What are you doing for Carl Sagan Day this year?

What are you doing for Carl Sagan Day this year?

At HearYourselfThink, we’re doing a science book drive for kids for Carl Sagan Day 2015!

You can be a part of it by sending your new or very gently used science-themed children’s books to:

The Hear Yourself Think Project
PO Box 116
Ambridge, PA 15003

Or order your books online and have them sent to us. Here are some sites I found that have a good selection of quality books.

Books will be distributed by us in the community on Novemeber 7th at pop-up locations where we will spread the good word about Sagan Day (which is November 9th) and allow kids to pick their own books. Any books remaining or ones that arrive after the 7th will be donated to Reading is FUNdamental in Pittsburgh.

Carl Sagan

One of the greatest gifts adults can give — to their offspring and to their society — is to read to children.

Carl Sagan

RIF not only allows kids in need to select books of their very own but has teams of dedicated volunteers who read to children in their communities.

We think an important way to honor the life and legacy of Carl Sagan is to make sure that children are exposed to plenty of books that will spark their curiosity about the natural world and inspire a life-long love of science and discovery.

So don’t wait! Send your books today and help us spread the word far and wide about the #SaganDayBookDrive.

Trump: The Avenging Asshole

Trump: The Avenging Asshole

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Idiocracy

It’s tempting to say that Donald Trump’s grotesque political ascent in the GOP presidential primaries represents the hostile take over of reality by Reality TV.

But Roger Ailes had already accomplished that with his own Reality TV news network which ex-Reagan advisor, Bruce Bartlett, concludes has been so successful at blurring the line between fact and fiction it’s led millions of its ardent viewers down the road of ideological self-brainwashing:

What this is then is the story of Trump: the Asshole Avenger.

The Right’s propaganda machine has spent 30 plus years indoctrinating Americans that Rich = Right. That thinking is for elitist fauntleroys and REAL AMERICANS go with “the gut” uber alles.

Of course, introspection, empathy and higher moral reasoning were given the bum’s rush along with civility, the social contract and basic human decency.

And so enter the Avenging Asshole; the Trumpenstein Monster; Trumpzilla; the Conqueror Id. How great is it that his name is Trump?

He got the memo alright that all of this is supposed to be about a right-wing agenda to decimate Democrats and amass political power for Republicans.

He just doesn’t give a fuck.

The only agenda that matters to Trump is the one that gazes back adoringly when he shaves every morning.

Trump is the crack version of “the Fox formula.” He’s distilled it down to its most volatile concentration of arrogance, petulance and unabashed asshole-ism, and the Fox heads cannot get enough.

They don’t give a damn — in fact they celebrate — that Trump sticks it to Fox and other Republicans.

They’ve been trained well by Ailes and Limbaugh. They know that the biggest asshole in the room is always right.

Fear Goes Viral: Deranged Demagogues and the Epidemic of Ebola Scare-Mongering

Fear Goes Viral: Deranged Demagogues and the Epidemic of Ebola Scare-Mongering

Eric Duncan has passed away in a Texas hospital from the Ebola virus he contracted in Liberia. Two health care workers have tested positive for the disease after an apparent break down of protective protocol for hospital staff attending to Mr. Duncan in his final days. The CDC warns that more health care workers who treated Mr. Duncan may  be at risk of having contracted Ebola.

Meanwhile, the 48 other people that Mr. Duncan had contact with, before it was belatedly realized that he was infected, have continued to be monitored but have exhibited no symptoms of the disease. A deputy sheriff who came down with a fever after spending time in Mr. Duncan’s apartment tested negative for Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak in Texas, while obviously very troubling, in no way poses a panic-worthy threat to the United States and the chances of contracting the disease remain very low. That’s not the impression you would get, however, from much of the media coverage in the country.

Ebola is not an airborne virus, but the media airwaves are being infected by an epidemic of fear, lies and sensationalized misinformation that is transmitted into the homes of millions of Americans.

A well informed and coolheaded citizenry is an essential line of defense against the spread of infectious disease. Panic, misinformation, groundless fear and reckless rumors are the enemy in this fight and must not be allowed to take root in the public imagination.

Distinctly culpable are the bottomlessly irresponsible demagogues of the right-wing-media-noise-machine, whose very reason for existing is to create a self-perpetuating media bubble of hyper-politicized misinformation.

Just as a virus uses the normal functioning of the organism to carry infection and corrupt the health of the body, media demagogues infect the free flow of credible information — the very life’s blood of a democracy — with rhetoric, conspiracy and propaganda designed to inflame the fear centers of its victims and undermine reasoned response.

Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham — along with Fox — have dropped the most bottomlessly irresponsible, intellectually unhinged and morally bankrupt ravings imaginable right into the middle of a public health emergency.

While doctors, scientists and officials are working to maintain public calm and to disseminate facts, they find themselves drowned out by a deluge of noise and nonsense.

Politicizing, distorting and demagoguing on issues where the public understanding requires calm, clarity and trustworthiness are nothing new for the microphone-wielding miscreants of the right-wing echo chamber, but they have now rampaged over a line that must not be crossed.  They cannot not be ignored, denied or tolerated in this regard.

It must be said, directly and firmly, that the monsters of the right-wing media scare machine, in that they traffic in fear and inflammatory misinformation, are the enemy in this fight.

Laura Ingraham, aside from her gigs as radio host and Fox commentator, is also on the payroll as a contributor with ABC News, thus adding a veneer of mainstream credibility to her campaign of malignant misinformation.

Major news organizations, which seek to maintain their credibility and good name, should not be providing journalistic cover for inflammatory and hyper-politicized misinformation which endangers the public health and safety.

You can sign our petition here calling on ABC News CEO, James Goldston, to remove Ingraham immediately.

It has long been obvious that Fox “News” is not news at all, but rather a misinformation machine that exists to promote a political agenda. There is a substantial and growing body of empirical evidence that confirms this truth.

Right-wing, Tea Party politicians who have made a career of amplifying Fox/talk radio misinformation should do the right thing and step up now to condemn the politicization of the Ebola outbreak by these outlets.

Keith Rothfus is the representative of PA Congressional District 12 where I live in Beaver County. Mr. Rothfus has been endorsed by the “Tea Party Express” which itself has been heavily promoted by Fox and right-wing talk radio. At the endorsement rally in Boyce park in 2012, the event MC, Sean Hannity radio fill-in and Fox panelist, Rose Tennent joked with the crowd about the Obama-birther conspiracy as Mr. Rothfus stood by casually, waiting to be introduced.

Many of us are not laughing. Manipulating peoples’ fears and prejudices for financial and political profit isn’t my idea of yuks. And playing around with a public health crisis is my idea of evil.

There comes a time when you have to say, “Enough.”

We should all contact our members of Congress to tell them to publicly call on Fox to stop their hyper-politicized, misinformation campaign on the Ebola outbreak.

It’s going to take a ground swell of public outrage and revulsion to change the course of extremist media in America.

A massive political propaganda operation sewing the seeds of mass panic cannot be allowed to go on disguising itself as a “news” source. But it will unless we push back.

Look up your representative and Senators here: http://www.contactingthecongress.org.

Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

“The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America.” — John F. Kennedy

 “Whatever their faults, unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country.” — Bruce Springsteen

The union loss in UAWVW vote in Chattanooga last week is a wake up call to the power of the right-wing media echo chamber to warp public discourse towards their narrow agenda.

You could fill many volumes with specific instances of smears, distortions and false narratives woven by right-wing media spin-meisters over the past decades many of which, echoed by the broader media, have tainted the public attitude and understanding toward unions and the labor movement.

But even when it is not specifically attacking unions and union workers, the right-wing media monolith’s constant war of divisive wedge issues and derision of the common good works to create a toxic cultural atmosphere that undermines the union message and movement.

The building of union strength is only possible when there is an understanding of solidarity. 


Solidarity is defined as: fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, unity or agreement of feeling or action, esp. among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

It is through this balance of motivated individual interest and connection to community and cooperation that the labor movement creates a needed counterbalance to the forces of organized avarice.

The message coming from the noxious noise of the right-wing media is that solidarity is for suckers.

What do they offer in its stead? Impossible dreams of personal material acquisition and comic book delusions of phony “individual freedom,” amounting to gun hoarding and bunker building.

“You’re on your own, Jack, and you are worthless before God and man if you can’t compete in an ever more ruthless “free-market” system. Its zero sum out there, my friend. You can’t trust anyone, ‘cause they’re only in it for themselves just like you. Keep your head down and keep tuning in every day. I’m the only one who understands your anger and frustration…because I help concoct your anger and frustration out of your fears and by keeping you blind to other possibilities.”

Why are they so committed to destroying unions? 

It should be clear by now that a major elements of the right-wing movement are ideological zealots who have true contempt for working people and adhere to an almost worship of Ayn Randian notions of wealth and corporate power. Just look at recent extremist efforts to use a government shut down as extortion to stop health care reform and their absolute resistance to extending unemployment insurance to desperate families.

And its also that unions work. They work to put a check on corporate overreach and they are effective in elections, especially in putting “boots-on-the-ground” to counter the influx of secret money into the “airwar” of negative ads.

Finally, and most crucially, unions are living breathing, real world proof that human life isn’t a zero sum, social Darwinian nightmare. That everyone does better when everyone does better and people can take it into their power to build a better more decent society by, to borrow from FDR, taking up cooperation where competition fails. 

Dude, Where’s My Union

Dude, Where’s My Union

UAW Drive Succumbs to Right-Wing Media Blitz

Last week the United Auto Workers union came up short in the election to decide on wether they would represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN.

Had they won the workers would have been the first unionized VW employees in the United States and an important inroad for the union movement would have been forged in the South.

Back in September, Volkswagen had issued a letter pledging not to oppose the union effort and CEO Frank Fischer asserted the company, “…is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”

Often companies bitterly fight attempts by workers to seek union protections, so VW’s attitude of acceptance generated optimism that the way was cleared for a historic result for labor in Chattanooga.

However, the final count showed out of 1338 eligible voters, 626 cast votes in favor and 712 against with 147 not participating.

What went wrong?

There has been much attention on the threats issued by Sen Corker and state GOP politicians that a ‘yes’ vote for the union would mean a cut off of state subsidies to VW and cause a steering of new jobs away from the state, a claim strongly denied by the company itself.

Not as much focus has been given to the media amplification machine that was ginned up in the weeks before the vote to poison public opinion against unionization at VW in Chattanooga.

This artificial “echo chamber” played on the decades long smear, demonization and scapegoating of unions by right-wing media voices. 

RWM vs. Labor Media

Documents reveal that Chattanooga was turned into a microcosm of what the right-wing media machine has worked to create in the culture overall; a closed circuit of misleading and biased misinformation, along with emotionalized false narratives to short-circuit rational deliberation. 

Last week we talked about “Astro-turfing,” the propaganda-driven efforts of big money shadow groups to manipulate opinion and emotion toward their agenda.

After all, when your proposals are all about serving the very few at the economic top no matter what that means to everyone else, you need a massive effort to convince (deceive) people to join your cause.

And indeed, Grover Norquist of the far-right Americans for Tax Reform produced just such a campaign in Tenn by channeling funding to an Orwellianly named front group: Center for Worker Freedom.

It was understood that with the company not opposing, there would need to be an intense outside push to defeat the union.

Norquist, working with an outside anti-union paid “consultant, generated numerous anti-UAW news hits which were pushed into local and national media.

A dozen billboards in the city displayed messages including “United Obama Workers” to inject partisan politics and race into the atmosphere.

But none of this had to be conjured out of thin air. 

The point is there is already in existence an intense right-wing media infrastructure from pervasive local and national talk radio to Fox “News” to so-called “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato.

This amounts to a nonstop, union-busting propaganda campaign beamed into cars and homes 24 hours a day every day of the year for decades now.

All Norquist and associates had to do was hyper-activate this machine for the specifics of the VW fight.

Like the larger right-wing media movement, they used rhetoric and propaganda to cynically manipulate public sentiment for purely financial and ideological goals, with no regard for truth or the consequences of their divisive, scorched-earth tactics.

Just think alone of the capability to have Senator Corker’s false, fear mongering message repeated by accommodating mass media, until it saturated the local debate with mind numbing anxiety.

Psychologists warn of the “Illusion of Truth” created when a message is absorbed over and over, especially when triggering emotional vulnerability like fear or anxiety.

As we do the post-mortem and analysis of the union loss in TN, lets be sure to look the ponderous pachyderm of pervasive propaganda squarely in the eye.

Zombie Notions Want to Eat Your Brains

Zombie Notions Want to Eat Your Brains

On our recent radio segments, we’ve been talking about Toxic Town Halls, the right-wing media misinformation bubble, and how the crack pots who spew vitriol at these venues are not only not challenged by Tea Party members of Congress but are affirmed and encouraged in their insanity.

Last August, Representative Martha Roby of Montgomery Alabama held an event for Tea Partiers to sound off in what was really a conspiracy theory echo chamber that she endorsed and participated in.

It was the usual recitation of hoax scandals that have been destroyed by the light of real-world scrutiny but inside the RWM bubble they are shielded from this light and live on as zombie notionsThank God for Fox News

Zombies of legend are dead bodies brought back to a shambling shell of life by dark magic. The zombie notions still circulating in these town halls are reanimated by the dark magic of media, money and propaganda. Both kinds of zombies want to eat your brains.

What is sold as “grassroots” citizens’ uprising is in reality “Astro Turfing,” funded by big money corporate shadow groups and heavily promoted by media like Fox and round the clock right-wing talk radio.

As organizers and advocates on health care reform, we have witnessed this phenomena first hand.

Last August, The Heritage Foundation, an extreme right organization headed by former Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint, staged a national “Defund Obamacare” tour in a doomed effort to press Congress to refuse funding to the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government.

In that it was nothing but a replay of debunked smear and misinformation the tour could have been called “Gullible’s Travels.” Even Politifact, which tends to contort itself to give rightward misinformation the benefit of the doubt, went out of its way to call out the blatant dishonesty of the tour. 

And yet when we attended the event staged in Pittsburgh the room was packed with people raring to hear yet another round of such nonsense.

Like the recent town hall in Oklahoma, those in attendance weren’t there just to talk about health care policy, they were itching to express their irrational hatred. This woman caught on tape casually bemoans the lost era of “assassins” in America.

Once the program began a small group of us infiltrators were ready with small signs, the word “LIE “ written on sheets of paper, which we silently held up each time a bright line falsity was spoken from the stage. We felt it was our responsibility to provide real time fact-checking as a public service, given the unlikelihood that Jim DeMint’s pants would actually burst into flames as they certainly should have.

It only took a few minutes and much mendacity for the private security guards to escort us toward the doors as attendees booed at us and a few hissed, “Communists” as we exited.

The Heritage Foundation received $500,000 in 2012 from a Koch Brothers funded front group, Freedom Partners. Koch funding is a many tendriled beast which animates a host of organizations which join in with RWM to amplify misinformation, distortion and inflammatory false narratives on health care, energy, education and many other issues.

This onslaught of fantasy has a very real impact on real world policy as we saw when the Tea Party in Congress did manage to force a government shut down to try and extort its demands. 

When you talk about “Astro-turf” and the manufacturing of outrage, many folks caught up in this furor will push back saying: “My outrage is REAL, its not manufactured!” But it isn’t that they’re faking or not really feeling what they feel, it’s that they are victims of a strategy to deceive and mobilize through emotional manipulation. The whole point is to whip-up raw emotions that will cause people to react outside of reason.

In an ABC report describing a 2009 Congressional event that was disrupted by angry Tea Partiers, one woman in attendance summed it up by saying what she heard was an echo of what is preached everyday on Fox and talk radio…” If it’s not manufactured, they’re brainwashed.”

In truth, it’s both.