A More Democratic Media

May 5th, 2011 by Whitey No comments »

Our media system is broken. It’s primary customer tends to be its advertising partners, who carry an inevitable bias toward corporate power, profit, and self-interest. The large media conglomerates are not fulfilling their role in propping up our democracy as the “four estate.” Instead, we get “infotainment” that feigns the standards of journalist.

If you want to access media that is oriented toward ordinary people, and favors the interests or that majority, look no further than Democracy Now! You can also find great news from TruthDig and FAIR. There are good listener supported (rather than corporate supported) media, if you look around a bit.

This past week I attended FAIR’s 25th anniversary celebration. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) is a media watchdog group who publishes critical media reports and a great monthly publication, “Extra.” The event was excellent. It featured a powerhouse lineup of speakers: Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, and Glenn Greenwald. The speakers gave a pointed critique of the entertainment media that tries to pass for journalism. These speeches are inspiring and stimulating. Check them out, and go raise some hell.

View these talks here:
1-Glenn Greenwald
2-Amy Goodman
3-Noam Chomsky
4-Michael Moore

http://www.fair.org

Rachel Maddow Coverage on Bin Laden

May 4th, 2011 by Whitey No comments »

Three cheers for the death of Bin Laden!

Rachel Maddow has done some great reporting on the death of Bin Laden over the past couple of days.

Here are some highlights:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Obama Throws Down

April 16th, 2011 by Whitey No comments »

Highlights from Obama’s important speech on the budget this week:

What we’ve been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future we want. It’s about the kind of country we believe in. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without those commitments.

For much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well – we rightly celebrate their success. Rather, it is a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefitted most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back. Moreover, this belief has not hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale, who continue to do better and better with each passing year.

…America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program – but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

Of course, that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that’s how our fiscal challenge was created. This is how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and win the future.

…Ultimately, all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy. It will prevent us from making the investments we need to win the future. We won’t be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads and bridges – all the things that will create new jobs and businesses here in America. Businesses will be less likely to invest and open up shop in a country that seems unwilling or unable to balance its books. And if our creditors start worrying that we may be unable to pay back our debts, it could drive up interest rates for everyone who borrows money – making it harder for businesses to expand and hire, or families to take out a mortgage.

The good news is, this doesn’t have to be our future. This doesn’t have to be the country we leave to our children. We can solve this problem. We came together as Democrats and Republicans to meet this challenge before, and we can do it again.

But that starts by being honest about what’s causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political skills tell me that almost no one believes they should be paying higher taxes.

Because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse –that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.

So here’s the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans’ benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20%. What’s left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That’s 12 percent for all of our other national priorities like education and clean energy; medical research and transportation; food safety and keeping our air and water clean.

Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cuts to that 12% alone won’t solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn’t require us to balance our budget overnight – in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we will need a phased-in approach – but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders in both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five and ten and twenty years down the road.

THE REPUBLICAN PLAN

One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. It’s a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.

A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what they’re proposing. These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.

It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them. Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – can’t afford any of this.

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

OBAMA’S PLAN

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.

Today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week – a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs. We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.

…Just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. Over the last two years, Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. We will change the way we pay for health care – not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we’ve proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional one trillion dollars in the decade after that. And if we’re wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.

But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security. While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older. As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again. Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like home ownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn’t itemize.

My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans – a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the Fiscal Commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

This is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years. It’s an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, our commitment to seniors, and our investments in the future.

In the coming years, if the recovery speeds up and our economy grows faster than our current projections, we can make even greater progress than I have pledged here. But just to hold Washington – and me – accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe. If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy – or if Congress has failed to act – my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

So this is our vision for America – a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and rising opportunity for our children.

Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach. Some will argue we shouldn’t even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It’s just an article of faith for them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn’t even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit – so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn’t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security out of a fear that any talk of change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed. I understand these fears. But I guarantee that if we don’t make any changes at all, we won’t be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation that will live longer and face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works – by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.

Of course, there are those who will simply say that there’s no way we can come together and agree on a solution to this challenge. They’ll say the politics of this city are just too broken; that the choices are just too hard; that the parties are just too far apart. And after a few years in this job, I certainly have some sympathy for this view.

But I also know that we’ve come together and met big challenges before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously and still found a way to balance the budget. In the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts. And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

I believe we can and must come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit by the end of June.

I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I’m sure the criticism of what I’ve said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all bridge our differences, and find common ground.

This larger debate we’re having, about the size and role of government, has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and more vigorous. That’s a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates we can have.

But no matter what we argue or where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility – to each other and to our country – this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea. It’s patriotism.

…And I know that if we can come together, and uphold our responsibilities to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, we will keep the dream of our founding alive in our time, and pass on to our children the country we believe in. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

The War Economy

April 5th, 2011 by Whitey 13 comments »

The military has become an integral part of our economy. What happens when something becomes incredibly profitable?…Will we get more of it, or less of it?

Weaponry is one of the last remaining manufacturing sectors in the U.S. We are the largest producer and exporter of arms and munitions on earth. The U.S. Government spends more on the military than all other nations combined—about $1 trillion annually. The cost of our military adds tremendously to the deficit. Conservatives typically ignore military spending and favor cuts in social program instead (what they call “entitlements”; i.e., programs that assist people in need). Of course, it isn’t just conservatives. There are many in congress who have military jobs in their district or state that they aim to protect by voting to maintain (or increasing) military spending. Also, private military contractors make massive political donations that make peace candidates almost non-existent. With these elements in place, it makes it very difficult to rein in our ever-expanding military.

We now have over half a million military personnel serving on more than 737 military bases all over the world. These bases are on more than 130 countries. According to the late military scholar, Chalmers Johnson, these bases facilitate the “policing” of the globe and are meant to ensure that no other nation, friendly or hostile, can ever challenge us militarily. He predicts that military spending will “sooner or later…threaten our nation with bankruptcy.” Many would argue that a strong military is necessary because it is a deterrent to potential adversaries. Really? Then explain to me why our tax-payer-funded military bases include a ski center, over 200 military golf courses, dozens of luxury jets, and many luxury hotels. Conservatives like to compare government (public) workers (such as military personnel and Wisconsin teachers) with private workers, insisting, for instance, that Wisconsin teacher, police, and firefighters’ pensions and wages are too generous compared to what private workers are paid (to justify why unions should be crushed). So I am sure they will not want to make the argument that military personnel should have private golf courses and other superfluous luxuries that those in the private sector do not enjoy. Come on! We don’t need 200 military golf courses…but we do need more and better-paid teachers! If we are sincere about the deficit, there are plenty of places in the military to cut–including out-dated Cold War-era nuclear facilities and weapons.

In 1961, President Eisenhower delivered his farewell address. His message was a warning against the massive influence of the military:

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist” (source). See the video of the speech:

See this excellent interview with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki: (his film, “Why We Fight”, is included in its entirely at the end of the post.)

Listen to this radio interview with Eugene Jarecki about the military-industrial complex: Unwarranted Influence

Article #1 – Worldwide Military Bases

Article #2 – Civilian Control of Military is a Joke

Article #3 – The Hidden National Security Budget


Néstor Kirchner of Argentina,

NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Bush told me the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war. Those were his exact words.

OLIVER STONE: Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?

NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] I say it’s not necessary to kneel before power. Nor do you need to be rude to say the things you have to say to those who oppose our actions. We had a discussion in Monterey. I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. And he got angry. He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats. He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war.

OLIVER STONE: War. He said that?

NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] He said that. Those were his exact words.

OLIVER STONE: Was he suggesting that South America go to war?

NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Well, he was talking about the United States. The Democrats had been wrong. All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. President Bush is—well, he’s only got six days left, right?

OLIVER STONE: Yes.

NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Thank God.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That was former President Kirchner. And these comments of President Bush that he says about the United States growing strong through war, I don’t think that’s ever been reported anywhere.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, on this issue of war and, of course, the statement that President Bush made, which to me was startling, is, in essence, when our government goes to war, not only does it spend huge amounts of money that it turns over to the contractors who assist the war, but also technological development always increases sharply, sponsored by the government. And then, after the war, these same companies then use the new technological development to open up new arenas of business. So, in that sense, I think Bush was talking about how war—

OLIVER STONE: Yeah.

JUAN GONZALEZ: —forces the productive forces ahead and allows capitalism to continue to exploit.

OLIVER STONE: It’s a hard way to die.

(source)

Conclusion

The only way we can control the deficit, reduce war, and promote peace is by putting pressure on our government to change course. We need to “starve the beast” of the military-industrial complex, and perhaps create a Department of Peace, as others have suggested. To learn more about this important topic read on…

» Read more: The War Economy

Power in a Union

March 7th, 2011 by Whitey 2 comments »

Have you even wondered why we have the 8-hour work day or the 40-hour work week? Why we have weekends? Why employers frequently provide benefits to employees? And why we have employment insurance, workers compensation, a minimum wage, and worker health & safety laws? We have all of these benefits—which increase the quality of our lives—because of the work of labor unions. Labor unions have been a essential force for democracy in the U.S. for over 100 years. In many cases, members of labor union members were killed by the police as they protested for labor rights. It is not an exaggeration to say they died so you and I could have our weekends off.

“We can thank organized labor for rest rooms and smoke breaks and clean places to eat lunch; for safety laws, paid vacations, sick leave, pension and insurance plans — policies and procedures that most of us take for granted…The labor movement also helped bring us social reforms, such as child-labor regulation, free public education and the concept of equal pay for equal work. We enjoy these gifts whether or not we belong to unions…But one of the biggest contributions from organized labor that we don’t appreciate, because it’s so very close to us, is our middle class way of life. In large measure, organized labor’s efforts over decades established the American middle class. Decent wages and job security allowed workers to buy homes and cars and send their kids to college, which fueled our economy and what we now so easily disdain as middle-class life.” (source)

The essential value that unions provide to workers is that they collectively bargain with employers on behalf of all or part of the organization’s workers, with the threat of a strike. This creates an equal partnership between management and workers; something individual workers don’t have on their own (an individual worker could never walk into management and demand more pay, better benefits, and increased safety procedures). This kind of management-worker partnership is an accepted part of business throughout most of the European Union (see Steven Hill’s book, “Europe’s Promise”), and has led to a much better quality of life across the board, and an even a stronger economy! They have an excellent safety net in place during times of high unemployment, allowing workers to receive job training and placement counseling. It is an excellent way to mitigate market downturns (yes, the European Union is a capitalist economy!), and create quick recoveries.

A friend of mine, who is a professional speaker, calls the corporation “the last monarchy.” He begins his keynote presentation by asking his American business audience if they would rather have a Queen instead of an elected President (my friend is British, by the way). The answer is 100% “no.” He then asks if they would rather have a centrally-planned economy (like totalitarian communism) rather than a free market economy. Again, “no” is the consensus. Then he asks, “If you don’t want these things for your nation, why in the world do you put up with them in your workplace?” (And yes…he does this with management in the room!) He goes on and gives examples of companies that practice democracy in the workplace; for example, companies that allow their workers to elect their management teams and select their own supervisors. His ideas are inspiring and would undoubtedly engage the full capacity of workers in ways that lead to incredible results. However, I don’t think most management teams are willing to make such concessions. In the absence of a massive change of thinking by CEOs across the country, we need a powerful institution like labor unions to bring a sense of democracy and voice to workers, to counter the power differential that exists in the workplace. Down with “the Last Monarchies”! As we will see below, this is not just important for workers in unions, but it is essential to preserving democracy and economic freedom and security.

When Governor Walker of Wisconsin decided to go after public worker unions under the guise of “balancing the budget,” he started a battle against middle-class America (part of a larger war that has been going on ever since the New Deal). After three weeks, the people of Wisconsin are still protesting this outrageous course of action. The governor gave breaks to corporations earlier this year, and now he needs to close the budget gap by taking it out of the last union stronghold: Workers in the public sector.

Unions have been a key institution for creating a thriving middle class in America for the past 100 years (source). Currently, inequality is at nearly a 100-year high in the U.S., and it is highly correlated with the steady decrease in union membership and influence over the past 30 years. (More jaw-dropping data on U.S. inequality.) After its high water mark in the 1950s, union membership started to decrease as the economy shifted to service-based jobs, and manufacturing jobs were sent overseas. The decline of unions accelerated after President Reagan took a hard stand against unions early in his presidency. Big business followed his lead in union busting. As a result, wages have stagnated and wealth has been redistributed upward to the superrich.

For every American citizen who values freedom, equality of opportunity, and hard work, they should support labor unions. Like any institution, labor unions are not perfect, and there are certainly areas that need to be reformed (one improvement would be giving employers options to replace poor performing employees, which is difficult under some union contgracts), but overall, unions serve a very important function that needs to be upheld and strengthened.

In his new book, Joshua Holland writes an excellent chapter on why unions still matter. He says,

“There’s a substantial body of research that shows a crystal-clear relationship between unionization rates, stagnating wages, and increased inequality and poverty. That’s true in all countries…[and they] perform no worse in terms of creating jobs.” Yet there has been a concerted effort by the Corporate Right to turn the American people against unions; to make them believe that, “unions are corrupt, perhaps even mobbed up, and their work helps only union bosses and their political patrons, while screwing over workers.”

More from Joshua Holland’s book:

  • Union members make almost 30 percent more than non-union workers when wages and benefits are combined
  • Union members are more likely to vote their economic interests
  • Gaps between higher-paid and lower-paid workers are lowest where union density is high
  • High union density also narrows the pay gap between women and men, and between younger and older workers
  • Unions counter poverty and make family incomes much more equal than would otherwise be
  • No country has seen such as precipitous decline in its labor movement as he United States has in the past three decades
  • The U.S. now has the lowest rate of workers covered by collective bargain anywhere in the industrial world, which has let to economic stagnation for all but the top 1%
  • In the midst of declining union numbers, a 2005 study found that more U.S. workers wanted to join a union than even before—53%
  • While there is a 30-year trend toward deregulation of corporations, union activity is very closely regulated by the government (making corruption and exploitation by union bosses extremely unlikely)
  • Union busting has become a multibillion dollar industry encompassing more than 2,500 lawyers and consultants offering their services (Source: pages 230-244)

I just finished Philip Dray’s captivating history of American unions, “There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America” (see link below). This 700+ page book details amazing stories of courage, the power of organizing for greater rights, and the challenges that come with taking on the powerful. Sometimes the government has supported unions, and helped support workplace democracy; at other times it has supported the big business assault on the working class, often by harsh action taken by the police of the National Guard. The only hope that unions have today is that Obama will strengthen unions, and reform them to increase their benefits to dues-paying workers (including teachers, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, manufacturing, etc.).

When I compare this history and the data with what the Right-wing says (indeed, what most managers in U.S. business say) about labor unions, there is a massive gap between the two realities. Fundamentally, it comes down to the question of whose freedom is more important in our society. Should America’s executives and business owners have the “freedom” to exploit workers? Or, should workers have the “freedom” to counter balance power in the workplace? » Read more: Power in a Union

A New Kind of Capitalism

February 20th, 2011 by Whitey 3 comments »

“Capitalists have done a remarkably poor job of safeguarding the future of capitalism.” (source)

Capitalism can mean dramatically different things to different people. To a Wall Street executive it means being able to accumulate unimaginable wealth. To big business it may be a competitive game that must be won at all costs, even at the expense to the public interest. To a small businessman with a great idea, it might mean being able to turn his passion into an occupation, and enjoy the freedom of self-employment. To many, it is a system that has increased the standards of living for millions. To its victims, capitalism is a monster whose greed leaves many behind, and even commits great crimes against vulnerable citizens. Which view is correct? All of them.

If by “capitalism” we mean creating markets that meet the needs of the public, allowing the best ideas and products to succeed through demand, then this is a highly democratic system that should be encouraged. If capitalism means “greed is good,” and we should look out for our own self-interest at all costs than this is a very anti-social, destructive philosophy that must be tempered.

According to Mother Jones Magazine, “Just before the market crashed, one Wall Street manager wrote to another, ‘Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.'” This is one small example of how the greedy version of capitalism can lead to untold suffering (market crash, lost retirements, unemployment, etc.).

Over the past two years, as the dust of the Great Recession began to settle, a host of business leaders and prominent economic leaders have started to imagine a new kind of capitalism; one that is responsible, broadly-enjoyed, and sustainable. Below, we have included excerpts from these leaders, including Bill Gates, Michael Porter, Elizabeth Warren, James Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, Fareed Zakaria, and others.

There are common themes in their writings, including the need to regulate corporations, balance the interests of the public and private profit, and the need to have a strong social purpose that goes beyond the profit motive.

Keep reading. » Read more: A New Kind of Capitalism

Infrastructure: The Best Government Investment

February 5th, 2011 by Whitey 2 comments »

In his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama promoted infrastructure development as an essential component to remaining competitive in the world, for providing jobs, and keeping our economy strong. Here’s what he said:

“Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped.  South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do.  Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.  China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better.  America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System.  The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement.  They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry.  And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts.  (Applause.)

We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.  We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

Infrastructure spending was only 7.5% of the 2009 stimulus. Yet one dollar invested in infrastructure has a return of $1.59 in GDP growth, while most tax cuts don’t even return 50 cents.

“The performance of the nation’s transportation system is not keeping pace with the rate of growth of the demands on that system,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “As our economy recovers, the nation’s transportation infrastructure must be prepared to meet the projected growth in freight and population. Yet our index shows that from now through 2015 there will be a rapid decline in the performance of the system if we continue business as usual. Right now we’re on an unsustainable path.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained, “The one thing we know is that the good thing about federal spending is it’s actually spent, that it actually does boost the economy. And if it’s infrastructure, it also leaves you with something of value afterwards. Whereas if you do it the way the Republicans want to do it, which is always tax breaks, first of all, it might not be not be spent or it might not help the economy at all. And then, you’ve got nothing to show for when the thing is over.”

See this press release by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Farrell’s Bloomberg article, “U.S. Infrastructure Spending: No Time to Get Cheap,”

“Spending now on infrastructure stimulates the economy in a way that will help provide for long-term higher economic growth that will increase future tax revenue and bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio,” says David Aschauer, economist at Bates College.

The most striking example in U.S. history of the economic payoff from infrastructure expenditures has been largely obscured with time: the building of the Erie Canal. It was a 363-mile-long canal dug through the middle of New York State. A bold adventure, it cost about $7 million, an astounding sum equal to more than a third of all the banking and insurance capital in New York State (and more than three-quarters of the federal budget in 1810). The Canal was started in 1817 and finished 8 years later, after much political wrangling.

Perhaps even more striking (considering the current economic climate), after the panic of 1818 the price of money and labor fell sharply when the economy sank into recession. “By 1820, the canal commissioners were drawing contracts at prices 30 percent to 40 percent below what they had paid during the first three years of construction,” notes the late Peter Bernstein in Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation.

When it was done, the cost of commercial transport plunged. For instance, it had taken three weeks and $120 to send a ton of flour from Buffalo to New York City before the canal opened. Afterwards, it took 8 days and $6. “The Erie Canal would prove to be the most consequential public works project in American history and make New York, both state and city, the linchpins of the American economy for more than a century,” writes historian John Steele Gordon in An Empire of Wealth. (source)

“In their 2005 paper, ‘Healthy Returns,’ they calculated that Americans gained more than $788 billion a year from transportation infrastructure and paid taxes and fees of $185 billion to support that infrastructure…’These findings establish clearly that strong commitments to surface transportation and the spending required to support it well serve America’s economic interest,’ they concluded.

Conclusion

The construction industry is in a depression, with about 20% unemployment. A national infrastructure investment will immediate improve the lives of hundred of thousands of workers in the construction industry, it will revitalize this critical part of our economy, it will improve public safety by improving our run-down public infrastructure, and it will inject new money into the economy in a way that will give us a strong return. Enough fear-mongering about the deficit. We need a substantial injection of capital into infrastructure now. Republicans need to stop filibustering initiatives to pass infrastructure investments. And Democrats need to make this priority number one! It is a priority that will affect all Americans in a positive way.

Further Reading:

http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/pe/pfma06/EdwardGramlich.pdf

http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/conf/conf34/conf34b.pdf

http://www.uschamber.com/press/releases/2010/september/us-chamber-commerce-releases-first-ever-indexes

Why We Need a Green Revolution

January 30th, 2011 by Whitey 2 comments »

It is time to get past the false choices that we’ve been presented with in regard to the environment. The typical “either/or” thinking about all things “green,” and the inaction that results, has left us behind much of the industrial world. The discussion should not be a choice between economics or the environment, or capitalism verses nature. And we should be well beyond the debate between global warming alarmists and climate-change deniers. We have some who correctly state that, “2010 remains on pace to be the hottest or second-hottest year ever recorded” (source); while others use a snow storm in D.C. to “prove” that global warming isn’t real (source).

The bottom line is this: Climate change (or global warming, if you like) is a well-tested, provable fact, not a hypothesis. The question that scientists have been working on in recent years has been, “To what extent is global warming being influenced by human behavior?” This is a key question because the answer empowers us to do something about this problem, especially as we learn more about the devastating consequences of global warming to our planet. The answer from the scientific community has been an overwhelming, “yes, it is caused by human activity.” Now we can take action to reverse the trends. Right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, there is serious opposition to taking action. Energy companies spend millions funding junk science front groups who will try to keep an element of doubt about global warming in the minds of voters. Conservatives have largely been in the pockets of big oil, defending the status quo of dirty energy at every turn. Rather than fighting regulation and supporting big oil’s interests, the business community should be supporting clean energy, and the new jobs and vibrant economy that will come with this vital and emerging field. It is destined to be the next big economic bubble—certainly something conservatives should be able to get behind.

President Obama used the word “energy” nine times in his recent State of the Union address. He sees the need for a green revolution as a way of creating jobs, filling our ever-increasing energy demands, and yes, a national security measure. He said in last week’s speech:

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy…we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money.  We’re issuing a challenge.  We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.  At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.  (Applause.)

We need to get behind this innovation.  And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.  (Applause.)  I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  (Laughter.)  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.  So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal:  By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.  (Applause.)

Some folks want wind and solar.  Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas.  To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, has made a similar argument about the need for a green revolution to propel our economy toward greater competition (see clips below).

Thomas L. Friedman

Friedman’s more recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America, makes an excellent case for why we need a green revolution now.

» Read more: Why We Need a Green Revolution

State of the Union 2011: A Review

January 27th, 2011 by Whitey 2 comments »

President Obama’s State of the Union speech was a clear signal that he wants to work with House Republicans to get things done over the next two years. He focused on making America more competitive through education, infrastructure development, better government, and innovation. He spent more time on proposing a centrist agenda moving forward than he did on touting his accomplishments of the past year. Almost of of his proposals are centrist policy prescriptions–things that are difficult for anyone to disagree with. A CBS New Poll reported that 92% of people who watched the speech approved of Obama’s proposals, with only 8% who disapproved. The tone of his speech, and the agenda he is pursuing, are signs that he wants to keep going full steam to get things done, in spite of losing the House. But this is also a sign that he is gearing up for 2012.

See Rachel Maddow’s analysis on how Obama is steering to the center–the real center.

Here is a great breakdown of the speech by the Washington Post.

See also coverage by Democracy Now!

In contrast to Obama’s inspiring message about working together to improve our economy, Paul Ryan’s opposition response was a real downer.

His message focused on the threat of the deficit. This isn’t a surprise, since this is the guy who wrote the “Roadmap” that focuses on cutting programs that help people, but says nothing about corporate handouts or military spending.

He did attempt to bring some level of balance to his message when he acknowledged that Obama came into office with a wrecked economy: “There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.” But then he quickly blasts the President’s stimulus as being ineffective: “Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.”

He also blasts Obama’s ideas on investing in America (which includes eduction, infrastructure, and innovation). Even a basic understanding of U.S. economic history makes this criticism ridiculous. Does Congressman Ryan think the free market came up with the internet?

Here is Ryan’s vision of government: “We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders… to protect innocent life… to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.” Yet, he wants to gut virtually every social program that takes care of “those who cannot provide for themselves.” He digs up old Reaganesque arguments about people abusing social programs: “If government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.” See how social programs are really spent. Congressman Ryan is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He is trying to say government can take “care of people who can’t provide for themselves,” bu t he also thinks that government social programs lull “able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependence.” The vast majority of people who receive government assistance are vulnerable people, mostly children, the elderly, the disabled, and mentally ill. Ryan also wants to blame the government for the recession: “Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals.” Either Ryan doesn’t get out much, or he is a damned liar in the back pocket of the powerful…And I am willing to accept that both are true.

(We won’t spend any time on Michelle Bachmann’s silly little fringe-wing response to the speech)

Back to the State of the Union.

We’ve gone through the speech and pulled out the highlights; the best ideas, quotes, and proposed actions. » Read more: State of the Union 2011: A Review

Manufacturing of Consent

January 26th, 2011 by Whitey 5 comments »

Democracy requires the free flowing information, critical thinking skills, and broad participation. When monopoly powers of any kind interfere with these principles, democracy suffers. Today, more than ever before, our democracy (or “Democratic Republican,” if you like) is under assault by monopoly powers–powers that control the media, political representatives, and write the rules for our society. Policy that flows from the interests of the powerful would never be accepted by the electorate, and using force wouldn’t work today (and would interfere with kind of market “freedom” that the powerful want to uphold). So the only way to get the electorate to go along with the interests of the powerful is to use propaganda. People’s consent must be engineered, manufactured. (…And it explains why conservatives still exist today, despite such broad access to real facts!)

The powerful have been using this method for centuries, but with greater sophistication since World War I. This explains why a citizen could make a comment like, “Keep your government hands of my medicare”; it explains why they would support repealing the “death tax,” which only effects the heirs of the very wealthy. It explains the strong connection that many Americans make between love of country and support for military strength and war. It explains why an under-paid employee will reject the idea of a labor union, viewing it as connected to socialism. More recently, it explains the overall low polling scores of the healthcare bill of 2010—even though most Americans accept specific ideas in the bill, many are willing to march to Washington with the Tea Party in protest…not realizing that they would benefit greatly from many aspects of the new law.

Understanding how power works is critical for citizens in a democracy, because it empowers them to fight back, and to remain independent. One of the best models for understanding power in general, and thought control specifically, is MIT professor Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model. Chomsky has been called by the New York Times, “Arguably the most important intellectual alive.” The Nation magazine has said, “Not to have read him is to court genuine ignorance.” The Boston Globe called him, “America’s most useful citizen.” The New York Times Books Review proclaims: “Chomsky is a global phenomenon…perhaps the most widely read voice on foreign policy on the planet.” He has also been called the most cited living scholar. His propaganda model was developed with Edward Herman. (See links to their books below.)

Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model goes beyond the worn-out narrative of the “liberal media” that was conjured up by the Right. The model does not assume some kind of back-room conspiracy either. It is an “institutional analysis” of how facts become “filtered” to present content to the public that favors the media’s real customer: big businesses, those who advertise with the media establishment. As a result, media content comes out with a bias that favors the interests of those in power: the rich, corporations, etc. (However, there are independent media sources that are supported by consumers rather than “sponsors” and advertisers; some of the best sources are: Democracy Now!, The Nation magazine, public radio and TV, the BBC, Al Jazeera, city weekly magazines…see the links section of this blog). A documentary film about Chomsky’s model was released in 1993 (and it is excellent…and free online!). See also Chomsky’s books, “Media Control,” and “Necessary Illusions.”

We have included a summary of the propaganda model here. This model should be studied by all who seek the liberation and empowerment of ordinary citizens.

Propaganda Model

Five Filters Intro from Keyvan on Vimeo.

Chomsky Video

Good summary from Wikipedia (source):

Editorial Bias: Five Filters

Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” describes five editorially-distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:

  1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
  2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de-facto licensing authority”. Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
  3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
  4. Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
  5. Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror“, as the major social control mechanism.