the Rational Radical  

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The Daily Diatribe
August 1-15, 2001

August 15, 2001   8:55 p.m.  --  Someone I know -- who shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty, as well as to avoid open warfare between us -- left me speechless the other day.  That's not, as visitors to this website may have already surmised, an easy thing to do.

This person (whom I'll call by the false name Don) had flown out to California from New York with one of his children.  He used frequent flyer miles to upgrade both their tickets from coach to first class.

Don was quite impressed with first class -- the space, the food, the choice of movies, the attentiveness of the flight attendants.  Fine.  Don usually, like most of us, travels in the cramped, noisy and altogether unpleasant quarters of coach.

Then Don started to tell me how he had felt a bit ill at ease to be sitting in first class with his child.  As Don relates it, whenever he boards a plane bound for coach in the rear, and walks through the first class section and sees the people sitting there, he always mutters to himself something about all the "rich" people enjoying such comfort.  Now that he and his child were sitting there, he was worried other coach passengers passing through would think the same thing about him and his child.

After a moment or two of speechlessness, I quipped that perhaps Don and his kid could have worn buttons that read "Frequent Flyer Update" or some such slogan that would clearly distinguish them from the truly rich people in that first class cabin.

Now why was I speechless?  Because I know Don's household income has to be at least 500K a year, and other than a mortgage, the family does not have any substantial liabilities.

Let's see, the median family income in this country (that income which half the people earn more than and half the people earn less than) is $49,497.  So Don earns at least 10 times more than half the country.  Seems pretty rich to me.

Well, maybe you're not rich until you're in the top 5-10%.  According to the Census Bureau, to be in the top 5% of families by income you have to make at least $155,040.  Don more than triples that.

Well, maybe you have to be in the top 1% to be rich?  The cut-off point for that is an adjusted gross income of $269,496.  I'm pretty sure Don makes this cut-off point, unless he has deductions to adjusted gross income totaling nearly 50% of his gross income, which is highly unlikely.

All this is to say, Don is "rich" by any definition of the word.  Maybe not Gates-level super-rich, but still rich enough for it to have left me speechless when Don made his comments about sitting in first class.

Until those who are rich like Don -- who make more money than 99% of the rest of the country -- acknowledge that they are rich and that the amount of money they earn and the wealth they possess is part of the problem, there's no hope of stopping and reversing the rising level of income inequality and economic injustice in this country.

August 14, 2001
   9:05 p.m.  -- 
Even as a little kid I had a sense that teachers were doing something very important in their jobs of teaching the country's children.  And I wondered why they seemed to be not particularly well paid.

It still strikes me as completely bizarre -- and probably one of those free market distortions of what we would ideally like to see -- that the people who create cartoons for our children to watch on Saturday morning are paid many times the amount we pay our teachers.

In most other industrialized countries, teachers are paid at a level relatively higher to other jobs than in the United States.  

A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, summarized in The New York Times, showed that in the United States teachers are paid just under the average U.S. per capita income.  In South Korea they are paid 250% (2.5 times) the average per capita income of that country.   A chart in the newsprint version of the Times article had the figures for Switzerland at 188%, Mexico at 178%, Germany at 163% and France at 128%. 

Out of all the member nations of the OECD, 21 pay teachers a salary relatively higher to other jobs than the U.S.; only four pay a relatively lower salary.

Relatively meager salary levels indicate a lack of value accorded a job.  What kind of priorities is that?

No wonder the United States faces a shortage of teachers. 

August 13, 2001   2:05 p.m.  --  There is a widespread notion in the country that the Bush presidency is somewhat less than legitimate, since he lost the popular vote, and gained an Electoral College victory only through a Supreme Court diktat.

Rabid right-wingers, apparently desperate, have enlisted a ridiculous T-Shirt  to counter this belief.

The "Bush Country" T-shirt shows a map of the United States coded not state by state, but county by county -- the now-familiar red for Bush, blue for Gore.  On a county by county basis, the nation is indeed awash in red.  All this red "Bush Country" must have looked very exciting to the T-shirt designers and their conservative backers.

But what does this map actually mean, given that the popular vote and the electoral college were virtually evenly divided?  It merely means that a large number of the most sparsely populated areas of the country voted for Bush.  What this bizarre fact proves to the right-wingers about the legitimacy of the Bush presidency is anyone's guess, but it doesn't prove much to me.

August 12, 2001   10:50 p.m.  --  Two medical-related stories appeared in The New York Times the other day: "Diet and Exercise Are Found to Cut Diabetes by Half" and "Anticholesterol Drug Pulled After Link With 31 Deaths."  The obvious link between them is invisible to too many people.

In the first story, patients who ate less fat, exercised two and a half hours per week, and lost a moderate amount of weight cut the incidence of diabetes by more than half among those most at risk.  These results were better than obtained by use of drugs.

Well, if you don't poison the body with fats, burden it with too much weight, and if you combine that with moving around a bit like the body was designed to do, of course the body will function better and be much less likely to develop diabetes.

Since the vast bulk of the fat which people ingest is contained in animal-derived foods -- meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs -- one way to avoid diabetes is to eat in a more vegetarian style.

As far as the other story about the anticholesterol drug being pulled, most people don't really need that drug at all.  The body produces cholesterol on its own.  You don't need to ingest much, if any, to be healthy.  Only people with a genetic problem which causes their own bodies to produce too much cholesterol perhaps need a cholesterol-lowering drug.

But for most people, wouldn't the obvious solution be -- stop eating so many foods containing cholesterol.  Then you won't need a cholesterol-lowering drug that may kill you.

Cholesterol is found, in practical terms, only in animal-derived foods -- the same foods implicated in diabetes.  People insist on eating huge amounts of these foods every day, and then want a "magic pill" to cure them of the poison that they have ingested.

Well, even if another cholesterol-lowering drug works for them, that wouldn't take care of the problem that eating animal foods is, as the companion story reported,  linked to the incidence of diabetes -- as well, I should add, to the incidence of many types of cancers.

The common lesson of the two stories is: take care of your body by exercising and avoiding animal foods, and your chances of living a longer, healthier life will be greatly increased.

Unfortunately, people are lazy, and it's true most would rather pop a pill than alter their "lifestyle."  But the proven, dramatic benefits of such lifestyle changes are rarely given the prominence they deserve in the medical advice that most people receive. 

If patients adopted preventative measures involving lifestyle changes, the medical/pharmaceutical establishment would make far less money from selling people its magic pills and treating them for heart disease and cancer.  Could that be the reason why such preventative measures seem to take the back seat to the magic pills in the medical advice and treatment that most people receive?

August 11, 2001   10:00 p.m.  --  Do you share my bewilderment at what has got to be one of the worst penny ante corporate rip-offs?

After you dial local information and -- without the involvement of a live human -- the recording gives you the requested telephone number, a different recorded voice comes on the line and sweetly asks if you would like to be connected automatically for 45 cents.

Every time I hear this recording, I shake my head in wonder.  The directory and local calls are free (or rather, there are no additional charges, the costs of these two automated services being subsumed in your monthly fee).  But for the software to automatically connect you, the phone company wants 45 cents.

If it were 5 cents, I say to myself, sometimes I would, if in a real rush,  do it.  A dime, and I'd hesitate.  Twenty-five cents, and I'd laugh at the thought.  But when I hear 45 cents requested, I wonder what the phone company is thinking.

They offer long-distance for 5 cents a minute, but want you to pay 45 cents to be automatically connected on a free local call?

Who would do this, especially on a regular basis?  Even were I quite wealthy, I still wouldn't take advantage of their kind offer, given the blatantly rip-off nature of the transaction.

What makes it sad is, I bet the reason the phone company has continued to offer this service is because a lot of (non-rich) people really do utilize this automatic connection feature!

August 10, 2001
   9:30 p.m.  --

[I]n the early hours of July 22, 92 young people were dragged from their beds by squads of Italian anti-riot police officers who beat and jailed them.

Witnesses described students crouching as they were kicked, pummeled with clubs and thrown down stairs, and emergency room doctors said a number of the injured would have died without treatment. Television crews arriving on the scene later filmed pools of blood and teeth knocked out during the raid.

At least two dozen [students] were hospitalized.
[from The New York Times, August 8, 2000]]

When police brutality against protesters occurs in the "heat of battle" -- during the actual demonstration when emotions are high -- the police often use the excuse of having been provoked.

That excuse is not available in this Genoa raid. 

Moreover, while it turns out that these students were not -- as the police initially claimed -- of the anarchist, violent type, but belonged to the majority of peaceful demonstrators, even if these students had been anarchists, the police still would have had no right to brutalize them.

This police atrocity brings to mind the 1969 murder by the Chicago police of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton while he slept in bed. 

Thank goodness no one was killed in the Genoa raid, even though as indicated in the excerpts above, the police apparently inflicted wounds on a number of students that would have been fatal if left untreated.

There has been some of the usual official hand-wringing over the police action:

Spain's European Affairs Secretary, Ramon de Miguel, called the scenes a replay of fascism.  Hans- Christian Ströbele, a European deputy from Germany, said the Genoa police reminded him of "the military dictatorship in Argentina."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Bush administration has not joined in the outcry:

[One U.S. demonstrator's] family has complained that the United States government has not done nearly enough in speaking out against what went on.

"The U.S. is conspicuous by its absence in the list of nations that have protested to the Italian government over the imprisonment and the behavior of the Italian police in their handling of the protests in Genoa," her father... said in a message on the family's web site.

A spokesman for the American Consulate in Milan said, "We're doing all we can."

I'm sure they're doing all they can.  All they can to refrain from gloating in public about the brutality against the demonstrators.

If you challenge the powers that be in a serious way, the message of the police action seems to be, you're going to suffer dire consequences.  One must expect that would be the case most of all when you challenge the people who own and control the world.

August 9, 2001   9:35 p.m.  -- The Colombian government has just broken off peace talks with the second largest rebel group in that country.  According to the newspaper account, the U.S. State Department supported this move.  A better wording would likely be "ordered" this move. The U.S. has pumped over a billion dollars into Colombia, including a huge amount of military aid.  As in the past, the infinitely powerful Northern uncle calls the shots.

Equally alarming is the report yesterday that an ultra-violent right-wing paramilitary force, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia:

  • numbers 8,000 men
  • is extremely well-financed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, by donations from large landowners, ranchers, industrialists and financiers
  • enjoys the collaboration of certain military units
  • has killed nearly 1,300 people this year, including trade unionists, peasant leaders and human rights workers. 

According to the Colombian Attorney General, the Self-Defense Forces are waging "a war without quarter against the Colombian left."

Supposedly, "alarmed officials in Washington" are pressuring Colombia president Andrés Pastrana to dismantle the organization.  Sure.  How much would anyone like to wager that the U.S. military/CIA/NSA  is deeply involved in the activities of these paramilitary killers?

Indeed, we have here in Colombia a Contras-type terrorist organization.  Just like the Contras, the Self-Defense Forces earns huge sums from the cocaine trade.  And, of course, just like the Contras were fighting to restore the Somocista oligarchy in Nicaragua, the Self-Defense Forces are fighting to maintain the privilege and extreme wealth enjoyed by the Colombian elite at the expense of the impoverished citizens of that country. 

I earlier wrote about how Coca-Cola and some of its bottlers in Colombia have been accused of utilizing right-wing  paramilitary groups to intimidate and assassinate labor organizers.  I discussed elsewhere how the Bush administration has "re-hired" hard-line Reagan-era diplomats like Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte and Otto Reich, and has set up a well-funded effort to interfere in Nicaragua's upcoming presidential elections.

Doesn't this all sound nauseatingly familiar? 

Despite the end of the Cold War, the United States is continuing its murderous ways in Central and South America.  Our southern neighbors have a saying, "so far from God, so close to the United States."  All I can say is, God help the suffering poor in Central and South America.

August 8, 2001   9:00 p.m.  -- The front page lead story in The New York Times the other day was headlined  "Census Data Show A Sharp Increase in Living Standard."  This seems to be one of the least justified headlines in recent memory.

The evidence the article gives for a "sharp increase in living standard"  basically boils down to:

  • more high school and college graduates
  • more people owning cars, with 18% owning three or more
  • bigger homes, with a "slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or more
  • growing family incomes

More high school and college graduates: What does this have to do with standard of living?  Perhaps the assumption is that more well-educated means higher income.  The article doesn't give any data about this.

More people owning cars, with 18% owning three or more: The article doesn't tell us if the increase in the number of people owning cars is "sharply" higher or just a bit more.  18% owning three or more cars fits in with the proposition that those in the top income brackets are doing far better proportionately than the rest of the country, not with the proposition that there is a broad-based "sharp increase in living standard."

Bigger homes, with a "slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or more: How much bigger, and whose homes?

Growing family incomes: Adjusted for inflation?  Growing how much? Spread throughout the population, or only in the upper income brackets? The result of more and more families with two or more parents/others working?  The result of working many more hours?  The article doesn't give us a clue.

You may well be thinking of a host of other measurements that go into "standard of living" which the article doesn't touch upon, such as access to decent health care, the quality of housing, how clean is the air and water...

Beyond the fact the the article's headline is not borne out by the article itself, isn't it the case that many Americans feel they are working harder than ever and have less to show for it?

If The New York Times was a Republican-oriented newspaper, I'd just assume the publication was engaging in some pro-Bush spinning.  But since the newspaper is traditionally Democratic-leaning, the headline is quite puzzling.

August 7, 2001   9:05 p.m.  -- If you grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, or if you've studied that era, you know that the political spectrum has shifted rightward a great deal since then.  Bill Clinton and others from the Democratic Leadership Council segment of the Democratic Party -- because of the policies they espouse -- would have been "Rockefeller Republicans" back then. 

This rightward shift has meant that those of us with a progressive bent have been increasingly marginalized during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush Republocrat administration of the past 20 years.  How ridiculously far this process has taken us is deliciously illustrated by the inimitable Tom Tomorrow in "Are You a Left Wing Wacko."

August 6, 2001   8:45 p.m.  -- Have you ever seen one of these self-consciously amusing signs posted where there are animals on display?

Abuse, aggravate, agitate, alarm, anger, annoy, badger, beset, bother, bullyrag, disquiet, distress, disturb, exasperate, fluster, frighten, frustrate, goad, harass, harm, harry, hassle, heckle, hound, hurt, intimidate, irritate, jeer, maltreat, molest, nettle, persecute, perturb, pester, plague, provoke, rattle, ruffle, scare, shock, tantalize, tease, torment, torture, tousle, upset, vex or worry

While the sign is probably meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, I took a moment and thought about each admonition.  Even without having been a pet owner, I can readily imagine the applicability of each of those verbs to a non-human creature; in other words, animals can experience all of these emotions.

Go back and read the sign again.  Isn't what I just wrote true?

How can some people maintain that animals are some sort of automatons, which we should feel free to imprison, experiment on or kill for food as we see fit?

August 5, 2001  10:25 p.m.  -- In his "On the Contrary" column today in The New York Times, Daniel Akst makes an attempt to -- in his own words -- "figuratively" "crush" the anti-globalization protesters.  Akst utilizes a classic three-pronged strategy: make ad hominem attacks; set up and cut down straw men; and, finally, cast the villain as hero.

Ad hominem attacks: With sneering condescension, Akst starts off by labeling the protesters "ardent young people" living in the "balm of extended studies lasting well into adulthood," who "arrive by jet" (oh! the horror of that!) and throw "public tantrums."

What does this remind you of?  How about the catcalls to "Grow up" and "Get a job" hurled by construction workers at anti-Vietnam War protesters in the mid-1960's.  Akst's fancier words are no more valid a response to the Genoa protesters than were the construction workers' catcalls back then. (And we all know how unwarranted those protests against the Vietnam War were!)

On a factual level, Akst paints all the protesters with the same broad brush, one applicable, if at all, only to the violent anarchists who the protest leaders themselves wish would go away.  Akst ignores the existence of a broad coalition of "adult" labor unions and human rights and environmental organizations, which comprise the leadership and vast majority of the protesters.

Cutting down straw men: Akst next opines that the protesters "have no coherent idea what they're after," "appear unable to even articulate" an economic vision, and "appear to be against the only thing giving the world's poorest nations any hope at all: continued global economic growth."

Perhaps Akst didn't do his homework?  Perhaps Akst formed his opinions of the protesters' goals by listening to 20-second sound bites from CNN?

If Akst had bothered to consult the web sites of any of the organizers of the demonstrations -- for example, the Fifty Years is Enough campaign -- he could have quite easily found out the protesters' goals.  Simply put, the protesters want internationally what most people want within their own country: an open, inclusive and democratic decision-making process; economic fairness for all segments of the population; and protection of the environment.

Moreover, by doing a bit of research, Akst  would have realized that the media-christened term "anti-globalization protesters" must be seen as shorthand. No rational person doubts that the world will become increasingly integrated. These groups make it perfectly clear that they are not trying to stop the process of globalization. They make it perfectly clear that they are not against global economic growth. 

What they are against is the globalization process as presently constituted.  What they are for is a process of globalization and economic growth which adheres to the aforesaid principles.

The Villain as Hero: Finally, Akst writes of the protesters that "their ideas are a threat to the very people they seem bent on helping."  It is not the protesters, Akst would have us believe, but rather the G8 nations whose "economic infinitely more plausible and more humane."

Permit me to be a bit skeptical.  Aren't the G8 nations the same folks who imposed upon the world 500 years of slavery and colonialism?  Didn't the formal end of colonialism (if not the lasting effects) come just 40 years ago?  And now these same folks have suddenly decided to reverse course 180 degrees and implement a global economic structure that will help the former colonies and slaves?  I don't think so.

Even more bizarrely, Akst criticizes the system of "huge foreign loans" that was part of a "litany of failures."  But who devised that system of "huge foreign loans?"  None other than the G8 nations after World War II.  This system has led since then to an ever-increasing inequality of wealth and income between the G8 nations and the Third World.

Does he really think that the intention of the G8 nations is to now decrease their share of income and wealth in the world?

Akst's attempted counter-argument would be the "global economic growth" he offers as the answer to the world's suffering poor.  This is, of course, the "rising tide lifts all boats" concept.  Well, Reagan's failed policies showed trickle-down economics wouldn't work domestically in the U.S., and there is no reason to suppose it would work internationally.  Quite the contrary.  The inequality of wealth and income in the United States has vastly increased since 1980.

Of course, even if a rising tide would lift all boats, that wouldn't be the case if the owners of the yachts were surreptitiously blasting underwater holes in the hulls of the smaller boats.  That is exactly what the protesters fear is happening behind the closed doors of Genoa and other such locations.

Akst's column claims it "tilts at conventional business wisdom."  Not in his column today.  He simply repeats the long-established talking points of those who own and control the world's wealth.

August 4, 2001
  9:30 p.m.  --
As discussed yesterday, Joe Lieberman shamelessly attempted to ingratiate himself with Bill O'Reilly the other day when Lieberman appeared on O'Reilly's cable talk show. Yet there's something even more objectionable about Lieberman's appearance.

O'Reilly was at one point criticizing Lieberman's contention that in addition to people who paid income taxes, people who paid payroll taxes should also have been sent the recent tax "rebates."

O'REILLY: [Y]ou would be taking money away from other people to give them money because they didn't pay tax in the first place.

And that's the redistribution of income that many working Americans don't like the Democrats for.

LIEBERMAN: Yeah, no. We always say, I said it last week at a Democratic Leadership Council meeting, we're not for redistribution of income. We want to grow the economy.

The dreaded "redistribution of income."  Let's call it ROI.

Any economic system that is not totally static winds up redistributing the relative proportion of income and wealth that different segments of the population enjoy.  Even when the economy grows.  The question is, from whom -- and to whom -- will the money flow.

Lieberman and his ilk who condemn ROI use that term to mean a money flow from the middle class and/or the rich, to the poor.  O'Reilly says "working Americans" don't like it, with the assumption that the ROI is from them to those who don't work.

But that's not what has ever happened, certainly not in the last few decades.  In other words, what about ROI the other way, from the poor and/or the middle class, to the rich?

Any economic system designed by the wealthy will be set up to transfer an increasingly higher percentage of income and wealth from all others to them.  That's how the wealthy became so, and they certainly aim to continue that process. That's human nature.

And that's exactly what has been happening:

[O]ur economy has been getting increasingly unequal. Whether measured by wages, income or wealth, for 25 years the share of the privileged has increased, and everyone else (a roughly 80 percent majority) has become relatively worse off. [from United for a Fair Economy]

In future days I'll present some numbers illustrating this outrageous ongoing process. 

For now, however, let's open our eyes and understand that when those like Lieberman and O'Reilly express their opposition to ROI, they are really only opposing ROI that would come from the rich and go to the middle class and the poor.  They are quite happy with ROI in the other direction -- from the poor and the middle class to the rich -- which is precisely what has been happening, and which is a subject that Lieberman, O'Reilly et would make verboten.

August 3, 2001
  8:15 p.m.  -- 
Joe "The Pious Prude" Lieberman guaranteed his place in the Ass-Kisser's Hall of Fame with his performance yesterday on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News talk show "The O'Reilly Factor."   As you read these bits of the transcript, keep two things in mind:

First, these written transcript excerpts can't even begin to convey Lieberman's fawning tone.  If these excerpts were dialogue in a screenplay, each of Lieberman's subsequent lines would have the stage directions "(obsequiously)", "(more obsequiously)", and "(even more obsequiously)."

Second, this conversation took place in the face of O'Reilly's usual overbearing, pompous egomania, which Lieberman was so clearly eager to feed.

Now the excerpts:

A harbinger of things to come...

O'REILLY: So, Senator Lieberman, welcome to THE O'REILLY FACTOR. [sarcastically] I'm glad you finally made it here.


Lieberman works in a congratulations to O'Reilly for how well his program is doing in the face of stiff competition:

LIEBERMAN: That's the problem... [W]e say to them, you used to have a code of conduct in movies, television.

You drew the lines on which you would compete so you wouldn't go down into the gutter. Why don't you do it again?

O'REILLY: No, they can't because there's too much competition now. The industries are wide open. There's too much competition to get the eyeballs...

LIEBERMAN: You're doing OK.

O'REILLY: Yeah, we're doing fine.

Lieberman's "shocked, shocked" that he had been invited on the program and didn't know about it:

O'REILLY: And that brings me to my other question. You guys, Gore and you, you'd be sitting in the White House right now... if you'd come on THE FACTOR. Now...


O'REILLY: ... no, you would have, and here's why.


O'REILLY: We had so -- we have a very large audience in Florida. And many of those people are independents or libertarians, a lot of people.

And you guys flat out would not come on this program. We were stunned.

LIEBERMAN: Seriously? Seriously?

O'REILLY: We were stunned.

LIEBERMAN: I've got to tell you the truth. I never knew that I was invited.

He likes Bill, he really, really likes him, and he'll certainly keep coming back:

O'REILLY: Oh, come on. Then fire your whole staff because we kept calling and calling and calling, and the Gore guys not only would they say no, he's not going to come on, they'd say, "We hate you, we hate you," because they thought were rooting for Bush, you know.

LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Well, I like your show and I like you. And, you know, I'll keep coming on, because (INAUDIBLE)...

Again, he's glad he came on the show, in fact so glad, he jokes maybe he should use O'Reilly as a consultant:

O'REILLY: Listen, Hillary Clinton is going to run for president. Did you know that?

LIEBERMAN: No, I hadn't heard that.

O'REILLY: Oh, yeah. She's been sneaking over to Iowa... and she didn't think that we knew. But we do know.

And she's been having her caucus groups like this. And she says she's not going to run, but she's running. Now...

LIEBERMAN: All right, I'm glad I came on the show.

O'REILLY: Would you run against her? Could you see that, can you envision that?

LIEBERMAN: Oh, look, it's early, a lot closer to 2000 than 2004... I'm keeping the doors open.

O'REILLY: Yeah, but she's raising all kinds of money with Hill PAC and she's going out to Iowa, I know it's early, but if you don't get on the stick, she's going to have a big advantage.

LIEBERMAN: All right, maybe we should consult. You can give me some advice on this.

And a parting kiss-up to O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: Hey, good to see you. You're welcome anytime. You tell that Al Gore I'm looking for him too.

LIEBERMAN: All right. We've been trying to figure out why we didn't do better in Florida. And now I know why.

O'REILLY: Now you know. OK, nice to see you, Senator.

O'Reilly is by now grinning ear to ear, even more pleased with himself than usual.

It's understandable that Lieberman would like access to the eyes and ears of O'Reilly's one million viewers, but have you no shame, Joe?  It was embarrassing to watch.

Please, Joe, do your most obsequious ass-kissing in private.

[other Fox-related articles about: O'Reilly; Hannity]

August 2, 2001
  9:15 p.m.  --
The level of U.S. interference in the upcoming Nicaraguan presidential election is much worse that I previously thought. 

I wrote a week ago that based on the differential in population size between the United States and Nicaragua, the $5.6 million earmarked by the U.S. State Department to "assist" in the Nicaraguan presidential election is the equivalent of a foreign country spending over $356 million to "assist" in a U.S. presidential election.

However, there is not just a big difference in population between the two nations.  The United States is incredibly wealthy, and Nicaragua is horribly impoverished, one of the poorest nations on earth.

In 1999 the U.S. Gross Domestic Product was $7.6 trillion, 525 times Nicaragua's GDP of $14.6 billion.

So in terms of the impact that spending $5.6 million in Nicaragua will have, that's the equivalent of a foreign country spending $2.9 billion to "assist" in a U.S. presidential election.

Everyone is well aware of the corrupting effect of money on U.S. politics.  Imagine how $2.9 billion would distort election results in this country.

It will be no less so in Nicaragua.  Since the United States makes it very clear which candidates it does and does not want to win in Nicaragua, the money we are spending there is likely to hinder, not advance, the cause of democracy.

[for more detailed info]     [to oppose U.S. intervention]

August 1, 2001
  9:35 p.m.  --
In its recent report detailing how Fox News is anything but "fair and balanced," the progressive media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting documented Bill O'Reilly's obsession with Jesse Jackson.  O'Reilly's The Factor program has run 56 negative segments on Jackson since late 1998.  This focus on Jackson goes deeper, however, than a personal fixation on O'Reilly's part.

Fox News seems to have undertaken a concerted, network-wide campaign to anoint new leaders of the African-American community, through a constant drumbeat of negative pieces on the established leaders, and the allocation of huge amounts of prime time exposure to the conservative African-American individuals Fox would prefer as replacements.

For example, "Does Jesse Jackson Represent the Whole African-American Community" was a major segment on Hannity & Colmes yesterday.  From that program you expect this sort of thing.

But even The Edge with Paula Zahn has been pressed into the service of this agenda, running a recent piece entitled "Is the NAACP Selling Out Black America?"

Self-proclaimed "leaders" of the African-American community such as the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of an organization called Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, and Kevin Martin of a group called Project 21, are repeatedly given an amount of airtime by Fox far out of proportion to their positions, if such exist at all, as African-American leaders.

Fox allies like the ultra-conservative get into the act also, running "stories" like "Civil Rights Leader Questions NAACP's Legitimacy." And who is that "civil rights leader"?  You guessed it, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.

Interestingly, Fox also gives airtime to spokesmen for the New Black Panther Party, from the opposite end of the political spectrum as Martin and Rev. Peterson, but still highly critical of the established African-American leadership.

One of the criticisms leveled by Martin and Rev. Peterson concerns the close relationship of the established African-American leadership to the Democratic Party.  It doesn't take a genius to point out that 90% of African-Americans voted for Gore.  Clinton was, and still is, wildly popular in the African-American community.  Any close relationship would seem to be called for, not something to criticize.

Another constant refrain is that when Jesse Jackson threatens to lead boycotts of companies which refuse to end unfair racial practices, he's engaging in "shakedowns" and "extortion."  These Fox-selected African-American "leaders" don't explain how what Jackson is doing is any different than what advocacy groups on both the Right and the Left have done for decades in their respective efforts to correct what they see as corporate misbehavior.

Fox News is owned by ultra-conservative, Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch.  I can't recall seeing a single African-American host or news anchor on Fox News.  (Come to think of it, I can't even recall seeing an African-American reporter, although I may have missed one.)  It thus seems doubtful that Fox has its finger on some significant current in the African-American community that the rest of the media have missed.

This whole effort by Fox is just one more example of its "unfair and unbalanced" reporting.


the Rational Radical: Spit Drool Pablum: George Bush Needs to Get Tested!
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