Article 43

 

Dying America

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Truths On Global Trade

Image by Matt Wuerker

Neoliberal ideology claims that international trade is an important factor for the development of poor countries and their integration into the global economy. Rich governments’ promotion of these ideals has lead them to develop an array of new trade agreements such as the FTAA and CAFTA. These bilateral, multilateral, and regional accords strongly affect people at all levels of the economy - from growers and workers, to processors and consumers - by regulating pricing, tariffs, export levels, and methods of production. Though supporters claim that trade agreements bring sustainable development and economic integration, this is not the case. Rich countries maintain protections of their own exports, while their competitors in poor countries agree to open their markets. Beneficial norms, such as human rights or environmental standards, are set aside. This leads to a “race to the bottom,” in which the only priority is cost effective production, at the expense of workers, resources, and sustainability. Due to these failings, the agreements tend harm development and pull poor countries deeper into poverty.

SOURCE

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994, the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico ballooned to 12 times its pre-NAFTA size, reaching $111 billion in 2004.

· Imports from the United States NAFTA partners outpaced exports to them by more than $110 billion, displacing workers in industries as diverse as aircraft, autos, apparel and consumer electronics

· U.S. workers lost more than 1 million jobs due to growing trade deficits with NAFTA countries during the past 11 years. During the same time, real wages in Mexico fell, while the number of people in poverty there has grown

· In August, President Bush signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) after it passed the U.S. House of Representatives by just a two-vote (217-215) margin. It expands NAFTA to the Dominican Republic and five Central American countries. In Central America, 40 percent of workers earn less than $2 a day and workersҒ rights are routinely abused in the region.

U.S. Trade Deficit

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services reached a record $617.7 billion in 2004, or $1.69 billion a day. For the first six months of 2005, the trade deficit was a record $343 billion and is on pace to reach a new record $728 billion in 2005, nearly $2 billion per day.

·In 2004, the trade deficit with China skyrocketed to $162 billion, a 30 percent increase in one year and about double what it was in 2000. This is the largest bilateral trade deficit between any two countries in history. China is on pace for an annual deficit of $213 billion in 2005.

· The record trade deficit with China and our NAFTA partners is a key factor contributing to the loss of nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2001. The rise in the United States trade deficit with China between 1989 and 2003 alone caused the loss of 1.5 million U.S. jobs, nearly 410,000 in the past two years.

Global Economy

· Worldwide, nearly 1.2 billion people live on the equivalent of $1 per day or less and 3 billion live on less than $2 per day.

· One billion people are unemployed, underemployed or working poor; 60 percent are women.

· The richest 1 percent of the worldҒs population earn as much as the poorest 57 percent.

· One in six children work, some 245 million between the ages of 5 and 17.

Credit: CWA

The following is the text version of presentations by the author at the Asian Regional Workshop on Bilateral Free Trade Agreements, held in Kuala Lumpur August 26-28, 2005 and organized by the Third World Network. The entire policy report is available HERE.

Last year was the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and nearly all evaluations of the agreement conceded that the period showed negligible or negative results for Mexico. As the developing country partner of the agreement, Mexicos experience under NAFTA has major implications for other developing nations negotiating FTAҒs, particularly with the United States.

A decade later, there is a huge gap between the promises and the reality of NAFTA. In the early nineties, NAFTA promoters asserted that the agreement would usher Mexico into the First World, leaving behind decades of intransigent poverty and underdevelopment.

NAFTA was negotiated over a decade ago. Since then, many countries in Latin America have seen the growth of civil society movements in opposition to the NAFTA trade model. The governments of several nations, notably Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Uruguay, have criticized the model and urged modifications while emphasizing alternative forms of regional integration like Mercosur. The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is at an impasse.

In this new context, has the United States changed its negotiating style or stance?

The answer, with few exceptions, is no. Instead of heeding this wave of opposition, the United States has dug into its trenches, and in economic policy those trenches are the bilateral trade agreements. From the FTAs, the U.S. government hopes to gain the strength to launch renewed trade offenses in broader multilateral organizations like the WTO and any eventual FTAA. Each NAFTA-style FTA signed not only locks the partner country into a series of pro-corporate measures but also sets a precedent for later negotiations.

This summer the U.S. Congress ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The time it took to negotiate and ratify this agreement was much longer than what the Bush administration had anticipated. Some of the problems are illustrative of whats in store for future negotiations.

Popular protest broke out in most of the nations involved, led by farmers and labor organizations. The political costs for the governments involved are high. Just as the Bush administration was forced to delay ratification in the U.S. Congress due to lack of votes, Central American governments fear ratification will meet with major opposition in their legislatures and in the streets. In Guatemala, the CAFTA debate took a life when a demonstrator against ratification was killed by police. Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica still have not ratified, and the Costa Rican president is said to be waiting out his term to pass the hot potato on to his successor. Demonstrations against the incorporation of the telecommunications sector in that normally docile country nearly caused Costa Rica to pull out of the agreement.

In the Andean countries, the situation is even worse. Bolivia is out of the picture because a showdown over the Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) could easily cause the fall of yet another government, caught between the dictums of the economic model and the anger of a people fed up with empty promises. Venezuela under the U.S. nemesis, Hugo Chavez, has denounced all prospects of an FTA with the United States. Both Ecuador and Peru face possible referendums on the issue in their countries and may be barred from participating anyway by the United States, whichҗacting openly as a corporate advocate rather than a governmenthas premised their participation on resolution of several cases of investor claims by major U.S. transnationals.

In both CAFTA and AFTA, rather than take a conciliatory stance faced with the probable negative and destabilizing impacts of the agreements, U.S. negotiators have played hardball. First, they threatened to withdraw or not renew the current trade preferences these countries enjoyחunder the Andean pact for Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication in the Andean case and the Caribbean Basin Initiative and others in Central America. Since many industries had already oriented production toward markets assured under these measures, the threat had real weight. Even government officials have complained that in effect the FTA process means that these nations are forced to concede in non-trade areas such as intellectual property and investor protection only to assure the market access they already have.

Negotiating teams in several countries have complained that the United States gives little and asks a lot. Rice has been particularly sticky. The Central American agreement allows ten years for tariff free entry but farmers argue that time is not the problem U.S. subsidies make it impossible to compete, ever. Andean countries are being pressured to increase their quotas for U.S. rice although a study by the Latin American Economic commission recommends the total exclusion of rice from the agreement be considered due to the pivotal role of rice as a source of food and employment.

Laura Carlsen directs the Americas Program of the INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS CENTER.

SOURCE

Image by Matt Wuerker

Posted by Elvis on 10/09/05 •
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Democracy Hollowed Out

Al Gore was vice president of the United States. The following is the prepared text of the speech he delivered to the The Media Center’s WE MEDIA conference on October 5, 2005 in New York City.

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I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America’s fabled “marketplace of ideas” now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it’s almost as if America has entered “an alternate universe”?

I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation’s decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: “Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?”

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, “The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.”

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd’s question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd’s two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don’t feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TV commercials for their next re-election campaign.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

In fact there was a time when America’s public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed.  And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg’s disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the “Rule of Reason.”

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as “the Empire of Reason.”

Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others—but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press.

Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn’t know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine’s fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America’s public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.

And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn’t hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online.  There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation’s leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.

But all the while, television’s share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow—and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America’s public discourse: “If it’s not on television, it doesn’t exist.”

But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the “marketplace of ideas” that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the “Public Forum” in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and “restructured” beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the “strangeness” that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a “Public Sphere” , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America’s earliest decades.

In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - “We the People” - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people.  And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government.

The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:

It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all;
The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them;
The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a “Conversation of Democracy” is all about.
What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power.

The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, “I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all.

And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power, self-government was understood to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.

But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned collective judgments presumed in our Founders’ design—depended on the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it operated during the Age of Print.

Consider the rules by which our present “public forum” now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.

Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.

Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America.

Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the “demonstration.” This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television’s domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.

It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no “meritocracy of ideas” on television. To the extent that there is a “marketplace” of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as “the refeudalization of the public sphere.” That may sound like gobbledygook, but it’s a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.

It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, “no nation can be free.”

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. - including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie “Network,” which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.

Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been “dumbed down and tarted up.”

The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the “horse race” and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is “if it bleeds, it leads.” (To which some disheartened journalists add, “If it thinks, it stinks.")

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don’t trust the news media anymore.

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what’s on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.

And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation’s fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America’s industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn’t see was news.

This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of “The Daily Show,” when he visited CNN’s “Crossfire”: there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush’s Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told “issue advocacy” was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President’s Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America’s marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hollowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, “the manufacture of consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy.”

Like you, I recoil at Lippman’s cynical dismissal of America’s gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth.

I don’t know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America’s ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I’ve learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called “last mile” to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn’t look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call “the establishing reflex.” And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, “glue eyeballs to the screen,” is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls “time shifting” and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet’s capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America’s democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America’s democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy’s future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

Discussions
TPM CAFE
DEMOCRATIC UNDERGROUND

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 10/06/05 •
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Friday, June 03, 2005

How Mortgage Banking Really Works

Our economic system no longer uses real money (gold and silver) as defined by the constitution. We are now on a credit system backed by nothing of value. In essence there is no money in circulation any more. 

The Federal Reserve is an organization that is independent of the government (controlled by the International Monetary Fund) and creates currency in exchange for government bonds. You created the value for your own mortgage with your own signature on the Promissory Note. You did not actually borrow someone else’s money.

Our founding fathers knew about the problem of corrupt banking which they had escaped from in England. That’s why there were provisions in the Constitution of the United States of America to stop this type of banking system from taking root in our nation.

Today we live in a financial system where there is no money.

Through each successive step the value of the dollar has been debased and each safeguard for it to retain value has been removed. In essence when we are dealing in business transactions the value of the dollar is based on the good faith and credit of the American people.

The most important thing we learned here is that debt can no longer be paid. It can only be discharged. By discharge we mean that one debt must be exchanged for another debt. This is also the reason for the expansion of our public and private debt.

By understanding that the currency we use today is unconstitutional and valueless we can take in the next concept that we need to understand - how money is created by the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve is an organization that is independent of the government (controlled by the International Monetary Fund) and creates currency in exchange for government bonds.

Since 1933 you and all other Americans have been pledged for the debt of the UNITED STATES owed to international bankers who own the Federal Reserve, most of whom are foreign to our country. Your credit, labor, productivity and property have been used and are now being used as collateral by the incorporated UNITED STATES OF AMERICA without your knowledge or consent.

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Posted by Elvis on 06/03/05 •
Section Dying America
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Monday, May 16, 2005

UK Worker Stress

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
The Independent

More than 5 million people complain of “extreme” stress in their jobs which puts them at risk of a breakdown, Britain’s leading mental health charity says.

The pressures of the workplace are exacting a social and economic toll which can no longer be ignored, says the report by Mind. More than half of Britain’s workers complain of stress and take almost 13 million days off sick as a consequence.

Stress costs the UK economy £1 in lost productivity for every £10 generated, yet less than 10 per cent of companies have a policy to deal with it, Mind found.

Its report will add to pressure on the Government to tackle the epidemic of mental problems in the country. Mental illness is now Britain’s biggest social problem, worse than unemployment and “at least as important as poverty,” according to Lord Layard, a Labour peer. He told a seminar organised by the Downing Street strategy unit before the election that almost a million people with mental health problems are on incapacity benefit, more than are receiving job-seeker’s allowance.

The total economic cost of mental illness he estimated at £25bn of which £21bn falls on the public purse. Only one in two people with depression receives any kind of treatment yet it is of proven effectiveness, with a gain of £3,000 in productivity for every £1,000 spent, he said.

The prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression is becoming the leading public health challenge in the industrialised world. Three in 10 people take sick leave in any one year with mental distress yet fewer than one in 10 of these receives specialist treatment such as psychological counselling, according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental
Health.

The Mind survey found the most stressed workers were teachers, social workers, call centre workers, prison officers and the police. Workers in the public sector suffered most stress and “macho work environments” made it difficult for staff to admit to stress for fear of affecting their career prospects.

Richard Brook, the chief executive of Mind, said: “Employers cannot afford to ignore the ever-increasing levels of occupational stress and the long-hours culture of working Britain.

“We urge more understanding of stress and mental health problems in the workplace. Today’s competitive and pressured work environments can make it difficult for people to disclose their problems.”

The report recommends that companies introduce flexible hours, keep jobs open for those off sick and allow them a gradual return to work.

The Health and Safety Executive launched a tough new code to reduce stress at work last December. The code sets six standards, including increasing support and giving staff more control, for easing the pressure and improving the quality of life in the office and on the
shop floor.

Employers who ignore the standards are at risk of legal action, the HSE said.

The House of Lords awarded more than £70,000 last year to Alan Barber, a former head of maths at East Bridgwater secondary school in Somerset, who left with a stress-related illness after being given extra duties and losing his deputies.

The case established that an “autocratic and bullying style of leadership” that is “unsympathetic” to complaints of occupational stress is a factor that courts can take into account in deciding claims.

Employers also have a duty to act if they know an employee is at risk from stress, the judges ruled.

Christine Greenhough, 52, actuary: ‘I had started to crumble ...’

Christine Greenhough, 52, was a successful actuary in a pensions consultancy when she suffered stress which ended in a breakdown.

“Some of us have to speak out or the stigma will never be lifted,” she said from her home in Stanmore, Middlesex. “Organisations must address the macho culture that makes it unacceptable to admit failure and seek help. There is not a lot of understanding of mental distress.”

Her company had moved her job to London where she had to deal with new clients while maintaining her old clients in another location. Tight deadlines and a heavy workload contributed to the pressure.

On her way to a meeting one morning, she became tearful and had to stop the car because she couldn’t see. She realised that she could no longer cope.

“I had started to crumble the previous day but I thought with a good night’s sleep I would be better. I was taken aback by the speed with which my body closed down. You think you can carry on but you can’t.”

She went on sick leave and was treated in a clinic. She was frightened of meeting people and suffered panic attacks. But with the help of a private counsellor who specialised in treating people with stress she slowly recovered her confidence.

When she returned to work six months later she found she could cope with some tasks but remained fragile. “People thought I seemed confident but the trouble arose as soon as things went out of control. That is a daily occurrence in most workplaces.”

She said her colleagues were supportive out of their own kindness but the company had no formal policy for dealing with the consequences of stress.

Four years later, she is off antidepressants, has learnt to manage her anxiety and is retraining as an adult education lecturer.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 05/16/05 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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