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Could we all take a step back and see if we can widen our focus on a bigger picture than just the headshot of Scott Pruitt?

Beyond Pruitt

There are lessons here to be learned, and not just about one more Trump cabinet hack on the take. We're getting used to private 'phone booths and $31,000 dinner tables, and most of all, to the constant manly taking of "personal responsibility" - 'I have to confess, my wife made me buy it'; 'My security staff insisted'; "I had nothing to do with it, I just found out about a week after the Washington Post did a story about it.'

This stuff is a delight to the corporate "liberal media," who lovingly focus on each of the Donald's sycophants in turn as they strive to outdo each other's crassness and insensitivity to public outrage. It's almost as if they are waiting for the "you're fired!" tweet, as a badge of achievement. And like a contestant in a glass box with swirling dollar bills, they each try to grab as much government and lobbyist cash as they can before that "you're fired!" tweet arrives.

The corporate "liberal media" focus on the Federal cabinet-level shenanigans also helps the corporate media agenda of distracting attention from other problems and opportunities.

The corporate "liberal media" focus on the Federal cabinet-level shenanigans also helps the corporate media agenda of distracting attention from other problems and opportunities. The missed opportunities problem is more important than the ignored problems.

Consider that the voters of Indiana supported the Trump/Pence ticket in part because they were so eager to get Pence out of their state politics. His opportunistic racism, misogyny and flagrantly fake "christian" values had done vast damage to an otherwise fine state. Local voters had already turned against him by the time the Donald tapped him for Vice-president.

Then consider Kris Kobach, Ryan Zinke, and how many others, who like Scott Pruitt came out of state governments where they had been selling assets to corporate polluters, and gutting school and infrastructure budgets to pay for huge tax cuts, mostly for the richest corporations and taxpayers.

The attention each of these gets when they take their corruption to Washington should remind us of one effect of mass media consolidation. It isn't only Sinclair that is imposing Wall St. values on local news casts. As recently as the 1980s, Radio and TV stations in cities around the nation were locally owned, and local affairs were included in newscasts. Now, Los Angeles is not alone in having no independently owned and programmed TV stations. The testimony by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook actually owns, and controls many other popular online services should not surprise anyone who lives in a city like Los Angeles, that has many TV stations, all of which are actually owned by just a few Wall St. media corporations.

But we are not supposed to think about such things. If we did, we might start to recall a time when the airwaves were legally the property of the public, and the right to use those airwaves was something that was licensed "in the public interest." In those days, the public had a legal right to complain to someone in their own communities if programming was racist or biased or just consistently wrong. In those days, local businesses could be challenged and confronted for offensive advertising or editorial decisions.

The recent brouhaha over revelations that Sinclair Broadcasting is now directly dictating factually inaccurate "news" scripts for its 193 "local" stations is the natural consequence of consolidating media ownership and control, and of taking opportunities for local involvement away from the "public" that supposedly owns the "public airwaves".

Another consequence of media consolidation is that there is now almost no coverage of local corruption or bias in local politics. Rudy Giulliani and Chris Christie were unable to make the move from local/state corrupt politician to Donald cabinet members because their corruption and dishonesty played out in national media. But the Pences and Zinkes and Pruitts, coming from backwaters with no meaningful news coverage of local corruption, were able to rise to the surface of their local swamps, to attract the attention of the Washington swampmeister. By the time they arrived in Washington, eager for junkets and maxed out office credit cards and expense accounts, they had already learned the niceties of all kinds of grift and graft.

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Pruitt was becoming a liability for the Donald, even as he remained a valuable asset for the "burn-it-up" and pollute-rather-than-clean industrial crowds. So the corporate "liberal media" took him off the front page, in favor of covering the senate 'examination' of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Shifting the focus to Zuckerberg allowed damage control on two fronts.

Focusing on Facebook allows the corporate Congress to make pretty sounding noises of feigned concern about media consolidation and "censorship" by a private corporation. Notice how few senators asked questions about Fox 'News' or Sinclair Broadcasting using the public airwaves, while censoring all middle-of-the-road or further left opinions or facts from their programming.

Attacking Zuckerberg and Facebook for their policies also helps Facebook for the next electoral round. In our age of twitter-length memories, it may be easy to have forgotten that Mark Zuckerberg is a businessman, who used Facebook aggressively to campaign for the Donald. He allowed Czar Vlad's troll farm operations to run Facebook pages for the Donald, and he aggregated and publicized all manner of truly Fake News stories. When stories of his perfidy started leaking out, he denied, denied, denied. And only after the Donald was safely ensconced where he could help corporate America did Facebook start to acknowledge what it had done.

Now, by letting Zuckerberg do a couple of ambivalent "mea culpas," followed by some "regulatory" legislation that doesn't actually limit corporate action and control in any way, corporate senators set-up Facebook, Fox, Sinclair, AT&T (AOL and Yahoo) to put their corporate thumbs back on the electoral scale, in 2018, sharing space with Czar Vlad's trolls (whom the Republican controlled congress refuses to take any steps to block).

All of this continues to focus attention on the doings in Washington, while corporate America is spending millions to develop the next generation of DeVos, Kobachs, Pruitts and Zinkes at the state and local level.

The Democrat response to this is to start cheering about a possible "blue wave", replacing the current corporate controlled Republican congress. But with what? Recent history suggests the Democratic alternative is a corporate controlled Democratic congress. With establishment California governor Brown recently endorsing Republican lite Senatorial candidate Diane Feinstein for another term, it appears that what the people need, and should want, will continue to take second place to what corporate funded political 'leaders' say.

So far, the ONLY identified "issue" for the "blue wave" excitement is "replacing Republicans." Surely a good goal. But shouldn't we be asking, "Replace with what? What issues will Democrats campaign on, and what positions will they endorse?"

As the corporate right continues to bloviate about "states' rights" and the need for tax cuts, how about a campaign promise to enact state legislation eliminating tax deductions and benefits for corporations that break laws or engage in anti-competitive actions? After all, aren't corporations supposed to want more competition?

How about moving the focus of some progressive action away from Washington and back to state and local races. How about working to address the local corruption, and stop the Christie, DeVos, Gulliani, Kobach, Pruitt corruption pipeline where it starts?

This wouldn't help the Democratic Party, which likes centralized control over policy, campaigns and the money that flows in, as much as the Republican Party, or any corporation does. But it might help the voters, and the citizens and residents, in much the same way that local activity drove the Civil Rights Movement, the ant-Vietnam War Movement, and the more recent LGBTQ movement.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall