- Edu Money
- Health Center Update
- Rental Water
- Senior Citizen of the Week
- Workweek Alternatives
- Catch of the Day
- The Great Way
- Palestinian Rights
- Parliamentary Debate
- Wall Comparisons
- Curt Gentry
- National Propaganda Radio
BAD MONEY AFTER WORSE: The Mendocino County Office of Education, as part of a six-county edu-consortium, will get $1.9 million over three years from a California Career Pathways Trust grant administered by the Sonoma County Office of Education, another black hole into which public ed money regularly disappears. Before one dime, if that much, reaches an actual student-type person, anywhere from 2 to 5 “administrators” will have taken a big whack for shuffling some paper around.
WHICH REMINDS ME that it's time for my quarterly riff on the Mendocino County Office of Education. Ready, class? Here goes: The Mendocino County Office of Education, an agency with a criminal history run by illiterates, does not perform a single task that the individual school districts of Mendocino County could not do better and a lot cheaper.
THE TROUBLED Anderson Valley Health Center seems less troubled after Ric Bonner, chairman of the Center's board of directors, explained recent Center developments to some twenty persons attending a Community Services District board meeting at the Boonville Firehouse last Wednesday night.
BONNER SAID he was prompted to make the presentation by “rumors flying around,” not mentioning that many of the rumors were spawned by cryptic, incomplete and occasionally evasive prior statements from the Board and management of the Center.
ALTHOUGH several critics of the Center's managment were in the audience, Bonner's presentation was not interrupted and the Q&A afterward was polite and informative.
BONNER said that most of the recent changes were undertaken after a recent federal agency review of the Center's operations found a variety of administrative deficiencies. The Board had brought in some executive staff — a Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, and Financial Officer, from the Southcoast/Gualala clinic to help in dealing with those issues, managing to further estrange many Anderson Valley people in the process, especially the way the thuggish manner in which the Gualala wizards carried out the dismissal of a popular, long-time Center employee. (Without explanation the woman was abruptly told to hand over her keys and marched off the premises on the spot. She had committed no crime and, in every respect, had been a model employee.)
THE GUALALA MANAGEMENT TRIO cost the Boonville Health Center much more than a single Center director would have cost but there were, apparently, difficulties in finding a single director. The Gualala team, fortunately for Anderson Valley, will again be confined to Gualala as of the end of July.
THE ANDERSON VALLEY CENTER'S board of trustees has hired locals for management positions who are “transitioning” into their new roles. Sharon Spiller will be the new CEO, Fabi Cornejo will be the new COO and will handle billing, and Dr. Gorchoff will be the Center's new Medical Director effective Tuesday, July 8, replacing Dr. Mark Apfel who will reduce his hours to 20 hours a week, seeing patients. Apfel will continue to see patients; he will not be administering anything beyond his daily commute from his home on Vinegar Ridge to Boonville.
BONNER said Dr. Gorchoff has extensive experience with federally supported health centers both in Sonoma County and Hawaii where he will continue part-time administrative duties while performing similar part-time administrative duties for Anderson Valley.
BONNER said that the Center has also hired a new doctor named Logan McGhan. McGhan will pick up the slack left over from Apfel's reduced hours. McGann starts August 25. He is a family practice physician who is fluent in Spanish. A graduate of the Guadalajara Medical School, McGhan recently completed his residency at UCSF/Fresno. Two new nurses/assistants are also being hired, as are a dental assistant and a billing clerk.
CENTER BOARD CHAIR BONNER said that last year's budget was around $2 million and that they expect to break even when the final numbers for July 2013-June 2014 are in. Next year's budget is in preparation and is expected to be larger than last year's, but Bonner wasn't prepared to offer a number because the new staff is still working on it and some grant applications are still pending. (The 2014-2015 budget is expected to be released on August 25.) This is on top of an $11,000 a month payment on the Center's facility upgrade loan until the $1.7 million remaining balance is paid off. So there are clearly still financial challenges with all the changes being made. Bonner added hopefully, "But we're in pretty good shape. We have a $180k per year rural/migrant grant and we have applied for $190k more," adding that the Center is still dependent on getting at least $125k per year of donations from fundraisers (beer and wine festivals), and private contributions. (Back in May the board announced, “We were notified by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on May 27th that the AVHC was approved for a 3 year project period from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2017. The grant is for community and migrant/seasonal worker health programs and totals $756,951 per year. This is the longest grant period that can be awarded and was issued with no restrictions or special requirements. This is the best possible outcome for the AVHC and reflects the hard work and diligence of the staff and management who oversaw the October 2013 HRSA site visit and audit, the implementation of corrective actions to resolve prior deficiencies (unrelated to the current issues) and the grant proposal document.”
BONNER SAID that the Center's "dispensary" (it's not a pharmacy, technically) is still not open because they have not yet resolved a series of administrative and procedural problems which were identified in the federal review. Dr. Gorchoff is supposed to making the reopening of the dispensary a priority.
CSD Board chair Valerie Hanelt wrapped up the presentation by thanking Mr. Bonner for his presentation and telling him that everyone hopes the Center stays open.
THE DAY AFTER Bonner’s presentation, the board released this statement about near-term staffing:
To the Patients, Staff and Community of the Anderson Valley Health Center:
We are pleased to announce the following changes in the clinical staffing of the AVHC:
Dr. Logan McGhan will be joining the clinical staff and begin seeing patients in August. He is a recent graduate of the UC San Francisco — Fresno Medical Education Program and did his residency in Family and Community Medicine. He is bilingual in Spanish and has volunteered, worked and studied in various locations in Mexico. Logan, his wife, and son are looking forward to becoming members of the valley community.
Dr. David Gorchoff is the new Medical Director/ Chief Medical Officer (CMO), effective July 8, 2014. He will be leading the efforts to implement programs and practices to help support the delivery of quality care and to insure continued federal funding. These include: strengthening our Quality Improvement program; improving clinical work to support quality and efficiency; working with our IT vendor to improve the usage our electronic health record system to facilitate efficient and thorough utilization by staff; moving AVHC toward becoming certified as a Patient Centered Medical Home by the NCQA, which is a multi-year process; develop policies and practices which will allow AVHC to apply for FTCA deeming (federal professional liability coverage) in May of 2015; working with other clinical leadership and providers to re-engineer and eventually reopen the dispensary operation.
Dr. Gorchoff will be responsible for managing and providing consultation to the clinical staff.
Dr. Gorchoff has 28 years of experience as a Board certified Family Medicine Physician and has worked in community health centers for his entire career. He has extensive experience as a CMO in Health Centers. He has served as a clinical consultant for the Health Resources and Services Agency (HRSA), the federal agency that awards and oversees community health center grants, for over 20 years.
Dr. Mark Apfel will be reducing his workload and focusing on patient care and working on projects including the dispensary and the palliative care program. He will be reducing his patient hours when Dr. McGhan is on board. Mark has worked very hard for over 37 years providing primary health care for the residents of Anderson Valley and helping to build the Health Center into the community asset that it is today.
Stephanie Long, RN, began working at AVHC on April 15, 2014. She came here from the Ukiah Valley Medical Center and has five years experience as an RN. Michelle Ambrois, RN, started with AVHC on June 30th, after graduating from Mendocino Community College.
Elaine Wagner also started working on June 30th. She is a Medical Assistant who graduated from Boston Reed Medical School and has 15 years of previous experience.
Yanet Mendoza is the new Dental Assistant. She attended elementary school in the Valley and most recently worked for an Oral Surgeon in Sonoma for 7 years.
Clarisa Anguiano is our new Receptionist. She graduated from Anderson Valley High School in 2013, and worked as an intern at AVHC in 2012 and 2013. She intends to work for AVHC and continue her education in Public Health Administration.
Please join us in welcoming the new members of our clinical team and celebrating the on-going work of Dr. Mark Apfel.
* * *
ON OUR END here at your beloved community newspaper, we see these contretemps as simply additional confirmation of our long-held opinion the non-profit boards of directors, especially here in “liberal” Mendocino County, are mere tools of whomever they've hired to administer whatever. When church mice and low-grade authoritarians are your boards of directors, the rats win — cf the Mendocino County Office of Education; MTA; First Five; the Ukiah City Council; the Anderson Valley Ambulance Service, so on and etc.
ANOTHER DROUGHT WRINKLE…
A Coast resident, writing on the MCN-Coast Listserve asked, “Who pays for water when a rented home's well runs dry?” Adding, “Big issue around here and I might be looking at it myself. Any California codes that address this?”
The first reply: “I think your lease or rental agreement would have that info. In my own, the owners buy the first truckload, I buy the second, etc.”
The second reply: “A quick google search shows most states require the owner to provide running, potable water. But, as I've found out from being a renter on the move many times in the last 20 years, tenants rights are hard to enforce, even if they are fair and logical.”
SENIOR CITIZEN OF THE WEEK
LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — A vehicle stop earlier this week resulted in two arrests and the seizure of marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.
Thomas Earl Sheppard, 74, of Chico and 40-year-old Sheri Lynn Hann of Lucerne were arrested following the stop, according to Lt. Steve Brooks of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
At 11:55 p.m. Wednesday a patrol deputy was traveling on Highway 20 in the Clearlake Oaks area when he noticed a Ford Explorer traveling eastbound with a defective rear taillight, Brooks said.
Brooks said the deputy conducted an enforcement stop of the vehicle in the area of Highway 20 and Schindler Street in Clearlake Oaks, identifying the driver as Sheppard. Hann also was in the vehicle.
The deputy requested that Central Dispatch conduct a records check of both Sheppard and Hann. Brooks said Central Dispatch advised that Sheppard was on formal felony probation with a search clause out of Butte County and Hann had an active arrest warrant which was citable.
The deputy had Hann exit the vehicle and when she opened the door, the deputy could smell the odor of marijuana emitting from inside the vehicle, Brooks said.
Hann gave consent to search her person and her property. Brooks said the deputy was unable to locate any contraband and issued Hann a citation for her warrant, which was also out of Butte County.
The deputy conducted a search of the vehicle and located a hypodermic syringe and two glass smoking pipes in the center console. Brooks said the deputy also located a digital scale under the driver’s seat.
In the seat pouch located on the back of the front passenger seat, the deputy located four plastic bags containing processed marijuana. He estimated that each of the bags contained approximately one ounce of marijuana, Brooks said.
Sitting next to Sheppard in the driver’s seat was a black fanny pack and a pack of Camel cigarettes, Brooks said. Inside the cigarette pack was a glass pipe which was coated with a dark residue.
Inside the fanny pack was a plastic bag containing a white crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine, Brooks said. There also was a pill bottle with Sheppard’s name on it, containing 10 individually wrapped plastic bindles containing a crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine.
Brooks said the deputy also found inside the fanny pack five individually wrapped bindles, containing a brown substance believed to be heroin and a roll of $20 bills.
Sheppard told the deputy that he sold 2 pounds of marijuana earlier in the day for $2,000. Sheppard said the money located in the fanny pack was from the sale, minus some that he used to pay bills. He also said that he got the heroin and what he believed to be crack cocaine in Oroville, Brooks said.
Brooks said Sheppard believed the methamphetamine was crack cocaine which was for his friend, as he does not use cocaine. Sheppard admitted to smoking heroin but denied selling narcotic substances.
The 11 baggies containing the white crystalline substance had an overall weight of 2.3 grams and were confirmed to be methamphetamine. The five bindles containing a brown substance had a gross weight of 5.1 grams and was confirmed to be heroin, Brooks said.
The four plastic bags containing processed marijuana had a gross weight of 121.6 grams or 4.29 ounces. Brooks said all of the bags of drugs were seized as evidence.
A total of $1,520 was located in the fanny pack and seized pending asset forfeiture proceedings, Brooks said.
Sheppard was arrested for possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of a narcotic for sale, violating the terms of his probation and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, Brooks said.
Brooks said Sheppard was transported to the Lake County Hill Road Correctional Facility and booked. Sheppard's bail originally was set at $25,000. However, he remained on custody on Friday, with bail surrendered on his case and bond set at $35,000, according to jail records.
Hann was arrested for the Butte County warrant and released on a citation, Brooks said.
OVERTIME PAY ALTERNATIVES
A recent letter to the Editor by Nancy Mayer attempted to define overtime pay, but was missing an important aspect as found on the California Department of Labor website: “Ordinarily, the hours to be used in computing the regular rate of pay may not exceed the legal maximum regular hours which, in most cases, is 8 hours per workday, 40 hours per workweek. This maximum may also be affected by the number of days one works in a workweek. It is important to determine what maximum is legal in each case. The alternate method of scheduling and computing overtime under most Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, based on an alternative workweek schedule of four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days does not affect the regular rate of pay, which in this case also would be computed on the basis of 40 hours per workweek.”
Thanks, Jim Boudoures, Philo
JAMES ANDERSON, Willits. Probation revoked. (Frequent flier.)
JESSE BLANTON, Ukiah. Probation revoked.
RICHARD BOLTON, Willits. Felony marijuana cultivation, felony possession for sale of marijuana, felony armed with firearm.
ROBERT BROWN, Suisun. Public intoxication, obtaining food, fuel, services etc. without paying.
CHRISTOPHER CAULEY, Ukiah. Misdemeanor fighting.
RODOLFO CEJA, Ukiah. Felony burglary, driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence.
NOEY JOHNSON, Ukiah. Felony robbery, felony death threats, violation of county parole.
JOHN LEWIS, Eureka. Felony possession of a controlled substance, felony possession of methamphetamine, felony false impersonation, possession of drug paraphernalia, under the influence of a controlled substance, probation revoked.
EMILY MCCALL, Eureka, Felony possession of a controlled substance, possession of a device for smoking or injecting, under the influence of a controlled substance.
TIFFANY MOODY, Calpella. Probation revoked (four counts).
KELLEY PRICKETT, Ukiah. Public intoxication of alcohol.
MIRANDA SIMS, Eureka. Felony possession of a controlled substance, felony resisting or threatening an officer, obstructing a police officer, possession of a device for smoking or injecting, under the influence of a controlled substance.
BARDO VALDEZ, Ukiah. Felony DUI causing injury (two counts).
ANTIONE WEBB, Ukiah. Misdemeanor fighting.
JUST IN FROM CRAIG STEHR
Wumen Huikai: "The Great Way"
“The Great Way has no gate;
there are a thousand paths to it.
If you pass through the barrier,
you walk the universe alone."
— Wumen Huikai (1183-1260)
DEMONSTRATION FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
Ad Hoc Committee for Palestinian Human Rights
Join us on Monday, July 21st at 12 noon in front of the Gualala Post Office to condemn the Israeli massacre in Gaza. Israel receives $4 billion in “aid” each year from the United States. This money is being used to commit war crimes against the Palestinian people in Gaza. We are demanding that all US aid to Israel be ended now! More than 300 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 2,000 have been wounded from Israeli bombs and missiles. This has got to end! Join us to demand: Stop the massacre in Gaza! End the blockade of Gaza! End all US aid to Israel! End the colonial occupation! Please join us to stand for Peace, Justice and Human Rights!
Ad Hoc Committee for Palestinian Human Rights. 884-4703
— Yasmin Solomon, July 19, 2014
HIGHLIGHTS from a UK parliamentary debate in which MPs variously accused Israel of war crimes, disproportionate violence, ruining peace negotiations by building illegal settlements, running the world's largest outdoor prison, collective punishment, and attacking water supplies, hospitals, supply centres and all manner of other civilian targets. I have edited out the contributions of Foreign Secretary, William Hague, because nearly all of them displayed a shameful lack of compassion for the sufferings of the Palestinian people (Hague is a prominent member of an organisation called the "Conservative Friends of Israel" and is well aware of the funding that involvement brings to his party and his own political campaigns). The debate took place on the 14th of July 2014.
CURT GENTRY DIES
Best-selling writer of Manson, Hoover books
by Carl Nolte
Curt Gentry, a San Francisco author who wrote or co-wrote 13 books including best-sellers "Helter Skelter" about the Charles Manson case and a harshly critical biography of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, died July 10 in a San Francisco hospital.
Mr. Gentry, who was 83, had been ill for some time with lung cancer.
A modest man with an easy manner, Mr. Gentry was a fixture on the North Beach literary scene for years. His books, which ranged from a guide to San Francisco to an account of the search for the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine (“The Killer Mountains,” 1968) to his Hoover biography (“J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets,” 1991) were always carefully researched and beautifully written.
“Helter Skelter,” written with Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The Hoover biography won a PEN award for the best nonfiction book of 1991.
The Los Angeles Times called “J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets” “an absolutely fascinating study of the man who ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation for half a century.”
The Chronicle called it “a blockbuster.” The New York Times said it presented Hoover as a man with “an unrelentingly harsh profile in vindictiveness and egocentricity.”
The Hoover book took 15 years to write. Mr. Gentry interviewed hundreds of former FBI agents and reviewed 100,000 pages of previously classified information.
Mr. Gentry told then-Chronicle book editor Patricia Holt that before the Hoover book he had been turning out a book every nine months for 11 years, “complete with post-partum depression.”
The Hoover book was his last. After that, Mr. Gentry wrote articles and started various projects, including unfinished biographies of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Steinbeck and a book on the origins of Las Vegas, said Tony Dingman, who was a friend for over 40 years.
“He was the perfect guy to do that book,” Dingman said of the Las Vegas project. “It would have been great. Curt was the real deal, and people trusted him to tell their stories.”
Curt Gentry was born in Lamar, Colo., in June 1931. “He always said Lamar was one stop west of Dodge City,” Dingman said.
He served in the Air Force during the Korean War, mostly as a writer on the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper in Tokyo.
After military service, he attended the University of Colorado and then San Francisco State College. He stayed in San Francisco and became a professional writer.
Among his books was “The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California,” a novel featuring a giant earthquake that caused California to slide into the ocean. He wrote “The Madams of San Francisco” (1964), an irreverent look at the city's past.
He took a look at the noted Tom Mooney case in “The Frame-Up,” which told how the government blamed labor leaders Mooney and Warren K. Billings for a terrorist bomb attack that killed 10 people in San Francisco in 1916.
He also wrote a book about the U-2 spy case, involving pilot Francis Gary Powers, and another about the 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korean forces.
Mr. Gentry was friendly with many of the city's writers, particularly Richard Brautigan, and loved to talk about books. “He could talk about anything,” said Dingman. “We talked about books, we talked about spy craft — he was interested in everything."
Mr. Gentry is survived by a brother, Pat Gentry of Novato.
At Mr. Gentry's request, there will be no services.
“He hated funerals, but he deserves a tribute, so we're going to do something anyway,” Dingman said. It will be held sometime in August at Gino & Carlo, his favorite North Beach bar.
(Courtesy, The San Francisco Chronicle.)
THE OUTRAGE THIS TIME
Challenging Corporate Media To The Limit
by Andrew Levine
Whenever my local NPR station has one of its frequent on-air fund-raisers, I am tempted to call in to tell them how Morning Edition is my source for conventional wisdom and pro-regime propaganda.
I could say the same, of course, about NPR’s weekend news programs and All Things Considered. But Morning Edition is special; it starts the day.
If they don’t cut me off, I’d go on to explain the difference between “pro-regime” and “pro-administration”; how the former designates the power structure and the institutional arrangements that serve it, while the latter refers only to the top government jobs that Presidents and political parties control.
I would then go on to tell listeners that if what they want is pro-administration propaganda, they can wait for the commercial-laden evening lineup on MSNBC, where no one will ask for a contribution and where Democratic Party cheerleaders will more than sate their appetite. I might warn them, though, that by the time Rachel Maddow comes on, they will be looking at serious indigestion.
If I am still not cut off, I’d tell them that since even she can’t find much good to say anymore about Barack Obama and his appointees, they should expect their pro-administration propaganda to come mainly in the form of reports about Republican idiocies.
There are enough of them to keep MSNBC’s pundits going and going and going.
This is what makes MSNBC unique among mainstream, corporate propaganda outfits: it can sometimes be amusing.
On the other hand, Cokie Roberts is too predictable to be anything other than boring. I mention her only because she is the doyenne of conventional wisdom and pro-regime propaganda. MSNBC has plenty more where she came from; some of them, Don Gonyea and Mara Liasson come immediately to mind, are a lot worse.
Because it is predictable and boring, NPR actually is, or once was, good for something. It provided background noise in the morning. This point is never raised during fund drives, but it should be: it is the best reason to contribute.
However, lately, NPR has become unreliable even for this.
I blame it on world events and on Obama. With the world’s only “superpower” led by stumblebums, it is hardly surprising that situations tumble from crisis to crisis, out of control; or that the regime’s media flacks would do their best to misrepresent or otherwise obfuscate the disasters that are unfolding.
And so, instead of words bland enough to ease the transition into the day, NPR has lately taken to assaulting listeners with news, commentary, and softball interviews that serve the needs of the regime’s custodians.
The problem is not so much what is actually said as the “narrative” into which it fits.
This can be so much at odds with reality that there is nothing to do but turn the radio off or tune in to something more commercial but less noxious. It comes down to that or choking on your coffee.
This problem increases or diminishes depending on what is going on in the world. In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, Morning Edition was intolerable. Since then, it has been more or less bearable most of the time; good enough, anyway, for background noise. Then the problem became acute several months back.
It began when Washington, with corporate media in tow, decided to spin yarns about Vladimir Putin’s efforts to restore the Soviet Union and resume the Cold War. Hearing about that first thing in the morning is no way for anyone who pays attention to world affairs to wake up – not when the instigators of instability in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics operate out of Washington, not Moscow.
Nevertheless, on Morning Edition, it was taken for granted that Team Obama is on the side of the angels, and that Putin is a new Hitler. Hillary Clinton said so, after all, and she is always right.
Fortunately, Russia is in competent hands; therefore, so far, the real Cold War mongers, like Clinton, have been foiled. Fortunately too, the “humanitarian interveners” that she and Obama and, now, John Kerry have empowered suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Lets hope they stay off their meds; if they focused better, they could do irreparable harm.
But why is there not more outrage? The short answer is that no matter how out of sync with reality the bipartisan party line is, and no matter how dangerous it may be, liberals are still cutting Obama slack — and moving on.
This, as much as any structural property of the media system, is what enables corporate media — and NPR, which is corporate in spirit, even if it is technically something else — to do “a heck of a job,” as George W. Bush, said in praise of “Brownie,” Michael D. Brown, the man in charge of “emergency preparedness and response” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
As a Fourth Estate, NPR and other “quality” outfits plainly are Brownies, one and all. For informing and enlightening, they get a C-plus on a good day – like George Bush at Yale.
On the other hand, for disinforming when the need arises, they get an A. And insofar as their real job is to reproduce the regime they serve, Bush’s words, though risible, are spot on.
Our media really are doing a heck of a job. They tell stories the regime needs people to hear, and they get their audiences to go along with them. Or, when that is too much to ask, they neuter news that would spark outrage were “we, the people” informed by the kind of media that the authors of our Constitution designed the First Amendment to protect.
They are doing a heck of a job for the administration too – enabling Obama to stumble along from one outrage to another, unencumbered by domestic turbulence.
And, as always, they are doing a heck of a job for Israel. Even in tranquil times, this isn’t easy; it involves playing fast and loose with the truth. Lately, Benjamin Netanyahu has been making their job more difficult by orders of magnitude.
Thus, after a brief lull following Russia’s successful effort to defuse the last Washington-induced crisis over Ukraine, Morning Edition became unbearable again when Israel embarked on its latest assault on the Gaza Strip.
In 2006, Gazans voted the wrong way, by Israel’s lights, in a free and fair election; they voted the Palestinian authority out, and Hamas in. Not long afterwards, Israel initiated a blockade of the Gaza Strip that has been in force, by now, for seven years. It has also attacked Gaza mercilessly three times – in 2008-9, in 2012, and now again.
Israel’s actions have been so brutal and destructive, and so patently at odds with international law, that even the most base and servile media cannot entirely ignore what has gone on.
You would think they could because, by now, Israeli assaults on Gaza have become almost routine. Benjamin Netanyahu, the darling of Capitol Hill, didn’t even have the decency, this time, to contrive a new pretext. It is always the same: primitive rockets that sometimes fall, by chance, near populated areas in Israel.
Israel can stir up that pretext whenever it wants because there are always victims of its occupation who can be provoked into letting the rockets fly. Some of them are Islamists, but most are not. They are just people, living, with no prospect of relief, under the boot of oppression.
It can also count on media in the United States and other Western countries to present its depredations in the most favorable light.
And so, Morning Edition blares on about Hamas’s role in starting an air war, as if that were even possible when the most Hamas and other groups resisting the Occupation can do in the air is launch a few unguided missiles. Meanwhile, Israel promiscuously deploys one of the world’s mightiest air forces. It enjoys this advantage thanks to the generosity of American taxpayers and the diplomatic support of successive American governments.
It is not an air war; it is not even a war. Israel no longer fights wars. Since the Egyptian army dropped out of the picture, it hasn’t had to. Instead, it perpetrates massacres – when it suits the political needs of Israeli governments, and in order to advance Zionism’s long-term goal of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its non-Jewish inhabitants.
This is not what NPR and the others would have people think. They trumpet a different line, one so at odds with reality that the main thing Morning Edition is good for is undone.
Try easing into the day when the first thing you hear is Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States — born in Miami Beach and graduated from the Wharton School — going on about how humane Israel is in contrast to the Palestinians.
His government’s propaganda points – about how carefully they target their air strikes, how diligently they warn people whose homes they are about to destroy, how dastardly the Palestinians are to use people as “human shields” and so on — are all over the mainstream media, not just Fox News.
And they are contradicted by ample, readily accessible evidence. There is surely no need to take them seriously.
Intellectually honest news outlets would make clear to their audiences that Israel’s propaganda points are preposterous on their face. Our media do just the opposite.
And so, large segments of the American public, if they pay attention at all, are taken in by the Israeli line.
Evidence rebutting the accepted story is presented too, though rarely. The problem is that readers, listeners and viewers have to work hard to find and make sense of it.
This takes commitment; most people would just as soon not bother. Who can blame them?
It is also relevant that, for anyone who does not find it infuriating, pro-regime propaganda is boring, perhaps deliberately so. PBS’s News Hour is a case in point – nothing could be that boring except on purpose! Unfortunately, News Hour, the mainstay of the dead center, is not alone; they all do it.
NPR is supposed to be better than the others; or at least that is what they claim when they ask listeners for money. Often they are, but you’d hardly know it in this case. Anyone willing to ferret out the truth would do better to dig into The New York Times or The Washington Post or even to watch CNN or NBC News.
Basically, though, they all tell the same story: that Israel was forced into the fight to save its civilians from Palestinian rocket fire; that it doesn’t target civilians and civilian infrastructure, that it hasn’t willfully destroyed hospitals, mosques and even centers for the disabled; that it hasn’t deliberately killed scores of women and children and elderly Palestinians, and on and on.
In promoting these fables, NPR and the others are embarked on a fool’s errand because, eventually, it will become undeniably clear that just the opposite is the case.
For example, evidence is already emerging that the Israeli government knew that the three teenage settlers who had been kidnapped – probably in a botched effort to obtain hostages that could be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners – were dead days before they let it be known.
The Netanyahu government used the time it gained by claiming that the teenagers might still be alive not only to whip up war hysteria, but also to round up Hamas militants (many of whom had recently been freed in prisoner exchanges), and to impose collective punishments in the area around Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank.
Was one of their aims to embarrass and thereby weaken Mahmoud Abbas? It certainly seems so.
Then, when Netanyahu’s incitements got out of hand, with mobs screaming “Death to Arabs” and vigilantes – hyper-godly ones – kidnapping a Palestinian teenager and burning him alive, the Prime Minister found it expedient to change the subject.
Hence, another assault on Gaza. Netanyahu must have realized too that this would not only weaken Hamas; it would also further undermine the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas. In all likelihood, this was part of his rationale.
This is a reasonable conjecture because, for Netanyahu and those who think like him, the PA is an even greater threat than Hamas — not because it fights back, but because it doesn’t. Abbas is agreeable to a fault; prone to accept almost anything that will get Israel to let up on the Occupation. His only condition is that it not be so detrimental to his peoples’ interests that he will be unable to sell it.
But, in Netanyahu’s mind, a Palestinian government that Israel cannot demonize is an “existential threat.” Lucky for him that demonizing Hamas is child’s play.
Israeli propagandists have long been at work exploiting Hamas’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The next step is to identify the Palestinian cause with Hamas and then with Islamist terrorism generally.
To the extent that they are able to make these connections stick, Israelis can claim that Palestinians are an enemy so implacable that nothing, not even satisfying their national aspirations, can save Israel from the fanatical terrorism that is their second-nature.
The only solution, then, is to remove them from the Promised Land – humanely, if possible, but by any means necessary.
Demonizing Hamas has other benefits too. For one, the military dictatorship in Egypt hates Hamas as much as anyone in Israel does; and Israel needs to keep Egypt on its side – or, at least, not at its throat.
Netanyahu probably also thinks that keeping Hamas on as a player, at the PA’s expense, does Israel more good than harm; that a militant, Islamist leadership in Palestine is helpful for keeping the United States and other Western governments on board.
Perhaps he also thinks that the more prominence Hamas and other Islamist groups have in Palestinian politics, the less the appeal of the burgeoning Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
He is wrong, of course. By overreaching as egregiously as he has, he has only put Israel more in disrepute – to such an extent that even the most servile media cannot entirely fix the problem.
To be sure, he still has Congress in his pocket; and as long as he does, he knows he can get away with a great deal.
However, it is becoming clear that he has miscalculated even about this. Congress is bought and paid for and legislators are easily intimidated, but they still have to win elections. Therefore, they cannot offend public opinion too blatantly for too long.
Netanyahu should consider himself lucky that public opinion hasn’t reached the tipping point already.
In the first week and a half of fighting, the Israelis have killed more than two hundred and thirty men, women and children, seriously injured at least ten times that many, and rained down devastation upon a territory Israel has been systematically and deliberately impoverishing for the better part of a decade.
Perhaps this time, once again, NPR and the others will continue to promote the idea that poor embattled Israel is only defending itself, as any “democracy” would, against an enemy dedicated to undoing its existence. Perhaps these transparent falsehoods will work their magic yet again. But the number of people who buy into them is plainly on the decline.
For Netanyahu and those who think like him, this is a cause for concern. The Greater Israel vision, the idea that all of Mandate Palestine belongs to Jews and no one else, may not yet quite be in “existential threat” territory. But it will be soon; and anyone who is not too deluded by Zionist ideology to see the world as it is, must realize, at some level, that this is so.
The fact that only one Israeli was killed so far during the onslaught, and that not many more were even marginally inconvenienced by rocket and mortar fire, ought to put the corporate media’s story line to rest.
But sanity won’t break through all at once; especially not with NPR and the others doing all they can both to sustain and fashion a conventional wisdom at odds with reality.
However, their efforts at explaining away plain facts are too flimsy to hold up for long. In time, perhaps sooner than anyone now thinks, they will surely find themselves no longer able to do a heck of a job.
For the time being, though, they wax on about the wonders of the Iron Dome missile defense system that the United States gave the Israelis – without noting how it enables Israel to go on the offensive with near impunity. And they continue to perpetrate the idea that Israel wields the best and most humane army in the world.
Without quite saying so directly, they also imply the obverse: that Palestinians aren’t much good at fighting or anything else – except turning down peace offers tendered by Israel’s peace-seeking government.
Eventually, though the truth outs; it always does. This is already happening. It will take a while still to register fully – and many people on both sides will suffer in consequence – but, before long, Israel will regret its overreaching.
Netanyahu et. al. are unconcerned because they think the Israel lobby is invincible. The evidence supports their view. But that evidence, like the lobby itself, is growing old.
It is becoming clearer, day-by-day, that this once fearsome force in American politics is becoming a Paper Tiger – because its values and concerns are increasingly out of sync with American, and American Jewish, opinion.
All it will take is for a few brave souls – perhaps even just one courageous politician — to declare that the Emperor has no clothes. Then watch how quickly America takes back the blank check it gives Israeli governments.
When this finally happens, Israel will have no choice but to accept a just and lasting peace.
Until then, the murder and mayhem will continue for as long as Israel wants. America could stop it at any time, but, of course, it won’t. The most Obama will do is hold back Congress from waving Israel on.
However, with world opinion turning against Israel, Netanyahu will probably soon realize that the gains from continuing the violence are more than wiped out by the losses. Killing children playing on the beach, with the international press corps looking on, is a bit much even for someone of his moral and intellectual level.
And should Israel begin to suffer casualties, as it might if its soldiers keep on killing Gazans, he will have Israeli public opinion to worry about too.
In short, even without American pressure, Israel will eventually call this latest massacre off. Netanyahu’s hope, then, is that it will fade down into the memory hole; that the only lasting effect will be a status quo slightly refashioned to better suit his purposes.
But that isn’t how these things work. As Israel keeps piling atrocities on, the days when it can get away with murder – and worse – are numbered; and the numbers keep going down.
But those numbers are still far too high.
At least, when the killing stops, Morning Edition will stop trumpeting Israeli propaganda – for a while. Whether it will then become useful again, if only as a source for background noise, is still an open question.
There are many other situations out there – some chronic, some acute – that would spark irrepressible outrage in a world less misinformed and dumbed down than ours. Increasingly, the media will find that it cannot keep up. But that won’t keep them from trying. And the harder they try, the more irritating they are likely to become.
The geniuses at Foggy Bottom and in the White House are already back at it — trying to heat up their new Cold War. Evidently, they just can’t stand how Russia saved them from themselves the last time they tried.
And there are still the many unintended consequences – all deleterious, some potentially catastrophic — of the Bush-Obama wars in the Near East. The latest of these is the emergence of a Sunni caliphate in key parts of what geographers used to call the Fertile Crescent. Who knows what else will be coming down the line?
There is also the moral, legal, and humanitarian crisis on our southern border – where tens of thousands of children from Central America are arriving as refugees. The debate in Washington is over how fast to deport them, and how punitive to be towards them while they are here.
So much for moral decency and respect for the rule of law!
Adding to the outrageousness of it all, there is hardly a word in the political mainstream, and therefore in mainstream media, about the root causes of this tragedy – or about how a bipartisan consensus sustains it.
These causes include Washington’s neo-liberal trade policies, its so-called war on drugs, and its persistent meddling in Central American politics.
The Obama administration’s still largely unreported role in the 2009 coup that deposed José Manuel Zelaya, the elected president of Honduras, and its support for the gangster infested government of Juan Hernández are undoubtedly important for explaining the unprecedented level of violence Honduran children are now trying to flee.
But listeners would get little inkling of any of this from Morning Edition. In this case too, they heed the bipartisan party line too closely for elements essential for real understanding to seep through.
Then, thanks mainly to Edward Snowden, there are the continuing revelations of the extent of government surveillance.
Morning Edition and the others will sometimes acknowledge particularly egregious examples that bear on the regime’s – and the administration’s – attacks on privacy rights. They could hardly ignore them.
But they don’t dwell on their implications or even discuss them enough to bring them fully into public awareness. For all the insight they provide, they might as well not mention them at all.
Their job in this instance is not, as with Gaza, to establish a narrative that serves some malefactor’s interests; it is to make people overlook a matter of great importance to themselves and and to the civic culture of their country.
This raises the question: which is more grating — fatuous propaganda or deafening silence? This is rather like asking which is worse: sins of commission or sins of omission?
There is no clearly right answer – especially not first thing in the morning.
(Andrew Levine is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of The American Ideology (Routledge) and Political Key Words (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).)