Wednesday, April 30, 2008 Exposes McCain's $5,000 Healthcare Benefit is reporting that John McCain's new TV ad only tell half of the story of his proposed healthcare plan.

FactCheck states:
McCain says in a new TV ad: "Let's give every American family a $5,000 refundable tax credit" to buy health insurance.

Sounds good. But McCain failed to mention how existing employer-sponsored health benefits would be affected.

  • Employers could no longer deduct the cost of health plans for their workers, which several experts say is likely to cause companies to reduce or eliminate health benefits for their employees.

  • Workers would be taxed on the value of any employer-paid health benefits, partially offsetting the $5,000 credit for those now covered by such plans.
The aim of the McCain plan is to reduce health care costs through increased competition, by encouraging individuals to shop around for health insurance and medical care. There are many who favor such an approach, and we take no position on it one way or the other. But McCain's simplistic ad misleads viewers by promising to give "every American family" a $5,000 benefit while failing to mention what he would also take away.

Shell and BP's "Blow-Away Numbers

excerpt from:
Outcry as Shell and BP make billions on back of price rises

- Times Online

by Robin Pagnamenta and David Robertson

Surging oil prices helped to boost profits at BP and Royal Dutch Shell to a combined record of £7.2 billion for the first quarter of the year.

Amid growing accusations of profiteering by big oil companies, it also emerged that BP had earned a one-off trading profit of $400 million (£203 million) by correctly betting on the direction of oil and gas prices.

The figures provoked an immediate outcry from campaign groups, which said it was a disgrace that at a time of increased public concern about climate change Shell and BP were earning their biggest profits, while compounding the problem of rising global carbon emissions.

A spokesman for the trade union Unite said that the profits were unacceptable and called for them to be used to improve pension provision for staff.

BP's pre-tax profits surged 48 per cent in the first quarter to £3.3 billion while Shell increased its profits 12 per cent to a record £3.9 billion. The rising profits were driven by spiralling oil prices, which the companies have passed on to consumers in the form of higher petrol and diesel prices. Yesterday the price of crude oil was trading slightly below record highs of $120 a barrel.

Both Shell and BP's figures were much higher than expected. Jason Kenney, an oil analyst at ING, described them as "blow-away numbers".

When Knowledge Obviously Was Not Wisdom

Today, the US is facing both a food and an energy crisis.

Many scientists and politicians once thought that bio-fuels was the answer to the ever increasing demand for oil and its rising costs. However, now that food crops like corn are being diverted to the production of ethanol, costs for everything from meat to milk to eggs is skyrocketing. In addition, scientists and environmentalists are now realizing that the ethanol production process is harmful to the environmental and actually adding to the problem of global warming.

Now some politicians are ready to limit ethanol production and expand drilling in protected areas of the environment in order to meet America's energy needs. However there is already a great deal of evidence showing this to be an impractical solution. One, because of the irreparable damage that he will due to the environment. And two, because, in the case of the Alaska Pipeline, the ground no longer stays frozen solid enough months of the year, in order to move the oil tankers in and out of the area.

In some circles voices are demanding that OPEC lower prices. Ironically, this cry is often coming from those that believe in letting "the market" drive the economy. Many of these voices are suggesting the Kuwait and Iraq should remember their "friends"? Are they saying that "it was really all about the oil"? Meanwhile oil companies like BP & Shell are reporting record profits.

While addressing Congress today, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) succinctly pointed out that the money from most American's stimulus checks will end up in Saudi Arabia. He suggested that the passage of the Saudi Arms Deal be blocked if they do not increase oil production. It seems that so many events over the last seven years have come down to ARMS & OIL.

Some politicians and business interests are trying to sell the idea of clean coal. Ask the people in Appalachia, whose air and drinking water is being poisoned by mountaintop mining, if there is anything "clean" about coal.

And of course there are the proponents of nuclear energy -- a process for which there is no viable way to dispose of the waste product.

As bleak as this conundrum of food, energy and environmental problems sounds, I am sure that the world's scientists and business community will find the answers. But will they learn the real lessons?.

Will world leaders finally learn that :
  • just because we have the knowledge to do something it might not always be wise to do it
  • just because an idea has a short-term benefit that he should also be evaluated for its long term consequences.
  • we have always lived in a global community

In an article for the Washington Post, Stephen Mufson painted a very clear picture of the ties between food and oil. Here's an excerpt from his article, " Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars".

Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation's corn crop. This year, about a quarter of U.S. corn will go to feeding ethanol plants instead of poultry or livestock. That has helped farmers like Johnson, but it has boosted demand -- and prices -- for corn at the same time global grain demand is growing.

And it has linked food and fuel prices just as oil is rising to new records, pulling up the price of anything that can be poured into a gasoline tank. "The price of grain is now directly tied to the price of oil," says Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute, a Washington research group. "We used to have a grain economy and a fuel economy. But now they're beginning to fuse."

Not everyone thinks it's fantastic. People who use corn to feed cattle, hogs and chickens are being squeezed by high corn prices. On Monday, Tyson Foods reported its first loss in six quarters and said that its corn and soybean costs would increase by $600 million this year. Those who are able, such as egg producers, are passing those high corn costs along to consumers. The wholesale price of eggs in the first quarter soared 40 percent from a year earlier, according to the Agriculture Department. Meanwhile, retail prices of countless food items, from cereal to sodas to salad dressing, are being nudged upward by more expensive ingredients such as corn syrup and cornstarch.

Rising food prices have given Congress and the White House a sudden case of legislative indigestion. In 2005, the Republican-led Congress and President Bush backed a bill that required widespread ethanol use in motor fuels. Just four months ago, the Democratic-led Congress passed and Bush signed energy legislation that boosted the mandate for minimum corn-based ethanol use to 15 billion gallons, about 10 percent of motor fuel, by 2015. It was one of the most popular parts of the bill, appealing to farm-state lawmakers and to those worried about energy security and eager to substitute a home-grown energy source for a portion of U.S. petroleum imports. To help things along, motor-fuel blenders receive a 51 cent subsidy for every gallon of corn-based ethanol used through the end of 2010; this year, production could reach 8 billion gallons.

Now, however, the legislation is being criticized for making food more expensive while gasoline prices continue to climb. Rick Perry, a Republican who succeeded Bush as Texas governor, has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive half of the "misguided" ethanol requirements because of rising food costs; every penny increase in per-bushel corn prices costs his state's livestock industry $6 million a year, he said.

Hopefully, US leadership will get serious about finding longterm sustainable solutions to today's food, energy and environmental issues and the American public will get serious and realize and any solution will involve a little sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Primary 2008 Will Be Remembered for Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Ok, I was desperately trying NOT to write one more word about Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

However after seeing this clip on The Huffington Post I have to ask -- just how many people are going to make complete jackasses of themselves before this campaign is over?

No you weren't hearing things. Republican strategist Kellyanne
Conway called Hillary Clinton "the chief white woman in this country".

Kellyanne Conway -- another graduate of the Coulter/Malkin graduate school for neocons. Does anyone really say something that stupid by accident?

Now that was a quote worthy of the late Gov. George Wallace ( the early years).

Between Reverend Jeremiah Wright and all of the pundits who are stumbling over themselves trying to discuss his comments, race relations in America may be set back 40 years.

Surprise, Surprise -Blackwater Is At It Again

Now that their State Dept. contract has been extended for another year Blackwater is trying to use a back door maneuver to resume its plans to build a base in the San Diego area, just three blocks from the Mexican border.

Well if you love those Blackwater guys as much as I do :-( you might be interested in this Courage Campaign petition (which I just signed) asking Speaker Pelosi to support legislation effectively banning Blackwater from Iraq. We need to stop Blackwater before they use their mercenary profits from Iraq to set up a base of operations on the US Southern border.

The Courage Campaign is reporting:

Blackwater is back in California.

Just a few months after the courageous people of Potrero kicked Blackwater out of their small town on the California border, Blackwater has announced plans to open a 61,600 square-foot "training facility" in San Diego just THREE blocks from Mexican border.

In other words, Blackwater is using your tax dollars on a mercenary war in Iraq -- $320 million paid so far, over 60% in no-bid contracts -- to subsidize building a base of operations inside California.

Blackwater's border bait-and-switch has shocked the citizens of San Diego. Shortly before pulling their plans on Potrero, the private military contractor quietly used a shell company called "Southwest Law Enforcement" to gain city permits for a "vocational trade school" a stone's throw from the Tijuana Airport. While Blackwater denies that this deception is a trojan horse to land border security contracts from the federal government before George W. Bush leaves office, the ominous writing is on California's wall.

What will it take to stop Blackwater for good in California and Iraq? Local and national pressure. This time, the Courage Campaign plans to fight a two-front battle against Blackwater -- on the border in San Diego and in the halls of Congress.

To block Blackwater in California for good, we need to put them out of business in Iraq forever. That's why we're supporting Rep. Jan Schakowsky's "Stop Outsourcing Security Act" (H.R. 4102), which would phase out private security companies like Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan. An identical bill in the Senate (S. 2398) has been co-sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton.

If we can convince Speaker Pelosi to stop Blackwater from privatizing national security with our tax dollars, it could be the beginning of the end for Blackwater in Iraq, in California and hopefully send a message that American citizens do not condone the use of paramilitary contractors at home or abroad.

Please join thousands of thoughtful Americans in asking Speaker Pelosi to take leadership by supporting the "Stop Outsourcing Security Act" as soon as possible.

Please add your voice?

Related posts:

Contract Justice
by Jeremy Scahill for The Nation

A Little Good News from Congress

Potrero Wins Its Battle Against Blackwater

Sound Familiar

It's Time to Fire Blackwater

Bush faults Congress for Not Cleaning Up His Mess

Earlier today during a White House press conference President Bush blamed Congress for not acting quickly enough on all of the problems that his administration has created.  And he did it with a straight face. 

excerpt from:

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer 

President Bush, hoping to inoculate his party and his presidential legacy from election-year anger over the economy, heaped criticism on the Democratic-led Congress on Tuesday for "letting the American people down."

He said he'd consider a summer suspension of federal gasoline taxes. But he offered no new ideas for a range of economic worries now facing the country, from record gas prices and soaring food costs to rising inflation, layoffs and home foreclosures, and a credit crunch that even has sparked fears of a college student loan squeeze.

He rejected a new economic stimulus package, saying the tax rebate checks that began going out this week from a $168 billion economic aid plan adopted in February must first be given time to work. He also rejected bipartisan suggestions that the government stop filling the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve while oil costs so much, saying it involves such a tiny amount of supply that doing so wouldn't push prices down.

Instead, the president tried to shift the focus to Congress, saying he long ago sent lawmakers proposals to deal with many of the nation's economic problems, only to see them sit or be replaced with approaches that he deems unacceptable.

"Many Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook," Bush said in a White House news conference, held outdoors in an unseasonably cold and windy Rose Garden. "They're looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all they're getting is delay."

Capitol Hill's Democratic leaders said Bush was to blame for proposing policies that would worsen the problem, not help, and that it was their duty to reject them.

"His call this morning for Congress to act is disingenuous at best," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of Bush. "Whether on energy policy, the housing crisis or our many other economic woes, this administration and its Republican allies in Congress offer nothing but the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place."

Monday, April 28, 2008

They Sold You The Iraq War and Now the 2008 Election

"If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it.
Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie “Network”
but by talking calmly,
repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom
we have entrusted this enormous responsibility.
Do your job, so we can — as voters — do ours."

an excerpt from the NYTimes Op-ed Page

Bowling 1, Health Care 0

by Elizabeth Edwards

For the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?

Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles — information that voters will need to choose the next president — too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, I’m not surprised.

Why? Here’s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.

But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.

It is not a new phenomenon. In 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings — an important if painful part of our history — were televised, but by only one network, ABC. NBC and CBS covered a few minutes, snippets on the evening news, but continued to broadcast soap operas in order, I suspect, not to invite complaints from those whose days centered on the drama of “The Guiding Light.”

The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.

Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.

What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.

And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.

But it was not to be. Indeed, the Biden campaign was covered more for its missteps than anything else. Chris Dodd, also a serious candidate with a distinguished record, received much the same treatment. I suspect that there was more coverage of the burglary at his campaign office in Hartford than of any other single event during his run other than his entering and leaving the campaign.

Watching the campaign unfold, I saw how the press gravitated toward a narrative template for the campaign, searching out characters as if for a novel: on one side, a self-described 9/11 hero with a colorful personal life, a former senator who had played a president in the movies, a genuine war hero with a stunning wife and an intriguing temperament, and a handsome governor with a beautiful family and a high school sweetheart as his bride. And on the other side, a senator who had been first lady, a young African-American senator with an Ivy League diploma, a Hispanic governor with a self-deprecating sense of humor and even a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife. Issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans didn’t fit into the narrative template and, therefore, took a back seat to these superficialities.

* * * * *
So, tell me what did you learn from the media today... other than the fact that Rev. Jeremiah Wright is "entertaining"?

Did you learn anything about your candidate's position on:

  • the truckers' protest in Washington
  • rising gasoline prices and its effect on rising food prices,
  • ending US dependence on fossil fuels,
  • bio-fuels and their impact on rising food prices,
  • national preparedness for natural disasters,
  • adapting to climate change,
  • urban crime,
  • our failing schools,
  • plan to deal with water shortages,
  • a plan for improving our infrastructure,
  • a plan to improve the nation's electrical energy grid and avoid rolling brown-outs this summer
  • a plan to address the modern day slavery of immigrant farm workers
  • proposed increases in Medicare costs
  • senior citizens choosing between food and medicine
  • rising pharmaceutical costs
  • covering the uninsured
  • America's vanishing small towns
  • Appalachians being poisoned by mountaintop mining
  • a plan to help American manufacturers become competitive with their foreign competition
  • improving food and product safety of imported goods
  • country of origin labeling for imported goods.
  • closing Guantanamo
  • leaving Iraq and Afghanistan
  • etc., etc. etc.


Related posts:

Final Thoughts on the Edwards Campaign

Friday, April 25, 2008

Injustice Isn't Relegated to Jena

excerpt from:
Officers Acquitted in Sean Bell's Death

A Blog Buffet

Every once in awhile I am asked why I maintain three blogs. After all, can't I say everything in one?

Yes, of course I good but I think that it would be way too confusing and possibly a little annoying for my readers.

Here's why:

Pam's Coffee Conversation is my personal commentary on politics, society and anything else that happens to come to mind that day. I make no pretenses here about being unbiased.

In Get the Facts & Get Involved I try to provide news and information of international interest in as unbiased a manner as possible. However, since I also post petitions, calls for action and other citizen advocacy resources I again do not pretend to be completely unbiased. Here are a few recent posts:

In Pause For Thought I share my thoughts on how my faith relates to today's social, political and economic issues. Here are a few recent posts:

So rather than load your plate with entrees that may not suit your palate, I'm taking the buffet approach to blogging. I hope that you'll visit and enjoy each of my blogs but I realize not everything suits everyone's taste.

Which ever blog you read, thanks for your support.

Support HealthCare You Can Keep

While the video is funny it's message is very serious. It's time for Universal Healthcare in America.

Supported by over a dozen Senators of both parties, Senator Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act would guarantee everyone health care that is:

  • Universal. Every American will have guaranteed health care.
  • Comprehensive. A high quality plan - as good as what members of Congress get.
  • Portable. It's your health care, and you can take it with you if you change jobs, are laid off, go to school, start a new business, or become too sick to work.
  • Non-discriminatory. We'll ban "pre-existing conditions" and make sure that everyone pays a fair price for equal, high quality, coverage.
  • Affordable. Under $40,000 income? You'll pay less than you do now. Under $150,000 income? You'll pay about $1 a day more than today for guaranteed coverage.

Once the Healthy Americans Act passes, we will have universal, affordable, comprehensive, portable, high-quality, private health coverage - within one year. There's no reason to wait. The Act even saves money through wellness and prevention - $1.48 trillion in one respected, independent study.

The Healthy Americans Act puts you in charge of your health care choices, not your employer. Every American will feel secure, knowing that your health care won't ever go away. And 46 million Americans will get the comprehensive health care they need.

Learn more about how the Healthy Americans Act would work.

Join the conversation at Stand Tall for America.

Compare Senator Wyden's plan to the 2008 Presidential Candidates:

Hillary Clinton's Universal Healthcare Plan

Barack Obama's Healthcare Plan

John McCain's Healthcare Plan

An Urgent Issue for Senior Citizens and Those Who Love Them

If you are a senior citizen or someone who is involved in the everyday care of one you are all too familiar with the fact that even with Medicare ( Parts A & B), supplemental Medicare coverage and Medicare Part D prescription coverage, many seniors still pay a fair amount of their medical costs out of pocket.

Now with the escalating food and oil costs many seniors are being forced to make choices that are not only difficult but, in some cases, risky to their health.

It just shouldn't be this way!

Senior citizens aren't asking government for a free ride, they've already paid their fare.

I just added my name to the petition asking Congress to stop skyrocketing Medicare costs from going even higher, and I’m asking you to consider joining me!

Did you know that:

*Monthly premiums for Medicare beneficiaries have more than doubled since 2000;

*People on Medicare pay almost a quarter of their own yearly health costs -- not including long-term care out of their own pockets, including: coinsurance for doctor visits, hospital stays, and skilled nursing facility care; premiums and coinsurance for prescription drugs; and deductibles for basic health insurance and hospital stays the hospital deductible alone is over $1,000.

* People on Medicare have to pay all of the costs for services Medicare doesn’t cover like eye care, hearing services, dental services, and nursing home care.

* In addition, people whose health is dependent on maintenance medicines find that the initial coverage period of the Medicare Part D Prescription plan only covers 6-7 months of the prescription needs. For the remainder of the year many seniors have to pay full price for their prescriptions out of pocket -- which can add anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a month before the catastrophic coverage kicks in.

Last December, when more than 100,000 people got involved in AARP’s campaign to strengthen Medicare, the Senate only passed a temporary fix, set to expire in June.

Today, as Congress is deciding what to do once the temporary fix expires, we want to collect 200,000 signatures on our petition to Keep Medicare Fair.

Click the link below to sign our petition and help me meet our 200,000 signature goal.

Your support has never been more important. If Congress does not do the right thing, older Americans will be forced to pay even higher premiums on top of their already skyrocketing out-of-pocket health care costs.

Time is running out, and we cannot let our Members of Congress stand by while Medicare premiums continue to rise. Let them know that you want to keep premiums fair.

Use the link below to help double the impact and sign the petition today!

With your help, Members of Congress will hear from US - and not just the special interests and their lobbyists.

Please add your voice of support to this important cause.

Thank you

Related posts:

Drug Companies Making Billions in Excess Profits
Under Medicare Plan

Medicare Part D -- The Cruelest Deception
Ever Passed on the American Public

The Debt Peonage Society

Distribution of Economic Stimulus Checks Scheduled to Begin Next Monday

And many Americans will need every dime of it to buy gasoline and food.

CNN is reporting:
" The federal government, eager to boost the flagging economy, will start distributing special tax rebates on Monday - five days earlier than expected, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

The department had said last month that it would begin giving rebates on May 2.

Instead, 800,000 tax filers daily will get rebates on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. No rebates will be distributed on Thursday, and 5 million payments will be made on Friday.

The payments will go out ahead of schedule because of a new computer program that updates records daily - faster than an older program that updates weekly, according to Andrew DeSouza, a Treasury spokesman.

Checks are being distributed to people who file 2007 tax returns. Those who opt for direct deposit with the Internal Revenue Service will start getting rebates before those who use the mail.

The program calls for rebates of up to $600 for single filers making less than $75,000. Couples making less than $150,000 would receive rebates of up to $1,200. In addition, parents would receive $300 rebates per child. Tax filers who do not owe income taxes but have at least $3,000 in income would get a $300 rebate.

Rebates to taxpayers slated to get paper checks will start to go out on May 9 - one week earlier than originally planned"

I applaud the IRS on its new computer system and its newly found efficiency. But I strongly suspect that given a national average gasoline price of $3.46 and the rising cost of food, there may have been a little pressure from Pennsylvania Avenue to get the checks out asap and momentarily divert Americans' attention. And a quick moment it will be because $600 (for an individual) and $1,200 ( for a couple) won't stretch very far.

In Pennsylvania:

  • the average price for regular gasoline is $3.27,
  • the average cost of a gallon of 2% low-fat milk is $4.29,
  • the supermarket brand loaf of whole wheat bread averages $2.00,
  • a dozen grade A large eggs is $2.79, and
  • 5 lbs of long grain rice is $3.99

Speaking of rice, the San Francisco Chronicle reported:

" The climbing global price of rice and other staples shows no sign of leveling off, given caps placed on exports and various supply-side squeezes. As a result, food experts predict hunger and poverty in poor nations along with a restricted supply of grains coupled with rising prices in this country.

The worldwide rice crisis lapped over into the United States this week when Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, the two biggest warehouse retail chains, limited the amount of bulk imported rice customers can buy. Sam's Club said the restriction is due to 'recent supply and demand trends.'

Yet this past Tuesday, President Bush stated, "We're not in a recession, we're in a slowdown."

Meanwhile, the combined campaign fund-raising totals for all of the candidates running in the 2008 US presidential primary election race has exceeded $800 million.
Now if that hasn't stimulated the US economy I can only wonder where we'd be if this wasn't an election year.

$800 MILLION spent, to date, in an effort by politicians to convince the American public that they can solve our economic problems among hundreds of other critical issues.

Is anyone else beginning to suspect that no one in Washington has a clue of just how bad this mess could get or how to fix it ?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senate Committee Votes to Throw Out FCC Rules

from the progressive newswire

CONTACT: Free Press
Jen Howard, Free Press,
(202) 265-1490, x22

WASHINGTON, DC - April 24 - Today, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a "resolution of disapproval" that would veto the Federal Communications Commission's latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits.

"Our best chance to stop Big Media has just cleared a big hurdle," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, which coordinates "The Senate's defense of quality journalism, local news and diverse and independent voices couldn't happen at a more critical time."

Last December, the FCC voted to remove the longstanding "newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership" ban that prohibits one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in the same market. The ruling still must pass muster in the federal court that reversed the FCC's previous attempt to lift media ownership limits in 2003.

But the Senate is intervening right away. The resolution of disapproval (Senate Joint Resolution 28), introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) in early March, serves as a "legislative veto." If passed by Congress and signed by the president, it would nullify the FCC's new rules.

Today's vote follows news that Murdoch's News Corp. is close to completing a $580 million deal to purchase the Long Island daily Newsday from Tribune Company. News Corp. already controls the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two TV stations in the New York market -- and the new deal would violate longstanding media ownership limits.

"With Rupert Murdoch poised to expand his media empire, today's vote shows the Senate won't simply roll over and watch media consolidation continue unchecked," said Silver. "This vote is a major turning point in the fight for better media."
from the progressive newswire

The legislation has 25 bipartisan co-sponsors including Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The Senate had 60 legislative days to pass the resolution from the time Congress was notified about the rule in late February. Last month, a House version of the resolution -- which is not limited by the legislative shot clock -- was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

"Permitting further media consolidation goes against the core values the agency was created to protect," said Joseph Torres, government relations manager of Free Press. "The FCC did not heed the overwhelming public opposition to its decision. The Senate appears to be listening.

Read the FCC's cross-ownership order:

Learn more about the FCC's new rules:

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at


Israeli Bloggers Speaking Out for African Refugees

excerpt from:

Israel: Modern Day Exodus, on African Refugees and their Right for Medical Care

24 Apr 2008 13:47:38 GMT
Written by: Global Voices

Bloggers are encouraged to use the image above. Its text translates to: diseases do not discriminate between humans'… *doctors statement: refugees are humans too!'

Around 6,000 African refugees escaped the horrors in their countries, and seek refuge in Israel. Many of them live in harsh conditions and can be spotted shivering cold on the streets of southern Tel-Aviv. Earlier this month, the Physicians for Human Rights clinic was forced to shut down, leaving many with no access to healthcare. The insensitive behavior from the side of the Israeli government comes only tens of years after the holocaust, when Jews came to the same plot of land, seeking refuge from the horrors of Europe.

An active internet campaign has been stirring the Hebrew blogosphere, aiming to raising public awareness for the African refugee's basic rights for healthcare among other basic services in Israel. They call for the government to allocate immediate funding for a medical clinic run by the Physicians for Human Rights association, which was forced to shut down earlier this month. The clinic provided foreign workers and refugees with free healthcare services, but ever since the surge in numbers of African refugees seeking medical care, the clinic could no longer bear the heavy burden. It shut its doors in hope that the Ministry of Health and the Israeli government would be forced to publicly recognize the refugees basic right for healthcare

Over 95 bloggers have already joined the campaign advocating for refugee healthcare, requesting the Ministry of Health and Israeli government to take responsibility. Bloggers have been writing about the topic, sending letters to political delegates, raising public awareness, expressing public solidarity and joining forces with the goal of influencing. The list of bloggers and links to their articles can be found in Shuki Galili's post. In addition, a Facebook group has been created, aimed at raising public awareness.

* * * * *

About Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

" Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, whose goal is the advancement and defense of health-related human rights for all the residents of Israel and the Occupied Territories. This includes residents who lack documents or who are not recognized by the state.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel believes in maintaining close ties with the public, and invites everyone to join and to contribute to achieving our goals. Members can participate in a wide range of activities; providing medical services, participating in conferences and disseminating information, working on committees, and fighting human rights violations. In addition, members will be updated on the activities of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel through regular e-mailings and will receive reports of our various projects.

Membership is free of charge and is open to all to who value human rights. All are welcome to join, regardless of place of residence or citizenship. However, it is important to note that all the organization's activities take place in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Anyone interested in becoming a member or a volunteer is invited to contact Ravit Blumental, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator, at +972-3-6873718, extention 0, or by e-mail at "

China Recalls Arms Shipment Bound for Zimbabwe

Alzazeera English reports:

A Chinese ship carrying 77 tonnes of weapons bound for Zimbabwe has been recalled, China's foreign ministry has said.

The decision comes after South African port workers refused to unload the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, reported to be carrying thousands of rounds of ammunition rockets and mortar bombs among its cargo.

Zambia, which chairs the Southern African Development Community grouping, had urged other regional states to also bar the ship from entering their waters, saying the arms could deepen Zimbabwe's election crisis and be used in a crackdown on the opposition.
Earlier this week the US state department expressed concerns that the arms "could be used against individuals who are merely trying to freely express their political will".

Commenting on the shipment at a regular foreign ministry press briefing in Beijing, spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the decision had been taken by the Chinese company involved to recall the vessel.

She said the shipment was completely legal and fell within the established norms of international trade.

China has been under pressure to use its close relations with Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, to help mediate in the election crisis.

However William Hess, country manager for China with the consultancy company, Global Insight, said such pressure runs against a key pillar of Chinese foreign policy - not to interfere in domestic political issues of other countries.

Officials from Mugabe's Zanu-PF have said Zimbabwe has a sovereign right to defend itself and buy weapons from "any legitimate source worldwide".

"I don't understand all this hullabaloo about a lone ship," Patrick Chinamasa, the country's justice minister, said in Harare this week.

"We don't need clearance from anyone."

In a related story:

US says Tsvangirai won in Zimbabwe

A Little Good News from Congress


The House finally passes legislation to hold government contractors financially accountable. Of course now that Haliburton, KBR, Blackwater et al,, have milked the proverbial government cow dry I guess their lobbyists decided to give up the fight. Given the state of the economy, contractors may need to look elsewhere if they want to get paid.

Now, it would be nice if Congress would hold them accountable for the moral and ethical abuses. But this is a nice baby step.

from Speaker Pelosi blog "The Gavel"

House Passes Three Contractor Accountability Bills

April 23rd, 2008 by Jesse Lee

Today, the House passed three more key bills to hold federal contractors accountable and crack down on fraud and abuse. U.S. taxpayers are outraged at the massive levels of waste, fraud and abuse that have been documented in large government contracts to well-connected firms, such as the $45 billion in reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

These three bills are:

Contractors and Federal Responsibility Act, H.R. 3033, which creates a comprehensive, centralized database that lists civil, criminal and administrative proceedings concluded by federal and state governments against federal contractors.

Close the Contractor Fraud Loophole Act, H.R. 5712, which closes a loophole in a proposed rule so that mandatory fraud reporting requirements would apply to U.S. contractors working overseas as well as to contractors working here at home.

Government Contractor Accountability Act, H.R. 3928, which requires companies receiving 80% or more of their annual gross revenue from federal contracts to disclose the salaries of their most highly-compensated officers

For more on H.R. 3033, H.R. 5712 & H.R. 3928 visit

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Finally Over in Pennsylvania

By Patrick Kerkstra, Larry King and Sam Wood


The polls in Pennsylvania's hotly-contested primary are officially closed, ending a day marked by heavy turnout, last-minute appeals by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and sporadic complaints of voting glitches.

As the polling places began to shut down, voters in line by 8 p.m. were being allowed to cast their ballots.

Shortly before the polls closed, a Philadelphia judge rejected a request to extend the voting until 10 p.m. Responding to complaints from voter rights organization, Common Pleas Court Judge Ramy Djerassi said only three of 1,000 polling places had malfunctions, and that the problems promptly were corrected by elections officials.

But the advocacy group Voter Action had contended that scores of frustrated citizens had turned away without voting, stymied by broken machines and a lag in providing paper ballots. The city's leading election watchdog, the Committee of Seventy, countered that today's problems were relatively minor compared to past elections.

Throughout the day, turnout has appeared strong in most sections of Philadelphia and the suburbs. Election judges in many precincts said more voters had turned out to vote by noon than have normally shown up all day during a typical primary.

"It's been a mob scene," David Lipson, a Democratic committeeman in Upper Merion Township said just before noon.

Both Clinton and Obama chose to spend the final hours of the Pennsylvania campaign in the Philadelphia area. Clinton stumped in Conshohocken this morning, stopping by Bocella's Restaurant for a chicken cheesesteak. Clinton likely won't appear in public again today until the results are in tonight.

After a morning stop in Pittsburgh, Obama arrived in Philadelphia and promptly got a cheesesteak of his own. He passed by Geno's and the "speak English" controversy in favor of Pat's King of Steaks. Obama got a wiz wit', and ate it all, before motoring off to a barbershop in West Philadelphia.

Obama's backers seemed to be everywhere in Philadelphia, including outside Clinton's election party headquarters at the Bellevue Hotel on Broad Street, where they chanted "Barock the vote, don't forget to vote."

Clinton supporters might have been quieter, but they were plentiful.

In tiny, tony Jenkintown - where poll workers were wondering how they would cope with the afternoon rush - John Drees said he was casting his ballot for Clinton.

"I'd be perfectly happy to support Obama but I think Clinton is more electable," said Drees, 65, a retired Temple University professor.

Republicans, however, seemed to be in short supply at the polls, which is no surprise, given that John McCain already has the GOP presidential nomination sewn up.

CNN Projects Clinton Wins Pennsylvania

Now we have to wait to see the margin.

I am also curious to see if there was a closet Hillary supporter group in Philadelphia. And if, there will be challenges to the election count based on the early reports of voting machine problems.

Stay Tuned

Earth Day 2008

Prayer For The Planet
by Marianne Williamson from Illuminata

Please bless and protect this sacred jewel

Our vulnerable planet so besieged.

May the rivers and the oceans the sky and the land

All be repaired somehow, Dear Lord

May the barbarism end, which threatens to destroy our precious treasure.

For surely the earth has been our home.

The home of our parents unto all generations.

For the sake of our children, Lord

Save this earth.

Place in all minds a greater awe before her mysteries.

Shield her and heal her wounds,

Restore her to her former glory,

Save her, Lord, from us.


reposted from Pause For Thought at 4/22/2007 02:33:00 PM
photos courtesy of iStockphoto and

A Perfect Day for a Primary

Philadelphians simply could not have asked for a more perfect day to vote. Seventy degrees, sunshine and a light breeze.

Mom, a close family friend and I went to the polls at 10:30 this morning. Since the ladies are senior citizens I wanted to avoid long lines and that we did. However, if the available parking was any indication, the turnout was very good.

According to those manning the polls, the turnout had been steady since the polls opened. They definitely anticipated a larger than normal turn out for a Philadelphia primary. They advised me that there had been a few reports of problems with the voting machines in other few districts but they had been reported and addressed very quickly.

As expected, look for Philadelphia and Montgomery County to go for Obama. However, the Obama campaign left little to chance. Their volunteers were out in full force. I received two mailers yesterday and there was a flyer on my doorknob this morning. I received one mailing from the Clinton campaign yesterday.

After voting, the ladies and I went to brunch at one of our favorite spots in Montgomey County. Traveling through the neighborhoods, I was struck by the absence of lawn signs. In many past elections, political lawn signs popped up like wildflowers. This time, while there were a few Obama or Clinton lawn signs, it seems that most people chose to stay publicly neutral.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Has Political Journalism Become a Farce

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters thinks so, at least in the case of MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

As Boehlert points out the media coverage of the Democratic Primary Campaign has been peppered with a measure of misogyny that has given many Americans political heartburn. Chris Matthews certainly wasn't the only purveyor of the misogynistic rhetoric but without a doubt he has become the poster boy.

Here's a sampling of Matthew's brand on political analysis

When the primary campaign began (over a year ago) I announced that Hillary Clinton was not my candidate of choice. I disagreed with her Iraq policy, I felt that she was too indebted to special interests, and I thought ( still do ) that even though this country clearly wants to kick the Republicans out of the White House, Hillary Clinton would provide a rallying point for the far right. However, all of the reasons that I chose not to support Senator Clinton were political and had nothing to do with the personal, vicious attacks on her character that have been bandied about by the media.

At the same time that the Democratic Presidential Primary Campaign has given us so much for which to be hopeful, the coverage of the campaign has given us so many reasons to dismay about the state of journalism in America.

When the campaign began in 2007 the media all but coronated Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Shortly after Barack Obama joined the race and Oprah went public with her endorsement, the media christened the Illinois Senator as a "rock star". Going forward the corporate media decided that only coverage of Clinton and Obama could compete with coverage of Lindsey, Britney and Paris. To maintain the appearance of providing balanced infotainment, the media occasionally covered "America's Mayor", "a bonafide war hero", and a "wealthy businessman who by the way happened to be a Mormon".

By the time 2008 rolled around and the voters had a chance to speak, there were a few unanticipated events ( Ron Paul's internet fundraising success, Mike Huckabee's primary upsets) but for the most part, the media stayed on message.

I, for one, was prepared for FOX News to shovel their rhetoric but who would have thought that CNN and MSNBC would be shoveling too. And, as if to make sure that all "I"s were dotted and "T"'s crossed, we were served last week's ABC debate.

Tomorrow is primary election day in Pennsylvania and regardless of the outcome, the biggest loser will be the American electorate who, instead of being provided with substance, has been fed a diet of journalistic junk food.

excerpt from:
For Chris Matthews, Misogyny Pays

by Eric Boehlert
Tongues are still wagging over The New York Times Magazine's cringe-inducing cover story about MSNBC talker Chris Matthews. The cringes came courtesy of the name-dropping Matthews, whose raging insecurities danced across nearly every page of the piece. As Digby noted after reading the opus, "He fulfills every single Village media cliche: obsessive social climbing, deep personal insecurity, primitively sexist and racist and just plain dumb."

Question: Is Chris Matthews the Michael Scott of political talk show hosts? And if so, does that make MSNBC the Dunder Mifflin of cable news?

Matthews has harvested a bumper crop of outrageous remarks during this extended primary season. Specifically, fueled by his obsession with the Clintons (he can't recall attending a single Beltway party where the couple has not been discussed), Matthews has unleashed a flood of sexist commentary.

On that front, of course, the Hardball host has not been alone. This election season, we've seen a cavalcade of white, middle-age men express their deep, personal contempt for the first serious female contender for the White House. Contempt, of course, that has nothing to do with Sen. Hillary Clinton's policies or her beliefs. Instead, it's been an oddly personal disdain dressed up as political analysis.

The way Mike Barnicle on MSNBC said Clinton "look[ed] like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court."

The way Bill Kristol on Fox News said that among the only people supporting Hillary Clinton were white women, and "[w]hite women are a problem, that's, you know -- we all live with that."

The way CNN's Jack Cafferty likened Clinton to "a scolding mother, talking down to a child."

The way Fox News' Neil Cavuto suggested Clinton was "trying to run away from this tough, kind of bitchy image."

The way MSNBC's Tucker Carlson announced that "when [Clinton] comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."

The way Christopher Hitchens on CNBC described Clinton as being "sort of alternately soppy and bitchy.'"

That's all taken place in open view. And while a blog swarm did engulf Matthews in January, followed by a forced, pseudo-apology by the host -- and his attacks did prompt some women activists to carry picket signs outside the MSNBC studios -- the openly sexist comments have produced very few condemnations from within the industry and even less soul-searching from the (mostly male) press corps. In fact, in Matthews' case, the sexist outbursts have helped propel his career. That's how he landed on the cover of the Times magazine.

Why? Because misogyny pays.

Question: If Chris Matthews had been forced to apologize to Sen. Barack Obama for divisive, personal comments the host had made about the candidate, and if the comments had prompted civil rights groups to protest outside the MSNBC studios, do you think Chris Matthews, three months after the fact, would be photographed on the cover of The New York Times Magazine with an uproarious grin on his face?

For me, there were two key takeaways from the Times opus. The first was that Clinton-bashing -- and specifically, misogynistic Hillary-bashing -- pays off in the form of magazine cover stories. And second was that political journalism is a farce.

Related posts:

Let's See if Chris Matthews Can Really Play Hardball

and from Political Voices of Women

The Democratic Debate in Philadelphia

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Healthcare Message from Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of American

IAVA - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -
04/17/08: Landmark Study: Iraq Vets Face Healthcare Crisis

CONTACT: Michael Houston, IAVA (212) 982-9699 or

NEW YORK – Today, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, released a groundbreaking study of the mental health of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The historic findings highlight the barriers which prevent thousands of new veterans from accessing quality care for mental health problems and traumatic brain injuries.  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, issued the following statement:

"This study illustrates a frightening trend among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – that for thousands of these men and women, PTSD, depression and traumatic brain injury are going untreated," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "Researchers also found that among the veterans that do get help, only about half are receiving minimally adequate care.  These findings are appalling and should serve as a wake-up call for our nation's leaders at every level."  

RAND found that PTSD and depression among returning troops will cost the nation as much as $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment – an amount that includes both direct medical care and costs for lost productivity and suicide.  Investing in higher quality treatment could save close to $2 billion within two years, by substantially reducing the indirect costs.   

"This research confirms what we have been hearing anecdotally for years, that for too many troops, quality health care is inaccessible. As the findings highlight, this crisis is problematic for individual service members and for the country as a whole," said Rieckhoff.  "We also learned that many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans do not seek treatment for mental health problems, for fear it will have a negative impact on their careers.  It's critical that we reduce these barriers to mental health care and get these heroes the help they need."  

The report is titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." It is the first large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological and cognitive needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  The full report and several summaries are available at

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( ) is the nation's first and largest group for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, IAVA represents more than 85,000 veteran members and civilian supporters in all 50 states. To arrange an interview with Paul Rieckhoff or any other IAVA member veterans, please contact Michael Houston at (212) 982-9699 or This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it .