Are the Republicans “legitimate”?

On this Tuesday in late August, on the eve of Labor Day, the Republican brain trust is preparing to offer up solutions to the country’s woes.

The venue, of course, is the Republican National Convention. And the brain trust in question is a gaggle of GOP leaders and deep thinkers. The fact that these visionaries planned a national convention in coastal Florida at the height of hurricane season — on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina no less — inspires confidence in their steadfast resolve, if not their knowledge of meteorology or history.

Doubtless the Republicans will address the issues of global warming, endless war(s), foreclosures, homelessness, and of course, unemployment and what none dare call Depression. Doubtless they will, with great passion, urge the country to endorse the very same policies that created these ills, policies now recast as cures: deregulation, tax breaks for the rich, new and improved wars (perhaps Iran?), and of course, “pro-life” legislation (albeit with a disclaimer: their legislation protects the sanctity of life from conception until birth — after that all bets are off). Some Republicans are so “pro-life” they believe that even women who are raped should not have access to abortion. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri has argued that, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

On the eve of this momentous event, one question, above all others, occupies this observer’s mind:

I find myself wondering if what the Republicans are doing to the country qualifies as “legitimate rape” — I’d hate to think they are illegitimate.

A veteran asks General Clark a financial question
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)


NEW YORK — August 18, 2012. General Electric “brings good things to life” — GE’s bargain priced nuclear reactor certainly lit up Fukushima — but activists argue that NBC, GE’s media arm, has created a monster with the new “reality” show “Stars Earn Stripes.”

In an era of “embedded journalists,” “clean nuclear energy,” and “surgical strikes” done via remote control predator drones, one shouldn’t be surprised that the media arm of General Electric is promoting its own brand of militarism. Indeed, there are so many ironies to be found in following a story about a “defense” contractor giant producing television shows that a writer might run out of double quotes — long before the “defense” contractor runs out of cash or conflicts to profit from.


Jan Clausen of USLAW (and the UAW) outside NBC studios
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

By way of background, GE, number 17 on Aero-Web’s list of top 100 defense contractors, got $1,425 million from the defense budget in 2012.

But GE is not just about building weapons.

According to wikipedia, “In 2011, GE ranked among the Fortune 500 as the 6th largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue, as well as the 14th most profitable. However, the company is currently listed the 3rd largest in the world among the Forbes Global 2000, further metrics being taken into account.”


Veterans For Peace outside NBC
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

GE subsidiaries include: GE Capital — the firm that lent St. Vincent’s Hospital into bankruptcy, and then sold SVCMC prime real estate to developers leaving Manhattan’s West Side without a trauma center (as Mayor Bloomberg looked on), GE Energy — which produced the cutrate Mark 1 nuclear reactor that devastated Fukushima (23 such plants reside in the U.S.), and NBC Universal.


Targeting youth?

NBC, the network that has helped to significantly expand the concept of embedded journalism (an oxymoron if ever there was one) recently unveiled its latest “reality” show: a celebration of militarism that is a not-so-thinly-veiled advertisement for military recruiting. The “Amphibious Assault” episode is available online and, disturbingly, is preceded by an advertisment for “back to school” specials.


The newest reality show features “real heroes” with “real bullets.” The premise – “minor” celebrities are trained for combat by active duty special forces personnel – is as ridiculous as any other reality show. But the Wagnerian score and shoot-em-up feel is bound to appeal to youth looking for adventure. War and the weaponry of war are glamorized and romanticized.

Perhaps the most telling commment came from one of the show’s participants.

Actor and former teen pop idol Nick Lachey said, “Nothing prepares you for battle like a boy band.”


Unimpressed by Todd “Rambo” Palin?
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

While none of the contestants are likely to suffer Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, loss of limbs, or death at the hands of their “allies,” they are doubtless being well compensated for their part in this new entertainment offering. Underscoring the artificiality and perverse absurdity of the show is the fact that other contestants have labeled Todd Palin (Sarah’s husband) “Rambo.” And for his part General Clark comes off as a weird mixture of Bob Barker and Dr. Strangelove.

Slick hollywood paper tigers being trained by real life SEALs and other SF vets can’t hurt NBC’s, or GE’s, bottom line. But the show has offended many, including nine Nobel Prize laureates who are calling on NBC to cancel it.

In August, Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams (1997), Mairead Maguire (1977), Dr. Shirin Ebadi (2003), President José Ramos-Horta (1996), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), President Oscar Arias Sanchez (1987), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992) and Betty Williams (1977) all signed an open letter to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, producer Mark Burnett, and General Wes Clark — who ran for president as a Democrat in 2004.

The Nobel Nine’s letter argues that Stars Earns Stripes “expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.”

“Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining,” the letter said.


A member of Brooklyn For Peace joins the protest
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

On August 13 activists from Military Families Speak Out, the Granny Peace Brigade, Veterans For Peace, US Labor Against The War, and other organizations demonstrated outside NBC corporate headquarters in Manhattan, the day the first episode aired. The activists attempted to deliver a petition to NBC but their efforts were rebuffed.

Activist and NLN journalist Fran Korotzer was there.

“We had a petition with 18,000 names asking them to cancel the show but we weren’t allowed to present it. We watched the first 15 minutes of the show — it is worse than expected — landing on beaches in inflatables, full camouflage, shooting, helicopter coverage, bombs. Horrible,” she said.

Activists will be returning to NBC for another protest on Monday, August 20 — they will vigil from 5 to 7 p.m.

Anyone wishing to take part will find the activists at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the address of the GE Building, in which the NBC Studios are located.


“War is not glamorous,” said one protester.
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)


View Photos From The Protest…


Posted by TAG - August 12, 2012 | News

A sign asking St. Louis area residents to join the fight against global
warming in front of the Word Community Center on Skinker Street.
(Photo: Jason Sibert / NLN)

ST. LOUIS — August 12, 2012. Most grow up consumed with typical childhood problems such as making grades that keep our parents happy, forming friendships and trying to be as much like our peers as possible — but thanks to an influential grade school teacher, Boston area native and current St. Louis city resident Arielle Klagsbrun was introduced to a much bigger problem.

“When I was 10 my science teacher taught me about global warming and that was it,” Klagsburn said. “I saw what was going to happen in terms of chaos and I think we’re already starting to see that this summer. I knew I would try to spend my whole life making sure that chaos didn’t happen.”

Klagsbrun graduated from Washington University in University City, Mo. in May with a degree in environmental science and political science and for the last six weeks she’s worked as an organizer for the St. Louis based Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, an organization of moderate and low income people that work for economic and environmental justice.

Much has been written on this summer’s Midwestern heat wave that has hampered the regions’ agricultural productivity. Klagburn has seen firsthand how urban Midwesterners are impacted and also how the issues of environmental and economic justice are connected.

“This summer alone, the folks that are being most impacted by the high temperatures are the ones who can’t afford to pay their air conditioning bills and they have to choose between paying their air conditioning and their medical bills. These people are low income. It’s important that these they have a voice and a place to advocate for their concerns. Some of us can’t afford climate change.”

Klagburn said Ameren Missouri produces 85% of its energy from coal plants which she said was an expensive source of energy if the health and environmental costs are figured in.

“Climate change and high energy bills are related because when you’re very hot you have to turn on the air conditioning to prevent overheating,” Klagburn said. “Over 25 people have died in the St. Louis region during these heat waves from causes related to heat. They were people who didn’t have central air or only had window units.”

Klagburn and her fellow organizers at MORE began noticing concerned residents voicing their opinions on the heat wave in local media outlets and they were convinced that it was being caused by global warming. MORE saw the concern as an opportunity to spring to action. The organization is currently engaged in a campaign to both educate the public on global warming and fight it. They formed different committees to tackle the issue in different ways. One committee is working on direct action, one is working on education and a third is working on physically building alternative energy systems. Right now the campaign doesn’t have a name.


Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) Organizer Molly Gott.
(Photo: Jason Sibert / NLN)

“It’s just a loose group of folks that are going to split up and do work throughout the city,” she said. “We’re a pretty diverse group. Some say they want to abolish capitalism and shut down corporations while others want to work with Peabody and make them a better company. There’s a huge range of opinions and a huge range of tactics that people are going to use.”


Calling attention to St. Louis coal corporations like Peabody Energy by engaging in direct confrontation is one of MORE’s more recent projects.

“Over the past six months we’ve been trying to call out Peabody Energy as a bad corporate citizen,” Klagsburn said. “Recently, about 40 of us who bought one share of Peabody stock and attended a shareholder meeting and called them out on not paying any of their state and federal taxes over the past couple of years.”


Jason Sibert can be reached at