Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Truly Surreal Maddow Segment

I’m just catching up on some of my news programs, and I came across this segment from The Rachel Maddow Show’s August 21st segment. It begins with the story about the man shot in Missouri, after apparently stealing two sodas from a convenience store, placing them on the side of the curb, and then waiting for the cops to arrive. As Maddow mentions – and is clearly visible on the video – “The officers have their guns drawn from the get-go”, and one can just hear the man shout something along the lines of “shoot me!” at the cops; and, within 23 seconds of their arrival, they do just that (nine times).

This whole segment is disturbing and frightening on a number of levels – irrespective of the fact that a fair number of people seemed to know something was about to go down and just watched. The police exited their vehicles, guns-drawn, and the police report/press conference after the fact is not confirmed by this video. I can’t help but echo John Oliver’s sentiment of, “What the f*ck is wrong with your cops?”

Coupled with everything else going on in Missouri (and the States in general, really), the USA is becoming an ever-more frightening, broken state. The militarization of the country has been escalating for years, moving on overdrive since 9/11. It’s becoming dystopian.

It’s very difficult to put into words the impression this video had. Confusion, anger, stunned disbelief (which is probably na├»ve)…

Speaking of John Oliver, I thought I’d share his brilliant – acerbic, intelligent, spot-on segment from his August 17th episode of Last Week Tonight:

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

International Media: A Most Relevant Image

This is a panel from an (early) issue of Hawkeye, written by Rick Remender. The artwork is by David Aja, and it’s never been more relevant considering today’s international, political, and media environments…


Friday, 8 August 2014

Upcoming: 935 LIES by Charles Lewis (Public Affairs)

LewisC-935LiesMuch is written and talked about the apparent death of truth in American politics. In his new book, journalist Charles Lewis looks at the ways in which truth has been manipulated and distorted by governments, corporations and individuals; and also how truth is often distorted or diminished by delay. Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

Facts are and must be the coin of the realm in a democracy, for government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” requires and assumes to some extent an informed citizenry. Unfortunately, for citizens in the United States and throughout the world, distinguishing between fact and fiction has always been a formidable challenge, often with real life and death consequences. But now it is more difficult and confusing than ever. The Internet Age makes comment indistinguishable from fact, and erodes authority. It is liberating but annihilating at the same time.

For those wielding power, whether in the private or the public sector, the increasingly sophisticated control of information is regarded as utterly essential to achieving success. Internal information is severely limited, including calendars, memoranda, phone logs and emails. History is sculpted by its absence.

Often those in power strictly control the flow of information, corroding and corrupting its content, of course, using newspapers, radio, television and other mass means of communication to carefully consolidate their authority and cover their crimes in a thick veneer of fervent racialism or nationalism. And always with the specter of some kind of imminent public threat, what Hannah Arendt called ‘objective enemies.’”

An epiphanic, public comment about the Bush “war on terror” years was made by an unidentified White House official revealing how information is managed and how the news media and the public itself are regarded by those in power: “[You journalists live] “in what we call the reality-based community. [But] that’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality… we’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” And yet, as aggressive as the Republican Bush administration was in attempting to define reality, the subsequent, Democratic Obama administration may be more so.

Upcoming: TO MAKE MEN FREE by Heather Cox Richardson (Basic Books)

RichardsonHC-ToMakeMenFreeA History of the Republican Party

Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College, takes a look at the paradoxical evolution of the Republican Party in the US, and how it was founded on the principle of equal opportunity, and yet has been hijacked by elite agendas. This sounds like an interesting book. It’s due to be published by Basic Books in September 2014.

When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guard against the concentration of wealth have repeatedly been undone by the country’s moneyed interests and by members of their own party.

In To Make Men Free, celebrated historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession and details the terrible repercussions of these vacillations for minorities, the middle class, and America at large. Expansive and authoritative, To Make Men Free explains how a relatively young party became America’s greatest political hope – and time and time again, its greatest disappointment.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Bill Clinton On bin Laden, September 10th, 2001…

Found this on MSNBC, in an article by Alex Seitz-Wald. Yet another random comment that takes on considerable historical and (potentially) political significance. The former president was speaking at a company event (J.T. Campbell & Co. Pty. Ltd.) in Melbourne, and one of the attendees had a recording of the event. Here’s what he apparently said, as per Seltz-Waid’s article:

“And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he’s very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once,” Clinton is heard saying. “I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

Pretty interesting.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

To Read: LINCOLN AND THE POWER OF THE PRESS by Harold Holzer (Simon & Schuster)

HolzerH-LincolnAndThePowerOfThePressThe War for Public Opinion

The capacity for American scholars, journalists and authors to produce ever more titles about the lives of their presidents is quite astonishing. Some books focus on extremely narrow events or themes from specific presidencies, while just as many try to offer comprehensive or concise biographies. In this book, Harold Holzer takes a look at one of the most popular presidents and his relationship with the news media. I have very high hopes for this book. (The relationships between presidents and government institutions as a whole and the press has long been a passion and interest of mine.) Here’s the synopsis:

From his earliest days, Lincoln devoured newspapers. As he started out in politics he wrote editorials and letters to argue his case. He spoke to the public directly through the press. He even bought a German-language newspaper to appeal to that growing electorate in his state. Lincoln alternately pampered, battled, and manipulated the three most powerful publishers of the day: Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, and Henry Raymond of the New York Times.

When war broke out and the nation was tearing itself apart, Lincoln authorized the most widespread censorship in the nation’s history, closing down papers that were “disloyal” and even jailing or exiling editors who opposed enlistment or sympathized with secession. The telegraph, the new invention that made instant reporting possible, was moved to the office of Secretary of War Stanton to deny it to unfriendly newsmen.

Holzer shows us an activist Lincoln through journalists who covered him from his start through to the night of his assassination—when one reporter ran to the box where Lincoln was shot and emerged to write the story covered with blood. In a wholly original way, Holzer shows us politicized newspaper editors battling for power, and a masterly president using the press to speak directly to the people and shape the nation.

Lincoln and the Power of the Press is due to be published by Simon & Schuster, on October 14th, 2014.

To Read: UNREASONABLE MEN by Michael Wolraich (Palgrave)

WolraichM-UnreasonableMenTheodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

Michael Wolraich’s Unreasonable Men (Palgrave Macmillan) looks like it could be an interesting supplemental to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s masterful The Bully Pulpit, which also details the rise of Progressivism in the United States, from the perspectives of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and the muckraking journalists who championed so many progressive causes.

Here’s the official publisher synopsis for Unreasonable Men:

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Republican Party stood at the brink of an internal civil war. After a devastating financial crisis, furious voters sent a new breed of politician to Washington. These young Republican firebrands, led by “Fighting Bob” La Follette of Wisconsin, vowed to overthrow the party leaders and purge Wall Street’s corrupting influence from Washington. Their opponents called them “radicals,” and “fanatics.” They called themselves Progressives.

President Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of La Follette’s confrontational methods. Fearful of splitting the party, he compromised with the conservative House Speaker, “Uncle Joe” Cannon, to pass modest reforms. But as La Follette’s crusade gathered momentum, the country polarized, and the middle ground melted away. Three years after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt embraced La Follette’s militant tactics and went to war against the Republican establishment, bringing him face to face with his handpicked successor, William Taft. Their epic battle shattered the Republican Party and permanently realigned the electorate, dividing the country into two camps: Progressive and Conservative.

Unreasonable Men takes us into the heart of the epic power struggle that created the progressive movement and defined modern American politics. Recounting the fateful clash between the pragmatic Roosevelt and the radical La Follette, Wolraich’s riveting narrative reveals how a few Republican insurgents broke the conservative chokehold on Congress and initiated the greatest period of political change in America’s history.

Unreasonable Men is published today.