Leaked: The Internet must go!

Hey! Are you on the internet right now? Of course you are! Then you should definitely check out this amazing video about what the internet companies are planning. This move could hurt both consumers and content creators--but of course would be a huge windfall for internet providers.

How weathly are Americans?

The disparity in wealth between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 80 percent has grown exponentially over the last thirty years — but the video, posted by user politizane and relying on data from a popular Mother Jones post, focuses on the difference between the ideal disparity that Americans would like to see and the reality.

Tax the Rich

So long! It's been fun.

Dear listeners,

In July 2011 I started a new job teaching Italian at Kansas State University. In some ways this was a return to my roots, as I taught English as a Foreign Language for 17 years in Italy. Now I am teaching English speakers Italian. I've come full circle.

This coming full circle also means the end of an attempt on my part to start a new career in my 50s. Sadly, as much as I tried to bring community radio to Manhattan, I was not successful. So I have decided to dedicate my energy and time to my first love, being an educator.

The archive of my shows will remain active - there's a lot of great content in the shows. So I hope you continue to listen and enjoy them.

Once again thank you for your support and encouragement over the five years the show was on the air. I know many feel that my program needs to be on the air and I agree with you that a diversity of voices is sorely lacking in the local media. But alas, it is not I who will bring that diversity. It will have to be someone else.

Christopher E. Renner

14 March 2010

Clippings for 14 March 2010

The Senate's Lesson About Democracy
David Sirota writes: "When you look past the craziness, chaos and confusion of politics these days, you still find roughly two major schools of thought that aim to explain What's Fundamentally Wrong. The first says America is paralyzed by a political system that is too democratic — too responsive to citizens' whims. This is the religion of almost everyone in the permanent Washington elite, regardless of party. Its canon mixing paeans to noblesse oblige with shrill authoritarianism is most clearly articulated by high priests like The Washington Post's David Broder and The New York Times' Tom Friedman. The former has said democracy threatens to make "official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion"; the latter dreams of Chinese-style dictatorship."

War in a Box
Norman Solomon, Truthout: "The event on the House floor Wednesday afternoon was monumental - the first major Congressional debate about US military operations in Afghanistan since lawmakers authorized the invasion of that country in autumn 2001. But, as Rep. Patrick Kennedy noted with disgust on Wednesday, the House press gallery was nearly empty. He aptly concluded, 'It's despicable, the national press corps right now.'"

What Torture Is and Why It's Illegal and Not "Poor Judgment"
Andy Worthington provides the following analysis for Truthout: "It's now over two weeks since veteran Justice Department (DOJ) lawyer David Margolis dashed the hopes of those seeking accountability for the Bush administration's torturers, but this is a story of such profound importance that it must not be allowed to slip away."

Rachel Corrie Case Stirs Fresh Pain and Hope
Ashley Bates, GlobalPost: "Shortly before Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003, she said in a video interview that she marveled at Palestinians' ability to 'hold onto their humanity as much as they have.' Seven years later, Corrie’s friends in the Gaza Strip are planning a remembrance ceremony in her honor. They are also following news of the civil court trial under way in Israel."

Congress Votes for Treason: 356-65 to levy more unlawful war against US soldiers in Afghanistan
Carl Herman writes for the LS County Nonpartisan Examiner: "My headline is legally accurate, and the side of history you want to be on when America finally recognizes our government and corporate media’s fascism. The definitions of political terms, relevant laws, and facts are simple; the problem is American’s cognitive dissonance to recognize the “Big Lie” at home rather than in a history book of some other place in some past time. This article, after the following four paragraphs of context, will explain these simple high school-level definitions of political terms of treason and fascism, relevant laws of war, and relevant facts of war with Afghanistan. I’ll conclude with ~5-minute video clips of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul’s House floor statements on the Resolution to end the war in Afghanistan, and a 5-minute clip of news coverage."

Why Are We Afraid to Tax the Super Rich?
Les Leopold writes for AlterNet.org: "Our nation is already deeply in debt. How can we possibly afford to invest in our infrastructure, renewable energy, health care, our schools — and create the millions of jobs that our unemployed desperately need? We are told that we’re already living well beyond our means — that entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security will bankrupt us. Forget the solar panels, the smaller classes and the new jobs — we’ve got to cut back on government programs at all levels."

Recommended Audio: Global Pulse - Chimerica: U.S., China and the Global Economy
This week Global Pulse revisits China and its relationship with the US and the world.  This overview of China's changing role in the turbulent global economy includes an interview with Wayne Shilby, chair of the board of Calvert Social Investment Foundation, and an unusually deep look at how China is portrayed by CCTV, Chinese state television.

Ask the Chamber of Commerce: Why Is Too Much Not Enough?
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship comment for Truthout: "Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be? How many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life?"

Ponzi Nation: How Get-Rich-Quick Crime Came to Define an Era
Andy Kroll writes for TomDispatch.com: "Every great American boom and bust makes and breaks its share of crooks. The past decade - call it the Ponzi Era - has been no different, except for the gargantuan scale of white-collar crime. A vast wave of financial fraud swelled in the first years of the new century. Then, in 2008, with the subprime mortgage collapse, it crashed on the shore as a full-scale global economic meltdown. As that wave receded, it left hundreds of Ponzi and pyramid schemes, as well as other get-rich-quick rackets that helped fuel our recent economic frenzy, flopping on the beach."

The Sham Recovery
Robert Reich writes on RobertReich.com: "Are we finally in a recovery? Who's 'we,' kemosabe? Big global companies, Wall Street, and high-income Americans who hold their savings in financial instruments are clearly doing better. As to the rest of us – small businesses along Main Streets, and middle and lower-income Americans – forget it."

Mike Whitney writes for the Smirking Chimp: “You gotta see this! If this doesn't convince you that the Timothy Geithner knew about the securities shenanigans that were going on at Lehman, than I don't know what will. Keep in mind, that Geithner ran Lehman through 3 'stress tests' prior to bankruptcy; all of which Lehman failed, and yet, nothing was done. Anton R. Valukas--the examiner who wrote the 2,200 page investigative-report which was released on Thursday-- has provided plenty of information detailing Lehman's 'materially misleading' accounting and 'actionable balance sheet manipulation.'”

Six Democratic Senators Poised to Kill Student Loan Reform
Chris Kromm reports for Facing South: "Reforming the for-profit student loan system, which allows finance giants like Virginia-based Sallie Mae to make virtually risk-free returns thanks to government subsidies, was a top priority of President Obama. His idea, supported by most Democrats, was to take out the middle man: Instead of subsidizing private lenders, the feds would completely take over origination of student loans."

Health Care Reform: Politics and Prejudice
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "In the wake of last week's summit on health care insurance reform, President Obama demonstrated his willingness to compromise by making some incremental concessions to Republicans in a speech from the White House. President Obama proposed strengthening efforts to limit waste and abuse, extending dependent coverage to age 26, allowing automatic enrollment in health insurance and an exchange for small businesses to pool and purchase affordable insurance. He may also consider a plan to rework the way malpractice claims are adjudicated."

Moving Toward the Limelight
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Andrea Nill, Zaid Jilani, and Alex Seitz-Wald write the Progress Report for Think Progress: "Yesterday, the White House hosted three separate meetings on immigration with President Obama, one with grassroots immigration advocates, another with Latino lawmakers, and a meeting with the two senators who have been crafting an immigration bill for the past year: Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Following the meeting, Schumer indicated that everyone agreed that 'passing comprehensive immigration reform this year is very important to our nation' and announced that Obama would be reviewing the agreed-upon framework in the coming days. Roll Call reports that 'while [Obama] couldn't commit to making it happen, he vowed to work with Senate leaders to bring a bill to the floor in April.' Graham, however, made a 'political squeeze play' when he released a statement indicating 'in no uncertain terms' that "immigration reform could come to a halt for the year if health care reconciliation goes forward." Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal's Jerry Seib predicted that immigration reform could be the 'sleeper issue' that moves "toward the limelight." Given the fact that both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and grassroots advocates maintain an undiminished commitment to pushing for immigration reform in 2010, it's certainly an issue fighting its way up to center stage. However, Graham's remarks added to the growing unlikelihood that the immigration reform saga will play out on the Senate floor, but it has already captured the attention of the White House and two senior Senators and it certainly won't go down without a fight."

Recommended Audio: Democracy Now! - Judge Instructs Fed Agencies to Resume ACORN Funding
A federal judge has reaffirmed her earlier ruling blocking the congressional effort to defund the anti-poverty group ACORN. On Wednesday, Judge Nina Gershon cemented a decision from last year that such action amounted to an unconstitutional “bill of attainder.” Judge Gershon has asked all federal agencies to allow ACORN funding without delay. Democracy Now speaks with National Housing Institute president John Atlas, author of Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America’s Most Controversial Anti-Poverty Community Group

The New McCarthyism
Joe Conason writes for Truthdig.com: "The national madness known as McCarthyism began 60 years ago in Wheeling, W.Va., when Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy held up a scrap of paper that supposedly listed the names of 57 State Department officials he said were actually Communists and traitors. Eventually, America learned that the Wisconsin Republican’s famous list was a fabrication, that he was a liar and a demagogue as well as an alcoholic—and that his authoritarian appeals to fear were worse than useless in defending our security. But by then, McCarthyism’s self-serving and fundamentally unpatriotic promoters had inflicted grave damage on the body politic and international prestige of the United States. "

Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change
James C. McKinley Jr. reports for the New York Times: "After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

The People's Nuclear Posture Review
Peter G. Cohen writes for Truthout: "Who decides our national and nuclear policy? (a) REQUIREMENT FOR COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW. 'In order to clarify United States nuclear deterrence policy and strategy for the near term, the Secretary of Defense shall conduct a comprehensive review of the nuclear policy of the United States for the next 5 to 10 years.' So says Section 1070 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008. This clarification of our policy is to be prepared primarily by the Defense Department, in spite of its vested interest in the outcome.'" (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Pierre J., Vermin Inc)

International Women's Day
Peter Rothberg and Chantal Flores writes for The Nation: "The world has been celebrating International Women's Day since 1911 when it was established largely thanks to the efforts of activist Clara Zetkin. The idea was to create a global forum for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future."

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Office of Legal Counsel Nominee Johnsen for Second Time
National Partnership for Women and Familues writes: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 12-7 along party lines to approve the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, CQ Today reports. The committee had already approved Johnsen nearly one year ago, but her nomination was never brought to the full Senate. President Obama re-nominated Johnsen in January after the first nomination expired at the end of 2009."

Gay Rights Tops the Bloggers’ News Agenda
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reports: "Last week, bloggers returned to the hot-button subject of gay rights, a topic that has repeatedly proven to be of more interest to commentators online than to the mainstream press. From March 1-5, 16% of the week's links in the blogosphere were about gay rights issues in the news, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This is the second time in a month when the topic has been among the most discussed subjects. During the first week of February, gay issues including the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell" were a major subject of discussion. It is also the sixth time the subject finished in the top five since PEJ began its New Media Index in January 2009."

Second Mistrial for Shock Jock Hal Turner
Roy O'Connor writes for The Media Channel: "Internet shock jock and F.B.I. confidential informant Hal Turner beat the rap again when his second federal “Death-Threat Trial,” ended in yet another mistrial. Turner, charged with threatening the life of three federal judges who issued rulings supporting gun control, claims federal agents encouraged his seemingly dangerous rants over the years, and told him to “ratchet up the rhetoric” while asking for help in identifying a white supremacist killer. Government officials admit using him as an informant (beginning in 2004 and culminating in 2007) for intelligence on members of white supremacist groups, among whom he had a devoted following. Turner’s background as a paid F.B.I. informant has now become the main issue in the thus far unsuccessful prosecution."

Turn of Your TV
M.S. comments for The Economist: "KEVIN DRUM reminds us that the outsized influence of cable TV news is bizarre, since its ratings are abysmal. Average Americans simply don't watch it. They watch 'American Idol'. As Matthew Yglesias points out, the only people who do watch cable TV news all the time are political professionals. But what's truly absurd is that those political professionals don't watch it because they think they'll learn something substantive. (It is physically impossible to learn anything substantive by watching cable TV news. It's like trying to grow muscles by drinking Coke.) Rather, they watch it because they think it will keep them in touch with what average Americans are watching."

Mainstream Press Ignores Monumental House Debate on Afghan War
Norman Solomon writes for the Media Channel: The event on the House floor Wednesday afternoon was monumental — the first major congressional debate about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan since lawmakers authorized the invasion of that country in autumn 2001. But, as Rep. Patrick Kennedy noted with disgust on Wednesday, the House press gallery was nearly empty. He aptly concluded: 'It’s despicable, the national press corps right now.' Sure enough, the Thursday edition of the New York Times had no room for the historic debate on its front page, which did have room for a large Starbucks ad across the bottom."

U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy has a withering assessment of news media coverage: ‘despicable.’ The Democrat says reporters are focusing ‘24/7′ on sexual harassment allegations against a New York lawmaker while ignoring the war in Afghanistan.

Action Alert - Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: NYT and the ACORN Hoax - Why can't paper admit its mistakes?
Ignoring calls from numerous critics, the New York Times refuses to own up to mistakes in the paper's coverage of the now-famous right-wing videotapes attacking the community organizing group ACORN. Instead, the paper's public editor, Clark Hoyt, is relying on an absurd semantic justification in order to claim the paper does not need to print any corrections.

As conventionally reported in the Times and elsewhere, right-wing activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles dressed up as a pimp and a prostitute and visited several local ACORN offices, where office workers gave the duo advice on setting up a brothel, concealing a child prostitution ring and so forth. But many of the key "facts" surrounding the videos are either in dispute or are demonstrable fabrications.

Though O'Keefe appears in various scenes in the videos wearing a garish and absurd "pimp" costume, he in fact did not wear the outfit when he appeared in the ACORN offices (Washington Independent, 2/19/10); he was dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks. This fact undermines one of the key contentions of the ACORN smear--that the group is so hopelessly corrupt that they would dispense advice to an obvious criminal.

What's more, the "advice" that they received, according to the transcripts released by O'Keefe and Giles, does not appear to be as incriminating as it was portrayed in the videos--and echoed in outlets like the New York Times.

A review of the Times coverage:

--In an early piece (9/16/09), readers were told of the "amateur actors, posing as a prostitute and a pimp and recorded on hidden cameras in visits to ACORN offices.... Conservative advocates and broadcasters were gleeful about the success of the tactics in exposing ACORN workers, who appeared to blithely encourage prostitution and tax evasion." The Times explained:

The undercover videos showed a scantily dressed young woman, Hannah Giles, posing as a prostitute, while a young man, James O'Keefe, played her pimp. They visited ACORN offices in Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn and San Bernardino, Calif., candidly describing their illicit business and asking the advice of ACORN workers. Among other questions, they asked how to buy a house to use as a brothel employing underage girls from El Salvador.

The paper also reported that O'Keefe "was dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risque high school play. But in the footage made public--initially by a new website, BigGovernment.com--ACORN employees raised no objections to the criminal plans. Instead, they eagerly counseled the couple on how to hide their activities from the authorities, avoid taxes and make the brothel scheme work."

--Three days later (9/19/09): "Their travels in the gaudy guise of pimp and prostitute through various offices of ACORN, the national community organizing group, caught its low-level employees in five cities sounding eager to assist with tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution."

--New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt weighed in (9/27/09), chiding the paper for not being more aggressive in promoting the ACORN videos--lamenting that Times readers weren't as up-to-speed on the story as "followers of Fox News," who already knew "that a video sting had caught ACORN workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes."

--The following week (10/4/09), Hoyt was on the ACORN case again: "To recap: Two conservative activists with a concealed video camera, posing as a prostitute and her pimp, visited offices of ACORN, the community organizing group, and lured employees into bizarre conversations about how to establish a bordello, cheat on taxes and smuggle in underage girls from Central America."

--After O'Keefe was charged in January with attempting to tamper with the phone system in Sen. Mary Landrieu's office, the Times reported under the headline, "After Arrest, Provocateur's Tactics Are Questioned" (1/28/10): "Mr. O'Keefe is a conservative activist who gained fame last year by posing as a pimp and secretly recording members of the community group ACORN giving him advice on how to set up a brothel."

---On January 31, 2010: "Mr. O'Keefe made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group ACORN--eliciting advice on financing a brothel on videos that would threaten to become ACORN's undoing.

--On March 2, 2010, under the headline, "ACORN's Advice to Fake Pimp Was No Crime, Prosecutor Says, "the Times reported: "The ACORN employees in Brooklyn who were captured on a hidden camera seeming to offer conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute creative advice on how to get a mortgage have been cleared of wrongdoing by the Brooklyn district attorney's office."

But the story the Times continues to tell is wildly misleading, as a review of the publicly available transcripts of his visit (BigGovernment.com) makes clear. O'Keefe never dressed as a pimp during his visits to ACORN offices, seems to never actually represent himself as a "pimp," and the advice he solicits is usually about how to file income taxes (which is not "tax evasion"). In at least one encounter (at a Baltimore ACORN office), the pair seemed to first insist that Giles was a dancer, not a prostitute.

In the case recounted in the March 2 Times story, the transcripts show that O'Keefe did not portray himself as a pimp to the ACORN workers in Brooklyn, but told them that he was trying to help his prostitute girlfriend. In part of the exchange, O'Keefe and his accomplice seem to be telling ACORN staffers that they are attempting to buy a house to protect child prostitutes from an abusive pimp.

Throughout the months the Times covered the story, it made a major mistake: believing that Internet videos produced by right-wing activists were to be trusted uncritically, rather than approached with the skepticism due to anything you'd come across on the Web. O'Keefe and the Web publisher Andrew Breitbart refused to make unedited copies of the videotape public, and with good reason: A more complete viewing, as the transcripts show, would produce a much different impression.

While the Times decide to skip the standard rules of journalism, ACORN commissioned an independent investigation led by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger (12/7/09), which noted that the

unedited videos have never been made public. The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms.Giles' comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.

So what has the Times done in response? As reported extensively by blogger Brad Friedman (Brad Blog), several Times staffers have been asked to justify the paper's lack of accountability. In the most remarkable exchange, public editor Clark Hoyt--who had criticized the paper for not doing enough reporting on the tapes--wrote that the paper had made no errors that merited a correction (Brad Blog, 2/23/10). He explained that the January 31 story "says O'Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on ACORN counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time."

It is hard to believe that Hoyt actually believes what he's saying here. The obvious implication from the language of the article (and the others documented above) is that ACORN was dispensing advice to someone dressed up in an absurd pimp outfit. The Times chose to believe that O'Keefe's work was journalism that didn't need to be treated skeptically. The videos were in fact a hoax, and the Times was duped. Its readers deserve to know as much--and ACORN, which suffered serious political damage as a result of the false stories, deserves an apology.

In his September column criticizing the paper for being slow to report the ACORN videos, Hoyt wrote: "Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like the Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself." Worse than looking partisan, though, is being wrong.

ACTION: Encourage New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt to recommend that the paper investigate the ACORN videos and produce a report that clarifies the record.

New York Times
Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
Phone: (212) 556-7652

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