PBS Uses Advertising to Retaliate Against Critical Coverage

FAIR Blog - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 3:42pm
PBS was set up in part because of an understanding that advertising exerts pressure on media outlets. And now it's using its own advertising to signal its disapproval of critical coverage.
Categories: Media

8 Things Mainstream Media Doesn't Have the Courage to Tell You

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 9:28am
The business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society.

The following are all relevant, fact-based issues, the "hard news" stories the media has a responsibility to report. But the business-oriented press generally avoids them.

1. U.S. Wealth Up $34 Trillion Since Recession. 93% of You Got Almost None of It.

That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars, tax-free as long as they don't cash it in. Details available here.

2. Eight Rich Americans Made More Than 3.6 Million Minimum-Wage Workers

A recent report stated that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their total (combined) 2013 earnings is less than the 2013 stock market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.

3. News Sources Speak for the 5%

It would be refreshing to read an honest editorial: "We dearly value the 5 to 7 percent of our readers who make a lot of money and believe that their growing riches are helping everyone else."

Instead, the business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society. The Wall Street Journal exclaimed, "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before," and then went on to sputter: "What Recession?...The economy has bounced back from recession, unemployment has declined.."

The Chicago Tribune may be even further out of touch with its less privileged readers, asking them: "What's so terrible about the infusion of so much money into the presidential campaign?"

4. TV News Dumbed Down for American Viewers

A 2009 survey by the European Journal of Communication compared the U.S. to Denmark, Finland and the UK in the awareness and reporting of domestic vs. international news, and of "hard" news (politics, public administration, the economy, science, technology) vs. "soft" news (celebrities, human interest, sports and entertainment). The results:

  • Americans [are] especially uninformed about international public affairs.
  • American respondents also underperformed in relation to domestic-related hard news stories.
  • American television reports much less international news than Finnish, Danish and British television;
  • American television network newscasts also report much less hard news than Finnish and Danish television.

Surprisingly, the report states that "our sample of American newspapers was more oriented towards hard news than their counterparts in the European countries." Too bad Americans are reading fewer newspapers.

5. News Execs among White Male Boomers Who Owe Trillions to Society

The hype about the "self-made man" is fantasy. In the early 1970s, we privileged white males were spirited out of college to waiting jobs in management and finance, technology was inventing new ways for us to make money, tax rates were about to tumble, and visions of bonuses and capital gains danced in our heads.

While we were in school the Defense Department had been preparing the Internet for Microsoft and Apple, the National Science Foundation was funding the Digital Library Initiative research that would be adopted as the Google model, and the National Institute of Health was doing the early laboratory testing for companies like Merck and Pfizer. Government research labs and public universities trained thousands of chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, testers, troubleshooters, etc.

All we created on our own was a disdainful attitude, like that of Steve Jobs: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

6. Funding Plummets for Schools and Pensions as Corporations Stop Paying Taxes

Three separate studies have shown that corporations pay less than half of their required state taxes, which are the main source of K-12 educational funding and a significant part of pension funding. Most recently, the report, "The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base" found that the percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7 percent in 1980 to about 3 percent today.

7. Companies Based in the U.S. Paying Most of Their Taxes Overseas

Citigroup had 42% of its 2011-'13 revenue in North America (almost all U.S.) and made $32 billion in profits, but received a U.S. current income tax benefit all three years.

Pfizer had 40% of its 2011-'13 revenues and nearly half of its physical assets in the U.S., but declared almost $10 billion in U.S. losses to go along with nearly $50 billion in foreign profits.

In 2013 Exxon had about 43% of management, 36% of sales, 40% of long-lived assets, and 70-90% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S., yet only paid about 2 percent of its total income in U.S. income taxes, and most of that was something called a "theoretical" tax.

8. Restaurant Servers Go Without Raise for 30 Years

An evaluation by Michelle Chen showed that the minimum wage for tipped workers has been approximately $2 an hour since the 1980s. She also notes that about 40 percent of these workers are people of color, and about two-thirds are women.

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Categories: Media

Why TV Wives Are Always Way Hotter Than Their Husbands

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:58pm
Investigation into TV casting shows: why there is an "attractiveness double standard."

Louis C.K. has largely revolutionized the tried-and-true model for producing television programming. He writes, directs, edits and stars in his own show, and has been given free rein by the network to oversee all of his own casting decisions, which is largely unheard of. Yet, for all Louie’s critically acclaimed differences from TV business as usual, his is still a show about a middle-aged comic who is divorced, has questionable prospects and is not conventionally attractive, but who often dates very attractive women. It is a show about a very real man, a recognizable man, a man audiences can laugh at and sympathize with and relate to — but like most stories currently told on American screens, it is not about very relatable women.

And Louie is one of the more realistic shows on TV these days where female casting is concerned. Across the board, audiences today are subjected daily to female characters who are not, for lack of a better word, ordinary. They are almost always gorgeous, fit, sexy and dating or married to someone not nearly as attractive as they are. Men can be all shapes and sizes on film; women must be hot.

When I talk about this issue with fellow actresses, I’ve gotten a unanimous three-step response: 1) Recognition; 2) a shaking of the head in disgust, immediately followed by 3) a shrugging of the shoulders in defeat. I used to shrug too, and yet I decided to do some research and quickly realized that this discrepancy is lodged deep within the writing and casting processes. And I find myself, as an actress eager to get cast, unable to do anything about the pattern I have spent months charting (except stay fit and spend tons of money on makeup), but wanting to do something about it. I no longer want to feel like the idealistic, talented, industrious overachiever who is powerless in an industry dictated mostly by the very subjective notion of fuckability.

For those of you not familiar with the casting process, I will attempt to shed a little light on what goes on way before you ever see a finished movie or TV show. Once a studio has decided to run with a TV pilot, for example, part of the next strategizing process is casting. Offers will be made to named actors, and then auditions will be held for all remaining uncast roles. A casting director gets hired to find talent, vet the talent, and bring the appropriate people in front of the director, producers and studio execs. The casting directors use a service to create a digital document that communicates the needs for all the roles to the agents who represent the talent. They submit the script or screenplay to this service, sometimes with character descriptions already included, and then the service edits existing descriptions or reads the scripts and pumps out their own.

These character descriptions are called breakdowns, and they try to distill a character into a few words or a few sentences, so agents have a better sense of which actors to submit for the project, or actors looking to self-submit can more easily select the right projects to target (there are two different platforms for these breakdowns: one for agents only and one for paid subscribing actors). Once submissions have been made, casting directors look over the proposed talent and decide which actors to bring in. They don’t have unlimited time or unlimited slots available for each role, so they have to be very specific and exacting when determining whom to see.

The breakdowns are very simple and streamlined, but specific. If a script calls for a man who could believably be a coal miner to say two lines in an episode, the breakdown will say as much. If a female nurse is needed to deliver a few lines of bad news, that will be the bulk of the information an agent will get. However, if you see several of these breakdowns lined up in a row, what starts to become clear is how different the descriptions are for male roles and for female roles (not to mention for white and non-white roles, an issue worthy of its own analysis).

I’ve spent the past few months poring over breakdowns on the platforms available to me. Here are a few of the descriptors I encountered for female characters: Smoking hot, beautiful, cool, personable, attractive, fit, stylish, siren, curvaceous, sexy, alluring and flawless (did I mention sexy? It shows up a lot). For male ones: filthy rich, confident, wealthy, businessman, authoritative, debonair, corporate giant, brash, corn-fed, pudgy, adorable, serial killer, funny, smart, famous, passionate and handsome. As you can see, breakdowns for women put much more emphasis on looks.

For a bigger picture, here are two breakdowns for the same script:

Male: 25 – 30, Caucasian, nice guy, lacks confidence – may have a receding hairline. He wears neon colored clothing. No nudity.

Female: 20 – 23, pretty, professional, mature for her young age.  She is more of a follower than a leader. Jealousy tends to get the best of her. Partial nudity.

In this breakdown, the two characters are a couple:

Male: 30. 30 going on 21. He’s married to [female]. He’s a fun, hip guy, but at his core, he’s become a family man.

Female: 29 – 30 years old. She’s both beautiful and cool and just a few notches this side of New-Agey.

The man is described by his personality and his character’s transformation, but the woman’s personality description is intertwined with a description of her looks.

The next example proves that age doesn’t change anything:

Female: 18, very good looking, athletic/shapely build.

Male: 25, average looking (”Blue collar/ working man” presentation), somewhat muscular build.

Female: 40ish, very good looking, shapely.

Male: 40ish, average to good looking, a bit rough around the edges, average build.

Check out how, even when a man is described by his looks, it’s an afterthought. You’ll notice, also, that a racial reference sometimes takes the place of a description of looks:

Female: A good looking, sexy white woman in late twenties, corporate type, with wisdom beyond her years.

Male: A typical white doctor in Late Thirties but very handsome.

Female: A good-looking white babe in early twenties.

Male: Late Forties, African American, scientist type.

And these are just for fun, because I couldn’t resist:

Female: a free spirited beauty as fresh as apple pie who uses her sexuality to manipulate and disarm.

Female: Beautiful and very sexy with a fantastic body, preferably voluptuous. Her emotions will range from sweet, clever, teasing to sexy passionate to scared …

Female: The quintessential screen siren. She is her husband’s muse.

Female: Caucasian. An arising hotshot in the fashion scene: thin, loose, and beguiling … beautiful.

The pattern is unmistakable. Adjectives are key to writing a useful breakdown, but the adjectives describing appearance get a lot more play in a female description. A female character is almost always described first by her looks and then by anything else that is important for her personality type, profession, relationship to the male character or role in the plot. A male character often does not even get a description of his looks; the first sentence usually describes his occupation, which is then followed by his key personality traits or his function in the plot. Right next to the description of a “blue-collar criminal” is the description of his “pretty blue-collar mother.”

Why do all the women on TV have to be beautiful while the men don’t? Are we still so sexist that a man is identified by what he does but all that matters about a woman is her looks? Will the words a woman says fail to resonate if she is not conventionally pleasing to look at? Or do the people who call the shots, the writers and producers, have a preconceived notion of what sexy is for women that they’re projecting onto the screen?

Look at a show like “The Big Bang Theory,” chock-full of supposed nerds. The boys are allowed to be boy nerds in all their boy-nerd glory, but the girls have to be hot nerds. Or think about “Modern Family,” with its gorgeous women and average-looking men. Someone had to decide to put those casts together. Someone had to write a character breakdown with the word “hot” it in. And somewhere, an agent read that breakdown and used his or her subjective idea of hotness to submit actresses for the part. Then the casting directors weighed in and narrowed the hot list down further, and so on and so forth. So someone who could have been perfect for the role may not have been seen, because somewhere on the chain she was not deemed hot enough.

There are already fewer parts for women out there, and far more women than men trying to make it as actors, so can’t we at least have roles that are as interesting as the ones men get, that are not based solely on appearance? Can producers stop vetoing casting options based on fuckability? And can a physical character description be an afterthought, only included if it furthers the plot? From my perspective, as an actress but also as an audience member, I think it would be nice to see a complex female character physically, emotionally and mentally realized on-screen not by the hottest woman, but by the very real actress best suited to play her.

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Categories: Media

TV Generals and Precision Bombs: Corporate Media Go to War

FAIR Blog - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 3:08pm
Generals, former generals and not much more: Corporate media are covering war the only way they know how.
Categories: Media

What You Need to Know About Ello, the New Social Network Stealing Users from Facebook

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:57pm
So far, it's advertisement free and fake names are fine.

Facebook has been abuzz of late about a curious new phenomenon: People leavingFacebook in favor of a smaller, simpler social media site called Ello. The fervor for Ello took hold this week in light of Facebook’s recent “real names” crackdown – forcing folks to use their legal names on their profiles or be locked out of the service – which has especially affected members of the LGBTQ community.

Though there are other Facebook-alternatives, including Diaspora and Google+, many are now flocking to Ello.

What is Ello?

Ello is an invite-only social network created by Paul Budnitz, along with graphic designers Todd Berger and Lucian Föhr, and creative engineers from Mode Set. By the creators’ own description, Ello is a “simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network.”

(Back in March, the Daily Dot reports, the team was working pro-bono.)

“We built Ello because virtually all the other social networks were cluttered, ugly, and full of ads,” a note on the site explains. “We began to feel manipulated by the networks themselves — many of our posts were never seen by our friends at all, because ads had taken priority.”

Ello, though invite-only, is free, and user content is viewable to the public. The site has reportedly started receiving thousands of invite requests per hour – it even appears that invites are being auctioned off on eBay – an influx so intense that they were forced to temporarily freeze invitations, Re/Code reports.

“We’re slammed!” Ello wrote beneath an “Invite your friends” section of the site.

Why are people flocking to it?There are several reasons why Ello has become the social network du jour. For one, it is advertisement-free, which in a world of Facebook ads and promoted tweets, is pretty refreshing.

It also is becoming a home for those who have fallen victim to Facebook’s problematic “real name” policy. Facebook has recently begun enforcing the use of real names on the site, claiming it is for “safety” purposes.

Swept up in this crackdown are drag performers and others in the LGBTQ community, who have reported being locked out of their accounts. The Daily Dot spoke to Paul Budnitz to see if he noticed that members of the LGBTQ community were switching to Ello:

“‘Yes, we’ve been hearing about the Facebook drama too over the last few days,’ Budnitz said. ‘Ello welcomes the LGBTQ community and we’re very excited to see so many people moving over!’

“After a group of Radical Faeries signed up a couple of days ago, Budnitz has been watching an uptick in queer users joining Ello—’which makes us very happy,’ he notes. ‘There does seem to be a bit of an avalanche since then.’”

Facebook spoke to LGBTQ activists last week regarding the name-change policy, but did not relent. There is a Facebook protest planned for Oct. 2, at City Hall in San Francisco.

What’s wrong with using your real name?

There are many reasons why a person would not want to use his or her real name on Facebook, including not wanting to be cyberstalked or abused by a former partner or family member; no longer identifying with a birth name or identity; and concerns about risking employment due to personal activity, just to name a few. Many feel safer with an assumed identity, or risk discrimination if they use a legal name.

Users may also want to skirt Facebook’s data mining. As the Verge points out:

“Fake names, fake ages, fake interests — all these inaccuracies interfere with the company’s ability to accurately target advertisements. Facebook wants to build the world’s most comprehensive database of people. If the information is current and correct, Facebook could eventually become a place where people bank or vote or even file taxes. If it’s filled with errors, it nears uselessness — at least, as far as advertisers are concerned.

What are the upsides to Ello?

Besides not forcing users to be represented by their legal names, which they may no longer identify with, Ello is not selling data gleaned from your account to advertisers, data brokers or others.

“You are not a product,” is the cheeky conclusion to Ello’s manifesto.

Users are not swamped with advertisements as they scroll through the network, and no longer have to make the compromise, “free service in exchange for valuable personal data.”

(However, Ello does in fact collect your data for its own use, purportedly to improve the site’s features.) And although the collection is anonymous, and not sold for profit, the site does state that there are some third parties, including law enforcement, that it will share information with.

What’s wrong with a few ads?

It’s not just the advertisements that stream through your feed, it is the fact that Facebook tracks what sites users visit, even when they’re not logged into the social network. As the Wall Street Journal points out:

“While other websites keep track of individuals who stop by, noting them by their computers, the difference is that Facebook has real names—allowing it to do more with the information that accumulates about a person’s browsing and shopping habits. Facebook, meanwhile, has grown intoan advertising juggernaut, with expected revenue of $12.2 billion this year, putting it in direct competition with publishers for ad dollars.”

They’re making billions by tracking movement online to better create targeted ads. It’s more than a little creepy. It is manipulative to the point that online retailers are resisting how much data Facebook can collect.

What are the downsides?

The downsides, as Not Your Ex/Rotic points out on Tumblr, are that the site lacks privacy controls. Users may be able to control what data Ello collects, but they cannot control who sees their posts, or block those who are abusive. From Ello’s @WTF section:

“Ello is a platform built for posting and sharing public content. You should assume that anything you post on Ello other than private messages will be accessed by others. Search engines will be able to see the content you post. Content you post may be copied, shared, or re-posted on Ello and on other parts of the internet in ways that you and we cannot control.”

This, as Not Your Ex/Rotic points out, leaves users open to abuse with little recourse:

“… there are specific elements of Ello’s privacy settings, deliberately designed, that make Ello actually way more unsafe than Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets and CMSes. And in our rush to embrace a Facebook replacement we need to be aware of what we are at risk for when using Ello.

“Ello deliberately does not have any sort of personal privacy settings, and it does not have any sort of features to block or report individuals, nor any way to consent to being followed.”

Ello does have a set of rules on its @WTF page, recently added an email, and will soon be adding new privacy tools.


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Categories: Media

The Other Kind of Climate Change Denial

FAIR Blog - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 2:34pm
A Washington Post columnist says that by "all logic" we should be drilling for more oil. What about the logic of climate change?
Categories: Media

How the U.S. Concocted a Terror Threat to Justify Syria Strikes, and the Corporate Media Went Along

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:58pm
According to writer Murtaza Hussain, anonymous officials say there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States.

As the U.S. expands military operations in Syria, we look at the Khorasan group, the shadowy militant organization the Obama administration has invoked to help justify the strikes. One month ago, no one had heard of Khorasan, but now U.S. officials say it poses an imminent threat to the United States. As the strikes on Syria began, U.S. officials said Khorasan was "nearing the execution phase" of an attack on the United States or Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up a commercial plane in flight. We are joined by Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept, whose new article with Glenn Greenwald is "The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria."

Below is an interview with Hussain, followed by a transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: The United States is continuing to expand its military operations in Iraq and Syria. Late last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deployed a division headquarters unit to Iraq for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. The 200 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division headquarters will joins 1,200 U.S. troops already inside Iraq. Overnight, U.S.-led warplanes hit grain silos and other targets in northern and eastern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attacks killed a number of civilians working at the silos.

While the United States has been bombing areas in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, it has also struck targets connected to a separate militant group that U.S. officials are calling the Khorasan group. If you never heard of the group before this month, you’re not alone. The Associated Press first reported on this new entity on September 13th. In the article, unnamed U.S. officials warned of a shadowy, terrorist group that posed a more imminent threat than the Islamic State. The AP described the group as, quote, "a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front." It went on to say the group poses a, quote, "direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation." Soon, major TV networks began echoing these claims about the Khorasan group.

FOX NEWS REPORTER: They say that they were facing a, quote, 'imminent threat' from the Khorasan group here in the United States.

JEFF GLOR: We are learning about a new and growing terror threat coming out of Syria. It’s an al-Qaeda cell you probably never heard of. Nearly everything about them is classified.

BARBARA STARR: The reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the Khorasan group, we’re going to go to Toronto, Canada, where we’ll be joined by Murtaza Hussain, a reporter with The Intercept. He wrote a piece with Glenn Greenwald called "The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria." We’ll go to Murtaza Hussain after this break.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to Murtaza Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept who, together with Glenn Greenwald, wrote the piece "The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria."

Murtaza, welcome to Democracy Now! Murtaza is joining us from Toronto. Can you talk about what you’ve learned about the so-called Khorasan group?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group is a group which first came up in the media around September 13th, roughly a week or so before the U.S. bombing campaign of Syria began. Heretofore, no one had heard of this group. It was not known in intelligence circles or among people who follow Syria. And suddenly we saw in the media that this was being described as the major terrorist threat emanating from that country and a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, unlike ISIS. So, this ended up being one of the main justifications for the war on Syria or the military airstrikes which are conducted on Syria, and it became the major media narrative justifying that action.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about, well, for example, where the Khorasan group got its name.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group, the name itself does not denote any group within Syria that anyone has familiarity with or has heard of before. It’s a name that was developed within the U.S. government to describe a certain set of groups—individuals within the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is one of the opposition factions fighting the Syrian government. Jabhat al-Nusra is also believed to be a franchise of al-Qaeda within Syria, but unlike al-Qaeda proper, it’s focused exclusively on fighting the government of Bashar Assad. So, in order to justify these strikes against this group, the U.S. had to create a new name to designate these few individuals within that group that they’re looking to target, so they developed this name, the Khorasan group, which identified several fighters who, they say, planned to wage attacks against the United States, as opposed to the government of Bashar Assad, and they conducted the strikes under that justification.

Now, within Syria, people view this group as being indistinguishable from the regular group of Jabhat al-Nusra, and it’s being viewed as an attack on that group, which is why yesterday you saw a statement from that group’s leader vowing revenge for the deaths of his commanders.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to CNN’s Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr talking about the Khorasan group.

BARBARA STARR: What we are hearing from a senior U.S. official is the reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland and/or an attack against a target in Europe. And the information indicated that Khorasan was well on its way, perhaps in the final stages, of planning that attack.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Barbara Starr of CNN. Your response?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, in the days leading up to the attack, several anonymous sources suggested that an attack was imminent. They suggested that there were a threat against airliners using toothpaste bombs or flammable clothing. And they said that, like Barbara Starr mentioned, they were in the final stages of planning this attack. After the strikes were carried out, several U.S. officials started walking back that estimation quite far and saying that the definition of "imminent" is unclear, and when we’re saying is a strike about to happen, we’re not sure what that means exactly. So, in retrospect, this definition of a strike being imminent and this characterization of a threat coming from this group, which is very definable and very clear, became very unclear after the strikes, and they suggested through The New York Times the strikes were merely aspirational and there was no actual plot today existing against the United States. So, the actual justification for the strikes was completely negated after the strikes ended, which was something quite troubling.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, negated right after the strikes began, right after the justification worked.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, after the strikes happened and there were statements saying that people were killed and the group had been scattered, James Comey and many others within the U.S. establishment started saying that, "Well, you know, we said the strikes were imminent from this group, but what does 'imminent' really mean? Could be six months, could be a year.’" And other anonymous officials started saying there was not any threat at all, there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States. And then, further it came to light that the Khorasan group itself, which we had been hearing about in the media was a new enemy and was a definable threat against the United States, did not really exist per se; it was simply a group of people whom the U.S. designated within a Syrian opposition faction as being ready to be struck. So, the entire narrative that had been developed, and within the media developed, was completely put to a lie after the strikes. And it was interesting that Ken Dilanian reported the story first in the Associated Press, saying that this was a new threat and a new group, and he was one of the first people to break the story afterwards saying that U.S. officials are now adding more "nuance," is the word he used, to their previous warnings about the group. So, it was kind of a really egregious case of media spin, whereby the media had taken up this narrative of a threat from a new terrorist, and then, after the strikes had been conducted which justified this group, they immediately took the opposite tack, saying that in fact there was no threat that was imminent and the group itself did not exist per se. So, it was really quite a failure of the media, which we’ve seen several times in the past, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Ken Dilanian of AP. Now, Intercept just put out another story, "The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories with Agency Before Publication." Ken Silverstein writes, "A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept." He goes on to say, "Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the [Los Angeles] Times. Your response to that piece?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, essentially, the administration will seek out reporters who are pliant and willing to work with them to leak stories like this. So, in the sense of those CIA stories, this reporter had his stories vetted. He promised favorable coverage in exchange for access. And again here, the Khorasan group stories first came out with this reporter. And, you know, the media’s role is to ask questions and to vet these claims quite thoroughly, but instead the claims were put out through reporters who were known to give favorable coverage and who were known to, you know, take the administration’s line in exchange for access. And it seems like this happened again, in the sense that here was a reporter who put out the story, they did not vet who the Khorasan group is, what the veracity of these claims are, but they put it out in the media, and it became a media story on its own. So I think that you’re seeing the same narrative replay as happened as we detailed in the previous story, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another piece that you wrote, Murtaza, "Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic," which refers to a letter that has been signed by many Muslims. Can you explain who has written this letter and who it was sent to?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, there was an open letter published to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from over 120 of the most prominent religious scholars among Muslim scholars in the world. And there was the mufti of Egypt, Bosnia, Nigeria and many other countries around the world, including the United States. And they published an open letter condemning point by point the practices of the so-called Islamic State. And it was purely from a theological standpoint, and they had given a very rigorous critique of the group and found it, by their standards, to be un-Islamic. Now, this goes back to the question of what is or is not Islamic. Islam is not a monolith; it’s subject to interpretations of the people who take part in it. And, you know, this group found them to be decidedly un-Islamic. I think most Muslims around the world would find them to be un-Islamic, despite their pretensions to the contrary.

So, the point I was making in the article is that when you identify them as being Islamic and you say that they are the definition of Islam, you’re playing to their narrative. That’s the legitimacy they want and which today they don’t have, and they’re rejected broadly by Muslims around the world. So it’s important to say that while, you know, they may partake in Islamic dialogue and they may use the symbols of Islam, we cannot let any one group of extremists anywhere define a faith or a civilization which is, you know, identified with by over a billion people around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll link to your pieces at I want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking to Murtaza Hussain, who is a reporter with The Intercept. His latest two pieces, "The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria" and "Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic." This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report.

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The Anatomical Part Mysteriously Missing from 'Masters of Sex'

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:09pm
There is a big double-standard between the display of men and women's bodies.

Showtime's Masters of Sex (2013) wrapped up its sophomore season not with a cliffhanger but the theme of change: characters embarked on new romantic and parental relationships, scientific studies shifted almost exclusively from sex to sexual dysfunction, and a new president took office as JFK's inauguration filled everyone's black-and-white 1960s TV screens.

One thing about Masters of Sex's second season did not change: the double standard with which it portrays male and female bodies.

After 23 episodes, Masters of Sex finally showed viewers a penis. Well, sort of. In "One for the Money, Two for the Show" (2.11), gynecologist/sexologist Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) awakens with an erection. Masters throws back the covers to reveal a bulge in his blue boxers. The camera lingers on it for a few seconds before panning upward to the doctor's exasperated face.

For a show that centers so heavily on human sexuality and sex acts, it's odd that this is the first time we see a penis—or the guise of a penis, as Vulture relentlessly suspects in its review: "Who on the set of the show was responsible for the construction and rigging of Bill Masters' fake morning erection? Is it a costume piece, or is it something the props department puts together? And what's it made of, anyway?"

But perhaps stranger than our first semi penis-spotting is that a (heterosexual) woman creates and runs Masters of Sex. With that in mind, shouldn't we see a more balanced playing field here in terms of naked bodies? After all, Showtime has gone (flaccid) full-frontal before in Queer As Folk(2000-'05), Weeds(2005-'12), Shameless(2011-), and Gigolos(2011-).

Masters of Sex Has An Anatomy Problem, and Viewers Notice

Fans of Masters of Sex have noticed the lack of penises and the persistent double-standard that comes with showing men's and women's naked bodies onscreen, even on an almost-anything-goes cable network like Showtime.

Editor Meredith Frasier labels this Hollywood's anatomy problem, arguing that it's "woefully misogynistic" and at this rate, there will never be enough naked male actors to fill a Seth MacFarlane “We Saw Your Dick” number at the Oscars.

More specifically, fans question the constant display of Lizzy Caplan's naked body and wonder when her male counterparts will be shot similarly (Caplan plays Virginia Johnson, Masters' assistant and sexual partner). Writing in the comments section of a review of the show, one viewer remarks candidly, "If you're not going to go full-frontal with Sheen, then knock it off." Another writes that although the narrative displays a clear power-struggle between Masters and Johnson, with her often "revealing" herself to him, the double standard "is cringe-worthy and lopsided."

Some audience members seem hopeful that Masters of Sex will "eventually get around to full-frontal male nudity." After all, some say, "it seems like the kind of show that would do it." Even Lizzy Caplan comments optimistically about the issue: "Well, the men don't show their penises, but I'm hoping that we get to it."

Showrunner Michelle Ashford doesn't seem as confident. When asked about Masters of Sex's double standard, Ashford says she's mostly backed away from frontal male nudity "because it’s shown so rarely that to include it feels like it’s making a statement" and that would presumably "take viewers out of the drama."

While I call bullshit on that response, Ashford eventually gets to the meat of the issue: "Maybe I’m just a victim of the same kind of conditioning of Why do we never really see male nudity in movies or television?

Now, we're getting to the real reasons American popular culture fears the display of the penis.

No Penises in American Media, Please: Some Reasons

By the 1950s (incidentally when Masters of Sex takes place), America had adopted many of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories. Basics about human development and interaction were so commonplace during this time that even people who'd never visited analysts were aware of them. Since then, many of Freud's ideas have become passé. But those of us who study the media for a living still draw on a handful of them.

Scholar Peter Lehman identifies three reasons our culture finds it difficult to show the penis. First, representations of the penis, or phalluses, are so prevalent in our society that the real things, if revealed, will theoretically pale in comparison. Think about it: all the penis-shaped things man has created to signify awe, power and dominance—guns, bullets, skyscrapers, rockets, cannons, the Washington Monument (America's phallus!)—render an actual penis insignificant, even ludicrous. For this reason, in order to maintain its power and mystique, the penis ought to remain hidden.

A second reason American media shies away from showing full-frontal male nudity is that (white) heterosexual men, for whom most media content is created, do not want to give their female counterparts a basis by which to compare and/or judge them. Although some men have been evaluating women and their bodies for years (ahem, beauty pageants), "the thought of the tables being turned on the men is close to unbearable," Lehman explains. To this end, the penis mostly remains covered on film and television.

A third reason showrunners and filmmakers normally do not show the penis is that (white) heterosexual males, again the target audience of most cinema and television, unconsciously or consciously fear they may become fascinated by or derive pleasure from the penis before them onscreen. One way to curb this potential (and silly) homophobia is, once more, to keep the penis under wraps.

Hollywood also refuses to show penises, especially erect ones, to ensure it's not dabbling in pornography. Hardcore porn, after all, is where the large and supposedly impressive penis is always on display, asserting visually what women allegedly need and want. In our culture, for filmmakers and showrunners to include that in their work would imply they are creating pornography. So again, the penis generally remains hidden.

Isn't it time that cultural phallocentrism, man's fear of judgment, and one's presumed homophobia take a backseat to a truer representation of reality—or at least a reality based on two people like Masters and Johnson who dealt openly with sex and sexuality their entire adult lives?

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Emma Watson's Nude Photos Threat Was a Hoax—But It Was Still a Threat

Alternet - Media Culture - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 5:27pm
Let's call out the aggressors who verbally attack and sexually threaten women for for speaking up.

When we thought 4chan had threatened to leak nude pictures of Emma Watson as retaliation for her United Nations speech on feminism last week, it was outrage-on-internet-business as usual. After all, women being verbally attacked and sexually threatened for speaking up is nothing new. Finding out that it was all part of a hoax, however, means He-for-She-gate is a full-blown meta-misogynist clusterfuck.

Rantic Media (also known as Social VEVO), the supposed marketering bros behind the threat – hoax or no, it was still a threat – swears that the goal was to bring attention to the sexism of 4chan and the recent celebrity photo leaks. But sexually threatening an outspoken woman to shine a light on how outspoken women are sexually threatened – well, that’s idiotic at best. The Emma Watson hoax was a cravenly opportunistic move to gin up attention using a real issue, a real woman and real fear that women and marginalized groups across the internet face constantly. That’s not marketing or consciousness-raising: it’s harassment.

And what was this intended to prove (other than, perhaps, some nebulous point about the media’s gullibility)? We all already know that 4chan is a cesspool. Using their tactics is like throwing a bag of garbage into the dump: you’re just adding to the stink.

The Rantic “firm” of men didn’t actually believe that women would be grateful, or that they were doing anything to further the conversation about misogyny online, nor about social media threats or celebrity privacy. The supposed hoaxers just wanted their 15 minutes, their 140 characters. The only thing Emma Watson’s harassers achieved was to remind women that our bodies and the sexual fear with which we’ve been instilled since childhood are usable as a joke. As a way to drum up traffic.

The takeaway from their “funny” hoax is supposed to be Everyone loves a sex scandal! – but that’s only true if you’re not the one being attacked, or you’ll never be the one being attacked.

Sexual harassment and online threats against women aren’t something to joke about or try out in service of some imagined greater good: believe me, no good came of this.

The one maybe-bright spot in this week-long Watson scandal is that clearly vitriolic sexism is finally seen as an outrage, and it might finally provoke action. Though, if the threat had been directed at a woman other than the squeaky-clean young, white, former-Hermione, I’m not sure that would have inevitably been the case.

But to the men who decided Watson’s sense of safety was worth throwing to the internet wolves so long as it meant making a splash: Why not try to reclaim that part of your humanity about which Watson spoke so eloquently in her UN speech? Instead of using women’s bodies and fear and sexuality to make money, get attention and feel like men, consider becoming a more “true and complete version” of yourself. And if that completed guy is still an asshole, do us all a favor and back away from the computer. Permanently.


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Are We on Course for a Never-Ending War?

Alternet - Media Culture - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 2:56pm
Bill Moyers discusses the latest on the conflict with a veteran national security reporter.

As Congress skipped town and avoided a vote on war, President Obama announced this week that the US was taking the lead in bombing jihadists in Iraq and Syria, opening what is being widely interpreted as another long and costly American military campaign in the Middle East.

This week, Bill discusses the latest on the conflict with Jonathan Landay, a veteran national security reporter for McClatchy Newspapers and Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and foreign service officer in Afghanistan.

“As much as President Obama wishes we weren’t the world’s policemen, perhaps we are,” Landay tells Moyers. “And there’s no escaping that curse.”

Hoh, who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over US strategic policy there, adds: “Is this really our model for the Middle East that we are going to bomb countries, continuously, take part in civil wars, sometimes supporting one side, maybe supporting the other, with no means or no real desire or effort to achieve a peace?”


BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Here we go again.

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH on January 16, 1991: As I report to you, air attacks are underway against military targets in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON on December 16, 1998: Good evening. Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH on March 19, 2003: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA on August 7, 2014: To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.

BILL MOYERS: Over 23 years, four consecutive presidents have ordered the bombing of Iraq by U.S. forces. It’s what one of my guests calls the nightmare of Groundhog Day – facing the same problem, over and again. Just a year ago Barack Obama told the United Nations that he was determined to end America’s perpetual war footing in the Middle East region. But this week the President returned to the UN to announce – not yet! And to assert that the US intends to unleash more airpower to defeat the Islamic militants who have swept across large areas in Iraq and Syria. With a first round of drones and missiles unleashed inside Syria even before he spoke at the UN, the president has plunged America into the midst of a civil war that involves over one thousand different militia. You need a mighty big scorecard just to figure who’s on whose side.

We’ve asked a couple of experienced hands to help us do just that. Jonathan Landay is a senior national security and intelligence reporter for McClatchy newspapers. He’s also an unsung hero of Washington journalism. During the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Landay and his colleague Warren Stroebel dug deep to find evidence refuting the Bush administration’s case for going to war. You can see Landay and Stroebel at work in our documentary “Buying the War,” at

Matthew Hoh fought in Iraq as a Marine Corps captain. He then joined the Foreign Service and became the widely praised senior American civilian in Afghanistan's Zabul province, that’s a Taliban stronghold. He resigned in protest when he came to believe the war was making things worse and American soldiers should not be dying in what was a long-running civil war. Matthew Hoh is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC.

Welcome to both of you.


BILL MOYERS: Let me read you something one of your colleagues, Ryan Cooper, wrote this week in "Who's ready to squander billions of dollars on yet another pointless, almost-certain-to-backfire war in Iraq? The mainstream media for one," he says, "… which for weeks has been shamelessly fearmongering the supposed threat … by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria … Many Republicans, meanwhile, insist that ISIS represents an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States, which, strangely enough, is just how George W. Bush justified his war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 … Let's get one thing straight: … ISIS poses ‘no specific, credible threat’ to the U.S … Indeed, ISIS's slickly produced beheading videos are quite obviously designed to bait the media into stoking a panic — and it has succeeded spectacularly.”

JONATHAN LANDAY: See, I disagree with that interpretation because I think the point of those videos was to try and undermine that turn in American public opinion. Don't come back here. Don't get--


JONATHAN LANDAY: --involved. This is what’s going to happen to your soldiers. Look what happened to your soldiers before. You have to look at some of their previous videos where they show American tanks being blown up, American soldiers being killed. Don't get involved here. And I think that that's what-- I don't see them being able to bait, at least at this point, Obama into coming back, because he, you know, beyond special forces I don't think there's any way he's going to introduce American forces on the ground at this point. I don't think he wants to. He may have to.

BILL MOYERS: At this point.

JONATHAN LANDAY: At this point. He may have to. We'll have to wait and see. But I'm not--

BILL MOYERS: But is-- go ahead.

JONATHAN LANDAY: I'm not sure that, again, I'm not sure that that was the point of the videos, to suck Americans in, and in fact, in one of the videos after the Steven Sotloff beheading, the executioner turns to the camera and says, back off. Leave us alone.

BILL MOYERS: So what do you think the Islamic State wants?

MATTHEW HOH: They subscribe to a form of Islam where they believe there's only one authority within Islam. And they want to form a caliphate and they want to have that one authority that all Muslims follow. They attract, I think a wide group of followers. Some are people who've just been dispossessed, some are people who, many of whom I think have been caught up in this cycle of revenge, of killings, of retribution that have been wracking the Middle East for decades now and specifically in Iraq for 11 years now.

You have some who are, I think, adherents to this religious philosophy. And then you have some quite like the British gentleman who murdered Sotloff and Foley, who are psychopaths. But you also have to remember that throughout history there's always been people who want to go fight, who like the romance of war, who are looking to fulfill something deeper, some purpose.

I will say with the beheading videos, I do believe they were bait. I think this is-- they want to validate their narrative that the Islamic State is the protector of Islam, that it is protecting the people, the faith, the culture of their lands from the quote, unquote, "crusaders," for lack of a better term.

JONATHAN LANDAY: I think there's a deeper problem here, and it's one that I haven't-- that the president has touched on. He touched on it in his speech to the UN General Assembly. And I think it's one that could really prove to be the undoing of this campaign that he's unleashing. And that is the immediate threat is the Islamic State, but it's a phenomenon. It's a consequence of decades, centuries of despotic rule in that part of the world by dictators, by kings who have provided no semblance of responsible governance, no accountability.

If you look at what's going on in the Middle East today, you have enormous poverty. You have this huge youth bulge, the enormous number of young men between the ages of 17 and 30 who are underpaid or have no jobs, you know, lack skills. You have this massive corruption that favors a very thin elite in all of these countries. And now the United States, you know, I remember when the newly elected Obama went to Cairo for that historic speech.

BILL MOYERS: 2009, right.

JONATHAN LANDAY: Exactly, where he delivers this speech and he's says, you know, we're not-- no more business as usual by the United States. We're not going to align ourselves with these regional despots. We want to see reform, we want to see democratic reform. And what has he done now is he's re-aligned himself with these regional powers, with these regional despots, including the guy who this administration condemned for the coup that he staged in Egypt, overthrowing an elected government, albeit, you know, the Muslim Brotherhood and I'm talking about Egyptian President Sisi. I mean, he is now counted as part of this coalition. So if you are one of these young men who are looking at all of this and seeing and listening to the propaganda about Islam being under threat from the west, this Islamic State thing has an appeal. And if somehow Obama succeeds in degrading and eventually destroying the Islamic State, something will come along to replace it because those problems that create this phenomenon are not going to go away.

BILL MOYERS: 10:00:51;13 But meanwhile the Islamic State is a threat to Saudi Arabia, a threat to Jordan, a threat to Qatar, a threat to Bahrain, those autocratic regimes you were talking about, a threat ultimately possibly to Egypt. So why isn't it an option for the president to have said or to say this is your doorstep, if you don't put billions of dollars you're earning from oil and all of those young men who are available into the fighting of the Islamic State, we're not going to be there. This is your fight.

MATTHEW HOH: Because our priorities for decades have been on military first solutions, not on political solutions. We have, as Jonathan said, we've embraced dictatorships. Backing ourselves out of those relationships is very hard in a Washington, DC where the climate of politics overwhelms everything else.

So you see President Obama, and I'm reminded of an article you wrote, Bill, five years ago on Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate the Vietnam War and how Johnson at that point felt that there was no good was going to come out of that escalation, that there was no purpose in it. But how could he face down these senators if he didn't stand up to-- and I feel that President Obama has the same challenge. How does he not come across as being weak-willed or not tough on terror? The other thing, too, is that again we, for decades now this has been our policy. So how do you extricate yourself from that policy? We spend a trillion dollars a year on national security in this country.

And when you add up to the Department of Defense, Department of State, CIA, Veterans Affairs, interest on debt, the number that strikes me the most about how much we're committed financially to these wars and to our current policies is we have spent $250 billion already just on interest payments on the debt we've incurred for the Iraq and Afghan wars. So we're in this system that how do you start to break down, how do you start to dismantle, because the result has been these Frankensteins like the Islamic State.

BILL MOYERS: Here's the dilemma. The whole world has seen what ISIS is doing now. When you see evil playing out in front of your eyes: rape, beheadings, whole villages wiped out, don't you as a human being, as a free nation have to do something?

MATTHEW HOH: You have to remember that this is not a singular unique event occurred this summer, that all sides have been guilty of atrocities in this conflict. Half a million Iraqis have been killed in the war since 2003. To put that in perspective, in World War II, the United States lost 400,000 people, killed.

So if you look at the conflict now in Iraq and understand it as this continuing cycle of violence, this continuing cycle of retribution, this continue cycle of sectarian hatred that groups like the Islamic State ,which I characterize as a parasite of war, benefit from, how do you stop that cycle? Because as horrific as the killings have been this past summer, remember 10,000 civilians were killed in Iraq last year. How do you stop it from 20,000 next year?

JONATHAN LANDAY: When we look at the situation there and the utter horror with which, you know, we're focused on two videos of two Americans being killed. But there were other videos. There were videos where they killed 600 people. 600 young Iraqi, young Iraqi men. They've slaughtered men from a tribe in Syria that tried to resist them. Hundreds of them. And you say to yourself, as a human being, can we allow this to go on? And I think, you know, we're talking about the complexity of this. But it's really hard to put yourself in the shoes of the president of the United States who commands the only military in the world that's capable, perhaps, of stopping this.

Here you have this horrendous civil war in Syria, and I've been there twice now this year. And I have, you know, and I've covered a lot of war. I have never seen such urban destruction anywhere. Anywhere. I don't know how they're going to rebuild that country.

BILL MOYERS: Two to three million refugees, Syrian refugees and six and a half--

JONATHAN LANDAY: That's just outside of the country.

BILL MOYERS: --million inwardly--


BILL MOYERS: --displaced people--

JONATHAN LANDAY: It's nine million people displaced. But beyond that, and you see, like, street after street, town after town, just completely devastated. Infrastructure, bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, how are they rebuild that? How are you going to repatriate the two to three million people who are living outside of Syria?

I think something like 20 percent of the Lebanese population is Syrian now. How are you going to put that all back together again? If you allow that to continue, then you're looking at something that perhaps a disaster on an even greater scale.

So here you are as the president of the United States, preaching human rights, trying to repair as best you can this unbelievable damage that was done to the United States' reputation and its ability to wield soft power, diplomatic power, by the invasion of Iraq, by Guantanamo, by Abu Ghraib, by the CIA's torture program. And you say to yourself, I may-- I need to do something because you got the pressure on you as the only commander of a military in the world that can do something about it.

BILL MOYERS: But is it conceivable that the president, looking at the situation there, thinks that air power, that you can bomb the Islamic State into submission and oblivion?

MATTHEW HOH: I don't think he believes that. And I think he's said as much when he says that there's no military solution, only a political solution to these conflicts. However, I unfortunately, I feel that's just lip-service. And unfortunately, I feel that we are going to join in the violence in Syria without any end state. Without any goal. Without any ability to finalize some type of agreement that is going to bring about an end to the killing.

One of my favorite lines I've heard about our Syria plan is that it's not a strategy, it's a spending plan. That we are going to-- we have authorized $500 million to train 5,000 Syrian rebels, moderate rebels. And you've been in a lot of combat zones, and have you ever seen anything moderate in combat? You know, I mean, like--

JONATHAN LANDAY: No, there's no--

MATTHEW HOH: I mean, like, because I don't know where this term comes from. But this moderate-- and now we're going to train them at a cost of $100,000 for one guy, it's going to cost to train. $100,000 per person. And we're going to send them to Saudi Arabia, the people who have been training and fostering and helping a lot of these groups, like al-Nusra, which is the Al Qaeda organization, or the Islamic State that are now out of control, in response to a beheading video. Which to me makes no sense because Saudi Arabia beheaded 19 people in August.

BILL MOYERS: This past August?




MATTHEW HOH: One was for witchcraft or sorcery, several for drug possession. In Saudi Arabia, you can be beheaded for a whole list of offenses, including adultery and homosexuality. And--

BILL MOYERS: But these are our good allies in this--

MATTHEW HOH: These are--

BILL MOYERS: --new coalition.

MATTHEW HOH: And this is where I think a lot of us say, what are we doing here? This makes no sense. All we are going to achieve is perpetuation of this conflict. Now at least I think the Pentagon and the White House has been honest about that, this is going to take years. But what's going to be achieved? How are we going to achieve it? Are we just going to bomb? I think it's quite striking that the president said the model for these operations will be Somalia and Yemen. And then almost as soon as he said that, Yemen descended into utter chaos. Hundreds are dead on the streets of the capital of Yemen. The prime minister forced to abdicate.

And that's the model. So is this really our model for the Middle East that we are going to bomb countries, continuously, take part in civil wars, sometimes supporting one side, maybe supporting the other, with no means or no real desire or effort to achieve a peace?

BILL MOYERS: What are the options in Syria? I mean, I just wrote down what seems to me to be the conundrum. The jihadists want to control Syria, which is 70 percent Sunni, so they should have a natural constituency there, since they are Sunni.

To stop ISIS, mustn't there be a truce between President Assad and the rebels who are trying to bring him down and given the mutual hatred between Assad and the rebels, between the Sunnis and the Shiites, how can that political solution be found?

JONATHAN LANDAY: Absolutely and I think that's what kept Obama out of there for so long. You know, how do you deal with this incredible tangle of not just sectarian hatreds, but there's ideological differences between these groups, there's personal differences, that's why eventually I think the administration has all, despite what it says, all but given up on this moderate political leadership that it helped-- it crafted and has been living in-- on our tab in Turkey, has basically given up on this central command of the Free Syrian Army and has bypassed--

BILL MOYERS: I literally saw a reference in some major newspaper story the other day, said the moderately extremist militia--

JONATHAN LANDAY: Yeah, that sounds right.

BILL MOYERS: I'm serious.

JONATHAN LANDAY: And no, and again, I really think that that's what's kept him from intervening in Syria. And how he's going to be able to create these buffers between, okay, so we're going to bomb the Islamic State, but we're not going to help Assad by doing that. And we're only going to help these moderates.

And you know, I understand the conundrum. But then if you're looking at that part of the world, you're looking at the potential collapse of Iraq into this absolute chaos where this group is going to be able to expand, recruit, let's not forget its goal is not just stopping at Iraq and Syria.

They want Lebanon. They want al-Sham which is this region of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and parts of Turkey. But they have also said, they have also said before the Americans got involved, that eventually, they plan to go after Western targets too, Americans and Europeans. Let's not forget--

BILL MOYERS: You don't doubt that, do you?

JONATHAN LANDAY: No, not at all. In fact, we've seen evidence of this already. There-- I forget what the-- I think the latest estimate is 15,000 foreign fighters now are in Syria and Iraq, mostly fighting for the Islamic state, over a hundred Americans, over a thousand Europeans. I forget exactly what the number, the Brits are talking about, something like 400. They all have passports.

There is evidence indeed that this group is, if not planning, at least encouraging its foreign supporters to stage attacks. Now are these existential threats to the countries in which they're taking place? No, I think that has been so overblown.

The idea that these Islamic terrorists are an existential threat, particularly to the United States. No. They're more of a threat to the politicians who are in power who fail to stop these attacks. And yet, nevertheless the duty of these leaders are to protect their citizens. And I think that also to a certain extent drove Obama.

But you know, it's hard to put yourself in his shoes. He ran for election to be the leader of the United States. As a leader, you have to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Whether he's made the right ones in this case, we'll have to wait and see.


MATTHEW HOH: No, I think this is a very tragic mistake the president is making, intervening in these conflicts. I think it's giving the Islamic State exactly what they want. I go back to some of the guiding strategy that Osama bin Laden had. And bin Laden said, all we have to do is send two Mujahideen to the farthest point East, raise the flag of Jihad and Al Qaeda, and the American generals will come racing and exhaust themselves economically, militarily, politically. And I think that strategy has been successful. We're-- that cost for these wars are already totaled at $6 trillion at our lifetime.

We have suffered casualties much greater than I think the American people understand. There is the 7,000 dead, the 50,000 wounded, but of the two and a half million veterans who served, including myself, a third of us suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or some other type of mental health injury. We also have 250,000 veterans and service members who suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

So I don't think people understand the level of violence that we were talking about in these conflicts. And I think by jumping back-- let alone, again, the half million Iraqis killed, the tens and ten thousands of Afghan killed, the spillover effects with the war in Syria. So I think jumping back into these conflicts is a very tragic mistake. A very shortsighted mistake. And I think it plays right into the hands of groups like Islamic State that need sectarian tension. That’s why I think jumping in on one side of the conflict is-- it makes the-- exacerbates the problem.

BILL MOYERS: You know, I'm not sure this conversation was a good idea, because listening to you, both of you, I think, aren't we crazy to think we can untangle a mess like this and bring peace on Earth, good will to all men?

MATTHEW HOH: I think this is the lesson we learn from it. So stop our policy of trying to play one group against the other. I mean, this has gone back for decades. This is policy under Kissinger, under Brzezinski, of playing one ethnic group against another, playing one religion against another.

And for me, it's stop trying to pick sides in these conflicts. Stop rewarding one side with a lot of American cash at the expense-- I look at it this way. If you went into Kentucky and West Virginia, or wherever the Hatfield and McCoys were and you back the Hatfields, what would the McCoys do? They'd fight harder and they would try and find some other-- I mean, so stop-- and you don't even know why the Hatfields are fighting the McCoys. And so, I mean, it's a very simple way to say it, but stop getting in the middle of all these conflicts.

JONATHAN LANDAY: I think that, you know, to a certain extent, he's right. Matt's right. But I agree, the odds that we're going to be able to put, you know, to bring peace to the Middle East, no. But I don't even know if that's really, underneath everything, the goal. I think right now perhaps the goal is, let's just try and contain it and stop it from spreading. If we can do that, perhaps we can call that a success.

BILL MOYERS: We’re out of time for the broadcast, but we will continue this conversation online. Matthew Hoh, Jonathan Landay, thank you very much for being with me.

JONATHAN LANDAY: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEW HOH: Thanks, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: At our website,, more on the Islamic State and the international response. And our documentary, “Buying the War.”

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FAIR TV: Climate Blackout, Bombing Syria & Human Rights Rhetoric

FAIR Blog - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 3:18pm
The People's Climate March wasn't fit for TV news, Obama is a "reluctant warrior," and the US has a "longtime concern" for human rights in Egypt.
Categories: Media

'Reluctant Warrior' Obama Bombs Yet Another Country

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 2:58pm
How many countries would he have to bomb to be considered an enthusiastic warrior? If there's one thing elite media seem to know for sure, it's that Barack Obama doesn't like war. One phrase in particular seems to stand out:

It was a remarkable moment for a reluctant warrior.

–Jonathan Karl (ABC Nightline, 9/10/14)

He's a very reluctant warrior, didn't want to do this. But you have to say, it is good he recognized reality.

–David Gergen (CNN, 9/10/14)

Is he going to become a warrior, and not a reluctant warrior, when he is taking such a strong stance that he will do anything to defeat ISIS, except for if it involves American troops?

–Erin Burnett (CNN, 9/10/14)

He's a reluctant warrior.

–David Brooks (PBS NewsHour, 9/10/14)

You have a reluctant warrior in President Obama, and the press saying, "Do something."

–Lauren Ashburn (Fox News, 9/12/14)

He is, as you know, the standard phrase, the reluctant warrior. And I think he's played that long before this decision.

–David Bergen (CNN, 9/14/14)

But now with weekly beheadings by ISIS, the reluctant warrior must wage war, but not total war–tepid war.

–Bill O'Reilly (Fox News, 9/15/14)

Late Monday night came the announcement that US had begun conducting airstrikes on Syria. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept posted a story (9/23/14) with this headline:

Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

--Glenn Greenwald

It does make one wonder: What would an enthusiastic warrior look like to the corporate media? Would bombing eight countries in six years be enough?


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Why Does the D.C. Press Portray Women as Mean?

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 1:56pm
Politico recently caused an uproar when it singled out Gabrielle Giffords as a "ruthless attack dog."

Since it was founded in 2007, Politico has published thousands of articles and columns. (It's published almost 50,000 mentions of Barack Obama alone.) But according to site's online archives, only recently has Politico described a public figure as a "ruthless attack dog."

That person? Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in the head in 2011 when a gunman, brandishing a 9mm Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, opened fire at Gifford's outdoor shopping center event, shooting 19 people, six of whom died.

Why "ruthless attack dog"? Because Giffords is running tough, accurate gun safety ads through her PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, against Republicans in various states to highlight the fact the GOP stonewalled any efforts to pass gun legislation, even after the school massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Talk about incongruity. The 44-year-old recovering gunshot victim was labeled "mean," tagged for having "unleashed some of the nastiest ads" of the year, and brandishing a "bare-knuckled approach" to politics. It fit into a larger pattern of Giffords "harshly attack[ing] her Republican foes," according to Politico.

The misguided Politico piece has received plenty of deserved criticism this week, especially for denouncing someone who got shot in the head as "angry" and "mean" when she's trying to pass laws to diminish the number of Americans who get shot in the head.

But additional elements in play make the piece even more distressing, and highlight continuing trends in political news coverage. It's impossible to ignore the fact that Giffords, as a woman in a predominantly male field of campaign politics, was singled out for being the poster child for disconcertingly "mean" and "angry" politics this election cycle. And that she was singled out on almost laughably thin evidence. (Politico's sole example of a "liberal leaning" critic of the ad was the Arizona Republic, a paper that endorsed GOP presidential candidates in the last four election cycles.)

A Democratic woman goes toe-to-toe against the mostly-male gun lobby in America and she's the one whistled for a foul by Politico's etiquette police? She's the one depicted as a convenient victim because the life-threatening injury she suffered represents "quite the conundrum" for those who might otherwise attack her and who now feel "helpless" to respond to her supposedly nasty ads?

As Hillary Clinton prepares for perhaps her second presidential run, it's worth reflecting on how prominent women are often treated and slighted by the Beltway press. How they're frequently held to a different standard, warned against getting too emotional, to the point where making factually accurate campaign ads in 2014 leads to wide-eyed Politicodeclarations of being "mean" and "angry" and "ruthless."

"In a midterm cluttered with negative ads," the article announced, "Giffords' commercials stand out for their intensity" based in part of the on the "emotional display."

This is all fairly loaded language, applied in a negative way that we rarely see for the attack ads of male politicians and strategists. An "emotional and gut-wrenching attack ad" from Americans for Prosperity earlier this year was positively described as a potential "nightmare" for opponents, for example. And Politico magazine itself recently praised a political ad from the sixties attacking an opponent of President Lyndon Johnson for evoking "an emotional response," encouraging "voters to become angry or frightened." These are the ads of savvy players engaged in smart hardball tactics, successfully putting their opponents on the defensive.

But not Giffords, according to Politico. When she gets emotional, it's "nasty" and "mean." And she's not alone.

"Any emotion that Hillary Clinton shows has always been used against her," Jessica Valenti wrote in a June Guardian column. (Recall that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claimed Clinton had faked a display of emotion during a New Hampshire campaign appearance, just days before that state's pivotal 2008 primary.)

Addressing the mainstream media's mocking reviews of Clinton's recent book, Hard Choices, claiming it was "boring," "safe," "dry," and lacked excitement, Valenti noted that Clinton has routinely been attacked in the press whenever she wasn'tboring and safe and dry:

After all, whenever she's hinted at being anything other than measured and guarded, Clinton has been attacked as hysterical, a ballbuster or worse. So if people are bored by Hard Choices, they should blame the misogynist expectations of Washington, not the careful crafting of a seasoned politician.

Valenti's point is crucial for understanding the restraints that woman often operate under inside the Beltway: If they're emotional, they get attacked, but if they're not they can be branded as cold and calculating. ("Ruthless.")

And then there's the closely related issue of likeability. In 2009, aPolitico article about Kirsten Gillibrand, a rising star Democratic senator from New York, was headlined "Gillibrand Unpopular Among Peers," and reported "within the high school gossip circle that is New York's congressional delegation, Kirsten Gillibrand's nickname is 'Tracy Flick.'"

That's a reference to the character from the book and movie Election -- a character who's described as "one of those people who manages to get very far in life while being thoroughly unlikable."

The Times'Dowd joined in [emphasis added]:

The 42-year-old Gillibrand, who has been in the House for only two years, is known as opportunistic and sharp-elbowed. Tracy Flick is her nickname among colleagues in the New York delegation, many of whom were M.I.A. at her Albany announcement.

On year earlier, New York magazine observed that like Flick, Hillary Clinton is "blonde, she's driven, she's oddly sexless (even as she is sexualized by others), she's competitive and ruthless, and sometimes you wonder whether she has the emotions of normal people."


Meanwhile, why isn't Politicooutraged by Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling from Illinois whose recent attack ad "features indignant veterans scolding a Democratic House member about cuts to "veterans benefits" that never happened." Does that not qualify as "mean"?

How about Georgia Republican David Perdue whose "smarmy" campaign ad makes the outlandishly false claim his opponent, Democrat Michelle Nunn, helped fund groups linked to "terrorists."

Neither of those set off any bells atPolitico, but Gabby Giffords did.

Additionally, there was something disturbing about a recent Arizona Republic editorial (featured prominently in the Politico piece) that found fault with Giffords' group and its campaign ads. What was disturbing was how the newspaper's scolding employed such a condescending tone towards the former Congresswoman.

Do the people who control your messaging know they are marring the legacy of a congresswoman known for her decency and good judgment, who practiced civility in office with such consistency she did not just reach across the aisle but found cherished friends there?


Perhaps the Tucson shooting changed Gabby Giffords. Perhaps she is the one who controls the message. But we doubt it.

Why did the Arizona Republic assume that Giffords has no idea what the "messaging" is for the group she founded? Why did the paper assume that the woman who survived an assassination attempt and created a PAC to battle the gun industry doesn't know what the ads her group created look and sound like?

Maybe Giffords, the gunshot victim, was just too busy being "mean," "angry," and "ruthless."

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Categories: Media

Forget Heartbleed, Is There Anything We Can Do to Save Ourselves from the Shellshock Bug?

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:18am
A new, gaping security flaw can imperil Apple computers and other Unix systems.

In April, computer users held their breath as a security vulnerability, dubbed Heartbleed, affected more than 300,000 web and email servers worldwide. The flaw, which took months for developers to patch, allowed hackers to steal the cryptographic keys that are used in online commerce and web connections, potentially exposing the personal and financial information of countless Internet users.

Bloomberg News even reported that the NSA quietly knew about Heartbleed for some time and may have used it to spy on people and steal their passwords. Some cybersecurity experts say that the bug reached virtually every computer connected to the Internet.

Now a new flaw has emerged that might make Heartbleed seem like child’s play. The bug, called Shellshock, is found in the command-line structure of Unix and Linux operating systems — including most web servers, Apple devices, and mobile phones — and can be exploited easily by hackers. And according to security experts, the bug is exceptional in its severity and may take years to patch, reports the UK Independent.  

Shellshock will not require users to rush from site to site changing their passwords but it does give hackers another method of attack that they could potentially use to take over computers or mobile devices.

If Heartbleed's effect on users was akin to unlocking everyone's front door simultaneously, sending people scrambling back home to turn the key (i.e., change their passwords) then Shellshock is like giving thieves a new type of crowbar to break in to houses with—they're just as likely to use older methods, but it's still a blow for general security. Security researchers are especially worried about its potential— but as yet unknown—effect on Apple Mac computers, which uses the Bash software which the bug exploits directly in the form of its command-line program Terminal.

Shellshock is a flaw found in the code of a Unix program called Bash, which is found on many non-Windows computing devices that run Mac, Unix and Linux operating systems. This flaw can be exploited with just three lines of code by hackers, which gives them administration status on a computer, allowing them to plant malicious software on it that can take control of the computer.

The federal government’s National Vulnerability Database, which tracks computing security, gave Shellshock a 10 out of 10 in terms of its possible impact and exploitability.

And even if you don’t have an Apple, Unix, or Linux operating system, you may be at risk. A majority of the world’s busiest web servers, including those that hold personal and financial information, use either a Linux or Unix operating system that uses Bash, making them vulnerable to Shellshock. This means that much of the information stored on those servers can be exposed by hackers.

All in all, experts say that more thana half billion Internet-connected devices, which include web servers, computers, cellphones, security cameras, routers, and medical devices can potentially be accessed through the Shellshock bug.

Despite the dire warnings from security experts, Apple Computer is claiming that most of its consumers are safe from Shellshock. The computing company also says that it will be releasing a software patch soon. Only those that use advanced Unix services, like programmers and developers are at risk.

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Categories: Media

WATCH: Jon Stewart Slams Fox for Absurd Latte Salute Coverage and 'False Patriotism'

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 8:50am
"Boobs on the ground?" Is that how you show respect for the troops?

So, we're at war, and how are we dealing with it? With all the maturity of a bunch of kindergartners, that's how. Jon Stewart opened with a far-ranging rant Thursday night in which he blasted Congress for refusing to do its job, again, and draft up a resolution declaring war (as the Constitution suggests.) The reason, of course, is the upcoming midterm elections. Brave congressmembers would not want to do something that might jeopardize their jobs, so that they might continue to do nothing, and agree on less.

With Congress abdicating its responsibility, it's up to the media to lead an adult discussion of the War on ISIS and, judging from the amount of time devoted to the trivial matter of Obama holding coffee while he saluted troops, "We are so f*cked," Stewart suggested. "I don't even know what to do."

Of course, one network lead the charge on that non-story. Can you guess which one? Stewart to Fox: "Shut up, you don't even care about this." The cherry on top: After criticizing Obama for lacking respect for the troops by saluting with a cup of latte in his hand (or was it chai, Karl Rove?), Eric Bolling got off that hilarious line about whether a female fighter pilot might be considered "boobs on the ground." Respect for the troops, indeed.

"F*ck you and all your false patriotism," Stewart said to just about all the Fox Newsians. We couldn't agree more.

Pretty good rant. Watch:


The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook


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The Most Loathsome People in America: The Double Dirty Dozen

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 8:11pm
A mix of familiar names we all love to hate, and some new loathsome Americans on the block.

The following is AlterNet's own selections and rankings of two dozen from America's 50 Most Loathsome Americans by Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast.

24. Sean Hannity

Charges: Left the seminary upon realizing he could abuse, manipulate, and molest more people as a conservative broadcaster. The sneering, self-righteous poster boy for every right-wing nontroversy (see Benghazi and Fast & Furious), Hannity’s something of a Piltdown Newsman. One can easily imagine him a 19th century Boston cop, bashing brown folks and loving it. But in this age of media saturation, even bullies like Hannity must prostrate themselves and grovel occasionally at the feet of reality. After hyping Tucker Carlson’s black-cent “bombshell,” and then stubbornly realizing it was nothing, he had Fox’s resident melanin-haver Juan Williams join the panel to flog him. That way, Hannity cleverly avoided looking foolish.

Smoking Gun: Look at his jaw; he always seems like he’s about to bite someone.

23.  Dinesh D’Souza

Charges: An intellectual imposter whose career’s swung casually between vicious conservative think-tank lackey and moronic Christian apologist. He reached a fraudulent low last year with the release of2016: Obama’s America which, through the prism of Potemkin journalism, imagined the fake horrors awaiting America at the end of Obama’s second term–like unstoppable Sharia Law. According to D’Souza’s armchair psychoanalysis and “super serious” scholarship, this impending doom springs from Obama’s need to fulfill the anticolonialist dreams of his father’s ghost with the help of John Edwards and an Ouija board. Or some such.

Smoking Gun: “In a sense, through the earth itself, he communes with his father and receives his father’s spirit.”

22. Sam Harris

Charges: As the former’s confused reason for Fox News dogma, and the latter comedy for cackling, Sam Harris has official overtaken Ricky Gervais as the world’s funniest atheist (they’re tied for most annoying). He recently added Muslim profiling and NRA talking points to a sophist’s portfolio already bulging with hawkish appreciation for war and torture. Populated with more strawmen than a Kansas corn field, Harris’s post-Sandy Hook paean to firearms justified the death of 20 children because, well, Sam Harris is scared of sharp objects, and he’s too dimwitted to imagine a nonlethal knife-deterrent.

Smoking Gun: “Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America.”

21. Frank VanderSloot

Charges: Overly litigious gay-bashing billionaire Mormon CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., a cultish pyramid-selling “Wellness Company” that promises its “partners” “total financial freedom” for “families trying to get out of debt”–likely incurred from purchasing overpriced Latter-day douche and snake-oil supplements in bulk to pawn off on other pious dupes. The natural grifter to co-chair Romney’s national finance committee, he dumped $1 million into Mitt’s Restore Our Future PAC, and even makes casino creep Sheldon Adelson seem like a nice guy.

Smoking Gun: He ostensibly believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri, and that Native Americans are actually Jews.

20. Penn Jillette

Charges: Humiliating himself as Donald Trump’s dancing business-monkey. Featured on a not-so-secret list of sexist creepers within the skeptic/atheist community. He’s an intolerably smug know-it-all who actually knows very little. A devout Randroid and Glenn Beck fan, he’s to the rationalist movement what John Wayne Gacy was to clowns. His thankfully defunct, eponymously titled show “Bullshit,” operated under the tired formula of dirty hippy debates Cato Institute whore, and we learn that second-hand smoke is as safe as Gerber’s. Magic! The Anti-Lorax, Jillette’s an environment-hating buffoon who denied anthropogenic global warming until as late as 2008–because he was too scared of the “political climate.” At least Teller has the decency to never speak.

Smoking Gun: “Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.”

19. Ghost of Breitbart

Charges: The P.T. Barnum of modern conservatism, he was a traveling hypocrisy circus, a one-man confidence game, who never missed an opportunity to employ the Alinskyite tactics he pretended to deride. Most obviously, smearing your political enemies with your own failings…like calling everyone on the left an Alinskyite. Spent the final months of his life pitching a video–with all the coked-up vigor of the late Billy Mays–that was going to shake up the world. Released posthumously, the Obama-hugs-black-professor video riled few outside of the Klan, and that’s the real tragedy of his death: Andy never did taste the failure. Just sidewalk.

Smoking Gun: “I have videos, this election we’re going to vet him…from his college days to show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008.”

18. Alex Jones

Charges: A shower and shave away from doomsaying hobo, Jones makes a decent living off of his borderline schizophrenia. He “KNOWS” that every mass-shooting is staged by a global cabal who wants to steal your guns, global warming is a New World Order hoax, Beyonce flashed an Illuminati symbol which caused the Super Bowl blackout, and every other super-secret, unfalsifiable plot perpetrated by a shifting and shadowy “THEY”–who engineer society based upon the wishes of interdimensional elves with whom “THEY” confer using Satanic hallucinogens. Jones is the very “false flag” propagandist he claims to despise by diluting real concerns, such as drone strikes on American soil, with an endless stream of loonitarian logorrhea that makes David Icke sound like Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Smoking Gun: Ancient cave paintings depict the Illuminati Anti-Christ as a quick-tempered, red-faced psycho with a bad hair cut…WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!

17. David Barton

Charges: Armed with only a BA in religious studies from Oral Roberts University and the integrity of a serial rapist, pseudo-historian David Barton has successfully convinced millions of benighted Americans that the Founding Fathers debunked the theory of evolution a half-century before it was ever proposed, that the Constitution is a “verbatim” copy of Scripture, Jesus opposed a minimum wage, and that the Bible warns against net neutrality. He’s recently taken to defending the Second Amendment with an apocryphal story of armed, 19th century school children protecting their teacher which Barton apparently–not a joke–ripped off from a Louis L’Amour novel.

Smoking Gun: “… life begins before conception…”?

16. Dana Loesch

Charges: The ideological love-troll of Phyllis Schlafly and Grover Norquist, Loesch wants to reduce government to a size where it can drown in your vagina. Whether comparing intrusive, state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds to consensual intercourse, defending Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, or fabricating a conspiracy over her husband’s temporarily suspended Twitter account, Dana’s a cheap, hyper-partisan squid, squirting a cloud of imagined liberal sins which she thinks nullifies the original criticism because she’s a total fucking moron. And when that invariably fails, she’ll just lie about what she said, or call you a sexist/pedo. Quite possibly still on the CNN payroll only to make Piers Morgan seem slightly more palatable.

Smoking Gun: “Seems to me like Akin was trying to fit medical explanation into a soundbite. Not the best statement, but some are stretching it majorly.”

15. Dick Morris

Charges: Jamming gaydar everywhere with a love of pastels and a lispy slobber-mouth that looks to crave more than toes. As a close Clinton adviser, Morris is as responsible as anyone for transforming Democrats into a moderate wing of the Republican Party, and thereby shifting the GOP toward extremism. During the election, however, it was Morris’s poll-stroking Romney delusions that confirmed he’s a man living in total denial.

Smoking Gun: “We’re gonna win in a landslide.”

14. Marco Rubio

Charges: Bobby Jindal redux whose impending melanin-lite response to the State of the Union will be a handsome, ineffective pander to a demographic most Republicans would most like to mow their lawns, for Pete’s sake. His RNC speech focused on an upward mobility his party has all but made impossible. Every time I see him I hear Phil Collins singing in my head, “Ru-Ru-Ru-Rubio! Whoa-o!” And now you will, too.

Smoking Gun: “There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus”

13. Tucker Carlson

Charges: Trust fund douchebag whose perseverance in the face of consistent “journalistic” failure would be admirable were it not derived from a wholly undeserved sense of entitlement. Fought his impending and absolute irrelevance by rerunning a video clip (with the help of Drudge and Hannity) he first reported on in ’07 while at MSNBC which reveals that Barack Obama–hold on to your motherfucking October surprised genitals!–is a black guy. One of the few American pundits who believes that incredulous squinting qualifies as commentary.

12. Mark Cuban

Charges: Training-jowl billionaire whose first major business venture was a chain letter, and one of his latest is exploiting rubes on reality TV. He’s an alleged inside trader, and cowardly 9/11 truther, who credits his success to Ayn Rand. The ipecac of Übermensch, his anti-worker appetite unsated in the boardroom, he’s now sunk to stealing work from struggling commercial actors because, unlike the rest of us, he can’t get enough of Mark Cuban’s self-satisfied face.

11. Matt Drudge

Charges: The Internet’s answer to William Randolph Hearst, his only credibility comes from one sperm-related scoop 15 years ago, and a surname that makes him sound like an old-timey muckraker. He’s the shamelessly hungry middle segment in the human centipede between GOP operatives and vapid talking heads, constantly swallowing and shitting a stream of propaganda that would make Goebbels cringe.

Smoking Gun: Falsely claimed Obama ditched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with a parrot-toting pirate in an eye patch. True.

10. “Papa” John Schnatter

Charges: Infantile Romney-garch who threatened to raise the cost of his shitty pizzas by 15¢ and cut workers’ hours because Obamacare mandates that he provide meager health benefits to his underpaid employees.

Smoking Gun: His 2 million-pizza giveaway marketing strategy cost his company roughly 6 times what Obamacare does.

9. Dan Cathy

Charges: The Fred Phelps of chicken, the Chick-fil-A COO finally revealed what his family’s charitable donations have been screaming for years: “I’m probably gay, and I need the government to keep me from indulging in the gay marriage I so desperately desire!” They gave $5 million to the Family Research Council since ’03 alone. They’re hyper-religious dicks who’re closed on Sundays, and damn them for making decent chicken you can’t eat with a side of conscience.

Smoking Gun: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

8. Jennifer Rubin

Charges: WaPo’s Dershowitz in drag, she’d report you to the Anti Defamation League for so much as disrespecting a bagel, and imagines herself the blogging bulldozer to Palestinian legitimacy. Meant to satisfy conservative Post critics with the even-handed Washington Times Moonacy they crave, Rubin’s occupied literary territory mainly covered histrionic Arab-hating until branching out as Romney’s stenographer–even reposting campaign press releases to counter her own paper’s accurate reporting.

Smoking Gun: “Now wait a minute. Is this an act of anti-long hairism or anti-gay?”

7. Joe Arpaio

Charges: “America’s Sheriff” (in the way rat vomit is “America’s Snack Food”) has a long history of racism, prisoner abuse, and protecting pedophiles, but last year his low-rent Wyatt Earp routine turned overtly cartoonish. In a blatant effort to distract from an investigation into his illegally misspending nearly $100 million on immigrant roundups and spying programs, Arpaio launched the “Cold Case Posse”–meant to finally expose Obama’s Manchurian Presidency. The citizen “posse” determined the President’s birth certificate to be fraudulent, and then, as you remember, Obama was removed from office and Arpaio was given the Golden Key to Fantasy City for not totally wasting everyone’s time.

Smoking Gun: “At the very least, I can tell you this, based on all of the evidence presented and investigated, I cannot in good faith report to you that these documents are authentic.”

6. Lance Armstrong

Charges: Sociopathic, ten-speed Escobar who brazenly lied, ruined lives, and played on our collectively gullible patriotism and misplaced respect for blatantly selfish charity PR, so that he could reap millions, bang Sheryl Crow then drop her like a cancerous testicle, and feast on undeserved fame–only to finally come clean in a venue that granted Oprah 15 more terrifying minutes of relevance.

Smoking Gun: “I have the facts on my side.”

5. Rush Limbaugh

Charges: The hardest-blowing blowhard in a media landscape littered with windbags. And he knows it. Every second of it. Every lie. Every distortion. Every racial and sexual dogwhistle, it’s blown through a smirk connoting he knows he’s the biggest, fattest, carnival-barking swindler of our bilious age, capable of conning millions into believing he possesses any principles beyond self-aggrandizing greed.

Smoking Gun: Just turn on the radio.

4. Karl Rove

Charges: Hubris. A fledgling act of perception management, he cheered on Nixon when he was 9 years-old, and he’s become exponentially more depraved as the years went by. He weaseled out of Watergate investigations, turned Texas red, and crowned a vegetable president with dirty tricks. He sold an illegal war, stole an election, outed Valerie Plame and suffered no consequences save for power and money. Why wouldn’t he think his heavily funded Crossroads GPS–which he basically promised the Koch brothers would win them the election–could possibly fail in convincing Americans to elect a cardboard cutout who thinks he’ll become a god in the afterlife? Hubris. A hubris that unfolded on live TV during his epic election night Fox News meltdown. Incredulous. Shocked. He’d spent all the money. He’d done all the evil. What went wrong? Finally, milk was spilled, and Rove responded like a petulant toddler. And, lo, the schadenfreude was sweet.

Smoking Gun: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (2004)

3. Paul Ryan

Charges: Compulsively lying, arrested adolescent Muppet whose sheltered mind is still blown byAtlas Shrugged and Stairway to Heaven. The Uri Geller of economics, he managed to bend the will of MSM patsies like Ezra Klein into portraying him as a credible policy wonk, rather than what he truly is: a two-bit illusionist who wants to disappear Grandma’s Medicare and Social Security money and make it reappear in the pockets of the rich wankers he secretly wishes would rape him in a rock quarry.

Smoking Gun: Even Fox News said Ryan’s RNC performance “was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”

2. Donald Trump

Charges: A convincing argument against the 1st and 5th Amendments, this walking combover needs to just shut the fuck up and die already. The consummate huckster, and sufferer of verbal dysentery, his countless transgressions defy cataloguing. So I’ll spare you everything save for his moronic ploy to gain Obama’s passport and college records in exchange for a $5 million charity donation. Insult to racist injury, the video announcement was so low rent that he looked like an 8mm-shot Boehner/Oompa Loompa with a disgruntled squirrel on his head.

Smoking Gun: So awful he makes Mark Cuban seem awesome.

1. Wayne LaPierre

Charges: As the NRA’s well-paid CEO of death (and thinly veiled fear of brown people), it’s his role to obscure the very basic fact that more guns equals more gun violence–by any cognitively dissonant means necessary. In the ’90s, he called federal agents jack-booted Nazis in a fundraising letter, yet in his preposterous Sandy Hook speech he implored Congress to post armed guards at every school in the nation. In pure Alex Jones fashion, he once accused President Clinton of needing a certain level of gun violence to justify the assault weapons ban–which the NRA was keen to shoot full of holes. Asinine rhetoric about gun-free zones advertising massacre, violent video games, TV and movies aside, it’s the annual multi-million dollar lobbying efforts painting Smith & Wesson as benevolent job creators which cows even alleged democrats like Harry Reid. And with two recent PR blunders–a commercial slamming Obama’s “hypocrisy” for having armed Secret Service agents protect his daughters, and a shoot-’em-up app marketed to 4 year-olds!–LaPierre came off more tone-deaf than the early audition stage of “American Idol.”

Smoking Gun: “There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people through vicious.

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Categories: Media

Part 2: Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace on Climate Change and War, Lessons from Anti-Apartheid Struggle

Democracy Now! - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 3:58pm

In our extended interview with Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, he examines connections between climate change and U.S. war in the Middle East, and shares how his activism is shaped by his experience in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and much more.

Photo Credit: © Andreas Schoelzel / Greenpeace

Watch Part 1 of our interview with Naidoo.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. This week, world leaders have wrapped up a one-day United Nations summit on climate change with pledges to tackle global warming but no binding commitments. President Obama was one of the leaders who addressed the summit, calling for a global pact to fight climate change.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way. So today I call on all major economies to do the same, for I believe in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama addressing the U.N. climate summit, invoking Dr. Martin Luther King. That actually is very interesting for a number of reasons, among them, well, of course, Dr. King and President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, but this summit was taking place in the midst of the U.S. bombing of Syria and Iraq.

Our guest is Kumi Naidoo. He is executive director of Greenpeace International, usually lives in Durban, South Africa, here for the historic events of this week. Four hundred thousand people marched for action on climate change on Sunday here in New York ahead of the U.N. summit. What do you make of—what kind of connections do you make, Kumi, between this massive action on climate change and the fact that the U.S. is now once again bombing the Middle East?

KUMI NAIDOO: I think it's extremely unfortunate. You know, in 2003, the CIA and the Pentagon commissioned a report which they presented to President Bush, and President Bush, as an agent of the oil, coal and gas industry, buried it. In that report, they said, in 2003, in the coming decades, two decades, the biggest threat to peace, security and stability will not come from conventional threats of terrorism, but will come from the impacts of climate change. Today there are sitting leaders of the U.S. military who are saying exactly the same.

Syria, for example, if you look at what was one of the major catalysts for people standing up to the dictatorship of Assad, was that in the last decade about 40 percent of fertile land, as a result of climate-induced drought, was wiped out. Now, I think that, you know, many people in the world are saying that ISIS is the U.S. and its allies' creation, just as the Taliban was after the U.S. backed the Mujahideen and pulled out in ways. And so, right now to just continue to engage in addressing the conflicts that we have with more military intervention, without any sense of strategy, with putting so much of resource on the line, it really backfires, because actually what it shows is that life of people in the Middle East, whether you see it as Arab lives, Muslim lives or whatever, is dispensable because the number of civilians that have been killed in these conflict areas has just been completely, completely unacceptable.

So, yes, ISIS is a fundamental problem. For us to have allowed it to get to this point, I think the responsibility must rest with those that went in Iraq in an unjust, illegal war and created a situation which is now significantly worse than anything that we had with Saddam Hussein. Of course, Saddam Hussein was a dictator, but, you know, the U.S.—let's be very clear: What people say around the world is that U.S. foreign policy is stuck in the old logic of, you know, when one of the presidents said, "Somoza might be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch." I mean, your previous guest, Abdullah, right? He is standing up against the very people, now, that are getting absolute support from the U.S. administration and other Western governments. And listen, if the U.S. government was serious about getting these journalists out of prison, and as well as the hundreds, actually thousands of others that have been put, they have the political and economic leverage to do it. And I find that the timidity of the U.S. government and its allies, who preach democracy, on the one end, but actually make deals with some of the most authoritarian governments, on the other, is completely, completely unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: You cut your teeth on activism in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Talk about how your experiences there inform what you do now around climate change.

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, the most important lesson from South Africa is that you don't address a major injustice as if you're at a Sunday morning picnic, that, in fact, whether it's apartheid, whether it's civil rights struggle in the United States, women's right to vote, these struggles only move forward when decent men and women stand up and say, "Enough is enough, and no more. We're prepared to put our lives on the line. We're prepared to go to prison, if necessary."

And so, right now, I would argue that climate change, as a global challenge, is more important than every other injustice we have faced in the world, because this is not about saving the planet. The planet doesn't need saving, actually, because if we warm up the planet to a point that humanity cannot exist, the planet will still be here. It will be bruised, scarred and damaged by humanity's actions on it. But, you know, if we cannot live here anymore, actually, the forests will replenish and so on. This struggle is about securing our children and grandchildren's future. So, in that sense, I would say one main lesson is the power of civil disobedience, because all our political and business leaders seem to be suffering from the same medical condition, which is that they have a problem hearing the pleas of the people, and it is only civil disobedience and mass mobilization that actually sends a message for the urgency.

The second lesson is the power of alliance, that one of the things we succeeded in doing in South Africa is building an alliance of faith leaders, trade union leaders, women's movement, youth organizations and so on. And that was the beauty of what we saw on Sunday, because, you know, for far too long climate change was seen as an environmental issue. Actually, it is much bigger. It's a cross-cutting issue. It's a issue of survival. And therefore, I am so, so—I'll leave New York with such a wonderful feeling, that—you know, in the old days they used to talk about red-green tensions, for example, between labor and the environment. Now we can talk about red-green alliances.

We can talk about the indigenous peoples having their rightful leadership role in the struggle and so on, because one of the things I say very controversially, if you and I were the last two people on this planet, assuming we warm it up and go the way we're going, and we were asked to write the history of this planet and put it in a capsule so that if life emerged again, we won't make the same mistakes, it is quite likely—in fact, I know we will say—that actually those that were considered to be uncivilized, indigenous peoples, who needed the civilizing of the Western world, if you want, were actually the most civilized, and in fact those that sought to do the civilizing were the most uncivilized, because indigenous peoples, if we go to their wisdom of the critical importance of humanity being able to live in a mutually dependent relationship with nature, it's critically important if we're going to have live continue on this planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo, as the U.N. summit was happening at the United Nations, this climate week of massive activism was taking place not only here in New York, but around the world. Greenpeace activists were getting arrested in Britain?

KUMI NAIDOO: Yes. Basically, on the day of the summit, what we're seeing is this cheap and very dangerous coal coming out of Russia and is going to U.K. power plants. We had a polar bear, a puppet, stop a train, with no risk to anybody. And then our activists basically got onto the train, and they had bags which said "return to sender, to President Putin," and they were loading all the coal to actually send back. And basically, people need to understand that coal, oil and gas kills, and coal, in particular, is one of the biggest threats we have with regard to climate change. And, of course, there are different kinds of coal, but all coal is bad. The kind of coal that was involved here is particularly bad. And I think that that's the kind of resistance that we need to see around the world, where every coal, oil and gas company is meeting resistance on a daily basis.

One of the things people ask, "What are you trying to do with Chevron and Shell and so on? Are you trying to shut them down?" Actually, these are energy companies, and they deliver energy at the moment through dirty energy means. We say to them, if you make the change fast and quick, as an energy company, to clean energy output and you wean yourself off dirty, addictive energy—oil, coal and gas—then you can exist. But if you think you're going to continue with dirty energy, then we will do everything in our power to shut you down. It's not our core agenda to shut them down. We would rather make them make the transition and make it quickly.

And coal is something that is having huge impact on people's health, apart from climate change and emissions. In China, for example, communities around China are actually standing up. Or in Turkey, for example, people are standing up because their children's lives are being attacked. The cancer rates are going up and so on. And people need to understand that the true cost of coal, when you factor in the health impacts and so on—leave climate change aside for a second—is far too expensive. And when you put that, then you'll actually see that solar and wind and so on is actually much cheaper than the so-called market tells us.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn for a moment back to the U.N. climate summit. One of the most memorable speeches was by a poet from the Marshall Islands. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poem is actually a letter to her child.

KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: dear matafele peinam,

you are a seven month old sunrise of gummy smiles
you are bald as an egg and bald as the buddha
you are thighs that are thunder, shrieks that are lightning
so excited for bananas, hugs and
our morning walks along the lagoon

dear matafele peinam,

i want to tell you about that lagoon
that lazy, lounging lagoon lounging against the sunrise

men say that one day

that lagoon will devour you

they say it will gnaw at the shoreline
chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees
gulp down rows of seawalls
and crunch through your island's shattered bones

they say you, your daughter
and your granddaughter, too
will wander rootless
with only a passport to call home

dear matafele peinam,

don't cry

mommy promises you

no one will come and devour you

no greedy whale of a company sharking through political seas
no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals no blindfolded
bureaucracies gonna push
this mother ocean over
the edge

no one's drowning, baby
no one's moving
no one's losing their homeland
no one's becoming a climate change refugee

or should i say
no one else

to the carteret islanders of papua new guinea
and to the taro islanders of fiji
i take this moment
to apologize to you
we are drawing the line here

because we baby are going to fight
your mommy daddy
bubu jimma your country and your president too
we will all fight

and even though there are those
hidden behind platinum titles
who like to pretend that we don't exist
who like to pretend that the marshall islands
typhoon haiyan in the philippines
floods of algeria, colombia, pakistan
and all the hurricanes, earthquakes and tidalwaves
didn't exist

there are those
who see us

hands reaching out
fists raising up
banners unfurling
megaphones booming
and we are canoes blocking coal ships
we are the radiance of solar villages
we are the fresh clean soil of the farmer's past
we are teenagers blooming petitions
we are families biking, recycling, reusing
engineers building, dreaming, designing
artists painting, dancing, writing
and we are spreading the word

and there are thousands out on the streets
hand in hand
chanting for change NOW

and they're marching for you, baby
they're marching for us

because we deserve to do more than just
we deserve
to thrive

dear matafele peinam,

you are eyes heavy
with drowsy weight
so just close those eyes
and sleep in peace

because we won't let you down

you'll see

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poem, a Marshall Islands poet. She got a standing ovation at the U.N. as she read this at the day of the U.N. climate summit. Kumi Naidoo, you weren't actually in the hall, having trouble with security getting in. But I think that's an interesting point: On the one hand, the power of people's firsthand testimony; on the other is, what happens? It reminds me of Anjali Appadurai, who was the College of the Atlantic student who addressed the U.N. summit in Durban in 2011.


AMY GOODMAN: The next year, she was banned for the first week of the U.N. summit. And the question is: What happens next? Peru is the U.N. climate summit this year, and then the binding summit is supposed to be Paris in 2015. We were speaking with Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth on Democracy Now! this week. He was saying, "I can already write the press releases for both Peru and Paris. And they're not very optimistic—unless something changes." So, what is the strategy, you think, to deal with all of this?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, in terms of the formal timeline, the best that Peru can do in December is deliver a clear framework for the agreement, with some commitments locked in. All governments are supposed to, by March next year, put the cards on the table to say what are their emission targets and what actions they are prepared to take. And then there will be multiple negotiations with the idea that there will be a deal in Paris.

I was in meetings yesterday all day with Asad and a coalition of organizations that are working together. And our assessment is that we would be foolish, as activists, to put faith in the formal process to deliver what the world needs to have, and therefore we are going to now intensify as much as we can on the resistance and mobilization, as well as go after those companies that are holding us back, because, see, the problem is, you know, President Obama can stand up and give all these nice words, but the bottom line is, you know, the U.S. democracy—like many other countries, but the U.S. is the most obscene in this way—is the best democracy money can buy today, and if you look at which money buys that democracy or buys that power, it's oil, coal, gas, nuclear, military and a few other polluting industries. For every member of Congress, there are three—a minimum of three and a maximum of eight full-time lobbyists paid by the oil, coal and gas industry to make sure that no progressive climate legislation goes through.

And, you know, we must remind President Obama, he invoked Martin Luther King in this presentation when he talked about the fierce urgency of now, which was one of the things he said repeatedly in his first presidential bid. But there was another phrase that he use, apart from "Yes, we can," and that was "a planet in peril." If you go back and look at his first—he got it, right? "A planet in peril" was about climate change. And if we look at the timidity with which he has stood up to the fossil fuel industry, as a whole, it's extremely disappointing.

So, we cannot take our political and business leaders solely on their words. We are saying we need to see actions, and we need to see them between now and Paris. And what we are saying to people: We must prepare for the long-haul fight. Yes, we will try everything in our power to put as much pressure to get the best possible outcome in Paris, but if we think that our political and business leaders are going to deliver what we need in Paris, then we are actually fooling ourselves.

And I think Sunday provides—the People's Climate March on Sunday, provides has provided a base of support that we've never seen before, not just here in the U.S., but globally. And now we need to build on that base every week, every month, and so on, so that the power of the voices of ordinary people around the world, like the poet from the Marshall Islands—which, I have to say, completely drives me to tears up to now to just think about, because, you know—and we have to tell stories. And let me make a self-criticism of activism around climate. I think that we are partly to blame, because we did not focus enough on storytelling, letting people who are impacted, because the climate question is so complicated—emissions, targets, parts per million and so on—and we actually sometimes become as bad as the governments in the way we talk about it. We have to talk about this in more accessible ways and enable ordinary people who are affected by this to be able to actually engage in the conversation and get involved. We have to talk. We have to throw out the jargon. We have to talk with simplicity—and I'm not saying being simplistic, right? It's very different. I mean, we have to be able to—I mean, that's one of the things I learned from South Africa, that if you go there and you talked about constitutional provisions and so on, it just didn't resonate. And ever since I came to Greenpeace, you know, I don't talk about saving the climate or saving the environment. I say this about securing our children and grandchildren's future. Just that phrase. Anybody who's a parent, anybody who is a grandparent, hopefully, will sit up and say, "Well, this conversation is about me." Right? And we have to make this conversation about everybody, whether you're a worker, whether you're a professional, whether you're a CEO of a fossil fuel company. I say—when I meet with the CEOs of companies, I say, "Tell me something. How are you going to look your children and grandchildren in the eye and answer the question when they ask you 10 years from now, 'When the writing was on the wall that we had to act, how did you not put my interests, as your child or grandchild, and act?'"

AMY GOODMAN: Explain to people who say, "Well, if there's oil in the soil, if there's coal in the hole, why shouldn't we develop it?" Can you talk about how much the world can afford to have drilled out and how much has to stay in the ground?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the biggest scientific enterprise probably in the history of humanity, has said in their last report that at least 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, if we are to have a chance to keep warming below, as far below, two degrees.

AMY GOODMAN: So it can't be touched?

KUMI NAIDOO: It shouldn't be touched. If we touch it, we're gone. Right? It won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen very rapidly. And let's be very clear: The climate impacts are happening now. Right? We are seeing lives being lost now.

And, you know, Archbishop Desmond Tutu recorded a message, which was not shown at the General Assembly. He offered it. Because why? He said four things we need to do. Simple. One, no further fresh investments in fossil fuel exploration, because it's senseless. Even what we know, we shouldn't be touching. And he said all that money should go to renewables. Divest from fossil fuels, so anybody today who has a bank account, who has any investments, should be asking, if you care about your children's future, "Are you investing in oil, coal and gas companies?" and try and get that—and rather invest it in renewable energies. The third he's saying, we have to have a sense of justice. The Marshall Islands and these small island states, they're almost zero carbon in terms of—it's so unfair that people who have been least responsible for emissions are paying the first and most brutal price. And the fourth thing he said was, there has to be a climate liability, that those that have profited, those fossil fuel companies, must be held accountable to provide that support.

The thing I would say also to people of faith—and maybe I'll put it in a light way. I was in Rome on a nuclear referendum, which we won, where the Italian people voted against nuclear a couple years ago. And I was in a studio sort of show on TV, and I said to the journalist, "You know, the pope"—because the Vatican was just around the corner, I said, "The pope and all our other religious leaders should come before us and ask us a simple question. They should ask, 'To those of you who believe that God exists, do you really think God is so cruel?'" Because if you accept that God—for those who believe that God exists, God presumably knew humanity will need energy to survive on this planet. So did God scratch his head and say, "Oh, these people are going to need energy, so let me take the coal, put it deep in the ground, take the oil, put it deep in the ocean, and so on, so people will kill themselves trying to get to it and destroy things that actually humanity needs for its existence?" So, clearly, humanity has been looking—our religious leaders need to step forward now. And I'll say that, yes, they are talking more now, but for far too long our religious leaders, their silence has been deafening on climate, right? I welcome the increased voices of the religious community now, because if you go with a religious philosophy, everything on this planet was created by God—our rivers, our oceans, our mountains and so on. So, clearly, our religious leaders should come and say, "Folks, you all have been looking primarily in the wrong direction. Rather than looking down for oil, coal and gas, you should look up and see that God gave you wind and sun to actually meet your needs." You just have to be careful with that analogy, because some clever person is going to tell you geothermal also comes from below. So you should say, primarily we should be looking up rather than looking down.

And that's what I mean about changing the narrative, right? We need to—and that's why I'm so impressed with the trade union movement, globally and as well as in the United States. When Sharan Burrow, the first woman to lead the international trade union movement—in a meeting with Ban Ki-moon in Rio, she said, "Secretary-General, you might be surprised why me, as a trade unionist, where my main job is to fight for jobs and decent work, that I am so passionate about climate change, because, Secretary-General, I realize there are no jobs on a dead planet." You know, I mean, fundamentally, short-term economic interest, which will kill the long-term interests of working people and so on.

And let's be very clear: As Hurricane Katrina showed, when there is a major environmental disaster, it is the poor that suffer the most. Often—of course, I'm not saying that the rich are completely sanitized from it, but the rich have more options. They can jump in their cars and drive away, you know. The poor are stuck. And I still remember the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and when I saw that on television, while I was in Ghana when that happened. And I was sitting with a friend, who's now dead, a Nigerian friend, Justice Egware in the anti-poverty movement, and we were both sitting there, and he said to me, "You know, in Africa, we might live with extreme poverty, but when our people die, we actually offer them dignity in the way we let them go. Look at those bodies, you know, wrapped around lamp poles, just hanging and floating there." So, you know, what's being challenged is our very sense of humanity. How do we think? How do we care?

And we must very clear: At the center of all of this is an acceptance that we have come—and when I say "acceptance," not just the rich, but the poor, as well. We have accepted unacceptable levels of inequality. Part of what's driving this, driving us to the cliff is overconsumption, overconsumption by the rich, and a total underconsumption by the poor. And we have to recognize, if rich people in the world care about their children's future, they have to ask themselves the question: What level of wealth is acceptable, and what level of poverty is acceptable? Because everybody in the world says, "Oh, poverty is a bad thing. We shouldn't have poverty." But understand that poverty is there partly because those of us at the top want to have such a high level of income and such a high level of consumption without any real, meaningful care for those that are completely shut out of even the basic economic necessities.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Latin America very briefly. The next summit is in Peru. You have countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, their leaders hailed by indigenous people when they were first elected to represent their interests, but now these countries, the indigenous people feel like they are, in many cases, at war with their government, because the governments, they feel, have turned on them. Can you talk, for example, about what's happening in Ecuador, what the government, President Correa, tried to do, and then not succeeding, what he is doing now?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, I think many of the governments in Latin America, those that were more environmentally concerned, concerned about climate, and also wanted to address the historical injustices that were done to indigenous peoples—and let's be very clear, that redress has not even really started within the United States or elsewhere, but that's another conversation which has to be addressed. But the reality is, you can get elected with those promises, and then you find yourself with the power of the fossil fuel industry, the power of developed governments who sometimes you might have reliance on aid, and those governments are saying to you, "If you don't let X, Y and Z oil company from my country come here and so on, we're going to cut your aid package and so on." So, sometimes once you are in power, the amount of actual space you have to advance your agenda is very limited. Having said that, I'm not wanting to let those leaders off the hook for some of the things that they've actually done.

I should say Latin America also is a very tragic situation right now. Global Witness, a think tank out of London, just released a study a month ago, or six weeks ago, showing that every week two environmental activists are being killed. Just think about that—every week. Some of these folks might not self-describe themselves as environmentalists, but they are certainly engaged in defending forests. I spoke at the U.N. on forests with an indigenous leader from Brazil. I was very sad to hear him say—he said, you know, "Our people are literally dying to protect the forests." Right? And most of these deaths, by the way, of this two-per-week average is in Latin America. It's in Brazil, other Latin America countries, of course also Africa and Asia. And therefore—you know, there's a new book, or not-so-new book now, that's come out, I guess, called Green is the New Red, you know, where we are seeing that environmental activists are facing increasing repression.

But as I say, whenever—you know, like when our folks were in prison in Russia last year, the Arctic 30, and people were taken aback, I said, "You know, the one thing we should take comfort from is what Mahatma Gandhi once said. He said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, and then you win.'" The fact that they're not ignoring and laughing at us, the fact that they are fighting us so hard, I take a little comfort from that, because if Gandhi was right, let's hope that we are just one step away from winning.

AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo, I want to thank you for being with us, executive director of Greenpeace International. He's usually based in Durban, South Africa, though it seems the whole planet is his home. Thanks so much.

KUMI NAIDOO: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

Categories: Media

Washington Post Slams Venezuela for Electing 'Former Bus Driver'

FAIR Blog - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 3:50pm
It's no secret that the Washington Post editorial page was quite alarmed by Venezuela's shift to the left under former President Hugo Chavez. The Post–like the rest of elite US media (Extra!, 11/05)–was an unrelenting critic of Chavez's policies. Some things haven't changed. In a scathing editorial (9/20/14), the Post went after Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro, calling him an "economically illiterate former bus driver" because he "rejected the advice of pragmatists" and will continue to pursue policies that are ruining what was "once Latin America’s richest country." During the Chavez years, the most important economic story was the rapid gains by […]
Categories: Media

Jeff Bezos Takes WaPo's Advice, Rips Off WaPo Workers

FAIR Blog - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 2:09pm
Where could Jeff Bezos have gotten the idea that it was OK to take away large sums of money that you promised people for their retirement after years of service? Well, maybe he reads the paper he just bought.
Categories: Media

6 Highlights from Twitter's #MuslimApologies—A Hilarious Response to Stereotypes about Islam

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 2:00pm
"I'm sorry for algebra."

Since way too many people seem intent on preposterously blaming all 1.6 billion people who practice Islam for the actions of a tiny fraction of religious fanatics, some Muslims are taking to Twitter with hilarious comebacks.

The sarcastic hashtag #MuslimApologies is a brilliant response to the bigotry and Islamophobia that most Muslims have to put up with on a regular basis. People have taken posts with this hashtag in many directions, ranging from absurdist rebuttals to powerful commentary on racist stereotyping. While it’s been around for a while, the hashtag has been trending like crazy in recent weeks. Elahe Izadi wrote for the Washington Post that the hashtag speaks to the absurdity of “collective responsibility.”

“Muslims in the United States, for instance, face problematic public perceptions of their religion: 50 percent of Americans believe that Islam, more than other religions, encourages violence among its believers, according to the Pew Research Center,” Izadi notes.

The hashtag was originally a response to President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly in which he said, "it is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL."

As Izadi writes, “Many of the tweets express weariness about having to apologize for the actions of extremists who claim to represent Islam."

Here are a few of the best #MuslimApologies out there:


I'm so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, etc: #muslimapologies

— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) September 24, 2014

Sorry for constantly having to prove that Islam is peaceful and for suffering for sins committed by the so-called Muslims. #MuslimApologies

— Hussain Asif (@iHussainAsif) September 25, 2014

#muslimapologies I'm sorry for Algebra.

— El Patron (@haaaahahha) September 25, 2014

Sorry for saying "may peace be upon u" everytime we greet someone #muslimapologies

— Afnan (@Afnan_Tweets) September 24, 2014

I'm sorry that you don't understand ISIS or any other terrorist group has nothing to do with Islam! #MuslimApologies

— Kiran MK0822 (@KiranMK0822) September 23, 2014

I'm sorry that because you judge me by what's on my head, you refuse to invest in what's in my head. #MuslimApologies.

— luluu; (@Pali_dime) September 25, 2014  Related Stories
Categories: Media