Archive for January, 2020

How It Starts

January 25, 2020

America first, make America great, American interest prior to any other underlie the corporate media’s coverage of news for the past half year. The impeachment and 2020 presidential election contest have run as neck and neck distractions. If one doesn’t grab you, the other will. Even the current GOP impeachment defense relies on this media groomed linkage. Meghan and Harry are proffered as momentary comic relief. The large picture is always US, with the consensus assumption that we are resilient, we always get through it. What else could there be? The recent 75thcommemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army offered one, amongst many, glimpses into a different, larger picture. “Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Putin claimed that 40 percent of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were citizens of the Soviet Union.” (Times of Israel, 1-24-20). Putin’s claim is utterly false. US corporate media, distorted by the pretend ethics/conventional wisdom of fair and equal coverage to both sides of any story, would not touch Putin’s claim. How is this possible? Where did it come from? Putin’s Big Lie: In a series of comments in late December, the Russian president appeared to blame Poland for the outbreak of the Second World War (Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic, 1-5-20). Applebaum begins with a synopsis of the initial mutual Invasions of Poland in 1939 underwritten by the prior Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. “Readers will, I hope, forgive this long excursion into the past, but it is necessary background to the series of strange and otherwise inexplicable statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at several meetings in late December. For in the course of a single week, Putin brought up the subject of Polish responsibility for the Second World War no less than five times. He told a group of Russian businessmen that he was consulting with historians and reading up on Polish diplomacy in the 1930s in order to make this case. At a meeting at the Russian defense ministry, he angrily proclaimed that the Polish ambassador to Nazi Germany in the 1930s—not really, one would think, a person of tremendous relevance—had been “scum” and “an anti-Semite pig.” After yet another meeting with the president, the speaker of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, publicly called for Poland to apologize for starting the war. If this were some kind of caprice, just a little excursion into obscure events in the distant past, nobody would care. But these kinds of lies have a history of ending in catastrophe. The Soviet ethnic cleansing of eastern Poland and the Baltic states began immediately after the invasion, after all, with the arrest of hundreds of thousands of Poles and Balts and their deportation to settlements and concentration camps in the east. (The Nazi ethnic cleansing of western Poland began immediately too, with the mass arrest of university professors in Krakow, a city that was meant to become ethnically German, and—ominously—the construction of the first ghettos for Polish Jews.)” The AP deigned to dip its toe in these muddy waters with EU Comes to Aid of Poland Over WWII Row With Russia (1-15-20). “Putin has also lashed out against a resolution adopted by the European Parliament that says the Soviet Union partly bears responsibility for World War II alongside Germany because of the 1939 pact. The Russian leader has called that “sheer nonsense.” [EU Commissioner Vera] Jourova said, however, that the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 “paved the way for World War II. The Nazi-Soviet alliance enabled the attack on Poland by Nazi Germany on 1 September 1939 and subsequently Soviet troops on 17 September.” She added that “these events marked the beginning of the Second World War. These are the facts.” She did say that once the Soviet Union turned against Nazi Germany, it was a major force in securing victory.” And, once again with the more recent assertion “World War II began in 1939 with Nazi Germany’s military invasion of Poland, followed two weeks later by the Soviet invasion.” (Poland Calls on Putin to Tell Truth at WWII Event in Israel, AP,  1-21-20) Analysis leaves the why’s of all this to better scholars. What is relevant is that in Helsinki “After the Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire asked Trump during a joint press conference with Putin who he believed and whether he would publicly denounce Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and warn Putin never to do it again, Trump declined to do so and appeared to pin the blame on the US. “We have two thoughts,” Trump said. “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the [DNC] server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that.” He added: “With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me … They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia “I will say this,” Trump said. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Trump’s comments flew in the face of the US intelligence community’s findings in January 2017 that the Russian government mounted an elaborate, multifaceted campaign aimed at elevating Trump to the presidency.” “”Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,'”[former CIA director John] Brennan tweeted. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” (Trump says he doesn’t ‘see any reason’ why Russia would have hacked the US election when asked whether he believes Putin or the US intel community Sonam Sheth, Business Insider, 7-16-18) Less than a year earlier there was this exchange: “Trump: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs — and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch. “But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left — you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

Reporter: (Inaudible) “… both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the –”

Trump: “Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.”

Reporter: “The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest –”

Trump: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” (In Context: Donald Trump’s ‘very fine people on both sides’ remarks (transcript Angie Drobnic Holan, Politifact, 4-26-19)

“No Constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed — because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.” (Adam Schiff, US Senate impeachment trial closing remarks, 1-23-20)

Adult Education

January 24, 2020

Like the swallows and Capistrano, global corporate authorities gathered once again in secluded Davos Switzerland this past week. For the rest of us the corporate media represents it as the World Economic Forum with pronouncement made and issued for, you guessed it, the rest of us. Dear Leader attended, of course. Before leaving he too issued a pronouncement representing things in the US as being just all around boffo. We should all be very happy. Aren’t you? Why Greta Thunberg was there is anybody’s guess as she doesn’t fly in that rarefied milieu. Someone, who does, attended along with his boss. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took offense at Thunberg’s lecturing the corporate elites. “U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested that Greta Thunberg isn’t the best person to give advice on economic issues related to climate change — at least not until she goes to college. At a press briefing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mnuchin criticized the 17-year-old environmental activist’s call to divest from fossil fuels immediately, according to the Associated Press. Asked how such restrictions would affect the U.S. economic model, Mnuchin responded, “Is she the chief economist or who is she? I’m confused,” the AP reported. He paused before adding that his comments were “a joke.” “After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” Mnuchin said. Thunberg, who has been outspoken about the lack of progress on climate change, tweeted Thursday that “it doesn’t take a college degree in economics” to realize that our remaining 1.5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up.” She did not name Mnuchin but said in a subsequent tweet, “either you tell us how to achieve this mitigation or explain to future generations and those already affected by the climate emergency why we should abandon our climate commitments.”” (‘Who Is She?’ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Questions Greta Thunberg’s Economic Expertise at Davos by Sanya Mansoor for Time, 1-23-20). For those of you keeping score at home Thunberg dropped out of Sweden’s version of high school to embrace activism (without much “formal” education in that, either). Mnuchin has a BA from Yale, a father who is a partner at Goldman Sachs, and had his first job with the investment bank Salomon Brothers while still a student at Yale. Secretary Mnuchin feels no need to learn anything about what we all share in common while Thunberg considers each day an opportunity to learn more. Analysis surmises that eventually she will be forced to give an accounting for why she chose to go to Davos. “The corporate state, however, is in trouble. It has no credibility. All the promise of the “free market,” globalization and trickle-down economics have been exposed as a lie, and empty ideology used to satiate greed. The elites have no counterargument to their anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critics. The attempt to blame the electoral insurgencies in the United States’ two ruling political parties on Russian interference, rather than massive social inequality – the worst in the industrialized world – is a desperate ploy. The courtiers in the corporate press are working feverishly, day and night, to distract us from reality. The moment the elites are forced to acknowledge social inequality as the root of our discontent is the moment they are forced to acknowledge their role in orchestrating this inequality.” (Chris Hedges, America: the farewell tour)

Representation

January 18, 2020

In April of 2013 the Licking County Commissioners announced the demolition of the Children’s Home on East Main Street (2 of the 3 Commissioners continue to this day). The decrepit county jail was spared the wrecking ball (for it’s amusement potential). Today one can go to the Newark Library and peruse the archives for photos of the Home as well as the jail. One can walk a few blocks and look at the jail, point to it, and maybe compare it with the archival photo (something one cannot do with the Children’s Home as only the photos remain). Dear Leader may claim that “It doesn’t matter.” yet there is a difference between the architecture of The Historic Jail on south 4thStreet, and the representation of that and the Children’s Home found with the photographs. The dictionary gives the origins of the word “representation” to stem from the Middle English ‘image, likeness,’ and further back from the Latin ‘bring before, exhibit.’ Social media is just filled with representations. Some post photos of the meal they were served. The representation is not what they had for lunch. Then there are the ubiquitous and ever growing slew of people photo’s, including crime footage as well as celebrations. Many are edited to look good (like the Kardashians). The distinction gets a little fuzzy when we take photos of checks, etc. as documentation (if only they could be edited!). The representation (image) is the thing (exhibit). Analysis found updated fuzziness in a pair of news articles that appeared near simultaneously. National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump by Joe Heim for The Washington Post appeared 1-17-20. “The Archives acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred. In the original version of the 2017 photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, the street is packed with marchers carrying a variety of signs, with the Capitol in the background. In the Archives version, at least four of those signs are altered. A placard that proclaims “God Hates Trump” has “Trump” blotted out so that it reads “God Hates.” A sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” has the word Trump blurred out.” How does this differ from the Licking County Commissioners’ erasure of the Children’s Home? “Karin Wulf, a history professor at the College of William & Mary and executive director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, said that to ensure transparency, the Archives at the very least should have noted prominently that the photo had been altered. “The Archives has always been self-conscious about its responsibility to educate about source material, and in this case they could have said, or should have said, ‘We edited this image in the following way for the following reasons,’ ” she said. “If you don’t have transparency and integrity in government documents, democracy doesn’t function.”” Which brings us to the second article, more or less about unedited images (representations) that function, unintentionally, as documents (exhibits). Is their “transparency and integrity” conducive to our democracy? The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It by Kashmir Hill appeared in the NY Times 1-18-20. “Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos. Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security. His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.” “In addition to Mr. Ton-That, Clearview was founded by Richard Schwartz — who was an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York — and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir. Another early investor is a small firm called Kirenaga Partners. Its founder, David Scalzo, dismissed concerns about Clearview making the internet searchable by face, saying it’s a valuable crime-solving tool.” Hill ends his article with “Even if Clearview doesn’t make its app publicly available, a copycat company might, now that the taboo is broken. Searching someone by face could become as easy as Googling a name. Strangers would be able to listen in on sensitive conversations, take photos of the participants and know personal secrets. Someone walking down the street would be immediately identifiable — and his or her home address would be only a few clicks away. It would herald the end of public anonymity. Asked about the implications of bringing such a power into the world, Mr. Ton-That seemed taken aback. “I have to think about that,” he said. “Our belief is that this is the best use of the technology.”” How does this differ from the Licking County Commissioners tacitly agreeing to keeping the old jail (for amusement purposes)?

Remember The Alamo

January 6, 2020

From the 1-5-20 Newark Advocate editorial (Our view: Local news is critical for a thriving Licking County, The Advocate Editorial board):

“As The Advocate celebrates its bicentennial in 2020, we felt it was appropriate to tout the importance of having a hometown news organization. It is especially important given the state of the news business.”

“The reasons for the decline of newspapers are many and extend far beyond the borders of Licking County. For example, classified revenue was decimated by the emergence of online sites like Craigslist, Cars.com and others.”

“While probably not a shocking stance for a newspaper editorial board to make, we believe the existence of local newspapers is vital to the health of a community. Local newspapers share what is going on at your schools, your City Councils and in your neighborhoods.

At its best, journalists hold those in power accountable and give voice to the disenfranchised. While pressing community leaders is not always popular, it does serve an important purpose. As has been said for ages, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If politicians knew their actions would go unreported, we believe they would be far less responsive to the electorate.

“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Jay in 1786.

Locally, if The Advocate didn’t dedicate so many stories to the plight of area homeless, would the community have responded in such an aggressive way to address it? If the Advocate didn’t highlight the misguided effort to raise Newark salaries after an election, would the council have later trimmed those raises?”

“For without The Advocate, who are we to go to? Social media and message boards are great for gossip, but they lack the ability to confirm facts and dispel rumors. In fact social media is increasingly being used to spread misinformation.”

Analysis finds it to be of the utmost significance that the day after the paper copy of this editorial was disseminated, the “local news” in central Ohio was the closing of the Dispatch printing facility on the west side of Columbus (with the loss of close to 200 jobs). Gannett, the owner of The Advocate and new owner of The Dispatch, has moved the operation to its facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Wolf family (which also owned WBNS) sold The Dispatch to Gatehouse Media which last year sold it to Gannett. Astute readers will recall that Gannett closed its Newark printing facility (next to its now “for sale” downtown Newark office building) with a substantial loss of jobs, opting to sub contract the production of the paper newspaper to the Dispatch west Columbus printing facility. At the same time, Advocate local news acquired a “lag time” which did not permit the reporting of events within 12-16 hours of their occurrence. Because of the correlation of the paper copy with the online copy, items do not appear in a timely manner. Now “Local news is critical for a thriving Licking County” will have to accommodate an even longer “lag time” as it will be printed in another state, an additional 4+ hours drive from Newark. So much for “the importance of having a hometown news organization.” “The reasons for the decline of newspapers are many and extend far beyond the borders of Licking County.” The examples given are the dumb down cliché standards. No mention is made of the corporate greed that claims monopoly ownership of the local without any commitment to that very same local, let alone investment (no physical office, no printing, fewer employees, etc.). The body of the editorial is filled with the self aggrandizing “If politicians knew their actions would go unreported, we believe they would be far less responsive to the electorate.” But what of the corporate authorities who manage the politicians? In spite of the lofty “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it,” the “hometown news organization” feels free not to report corporate activity which is detrimental to those residing in Licking County. “Locally, if The Advocate didn’t dedicate so many stories” championing the ever growing prosperity of corporate authority then  local residents wouldn’t know they are so well off. Undercover investigative reporting? Not! (Gannett can’t afford to let its own workings be known by its customer base). “For without The Advocate, who are we to go to? Social media and message boards are great for gossip, but they lack the ability to confirm facts and dispel rumors. In fact social media is increasingly being used to spread misinformation.” And the Advocate is complicit in spreading NO Information. As of this posting, no news of Gannett’s closing of the Dispatch printing facility appears on the Advocate online news site.