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American Fall: Rise up, our emerging band

By Steve Klinger

When the protesters are streaked with gray, they say they’re too old to be taken seriously. When they wave signs for peace, they’re called naïve or treasonous. And now that the left, for the first time since the Vietnam generation, has significant numbers of young people “occupying” Wall Street and its proxies in cities across the country, they call them rag-tag and un-serious.

Older liberals are even more cynical, intoning that nothing, absolutely nothing,  will happen unless there are full-out riots, and then they’ll just get their heads cracked open. Mitt Romney calls the situation dangerous, invoking “class warfare.”

But after three weeks and counting, even the stodgy news anchors with their striped ties are grudgingly beginning to take notice of this phenomenon, which has spread to such unlikely places as Wichita, Kansas. Obama himself observed that the protesters have a valid argument or two, given the unrelenting greed of those who have literally capitalized on the nation’s economic misfortunes. It remains to be seen if the Great Conciliator will use this last chance to reconnect with his populist roots and dust off his campaign rhetoric of hope and change, or if he’ll retreat in some pivotal moment-to-come and cast his lot irrevocably with the fat-cat bankers.

In the downtrodden and disillusioned circles of progressives who have seen their modest gains of many decades battered by the virulent onslaught of the plutocrat-backed Tea Party, by the sweeping reactionary tide abetted by Koch Industries and ALEC, a few voices are beginning to whisper: Could it be, might it be, is there any way, by any stretch it could be, can we dare say we are on the cusp of the counterpoint to Arab Spring: American Fall, both seasonal and empirical?

To which I’d say it looks from here like it could have a fighting chance, despite the lack of a cohesive list of demands, despite the absence of top-down organizational origins—or maybe because of these lacks, for the very reason that the spontaneous inception of this movement had to arise in its own good time, on the very social media that were criticized for addicting and distracting this country’s youth from any useful purpose whatsoever.

The need was stronger, the greed perhaps more blatant in Egypt and Libya and Syria, but the hard times are percolating through the towns and villages of this teetering nation now, and maybe, just maybe, the 99 percent can be awakened to demand the change that only numbers, accompanied by great resolve and youthful enthusiasm, can produce.

Now even MoveOn.org and organized labor are climbing on the bandwagon, and soon a few more prominent mainstream Democrats will forget their invertebrate nature and lavish timid praise on the Occupiers—until some untoward act or comment sends them slithering back into gelatinous retreat.  But true leadership may yet emerge from the ranks of the acolytes themselves—or the weathered activists who have been scouring a somnolent landscape in search of them.

What they will do if and when their ranks swell and the entire nation takes notice I can’t answer, since the solution seems so far-removed from the government that let the problem fester and itself became the problem. Whether the 99 percent will rise up successfully—or at all—I can’t predict, nor whether such an uprising would restore our democracy or rather usher in a disastrous authoritarian retaliation that would doom it. But from here, it seems damn well worth the effort, and I’m going with that demographic that has its own future at stake, and I’m hoping we’ve underestimated them, because they, if anyone must lead the charge.

Rise up, our emerging band.
Rise up and make your stand.

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But thanks for the e-mail anyway, Barry

By Thomas Wark

 

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Pres:

Thanks for the recent e-mail about your 2012 campaign, which mentioned my financial and other support of your election in 2008, and requested that I redouble my efforts on your behalf this time around.

Unfortunately, I cannot do that.

You wrote:

We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily. It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we’ve made — and make more — we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.

A quick review of the progress you’ve made turns up:

* continuation of the wars we elected you to end and the addition of a new one, initiated with the same kind of subterfuge and deception your predecessor used before invading Iraq. (A shady deal with Saudi Arabia to look the other way if it invaded Bahrain, provided the Saudis would muscle their Arab League cronies to support a bid for a UN “no-fly zone” over Libya.  For shame!)

* continuation of, and then worsening of, your predecessor’s denial of constitutional rights to citizens illegally detained at Guantanamo.

* continuation of your predecessor’s illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens under the unconstitutional so-called Patriot Act.

* strengthening the corporate hold on all branches of government, until the last faint ember of democracy flickers and dies.

* total cave-in to a Congressional minority on health care, the economy and unemployment.

* summoning John Boehner to the White House, presumably to sell out to Tea Pot Republicans on funding for social services in order to pay for the sins of the filthy rich bankers who are raking in record bonuses on Wall Street since you bailed them out of a crisis of their own making.

Barry, old buddy, I fell for your eloquent line of bovine excrement once.

As your predecessor once tried to say, but typically messed up, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

My conscience will not permit me to support your re-election.

 

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Stand with Bernie!

By Steve Klinger

When Barack Obama said at a meeting with GOP leaders last week he hadn’t done enough to reach out to Republicans in his first two years, after I cleaned up at the sink I had to invoke the words of Barney Frank and wonder — Mr. President, on which planet do you spend most of your time?

Then I figured out he was just laying the ground work for the mother of all “compromises, ” a capitulation on his campaign promise to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

It even came with a preamble, chastising his critics before their lips could mouth a protest: “Sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do, ” he said on Monday. “The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. ”

On Tuesday, he poured salt in the wound, slamming the left wing of his own party, calling some Democrats “sanctimonious” for standing on principle, and whining that “this is the public option debate all over again. ”

Obama didn’t spare Republicans in his invective, comparing them to hostage-takers, but he carried the metaphor to regrettable lengths, contending that the temptation to resist hostage-takers fades when the hostages are in harm’s way. Al Qaeda will remember that one.

In selling the middle class down the river with his deal, even as he purported to act in its interest, Obama managed to redefine compromise itself. This isn’t compromise, it’s appeasement. It’s not deal-making but capitulation. You can’t compromise when you cede the ground before you try to draw the boundaries. You can’t make deals with bullies. You can’t offer concessions to power-hungry sociopaths. You can’t play Neville Chamberlain to Hitler. Well, of course you can, but when you finally realize you’d better draw a line in the sand you’re six feet under water.

The deal Obama swallowed was nothing less than Republican blackmail, with a dash of high fructose corn syrup for sweetening: The lockstep, hardass right, which wouldn’t budge on blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, which wouldn’t allow a vote on the Start Treaty, which refused to support protecting middle-income tax payers from the sunset of the Bush bill, got the president not only to blink once again but to take an infuriating swipe at his own political base. He’d extend the tax cuts across the board for two years and they’d extend unemployment benefits for 13 months. A temporary 2 percent cut in Social Security taxes could allow Obama to claim he was stimulating the economy, but even worse than the protected tax cut for the wealthy was a sweetheart throw-in on estate taxes that will help all of 39,000 American families at the top of the food chain while increasing the deficit by $25 billion.

As usual, Bernie Sanders told it like it is, vowing to fight the tax bill in any way he could and giving yet another speech that Obama, if he had any cojones, should have been giving. Sanders called the deal “a moral outrage, ” rightly noting it’s just the beginning of the right-wing agenda:

“In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else that the Republicans would deny extended unemployment benefits to 2 million workers who are desperately struggling to pay their bills and maintain their dignity. It is also beyond comprehension that the Republicans would hold hostage the entire middle class of this country so that millionaires and billionaires would receive huge tax breaks. In my view, that is not what this country is about and it is not what the American people want to see. Our job is to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy and increase the national debt that our children and grandchildren would have to pay.

“The immediate political task in front of us is to rally the American people so that in the next several weeks we can find at least a few Republicans who will join us in saying no to increasing the deficit by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and no to holding the unemployed and the middle class hostage.

“I believe that we have the American people on our side on this issue. My office, and I come from a small state, has received more than 600 calls today, 99 percent of them in opposition to this so-called compromise that the president negotiated with the Republicans.

“I will do everything in my power to stand up for the American middle class and defeat this agreement.”

The real problem, as Sanders noted while Obama turned a blind eye, is that the tax deal will cause the deficit to balloon even further, so Republicans can come back in two years and cry oh, my goodness, this isn’t working and spending must be cut. Now just what spending do you think these bastards will want to cut: the defense budget — or education, Social Security and Medicare?

Obama was also wrong that the American people don’t want to draw a line in the sand and pitch a fight over the Bush tax cuts. Even Blue Dog Democrats in the House were outraged by the deal being floated, and early indications are that VP Joe Biden has some serious ‘splainin’ to do to get enough support to pass a bill anything like what Obama proposed.

And Sanders, all by himself, can filibuster in the Senate and stall any action in the upper chamber, which I hope he does, and which Americans of conscience from both parties and beyond should urge him to do, if it comes to that.

As for Obama, it is still unfathomable how a man of his intelligence and learning can persist in his self-deluded rationale of “compromise” with the very devils who have made it plain they want to make the country ungovernable for him, and in fact will bring government to a halt in the spring, when by law the national debt must be reauthorized.

Meanwhile Obama, playing right into their hands, is succeeding in splintering the Democratic Party, very likely drawing a primary challenge that will lead to a GOP victory in 2012, but much worse than that an ongoing and vicious bloodletting of middle-class America. At a time when the income gap in this country is shattering records and Republicans, with just enough help from Republican-lite Democrats, are obstructing every measure to help Main Street survive the rapaciousness of Wall Street, Obama refuses to lead, refuses to listen, refuses to acknowledge (in Paul Krugman’s words) the “kick me” sign on his back – while accusing those of us with a conscience and a backbone of ignoring reality.

Irony is so amusing if it’s not accompanied by pain and suffering.

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Speaking power to truthiness

By Steve Klinger

I went easy last night, but after watching the post-mortem coverage this morning it’s time to take the gloves off.

So the Democrats (and Obama) lost yesterday because they were out of touch, they weren’t getting the message, the deficit was getting too big, too much government spending on the stimulus, too much attention to health care reform, the president didn’t “feel the pain”?

Obama, of course, has to buy into that crap for fear of alienating voters even further and providing new socialist grist for the right-wing propaganda mills. He can’t very well be defiant the day after such a “shellacking” and say his task was near-impossible and the best way forward would have been the strength of an FDR-style public works initiative and complete financial overhaul. Leadership instead of naïve compromise in the guise of pragmatism. He can’t publicly call the Republicans obstructionists fresh on the heels of their sweeping victory.

The media, of course, don’t even raise the question of whether the Democrats didn’t go far enough. They not only buy into the shallow mainstream post-election analysis—they propagate it.

But what really happened is this: The big money in this country, the shadow elites who run everything, got the voters to go through another charade, this time reacting to all the red-herring hot-button issues like the deficit (which mattered not when Bush was running it up in Iraq) and the mandate of compulsory health insurance (which has existed for decades with income tax, property tax and auto insurance) and persuading the voters to inhabit the elite-fueled populist movement they created (the Tea Party) that revived the culture wars of the 1960s and ‘70s.

The media led the charge, not so much because the rank and file are right-wing (Fox and a few others excepted) but because a dumbed-down America responds best to idiotic sensationalism, and what passes for journalism today is the exploitation of whatever makes the media cash registers go ka-ching (or its digital equivalent).  So instead of substance and logic on whose policies brought us to the brink of another Great Depression, we get Palin’s bluster and O’Donnell’s blather and the G.O.P.’s self-fulfilling prophecy that the Democrats would preside over economic stagnation.

Sprinkle in $4 billion (that’s billion with a b) for this midterm campaign, the great preponderance of it supporting Republicans and smearing Democrats (and blatantly targeted at troublemakers like Russ Feingold) and now you tell me the voters have spoken because the Democrats went too far to the left?

Jon Stewart was dead right about the media – up to a point, because the answer isn’t self-imposed restraint of principle, it’s restraint of self-indulgence.  But that’s what happens when an empire crumbles: All its institutions start to self-destruct, like a body undergoing massive organ failure.

So what big money and backroom power have orchestrated – and the Democrats/Obama were too lily-livered to resist – gets blamed on their “overreaching,” and people of intelligence are supposed to swallow that and express their humble appreciation? Of course people of intelligence and principle (that rarest of modern combinations) are so marginalized that the Macchiavellian shot-callers shrewdly ignore them.

And things will have to get a whole lot worse before the pendulum swings back to the left – if indeed it can, now that we have an activist Supreme Court that opened the corporate money floodgates with Citizens United.

Obama may be optimistic about the underlying decency of the American people – their kindness, their sacrifice, their resiliency. But that optimism ignores their stupidity and their atavism in times of hardship.  And it turns a blind eye to those who manipulate them. I guess that was part of the deal, because no one gets to the Oval Office who doesn’t play by the rules, the first of which is never to acknowledge where the true power in this country resides.

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Missile Defense: The Other Story

By Bruce Gagnon


Yesterday we witnessed a flurry of emails and articles proclaiming victory after President Obama’s announcement that he was going to scrap George W. Bush’s plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.  There is no doubt that our peace activist friends in those two countries do indeed have reason to celebrate after their hard and determined work to stop those deployments.  We also need to recognize and thank the many people around the world who acted in solidarity with them during these past couple years of intensive campaigning.

But now that we’ve had a day to rejoice, the time has come for more reflection on what the Obama administration intends to do next.  I’ve quickly learned during these eight months of watching Obama in action that when he gives something with one hand it is wise to watch what his other hand is taking away.

In his September 17 speech Obama stated that his new missile defense architecture for Europe would be more “comprehensive than the previous [Bush] program” and would be “enhanced” by NATO involvement.

Secretary of War Robert Gates was left to explain the details of the new missile defense “architecture” that would replace the now rejected deployment plan for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gates stated that he was the one who had proposed three years ago to deploy the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He concluded that the original plan was no longer the best military “architecture” for the current “threat” from Iran.  Thus instead of missile defense interceptors that would target offending missiles in their mid-course of flight, and that had a series of bad test results, the Pentagon now wanted to deploy in northern and southern Europe missile defense systems that had a proven testing record and were more appropriate for the kind of threat now expected from Iran.

The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected,” Gates said. “This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies.”

Gates continued, “We now have proven capabilities to intercept these [short range] ballistic missiles with land and sea-based interceptors supported by much improved sensors.  This allows us to deploy a distributed sensor network rather than a single-fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic.”

US Navy Aegis destroyers, outfitted with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missile defense interceptors, would “provide flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another,” Gates said.  In years to come the SM-3 will be upgraded and be deployed throughout Europe as land-based systems as well.  Since 2007 the SM-3 has had eight successful tests, including the February of 2008 shoot-down of a falling military satellite with an SM-3 missile from an Aegis ship in what many saw as proof that these systems also had “anti-satellite” weapons capability.

You can watch brief video clips of Gates at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vBF0OJskbY&amp;feature=player_embedded>  and Obama at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx-nLJSkJgA&amp;feature=player_embedded>  from yesterday.

The Russians first reaction was positive, as would be expected, since they were deeply concerned that the Poland and Czech deployments could be used by the US as the shield in a first-strike attack.  But their concerns have not completely disappeared.

The Washington Post  <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/17/AR2009091700639.html?hpid=topnews&amp;sid=ST2009091701841> reported today that Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, former chief of the Russian military’s main research institute for nuclear strategy, cautioned that the reconfigured U.S. system could still pose a threat to Russia. “Everything depends on the scale of such a system,” he told the Interfax news agency. “If it comprises a multitude of facilities, including a space echelon, it may threaten the Russian potential of nuclear deterrence.”

As described by Gates and his top generals, Obama’s new missile defense plan will unfold in three stages. By 2011, the Pentagon will deploy Navy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors in the eastern Mediterranean.

A second phase in about 2015 will field an upgraded, land-based SM-3 in allied countries, and discussions are underway with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing the missiles in their territory, Gates said. In 2018, the third phase will deploy a larger and more capable missile, which will allow the system to protect Europe and the United States against short- and intermediate-range rockets and, eventually, intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Bloomberg News  <http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&amp;sid=aXU5ox7TB9i8> reports that, “This shift clearly benefits Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and is negative” for Boeing.  “The move away from fixed missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe is a continuation of the more flexible, tactical missile-defense shield that Secretary Gates advocated,” said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Inc. in New York.

The Pentagon’s 2010 budget seeks 250 Standard Missile-3 interceptors. It also seeks to increase to 27 from 21 the number of warships equipped to
launch the Standard Missile-3s and requests $1.6 billion to develop software and hardware to upgrade ships and to develop a ground-based model.

The Pentagon is also now promising Poland that Patriot missiles will still be deployed in that country as previously planned.

So in the end I see this as an adjustment in strategy due to technology as much as anything.  The flexible, more mobile, short range missile defense systems are proving ready to go while the former Bush proposal for Poland and Czech Republic included technologies that are not yet proven.

Obama can appear to be stepping back from an immediate confrontation with Russia but in fact he is following the lead of the Pentagon who for some time has been saying that they must move to expand the more promising Navy Aegis-based missile defense system.  This program has already been dramatically growing in the Asian-Pacific region and will now be slated for expanded European operations.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011

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Obama must be pressured to separate principle from expediency

By Steve Klinger

One hundred and twenty days into his first term as president, Barack Obama has galvanized opposition from both the left and the right, though his personal popularity and favorable opinion ratings remain very high. Where George Bush was the cowboy sheriff, firing from the hip with a snort and a smirk, Obama is the lawyerly professor, gathering input, offering compromise, explaining his practical, non-ideological approach in speeches, town hall meetings and press conferences.

Yet for all his promise of change and his rhetoric of inclusion and transparency, the policies emerging from the early days of the Obama administration are frustrating to progressives, and some bear disturbing parallels to the administration he loves to repudiate. Maybe it’s the all-powerful shadow government calling the shots, or maybe there’s some truth in the adage that the ultimate responsibility of the office has a sobering effect on the idealism of former presidential candidates. Or maybe Obama’s idealism needs a jump start after four months of shock and awe from dealing with the nightmare he inherited.

We can of course disregard the hysteria from the right, labeling Obama by turns a socialist, a tyrant, a spineless wimp and the anti-Christ incarnate. That was inevitable, and Obama was foolish to extend an olive branch to the ideologues who continue to march in lock step, even now as a shrinking, obstructionist minority. (Message to red states: If at first you don’t secede, try, try again. We’ll help you pack your bags!)

But from the left the criticism of Obama has been both valid and at times unfair.

Despite Obama’s rejection of extreme interrogation methods, and especially waterboarding, he has shown no interest in a thorough investigation and even a nonpartisan prosecution of the policy-makers. How can torture be totally wrong and yet legally forgivable?

Obama has been steadfast in his determination to bring health care reform to Americans, a welcome and long-overdue approach, yet he refuses to seriously consider a single-payer system, which is the only avenue that will reduce medical costs in an environment of social justice.

Obama has condemned the greed and moral depravity of Wall Street, yet his bailout programs and stimulus initiatives put far too much money in the hands of those who created the problems and not enough in the hands of those who need immediate relief. His version of Roosevelt’s New Deal is a pale impostor, with trickle-down capitalism instead of massive public works projects, and his key economic appointment, Timothy Geithner, seems unable to think outside of the rarified box in which he was incubated.

These are all valid concerns heard from the left and issues for which Obama’s feet must be held to the fire. As he himself noted, it’s not enough to vote for change; each of us must embody it and pressure those at the top, starting from the grassroots level. And as Howard Zinn so pointedly observed (http://www.progressive.org/zinn0509.html), Obama is above all a politician; he will take the path of compromise and triangulation unless he is pressured to do otherwise.

Obama is beholden to the rules of the game in Washington, which quite simply boils down to the prevailing power of money. As long as corporate interests finance Congressional and presidential campaigns, issues like meaningful gun control (the assault weapons pouring into Mexico) and single-payer health care are off the table. Could Obama spend his political capital and force the issue: probably, but he doesn’t want to take on a battle he thinks he’ll lose, so it’s up to citizens like us to choose our issues and force his hand.

National security/foreign policy is a more complex area to evaluate because so much information is classified or filtered through partisan prisms and therefore much harder to evaluate. But reversing course on military tribunals, while it may be repugnant in principle, is not a decision I take issue with, as long as at least some basic human rights are respected. The problem is that some terrorists we have tortured in the Bush-Cheney era and hardened into mortal enemies of our nation –even if they were not so to begin with – cannot be set free, and other nations won’t take them. Guantánamo can and should be closed, but there is no way to provide civilian trials for some of its inmates (the “evidence” is either hearsay or inadmissible coerced confessions), and criticism of Obama’s response to an abominable situation he didn’t create strikes me as unfair. What would progressives do with the few dozen Gitmo detainees who can’t be tried, yet can’t be set free?

What troubles me more are Obama’s protectiveness of executive power (White House e-mails and guest logs, for example) in cases when transparency has no virtuous counter-argument, and a persistent, almost reflexive pragmatism when principles such as the constitutional duty to prosecute torturers are sacrificed to short-term political expediency. And sadly, if predictably, Obama has thus far embraced the culture of militarism and empire, with a little lip service to nuclear nonproliferation. What we need is a mindset of espousing alternatives to violence – a high bar indeed to set for a mainstream politician, but the only path to continued evolution of the human species.

If Obama is to make a difference it must be not with lofty rhetoric but with leading a government that actually protects and defends its neediest citizens from social and cultural evil, safeguarding them not only from foreign attack but from domestic predators of every stripe and from the self-serving instincts of their own leaders. That’s the Obama I voted for, and for that I will hold him accountable.

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You S’News, You Lose

By Steve Klinger

We just canceled our longstanding subscription to the Las Cruces Sun-News. This had been a long time brewing, and today we feel like liberated people.

A daily newspaper has been a long-engrained habit for my generation, but as much of the industry heads over the falls, it’s time for newspaper companies to do the only thing they have left (other than enhancing their online products), and that’s to try to salvage their remaining subscriber business by starting with a major mea culpa: They need to acknowledge they have been arrogant and complacent beyond all justification.

Yes, newspapers were pretty much the only game in town for certain types of news and advertising for about a century, but those days are about as dead as your 8-track tape player.

The service rep asked Kathy why we were canceling (a foolhardy question) and Kathy started to recite our litany of complaints:

1) The quality of the “journalism” has declined steadily, and it started from mediocrity
a) Lame, obvious, puff-piece “news” on the front page day after day, with recent lead stories ranging from Mother’s Day to Graduation to School’s Out, including a staged photo of LCPS students tossing their homework in the air in a recent edition
b) Ignoring or burying serious national and global news
c) Ignoring dissent such as anti-war protests, even at a time when hundreds of Las Cruces were marching through the streets
d) Constant rah-rah endorsement of military, veterans, local growth, the Spaceport, not only on news pages but in the self-serving propaganda pieces that masquerade as editorials
e) Non-existent copy editing, with so many typos, dropped stories and repeated stories that these “employees” would not have passed a high school English class back in the day

2) Utter lack of respect for readers and subscribers
a) Last week we got a Silver City edition delivered to our home in Las Cruces because apparently no one bothered to look at the front page before rolling it up and tossing it in our yard
b) The constantly shrinking page width, and the ridiculous 10-column classified and legal pages
c) This week, the point size of the type was reduced, without a word of explanation
d) Arrogant billing policies whereby our credit card has been automatically debited at six-month intervals without our consent (our own fault for not objecting immediately) so that we’re actually paying a higher rate for the “self-renewing” subscription we never ordered
e) Consolidation with the El Paso Times, which has resulted in pathetically early deadlines, a classified section made up mostly of El Paso ads, and a declining sense that the Sun-News is a local, Las Cruces publication. After shipping its press to Farmington and eliminating its Las Cruces copy desk, the latest move has been a near-complete style makeover that has left the paper looking just like the El Paso Times.

Kathy didn’t itemize quite all of the above, but she could have if the service rep had been interested in hearing more. We’re obviously not alone in rejecting this rag, as it’s clear that advertising has diminished along with news coverage, local classifieds and probably the number of subscriptions (we’d have to obtain an ABC audit to verify that, but I’m pretty confident).

The mainstream news media, and especially metro daily newspapers, are clearly an endangered species, thanks in part to the Internet; the trend in declining circulation and advertising has of course been exacerbated by the economy. But the years of inflated ad rates and an attitude that newspapers are above accountability and can put on a face of objectivity even as they further their own capitalistic agenda (promoting endless growth, militarism, insensitivity to social justice) has given us a media that does not serve the people. In hard times, the people will pull the plug, exactly as they are doing. And they won’t be plugging back in anytime soon.

It will be a shock to go cold turkey the first few days, but we’ll do more on-line reading, we’ll have less paper to deal with and our self-esteem will go up just from quitting that nasty, expensive Sun-News habit.

I believe in quality journalism. I’ve been influenced by it, I’ve taught it and I try to practice it. I believe there is still a place for printed newspapers, though mostly on the community level, where the local news coverage and commentary are less readily available by other means. Democracy needs the watchdog effort that newspapers and other media with integrity provide. You won’t find it in the Sun-News.

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Rich People: Shut Up Now

By Xandtrek

Rich people need to shut up now.

You rich people have been whining a lot lately about how Obama is going to create a vast socialist society that will threaten to make you less wealthy. Your right-wing nuts jobs are apoplectic: the President is going to redistribute the wealth from the rich to the poor. You are upset that you have to hide your jets and island paradises you purchased with our late fees and dead relatives who couldn’t afford your health care system. You are so persecuted. So what?

The opposite system has been in place for years. Wealth has been clearly and deliberately redistributed from the poor to the wealthy for over 30 years. Laws and policies have been written to promote this redistribution. Special interests and politicians have worked together to ensure that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

So shut up now. You people were not content to get rich – you had to rape and pillage to the point that you have destroyed the global economy, and possibly the earth as a viable planet for human beings.

Your ideas are failed and yet you still promote them as gospel. Some of your wealth did trickle down – in a very, very, grudgingly slow process. And most of us got left behind in your dust. And some boats floated up with you, but a bunch sank to the bottom where you couldn’t see, or didn’t want to see. Globalization means other countries need to pay really low wages to workers, get rid of unions, and accept debt that they can never pay off. I’m sure the world is thanking you now.

Even if you are a decent wealthy person, who worked hard for your money, gave a lot of it away for a tax deduction and an interview on Charlie Rose, and maybe you didn’t sell your soul — you shut up now too.

So you were born in the right time, at the right place, to the right parents, or you got really lucky, or God decided you should be richer than him, or you just lied and stole your way to your privileged position. Guess what? It’s not your time anymore and you need to SHUT UP because we want to hunt you down and take it all away from you. Sleep well.

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Waterboards for water pipes?

By Steve Klinger

Let’s see: What could South Carolina police charge Michael Phelps with in their endeavor to treat him just like anyone else who had his picture taken smoking marijuana from a bong?

Is there a law on the books against setting a bad example? How about a law against disappointing one’s cereal sponsors? Actually Phelps has already paid that penalty, but it’s of the economic variety, as in losing a very lucrative endorsement.

The Olympic swimming champ, perhaps the best athlete in the world, certainly the most successful amateur, has already apologized profusely and said his suspension from USA Swimming for three months is fair. But this evil must be rooted out at its core, so meanwhile, Columbia, SC police have arrested the two former renters of the house where the party was held and are trying to dig up information to use against Phelps in a criminal case.

It’s a good thing they’re ignoring Phelps’ celebrity status. I’m sure there are no crimes more serious for police to investigate in Columbia than getting your picture taken puffing on a bong. As one blogger wrote, he’s glad that even though he pulled a label off a mattress once in South Carolina he managed to get away with it.

So, what we have is a government that won’t decriminalize possession of marijuana and on the federal level won’t even sanction its use for medical purposes, and continues to alarm the citizenry about how dangerous and debilitative smoking pot can be, and now the moral pillars behind the War on Drugs must explain how it is that this guy smokes pot and yet he won more gold medals in an intensely physical sport than any Olympian who ever lived.

So punish him they must, if only so they can say to the kids, see what happens when you break the law? And meanwhile a president and his henchmen suffer no consequences for their high crimes and misdemeanors, and Wall Street bankers get rewarded for swindling investors, and a tax cheat becomes Treasury Secretary, and those who indulge in legal mood-altering substances like alcohol consider themselves morally superior to their lawbreaking pot-smoking brethren. And athletes like Alex Rodriguez, who used banned substances to destroy the game that enriched them, will mostly continue to make their millions, thanks to professional sports organizations that looked the other way until there was no other way to look.

And this week in Juarez or some other Mexican border town another couple of dozen people will get brutally gunned down because they were the unlucky pawns on the drug chessboard or just happened to be innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the dehumanizing border wall will be extended another few yards, to keep the drug runners from delivering what Americans are craving and consuming, in no small part because of its illicit allure. And the city council in a border town like El Paso may be horrified again that one of its members has the audacity to propose discussing the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana to alleviate the crime and suffering on the Mexican side by bringing the price down on American streets.

So the status quo is maintained, because we are a nation of laws, and to the powerful go the rights to make those laws, and when a celebrity screws up and gets caught with a bong we must see to it that the law is indiscriminately enforced so our kids learn that we adults know what’s best, and nothing is our fault as long as we all obey the law because we are a nation of laws.

Now it all makes sense to me. Let’s throw the book at Michael Phelps and his pot-smoking cohorts. In fact, let’s waterboard anyone who won’t tell us where they got the dope. We have our standards to uphold, after all.

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The New GOP

By Steve Klinger

I wish people would quit picking on the Republicans. Like the compassionate Americans they are, they’re trying to prevent the spendthrift Democrats from ransoming our children’s future with a bailout bill that would use gobs of taxpayer money just to save the country. And critics are so mean as to remind them they didn’t give a fig about the deficit when they were spending the better part of a trillion dollars on the war in Iraq? How petty can you be?

Here they are trying to be fiscally responsible public servants and they have to hear complaints that their lax oversight allowed Wall Street greed to get us into this mess? These perennial comforters of the afflicted are being vilified because they’re calling for status quo while the tsunami of economic ruination towers above us? Enough with the details: How can you assail such noble motives?

You’d think they were behaving like ideology-driven zealots, to listen to the lefty bloggers and the voices from across the aisle.

What could be more altruistic than to guard the public coffers against expenditures that would help victims of the recession keep their health insurance when they lose their jobs? Who else will keep the lazy legions from taking advantage of the food stamp program and will defend us from the bigger government that is driving our society toward the dreaded S word? Who else will draw the line so state governments don’t provide entitlements they can’t afford?

Why can’t people understand that what businesses and rich folks really need is a tax cut so they’ll produce more widgets and buy more yachts, which will give the rabble more jobs making those widgets and polishing the brass deck rails. Wait, strike that, we don’t make widgets or much of anything else any more, do we? Well, anyway, if the rich have more money to spend, the rest of us will get the table scraps, and someday, when we figure out how to be on the other side of the grand Ponzi scheme known as the American Dream, we’ll be glad they were here to safeguard our nest egg.

So leave our Republican friends alone, and no more jokes about the Grand Obstructionist Party. The next thing they’ll be accused of is wanting Obama to fail so they can do better in the next election. How cynical can you be? Next thing you know, they’ll be picking on Rush Limbaugh.

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