Over and over, cable TV and Sunday news show pundits have been telling us that Social Security is going bankrupt, and we have to raise the retirement age or the economy will collapse. These two axioms have practically become common knowledge. The only problem is, there isn't a shred of evidence that either statement is accurate.
A company called HeroBuilders.com that makes bobbleheads, candy heads and custom sneakers, started marketing a hot new item on June 20 that is flying off its shelves: an Anthony Weiner action figure. The Standard action figure costs $39.95 and wears boxer shorts that say "Tweet This." An "adults only" version has the word "Censored" stamped over the crotch area of the boxer shorts on the company's website and sells for $49.95. "Anthony comes in our brand new stealth body," the site boasts, "It is a perfect match for this congressman." Buyers can add an optional stand and Blackberry device to complete the set for an additional $18. The company also sells action figures of Sarah Palin (dressed either as a school girl or a super hero), Michele Bachmann, Joe the Plumber, Rod Blagojevich (holding a handful of cash), Jimmie McMillan ("The Rent is Too Damn High" guy), and a Nancy Pelosi action figure that comes complete with a waterboard that says "Fun for the Whole Family."
The June 8 - June 10 episodes of MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show featured a three-part series titled "Firewater?" It pondered whether drilling for methane gas is a path toward a prosperous "clean energy" future for the United States, or if, to the contrary, the harms of methane gas drilling, caused by a process called fracking, nullify these oft-repeated industry claims.
While three recent scientific reports -- one by Duke University, one by Cornell University, and one by the Post Carbon Institute -- point to the latter, Ratigan's series portrayed the issue as still up for debate, with both sides' claims having equal merit.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his company Brave New Films have launched a new website that encourages visitors to comment on what they think has been left out of a new documentary movie about Sarah Palin. The website allows visitors to put words in Sarah Palin's mouth. Filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon created the two-hour-long, pro-Palin film, titled "The Undefeated," in response to what he feels is negative treatment Palin has received in the media. Bannon's movie portrays Palin as a martyr. The casting of Palin as a victim of repeated baseless attacks is punctuated by a scene showing a pack of lions tearing apart a zebra and another showing a man being buried alive. When people point out Palin has actually been defeated in a number of elections, Bannon says, "I want people to come out of this movie arguing and debating. That's what I want." The film premieres Friday, June 17, in Minneapolis. The winner of Greenwald's "edit Sarah Palin's film" contest will get a collector-edition Sarah Palin bobblehead doll dressed in army fatigues and holding a rifle.
Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director, Lisa Graves, the Director of our Real Economy Project, Mary Bottari, and Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, will be speaking at this year's Netroots Nation convention. The conference will take place from June 16-19 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Further details and the agenda click here. Stop by the CMD table at the Exhibition Hall and sign up for our IPad 2 raffle. For the very lucky, there may even be cheese curds!
On June 8, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski agreed to wipe the Fairness Doctrine completely off the agency's books, even though the rule has been officially dead since 1987. House Republicans have long pushed to get the Doctrine off the rule books for good, and they've finally gotten their way.
From the time it was put in place in 1949 until its demise in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required holders of broadcast licenses to provide the public with news and public affairs programming, and present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. Back then, the airwaves were dominated by the "big three" networks ABC, CBS and NBC -- which broadcast over publicly-owned airwaves under licenses issued by the government. The idea behind the Fairness Doctrine was to keep broadcasters from monopolizing the airwaves with a biased viewpoint, and assure that those entrusted with the public airwaves broadcast a diversity of viewpoints on important issues.
The only winner to emerge from the "Weinergate" scandal is Twitter, which once again paraded its effectiveness at everything from bringing down dictators to engaging in political self-immolation. Twitter is truly a double-edged sword. It can be used for good things like facilitating communication after natural disasters, or it can facilitate disaster itself by amplifying the effects of poor human judgment. In the time it took to make a single stroke on a computer key and then lie about it, Anthony Weiner destroyed his credibility, damaged his marriage and his integrity, handed endless fodder to his political enemies and singlehandedly diverted attention from a huge number of truly important domestic and global issues, for example that the U.S. is spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan while cutting desperately-needed programs and services here at home, or that an unprecedented three nuclear reactors experienced full meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Weinergate scandal shows that a little salacious piece of information sent out on Twitter has the tremendous power to wipe far more important news off the media map -- a realization that itself has huge implications when it comes to controlling what people see and hear in the mass media.
The world is scheduled to end on May 21, 2011. At least that's the hysteria being spread by Harold Camping, the 89 year-old fundamentalist Christian radio preacher and president of Family Radio, Inc., based in Oakland, California.
Camping claims to have calculated that on May 21, Jesus Christ will return to Earth and save his true believers. The unsaved will be victimized, he says, by a world-wide earthquake that will "throw open all graves." The "saved" will then rise up to heaven and the unsaved will be left to rot. A subsequent, massive tsunami will wreak five months of havoc upon those remaining on Earth until finally the entire Universe blows up on October 21, 2011, according to Camping.
Two signs that indicate the end is near, according to Camping's website, are the arrival of same-sex marriage and Israel gaining nationhood in 1948.
The efforts of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other major websites to tailor our online experiences to our supposed interests can affect our ability to get a view of the world the way it really is. Instead, we are fed a view of the world that these organizations "think" we'd like to see. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other websites use proprietary algorithms to "personalize" news for us -- that is, to select news they think we will like to see -- not to select news that challenges the user, contradicts his or her views or that the user would be unlikely to see. The algorithms work invisibly, so users have no way of knowing what the websites are editing out and preventing us from seeing. The algorithms pick information based on what we usually look at, resulting in a feedback loop that Internet guru Eli Pariser calls "autopropaganda" -- unknowingly indoctrinating yourself with your own views. If you and another person you don't know both perform a search on Google on the exact same term, you can both get shockingly different results, based on Google's analysis of what each of you usually look at. What this means is that Internet users essentially get an edited worldview based on personal information over which they have no control. The fact that this activity is hidden leaves users without the ability to seek out sources of information and news with which they are unfamiliar, that might challenge them or give them a broader view of the world.
On April 6, 2011, FOX News announced it would help Beck "transition" into other ventures, which include for-air projects and FOX News' websites. What the press release did not mention was the successful campaign against Beck initiated by Color of Change, an organization rooted in equal political access for people of color.
On the show Fox and Friends in 2009, Beck said that President Obama had a "deep seated hatred for white people." Color of Change began a petition appealing to Beck's advertisers to end their support, and within two days, reportedly 100,000 people had signed it. The current number of signatures, according to the group, now stands at 285,000 people. Organizations like Media Matters, MoveOn, CREDO Action and StopBeck joined Color of Change in petitioning Beck's advertisers to stop supporting the show.