Monday, April 12, 2010

The Following Is A Public Service Announcement

Searching for the Truth through words and speech is like sticking your head in a bowl of glue.


Just watch children playing.
Eat vegetable soup instead of duck stew.

---Basho's advice to poets

After evening rainfall at Pa-shang,
the flying "V" of wild geese,
the leaves hanging limp and dripping,
A single lantern's pale gleam,
and empty garden wet with dew,
the crumbling walls of the monastery
...enough, I think, long enough:
what am I waiting for?

---Ma Tai

We used to have to say that on the radio in the 1950s. There was a piece of copy taped near the microphone with a statement to be read before any public service announcement. Partly it was to identify what you would hear as being something in "the public interest." The remainder of the reason was to give the station credit for the amount of public service we provided. The media was required to contribute to the common good back then. The new TV stations had to put up a screen momentarily identifying public service too. If you merely were a crass commercial entity, you could lose your broadcasting license.

The original idea about broadcasting involved the airwaves. They belonged to the People. It's a bit like you can own a house and the land it's on. But how far down and how far up does your ownership extend? To China? To the moon? No, there's something called the Social Contract that describes and limits your omnipotence, according to the advantages you receive by banding together like this. At the moment, we still sorta think of the moon as nobody's property...but probably eventually an attorney will figure out how to carve it up. By Reagan's era it had been decided that if you could get control of enough stations and networks, you could do whatever you want with them. If his first act in office was to bust a union, his second must have been to get rid of the Fairness Doctrine. That piece of policy required radio and television to be fair and balanced in presentation of conflicting ideas...and to be willing and eager to prove it. A warning from the Federal Communications Commission on this was serious stuff.

Around the time Fairness disappeared, mining and drilling interests figured out how to own the land under your house. They could dig around so close to the top that your floor might cave in. That's OK. Now those guys were doing stuff for the common good. Reagan had the solar array ripped off the White House roof. After all, an oil man (among other things) was his vice president.

So here we are today, with the Tea Parties. Rupert Murdoch owns a lot of media. Last Tuesday evening I guess he appeared before the National Press Club. He pretty much owns that too. He allowed some questions. One of them came from an executive at Media Matters. Ari Rabin-Hvat wanted to know Murdoch's views on the promotion of Tea Party membership and events by Fox News Channel/Fox Nation, its staff and commentators. Murdoch said the commentators are identified clearly and can say whatever they want, but the news reporting is objective journalism. Rabin-Hvat replied the news anchors promote Tea Parties all the time, and the network itself appears to sponsor the events. Murdoch said that couldn't be true, and that he personally would investigate the situation "before condemning anyone."

On Thursday, to assist Mr. Murdoch's courageous investigative journalism, Media Matters posted some examples. We await Rupert's further findings.

From Media Matters' Open Letter To Rupert Murdoch~~~

"Join Your Local Tea Party": Fox News' history of promoting the tea party movement

Anchor: "It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties. Here we go!" During the April 13, 2009, edition of Your World, Fox Business anchor and "business journalist" Stuart Varney plugged Fox News' presence at the April 15, 2009, tea parties, saying: "It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties. Here we go!"

Fox News aired more than 100 commercial promotions for tea party protests in less than two weeks. From April 6 to April 15, Fox News aired at least 107 commercial promotions for their coverage of the April 15, 2009, tea party protests.

Beck encouraged viewers to "please go" to "FNC (Fox News Channel-Fox Nation) Tax Day Tea Parties." Fox News aired graphics on repeated occasions in which they dubbed the April 15, 2009, Tax Day Tea Parties, "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." Host Glenn Beck told viewers they could "[c]elebrate with Fox News" at any of four Fox News-described "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties," saying: "If you can't make the one in San Antonio" -- which Beck himself attended -- "please go to the one with Neil or with Sean in Atlanta, that's supposed to be great, Greta is in Washington, D.C. Just get out and let your face be seen."

"Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party." On the April 11, 2009, edition of Fox News Watch, Fox News host Bill Hemmer said:

HEMMER: While the mainstream media's ignored the tea party movement, here at the Fox News Channel, we're gearing up to bring you special coverage of the events all across the country. Sean Hannity is in Atlanta; Glenn Beck's at the Alamo -- where else would he be? -- San Antonio; Neil Cavuto is live in Sacramento; and Greta is in Washington, D.C.

Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party. You can check it out on the site for the location of a tea party in your area. Again, that is Wednesday, the 15th of April.

On April 15, 2009, news anchor Megyn Kelly said, "you can join the tea party action from your home if you go to the ... a virtual tax day tea party." On April 16, 2009, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson told viewers that they "can still have a virtual tea party" at Fox Nation

Fox News host: "[H]opefully millions of people" will participate. While reporting live at a protest on April 15, 2009, former Big Story host John Gibson, a Fox News Radio host, remarked that "hopefully millions of people" will participate in the protests.

Anchor to viewers: You "need to go" to tea party merchandise site. On April 15, 2009, Fox Business anchor David Asman told viewers they "need to go" to a tea party merchandise site "no matter what side of the issue you're on."

News anchor on list of nationwide tea party events: "Check it out online right now." On March 24, 2009, Hemmer noted protests in Florida and Ohio and directed viewers to the program's website to learn more about the protests:

HEMMER: It's called the tea party. And check out the scene in Orlando, Florida. More than 4,000 turned out over the weekend protesting government spending and a big thumbs-down to the policies currently in Washington. Radio host Bud Hedinger hosted that event. Protesters, well, they waved flags and signs and with slogans like "Repeal the Pork" and "Our Bacon is Cooked." I say, our bacon is cooked.

They're popping up literally all across the country now. They had about 5,000 in Cincinnati last weekend. If you go to our website, you will find a growing list of these events, hundreds of photos, and a new tea-party anthem that you will hear from the man who wrote it and recorded it next hour. And there's a list of the nationwide Tax Day tea party events coming up on the 15th of April, which will be a huge deal for those organizations. So check it out online right now.

News anchor: To find "one happening near you, head to our website." On April 6, 2009, Hemmer again directed viewers to Fox News' website to find a tea party "happening near you"

HEMMER: If you want to know more about the tea-party movement, if there is one happening near you, head to our website We have an entire section devoted to the growing tea-party movement. That's our America's Newsroom website online. All the information you need to know. Check it out right now.

Hannity: "We hope you'll join us." On April 3, 2009, Fox News host Sean Hannity said: "And also log on to our Web site to get all the details about our special 'Tax Day Tea Party.' We're going to be live in Atlanta, April 15th. Governor [and Fox News host Mike] Huckabee, by the way, will be on that show." Hannity also said during the program: "And then it's April 15, it's our tea party tax day show. And I'll be hosting the show from Atlanta, where one of dozens of tea party protests are going to be going on that evening. So we hope you'll join us."

Reporter: "We want to let folks know" tea party schedule so "they can be a part" of events. The August 23, 2009, edition of Fox News' America's News HQ hosted Tea Party Express organizer Mark Williams to promote the tour. During the segment, anchor and reporter Shannon Bream said of the tour's schedule:

BREAM: You do have a bit of a cohesive, at least organized schedule. We want to let folks know you're going to be making --


BREAM: -- 34, 35 stops, I believe it is, all across the country, so if they want to come out and take part, they certainly can be a part of what you're doing. And, you know, this has definitely struck a chord with people.

Reporter: "[H]opefully Washington will listen to their concerns." During the August 28, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, William La Jeunesse reported live from Sacramento on the kickoff of the Tea Party Express. At the conclusion of his report, La Jeunesse said of the tour's concerns: "[T]hey believe, collectively, that they at least have a voice, and hopefully Washington will listen to their concerns."

Host: "How you can join, next." On its August 19, 2009, broadcast, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers "how you can join" the Tea Party Express:

KILMEADE: Straight ahead, citizens take their concerns about health care on the road to -- on the road. The organizer of a cross-country tea party tour, and how you can join, next.


KILMEADE: The Tea Party Express will make 35 stops across the country, giving Americans a constructive outlet in which to share their concerns on health care, and I imagine more.

During the segment, Fox News helped viewers find out "how you can join" the Tea Party Express by displaying the dates and locations of 22 stops.

"To sign up for Tea Party 2.0 Go to ..." On May 13, 2009, On the Record host Greta Van Susteren did a segment on the "Tea Party 2.0," saying: "If you wanted to go to a tea party on April 15 but could not make it or there was none in your hometown, tomorrow's your big chance." She later asked Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), "What do they do, do they log on a particular place? And will they be able to interact with you? I mean, how's this gonna work?" and later, "[W]hen is this tea party? When does it begin? Is there a Web address or a phone number?"

Cavuto on protestors: "God bless these folks." On March 27, while showing footage of tea party protestors gathering for a tea party rally "four and a half hours from now," Fox Business senior vice president Neil Cavuto commented, "I don't do that [gather to protest] for anything. ... God bless these folks."

Reporter endorsed tea partier's call to "get these liberal communists out of our government." While covering a tea party protest for on September 4, 2009, reporter Griff Jenkins interviewed a tea partier who said he wanted to "get these liberal communists out of our government." Jenkins replied: "How about that. I couldn't have said anything better than that." On the September 12, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Dave Briggs said of Tea Party Express-embedded Jenkins: "You might call him a tea party groupie."

Fox News employee: Some members of Fox "cheerlead for rallies and tea parties." Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg stated on September 29, 2009: "There are some programs on Fox that are not only not 'Fair and Balanced' -- they're commentary shows, they don't have to be -- but they brag about how 'Fair and Balanced' they are. They don't cover rallies and tea parties; they cheerlead for rallies and tea parties. And as a journalist, I am totally against that."

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Practice Your Hallelujah

An angel sitting by the tomb is reported to have asked Mary of Magdala: "Why search for the living among the dead?" In her puzzlement she tells someone who she thought to be the gardener: "If you have taken him away, tell me and I will take him away myself." It was when the 'gardener' pronounced her name "Mary" that she recognized Him and exclaimed in uncontrollable joy, "Master."

"What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap between the government and the people. And it became always wider.....the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think....for people who did not want to think anyway gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about.....and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so the machinations of the 'national enemies,' without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.....

"Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures'.....must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing.....Each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next.

"You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even talk, don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes.

"That's the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

"You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father.....could never have imagined."

---Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

We're members of the Episcopal Church whose Presiding Bishop is The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. Bishop Schori's Easter Message this morning encourages us to continue "practicing that joyful shout" of Alleluia. She wisely reminds us that even grasping Resurrection is a lifelong challenge, to say nothing of seeing its realization in the world. She understands if, upon looking around, we may not feel that confident and happy. That's helpful to me today.

There have been a number of news items recently reporting that Easter ain't what it used to be in the minds of Americans. Maybe a lot of doubt and gloom has affected this mood. Some articles are going to the heart of the matter by challenging the whole notion of Jesus rising from the dead. It's impossible, they say! I'm kind of glad for this opinion to get right out there in the light of day, because it's made me do a lot of thinking. I've tried to get beyond any old notion that Christ's Resurrection is a symbol for the continuation of his teachings in the birth of the church. I've thought maybe Jesus was a realized yogi, who wasn't nailed to the cross or pierced with a spear. After all, the usual practice was to drape the convicts up there with ropes and leave them to die slowly of exposure. Maybe he went into a trance and survived that. Then there's the electric impression on the Shroud of Turin.

Whatever the result of all this cogitation, minus any revelation of the Miracle, I feel closer personally to Jesus...and that's a good thing. I need it, when I also confront this morning reminders of this nation's last 50 years of history. The first thing I ran into was a Libertarian's post of the excerpt from Milton Mayer's book which I've printed above. He describes the slow, seemingly inevitable descent of an average German citizen while Nazis solidified power. If you'd prefer to watch it acted out on film, nothing depicts it so well as Bertolucci's 1900...and especially Donald Sutherland's chilling bully-become-gestapo. It can't happen here.

Next, Bill Moyers reminded me that Martin Luther King was murdered on this day 42 years ago by at least one of our homegrown terrorists. I'm sure had Fox News and its many personalities been around, they would have assured us the assassin acted alone and was only a bad apple in the barrel. But of course in this Dream Deferred opinion piece, Moyers and Winship are just getting warmed up~~~

The nonpartisan group United for a Fair Economy has issued a report that features Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover with the title, "State of the Dream 2010: Drained." Dr. King's dream is in jeopardy, the report's authors write, "The Great Recession has pulled the plug on communities of color, draining jobs and homes at alarming rates while exacerbating persistent inequalities of wealth and income."

Nor will a recovery ameliorate the crisis. "A rising tide does not lift all boats," United for a Fair Economy's report goes on to say, "because the public policies, economic structures and unwritten rules of racism form mountains and ridgelines, and hills and valleys that shape our economic landscape. As a result, a rising economic tide fills the rivers and reservoirs of some, while leaving others dry and parched."

This is a perilous moment. The individualist, greed-driven free-market ideology that both our major parties have pursued is at odds with what most Americans really care about. Popular support for either party has struck bottom, as more and more agree that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power, that money in politics has corrupted our system, and that working families and poor communities need and deserve help because the free market has failed to generate shared prosperity - its famous unseen hand has become a closed fist.

It is hard to overstate the consequences of choosing more of the same - the very policies that have sundered our social contract. But hear the judgment of Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, echoing Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and martyrdom. "The vast inequalities of income weaken a society's sense of mutual concern," Arrow said. "... The sense that we are all members of the social order is vital to the meaning of civilization."

Next, TruthOut deemed it essential I meet Davidson Loehr, another social justice minister whose writing is new to me. This is a strong piece about the continuing American policy of torture~~~

Naomi Klein's 2007 book "The Shock Doctrine" took 466 pages to flesh out the worldview that can even be proud of torture, as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove have confessed to be....

Human history confirms Klein's research: the combined forces of greed and violence usually win. History also offers the testimony of General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), who wrote "War Is a Racket". One of only two Americans to win the Medal of Honor on two separate occasions, his words were as courageous as his actions, especially when he spoke about the real purpose of war:

"The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.... I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.... I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."

In the United States of 2010, the greediest corporations have won, and are consolidating their strength for a long reign. We need to understand how they can employ a degree of violence, torture and murder that simply paralyzes most of us.

The upside of meeting Mr. Loehr this morning has been to Google him and find he's on Facebook. A graduate of a military academy for his high school years, he went to the University of Michigan in that very dangerous course of study, music theory. Naturally he caved in entirely after that, and ended up at the notorious University of Chicago with his Phd in theology and the philosophy of science. What was left for the poor man but to become a Unitarian Universalist? And that's where you can find him today, down in Austin with a congregation of "very liberal 700+," he says at Facebook.

So maybe it turns out that despite the horrors of the front page and the editorial columns, I may be able to mutter a Hallelujah today after all. With champions like Moyers and Loehr leading my way, the sun will rise on Glory after all! Thank you Bishop, I'll keep practicing.