Public Lands: A Matter Of “Me” Versus “We”.

For the past several decades, the anti-government neo-confederates (otherwise known as the Tea Party) have howled about a so-called “federal land grab.” They claim that federal ownership of any property is unconstitutional.

In fact, they have it backwards.

Their attempts to force the federal government to give public lands to the states and private enterprise is the real land grab. That’s because, from our country’s very beginning, most of the land has been considered property of the federal government until Congress chooses to dispose of it. That principle was codified in 1870 at the Congress of Confederation, which called upon all states to relinquish claims to territories outside their boundaries to federal control so that they might be administered for the common benefit of the new nation. The principle was confirmed in 1789 as Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting territory or other property belonging to the United States.”

Federal lands included those taken from Native Americans, as well as those acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase, from Britain in the Red River Valley of the North, from Spain in Florida, from Mexico in the Texas Annexation, from Mexico in the American Southwest, from Britain in the Oregon Territories, from Mexico in the Gadsen Purchase and from Russia in the Alaska Purchase.

In other words, the federal government once owned all of the land outside of the original colonies.

Over the decades, Congress has chosen to give some of the lands to cities, counties and states in the form of parks or land trusts intended to be used or sold for public good. It retained forest lands and lands deemed critical for watersheds or those unsuitable for traditional farming. And it voted to save other lands for posterity.

For example, in 1864, Congress named Yosemite Valley as the first federally-owned land to be set aside for preservation and public use. In 1872, it set aside portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho Territories for the world’s first National Park – Yellowstone. In 1906, Congress passed the Antiquities Act which allows the President of the United States to preserve and protect “prehistoric, historic, and scientifically significant sites on public lands” through the creation of national monuments, leading President Roosevelt to create the first national monuments at Devils Tower in Wyoming, El Morro in New Mexico, and Montezuma Castle and Petrified Forest in Arizona.

The federal lands, national parks and national monuments are not the result of federal land grabs.

They are the result of Congress maintaining control of public lands for the people it represents – all of the people. As a result, the people of the United States have millions of acres to use for recreational purposes, such as hiking, hunting, fishing and camping. In addition, the people own millions of acres that can be leased for commercial purposes that benefit the public…for transportation, for cattle grazing, for mining, for timber production, and for oil and gas production. These leases generate revenues that reduce taxes.

So, if federal ownership and management of lands is constitutional and, if it benefits the public, why would the so-called “Freedom Caucus” and other right wingers object?

In a word, greed.

They want the federal government to place all lands under state control, so the Republican-controlled western states and southern states can sell the lands for commercial development. They want to give mining companies (most of them foreign-owned) the freedom to extract uranium from the Grand Canyon, making the Colorado River radioactive in the process. They want to let private hotels, restaurant chains, tour companies and amusement parks set up shop inside National Parks. They want to let lumber companies, once again, clear-cut our old-growth public forests under the guise of “fire prevention.” They want to let home-builders sell homes on the rim of the Grand Canyon to the highest bidder.

Now that would be a real land grab.

Journalism, RIP.

Regardless of what happens in the upcoming presidential race, one thing has been forever changed…journalism.

Though the competition for ratings has long influenced the news – forcing news editors to adopt the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy – the demand for ratings has relegated newscasts to stories of violent crimes, accidental deaths, and confrontations only occasionally interrupted by feel-good “human interest” stories. Instead of informing the public about issues that really matter (pending legislation, environmental destruction, corporate influence in government, foreign policy decisions, and government and corporate corruption), the philosophy governing reporting by corporate-owned news media seems to be to keep the public perpetually frightened and stupid.

Newscasts have become little more than infotainment.

How else do you explain Donald Trump’s ability to manipulate the media into providing his campaign with roughly $3 billion of free news coverage – many times that of his competitors? How else do you explain the lack of coverage for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, even though he has drawn larger crowds than Trump at every stop? How else do explain the media’s reporting of the latest accusations about Hillary Clinton’s emails without facts or context?

When I earned my journalism degree, every story was expected to contain the basics of who, what, where, when, why and how. Rumors and accusations were not, in themselves, considered news. No story could be printed or aired if it didn’t include those basic elements. What’s more, the story had to be verified by two independent sources – more if the story was deemed to be exceptionally controversial.

Journalists like me were inspired by giants: Edward R. Murrow, John Cameron Swayze, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. News gathering operations like CBS had news bureaus and reporters located around the globe based on the concept that it was not enough to tell the story, it was important to provide context and real understanding. It was considered more important for reporters to be right than to be first. Opinion was clearly labeled as such and not permitted to contaminate a news story. And there was an impenetrable firewall between the business side of the media and the news department, except in the not-so-rare instances where the owner of the media was also a journalist.

Such news departments exposed the viciousness of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting brought down the criminal enterprise otherwise known as the Nixon administration. Seymour Hersh’s reporting laid bare the horrors of the My Lai Massacre. Cronkite’s reporting was credited with ending the Vietnam War.

In more recent times, based on the woeful state of modern journalism, the corporate news media made it possible for the Bush administration to lead our nation to war in Iraq based on propaganda and lies. And they didn’t just report Trump’s ascendency to the GOP presidential nomination. In search of ratings and ever-larger profits, they actually created the Trump we see today.

Each day, the “news” is dominated by Trump. The media rarely fact-check his rants, provide context for his claims, point out inconsistencies in his statements, or broadcast alternative views. Unlike opposing candidates, he doesn’t need to waste campaign funds on airtime. In fact, he has actually made money by using campaign funds to pay his own companies for transportation, lodging and more.

In the heyday of broadcast journalism, reporters and news anchors tried to create a signature to be used to end a broadcast. For Murrow, it was “Good night, and good luck.” For Cronkite, it was “And that’s the way it is.” Now that the media are no longer willing to hold their newscasts to the standards of journalism, I’d suggest a slightly different slogan – “Another day, another dollar.”

That’s all the corporate media seems to care about.

On Earth Day, An Assessment.

Each year, we celebrate our planet for a single day. On that day, there are a variety of gatherings, speeches and warnings. It’s not enough. Not nearly enough. The remainder of the year, most of us continue to trash the planet. Some liken our actions to filling our living rooms with garbage. But it’s worse than that. What we’re really doing is fouling our air, our water, our climate, even the food we eat.

So, on this Earth Day, let’s forgo the platitudes and the entertainment and focus on the status of our planet.

– 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001 and 2016 is likely to set another record.
– 2015 was the first year that global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius above the 1880-1889 average (the start of the industrial revolution).
– Atmospheric CO2 is now 401.58 parts per million (ppm) and rising. (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point.)
– Arctic sea ice has declined 13.3 percent per decade.
– As the Arctic ice melts, the underlying tundra is exposed, releasing methane, which is 25 times worse than CO2.
– The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing 8,000 tons of ice per second 24/7.
– Antarctic ice is melting far faster than even the most alarming scientific predictions.
– Scientists have discovered that 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by coral bleaching (in other words, it is dying).
– Global warming and overfishing have pushed the world’s oceans to the brink of extinction, reducing some species by more than 90 percent.
– Dozens of animal species are endangered and many more are vulnerable, including such iconic species as Rhinos, Elephants, Lions and Tigers.
– Deforestation is occurring on a massive scale with more than 18 million acres lost each and every year, much of it the result of corporate greed.
– Global sea levels are rising at the rate of 3.24 mm per year, and the rise is accelerating.
– Our oceans are warming, resulting in changes in ocean currents. In turn, that results in new, and more extreme, weather patterns.
– The ice melt and degradation of our aquifers have led to the shifting or the Earth’s axis by nearly 17 centimeters per year.

As bad as all of that is, we can stop the destruction and even begin to reverse it. But it will take a concerted effort by all of the planet’s residents. Today’s signing of the Paris climate agreement by 170 nations is a start. But only a start. We can’t rely on governments alone to save the planet. We all have to do our part.

For example, we can all try to make better choices. We can drive less to burn less fuel or, better yet, take public transportation. We can better insulating our homes to reduce the fuel needed to heat and cool them. We can demand that our representatives vote to keep fossil fuels in the ground and focus on increasing renewable energy. We can purchase or lease solar panels for our homes and can purchase hybrid and electric cars. We can replace traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. We can end our throwaway mentality, cut waste and recycle. We can eliminate or reduce consumption of meat – especially beef – which is carbon-intensive. We can buy locally-grown produce to cut transportation-cause carbon emissions. We can reduce water consumption. We can plant carbon-absorbing trees. And, most important, we can elect candidates that will work to stop the destruction of our environment. The list of things we can each do is long, and every little bit helps.

Of course, the most important thing we can do is to think about our planet every day…to make every day Earth Day. We have only one chance to get things right. There will be no do-overs

The Panama Papers? Why Not The Delaware Papers?

While the Panama Papers exposed thousands of politicians and billionaires who have used off-shore tax havens to hide trillions of dollars from taxes, the leaked papers will likely have little effect on Americans. It’s not that American corporations, billionaires and politicians are any more trustworthy than their foreign counterparts. It’s just that they don’t need to hide their money in the Cayman Islands when they can hide it in a much safer and less transparent refuge…the United States.

That’s right, the US is quickly becoming the world’s capital for money-laundering and tax shelters. Outside of Kenya, the US is now the easiest country in the world to open an anonymous shell corporation. No need to move your money off shore; no need to hire a Panamanian law firm; no need to place your trust in the economy of a third world country. Instead, you can open a shell company in Delaware, Nevada or South Dakota that will allow you to invest your money anonymously.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that, if it weren’t for such schemes, the US Treasury would annually collect an additional $36 billion from wealthy individuals and an additional $88 billion from multinational corporations. That’s $124 billion a year that could be used to pay for public schools, to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and to improve public transportation!

And US citizens are not the only ones who are taking advantage of our lax tax laws.

According to TaxHavenUSA.com, the US has become the world’s largest tax haven for wealthy non-residents. You see, Congress, in an attempt to encourage more investment in US securities, made it easier for non-residents to invest through “pass through” or “disregarded” tax entities. These are the same vehicles the Koch brothers and their wealthy rightwing friends are using to influence elections without disclosing the source of their funding.

Through these LLCs, non-residents can easily open US financial accounts and make investments in securities without paying US taxes on the income they earn. They can avoid US capital gains taxes. Further, the investors in these entities can operate businesses outside the US while taking advantage of US corporate tax write-offs and incentives. Thanks to a variety of treaties, non-resident investors can reduce their tax liabilities in other countries, as well. They can transfer income to other, lower tax nations. All the while their investments are protected by the full faith and credit of the US. Their US bank accounts are even protected by the FDIC! Best of all, the investors in these entities can all remain anonymous.

So if you’re expecting the Panama Papers to reveal names like Charles Koch, David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Mitt Romney, or Donald Trump alongside such people as David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and the House of Saud, don’t hold your breath. Like me, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed.

Our Present And Future With Guns.

According to Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, only 22% of Americans are gun owners. Yet there are an estimated 300 million guns in the US, not including those owned by our military. More than 6 million Americans own 10 or more guns. 10 or more? Seriously? Let’s see…a small gauge shotgun for small birds, a large gauge shotgun for larger birds, a small caliber hunting rifle for small game, a large caliber hunting rifle for large game, a small caliber handgun for accuracy, a large caliber handgun for “stopping” power, a military-style assault weapon for potential government tyrants, a .50 caliber sniper rifle for assassinations and blowing holes in the occasional engine block, and…??? That’s only 8. What am I missing? I’m at a loss to explain what more a 2nd Amendment-spouting, freedom-protecting “patriot” could need to arm themselves for any eventuality.

Obviously, the US has a love affair with guns. But though we all face the consequences, that love affair is far from universal.

As previously stated, the majority of guns are in the hands of a few. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, consider this: A large percentage of those 300 million guns are in the hands of the members of the 784 hate groups as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, Skinheads, Black Separatists, Neo-Confederates, Anti-LGBT, Christian Identity and other assorted general hate groups and individuals, such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. Shockingly, a not insignificant percentage of their members are ex-military, active-duty military, former law enforcement officers and border patrol…even active-duty law enforcement (which may help to explain the increase in police brutality against minority populations)!

These people seem to believe that guns are the answer to most every conflict – a view endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and modeled in many US-made movies, television programs and video games. But our choices of entertainment are, most certainly, not the root of our gun problem. In fact, the source of our problem is the NRA and the gun manufacturers it represents, which have flooded our communities with guns – guns that are becoming increasingly more lethal. Though other nations share our taste in entertainment and celebrate our culture, and though many other nations are less religious than the US, no other advanced country rivals the US when it comes to the number of gun deaths (including homicides)!

The glaring difference between the US and those other countries is the availability of guns.

For example, in a recent attempt to determine how easy it is to obtain guns in the US, a reporter for The Guardian found that it took just 2 hours for him to be offered an AK-47, an illegally-modified fully-automatic AR-15 and numerous handguns – some of which had been smuggled and some of which had been purchased legally. His experience is hardly unique. In many neighborhoods in many of our nation’s cities, you can purchase a gun within a few minutes, local gun laws be damned. For example, many of the guns used in crimes in Chicago are originally purchased legally in Indiana and cities along the I-35 corridor where gun laws are weak. They are then resold in Chicago to individuals wishing to avoid background checks. This pattern is supported by studies that show the majority of guns used in crimes are purchased illegally from unlicensed gun dealers or uncaring dealers in states with the greatest gun culture and the weakest gun laws.

And, thanks to the NRA’s stated belief that the best solution for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, there is a growing vigilante movement in the US exemplified by the armed woman who took it upon herself to shoot at shoplifters in the parking lot of The Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Contrary to the gun lovers’ beliefs, such behavior is the worst nightmare of most law enforcement officials. After all, imagine you’re an officer responding to an active shooter situation and you see several armed people shooting at one another. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Are they all bad guys? You simply have to treat them all as threats.

And what about the legal implications of the “good guy” behavior? Disregarding the fact that few crimes are stopped by armed citizens and that armed citizens are more likely to be shot with their own guns than to stop a crime, such vigilante behavior poses problems. Police are supposed to be restricted from shooting at a suspect in a non-life-threatening situation. What about the armed “good guys?” Is it acceptable for a private citizen to shoot and kill a shoplifter? If the criminals are not armed and not threatening others, is it legally permissible to shoot to kill? If an unarmed shoplifter is subject to lethal force, is a bully engaged in a fistfight? How about a citizen engaged in a shouting match? An unarmed robber? An armed robber? Where do we draw the line?

The fact is, this nation is being held hostage by the gun lobby. We have allowed the NRA to write Conceal and Carry, Open Carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage people like George Zimmerman to shoot innocent, unarmed people. The NRA wants even more people to be armed. And it refuses to consider common sense gun safety laws. Despite a large majority of its members supporting more thorough, universal background checks, the NRA leadership has drawn a bright line in the sand. Any restriction on gun ownership is seen as a violation of the Constitution (if you choose to ignore the first phrase of the 2nd Amendment). Moreover, mass shootings are good for business as demonstrated by the gun shop owner in Roseburg, Oregon who stocked up on guns and ammo following the shooting at nearby Umpqua Community College. She knows that there is always a run on guns and ammo following mass shootings. Such greed aside, more guns are not the answer to gun violence. In fact, numerous studies have clearly shown that more guns equal more gun violence. Not less.

More important, the blatant lies of the NRA which pronounce guns the solution, not the problem, may well lead to a breakdown in our legal system. Vigilante “justice” could soon replace our courts. The entire US could resemble the Old West – only with more shootings and less shame.

Time To Extinguish Liberty’s Torch?

The European response – especially that of the Germans – to mass migration from the Middle East and Southwest Asia stands in stark contrast to the immigration policies of the US. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Germany had relatively little to do with events that led to the crisis. On the other hand, the refugee crisis is almost certainly a direct result of US misadventures in the Middle East – most notably the Bush-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the US has steadfastly refused to help those who were dislocated as a result of our meddling. Likewise, many of our so-called allies in the region have refused to help.

This is not the first time we have turned our backs on those fleeing violence and poverty caused by our actions.

Just last summer, we saw thousands of women and children flood our southern border seeking refuge from the violence and poverty in Honduras and El Salvador – violence for which we bear much of the responsibility. And how did we greet the dispossessed? We herded them into makeshift prisons. Conservatives confronted their buses screaming obscenities and making it abundantly clear that they were not welcome here. If they had no families or relatives in the US, we sent them home to certain poverty and almost certain death.

This is how America welcomes immigrants today.

Where we once welcomed the tired, the poor, the streaming masses yearning to breathe free, we now turn them away. We vilify them and blame them for all of our nation’s ills. We treat them as something less than human. We call them names, order them to speak American, then hire them for all the jobs we consider too distasteful to do ourselves. We underpay them and cheat them. And we applaud people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio for arresting them.

This is America today. A political atmosphere driven by the “We’ve got ours. You can’t have yours” crowd; by the Trumps, the Palins, the McCains and the Cheneys. An America dominated by the loudest, most angry and most heavily armed; where a feeble and compliant press reports only the most sensational statements made by a group of boorish loud-mouths who have little compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. They may claim to be religious, but their only religion is money. And they refuse to share it.

Instead of seeing those who have suffered only because they were born in the wrong place and time, these arrogant buffoons see only “takers” – people they believe only come here to suckle off of the government teats.

Based on all of this, maybe it’s time to send Lady Liberty packing. Maybe we should send her back to Europe where she came from; a place where she will likely feel more at home.

Our Other Civil War.

This past Labor Day should give us pause to consider its real meaning. More than a 3-day weekend, the unofficial end of summer and a shopping holiday, it’s a celebration of labor – the hard-working men and women who built this nation. In many ways, it also represent the end of our second civil war.

The war began in the late 1800’s when wealthy industrialists discovered they could exploit the flood of new immigrants by forcing them to work long hours in dangerous conditions, all the while paying them barely subsistence wages. The battlefields were in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Reading, San Francisco, and on Blair Mountain, West Virginia. The combatants were ordinary working people demanding living wages and safe working conditions who were often attacked by armies of security companies, law enforcement…even veterans from the American Legion.

The battles raged for decades until workers finally won the right to organize and negotiate with their employers. This collective bargaining, as it came to be called, eventually brought us the 5-day, 40-hour work week. It brought us paid holidays, paid sick leave, workers’ compensation insurance, and retirement benefits. Collective bargaining ended the practice of forcing men, women and children to work in dimly-lit, poorly-ventilated sweat shops. It ended company stores which were used to accumulate workers’ debt and hold workers captive from cradle to grave.

Even if you have never joined a labor union, you benefit from the efforts of those brave enough to fight the establishment.

Unfortunately, the exploitation only ended in the United States and other advanced nations. The descendants of the industrialists – the CEOs and directors of large, multi-national corporations – merely exported the exploitation elsewhere…to countries lacking collective bargaining. They simply moved their factories to China, to Bangladesh, to India, to Pakistan, to Indonesia, to Malaysia, to Viet Name and elsewhere. In those countries which have few government regulations and no labor unions, they are free to force workers to slave away in sweat shops, often paid by the piece and made to work seven days a week.

Of course, this is no longer called exploitation. It is now called globalization. And, whether or not we care to admit it, we all participate in this exploitation. US corporations get their products made at lower cost and American consumers benefit from lower prices. Corporate shareholders see dividends and higher profits. And while the corporations despoil the land, air and water of other countries, we can breathe more easily because the pollution is out of our sight and, therefore, out of our minds.

So what can you do to stop the exploitation? You can vow to purchase products that are humanely made and sustainably grown. You can divest your investment portfolio of the corporations that are the worst offenders. You can write letters to the leaders of those companies. You can boycott their products. And we can end the current war on collective bargaining began when Ronald Reagan, a former union leader himself, betrayed PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union. You can support collective bargaining for teachers, first responders and government workers. And you can demand that your company have a representative of its workers on the Board of Directors as is the case in many European companies.

Then, and only then, will we be able to truly celebrate Labor Day.

Overheating Our Planet, Draining Our Aquifers And Poisoning Our Future.

It has been well-established that climate scientists are almost unanimous in their warnings of the consequences of climate change as the result of burning fossil fuels. Certainly, man-made global warming is one of the biggest threats of our time. But, unfortunately, it is not the only serious threat to the future of the planet.

There’s the threat of pollution caused by extractive industries as evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic water spill from Colorado’s Gold King mine, and the pollution of Appalachian streams by the mountaintop removal form of coal mining. There’s the overuse of agricultural chemicals as evidenced by the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s the destruction of carbon-absorbing forests by the agriculture, lumber and palm oil industries. There’s the destruction of marshes by oil drilling companies, pipeline companies and refineries. There’s the destruction of coral reefs by cruise line operators. There’s the consequences of overfishing our oceans by large, commercial fish factories. There’s the destruction of endangered species by poachers and big game hunters.

And we’re just getting started.

We also know that the agrichemical industry is poisoning our land and our bodies with pesticides. At the same time, these pesticides are causing a mass die-off of pollinators such as honey bees and bumblebees. Herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Round-Up and Syngenta’s Atrazine, are not only killing native plants. The elimination of those plants is jeopardizing the future of entire species, such as Monarch butterflies and amphibians. The herbicides have also been linked to cancer in humans. In addition, genetically-modified crops, which rely on the use of herbicides and pesticides, have destroyed the diversity of our crop species making it more likely than ever that a disease or blight could lead to famine.

Arsenic added to animal feeds to make animals grow faster ends up in our water, our food and our bodies. Poultry manure, poultry feathers and bedding which are fed to cows can poison our food and lead to mad cow disease. Manure run-off from feedlots poison our streams and the methane from cows adds to greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Antibiotics added to animal feeds accounts for 80 percent of all antibiotic use leading to a surge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And the methods of large factory-style livestock farms are not only inhumane. They lead to injuries and animal stress which lead to hormonal changes in the meat which, in turn, impacts humans.

Not to be overlooked is what we’re doing to our aquifers. These underground rivers and pools represent the accumulation of water which has filtered through soil and rock over a period of thousands of years – water that is as pure as any on our planet. Yet, instead of reserving this water for human consumption, we are using it to irrigate crops otherwise unsuited for places such as California, Colorado and western Nebraska. We are also polluting the aquifers by fracking and mining. Even our attempts to “restore” aquifers are misguided. We are pumping them full of treated effluent – effluent still filled with pharmaceuticals and hormones. And, incredibly, in much of America we are using the water from aquifers to flush our toilets!

All of these ecological problems are caused by our unsustainable lifestyle – a lifestyle dictated and fueled by the greed of large corporations. Reversing these problems will require regulations, investments, education, new technologies, and, most important of all, a change in politics. The very future of our species depends on it.

What Does Your Party Stand For?

These days, it’s popular to say that there is no real difference between the political parties; that they are both in the pockets of large corporations. While it is true that, following recent Supreme Court decisions, both parties rely on the wealthy for campaign donations, there are sizeable differences in what the two parties stand for.

Based on its actions of the past 50 years, here’s what the Republican Party stands for: Large corporations, increased corporate welfare, increased mining, increased oil production, increased deforestation, increased corporate farming, increased corporate fishing, off-shoring of jobs and corporate profits, unfettered financial markets, tax cuts for corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of Social Security, elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, elimination of Obamacare, more defense spending, more wars, more militarization of police, more guns (except at GOP events), the end of legal abortions, reduced access to contraception, elimination of the minimum wage, elimination of food stamps for the needy, elimination of estate taxes, elimination of labor unions, elimination of defined benefit pensions (except for corporate executives), elimination of family leave (except for corporate executives), elimination of the EPA, elimination of the FDA, elimination of the Dept. of Labor, elimination of the Dept. of Education, elimination of free public education, deportation of all undocumented immigrants, discrimination against women, discrimination against college students, discrimination against people of color, discrimination against gays, discrimination against non-Christians, a new Constitution based on the Ten Commandments, and limited voting rights based on color, age and income.

Here’s what the Democratic Party stands for: Virtually everything the Republican Party is against.

I truly wish all of this was an exaggeration. But, in fact, all of these policies have been supported by one or more of the GOP presidential candidates either by words or action.

When Journalism Becomes Propaganda.

Where do you go for news? Do you rely on a single source? Do you read beyond the headlines? Do you take the time to explore beyond the sound bites? Do you take the time to fact check statements by politicians? Do you check the veracity of chain emails and posts on social media?

Most people realize that news media can be biased. But do you know the extent of media bias? Of the 152 Fox News Channel statements checked by Politifact.com, 118 (77%) were found to be half true, mostly false, false or pants on fire lies. And, of the 21 statements made by Rush Limbaugh, none were true. Most other conservative radio hosts fare no better. Yet these people represent more than 90 percent of talk radio.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to any but the most partisan among us.

And if you think the mainstream media are liberal, you’ve been listening to far too many conservatives. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of the guests invited to appear on the Sunday morning network news shows are conservative. Most newscasts and newspapers are no better. Even when the media try to be objective they fail. What passes for journalistic objectivity these days consists of presenting both the Teapublican and Democratic sides of an issue. There are seldom any follow-up questions. No attempt to provide context. No attempt to get at the truth.

In states like Arizona, the only way a Democrat can make headlines is if he or she gets caught doing something wrong. Yet the same media constantly cover and promote conservative initiatives and points of view. The same is true for stories about government entities, such as the VA or the EPA. The media love to portray the government as the enemy. As mentioned in a previous post, most media reported on the toxic spill in the Animas River. But few took the time or effort to find out the causes for the spill and to put it into context with regard to other environmental accidents. For most media, the fact that the spill was caused by a contractor working for the EPA – the agency that is supposed to protect the environment – was the story. The entire story.

You can see the same mentality at work with regard to the Hillary Clinton email “scandal.” Almost all of the media have led with the story. But how many have mentioned that Clinton did nothing illegal? How many have mentioned that when Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were Secretaries of State, they also used private email servers? How many have mentioned that the Bush White House funneled emails through the Republican National Committee’s email server, then deleted more than 20 million emails after they were requested by Congress to learn more about the outing of Valerie Plame and the run-up to the Iraq War?

You can also see conservative bias in the time and space devoted to coverage of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They have similar poll numbers. Yet, even though Bernie Sanders has drawn larger crowds, Sanders is largely ignored while Trump is constantly in the headlines. The problem is made worse by the news editors’ desire to promote ratings or readership. Donald Trump is a celebrity. Bernie Sanders is not.

And, as long as we’re on the subject of polls, never underestimate how the media can influence issues by the way they ask questions. For example, CNN recently asked half of its poll respondents if Congress should approve or reject the Iran deal. At the same time, CNN asked the other half how they felt about a deal that would place major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and greater international inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities. CNN chose only to report the results to the first question which showed that a majority think Congress should reject the deal. It chose not to report the results to the second question which showed that the majority was in favor of the deal.

Only 6 companies now own the vast majority of television networks and cable or satellite carriers. 5 corporations control the majority of radio. 5 corporations control most large newspapers. And 5 corporations control a huge portion of online media. These corporations have one agenda – to make money. They demand higher ratings and greater numbers of subscribers. If it serves their interests to distort the news in order to increase those ratings, they’ll do it. And, these days, people want to hear from angry conservatives. They want to blame their problems on undocumented immigrants. They want to read stories about an out-of-control government. Who cares if the stories are unfair and untrue?

Yet, if our news media are not accurate and fair; if they do not provide context; if they prioritize facts over truth; if they are swayed by ratings, they do not practice journalism. They are merely engaging in propaganda. And if you rely on them to make decisions, you are a victim of that propaganda. So is our nation.

You simply can’t sit back and expect the media to inform you. You have to work at it. It may be frustrating and sometimes boring work. But, with the availability of online news sources and fact-checkers, it’s not that difficult. After all, our nation was founded on the expectation of an informed voting public. Indeed, it is the most important principle on which the nation was built.