The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …

In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928)

Comparison you didn’t notice (2) …

Matthew Dowd

We are not in the top ten countries in the world in rankings on freedom, democracy, health, happiness, quality of life, education, income and sex and race equality. Maybe we should let go of American exceptionalism and begin to learn from countries that are doing better than us.

1,885 Retweets. 159 Quote Tweets. 7,092 Likes

…unless you wander through TWITTER

Ultimate corporate remedy for 737 MAX safety woes – change the name!

The first of the 737 MAXs ordered by low-cost carrier VietJet have just rolled out of Boeing’s paint shop…in mid-December. But you wouldn’t know it. VietJet has a very large order placed with Boeing for the 737 MAX and those orders were signed off on in a blaze of publicity. But there’s barely a squeak from the airline now as the first 737 MAXs in VietJet colors are parked at Boeing’s storage facilities in the USA. Indeed, it seems VietJet is very keen to downplay its ties with the 737 MAX.

…The usual telltale signage that denotes what type of aircraft a passenger might be flying on is missing. Instead, the airline’s branding dominates, and the 737 MAX 8 name is replaced with 737-8.

Here’s Ryanair’s contribution to the charade — the 737-8200

There are rumors online, today, that other big buyers of the model have officially – albeit not publicly – asked Boeing to make a change in designation of the 737-MAX. The wheels spin round and round and what comes out is just another propaganda stunt instead of material solutions to mediocre design.

Germany prepares to fine Facebook €500,000 for every fake or hate-filled post

❝ Germany has lost patience with Facebook.

After years of asking, cajoling and threatening the US social network to work faster to tackle fake news and hate speech, Berlin has announced a new law hitting Facebook with a €500,000 fine for every problematic post that doesn’t vanish within 24 hours.

❝ A day after Facebook announced new procedures to tackle fake news, Berlin made clear it is no longer interested in self-regulation

…New legislation in the new year…will oblige all dominant internet platforms operating in Germany to have a legal contact, operating round-the-clock, for victims of hate speech and fake news. At present, German Facebook users complain that complaints are forwarded to its international headquarters in Dublin – with an unclear response and action time.

“If, after checking, Facebook doesn’t delete the post in question within 24 hours, it can reckon with severe fines of up to €500,000,” said Thomas Oppermann, Bundestag floor leader of Germany’s ruling SPD. In addition, he said, the person affected will be able to demand a “correction with the same reach” as the original post…

Keep an eye on this one. While there’s little chance of the GOUSA ever making hate speech illegal, laws affecting a portion of Facebook’s income stream as large as Germany and thenceforth the EU – laws applied in that marketplace may set standards for the larger communications entity.

The US Is an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” says former president

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

Just in case you feel good about the snow job we get on a daily basis from the leaders of the two old parties in the White House and Congress. They fill the air with blather and bluster about our constitutional tradition, free speech in action, the benefits we enjoy as a free people.

It has as much legitimate content as the average infomercial on network TV sold as filler in between fictional cop shows, comedies about fools and so-called reality TV. If you believe any of it – you are the fool.

Jimmy Carter continues to get my vote as the leading ex-president over the last century. He has the courage to tell the truth about everything from our phony foreign policy to criminal behavior in Congress.

Berlusconi commemorates the Holocaust by defending Mussolini

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggered outrage from Italy’s political left on Sunday with comments defending fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Speaking at the margins of the event in Milan, Berlusconi said Mussolini had been wrong to follow Nazi Germany’s lead in passing anti-Jewish laws but that he had in other respects been a good leader.

“…the government of that time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler’s Germany rather than opposing it,” he said.

“As part of this alliance, there were impositions, including combating and exterminating Jews,” he told reporters. “The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader, who in so many other ways did well,” he said, referring to laws passed by Mussolini’s fascist government in 1938…

Berlusconi’s comments overshadowed Sunday’s commemoration of thousands of Jews and others deported from Italy to the Nazi death camps of eastern Europe. They were condemned as “disgusting” by the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading in the polls ahead of the February 24-25 election.

“Our republic is based on the struggle against Nazi fascism and these are intolerable remarks which are incompatible with leadership of democratic political forces,” said Marco Meloni, the PD’s spokesman for institutional affairs.

Antonio Ingroia, a former anti-mafia magistrate campaigning at the head of a separate left-wing coalition, said Berlusconi was “a disgrace to Italy“…

“We must be very careful to ensure that these sparks, which recur every now and then, cannot bring back tragedies which humanity should not suffer again,” outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Sunday.

Berlusconi has always been the sort of opportunistic pig who would grovel for support from the bigots and racists still powerful in corporate Italy. Mussolini didn’t hesitate to imprison and torture jews – but also gypsies, members of the socialist and communist opposition, ordinary democrats who spoke out against his alliance with other fascists ranging from Horthy in Hungary to Hitler in Germany.

That he spent a portion of the national budget on infrastructure is only a symptom of a cunning swine – not largesse doled out to a needy populace. He did little more than the Mafia has ever done within their own fiefdoms. Criminals and gangsters who practice sufficient diplomacy to provide rationales for collaborators.

Why does the world’s greatest democracy offer only two choices?

The 2012 election campaign season is still young; the battle will grow only more bruising. And voters will become increasingly turned off. But, in America, we get only two choices, and often are left voting for what we believe to be the lesser of two evils.

Friends in Europe and elsewhere often lament their own forms of government which foster countless parties and voices, and create much noise and chaos. Ironically, in America, which we like to argue is the greatest democracy in the world, we are limited to just two choices: a Republican or a Democrat.

And voters are tiring of it. Some 40 per cent of Americans today identify themselves as political Independents – a record. Just 29 per cent say they’re Democrats, down seven points from 2008, while the proportion saying they’re Republicans has fallen to 27 per cent…

The middle, which rejects both parties, is growing but the question is, what to do about it?

The nature of power is to hang on to it all costs. And that’s what Republican and Democrat parties have done. The maze of rules and cost of getting on to the ballot in 50 different states is daunting to any potential third-party candidate for president – by design…

A bold and innovative group, calling themselves Americans Elect, had a big idea: make it possible for anyone with basic qualifications to run for president by overcoming the hurdle of ballot access…

But a funny thing happened on the way to the circus. The deadline for candidates to qualify came up last week, but nobody much showed up. A former congressman and Louisiana governor, Buddy Roemer, led the list of declared candidates but failed to attract the 10,000 online votes required to meet the basic threshold.

So, if everyone is so fed up with the two-party system what went wrong with this bold experiment? Some argue that it would have had a better chance in a contest without an incumbent president, as that means one side is too locked in. The technology that made it secure also made it difficult to vote. And perhaps too much personal information was demanded when people registered to join in…

Yet Americans Elect has at least sown the seeds of possibility. And if America endures four more years of what we’ve been seeing lately from our two parties, and things continue getting uglier between Obama and Romney campaigns, someone may have an even better idea. It’s America after all. You’d think we could come up with something new, every couple of hundred years.

I lived through the campaigns immediately after World War 2 to ensure the wondrous 2-party system be enshrined as the best in the world. The possibility of nationwide 3rd Party tickets was in the front of every political machine’s eyeballs. The panic, perjury and patriotic balderdash of the Cold War and McCarthyism put an end to it all.

Not that the propaganda has ever ceased. It gets trotted out as part of every war to save democracy. From the Civil Rights Movement through opposition to Bush’s War in Iraq we are always told that our only savior is the other guys. Whether we’re trying to affirm civil rights for all Americans – or protect racism with the Southern Strategy.

The clowns in charge of agitprop never stray from Sophistry 101 = the answer lies between the two extremes. Which is meaningless when you only have one extreme. And even with two even divisions, reality may only lie with one analysis.

So far, most everyone tries to start from the top down — and fails. So far, Americans say they’re independent – and vote for one of the TweedleDeeDum parties or no one at all.

82nd Airborne troops pose with body parts of Afghan insurgents

The paratroopers had their assignment: Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification.

The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.

A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.

Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.

The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Los Angeles Times showed officials copies of the photos, which recently were given to the paper by a soldier from the division.

Which means no one is keeping an eye on the course of war at the grunt level.

Continue reading

Colbert vs. Kyl and politicians who think lying is excusable

“Not intended to be a factual statement.”

The now-infamous statement from Sen. Jon Kyl’s office was released after he said on the floor of the U.S. Senate that abortions represent “over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

It turns out that the actual number is 3%, a mere rounding error of 87%. But it was presented to the American people and enshrined in the Senate Record as a means of arguing that Planned Parenthood should be entirely defunded in the current budget.

This has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility and everything to do with the disproportionate influence of social conservative activists.

Their most compelling argument is that the American people don’t support federal taxpayer money paying for abortions, which is true — and why federal funding of abortion has been banned since 1976.

But the facts are inconvenient, and so they are ignored. Instead, talking points taken from talk radio are repeated until they take on a life of their own and eventually get the validation of a U.S. senator.

The news wasn’t that Kyl made a mistake; it was his staff essentially acknowledging that in the current hyper-partisan environment, facts are a secondary concern, even on the floor of the U.S. Senate, even when they are paraded as statistics. The important thing is to scare the hell out of people so that they remember your political point and pass it on.

In this absurd spin cycle, there’s one dependable place to look for sanity: satire. And on cue came Stephen Colbert, who took Kyl’s statement as a challenge and dialed it up to 11.

Using the Twitter hashtag #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement, Colbert unleashed a steady stream of Jon Kyl mistruths with the requisite denial. Among my favorites:

• Jon Kyl developed his own line of hair care products just so he could test them on bunnies.
• Jon Kyl can unhinge his jaw like a python to swallow small rodents whole.
• Every Halloween Jon Kyl dresses up as a sexy Mitch Daniels.
• Jon Kyl sponsored S.410, which would ban happiness.
• Jon Kyl let a game-winning ground ball roll through his legs in Game 6 of the ’86 World Series.
• Jon Kyl once ate a badger he hit with his car.

This crap is properly called “lying”. That it is done for political gain and later followed by a rationale acceptable to politicians and fools – does not make it acceptable behavior. We all complain about the lack of ethics, the duplicity and deceit of Congress – but, this deliberate distortion of fact by the fiction of bigots is inexcusable. And anyone who does excuse it is as guilty as the salaried liar who invented the propaganda.