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Unspinning Official Stories 2008

France's new president will be an insider

   August 22 2008, BBC's carefully official and repeated reference to a "French resolution" on the Georgian conflict serves to remind us that, since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France, the U.S. insiders and their corporations have a new puppet in the UN.
    That's interesting, but this website is and will be more interested in how obviously BBC, AP, and all the mainstream media so smoothly and loyally pander to the insiders political economic games and to their version of history and reality. Today's BBC story is as much a part of the game as George Bush whispering in Sarkozy's ear.
-Glen Roberts

Free speech isn't for everyone, after all

   September 20 2008, Back in 1982, Americans proud of their own fabled free speech were smugly critical when Margaret Thatcher blasted UK news media for covering the Falklands war objectively, but if Thatcher were in the White House, she'd be happy with U.S. media treatment of North Korea, which is so seamlessly slanted, you may be too used to it to notice.
        For instance, a Chronicle headline today (Saturday) - North Korea backing out of nuclear deal - is followed by an AP story that, instead of calling the North Koreans bad guys just assumes you know that. But, in fact, the placement of North Korea's side of the story in paragraph #9, which, if this were on the front page, would be past the jump and probably go unread, violates textbook journalism rules, though it certainly fulfills the apparent rules of normal Associated Press coverage of communist countries.
       So the propaganda in the lead, on which the headline is based (as if the Chronicle needed any help being anti-communist, too), unbalanced by the distant paragraph #9, saturates the readers' view. Re-read the headline Hi-lighted in red above and then read the beginning of the story below, paying careful attention to how coy but relentless anti-communist propaganda works.

       A rare foreign policy success for the Bush administration is imploding as North Korea backs away from pledges to abandon nuclear weapons pretty much as the president's critics on the right had warned.
       Distracted by an economic crisis at home and a series of diplomatic setbacks abroad, President Bush and his top aides are watching the collapse of a painstakingly negotiated process that just months ago seemed on track to produce a major international success and perhaps bring a final end to the Korean War before they leave office.

       Maybe you ARE so used to the pitch you don't see what's wrong with that lead. But I hope you can at least gasp without my help at the inept pretense that George Bush who's clearly trying to start a Korean war is trying to end the old Korean War The 1945-50 Korean war!?! Holy cow! In the first place, the supposed failure of an official war-ending peace treaty way back then (because of South Korea's probably US inspired refusal to sign) to end a war that, after all, was never officially started is old, old, old meaningless hat, and second, it's irrelevant to the current situation. The excessive length of this graph makes me wonder if an old Chronicle editor inserted the 14 words after international success to keep an old pot of his own boiling. Maybe it's better not to dwell on whatever the point is.
        But before that, just in the first graph, repetition of the editorial word success is meant not to inform but to teach readers what they think. Negative words like imploding, abandoned and warned subtly support the lesson. The lie that North Korea "pledge(d)" to surrender without their own conditions being met reiterates previous lessons about North Korea you've been relentlessly handed. The reference only to unnamed critics on the right (who, I guess, "warned" Bush he couldn't trust those rats) legitimizes the rightists' narrow view, while robbing you of the less rabid views of other critics.
       The second graph is worse, because it's not the graph that, according to the rules of journalism, belongs here, and because it's not news - it's just propaganda. First AP provides Bush an alibi - that he was distracted by his other failures. Then AP itself (nobody's being quoted) praises what it calls a "painstakingly negotiated process," i.e. relentless stonewalling and name calling (on both sides but with less honesty on the Bush side), which readers are told by AP was "on track to produce a major international success." That's what AP says, which would be OK if you didn't think this was a news story and if AP wasn't such a shameless lap dog.
       But if my journalism students had printed it, besides posting this story on the wall covered with red ink, I'd have reminded them that they'd been taught that the second graph of a story citing a serious accusation should cite the response of the party being accused. And, the lesson being an important one, I'd have posted a typed example on the wall beside it, including an appropriately rewritten version of the buried paragraph #9 as the second graph.

       What's been touted as a rare foreign policy success for the Bush administration seemed to collapse Thursday when North Korea apparently backed away from pledges to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions in response to what they called Washington's continued failure to fulfill its side of the deal.
       While White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley called the North Koreans "obstructionists," Pyongyang spokespersons declared the DPRK had given up on Washington and will "go its own way." North Korea has long demanded that the U.S. take them off it's terrorist blacklist, but the State Department has not complied.

       This was a prominent 13-graph media story with only one brief and buried nod to objectivity, preceded by numerous stories just like it, some of which strenuously painted North Korea as a pretty sordid place. I've never been there, and I don't pretend to know. Maybe North Korea is sordid. but I'm sceptical because the same kind of slander has been regularly heaped on places that I do know don't deserve it. That is, I have no reason to trust AP or any other mainstream western media, and neither do you, and the example I'm deconstructing here should at least make you wonder.
       Understand that I'm not making a case here for North Korea. I'm judging western media, especially but not only AP, because there are a lot of sordid places in the world, including parts of Texas, that they don't so strenuously slander. So their current display of vitriol toward North Korea is contrived and even trumped up to support George Bush, whom I certainly don't trust, and also to reinforce their eternal and eternally regressive and philosophically contemptible anti-communist stance.
       You should recall and take notice that AP never reminds you that the confrontation with North Korea, including the constant unjustified presence of U.S. troops in their faces, has been going on for over 60 years, ever since the Korean War, which was started by the US and Russia, not by the Koreans, fizzled out; and that it also includes dealings with Bill Clinton who failed to fulfill his promises to North Korea; the fact that George Bush very belligerently called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" and then gratuitously attacked another country on that supposed "axis" and seems bent on attacking another; and the fact that Bush has never threatened Pakistan, a very unstable muslim country guilty of many state approved human rights abuses, with a population that mostly doesn't like us, and prone to wage war against its neighbor, India. Since Pakistan's free pass is clearly that they have nuclear weapons, North Korea's wish for nuclear retaliatory capability makes sense. Doesn't it? Remember, my POINT isn't that it DOES make sense, though I think it does, but that AP makes a point of never acknowledging that it does.
-Glen Roberts

Bridge jumpers who donate their shoes

    September 28 2008, The estimated 1300 people who've killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate, according to my calculator, are not quite 1/4 as many people as have killed themselves by joining the U.S. military and going to Iraq and Afghanistan. But if you take the time period into account and divide 4600 dead soldiers by 7 years and l300 jumpers by the 71 years the bridge has been there, nearly 700 U.S. troops a year have jumped off Afghanistan and Iraq, while only 18 people a year have jumped off the bridge. Now, considering that the actual human death rate is 100%, meaning that of the well over 6 billion people alive today, assuming an average life expectancy of 65 years, even figuring an extremely bottom heavy age distribution, loosely a million people die every year, not only is it apparent that only 1 out of 55555 of them jump off the Golden Gate, it's also apparent that the entire 1/55555 would have died anyway if they hadn't made that jump.
    If anyone thinks I'm being too frivolous about such a serious subject, I remind you that, just like minorities who claim the right to joke about racism, as a human getting close to death, I have the right (and so do you) to be frivolous about death, especially in response to a mass media which constantly fakes a laughably pious attitude toward the subject, and especially when the SF Chronicle prints a headline and picture that probably unconsciously invite a realistically frivolous response, especially when that response has important implications society's insiders want to keep covered up.
     Seeing the headline in the local section today, Shoes memorialize bridge jumpers, over a picture of a whole lot of shoes, I had to ask myself, "Did they all take off their shoes before they jumped and are these their shoes?" Then, reacting rationally to the pious but incoherent read-out, "Research shows that if you can break that cycle, only for a moment, they might not do it." my second question (and I hope yours, too) had to be, "So What?" And then, seeing the cunningly misleading subhead, Support for the barrier, I had to get pissed and ask another question, "What support?" And you've gotta be unconscious if you can't guess my 4th question, in response to the insidious unquoted nonsense clearly representing the Chronicle's own fractured (at the comma - look close) editorial view:

    Though a recent unscientific online poll by the district found that 75 percent of 1,600 respondents opposed any changes to the bridge, the net (a stupid steel net to catch people) seemed to be the most attractive alternative.

    My own unscientific ongoing poll has so far failed to turn up anyone who even opposes suicide or, get this, anyone who doesn't admire and defend Dr. Kervorkian. So my fifth question could be "What world does the Chronicle editorial staff live in?" But it isn't. I know the answer. I also know the defense for this story is that it's about a media event staged by the supporters of a suicide barrier on the bridge. But that's no defense for the spectacular absence of a large philosophical feature explaining why no really rational person sees any reason to spend a fortune disfiguring the bridge. And it's no defense for the Chronicle's refusal to print ANY really realistic comment on the issue of suicide, like, for instance, the following, my own brief clear and unprintable letter to the editor:

     July 9 2008: It was going to cost $2 million to study how to waste another $2 million to disfigure the bridge so people fed up with life can't exercise their existential right to jump off. Now it's $40 to $50 million. Of course this isn't a secular state, but why should the people of a supposedly secular state spend millions to enforce a religious taboo?
    Come on! Here's a message from the real world. If you don't want anyone jumping off the Golden Gate because it's a costly and bothersome nuisance to try to drag their bodies out, then put up signs on the bridge rail telling them the unreligious truth.
    Put up a sign every 50 yards explaining that, "Hey! Hitting the water doesn't kill you. It just smashes your bones and adds a lot of pain and the panic of being a helpless cripple to the smothering horror of drowning in rude and icy saltwater!"
    And at the bottom of each sign put a number they can call to get suggestions and instructions for better ways to kill themselves.
    Better yet, pretend we really are both secular and civilized here and sell 2-pill suicide kits without a prescription in every drugstore, consisting of a sleeping pill guaranteed to put you quickly and gently into a deep enough sleep for surgery and a time-release cyanide capsule guaranteed to kill you in 3 seconds while you're sound asleep "in the privacy of your own room."
    Oops! Did I go off nearly everybody else's screen there? Sorry. I can never get used to living in a whole world of cruel and dopy mystics, intellectual cowards, and piously hypocritical politicians

    Remember my last question that I already know the answer to was,"What world does the Chronicle editorial staff live in?" and another question I already know the answer to (which means it's ALL the Chronicle's OTHER readers who should be asking these questions) is, "Why does the Chronicle strain so hard to convince us we share their 19th century religious prejudice against suicide?"
    Since the Chronicle won't tell you, I will. It's because death postponement is big business. Population growth and development are big business. Selling life-prolonging products to lots and lots and lots more people through their youth, adulthood, middle age, and old age is big business. Religion is big busines. Denial is big business. And, not only are the Chronicle publishers and (probably) editors businessmen, their major advertisers are big businessmen. And even if it directly causes the rapidly nearing total collapse of the eco-system, big business depends on SUSTAINED growth. And to hell with all the losers who'd at least like to pick up their useless marbles and abstain from further participation in growth sustainment. Their forcibly sustained life, failure and exploitable misery are big business.
    More specifically, some insider wants the contract to build the unneeded suicide barrier. And he doesn't HAVE TO have a friend in City Government or on the Chronicle staff (though he may). The 1/10 of 1% insiders who own and run this country are all in the same general business. Whether their conspiracy is tacit or explicit, "good" business is good for all of them. So all of them (including media chiefs) try to be "good" for "good" business.
    But since you probably aren't in the club, why is the Chronicle trying so hard to convince YOU a money-making scam like the suicide barrier is something you know in your heart is needed? Come on. That's how big businessmen talk to suckers. Compare it to the way the same Chronicle talks to you about the importance of bailing out big business.
-Glen Roberts

Have you been exasperating the editor?

    30 September 2008, "NOW WHAT?" the Chronicle screams angrily in their biggest font at their naughty readers today. Just yesterday, after all, the Chronicle told all you guys flatly, "Make no mistake," clearly meaning, "Don't make the mistake of thinking for yourselves; think what we tell you to," which was quickly clarified as that "only a quick and immense response from the federal government can prevent a historic breakdown of the financial system, one that would have ..."
   What did they mean "would have"? They meant they were trying to conjure up a win for the insiders by reporting it as a done deal, so you guys wouldn't waste time calling Congress. A left top headline above that, cunningly labeled NEWS ANALYSIS, claimed the "need" for the bill already "sways" (in present tense) even former skeptics, and another head on the right top declared, again in present tense, "Many believe they must support the bill."
   Trying to sound like Roosevelt or Churchill, not as objective press but as editorial corporate media, the Chronicle itself warned you against fear while trying to scare you into believing that giving away $700 billion dollars quickly to insiders without thinking about it was the only way to go. But they failed. A flood of Americans who weren't suckered e-mailed and wrote and called Congress and said, "Hell no, we won't go for it." Congress got scared for their cushy jobs and voted down the bail-out. And the shocked Chronicle reacted with today's huge headline, a doomsday alarm trying to scare you again, trying again to tell you what you think, trying to soften you up, actually, so you won't resist the second bail-out bill, which will be a lame compromise coming up soon.
    For a whole two days now, maybe for another day or two (I won't expect more than that), this all reminds me of when the Chronicle ran equally huge headlines screaming that Americans had finally had enough of Bill Clinton's disgraceful tom-catting and weren't going to take it anymore. But it didn't work, and then, like now (for a few days now, anyway), their readers refused to be told what they thought. It was the biggest story never reported, not the Bill and Monica story, the U.S. media and their readers story, which was never reported by the media (though it certainly prompted extension of routine pre-election public brainwashing from one year to two).
    Americans were bombarded all that year, every hour of every day, with puritan propaganda until finally the media and Congress had to turn it off and surrender their impeachment dream, because the people, who may have been stupid enough to be fooled about politics and economics, at least knew ALL about sex and COULDN'T be fooled about that.
    Too bad this isn't about sex or sports or pop stars. It's about politics and economics. And a new bill faked up to look more acceptable is already on the table and being hyped to the people with Cheshire smiles. So I'll be amazed if the people's momentary good sense doesn't wash off.
    But I was already pleasantly amazed when the BBC blog board responded to THEIR bail out propaganda piece, not with the usual lumpen blather but with numerous articulate comments accurately nailing the bail out, the Republicans and Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and even capitalism. Some writers even understood that the big bad debt was - IS - a fantasy, that the crooks were to get real money to replace the dream loot they never actually had in their hands to lose.
    It would be something if Congress, pretending to intelligently ponder an inadequately amended compromise bill to reduce the ransom, were once again flooded with e-mails and calls telling them, "Hell no! We STILL won't go for it!" I'm not expecting that, but I'll do a little for the cause here - at least for the cause of clarity - by explaining to my one or two readers how an illusion has become a real mess that's really scary but should be boldly used as a painful way to finally bring down the jungle system of capitalism. Oh yeah. I bet.
    Day before (or before that) yesterday, the media explained to you (taught you) for the umpteenth time that the crisis stems from lenders being merely "complicit in the stupid decisions to offer mortgages to home buyers who couldn't afford them." Sure. What really happened was that home buyers who rightfully wanted homes were conned into agreeing to pay 5 times what the homes were worth by crooks trying to make a killing and intending to foreclose on the first wave of suckers and then re-sell at an even more criminal price to a second wave of suckers.
    But once the first suckers had been screwed, no second wave came, and prices started dropping (they haven't stopped dropping yet and shouldn't until they get back down to earth). So the crooks, in their minds, got screwed, too. But they didn't lose $700 billion actual dollars. They failed to GET 80% of the loot they wanted - a fantasy - dream loot. Their victims couldn't pay it.
    At that point, the government should have stepped in, given the homes to the buyers, and locked up the crooks. But it was the crooks who had friends who looked the other way as they used the dream loot on their books like unhatched chickens to reinvest in other ventures, and those ventures also used the fantasy loot to pay for labor, materials, etc. So the fantasy loot was transmuted into a real mess. That's normal capitalist jungle chaos. But it got too big and obvious, so the foxy chicken guards who let it happen decided to save us all by replacing the dream loot with real money (that they're busy printing).
    Some other countries the mess has slopped into are nationalizing some of their banks. That makes sense. That's what we should be doing, just for a start, because it's past time to deep 6 capitalism, which never worked for anyone but the winners, anyway. But it's more likely the losers WILL finally be fooled again into voting against themselves again.
-Glen Roberts

Why not buy all the banks?
No. Wait. Why not nationalize all the banks?

    11 October 2008, If I had proposed a month ago that the feds start buying the banks, I'd have been dismissed as a crank.
       So now that just such useless half measures are being taken, if I propose that, instead of buying bank stocks, they nationalize the banks, close the stock market, roll back and freeze all prices at the 2000 level subject only to fair adjustment to keep them sensibly inter-related, and set a permanent minimum and maximum annual income scale from $30,000 to $50,000, I'd be dismissed as a crank. So what? Obviously, the crank dismissers have a propensity for being wrong.
       In spite of the religious belief of philosophically challenged Americans that socialism is a naughty word, someday they'll have to finally abandon the failed capitalist game and progress maybe kicking and screaming to socialism. The solution: stop kicking and screaming and go for it - not in jerks and jolts but with dignity,with a plan, carefully and logically.
       And while you're at it, start solving the world's even more important problems by dissolving NATO and other counter-productive extra cogs in the wheel, by joining the UN not as a bully but as a member, and by promoting world-wide, Cuban style population control (they just peacefully teach everyone, without coercion, that one child is enough and two is maximum, and it works) and by moving pro-actively, as a world, away from this savage dog-eat-dog economic non-system that Americans only think they're trapped in toward civilization. As long as it's finally being admitted that "urgent and exceptional action" is called for, why not finally do the exceptional things that have been really urgently needed for a long time?
       I'm not crusading, by the way. I personally gave up the world in 1970 as beyond salvation. This is in second person for a reason. I'm saying that if YOU think the world can still be saved, then you ought to finally start demanding that your so-called leaders (obviously your misleaders) start doing the things that need to be done to save it.
-Glen Roberts

Wanna buy some godly democracy?"

  23 October 2008, Americans not well trained by their media might wonder why the Chronicle has been pushing the primitive Proposition 8 for three days, even providing a front page boxed display of Biblical quotations. Of course, the hysterical right's weird idea of a liberal press is wrong. The media are certainly owned and edited by and for the rich. But PC liberal conspiracy theorists are just as far off target. The media isn't above reminding readers they believe in gods and absurd godly morality. But this time the Chronicle isn't pushing religion or even straight sex. It's pushing democracy, a pill readers are so well trained to love to swallow whole, they're far beyond noticing it's daily inclusion in the lesson plan anymore. They'd feel deprived without it.
        Presenting Obama's nearly conscious though timid ideas as equal to McCain's idiot Bushisms is part of the same lesson plan. So's presenting Sara Palin's popularity among the dumb as if popularity could validate her dumbness. And so's seriously headlining GOP uneasiness about the "peril" of a Congress dominated by one party. The thrust of the Proposition 8 story isn't that there are two significant views of an issue (and certainly not that intellectual progress might again be bogged down in primitive superstition). It's that one side's 14 point lead has gone down to an 8 point lead. The myth of democracy that has to be taught daily because it is so obviously wrong that it might easily be forgotten is that you can count up the truth - that you can elect logic. (see Democracy under definitions on the front page).
       I witnessed the tragic foisting of this insidious nonsense on revolutionary Nicaragua in 1996. The Nicas were still in some respects behind the times. American liberals had abandoned their own revolutionary integrity and embraced the "pro-democracy" cop-out six years earlier. But the Nicaraguans had bowed their heads and betrayed their pledge (here, nobody sells out or surrenders)in 1990 from weariness of war and death and injury and loss of friends and family and continuous fear of a George Bush I invasion. But by the '96 election, a modern TV extravaganza, the CIA, the US funded press, the opportunistic big shots in the FSLN, and, yeah, Jimmy Carter, had sold Nicaraguans the creed. So the pleading of honest militants that what mattered was NOT democracy but the revolution fell on enough deaf ears so that, by the numbers, falsehood, capitalism, and poverty were counted the winners again.
        You should know what I'm talking about if you noticed the media didn't tell you yesterday that home prices are almost sane again. They told you how many people are suddenly buying homes again (so you should, too - get it?). And today they don't tell you about death and pain in Iraq. They reported more body counts, the higher the count, the more significant the incident. One writer thinks a higher death count in one incident was the "most fatal" in a 365-day period. On the business page yesterday, they didn't discuss the actual need for a new downtown SF skyscraper. They told you how many feet tall it will be and how many dollars the lot cost. I know somewhere in today's paper you're told why you should watch a TV show or see a movie. Why? Because a winning number of other Americans are doing it. And again today, as yesterday and the day before, you've learned why you should consider changing your vote to McCain - because more people say they'll do that today than said so yesterday.
-Glen Roberts

The Chronicle lobbies for God and other nonsense

  2 November 2008,  With elections pending, I had to search to find the Chronicle's low-key one-line opposition to putting another religious taboo into the California state constitution on a grey page near the end of a throw-away tabloid insert. On page ONE, however, I was slapped in the face by another in a series of topside photo-flashy big-headed celebrations of an anti-intellectual minority having a DEMOCRATIC impact - quite a story. One that's become a regular reminder to every red-neck American Jihadist that he isn't alone and CAN secretly vote against secular government, civilization and social progress.
   This kind of stuff challenges my previous claim that the Chronicle is pushing democracy not religion. But I'm sticking to it. After all, the insiders can HAVE convenient religion, war, ecological destruction, oppression and privilege WITH and THROUGH democracy, without revealing their fleshless grinning skulls. The Chronicle is just being spectacularly clumsy because they're over-excited by what looks like another of the kind of dumb-people's backlashes that got them Ronald Reagan.
        A better story (that they'll never do) would be about how Americans who scorn the religious governments of the middle east yearn for a religious government of their own (Tom Jefferson will never know).
   But the best propaganda isn't always what the media say. It's just as often what they don't say. The biggest unreported story of them all, which, just by being totally unreported, conveniently convinces the public it doesn't matter, remains the story of the now happening collapse of the eco-system due to excess human population growth and the corollary (always profitable, which is all the media care about) growth of the human encampment. I invite you to search today's paper, yesterday's paper, all last week's and last month's papers, and all next month's papers, cover to cover. You'll find many virgin sidebar stories. But you can count on it that, in the mass media, at least, too many cars will never be driven by too many drivers, too many fish caught will never be caught by too many fishermen, too much global warming will never be caused by too many global warmers, etc. I can't help wondering how too many readers can keep swallowing the hook, the line, and the sinker with no apparent suspicion of what they're being fed.
       Maybe they don't. The only intelligent reference to overpopulation I ever see is in an occasional letter to the editor. But I'd guess no more than one out of hundreds of such letters are printed. I "guess" that because I started writing such always unpublished letters (always exactly 350 words or less, always in perfect journalistic style, I'm a retired journalism prof, remember) to the Chronicle in 1959 when I first moved to the bay area to study journalism at San Jose State. The media can't stand too many anti-sustained-growth pitches. They like Al Gore because, in their very own style, he's an insider conveniently covering up the main story with a sidebar story that, guess what, never mentions overpopulation, actually promoting a myth that a problem that's not the problem can be solved by MORE business - "green" business that will advertise in the Chronicle, WHILE the unmentioned real problem keeps outgrowing all the phony but profitable solutions.
       The next best propaganda to flagrant omissions are sneaky insertions. Flipping past today's front page celebration of religious homo-phobics, I'm taught that those trials "in Cuba" are coming to an end. I wonder how many politically and geographically challenged readers are continually confused by Cuba's editorially apparent connection to Guantanamo. A lot, I'd guess. They're certainly always given the chance. The AP writer further slanders the island with references to iguanas, large rodents, and "turkey" vultures which he associates with the same Cuba where those awful trials are found. As a frequent traveler in Cuba, I found an iguana under my pillow once in a beautiful colonial house in Gibara, but large rodents and "turkey" vultures don't ring a bell (though of course ugly wildlife exists everywhere - including Texas). Maybe they came to Guantanamo, which (it's stupid to say it but I have to) is NOT politically part of Cuba, with the Marines.
       Mentioned in passing, along with the few journalists enduring Cuba's supposedly rodent and vulture infested terrain along with the on-dragging extra-judicial charades, are the trial of "an alleged communications specialist" (use of the word alleged keeps him from suing them for calling him a communications specialist, you see) and the "relatively minor case" (if you can conceive of a war criminal less innocuous than a communication specialist) of a 16-year-old boy whose confession was tortured out of him.
       But AP's main interest is in how many journalists aren't covering "America's 6-year attempt to try what it called 'the worst of the worst' for crimes of war." America's attempt? I thought this was just the War Department's hypocritical project. But AP calls it "America's...attempt," to convince Americans that they are all part of the war effort, which they absolutely are not. They're left out of the loop and ignorant with the help of AP.
       Way down, almost lost in the story's dregs, is this: "Only months ago, the military periodically flew dozens of print reporters, TV crews, pool photographers and sketch artists to Guantanamo Bay from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington." As my own reporter going always to Cuba alone, with no permission or assistance from AP or the Air Force, I may be the only one noticing this reminder that King George I's idea of selecting and conducting approved reporters to and around military scenes is still in effect. Of course, most readers are now OK with the concept of "embedded reporters." Aren't they? And Why? Because their news/propaganda media constantly glorify the concept, proactively discouraging them from ever thinking they might not be OK with it.
       A few pages further on, a killer smog that happened in a Pennsylvania factory town in 1948 is treated as an historical oddity, from back in the olden days when U.S. Steel was still (understandably?) naive enough to call it "an act of God." Some awful leftists proved they were wrong and "it was the first time," we are falsely told, "that people really understood..." Not any more, you're supposed to think. In fact, there's a story on BBC's Latest Headlines right now about a catastrophic mud volcano that's been inundating whole towns in Indonesia for two years, obviously caused by a gas drilling outfit that denies it and blames a small earthquake, "an act of God."
       On the next page, readers who are kept from ever suspecting that most informed people in the world consider Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Evo Morales as the good guys are treated to a tear jerking tale of how ONE woman who earns a living ironing gringo shirts may lose her job because Morales is kicking the US out of Bolivia. Of course, Bolivia suffers from historic poverty, but US media don't or won't grasp or don't want readers to ever suspect that Morales' socialist agenda may eventually eliminate poverty, while sustaining their own beloved status quo will not. In fact, this story, like all others on Bolivia, simply leaves that factor out. Instead, the reporter easily finds local capitalists to criticize Morales, measuring Bolivia's problems against their own discredited capitalist yardstick.
       Two pages further on, a headline indites "rebels (who) tighten grip over swaths of eastern Congo." WHAT they are rebelling against, WHY there is a war, WHO are the socialists, WHO are the capitalists, or IF it's in fact just tribal rivalry, WHY UN "peace keepers" are taking sides, readers will not find out. Strife in Africa, as in most of the barely reported world, is just strife - with refugees, individual suffering, all the regular stuff, but NO ISSUES. It regularly drives me nuts reading paragraph after paragraph of stories like this, looking for some reference to the issues and almost never finding any. Once in a while a sentence, but almost nothing.
       In today's Iraq story, US troop withdrawal, for about the fourth time in a week, is tied to the year 2011. Rat-tat-tat. 2011 2011 2011. When you've read that enough, you'll forget you were ever hearing 2009 2009 2009. Try to remember with little help from the media that Obama's stated target at one point was also 2010 2010 2010.
       On a lighter but still relevant note, today's TraVel section, with the V printed in red, ac-cen-tu-ates the positive and ee-lim-i-nates the negative about a place that comes across as an almost funky Peru. There's even a picture of an Inca flag. Did you know the Inca's had a flag? I didn't either. Maybe I saw it and didn't notice it. I know that, in Peru, I saw some of the worst poverty I've ever seen anywhere (see From The Andes). But poverty isn't to be stressed on a newspaper travel page. Pictures of Inca women selling their wares show them clean, colorful, and happy.
       I talked to the Indians a lot in Peru, because, just as in Guatemala, I found their second-language Spanish a lot like mine. Usually, the people I talked to were wearing frayed and (excuse me) dirty clothing. Except for the beggars, who aren't mentioned in today's happy story, I didn't find them bitter. But I sure as hell knew they could be dangerous and never talked to other travelers who didn't have some at least second hand mugging stories to tell.
       But this TraVel story's purpose is to promote business, even foreign business, who cares, as long as it's business. To encourage readers to part with dollars, all U.S. media regularly declare high priced restaurants cheap and $500,000 houses at last affordable again. As a practical, down-scale political tourist, I'm always amazed to read about good hotel deals in places like Cuzco for from $60 to $114 (single). I think maybe once in all my Latin American travels, in a moment of weakness, I paid $60, for a palacial colonial hotel in Antigua. I didn't record all my bills in Peru, so I don't know what I paid, but partly because I'd just come from one of the best hotels on Lake Titicaca covered with flea bites, in Cuzco I treated myself to one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever stayed in, virtually a turret, with big windows overlooking all of tile topped downtown, clean, atmospheric, gracious, for maybe $35, but I think I'd remember $35, so it probably wasn't that much.
-Glen Roberts

the Chronicle screams at you in 60 point type

  19 December 2008, The Chronicle screams in big type a lot these days. But it's not just to tell you what's going on, as in "INSIDERS STRIKE AGAIN." RUSH may not be intended as a pushy third person verb here. Maybe it's a noun. Maybe. But it looks like the command form of the verb rush to me. Besides selling ads, the Chronicle is selling home loans.
   "Talk about economic stimulus," the "story" excitedly begins its sales pitch, while leaving out the kind of truly revolutionary counter advice this country needs. Hey! Ignore the editor's cunning excitement. Do your own thinking and Don't fall for it again!
    Already over-squeezed borrowers are being urged to put themselves back into the hands of the same cowboys who just milked them dry. In the dictated context, which reflects a situation 8 years ago, the reduced 4.5% interest rate that excites the Chronicle may have been good. But in the current context of home "owners" saddled with houses that cost 5 times what they were worth due to an era of historically unregulated greed, it's not. What's called for now and what the unfortunately suckered American home "owners" should be demanding is historic CHANGE. Not mild mannered Obama change. Really historic change.
   The Chronicle talks about $300,000, $400,000, and $600,000 houses as if those figures made sense. They don't, except as historic price gouging. The profiteers aren't the majority your vaunted democracy is supposed to represent. They're a piggish minority, and they shouldn't be bailed out. They should be brought down to earth.
    In the year 2000, I was looking for a nice house my mother could buy in San Luis Obispo when she sold her mountain property, and I found the perfect house for her for just under $200,000. Somebody else bought it while I was making up my mind. The next time I looked at it, a year or two later, it was on sale for a million $. Come on! That doesn't make sense!
   FIRST, all the overpriced houses should be devalued to their 2000 price plus a logical 8-year increase of about 2 percent a year, the same amount my pension went up each of those years and, if you're lucky, your salary went up. THEN, people who have really already paid enough for their houses should be given their titles, while people who haven't are given lower interest rates on what's left of their reduced home prices.
   Would that be messy? Sure it would. Because it's not enough. We need socialism. But, compared to the cow we have now, which is being milked by the same crooks anticipating more bail-outs in the future, at least that much would be neat enough, easy to understand, and unprecedentedly honest. -Glen Roberts

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