This is the second of two columns that explore the relationship between popular movements and the news media. Read Part 1 -- "Made for each other."
If the Tea Party movement is the spoiled stepchild of the American news media, then the 911 Truth movement is the mad woman in the attic of U.S. journalistic culture.
As I suggested in my previous column, the Tea Party's notoriety and popular appeal is fueled by press coverage that is, by turns, wildly enthusiastic and wholly uncritical. In contrast, American news workers have long ignored, shunned or ridiculed the 911 Truth movement. Likewise, relatively few international news outlets have taken the 911 Truth movement seriously. Until now.
As anyone who has walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol can attest, the hairstyles of male politicians oftentimes rival Stonehenge for implausible construction.
Perhaps it is easy for me to say, since I don't have to brandish my own rapidly receding hairline on C-Span, but Indiana voters seem to be treated to more than our share of toupees, hair plugs and comb-overs elaborate enough to make Donald Trump blush.
But, if hair provided the window on the political soul, the true look of the moment would be the faux-hawk.
One of the nation's leading voices on children's environmental health has called for focused and expanded research into the cause-effect relation between industrial chemicals and autism.
"Long and tragic experience that began with studies of lead and methylmercury has documented that toxic chemicals can damage the developing human brain to produce a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders," Dr. Philip Landrigan from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine wrote in a Jan. 16, 2010, article in the medical journal Current Opinion in Pediatrics.
Today's children, he noted, "are at risk of exposure to 3,000 synthetic chemicals produced in quantities of more than 1 million pounds per year, termed high-production-volume (HPV) chemicals. HPV chemicals are found in a wide array of consumer goods, cosmetics, medications, motor fuels and building materials."
Notwithstanding John Mellencamp's paeans to its small-towns, Indiana's reputation as a rural state just isn't that well supported by its demographics. For instance, although Illinois has a population of 13 million people, to Indiana's six, the vast majority of the Illini population is concentrated in the immediate area of Chicago.
Take out Chicago, Aurora, Elgin, Joliet and Waukegan and Illinois' population drops to 5 million people. Take out Indianapolis and its surrounding cities, and the population of Indiana drops only to four-and-a-half million, just half a million less than Illinois.
Now factor back in the greater land area of Illinois (53,000 square miles (again, removing Chicago and its environs from the calculation)) versus that of Indiana (33,000 square miles (not counting Indianapolis or its satellites)) and you get a population density of 95 people per square mile for Illinois versus 136 for Indiana.
Editor's note: This is the first of two columns that explore the relationship between popular movements and the news media. Read Part 2 -- "The 911 Truth Movement: Debunking the official story."
Last week, two competing narratives surrounding the economic stimulus package dominated the news cycle. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration characterized the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as an unqualified success. On Wednesday, President Obama declared, "One year later, it is largely thanks to the recovery act that a second depression is no longer a possibility."
Taking to the airwaves and the Internet, Republicans challenged Obama's version of the story. For instance, John Boehner (R-Oh.) issued a "report" titled "Where are the Jobs? A Look Back at One Year of So-called 'Stimulus,'" wherein the House Republican leader claims that the recovery act is "chock-full of wasteful government spending."
Democrat Evan Bayh is exiting the U.S. Senate in the same capacity he has served the past 12 years -- an embarrassment to his constituents, his party and an affront to democracy.
The Indiana senator's surrender will be remembered for two sound bites: He said he has loved serving Hoosier citizens, but he doesn't like Congress anymore. Less noticed but far more newsworthy was the antidemocratic manner in which he announced his retirement.
Bayh's claim that he loves serving the people of Indiana was a jaw-dropper for anyone remotely familiar with his political history. As a neophyte reporter at the Bloomington Herald-Telephone in 1986, when the son of former Sen. Birch Bayh was elected Secretary of State, I quickly learned what Evan Bayh was about -- Evan Bayh, and Evan Bayh only.
Use as many low-energy lightbulbs as you like, turn down the thermostat and drive a hybrid car, but whatever you do as an individual -- indeed, the sum of what we all do for the environment --does almost nothing to alleviate the U.S. military's destruction of the earth.
In The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, Barry Sanders writes that like other capitalist institutions, "each military branch ... must grow larger and fatter each year; expansion is the life blood of imperialism." Further, Sanders asserts, "The military can brook limits of no kind whatsoever. ... The Pentagon conducts its business behind very thick and very closed doors. It writes its own rules and either follows them or violates them, depending on the situation."
Almost all "military numbers remain off of official reports, secret and out of sight." Sanders obtained the information he cites in the book by gleaning what he could from "arcane reports" and obscure Web sites belonging to the Department of Defense and Government Accounting Office, plus books and articles.
If they saw Alice's suffering close up, I think that WellPoint executives, Republican members of Congress and conservative pundits would help her.
Alice is one of my Indiana Legal Services clients, who lives alone in a town in eastern Indiana. Several years ago, she was crushed in a gruesome car accident, which left her with injuries severe enough that she was quickly declared fully disabled by the Social Security Administration.
But, like many other Hoosiers with devastating illnesses and injuries, Alice has been told by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration that she does not meet our state's standard for being disabled and thus does not qualify for Medicaid health insurance coverage.
You wouldn't know it from the propaganda emanating from the Statehouse, but things are bad in Indiana. Like real bad. Indiana is among the top-tier states in both mortgage delinquency and mortgage foreclosure rates (a strong indicator of economic distress) and is absolutely hemorrhaging jobs. As Morton Marcus pointed out in his column today, in 2008 and 2009 Indiana lost over a quarter of a million jobs -- the third worst percentage decline in the nation.
But the governor seems to be either (blissfully?) unaware of the state's true situation, or he's purposefully ignoring it. Listening to his state-of-the-state speech, I couldn't help but feel I'd been transported to an Orwellian neverland, where bad is good and good is all around.
Toyota makes me think of America.
"How's that?" you ask. "Toyota cars and trucks may be popular with Americans, but they're made by a Japanese automaker." Of course, Toyota is a foreign car company. More precisely, Toyota, like other auto giants, is a transnational corporation with manufacturing plants and dealerships around the globe. Heck, some of the defective parts involved in the Toyota recall were made right here in Indiana.
Nevertheless, all of the problems and bad press swirling around Toyota gets me thinking about the good old USA.