Two weeks ago I posted an article about Mike Thompson's latest campaign irregularities (See Thompson's Messy Pasta Dinner Invitation). I then informed quite a few newspapers in this northern California district of the issue. No one followed up on it.
I started Mike Thompson Watch after noting that no news organization in his district actually reports onMr. Thompson does in Congress. They do print his press releases when they receive them. This hardly seems like a model where a "free press" helps the citizens insure that government really represents them. Yet I could sympathise, knowing how hard it is to run a newspaper business. Actual investigative reporting is time consuming, and hence loses money. Yet printing how Mike votes on bills each week would require very little work; no one even does that. And the citizens never complain. They are too apathetic. They are driving blind, and don't even know it.
But it goes beyond that. Being critical can alienate advertisers; that is a given in the newspaper business. And being critical of the Democratic Party machine in this business is a non-starter for most newspapers. There used to be a Republican Party here, but it has mainly fallen apart. A Republican Party biased paper in this district would likely be a serious money loser.
In the microcosm department the Independent Coast Observer out of Gualala will serve well. It is neither independent nor does it observe much. The locals refer to it as the ICO, or I See Zero. It is not without its merits. No one else covers local news in this area. You can find out what events are coming up. You can get an idea of what is going on with the local school board and councils. But one thing you will not see, because the owner is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, is any criticism of local Democrats, even when they are caught red-handed doing wrong. Maybe even especially if they are caught doing wrong. On the other hand, there is a weekly column, syndicated out of Sacramento, that uses 90% of its space to roast Governor Arnold.
Not only did the ICO not run a story that involved two local charities and campaign wrongdoing, it gave Congressman Thompson its Open Space guest editorial column in the July 3, 2009 issue. The Editor of the ICO wrote a letter in favor of Universal Health Care. Thompson describes the crisis, goes on and on, and then says that the people he cares about already have health insurance from their corporate employers, so we must be very cautious in making any changes in the system.
The ICO should be free to be a slave of the corrupt Democratic Party machine. That is part of freedom of the press. The problem in Gualala and every other town in this rural congressional district is that there is barely enough business to keep one newpaper alive per town. If that newspaper fails to cover what our government is doing, there is no other way for people to be informed. Democracy without information might as well be a dictatorship.
What causes apathy? To some extent it must be a natural human condition. But our media system's coziness with the political parties also breeds corruption. Already many Democrats I know who were enthusiastic about the Obama campaign are saying they will never bother with politics again. No troops have returned from Iraq; the war in Afghanistan has been escalated; and for all practical purposes, Barack Obama has started interfering in the civil war in Afghanistan. Shades of Lyndon Baines Johnson after he won an election against Barry Goldwater, who was portrayed by the Democrats as a war monger who might get us into a nuclear war.
Beyond apathy is corruption, and I am not talking about money changing hand for votes or favors, although that probably still happens on occasions. I am talking about the corruption of ethics caused by partisanship. The willingness to justify the most horrible war crimes and crimes against humanity as long as they are done by the United States or one's own political party. Down to the ability to think of oneself as cynical about politician's, and then believe what they say rather than finding out what they are really doing, or planning to do.
I was so discouraged with the follow up from the Pasta incident that I decided to drop Mike Thompson Watch. But that is what the ruling class, and their wholely-owned Democratic and Republican Parties, want.
So I am going to keep at it. Even if we can never get rid of him, just the knowledge that some of us are watching him may influence how Mike behaves in Congress.
If you read this column, thank you.
Thompson Watch Main Page
Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.