Category Archives: Resistance

What’s Old is New Again

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May 23, 2012 – by Gregory Franklyn

I’m thinking about the assassination of President John Fitzjerald Kennedy tonight for a couple of reasons. One is probably due to recently watching Oliver Stone’s JFK in which Lead actor Kevin Costner, as Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison, tries to prove that the Kennedy Assassination was a conspiracy by the Mafia, the CIA, The FBI and some high ranking military officials. I was 11, well, closer to 12, when the Assassination took place. I was in Grade School in a one room rural school house near Memphis Michigan when we got the news.

I wasn’t old enough to understand the intricacies of a conspiracy but I was old enough to know who the President was and that he was generally well liked everywhere in my, admittedly small, world at the time. I remember seeing Walter Kronkite on TV announcing that the President was dead and seeing footage of what was happening in Dallas. The entire nation was glued to these primitive boxes for the next 4 days through the swearing in of Vice President Lyndon Johnson standing next to a weeping Jacqueline Kennedy, still wearing the blood stained dress from tragic assassination earlier that day, to the funeral procession with the finicky rider-less horse and John Jr., then about 3 or 4 years old, stepping forward saluting the passing casket.

I was also old enough to understand how no one seemed to believe the lone gunman and the magic bullet stories we were being told. Even on November 22, 1963 reporters were commenting on things that didn’t make sense. Things that seemed odd. Something was clearly going wrong and our thirst for information was being frustrated by what seemed like clashes between law enforcement agencies trying to take control of the investigation and messing up the crime scene to the degree that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who might have been responsible for the killing of President John F Kennedy. So much so that 50 years later, we are still asking questions because what we do know still doesn ‘t make sense.

A few days later we watched as Lee Harvey Oswald was led through the underground garage at the Dallas Police department and was suddenly shot dead right there on TV by Jack Ruby, a local strip club owner and a man well know to the police. It was then that we learned that Oswald had been interrogated for several hours there at the Dallas Police Department by competing agencies and not one of them emerged from these interrogations with so much as a single sentence written down about what was said. Reports of the interrogation were later filed, but at the time, the whole thing looked kind of fishy. There were even more questions about normal procedures not being followed and the resulting mess being confusing enough that nothing could ever be conclusively proven.

This was 1963 and the 60s were just getting started. The decade had LOTS more in store to think about for a young teenager like me. Not quite 2 years later Malcolm X was murdered in a theater in Manhattan while fulfilling a speaking engagement. Again, standard crime scene procedures were not followed, confusion reigned in the hours and minutes after the shooting and police allowed the crime scene to be compromised enough that nothing could ever be proven about who was responsible. Three men were eventually convicted of the murder, but all three, now out of prison, continue to maintain their innocence.

There was more to come in the radically turbulent 60s. Later that year, the Watts riots erupted in Los Angeles bringing long simmering tensions between police and African-Americans to a head ignited by a single traffic stop of a man suspected of driving while under the influence. The next year a similar riot erupted in Detroit, again a long simmering race-centered tension had existed for decades between police and African-Americans. This time, it was ignited by police raiding a nightclub in the inner-city.

Which brings us to 1968. The pace of violence was accelerating and the preceding decade’s frustrations were coming to a head. Dr Martin Luther King was killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis Tennessee while fulfilling speaking engagements in favor of a sanitation worker’s strike for safety and wage issues. For the third time in the decade, police allowed the crime scene to be compromised to the point that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who was responsible for the murder. In this instance, there were fewer irregularities than in the previous two assassinations. There were questions, but if there was a conspiracy, the conspirators were getting better at covering it up. Again, the story was a lone gunman, this time James Earl Ray, a fugitive.

Shortly thereafter, Robert Kennedy, brother of slain President John F Kennedy, was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while running for President. Once again, police allowed the crime scene to become so compromised that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who was responsible for the shooting. And, once again the official story focused on a single lone gunman, in this case a young Palestinian named Sirhan Sirhan. Several witnesses in the room where the shooting took place reported hearing a series of gunshots, one describing it as “A hail of gunfire”. Again, the sanity of anyone who disagreed with the lone gunman theory was called into question by authorities and the media.

A few months after that, Riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago erupted as Chicago Police began brutalizing thousands of protesters from all over the country who had gathered to voice their opposition to the war in Viet Nam. Senator Hubert Humphrey was nominated and favored Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war, which the nation had grown generally weary of.

Another reason why I ‘m thinking about these events tonight is because of the Occupy Movement we are witnessing today and the fact that we are still fighting about the same things we were frustrated about 50 years ago. War, both at home and abroad, and equality!

There are a number of things that these 4 men had in common. Not the least of which was opposition to war. Remember that it was not quite 2 years before all of this violence began that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his “Military Industrial Complex” speech as he was leaving office. I think these things are all closely tied together, one following the other in a manner that doesn’t feel organic to me. It is also why I continue to believe that a Coup de Etate of the United States took place during that decade. A prominent theme in the Oliver Stone movie that got me thinking about all this.

All 4 of these men where hugely influential, hugely powerful and had the attention of most of the nation. They were all simultaneously coming to the realization that humanity in general, and the people of the United States in particular, had more in common with one another than we had, things that divided us. They all espoused a kinder gentler nation that cared for it’s more vulnerable members and worked tirelessly for a more equal and balanced playing field that could provide opportunity for everyone, not just the wealthiest and most powerful among us. And, yes, I guess you might call it a little more socialist than the Darwinist ideals held by most Republicans.

They were all, also, deeply hated and feared by the Republican Party of their day because of it. Not so much for who they were, but more because of what they were beginning to accomplish in the hearts and minds of most Americans. It was a threat to the   Survival of the Fittest theology of rugged individualists, admired and imitated by Conservatives.

The parallels between these 4 heroes and President Barack Obama are striking to me tonight as I tie all these things together in my mind. I’ve always liked the President as a person despite my criticism of some of his inaction at critical moments. I trust him despite my frustration with him at times because it’s clear to me that he’s a smart guy with a good heart and a vision that I can appreciate. I appreciate him for the same reasons I appreciated John, Robert, Malcolm and Martin in my teens. Beneath that cool, calm, disciplined, intelligent and poised exterior, beats the heart of a hippy like me!

Republicans clearly HATE and FEAR this man. They hate and fear him even more than they love their own country and it’s because they see him working to awaken a spirit in us that they believed they had nearly extinguished altogether. The spirit of peace and fair-play that I have always believed is integral to what it means to Americans to be an American.

I’ll tell my little microcosmic story about that spirit again. In 1993 we, here in Portland, were threatened by a major flood. The downtown area was in real danger of flooding from the unusual rising of the Willamette River. The last time we were threatened by this perfect storm of precipitation and runoff from snow melting on the mountains around us was 60 years ago and it wiped out an entire town that has since been annexed into the north of Portland.

Then Mayor Vera Katz went on TV at about 8:00AM to ask for people to come downtown and help fill sandbags to guard against large scale flooding of the downtown area that was expected. About 5 hours later she was back on TV asking the good people of Portland to stay home because city workers were overwhelmed with well meaning volunteers who had responded to her call for help.

That, dear reader, is what Americans feel about what it means to be an American. We have been given a LOT as a nation and we have never been shy about the realization that much is expected of us. We have an inherited drive to be of help because we know that when we come together in a spirit of love and fair-play, we ALL benefit from it. It is a concept of governance that I don ‘t believe Republicans understand.

It feels like the 60s to me today as I watch Occupiers all over the world stand up for justice, for truth and for a common future that includes everyone and benefits everyone. My own spirit is lifted when I see these brave men and women occupying their cities and countries all over the world in the face of the brutality they face from the power structure that intends to maintain a Status Quo that favors and respects wealth and power over people. I am in hopes that that fire, that spirit, that drive, doesn’t get squashed again like it did when we took a good run at it last time. Go forward proudly my brothers and sisters. You are on the right side of history!

Much Love,

Gregory

If it Matters to Oregonians

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September 29, 2011 – by Gregory Franklyn

Am I the only one who is noticing how fossil fuel company advertising on TV has changed? In the past most advertising for fossil fuel producers focused on how their product is better for your car, or costs less, or has additives that the other guy’s fuel doesn’t. You still see such ads, but a lot fewer of them. Now what you’re seeing most is commercials trying to convince you that the product is safe for the environment and has so many wonderful benefits for the quality of your life as well as the economy. To hear them talk about it you’d think fossil fuels are the best possible energy option for the future.

EnergyTomorrow.org is one you see several times a day if you watch more than an hour of TV. The beautiful woman with the soothing voice is reminding you that if you have a 401K retirement account, you own interest in oil companies. She also presents modern technology for offshore drilling as both safe and environmentally sound. Plus, since they can now drill in several locations from a single off-shore platform, fossil fuel drilling is now even more appealing to the eye.

She welcomes you to visit the propaganda site paid for by fossil fuel producers for more information about how responsible producers have become over the years. Except, of course, the Gulf Oil Disaster last summer and the oil tanker spill in Sweden a few months ago, and the other one in San Francisco about the same time, to name a few. You won’t be reading about those at Energytomorrow.org.

Exxon-Mobile’s fracking commercials are another. Fraking, for those of you who may still be unfamiliar with the term, is not deviant sexual practice as much as it may sound like one, but a method of extracting natural gas from rock formations underground. The kind of procedure that has been known to cause the water coming out of nearby kitchen faucets to literally burst into flames!

The other type of advertizing you’re seeing a lot more of these days is financial services and insurance ads. Sam Waterston, Jack McCoy from Law & Order, is telling you how TD Ameritrade can help you retire like a king. That cute and snarky little talking baby makes investing with E*Trade seem like child’s play. And, of course, Fidelity’s flashing arrow on that magical green line directing you to your wildest dreams makes the idea of a secure future seem inevitable. All that advertising costs money,,, LOTS of it!

The reason why I mention this is because all of this affects what you see on the evening news, read in a newspaper or magazine and hear on your car radio.

WHAT? What on earth does any of those advertisements have to do with the content of the evening news?

I’m glad you asked. Years ago here in Portland, there was a scandal about the corporation that owns Fred Meyer stores. They’re a big deal here in Portland. Probably the biggest retailer in the region. In other parts of the country you would know these stores as Kroger Foods. Well, it turns out that Fred Meyer is the biggest advertiser in our local newspaper called “The Oregonian”. The Oregonian didn’t report on the scandal, but it broke anyway,,, In the Washington Post! The advertising slogan for The Oregonian was, and still is, “If it matters to Oregon, you’ll find it in The Oregonian”. I began seeing bumper-stickers on cars here in Portland that read, “If it matters to Oregon, You’ll find it in the Washington Post!” Cute joke, but it isn’t really very funny when you think about it.

The point is that advertisers are what drives the news. No advertisers = No News. If the news is an embarrassment or potential business hazard to advertisers, news gets altered or under reported. If it’s good for business, it gets high profile features or over reporting.

A good example is your morning news shows. They’re usually 1 and a half to 3 hours long and along with weather, top stories and traffic reports you will have at least one person whose entire job it is to broadcast live segments from local businesses trying to make the most mundane little boutique sound interesting.

These segments are what are called “loss leaders” and they are done to try and show businesses of all types how much their bottom line can benefit from advertizing on that particular TV Station. The exposure gets them noticed, gets them more business and likely inspires them to do more of it. The first one’s free! The bigger the advertiser, the less likely there will be anything on the news that may adversely affect whatever business they may be involved in.

TV stations live and operate in the same economic world that you do. Things are tight for them too! That’s why many of their staff are actually interns who work for that station for free for an entire year and what they get for it is experience and an item on their resume that they hope will one day turn into an actual paying job in television. It rarely does, but hope springs eternal. I did it for a radio station in Arizona right after I graduated from Broadcasting school. It didn’t take me a year to figure out what was going on, though. It took about a month.

Producing a half hour of television is a lot of work even at the local level. Staffing, even with interns is pretty thin. TV stations rely on pre-packaged video segments that companies and the government send them for free to help fill up all that time they have set aside to sell advertising for. They welcome those free segments with open arms because they take up air time, are usually somewhat interesting, and cost them nothing! You can identify those segments by noticing that there are none of the local reporters or personalities you know who appear in them. They may provide a voice over here and there at most, but that’s it.

The point is that local stations don’t have the time, staff, or money to produce enough segments on their own to fill 3 hours of airtime every morning. It gets even worse when they’re in a “Helicopter War” with a competing station. Helicopters are EXPENSIVE and that money has to come from somewhere. It comes from cutbacks to staff.

Why are you seeing so many advertisements about trading on the stock market, commodities and foreign currencies? The most powerful businesses on earth are investment banking concerns. The idea behind all those ads is to entice more an more people to make the bulk of their income from investing. Which, of course, benefits these firms more than any other businesses.

As manufacturing is more and more being shipped offshore where labor is cheap and environmental regulations are weak or non existent, it makes sense to migrate one’s income to something else. Like investing! Investment banking firms would like nothing more that to have the bulk of the US economy to be an investment economy, providing funding for foreign businesses to make things that will be purchased by the investment class.

The more people who become wealthy investors the lower wages for the remaining working people will become. In an investment economy, as opposed to a manufacturing one, the jobs that will remain in the US are the ones that cannot be migrated to other countries. Businesses like restaurants, lodging, farming, entertainment, grocery stores, retail shops and medicine. With the exception of medicine, all of the jobs in the remaining service industry are traditionally lower paying positions. Basically service jobs satisfying or supporting the needs of the wealthy investor class. Which is why I’m not impressed with statistics about job creation. It would take 3-4 minimum wage jobs to equal one good paying manufacturing job. More jobs don’t mean much to an economy if they do not pay wages that allow disposable income. Service industry jobs generally do not.

Which brings me back to Fossil Fuel Producers who spend BILLIONS of dollars every year  advertising on nearly every one of those 500 channels available to you on your cable system and producing those fill pieces for local stations all over the country. That is a significant chunk of that $4 for every gallon of gas you put in your car to get to work. It also reduces your exposure to news about such things as global warming and the destruction of rainforests in South America. And, because of the video segments they hand out for free, you’re likely to see a lot more stories questioning science principles regarding how bad these things really are. That’s the state of television journalism today. It’s about money and there really isn’t time or resources for anything else!

It also reduces your exposure to things like the occupation of Wall Street that has been going on in New York for nearly two weeks now? Did you know that that protest has sparked similar local protests in well over two dozen cities in America? How about the XL Pipeline protest at the White House a few weeks ago. Did you know there were over a thousand protesters in front of the White House decrying the destructive impact of a “Tar Sands Pipeline” running across the heartland of your country? How much coverage do you think these actions would get if the protesters were “Tea-Baggers” railing against taxing corporate America?

If I were to say, “Benton Harbor Michigan”, to you right now, what would that bring to mind? If I told you that over 17 states so far this year alone, have enacted voting regulations that would make it more difficult, and often impossible, for low income or marginalized populations, like minorities, to cast a vote in an election, would that surprise you?

If it matters to Oregon, I’ll find it on the War and Peace Report at Democracy Now, Indy-Media.org or maybe MSNBC or in The Nation Magazine. I won’t find it on the evening news and I certainly won’t find it on EnergyTomorrow.org or FOX Views!

 

Much Love,

Gregory