Media Culpa

Television commercials teach wondrous truths: That cookies are made by elves who live in trees. That quacking ducks and talking lizards are insurance experts. That Viagra will make you the octogenarian stud you ought to be.

That bears use toilet paper when they poop in the woods. Yes, TV commercials are such great sources of truth and reality. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars of Presidential election Super PAC funds will go into TV commercials, and you can be sure those forthcoming ads will be about as true as those cited above.

The commercial broadcasting networks slobber over election campaigns, because they haul in ad revenue like Christmas, the Super Bowl and Daytona rolled up in one. This year promises their biggest money gusher ever, due to that Supreme Court decision on Citizens United which allows the corporations and the rich to spend unlimited sums on anonymous ad messages. Think what that really means: if you’re wealthy enough, you can insult, demean and lie about any candidate, to millions of viewers, and you don’t even have to identify yourself in the open.

Most Americans feel that’s wrong, and fear the outcome: that candidates won’t dare say or do anything that might turn the money tide against them. We don’t like the Supreme Court for making that democracy-crushing decision.

Where is any criticism heard of those who enable it and profit most by it — the commercial broadcasters themselves? Those networks could just refuse, on principle, to air attack ads that come from unnamed sponsors, and this whole Money Talks travesty would go away, quicker than you can say “Constitutional Amendment.” Those networks have a moral responsibility not to deceive and befuddle the American people whose airwaves they exploit. You’d expect them to be ashamed of helping distort the knowledge that citizens need in exercising their sacred right to vote. You’d be naive to expect that. Commercial networks are big corporations. Corporations sell whatever commodities they can, as much as they can, for the highest price they can get.

But political knowledge isn’t just another commodity. It’s the raw material of thoughtful democratic judgment.

Commercial TV virtually discourages thoughtful judgment. It’s the “scream for celebrities, scream for prizes” medium, the medium which, for example, propagates the myth that Donald Trump is as interesting and important as he thinks he is. It runs cheery commercials in which BP claims it has cleaned up its enormous oil spill and returned the Gulf of Mexico to pristine condition. To put it bluntly: the commercial networks’ version of truth is whatever their well-heeled sponsors want us to swallow.

This will be as nasty and mendacious an election campaign as money can buy, and the networks are rolling in it like dogs in carrion. If they had conscience, or a capacity for shame, or a patriotic concern for real democracy, they would simply refuse to air anonymous attack ads. Don’t hold your breath.

There have always been good reasons to turn off commercial broadcasting, to switch to Public Television and Radio, and to reading, for your political information. This year, your country’s democracy might well depend on doing so. It’s time to be a citizen, not just a consumer. Don’t worry which brand of toilet paper bears prefer when they dump in the woods. Concern yourself instead with who’s getting richer and richer by dumping on your democracy.

James Alexander Thom
Bloomington, Ind.

Monsanto’s Bad Seed

It seems to me that if Monsanto, or any other greedy anti-democratic corporation, wants to keep neighboring farms from being contaminated by its wind-blown, bird- and insect-carried seed pollen, then it should be up to Monsanto and any others to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Not just sit and wait for it to happen then whine and claim that its the fault of the neighboring farmer that it did happen and then try to force that farmer to pay restitution because it did [“Organic Farmers See Monsanto In Court,” Mark Anderson, 5/1/12 TPP].

To me the fact that Monsanto did allow this to happen is a form of illegal trespassing and they should be held responsible for that neighbor’s crop being contaminated by their (Monsanto’s) negligence. What kind of convoluted thinking, done by Franken-lawyers, no doubt, is this?

Under that kind of stupidity I should be able to sue my neighbor for his winter furnace exhaust drifting on to my property and polluting my air. Or sue my local government for allowing cars to drive by my house and their exhaust drifting on to my property.

If Monsanto is so desperate to contain its GM seed pollen to its own crops then why isn’t it out there trying to contain the pollen drift?

Put up some kind of containment screening that ensures that no wind, bee or bird ever carries its precious franken pollen to the neighbors fields.

It seems to me that its up to them to protect their investment, not their neighbors. If they don’t want their GM pollen to contaminate neighboring crops then do something to stop it, don’t just sit on their fat lazy butts and blame the other guy when it happens.

The Monsanto Corp. and its stock holders are the ultimate in corporate greed in its ever expanding effort to gain control of our food supply. In a sane world, which seems to no longer exist in this country, Monsanto should be paying the neighboring farmers, not the other way around.

Robert G. Reed
Boyne City, Mich.

Control Overpopulation

Your otherwise excellent article, “When Cities Run Dry,” [5/1/12 TPP], fails to deal with the effect over-population contributes to environmental degradation. The earth’s population has now reached 7 billion.

Unless it can be stabilized and reduced to a sustainable level it is doubtful global warming can ever be reduced to the level that will sustain life on earth.

Phillip Colliga
Buffalo, N.Y.

Young Tongues

In her engaging column, “Bilingual Superiority” [5/1/12 TPP], the ever-gracious Connie Schultz praises parents who encourage their children to learn their ancestors’ language.

She also wishes that more people within our society would realize the importance of teaching youngsters a second language. I applaud Ms. Schultz. Because it’s just as easy for children to learn another language as it is for little fish to learn to swim. I know this firsthand. When I came from Mexico as a 12-year-old, it took less than a year for me to understand and speak conversational English. And there was nothing special about me — I was just an average child. The ability to speak a foreign language becomes part of one’s life. Thus, the brain of a child or a young person can absorb it almost by the process of osmosis.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Clean Out Greed

Margot Ford McMillen in her 4/15/12 TPP article, “Morality Left Out of Corporate Calculations,” after expressing frustration about Wall Street miscreants turning into bleeding hearts after “...having screwed the public out of millions during careers in the Wall Street transnational corporate world,” rhetorically questions, “I don’t know about you.”

Well Margot — I for one, an octogenarian ninth-generation American among whose progenitors’ tens of thousands of descendants have served in every war, including the Revolutionary War, am mad at what these greed-motivated rogues are and have been doing to this country with impunity during the past decades.

When President Roosevelt, after passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, declared, “The day of the great promoter or financial titan is over,” he certainly didn’t anticipate that a mere half-century later financial wizards would again raid the hen house after compromising or expunging most of the protective regulations his administration had enacted.

The irony is that some of Roosevelt’s political party were complicit in these Wall Street shenanigans.

Most of them have thus far escaped reprimand or punishment with many still in public office.

Had they also been successful in privatizing Social Security or gutting other Roosevelt social programs, including unemployment compensation, the hardship which the public is now experiencing and the havoc created in world markets would be cataclysmic.

Since we now have the best government money can buy, conditions won’t change until the Constitution is amended to make it viable in the 21st century, including public financing of campaigns, term limits, same-day open primary elections, balanced budgets, election of Supreme Court members, among others. The amendments should include definitive clauses to limit the now-prevalent practice of lawyering intent to death and prohibit the governing by executive order and presidential pardons of convicted felons.

Willard A. Haas
Kutztown, Pa.

Progressive with Guns

I consider myself a progressive, yet I am also a believer in the Second Amendment, which protects all of our other rights from being taken away, either by criminals or by the government.

As I explained to the judge when I applied for a full carry permit, I can no longer physically defend myself in hand-to-hand combatand believe I have the right to protect myself by any legal means that are available. Stand your ground laws have their place, because why should I have to run away when you are trying to cause me grave bodily harm on my own property? After all, Malcolm X said “by any means necessary.” 

Now, be that as it may, I do not believe Mr. [George] Zimmerman has a legitimate case of Stand-Your-Ground, because he wasn’t being threatened, and in fact was told not to follow the young man. So I believe he used a firearm while committing a crime (by illegally detaining Mr. [Trayvon] Martin), and should be prosecuted for murder. I abhor most of the political positions of the NRA, but I am a life member because they are the only group protecting my ability to “keep and bear arms.” What good is owning a gun for personal protection if you cannot use it on that terrible day when you actually need it?

I spend a lot of time practicing my marksmanship skills so if I ever have to defend myself, I will shoot what I’m aiming for (and not the innocent bystander).

I refuse to be a victim, and I don’t care how bad your childhood was, who abused you, if you had to eat mac-and-cheese seven days a week, etc.

That doesn’t give you the right to take my life or property just because you want to.

My childhood and life has not been a cakewalk, yet I’m not out stealing, robbing, raping, etc. I’ve been working since I was 7 years old, and I’m 52 now, and still working for a living. I will share with you, feed you if you’re hungry, but if you try to hurt me we have a problem.

Just look at the problems in England, where personal gun ownership has been curtailed. The crime rate is up considerably, because the criminals KNOW their victim will not be armed.

More gun laws are not the answer, because criminals, by their nature, do not follow laws. Therefore, the laws only affect the law-abiding citizen, not the criminal. And, by the way, it’s estimated that 40% of Democrats own firearms, so it’s not just the right-wing crowd that enjoys the shooting sports. Keep up the good work.

John A. Bono
Croton Falls, N.Y.

Ballot Solution

Whether hacking into and altering personal health records on an electronic database, or a deleting of vital credit information on a future RFID (radio frequency ID) card, everyone who has used a computer knows how numbers and letters can be altered or erased in the flick of an eyelash. Government, then, which can serve the few or the many, must not be elected by such vulnerable electronic machines.

The solution is simple: ballots and the mandated paper records of electronic ballots must be publicly counted by hand. If each precinct’s votes/records are divided into groups of 300, and those 300 votes are counted out loud before interested observers, millions of votes in each time zone can be counted in an hour. Many hands make light work.

Jean G. Braun
South Euclid, Ohio

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2012


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