Sunday, June 20, 2010

Right Wing vs. Left Wing Media

National and Local

Most of the talking heads in the media talk about it being dominated by the “left wing.” But when we look at the actual numbers, it is actually the opposite. The influence of FOX News is amplified as their antics and outrages – “birtherism,” climate change denial, baseless accusations of “socialism” or even “fascism” – are uncritically reported far and wide by the mainstream media (MSM). In addition to FOX, the airwaves are crammed solid with right-wing talk shows – about 90%, by some counts. Leading these is Rush Limbaugh, with an audience estimated from fifteen to thirty million. Rush and these other 90% would have you believe that the overwhelming majority of media has a left wing bias, but facts have never gotten in the way of their propaganda, and they have repeated it so many times that the majority of Americans believe it.

To be sure, there are many admirable broadcast voices on the left, in addition to the MSNBC team: Thom Hartmann, Amy Goodman, Bill Maher, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Mike Papantonio, Cenk Uygur, and Randi Rhodes. But their messages are uncoordinated, dispersed, and poorly promoted. And unlike FOX and Limbaugh, etc., there is almost no corporate media amplification of progressive talk radio and cable TV. Strange to say, some of the most incisive liberal commentary seems to originate with the comedians, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

That being said, I would like to report what is going on locally in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA. The last vestige of progressive media disappeared from this town a couple years ago when WPTT changed it’s format to exclusive financial coverage, dropping the local talk show host Lynn Cullen, and nationally syndicated Thom Hartmann.

The only thing remaining in political talk is right wing WPGB 104.7 fm. We have the regional tea party hosts Quinn and Rose, as well as nationally syndicated Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and of course, Rush Limbaugh.

Then there is the news station KQV 1410 am. Right wing millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife owns a controlling interest in that station, as well as the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. If you listen to them, they seem to be a normal news/traffic station, much like 1010 WINS from New York. In fact their programming was based on that model.

KQV has an opinion poll every day, and most of the time, the question is reasonable and relevant, although most of the time the results leave you wondering why most of the answers tend to be overwhelmingly conservative. People who have been listening to this station for years never think anything is abnormal, until one day they are shocked and outraged at a particular poll question and the number of Pittsburghers who agree. Again, it is not a scientific poll, (people can vote as many times as they want, on the phone or online).

Let me give you some examples of shocking questions and results. Just last Friday, June 18th, KQV asked, “In your opinion, did the White House ‘shakedown’ BP by urging the company to create the $20 billion compensation fund for those facing economic losses resulting from the oil spill?” Despite the outrage over Joe Barton’s “shakedown” comments, and repudiation even from his own party, two thirds (67%) of Pittsburghers agree with the congressman that we should apologize to bp, who should not pay for the damage of it’s own catastrophe, rather the taxpayers should foot the bill. This is the MO of a typical Karl Rove tactic - attack the opposition's strength, as he did against Kerry's war record in '04. After I saw this poll, I submitted a feedback thread, and stated that I thought the poll was rigged - I couldn’t believe that many Pittsburghers would vote like this, and if they did, I would move.

A few years ago, I saw another KQV poll that I found hard to believe. On April 11, 2006, the question was, “Should the U.S. consider using nuclear bombs to halt Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?” This would appear to be an Onion headline, but it wasn’t. The Onion did comment on the issue however, saying that they didn’t know if this would pass the U.N. Irony Council. My comment on this poll was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

The mother of all poll questions was asked on March 26, 2010. This was in response to a Harris poll involving 2,320 adults who were surveyed online between March 1 and March 8 by Harris Interactive, a market research firm. Respondents were read each of 15 statements and asked whether they thought they were true or false. The sample of people was selected from among roughly 4 million people who agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys and are given "modest incentives," according to Harris. The results were then weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population.

Americans have some extreme views of President Obama, with a new controversial survey suggesting that 40 percent of adults believe he is a socialist, and about a quarter of survey participants thinking the president is a racist, anti-American and even doing things Hitler did.
The whammy: 14 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama may be the Antichrist. When split by political party, 24 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats viewed the nation's leader in this way.

KQV felt compelled to ask the same question, and the results were even more shocking. “Had you been surveyed, how would you have answered the question ‘is President Obama the Antichrist?’” On the phone poll, of 1440 responding, a whopping 70% of Pittsburghers said yes. That’s 3 times more than just the Republicans polled by Harris. Unbelievable. I voted for Obama, so this means one of two things. Either the poll is rigged, or it isn’t. If it isn’t rigged, I may have made a terrible mistake when I cast my vote, and either Obama is indeed the Anti-Christ, or Pittsburgh has way more racist whackos in it than I thought, and I need to get the hell out of town.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why are we in Afghanistan?

This is the question that plagues many American people. We supposedly went in to fight those who attacked us on 9/11. Actually, 9/11 was masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. Should we bomb Pakistan? I guess you could say that we already are with predator drones. The plot was also hatched in Spain, by Farid Hilali, who was extradited there to face charges. Should we bomb Spain too? Obama has called Afghanistan “the good war,” because that’s where Al Qaeda was, as opposed to the bad and unpopular occupation in Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11. The only problem is that Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan, so it doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, Obama’s “good war” is going from bad to worse. There have been more U.S. military deaths in the last 10 months of the Afghan war than in the first five years of the conflict. More boots on the ground than in Iraq. It is the longest war in American history, and the cost of both wars is now over 1 trillion dollars. Just New York City’s share of that debt would be enough to pay for a half million school teachers for a year. Where are our priorities?

The military industrial complex has searched and searched for a way to justify and continue this debaucle. One thing they’ve come up with to continue the war are the predator drone strikes. When they use those against terrorists, they not only kill them, but they usually end up killing scores of bystanders, which the military calls collateral damage. This is a great recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, and perpetuates the war, because there will always be more terrorists to kill. So it’s a win-win situation - a win for Al Qaeda, and for the military industrial complex, because it will keep bleeding our economy to death, which is apparently what Bin Laden, and other Masters of War want. The American war mongers know that if another country, say Mexico, was concerned about our drug problem here in America, (and we have one), and they decided to help us out by taking out a drug lord in New York city with a predator drone, and in doing so, took out a few buildings and families around it, that Americans would not applaude that action as cool technology. We would declare war on Mexico. That’s one way they make sure the war on terror continues forever.

Helen Thomas recently asked Obama, “When are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give me this Bushism that we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Asking the “why” questions was a Thomas trademark. Many self-censoring journalists avoid controversial “why” questions, thereby allowing evasion, dissembling and just plain B.S. to dominate the White House press room. She rejected words that sugarcoated or camouflaged the grim deeds. She started with the grim deeds to expose the doubletalk and officialdom’s chronic illegalities. That is why we miss her, despite her recent gaffes.

Obama didn’t really answer her uncomfortable question.

“Why do we never get an answer
when we’re knocking at the door
with a thousand million questions
about hate and death and war?” -The Moody Blues

But never fear. The military industrial complex has ridden in on a white horse to provide a justification for this war.

Afghanistan is sitting on 1 trillion dollars worth of minerals, especially lithium, which will be needed to power our future electric cars. We’ve known about this for years, ever since the Russians reported it in the 80’s. So why come out with it now? Because we need a justification to stay in our longest war for even longer. "There is stunning potential here," the New York Times quoted Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command as saying. "There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant." No shit, Sherlock. Iraq has 8.5 trillion dollars worth of oil, and that was enough justification for us to invade that country. How pathetic. It’s all about the money.

It’s all about usurping God’s natural resources for our own nation’s selfish imperialistic greed. We are no better than thieves, because are claiming God’s property as our own, and killing people in other sovereign countries in the process. With this mentality, there will never be peace. As Swami Prabhupada wrote in his pamphlet entitled “The Peace Formula” that he passed out in front of the U.N. in the middle of the anti-war movement in 1966, “The great mistake of modern civilization is to encroach upon others' property as though it were one's own and to thereby create an unnecessary disturbance of the laws of nature. These laws are very strong. No living entity can violate them.”

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The American Dream - Fact or Fiction?

The great American Dream first expressed by James Truslow Adams in 1931, was the idea that citizens of every rank feel that they can achieve a "better, richer, and happier life." The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence which states that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The American Dream has been credited with helping to build a cohesive American experience, but has also been blamed for over inflated expectations.

There are a few problems with this assumption. First of all, if “all men are created equal”, then why is the American Dream exclusively American? Then there is the problem of over inflated expectations. In the late 1800’s, Horatio Alger wrote stories of fictional characters from impoverished backgrounds who, through self-reliance and hard work, were able to realize the American Dream in this land of boundless opportunity.

The idea of self-determination and rugged individualism is idealized in the Republican party. They want less government, less government regulation, and more free market economics. This is epitomized in a story floating around the internet called “A day in the Life of Joe Republican.”

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

We are addicted to this rag-to-riches myth in this country. That is why we bought into the Reagan theory of “trickle down economics.” The idea that if the rich are allowed to make as much money as they can, some of it will trickle down on the rest of us as they steal into the night with their huge bags of cash. George H. W. Bush called this “voodoo economics.” We have seen the result of 30 years of Reaganomics - the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class has all but vanished.

Although this economic theory has been proven wrong time and time again, people have been brainwashed into believing that the American Dream still can apply to them too. Most people outside of America don’t live their lives based on fairy tales. They live in reality, where there are only going to be a few rich people, and you are not going to be one of them. So get used to it.

The rich have gotten richer, and as a result, they have destroyed the American Dream and have sent the world economy into a tailspin that hasn’t been seen since the great depression. The rich, instead of being drawn and quartered and hung at dawn at city gates, they have gotten a big wet kiss in the form of record tax breaks from Congress, and no one has said a word. Why? Because we’re still addicted to the Horatio Alger myth, that someday, I can make it big after all. So don’t attack the rich man, because one day that rich man may be me!

Let me burst the bubble of this myth once and for all.

The Declaration of Independence says that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This acknowledgement of the creator’s endowment is certainly true. Not a blade of grass can move without God’s sanction. It says nothing about how each individual is self endowed with this ability.

The ancient Vedic wisdom of the Srimad-Bhagavatam clarifies this point. The 6th Canto, 12th Chapter, 13th Verse states:

“Just as a person not inclined to die must nonetheless give up his longevity, opulence, fame and everything else at the time of death, so, at the appointed time of victory, one can gain all these when the Supreme Lord awards them by His mercy.”

In the purport, Srila Prabhupada writes,

“It is not good to be falsely puffed up, saying that by one’s own effort one has become opulent, learned, beautiful and so on. All such good fortune is achieved through the mercy of the Lord. From another point of view, no one wants to die, and no one wants to be poor or ugly. Therefore, why does the living entity, against his will, receive such unwanted troubles? It is due to the mercy or chastisement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that one gains or loses everything material. No one is independent; everyone is dependent on the mercy or chastisement of the Supreme Lord. There is a common saying in Bengal that the Lord has ten hands. This means that He has control everywhere—in the eight directions and up and down. If He wants to take everything away from us with His ten hands, we cannot protect anything with our two hands. Similarly, if He wants to bestow benedictions upon us with His ten hands, we cannot factually receive them all with our two hands; in other words, the benedictions exceed our ambitions. The conclusion is that even though we do not wish to be separated from our possessions, sometimes the Lord forcibly takes them from us; and sometimes He showers such benedictions upon us that we are unable to receive them all. Therefore either in opulence or in distress we are not independent; everything is dependent on the sweet will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

The American dream is a myth in as much as it is interpreted as being achieved as a result of one’s own endeavor, and that is the status quo belief. We must debunk this myth. It is only God who can give or take away the American Dream. Man proposes, and God disposes. We can work like asses for our own sense gratification, which is all taken away at the time of death, or we can serve God, for his pleasure. If we serve God, we will be given all that we require for our maintenance, but that should not be equated with the opulence given to those who have worked for their own selfish gratification. One type of work is binding (that of the karmi, or fruitive worker), another is liberating, (that of a devotee), who can use anything in the service of God, and is not entangled in the reactions of that labor. The devotee is free from karma, and will be liberated from the hard struggle for material existence, and go back to Godhead, to be in his constitutional position, as an eternal servant of God. The karmi will continue to rot in this material world, life after life. That is not the American Dream.