Learning the Hard Way by amerigus, all non-com creative commons uses granted
My daughter sees a math tutor, a bright young med school student from Pakistan. She told me last weekend my daughter still struggles, but she was shocked to hear that “every single kid” in her class has a math tutor. I was shocked to learn this too, but for another reason.
Over a decade ago, the federal government sought to “fix” low-performance in schools, but not by increasing learning, rather by increasing standardized testing and leveling threats against those whose scores don’t magically rise. In NY and NJ, newly implemented evaluations say teachers who show progress on student’s standardized test scores are more likely to retain their jobs, and in some cases might “win” cash bonuses.
My daughter attends a high-performing suburban school where well-educated parents have kids laser-focused on academic performance. In these districts, the question is not how many kids get into college, it’s how many get into the Ivy League. So all that private tutoring, usually ranging in price from $50-$150 per hour, is going to be skewing the bejesus out of state-mandated teacher evaluations.
In classes where many of the students get private, one-on-one instruction time, the teacher evaluation numbers can be thrown way off, creating supposed “superteachers” — but only on paper. And if judging teachers via their students’ test results gives inexact data out in the burbs, what’s it doing in NY’s urban settings?
I teach in a crime-addled community in the inner city, where working class, immigrant and impoverished families produce a mix of kids who face violence, drugs or gangs, and that’s just for starters.
Seeing the new evaluations coming, two of the best math teachers in my school left last summer. Both relatively early in their careers, they transferred to schools in neighborhoods where students will score higher on tests. They knew from experience that students three years behind grade level when they enter a school are highly unlikely to make up significant ground.
Another matter is the “mainstreaming” of special needs students, placed in crowded classes because of funding shortfalls or long backlogs in evaluating and classifying kids with ADD/ADHD, emotional disabilities or other issues. From day one, we see so many of these kids cannot focus long for “desk work”, demanding inordinate teacher time. But because they are as-yet unevaluated, they are considered “general ed” and will again skew teacher evaluations.
Because of other home factors such as neglect, abuse, depression or homelessness, success in school is increasingly supported by “wraparound” services like counseling or health checks which look at problems more holistically. These services barely exist in my school, while suburban schools in the region can offer weekly one-on-one counselor meetings for every student.
The high number of transient families in the inner city means students are constantly entering and leaving school. But if a new student arrives just before the state exams, it still counts fully, skewing the measurements. Likewise, students instructed all year by a math or ELA teacher could leave just before the tests. With this, administrators can game the system by intentionally making last-minute shuffles.
The new teacher evaluations, which led to a week-long strike in Chicago last September, are ensuring the NY kids who need great teachers the most are now more likely to see them flee, or switch to a non-tested subject area. Low performing schools will continue to repel talent, but in high performing schools, teachers will be artificially and arbitrarily rewarded thanks in part to the tens of thousands spent on private tutoring.
The English teacher in my daughter’s school who was recognized for showing the most progress in her grade last year confided in me that she has no magic formula, she has been teaching the same exact way for over ten years, but that each crop of students simply varies in performance.
Two teen defendants in the “Jane Doe” case in Steubenville Ohio were found guilty by Judge Thomas Lipps last Sunday morning, following testimony given by eyewitnesses who confirmed the athletes used their fingers to penetrate the victim while she was unresponsive.
The case drew wide attention after a group of ‘hactivists’ made a raft of outlandish allegations suggesting many influential townsfolk were in on the rape and cover up, or part of wider criminal activity such as drug and gambling rings. Almost all the criminal accusations remain unsupported, but the online campaign did bring the national spotlight to the case, including calls for more arrests.
The City of Steubenville took an unusual step in response to the increased attention, hoping to show an objective, responsible side of a town accused of favoring it’s high school football stars. A “Steubenville Facts” page was posted, disseminating selective information to dispel rumors.
But questions persisted. Multiple eyewitnesses to the assault were not charged, even after they reportedly took pictures, shared them online and deleted them. Three were offered immunity, and ended up taking the stand where they admitted their part. But many more were not charged, at least not yet.
It’s been reported that dozens knew about the incident but did not alert authorities, a misdemeanor offense in Ohio. Taking naked pics of a minor is also a chargeable offense. Atorney General Mike DeWine has called for a grand jury to consider new charges because sixteen witnesses refused to talk, a veritable blockade of silence.
We learned during trial testimony how nervous participants were they would be reported in the aftermath of the incident. Some suspect intimidation and special treatment took place from on high – it was ten days before local prosecutor Jane Hanlin recused herself from the case, her son a teammate of the accused and her home one of several party sites involved.
The victim took the stand on the last day of the case, becoming distraught when she saw a picture of herself not in control of her faculties. She has questioned whether she was drugged because memory loss seems unusual for the amount of alcohol she was said to have consumed, described as “out of it” from fairly early on in the evening.
City of Steubenville: In Breitbart We Trust
Another mystery involves a posting on the City of Steubenville website, linking the page of a controversial Breitbart.com blogger as a reliable source for “controlling the rampant spread of rumors and inaccurate information about this case.”
It’s still there online, entitled “Get The Facts”. They might have been impressed with the blogger’s posts on the Steubenville case, but they either ignored or were unaware that the conservative blogger has an ongoing feud with the hactivist group Anonymous coloring everything he says.
The blogger argues that Ms. Hanlin’s work actually helped lead to the conviction, while skeptics believe she helped pick fall guys while protecting others. Why did the testifying eyewitnesses get immunity instead of plea deals or prosecution? Hanlin’s apologists are saying the pressure of social media, including death threats, “forced” the judge to grant immunity to the star witnesses. Is that how justice now works?
Doubtful. We have already heard complaints of class and race privilege, but “connections” often play the bigger role in small town justice.
What’s evident is that Hanlin did not belong anywhere near the case, even for one day, and that it’s pretty odd to have “journalist advocates” vouching for the coaches and prosecutors without showing why through their research.
This link to a partisan political site seems an unwise decision, but it was questionable in setting up a taxpayer-funded “city blog” in the first place that gives out selective fact-checking while legal proceedings are underway.
We all know the case was already being tried in the court of public opinion, but the “official” endorsement of a right wing activist blogger who describes himself as a fan of the work of James O’Keefe can only add controversy. “ACORN pimp” O’Keefe is known for deceptive editing on behalf of secret wealthy donors, but has been criminally convicted and sued for using illegal methodology.
A Second Case In The Same Basement?
Another disturbing loose end suggests Jane Doe was not the first girl photographed lying naked on the distinctive carpet.
Via The Daily Mail, two different unidentified girls can be seen lying face down, partly naked, in undated photos taken in the same room as the above rape incident. According to transcripts, the images were on the phone of a witness in the above case, along with a similar shot of 16 year old Jane Doe, face down on the floor, arms tucked beneath her and stripped naked.
Per the report, the witness claimed he had never before see these photos, found on his own phone by forensic examiners.
It’s possible the images may correlate to a sexual assault reported to police by a 14-year-old girl who attended a team prom party in April but kept quiet for five months. Deep-digging hactivists claim to have discovered tweets from the time of the incident which convey a similar story of online bragging and misogynist comments.
When Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla was asked by reporters about the April case, he said “The last I heard the girl had recanted and said it was consensual”. This may be an inappropriate comment, considering the case is currently under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office, but the April case may have indeed been “dormant” until the Jane Doe case went under the national microscope.
The media coverage has emboldened others to speak about being victims of assault in Steubenville. But despite the verdicts, recent tweets and warped media coverage show we still have a way to go. CNN is under fire for ‘sympathetic’ comments aimed at defendants, but legal analyst Lisa Green told NBC News anchor Lester Holt the Steubenville case was a “cautionary tale” of leaving digital images and conversations behind, suggesting the perpetrators could have gotten away with it if they were just more careful with social media.
Crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is being credited for bringing public awareness to light, for preserving screenshots that were quickly deleted, but authorities claim they had all pertinent evidence already in hand. The perps had their devices seized by cops as soon as the charges were filed.
The whole ordeal seems like a societal cry for help – the boys didn’t even realize what they were doing was wrong, didn’t imagine the consequences or reaction outside their Steubenville bubble. Going forward, we’ll see whether more arrests are coming, whether other victims will come forward, and whether hacktivists will use the same method of making outlandish allegations to bring attention to cases in the future. But there are also questions about how our digital communications are being preserved and stored. If so, for how long, who gets access to them and under what conditions?
From all I’ve read, the cops didn’t request copies of deleted data from telecom firms in this case, relying on forensic experts to retrieve deleted images and communications from the devices themselves.
But if the NSA is actually copying and storing all communications of US citizens as whistleblowers report, it’s possible law enforcement may request access in the future, to determine guilt or innocence in court cases, for example. For me, this is the critical “social media” question this case brings up, not how stupid some teens were to post evidence online as they committed rape.
Rachel Maddow is looking to ruffle feathers, going where Obama or Congress wouldn’t dare to tread, in publicizing the “deceptions” of the Bush Iraq Team which launched a long and costly war.
Because of a ten year mainstream media whitewash, it’s been generally accepted that “mistakes” resulted in a war that claimed over 4,800 US troops. But this week, MSNBC will rock the boat, suggesting false pretenses took us to war, meaning the nation should start debating consequences.
Rachel Maddow is teasing there will be great “political upset” when the documentary Hubris: The Selling of The Iraq War airs on Monday Feb. 18.
If proven deliberate, the Iraq WMD intel debacle could constitute domestic and international war crimes. Someone must have had a long fight behind the scenes to get this controversy on the air because most of the facts have been readily available for years through indie media, articles (and even in drips and drabs on MSNBC). A book version of Hubris was co-authored by David Corn and Michael Isikoff in 2007.
Perhaps most striking is the way most media has ignored Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a top level Bush administration insider who has offered to testify directly against Dick Cheney and others. So what actionable allegations will Maddow present?
Plamegate was just one WMD related scandal resulting in conviction. Scooter Libby lied to investigators, taking the fall for Vice President Cheney before having his sentence commuted by President Bush. But that story is old, so what’s new, what’s different?
Running With Curveball’s Lies The saga of ‘Curveball’ also creeped out into US media in fits and starts. If networks truly wanted ratings or public trust, they’d have fought over blockbuster exclusives showing how the Iraq war was built on shameful lies. But we saw the opposite – a reluctance to report basic facts about the sole “eyewitness” claiming to be an “Iraqi chemical engineer”.
Curveball (aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) was the main reason given for the US invasion of Iraq. In truth, the Iraqi exile had no bio-weapons knowledge, but fed claims about mobile labs to the BND (German intelligence) knowing the Bush administration was itching for war.
Officials within the BND, CIA and DIA all surmised Curveball was lying. These dissents were somehow “lost in the shuffle”, the supposed honest “mistake” that gave us the war. But there are plenty of whistleblowers saying otherwise and even naming names, if the media and Congress should begin to listen.
MSNBC has promoted this TV special with a graphic showing Iraq Team principals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice dramatically walking down a Texas dirt path. But Colin Powell isn’t in the shot. This means MSNBC may be editorially sympathetic to Powell’s point of view. They will include interviews with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s Chief of Staff.
Powell’s former sideman has been blowing the whistle since 2005, even offering to testify against Cheney, Tenet and deputy CIA director John McGlaughlin, claiming the Office of the Vice President breached protocol, making agents within the CIA do Cheney’s bidding.
We’ll hear Secretary Powell did doubt Curveball and the White House. Wilkerson described these reservations on PBS in 2006, which put Powell in the position of either outing Cheney and the Iraq Team who set him up, or keeping his mouth shut to protect them. Hiding his own skeletons, Powell did not speak out, rolling over for the “hoax” that ruined his career.
Col. Wilkerson has admitted he personally brought graphic artists to the White House to “sex up” the WMD diagrams Powell would use, based off cocktail napkin drawings made as Curveball received expert coaching. Wilkerson has always said he would take responsibility for his part in the charade.
But then in 2011, another Wilkerson interview with Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald brought more disturbing revelations to light. Just as the US stood on the brink of war, Powell rejected Scooter Libby’s 50-page report, calling it “bullshit” as he threw it into the trash.
Col. Wilkerson said his boss sent word he would refuse to sign off on the WMD evidence. But within an hour, George Tenet unveiled “compelling” new evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Powell was told of a new link between Saddam and bin Laden, a high-level al Qaeda terrorist had admitted everything. This was the clincher for Powell, who would go out to make the fateful speeches to Congress and the UN that would sanction the war and destroy his credibility.
Beating Lies Out Of “The Libyan” Powell wasn’t told for over a year that it was actually a Libyan detainee named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured and punched in the face for 15 minutes in a secret Cairo “rendition” site, before agreeing yes, he had witnessed a meeting between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda.
But al-Libi recanted everything, admitting he lied to save his life. By 2009, al-Libi was found dead in a Libyan prison cell after human rights attorneys took an interest in him. But the CIA knew al-Libi made it up long before, according to a classified report filed way back in August 2002. The FBI officials who first aprehended al-Libi also believed he had lied, but they were dismissed from the case in a turf dispute.
The lead torturer was Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, a strong ally in George Tenet’s off-the-books rendition program, later appointed vice-president of Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman continued relations with Leon Panetta through the Obama years, dying mysteriously in a US hospital last July along with a wealth of secrets.
Will Maddow’s special show how illegal torture, rendition and secret alliances with dictatorships gave us the crucial lies that steamrolled all resistance to the Iraq War? And if so, why didn’t MSNBC air these reports as they first broke? Why now? What’s changed?
Maddow Unmuzzled? It’s possible Rachel Maddow may have pushed for more latitude in a new contract. The timing suggests Maddow and other MSNBC staff were given a longer leash after Obama’s re-election, a bold move leftward for the network. MSNBC has also made headlines for regularly topping the ratings of Fox News and Sean Hannity, with Maddow making gains in key demographics. Also completed just last week was full transfer of MSNBC parent NBCUniversal, away from GE, who has defense interests, to Comcast, the media and communications colossus.
When a gun rights advocate brings up the Second Amendment, I ask them why they wouldn’t defend the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment from either Bush or Obama. If they are willing to fight for the Bill of Rights, why do gun-lovers not just allow, but fight for stripping our right to a jury trial, to privacy or protest?
Worse yet, if firearms are the answers to stopping government tyranny, why are gun owners first to grant this government the authority to unilaterally label US citizens as terrorists and wipe them off the map?
Codified by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the 2011 NDAA makes firearm ownership yet another “red flag” for the government’s new legal authority to track, eavesdrop and ultimately, assassinate citizens, including minors, on their sole extra-judicial say-so, with total opacity. Isn’t this what the Second Amendment intended to prevent?
The “Well-Regulated Militia”
When the founders mandated we arm ourselves to stand against tyrannical rule, citizen soldiers using muskets, bayonets and cannons trained to resist phalanxes of government soldiers or statehouse coups like a glorified neighborhood watch.
We can agree “non-standing” militias were designed to provide security without federal control or tax dollars, but we must see a lopsided imbalance has evolved. Current laws allow citizens limited access to long arms as a comical check to the government’s stockpiles of atomic missiles, aircraft carriers, tank brigades, iron curtains, remote controlled flying machines – or digital ears and eyes in every home.
By the age of mortars, bazookas and howitzers, any glint of citizen parity with War Department firepower was lost, but after they developed the Apache copter, Stinger/Hellfire missiles and Predator drones, the concept was relegated to an exercise in fantasy. The very idea of thinking about a ‘security check’ on a government is made more ludicrous by the advantage government has in secrecy, encompassing anything from their new crowd control ray to classified bio-weapons programs, nano, genetic, or as-yet-unknown technologies.
The best bulwarks therefore are brains – the academic and independent labs that outpace DoD research, the freedom of the press that exposes their antics, the public shunning and shame.
The individual gun owner today might be able to defend themselves against a single rogue FBI agent on their lawn, but cannot hope to beat back the local SWAT team, let alone the US military, were they to turn on us. The Supreme Court admitted this in 2008, when Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority acknowledged the changes in technology indeed made the “security” clause of the Second Amendment moot. Nevertheless, Scalia used the opportunity to invent an arbitrary carve-out preserving the right to own hand guns, furthering confusion and endless debate.
The power of the people today lay in our political and aggregate strength, intelligence and economic power. The hacker community has more capability than some governments, demonstrating routinely how they can assume control of sites and networks, but often do so with a self-proclaimed morality responsible to the peeps, using their power to pick virtual locks with a conscious.
We have not been able to curb government corruption because the federal government hydra has grown over 470,000 times it’s size since the Second Amendment was ratified. But the venue for achieving balance has shifted anyway, from a potential homeland battlefield to the intellectual space – money, votes, airtime, buzz, boycotts, protests.
We The People are what keeps the country functioning, so our smarts and numbers will mean more to public policy than the founders’ writ. With respect to best intents, that horse hath left the barn already…
As often seen overseas, governments invest heavily in “heart and minds”, promising our votes and political support control outcomes. A major plank in this is gun ownership, a perennial wedge issue splitting us into rural and urban camps, but in practical political terms, a long settled debate.
The issue did not get ink in 2012 or 2008, a win for the status quo. Democrat John Kerry posed for a photo while game hunting, conceding the issue in 2004. Obama’s “skeet” photos are the latest round in the optics game that ensure the toothless Second Amendment is not in the crosshairs.
Ronald Reagan knew when he first started automating data analysis in the 1980 presidential campaign that potential voters like feeling they are in control. Owning a gun feeds this fantasy, a deadly weapon in hand gives a rush of penis-compensating awesomeness, but also purports to soothe our insecurity that Willie Horton, freshly paroled by liberals is lurking in the bushes with his beady black eye on our white women. This was key to Scalia’s unusual carve-out.
Reagan knew well how to play the cowboy, portraying many a formulaic wild west hero in a spate of Hollywood flicks. This tapped into our tradition of rugged frontier individualism on the surface, but more subliminally reminds us of a “white is right” and “might is right” history. The USA was built on gun violence and racism as we exploited brown people the world over to spur “growth”.
Guns harken back to our Manifest Destiny, now called American exceptionalism, right in the home, helping us puff out our chests as we ignore the stark reality that we are a much more likely to see a family member shot than use a gun in a “citizen intervention” case. These rare self-defense anecdotes are great for sales, allowing purchasers to imagine themselves in the super-suave hero role as they support an industry that made $1.7 trillion dollars in the last year.
But the reality is that the gun remains close at hand as families go through good and bad times – it’s there when depression hits and leads to a predictable 19,000 firearm suicides per year. It’s there when arguments or fender benders escalate violently, for all of our worst moments.
It’s there when spouses are caught cheating, or teenage hormones rage, or when small children explore the house. Just two years ago, a childhood friend of mine going through a separation took his life when he heard he was also losing his job. The gun was there before a friend could be.
So despite our best intentions for self-defense in the home, the increased access to the personal firearm has proven itself to be a remedy whose side effects are worse than the cure. Looking at the stats year after year , we are willingly hurting the many as we seek a benefit for the few.
If we cling to our Second Amendment liberty , the right to bear arms, the Constitution demands we train and prepare to revolt when our leaders fail to abide by the law, as part of a well-regulated militia . In a sense, it’s happening – i t is the truly the people keeping unchecked power from eating itself and everything else, but it’s getting increasingly difficult.
President Obama recently blustered that he could not change Washington from the inside, on one level an apparent cry for help, on the other, a warning reminiscent of Eisenhower’s 1961 call for “vigilance” of the military-industrial cancer consuming Washington. So who or what drives Obama, Bush and Congress to strip our rights away?
Concerning “tyranny”, the government has already violated the Constitution, many times over. When the founders crafted rules for impeachment, they expected it to be used frequently. But because of all-too-effective PR, government has made us servile, unable to question a War on Terror at odds with our Constitution and driving massive debt.
Reagan saw to it that pro-war propaganda was in place long before he ordered acts of aggression overseas. He even used taxpayer money to seed this, ordering restrictions lifted on political talk radio and manipulating national literature distribution to ensure hawkish ideas thrive on our bookshelves.
But since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Bush era propaganda such as multicolored alerts froze all the so-called red state patriots into total “terrorized” compliance.
The typical NRA member and the demographic living in “shotguns and pickups” zipcodes were so afraid of Muslim extremists, they welcomed unprecedented surveillance, rendition, and enhanced interrogation. They continue to defend and argue for these policies, even as they roundly disapprove of Congress and absolutely despise the current occupant of the White House. Ironic is too weak a word.
This has been the biggest abuse of power in our lifetime, the new idea that terrorist acts constitute endless ‘war’ which suspends our civil liberties, treaties and normal checks and balances. Themselves well-armed, the typical red state voter was so pussifed by the specter of Osama bin Laden he swallowed whole the major changes to our civil liberties on the fast-track, without realizing how it affects their rights.
The Patriot Act, torture, detainment, the Iraq War, the drone program, the warrantless surveillance were all high crimes and misdemeanors sold to gun-toting Republicans as necessary to guard against an unseen enemy, these Islamic terrorists in sleeper cells. The 9/11 response of “shock and awe” stated actual intention to intimidate suicide bombers, a laughably tragic failure of logic. Why a suicidal maniac would fear their enemy, I’m sure I don’t know.
Thanks to Fox News and the Limbaugh/Hannity talk radio lot, Republicans are still pro-actively arguing for our rights to be withheld by the government. The same government they say is too big, is too incompetent, is too liberal. After 9/11, we traded liberty for security, directly contradicting the clearest language in the Constitution, without a peep. We declared War Powers without a true war, we allowed spying on ourselves and we invaded sovereign nations without cause. Democrats bought in, lending the necessary votes.
Obama continues further, through the Trespass Act which strips our First Amendment right to petition elected officials with grievances, now a felony punishable by 10 years in federal prison. The Tea Party, who used to love picketing and protesting stood by deaf and dumb as this passed both houses unanimously, quickly and quietly. The left did little more than report on it.
But worse by far, the NDAA stripped our Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers, to face our accuser, to have an attorney and the protection of due process enshrined in over 800 years of democratic tradition. Our new law says a single bureaucrat can be your judge, jury and executioner whether you are armed on an overseas battlefield, or walking down the street in your American home town. Suspicion alone is now all that is needed to indefinitely capture or kill any US citizen, to deprive them of rights stated plainly in the Constitution in extra-ultra-unmistakeably clear language.
The Obama administration is apparently hanging this on Bush’s “enemy combatant” designation, which applies during wartime (eleven years and counting) and quite newly, to any part of the USA homeland, now considered a “battlefield” from sea to shining sea.
Obama also denies our 4th Amendment protection of privacy, collecting all emails, texts and call data to create long-term profiles of every single citizen. Multiple NSA defectors have confirmed they created capability to map our personal and digital histories, aided by automation to sift through all communications, presumably to aid law enforcement “if necessary”. This is all being done in secret, at great expense, under the program Stellar Wind.
The GOP’s Lost Potential for Big Wins
If you’d told the GOP candidates they could run against Obama on multiple proven violations of the US Constitution, you’d think they’d be all over it. But curiously, Republicans across the board shrink on what should be slam-dunk issues that grab US voters by their red-blooded heartstrings. Why? Republicans are even more power-mad than Obama, hoping to get back in power to take the reins of Nixonian spying, executive assassination, indefinite detention, corporate glad-handing and absolute suppression of dissent.
Republicans love to share images of Obama shredding the Constitution or buggering Lady Liberty, but claim it’s Obamacare that is unconstitutional, the same policy that originated with them when first suggested by the Heritage Foundation. Full circle and head-up-ass…
Listeners were treated to media manipulation this week as Sean Hannity became a paid mouthpiece for the fracking industry. Last week, the Journal News described how Hannity took to the airwaves to say NY Governor Andrew Cuomo held off on controversial fracking permits to appease his “left wing” base.
In reality, Cuomo ordered state health reviews after an outpouring of 80,000 comments last year as the public rose in protest, finding taxpayer funded studies had baldly omitted the downsides of the practice. And a new Siena poll published just yesterday shows public opposition to fracking is on the rise.
We would find out just days later that Mr. Hannity’s latest advocacy for fracking also happens to coincide with a paid ad campaign in favor of the fracking industry, reading live ads for the film Frack Nation.
This is (again) an ethical conflict of interest, blurring show content with paid issue ads. In July 2011, we reported how Hannity and his mentor Rush Limbaugh were accused by the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Politico and The Economist for apparent violation of Section 317 of the 1934 Communications Act, entitled ”Announcement That Matter Is Paid For”. Muddying the lines between advertising and program content is frowned upon – unless you are, like Hannity, paid to “crystallize public opinion”.
Till now, Hannity has largely avoided the fracking debate, mentioning the destructive drilling process only fleetingly in a repetitive list of other “drill baby drill” initiatives. His specific criticism of Cuomo on this issue seems quite oddly timed.
But it gets worse. As part of a purchased spot heard Wednesday, Hannity described the Frack Nation documentary as “crowdfunded” through Kickstarter, even though no grassroots movie promotion campaign has ever reached a radio audience of 10+ million in primetime drive with live reads by the #1 top rated host in the time slot.
So this is a whopping lie, endorsed by Hannity as he reads from a script, failing to mention the rights to the movie have been secured by right wing billionaire Mark Cuban, whose cable station will feature the film. The market value of Hannity’s air time was not disclosed, and the Kickstarter solicitation never mentioned any funds going to advertising or promotion. So where did the money come from? How does Kickstarter feel about being mentioned in this deceptive ad copy?
Hannity’s shilling for moneyed interests is no surprise, but the fracking debate is serious – most people are unaware of the future costs our children will bear to inspect and repair millions of abandoned fracking wells decades from now. After wells are depleted, they sit there forever as up potential causeways for water contamination as erosion or land shift compromise concrete casings.
According to internal documents, the industry is already hiding that 6% of wells leak right from the outset. They prefer to discuss job creation, but don’t explain who will be paying the salaries of the ‘neverending’ repair crews.
Hannity has no compunctions about environmental karma, and is sure his children’s inheritance will provide for a lot of pristine bottled water. But his shivering cowardice in discussing the science behind fracking on the air is a theft of taxpayer resources, sabotaging public airwaves for payola talk radio that clearly does not serve the public interest.
Shocking video evidence of rape admissions and allegations of a wide cover up enterprise by influential adults in Steubenville, Ohio are shooting up the major media beanstalk at present.
Video files reportedly obtained by vigilante hacker(s) KnightSec were provided to the LocalLeaks blog who set up an investigative reporting operation urging additional victims or witnesses to feel secure in coming forward.They went live with the story here on Jan. 1. Warning, some of the video admissions might be hard to stomach for the sensitive.
The report includes fantastic accounts of an array of related crimes, seemingly based on hearsay accounts from students at Big Red High School. These include date rape drug procurement, local bookmaking, drug and protection rings and possible witness intimidation.
But you can hear first hand confirmations of knowledge of rape, on tape, made by alleged participants that have not been charged.
The digital footprints left by the ‘Rape Crew’ seem almost Darwinian in their stupidity, but only two of their number were charged, incredulously as juveniles. Why?
The blog’s authors say the same arresting authorities allegedly oversee local gambling operations, and had announced this particular leaked confession video was “inadvertently deleted”. If true, that represents serious suspicion of evidence tampering. State officials say the video provided nothing not already known.
The victim and her family were also advised not to pursue charges by a powerful county prosecuting attorney whose house was involved on the night in question, and whose son runs with the same posse, according to the post.
Some of the allegations made in the blog are so far-flung, it leads this writer to believe it might in part be a ploy to drum up media attention and public awareness (which clearly worked). The raised profile of the case led the Ohio Attorney General’s office to appoint special prosecutors to preserve the fairness of the proceeding in the tight-knit community.
But there is a downside if the attention hurts the legal case against the accused rapists. At least one suspect is already claiming they can’t get a fair trial now, with supporters saying the hackers are “terrorists”.
A skilled defense team could be collecting hundreds of online threats made against the accused, such as “the rapists could be hanged from the high school goal posts”. The Facebook page for Ohio State University, the college of the central braggart in the video is alight with comments about the case, including choice bits like “i hope this town gets f**ing rioted/and or looted to bits tomorrow f** them”.
At noon on Saturday, the local ABC affiliate livestreamed a demonstration at the Jefferson County Courthouse in support of the victim.
Sentiment is running high these days in support of victims’ right as House GOP leadership just refused to allow a vote on the reauthorization of the popular Violence Against Women Act after it sailed through the Senate.
A Common “Microcosm” of Larger Human Rights Issue
In India, the gang rape and death of a New Delhi woman has led to massive protests, arrests and a massive national conversation. The resultant media focus has spilled over into many other cases and jurisdictions.
The preponderance of marches and vigils has electrified activists, but what happens when a movement turns into a mob? In the New Delhi case, an abrupt backlash has led to calls for the death penalty and an attempted bombing close to an accused rapist’s home, largely considered symbolic.
It was just this past March when Morocco changed it’s law barring rapists from marrying their victims following mass protest and viral media reporting the suicide of an underage victim named Amina El-Filali.
As we ring in 2013, it’s time to recognize how the major media buries the issues most important to Americans. With newsrooms focusing so much right now on the fiscal cliff and gun rights, it’s instructive to see nobody looking at the heart of either issue.
But even bigger issues face us, now in the fifth year of prolonged recession and the second decade of a debt-fueled war on terror. It’s more evident each year how “professional” journalists are unable or unwilling to report on reality-based news, making them ever more feeble.
The major media is not useless to you just because of billionaire ownership, it’s also the non-disclosure clauses in contracts that prevent anchors or reporters from telling the story behind the story. Final editorial control over what goes out over the air causes major behind-the-scenes conflict. Even when marquee names try to blow the whistle, the contractual gags always hold in the end.
The Fiscal Cliff
This could be settled quickly if the news simply said “House GOP favors needless tax cuts for rich in continuing class warfare”. Friday night we even saw President Obama dance around this millionaire money grab in his presser, blaming Congress only in vague terms for the manufactured crisis – but the media is worse, long avoiding the stark reality that the Bush tax cuts for the rich have poor stimulative effect, fail to create jobs, produce inadequate revenue and add debt.
When Republicans crow about some economic benefit, they are simply lying, helped along by Fox News and right wing talk radio, but the rest of the media also won’t debunk the slick talk in simple language, leaving voters unable to sort the mumbo jumbo. Obama flirted with the facts last week, adding to his talking points for the first time that middle class tax cuts are for “97% of small businesses” as well as 98% of income earners. But most media refuses to call out Republicans voting to continue the wealth extraction from our economy.
The gun issue is also a lark, a perennial wedge issue exploited in elections to divide voters over tribal lines using fear, chest-puffing, passion plays and subliminal racism. If the news reported plainly that the rise in gun availability is statistically linked to tragic outcomes, most would see that buying a firearm increases the chances someone in their household will end up shot over the long term. Instead, media tells us to arm for an eventual government siege – or the boogeyman next door.
Obama’s Non-Prosecution of Fraud
2012 marked the failures of media again, refusing to call out Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for selling justice as five-year statutes of limitations expire. Obama’s immunity deal with the biggest mortgage banks took away vast accountability for the 2008 economic collapse, for pennies on the dollar. All but a handful of state Attorneys General signed on to the deal along with the SEC and HUD. By contrast, 1,000 indictments resulted from the Savings and Loan fraud scandal of the late 1980s.
Obama’s DOJ also turned a blind eye to a massive overseas bribery scandal involving Walmart and their ultra-wealthy top executives, a corruption scandal still unfolding as investigations confirm whistleblower charges that went ignored until the evidence was handed to the NY Times. Oops. Expect the executive branch to be simply “cut in” for billions on Mexican plunder when Walmart’s deferred prosecution settlement is briefly announced on news stations receiving millions in Walmart ad revenue.
Industry Ads Trump Science in Hydrofracking Debate
2012 revelations about hydrofracking show the practice is inarguably a poor choice for our children. Even as advertisers blitz TV and radio with ads about “safe, clean fracking” (you can see these ads every night on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show) crucial facts that surfaced this year went down the rabbit hole. Campaign contributions tantalize lawmakers, but just when we needed the science made public, we saw the networks contaminated by industry cash.
For example, internal industry documents obtained by Gasland director Josh Fox show that new wells fail at the rate of 6%. With the passage of decades of erosion, land shifting and seismic activity, many more abandoned wells will fail as well. Our children will be burdened with monitoring and repairing these wells indefinitely, long after our generation pissed away the energy. Contrast this to Denmark or Germany who are leaving their children a legacy of free, lasting clean energy, by investing today in solar panels and wind turbines.
Upset about the “Shirtwaist” style factory fire in Bangladesh that claimed 112 workers, mostly women who earned $37 per month?
Maybe you don’t like citizen exploitation, like a $3 billion annual taxpayer drain to provide foodstamps and healthcare to America’s lowest paid workers?
Does it bug you that a workforce of 1.4 million has not been permitted to negotiate for better conditions from the nation’s biggest employer?
On the occasion of a speech entitled “The Responsibility to Lead”, Walmart’s CEO Michael Duke is to be “welcomed” to Manhattan by 99pickets.org, a working group of Occupy Wall Street promising banners, musical instruments, chants and jeers.
The site is the Council on Foreign Relations, whose alumni includes everyone from Colin Powell to Henry Kissinger. The protest is scheduled from 4:30-6pm at the Harold Pratt House, 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10065, organized along with ALIGN and Occupy Bergen County (NJ).
Protesters also decry the treatment of workers along the global supply chain, but most Walmart shoppers don’t realize the Walmart CEO is likely trying to raise his profile to counter a toxic scandal brewing that could have him dead to rights on foreign corruption practices.
Duke and his predecessor Lee Scott both signed off on compliance paperwork attesting that any potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act were disclosed, a possible violation of Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. As reported, Walmart’s higher-ups had papered over $20 million in alleged Mexican payoffs (that’s in dollars, not pesos).
It wasn’t till the same internal whistleblower who had been suppressed for years dropped his evidence on the NY Times’ David Barstowthat we heard of this, but coverage in the print and financial press (plus a stockholder exodus) have not crossed over into mainstream newsrooms.
Mr. Duke and the Bentonville bullies have gotten way, way, way in front of the DOJ and SEC on the scandal, hiring $100 million in lawyers and accountants to do God knows what before the feds see the books. On the part of Obama, Eric Holder and the recently departed SEC head Mary Schapiro, there has been no subpoenas or document seizures announced, even as requests made by progressives in the House have gone stonewalled by Walmart and their stalwart BFF Darrell Issa.
Congress members Henry Waxman and Elijah Cummings also cite major conflicts of interest in Walmart’s lobbying to dilute FCPA laws…oh, plus tax evasion and money laundering. But worse in this has been the network media, drunk on Walmart advertising revenue, protecting Walmart’s PR through the holidays.
With this information, it’s fair to ask whether the protesters should leave the Walmart CEO be and instead march on the Department of Justice for letting this evidence slide, even after the scandal has widened to include China, Brazil and India. Damning reporting by Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times and others suggests action is immediately necessary, but there’s nothing coming from our duly elected representatives so perhaps instead we’ll see people in the streets again.
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