How easy it is to delude: GNN on Al Gore’s new TV channel.

Al Gore is starting a new TV channel called “Current”.

Anthony Lappé of the Guerilla News Network wrote about what he saw on Current. Right now, Current’s format is a series of shows (called “pods”) which are, ostensibly, what young people shot and edited.

  • “I’m looking forward to watching more “pods” from young people about what they think is important, not some jaded 50-year-old network hack.”—What reason is there to believe that these “hacks” aren’t in the editor seat? Or vetting what “pods” make it to air? There’s a lot of power in the editor seat and in merely selecting pre-fabricated clips to show.
  • “Current […] is best decribed as a participatory (mostly) apolitical youth-targeted short documentary network.”—Even if that’s a fair description of how it is now (which I doubt), networks often start with something very different than how they end up. TV networks use an audience (often minorities of some kind) to build an audience and name recognition and switch to serve the elite later. ABC, FOX, and UPN are examples of this pattern: FOX and UPN started by having shows featuring predominantly Blacks. FOX gained an audience and then switched to feature predominantly Whites. UPN started well after FOX and failed with its first attempt to feature primarily Whites, but will switch back when they get better ratings numbers.
  • “On election night 2000, Gore explained, Bush’s cousin was in the control room at Fox News talking on the phone to the candidate and his brother Jeb.”—But what’s more important is that:
    • Gore’s policies were virtually indistinguishable from those of Bush giving the public no reason to care about Gore or Bush (in fact roughly half of the eligible voters didn’t vote in that election);
    • the Florida scrub lists had gone unmentioned in the US despite Greg Palast talking about them in detail to reporters. CBS news bosses actually went to Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris to confirm what Palast had to say, but CBS accepted a simple blanket denial from Bush & Harris, and summarily dropped the story;
    • even Ralph Nader acknowledges that Gore actually won the election. This doesn’t stop Gore from despising Nader for daring to leverage his right to run, nor does it inspire Gore to push for a ranked voting system (like instant-run off voting or some Condorcet vote counting system) where so-called “spoilers” are eliminated.

    and nothing Gore wants to talk about addresses any of these far more salient points. Gore’s maligning of the corporate media comes off as whining because the Democrats are pursuing the same pro-corporate strategy that the Republicans are. But right now the Republicans are doing the work of legislating and the Democrats are following along, challenging very little of what the Republicans offer up.

Lappé does mention a host of important issues, none of which Gore addresses:

“We live in a time of unprecedented global crisis. Nearly one billion people on Earth live on one dollar a day. Each day, 40,000 children die of hunger or hunger-related diseases. The ice caps are melting. Over the last 50 years, nearly 50% of the oceans species have disappeared. The oil is running is out and we haven’t come close to figuring out what to do about it. The U.S. is fighting a multi-front war around the world. Yet few Americans seem overly worried about any of it, thanks in large part to a news media that devotes hour after hour to missing blondes, celebrity hijinks and partisan bickering.”

and Lappé links to Paul Jay’s attempt to get Independent World Television going but then chides IWT for “[being] overly populated with the usual suspects from the academic left”. So Phyllis Bennis, Salih Booker, Jeff Cohen, Laura Flanders, Linda Foley, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Bob McChesney, and Joanne St. Louis (who are all part of a video distributed by IWT on their homepage) are to be criticized because they’re commonly featured together in leftist works? This sounds to me like someone who isn’t terribly interested in what these people have to say (what should be the basis of criticism).

This should not get lost in the shuffle of Fahrenheit 9/11 Bush criticism.

From today’s Democracy Now!, a point worth hearing because it gets lost when people see Fahrenheit 9/11 which exclusively focuses on Bush family ties to Saudi Arabia. The following passage is from the transcript of the third segment, 29 minutes 31 seconds into the show.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to As’ad AbuKhalil, Professor at California State University, Stanislaus. Can you talk about the Bush family and their relationship with Fahd and the whole family in Saudi Arabia?

AS’AD ABUKHALIL: You see, this is one area where I am in dissent to some of the left wing coverage here in America about the Bush and the El-Saud family, as in Michael Moore’s movie. I take the view that it is well beyond the Bush family. This is not a family connection. This is a connection between this oppressive family in Saudi Arabia and successive U.S. administrations since the days of F.D.R. Why should we single out the Bush family, for example, and not the self-designated human rights president, like Jimmy Carter, who was as fawning around King Fahd as was any other president.

This is something that is beyond familial connection. It is one that entails a relationship that covered not only coordination about the pricing and the production of oil, but we should also remember so many covert operations that now we realize were so foolish and so deadly and dangerous to world peace and security. When we speak about the legacy of this man, we have to say that he was without a doubt quite close at some point to the bin Laden family and to Osama bin Laden, like everybody else in the senior members of the Royal Family, met with him, coordinated with him, and they cultivated ties with the kind of fanatical groups in Afghanistan that produced the likes of Zarqawi and al Qaeda. And they did so, we should always remember, with close association with the United States.

But there is something also being left here. This is a man that is also responsible for the menace of Saddam Hussein. For much of the 1970s and 1980s, this guy, King Fahd himself, was somebody who sputtered something in Saddam Hussein and arranged for a very wide Arab governmental financial support in order to arm and finance the adventures of Saddam Hussein and his deadly invasion of Iran back in 1980. Because he miscalculated assuming that he was going to take over the entire Iranian state and end the export of revolution, so to speak, and the result, he was the one who financed this cultivation of the personality cult of Saddam, which was responsible for the kind of Napoleonic complexes that triggered all these adventures and even invasion of Kuwait later on.

The cost of our war.

IraqBodyCount.net has an important analysis of civilian deaths in Iraq which is very much worth reading.

Of course, be sure to keep up with the death count itself. Unfortunately, there is no fallback in place if you visit the site without Javascript turned on.

As I write this, IraqBodyCount.net says there are between 23,140 and 26,189 deaths. These deaths are on our hands.

Also worth hearing is this week’s Counterspin which features an informative interview with IraqBodyCount.net and the latest on how corporate-funded “news” harms you (both in headlines and the segment after the IraqBodyCount.net segment). Sadly, this archive only hosts copies in the patent-encumbered MP3 and the proprietary RealAudio formats. For those of you who run free software systems in countries which are saddled with software patents, perhaps a friend of yours would help you transcode the MP3 into a format you can play on your free software system. I remain hopeful that FAIR will host copies in Ogg Vorbis or upload copies of shows to The Internet Archive so that FAIR doesn’t bear the burden of paying for the bandwidth bill.

Democrats give Bush CAFTA by 1 vote.

The Boston Globe quotes Nancy Pelosi:

“It is a step backward for workers,” Pelosi said. “If the president wins this vote, he will have expended enormous resources to do so. He has all the power of the presidency, and all we have on the House Democratic side is the fact that we are right.”

CAFTA, like NAFTA, is a step backwards for workers in all the countries covered by CAFTA—no worker will come out of this deal earning a living wage.

But all it would have taken is for one Democrat to vote in opposition for the Democrats to have stuck by their words and possibly to have blocked CAFTA from passing. But again we see how corporate owned and operated this “opposition” party is.

Progressives hate CAFTA. Will progressives remember this when election time rolls around?

Update: There is some controversy about the CAFTA vote (skip to 47m38s into the show), but Democracy Now! did a particularly poor job of explaining why the 15 Democrats should not be held to their line about standing with the workers. Instead, the interview focused on a few Republicans whose votes were not counted properly or who were not able to reach the floor for the vote. The self-satisfied interviewee, Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, spent no time describing how these 15 Democrats sold out the public image of their party (note, the image of their party, not the reality which is right in line with multinational corporate interests to exploit the cheapest labor the world has to offer).

Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, had an interestingly self-destructive quote which DN! failed to explain:

“The Republicans turned the floor of the House of the Representatives into a “Let’s Make a Deal” set that was reminiscent of what happened at the time of the medicare prescription drug legislation that evening and again this time they kept the vote open a long time. But many of the overtures that were made to members was made before even going to the floor. So this is about again an abuse of power, an unethical way of passing legislation and depending on what members decide to do, may require further attention.”

This vote was reminiscent of a previous contentious vote. This vote’s “overtures” were made prior to going to the floor. So, why, exactly, didn’t the Democrats see this coming? Why didn’t they complain about this behavior last time it occurred?

Again, I have to wonder if this really considered to be important by the Left. Given the discussion the Left is making of this bill, will they vote in line with their stated ethics? Or will this be yet-another-issue to blow over come election time?

Do find the time to read Liza Grandia’s summary of congressional debate on CAFTA.

And again: But you supported exactly the opposite!

Tim Robbins is quoted as using sexist and strong language to denounce the Democrats and Sen. Kerry (D-MA) in particular in this Winnipeg Sun article:

“For Embedded [Robbins’ new DVD], he sat down for an hour one-on-one to talk about a citizen’s responsibility, the pressure on celebrities, what he perceives are the evils of the Bush government and his disillusionment with “the pussies” in the Democrat Party, including John Kerry, who refused to oppose Bush over Iraq.”

Before the election, Robbins lent his support to the Vote2StopBush.org campaign which sought to get former Nader supporters to rally votes for Kerry instead. Unfortunately for their audience, the Vote2StopBush.org supporters chose to give Kerry support without demanding anything of Kerry or explaining why Nader was inadequate in 2004 given that the major parties had offered the US two pro-war choices. The Vote2StopBush.org crowd failed to explain the confusing position of lending one’s support to a candidate one “strongly disagree[s] with […] on Iraq and other issues”.

Look for a similar tactic in 2008: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) versus some Republican (perhaps Jeb Bush, governor of Florida). Progressives will support the Democrat even though she, like her Republican counterpart, supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the Democrats have a history of squelching progressive policies.

Keeping the Karl Rove scandal in perspective

On a recent Democracy Now! (transcript) about 26m04s into the show, Norman Solomon, co-founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, and Vote2StopBush.org signatory and, therefore, squelcher of presidential competition in 2004, helps keep the Karl Rove scandal in perspective:

“It would be a big mistake for social movements to pin their hopes and their futures on what a court or prosecutor does. I think it’s also important for us to remember that the news media themselves, as major institutions, are framing this. They are themselves participating in the spin, and a lot of what we are getting now is this notion that there’s nothing more crucial for U.S. national security than protecting the identity of a C.I.A. agent. And hat’s a perspective, I think, that’s rather warped. National security involves, among other things, making sure that the United States government does not create enemies around the world by dropping bombs on innocent people. It also involves as national security, broadly defined, making sure that we don’t continue with the decimation of communities around this country, where we have schools and clinics, and social services being damaged severely. So I think what we’re seeing here, while it’s very interesting palace intrigue and certainly has great historical and political importance, the kind of recasting of what is on the front burner, and ironically, public concern about Iraq itself and the implications of the U.S. war there, are to some degree being shunted aside by this controversy which, in fact, has its roots in the lies about this war.”

An interesting discussion, if only to watch Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton, squirm as he tries to avoid admitting that the Democrats are a party of collaborators in “tap-dancing while the blood continues to run” (as Solomon put it) in this “madness of militarism” (Solomon said, citing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Regardless of whether the Democrats are in power now or not, nothing prevents them from taking the right stance and speaking truth to power. The Democrats are simply more loyal to their corporate campaign funding sources than they are to what the majority of the country in their own constituencies want.

Don’t debate using arguments your opponent can best you with.

I read that the GNOME hackers are starting up an effort to market GNOME to teenagers. The GNOME Wiki has a section for this work.

But Seb Payne, who announced the effort, says:

“Many young people are stuck on Windows 98 and Office 2000. Why? Microsoft software is just too damm expensive.”

And thus falls into a common trap which the open source movement pushes in order to steer the conversation away from software freedom: talk about price, not about freedom.

When the discussion centers on price the discussion will turn to how many people can get proprietary software at no fee (either legally or illegally). This ignores the limitations to be good neighbors and recognize that you’re better off when you don’t have to beg a monopoly for support.

People see this problem when it comes to their car, their house, and a variety of other services; they don’t want to be tied down to getting the work done by only one source. Some people even want to do the work themselves, even in small measure (like changing one’s own lightbulbs, or mowing one’s own lawn). Thus, they need the information to do the work and they need the legal freedom to get the job done.

Free software is quite comparable — free software is free as in the freedom to share and modify. Free software gives you the freedom to work on things yourself, hire others to do work, and share the work with others (including charging for copies of the software). For the free software movement, proprietary software is an intolerable lack of freedom, to be avoided entirely except for writing a free software replacement.

The open source movement pitches practical solutions such as faster development, cheaper development, less buggy code, which are fine things to have but don’t go far enough to ensure that you the user of the software have what you need to be a good neighbor, build a business, or tend to your own needs. The open source movement was formed to dismiss software freedom and adopt a framing of the debate that would attract businesses. For the open source movement, proprietary software is merely less technically efficient at reaching business goals than “open source” software.

Payne continues:

“Most of them suffer with security problems – usually spyware or viruses.”

While true, this (again) is just a technical matter of writing software that doesn’t have these holes to be exploited by viruses, trojan horses, and such. Some proprietors accomplish this task, and thus is another poor argument if one is trying to frame the debate in terms of software freedom. Spyware, software that tracks what you do and reports the findings usually via a network, is a different issue entirely and has to do with running proprietary software. If you don’t want spyware, you shouldn’t run proprietary software.

Hence, I’m not an open source proponent. I’m a free software proponent.

Update: More no-freedom-talk recommendations from Christine Spang in “Free Software Without the Beer and the Politics“. She’s apparently trying to gain popularity for a message she refuses to give voice to.

Ten Senate Democrats tip the scales for CAFTA to pass

See how many Leftists remember this at the next election. The Senate vote was 54-45 in favor of passing CAFTA legislation. The Miami Herald has an illuminating paragraph on this vote:

“Winning CAFTA is a top priority for Bush, who’s looking for some victories in Congress to give his domestic agenda some momentum. But the Senate vote was one of the closest trade votes in years. Voting in favor were 43 Republicans, 10 Democrats and one Independent. Voting against were 12 Republicans and 33 Democrats, signaling wariness over the benefits of international commerce and globalization.”

We know now what damage NAFTA caused by watching jobs flee the US while the corporations get to stay in the US and do business in the US. We know now, as we knew then, that NAFTA’s promises are a myth. The reality is that sub-living wage workers will not earn enough to buy the products they make.

In other words, had those 10 Democrats voted in favor of the workers instead of the corporations, CAFTA legislation would not have passed the Senate; CAFTA would have lost by one vote. The Democrats had power here and they blew it.

Update: John Nichols wrote about this for the Tuesday, July 5, 2005 Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin.

Democrats on the War in Iraq: It’s how the war is being waged that bothers us.

I just heard Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) spout on about the continuing occupation of Iraq. I don’t recall him calling it that, but that’s what it is.

For Kennedy, and the majority of other Democrats, the war is not to be questioned on the basis of its beginning: was it ethical, was it legal, is it right to give the President war-making power that trumps Congress? The war is to be questioned as a management issue: it’s not being fought properly.

In other words, there’s no disagreement that the war was a good idea, how it is being fought is the key issue. If the Republicans were to somehow turn the occupation around and make progress building infrastructure, supplying potable water and electricity to a majority of Iraqis, much of Kennedy’s speech would be a moot point. If the Republicans took down Saddam Hussein’s anti-organized labor laws and let Iraqis work to rebuild their own country, another huge segment of Democratic Party objection would fall away. As more Democratic Party bitching disappears, it is made even more plain how much the Democrats are not an anti-war party.

The Democrats remain, deservedly, a minority party who are not an opposition party.

This is an important issue because of who benefits from this “debate”—the businesses who keep war going (Bechtel, Halliburton, GE, Northrup Grummon, etc.). Two major national parties compete for their dollars while not seeing that elections are lost over these issues and more people don’t care to vote because they’re fed up with the process.