Freedom of the press

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. as depicted on the co...

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. as depicted on the cover of Times Magazine in 1934. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brass Check, A Study of American Journalism was written by Upton Sinclair, Jr. in 1928 relating his experiences with American newspapers and the wire services that supplied newspapers with “news.” Upton Sinclair, Jr. is considered a “muckraker,” and he lived from 1878 to 1968. His most famous book is The Jungle, about the Chicago stockyards and published in 1906. Although Teddy Roosevelt held a low opinion of Sinclair, he sent investigators to Chicago to inspect the meat packers and prepare a report. That report was submitted to Congress and led ultimately to the present day FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Sinclair wrote many books and recently I wrote about another worth reading, Oil!.

It was Sinclair’s contention that for-profit newspapers would never, or hardly ever, publish stories that might harm their advertisers. The owners of newspapers were and are members of the 1% and are members of the same social set. So there is social pressure to go along to get along and there are advertising dollars that can be used to pressure newspaper editors in their editorial decisions. The only way to avoid these pressures, to my mind, is obtain your news from non-profit sources that are not dependent on advertising revenue. Two sources of news that I recommend are http://www.truthout.org and http://www.readersupportednews.org. Both are free, but both deserve your support so that they may remain viable. I encourage you to consider donating to either or both periodically or regularly.

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Hull-House

The University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Add...

The University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams Hull-House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams. Jane Addams founded Hull-House in 1892 as a settlement house to help the poor on Chicago’s near west-side between the Chicago river and the stockyards in an area populated by mostly poor, recent immigrants. A settlement house was an effort by private charity to provide services to the poor that were not furnished by government. Community organizers like Saul Alinsky and Barack Obama are a more recent development, not associated with settlement house-like buildings, although with similar goals.

“One of the first lessons we learned at Hull-House was that private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city’s disinherited.”

“Perhaps even in those first days we made a beginning toward that object which was afterward stated in our charter: ‘To provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.'”

Jane Addams was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On a personal note, I commuted daily to work near the Stockyards from my home in Elmhurst via the Eisenhower and Dan Ryan Expressways. Hull-House at 800 South Halstead Street is a short distance from the interchange where those two expressways join. If I had known how close I was, I would have stopped and visited the Hull-House Museum on the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois.

 

Early TV

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

During the 1950s in Chicago, if my memory serves me correctly, we had our choice of four channels: CBS on 2, NBC on 5, ABC on 7 and WGN on 9. Most shows were 30 minutes long and most people watched the hit shows, like I Love Lucy at 7:00 pm on Monday nights. Now there are so many channels that most people are watching different shows. My point is that in the early days of television, TV united us culturally while today TV is a divider.

Radical

Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Radical, A Portrait of Saul Alinsky by Nicholas von Hoffman who worked with and for Alinsky as a community organizer in Chicago. Alinsky was a self-proclaimed radical because he believed that liberals were too willing to compromise or give up. This is how Alinsky saw himself:

“For him a radical was not a devotee of an ideology. For him a radical was someone who was mentally tough, who could keep his fears to himself, who did not panic, who did not dither, who did not use the finer points of morality to evade action, who did not come down with the blues or misgivings or a sudden need to split hairs and think up reasons for delay.”

Like de Tocqueville, Alinsky believed that Americans could and should form associations to solve problems. Alinsky believed that government should provide solutions only as a last resort. In that, he was a true conservative. Alinsky never met Barack Obama because he died in 1972 when Barack was only 11 years old. Alinsky did meet Barry Goldwater at least once in 1964 when Goldwater was preparing to run for president. The two men discussed civil rights and the pending civil rights legislation. Alinsky supported the law reluctantly while Goldwater was opposed.

Privatization

griftopia

griftopia (Photo credit: cdrummbks)

In Griftopia, Matt Taibbi tells how Mayor Daley sold the rights to Chicago’s parking meter revenues for 75 years for $1 billion when the estimate was that the revenue was worth $5 billion. Sara Paretsky, resident of Chicago and author of the V. I. Warshawski detective novels, has this to say about the deal in her novel Body Works:

“Parking has also become a source of bitterness in the city–the mayor suddenly sold street parking to a private firm, which had quadrupled the rates overnight. We all had to carry bags of quarters everywhere we went, as if we were heading for slot machines, which I guess the pay stations had become. Slot machines completely and permanently skewed in the house’s favor.”

Please keep this in mind when someone tells you that free enterprise is more efficient than government. Another target of potential profit that the corporate disciples of Adam Smith’s invisible hand have in their near-term sights is our drinking water. Not only will the big oil companies profit from fracking, their chemical discharges into the ground will eventually pollute our drinking water, driving up the price and their ultimate profits. Thus they will profit from supplying energy and decreasing the supply of potable water.

Please see Griftopia