Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The horrors -- or should that be "whores"? -- of American journalism

Those hoping to tell the truth about Ukraine have made real headway, but the propagandists are still trying to drum up a new Cold War.

Too many people have noticed that "our" side in Kiev -- that is, the anti-Russian forces who benefited from our little coup -- are die-hard admirers of Stepan Bandera, Hitler's wartime ally in Ukraine. Thus, National Public Radio decided to muddy the waters of history. They used a familiar tactic: "Some people say this; some people say that. Gosh, we may never know the truth."

Howard Rodman -- a friend to this blog and the Vice President of the Writer's Guild of America -- begs to offer a few words of response to NPR. The words below the asterisks are all his:

*  *  *

The Ukranian nationalist Stepan Bandera was a Nazi. He was responsible for the deaths of nearly 70,000 Poles, mostly women and children, in 1943. His party declared, "Moskali, Poles, and Jews that are hostile to us must be exterminated in this struggle, especially those who would resist our regime: deport them to their own lands, importantly: destroy their intelligentsia that may be in the positions of power..."

In short: Bandera was a genocidal mass murderer. But here's the rub: the Ukrainian parties that Victoria Nuland and the U.S. State Department support, notably Svoboda and the Right Sektor, worship Bandera. Their thugs chant his name. The Right Sektor street gangs that burnt pro-Russian demonstrators to death carried placards with Bandera's photograph.

What to do, what to do...

...NPR to the rescue!

In a piece on Bandera, entitled "Hero or Villain?" NPR's Ari Shapiro throws up his hands. Who knows? Breath mint or candy mint? Maybe he's both!

Imagine a "balanced" NPR piece on Eichmann headlined "Patriot or Butcher?" and you'll get some sense of the blasphemy of what our public radio is doing here (in service of American foreign policy). Ari Shapiro's piece sours the stomach, even as it curdles the blood. Listen, if you can. Listen wisely.

*  *  *

Cannon again. I'd like to take this opportunity to mention another journalistic horror that should have received mention some days ago. On May 15, the NYT published a defense of ending net neutrality by Larry Downes of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. Check it out:
The misinformation that periodically derails this 10-year-old debate belies the not-so-hidden agenda of those who would prefer transforming Internet access, to use their words, into a “public utility.”

Some want the Internet to become a 'public utility' to guarantee neutrality. But there's a reason why our public infrastructure is crumbling.

Under public utility law, federal and state regulators take over many of the business functions of providers of essential services, setting prices, approving service changes of all kinds, establishing standards and ensuring equal access to all competitors. If that sounds like the silver bullet for whatever problems may pop up to hinder future Internet innovation, ask yourself how well public utility oversight is working where it’s already established. Throughout the United States, roads and bridges are collapsing, power and water systems have deteriorated through poor maintenance, and gas pipes keep exploding.
Oh, the terrors of public utilities!

One word: Enron. Remember?

Remember what happened in 2000 and 2001, when most of California privatized electricity? Rates skyrocketed and brownouts hit much of the state -- except for Los Angeles, which maintained the traditional system. Remember "megawatt laundering" and other schemes for bilking the consumer?

Remember how those who told the truth about this scheme were derided as tin foil hatters? And then came those clandestine recordings of the Enroners gloating about their deeds...

Public utilities are, as the name implies, accountable to the public. Most of us have no major complaints about how water gets to the faucet -- and if we do have a complaint, we know how to make our voices heard. What would happen if we let private enterprise take full control of such things? Let's not kid ourselves: You know what would happen.

Capitalism works fine, but only where truly robust competition exists. That principle used to be taught in high schools. Nowadays, it seems heretical.

As for bridges and roads: Most Democrats would love to spend more money on those items. Republicans and libertarians won't allow it. The tactic is familiar: The right-wingers won't let government do what it should, and then they say: "See?  Government can't do the job!"
In Britain, the water supply has already been privatised.

I'll tell you what these motherfucking private interests do.

They charge people a year in advance. Then they say that because of what month you opened your account in, you'll need to pay for the next 5 months right now. Or they say you'll have to pay "by instalments" over 8 months, so that at the end of the 8 months you'll have paid for the whole year 4 months early. They say that if you "miss a payment" they'll "pursue" you for the amount for the whole year.

And it's all fucking lies. None of that would stand up in court. They mislead by using words such as "payable", "charge", and "instalment". In fact, you're under no legal obligation to pay several months in advance for water you haven't received yet.

What they love most, like all utility companies, is direct debit. Do you have that in the US? It's when a person gives a company the right to take money from his bank account whenever the company sees fit. These companies often slap on an extra charge for people who don't grant them such authority! Needless to say, they completely own the regulator (Ofwat).

Direct debit is a scam. In Britain, every time you go into a bank branch, unless it's in a posh area, you overhear a stream of people who have been bamboozled into thinking that money would go into or out of their account on a certain date, but it actually went in or out on a different date, so the bank has imposed a £35 charge for an "unplanned overdraft". Then it builds up and they end up getting robbed of a lot more than that. It's expensive to be poor.

It's obvious that the utility companies which push so hard for direct debit agreements are in cahoots with the banks. Software must say exactly when to take a given payment so that the given person can be screwed hardest. Why else do the utility companies love direct debit so much? Some of the utility companies are owned or largely owned by banks anyway.

Water companies operate in a similar way to the thugs who post demands for "penalty payments" if you park for more than 2 hours in a car park. In layout and wording, the car park scum design their demands to look like notices issued by the police or local authorities. They say you can "submit an appeal" to them and so on.

In law, a private company can't issue an enforceable fine. Anybody who receives such a demand should chuck it in the bin, as well as the next five they send. The companies threaten to take people to court, and they eventually say the bailiffs are going to come round the next day unless you pay up. Some of them use gangster solicitor firms which also do a lot of debt collection - often based in mobbed-up areas such as the English northwest.

Now compare the water companies’ line about paying for 12 months over less than 12 months and being liable to pay the whole amount if you miss a payment. It’s copied from what local councils say when they bill for the council tax (a local household tax). But whereas councils actually could enforce such arrangements in court, private companies wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

These companies' whole shtick is to act like bankers who've lent you money. They own the money in your pocket, right, and where the fuck is it, you're "late with your instalment", and so on.

And where's the left wing? The pro-renationalisation position would be viewed as "common sense" by almost everybody. You don't have to have read Gramsci to understand that. You would have thought it was an open goal!

(Case study: Northumbria Water is owned by Li Ka-Shing, the richest billionaire in Asia. When a Triad boss kidnapped his son, he managed to sort everything out peacefully, without going to the police, and then the guy later approached him for business advice. Capisce?)
For those of your readers who don't already know, "Moskal" is an abusive term for "Russians" (just as abusive as "Zhid" for "Jew") used in the Ukraine and Poland.
"Finance in today’s world has become war by non-military means. Its object is the same as that of military conquest: appropriation of land and basic infrastructure, and the rents that can be extracted as tribute. In today’s world this is taken mainly in the form of debt service and privatization. That is how neoliberalism works, subduing economies by indebting their governments and using unpayably high debts as a lever to pry away the public domain at distress prices. It is what today’s New Cold War is all about. Backed by the IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) as knee-breakers in what has become in effect a financial extension of NATO, the aim is for U.S. and allied investors to appropriate the plums that kleptocrats have taken from the public domain of Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet economies in these countries, as well as whatever assets remain."
I've not heard the NPR piece, but, strictly speaking, at the time the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) joined in the massacre of tens of thousands of Poles, Bandera was imprisoned by the Nazis -- and, in fact, had been so since before the UPA's creation as the military wing of the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B).

That said, Bandera gave rise to the OUN-B and its reprehensible philosophies, and towards the end of the war was returned to power and given arms and equipment by the Nazis, who saw in the OUN -- as did the Allies, later -- an ally against the Soviets.

None of which is intended to show support or sympathy for these goons -- just to suggest why those less well-versed (or more duplicitous) might differ in interpretation.
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