The Decadence Index: How The Wealth Gap Is Hastening The Fall Of The American Empire

If there is anything that history teaches us about empires, it is that they are temporary and often fall of their own decaying weight. Ancient Rome is notorious for a descent that was widely speculated to have been driven by a massive class disparity. The aristocratic patricians devolved into a morass of immorality and obscene opulence. Meanwhile, the other 99% of the empire’s subjects were burdened by lives of oppressive labor or slavery.

The parallels to contemporary American class division are striking. We have our own aristocracy that arisen to a place of privilege and power, while working families are working harder for less, if they’re fortunate enough to be working at all. The 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million of their fellow citizens – combined. And they exploit the power that comes with that wealth to further enrich themselves. Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1% rose by 281%, compared to a 16% rise for the bottom 20%. The Roman elites would have felt right at home.

There is one difference, however. An historical study published by the Cambridge University Press looked at the Roman economy and calculated the measurement used by the CIA to rank the wealth gap of the nations of the world. What it found was that the United States actually ranks lower on income inequality than Ancient Rome.

Let that sink in for a moment. History’s most conspicuously ostentatious society of Bacchanalian excess had a less severe chasm between its rich and poor subjects than contemporary America. That astonishing fact led me to wonder where the U.S. stands when compared to its modern counterparts. So I consulted the CIA World Factbook and ranked the twenty richest nations by the index that represents income inequality. What I found was that the U.S. ranks 18th out of twenty. I call it The Decadence Index, and countries like Iran, Russia, and India are all less decadent than the United States in terms of economic disparity.

Click to enlarge
Decadence Index

The CIA collects this sort of data because it can be useful in predicting where civil unrest might flare up in the world. So what does that say about the stability of our social structure going forward? It certainly explains the Occupy movement. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

The solutions are not all that difficult to comprehend. Those who have benefited so lavishly by exploiting the system for their own enrichment should now be required to share a fair portion of the sacrifice necessary to restore economic health and balance. It’s not rocket science. Malcolm Gladwell offers a compelling explanation as he demolishes the rightist fable that taxes on the wealthy impede economic growth:

If we want to raise our position on the Decadence Index above that of the Ancient Romans (or the Russians or the French, for that matter), we need to reject the reckless and insensitive agenda of the right-wing patricians whose sole purpose is the accumulation of wealth and power. These patrons of plutocracy unabashedly advocate cutting, even eliminating, taxes on themselves, the rich, and intensifying the tax burden on everyone else. They falsely portray themselves as “job creators,” but this InfoGraphic shows who The Real Job Creators are. They pretend to fret over a class war that they themselves are waging. And because they know that the people overwhelmingly support the principles of economic fairness and justice, these conservative elites are conspiring to suppress the votes of average Americans, particularly seniors, minorities, students, and low-income voters.

Make no mistake, this is a coordinated campaign financed and managed by shadowy, but powerful, business and political entities like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their mission was aided by the Supreme Court’s odious decision in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates of corporate money into the electoral process. And, of course, they have the propaganda power of Fox News to advance their greedy, magisterial interests. But the people are fighting back against ludicrous notions like “Corporate Personhood,” and the Upper Crusters are afraid. Even Republican strategist Frank Luntz is admitting as much:

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

So keep up the fight because Corporations Are Not People. Here are some ways to contribute and participate:

Move To Amend is organizing a national action on January 20, 2012, to oppose and reverse Citizens United: Occupy the Courts!
Public Citizen is organizing a national action on January 21, 2012 to oppose and reverse Corporate Personhood: Occupy the Corporations!

Get up. Get involved. Get mad. And get to work.

Occupy Messaging: Who Are The Real Job Creators?

For too long now, right-wing propagandists like Frank Luntz have been manipulating language to distort the real issues that impact so many lives of American citizens. They engage in dishonest wordcraft that disguises their true meaning in order to shape public opinion and deceive voters. It’s time to counter that rhetorical offensive by restoring definitions that actually reflect reality.

One of the most recent and insidious examples of this practice is the conservative effort to replace references to “the rich” with the phrase “job creators.” It is of no interest to these hacks that no evidence exists to validate the claim. In fact, NPR’s congressional reporter, Tamara Keith, asked members of congress and representatives of conservative business groups to refer her to business people who could substantiate the assertion that tax cuts for the wealthy would induce them to increase hiring. They were unable to come up with a single name or example to affirm their half-baked theory. However, Keith found several examples of her own that utterly refuted it. This caused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to note that “Millionaire job creators are like unicorns. They are impossible to find and don’t exist.”

The agenda that Republicans have adopted has literally no popular constituency. Every poll taken on the subject reveals that majorities of Americans (including majorities of Republicans) favor increasing taxes on the rich. Even polls of the rich show that they believe that they are not presently sharing the sacrifice required to restore the nation’s economic health. An independent group of Patriotic Millionaires released a video beseeching Congress to raise their taxes.

So the next time you hear some GOP flunky whining about the plight of the rich whose only desire is to be unburdened from the shackles of what are the lowest taxes in decades, remember that they have not, and cannot, certify any claim that lower taxes will spur hiring. In fact, the evidence is all to the contrary. And whenever possible, we need to recapture the phrase “job creators” and use it in a manner that is more in line with reality. Here is a handy, shareable chart that illustrates who the real job creators are:

(click to view larger)
Job Creators

[Addendum] President Obama asked these questions in his economic address last month:

Are you going to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class? Or are you going to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom don’t even want those tax breaks?

Are you going to ask a few hundred thousand people who have done very, very well to do their fair share? Or are you going to raise taxes for hundreds of millions of people across the country – 160 million Americans?

Are you willing to fight as hard for middle-class families as you do for those who are most fortunate?

What’s it going to be?

Frank Luntz, The Fox News Word Doctor, Is Scared To Death Of #Occupy Wall Street

Frank Luntz has been helping to distort the language of Republicans for decades. His specialty is developing dishonest phrases to replace accurate descriptions of social and political issues when the accurate descriptions produce negative impressions of conservatives and their unpopular agenda. And now…..

Frank Luntz Is Scared

Luntz created the term “death tax” as a substitute for “estate tax,” reasoning that it would be easier to steer low-information voters away from a tax on dying than a tax on people who own estates. He also supplied the term “government-run” to replace “public option” during the health care debate after determining that focus groups responded less favorably to the label that implied falsely that government would get between you and your doctor.

It is common to observe Luntz’s fabrications getting adopted by conservative politicians and media. He is a frequent presence on Fox News and has been cited as their main source for right-leaning rhetoric. He serves the same purpose for political clients, and in that role he just spoke at the Republican Governors Association to deliver an ominous warning:

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

Luntz is right to be afraid. The Occupy movement has taken hold of the American Dream and reminded citizens that they have a right to be heard on important issues that impact their lives. It has revealed that the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of the goals of the Occupiers. It has reasserted the Constitutional and patriotic practice of free speech and the redress of grievances. These are principles that Luntz and his rightist patrons simply cannot abide.

Consequently, Luntz went to work to shape a new batch of linguistic contortions with which to befuddle naive FoxPods. The fruit of his fear is striking evidence of the success of the Occupy movement. Below are the specific suggestions Luntz gave to the GOP governors for what to say, and not to say, when talking about the Occupy movement. Pay attention, because these words and arguments are what will soon be cascading from the mouths of pundits and politicians on Fox News and other ring-wing media:

Out: Capitalism / In: Economic Freedom or Free Market
Luntz has concluded that, while Americans still prefer capitalism to socialism, any mention of it will stir thoughts of the misdeeds of Wall Street and bankers. Indeed, capitalism has suffered a PR setback in recent years and even ranks below progressivism in national polls. In a nod to the effectiveness of the Occupiers, Luntz now believes that to be seen as defending Wall Street is “a problem.” So the GOP can’t even admit that it favors capitalism for fear of losing support.

Out: Tax the Rich / In: Take from the Rich
Every poll shows that the country is in favor of making the wealthy pay their fair share. Even polls of millionaires reveal that they think their own taxes should be higher. So Luntz proposes a tweak in the hopes of producing language that sounds more sympathetic. Remove the “sym” and you have something more like the truth.

Out: Middle-Class / In: Hardworking Taxpayers
The right has obviously lost any appeal to all but the most fortunate in society. Luntz recognizes that there is little to gain by courting the middle-class so he has invented a new term that he believes people can relate to without actually defining it. The problem is that taxpayers that actually do work hard won’t be fooled by this rouse into thinking they are members of the One-Percent whose lives of leisure are supported by GOP policies.

Out: Jobs / In: Careers
This may be the most brazen deceit on the list. Luntz asked his audience of Republican governors whether they wanted a job or a career. After few hands were raised for the former, and many for the latter, Luntz summed up asking, “So why are we talking about jobs?” He should try asking his questions in the parking lot of a Target Store rather than to sitting governors and their staff. He might get a different response and may even learn why so many Americans are talking about jobs.

Out: Government Spending / In: Waste
This is a transparent effort to associate anything having to do with government as wasteful and unnecessary. I assume he means to disparage government spending on things like Social Security, interstate highways, veteran’s benefits, law enforcement, public schools, child services, water, air, and food safety, and national security, which is, by far, the largest chunk of the federal budget. By all means, let’s stop wasting money.

Out: Compromise / In: Cooperate
In today’s Republican party compromise is seen as weakness. Luntz asserts that it amounts to “selling out [your] principles.” He also admits that cooperation means the same thing, but doesn’t have the sting of compromise. The GOP may not have been using Luntz’s phrasing, but they have definitely been acting on the concept. This session of Congress has had more filibusters than any in history as Republicans refuse to compromise. The fact that they are more committed to the failure of this administration than they are to the success of the nation has been apparent to the public, which is why Luntz and the GOP have to resort to this sort of word play.

Out: Umm… / In: I get It
Here Luntz is just offering his version of a patronizing statement to mollify an angry electorate. Luntz told his audience of governors, “Here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.” Unfortunately for Luntz & Co. the electorate knows that’s a lie. They know that Republicans don’t really get it and neither do they have any solutions.

Out: Entrepreneur / In: Job Creator
I think this must have something to do with sounding too French. Republicans have a long record of pretending to support entrepreneurship, but Luntz must have detected a derogatory connotation that wasn’t there previously. He must also have detected a problem with the word “innovator” because he also advises against its use. However, the GOP has already been using “job creator” as a substitute for “rich,” so they will be forced to find a new label for the one-percent. How about “the One-Percent?”

Out: Sacrifice / In: In This Together
The logic behind this twist is that is that the word “sacrifice” allegedly evokes a negative feeling that is shared by all. The problem with that logic is that the rich have not yet been asked to sacrifice anything. So, in reality, Luntz just wants to excise the word because it only applies to the subset of Americans who are already suffering and to whom the GOP are least likely to appeal. Raising the specter of sacrifice only dredges up harsh feeling amongst the middle-class…I mean hard working Americans…when juxtaposed with the rich…I mean job creators.

Shared Sacrifice

Out: Wall Street / In: Washington
This capsulizes the whole problem for Luntz and the right. He knows that Wall Street is correctly seen as the perpetrator of much of the country’s current ills. He knows that associating with Big Finance will sink the prospects of any politician. And he knows that success for the Upper-Crusters he represents depends on fingering another villain. Ironically, the villains he suggests are the very people and institutions that he represents in DC. If he is going to mount a “blame Washington” campaign it has to include the Republican denizens of the capital who, more than anyone else, handed over control of the economy to the Wall Street hoodlums who promptly shattered it.

With the collapse of the Tea Party, the financial elite are girding for a fight. A recently disclosed memo revealed a scheme to launch a propaganda campaign against the Occupy movement to be funded by $850,000 from the American Bankers Association. The lobbyists behind this effort include former staff members of House Speaker John Boehner. The ties between the Banksters and political power brokers are as strong as ever.

The inescapable truth that emerges from Luntz’s presentation is that the Occupy movement has been a phenomenal success. In a little over two months it has captured the imagination of a weary populace who now see a path to redemption. It has flipped the national conversation from one of a phony debt crisis to one focused squarely on economic inequities and the abuse of corporate power in the political arena. And now it has resulted in one of the most satisfying accomplishments of all: It has Fox News’ Word Doctor, and likely all of his clients and colleagues, scared to death. Hopefully they will be just scared enough to start doing the right thing for the 99% of Americans who have had to wait too long for the restoration of fairness and justice.

[Here is an infographic version of the content of this article suitable for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc.]

Sarah Palin’s Top 10 Reasons To Support Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a bona fide phenomenon that, in two short months, has grown to levels no one could have predicted. And despite the inability of the media to discern the goals of the OWS protesters, their agenda could not be more apparent. The movement’s core convictions revolve around the abuse and corruption of politics by the wealthy and corporations, and the economic inequities that have virtually vaporized America’s middle class.

These issues have unprecedented support from a broad swath of the American people. More than 70% support raising taxes on the rich. More than 70% oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare. And both of those include majorities of Republicans and Independents. Even a majority of our nation’s millionaires support these positions. Support for these principles is so universal that the only rebuttal opponents can muster are juvenile comments about socialism or hygiene.

For these reasons, perhaps it should not be surprising that Sarah Palin has jumped on the bandwagon. Her star has been fading rapidly since she stopped pretending to be a candidate for president. And while the press used to chase after her tour bus like whimpering puppies, the only attention she gets today is from her most devoted disciples and her boss, Rupert Murdoch, and the entities he controls such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

It is in the pages of the latter that Palin has published a critique of the political-financial complex that is driving the nation to ruin. Her title for the op-ed is “How Congress Occupied Wall Street.” Many of her laments mirror the philosophy of the Occupy movement. While there is some obvious hypocrisy embedded in some of her remarks, it is still notable that these perspectives are being expressed by someone like Palin and published by an enterprise like the Wall Street Journal. Following are ten points that were extracted from Palin’s article that inadvertently endorse the principles of Occupy Wall Street.

1) How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?
Good question. Do you suppose it has something to do with the unholy relationships between members of Congress and their wealthy benefactors? If anyone can answer this question it’s Palin, who has personal knowledge of how to earn millions by exploiting political opportunity.

2) The corruption [is] an entire system of public servants feathering their own nests.
Indeed. Although it may be a stretch to refer to a political Mafia who shakedown constituents and accept bribes from special interests as public “servants.” And once again, Palin’s personal experience with nest feathering is invaluable.

3) The moment you threaten to strip politicians of their legal graft, they’ll moan that they can’t govern effectively without it.
What politicians refer to as contributions and earmarks are what citizens regard as graft. And while the politicians make a lot of noise about cleaning up Washington, they have no genuine interest in doing so.

4) [T]heir idea of reform is to limit the right of “We the people” to exercise our freedom of speech in the political process.
It is unclear what Palin is referring to here because she has not exactly been forced into silence, much to America’s dismay. But 26 journalists covering OWS have been arrested so far. What’s more, the GOP is working at the state level to suppress voting for millions of citizens, primarily seniors, students, and minorities.

5) [T]he only solution to entrenched corruption is sudden and relentless reform.
Could Palin have come up with a phrase that better describes OWS? When protesters occupied Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan it was a spontaneous response to an untenable situation. And the fact that they planted themselves in the park, and other sites across the country, demonstrates just how relentless this movement intends to be.

6) We need reform that provides real transparency.
Welcome to the club, Sarah. Progressives have been arguing for more openness by government and public agencies for years. And a major component of the OWS agenda is the reversal of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that permits corporations and others to bankroll political initiatives without revealing their identity.

7) We need equality under the law.
Absolutely! Equality and fairness and a sense of shared sacrifice. It is time for the wealthy, who have benefited more from their position of privilege than anyone else, to be treated equally under the law. No more special treatment. Palin should give this more than lip service.

8) No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors.
This is just another method of funneling bribes into the pockets of politicians and it must stop. Including the land deals where politicians advocate on behalf of contributors to get oil leases in protected wild spaces in Alaska.

9) [N]o transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.
Here is another plank of the progressive platform that has been beaten down by entrenched politicos every time it was proposed.

10) This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this.
Amen!

Now, is Sarah Palin actually getting behind Occupy Wall Street? Of course not. She undoubtedly considers them unclean, unfocused, and un-American. But the positions she appears to advocate here could be interpreted as aligned with the goals of OWS, even if it is entirely accidental on her part. Perhaps she deliberately plagiarized the platform in a desperate attempt to steal some of its popularity for herself. There is a delicious irony in that Palin has published this piece in Murdoch’s paper. You could say that these ideas have Occupied the Wall Street Journal, albeit from a back entrance.

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Sarah Palin OWS

The GOP War On Voting Is In Full Swing

Rolling Stone just published an enlightening, albeit disturbing, article detailing the coordinated effort on the part of the Republican Party to roll back voting rights for millions of Americans. With the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], the billionaire Koch brothers, and other rightist allies, the GOP has already succeeded in passing legislation that inhibits and/or prohibits voting by students, seniors, minorities, and the poor.

GOP War On Voting

The article goes into great depth describing the GOP assault on democracy and the potential for disenfranchisement and electoral chaos. Some groups, including the ACLU, are challenging the new laws in court. But if these laws can’t be overturned in time for 2012, citizens will need to more aggressively pursue registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns than ever before.

The movement to Block the Vote has become such a critical part of the Republican agenda that they are casting aside the pretense of voter fraud as a justification for their efforts. They were never able to provide evidence of that anyway. Now, Matthew Vadum, a conservative columnist associated with WorldNetDaily, American Spectator, and BigGovernment, wrote an article for the ultra-conservative American Thinker provocatively titled, “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. […] Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor. It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money.”

When the right is this comfortable openly expressing their hostility toward both democracy and working-class Americans, either the wheels are about to come off that wagon, or we have an epic battle on our hands. It’s all out in the open now. The conservative view is one that would permit only landowners (and preferably just the male, white ones) to vote. Any American that does not represent the elite class is somehow invested in the nation’s ruin and is only concerned with narrow, self-interests. And of course, the rich are never so selfish. They never vote for their own interests. All they want is what’s best for everyone, even the little people who shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Whatever would we do without these benevolent guardians of virtue watching over us and voting on our behalf? And if you think it’s just wackos like Vadum saying these things…..

John Stossel (Fox News): “Let’s stop saying everyone should vote.”
Rush Limbaugh: “If people cannot even feed and clothe themselves, should they be allowed to vote?”
Judson Phillips (Tea Party Nation): “If you’re not a property owner, I’m sorry, but property owners have a little bit more of a vested stake in the community than not property owners do.”
Steve Doocy (Fox News): “With 47% of Americans not paying taxes – 47% – should those who don’t pay be allowed to vote?”

It’s hard to imagine a more repulsive philosophy. These are the same people that align themselves with the Founding Fathers and a return to Constitutional rule. These are the same people that have deceived a small, gullible segment of the electorate, that calls itself the Tea Party, and has manipulated them into advocating policies that are harmful to themselves. And these are the same people who now want to take away the most fundamental right of every American – the right to vote.

Whatever we do, we cannot permit this cynical agenda to succeed. This is a fight that will determine the outcome of every other fight we undertake. It is imperative that real patriots commit themselves to ensuring that everyone who wants to vote has an opportunity to do so. The more people who participate in the electoral process, the more representative our political institutions will be. And it’s about time that they represent the people and not corporations and wealthy special interests.

[This Just In] Sen. Dick Durbin will hold a hearing September 8, on the “New State Voting Laws – Barriers to the Ballot?”

Some additional resources:
ThinkProgress
People for the American Way

And then there’s this:

Why Is Anyone Listening To The #@$%*#& Tea Party?

What is so hard about this? Congress is struggling to fashion a compromise agreement on a bill to raise the debt ceiling. The Republicans are insisting on attaching unrelated provisions to the bill to satisfy the tantrums of Tea Party-affiliated members who are demanding deficit reduction that imposes severe spending cuts but permits no revenue raising through tax reform and the elimination of loopholes.

But who is being represented by the advocates of spending cuts, which include cuts to critical programs like Medicaid? Who is being represented by the opponents of increased revenues achieved by asking corporations and the rich to share in the sacrifice required to bring our nation back to economic health?

The truth is that no one but a few extremist right-wingers are represented by the positions to which the GOP has lashed itself. Here’s the proof:

Debt Solutions

It is almost unheard of to get 72% of Americans to agree on any politically contentious issue. Yet here we have 72% of the country agreeing that the rich are not presently paying their fair share, and that Medicaid should not be cut. And isn’t just a bunch of socialist lefties. This includes majorities of both Independents and Republicans. Let the significance of that sink in. It is not just a fair number of Republicans, it is a MAJORITY of Republicans.

So for whom is House Speaker Boehner fighting? For whom is Senate Minority Leader McConnell fighting? It obviously is not their GOP constituents. In fact, they are betraying their constituents and putting the whole nation at risk in order to pacify a cabal of small-minded, short-sighted, ill-informed, intransigent malcontents known as the Tea Party.

Of course, there is really no such thing as the Tea Party. There are no Tea Party candidates; no Tea Party policies; no registered Tea Party voters. It is nothing more than a radical faction of the GOP that has canonized the Founding Fathers and debased the Constitution with simplistic misinterpretations and ritual recital.

With poll results like those above, it is unfathomable that Republicans in congress give such a wide berth to their tea-besotted cousins. And the same goes for the media. When news networks placate TeaPublicans by employing them to provide commentary and analysis for that point of view, they are, in effect, giving ultra-conservative Republicans an additional voice that they do not provide to progressive Democrats.

It is clear that the Tea Baggers are wildly out of touch with the mainstream of America and they should not be afforded the special treatment they receive. They are merely an annoyingly squeaky wheel with no popular support. They degrade the debate with their stubborn attachment to dubious dogma. Even the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page declared that “Republicans are not looking like adults to whom voters can entrust the government.” Actually, they aren’t even looking like children:

Regardless of how the debt ceiling debate shakes out, the media, as well as our congressional representatives, need to recognize that the Tea Party is unworthy of the outsized consideration they receive. They haven’t earned it and they don’t deserve. And catering to their hysterics is counterproductive and worse, destructive. With the abundance of evidence that they are a poorly attended party that is located far beyond the boundaries of common sense, the question remains…..

Why Is Anyone Listening To The #@$%*#& Tea Party?

Murdochalypse: Ruse Of The World

It’s too bad that Rupert Murdoch shut down the News of the World. If there were ever a time that it was needed, it’s now. The NotW’s specialty was sordid, scandalous, misbehavior by important persons and institutions. The fall of the House of Murdoch fits neatly in that mold: A billionaire media baron brought down by flagrant violations of law and morality. Numerous arrests and resignations. Billions of dollars in asset value evaporated. Just imagine how the NotW would have covered this story:

Murdochalypse

Today Murdoch’s British newspapers published his personal apology. It is reprinted below. Be sure to hover your mouse over each line for a translation from Murdochese to English.

We are sorry.

The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.

We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.

We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realise that simply apologising is not enough.

Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.

In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.

The campaign to rescue Murdoch’s reputation, and that of his company, is in full swing. Yesterday Fox and Friends interviewed a former Nixon flack who tried to paper over the controversy as trivial and commonplace. Today on Fox News Watch, embarrassed by criticism for having avoided the subject completely last week, held a discussion that primarily castigated other media for over-reporting the scandal.

Murdoch himself is shacking up with lawyers and PR consultants this weekend in advance of his inquisition before Parliament next Tuesday. They will likely be advising him on how best to disguise his repugnant nature.

In addition, facets of the British government are edging closer to a hard line on media reform. The Liberal Democratic Party has requested an inquiry by regulators that could result in forcing Murdoch to divest his stake in BSkyB. Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, is calling for the News Corp empire to be broken up:

“I think that we’ve got to look at the situation whereby one person can own more than 20% of the newspaper market, the Sky platform and Sky News,” Miliband said. “I think it’s unhealthy because that amount of power in one person’s hands has clearly led to abuses of power within his organisation. If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous.”

Well said. We need more politicians in the U.S. with that sort of courage. It’s reminiscent Howard Dean, who said while campaigning in 2003 that he favored breaking up the big media conglomerates:

“I would say there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country.”

And look what the media did to him. Meanwhile it was disclosed that the Conservative Party’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, met with Murdoch, his son James, and Rebekah Brooks, 26 times since he took office in May 2010. That’s once every other week. So at least we have some political consistency here in that conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are equally devoid of ethics.

[UPDATE] Rebekah Brooks, who just two days ago resigned as CEO of Murdoch’s News International, has been arrested. Who’s next?

How To Be A Media Magnet: Cutting Through The Clutter

The state of contemporary journalism is widely regarded as defective by consumers and critics representing a broad diversity of opinion. It seems that the media has no constituency defending its professional lethargy and its reliance on sensationalism and melodrama.

The past few weeks have provided comprehensive instructions on how to be an utterly frivolous and ineffective news industry. When Americans are desperate for information about pressing issues concerning jobs, the economy, health and Medicare, and national security, they are left wanting as the major news enterprises dump loads of salacious gossip, celebrity gaffes, and lurid tales of criminal miscreants. Just trying to be heard over the caterwaul of crapola that passes for news is an Olympian feat. If it isn’t a lewd lawmaker (Anthony Weiner) flooding the airwaves, it’s a murderous mom (Casey Anthony), one of thousands of murderers, but the only one that seems to garner any attention.

Recent surveys have shown that the media is not covering the issues that the people are most interested in. The audience has made its preference clear: they want substance, not sleaze. But the media tone-deafness was demonstrated exquisitely when all three cable news networks cut away from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, after she informed them that she would only be addressing questions regarding jobs and the economy, and not Rep. Weiner. As is becoming routine, a non-news personality summed it up best by playing a video clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer expressing his reluctance to cover the titillating trivialities of the day:

Wolf Blitzer: We’ve covered these kinds of stories, It’s not a pleasure for us. It’s not something we look forward to. I’d much rather be discussing economic issues, jobs, the future of Medicare, national security issues, than talking about this.

Jon Stewart: [Incredulously] What’s stopping you?!

In an effort to enhance the public’s access to the stories that actually impact their lives, I am offering this tutorial on how to get appropriate coverage of the critical matters that face our nation. It is not enough to be brilliantly articulate about a position or to make a coherent case for a policy. You must grab the attention away from the media whores and their enablers in the press corps. Here is how to do just that in a handy shareable infographic guide:


Now get out there and make some news.

Obama’s Birth Certificate Will Not Appease Wingnuts

Since I posted this yesterday, the White House has prevailed upon the state of Hawaii to waive their policy and provide copies of his “long-form” birth certificate. In a statement the President said that “I have better stuff to do,” than be distracted by made up controversies. The problem is, the crackpots driving this nonsense don’t.

The release of this document is not likely to put the matter to rest. President Obama’s fanatic opponents will nimbly shift to challenging the authenticity of the document or some other equally demented, phony controversy. How can they let it go when they have so much invested in it?

Wingnut Extraordinaire and Swiftboat Liar, Jerome Corsi still has a book coming out next month titled “Where’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President.” Is there still time for the publisher (WorldNetDaily) to slap a disclaimer on the cover? Will they quietly permit their investment to become worthless? Not likely.

Donald Trump has already declared that this news is a personal victory. In his announcement he lost no time suggesting that the document might be a fake. But more significant is that he and other mental deficients have never rested their hallucinatory accusations on the birth certificate alone. As I wrote yesterday, they had previously set the stage for back-up conspiracy theories covering Obama’s religion (they still thinks he’s Muslim), his authorship of his autobiography (they think Bill Ayers wrote it), and his academic accomplishments (they think he’s too stupid to have gotten into Harvard).

Some allegedly sane Republicans have rejected the Birther arguments. They recognized that it does more harm than good to the party. They castigate its proponents as clowns. And some even accuse Obama of orchestrating the whole controversy to make the GOP look foolish (as if they needed any help). Obama has given these nutcases a gift. He has presented them with the opportunity to drop the lunatic pose and find something more relevant to the American people to demagogue. Will they accept it?

What now will become of the Birther entrepreneurs Orly Taitz and Alan Keyes? And what about Gary Kreep and his client Wiley Drake, the preacher who has prayed for Obama to die? His case is currently pending in federal court. Where will it leave Trump? Where will it leave Corsi? Where will it leave the Tea Party (AKA Republicans), 45% of whom think Obama isn’t an American citizen. Where will it leave Fox News?

So many questions, so little sanity.

Glenn Beck Desecrates The Memory Of Martin Luther King

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King spoke to over 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. He gave what is regarded as one of the most inspiring speeches on behalf of brotherhood, liberty, and the peaceful struggle for equality. He said in part…

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Later this year, on the very same steps, on the anniversary of that historic speech, Glenn Beck will lead his congregation of predominately white followers at a “Restoring Honor” rally to launch his next book, “The Plan,” a 100 year blueprint for undoing the progress made by people like Dr. King on behalf of equality, justice, and peace.

Subsequent to Beck’s original announcement of this event, he has latched onto a military charity to mask his profiteering with a facade of moral gravitas (and gain a tax write-off). But he has made no mention of the date’s prior association with Martin Luther King. And why would he be expected to? This is the man who recently called King a “radical socialist” and questioned whether there should be a holiday in his name. This is the man who called President Obama a “racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people.” This is the man who calls progressives (like King) “the cancer in America.” The thought of Beck usurping this cherished occasion to further the goals of his Tea Bagging 9/12ers is insulting and unacceptable.

So where is the outrage? Where are the guardians of Dr. King’s legacy? Who will organize an event in our nation’s capital on that day to honor the real meaning that it represents? Will Beck be permitted to tarnish this anniversary with his exclusionary fear mongering and conspiracy brigades?

I don’t expect Beck to endure in his crusade. He has already launched numerous campaigns that he leaves to gather dust when his attention is drawn away by some new, shiny dementia. In just the past couple of years he has announced the following TV jihads:

  • We Surround Them
  • The Re-Founding
  • In or Out 2010
  • Watchdogs
  • 9/12 Project
  • The Plan

Beck & KingBeck’s conspiracy theories erupt quickly and fiercely and they burn out the same way. This is also true for his allegiances to principles. For several months the opening credits of his TV show included a picture of King or a reference to his words. Those are gone now. It was fine when Beck wanted to exploit the reverence for which most Americans hold King, but now Beck finds it more important to insult him and suppress his legacy.

This may be just one day in summer, but it is a day that should be reserved for uplifting recollections of our better nature – not the Apocalyptic negativity of racists and enemies of the poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The anniversary of King’s “Dream” deserves better than to be desecrated by the detestable likes of Glenn Beck and his dark and divisive hordes. It would sure be nice to see King’s supporters show up in DC in greater numbers than Beck’s disciples.