Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Small Scale Corporatism/Crony Capitalism

Today is Tuesday, June 28th and on Friday, July 1st the kids and I are flying from New York, NY to Victoria, Canada.  On Sunday somewhat by accident, I discovered that my daughter's passport had expired. I had been entering in passport numbers into the airline's website for our upcoming trip on Friday to Canada to visit family.

Online I found out from http://travel.state.gov/passport/npic/agencies/agencies_913.html that:
This Agency issues the US Passport Card on-site!
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., local time, M-F, excluding Federal holidays
Schedule An Appointment 24/7: 1-877-487-2778
I called. It's all automated but you can schedule an appointment for 1-2 day service provided that you are
traveling within 14 days. Great!

The next available appointment is on July 7th. Hmm, that's on a Thursday 11 days away. So the hotline has only Thurs. July 7th and Fri. July 8th available. I find out that I can get an actual person tomorrow morning at 7:30 am. I plan to call at 7:30 sharp. Meanwhile, I fill out the passport application form online and print it out while my wife takes my daughter to get a passport photo taken. I'm all set.

My wife informs me that the 'expedite' option at the post office is currently 2-3 weeks.  Funny, I found a different time frame: 4-5 days but with no guarantees. Both were government websites but either way we needed a faster option.  I'll call in the morning, speak to an advisor and figure it all out.  There's no reason to panic.

The next morning I'm in the system at 7:30 am. There's no 'speak to an advisor' in the schedule an appointment option. So I hang up because I can't go back to the first menu anymore and select the 'change an appointment' which actually does have a 'speak to an advisor' option. Oh, no advisors until 8 a.m.

I call back at 8 a.m. and after a short wait get an advisor. 'Let me transfer you to the schedule an appointment menu'.

'Nooooooo! I was just there and there are no appointments until July 7th'. 'When are you leaving again?' 'July 1st'. So now she transfers me to someone who can help me and I go on hold for a very long time with music so low that I keep thinking I've been dropped. Finally, I get a very nice lady. 'Sorry, there are no appointments until July 7th. Wait, let me check for cancellations. Sorry, none.'  I get the option of making an appointment in Philadelphia, Connecticut, Boston or Buffalo. Only Buffalo has appointments that we would still make our flight but Buffalo is a little bit far away. I ask if I can just show up without an appointment. 'No'. 'Can I get by with an expired passport and a birth certificate?' She is very sad that she can't help me.  Meanwhile, my wife is now late for work.

Okay, panic!

I've already found private companies that issue same day or overnight passports so I asked her if that was an option.  'I cannot advise you on that, sir' was all she said.

My wife said she found one with 99%+ positive reviews.   I called and found out what I need to bring, packed up the wife and kids and headed down to the office.  Yes my wife had to come along unless she filled out some other form and had it notarized.  Well, the whole operation was only supposed to take an hour.  15-20 minutes in the office, take an envelope to the post office and bring back an envelope to their office.  In their office everything was very professional and efficient.  They made some photocopies, we signed some forms and wrote some checks.  Then they packaged up an envelope and securely sealed it and said to take it to a specific window at the post office and said not to tamper with the envelope or the application becomes void.

We get to the post office and wait.  There's about 8 people in front of us and each person takes about 20 minutes.  When we finally get up to the counter, she adds some identification verification to the application form and we have to sign in front of her.  Then she packs it all up in another envelope, seals it to the hilt, gives us the 'do not tamper' spiel again and tells us to bring it back to our 'expeditor'.  Okay, I learned a new word.  So far, there has been nothing that we couldn't have done.  But now our expeditor will do their black box voodoo behind the scenes.  I'm guessing that expeditors have booked up all the appointments so that you cannot get one and so you have to hire them.

So there you have it.  Government and business working together to screw the individual and make a few bucks through rules, regulations and bureaucracy.  Most people in my place saw a waste of time, money and effort not to mention aggravation.  I saw a blog post!

P.S.  The last time I was on an American airplane was in January.  I ordered a tuna fish sandwich.  Well, the tuna came in a small can where you pull the lid off.  Now the lid is metal, thin and sharp as anything.  Needless to say, if 6 big guys all ordered the tuna fish, I'd be more than a little nervous.  So the next time you are at the airport and go through all the security rigamarole, you may wonder whether it's really for you to feel secure. Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Here they go again: The big business lobbyists who are behind the Internet Blacklist Bill are already making the sequel. THIS WEEK Senators will be voting on a "Ten Strikes" bill to make it a felony to stream copyrighted content -- like music in the background of a Youtube video -- more than ten times.

Will you email your lawmakers and urge them to vote no? Just click here.
As the writers at TechDirt point out, under this bill you could go to jail for posting video of your friends singing karaoke:
The entertainment industry is freaking out about sites that embed and stream infringing content, and want law enforcement to put people in jail over it, rather than filing civil lawsuits.... We already pointed to one possibility: that people embedding YouTube videos could face five years in jail. Now, others are pointing out that it could also put kids who lip sync to popular songs, and post the resulting videos on YouTube, in jail as well.
That's right: Ten strikes and you could get jail time.  Less than two weeks ago, the Hollywood industry magazine, Variety, reported, "Industry lobbyists pressed House members on Wednesday to pass legislation that would make illegal streaming of movies, TV shows and other types of content a felony...."

Only days later, the MPAA is getting its wish.
Will you email your lawmakers and tell them to vote against the Ten Strikes Bill? Just click here.

Thanks for continuing to fight for Internet freedom.
-- The Demand Progress team
P.S. This bill is zipping through under the radar: Will you make sure your friends know about it by forwarding them this email or using the links below?

If you're already on Facebook, click here to share with your friends.

If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet 
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

The US Media

The first thing I noticed when I moved to New York is just how bad the media reports the news.  Mostly local news, weather, sports and traffic.  Rarely an international story.  No matter that the US has tentacles all around the world.  And to be sure the US is busy flexing those muscular arms every single day.  Of course, the lack of real and/or international news is deliberate.

Bill Moyers says it much more gently.  He was on 'The Daily Show' on June 1st, 2011 discussing his book, 'Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues' and talking about the media in the US.  He claims that facts are hidden and networks don't do much reporting.  The media is narrating the news instead of reporting the news.  It's easier to have opinion, talk and entertainment rather than actual reporting which costs real money.  The media is declarative and not comparative.  You can see the interview here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Moyers Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Moyers Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Most people see the news as either 'the liberal mainstream media' or the 'corporate media'.  The right calls it the 'liberal mainstream media'.  The left calls it the 'corporate media'.  So who's right?

I see the media as either Republican or Democrat.  Take Fox News.  The mouthpiece of the Republican.  And the polar opposite of Fox News is MSNBC the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.  If you watch Fox News, it criticizes Obama and the Democrats every move while praising the Republicans.   MSNBC does the exact opposite: it defends and excuses Obama and shifts the blame on the Republicans.   Other stations and newspapers are divided along the same lines - just not so obvious.

It's clear to me that both the Republicans and the Democrats are conservative parties since the Clinton era.  The Democrats have continued the so called war on terror and continue to step up the police state.  The Democrats bailed out the banks but didn't help the homeowners.  The tax breaks continue for the corporation.  When Obama says that when big corporations do better then we all do better - he lies.  I could go on and on but if you don't believe me, do your own research.  Try reading, 'Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism' by Kevin Phillips.

So where's the real, free media?  Where's the media that says it's all a sham?  Where's the media that says, 'The Emperor Has No Clothes'?  Where's the media that it's a faux-democracy, a mockracy, a shamocracy?  Where's the media that says the Democrats are not supporting the poor and middle-class Americans.  Why does Keith Olbermann say, "Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?'  Why does Michael Moore praise Obama and gently give suggestions to Obama and the Democrats.  There's very little actual criticizing the system, criticizing the Democrat-Republican duopoly, criticizing the erosion of civil liberties, criticizing the influence of corporations on politicians, criticizing the aggression of the US military and CIA, criticizing the US covert foreign policy, criticizing the lack of taxes paid by corporations, criticizing the lack of jobs in the US, criticizing the widening income and wealth gap and so on.

As I've argued before, Republican and Democrat candidates are heavily supported by corporate interests.  And the TV stations and newspapers are owned by huge companies and even if they weren't, they would still have to cater to the large corporations for advertising.  See the following site for proof of influence on our media:
Media Map of Major Media Ownership and Governance

Well, the media that criticizes the corporatism authoritarian government is on the internet.  And the government wants to control and restrict it with the PROTECT IP Act which of course is anything but protecting the internet.  So here's where you can read real news (while you still can):
and some of the truth seekers:
Media Myths

My favorite myths perpetrated on the American people in recent history:
  • The CIA knowingly provoked the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan.
  • The US bombed Yugoslavia back to the stone age because it saw an opportunity to destroy a socialist state.  We called it humanitarian aid.  See Yugoslav Truth.
  • Perhaps the strangest aspect of the whole conflict is the collective amnesia that appears to have afflicted countless intelligent, well-meaning people, who are convinced that the US/NATO bombing took place after the mass forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well under; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this "ethnic cleansing".
    --William Blum, Rogue State
  • The bombing of PanAm 103 in 1988 was clearly initiated by Iran as an act of retaliation for the shooting down of its own passenger plane by the United States a few months earlier, and American officials well know this.
    --William Blum, Rogue State
  • We invaded Iraq because Iraq had WMDs.  And to install democracy in Iraq.  Well, we invaded Iraq to secure their oil.  Not only does the US run Iraq from inside a walled 'Green Zone' but the US de-nationalized Iraqi oil and gave it to US and British oil companies. 
  • Osama bin Laden assassination.
  • We were told that the air was safe to breathe in New York City after 9/11.  It was a lie.
  • Publishing biased studies, sponsored university researchers.  Read Chapters 13-16 in, 'The China Study' by T. Colin Campbell for an excellent inside picture of the food and nutrition industry.  The chapters are aptly named, 'Science-The Dark Side, Scientific Reductionism, The "Science" of Industry, and Government: Is It for the People?'
  • NPR is a liberal radio station:
The president of National Public Radio (NPR), Kevin Klose, is the former head of all the major, worldwide US government broadcast propaganda outlets, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and the anti-Castro Radio Marti, which broadcasts into Cuba from Florida. NPR, it can be said, has never met an American war it didn't like. It was inspired to describe the war against Yugoslavia as Clinton's "most significant foreign policy success."
--William Blum in Rogue State
Media propaganda consists of  lies, distortions, omissions, biases, misinformation, disinformation and censorship.  Not to mention infiltration of liberal media outlets (among others) and every aspect of education.


Propaganda is advertising and subtle is more effective.  Its breadth is from cradle to grave and education is fair game.  This really is a must read:
Propaganda: Nobody Does It Better Than America
Michael Parenti writes about the propaganda techniques by the media which include omission, attacking, labeling, preemptive assumption, face-value transmission, slighting of content, false balancing, follow-up avoidance and framing.  Everything you wanted to know about propaganda:
Monopoly Media Manipulation
Public Opinion is based on what the Mainstream Media feeds the Public
Additional reading:
Propaganda, American-style by Maj Tisdag (short and sweet)
Propaganda, American-style by Noam Chomsky (a wee bit longer :)
Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels (Nazi Minister of Propaganda):
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension,the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.
US Corporate Media Deliberately Censors the News
The Lies of America's Corporate Media

Corporatism: Media and Government
U.S. media deceitfully disseminates government propaganda
Corporate Media Attacks Alex Jones, Defends TSA Perverts 
Liberal Media Bias?
Liberal Media Bias - Dismantling the Myth
Most People are Mostly Stupid

Corporate Media Bias?

Corporate Bias in the Media
Media Map of Major Media Ownership and Governance (again)
General Websites about the Lies and Deceptions of the Media

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.