate tycoons who own the press.  If Edwards is elected, there will be true change.  Profits will dwindle.  Thus, to ensure that the people do not hear Edwards message the media does not cover the candidate.  

While the supposition seems apt, the fact is John Edwards appears prominently in ever poll.  He stands solidly on center stage during each debate.  Edwards receives equal time and is essentially invested in the status quo.  John Edwards does not challenge the conglomerates as Dennis Kucinich does.

John Edwards does not fully separate himself from those who support the standards of today. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Incorporated, legal firms galore, and Fortress Investment Group all contribute bundles to his campaign.

Hedge-Fund Ties Help Edwards Campaign

Firms Increase Political Gifts

By John Solomon and Alec MacGillis?

Washington Post

Monday, April 23, 2007; A01

Two years ago, former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, gearing up for his second run at the Democratic presidential nomination, gave a speech decrying the “two different economies in this country: one for wealthy insiders and then one for everybody else.”

Four months later, he began working for the kind of firm that to many Wall Street critics embodies the economy of wealthy insiders — a hedge fund.

Edwards became a consultant for Fortress Investment Group, a New York-based firm known mainly for its hedge funds, just as the funds were gaining prominence in the financial world — and in the public consciousness, where awe over their outsize returns has mixed with misgivings about a rarefied industry that is, on the whole, run by and for extremely wealthy people and operates largely in secrecy.

Transparency, truthfulness, all the public clamors for is indeed hidden from view.  While John Edwards may wish to posture as the people’s candidate and a menace to mainstream media, he is not much of a danger to the elites.  Indeed, each poll includes his name.  Not all the surveys mention Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich.  

Former Senator and Vice Presidential aspirant John Edwards was invited to every public debate.  An organization never thought to question Edwards’ viability.  Edwards has forever been deemed electable.  He has more than equal access to the people.  Dennis Kucinich, the true candidate of the people does not.

While the Federal Communication Commission [FCC] rules, which govern radio and television licenses, states stations must operate in the public’s interest, we can see they do not.  ABC News is our most recent example.  This network limits our option to see and hear each of the Presidential hopefuls, even before the first secret ballot is cast.  Denying access to all the aspirants, to disallow a participant in a debate seems antithetical to the intent of the FCC regulations.  To produce polls to validate and justify obstruction is  not to inform the people.  Yet, here we are.  Inaccurate as these seem to be, the surveys solidify the message the media and magnates wish to express.

American Research Group poll. Dec. 9-12, 2007. N=600 likely Democratic primary and caucus voters nationwide. MoE ± 4.

“If the 2008 Democratic presidential preference primary/caucus were being held today between [see below], for whom would you vote?”

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  10 percent

Gallup Poll. Nov. 11-14, 2007. N=485 Democrats and Democratic leaners nationwide. MoE ± 5.

“Next, I’m going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else. . . .” Names rotated.

Dennis Kucinich   4 percent

None (vol.)/Unsure  8 percent

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Oct. 17-23, 2007. N=837 registered voters nationwide who are Democrats or lean Democratic. MoE ± 4.

“I’m going to read you the names of some Democratic presidential candidates. Who would you most like to see nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2008: [see below]?” If unsure: “Is there anyone you are leaning toward as of today?” Names rotated

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

We can see again and again, among the Democrats, routinely Dennis Kucinich often ranks one percentage point below the arbitrary requirement.  The number of undecided voters is high.  Perchance these individuals seek further information.  However, with thanks to the restrictions imposed by ABC News, [and other organizations] a discussion panel meant to enlighten the electorate restricts  their exposure to a meaningful alternative.  

Some of the studies do not even mention the possible President, Dennis Kucinich.  Hence, when the results are released they are invalid; yet, offered as truth.  The American people are lead to believe as the media decides. The press makes the final pronouncement.  They will tell us who delivers the message, when, where, why, and how.  

CBS News Poll. Oct. 12-16, 2007. N=456 Democratic primary voters nationwide. MoE ± 5.

“Suppose the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 comes down to a choice among Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Who would you most like to see nominated: Clinton, Obama, Edwards — or would you rather see someone else nominated?” Names rotated

Clinton  51 percent

Obama  23 percent

Edwards  13 percent

Other/None  7 percent

Unsure  6 percent

Hillary Clinton is the clear winner . .  .or was, until the people of Iowa decided otherwise.  Since the caucus, all we thought we knew is topsy-turvy, turned on its head, and twisted in the wind, except for the fact that Independents decide.  In This Race, Independents Are the Prize.  If the Independent voter, which might be any of us, has little or no ability to hear from a candidate, we must ask ourselves, is this America, the land of the free.  

If  First Amendment rights are not granted to a celebrated Congressman, a Presidential candidate, can we, the people authentically choose who will represent us.  In a nation where the news is dictated, manufactured, and manipulated, do the citizens actually know who is or would have been electable?  Probably not.  None of us has yet had an opportunity to read the polls that address this issue.

Nevertheless, another canvass did appear, although it was well hidden from view.  This tally was not prominently presented as the other surveys were.  Although, ABC News and Facebook hosted the recent debate jointly, access to this account was concealed.  Yet, here it is.

Barack Obama  60.65 percent

Hillary Clinton  18.21 percent

John Edwards  9.74 percent

Dennis Kucinich  6.51 percent

Bill Richardson  2.61 percent

Mike Gravel  2.29 percent

The definitive Facebook figures show that the future President, Dennis Kucinich placed fourth in the tally used to determine what the voters think of the candidates.  The virtually invisible Presidential hopeful, Congressman Kucinich received a greater number of votes than Bill Richardson, a  contender deemed acceptable by those who supposedly educate the masses.  While Richardson did not receive the required 5 percent in this analysis, he did appear on stage.  John Edwards total was not much higher than Kucinich’s. Had this slate appeared, Americans might have known what we are supposed to. forget  Dennis Kucinich is viable, electable, and purposely excluded from many a national forum.

America, will we  continue to let conglomerates control the message and us, or will we finally decide to take our country back?

Sources, Surveys, and Secrets . . .

The State of US Media Today

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

For some time now the internet has been a source of news that our major media fails to report or keeps on the back pages far too long.  The local paper, The Wilmington News Journal, has more than once been guilty of publishing stories with inaccurate or very misleading statements taken from the administration.  At least one explanation for this behavior in the media came in a recent interview with Dr. Peter Phillips, current head of Project Censored.  Under Dr. Phillips leadership Project Censored follows the news of the year and compiles a listing of overlooked or underreported stories during the course of the year.  

In 2007 the number one issue lacking real reporting was the loss of habeus corpus for everyone.  One provision of the Military Commissions Act is broad enough in its wording to include any person of interest to the government.

Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States … shall be punished as a military commission … may direct.

Though the act was intended to allow easier trials for terror suspects, any person in the nation might fall under a broad interpretation “allegiance to the United States.”

And why one may wonder did the media fail to cover this story to the degree such an important step deserves?  The answer may come from Dr. Phillips.

…an organizational tendency is to comply with the general corporate culture, and career-minded journalists and editors sharing this common corporate culture will create what direct censorship cannot: a general compliance with the attitudes, wishes, and expectations of the media elite and, in turn, corporate America.

And so Dr. Phillips put into words what seems most obvious to most analytical readers of the news today.  American media is controlled by a small number of corporations many of which (like GE for instance) have close ties to the military industrial complex and therefore have a vested interest in the continuation of militarism in this country.  In addition according to some reports GE has very close ties to the government.  

This is not the only example.  GE is only one of many examples which may be found.  The American public is being given an increasingly smaller number of media resources from which to garner news and those sources are becoming more controlled by smaller number of corporate offices.  How then is the American public to make an informed decision about matters of importance?  Can we find a way out of this failing system?  Or are we too far gone to expect a real return to sanity and freedom of information?