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Health Care & Environment

07.21 Greta Thunberg: ‘They see us as a threat because we’re having an impact’ [We love a sane smarty-pants! Trump, you won't understand any of this, so just go off and tweet or chant, or whatever...]

07.20 Until Emissions Drop, Nothing Has Been Accomplished: The Climate Resistance Handbook Is Here. [Trump can't be bothered as the world turns into a large cinder. His laser focus is on personal greed.]

07.20 Cargo ships are emitting boatloads of carbon, and nobody wants to take the blame [1:19 video; Governments must commission to fight deadly shipping emissions, previously omitted in climate summit agreements....]

07.20 Babies Born Near Oil and Gas Wells Are Up to 70% More Likely to Have Congenital Heart Defects, New Study Shows

07.20 Giving 'Upper Hand to Corporate Polluters,' EPA Drops Surprise Inspections

07.20 With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System' [Realtime proactive response to reality—now and threatening—doesn't get attention in this greed focused administration]

07.19 Trump administration won't ban pesticide tied to childhood brain damage [There is no truth to the persistent rumor that chlorpyrifos pesticide was heavily used at Trump's childhood home in Queens]

07.19 'Unprecedented' Decline of Plants and Animals as Global 'Red List' Reveals Nearly One-Third of Assessed Species Under Threat

07.17 ‘Off-the-charts’ heat to affect millions in U.S. in coming decades

07.17 Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen forced out by board [Given that states have lost abortion rights on political grounds recently, Wen's philosophical approach to protect abortion rights based on ‘health care’ was smarter – therefore it was that smarter strategy that was killed at the secret meeting.]

07.17 Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

07.17 What is happening in America's Cancertown is tragic, immoral and evil [Niggardly white government policies could change to produce better students, better jobs and net revenue instead of costs. But it seems they enjoy more cruelty—like Trump.]

07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

News Media Matters

07.19 Fox News’s star names excuse the inexcusable after Trump's latest racist attack

07.18 In Sinclair's New 'Must-Run' Segment, Former Trump Adviser Tries to Defend Racist Attacks on 'the Squad'

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

07.21 Of course Donald Trump is a racist – and his Wall Street enablers know it

07.21 A court ruled it was legal for guards to strip search female inmates and force them to remove their tampons in front of male officers for a 'training exercise' [The frequency and degree of immorality and degradation being reported in the media is very disturbing, as if society has been reprogrammed overnight to be more like the worst behavior of Nazi Germany]

07.21 THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS GETTING CRUSHED IN FUNDRAISING: “THEY NEED TO GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER” [Since so-called moderate Democrats will prostitute themselves in many conceivable ways (offering that special quid pro quo) they have effectively become competitively ANTI-PUBLIC, like Republicans. Whereas progressive Democrats must promise not to take corporate donations at all as an effective litmus-test. The DNC refuses to raise funds for moderate and progressives separately, and thus donations fall short. Which is it to be: 1) Will the DNC change? or 2) Must progressive Democrats become corporate whores too? or 3) Maybe you don't need corporate contributions at all if your policies are fantastic?]

07.21 State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

07.21 State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

07.21 We're no longer in Brave New World. We're back in 1984. [1:35 video; Our despicable President is at it again]

07.21 BALTIMORE'S FILTHIEST HOODS [7:38 video. Ask your governments, why are our cities so much worse than Europe's? Why is our healthcare worse and so much more expensive? And why are our Billionaires so much richer? Ask if those results of bad government are all related, and why? Are they all caused by a power-elite with greed-obsessed immorality?]

07.21 Nancy Pelosi's Dem Socialist Challenger Shahid Buttar: "We're Gonna Win" | Full Interview [5:43 video]

07.21 Jon Stewart goes viral excoriating Rand Paul after blocking vote [9:02 video]

07.21 Nicolle Wallace Refuses to Broadcast Trump Live [5:43 video]

07.21 Sassy Bernie Sanders Sh*ts on Jeff Bezos on His Home Turf... Numerous Times [17:22 video]

07.20 Puerto Rico: top US politicians join chorus calling for governor's resignation

07.20 Fact check: Trump says Puerto Rico got $92 billion. They've seen only a fraction [If he opens his mouth, Trump's lying.]

07.20 "Trump Says Go Home, Ilhan's Community Says Welcome Home": Rep. Omar Greeted With Cheers of Love and Support in Return to Minnesota

07.20 WATCH: Amid Extreme Anti-Refugee Push, Trump Displays Neither Interest Nor Knowledge of Asylum Seekers' Plight in Oval Office Meeting

07.20 Trump Denies Being at North Carolina Rally [Not sure if Trump supporters 'get' satire, but here goes....]

07.19 Are progressives working on a climate plan for 2021? You bet.

07.19 House Democrats demand Hope Hicks clarify testimony after Cohen document dump

07.19 The 51 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump's repugnant North Carolina rally

07.19 The Real Meaning of ‘Send Her Back!’

07.18 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Breaking up Homeland Security

Justice Matters

07.19 UN urged to act over 'purge' of Turkey's lawyers by Erdogan

07.19 DOJ Releases Strong Evidence of Trump’s Campaign Finance Violations But No Explanation of No Charges [The statement]

High Crimes vs. Human Rights

07.19 Conscientious objectors of first world war – their untold tales [The record proves they were morally right by avoiding violent early deaths of their cousins and themselves]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.18 Corporate tax cuts blocked at least 15,000 affordable homes in California. Here’s how

International & Futurism

07.21 Millions face hardship as Zimbabwe comes close to ‘meltdown’

07.21 Spain set for socialist-led government after Iglesias deal [Some loaded drama going on here...]

07.20 US to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia in face of 'credible' regional threats [Working with Osama bin Laden's godfathers, Trump wants to profit like Erik Prince (for-profit education secretary Betsy DeVos' brother) of Blackwater infamy (hurriedly renamed ‘Academi’), the U.S. taxpayer to pay inflated costs while Trump siphons off long-term emolument largesse]

07.20 Iran on 'dangerous path' with seizure of Stena Impero, says UK [Which is this, a tit or a tat?]

07.20 'Dark satanic mills': Tony Abbott continues his crusade against wind turbines [Too much CO2 air pollution makes you stupid, and turns your country into an “Idiocracy” (1:36 video clip)]

07.20 Bolsonaro declares 'the Amazon is ours' and calls deforestation data 'lies' [Lazy and willfully stupid whenever it serves his purpose, just like Trump. “And the rest of you can all go to hell.” Again, just like Trump. Has your country turned into an “Idiocracy”? (1:36 video clip)]

07.19 U.N.'s Bachelet says Congresswomen opposing Trump are 'fantastic'

07.19 Iran makes 'substantial' nuclear offer in return for US lifting sanctions [Was barbaric Saudi Arabia—whose citizens were more involved in the 9-11 attacks—the wrong ally all along?]

07.19 “The Task Ahead Is Enormous, and There Is Not Much Time” [Read this and learn. Or read Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) | Twitter and/or President Trump (@POTUS) | Twitter. Are you serious? Or are you in hideously criminal denial?]

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  America's Political/Media Kabuki
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COMMENTARY:

America's Political/Media Kabuki

by Robert Parry
1 June 2009

Kabuki is defined as a highly stylized form of classical Japanese dance-drama in which actors often wear elaborate makeup and engage in precisely dictated movements, a useful metaphor for the current American political process which can’t seem to break out of old patterns even as the nation hurtles from crisis to crisis.

Although Barack Obama won the presidency on a platform of “change” – and millions of Americans are tired of Washington’s destructive habits – U.S. politicians, the news media and significant parts of the electorate refuse to transform how they have operated over the past several decades.

Like a kabuki performance locked in a stale past, the various players interact in predictable ways, moving about each other with elaborate yet tiresome maneuvers: the Republicans and the right-wing media posturing as bullies, the Democrats cowering in fear, the mainstream press obsessed with the superficial, and many on the Left carping from the fringes.

A good example of how this kabuki continues to play out was in the criticism of President Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

His judgment – though shared by former President George W. Bush and key members of that administration – was viewed by Republicans and right-wing talk radio as an inviting new “wedge” issue. They sounded the alarm about the supposed danger of transferring detainees to U.S. super-max prisons or resettling some, like the Chinese Uighurs, who have been judged no threat to the United States.

As the “not in my backyard” furor built – and some Americans panicked over scary fantasies about Islamic terrorists breaking out of super-max prisons and roaming the countryside – congressional Democrats retreated rather than stand their ground. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined a 90-6 vote in deleting $80 million that Obama had requested for closing down Guantanamo.

The U.S. press corps also bought into the Republican exaggerations of dangers – much as occurred in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. The New York Times again played a key role with a misleading May 21 article touting a Pentagon report done in the last month of the Bush administration claiming that one in seven of 534 previously released Guantanamo prisoners had “returned to jihad.”

The evidence in the report turned out to be flimsy – with a later examination by two terrorism experts putting the percentage of former detainees later connected to violent activities at about one in 25, not one in seven.

“Bizarrely, the Defense Department has in the past even lumped into the recidivist category former prisoners who have done no more than criticize the United States after their release,” analysts Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann wrote in an op-ed.

Nevertheless, the fear-mongering worked. Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s complaints about Obama putting America at risk were treated with respect by the U.S. news media despite Cheney’s long history of exaggerating and misrepresenting terror threats. The press billed the dueling addresses by Obama and Cheney on May 21 as a heavyweight match-up.

For his part, Obama appeared defensive, reacting to the harsh attacks from “no-middle-ground” Cheney and other right-wingers.

“My single most important responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe,” Obama said in his May 21 speech. Using a passage reminiscent of former President Bush, Obama added: “That is the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It is the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.”

Like many Democrats before him, Obama avoided hard truth-telling: that the American people must show courage today as their forebears have done so many times in the past, that the United States must never be a nation of cowards ready to trade its founding principles of freedom for cheap -- and likely empty -- promises of greater security. Instead he talked of a new program for "prolonged detentions" without trials.

Yet, as the Democratic congressional leadership cowered and Obama wavered, the kabuki played out predictably.

As New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted, “the déjà vu in the news media was even more chilling. ... Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men’s ideas. Cheney’s pugnacious certitude edged out Obama’s law-professor nuance.” [NYT, May 31, 2009]

Despite last year’s election results – and despite the news media’s abject failures during the Bush years – the Washington press corps remains remarkably stagnant. With only a few exceptions, the media is dominated by the same talking heads on TV, the same high-profile commentators in the Washington Post and other major newspapers, the same neocon alarmists and talking-point political strategists.

As with the terror debate, the kabuki also is playing out in Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as Republicans and right-wingers yank some quotes out of context to denounce her as a “racist,” leading Obama and other Democrats to start backtracking and pleading with the Right to be nice.

The Kabuki’s Origin

Essentially, today’s Washington kabuki was set in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the rise of the right-wing media and the political clout of the Reagan-era Republicans. Those forces went on the offensive and made it clear that anyone who got in their way would be smeared as a “blame-America-firster,” become a target of 30-second attack ads for politicians, or face accusations about “liberal bias” for journalists.

As the right-wing media grew and the Republicans became more powerful, many Democrats and most mainstream journalists learned that to survive they had to accept their assigned roles. Democrats became practiced at apologizing, equivocating and seeking accommodation; mainstream journalists mastered the skill of bending over backwards to appease the Right.

In that sense, the early Obama era continues to look a lot like the early Clinton era. In 1992, the voters also reacted to a recession by handing the government to the Democrats, but Clinton and other Democratic leaders then shunned any serious investigations of past Republican crimes, saw their extended hand of bipartisanship swatted away, and soon were cowering again in the face of GOP belligerence and the right-wing media’s scandal-mongering.

By then, the mainstream news media knew its role, too. Tired of right-wing accusations about “liberal bias,” the major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, chose to be tougher on a Democratic administration than they had been on Republicans, especially during the Reagan era when the national press corps  did its best to look the other way on Iran-Contra, Iraq-gate, contra-cocaine trafficking, etc., etc.

By contrast, the U.S. news media transformed even minor  “scandals” about Bill Clinton, like his Whitewater real estate investment and some firings at the White House travel office, into breathless front-page news.

The American Left also played its own negative role, albeit a mostly passive one, by avoiding any significant investment in media infrastructure – opting to excoriate the “corporate press” – and telling voters that there was “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Al Gore and George W. Bush when the two faced off in 2000.

After eight disastrous years of President Bush – and another nasty recession -- American voters again threw the Republicans out of the White House and elected a strong Democratic majority in Congress. President Obama also made clear that he intended to be a transformational leader who would address many of the deep systemic problems that three decades of Republican dominance had left behind.

But the U.S. political/media system remained remarkably static. With the exceptions of Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and MSNBC’s experimentation with a few liberal hosts during its evening hours – and some under-funded Web sites and radio outlets – the American media still functions under the old rules, with an inordinate amount of time and space given to Republicans despite their weak minority status.

If anything, Fox News and right-wing talk radio have escalated their rhetoric; CNN, the Washington Post and other “centrist” outlets have pandered to Republican voices; and the premier business network CNBC behaves as if its treasured “free-market paradigm” had not been shattered by the ruinous behavior of Wall Street banks and major corporations, like AIG and GM.

But this pro-Republican bent of much of the news media had a predictable impact. Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration shied away from confrontations, refusing to hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes and playing defense, whether in foreign affairs (“weak on terror”) or on economic policy (“socialist!”).

The American Left also stayed true to form, still unwilling to engage seriously in the political/media process. As it did during the Clinton-Gore years, the Left spends its energies criticizing Democratic failures (a reprise of the Bush-Gore “not a dime's worth of difference” chant) rather than investing in and building media and other institutions that might help change the dynamic.

So, more than four months into the Obama era – with the United States staggering through a major economic crisis and with global challenges mounting – the political/media kabuki continues.

The same ornately costumed characters – snarling Republicans, angry right-wingers, cringing Democrats, careerist media personalities and an ineffectual Left – maneuver around each other in a stylistically choreographed dance of national failure.


Robert ParryRobert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on June 1, 2009.

 

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