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Finally, Fake News Done Right

John Oliver is what I always wished Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would be.  In fact, he's what I always wished Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer would be.

With so many people getting their news from comedians, the distinction between fake news and real news doesn't seem very useful.  There's news that pushes corporate propaganda with a straight face and endless respect for those in power.  And there's news that cracks jokes and mocks and ridicules those most deserving of scorn.

But most comedy news up until now, as far as I have seen, has mocked everyone from the powerful and corrupt to the sincere and righteous.  Jon Stewart has had his brilliant moments, but -- even setting aside his weak, fawning interviews -- his attitude is one of mockery for all and contempt for any serious engagement with the world.  He held a rally for people too smart to attend any other rallies -- and too dumb to realize they were volunteer participants in an advertisement.

Solemn news and humorous news thus far have both tended to be reactions to events.  Both have told us what a horrible bill was passed by Congress yesterday, never what we might want to actively demand or resist with an eye on tomorrow.  Both have been disempowering.  Both have told us to stay home.  And both have focused on the agenda of the status quo, as the serious news covers the day's disasters, and the funny news covers how absurdly the serious news covered the day's disasters.  Neither has contributed much historical perspective or background; neither has been especially educational.

Now, watch John Oliver on nukes:

If you knew and were outraged by what he said, you're probably thrilled that he's said it.  If you didn't know, you're importantly better informed.  Here's news that's intended for a government of, by, and for the people, encouraging people to get active around an issue of the greatest importance and about which most people have lost interest.

Watch John Oliver on prisons: (Yes, there's singing.)

Watch John Oliver on income inequality:

Watch John Oliver on net neutrality:

Watch John Oliver on climate change:

That is five more times than I have ever before told anyone to watch television.  Don't overdo it.

CNN: Palestinians Want to Die

In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.

In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO.  After failing to persuade her of Israel's complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die.  Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.

William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.

President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

The view that the people you are abusing don't mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.

Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all. 

ABC News' Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she'd shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.

Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.

If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied.  We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts.  Or we must blame someone else for it.  Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.

But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.

Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel's ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive.  But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States' weaponry, provided under the euphemism of "aid," that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:

"In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.

"Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel's illegal occupation.

"We are united in our belief that:

"The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.

"Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end."

The Limits of MSNBC

Michael Arria's new book Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC is a nice summary of how a liberal corporate or liberal partisan television network falls short -- something of an update from Jeff Cohen's Cable News Confidential and the bad old days when MSNBC dumped Cohen and Phil Donahue for being anti-war. It turns out the good new days of MSNBC-gone-liberal are seriously flawed as well.

The flaws do a disservice to a large section of the population, many majority perspectives, and large numbers of people whose opinions would improve if their information did.

Yes, of course, it's nice to have a 24/7 channel that everybody receives making fun of Republicans. But the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) does that too.  The comedy fake news shows also make fun of Democrats and anyone else they can identify; they build cynicism and disgust without offering any better course of action than a mass Rally-for-Nothing to give people too smart to attend other rallies a chance to rally ironically.

But what does MSNBC offer? Beyond its mocking of Republicans, it gives a significant pass to Democrats, resulting in dishonest presentations of facts and a proposed course of action that's doomed to fail. There are many exceptions, of course, and MSNBC easily soars over the low bar of producing more honest and useful commentary than CNN or Fox. In fact, a book that collected the highlights of MSNBC would be quite interesting as well.  It would feature a good bit of Chris Hayes, of honesty about climate, even a bit of reckoning with Israel.  (In fact, I make no claim to know what all it would include, which is why I'd find it useful.) Such a collection might encourage networks, including MSNBC, to realize what can be done without the sky falling. But the lowlights, and the lines of limitation that are not crossed without corporate penalty are crucial and are the focus of Arria's book.

MSNBC gives voice to one side in a series of narrow debates, the side previously represented by the likes of Alan Colmes.  But the change is basically one to a larger microphone, rather than to a wider range of opinion.  The debate remains framed within the same limitations.  A prime example is war and militarism.  MSNBC is in favor of wars with a different wrapper, rather than of eliminating wars from U.S. foreign policy. 

Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Hayes (not at first, but he came around), and other MSNBC voices were all in favor of bombing Libya, and as far as I know are not particularly focused on the horrendous results.

Maddow declares Iran a dictatorship, and dates that dictatorship to 1979, never 1953. She's lied that Ahmadinejad was known for publicly defending Iran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons." And she grotesquely distorts the history of Palestine and Israel, claiming that Israel innocently declared independence and was attacked the next day by five nations. As Obama pushed for missile strikes on Syria, Maddow did a story on how many nations she believed a President John McCain would have attacked.

Ezra Klein finally turned against the war on Iraq, years too late, because "the odds were high we couldn't do it right" -- using "we" in the usual way for a media outlet that identifies with the government, and maintaining the important pretense that attacking foreign nations can be done correctly or incorrectly.

Touré defended the drone murder of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. Martin Bashir insisted that a guest not doubt the integrity of "a senior military officer." Adam Serwer demanded that "service members" all be "supported" "unconditionally."

Are these unfairly handpicked examples of military-worship on MSNBC? I doubt it. When Chris Hayes questioned whether every dead U.S. soldier is necessarily a hero, he was then apparently faced with the choice of taking a stand and losing his job or doing what he did instead: apologize for the outburst of honesty. Cenk Uygur, in contrast, took a stand for critical coverage of the Obama administration and was fired by MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who told him, "We're insiders. We're the establishment."

Was Hayes right to apologize in order to maintain his voice on the air, a voice that's better than some of the other ones? I don't have a strong opinion on that question. My interest here is in pointing out, along with Arria, that a voice willing to question whether every hired killer in every popular and unpopular and illegal war is without question a hero is not permitted on MSNBC.

When I say that the best of MSNBC is its coverage of Republicans, I don't mean to give a blanket endorsement to all such coverage.  The over-obsession with the right wing gives prominence to much that would better be treated with silence -- silence that instead is reserved for the left.

MSNBC follows the lead of the party and politicians it has given its loyalty to.  And it doesn't just follow their lead.  MSNBC has hired Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, among others who can bring the Obama line straight to the viewers of a network that has more than once debated whether Obama should be added to Mount Rushmore. "My President Obama? Is he your President too?" Ed Schultz demanded of a guest while insisting that Libya be bombed as Obama desired.

Schultz even ignorantly claimed that Obama couldn't have been elected if he'd campaigned on increasing troops in Afghanistan -- as of course Obama had very prominently done. But think about Schultz's defense of Obama, rather than his ignorance of basic facts. Schultz is claiming that Obama lied about ending a war in order to get elected, and then escalated the war once in office.  That's the good Obama of Schultz's imagination.  That's Obama on the model of Wilson and Roosevelt.  There's a reason Bill Clinton calls MSNBC "our version of Fox."

I said MSNBC promotes a program of action that Comedy Central does not.  But its program of action is not principled issue-based nonviolent engagement; it's voting for one political party as a path to progress.  Anything else is unrealistic, MSNBC ridiculously maintains. Melissa Harris-Perry claims that supporting Obama despite any failings is "realist." She says that critics of Obama from the left are, in fact, not just unrealistic but racist.  She dismissed the Chicago teachers' strike and proposed that they solve their problems by voting in public elections.  She also insisted that Edward Snowden should have worked within the system. How realistic is that, exactly?

The MSNBC worldview generally pretends that everything was good in 1999 and easily can be again.  Says Rachel Maddow: "I'm in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-Era Republican Party platform." So, maybe a bit earlier than 1999. 

The perspective that MSNBC believes its viewers hold, and which it relentlessly instructs them to hold was exemplified by a recent comment that Chris Hayes made to Glenn Greenwald: "People feel they have to choose between Barack Obama and Glenn Greenwald and there are millions of people in this country who are like if that is a choice I choose Barack Obama." Hayes then gave reasons to choose Obama.  No doubt Hayes believes he was simply articulating the spontaneously generated view of the masses, of which a good organizer must be aware for better or worse.  But he never suggested the slightest critique of the way of thinking that he was in fact modeling on national TV.  He demanded that Greenwald alter his "tone" to accommodate such a idiotic perspective, but he never hinted at the possibility that people might alter their idiocy, that they might stop choosing between personalities and deal with facts, that they might vote for politicians and simultaneously critique their failings, that they might view elected officials as representatives rather than deities.

Of course, Hayes wasn't just referring to the unknown unwashed masses when he claimed that millions of people place loyalty to a president above their duty to know what their government is doing and hold it accountable for its abuses; he was referring to his colleagues and the official policy of his employer.  And that is the limit of a partisan, corporate, insider media outlet of any flavor.

Now, we have alternatives, including Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, Dennis Trainor, the RealNews.com, RT, Youtube, etc., and the written word.  We may manage to replace MSNBC or circumvent it.  We may manage to come up with media outlet(s) that will produce an Occupy movement and sustain it. But I think it's an open question whether improving MSNBC would actually be bad for its profitability.  For years, TV executives seemed to believe that creating a Democratic Fox would not succeed as well as creating a second lesser Fox.  They eventually proved themselves wrong.  Now, they are clearly convinced that creating an independent populist challenge to a government that 80% of the country believes is broken wouldn't succeed outside of Comedy Central.

It's possible they're wrong.  It's possible that going where the majority is on corporate trade pacts and single-payer healthcare and wars would increase viewership.  It's possible that access to such viewers would attract politicians and advertisers as well or nearly as well as softball interviews and corporate friendly views.  We'll never know unless someone gives it a try.

Possibly the Biggest Unknown Known Risks Exposure

A petition to the President and the Attorney General has just been posted by several organizations, including one I work for, asking that the Department of Justice stop threatening New York Times reporter James Risen with prison if he refuses to reveal a confidential source.

This story, among other stunning features, I think, threatens to expose an unknown known of the highest magnitude -- by which I mean, not something lying outside Donald Rumsfeld's imagination, but something that everyone paying attention has known all about for years but which would explode the brains of most consumers of corporate media if they ever heard about it.

Here's a great summary of the matter at the Progressive.  The focus there and in the petition is on the threat to freedom of the press.  But read this offhand bit of the explanation carefully:

"The information concerns a source for a chapter in Risen’s terrific 2006 book, 'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.' That chapter dealt with a scheme to give the Iranians faulty blueprints for a nuclear weapon."

Not only is the Justice Department (universally understood to take its orders from the White House) trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source, but it's trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source who told him that the United States gave Iran plans for building a nuclear bomb.

Imagine if the general public had a clue that this had happened!

Rather than reporter, I should probably be saying author.  And I should stop attaching the insulting modifier "New York Times" in front of "reporter".  Because this was a story published in a book.  The same book included several interesting stories that I don't think ever made it into major media outlets. 

One exception was a story about NSA mass-surveillance.  The New York Times had sat on that story for over a year and explained that failure as a desire not to inform the public of what its government was up to prior to an election (the 2004 election).  When the book came out, the New York Times finally reported the story.  But if the Times or other outlets have informed the public that the CIA gave Iran nuke plans, I've missed it.  This shocker certainly has not been extensively covered.

The genius plan was to give Iran nuclear bomb plans with some little portion altered. But reportedly it was quite clear to scientists -- yes, even in Iran they have scientists -- which bit had been altered. 

The result was not the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.  As Gareth Porter's new book documents in detail, Iran has never had a nuclear bomb program, and we've simply been lied to about that fact for 35 years. 

But, here's the point: if your Uncle Homer knew the sort of moron stunts the CIA was engaged in with a nation marketed for 35 years as a force of evil, the result would out-do by far the outrage heard last summer when Obama and Kerry proposed joining a war in Syria on the side of al Qaeda (which everyone had been told was Evil Inc. up to that moment).

Don't Obama and Holder risk bringing more attention to this lunacy by prosecuting James Risen? Can they really trust the Press Corpse (sic) to bury the substance of the story? 

More to the point: Will we let them? Please sign the petition to the President and the Attorney General.

AP Re-Used Three-Year-Old Article on Torture Report

The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation.  Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.

In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that "while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing." In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident "might have passed unnoticed."

I think he has a point.  Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture.  That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they "would do it again."

While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming.  Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we've already seen them confess to on camera.

Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. "Look," he said, "if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we'd be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law.  We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren't locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing.  And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven't taken place."

During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal.  Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, "The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned.  Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story.

The Thugs of Halftime

Three remarkable items in Thursday's Charlottesville Daily Progress.  First, a football player explaining that when he proclaimed his superiority to his opponent after a game he was caught up in the game's passion, and that the overblown reaction to his obnoxious comments seems racist. Indeed it does, but it seems to reflect another type of willful ignorance as well.

Spectators at gladiator matches don't want to see too deeply into the minds of the gladiators.  We want to watch violent sports without peering inside the helmets. Do they have to tell themselves the other team is dirt? Are they scared? Are they vicious? We don't want to know that stuff.  We want them to give the other guy brain damage and then jump up and talk to the microphone like a coach: "They played a great game today, and in my analysis we won by outplaying them at the game of football. That's what it really comes down to."

Football players are the least of it. Their thoughts would be far more acceptable in prime time than the thoughts of some other people on that field.  In many ways, football games have become advertisements for wars and militarism.  Jets fly over. Soldiers hold flags. Guns are fired. War-based national anthems are sung. Troops are honored. But do those troops chant what they chant in basic training? Do they scream about how blood makes the grass grow? Do they shout their racism and bigotry and insatiable desire to kill? Of course not.  Barbara Bush didn't want her beautiful mind disturbed with body counts and why should we?

If Richard Sherman is a thug for saying he's better than an opposing player, what are soldiers, sailors, Marines, and drone "pilots" who have been conditioned to kill on command because they are so far better than the men, women, children, infants, and grandparents they kill, as to consider those lives expendable?  Football fans don't want to know.  Who wants to see what went into a hotdog? Who wants to know what it means to have panem with your circenses? Who wants to experience what it takes to make the United States -- in a recent poll of 65 nations -- the overwhelming leader as the greatest threat to peace in the world? Who wants to hear that Pat Tillman came to oppose the war he was engaged in and was killed by "friendly fire" with no "enemies" for miles around?  It's a good thing the uniformed thugs of halftime don't speak unrehearsed into microphones.

I recall in a recent Super Bowl hearing the announcer thank U.S. troops for watching from 177 countries. That number could go up a little this year. To put it in context, there are 196 countries on earth.  What are armed Americans doing in 177 countries? They're making their fellow Americans hated.  Look at this week's election in Okinawa, where the victorious mayoral candidate ran on a platform of opposing the U.S. bases.  Look at Italy, where the entire nation turned against the massive U.S. base construction at Vicenza.  Look at South Korea, where the people of Jeju Island are willing to give their lives to stop the construction of a huge base for U.S. ships.  Look at Bahrain, where the people are courageously resisted a vicious monarch, a thug if ever there was a thug, and the United States that stands behind him for the sake of docking its deadly ships in his little boat-dock nation. Look at Yemen, whose corrupt government was forced to admit last week to a major humanitarian crisis of traumatized children -- traumatized by the constant buzzing of U.S. drones. Who wants to know that? I want to see cheerleaders and funny commercials!

Item number two: "Kaine Talks War Powers Bill." This article suggests that Senator Tim Kaine wants to restore warmaking powers to Congress.  But read Kaine's press release.  This bill would violate the Constitution which gave war powers to Congress, and the War Powers Resolution which retained partial war powers for Congress.  Rather than a Congressional authorization, under Kaine's bill, presidents would just have to talk to Congress, after which they could tell Congress to go to hell and proceed with their desired wars (except for endless drone wars, for which Kaine says the requirement to talk to Congress is waived).  And why undo the War Powers Resolution? The thinking, as recounted in the article, is that, since presidents keep violating it, repealing it is the way to uphold "the rule of law."  So, what will uphold the new law?  If presidents don't even talk to Congress -- as Obama went out of his way to avoid doing before bombing Libya -- will the new law have to be repealed to uphold "the rule of law"?

One would think presidents couldn't be impeached and prosecuted.

If only there were someone to ask about that!

Item number three: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to speak at UVA's Miller Center at 3 p.m. Thursday. Public not welcome. 

I don't recall the exercise of one's rights under the First Amendment requiring an invitation. Do you?

Top 10 Proofs People Can Be Completely Manipulated Without Hypnosis

1. Any article listing the top 10 of anything will be widely read.

2. A poll of people in 65 countries, including the United States, finds that the United States is overwhelmingly considered the greatest threat to peace in the world. The consensus would have been even stronger had the United States itself not been polled, because the 5 percent of humanity living here is largely convinced that the other 95% of humanity -- that group with experience being threatened or attacked by the United States -- is wrong. After all, our government in the U.S. tells us it's in favor of peace. Even when it bombs cities, it does it for peace. It's hard for people under the bombs to see that. We in the U.S. have a better perspective.

3. Polls in the United States through the 2003-2011 war on Iraq found that a majority in the U.S. believed Iraqis were better off as the result of a war that severely damaged -- even destroyed -- Iraq[1]. A majority of Iraqis, in contrast, believed they were worse off.[2] A majority in the United States believed Iraqis were grateful.[3] This is a disagreement over facts, not ideology. But people often choose which facts to become aware of or to accept. Tenacious believers in tales of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" tended to believe more, not less, firmly when shown the facts. The facts about Iraq are not pleasant, but they are important. To believe that the people who live where your nation's government has waged a war are better off for it, despite those people's contention that they are worse off, suggests an extreme sort of arrogance -- and a misplaced arrogance because you've just proven that a few slick politicians can make you believe up is down.

4. According to U.S.ians the greatest threat to peace on earth is a nation that hasn't threatened any other, and hasn't attacked any other in centuries, a nation that suffered horrible chemical weapons attacks and refused to use chemical weapons in response, a nation that has refused to develop nuclear weapons but been falsely accused of doing so by the U.S. government for decades. That's right: a bit of laughably bad propaganda, regurgitated in variations for 30 years, and the smart critical thinkers of the Land of the Free declare a nation with a military budget below 1% of their own -- Iran -- the Greatest Threat to Peace.[4] Edward Bernays is cackling wickedly in his grave.

5. Because no cartoon character has ever been named after Edward Bernays, nobody's ever heard of him.

6. In poll after poll after poll, 75% to 85% in the United States say their system of government is broken. Yet, what remains the top piece of advice to agitators for change? That's right: "Work within the system." And what remains the fallback ultimate reliable justification for launching or escalating or continuing a war: That's right: "We need to bring our system of government to others."

7. When U.S. military spending begins to inch below $1 trillion a year, military-friendly journalists declare the weapons lobby dead.  When it begins to inch back slightly above $1 trillion a year, slightly less military-friendly journalists declare the weapons profiteers alive but struggling. In both scenarios the level of spending remains roughly $1 trillion and the difference between the high end and the low end, while greater than most other public programs will ever see, is less than the Pentagon "misplaces" in an average 12-month period.

8. On Tuesdays, President Barack Obama goes through a list of men, women, and children, picks which ones to have murdered, and has them murdered. Knowing this would conflict with hating exclusively a particular sub-group of our public sociopaths, so most people simply choose not to know it.

9. If Iraq had really had those weapons, and if Syria had demonstrably really killed a small number of its victims with the wrong type of weapons, and if Iran were really building nuclear weapons, . . . then launching wars on those countries would still be illegal, immoral, and disastrous. We all have opinions about the question the warmakers want asked, but not about the insanity that lies behind the question.

10. People have been dying since before recorded history, and yet only those who pretend to believe nobody dies can be considered serious, honest, upstanding folk. That there's another longer life helps us not worry so much about getting screwed during this one. Perhaps it also helps us in allowing our "representatives" to routinely end the lives of so many foreign, and thus ignorant, people.

Footnotes:

1. The last such poll may have been Gallup in August 2010.
2. Zogby, Dec. 20, 2011.
3. The last such poll may have been CBS News in August 2010.
4. Check out Gareth Porter's forthcoming book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Parry on Syria in Reality and in the New York Times

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-robert-parry

Robert Parry reports that the New York Times has finally, and quietly, admitted that a key claim pushed in September by the New York Times and Human Rights Watch that nearly took the United States to war in Syria is false. Parry has been the editor of ConsortiumNews.com since 1995. He broke stories on Iran-Contra and the October Surprise for AP and Newsweek and other outlets. His books include America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes to Obama.

Total run time: 29:00

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Producer: David Swanson.
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I Googled "Evil" And It Took Me to Google

Google may have been, unil now, the Obama of hip internet monopolies.  No matter how many nations the President bombs, people still put Obama peace-sign stickers on their cars.  No matter how many radical rightwing initiatives Google funds, people still think it's a "progressive corporation" -- How could it not be? It's making progress!

Google is funding Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union, and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

And there's more really bad news: Google is funding ALEC, the powerful, secretive, and destructive lobbying force from which many companies concerned with their public images are fleeing. ALEC is in the news this week, holding its 40th annual meeting. Together with allies, RootsAction.org is applying as much pressure as we can.  And it might just be that the tide is turning.  Google just might have to start worrying about whether its users favor plutocratic plundering or not.

ALEC targets state legislatures around the country to roll back labor rights, environmental protection, civil rights, public health measures and more. Using big money, corporate clout and smooth lobbyists, ALEC teams up with like-minded state lawmakers to draft and enact regressive legislation.

Tens of thousands of people have heeded our request to Tell Google and other huge firms to which we'll deliver this petition not to participate in ALEC's corruption of our government:
We urge you to stop funding ALEC. With ALEC's help ...
* Tobacco companies get tax cuts.
* For-profit education companies get school privatization.
* Management gets union busting.
* Oil companies get opposition to renewable energy.
* The rich and powerful get the repeal of estate taxes.
But, in the process, democracy gets hijacked -- one state at a time.

***

You should read the thousands and thousands of comments people have submitted when they have signed this petition.  And you can, they're all publicly posted at the link above.

Some people express their great affection for Google, along with disillusionment:

"I really thought that your business was a role model as  progressive, social conscious Corporation...  I was seriously mistaking... -  - It is outrageous that you are supporting these politicians that have injured out country and our people so deeply...  and ALEC???? -  - PLEASE STOP!!!" --J. Carlo Diaz, FL      

"Really, Google. Really!? I expect more sense from you!" --Marian Pickett, LA

"As much as I like Google, I'll be damned if I'll support in any way the increase in political clout of big and secret money funneled to "money is above all" unbridled capitalism Republican organizations!  There are other choices ... and I'll be switching!!" --William Whitlock, CA

"Any company that funds an organization like Alec does not have an interest in democracy. Alec is in the business of buying votes, and votes for the most un-American causes. My respect for Google has taken a huge hit because of its support of Alec." --Kathlyn McCaughna

"I used GOOGLE to research ALEC. I am surprised and greatly disappointed that your corporation would support this horror to our democracy. Greed. Cynicism. Arrogance. Downright stupidity. Or as stated in one of your listed sources--policy areas including legislation 'opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food,' 'undermining workers' rights,' 'stripping environmental protections,' and 'limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs.' (MediaMatters 12/4/13) I said 'surprised.' Perhaps not, just thoroughly disgusted.  - I love GOOGLE; other venues' ads have not swayed me. However, your support of such a vicious, predatory, manipulative organization has changed the game. --JoAnn Durfee, OR

Some explain to Google what the problem is:

"Alec is for profits at any cost to society. Make your engine work for people, not for evil." --John Kozub, TN

"Google, Facebook and Yelp are people driven and should not support corporate takeover of the internet or other arenas." --Amy Whitworth, OR

"Does Google want to be seen to be supporting ALEC? If so they are also supporting this neanderthal approach to energy production: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy  -- An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." --E Healy, CA

"Funding the most regressive organizations puts your company right there with them: destroyers of democracy, dirty political actors. Think carefully whether this is where you want to be, and where you are going to be seen to be." --John Prehn, UT

"ALEC has caused so much evil and trouble in Wisconsin that I am sure most people don't understand, at this point in time. Please do NOT support the agenda of ALEC as it is not for the people but for the FEW!" --Joan Schneider, WI

Some get a bit angry:

"Alec sucks. When I found out the State Farm backed them, we DUMPED State Farm. And we had been with them for 20 years. Don't miss them a BIT!" --Audrey Lima, FL

"ALEC's prime mission is to destroy everything decent in this country!  Fascism simply ISN'T the same thing as Democracy!  STOP supporting this evil group!!!!" --Linda Christy, OK

"Stop SCROOGLING the very hard-working Americans who pay taxes that made you a household name. We don't need ALEC trying to shove their power-hungry, money-centered, and sexist/racist/homophobic agendas onto hard-working taxpayers. And we won't need GOOGLE either if they get in bed with corrupt ALEC and its members." --Deirdre McCullough, NC

"Google is EVIL SCUM pretending to be a progressively-minded company while funding organizations that systematically destroy the rights and well-being of everyday citizens everywhere, all to increase their already bloated bottom line.  Screw you--I don't need your search, your email, your phones, or anything else you can offer.  I NEED DEMOCRACY AND A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY." --Ellen Read, NH

Or angry and pithy:

"Dicks." --Brad Thompson, IA

Some plead with Google:

"Please, Google, do not be a part of this right wing attempt to hijack democracy in your country!" --Sharon Fummerton, BC

"With your power you could (and should) do good instead of furthering ALEC's poisonous agenda." --Barbara Coulson, NC     

Some propose a course of action:

"I will boycott any company affiliated with ALEC" --Jim Knipe, VA

"Don't make me start using Bing." --Liz Neff, CA

Some are taking action already:

"I am already using DuckDuckGo for web searches. I'm pretty sure I can find an email service other than Gmail." --Dan Starr, IL

"Just changed my search engine." --Michael Keenan, IL

"I already changed my home page to Yahoo." --Nadia Daley

"I have stopped using Google completely due to it's support of these ultra conservative and regressive groups." --Kelley Dempsey, MD

"Until Google makes it clear that it no longer supports Alec and other anti-democratic, anti labour, and environmentally destructive causes I will conduct my searches through other engines." --Glenn Ashton

Some have a more serious solution in mind:

"Google is Getting too big and powerful, break it up!" --Stephen Rawlings, FL 

"When corporations get a fairer deal than the tax paying population, something needs to CHANGE!" --Debbie Boozer, IN