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Resist More Media Consolidation

Posted by libhom Wednesday, December 19, 2007 7 comments

From a Free Press Email Alert:

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his two fellow GOP commissioners approved new rules that will unleash a flood of media consolidation across America. The rules will further consolidate local media markets -- taking away independent voices in cities already woefully short on local news and investigative journalism.

In 2003, the FCC tried to do the same thing, but millions of people demanded that Congress reject the FCC's rules. And they did. It's time to do it again.

Amy Goodman gave further detail on the rule changes on Democracy Now!
Martin would increase media consolidation by relaxing the rules for companies seeking to own both a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city.

Free Press has an open letter to Congress which they are urging people to sign.

Take Action!

This, from the 12/16/07 online edition of the New York Times:

With just weeks left before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8, Mr. Huckabee has climbed to near the top of a crowded Republican field. But he may have given his rivals an opening when he decried what he called “the Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality.” Writing last week in the journal Foreign Affairs, he said, “American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out.”

Perhaps sensing that Mr. Huckabee might have offended the core conservatives vital to securing a Republican nomination, Mr. Romney pounced.

“That’s an insult to the president, and Mike Huckabee should apologize to the president,” Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.”

In an earlier appearance in Humboldt, Iowa, Mr. Romney was even more scathing. “I can’t believe he’d say that,” he said. “I’m afraid he’s running for the wrong party.”

Romney wants to make it clear to GOP primary voters that he is Bush's biggest sycophant. But, Huckabee was quick to minimize any independence from Bush:
Mr. Huckabee, in a CNN appearance apparently added belatedly to his schedule, sought to explain. “I didn’t say the president was arrogant,” he said. “I said that the policies have been arrogant.”

Genuflecting to an incompetent, unelected tyrant is still the order of the day in the GOP.

How pathetic!

From the Washington Blade 12/6/07:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) Thursday morning acquiesced to requests by House Democratic leaders to drop a gay and transgender inclusive hate crimes bill from the National Defense Authorization Act, a knowledgeable Capitol Hill source said.

Frank attempted to defend House Democrats as follows:
“House Democrats tell me, ‘Of course I support the hate crimes bill, but don’t tell me to vote for the war,’” Frank said.

“They’re saying why are you asking me to vote for the war in order to vote for this,” he said.

Where were Frank's criticisms of the Democratic Party "leadership" including war funding? Why was war funding included in the Defense Authorization in the first place? Democrats keep saying they are against the war, yet both Democratic-controlled houses of Congress keep voting to fund it.

Frank was more interested in defending removing hate crimes protections from the Defense Authorization bill than condemning the inclusion of war funding in it.

As usual, Frank is putting partisan interests ahead of the queer and peace movements.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune 12/14/07:

The Housing Authority of New Orleans agreed in court today not to demolish the C.J. Peete, Lafitte or St. Bernard public housing developments unless the New Orleans City Council approves permits for the work.

The agreement allows HANO to proceed with demolition work, approved in November 2003 by the City Council, at the B.W. Cooper housing development.

Officials with the housing authority and attorneys for demolition opponents, who sued HANO Thursday to stop tear-downs at C.J. Peete, Lafitte and St. Bernard, reached the accommodation after meeting privately with Civil District Court Judge Herbert Cade, who said he would sign an order later today approving the deal.

Plaintiffs argued that the City Council had to approve demolition work at the three housing complexes. HANO had not secured that approval for the three demolition projects.

Attorney Tracie Washington, representing the plaintiffs, said HANO's willingness to halt demolition work pending a City Council review is a first: "We have never (before) been able to get a court to order a stop to demolition."

The City Council is expected to address the demolition matter next week.

The Housing Authority of New Orleans is administrating federally-funded housing in that city. They have been expected to tear down safe housing projects and replacing them with far fewer housing units for poor people.

The ultimate authority for doing this is coming from the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! explains:
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD, is expected to begin demolishing four of the largest public housing projects in New Orleans this Saturday. For more than two years after Hurricane Katrina, some 4,600 apartments in these buildings have been boarded up and closed to former residents.

Only 744 affordable housing units will replace the 4,600 units. That’s an 82% drop in a region where affordable housing remains a key issue.

The people who write the funding checks generally call the shots, and that is what has happened between HUD and HANO.

On the show, Bill Quigley, attorney and housing advocate, described the tenants:
And there’s a couple things that I think it’s important for people to know. These are 100% African American-rented apartments, overwhelmingly female-headed households. Most of the people that we work with are grandmothers, usually on disability after a lifetime of working as a nurse’s aide or working as a cafeteria worker or a minimum-wage job in the tourist industry.

The timing of the demolitions are bad as well. Quigley estimated that homelessness in New Orleans has doubled since Katrina.

Take Action to Oppose War Funding

Posted by libhom Sunday, December 09, 2007 2 comments

Progressive Democrats of America has an Action Alert to oppose funding for the war. They are expecting a vote as early as this Monday.

Ninety-two members of Congress have already signed an open letter to President Bush pledging that they "will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq. . .for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq."

Congress can end our military involvement in Iraq and can stop the senseless killing of our young men and women - as we elected them to do. With the omnibus spending package for 2008, which includes additional funding for the Iraq occupation, to be voted on this week, now is the time to express your frustration with their capitulation to Bush.

If your member of Congress has signed the letter, please ask him/her to stand firm.

If your member of Congress has not signed the letter, ask "why not?" Recent polling indicates the vast majority of Americans want our troops and contractors withdrawn from Iraq.

Take Action to Oppose the War!

Form Time online 12/9/07

Obama's Oprah offensive was calibrated not just to get women's support — though of course, that would be nice — but to get Iowa's women to pay attention to the race full stop. In 2004, just 66,690 of 340,241 female registered Democrats in Iowa caucused. Even a few thousand more could make a difference; sure enough, with Oprah as a sweetener, 1,385 people (no gender statistics were available) worked four-hour volunteer shifts for Obama in order to qualify for a ticket to Winfrey's appearance. (The campaign distributed a total of 12,000 tickets to supporters with another 11,000 given away online.)

In a state like Iowa, people are bombarded with communication from candidates. It is only natural and sane for them to tune most of it out. Once thing Oprah could do and succeeded at is to get people to show up and listen to Obama. That alone will make a difference in any state, but an especially large one in Iowa.

Another benefit for Obama is that one of the nation's most prominent African-American women is supporting him. This is significant, since Obama trails Clinton nationally among black women by about 15 points.

Oprah's support also should increase the level of enthusiasm among Obama's supporters. This translates to increasing volunteer support (beyond the four hours required to get into that Iowa event) and should help with fundraising too.

In a caucus state like Iowa, only a small percentage of eligible voters participate. Also, caucus meetings often end up being long, endurance contests which result in some people going home before they are over. Ms. Winfrey's effect will be magnified by the particular nature of caucuses. The candidate who gets people to show up and stay wins.

What Oprah won't do for Obama is to directly deliver significant numbers of votes. Fans will read a book on Oprah's recommendation in part because the choice of a book is lower in risk than the choice of a president. In a presidential campaign, voters naturally would be expected to listen to a variety of sources before making up their own minds.

In a previous post, I pointed out the moral and ethical issues involved in Mitt Romney's speech attacking atheists while defending his Mormonism in the name of tolerance.

American Atheists, in their 12/6/07 press release, made an argument against it in terms of practical, electoral politics.

Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, said that Romney "is no John Kennedy when it comes to the First Amendment."

"His speech was a 'pitch' to the religious right which already has too much political clout in this country," said Johnson. "Like other candidates, Romney is overlooking the 13% of Americans who profess no religious beliefs, and will voting their principles next November."

Johnson added that Romney "drapes himself in the mantle of religious self-righteousness, and then gives token mention to the First Amendment."

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists said that "while there should be no religious test for public office, public officials -- including the President -- take an oath of office to defend the Constitution, not preach from some holy book like the Bible or the Koran."

"The President is supposed to represent all of the people in this country, not just the minority who say they go to church once a month," said Silverman. "Romney ignored America's Atheists and other secularists, and he -- along with any other candidate who makes the same error -- is missing out on millions of potential votes."

Romney's efforts to pander to the Christian Right will backfire in at least two different ways.

1) The speech will primarily serve to remind fundamentalist Christians that Romney belongs to a non-Christian faith.

2) The speech will alienate freethinkers, a large voting block in our society.

No, I didn't make this up. It's the main title of his new book, which he co-authored with Alvin F. Poussaint. The full title is: Come on, People!: On the Path from Victims to Victors

If you look at the book cover, the font for the words "Come on People" is huge, while the subtitle is quite small. They even used white lettering.

How could Cosby be so clueless? Is he a subconscious perv?

You also have to wonder how such a salacious book title could have gotten through the editors from the publishing house. Also, why didn't Poussaint say something? These are the kinds of questions Cosby's editors should have asked.

Are you sure about that title?

Do you really want the title to be "Come on People"?

Are you absolutely sure?

The lascivious sounding title is even funnier considering that Cosby's latest shtick is to serve as a self-appointed and tedious scold for the African-American community.

I love unintentional humor.

Romney Insults Atheists in "Mormon Speech"

Posted by libhom Thursday, December 06, 2007 0 comments

Mitt Romney is getting desperate to appeal to the Christian Taliban, many of whom don't want him because he is a non-Christian. He has responded to this in a suck up speech. Romney, the crafty politician, knows you cannot pander effectively to religious extremists without attacking non-believers. He certainly gave them some red meat.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

In the real world, you can not be free on the subject of religion unless you are free to opt out entirely. However, facts like that make no difference to someone who wants to argue that you need to be religious to have a legitimate role to play in politics.

Romney's hateful rhetoric does not end there.
Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

This is transparently hateful against atheists.

It also is misogynistic. Equating the anti-choice movement, a jihad to reduce women to the legal status of breeding animals, with the abolition and civil rights movements is a truly nasty attack on women. It also is an incredibly racist insult to all African-Americans.

Romney then attacked separation of church and state, except where he finds it personally convenient.
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

The notion of secularism being a "religion" is downright silly. It also is a favorite talking point of the Christian Taliban.

Romney also advocates continuing many forms of discrimination against atheists.
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

In other words, Romney revels in the way those of us who are atheists are treated as second-class citizens in this country.

Romney is in a difficult position. He needs to convince the militant, Christian fundamentalists who make up the majority of GOP primary voters that they should be tolerant of him. Yet, he also needs to show them that he shares many of the other prejudices that have united the Religious Right.

This speech may help Romney is his political objectives for now, but it also shows why atheists, agnostics, and humanists would be out of their minds to vote for him.

Progressive Democrats of America released the results of their straw poll yesterday:

Kucinich 41%
Edwards 26%
Barak Obama 13%
Clinton 9%
Bill Richardson 5%
Joe Biden 3%
Chris Dodd 1%
Mike Gravel (less than 1%)

Despite an eight candidate field, Kucinich was fairly close to winning an outright majority in the poll and left the second place candidate far behind. Clinton couldn't break the single digits.

This shows that Ms. Clinton is very weak among progressives, even though she could become the first woman president, and, at least at the PDA events I've attended, most of the people in the organization are women. Clinton's conservative policies have alienated liberals and progressives in the party.

The poll results also offer a window into what Americans' political views might be like in the absence of right-wing corporate media propaganda. PDA members tend to be much better informed and get their information from a much broader pool of sources than the general public.

"Liberty University" May Have Violated Tax Exempt Status

Posted by libhom Wednesday, December 05, 2007 5 comments

When religious groups except tax-exempt status, they make a promise to the taxpayers in return, not to use tax-free assets to support political candidates. So much for Christian fundamentalists keeping promises. Excerpted from Americans United for Separation of Church and State Press Release 12/4/07:

Americans United Asks IRS To Investigate Falwell's Liberty University For Endorsement Of Mike Huckabee

Liberty Chancellor Used School Resources To Promote Presidential Candidate, Church-State Watchdog Group Says

Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. violated federal tax law by using school resources to endorse Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the Internal Revenue Service today.

In a complaint filed with the federal tax agency, Americans United noted that Falwell hosted the candidate at Liberty University and then sent an email message on Liberty University letterhead endorsing Huckabee.

In a “Liberty News Alert” dated Dec. 1, 2007, Falwell wrote, “Recently, Governor Mike Huckabee called to brief me on the progress of his campaign for the presidency. I invited the Governor to speak to the Liberty University students in Convocation on November 28. He graciously accepted. I was so impressed with the Governor’s sincerity and his positions on the issues that are important to conservative Christians that I personally endorsed Governor Huckabee before he left Lynchburg.”

Falwell goes on to say, “My father strongly supported Governor Huckabee when no one thought that he had any chance to succeed in the presidential race. I believe with all my heart that, if my father had witnessed Governor Huckabee’s surge in the polls and his ascension to first place in the Iowa polls, he would have endorsed Governor Huckabee without hesitation.”

The alert was accompanied by an article from a university-run online publication implying that Huckabee is God’s candidate.

Americans United sent a letter to IRS officials today, asking them to investigate the matter. The letter notes that on Nov. 19, the IRS issued a press statement reminding charities and churches about the ban on politicking and asks the tax agency to back that up with enforcement in this case.

“Falwell surely knows that these types of political endorsements are illegal,” remarked the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Tax-exempt religious institutions may not be used to support or oppose candidates for public office.”

Falwell seems to be following in the footsteps of his late father Jerry Falwell Sr. In 1993, Falwell Sr.'s Old Time Gospel Hour had its tax exemption retroactively revoked for the years 1986 and 1987 and the ministry was required to pay $50,000 because of involvement in partisan politics.

Pastors and heads of 501(c)(3) non-profit groups are free to endorse candidates as private individuals, but the Internal Revenue Code does not allow them to use institutional resources, such as official publications, Web sites and other forms of communication, to back or oppose candidates.

Showing just how far he will go to pander to Bush, Charles Schumer joined almost every Republican voting and far too many "Democrats" in passing the corporate-controlled trade deal with Peru.

Never mind that the deal with eliminate American jobs and dramatically increase poverty in Peru. All Schumer cares about are big money donations from the rich and corporate interests. The 77-18 vote is a terrible indication of the pervasiveness of corruption in the Senate, and Schumer is one of the worst pigs at the campaign contribution trough.

If politicians like Schumer actually cared about middle class and poor people, they would be working to repeal corporate trade deals, not pass more of these attacks on the non-rich.

This is another excellent reason to boycott the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is headed by Charles "Loves Torture" Schumer.

Express your outrage to the DSCC!

An exchange between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in today's Democratic presidential debate shows that Ms. Clinton is starting to see political danger in her vote for war with Iran.

"Declaring a military group sponsored by the state of Iran a terrorist organization, that's supposed to be diplomacy?" Edwards interjected. "This has to be considered in the context that Senator Clinton has said she agrees with George Bush terminology that we're in a global war on terror, then she voted to declare a military group in Iran a terrorist organization. What possible conclusion can you reach other than we are at war?"

Clinton objected. "You know I understand politics and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far," said the New York senator. She is locked in a tight three-way race with Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, and Obama, a senator from Illinois, in this first-voting state.

"None of us is advocating a rush to war," Clinton said.

In the weird world of politics, telling the truth is often considered something that "goes way too far." Iran's Revolutionary Guard is an arm of the Iranian state. Declaring it a terrorist organization at a time when this country is at a state of war with all terrorist organizations is a de facto war authorization by Congress, though a somewhat sneaky one. For Hillary Clinton to deny that the vote was anything other than an effort to start a war with Iran insults the intelligence of Democratic primary voters.

Another statement by Ms. Clinton at the debate shows that her testing of political winds has moved her in a different direction than when she voted for war with Iran.
I have for two years advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran and I think that's what the president should do. He should seize this opportunity and engage in serious diplomacy using both carrots and sticks.

This invokes mixed emotions on my part. It is good to see that the efforts to sell a lunatic war with Iran are failing to win over the American people. On the other hand, Ms. Clinton's lying about her vote brings back bad memories of her horrible, horrible husband lying on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the deceptively named version of the military ban which succeeded in increasing the numbers of discharges and witchhunts for queers in the military.

It also reminds me of how Bill Clinton repeatedly lied about NAFTA, trying to claim that NAFTA would create American jobs, rather than exporting them, and exporting US jobs is exactly what NAFTA did. The dishonesty of the Clintons may not be on the same level of that of the Bushes, but our country deserves more ethical leadership than merely being less mendacious than the leader of an unelected regime and a father who was involved in Iran-Contra.

A Web Site for Iraq Exploiters

Posted by libhom Sunday, December 02, 2007 7 comments

There actually is a web site just for people making money off of the suffering of the Iraqi people:

Investor's Iraq Forum

According to the site, the purpose is:

Investors Iraq Forum is a unique place where many people from around the world share investment ideas on the new emerging Iraq. Here you can get the latest exchange rates, news, and information regarding the Iraqi Dinar, which has risen in value by 20% over the past year. At Investors Iraq, you can also learn how to open an interest bearing bank account in Iraq and invest in the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) which officially opened to foreign investors on August 2, 2007.

Here are a couple of the creepier forums:
Iraqi Dinar Speculation

Liberty's Children (2 Viewing)
A special cove for the soldiers defending freedom around the world and the contractors planting the seeds for democracy.

The notion that the contractors are "planting the seeds for democracy" is positively Orwelian.

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Americans United Blasts Ouster Of Texas Educator For Supporting Sound Science

Church-State Watchdog Group Calls On Officials To Rehire Staffer Forced Out For Noting Lecture Criticizing ‘Intelligent Design’

Officials with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) should rehire a science curriculum expert who was forced to resign after she notified people about a lecture critical of “intelligent design” (ID), says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Chris Comer, director of science curriculum, was pushed out after she circulated an e-mail mentioning that a leading scholarly critic of ID, the latest variant of creationism, would be speaking in Texas. Comer sent a notice about the talk as an “FYI.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, blasted officials at TEA and called on them to promptly reinstate Comer.

“It’s a sad day when a science expert can lose her job merely for recommending that people hear a speaker defend sound science,” Lynn said. “Officials in Texas seem intent on elevating fundamentalist dogma over academic excellence and common sense.”

Lizzette Reynolds, a former staff member at the U.S. Department of Education now working for TEA as a senior adviser, played a key role in Comer’s ouster. She responded to Comer’s e-mail about the ID lecture by urging Comer’s bosses to fire her.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Reynolds’ message said, “This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities. This is something that the State Board, the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.”

Lynn noted that the lecture on ID was to be given by Barbara Forrest, who serves on the Americans United Board of Trustees. She is an acknowledged expert on intelligent design. Coauthor of the book Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, Forrest served as an expert witness in a federal lawsuit in Dover, Pa., that struck down the teaching of ID.

“By noting Forrest’s talk, Comer was simply doing her job: alerting people to a resource they might find useful,” Lynn said. “I am appalled at this action by TEA and urge officials to immediately correct this gross injustice.”

AU isn't the only organization concerned about this. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education quoted in the Austin-American Statesman.

This just underscores the politicization of science education in Texas. In most states, the department of education takes a leadership role in fostering sound science education. Apparently TEA employees are supposed to be kept in the closet and only let out to do the bidding of the board.

The British journal Nature is concerned and a bit perplexed.
Attitudes to education differ round the world, but things are looking pretty odd in Texas right now. The director of the state’s science curriculum is claiming she was forced out for forwarding an email. Its content was not a risqué joke or a sleazy photo: it was a note about a forthcoming lecture by a philosopher who has been heavily involved in debates over creationism.

They also see the tie-in between creationist influence and the quality of education.
In other news, a new international ranking of the science ability of 15 year olds has been conducted by the OECD. The US is below average, a little under Latvia. Finland tops the chart. Those with spare time might find it interesting to compare this chart of the new OECD ranking, with this chart of belief in evolution.


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