Eat At Joes

Just a regular Joe who is angry that the USA, the country he loves, is being corrupted and damaged from within and trying to tell his fellow Americans the other half of the story that they don’t get on the TV News.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Friday, January 07, 2005

More cases of votes switched from Kerry to Bush

In addition to my previously reported cases of electronic voting machines that recorded votes intended for John Kerry as votes for George W. Bush in Florida and New Mexico there have been reported incidents of this across the country including Washington State as this documented study shows in which other Republican candidates received votes intended for their Democratic opponents.

Americans across the country have reported incidents like this, and they have been ignored by the press and by Congress. As this study says, "Citizens should not have the burden of proving fraud, it is our government that has the burden of proving the election was transparent, fair and clean from the perspective even of the loser, because the continued vitality of democratic government depends upon the election loser’s acceptance that the loss occurred through a fair and democratic process." I wish our Goverment and the Corporate-owned Goverment-connected US Media News Outlets shared this viewpoint. Maybe we will live in a democracy again some day.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Land of Penny Pinchers By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

So is the U.S. "stingy" about helping poor countries?

That accusation by a U.N. official, in veiled form, provoked indignation here. After all, we're the most generous people on earth ... aren't we?

No, alas, we're not. And the tsunami illustrates the problem: When grieving victims intrude onto our TV screens, we dig into our pockets and provide the massive, heartwarming response that we're now displaying in Asia; the rest of the time, we're tightwads who turn away as people die in far greater numbers.

The 150,000 or so fatalities from the tsunami are well within the margin of error for estimates of the number of deaths every year from malaria. Probably two million people die annually of malaria, most of them children and most in Africa, or maybe it's three million - we don't even know.

But the bottom line is that this month and every month, more people will die of malaria (165,000 or more) and AIDS (240,000) than died in the tsunamis, and almost as many will die because of diarrhea ( 140,000).

And that's where we're stingy.

Americans give 15 cents per day per person in official development assistance to poor countries. The average American spends four times that on soft drinks daily.

In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, we increased such assistance by one-fifth, for President Bush has actually been much better about helping poor countries than President Clinton was. But as a share of our economy, our contribution still left us ranked dead last among 22 top donor countries.

We gave 15 cents for every $100 of national income to poor countries. Denmark gave 84 cents, the Netherlands gave 80 cents, Belgium gave 60 cents, France gave 41 cents, and Greece gave 21 cents (that was the lowest share, beside our own).

It is sometimes said that Americans make up for low official aid with private charitable donations. Nope. By OECD calculations, private donations add 6 cents a day to the official U.S. figure - meaning that we still give only 21 cents a day per person.

One reason for American stinginess, I think, is a sense that foreign aid is money down a rathole. True, plenty has been wasted. But there's also growing evidence of what works and is cost-effective - such as health programs and girls' schooling.

One of the most unforgettable people I've met is Nhem Yen, a Cambodian grandmother whose daughter had just died of malaria, leaving two small children. So Nhem Yen was looking after her four children and two grandchildren, and she could afford only one mosquito net to protect them from malarial mosquitoes. Each night, she had to choose which of the six children would sleep under the net.

Do we really think that paying $5 for a mosquito net to keep Nhem Yen's children alive would be money down a rathole?

When I contracted the most lethal form of malaria, in Congo, I was easily cured because I could afford the best medicines. But to save money, African children are given medicines that cost only 5 cents a dose but aren't very effective; the medicine that would actually save their lives is unaffordable, at $1 a dose. Do we really think $1 a dose for medicine to save a child is money down a rathole?

Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist, estimates that spending $2 billion to $3 billion on malaria might save more than one million lives a year. "This is probably the best bargain on the planet," he said.

The outpouring of U.S. aid, private and public, for tsunami victims is wonderful. But, frankly, the affected nations will get all the money they can absorb for the moment, and Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are far from the worst off in the world.

"The really big money can be better and more usefully absorbed by developing good health and education programs in the poorest countries," noted Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development. "But that's not as visible or heroic."

With America's image tarnished around the world, one of the most effective steps Mr. Bush could take to revive it would be to lead a global effort to confront an ongoing challenge like malaria. That would also give Mr. Bush more credibility by suggesting that the "culture of life" he talks about embraces not just fetuses, but also African children crying from hunger.

The best response to accusations of stinginess is not to be defensive, but to be generous. And the measure of generosity is not what you offer when the spotlight is upon you, but what you do when the spotlight moves on.

In 2004, Iraq went badly wrong - except for supporters of the insurgency, in which case it went grimly well.

-- Paul Reynolds of the BBC, speaking the truth that our US Press dare not.

News Flash: 29,000 children died yesterday from preventable diseases and malnutrition!

The Neverending Story By Michael Lerner, Tikkun

Imagine if every day there were headlines saying: "29,000 children died yesterday from preventable diseases and malnutrition." Would the aid money rush in? Does it? Because every day 29,000 children die from preventable diseases and malnutrition! That's over ten million children a year!

We know that our individual efforts to send money, sacred and important though they are, cannot come close to reaching the level of the tens of billions of dollars that will be needed to help the millions of people who have lost homes, work, and everything they own or with which they could make a living due to the tsunami. Only a full-scale governmental effort on the part of all the countries of the world, and most particularly the wealthy countries, could make much of an impact at this level of financial need.

So it is particularly distressing to find once again that those of us who live in the U.S. have to witness our own country giving a pathetically small amount of money (even after responding to pressure to increase its initial pledge tenfold, the U.S. is giving a tiny, tiny percentage of what is needed). The hundreds of billions of dollars being sunk into a war against Sunnis in Iraq is monies that could have been spent on providing the kind of advanced warning systems, and solid construction of buildings, that might have dramatically limited the damage and deaths caused by this terrible storm. Once again, the unequal distribution of wealth on the planet translates into the poorest and most defenseless being hardest hit.

Two weeks ago the United Nations issued a report detailing the deaths of more than 29,000 children every single day as a result of avoidable diseases and malnutrition. Over ten million children a year! The difference between the almost nonexistent coverage of this ongoing human-created disaster and the huge focus on the terrible tsunami-generated suffering in South East Asia reveals some deep and ugly truths about our collective self-deceptions.

Imagine if every single day there were headlines in every newspaper in the world and every television show saying: "29,000 children died yesterday from preventable diseases and malnutrition" and then the rest of the stories alternated between detailed personal accounts of families where this devastation was taking place, and sidebar features detailing what was happening in advanced industrial countries, like this: "all this suffering was happening while the wealthiest people in the world enjoyed excesses of food, worried about how to lose weight because they eat too much, spent money trying to convince farmers not to grow too much food for fear that doing so would drive down prices, and were cutting the taxes of their wealthiest rather than seeking to redistribute their excess millions of dollars of personal income." If the story were told that way every day, the goodness of human beings would rebel quickly against these social systems that made all this suffering possible, suffering far, far, far in excess of all the suffering caused by tsunamis and other natural disasters.

If we were being told this true story every day, we'd quickly find that the progressive forces seeking a new global reality would come to power in democratic elections, and that proposals, like Tikkun's Global Marshall Plan (which would have the U.S. lead the advanced industrial societies in a global consortium dedicating 5 percent of their combined GNP each year to alleviating hunger, homelessness, poverty, inadequate education and inadequate health care), would no longer seem "unrealistic" to most people on the planet, but immediate survival necessities.

One important reason that this doesn't happen, whereas the suffering from the tsunami does get the coverage, is that the tsunami can be seen as "natural" and therefore no one is being blamed, no one has to feel guilty about consuming a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and no one is mobilized to challenge the existing systems of power which fund and control the mass media. However devastating, the tsunami's story line is safe and predictable and unlikely to challenge the current global distribution of wealth or power.

Most reporters and news editors have internalized their sense of what the top-management in their industry considers "newsworthy" and thus they didn't give much attention to the U.N. story and its dramatic and tragic dimensions. If you pressed them, they would probably say something like this: these stories about global poverty don't really interest anyone, because most people know that nothing can be done about it, given that everyone they know is more interested in getting their own material needs satisfied than in worrying about global redistribution of wealth – so there is no point in pursuing that story, because the kinds of changes needed to deal with it will never happen anyway.

Perhaps the reason that social change seems so unrealistic is because not only these news people but almost everyone else has been taught that others are only motivated by narrow material self-interest. Yet when we watch the response of the people of the world to this tragedy we see just the opposite – a huge outpouring of generosity. Millions of people are making contributions, and billions are showing signs of caring. And it is this way whenever we face a situation in which the official media lets down its normal "cynical realism" and tells us that it's OK to show our caring side.

Those who despair are mistaken – the goodness of humanity is always just a few inches from the surface, on the verge of being released. One reason why right-wing Christian churches have been so successful is that they give people a spiritual context within which to let out their caring sides without worrying that they will face cynical put-downs from others around them. One task for progressives interested in social change is to find the best way to facilitate that process in a progressive context, but that will require a new sensitivity to a spiritual framework that validates and supports that spirit of generosity within most people.

Yet in the rest of our lives, few of us are ever encouraged to show caring beyond our small circles of friends and families, and if we are urged to show caring, it is only for the victims of some kind of natural disaster, but not for the kinds of problems we could actually deal with through collective restructuring of the world's economic and political arrangements – because that would threaten the interests of the powerful. They are all too glad to divert our attention to the disasters that can't be changed, and to channeling our anger into anger at God instead of anger at our social system.

The Tikkun Community is proposing a Global Marshall Plan: let the U.S. take the lead in convincing the other leading industrial countries to jointly contribute 5 percent of their GNP for each of the next 20 years to eliminating global poverty, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate healthcare and to build the economic infrastructure of the third world to dramatically improve the well-being of the worst off in every respect from earthquake and tsunami preparedness to environmentally sustainable rebuilding of their agricultural and industrial base. This should be the center of a progressive spiritual "values-based" approach to politics: a recognition of the fundamental interconnectedness of all human beings on the planet. What the tsunami shows is that the caring for others necessary to support such a politics is already there in most Americans. Our task is to let that fundamental goodness be channeled in paths that would actually work to dramatically decrease suffering in all corners of our world.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

1 and a half days: Tsunami pledge vs. Iraq War Spending: Just to put things in perspective

The US government has so far pledged $350 million (with an M) to the victims of the tsunami. The US has so far spent $148 billion (with a B) on the Iraq war. The war has been running for 656 days. This means that the money pledged for the tsunami disaster by the Bush Administration is the equivalent of one and a half day's spending in Iraq. Information taken from this British article but the numbers are common knowledge. It helps to put the amounts in perspective, though.

The Fallacious Notion that News Coverage is Objective

Online editorial here.

Note: This January 4, 2005 BuzzFlash Editorial marks the fourth in 20 consecutive editorials BuzzFlash will be publishing through January 20th.


Does BuzzFlash objectively cover the news? Are you kidding? Of course not.

There is no objective coverage of the news.

That's why we had to laugh when Tom Brokaw, in a faux humility "sign-off" to his career, apologized for occasionally getting "the story" wrong and thanked viewers for their indulgence.


Brokaw was one of those old-time network journalists who used to chase tornado stories around the Midwest and breathlessly report at national political conventions that the Iowa delegation had changed their luncheon order from taco salads to bologna sandwiches, in tribute to their pork industry. You know, important stuff like that.

But in time, he rose to become what they call in Europe, "a news reader," which the American "news industry" calls an anchor.

An "anchor" of what you might ask? An anchor of profits, corporate news policy, White House spin? How about all of the above?

What does an anchor do? Well, introduce headline stories that you will miss if you blink. Oh, they do an occasional fawning interview of an elected Republican official, where they ask hard hitting questions like, "President Bush, I'm sorry but I need to ask this question because it is on the mind of every American: Could you sleep soundly if a terrorist were to infiltrate the White House and place a pea under your bed." Oh we forgot, and they do "exclusive" interviews with foreign leaders, in which the anchors get to stay in four star hotels, smoke Cuban cigars, and drink great French wine.

Yes, Brokaw, who just prior to his retirement, rebuked critics and Internet bloggers as people who didn't understand the "craft" of journalism, has been a prime example of trying to present a few minutes of nightly headline stories as "objective" news that is of vital importance to Americans.

Okay, let's take Fallujah for example. The American military and its Iraqi puppet government restricted virtually all reporters from covering the latest massive assault, in which it is likely that perhaps hundreds or thousands of civilians were killed. Yet, the nightly newscasts, cable television, and newspapers almost universally printed the Pentagon accounts of the Guernica-style decimation, without any counter-reporting or skepticism about "news accounts" exclusively obtained from the Pentagon. Is this reporting "news," or simply passing along propaganda?

All you have to do is replace a nightly news report, or even a New York Times article, for that matter, with what might have been a Soviet account of an attack on an Afghanistan city in the '70s: "Soviet soldiers fighting off the enemies of the Afghani people killed an estimated 400 insurgents in the past four days, with no civilian casualties reported."

By any stretch of the imagination, is this news? No, it is a distorted account of an event that occurred several thousand miles away, with a spin that reflects the official Bush administration position. There is no objectivity to such "news" whatsoever.

Who are the insurgents anyway? Isn't that worth examining in a series? Is the Bush administration fighting a fixed number of people, or a growing number of attackers that it is creating through its storm trooper tactics, torture and privatization of the Iraqi economy (leaving hundreds of thousands of Iraqis unemployed), among other morally indefensible blunders. Now, that might be news worth reporting, wouldn't it, instead of Pentagon news release journalism?

Didn't Bush declare the war over more than a year ago? Wouldn't it be news to tell us what happened? Wasn't all the fighting supposed to stop when Saddam was captured? Didn't we hear that too? Any "news" follow-up on that one? Nope.

Most importantly, the decision about what to broadcast on the evening news, or what to put on the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times, is an exercise in subjective editing judgment. There is no objective standard on when to say something is front page or "lead story" news. It is a personal decision made by news editors for their own subjective reasons.

News coverage is not science. It is influenced heavily by news editing decisions that reflect personal, corporate and political bias.

The New York Times and Washington Post, for instance, played major roles in abetting the impeachment efforts against Clinton by giving unrelenting front page coverage to charges against Clinton that were never proven true (with the exception of a blow job, which is hardly news). Have they given the same non-stop coverage to the daily lying of the Bush administration on their front pages that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the indebtedness of this nation for decades to come?

In fact, both papers were forced to acknowledge that they reported Bush administration lies about Iraq before the war as truth, without questioning them, thus helping feed the frenzy of fear that led to the invasion.

And what did they do after apologizing?

Nothing, absolutely nothing.

They continued reporting on the Iraq War as if nothing in their reporting had changed at all (except not calling it a "war" anymore) -- and the apology was merely obligatory, because their offering of Bush administration deceit as news had already been confirmed by leaked documents and forced White House admissions (late on Friday afternoons, of course.) No one was fired at either paper; no one replaced among the reporters covering Iraq. No policies appeared to have changed.

Their self-policing of the "news" has worked about as well as Bush's belief that industries should be responsible for reducing pollution on a "voluntary" basis.

"Objective" news?

It doesn't exist.

If you want to know what the bias of the "news" is that you are reading, just find out who is making the news editing decisions and who owns their butts.

Then you will understand how people in the old Soviet Union had to learn to read between the lines of their so-called "news."

It's a skill you would be well-advised to master.


Note: The New York Times Editorial Board, which is traditionally liberal (although it supported the war on Iraq) is to be distinguished from the news section, which supports and enables the Republican White House status quo, despite sporadic "leak" stories. This is due to the decisions made by the news editors as far as headlines, story placement, assignments, and content.

In all fairness, the NYT apparently allows its columnists freedom in choosing their material, including Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, and Frank Rich. But remember, it's the front page headlines and stories that have an impact in Washington, D.C.