On February 28, the O'Reilly Factor aired a video news segment by Fox Channel reporter Mike Tobin, who was shown reporting from inside the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. "News" footage aired during his broadcast of goings-on outside the capitol depicts an angry, out-of-control, crowd of pro-union protesters yelling and pushing people around. But the protesters in the video are wearing shirtsleeves and standing on a street lined with tall palm trees and other green, leafy foliage -- and that is absolutely not February in Madison, where no palm trees live outside of greenhouses and where temperatures have been well below freezing for most of the winter. Fox clearly used out-of-town footage to depict the "violence" it is hyping as happening in Madison. The segment is two minutes, nine seconds long, and the palm tree footage occurs at the 1:42 mark, as wording on the screen says "Union Protests."
While news coverage has focused on how Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill attacks the state's 300,000 public sector workers (and by extension, the entire middle class), the law is increasingly recognized as an attack on the poor. It curtails (and perhaps eliminates) access to the Medicaid programs relied upon by 1.2 million Wisconsinites, limits access to public transportation, and hinders rural community access to broadband internet. The bill keeps the poor unhealthy, immobile, and uninformed.
Governor Walker and the GOP have said they will not balance the state's alleged "budget deficit" by raising taxes and increasing revenue. Instead, they will focus on decreasing expenditures in a way that disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class. At an event at Wisconsin Law School on February 24, former U.S. Solicitor of Labor and professor emeritus of law Carin Clauss said, "We have to acknowledge that we are imposing what amounts to a de facto tax hike" on the poor. She noted that "this bill will kick people off medicare, require increased payments into health and pension funds," and "could hamstring mass public transport," all of which decrease take-home pay and increase costs for poor- and middle- class Wisconsinites.
In a new revelation about Governor Walker's "Budget Repair" bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has learned that a provision of the measure allows the sale of "any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant" and does this "with or without solicitation of bids."
And just who could be a recipient of no-bid state sales of publicly-owned heating, cooling and power facilities? According to the Rachel Maddow Show and other outlets, that could be companies controlled by the brothers David and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries, and big financial supporters of Governor Scott Walker. The Koch brothers have also funded groups that are attempting to create a crisis atmosphere over the state's budget, leading up to the attempt to pass this bill that could result in the low-cost transfer of state assets to their company.
Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.
Taco Bell is facing a class-action lawsuit that charges the fast food chain wrongly advertises that its products contain "beef." The suit claims Taco Bell uses too little beef and too many fillers, binders and extenders in the meat mixture they use in their tacos and burritos, and that the mixture fails to meet the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be called "beef." Taco Bell denied the accusation and in response is running full-page print ads in big newspapers like USAToday, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and online in which the chain's president says "Plain ground beef tastes boring."
If you want to know how things really get done in Washington -- or don't get done, depending on the desires of America's corporate executives -- all you have to do is read a couple of paragraphs in a January 23 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Reporter Joe DiStefano quotes a vice president at APCO Worldwide -- one of DC's most powerful and influential PR firms -- in response to questions about my book, Deadly Spin. Throughout the book, I disclose the previously secretive work APCO did for the health insurance industry to manipulate public opinion on health care reform, in part by trying to scare people away from a movie, Michael Moore's 2007 documentary "Sicko".
The surprising gem in the Inquirer piece was that APCO VP Bill Pierce essentially agreed with me. He acknowledged that interest-funded pressure groups "are all over the place" in Washington. "That's how everybody exists here," Pierce said.
The American Tort Reform Association, a front group for big chemical, tobacco, insurance, pharmaceutical and other companies whose products or pollution have been known to make people sick or kill them, has released its ninth annual "judicial hellholes" report which attacks judges and juries who hold their members accountable in court. This year's top "hellhole" is Philadelphia, which won in part due to its Complex Litigation Center, which was created exclusively to handle complex, mass tort cases like those regarding asbestos, hormone replacement therapy, nursing home litigation and suits against drugs like Avandia, Paxil, Phen-Fen and Risperdal. The Center's most recent cases involve pharmaceutical defendants who are being sued over birth control pills in the Yaz/Yazmin/Ocella mass tort. Plaintiffs allege that the pills caused injuries like pulmonary embolism, blood clots in the legs, heart attacks, strokes, gall bladder and kidney disease.
We hear it everywhere this election season. Candidates, ads and TV pundits say we have "too much big government!" Virtually any attempt to regulate or tax any industry is a government intrusion into our lives. Candidates say they want less government. What's up with this ubiquitous, anti-government theme?
The "Government intrusion" argument is a powerful propaganda theme that has been around for a long time, and one that big businesses often use to manipulate public opinion. As with so many other corporate-derived propaganda tools, the anti-government theme originated largely with the tobacco industry, which has relied on it for decades to get its way in public policy.