Saturday, May 31, 2003

Live FCC Webstream On Monday

You'd Never Guess From Most Blogs' Content...

...but Americans are up in arms about the upcoming FCC decision on Big Media, and the lack of public debate. With many thanks from the Daily Dystopian, who directed me to this, the response is not only challenging their web server but also their voice mail system.

Also, I just sent out a letter expressing my disappointment on FCC Big Media coverage to a progressive blogger who will remain unidentified. This blog is not alone, as many progressive and activist blogs seem to be ignoring this development, at least in a specific sense, by not taking a clear and timely stand on it, even though it's clear that much of their content is clearly condescending and critical of the very media empire that will benefit from relaxed media ownership restrictions. Here is the letter:

Good golly...not one piece on Big Media or FCC all last week. How could this not be on your radar screen? I do appreciate your blog, and the issues you highlight, but if the New Left will not speak out in a timely fashion against Big Media, who will? Timely is the key. Very few bloggers I am aware of have been highlighting this issue, or pushing it to the forefront. I'm astounded.

Just curious as to what you're thinking. You constantly criticize media coverage, and its slantedness, by the nature of your blog postings, yet don't seem to care to champion, in a timely manner in regards to the FCC process, on something that may possibly only make it worse, and if anything a process that certainly makes a mockery of the democratic process and transparency in government.

Will you take a stand on this issue? I don't care for a link, or to be on the blogroll, I just want this issue to be aired and blared by those who should be doing so. Ultimately, this issue may be much larger than the ongoing Iraq affair. Yet the obsession with that continues, driven by the Bush Administration, who is controlling all the media framing going on right now.

Wondering if it will get worse? Ask yourself why. Examine your posts, and determine who instigates them beyond yourself, who's framing the issues, and what are people focusing on?

I challenge all of you to do the same. Distraction is the enemy of valor on this issue. Every progressive, moderate and leftist blogger should be highlighting this issue, each making a statement and taking a position, at least on open public debate of the matter before an FCC decision, linking to the others' doing the same, and causing so much attention to this issue we hit what's known as a "phase transition" in complexity theory and we literally "raise the roof" on this matter. I'm not kidding. Feedback loops are in order. There can be no overplaying this issue. Engage democracy, and defend freedom.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Previous Media Posts On Freedom Century

Just went back and found my media-related former posts. It was fun, and very interesting to go back and see the overall progression since March, when I began this blog. In chronological order (earliest first), here goes...1) CNN Sells Out American People; 2) Ashcroft Can't Control The Internet; 3) Reporting The Costs Of War (after it starts); 4) More Cynical Manipulation Of Public Opinion; 5) PM Berlusconi Owns Almost All Italian Media (and also wants to relax media restrictions); 6) Separation of Media and State; 7) More Reasons Not To Trust The Corporate Business Interest (toxic sludge anyone?); 8) We Want The Airwaves! (and don't forget about Ruminate This); 9) US Media Losing Global Respect/Credibility; 10) Spinsanity Reviews Iraqi Media Coverage; 11) Censorship At The Source (transparency and accountability please); 12) MoveOn Keeps The Grassroots Going; 13) Senator Feingold Calls For Public Hearings. A baker's dozen for your perusal...and several more from last week in the next post.
Let's Not Forget What's At Stake With Big Media

Public hearings are essential for determining whether to tighten, relax, or change the nature of restrictions on media ownership in America. This is one of the great issues of our day. Let there be no doubt about it. This is much larger than a mere monopoly interest issue, with implications on stifling competition and clouding markets. The media is in a unique position in America. In the pursuit of their self-interest, they have a unique capability to shape the self-interest of others. The content of the media can often frame and shape the content of people's minds and wishes. See the strangely moving public opinion numbers in regards to Iraq for a clear example. What the media pays attention to, the people and polls seem to follow. And we're to accept the decision of 5 appointed beaurocrats in this most crucial and defining matter?

Whatever happened to the great debates of American society? Where are our elected representatives and leaders, eagerly stepping up to ensure all voices and interests are heard? This process to relax restrictions on Big Media, the way it is happening, speaks more eloquently than anything else of the danger our democracy is in. Where are our leaders? Where is the opposition? One network news organization has reported on this, the others claiming "4 minutes" on a regulatory issue is a bit much. How about 1 minute? Regardless of the number, is 4 minutes too much time to spend on such an important consitutional issue, one that cuts to the very core of civic participation and the future of democracy? Good grief.

We haven't heard any passionate arguments from leaders for the changes. Who are they? Where are they? Why aren't they making a case? Pro or con? We hear from Rupert Murdoch, of course, who will greatly benefit from relaxed restrictions, and who can blame him for seeking his self-interest? He may end up owning all the networks. Who knows? I just don't understand why there is not some focused, loud opposition to this practically in-the-shadow-of-the-night regulatory change except in the blogosphere? If more senators and representatives held up government, and demanded a debate, the major media would have to report on it, whether or not it is in their corporate business interest.

This reminds us why people who hit the streets and protest are so important. It creates news. The news isn't necessarily the issue, which wouldn't be normally reported or given mainstream exposure (say for instance a WTO decision), the news is the protesters on the street. They're making news. Calling attention to the issue, which will have to be at least cursorily examined in the process of covering the news event. The Texas Democrats brings another case to mind, in which case they implemented a strategy and created big news out of something that would not normally deserve attention (gerrymandering).

We need strong, principled, courageous leaders in America. If this momentous and dramatic FCC decision, with far reaching and unknown implications, isn't news, than someone damn well needs to make it news! Shut down the government. Refuse to show up. Filibuster everything. People respect courage and conviction. Show some, and some nerve, and people will stop and take notice, including the mainstream media. Big Media is a phenomenon that needs to be checked, for the very reasons I mentioned earlier. We have monopoly rules to check against self-interest and distortion of markets. What about an industry with unprecedented power to shape and frame self-interest in its content, of its consumers? In my mind, we need the clearest and best understood rules in town.

The Clear Channel controversy, and the complexity and implications of the Dixie Chicks being banned, underscore this better than anything else. Clear Channel sponsoring pro-war rallies, with dismal turnout I might add as well, adds insult to injury. It's clear the influence is passive, in being unable to rouse people to action, to get people on their feet and streets and defending something, yet at the same time this influence is seemingly pervasive in polling, in coming to far reaching conclusions about the opinions of "the american people", or in just assuring the people remain arm-chair patriots. Seated, and subservient. Perplexing, and paradoxical.

Do I hear reasons to debate, discuss, engage? In the stuff of democracy? It's clear that Clear Channel has the right to minimize exposure to an artist, given its lack of popularity with an audience, but how far should this go? Even when they are still number one on the charts? Was this decision more political than economic? If so, then the resolution is clear. No Big Media, and shame on those like Clear Channel, with clear conflicts of interest in regards to our president, who seek to subvert and bring shame to our great nation. The biggest disgrace of all would be to do nothing, to say nothing, to pretend it's not a big issue and just let it pass. Are you a passive consumer, or an active member of a democratic society? Decide, and then engage.


Don't forget to see my series of posts on Big Media. There's about five in a row there from last week with excellent reference information. Very little from me actually, just spotlighting sourced articles. Cruise over, read up, and scroll down...

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

What's Up With The FCC?

Find out. It's time to have some public hearings on Big Media, and what our rules should look like. That they shouldn't be the same as 30 years ago goes without saying, but what should they really be? In the age of push and pull media?

Also, apparently Michael Powell has been making out like a bandit, along with the other FCC commissioners, at the behest of Big Media. It sounds to me like heading the FCC is a pretty cushy job.
I'm Back

Been very busy with the employment side of things. This week is going to be big with information. On Big Media, and on American integrity and values. Also, the site will be upgraded to its own domain sometime this weekend, and will be greatly expanded and include better organization of information and archives, along with reviews and analysis of books and magazine columns. Remember, this is our country, our freedom, and our time, let's make sure we act, and are heard.
More Terrorism Please?
According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organisation – the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG) – will carry out secret missions designed to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts that would then expose them to ‘counterattack’ by US forces.

In other words – and let’s say this plainly, clearly and soberly so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld’s plan – the US government is planning to use ‘cover and deception’ and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. For P2OG is not designed solely to flush out terrorists and bring them to justice. No, it seems the P2s have bigger fish to fry. Once they have sparked terrorists into action, they can then take measures against the ‘states/sub-state actors accountable’ for ‘harbouring’ the Rumsfeld-roused gangs. What kind of measures exactly? The Pentagon programme makes it clear: ‘Their sovereignty will be at risk.’

The Rumsfeld-Bush plan to employ murder and terrorism for political, financial and ideological gain does have historical roots. In 1963, the US’s top military brass presented JFK with plans for Operation Northwoods, calling for a phoney terrorist campaign – complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans – to provide ‘justification’ for an invasion of Cuba, the Mafia-corporate fiefdom which had recently been lost to Castro. Kennedy rejected the plan, and was killed a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but on a far grander scale – with resources at his disposal undreamed of by those brass of yore, with no counterbalancing global rival to restrain him....

From The Ecologist. Now, this treatment seems a bit incendiary compared to that from the Asian Times and Counterpunch (which has is the second one). The bottom-line though is that this does seem to raise some troubling Constitutional questions, especially with the lack of oversight. Are we going overboard?

With that in mind, here is the original Defense Science Board PowerPoint presentation in regards to the P2OG, published by the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. Finally, here is the link to Arkin's article, on the rise of American Black Ops, that kicked it all off. Seems like we've rolled all the way back to the Reagan years already. Perhaps we should start a contest to see what to call the terrorist anti-terrorists this time around. Remember, "contras" is out, because that would be too audacious even for these guys.

James Madison Versus George W. Bush
The U.S. Constitution safeguarded the political system from abuse of power and from abuse of dogma. It forced each side’s concepts to face the light of pragmatic concerns. James Madison and his friends knew well that, to preserve liberty, power needed to be balanced and checked.

This concept of checks and balances is integral to American political philosophy. But strangely, it is apparently not considered relevant by the Bush Administration in the formation of its foreign policy.

This Globalist commentary raises the Founding Fathers' concerns for separation of powers, and checks and balances, in order to preserve liberty and stem distortions of power, through the lens of foreign policy. Power was seen as the great spoiler, the ultimate divider, the final corrupter of the expression of liberty. The Bush Administration has done much damage to this doctrine within this country, weakening liberty and distorting the balance of powers, both between the executive and legislative and the federal and state (for instance, see the medical marijuana debate, or any of Ashcroft's other single-minded approaches to law and order). Internationally, their aims are much more egregious, and makes the prevailing mind set about power over freedom and democracy clear.

Instead the administration has an overriding goal — which is to place America’s power beyond challenge. There is an almost celebratory feeling that America is now free to use its power in the world as it wishes — and that it is no longer shackled by the balancing forces of the Cold War.

Madison knew better. During the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 — and later in the Federalist Papers — he argued that for the large states (such as Virginia or New York) to prosper, they needed to be courageous enough to share some power with the smaller states. America cannot continue as a nation that values the check on power as a protection of liberties within its own borders — but feels constrained by the same values internationally.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Waiting To Inhale: The Politics Of Medical Marijuana

Straight out of the liberal capital of the nation...California's Orange County!
Is Allowing Medical Marijuana The Most Popular Position In America?

M. Simon from the Sierra Times seems to think so.
The weak point in the Federal government's war on it's citizens is medical marijuana. Something like 80% of adult Americans support it.

Medical marijuana is more popular than gun rights. Medical marijuana is more popular than the right to succession. Medical marijuana is more popular than capitalism. Medical marijuana is more popular than jury rights. Medical marijuana is more popular than property rights. Medical marijuana is more popular than home schooling. In fact medical marijuana is more popular than any other patriot issue you can mention. It is popular with right wingers. It is popular with left wingers. It is popular with socialists. It is popular with communists. In fact it is popular with almost every group of Americans except those profiting from prohibition and social conservatives.

Indeed, this issue seems amazingly popular, and by the laws of democracy and good faith should be resolved (in favor). Instead we get diatribes from conservatives on the mischief of Turkey for not backing us in the war in Iraq, and instead listening to 80% of their people, who opposed the war. Now that sounds like democracy!

More Conservative Opinion On Medical Marijuana

From the American Prospect.
Indeed, the most recent California episode is more than a rehashing of the age-old confrontation that pits Reefer Madness conservatives against pot-loving hippies. At its core is a debate about the federal government's right to veto the judgment of local law enforcement and override a state law approved by 56 percent of voters. Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the issue of medical marijuana as recently as May 2001 -- finding 8-to-0 in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club that medical use is an unacceptable defense in federal trials for distribution -- the courts have yet to contend with the more controversial issue of states' rights and federal jurisdiction raised by the California law (and similar legislation in seven other states).

Forget about states' rights for a moment, and ask yourself this about some simple compassion?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Senator Russ Feingold Asks FCC To Postpone Media Ownership Ruling
Sen. Russ Feingold called on the Federal Communications Commission's chairman Monday to postpone a vote on loosening restrictions on media ownership.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell turned down a similar request from two of his own commissioners last week.

The proposed plan would allow companies to own more TV stations in local markets, reaching more U.S. homes. It also would eliminate many restrictions on one company owning combinations of newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same city. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal June 2.

"These changes would move this country closer to a time when the media is dominated by a small number of national companies that are completely out of the reach of local ownership and control," Feingold, D-Wis., wrote in a letter to Powell.

"This would be a significant and I believe largely negative development, given our nation's history of local access and local control of the media that has served us so well until now."

Where are the rest of our senators?

BusinessWeek Comes Out For Media Diversity
The U.S. situation is likely to get a lot worse if Michael Powell, Federal Communications Commission chairman, has his way. He wants to loosen or remove many of the last remaining restrictions on how much of the market Big Media conglomerates can control. Among other things, Powell would allow more cross-ownership of local TV stations and newspapers by the same companies. He also would let a single company own TV stations covering 45% of the national viewing audience, up from 35% now. Powell plans a vote on June 2, and the three-person Republican majority on the commission seems certain to approve the proposed changes.

This isn't good policy. The U.S. needs greater concentration of the media market like a fast-food junkie needs more fat. What we read, hear, and watch is already determined to far too great an extent a half dozen giant conglomerates: AOL Time Warner (AOL ), Viacom (VIA ), Walt Disney (DIS ), News Corp. (NWS ), General Electric (GE ), and Bertelsman. Yet Powell has held just one official public hearing on the proposed changes. And the specifics of the revisions being considered haven't been made public.

The dangers of greater media concentration are clear. Programming is likely to become even more homogenized -- and less substantive. Subscription and advertising rates are likely to shoot up as competition diminishes. Local news coverage, already feeble in many smaller towns and communities, is likely to get even feebler. And in my opinion, the conservative voices in American media are going to get even louder.

This is a crucial week for this issue.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Senator Byrd Proposes 'Restore Freedom Of Information Act'
When Congress last fall adopted legislation to create the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it also adopted a new exemption to FOIA, allowing private companies to hide information from the public as long as they voluntarily submit this information to the DHS. The exemption applies to any information about the facilities that make up our country's "critical infrastructure" -- such as privately operated power plants, bridges, dams, ports or chemical plants -- that could be targets of a terrorist attack.

The FOIA exemption that Congress enacted is too broad. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to cloak too many of its activities in secrecy. The current law does nothing to encourage companies to address vulnerabilities, nor does it require the DHS to fix the problems. Potential dangers are effectively swept under the rug. To make a bad law even worse, the Department recently proposed new rules that would broaden the exemption even further.

I'll tell you what. I really wish we had more legislators like Robert Byrd. This man has taken several courageous stands as of late, including eloquent dissent to our hurried rush to war with Iraq, and now by defending the Freedom of Information Act has catapulted himself, at least in my eyes, to true heroic status. If this man has any single granddaughters, I would like to meet and marry one. I want these kind of genes going into the next generation, for the good of America, and at least and especially my family. Come to think of it, I actually know a ravishingly beautiful (and very spirited) Byrd lady, over in the Carolinas somewhere, perhaps she is a relative. Must look into it...:)

Increased security concerns call for prudent changes to, not blanket exemptions in, the information available to the public. If the government is allowed to operate in secrecy, without scrutiny, then the people's liberties easily can be lost. We ought to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, not undercut it. The American people ought to have access to information that directly impacts their freedoms and safety.

Senator Byrd is a defender of freedom and liberty, and a genuine American patriot.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Halliburton Owns Up To Nigerian Bribery
Oil services giant Halliburton, already under fire over accusations that its White house ties helped win a major Iraqi oil contract, has admitted that a subsidiary paid a multi-million dollar bribe to a Nigerian tax official.

Halliburton, once run by Vice President Richard Cheney, revealed the illicit payments, worth 2.4 million dollars, in a filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "The payments were made to obtain favorable tax treatment and clearly violated our code of business conduct and our internal control procedures," Halliburton said. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), which paid the bribe, has been in the political spotlight since it was awarded a no-bid US government oil contract in Iraq in March.

Boy, Kellogg Brown & Root just seem like nothing but trouble. As we've covered previously, Kellogg Brown & Root have a long history of doing business with terrorist regimes, not to mention paying out 2 million to settle a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit alleging fraud in 2002. This is definitely why we should all stand with Transparency International in calling for corporations to publish what they pay.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Raising Concerns About Diverse Media Voices
An earthquake may soon jolt the media landscape in many communities as a result of a major debate raging at the Federal Communications Commission.

Commissioners intend to decide this spring whether to relax or ax a basket of decades-old media ownership rules intended to provide multiple owners and voices in a market. The rules say who can (and can't) own TV and radio stations and broadcast networks -- as well as how many a company can own in total and in a market, how much of the country it can serve and whether it can own other media voices, such as a newspaper, in a market.

An FCC easing could set off a dealmaking stampede -- and give fewer big owners enormous influence over a community's politics and economy.

"The rules go to the heart and soul of what our media system is all about," Commissioner Michael Copps says. "How much localism and regional creativity will we be able to get? And it goes to the nature of political dialogue and the multiplicity of voices. I don't think there's anything as important that the FCC will consider this year."

An excellent analysis from the USA Today. Highly recommended.

The Media Reform Information Center

Be sure to visit.
In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 5 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.
The Money Behind The Media

Don't miss the Media Transparency website. is dedicated to news, opinion, analysis and investigative data related to links between conservative philanthropies and the organizations and people which they fund, and their influence in the media.

The heart of Media Transparency is its free, searchable database of grants made by major conservative philanthropies since 1985. The database presently contains over 21,000 grants totaling more than $1.25 billion, and is searchable by an array of criteria, including funder, recipient, grant purpose, and date(s). Media Transparency is a widely-cited and much used resource among the world's news media and researchers at educational institutions.

This site is a sister site to the invaluable Cursor.

Massive Media Monopolies

The latest from Mother Jones.
The Media Monopoly

An interview with Ben Bagdikian, author of The Media Monopoly:
When "The Media Monopoly" first appeared in 1983, Bagdikian was alarmed that more than half of the media outlets in this country were controlled by 50 corporations. By the 1997 edition of his book, that number had dropped to 10. Today it stands at six (AOL Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp., Disney, General Electric and Bertelsmann).

The result is a landscape of media giants whose political clout in Washington should raise alarm about their collective power as well as concerns about the independent watchdog role that the news media play in covering the federal government, he says.

Bagdikian recalls the high-minded promises made by the architects of the AOL Time Warner merger two years ago that the union would not affect news coverage and would offer customers more content choices, not fewer.

"I know that speech by heart," he says. "It's made by every large corporate leader, but it's just not true. News almost never escapes shareholders' demands for maximum profits. As for promises not to interfere in the editorial process, when the stakes are high enough, there always is an intrusion. We've seen it with Disney clamping down on dissident voices and hard-nosed journalism, and we will see it at AOL Time Warner."

While the corporate honchos talk about synergy, Bagdikian says, customers get shortchanged by the incredible shrinking diversity of content. Remember the AOL Time Warner executive at the top who sang the praises of reduced duplication of effort in covering events like the Oscars? That's exactly what worries Bagdikian.

"Ultimately, what you're talking about is fewer choices, fewer journalists in the field, fewer foreign news bureaus, fewer news stories, fewer programming choices available," he says. "Diversity of channels does not give you diversity of content. You really need diversity of outlets to find a true diversity of voices and points of view."

This entire article from the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review is great and full of insights, and well worth your perusal.

Are Profit Pressures Ruining Journalism?
A new era has dawned in American journalism. A New York Times editor describes its hallmark: "A massively increased sensitivity to all things financial." As competition grows ever more ferocious; as the audience continues to drift away from traditional news sources, both print and television; as the public's confidence in news organizations and news people continues to decline; as mainstream print and TV news outlets purvey more "life-style" stories, trivia, scandal, celebrity gossip, sensational crime, sex in high places, and tabloidism at the expense of serious news in a cynical effort to maximize readership and viewership; as editors collude ever more willingly with marketers, promotion "experts," and advertisers, thus ceding a portion of their sacred editorial trust; as editors shrink from tough coverage of major advertisers lest they jeopardize ad revenue; as news holes grow smaller in column inches to cosmeticize the bottom line; as news executives cut muscle and sinew from budgets to satisfy their corporate overseers' demands for higher profit margins each year; as top managers fail to reinvest profits in staff training, investigative reports, salaries, plant, and equipment -- then the broadly-felt consequence of those factors and many others, collectively, is a diminished and deracinated journalism of a sort that hasn't been seen in this country until now and which, if it persists, will be a fatal erosion of the ancient bond between journalists and the public.

Even the venerable Walter Cronkite is kicking against the mainstream.

Television's corporate chieftains, says Walter Cronkite, show little understanding of "the responsibilities of being news disseminators." They expect the news departments to generate the same sort of profits that entertainment programs do -- an impossible task. The newspaper business isn't much different, he says. "Stockholders in publicly held newspaper chains are expecting returns similar to those they'd get by investing in industrial enterprises."

The "tabloidization" of TV newsmagazines is strictly geared to ratings and profits. "A major tragedy of the moment," Cronkite maintains, is the use TV newsmagazines are making of the valuable prime time they occupy. "Instead of offering tough documentaries and background on the issues that so deeply affect all of us, they're turning those programs into television copies of Photoplay magazine." News executives know better, Cronkite says, and are "uncomfortable" with what they're doing. "But they are helpless when top management demands an increase in ratings to protect profits."
Primer On Media Consolidation/Diversity

From the Media Access Project:
In 1945, the Supreme Court declared that "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." As the federal agency charged with regulating the mass media, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has long had rules in place to promote "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources."

Over the years, however, many of the rules designed to foster production of independent news and entertainment have been weakened. Today, only a limited number of rules remain that prevent any person or company from owning all of the media outlets in a small or medium sized city or from owning media outlets that blanket the country. Already Congress has virtually eliminated the rules restricting radio ownership to allow a single company, Clear Channel, to own radio stations in every market and own the majority, if not all of the radio stations in any single market. This lets Clear Channel select music based on whether artists pay Clear Channel promotional fees or whether Clear Channel agrees with their politics or message. Clear Channel’s cost saving measures and "efficiencies" have virtually eliminated local music and local news, relying on national play-lists, centralized news services, and technology that allows central programmers to add local "color" at delivery. Clear Channel also determines which talk show hosts get syndicated on its stations, ensuring carriage of one point of view in every market to the virtual exclusion of all others.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Tomorrow Is Media Diversity Day Here At Freedom Century

No issue is more pressing than a guaranteed plurality of media ownership. The era of Big Media threatens to be dawning though, with the actions of Michael Powell, FCC commissioner, encouraging greater media concentration of ownership. It's time to shine a clear and lucid light on the goings on of the media, and its regulation, Powell, and the FCC. Tomorrow, I will begin that. And will continue, for a week. Today, I've limited time, and can't delve into it too deeply.

So in the meantime, I encourage you to go visit Lisa over at Ruminate This. She is leading the resistance, in many ways, so please go check her out, and not just for her opinions either, as she is collecting and centralizing links to other blogs championing the cause: the freedom of information and media, from the state and from itself. It's a tricky issue, and deserves engaged and prolonged scrutiny.
Waging Peace: The Curriculum
Welcome to class. Your class. Your time. Your future. The literature on nonviolence is rich with powerful prose and trenchant thinking. If peace is what every government on earth says it seeks and if peace is the yearning of every heart, then why arent' we studying it and learning it in schools? All of us are called to be peacemakers. Yet in most schools, the history, methods and successes of creating peace through nonviolence have no place in the curriculum.

The course you are about to take is designed to make modest amends for your peace miseducation. This eight-lesson course could really be an eighty lesson course. The literature is there but since we are all rushing about making sense or making progress, so we think, start with what's here.

Studying peace through nonviolence is as much about getting the bombs out of our world as it is about getting them out of our heart. Many people are avid about creating peace across the ocean but meanwhile there's a war going on across the living room. Every problem we have, every conflict, whether among our family or friends, or internationally among governments, will be addressed through violent force or nonviolent force. No third way exists.

It's important to understand all viewpoints. Even if you are not a pacifist, or enthusiast of nonviolence, these ideas are refreshing, and ripe for insight and interpretation. It's time we make a sensible choice as to how we deal with conflict. Only by reviewing the available information, and duly considering it, can we make an enlightened choice, and give our informed consent. For adults, and children.


This is brought to you from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. I highly recommend a sincere perusal of the website, and the ideas and methods of this organization.

Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths: Nonviolence in the Real World
We can also dispel the notion that nonviolent action has to be slow. The nonviolent overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines—measured from the assassination of Benigno Aquino—took only three years.

Where does the idea come from, then, that violence is quick and nonviolence is slow? Well, violence feels quicker, because time passes rapidly when you’re dodging bullets. Nonviolent action, on the other hand, requires more patience because the action is less thrilling.

Theodore Roszak once commented on the impatience of some of these critics. He said, “People try nonviolence for a week, and when it ‘doesn’t work,’ they go back to violence, which hasn’t worked for centuries.”

Now, what does Roszak mean, that violence “hasn’t worked for centuries”? Is he ignoring the success of so many violent revolutions? I think Roszak means that violence, even when it succeeds, has major negative side-effects—side-effects that nonviolent action mostly avoids.

I'm posting this as a reminder that the legacy of violence goes far beyond the war. This article gives a great account of the teachings of Gandhi, and their application to the real world. The value of compassion, and suffering, is not a clarion call for war, and competition, but of peace, and cooperation. Ultimately, the final arbiter of this war, besides the lives already lost, will be the diminishment in suffering and fear of the Iraqi people.

For the neocons, it's not about this at all. Forget them. They've got their chalice, their precious strategic victory in the emerging wars for limited world resources, but that won't save our name and integrity as a nation. Assuring our promises to the Iraqi people, their liberation, self-determination, and pursuit of happiness, will.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Kudos To Bob Graham

Though I'm still not too pleased with his sponsorship of the Patriot Act, I'm beginning to get past that. Perhaps there is a way to redeem the Patriot Act, while still condemning senseless secrecy and abuse of privilege. Graham goes a long way to helping this end by keeping the pressure up about the 9/11 investigation secrecy. This story was so important, it managed to hit page 16 of the LA Times this morning. Shame on the LA Times. This is big news, an interview on Face The Nation, and deserves scrutiny. At least to the point of dismissing or discrediting it.

A shout out and Freedom Mojo to Bob Graham, and a thumbs down to the LA Times. Senseless secrecy is not defendable, especially when protecting legislation, i.e. The Patriot Act, that purports to fix problems that the investigation most likely has found unneeded. 9/11 could have been stopped, and better handled in motion, irrespective of the Patriot Act. We need all the information to decide, and then determine the gaps that require a plug. Legislation in the midst of fear is easy to make, and harder to undo, so we should also never allow the sunset provision to be done away with. Ever. The courage of our convictions should be based in knowledge, and freedom, not ignorance, and fear.
I'm Back...Been Offline Feeding My Conscience With Albert Camus

The resignation of Claire Short is a near death blow for Tony Blair, at least within his own party. Unless events in Iraq suddenly transform to the positive.

Short stayed on pre-war, even though threatening resignation, and surely Robin Cook, who did resign in the buildup to war, did not object. Cook and Short saw the writing on the wall, and it's better to have a resignation in protest before the war, and another after the war as the reasons and deceptions come clear, then for two resignations at the beginning.

This strengthens both resignations, in a mutually reinforcing manner, and underscores to the electorate in Britain why and what it's all about. I wouldn't be surprised to hear later that Short held on just for this reason, in glim hopes that it may work out for the best, but in all honesty in preparation for resignation when the truth begins to come out.

This strategy is the best, for efforts to distract and redirect attention are primed for the post-war period, if things go awry. By resigning now, and forcefully restating the position of the opposition, these ideas, arguments and issues will not go away.

They should be answered. For honesty, integrity and accountability. Otherwise, we are no better than anyone else. We should not allow ourselves to be aiders and abetters to crime, which is what we'll end up with without the mechanism of accountability. The British opposition has held up a sterling example of principled dissent and integrity, a beacon of freedom and the operations of democracy.

Here in America, that's not the case. To our shame. That's too bad. Resistance now does not have the proof of steps all along the way, as in Britain. That is left largely to us here in the blogosphere, the new avenue of dissent and conscience, at least in regards to the war. Albert Camus would have loved it.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Astrologers...Stars Point To Turbulence Between Powell, Rumsfeld
In recent weeks much has been made of the apparent disconnect between the moderate and pragmatic Secretary of State Colin Powell and other more ideologically conservative members of the Bush administration. When Secretary Powell publicly promulgated a continuation of Clinton’s Korea policy, he was quickly overruled by Bush administration hard-liners. Other strategic disagreements between Powell and the Bush top echelon, most notably concerning the sanctions in Iraq and the US presence in the Balkans, have also been noted in the press. The question lingers: will Powell be able to work successfully and persuasively within this administration or will he be shut out from the real decision-making and perhaps eventually resign?

Using astrology to take a glimpse at the relationships between some of the major players in the Bush administration, much insight may be gained. In this first section we will look at the interaction between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When the astrology charts of these two men are compared, we find some very difficult configurations. Most noticeable is the tremendous competition between the two men represented by the Sun square Sun and the Mars opposite Mars. Because both the Sun and Mars symbolize aspects of aggressive, assertive energy, the conflict implied by these two aspects indicates a real struggle for dominance.

Has anyone checked Osama and Saddam's charts?

Nuclear Power & The Pursuit Of Prestige
Abstract: Prestige is defined as a group’s sharing a certain second-level belief: each member believes that the rest believe that a party has a certain desirable quality. Their beliefs must also give the party influence in the group. It is important even within a strategic approach to international relations since states may use it to judge quality or they may bandwagon, choosing who to support depending on what they expect others to do.

A survey of the word in historical books and articles supports the definition and identifies typical sources of prestige. The definition explains why building nuclear weapons is an especially effective vehicle for prestige, and shows what can be done to link it to societal development instead of armaments. A game model of prestige-seeking has one obvious equilibrium where nuclear weapons enhance one’s prestige for technical prowess, and another surprising one where that can lower prestige. The world community can take certain actions to promote the safer regime.

Please read for your edification. I am, and will comment further when I am through.

Divine Right Of Capital - Dethroning The Corporate Aristocracy
Change begins in the mind. In a collective sense, social change unfolds into reality through historical moments – through times when the public consciousness cracks open and new ideas can rush in. Financial crisis is one way such an opening can develop. With the Enron affair, it would seem that we’ve had the perfect financial storm – with turbulence patterns converging from Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Tyco, Dynegy, Adelphia, and the rest.

We might have seen it coming. In my book The Divine Right of Capital -- published just months before the Enron crisis --I wrote that when the system design is unsustainable, crisis becomes likely. And I observed hopefully that crisis can be useful, since it cracks open the collective consciousness, leading the public to demand reforms it might have resisted before. I recalled Roosevelt’s legendary first 100 days during the Great Depression, when he was able to enact a host of powerful New Deal laws. "This kind of opening for change," I wrote, "may come again."

And so it has. Our moment for change has come – and it seems to have gone. But for a time there it seemed that something might actually happen. The year 2002 saw campaign finance reform, new criminal penalties for CEOs filing false financial statements, a new accounting supervisory board, new stock exchange rules about board independence, and a substantially increased budget for the SEC. In the wake of a felony conviction, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen disintegrated virtually overnight. To avoid similar troubles, other accounting firms spun off their consulting divisions. Energy firms, faced with charges of fraudulent trades, went under or closed their trading divisions. With stock options seen as a key culprit, many companies began expensing them without waiting for a legislative mandate. Countless businesses restated financials, as the wave of fear swept through the business community.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The Progressive Response

Check out the latest edition of this weekly ezine.
Return Of The Nation-State And The Leviathan

Interesting analysis by Tom Barry of the Interhemispheric Resource Council.

Monday, May 05, 2003

State Of Communication For All Time - The Zen Of Listening
When a person is given a chance to tell his views without the threat of judgment or advice, even if his listener does not agree, that is the first step toward creating good feelings. A sense of openness on both sides allows for discussion and problem solving. Self-esteem grows from the respect that comes from being heard. People are better able to attend to school lessons, projects, and the responsibilities of the workplace when basic emotional needs, like being understood, have been met. Henry David Thoreau said, "The greatest compliment that was ever paid to me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer." When confidence grows, we are better able to discover our potential and positively influence others. Mindful listening has the power to change the direction of our lives and those we come in contact with every day.

Listening is also a healthy activity. Studies show that when we listen, heart rate and oxygen consumption are reduced and blood pressure decreases. Contact with others promotes well-being and self-expression, both necessary for good physical health. By being good listeners, therefore, we promote the good health of others by allowing them to reduce their stress and empowering them to solve their own dilemmas. An empathetic listener provides helpful feedback that makes the speaker feel valued. This is a significant gift in a world where the human touch is a rare commodity.

I accidentally stumbled across this essay (ed. fixed) and find it compellingly meaningful. Especially in the blogosphere, the art of listening and understanding is not where it should be. I shouldn't even make that qualification, of the blogosphere, because from everyday life to diplomacy on the world stage, really listening seems to be out and selective attention and confirmation is in.

This treatment of the art of listening by Rebecca Shafir is fabulous and timely, communicating crucial implications for everyday life, relationships and meaning. Be sure to really listen to Rebecca when reading. I give her the highest recommendation that Freedom Century is able to give. The Freedom Mojo.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

State Of The World 2003

From the The Worldwatch Insitute.
Clark Warns UK and US About Return To The Law Of The Jungle

Not the good general, but the esteemed Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark. Yes!
In an interview in the British newspaper the Guardian, Helen Clark is reported to have warned that the United States and its allies had created a dangerous precedent by going to war without a UN resolution.

"This is a century which is going to see China emerge as the largest economy, and usually with economic power comes military clout," she said. In the world we are constructing, we want to know (that the system) will work whoever is the biggest and the most powerful."

A juicy read.


Update: Also see this about the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Clark asserting that the war in Iraq never would have happened if Al Gore was president.

The Prime Minister has apologised to Washington for any offence caused. But she has not retracted her comments, and this has led to demands in Parliament by Act leader Richard Prebble, New Zealand First's Winston Peters and the National Party's Bill English that she make a second apology, admitting she was wrong in suggesting Mr Gore opposed the war.

She was not wrong at all. She was absolutely correct, and they are the ones who are wrong. Mr Gore has made crystal clear his strong opposition to the war and the rationale behind it. In fact, the recorded positions of Mr Gore and Helen Clark are virtually identical.

Mr Prebble told a political studies conference at Auckland University on April 13: "Al Gore is actually a hawk on Iraq and, as our internet search shows, he has made no statement criticising George Bush."

Act should get someone to tell it how to use internet search engines. If you use the leading search engine, Google, and enter the words "Gore Iraq", hundreds of responses come up relating to a speech in which Mr Gore scathingly attacked the Bush war policy.

Anyone got the goods on this? Did Big Al ever support this war?

A Heartless Hit And Run
How quickly we forget. Was it only a couple of weeks ago that our newspapers were dominated by stories from the Iraqi war zone, our TV news bulletins full of graphic pictures of the war, and our domestic political agenda marginalised by our leaders' grave pronouncements on the progress of the invasion and their shifting justifications for it?

In the beginning, it was exclusively about disarming Saddam Hussein and ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. By the end, it was all about the overthrow of Saddam and the implementation of "regime change".

Now what? You plough through the paper, almost to the end of the news section, before you find any reference to the postwar situation in Iraq. "People are sick of hearing about Iraq" is the standard explanation for its relegation to a minor spot among all other world news items - and no doubt they are sick of it. "Anyway, the war's over" is the other explanation, and that's true, too.

Isn't that the truth? Humanitarian action just doesn't sell. Hopefully it doesn't sell out.

The Real State Of The Union
Americans have traditionally been vain about their pragmatism. Let the French have their philosophes, the British and the Germans their aristocrats who stand on ceremony. Ours would be the culture of the doer, the tinkerer, the keen observer who noticed what actually worked. In ideal form the American leader would be a Benjamin Franklin, with lofty interests but an unshakably realistic bent. Better, he would be a Lincoln: a true visionary who also recognized that the drunken General Grant was the best man for the job.

Lincoln, too, issued State of the Union messages, at a time when the existence of the union itself was in question. His second, in 1862, is the most memorable. "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present," he said. "As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew." We offer these essays in that spirit.

I highly recommend this joint report by the Atlantic Monthly and New America Foundation.

The State of Society
The percentage of Americans who are happy with the direction in which the country is heading has returned to pre-September 11 levels. A few days before the terrorist attack on America, 43 percent Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States. After the attack, the percentage of Americans who were satisfied with the way things were going in the country rose steadily from 61 percent a few days after the attack, to 67 percent a month after the attack, and to its high of 70 percent in December 2001. But the percentage of satisfied Americans has declined sharply through 2002. Most recently, only 46 percent of Americans expressed satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States, while more - 51 percent - were dissatisfied.

A communitarian take on America from Amitai Etzioni and Deirdre Mead. Also, if you haven't heard about it yet, Amitai has a new blog here.

Have You Visited The Radical Middle?
Radical Middle, edited by Mark Satin, is an old fashioned hard copy newsletter that covers policy issues, conferences, and books in the fields of politics, government, law, business, and foreign affairs.

Our focus is on holistic, sustainable proposals that transcend politics-as-usual AND bitter alienation; our goal is an economically, culturally, racially, and politically integrated world.

Most excellent. Especially this piece culling together over 30 writers trying to define the radical middle. They've even got our lapdog Tony Blair in there.

Open Government Key To Public Trust
Lack of open government records and meetings has led to a lack of public trust in American government at all levels, a national freedom-of-information activist said Friday.

"A generation ago, 75 percent still trusted government. Now, just 20 percent do," Virginia Coalition for Open Government director Frosty Landon told members of South Dakotans for Open Government. "When just 50 percent of the people vote and when 75 to 80 percent distrust their government, we all need to worry."

I'm worried. However we do it, we need to strengthen the legal power of the freedom of information. In a real sense. Complaining about it doesn't help. Doing something about it will.


Frosty Landon, quoted above, is a member of National Freedom of Information Coalition. Check 'em out.

More Opinion On The McCain-Feingold Ruling

From the Center For Responsive Politics.
Larry Noble, executive director and general counsel of the Center for Responsive Politics, issued the following statement in reaction to today's federal court decision on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Noble served for 13 years as general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

“Today's court decision amounts to a split decision that gives supporters and opponents of this law something to cheer -- and complain -- about. Regardless, the decision will become a footnote in history once the Supreme Court rules on the law.

“Although today's decision strikes down the broad ban on the national party committees raising and spending soft money, it upholds the prohibition on the national party committees using soft money for ads that support or oppose a federal candidate. This prohibits the national parties from using unlimited contributions to pay for so-called 'issue' ads, which they have become increasingly reliant on. State and local parties also will be prohibited from using soft money in ads that mention a federal candidate. The court also upheld the prohibition on federal officeholders and candidates raising soft money.

“The court struck down the prohibition on interest groups using soft money to pay for 'issue' ads that mention a candidate in the weeks immediately prior to an election. But it upheld a backup provision in the law that bans interest groups from using soft money for ads run -- at any time -- that support or oppose a federal candidate.

About the same as Common Cause's below. There's more if you follow the link. The bottom line is this is going to the Supremes, and they've supported reform, and overturned lower courts, in both 2000 and 2001. So it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm betting that they uphold the McCain-Feingold bill in total.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Common Cause Celebrates Today's Decision On Campaign Finance Reform

Well, shame on me for not checking around before I posted the last item on the court's action today. Common Cause actually is trumpeting the decision, and believes the portion struck down to be an insignifigant action because of their confidence that the Supreme Court will not do the same. This is truly an interpretation I did not expect, and I'm following and analyzing it closely. More later.
The federal district court today upheld some key provisions of the McCain-Feingold law, including the ban on national and state parties using soft money to run ads about federal candidates. The court also upheld provisions of the law that restrict the use of corporate and labor funding for sham issue ads about federal candidates.

“We are pleased that the court recognized the importance – and the constitutionality – of some key provisions of the campaign finance law,” said Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause, which spearheaded efforts to pass the law. “The provisions upheld by the lower court are central to ending the corrupt soft money system.”

To the extent that the court struck down other portions of the ban on soft money, Common Cause considers today’s ruling to be disappointing, but ultimately unimportant.

“At the end of the day, it’s the Supreme Court that will decide the constitutionality of the soft money ban and other parts of the new reform law,” Pingree said.

Based on previous Supreme Court decisions and the record developed in this case, Common Cause is confident that the new law will be upheld as constitutional when the Supreme Court considers it.

History is on our side. In both of the last two times the Supreme Court ruled on campaign finance issues, it reversed lower court decisions that, like today’s case, threw out reform laws.

This interpretation of today's decision seems to be well based. The Supreme Court's record is clear in the past two cases, and overturned lower court decisions. It will be interesting to explore how reluctantly they have done so the past few times, and how that may be a factor in today's seemingly more partisan and political environment.

Campaign Finance Reform Shot Down
A three-judge panel in Washington struck down major provisions of the new campaign finance law this afternoon in a much-awaited ruling, setting the stage for a final showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court later this year that will determine the shape, style and bank accounts of the nation's major political campaigns.

Nearly five months after the McCain-Feingold law was argued before the panel, most of the soft money prohibitions were declared to be unconstitutional by a 2-1 majority, possibly clearing the way for major political parties to begin raising the large, unregulated sums of money from corporations, trade unions and wealthy individuals that critics said had plagued major election campaigns during the past two decades.

This isn't over yet, but it doesn't look good. It's time to get active on this. Study the arguments, and figure out how to take the most united stand. Personally, I believe we need to sponsor a second Bill of Rights, for the 21st century, that involves a constellation of the freedom of information, to ensure transparency and accountability; the role and ownership of media and corporations in America, and necessary and just conditions of their charter; campaign finance reform, to clean up the rest and constructed to be constitutionally sound; and electoral reform, including lifetime registration, same-day registration, instant runoff voting or some better alternative, and a national election holiday. I'll be posting more on this as time goes on, and I get in more depth and detail below (near the bottom of this post).


Update: One read of the two arguments below would be to ask 1) what constitutional implications are there for the seemingly common-sense proposals in Clean Money, Clean Elections; and 2) what common-sense outcomes would we expect to see if we followed the strict constitutional arguments of unrestricted political speech and spending? In some ways, we get an interesting opposition of means and ends, each appropriating different means by different justifications to achieve seemingly similar ends (though these postulated ends are not so well proven to ensure they would actually turn out that way).

Dash For Cash - The Argument For Public Financing
The Democratic convention won't be held for more than a year, but the party's nominee for the 2004 presidential race is being selected right now, in a handful of living rooms and salons in Georgetown, the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Hollywood. That's where the "wealth primary" — the quadrennial dance between fund-raisers and fat cats — is taking place, a competition that determines who will be anointed the party's front-runner and what issues will make it onto the table.

The public may be unaware of the process, but campaigns take the wealth primary very seriously. And they should. In every presidential race since 1984, the candidate who had raised the most money by the end of the year prior to the election — before a single primary vote had been cast — went on to win his party's nomination.

This fact is pretty damning. And that doesn't make it look for progressive issues such as electoral reform, campaign finance reform, and sunshine laws to be included on the platform. Unless these fat cats sign on to it. And, in the case of campaign finance, this may be not be a likely occurrence.

This is no way to select the next leader of a democracy. The only way to get rid of the wealth primary is a voluntary system of full public financing in both the primary and general elections for qualified candidates who demonstrate a broad base of support among average voters. The existing, outmoded funding system now used must be replaced. Lawmakers would do well to take a page from the success of "Clean Money, Clean Elections" systems in Arizona and Maine, where more than half the candidates for state office — including the current governor of Arizona — participated in a public funding option that freed them from any postelection obligations to major donors and the special interests they represent.

Under the Clean Money, Clean Elections approach, candidates who agree to abide by strict spending limits and to raise no private money can qualify for a grant of public funds for their campaigns. That funding level is based on what it cost to run a competitive race for that level of office in previous cycles. However, if participating candidates are opposed by big-spending, privately financed opponents, or targeted by independent expenditures, they can receive additional public matching funds — up to a limit — to help keep them on an equal plane. First, they have to raise a large number of very small qualifying contributions from voters in their district.

What's most fascinating to me is how this approach would be implemented at the presidential level.

Under a presidential Clean Money, Clean Elections system, candidates would qualify not by collecting a certain amount of money, but rather by collecting a qualifying — and quite large — number of contributions. The amount given could be as little as, say, $5, replacing an emphasis on the amount collected with an emphasis on numbers of people participating. Once candidates qualified, then, as with the current system, they could keep getting additional public funds up to the primary spending limit as long as they kept competing in primaries and got at least 10% of the vote.

In other words, instead of the wealth primary and the bundling of $2,000 checks, candidates would be required to show broad and deep support from individual citizens — not wealthy special interests. Such a system would reduce the time candidates spend on fund-raising so they could focus on voters and issues. It would create equal opportunity among candidates able to collect large checks from wealthy donors and those candidates with large numbers of supporters of only average means, or less. And it would encourage more citizens to get involved in the democratic process of electing the president, reducing the obscene dependence of future presidents on a tiny core of the wealthiest Americans.

It's time to take the "for sale" sign off the White House.



Or is it just the opposite? Be sure to read next post, which argues from a constitutional basis for allowing no restrictions on political communications and media.

Liberty For Citizens, Or Only For Politicians?
To hear John McCain tell it, campaign finance reform is necessary to save democracy from the weaknesses of the 1st Amendment. The Founders would have disagreed.

In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison spoke about the problem of political factions, or what we today call "special interests." During the founding of our Republic, many were concerned that the tyranny of the majority faction would trample the rights of all others. Madison wrote that factions are natural and have always existed. What did Madison believe was the solution to these factions? Was it regulation?

Madison wrote, "Liberty is to faction what air is to fire." He didn't want to regulate, he wanted a vigorous debate of ideas.

Who wouldn't. This is indeed our goal with campaign finance legislation, to ensure the free debate and passionate exchange of ideas. Only now the argument is curiously turned around. And sound or not, these arguments are valid.

John McCain, appearing on "This Week" with Sam & Cokie, said, "The Supreme Court has said, 'Money isn't speech -- speech is speech.'" And on another Sunday morning talking-head show he paraphrased Justice John Paul Stevens, saying, "Money isn't speech -- it's property."

The problem with those quotes is simple: McCain is wrong. In the landmark campaign finance case, Buckley v. Valeo, the Court acknowledged that it's necessary for money to be spent if speech is to be heard. Printing flyers, running ads, hiring consultants, and taking trips are all ways by which a candidate or concerned citizen attempts to make his message heard. All these things cost money. The Court understood that dollar limits gave the government the ability to ration and control the political speech that supposedly is protected by the First Amendment.

Reluctantly, the Justices allowed Congress to impose hard money limits on the amount of dollars raised, in order to guard against the appearance of impropriety with elected officials. And with even greater reluctance, they broke from all previous precedent and permitted government-compelled disclosure, because they saw no other way to enforce the limits.

But John McCain has demonstrated that he is his own parody. On his Straight Talk Express website, McCain urged supporters to sign a petition for campaign finance reform. From there he wrote, "Along with your petition, I hope you will send a contribution of $75, $50, $25, or whatever you can afford at this time. Your contribution will send a clear message that we have the strength and resources to get our reform agenda passed."

Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity said, "It looks peculiar for a senator to be raising money so he can reform. The problem for McCain is that it costs money to get your message out."

Ouch. That was a tough blow. Certainly not a death strike to the movement for the Clean Money, Clean Elections approach above, but a rhetorical punch in the face nonetheless. Here's some more from a synopsis of a lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

The media can influence politics in ways that political causes cannot. We'll argue that political causes have the same First Amendment right to an unrestricted freedom of the press that the institutional media does. The purpose of this lawsuit is to restore the freedom of the press for individuals -- especially political causes.

We'll demonstrate that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right of citizens to communicate through "the press", which means print, radio, television, and now the Internet.

Keep in mind that there are no legal prohibitions or restrictions on the political speech of "the press". The media can make any political statement they want in any manner they choose about any party or candidate, and can publicize or not publicize, attack or not attack, any political cause, without limitation.

This is an even more dazzling "turning around" of common sense. And it makes sense. Especially with the growth of Big Media, and its poor performance in supporting dissenting opinions in favor of a more mainstream corporate vanillaism, this point raises a cogent warning. No campaign finance reform should be passed in a vacuum. Accompanying safeguards on media diversity of ownership should be riding shotgun. We may be looking at a new Bill of Rights people. For the 21st century. One that includes the freedom of information, to ensure transparency and accountability; the role and ownership of media and corporations in America, and necessary and just conditions of their charter; campaign finance reform, to clean up the rest and constructed to be constitutionally sound; and electoral reform, including lifetime registration, same-day registration, instant runoff voting or some better alternative, and a national election holiday.

My purpose in posting these two countering arguments is to call attention to them, so that vigorous review of the various opinions may be carried out. I will be analyzing these arguments, and the decision by the federal panel today striking down portions of the McCain-sponsored campaign finance legislation, and will be posting that in the next several days, or week at the longest. I pretend to be no expert, I will be analyzing the arguments as a capable and educated free thinker, and ultimately through the lens of the platform I mentioned above, which, to put it simply, is maximum support of freedom, self-government, responsive democracy, transparency, accountability, and integrity.


Keep in mind that with these arguments, it begs the question of how we determine what "the press" is. Is there a charter for the press, certain rules and guidelines they must follow, rules and procedures? Like a corporate charter? If so, then anyone claiming this freedom of the press should have to abide by them, whether these are individuals or political "factions". If there is not such a charter, then perhaps there should be, and we should debate what its terms should be. This isn't much different than the current debate over corporate purpose legislation, and what should properly be the terms of a corporate charter. In the best interest of society. I profess to be ignorant of the rules behind "the press", and will seek out this information and post anew as time permits. Or please comment or link to your own post or that of a treatment of the subject. This would be greatly appreciated. We should not leave it to the so-called experts, or technocrats, as free thinkers we need to mobilize for true democracy.

Sharp Rise In Press Attacks In Afghanistan - Not Limited To The War In Iraq
Attacks and threats against Afghan journalists have increased sharply in recent weeks, Human Rights Watch said today, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, which is May 3. Afghan security personnel have created a pervasive climate of fear in which journalists are afraid to openly publish articles that criticize leaders.

"Press freedom in Afghanistan is under assault," said John Sifton, a researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "Army, police and intelligence forces are delivering death threats and arresting Afghan journalists, effectively silencing them."

Many of the threats and arrests have occurred after journalists have criticized certain cabinet members in the Afghan government, including Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Minister of Education Younis Qanooni; and leading political figures in Kabul such as the former president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a powerful former mujahidin leader.

Very disturbing story, and worth your review. If this is the model of democracy we plan to forge in the War on Terror, we need to be more explicit about it so everyone understands the costs. Again, we need to know the progression here. Are these supposed to be intermediary states of democracy for security purposes, in the transition, or is this considered a more permanent effect. Strategically. It has to be determined, and answered, because the freedom of speech and the press is not optional for a free democracy.

Will Weblogs Ruin Google's Search Engine?
Last April, Stanford University student Adam Mathes played a joke on his friend Andy Pressman. Mathes' goal: Make Pressman's Web site the No. 1 Google search result for "talentless hack." The method: Encourage as many people with Web sites as possible to link to Pressman's site using those words. (Like this: Andy "talentless hack" Pressman.) The prank worked. A year later, Pressman's Web site is still Google's No.1 search result for the phrase. Mathes even invented a name for his joke: "Google Bombing."

Before Google, search engines ranked Web pages primarily by examining the content of each page, with decidedly mixed results. Google improved upon this system by taking into account the links that connect the billions of pages on the World Wide Web. If lots of Web sites link to Slate, for example, Google takes that as a vote of confidence in Slate, and moves Slate higher when it sorts a search for the word "slate." (Click here for Google's explanation of how its search technology works.)

Mathes discovered that the words that site owners use to link to a page affect Google's rankings, too. Pressman's site didn't contain the words "talentless hack," but because so many sites linked to his site using those words, Google figured he must be one. In Google's judgment, a Web page "must be what other people say it is," Mathes wrote. "In a bizarre surreal bow to the power of perception on the web, what you say about a page becomes just as important as the actual content of the page."

And because Google's search technology relies so heavily on links, Weblogs (those constantly updated personal Web sites like,, and can have a tremendous impact on Google's search results. Google searches favor Weblogs because they're sites that contain freshly updated content with lots of links. Conceivably, Weblogs could unleash powerful Google Bombs and threaten the legendary accuracy of the world's favorite search engine.

I'm looking around to see if there's a follow up to this. I know Google doesn't seem to mind, because they're getting billions of searches from blogs, and they've bought up BlogSpot.

War A Boon For New Sites, Blogs

USC's Online Journalism Review finds so many views, and so hard to connect sometimes with all of the traffic. It's slowed down as the war has wound down, but this article still seems fresh.
Web Gives A Voice To Iranian Women

Interesting article from the BBC back from 2002 on Iranian women discovering blogs and using them to exercise speech otherwise unavailable to them. Highly recommended.
Beyond Mainstream - ABC News Reports On Blogs
The people taking advantage of Internet resources appear primarily to be scholars, activists and information junkies. "I'm not sure the average person watching The Bachelorette and not caring about the news is going to be saying, 'Let me check out the blogs,'" said Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University professor of online journalism.

Nonetheless, the GulfWire e-mail newsletter, which features articles and commentary from U.S. and foreign media, has seen greater interest from "average folks" since the Sept. 11 attacks, said editor-in-chief Patrick Ryan.

There had been similar use of the Internet for information during recent U.S. military campaigns, with sites like WorldNetDaily getting regular firsthand accounts as bombs dropped on Serbian homes in 1999.

This is actually an article from March, but I still found it interesting, and with all of the information that gets reported daily, easily missed by a lot of bloggers.


Update: Also see this for the Top 10 Underground Bloggers according to Right Wing News. No matter where you fit on the spectrum, knowing and understanding how others think and model the world is essential in truly understanding your own.


Update: CNN gets in on the blogging going mainstream tip.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Pot Outranks Corn As A Cash Crop

Now this is surprising. In a Guardian article, a study is being reported that has found that "marijuana, pornography and illegal labour have created a hidden market in the United States which now accounts for as much as 10% of the American economy."
Although the official American economy has been suffering a downturn, the shadow economy is enjoying unprecedented levels of success, much in the way that the prohibition period fuelled the illegal markets in the 30s. Schlosser found that three specific industries accounted for a major portion of this boom.

Sounds like maybe we should start taxing that marijuana trade, think of the dollars our politicans could spend if it was legal! And let's face it, why is everyone so hung up about marijuana in the first place? We've much bigger problems and challenges to face to be worrying ourselves about someone wanting to get high after work.

Schlosser writes: "Although popular stereotypes depict marijuana growers as ageing hippies in northern California or Hawaii, the majority of the marijuana now cultivated domestically is being grown in the nation's mid-section - a swath running from the Appalachians west to the Great Plains. Throughout this Marijuana Belt drug fortunes are being made by farmers who often seem to have stepped from a page of the old Saturday Evening Post."

Let's hope Ashcroft catches a downwind of this and starts to chill out.

Emotional Selection In Memes - The Case Of Urban Legends

Every now and again, I'll post an article related to my interest in selective perception, attitude change, and cognitive dissonance. It sounds technical, but it really isn't. As time goes on, I'll elaborate on these models of the mind, and try to relate them to everyday occurrences. Especially involving political attitude change and reinforcement. This one is an interesting one, and I'll post my analysis of it a little later on, or perhaps in a brand new post about urban political legends.
This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described.

In Study 1, with controls for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust.

Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust.

Study 3 coded legends for specific story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance) and found that legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites. The conclusion discusses implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.

This emphasis on disgust, and emotion winning out over reason, is very interesting, and the scenarios and research credible. Even more compelling, the authors of the study extend their ideas to the social realm and see a method to the madness of fear-mongering.

In legal and public policy circles, researchers have expressed repeated concerns that the media may skew public policy by provoking irrational fears. By provoking such fears, the media may cause society to skew public policy toward trivial but emotional "problems" and away from legitimate problems that are less emotional ( Bailis & MacCoun, 1996 ; Edelman, Abraham, & Erlanger, 1992 ; Glassner, 1999 ; Marsh, 1991 ). Although the media may deserve all the criticism it gets, irrational fears often propagate in the form of informal contemporary legends that use as experts only the ubiquitous "friend of a friend." Until we understand more about emotional selection, we are unlikely to understand the social implications of a marketplace of ideas that competes not only over truth but also over emotion.

There are ramnifications on political discourse and campaigning as well. Will virtual urban legends be spread throughout the people by their participation in political blogs? By overreliance on emotion and skewed stories and facts? Or will the availability of instant research and fact checking powered by Google be able to counter this? I'm not sure. I know the emotions are already running high on political blogs, and on many sites, and in many comments threads, the mob rules and independent, thoughtful opinions, and especially dissent to the consensus view, are not welcome, or are misconstrued to be the work of "trolls" from the "other side" (i.e. the enemy, other party).

LA Times - Tell The Truth On Weapons
"We were not lying," one administration official told ABC News on Friday. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." No, it wasn't. Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction is central to the legitimacy of the war.

If it turns out that the administration did mislead the world, the only way to mitigate long-term damage to U.S. credibility is to come clean. Fast.

It seems the mainstream media is rejoining the vertebrate world.

Woman Of Dreams

If you haven't been introduced, or even if you have, please go visit Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and leader of the non-violent human rights and democracy movement in Burma. This woman is incredible. A strong and compassionate human being. Though her party won a landslide victory in democratic elections in 1990, they have never been allowed to rule by the military there. response to increasing international pressure, the regime agreed to hold elections, thinking it had such an iron-fisted grip over the nation that they would win. They were wrong. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991), won fully 82 percent of the legislative seats.

As mentioned above, however, these elections have never been recognized. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. National League for Democracy members have been terrorized, killed, forced to resign and to flee their homeland.

Now she is no longer under house arrest, but to be so on and off for over a decade is absurd. Can you imagine being on house arrest for years because you won an election? This, the rightful leader of the (by landslide) victorious party of democratic elections! How does the military get away with this? can a regime so clearly opposed by the majority of the people remain in power? The answer is simple: corporate support. The military in Burma is extremely well-armed and well-financed, in large part due to the continued investment in Burma of a handful of corporations. The democracy movement in Burma has repeatedly called on corporations to withdraw from the country until democracy is achieved. Aung San Suu Kyi has emphasized, "Until we have a system that guarantees rules of law and basic democratic institutions, no amount of aid or investment will benefit our people."

Responding to this call from the democracy movement, and building on lessons from the international movement to help end apartheid in South Africa, the international Free Burma movement has focused grassroots campaigns on pressuring corporations to respect the will of the democratic leadership of Burma and withdraw from the country. The results have been impressive.

Many companies indeed bailed out in the early 1990's, heeding the call of conscience or threat of boycott, including Levi Strauss, who claim...

"It is not possible to do business in (Burma) without directly supporting the military government and its pervasive violations of human rights."

You can bet your bottom dollar that didn't stop Halliburton though. Nope, they kept right on dealing with these fascists. Now, keep in mind the definition of fascism. Burma is it.

The Bush administration might be unsympathetic to a more robust policy towards Burma. Burma has always been a lefty cause; GOP lawmakers, sympathetic to the oil lobby, fought a losing battle against the Clinton administration's policy of imposing sanctions. Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney, himself an opponent of economic sanctions, probably isn't hot to draw attention to Burma. Halliburton, the petroleum and energy services company Cheney once ran, made extensive joint venture investments in Burma during the 1990s. According to court documents, the Burmese military used forced labor on a pipeline project in which Halliburton was involved.

And, even worse, these guys have been talking about starting up a nuclear reactor. Can you believe that? Unelected, fascist leaders are eager to go nuclear, with a reputation for concealing WMD.

Most frightening, Burma's ruling generals have decided to build a nuclear reactor. What for? "Medical purposes," says Burma's foreign minister, yet the country doesn't have the technology to make radioactive isotopes used in medicine. It does, however, have a shady history regarding weapons of mass destruction. In the mid-1990s, the respected arms control group International Peace Research Institute, as well as American intelligence, accused Burma of possessing a chemical-weapons program. Burma's neighbors---and the U.S.---certainly can't be reassured by the fact that two Pakistani nuclear scientists whom the CIA reportedly wanted to question about potential ties to Al Qaeda were sent to Burma shortly after Sept. 11 on an unknown research project, and allegedly haven't returned.

So, why, in the wake of Sept. 11, has the Bush administration been largely silent about Burma, even as it beats the drums for regime change elsewhere? One reason is energy. Burma is awash in natural gas reserves, and foreign oil companies, which have extensive investments in the country, are not eager to see the status quo disrupted. Also, intelligence reports have yet to show that the nuclear facility will be used to make fissile material. In any event, Burma lacks the missile capability that could theoretically allow it to deliver weapons of mass destruction. In short, Burma is a threat to our allies in the region, but not to us. In this way, Burma illustrates the weakest link in the emerging Bush doctrine. We demand that our allies support our actions against terrorists and regimes that threaten U.S. security. But if our allies need help countering threats that only endanger their security, we turn a blind eye.

So I guess actual repressive fascist governments seeking nuclear capabilities shouldn't be part of the Axis of Evil, by logic that they are not a direct threat to us, only to our allies, and not about oil, or natural gas, or energy. Neither was Iraq about oil either. And I'm sure it would have nothing to do with Cheney's energy task force notes, but since he's hiding them who knows?

Transparency and accountability. Repeat after me. Transparency and accountability. We should be helping everyday heroes of freedom like Aung San Suu Kyi, rather than supporting their enemies who terrorize them and deny them their rightful democracy. Only then will we stand with integrity as the true friend and champion of democracy and the American Dream.