Saturday, March 30, 2013

Editorial: Truth in a Time of B.S.

On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, it’s easy to forget how uncritical the corporate media were of the Bush-Cheney administration’s claims during the runup to the war. There was plenty of evidence to contradict the claims that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted efforts to build weapons of mass destruction — starting with the UN weapons inspectors who were coming up empty on the ground in Iraq. Bush was warned by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that invading Iraq would create a hundred bin Ladens. The French and Germans were vilified for pushing for more diplomacy and inspections on the ground in Iraq instead of resorting to force of arms.

As we observed from Austin in “Inspect, Don’t Invade,” our March 1, 2003 editorial: “We wish we could believe that invading Iraq would solve the problems. More likely the bombing of Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to clear the way for the invasion will kill tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi people, create hundreds of thousands of refugees, plunge the Middle East into chaos and expand the radical Islamic jihad against the western world.” But the swells in New York and Washington couldn’t see it.

MSNBC is now considered a liberal-leaning news channel, at least in its primetime lineup, but it was a struggling center-right news channel when it pulled Phil Donahue off the air Feb. 25, 2003, because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq, despite the fact that Donahue had the channel’s highest ratings. Chris Hedges, in a March 25 column at, calls it “The day that TV news died.” An internal MSNBC memo that leaked to a website at that time argued that Donahue would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war ... He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” In other words, Donahue had good instincts — and he was addressing the skepticism felt by a large number of potential viewers — but he never returned to the commercial airwaves.

Donahue recently told Hedges the pressure the network put on him near the end “evolved into absurdity. ... We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Hedges noted that Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary Body of War with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young [see his letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on page 4]. The film received critical acclaim, but Donahue was unable to find commercial distributors to pick up the film. He managed to get openings in a few cities but the runs were painfully brief. (See

Bill Moyers, who hosted the weekly NOW with Bill Moyers from January 2002 until December 2004, also came under pressure at PBS. Bush’s chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, in 2005 accused Moyers and his show of “left-wing bias” and mounted an investigation. Moyers replied that his journalism showed “the actual experience of regular people is the missing link in a nation wired for everything but the truth.” In April 2007, he returned to PBS with Bill Moyers Journal, with the first episode, “Buying the War,” on the media’s shortcomings in the runup to the invasion of Iraq. He retired in April 2010, but came back in August 2011 as Moyers & Company, along with his new website,

The New York Times and the Washington Post helped the Bush administration sell the war. The Times’ September 2002 report hyping Iraq’s aluminum tubes as evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program was used by the Bush administration to support the rush to war. The Post ran 27 editorials in support in the months leading up to the war, and had few regrets on the anniversary. Post editors spiked a column they had commissioned from Greg Mitchell, former editor of Editor & Publisher and author of "So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq". Instead, the Post ran a column by its news media reporter, Paul Farhi, titled, “On Iraq, journalists didn’t fail They just didn’t succeed.”

The Times published a “mini-culpa,” as Jack Shafer called it, in May 2004, admitting that it has published a few “problematic articles” (it didn’t mention any names) on Iraqi WMD, but pointed out it was “taken in” like most of the Bush administration, Mitchell noted in the version of his column published at The Post in August 2004 ran a longer critique by media reporter Howard Kurtz in which editors and reporters admitted that evidence supporting the war was played on page 1 while stories that challenged the administration were buried inside.

Hedges, who spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has a jaded view of the corporate media. “The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script,” he wrote. “They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system — to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns.”

We shouldn’t be surprised the corporate media is reluctant to publicize corporate wrongdoing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch MSNBC, but there are gaps in their coverage. Rachel Maddow produced an excellent documentary, "Hubris: Selling the Iraq War", on the manufactured crisis that was the runup to the invasion, based on the 2007 book by Michael Issikoff and David Corn, but Maddow overlooked the role NBC and her own channel played in that coverup. I don’t think Maddow sold out. I think she has a good sense of how much truth she can get past the suits, and she packed a lot of truth in that hour.

Ed Schultz perhaps doesn’t have that sense — or maybe he just doesn’t care, which might be why he’s being shuffled off to the weekend. But he’s still on MSNBC, as well as his three-hour radio show on more than 100 radio stations and the Internet (see, and more on Schultz’s move on p. 22, Dispatches).

If you want progressive populist views, you can find our columnist Amy Goodman’s radio/TV news hour on 1,000 stations in North America — but you have to look for them (see Jim Hightower wore out his welcome on ABC Radio when he criticized its new corporate owner, Disney Inc., in 1995 and his national radio show was cancelled soon thereafter. But he still does radio commentaries as well as his columns, which appear in this paper, as well as his Hightower Lowdown newsletter (see And Thom Hartmann is a tough critic of corporate plutocracy who has a three-hour weekday talk show that is simulcast on more than 80 radio stations as well as Free Speech TV on Dish Network and DirecTV. He also produces a one-hour daily TV show available on Free Speech TV (see (And if MSNBC producers are looking to expand their list of guests, those would be three good names to put on their Rolodexes.)

Then, of course, you still have the lefty press, whether The Progressive Populist, The Nation, Mother Jones or other worthy periodicals for readers who like their plutocrat-plucking on paper.

The truth is out there, as it was in 2003, but you can’t count on the corporate media to serve it up to you. Sometimes you have to sort through a lot of — shall we say manure? — to find it on the Internet or other news media. That could be our new motto: “Sorting through the B.S. since 1995.” — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2013
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Selections from the April 15, 2013 issue

Friday, March 29, 2013

Eat Here St. Louis

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: After so many recent failures in politics, where all they do is support the food giants, it’s great to hear a success story from the people. So here’s one about my friend Andy, who runs a business called Eat Here St. Louis. He brings high-quality fresh food from family farms to chefs in St. Louis. Andy had been working to get St. Louis University into his program for months. They had begun to get interested in local food and had even started a project in 2012 with Maplewood School system that involved the SLU culinary arts program, nutrition program and the school system. Last summer, when produce was plentiful, they were freezing fresh produce and keeping it in their freezers for the schools to use. How cool is that??? But something didn’t work out. We’re used to this in the local-foods world. The start-ups are always fragile but we keep trying. The schools couldn’t buy the produce—there might have been a grant involved or else it was a budget shortfall, I don’t know. But here’s why you need fearless people like Andy. He was able to buy a walk-in freezer from a franchise store that was going out of business. Now he’s buying the frozen food from SLU and selling it to chefs. It’s obviously better than they can get from other outlets. So, now SLU can continue their program, training their students, and they’re now even more committed to the local-foods idea. OK. So that’s the whole story and I think we’ll be hearing about more successes. Maybe we can even make it happen in Callaway and Boone Counties! Happy Spring, ya’all! March is going out like a lamb and it’s March 29, 2013.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Continuing Resolution Continues Bad Policy

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Here in Missouri, the ice has melted and we’re waking to beautiful mornings with just a hint of crispness in the air. It feels like spring. But how can things seem so good here when they’re so bad in Washington DC? The continuing resolution passed with the Monsanto protection act in full bloom. Here’s the statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch: Washington, D.C.—“Today, the Senate passed a continuing resolution that was laden with special interest policy riders. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) abdicated their responsibility by offering a stale spending bill from last year that is loaded with special legislative giveaways to big agribusiness companies. The heavy-handed and undemocratic process used to force the Senate to accept a deeply flawed proposal allowed votes on only nine amendments. “The Senate was not allowed to consider two amendments offered by Senator Tester (D-Montana) that would have removed policy riders that favored the largest seed companies and the largest meatpackers. Senator Tester rightly observed that these policy riders were worth millions of dollars to these companies. “One of Senator Tester’s amendments would have removed a provision that prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing livestock marketing and contract fairness rules that were included in the 2008 Farm Bill. Food & Water Watch and hundreds of farm groups worked to include these vital livestock provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect farmers from unfair and deceptive practices by meatpacking and poultry companies. “Another of Senator Tester’s amendments would have removed a giveaway to genetically engineered seed companies that would allow the continued planting of GE crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally. This provision undermines USDA’s oversight of GE crops and unnecessarily interferes with the judicial review process. This favor to the biotech industry was not included in the House-passed continuing resolution and should never have been included in the Senate version. “One thing that the Senate got right was finding a solution for funding meat and poultry inspection that would avoid USDA inspector furloughs. The funding cuts triggered by sequestration would have required USDA to furlough its meat and poultry inspectors for up to two weeks this summer, causing the plants they inspect to stop operating. The House should maintain this funding for USDA meat and poultry inspection to ensure that this critical consumer protection program can continue to operate.” Here’s my statement: Business as usual for agribusiness means dinner at risk for eaters.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Right-wingers turn gay marriage into sideshow keeping public from real problems

By Marc Jampole
Gay marriage should be a no-brainer. We live in a secular society in which people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs interact in the public realm according to rules that apply to all and then go home and do as they please. 

Our laws constrain behavior that can hurt others, such as killing people, taking what isn’t yours, adulterating food, poisoning water or refusing to hire or serve someone because of their skin color or religion.

But when two private citizens marry, it hurts no one.

Now “hurt” and “offend” are two different things. I understand that many people are offended by homosexuality—typically for religious reasons—and worry that seeing married gays might hurt them and their children. To these good if benighted people I answer with Lenny Bruce’s old sarcasm about not wanting to allow Christians to teach in public school because he was afraid his kids would come home with St. Christopher medals stuck in their palms. Those who feel uncomfortable around married gays should remember that there may be something about themselves that will offend other people, such as wearing a cross, quoting from the Bible or saying “Have a Merry Christmas.”

While our society has always been open and based on tolerance for all full citizens, unfortunately at the beginning only white males were considered full citizens. Thank goodness the suffrage, civil rights and other liberation movements have given full citizenship to just about everyone.  

Marriage is clearly not about having children the natural way (i.e., man and woman engage in sex and nine months later a baby pops out). Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan nailed it when she said that if the purpose of marriage were procreation, a state could deny marriage licenses to a heterosexual couple in which both spouses were more than 55 years old. 

But what about the children? Studies have exploded all the myths about gay marriage. The children of married gays behave no differently from the children of straights. The insertion of gays into social groups does not lead to an outbreak of crime, disease or a higher incidence of drinking, drug use, gambling problems or any other social problem. 

In short there is no overriding public interest that would require or allow the state to outlaw the marriage of two people of the same sex.
If gay marriage were legal throughout the country, it would not prevent any religion or religious leader from refusing to marry gays or accept them in the flock. But it would end the obnoxious hypocrisy of having our secular society imposing the religious views of many on the rest of us.
But the controversy over gay marriage serves a purpose for our politicians. It’s a sideshow that keeps our minds off the real problems, such as global warming, energy and other resource scarcity and the increasing inequitable distribution of wealth.  Moreover, elected officials and candidates opposed to gay marriage bundle it with a bunch of issues that hurt most Americans—like low taxes on the wealthy, privatization of basic government functions, union-busting policies and a low minimum wage.  The “social issues” of the right-wing trick the good people of the religious right into supporting its only-the-rich-matter stands on economic issues.
I have no idea what the Supreme Court will do.  But I do know that those who think Justice Kennedy is the swing vote on this issue have it wrong. The swing vote is Roberts, and here’s why.  Roberts has always voted the way that large corporations want him to vote. That’s why after years of votes that take rights from individuals and give them to corporations, he figured out a way to vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (AKA healthcare reform). Large corporations liked the new healthcare law because it will save them money, and once again, Roberts was their boy.

And large corporations for the most part have swung in favor of gay marriage, or at least no longer oppose it. My guess it that the court will favor gay marriage if Roberts can apply some twisted reason that enables him to affirm the overturning of the California anti-gay marriage law without offending his basic conservative principles and the consistency of his past votes. Otherwise, he’ll cut a deal with the four centrist members of the court to refuse to hear the appeal.

The same goes for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  If Roberts can construct an argument that tracks with his “principles” but still allows gay marriage, DOMA dies.  

Whatever happens, even more millions of dollars will be spent on both sides over the coming years, money that could be put to better use arguing about real issues or actually doing something to help the country.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The EEZ is ba-a-a-a-ck

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: My husband and I like to use old phrases, just to hear them and keep them going. So we might say “you’re closing the barn door after the horses are gone” when we mean “It’s just too late for that action” or “strike when the iron’s hot” when we mean “you can accomplish that goal if you do it right now.” Today the headline on the newspaper was “EEZ map abandoned: New map based on 2010 census.” The story explained that the Fulton Area Development Corporation needed to use the 2010 map to build their inventory of land where they could offer corporations special tax deals. The old map included our neighborhood, which is a quiet rural neighborhood with most people enjoying the green space around us—the cows, the corn, the ponds—and we don’t want to see it paved over. So we objected, and so did a lot of other people in the county, some in the EEZ and some out of it. The arguments generally went, “well, if part of the county is in the zone it will affect the rest. Property values will be all over the place, mostly in a bad way.” Now that FADC has abandoned the old map, my sweetie said, maybe they’ll abandon the plan. “No way.” I said, and this is the old-phrase part, “They’re like a dog with a bone.” He looked at me in a puzzled way. “You know,” I said, “It means they won’t give it up. They’ll keep it until it’s all gone. Like that.” “Oh,” he said, understanding, “You mean ‘like a cat with a rabbit.’”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lost dog

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: At about 6:30 this morning, I was still in bed when I heard the thunder and saw lightning. Looked outside and saw… thunder snow. A snow storm with thunder in the background. I’ve only seen/heard this a couple of other times in my life, and all of the times this year. Watched a while, then back to sleep for an hour or so. The phone woke me up. It was Walker, calling from his spring break trip to Colorado. Back here in Missouri, Mazzie the farm dog had run off and a neighbor had trapped her in his garage. She’s really afraid of thunder and lightning. I imagined her, huddled in a strange garage. Could I go retrieve her? Stupid us! I could have brought her home with me so easily…yesterday. But the snow was now 6” deep. And my gravel road wouldn’t possibly be plowed. Who would get her? We brainstormed a few seconds. “Carl?” he said. “Carl!” I answered. Our young neighbor with cattle on half a dozen fields around here. He’s out and about in the worst weather, feeding cows or calves every which way. I called him and he jumped on it, said if he couldn’t get there by truck he’d take his tractor. I called him a couple of hours later and she was safe in his barn, close to his dogs but in a pen to keep her safe, with a bowl of water and a pan of food. He said she snuggled with him all the way home. That’s why we love our neighbors. It’s March 24, 2013, 3:28 p.m. and the snow still coming down.