Should government save failing newspapers?

hundreddollarbill

 

Uncle Sam has heard from another American industry that needs a bailout.

This time, it’s newspapers. But they aren’t just another business. They’re one of the pillars of our democracy, and they’re crumbling.

They’re in the same position as buggy whip makers after Henry Ford’s Model Ts started rolling off the assembly lines. This time the Internet is the technological advancement threatening old ways.

Nineteen U.S. senators have joined a group of journalism professionals and nonprofits in asking Congress for stimulus money to keep newspapers publishing.

Would there be a conflict of interest in covering the Newspaper Czar who decides which papers get money? Of course. Accepting money from any source can raise that problem for newspapers. Nonetheless, newspapers sometimes bite the hands that feed them in order to do their jobs.

To see the proposal in detail, check out “Life-saving news needs a stimulus” at https://newsguild.org/.

Then subscribe to a newspaper. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable getting your news from the likes of Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Loser

toddler

The closer we get to election day, the more candidate Trump morphs from bully to whiner.

My microphone was faulty! The media’s out to get me!

Next will come the crybaby: I was robbed! It was a conspiracy! No fair!

Despite dire predictions of chaos and revolution after the ballot count shows Clinton won, I think it’s safe to say most people just will heave a sigh of relief that it’s over. And some of us won’t be able to resist yelling at the self-proclaimed victim of injustice as he stomps, pouting, out of the schoolyard:

Nyaaa, nyaaa – LOSER!

The rise of the bully boys

trump Vladimir Putin Rodrigo Duterte

Trump, Putin, Duterte – Bully boys are ascendant.

They stoke hysteria in the already fearful with exaggerated pronouncements of crisis, then offer security in the form of a Big Daddy-knows-best arrangement. Scapegoats are targeted to justify aggression or oppression.

Their supporters believe themselves exempt from harsh tactics. Average citizens tell themselves that they aren’t one of “those people” causing problems. The wealthy or powerful think they can keep the guy from going too far. All accept the bully’s implied reassurance, after ranting threats at supposed enemies, “I don’t mean you.”

In the art of breaking deals, that will be just one more broken promise.

If you need a reminder of how far and how badly this can go, read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis or “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer.

 

 

Trump’s America: land of the tweet, home of the craven

toddler

The contest this November is between fear and hope.

Those who are fearful of the world, the future, the unfamiliar, of change and of Others have given up on our democracy. They feel (often rightfully so) that they’ve been lied to, cheated and used. They see no security in their futures and don’t believe they can exert any influence over the forces that control their fates.

The hopeful also feel they’ve been lied to, cheated and used, but haven’t given up. They see change as an opportunity instead of a threat, a chance to reinvent themselves and maybe the country for the better. They aren’t looking for scapegoats. They’re willing to take the risks of tolerance and to give up some security to forge a path into the unknown.

One group sees democracy as a zero-sum game whose rules are rigged against them. They think they’re falling behind because Others are getting ahead.

The other group thinks that if everyone follows the rules, nobody will fall too far behind and everybody has a shot at winning.

People in these two groups have one thing in common: they’re all angry with each other. The fearful view the hopeful as dupes who will only bring on more of the same. They want reassurance that somebody powerful will seize control to protect them, and they’re willing to let that person blow the whole country to hell because they believe the system can’t be fixed. They confuse bluster with bravery, bullying with strength and compromise with betrayal.

The hopeful will have to drag the fearful, kicking and screaming, into the future of an imperfect democracy. In this country, we dare to venture forth instead of hunker down, we value liberty over security and we strive to overcome fear with courage.

 

 

Frankentrump’s monster: It’s alive!

 

The Republican Party has created the most oafish presidential nominee ever as surely as Dr. Frankenstein created his monster.

Start with dead ideas and keep digging them up, no matter how rotten: tax breaks for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor;  unlimited campaign funding for corporations, voting restrictions for people. Cobble together with beliefs, not facts.

Stoke the anger of voters by blaming the powerless. Deny reality. Refuse to leave the isolated echo-chamber of angry old white men. Expel those who sound warnings.

Zap the campaign with high-voltage fearmongering and watch this give life to an unnatural creation who appalls and frightens. It’s alive!

Voters naïve enough to go along with this are, like Little Maria, putting themselves in peril. The rest of us hope to kill the monster at the ballot box.

Failing that, we’ll see angry villagers storming the White House, and every other Trump property, with clubs and torches.

TIANANMEN 2.0

Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from Bloomberg.com

Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from Bloomberg.com

IS TOMORROW THE DAY CHINA’S LEADERS ORDER AN ATTACK ON HONG KONG?

 

It’s a clash that’s been coming since the British marched out of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. Despite promises from Beijing and wishful thinking in Hong Kong, surely its people knew that China’s dictators someday would move to snuff out their freedom.

It may be inevitable.

The anniversary of the day Great Britain handed Hong Kong to China always sparks protest. Tomorrow’s anniversary will be especially tense. China’s state-controlled news media have been blasting Hong Kongers over their ceaseless clamor for democracy.

“If they overplay their hand – just like the folks did in 1989 in Tiananmen Square – the state comes down on them,” said a leading pollster in the city.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mao Tse-tung knew, only by “overplaying their hand” can people successfully challenge power.

Perhaps the fear that ham-fisted repression could hurt profits from the country’s most prosperous city will keep Beijing from clamping down. It’s also possible that forceful and prolonged pressure from international powers could prevent Chinese tanks and guns from rolling into Hong Kong. Without outside aid, that little island is destined to be subsumed into a giant dictatorship where free speech is prosecuted as subversion and calls for democracy treated as treason.

And with the example of Tiananmen, there’s no way international leaders can claim they didn’t see this coming.

 

 

 

Fairness? Not our job.

Benjamin Franklin probably never imagined a United States of I've-got-mine.

Benjamin Franklin probably never imagined a United States of I’ve-got-mine.

 

Here’s how Chief Justice John Roberts explained the Supreme Court’s decision to let rich people give up to $3.6 million every two years to candidates and political parties they want to influence: “No matter how desirable it may seem, it is not an acceptable government objective to ‘level the playing field.'”

Really? Removing artificial, unfair barriers to citizenship, voting, education, jobs and health care is not an acceptable government objective? In fact, the job of a democratic government is precisely to ensure that all citizens enjoy an equal chance of influencing the policies that govern their pursuits of life, liberty and happiness.

In the ceaseless struggle by the many against rigged rules that favor the wealthy and powerful few, Roberts and his court cronies are on the wrong side. For now, that side appears to have the upper hand. But as the history of every revolution demonstrates, there’ll come a time when the structure of entrenched privilege collapses, crushed between the weight of unsustainable injustice and the pressure of popular uprising.

And don’t you know that Roberts and his ilk will be shocked, shocked, at the notion that their actions could have played any part in the uproar.

 

 

Freedom to threaten, not to compromise

Gun extremists insist that liberty depends on unlimited access to guns. In their view, firearms protect their freedom of expression to  threaten a lifelong gun owner with death, but not his right to disagree with them. 

gun belt buckle

Gun journalist Dick Metcalf, 67, suggested in his  column at Guns & Ammo magazine that requiring 16 hours of firearms training for gun purchasers was not an unreasonable infringement of their Second Amendment rights.  Every constitutional right, he wrote, is regulated in some way. He used the old example of that well-known First Amendment limit on free speech that prohibits people from falsely yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater. More recent versions of this argument would be joking about blowing up an airplane while going through security screening, or posting idle musings on Facebook about which fellow students you might like to shoot.

Unfortunately for Metcalf, his editors fired him after caving to threats about cancelled subscriptions from outraged readers and loss of advertising revenue from gun makers.

Democracy requires consensus, a meeting on middle ground achieved through compromise on both sides. What gun nuts endorse, with their hysteria, distortion and willful refusal to acknowledge rational arguments, is armed-to-the-teeth anarchy.  Every person a law unto himself and no central authority to tell him otherwise – if that’s what they want, they might like living in Afghanistan.

End Times for God’s Own Party?

Hurricane Isaac: coincidence, or divine wrath?

The hand of God has reached out and smote the GOP with righteous wrath. Yea, even as Republicans struggle through the electoral valley of demographic decline, they are plagued by signs of divine displeasure.

 In little more time than it took Him to make the Earth, the Republican Party has been unraveling from blow after self-inflicted blow:

 -Prophet Paul Ryan’s starve-the-beast budget plan sounds to many voters like a fatal dose of snake oil;

 -Formerly devout members of God’s Own Party, such as Olympia Snowe, were driven from the fold. Charlie Crist, for the apostasy of joining the infidels who will gather in Charlotte, you are forever cast out of Bohemian Grove;

 -The serpent-tongued Todd Akin spake the truth of GOP beliefs about Eve’s wily daughters and their mysterious bodies, then tried to deny he meant what he said;

 -And finally, Hurricane Isaac descends on the Gulf Coast to pound retribution on Republican heads in Tampa for the sins of George, who was cast into the wilderness.

 Woe to thee, Republicans, for you’ve sorely tried the patience of all. Come November, you shall reap the whirlwind sown by your ideologically pure Christian soldiers, who will march the GOP right to its End Times.

 

If fundamentalist culture warriors won…

How would life in this country change if religious fundamentalists managed to “take it back?” A few predictions:

 The nation would be christened the United States of Christian America.

 Independence Day would be replaced by a day commemorating our rebirth as God’s favorite country.

 The Constitution would be discarded, the Supreme Court abolished and the Bible enshrined as the law of the land.

 Under “Stand Your Ground for The Unborn” laws, women could legally shoot their doctors dead for mentioning the health hazards of unlimited pregnancies.

 Due to the impending Apocalypse and Rapture, the Environmental Protection Agency would be abolished as irrelevant.

 The Department of Christian Education would forbid lessons on sex, evolution and environmental science while requiring curriculum on abstinence, Genesis (either version) and humanity’s right to use the planet however it wants right up to the End Times.

 An “infidel brain drain” of academics, researchers, scientists, executives and artists to other countries would leave us dependent on people with degrees in Bible studies.

 To meet a Christian Communications Commission (CCC) mandate to uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage and families, broadcasters would present endless reruns of “Father Knows Best” and “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

 All forms of commerce, business and entertainment except for religious broadcasts and reruns of “Father Knows Best” or “Cheaper by the Dozen” would cease from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.

 Facebook’s biggest growth in pages would be for prayer circles. Popular phone apps would include “Ultimate Heretic Hunters” and “Born-Again Birthday Cupcakes.”

 Contraceptives would be illegal. Abortionists and homosexuals who failed to heed loving Christian appeals to renounce their sinful ways could be executed.

 The “War on Porn” would beget a black market in banned books, DVDs and contraceptives, which would beget billionaire crime bosses.

 Christmas ornaments failing to meet the “Jesus is the reason for the season” standard would be banned.

 Halloween would be marked by prayer vigils and re-enactments of the Salem witch trials.

 Prisons would be turned into Christian re-education centers and executions (by hanging or stoning) would be public.

 Adults who failed to reproduce would pay deadbeat taxes as noncontributing members of society.

 In addition, single females 18 years or older would pay a spinster tax until they entered holy matrimony.

 Applications for jobs, college, passports, drivers licenses, marriage licenses, mortgages, leases, credit, loans, government benefits, guns and library cards would require checking one of the following boxes: “Born again,” “Christian,” or “Heretic.”

 Checking “Heretic” or failing to check any box would be grounds for denial of the application.

 Rates of depression, domestic violence, suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction would skyrocket, while funding for any form of treatment except prayer would disappear. 

 Our borders would be closed to any immigrants who didn’t swear they had accepted Jesus as their personal savior. The Department of Holy Land Security would deport alien heretics.

 Mexico and Canada would plead for help in coping with millions of illegal immigrants seeking asylum from oppression in God’s favorite country.