Friday, February 04, 2011

The Winter of Our Political Discontent or How and Why You Only have TWO Choices, Two Parties

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Why is the GOP where it is? Simply --GOP fascists turned out!! Why are the Democrats where they are? Don't ask a Democrat! You are likely to get a denial that he/she is a Democrat --rather, a 'progressive'! Don't bother asking what a 'progressive' is. But if you want to know the truth, here goes: a 'progressive' is a Democrat who does not want or dare to admit that he/she is a Democrat! This deplorable situation has resulted because a critical mass of 'Dems' committed what in politics is the unpardonable sin: they allowed the opposition [GOP] to define them! That's why Clinton found it necessary to 'triangulate' a center. Definition of a center in politics: something that is neither here nor there nor sharp but blurry in the middle!

Bottom line: 'progressive' does not mean a thing and will not result in a net gain of votes! The word owes is very existence to the fact that 'liberals' let the GOP get away with branding the word 'liberal'. Liberal is a perfectly good word! It means FREE! Again --LIBERAL means free! Anyone who runs away from 'freedom' deserves to lose an election and until progressives regain the courage of their convictions, they will continue to get 'ass whuppins' at the hands of ruthless and well-financed right wing nuts!

Things can change but only if Democrats regain their party by turning out. The PRIMARIES are more important than the general election. Sadly --the process itself is designed to REDUCE your choices to only two. I don't like it --but that's the way it is! Whining about it on FB will not change a thing. It's a SOP; someone threw us a BONE!

If you want to change America, so-called 'progressives' must --first --take back the Democratic party. But NO ONE is going to tolerate a long lecture on the kinds of reforms that are necessary AFTER the primaries are over!
[Condorcet] He divided the decision process into three stages. In the first stage, one “discusses the principles that will serve as the basis for decision in a general issue; one examines the various aspects of this issue and the consequences of different ways to make the decision.” At this stage, the opinions are personal, and no attempts are made to form a majority. After this follows a second discussion in which “the question is clarified, opinions approach and combine with each other to a small number of more general opinions.” In this way the decision is reduced to a choice between a manageable set of alternatives. The third stage consists of the actual choice between these alternatives.

--Decision Theory: A Brief Introduction, Condorcet, [1793], pp. 342-343)
Condorcet's distinction between the "first and second discussion" seems to me to be analagous to the U.S. primary process. In the first case, Democrats (for example) choose between other Democratic hopefuls. Invariably --enough to skew the validity of the primary as a barometer of public opinion --decisions will turn upon which candidate is perceived to have a better chance of winning in the general election.

Seen on FB: "ALL PARTIES SUCK" Well, that's an excuse to sit out the primaries! If you don't like the DEMS, then organize to take them back. That requires that you get involved. Taking back a party begins in the neighborhoods. It is done precinct by precinct. Sorry --there are no magic wands. There is NO INSTANT GRATIFICATION! That's the way it is. That's the system we inherited.

The French waged a real revolution shortly after 'we' separated from England. I can tell you this --no one was sitting at home pissing and moaning about "...oh golly gee...all the parties are the same...oh woe is me..." They MANNED THE BARRICADES.

Truth to Power: A Blunt Assessment of US Crimes in Iraq

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

I have not merely blogged. I would like to think that I spoke 'truth to power'. I literally petitioned, perhaps harassed, my congressman --John Culberson, representing the 7th District. To his credit, Culberson responded though nothing he said was true, accurate or relevant. Most of the time he (or his staffers) just rewrote the official Bush 'line'. It requires K-street size money to get real and/or effective access to your elected representatives.

Having put into place numerous Draconian measures, George W. Bush, it was feared, would not leave the White House. He had, after all, declared the Constitution to be 'just a worthless piece of paper'; he had already begun a war against Iraq upon a pack of bald-faced lies!
§ 2441. War crimes(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

--U.S. Codes, Title 18, Section 2441">TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441
Not only Americans but much of the world were suckered by 911 cited by Bush as justification to attack and invade Iraq! An attack on Iraq might have been justified if Iraq had attacked the United States or, if it had posed a clear and present danger. Iraq had posed no threat! In fact, during the administration of George H.W. Bush, Saddam consulted with American diplomats before lowering the price of oil! For his efforts, he was misled --perhaps deliberately ---by U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie. Upon a nod, Saddam lowered the price of oil but later paid the price for having done so: Persian Gulf War I.

911 was not nearly so subtle! In fact, George W. Bush committed heinous crimes for which U.S. Codes prescribe the penalty of death! It remains beyond logic, commonsense, fact or psychotic delusion to consider for a moment that Iraq had anything to do with the attacks of911! Yet --Bush would puke up 911 to umbrella a panoply of capital crimes, atrocities, and heinous crimes against humanity not seen since A. Hitler or Pol Pot! As long as the rich and powerful remain above those laws applying to everyone else, then justice does not exist! As long a elites are exempted, the phrase 'rule of law' is hollow. As long as Bush is 'free' no one else is!

Not even Bush or his corrupt administration dared to claim that Saddam had anything whatsoever to do with 911!
Stiglitz received renewed attention for a paper [PDF], co-written with Harvard professor of public finance Linda Bilmes that projected that the total economic costs of the Iraq War would exceed a trillion dollars. The hundreds of billions Congress has already approved for the war, they argued, tells only half the story. It doesn't account for, among other things, increases in defense spending, the long-term costs for veterans' health care and disabilities, the lost earning potential of the Americans killed and wounded, and increases in the price of oil.

Once considered provocatively high, Stiglitz's estimates now appear conservative in light of escalating sectarian violence and the American troop surge in Iraq. The president's latest budget proposal, while calling for deep cuts to Medicare and other domestic programs, dramatically ramps up funding for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also adds another $44 billion to the Pentagon's budget, which has already expanded nearly 50 percent since Bush took office. On the same day the administration sent its latest budget proposal to Congress, Mother Jones spoke with the iconoclastic economist about myopic Iraq War accounting, the need for a military draft, and the task of putting a price tag on human life.

--Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell, MotherJones, Iraq War Sticker Shock: The Trillion Dollar War that Will Bankrupt America?
Bush had been warned ---but, upon a pack of lies, he marched this nation off to war and ruin! After repudiating the very sovereignty of the people by way of our Constitution, after abrogating the guarantees of Due Process of Law, having repudiated habeas corpus, and arrogating unto himself the powers of a dictator --why did Bush leave willingly?

It is not as if the disaster had not or could not have been predicted. Following (everything below the line) is the text of my letter to my congressman. For 'readability' issues, I have not 'blockquoted' it. I was remiss not to record the date of the letter.

John Culberson
Member of Congress
7th District

Honorable Member of Congress:

Thank you for your reply to my concerns about the Bush administration's case for War in Iraq. I have considered your points --in block-quotes --followed by my reply:
I believe that the Bush administration made the correct decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power and liberate Iraq after Saddam continue to disobey numerous United Nations resolutions and refuse diplomatic offers.
No one disagrees that Saddam was a "bad man". With all due respect, that is not the issue. The world is full of "bad men" and, in most cases, the United States does not invade and occupy their countries. One wonders: what is the compelling difference in Iraq? That it has oil?

Secondly, it is unclear and most certainly not proven by anything available in the public record that Saddam was not in compliance with United Nations resolutions when he was attacked and invaded. U.N. inspectors had, in fact, asked for a reasonable amount of time in which to complete their tasks.

Only if they had been allowed to complete their responsibilities could it have been known conclusively whether or not Saddam was or was not in compliance with specific U.N. Resolutions. Moreover, U.N. resolution 1441 orders Iraq to comply with said resolutions – but does not sanction the use of force by the United States --specifically invasion of a sovereign nation and occupation of same by U.S. Forces.

Lacking the "cover" of International law or sanction, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is a violation of the Nuremberg Principles. [Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal]
Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people many times, and since the end of hostilities dozens of mass graves and torture rooms have been discovered.
Saddam's use of chemical weapons "...on his own people" is a reference to a well-publicized gassing of Kurds in 1988 – some 15 years ago. If this were a pressing issue, why has it taken the US so long to go to war. Obviously --Saddam was not a priority and most certainly not a 'clear and present danger'.

Persian Gulf I was fought since that time and the U.N.'s Hans Blix raised the credible possibility that Hussein's weapons were destroyed either by the Persian Gulf War itself or voluntarily by Saddam in its wake --or both! In any case, no weapons have been found since U.S. troops have occupied Iraq.

Moreover, former CIA analyst Stephen Pelletiere argued persuasively that Saddam's alleged gassing of Kurds in the waning months of the Iran-Iraq war may have been perpetrated by Iran --not Iraq! If that is the case, then none of the arguments with regard to Saddam's alleged gassing of the Kurds is relevant.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Saddam indeed used gas some 15 years ago! At that time, the Saddam regime was nothing more than a U.S. puppet regime. What was the source of his weapons if not the United States? That question has not been answered by either our elected officials or the mass media.

References to the "gassing" incident in the Bush case for war is really this subtle argument: because Saddam used gas on his own people, if he should obtain nuclear weapons, he will use them. In fact, Saddam had many opportunities to use poison gas and biological agents on the Coalition forces and Israel during the Persian Gulf I. But not even Bush partisans have alleged that he did so. UN arms inspectors later found warheads capable of delivering these weapons that could have been used by Iraq -- but were not!

More recently, it was widely reported and speculated in the Bush administration's run up to war that in the event, Saddam Hussein would be most likely to use biochemical weapons if he felt under mortal threat. He was most certainly under mortal threat --yet there is no evidence that he used such weapons --either on his own people who were expected to rise in up revolt against Saddam or against the invading U.S. army or against U.S. troops.

Most speculation [and 'speculation' is, in fact, all that it is] about why he did not involves complex violations of Occam's Razor and other logical legerdemain. The simplest explanation for Hussein's failure to use such weapons is that he, in fact, did not have any.
He never offered any evidence that he had ceased his chemical, biological, and nuclear programs.
That such weapons were never found confirms Hussein's version. It does not support Bush. By that time, the burden of proof was on Bush to prove his assertions. Those who assert must prove. This is true in any legitimate courtroom; it is true in 'debate'; it should be true of propaganda! That is it not is a defining characteristic of propaganda! Negatives cannot be proven.

Nevertheless – U.N. inspectors had been and were doing their jobs in Iraq! This was true even as Colin Powell made his presentation to the United Nations. The mechanism by which Saddam's claims could have been proven or disproved was in place. Clearly – the Bush administration had nothing to gain by allowing the truth to be discovered and heard! The truth would have undermined the plans that were already in place, perhaps, even before Bush v Gore would award the election to Bush.

But the search for WMD continues as it had before the invasion. But now the American people are picking up a huge tab. The cost of the war and the occupation must be added to the cost of a weapons search. U.N. inspectors could have been allowed to complete their jobs at much less cost. It is increasingly difficult to see what has been gained. Yet --the American people are expected to pick up the tab.
We have learnt from September 11 that we cannot afford to ignore those who hate us and are willing to use weapons of mass destruction.
Our current policies --if continued --are guaranteed to multiply the number of people who hate us. We are --in fact --less safe!
The search team led by Dr. David Kay has already discovered troubling evidence about Saddam's intentions.
Here is the thesis sentence from Dr. David Kay's report which I have read in its entirety:
"We have discovered dozens of WMD-related programme activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations."
David Kay also cautioned: "It is far too early to reach any definitive conclusions and, in some areas, we may never reach that goal." It his this sentence which you failed to mention in your reply.

George Bush and Colin Powell, however, have most certainly reached definite and firm conclusions --conclusions which together made up their case for war and Colin Powell's presentation of ten year old, black and white satellite photos to the United Nations.

Again --with all due respect: the American people were not "sold" war with Iraq on the basis of Saddam's intentions; we were told repeatedly that Saddam HAD weapons of mass destruction --not that he was merely --and not surprisingly intending --to develop them or that he had merely a "programme". This focus on "intent" is new to administration rhetoric and nothing less than an ex post facto case for war! It is the Bush administration (and GOP) attempt to re-write the record, to 'spin' history.

What is said about Bush's case now was not the case that Bush and Colin Powell had, in fact, made in the run up to war nor is it the case that Colin Powell had made to the United Nations. The GOP rewrite of history is 'Orwellian'.
It has uncovered papers showing Saddam recently attempted to purchase missile parts from North Korea.
That's hardly surprising! It does, however, point up the hypocritical differences in the way Bush treats North Korea and Iraq. North Korea is a nation which openly pursues the development of Nuclear Weaponry. Your letter raises the question of whether or not U.S. rhetoric has motivated other nations to seek not only missile parts but also "yellow cake".

Besides --Iraq was cheated. According to the Washington Post, North Korea never made good on the deal and refused to refund some $10 million to Iraq.
Investigators have also discovered new research on biological agents and unmanned aerial vehicles that could disperse chemical or biological weapons. The team has repeatedly found evidence of deception, from burned computers to recently scrubbed missiles trailers.
Intentions! If Bush and Powell had made only this case, how deep would have been the support for war?
Two Iraqi weapons scientists cooperating with Dr. Kay were shot to prevent them from telling what they know.
Every media report that I have read concerning this incident attributed it to solely to Dr. Kay. There is, so far, no independent corroboration of the motive to which you refer. What is your source? Secondly, the fact that two scientists who were most probably involved in a weapons program of some sort does not prove that Saddam had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion and occupation. Nor does it change the fact that there is no authorization under International Law for the U.S. attack.
Iraqi roughly the size of California, and Dr. Kay noted that the yet unaccounted for weapons of mass destruction could be stored in a space the size of a two car garage.
We are paying a high price in lives and dollars if the U.S. case for war has been reduced to a search for a two-car garage --a search that might have been conducted less expensively and more efficiently under the cover of International Law by U.N. inspectors.

Additionally, it does not follow that because WMD were "unaccounted" for that they, in fact, existed. The term "unaccounted for" implies that there is a mysterious "inventory" somewhere against which existing reports are measured. Where is that inventory, who compiled it --and how?

Until those questions are answered, any statement about "unaccounted for" weapons is meaningless. Furthermore --Kay's report made no claim that Hussein had actual weapons of mass destruction although, selectively, Bush read a passage from the report that indicated that Saddam was determined to get them. That was to be expected but it hardly justifies a war of aggression.

Significantly, a different tact is taken in the case of North Korea, and perhaps in the cases of other nations that have escaped the glare of administration assisted publicity. I am not sure what this proves --other than an uneven, inconsistent, and impractical policy of pre-emption cannot possibly form the cornerstone of a viable foreign policy in a civilized and rational nation.

Finally, there is no compelling reason to believe that Dr. Kay, however professional he may be, will find weapons when in fact there is dubious probable cause that they existed during the run up to war. Good money --billions --after bad. No one can find that which does not exist!

In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing in the Kay report that supports Bush's original case for war. The Kay report, however, was expertly used to divert attention from Bush's original case --best summed up by Sen. Robert Byrd:
We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen.

We were told that the throngs of Iraqi's would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared.

We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.

We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy "yellow cake" from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air.
We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind.

We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes.

--Sen Robert Byrd
Bush himself had stated that Saddam had tried to buy "yellow cake" in Niger. That this statement may have lead to "leaks" which imperiled the CIA's search for WMD world wide is reason enough in and of itself for Congress to investigate the entire case for war, how the case was presented, how intelligence and evidence contrary to the Bush case were handled.
America is safer now that Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction, and I support building a stable and prosperous Iraqi democracy that can lead by example in the Middle East.
Everyone supports a stable and prosperous Iraq. The question is: is invading and occupying a sovereign nation in violation of the Nuremberg principles a prudent way to accomplish that aim?

It is easy enough to assert that America is safer --but unless and until WMD are found in Iraq, it is simply fallacious to ascribe that "safety" to Bush administration policies in Iraq. My neighbor may sprinkle salt on his lawn to keep elephants out of his front yard; but the fact that there is not an elephant within 5,000 miles of his house is hardly proof that it works.

A more compelling case can be made, however, that the world as a whole is less safe as a direct result of the Bush "doctrine" of pre-emption.

Clearly, Bush has made no "aggressive" attempts to disarm nuclear powers Pakistan and India. North Korea, meanwhile, clearly seems to have accelerated its nuclear program as a direct result of the perceived "Bush" threat.

Furthermore, there is documentary evidence from the FBI (published by the Brookings Institution) that as Ronald Reagan waged a similar "war on terrorism" with similar rhetoric (" can run but you can't hide") terrorist attacks on the United States increased. There were, in fact, three times as many such attacks during the Reagan years as during the Clinton years. I doubt seriously that America, indeed, the world, is safer under the Bush administration.

I sincerely hope that you would give my views serious consideration. At a time when most Americans have become convinced that politicians of both parties are merely pawns of big money, big lobbies, and/or the Military/Industrial complex, it would signal a triumph for Democracy itself if – just once – a political issue might be won upon verifiable facts and the merits of a real debate as opposed to various transparent and/or stupid labels and slogans.


Len Hart

Monday, January 31, 2011

How the Right Wing Stole the People's Media for the Big Corporations

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Those who defend the GOP/right wing assault on media and free speech defend media consolidation with an irrelevant 'factoid'. Before 'deregulation', they say, there were only three huge networks --CBS, NBC, ABC. This may be true on the surface but misses the point that throughout the nation there were several thousand locally owned television and radio stations; all of them were required by the FCC to 'serve local interests'. As a result, many radio stations in small and large 'market's maintained viable 'News' and/or 'Public Affairs Departments'. These stations had a finger on the pulse of the listening community like few if any have today.

The record refutes right wing spin. In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most or all news media operating in the U.S. Nevertheless, Ben Bagdikian was labeled "alarmist" when he pointed out that fact in his book -- The Media Monopoly. He was no alarmist! His 4th edition [1992] stated: "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures' own and operate 90% of the mass media"! He was right. These 'extraordinary creatures' dominate and/or control almost all of America's media to include newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies.

Before the GOP attacked the media, a 'network' was precisely that -- a network of locally owned radio or TV stations. A CBS or ABC affiliate station, for example, was 'affiliated' with ABC --not owned by it! For such an outlet, ABC was just a source of news. Many of these stations maintained very large and impressive news organizations. Early in my career, as I worked in a small radio station in Odessa, TX., I was given a tour of KRLD AM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Dallas, TX. KRLD was made famous world wide for its local coverage of the assassination of JFK. As large and as impressive were KRLD's facilities --both radio and TV --it was local!

It was not until the late sixties that many 'stations' began to automate; it was not until Ronald Reagan attacked the Fairness Doctrine that locally-owned outlets were no longer required to provide 'public affairs' airtime to local groups. In other words, they were no longer required to be responsible to a 'service' area. Interestingly, the term 'service' area is no longer used, replaced recently with the the term: 'coverage'. Ergo: you --as a person --are no longer 'served'. You are 'covered'!
The Supreme Court proved willing to uphold the doctrine, eking out space for it alongside the First Amendment. In 1969's Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, journalist Fred Cook sued a Pennsylvania Christian Crusade radio program after a radio host attacked him on air. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld Cook's right to an on-air response under the Fairness Doctrine, arguing that nothing in the First Amendment gives a broadcast license holder the exclusive right to the airwaves they operate on. But when Florida tried to hold newspapers to a similar standard in 1974's Miami Herald Publishing Co. V. Tornillo, the Supreme Court was less receptive. Justices agreed that newspapers — which don't require licenses or airwaves to operate — face theoretically unlimited competition, making the protection of the Fairness Doctrine unneeded.

The doctrine stayed in effect, and was enforced until FCC chairman Mark Fowler began rolling it back during Reagan's second term — despite complaints from some in the Administration that it was all that kept broadcast journalists from thoroughly lambasting Reagan's policies on air. In 1987, the FCC panel repealed the Fairness Doctrine altogether with a 4-0 vote.

It was not until Ronald Reagan waged war on a 'liberal media' (in fact, a 'local' media) that smaller stations were routinely bought out and or merged with increasingly larger media conglomerates, in other words, huge corporations. By the early 90s, some six or seven huge corporations were reported to have acquired some 90 percent or more of all broadcast and/or cable programming in the United States.

It was not until Ronald Reagan and the GOP gave 'license' to big corporations, that the corporate owners began to 'clone' their programming among their properties. It was not until the Fairness Doctrine was trashed that ilk like Rush Limbaugh were given license to flout responsibility, public service, the pursuit of truth or, if not truth, accuracy in reporting. Ilk like Limbaugh were given a license to lie, propagandize, proselytize on behalf of the increasingly rabid, ideological and utterly absurd GOP and the rabid right wing in general.

It is interesting to note that the rising costs of electronic 'advertising' was concurrent with the rise of Ronald Reagan and the GOP. It was hard to tell which is the dog and which is the tale. In any case, one hand washed the other. Less politely --it was a right-wing circle-jerk!
A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from a district in metropolitan Chicago would find the economics of TV advertising impossible without heavy financial backing. The typical House district has 150,000 households. A Chicago-based television station that reaches a typical district also reaches three million households in thirty-five counties in four states. The candidate either pays for the 2,850,000 unwanted households or loses the television access to his or her district that a richer candidate can buy. (A prime-time, thirty-second commercial for a major sponsor can cost more than $250,000 to produce. Few political commercials cost as much, but the cost even for less elaborate political ads on television is so high that it has created an ominous barrier to entry into American politics.) Thirty-second commercials must be repeated to be effective. The thirty-second political ad on a Chicago station, repeated ten times, would cost more than $50,000 just for air time. The ad would then be broadcast over a station that reaches so large an audience that 95 percent do not vote in the candidate's district.

--Ben H. Bagdikian, Democracy and the Media: The Media Monopoly
'Reagan Revolution' is a misnomer. It was, rather, a reactionary counter-revolution which succeeded in undoing FDR's 'New Deal'. The broadcast industry in which I cut my teeth may be traced to the Federal Radio Act of 1927, an act which nationalized the airwaves, establishing the fact that the 'airwaves' are owned by the people collectively. A Federal Communications Act created the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to whom fell the task of allocating broadcast frequencies to those wishing to own and operate a radio or television facility.

The Communications Act of 1934 'refined' and 'expanded' this authority and empowered the FCC to administer the issuing of broadcast licenses to persons or entities wishing to broadcast on the 'airwaves' that the law had said belonged to the people collectively. The measure required that the FCC act responsibly in the 'public convenience, interest or necessity'. There are no such requirements today, thus the horror stories about small towns hit by tornadoes or worse because the so-called 'local' radio station had not issued warnings. In fact, most of those so-called radio stations are automated and/or owned by absentee owners or, worse, a huge corporation based hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles away. Such an owner feels no obligation to serve his/her/its 'coverage' area. They are in it for the bucks! They have no interest in tornadoes but for the loss of ad revenues they represent.

Most repugnant to the huge corporations which are now placed above the law was a 'fairness doctrine' which required broadcast licensees to provide equal time to citizens believing that their positions or groups had been neglected. Not surprisingly, the largest broadcast companies --ABC, NBC for example --had lobbied Congress to establish very high fees for broadcast licenses. Interestingly, Congress deemed this a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech.
Media democracy is founded on two important notions: one, that public forums such as radio and television airwaves are public property, and two, that everyone has a right both to have their voice heard and to access a variety of viewpoints and information . Currently there is much debate over the benefits and downsides to media regulation. The FCC's proposed deregulations of media ownership laws are inciting this fiery debate between proponents and opponents of deregulation.

Proponents argue that deregulating current media ownership laws would increase media outlets by promoting more competition, while opponents argue that similar deregulations in the past which were supposed to increase competition (such as the 1996 Telecommunications Act) in fact had the opposite effect. These previous deregulations caused a surge of mergers that discouraged competition. Without competition, the two founding notions of media democracy have been significantly marginalized in recent years as the diversity of media sources shrink at an alarming rate.

The loss of diversity in media ownership is a concern for democracy in the U.S., as citizens need a variety of information on all sides of the spectrum in order to make educated, informed decisions that will affect both their lives and the future of democracy. It is essential to provide media forums in which people can speak for themselves and communicate with one another. This paper will explore the impending FCC decision, the history of communication regulations and the ramifications of potential deregulation.

--Kristin Lee, The FCC and Media Democcracy, WIFP Associate
I don't believe that 'consolidated media' are serving or can serve 'public interests'. Nor can they be 'fully accountable and dependable'. If, for example, only one or two media conglomerates dominate in a single market it is doubtful that a diversity of opinions will ever see the light of day. In fact, as research reveals increasing levels of consolidation, it likewise reveals that fewer issues are covered from increasingly narrow points of view.

The most notable effects are local. Reporters say their stories are often edited and worse --refused! 'Exposes' in which advertisers are threatened by 'potentially damaging information', are routinely re-written to ameliorate potential damage to advertisers' reputations. At the very worst the 'offending' material is re-written, edited or censored outright.
In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S.

in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 4 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

--Media Consolidation -- a Historical Perspective
The term "media consolidation" is clearly detrimental and problematic. There are numerous reports of networks refusing to air 'anti-war' ads though they were 'paid'. Routinely, news stories may be revised or dumped should they offend a sponsor. Money itself is allowed to slant the news --wealth as propaganda!
Over the past several years, NOW has consistently reported on the topic of media ownership. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was created in 1934 with jurisdiction over radio, interstate telephone communication, and later television. But the FCC has always struggled with a fundamental lack of clarity about its proper functions. In its mission to serve the public interest, should the FCC crack down on indecency on the airwaves? Should it use its power to rescind the licenses of wayward stations? The FCC continues to face such questions. Get background information on some of the FCC's more recent decisions below: UPDATES: Since the FCC voted on the rule changes there have been developments in the courts and in Congress.
  • October 8, 2003: NBC said it would purchase the entertainment arm of Vivendi Universal for $3.8 billion.
  • September 3, 2003:
    a federal appeals court in Philadelphia issued an order blocking the rule changes from taking effect. (Read the ruling.)
  • September
    4, 2003:
    The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill that contained a provision that would effectively block the ownership rule changes.
  • July 23, 2003: The House voted 400-21 to approve a spending bill that included a provision to block the FCC decision to allow major television networks to own up to 45% of the country's viewers. The Bush administration has voiced opposition to the attempt to rescind the FCC ruling.

--Bill Moyers, NOW

'Wires and Lights in a Box':
Complete Murrow Speech From Good Night, and Good Luck