Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Dangers of Wishful Thinking: Drafting Al Gore

Hi Newshackers,

Yesterday, I received an action request message from Democrats.com, a very progressive but unofficial sub-group of the Democratic Party. It asks for support on several activist topics, including two very controversial ones: 1) petitioning Al Gore to run for President, and 2) calling for the impeachment of George Bush for violating the FISA laws starting one month after his (s)election.

Many people consider the prospect of impeaching the President controversial. Personally, I believe Dick Cheney and George Bush should be impeached for the large number of high crimes and misdemeanors they and their cronies have committed, and I signed that petition.

However, I won't sign their petition, or any others now being circulated, attempting to draft Al Gore into the Democratic primary. I find attempting to draft Mr. Gore into the Presidential race controversial, and potentially very damaging to the party's efforts to elect a Democratic President in 2008. Splitting the allegiance of Democratic supporters between Al Gore and the other Democratic candidates is contrary to the party's best interests.

This is especially true since I don't believe Mr. Gore wants to run. His aversion to retail politics is well known. Further, his stature as an elder statesman, and now a prophet of climate change, gives him power to effect positive social change on a global level that he would be foolish to squander.

If I could speak to him personally, I'd urge Mr. Gore to "do a Sherman," to make the definitive statement, "If nominated, I will not accept. If drafted, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve." and put an end to all this counterproductive speculation.

My respect for Mr. Gore is long standing and profound. The Nobel Prize he so richly deserves is only the current public acknowledgment of his many years of visionary leadership and public service. I believe Mr. Gore deserved to be, and should have been, President starting in 2000 and that he would be an excellent President if elected in 2008.

However, unless and until Mr. Gore publicly declares his decision to be a candidate, attempting to draft him by petition seems an exercise in nostalgia and wishful thinking more than a political action, which action we sorely need to regain and secure the future of the American dream. Petitions are admirable indications of public sentiment, but they don't change government policies - winning elections does.

I prefer the election of any Democratic candidate to any Republican because I believe no Republican will work to reverse the terrible precedents for our society and our Constitutional rights that Bush and Cheney have set in motion. They will want to forget the whole shameful era. Frankly, I'm not sure a Democratic administration and Democratically controlled Congress will be entirely successful in reversing this shameful era either, but the odds are much higher that they will make an effort to do so. Therefore, any effort that compromises that goal is unacceptable.

I believe these attempts to draft Al Gore represent such a threat. I see in this effort a wishful frame of mind that suggests that if Mr. Gore is elected we will be safe from the radical right and people can breathe a sigh of relief and return to their daily lives. They want to escape politics. These people think, wishfully, and often unconsciously, that if Al Gore was in charge, they wouldn't have to worry about politics for years to come and wouldn't have to concentrate daily, and often fearfully, on where the republic is headed.

Wishful thinking is the first step on the road to political despair. The desire to ignore messy practical realities. Wishful thinkers don't vote. They leave the mess to other people to fix. "It will never be the way I want it to be, so why bother voting?" This is a terrible trend to support.

Democracy is a messy and sometimes depressing business. I'm convinced that I will have to be politically aware and active for the rest of my life. But I no longer consider this a burden. I consider it an honor and a duty to the ideals of personal freedom first put forth by our Founding Fathers.

I'll be interested in your comments, whether pro or con.

Stay active,

/Dick

Friday, October 5, 2007

Support Food Aid That Helps, Not Hurts

Hi Newshackers,

I've been silent for awhile for a variety of reasons, among them the depressing nature of our political discourse in recent months. Today, however, I received the following request to sign a petition from Care2 and felt motivated to take action and to call on my readers to act on this issue as well.

Quoted From Emily's message from Care2:

"If our "food aid" makes poor countries dependent on international agribusiness companies, is that really helping them?

No! Tell the Senate to support cash for local and regional purchases of food aid! >>

When cheap food mostly purchased from US agribusinesses is dumped at below market costs in hunger-stricken countries, it drives local farmers off the land and out of work.

Fortunately, the Senate is drafting language in the 2007 Farm Bill for a pilot program to purchase food from local and regional farmers in times of food crisis, which would help local farmers feed their families and communities and promote sustainable agricultural practices." http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/290828030?z00m=10309155

I signed that petition and added my own comments to it:

"Giving poor countries our excess food production LOOKS generous, but in reality does NOTHING to aid farmers in those regions in creating markets that will support their own food production capabilities. This so-called charity assures that those people will continue to need our aid rather than helping them become able to feed themselves. This undermines their human dignity and gives them no hope for food independence in the future. Monetary charity can. This is the charity we owe our brothers, not just the scraps from our overburdened and wasteful tables. End the Codex and give the world's poor the monetary aid that will truly help them."

I urge you all to do the same.

/Dick

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Blogosphere Day!!

Hi Newshackers,

Happy Blogosphere Day!!

Today, July 19, 2007, is the fourth annual Blogosphere Day. This year, prominent Democrats and bloggers alike have been quick to claim the blogosphere as a primary force behind their resurgence in the 2006 elections.

There is no question that liberals and progressives have been quicker to jump on the blogging bandwagon than Republicans, though more and more conservatives are starting to blog as well. I wish them luck. If the conservative bloggers' ideas are substantial, they will get a hearing. That's fine with me. Some conservative positions make a lot of sense, as I've written before. If they promote their party as a party supporting conservative ideas like making government more cost-efficient, protecting our privacy rights, and rooting out corruption and corporate welfare, or structuring a way for the current corporate health care industry to provide good health care for all Americans at affordable costs - I'm all for that.

However, if they just continue to spout the same old Corpublican (my personal term for the corporate supporters of the party) rants about getting big government off our backs, privatizing Social Security, criminalizing guest workers, and reducing taxes, I suspect they will only dig their way into a hole deeper than the one George W. Bush has already dug for them. Their appeal is to rugged individualism, supposedly a core value of that party.

The days of rugged individualism really are past. There certainly are some people who live off the grid, arm themselves and join militias. However, most Americans who play rebel/outsider roles, and dress the part, do so for psychic satisfaction. But, when you talk to these people, they don't really expect to actually have to take care of themselves with no outside aid when faced with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or catastrophic illness. Talk to most Harley riders these days and they aren't Hells Angels. They're off-duty cops, sales people, and factory workers. People who worry about health care for their families and pensions.

Most Americans these days, including most Republicans, understand that it is government that makes possible all of the various freedoms and protections we enjoy, as well as the social safety net on which many retired Americans depend to some degree, and without which many would be sick and destitute. Most people expect government to provide these protections and won't support parties and platforms that jeopardize them.

/Dick

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sign Petitions to Restore Habeas Corpus

Hi Newshackers,

The link below will take you to Human Rights First's online petition to restore Habeas Corpus.

http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/habeas_vote

FindHabeas.org is the ACLU's site devoted to this issue. The link below is to their petition.

https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=habeas_petition&JServSessionIdr011=tw1wlntd32.app23a

If you have not already done so, please sign both petitions above. Signing these petitions will add you to the overall number of petition respondents, and will send emails to your state's representatives asking them to restore this most fundamental right, which we lost in the passage of the Military Commissions Act last fall.

Congress will act on new legislation to restore Habeas Corpus shortly. Can't urge you enough to act on this now.

/Dick

Libby Sentence Commutation is Tipping Point for Impeachment

Hi Newshackers,

As I write this, it's Friday night. I'm watching the Tough Talk About Impeachment episode of Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS.

In this report, Moyers often speaks and questions as the voice of those who resist impeachment, citing the usual fears of any constitutional crisis, and the fear having such a crisis during a "time of war, when terrorists are coming to America to do us harm." His guests for the discussion were Bill Nichols, of The Nation magazine, and Bruce Fein, Constitutional scholar from American Freedom Agenda. Both men strongly advocate impeaching both Bush and Cheney for a long list of provable offenses that have been revealed in the news media. They also cite a number of patriotic and constitutional reasons, including the need to show Americans that the rule of law still operates, that justice is even-handed, and the importance of setting binding precedents that will prevent future presidencies from attempting to overreach their authority the way the Bush administration has.

One of the first important points on which all three agreed is that Moyers would not even be recording a program about this topic, and PBS stations nationwide would not be airing it, if it wasn't clear to them all that a majority of the public is ready to seek both men's impeachment. Representative Dennis Kucinich has long since introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to maintain that "impeachment is off the table."

All agreed that what has recently increased the potential for impeachment is that the American public is in an absolute furor over the Scooter Libby commutation. Nichols believes this one act may be the tipping point where the majority of Americans now believe that the Bush Administration truly feels and acts above the law.

It seems the various impeachable offenses of which Bush and Cheney have been accused in the past year were somewhat obscure technical offenses to the average American, whose main concerns have been making a living and the Iraq War, whether pro or con. The war, and war weariness, has made people less attentive to a variety of unconstitutional actions by the administration during the past six years. So, many have not perceived the overall pattern of abuse the administration has pursued - UNTIL NOW!

It seems that the commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence was such a manifest injustice that it has outraged even the non-political.

I know this is true from personal experience. During the past week or so, I have heard these sentiments expressed by neighbors and casual acquaintances. People from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds with whom I have never discussed politics before. Most are nice people who usually don't talk politics with people they don't know well. And yet, they are overwhelmed by their need to bitch about this topic.

One by one they have walked up to me out of the blue and said some variation on, "What do you think about Bush commuting Libby's sentence?" It depresses me greatly. "Those people are ruining the country. They are making a mockery of our system of justice. Bush keeps defending the Iraq war and getting American soldiers killed when any idiot can see it's a total disaster and we should get out of there. We've got to get rid of this administration." The variations usually included a number of expletives, which I've deleted. I've even seen complete strangers talking about it on the bus, musing out loud over a newspaper article one was reading.

For nearly two-thirds of the program, the participants discussed the process of impeachment, the seriousness of the list of impeachable offenses charged, and why the ability to impeach high officials was considered crucial by the founding fathers. So much so, that it's mentioned six times in the Constitution.

Nichols told Moyers that many Americans have a common mistaken attitude about impeachment. They treat the threat of impeachment procedings as a constitutional crisis. Nichols believes impeachment should, instead, be seen as the medicine for fixing a constitutional crisis, such as this one brought on by Cheney and Bush.

I suggest you find, Tivo if necessary, and watch this insightful report. Whether you are for or against impeachment, this discussion will open your eyes.

/Dick

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lessons Bush Learned From Hitler by The Existentialist Cowboy

Hi Newshackers,

Like the new color scheme? I have a habitual fondness for blue tones. Also, I found it necessary to change the old look, despite liking it really well. Why?

Well, today I visited an excellent blog called The Existentialist Cowboy and thought I'd clicked on NewsHacker by mistake. Though I'd never seen his blog before today, Len Hart's blog color scheme and layout were nearly identical to my own. It was freaky. It was also obvious that his blog was much older and more fully developed than mine. That being the case, I decided he had first dibs on that template and look and I would find another look for mine to avoid visual confusion. Especially because I hope to attract some of Len's audience to NewsHacker.

Back to business. I was really impressed with The Existentialist Cowboy's historical perspective in Lessons Bush Learned From Hitler. Hart lays out the numerous historical parallels between how the Hitler Regime came to power and the Bush Administration's selection by the Supreme Court, and the many subsequent events and strategies they had in common, in rigorous fashion. Uncanny, and well worth your time.

One could make a case that Bush learned these same basic lessons from Stalin, Mao, Franco, Pol Pot, Vlad Dracula, et al, but that would be quibbling. The corollaries between the Hitler and Bush regimes' tactics are startling.

/Dick

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

CNN: Is President Bush reigniting the Cold War with Russia?

Hi NewsHackers,

I was watching CNN's The Situation Room this afternoon. Jack Cafferty, a regular commentator, proposes a political question each hour of the show and invites viewers to respond by email. Jack's question for the 5 p.m. hour was: "Is President Bush reigniting the Cold War with Russia?" You can view the list of responses at the link in the title.

I sent a quick response, but the question got my mind working. Why would Bush risk reigniting the Cold War right now? He's had years in which to confront Russia on numerous real global issues and has, instead, called Putin his friend. Why now?

Personally, I don't think Bush is trying to reignite the Cold War, but his administration's record for unintended consequences is alarming and he might easily do so by accident.

It turns out there are several good reasons why he would provoke a minor crisis right now:

International terrorism, even the Administration's recent revelations about home-grown terrorist plots are not generating the kind of generalized fear domestically that he needs to keep up his Iraq war strategy, keep his conservative base loyal, and to keep a pack of Congressional investigators at bay with claims of secrecy based on national security.

When I was a child, American diplomats described the then Soviet Union as "a midget with a huge right arm." This phrase may be politically incorrect today, but it meant that as a nation, the USSR had a massive inferiority complex that made them easy to provoke, and when provoked they had an enormous military and nuclear weapons with which to respond. Though the USSR is no more, Russia, which led that Union, continues to maintain nuclear weapons and a large military, following its historical political tendencies.

The whole diplomatic world knows this. So, why would President Bush start pushing for this missile defense system in Russia's back yard now, since he must surely know it would provoke a strong negative reaction from Vladimir Putin, a direct inheritor of the Soviet mindset?

As a strategic matter, Russia's expected paranoid response suggests to our allies in the EEU that, considering Russia's aggressiveness about a what is basically still a theoretical system, they might actually need the missile shield America wants and that Russia fears.

I believe his immediate goal was to provoke a truculent response from Russia that will make any real progress at the G-8 Conference impossible. Although Bush has started talking about climate change recently, it's all hot air. Today, at the G-8, he obviously is working to prevent the G-8 from re-introducing Kyoto-like goals for reducing greenhouse gasses. And yet, the BBC's coverage this evening indicates that criticism of the American position by other world leaders has been muted.

So Bush is achieving several important policy goals by provoking a crisis right now. However, he's doing so at a terrible risk to international peace and to peaceful cooperation and development. Considering the enormous risk of reigniting the Cold War, why would he do so?

Simple. To feed the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about over 50 years ago! As long as there are major international tensions, we will have to keep feeding this hungry beast. This is what Bush and the Corpublicans (Corporate Republican supporters) want.

Bush's associations with the oil industry are well publicized, but most Americans don't seem to realize how close he and his supporters are to the weapons industry. But that's an issue for another post.

/Dick

Sunday, June 3, 2007

House Intelligence Committee to Investigate Secret NSA Spying and AT&T's role

Hi NewsHackers,

The link in the heading leads to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's article supporting the recent decision by Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes to hold hearings into the National Security Agency's illegal spying on Americans and AT&T's role violating its customers' privacy and the law by cooperating with the NSA.

All Americans owe the EFF our thanks for leading the legal charge to expose this random spying on us all. Their legal case against AT&T is going forward despite the motions by the defendant and the government to have this case quashed as a matter of national security.

Domestic terrorism threats are real and frightening. The plot to bomb the tank farm at Kennedy International Airport was revealed yesterday. We learned about the plan to attack troops at Ft. Dix, New Jersey a few weeks ago.

However, even this danger does not justify the government in spying randomly on all Americans. I believe that the NSA and AT&T both broke existing Federal law prohibiting warrant-less domestic surveillance. A Congressional investigation of how these transgressions were ordered and justified is imperative if we are to avoid these depredations in the future.

I look for some amazing political theatre to develop out of the revelations that are expected from this investigation. The hearing questions will include: "Who ordered the program? Under what supposed authority? Didn't the order to bypass the FISA Court trouble you constitutionally? Why did AT&T cooperate so readily? Were they expecting competitive advantages in winning future government telecommunications contracts?" It's going to be fun.

/Dick

Reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment

Hi Newshackers,

It's time for Congress to reinstate the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

This story and issue has received zero coverage by Big Media news outlets in recent months, despite being proposed by Hillary Clinton and covered in the New York Times on April 13, 2007. Ralph Nader proposed the same thing on April 27, 2007 on the Common Dreams web site. A long time advocate behind the scenes, Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey has been trying to promote this idea since 1994.

The OTA was killed off in 1995 by the Gingrich Revolution. This one act essentially performed a frontal lobotomy on Congress, depriving it of essential counsel by recognized scientific authorities just at the point when scientific and technological issues like AIDS, Climate change, global pandemics, the Internet, and others would become the main issues on the agenda. Coincidence? I doubt it. Regardless...

Re-establishing the OTA, or some similar federal authority, would be an important step in restoring the use of well-reviewed and accepted scientific and technological information as the basis for all federal decisions. And none too soon, either!

/Dick



Saturday, June 2, 2007

Petition The FCC: For Your Children and Grandchildren's Sake

Hi Newshackers,

I recently forwarded a MoveOn.org message asking all my friends to sign their petition to the FCC halting their intended auctioning off of new bandwidth to the highest bidders, but to facilitate new and better wireless communications offerings. I strongly encourage you to sign it, as well, at the link in the post title above.

I also sent it to my conservative older brother. He responded, "What does the FCC, ATT, Verizon, Comcast etc. have to say about all this? Fred" I wrote back the following:

"Hi Fred,

The communications giants you mention (ATT, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) are competing fiercely among themselves for the greatest reach, influence, and profitability in the marketplace, but they are united in their efforts to prevent more players and newer technologies from gaining traction in the marketplace.

Thus, they want to purchase the rights to this new spectrum, not to use it commercially for providing enhanced services, or otherwise in the best interest of consumers, but to warehouse it to prevent newer players and technologies from playing. So they lobby the Congress and the FCC intensively to support regulatory structures that maintain the status quo and keep new competitors out.

Until the 2006 election, in which Democrats regained oversight of the FCC, the FCC had, for many years, abandoned it's proper role as guardian of the people's interests in national communications policy. It become the Federal Conglomeration Commission, the facilitator of industry initiatives designed to consolidate their ownership and control of the airwaves and physical connections that reach into our homes and lives.

Within days of taking over majority control of Congress, the Communications Committees of both houses called the FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, on the carpet and laid out in no uncertain terms their total dissatisfaction with the FCC's status as industry advocate and insisted the FCC return to its traditional role. There's more on those hearings at my blog post http://www.newshacker.net/2007/03/la-times-democrats-to-fcc-were-watching.html

If you're interested in understanding these issues, I recommend Jeff Chester's new book: "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy," which I just finished reading last month. Bill Moyers' review quote is, "Jeff Chester is the Paul Revere of the media revolution. Read this book and you will understand the stakes." I heartily agree. Chester lays out the historically important decisions and highlights of how we got from the protections of the Communications Act of 1939 to our current situation and what the stakes are for our individual rights and capabilities in the digital future.

For further understanding the serious political impacts these policy decisions can have, read Tragedy & Farce, How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy, by John Nichols and Robert McChesney.

If you would rather watch TV programs, I strongly recommend the Net @ Risk series by Bill Moyers. My March review of this mini-series is here, as are links to Moyers' PBS web site.

Here is why I've compulsively written so much in response to your 15 word question:

How free your grandkids will be to use the Internet, and newer communications, computing, and entertainment services to their best advantage, rather than to the best advantage of mammoth corporate interests, is being decided over the next few years. That's why I blog about and am becoming active in promoting media reform - for the benefit of American democracy, and for everyone's children and grandchildren.

These issues are crucial to all Americans' future civil and political rights, and to their pursuit of happiness. I don't want to be sitting on the sidelines watching while the corporate giants gain monopoly control over what services we can access, what news we can watch, and when and how industry and government can invade our personal privacy for commercial or political purposes.

Love and best, as always,

/Dick

p.s. As always, your questions do crystallize my thoughts. I'll probably use this on the blog. /D"

Friday, June 1, 2007

Back on the Job "Supporting the Troops," my way

Hi Newshackers,

I'm back on the job as of today, June 1st. By the time I had this space well under way in late April, I needed to take a breath mentally, meet my commitments to other causes, and do some money-making work. This evolved into taking May off.

I almost posted over the Memorial Day weekend because I was really depressed about the Democratic leadership caving in to Bush's demands on the funding of the Iraq war. There was so much patriotic sounding bullshit about "supporting the troops" being intoned in Big Media news outlets by Democrats and Republicans that I was really annoyed at both parties.

This idea that Bush and the Republicans are supporting the troops by insuring they have the means to prosecute the war is among the most cynical of political ploys. Almost as cynical is the Democratic leadership's claim to be "supporting the troops," while caving in to Bush's demands for a blank check, even though they know that those who elected them did so expressly to end the war.

The way politicians use "Supporting The Troops" to pull on the heart strings of their constituents and generate uncritical media coverage is repellent. It works primarily because most civilians, who have never done military service, presupose that troops in the field are sitting around questioning the justness or validity of the war they're in. That they will be depressed and feel betrayed by what politicians and pundits say.

That's too abstract for the battlefield. They're too busy not getting killed or maimed to think much about what politicians or peace activists are saying "back in the world." They are totally focused on the here and now and covering their buddies' backs. "The world" won't matter to them until they leave the combat zone.

If the politicians on both sides of the aisle were really serious about supporting the troops, there are many ways they could do so besides stopping the Iraq War, which Bush won't do and the Democrats don't yet have enough votes to push through the Congress and bypass a Bush veto.

Among these needed improvements are: provide soldiers with the best vehicle and body armor available (Israeli "Dragon Skin" not U.S. military issue); fully fund the military medical corps and Veterans Administration to provide for the needs of war casualties and their families; pay soldiers enough so their families don't need to depend on food stamps to get by; and many, many more.

I have been saving emails, posts, etc., about media-related topics, and I'll be posting my current concerns over the next few days. I expect to be checking in daily from now on.

Cordially,

/Dick Jones
NewsHacker

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Editorial: Great News for Darfur - Bush declares situation there "evil," promises action

Hi Newshackers,

I just saw a report on World News Tonight on ABC in which George Bush has declared the situation in Darfur evil. Hallelujah!! This is the best news the oppressed black minority Sudanese in the Darfur region could possibly hear!

Why? Because evil is George Bush's special obsession. Anything he pronounces evil is his personal enemy. This character trait of his has been highly problematical for years now, but this one time there's a real potential for a higher good and a high likelihood that Bush will follow through on this statement. Why? Because he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

America has been pressing Sudan to protect the black minority Sudanese through diplomatic channels, acting in accord with the United Nations. Bush has been silent on Darfur until now. This is an opportunity, however momentary, to deflect criticism about Iraq, JusticeGate, and more. Also, he has nothing to hide or defend against in this situation, except his silence up until now. Serious action on his part can change things for the better in Darfur quickly. This tells me he'll jump on it as a great PR opportunity.

Bush will work to save Darfur hoping to save his legacy. I doubt anything can do that, but for the time being, he'll save many innocent lives trying.

My wife is skeptical that Bush can do anything good, but as we have seen, the law of unintended consequences dogs George Bush and his administration - just like the little storm cloud and lightning bolt that hovered over the head of Joe Btfsplk the Jinx, a character in Lil Abner cartoons.

My 2 cents.

/Dick
newshacker@pia.net

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre: Another Tragedy Fostered by Big Guns (the NRA) and Big Media

Today, I'm writing to express my outrage at the horrendous campus murder spree at Virginia Tech. A recordbreaking and pointless tragedy has occurred because many Americans and American politicians can't tell the difference between hunting rifles and hand-held semi-automatic assault weapons, and because Big Media supports this ignorance by consistently down-playing the terrible effect that the general availibility of such weapons has on our society.

Big Media's intensive coverage of the aftermath of this national tragedy and the stories of personal sacrifice has been excellent in most respects, and for that, I thank them all. Many reports are even asking the almost inevitable question, "Will this be the shocking event that puts serious gun control on the table?" They may even report on polls that show a majority of Americans support gun control.

Then, however, they explain how politically unlikely enacting gun control legislation is. How strong the National Rifle Association's fundraising and voting bloc is, and how, historically, public demand for gun control peters out once any tragedy has passed. So, it seems unlikely the current public outcry for gun control will be sustained.

Some would call this "covering the political realities of the gun control issue." I call it "managing expectations downward," a self-fulfilling prophecy that tells people who want to press for gun control that they are tilting at windmills. By handling stories this way, Big Media are literally doing public relations work for the NRA!

Do you ever wonder why there is very little sustained coverage of how guns impact our society and why there is virtually no public discussion of the 30 plus deaths caused by guns in America daily? Why they seldom cover the efforts of the growing movement of non-profit organizations that are lobbying for change? Why they don't tell us that we lead the world in gun killings by orders of magnitude more than than country number two, and the rest of the developed world views this aspect of our society with alarm. Why? Blame the NRA.

No big news organization, political party, or individual politician wants to attack the NRA's position because the NRA will unleash it's reknowned political pressure machine on them. NRA members will flood their switchboards protesting the "unfair" coverage. NRA leadership will start calling members of the sitting administration, members of Congress, and leaders and board members of other Big Media companies to harangue them. Ad campaigns of the "from my cold, dead hands" variety will start appearing everywhere.

Attempting to hide the fact that they are constantly caving in to NRA pressure tactics, Big Media news operations give us excuses. They say most of these deaths don't get reported because they aren't "good copy." They're just anonymous dead people. Well, I'm convinced that many of these men, women, and children might not have died if guns had not been so readily at hand, and easily available to unstable people and criminals.

I'm not against guns per se. I've handled many weapons and I'm a good shot. Though I haven't hunted in many years, I respect hunting and understand the passing on of traditions. However, there's a vast difference between owning rifles for hunting and allowing large numbers of non-hunters to own high-powered assault weapons and hand guns that are designed specifically and only for killing people. The NRA continues to scream that the loss of the freedom to own any gun will be a catastrophic loss of a basic constitutional right. I can't believe that is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.

I think that many hunters and conservatives can see this is true, but they're afraid to break ranks with their neighbors and buddies at the hunt club, who pay their NRA dues, compare high-powered weaponry, and talk confrontational patriotic bullshit over their beers.

I'm sure there are plenty of reasonable people who say to themselves what most know is true, "Hell. A lever action 30.30 or a 5 shot 30.06 semi-auto is more than enough firepower for hunting, or protecting yourself from, the biggest game in the continental USA."

How do we reach and empower these rational people? How do we convince them that society's need to control the availability of human-killing weapons most appropriate to terrorism or the military is legitimate, and isn't also a backdoor attempt to take away their hunting guns and a traditional way of life they value? I wish I knew the answer to that one.

In sorrow,

/Dick

Friday, April 6, 2007

NewsHacker.net - Fair and balanced or too liberal?

Hi Folks,

I've had a few comments and complaints recently that, although I say I'm for unbiased news coverage, my posts seem to mostly promote liberal viewpoints or opposition to the war in Iraq.

My answer is I am truly pursuing fair and balanced news coverage, media reform, and small "d" democracy. If the liberals had held a strong majority for years and were using big media to oppress conservatives in unconstitutional ways, I would be just as concerned about, and writing about, that. If I have any bias, it is my fundamental suspision of all arbitrary power.

I believe when the American electorate has all the facts, good and bad, they choose wisely. Unfortunately, they seldom learn all the actual positive and negative impacts of most laws or issues until too late. They hear the view Big Media wants them to hear.

The exponential growth of corporate power in the media industires in recent decades has insured that liberal and progressive viewpoints have been marginalized, and are poorly represented in the coverage of the Big Media news outlets. So, occasionally, I point out such under-reported stories here.

I'm sure some conservatives will say this is "liberal media bias." The constant conservative whine about the "liberal media bias" in America is a myth, a big lie. Otherwise, our society would be far more liberal and socialized than it already is. Such people like to pretend that mega-corporations benignly pay billions annually for worldwide news operations to produce unbiased news coverage, and do so out of the goodness of their organizational hearts, and don't use them to promote the views that benefit their own bottom lines. This is extremely naive. Corporations are about power and money. How many socially progressive, charitable, Fortune 100 corporations can you name?

People who get their news only from Big Media news outlets often believe things about an issue that simply aren't true. When you explain that numerous other well-known facts make that thing impossible, they usually end the conversation with, "Well, that's what I've heard." "Where? "On the news." "WHOSE news?" "I dunno. All of them." It wasn't until mid-2005 that polling showed that most Americans (though sadly not all) understood clearly that Saddam Hussein had no part whatsoever in 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction, despite these facts having been proved years earlier.

Was this accidental? I think not. Last month, at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, Rupert Murdock publicly admitted that Fox News had purposely attempted to 'gin up" support for the Iraq War during the prelude to the invasion. You can view the video from the link at my posting on this story.

The truth is always best, although it isn't always comfortable.

/Dick

Thursday, April 5, 2007

NewsHacker.net: a canary in the mines.

Hi Newshackers,

I'm posting the anecdote below to communicate that I don't consider conservative Americans enemies in this discussion and I want their input. They're my opponents on some issues, certainly, but as long as they act and communicate in good faith, they're not my enemies.

Like most liberal Americans, I have a number of family members and friends who are conservatives. Occasionally, despite the admonitions of Emily Post, we discuss politics. The conservatives I know personally know the constitutional rights I'm working to preserve, and the reform of regulations controlling Big Media companies that I advocate, protect them, too. I believe there are many other conservatives who understand this, too.

I'm posting a recent conversation with one of those friends below because I'm proud of it, and to help convince potential conservative commentators that I value their ideas too.

/Dick

4/5/07

Jack W., a good friend and former employer called me yesterday. Jack no longer lives nearby, so we don't speak as regularly as we once did, but we're still close. Good friends, despite rather different political views. Jack is a Republican and a former Army officer, and I'm rather progressive. We've had many interesting political discussions over the years because we respect each other, and we both fight fair. No hectoring or appeals to emotion. We explore each other's beliefs. Sometimes, we walk away with things to consider. Others, we wind up agreeing not to agree, but we're clear about where we differ and why, and there's no ill will.

We talked about our mutual friends, etc., for awhile. Then, Jack said he had just read my email announcement from a few weeks ago (he's a busy guy) about the debut of NewsHacker.net, had visited it, and was calling to congratulate me (the following quote is approximate):

"You know I never shared your suspicions about Big Media's motives and bias in their news programming. But, after reading your blog for awhile, I now realize there's a big potential for abuse I never considered before. Now that I think about what the stakes are, I'm really glad to know you are on the lookout. Every society needs its "canaries in the mines," its warning mechanisms to warn it when danger is near. Knowing you are actively pursuing these issues is comforting because, of everyone I know, you pursue your ideas and don't shut up about them. So, I figure I'm safer."

I told him I took this as a real compliment.

/Dick

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Online Slideshow and Petitions to Preclude Bush Attack on Iran

I have signed the two petitions linked below to preclude Bush from invading Iran. I suggest you sign them, too.

Now that 15 British sailors are being held by Iran, and tensions are rising quickly, the potential for fatal errors on all sides is growing. Bush is a loyal to his allies, whatever else one can say about him. He will never abandon Tony Blair and Great Britain in this mini-crisis, which may mean whatever these two other countries do, for well or ill, might well decide America's fate in that region.

I think barring such an attack is especially important now that the Spring Congressional recess is quickly approaching. It's clear to me that Bush is in total denial about the failure in Iraq and is willing to do anything to "extend the mission" and pray to not be proven wrong again. I don't put anything past them, including faking intelligence to justify attacking Iran. Why not? It worked before! Also, news reports about the Bush administration's plans to attack Iran have been surfacing for months without being definitively denied. There's always a wiggle phrase that would allow for such an attack if necessary. Meanwhile, we've doubled our massive naval and air presence off Iran's shores.

"We cannot afford to forget the lessons of the war on Iraq: Four years into a war based on fabricated and flawed intelligence, we have seen the abhorrent result of our occupation and we face a more dangerous world as a result of our actions...We cannot stand by and let yet another country endure the death and destruction that has been heaped upon Iraq. Please join us today in making sure this does not happen again." ~ Linda Schade, Voters For Peace

As an antidote to these constant appeals to fear, I highly recommend viewing this slideshow provided by Voters For Peace: watch this slideshow of the people, geography and culture of Iran. You know the axiom, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" This brilliant montage of images speaks volumes about Iranians and daily life in Iran.

Seeing color pictures of an active and diverse Islamic/democratic culture in which people look free, happy, prosperous, and creative is not something the average American sees much. Why? Because the Neocons in the Bush administration and their corporate allies don't want us to see these images any more than they want us to see the flag-draped caskets arriving every night in Delaware.

I'm occasionally saddened to realize that five years ago Baghdad probably looked much like these images of Tehran. Yes, they had the oppression of Saddam, but they also had a working secular society and economy and most people had peace of mind in living their daily lives. There may have been occasional inter-tribal threats, but not bullets, bombs, rockets and death day by day.

When I think of life in politically reactionary regimes, I have a tendency to visualize things in black, gray & white, like the dreary images of Communist housing blocks in Russia and China that we saw on TV and in the movie newsreels of the '50s and '60s. Even when shown in color, life there looked colorless and oppressive and the people looked oppressed and depressed. The Fall of Communism, which our government helped engineer, seemed a great kindness. I have a feeling I may not the only one with this mental cast, and it's a mental habit we need to shake because it no longer applies!

Bush and his sycophants want us to continue to see Iranians monolithically: as them, the enemy, those evil ones over there. It's much easier for them to justify attacking enemies - over there - when we think of those people in such gray and one-dimensional terms. They don't want us to think about the real people such an attack would effect. Watch this slideshow of the people, geography and culture of Iran.

Most Iranians don't want either liberation or war. Ayatollah Khomeini and the fundamentalist Mullahs we remember bitterly from the days of the Iran Hostage Crisis twenty years ago no longer control the country. They are still exercise religious power, but are not autocratic or monolithic. There is a vibrant secular society and economy. Their President, Ahmadinejad, is a big-mouthed politician with world power aims, but he doesn't really speak for the whole of Iranian society any more than Bush speaks for the USA. If we don't push Iran to a confrontation, they aren't about to seek open war with us.

So, let's not let Bush back us into Armageddon during the recess.

/Dick


ACTION PAGES:

http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/vfp/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=263
http://www.millionphonemarch.com/webb_iran_amendment.php

Dick Jones 212-787-0700 - newshacker@pia.net - http://newshacker.pia.net/
WHOSE news are you watching? You need to know!
When in doubt, follow the money.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Washington D.C. March by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq on March 16th, 2007

How often do the major news outlets give prominent coverage to important social events like the March to the White House by the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq on March 16th, 2007? An event in which 3,000 Christian activists brought their opposition to the Iraq War to the seat of executive power. Rhetorical question. The event was over a week ago. Did anyone reading see any coverage?

A kick-off service was held at the Washington National Cathedral, where many religious leaders spoke to a capacity crowd before the march. Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics, gave a moving address to the assembly containing the following key statement:

"By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong – and was from the very start. It cannot be justified with either the teaching of Jesus Christ or the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test, and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities – this war is also an offense against God."

Wallis has the courage to say out loud, and eloquently, what most Americans already know in their hearts, but can't bring themselves to say in public. That the Bush administration is spiritually and morally bankrupt, and all the deaths, American and Iraqi, are an American national tragedy for which we have already paid dearly - and for which we will continue paying dearly for many years.

/Dick

+ Read and respond to comments on this article on the God's Politics Blog
+ Dowload audio of the speech (mp3)
+ Watch video of the entire service

Thursday, March 22, 2007

To Do Health Care Right The Rich Must Be Taxed

The headline link above leads to an editorial by State Co-Chair Bob Master and Executive Director Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party. It was printed in the Albany, NY Times-Union on March 14, 2007. WFP is a progressive New York State political party.

Though their editorial deals with New York State, they point out a reality that often seems to be missed in the major media nationwide, that our biggest problems with funding health care and education is a lack of taxpayer revenue, and that the superrich pay inordinately low tax rates.

Here are a few excerpts:

"Gov. Spitzer's budget proposal has a lot of good stuff in it: Education funding. Better allocation of economic development funds. Expansion of health care programs for children and the poor. But there are two big problems. The first is the health care cuts. And the second is an unwillingness to raise taxes on the superrich.

They are the ones who actually keep winning this debate, because they depend less on the public goods and services that go underfunded, and make out like bandits from counterproductive tax cuts at the state and federal level.

Take a breath and consider this: There are approximately 44,000 New York taxpayers with incomes more than $1 million a year -- that means they earn more than $20,000 per week. They claim an astonishing $225 billion each year, a full quarter of all income in the state. In other words, this elite club takes in more than New York's entire middle class, the 2.5 million households earning between $50,000 and $150,000 a year. The inequality in wealth that results is even more astonishing.
More

In order to have the kind of equitable society we all want, the rich must be taxed in fair proportion to their earnings.

/Dick Jones
newshacker@pia.net

Bill Moyers' "The Net @ Risk" series on PBS

Listening to promos between watching programs on WNET Channel Thirteen this evening, I was reminded of a topic I've been meaning to cover in this space, which is the excellence of Bill Moyers' "Moyers on America" series, currently showing on PBS Television. Fair disclosure - I'm a long-time Bill Moyers fan and think he's the patron saint of investigative journalism and public TV, as well.

This Friday, WNET will be airing another episode in Moyers' excellent sub-series, The Net @ Risk. Following are the four episode titles, with links to Bill's site: The New Digital Divide Net Neutrality Community Connections Bigger and Bigger Media. While you're there you'll find an amazing array of supplementary information, like their easy thumbnail analysis of who owns what at the Big Six media companies.

If I could, I would make these programs required viewing for every American. Just once, like a citizenship continuing education class requirement. I also think many would be fascinated by what they learned and not think the requirement a burden. But, that's just me.

Anyway, I can't recommend these programs too highly for anyone who wants a cogent explanation of these important issues. I've seen The New Digital Divide and Net Neutrality and they are great. Highly informative without being preachy. In several cases, Moyers gets Big Media executives to damn themselves out of their own mouths.

/Dick

Monday, March 19, 2007

C-SPAN MAKES VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS, WHITE HOUSE AND OTHER FEDERAL EVENTS AVAILABLE TO THE ONLINE COMMUNITY

Great News!! As a result of initiatives by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Carl Malamud, C-SPAN recently changed its copyright policy to make much of its existing and future video content available for non-commercial copying and posting as long as attribution is included. This makes C-SPAN's video coverage of official events sponsored by Congress and federal agencies available to be used online by anyone with a point to make.

According to the C-SPAN press release, the move recognizes that we're in "an age of explosive growth of video file sharers, bloggers and online citizen journalists." In addition, C-SPAN also announced plans to significantly build out its capitolhearings.org website as a one-stop resource for Congressionally-produced webcasts of House and Senate committee and subcommittee hearings.

C-Span's Press Release

We should all be grateful to C-SPAN's forward-thinking leadership as this policy innovation will empower the political and cultural blogosphere and increase the availability of government policy information for all Americans.

/Dick

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Media Reform is a non-partisan American issue

Hi NewsHackers,

The following is exerpted from a message to my brother, a retired Air Force Colonel. My correspondence with him often inspires me, even though we think on different ends of the political spectrum. Writing to him about my views often crystalizes my thinking about an issue. In this case, my hope that Media Reform will be viewed as a non-partisan, American issue.

"...Anyway, I'm pleased you looked in [on Newshacker]. I hope more conservative people do. I want to engage Americans of all political stripes in discussing these issues. Big Media's ability to shape citizens' ideas is a frightful power that must not be allowed free rein.

Non-corporate social conservatives aren't my enemies, even if we don't always agree on policy. In the areas of individual freedom, government interference in private decisions, and preserving our personal privacy, our views aren't so different. I'm simply against letting corporate power brokers, and their publicists and political apologists, dictate public policy.

Just preaching to a Democratic choir won't insure that the institutional problems of FCC bias toward Big Media and the consolidation of media outlet ownership will be corrected. I expect I will have to hold some Democrats' feet to the fire occasionally to achieve media reform. Remember, as Bill Maher said a few years ago, "The only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is the Democrats "drop trou" for a slightly less sleezy group of corporate interests." I'd like that to change for both parties, too.

Best,

/Dick"

Saturday, March 17, 2007

GonzalezGate: Independent Ethics Investigation Needed!

Americans are so outraged by the facts already revealed in the GonzalezGate story that Big Media can't avoid covering this story although they might have preferred to let the story die.

Calls are coming from every quarter for independent investigations of the Attorney General's actions, the White House's plan to improperly politicize the evaluation and firing of U.S. Attorneys, and the attempts of certain White House staffers and legislators to improperly influence the selection and pursuit of Federal cases.

The link above leads to Common Cause's petition calling for the creation of an independent Congressional ethics commission to investigate the GonzalezGate scandal. Other activist groups are asking for a Congressional investigation or to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

I personally support any investigative alternative except allowing Congress to investigate itself. Too many legislators have too much to hide.

/Dick

N.Y. Times slammed for Gore "hit piece"

I've been a fan of the New York Times' weekly Science Times section for many years and it has covered the science behind global warming accurately and without bias. Therefore, I have to believe the NY Times' editors knew the exact effect of the science-impaired "op-ed" they were publishing! Why would they do so? Two guesses. Sad. /Dick Jones

David Roberts: "The worst, sloppiest, most dishonest piece of reporting I've ever seen in the NYT."

"This may be the worst, sloppiest, most dishonest piece of reporting I've ever seen in the NYT. It's got all the hallmarks of a vintage Gore hit piece: half-truths, outright falsehoods, unsubstantiated quotes, and a heaping dose of innuendo. As usual with these things, unless you've been following the debate carefully, you'll be left with a false impression -- in this case, that scientists are divided over the accuracy of Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. I find it difficult to believe that Broad doesn't know exactly what he's doing here. (See RealClimate for a discussion of one of his previous travesties.) I could go almost sentence by sentence, but let's just run through some of the highlights. I apologize for the length, but there's really a lot of trash here to shovel through." more link to Times article


Dick Jones
newshacker@pia.net

Thursday, March 15, 2007

LA Times - Democrats to FCC: We're Watching

Here's some really good news for a change. The Los Angeles Times article teased below is only one of numerous reports in national media today describing a hoped-for sea change in Congress' oversight of the FCC. In another article, Rep. John Dingell, stated the FCC must return to its proper role as proactive protector of the public’s airwaves. I don't kid myself that everything will be alright now, but at least I have hope for change. /Dick

"It had been three years since the entire Federal Communications Commission had appeared as one in front of a House committee. On Wednesday, newly empowered Democrats subjected commissioners, particularly Chairman Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, to a five-hour grilling on communications issues, signaling they will watch the FCC’s every move." More

Monday, March 12, 2007

Celebrate Sunshine Week - Support Transparency in Government

March 12 through 18th, 2007 is Sunshine Week.

Governmental transparency and freedom of information are crucial to democracy. Citizens and the press have a basic right to know what government does in our names. I encourage you to visit the Sunshine Week web site for more about this non-partisan group and its programs. Here's the short version, from their home page: /DJ

What is Sunshine Week?
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

Sunshine Week is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami.
Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

5000 Years of Middle Eastern History in 90 Seconds

Hi NewsHackers,

Here's another example of the truly unique information that is only available to the average person via the Internet. The link above is priceless. A true contextualizing of the middle eastern situation accomplished visually. Just remarkable! Edward Tufte, eat your heart out!

I received this link from a friend with the descriptive message that follows below. Don't let the site's title, MapsOfWar.com, put you off. The animated maps displayed there don't advocate war. They examine and display the political effects of historic wars.

The presentation's focus is on the impact of waves of colonial influence on Israel, but it also demonstrates how recent and historically unstable the whole region is. Makes one think about the transitory nature of all political governments.

The other presentations on the Maps of War site are pretty amazing, too. I sent the designer a fan note. ;-)

/Dick

==================

Many of you have galloped in places and trudged in others as you have read through the Old Testament. You have come across the Assyrians and the Babylonians and the Persians as they have swallowed parts of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. However, how does it all fit together and what is the timeline of all of this history? Well, today I came across a fantastic summary in the form of a "moving" map discussed in the latest edition of Biblical Archaelogy Review. King Sennacherib of Assyria, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, King Cyrus and Darius of Persia - all key players in the history of Israel (and therefore our history) are all represented by their empires on the website:
http://www.mapsofwar.com/images/EMPIRE17.swf
5000 years of history in 90 seconds.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Repeal the REAL ID Act! - Block the road to National ID cards

The following article and call to action was published in the 3/6/07 issue of The EFFector, the weekly newsletter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation http://eff.org

If you don't oppose this Department of Homeland Security policy, I don't think you have considered all the privacy implications. Also, there are many more positive uses that could be made of the $20 Billion proposed than creating yet another massive new database. /Dick


* Action Alert - Repeal the REAL ID Act!

The federal government took another step last week towards
forcing you to carry a national ID in order to get on
airplanes, open a bank account, enter federal buildings,
and much more. But with state legislatures and
Congressional representatives increasingly turning against
the REAL ID Act, you can help stop this costly, privacy-
invasive mandate -- voice your opposition now:
<
http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=275>

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
released draft regulations for implementing REAL ID, which
makes states standardize drivers' licenses and create a
vast national database linking all of the ID records
together. Once in place, uses of the IDs and database will
inevitably expand to facilitate a wide range of tracking
and surveillance activities. Remember, the Social Security
number started innocuously enough, but it has become a
prerequisite for a host of government services and has been
co-opted by private companies to create massive databases
of personal information.

REAL ID won't just cost you your privacy. The states and
individual taxpayers bear the estimated 23 billion dollar
burden of implementing the law, and that figure is probably
low given that the necessary verification systems don't
exist yet.

And what will you get in return? Not improved national
security, because IDs do little to stop those who haven't
already been identified as threats, and wrongdoers will
still be able to create fake documents.

REAL ID is fundamentally flawed, and DHS' proposed
regulations do nothing to change that. Thankfully, the tide
is turning against REAL ID in a big way -- state
legislatures around the country are passing or considering
legislation rejecting its implementation, and Congress is
considering repealing it.

The DHS regulations mean that states must have an
implementation plan ready by October 2007. Make sure your
Congressional representatives support the repeal of REAL ID
before it's too late:
<
http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=275>

Read the San Jose Mercury News' editorial, "Time to drop
expensive, unrealistic ID plan":
<
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/16843010.htm>

For more information about the REAL ID Act:
<
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/ID/RealID/>

NewsHacker.net - Blogging for Media Reform Because Bloggers Can Change Things

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Many of you know that I have been concerned about Big Media's troubling influence on our democracy for many years. Since I think about this problem obsessively anyway, I've launched a blog about this issue, to see who else chimes in, what we can learn, and discuss how we can popularize this very important, but under-appreciated, topic.

NewsHacker.net asks America, "WHOSE news are you watching?" I want Americans to ask themselves this question regularly and understand its implications for our personal freedoms and the balanced operation of democracy. Big Media's power is already so consolidated and threatening to our democracy that there is a growing national movement seeking Media Reform. If America is to remain a free and open society, we need to regain public oversight of the news publishing process. Americans need equal and unfettered access to the broad spectrum of news coverage and opinion that is available. Given a variety of sources, citizens can distill the factual information needed to make political and policy decisions that serve society, rather than serve only corporations and the wealthy. Big Media, on the other hand, wants to keep you watching only what they want to show you.

Why is this so important? Big Media companies play a crucial role in shaping public perceptions about the health and general welfare of our society. They influence our views about the even-handedness of government policies, the honesty and effectiveness of our governmental representatives, and much more, by selecting which news stories they cover and how they cover them. These companies have huge financial interests and political connections that they protect -- and that the public seldom hears mentioned. As you might expect, they systematically ignore stories that impair or attack their key interests. When such a story can't be totally ignored due to public interest in other reports about it, they downplay its importance, ask skeptical questions, and question the motives of the sources. As a result, the news they report about important national and international issues can be as distorted as reflections in a fun house mirror.

Big Media's un-questioning coverage of the White House's campaign to justify the Iraq War failed America politically in a profound way. Their coverage of the war itself, with few exceptions, has been cowardly. The Bush Administration's extraordinary attacks on our constitutional and privacy rights, cloaked in the mantle fighting terrorism, have hardly raised an eyebrow in Big Media news coverage, even though these regressive actions have galvanized many of our best-known human rights, civil rights, and social justice organizations in calling for their repeal. These failures weren't accidental, they were systemic.

How can we correct this discouraging situation quickest? By blogging about the need for change!

The Blogosphere has quickly become the leading online domain where thought leadership on journalism, politics, and social issues is being expressed without muting or filtering by Big Media gatekeepers. Big Media news organizations already know this. Editors and reporters consider blogs the "not quite ready for Prime Time news." In their intra-mural competition to break audience-grabbing news stories first, they research the blogosphere constantly for stories and topics that large and increasing numbers of people are discussing. Therefore, blogging about important political and social issues, and encouraging others you know to do so, helps make certain Big Media news outlets must cover the issues you care about.

Therefore, I urge Americans to become "citizen journalists" -- to watch, hear, and read news from a variety of sources and blog about their insights and questions. Is a misleading corporate "video news release" being aired as legitimate news in your area? Blog it! Did a story or editorial about an issue make you think about it in a new way? Blog it! Is there an under-reported story you feel should get more attention? Blog it!

If large numbers of fair-minded people do this, the blogosphere will be a powerful social force supporting high-quality investigative journalism, network neutrality, universal high speed Internet access, and high profile, broad-based coverage of stories the oligarchs would rather not see covered at all. Won't that be wonderfully ironic?

I encourage you to join me in this experiment.

Best regards,

Dick Jones

newshacker@pia.net

Monday, February 19, 2007

What Americans really think of Bush

How much coverage do you think this poll will get? It's a week since this poll was released and I haven't seen it referenced once. If you see it on any major news outlet, please add a comment about it. /DJ

What Americans really think of Bush


Twice a year, pollsters for the Pew Research Center ask Americans to
say the "one word that best describes" their "impression of George W.
Bush." As late as February 2005, the top two volunteered responses
were "honest" and "good." The new top two: "incompetent" and "arrogant."

"Honest" has fallen to No. 3. Rounding out the top 10: "good,"
"idiot," "integ rity," "leader," "strong," "stupid" and "ignorant."
"Ass" checks in at No. 13, "president" sits at No. 18, and
"unconfident" brings up the rear at No. 32.

-- Tim Grieve

Source: http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/

Monday, February 12, 2007

Show Some Love to the FCC's Top Man

Sending a valentine to Kevin Martin is wonderfully ironic, and may actually be effective, depending on how sensitive Martin is to public pressure. It's certainly worth a try.
/DJ


From: list@freepress.net [mailto:list@freepress.net]
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2007 2:19 PM
To: Dick Jones
Subject: Show Some Love to the FCC's Top Man

free press action alert

Dear Dick,

Martin Valentine 1

Martin Valentine 2

Watch the Video

Send a Valentine to the Chairman

Valentine's Day is Wednesday, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has spurned the public's love in favor of the largest media companies. It's time we won back his heart.

So we created this 40-second Valentine's Day video for Chairman Martin. Watch the video, sign the card to Martin, and tell your friends to do the same:

Send a Valentine to Chairman Martin

Last year, Martin was caught in bed with corporate lobbyists (See the actual photo on the right). We need to woo him back to the people he's really supposed to serve.

2007 is a pivotal year for the chairman. He will be making several decisions that will have a direct impact on the future of television, radio and the Internet.

Before he gets back in bed with corporate lobbyists, Martin needs to hear from you. Sign the card and ask Chairman Martin to:

  1. Stop Big Media from swallowing up even more local outlets.

  2. Prevent big phone companies from destroying Net Neutrality.

  3. Help foster more diverse voices and points of view.

Take action today to demand a media system that puts our interests before those of the corporate media lobby. On this Valentine's Day, let's make sure the public can't be ignored.

Send a Valentine to Chairman Martin

Thanks for all that you do,

Timothy Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press

1. To get involved in the fight for better media, visit www.freepress.net and our allied campaigns at SavetheInternet.com and StopBigMedia.com

2. Support our work by making a contribution to the Free Press Action Fund at https://secure.freepress.net/05/actionfund


This message was sent to mediabum@rcn.com. Visit your subscription management page to modify your email communication preferences or update your personal profile. To stop receiving E-Activist Network, click to unsubscribe. To stop ALL email from Free Press, click to remove yourself from our lists (or reply via email with "remove or unsubscribe" in the subject line).


Donate Now You (mediabum@rcn.com) are receiving this as a Free Press E-Activist. To stop receiving these messages, click here.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Rupert Murdoch publicly admits Fox News tried to "gin up" the Iraq War.

Here's my debut report on the hypocrisy of the Media Barons! How nice that it broke just when I'm launching my blog and need a highly visible example of the reasons for my concern about the motives of those who provide our news.

In several recent international reports Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, admitted publicly that Fox News had tried to "gin up" the American public to support the Iraq war. Though he maintains that their efforts failed, and they have been increasingly skeptical in their coverage, everyone in America knows that Fox News has been a major public cheerleader for the war. Unfortunately, his actions, though despicable, can not be prosecuted.
Seeing Murdoch blithely admit this on video is startling, and worth seeing. I saw it on Countdown with Keith Olberman and then again on his site. Click on the link button above to MSNBC.com, then on the show, Countdown With Keith Olberman, and then click on "The Fox War Machine." You'll see Rupert Murdoch admit that Fox News tried to "gin up the American public to support the war." Otherwise, search Google or YouTube for video of Rupert Murdoch.

Best regards,

/Dick

Mission Statement

Mission Statement:

Welcome to NewsHacker. Everyone is welcome to to participate in building this discussion, which I consider one of the most important and least understood public democracy issues.

It seems that the American public pays little attention to where their news comes from and whether the reporter or organization has an unspoken agenda. I want to change that. I want Americans, and people everywhere, to be more attentive and attuned to the motives of our news providers.

American news outlets, whether TV or radio or newspapers, shape public perceptions of the health and fairness of our society, and the effectiveness of our government representatives and their policies, by selecting the stories they will cover. If news breaks they would rather not cover, they minimize coverage, adopt a disapproving tone and ask skeptical questions.

If more Americans would think like "citizen journalists" and blog about their questions, the better the information available to society would be.

Welcome, and please share your views and concerns.

/Dick Jones
newshacker@pia.net