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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4234)

by Martha Rosenberg

The 90s had Cheers style bars where everyone knew your name; the 00s had Starbucks where everyone knew your Venti No Foam No Whip Double Mocha Skim Frappuccino.

How Bucks convinced millions of Americans they had a Macchiato deficiency that required $5 and 500 calories a day to treat is pure marketing genius.

Car designers molded "Grande grottos" into dashboards, "meals; other" became budget busters and caffeine residues in the waterways from coffee vendors -- and even coffee drinkers an hour after they drank -- made headlines in Portland.

Now as Starbucks closes 600 locations and the national Javathon peaks, what about these Starbucks' traditions?

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Like the largesse he spread so bountifully to members of Congress and the White House staff -- countless fancy meals, skybox tickets to basketball games and U2 concerts, golfing sprees in Scotland -- Jack Abramoff is the gift that keeps on giving.

The notorious lobbyist and his cohorts (including conservatives Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed) shook down Native American tribal councils and other clients for tens of millions of dollars, buying influence via a coalition of equally corrupt government officials and cronies dedicated to dismantling government by selling it off, making massive profits as they tore the principles of a representative democracy to shreds.
Friday, 25 July 2008 08:55

Michael Winship: The Company We Keep

by Michael Winship

At one point during the five and a half years John McCain spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he was tortured and beaten so badly he tried to kill himself. After four days of this brutality, he gave in and agreed to make a false confession, telling lies to end the unbearable pain. Later, he would write, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine."

Similar techniques were utilized in the Asian war preceding Vietnam -- Korea. The Communist Chinese used them to interrogate U.S. POWs and force them to confess to things they didn't do, such as germ warfare. A chart of the Chinese methods, compiled in 1957 by an American sociologist, includes "Sleep Deprivation," "Semi-Starvation," "Filthy, Infested Surroundings," "Prolonged Constraint," and "Exposure." The effects are listed, too: "Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator," "Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist," "Reduces Prisoner to 'Animal Level' Concerns," and others.

Saturday, 19 July 2008 05:28

U.S. Perpetuates Mass Killings In Iraq


By Peter Phillips

Friday, 18 July 2008 12:18

Mother's Milk of Politics Turns Sour

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Once again we're closing the barn door after the horse is out and gone. In Washington, the Federal Reserve has finally acted to stop some of the predatory lending that exploited people's need for money. And like Rip Van Winkle, Congress is finally waking up from a long doze under the warm sun of laissez faire economics. That's French for turning off the alarm until the burglars have made their getaway. Philosophy is one reason we do this to ourselves; when you worship market forces as if they were the gods of Olympus, then the gods can do no wrong -- until, of course, they prove to be human. Then we realize we should have listened to our inner agnostic and not been so reverent in the first place.

by Kristina Borjesson

Update: In a well-timed piece printed in The Washington Post, the acting administrator for the FAA, Robert Sturgell, announced that a new rule requiring jets to modify their fuel tanks was made final yesterday. According to Bloomberg News reporter John Hughes, "US airlines must modify their jets' fuel tanks to cut the risk of explosions such as the 1996 blast that downed TWA Flight 800.

Further down, National Transportation Secretary Mary Peters calls the rule "a memorial to the victims of the crash."

According to the NTSB's own final report on the crash, which they adopted on August 23, 2000, "the source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty." [From NTSB report titled "In-Flight Breakup Over the Atlantic Ocean, Trans World Airlines Flight 800, Boeing 747-131, N93119, Near East Moriches, New York, July 17, 1996].

If the FAA were so convinced that these modifications were so critical, they wouldn't have taken so long to finalize them. It seems like every year on the anniversary of TWA 800, the NTSB or the FAA make some announcement about necessary modifications, as if to convince the public that the reason for the jetliner's demise is definitively known.

What is definitive, is that this by their own admission, is not the case.

The American public is, by now, used to being propagandized, lied to and deceived by its own government institutions. This, it seems, is yet another example.

Here are my own reflections on the anniversary of that tragic day twelve years ago:

Every summer, from wherever they are, the 230 passengers who perished on Flight TWA 800 collectively tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that their troubling story remains unresolved.

It's been twelve years now since that evening of July 17, 1996 when their flight bound for Paris suddenly exploded in mid-air off the coast of Long Island, New York. Twelve years since I began looking into the cause of the crash; first at CBS, then for ABC and finally on my own after a series of strange and shocking events led to those two networks killing my TWA 800 stories.

by Michael Winship

Take a moment to forget about politics and the pickle of our worrisome world. A recent dispatch from Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way, about "the power of culture to shape our society," triggered thoughts of my deep and abiding joy in the work of the late Jim Henson and the Muppets. It's a love that goes back to childhood, when the Muppets first started appearing in brief, witty, anarchic vignettes on the old Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar television shows.

I secretly suspect they're one reason I got involved in public broadcasting; a subliminal urge to associate my career with the network responsible for "Sesame Street."

Kolbert's e-mail specifically was relating the power of popular culture to the recent deaths of George Carlin and another great American you may not have heard of, Kermit Love. No relation to the frog of the same name, Kermit, 91, was the man who executed Jim Henson's designs for Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus, and assisted at the birth of Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster; a costume designer who also counted among his clients the Muppet-like Orson Welles, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. If you grew up with "Sesame Street," you'll remember him wandering among the Sesame denizens as Willy the Hot Dog Man.

by Peter Michaelson

Vincent Bugliosi, author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, raised an important point about political and social dysfunction in America when interviewed in The New York Times this week about his explosive bestseller.

Noting that the mainstream media has been ignoring his book, Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles county prosecutor, said the liberal media are fearful of reviewing his book or giving him opportunities to promote it on the broadcast talk-show circuit because of their fear of the right wing. "The left wing fears the right, but the right does not fear the left," he said.

by Jeff Fleischer

There's a trend in politics to avoid speaking ill of the recently dead. So, in the wake of former Sen. Jesse Helms' July 4 death, lots of prominent figures cast his long career of bigotry and obstruction in terms better than a man with Helms' track record deserves.

President Bush called him "a kind, decent and humble man." Billy Graham went with "a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deemed him "a leading voice and courageous champion for the many causes he believed in."

The causes he believed in, of course, are the problem with his legacy. This was a man longtime columnist David Broder once described as "the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in the country." (He apparently forgot about Pat Buchanan). Perhaps the best eulogy for the North Carolina anachronism came during his final Senate term, courtesy of the late, great Molly Ivins. "Helms has been anti-black, anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-progress," she wrote in 2001. "He was perfectly willing to use his power for partisan nastiness and for petty provincial politics... A fine example of the 16th Century thinker."


(Editor's note: This foreword and afterword is from a book Michael Ellsberg worked on, Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental with Dr. Marc Gerstein. The book has a moving foreword and afterword by Michael's father Daniel Ellsberg.)


Learning from Past Disasters, Preventing Future Ones

by Daniel Ellsberg

I have participated in several major organizational catastrophes. The most well known of them is the Vietnam War. I was aware on my first visit to Vietnam in 1961 that the situation there -- a failing neocolonial regime we had installed as a successor to French rule -- was a sure loser in which we should not become further involved. Yet a few years later, I found myself participating as a high-level staffer in a policy process that lied both the public and Congress into a war that, unbeknownst to me at the time, experts inside the government accurately predicted would lead to catastrophe.

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