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Credibility Problems

September 10th, 2013 Comments off

Speaking in reference to the prospect of US military intervention in Syria at a recent press conference in Stockholm, President Obama told reporters, “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’s credibility is on the line.” The President got it half right. Having drawn a red line in Syria and called for air strikes in an increasingly volatile region, the Noble Peace Prize winner’s credibility, let alone his sound judgment, has never been more suspect.

Indeed, since his reelection last November, Obama’s credibility has tanked. And with good reason. On the domestic front, this summer’s revelations of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, and his administration’s assault on journalists and whistleblowers, underscore Obama’s authoritarian tendencies at home. In the international arena, Obama routinely violates international law with drone strikes across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. In reassuring tones, Obama calls for greater transparency and accountability in domestic and international relations. And yet, with each passing day the President’s rhetoric rings hollow, revealing his mendacity at every turn.

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Into Darkness: Letter to an Incoming Freshman

September 5th, 2013 Comments off

No doubt you’ve been busy this summer, celebrating high school graduation, bidding farewell to family and friends, and readying yourself for a new challenge – freshman year of college. As you prepare to take up your undergraduate studies, make new friends and acquaintances, and, perhaps, fulfill your hopes and dreams for the future, you’re likely to receive all sorts of unsolicited advice.

Here’s my two cents: Your college degree won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if the Class of 2017 doesn’t dedicate itself, first and foremost, to save the country from its own excesses. Excess of greed. Excess of duplicity. Excess of injustice. I say this with a heavy heart and a troubled mind. Because this summer, as you begin a new chapter in your young life, our beloved country, these United States, descends into darkness.

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The Lesser of Two Evils Redux

February 26th, 2012 Comments off

Bloomington Alternative

During a recent appearance on Pacifica radio’s Democracy Now!, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold openly criticized President Barack Obama’s decision to accept campaign contributions from Super PACs. Feingold succinctly characterized the president’s reversal on taking Super PAC money: “It’s not just bad policy. It’s also dumb strategy.”

Feingold’s point is well taken. Obama’s acceptance of Super PAC contributions flies in the face of his stated opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision – a ruling that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate campaign contributions. This reversal may come back to haunt the president, especially as he and the Democrats attempt to capitalize on the popular discontent articulated by the Occupy movement.

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The Ongoing Revolution Will Not Be Televisied

January 27th, 2012 Comments off

This week marked the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. In typical, parochial fashion, the US news media marked the anniversary with file footage from last year’s historic events and the cool assurance that the revolution is complete.

The self-congratulatory tone was even more evident when mainstream media outlets revisited Haiti on the second anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation. What these press reports ignore is the ongoing struggle in these troubled places — and the US role in perpetuating corrupt and anti-democratic forces.


More at The Real News

In Egypt, the mass mobilizations in Tahrir this past week were less celebratory than American media outlets let on. For a majority of Egyptians, especially young people, the revolution continues. It is an ongoing fight to liberate the country from an oppressive military regime.

Top 10 Soundbites of 2011

December 27th, 2011 Comments off

The Bloomington Alternative

“The Protester” is Time magazine’s person of the year. Featuring a fierce-looking, veiled figure peering back at the reader, Time’s front-cover image succinctly captures the uprisings and social upheavals that made history in 2011. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Nonetheless, we shouldn’t forget the slogans, catchphrases and epithets that made headlines this year. After all, whatever comes of the Occupy movement, the mantra of the politically and economically disenfranchised – “We are the 99%” – has dramatically altered American political discourse as we plunge headlong into the 2012 presidential race.

Here then, are some of the remarks, declarations, and comments – snarky and otherwise – that made 2011 a year to remember.

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10. “I’m making this video to give you one simple message: we want to go down to Tahrir Square on Jan. 25th. If we still have honor and want to live in dignity on this land, we have to go down on January Jan. 25th. We’ll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights.” – Egyptian activist, Asmaa Mahfouz, in a video posted to Facebook calling for a mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Jan. 18.

9. “You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praising Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite news channel, and lamenting the sorry state of American journalism in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 2.

8. “This seems like it was a prank to make fun of my name. … When you are named Weiner, that happens a lot.” – Former Representative Anthony Weiner offering the first of a fistful of flimsy excuses for lewd photographs posted to his Twitter account, June 2.

7. “Before we get started, let’s all say ‘Happy Birthday’ to Elvis Presley today.” – U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, while campaigning for president in South Carolina on the anniversary of Presley’s death, Aug. 16.

6. “All the world saw him being killed, all bloodied. Is that democracy? And who did it? Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos, who were not supposed to be there, brought in so-called opposition and militants. And killed him without trial.” – Russian Primer Minister Vladimir Putin, assessing NATO’s role in ousting Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Dec. 15.

5. “This is such a cool state. I mean, come on, ‘Live free or die?’ I mean, you know, you gotta love that, right? I come from a state, you know, where they had this little place called the Alamo, and they declared, ‘Victory or death.’ You know, we’re kinda into those slogans, man. It’s like, ‘Live free or die,’ ‘Victory or death.’ Bring it!” – Texas Governor Rick Perry on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Oct. 28.

4. “WikiLeaks applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.” – Citation for the whistleblower website upon receiving a Walkley Award – the Australian Pulitzer – for outstanding contribution to journalism, Nov. 27.

3. “This is the most humble day of my life.” – Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, testifying before British Parliament on the phone-hacking scandal, July 19.

2. “We’re under great threat because we occupy so many countries.” – Representative Ron Paul of Texas speaking at a GOP Presidential debate, Sept. 13.

1. “They have acted like terrorists.” – Vice President Joe Biden’s assessment of Congressional Republicans during last summer’s debt-ceiling debate, Aug. 1.***

Honorable Mentions

“I can’t stand him anymore, he’s a liar.” – French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as overheard by a handful of journalists, discussing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.” – Barack Obama’s rejoinder to Sarkozy at the November G20 Summit.

CBS News Low-Balling Iraqi Deaths

December 2nd, 2011 Comments off

During the December 1, 2011 CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley reported: “What began in 2003 as an effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein became a vicious religious war, pitting Iraqi against Iraqi–with the U.S. caught in the middle.”  This assertion does not square with the historical record.  The US invaded Iraq based on charges that Hussein was stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — charges that have proven baseless.  Any suggestion that the US was caught in the middle of an internal conflict is, at best, shoddy reporting.  At worst, this is deliberately misleading journalism.

What’s more, in using icasualties.org’s lowest estimate of civilian casualties (50,000), based on figures from January 2005 — nearly two years after the invasion — CBS is low-balling the death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.  At the very least, CBS News should provide clarification to the figure Pelley reported last evening.  A more forthright clarification would note how other estimates, including those of the highly respected British medical journal the Lancet, put the figure much higher.  Lancet’s 2006 study put the number of “violent deaths” at 600,000.

Finally, reporting on the withdrawal from Iraq should remind viewers of the number of “trainers” that will remain in Iraq.  Likewise, CBS would do well to discuss the role that private military contractors have played, and will continue to play, in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

MediALTERNATIVE

July 28th, 2011 Comments off

ACCOUNTABILITY INDEX

The Bloomington Alternative

Scandal, gridlock, high crimes and misdemeanors. In this season of journalistic outrage, political stalemate and record-shattering heat waves, it’s tough to keep your cool. Tougher still if you are in the hot seat – unless of course you’re fortunate enough to occupy a position of power and authority. In which case, you might just as well settle in for a bit of kabuki theater and go about your business.

Seems the more precarious vital social, political and economic institutions become, the less accountable they are to the general public. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any event, if you’re scoring at home, here’s the latest accountability index.

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MediALTERNATIVE

June 27th, 2011 Comments off

ANNALS OF CENSORSHIP: SUMMERTIME EDITION

The Bloomington Alternative

There’s plenty of news these days — gas prices are down, the Republican presidential field is shaping up, and U.S. troops will soon be leaving Afghanistan. But despite all the political and media spin to the contrary, there’s not much good news in any of this.

While we can all breathe a little easier now that Anthony Weiner has lost his texting privileges, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Here are a few stories behind the news stories making headlines this summer.

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MediALTERNATIVE

May 15th, 2011 Comments off

Same As It Ever Was
The Bloomington Alternative

Change is in the air. Some of this is welcome change: the grassroots democracy movement across the Middle East and North Africa comes to mind. As does the worker uprising in Madison, Wis., and cities and towns across these United States.

More often than not, however, this change has been catastrophic. Weather-related disasters of historic proportions are wreaking havoc on the people and the land across the American South. Overseas, the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to threaten public health and safety in northeast Japan and beyond.

In the era of 24/7 news, it seems we’re witnessing world historic events unfolding in real time. And yet, despite all of this upheaval, lately I’m reminded of the old proverb: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Consider the following.

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“A Good Day for America”

May 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Since late Sunday evening, its been “All Osama, All The Time.”

Press coverage of the targeted assassination of Osama bin Laden — the inspiration for the 9/11 attacks and countless other atrocities — has followed a predictable path.

The President declared that it was “a good day for America” and the corporate media uncritically echoed these sentiments.  Heck, even right wing ideologues like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh were congratulating Obama for taking out America’s Most Wanted.  Among the more startling images were those depicting “frat boy patriots” chanting “U. S. A.” for the cameras and, I suppose, history.

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