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