Media

5 Right-Wing Lunacies This Week: Bill O'Reilly Hits Peak Paranoia

Alternet - Media Culture - Sat, 04/18/2015 - 4:57pm
Sarah Palin has an insane and incoherent reaction to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

1. Bill O’Reilly rails absurdly about how it’s open season on White Christian males. Even John Stossel can’t sway him with facts.

Bill O’Reilly sees no pattern in the numerous incidents of police killing and brutalizing of black men in this country. No pattern at all. But he does see a pattern of people picking on white Christian males. They are “under siege.”

“The fact that I am white and in a powerful position makes me the enemy,” he whined on his show this week, adding that anyone who denies American values are being threatened, “is a dishonest idiot.”

This campaign of white male suppression is being carried out by, who else, women and minorities, or as O’Reilly prefers to think of them, liberals and "race-baiters." Among those race-baiters? New York Times columnist Charles Blow, Tavis Smiley and anyone else who suggests that black men are disproportionately targeted by police. O’Reilly does not want to talk about that though. He wants to talk about his group's grievances. “Our traditional American values are under siege everywhere,” the arrogant Faux Newsian asserted. “It’s a fact.” Examples included how “human beings” are being redefined by these anti-American zealots (that’s a reference to abortion rights, just so you know); how marriage is being redefined and how dreadful "narcotics" (his word for pot) are being legalized.

The horror.

O’Reilly remained stalwart in his assertions, even when his Fox fellow traveler, John Stossel, pointed out the utter folly of his argument.        

“Your ‘war on Christianity,’ you’re just a 10-foot-tall crybaby,” Stossel, a self-described secularist, said. “It’s not so bad. Christians aren’t being killed.”

Yeah but, “They’re verbally being killed,” O’Reilly countered.

Unimpressed, Stossel said, “So what?”

“You shouldn’t be diminished because you believe a certain way,” O’Reilly protested. “Aren’t you outraged by that?”

 “What’s diminished?” Stossel asked, then mentioned an ABC News poll saying that 83 percent of Americans identified as Christians. “You are the majority. You’ve won.”

“It’s not a matter of winning,” O’Reilly replied. “It’s a matter of respect.”

Aw, poor Billy O’Weilly. His feewings are weawy weawy hurt. No wespect.

2. Sarah Palin’s reaction to Hillary Clinton’s campaign start: Hey, what about me?

Sarah Palin just wants everyone to know she still exists and that she can be equally incoherent in Facebook posts as she is in speeches. Also she, like Hillary Clinton, once rode around the country in a bus and had reporters frantically chasing her and wondering where she would show up next.

No fair, no fair, Sarah Palin said in essence. Hillary Clinton stole my idea of being chased by the media. No one has ever thought of that one before, that’s for sure.

Here’s some of what Palin posted to Facebook:

“Hmmm, as people all over the country are reminding each other, this Hillary Scooby-Doo Tour thing sure looks familiar. We’re flattered the liberals think the idea is really keen! Since it’s ‪#‎ThrowbackThursday, it’s also pretty keen to thank the democrats for taking a page out of our playbook and also to share the picturesque, sincere, no-media 'One Nation' RV trek of ours a few years ago.”

Nope, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us either. But she did conclude, ominously, “Makes me want to fire up the RV again, load up the kids…"

Hoo boy! Sure hope she's not serious.

See her self-aggrandizing video and read her incoherent ramblings here.

3. Michele Bachmann says Obama will bring about the second coming of Christ. Wait, isn’t that a good thing?

Color us confused. Michele Bachmann, no big fan of President Obama, told the always rational folks who listen to “End Times Radio” that indeed, the End Times are near. Aren’t they always?

Who and what is ushering in this Armageddon, this End of Days, or whatever your personal favorite name is for the Great Cataclysm? Why the Anti-Christ himself, President Obama, by negotiating with Iran, and as Bachmann says, “turning his back on Israel.” While End Times sound really really scary and bad, the irony is that those End Times are precisely what need to happen for the second coming of Jesus Christ. So, that’s a good thing, right? It is when you are a fundamentalist Christian. So maybe she should be thanking Obama. Hallelujah time is nigh!

Bachmann prattled on nonsensically about fatwas and supreme leaders of Iran. She is, funnily enough, an expert on Islamic scripture as well as Christian scripture. Who knew?

"If the United States turns its back on Israel, as our president is doing today, in my opinion, we cannot continue to indulge in the fantasy that the United States will be free from receiving the negative blowback, or curses, in biblical parlance, that could come our way and they could be severe," she said. "If we actually turn our back on Israel," Bachmann said, the U.S. can expect to "reap a whirlwind."

It’s all very very concerning, and yet, curiously, joyful. 

4. Chris Christie: Poor me. Wah wah.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat are not wealthy, according to them and them only. Never mind that their $700,000 income last year puts them easily in the top one percent of earners. That’s not how Christie defines wealth. “Wealth is defined a whole bunch of ways,” Christie said in an interview with the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader. Wealth is a feeling, and he just does not have that feeling.

The reason Christie does not feel wealthy is that he has four children, he said, and that he has worked “really hard.” Also, other people don’t think of him as wealthy, he argues, and therefore, he is not wealthy.

The subject came up because the Christies, along with the rest of America, filed taxes last week. But Christie, unlike the rest of America, reported earnings of $700,000, a figure that puts him pretty solidly in one percent land.

"The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick ... is insane," Christie told the editorial board. "We don't have nearly that much money."

We feel just terrible for the Christies, and the fact that they had to file that big fat tax return. That's hard.

5. Men’s rights blogger: Women with short hair should be monitored by the authorities.

Men’s rights nutjob Roosh V,  who blogs under the moniker “Pick Up Artist,” always has extremely helpful suggestions for women. He thinks women would take more responsibility for themselves if rape on private property was decriminalized, for starters. Thanks, Roosh! Or should we call you Mr. V? How exactly decriminalizing rape would help women is kind of murky.

This week, the Rooshter made an even more bizarre suggestion for how law enforcement should occupy their time, now that they’ve been freed up from all that pesky rape stuff. The authorities should be alerted when women cut their hair short. This, he says, is an act of self harm. Worse still, it hurts men (the group Roosh actually purports to care about). When women cut their hair short, they are trying to appear less fertile and therefore less attractive to men, he reasons.

Here it is from the horse’s (ass) mouth:

“If a woman cuts her hair to a short length, or shaves it outright in a Skrillex haircut, we can now confidently say that she is making herself appear less fertile, less beautiful, and less healthy. A woman cutting off healthy hair is one step away from literal cutting of her skin with a sharp object, because both behaviors denote a likely mental illness where the woman presents herself to society as more damaged than her genetic condition would indicate, suggesting that she has suffered environmental damage that has reduced her overall fitness. She must be monitored by state authorities so she doesn’t continue to hurt herself.”

Stupefying, no?

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CNN to Highlight National Consensus on Medical Marijuana With 'Weed 3'

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 7:30pm
The documentary, which airs Sunday, digs deep into the significant barriers to medical marijuana research.

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has returned to the topic of medical marijuana in a third installment of his game-changing documentary series, Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution, airing Sunday. Make no mistake these documentaries have served as the effective bull-horn for the medical marijuana movement.  In the run up to the original Weed,Dr. Gupta wrote an op-ed where he formally apologized for his previous position on medical marijuana.

I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now. I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.

-Sanjay Gupta, August 2013

The documentary series provides an overview of the history of marijuana prohibition, in addition to examining the science behind marijuana and the medical properties of cannabidiol, or CBD. Dr. Gupta also humanizes the science through the story of Charlotte Figi, a five-year-old girl with a debilitating neurological disorder called Dravet’s Syndrome.  Scientific experts like Dr. Carl Hart are featured to explain the impact of marijuana use on human behavior and the political and bureaucratic obstacles that stymie medical research on marijuana.

Weed 3 revisits the topics raised in earlier installments of the series but digs deeper into the significant barriers to medical marijuana research. In the last installment of the documentary Weed 2: Marijuana Madness, viewers were able to get an up close and personal experience of these issues through the story of Vivian Wilson and her family, who after many failed attempts at gaining access to her medicine through New Jersey’s still-struggling medical marijuana program, were forced to uproot themselves and move to Colorado – essentially becoming “marijuana refugees.” Dr. Gupta explains the entourage effect, highlighting the important relationship between THC and CBD that needs to be preserved in  cannabis based medical therapies. Unfortunately, this has not been policy that has been widely adopted in many of the states which have passed CBD only legislation, but progress is at times incremental. Finally, we are given insight  into the origins of the breakthrough research on pharmaceutical grade marijuana in the United States from Dr. Orrin Devinsky and the team at the NYU Epilepsy Center.

In this third installment, Dr. Gupta offers whole-hearted and explicit support for legalizing medical marijuana: “We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.” Public opinion on the issue has been polling above 70% for the past 15 years and now hovers just below 90% in political swing states.

Clearly we are reaching national consensus on medical marijuana. This Sunday, you will see officials from the highest levels of government, like Senators Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul to President Barack Obama all confirm their support for medical marijuana. Additionally, scientific pioneers like Rick Doblin and Dr. Sue Sisley will discuss their struggles to advance medical marijuana research through a daunting array of political obstacles.

The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to increasing the number of states with medical marijuana laws, supporting and improving existing state medical marijuana programs, protecting medical marijuana patients, and ending the federal ban on medical marijuana so that all patients within the United States have safe access to quality medicine and research into marijuana’s medicinal benefits can move forward. 

We look forward to seeing the next round of progress that this documentary will bring about. Tune in Sunday at 9pm on CNN.

 

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Groups to Wheeler: “No conditions, no side deals, no merger!”

Hear Us Now - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 12:58pm

Opposition to the Comcast mega merger has been mounting in recent months and a deal that was once considered a slam dunk now looks increasing uncertain as opponents continue to turn up the heat.

If the merger is approved, Comcast would control over half of the high-speed residential broadband connections in the U.S. and dominate pay-TV across the nation.  Giving Comcast unprecedented control of the cable TV and broadband markets on top of its ownership of NBC-Universal’s “must-have” video programming makes the merger particularly troubling.

That prospect has united a wide-ranging group of opponents concerned that it would result in too much power in the hands of one company.  In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today signed by Consumers Union and 36 other consumer groups, community organizations, and businesses, opponents called for the deal to be rejected outright.  The letter emphasizes that no conditions could be imposed on Comcast in exchange for approving the merger that could prevent or overcome the damage the cable and Internet giant’s takeover scheme would cause.

The groups noted that Wheeler has staked his chairmanship on the importance of fostering competition to protect consumers and spur innovation, investment, lower prices and diversity.  In a speech delivered last fall, Wheeler noted that nearly three-quarters of Americans have just one choice when it comes to broadband providers.  Consumers benefit when they can effectively bargain with their residential broadband providers.   But to bargain effectively, they need the ability to take their business elsewhere. And in many areas of the country, there is already little or no opportunity to do that.

In their letter to Wheeler, the groups pointed out:

“Your steadfast commitment to competition would risk being eviscerated if Comcast were allowed to control over 50 percent of high-speed residential broadband nationwide.  No conditions…can address the myriad ways a combined Comcast/Time Warner Cable would be able to thwart competition and convert its massive network into a closed system of preferential treatment for its own content or the content of a select few.”

Over 700,000 Americans have already urged the FCC to turn down the merger through petitions and comments filed with the agency.  Help us keep up the pressure by signing our petition to the FCC today!

Categories: Media

White Students at Texas High School Blame Society for Inspiring Their Racist Rap Promoting Lynching

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 12:42pm
The song features offensive lyrics about black, Latino and Asian-American students.

Two white female students at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas recorded and released a song with dangerous and offensive lyrics about black, Latino and Asian-American students. As the anger boils out of control in the school, the staff was forced to send the email below to parents.

The students each wrote apology letters in which they basically say that nothing they said actually reflects how they feel about people.

Those apologies are below as well.

Grapevine High School Email by ShaunKing

Here is the first apology letter.

To my friends, peers, teachers and staff,

I want you to know I am deeply sorry for my actions and the part I played. While my intentions were never to offend anyone, I wasn’t thinking at the time about how awful this recording is or that it would get spread so widely. That was almost two years ago and we were just getting into social media at that time. Being new to social media then, I did not fully understand the swift and large impact that one posting can have. That does not excuse my behavior and I realize I made a huge mistake. I am so sorry to all the people who heard it and who I hurt by my actions.

The song does not portray in any way how I actually feel about people. I am a very open-minded person and I enjoy being part of a diverse family and diverse community. I am being raised to be respectful of all people, cultures and differences. My parents want you to know that this incident is not indicative of my true character. Our whole family is embarrassed by this. We are involved members of this community and we want to be positive contributors. My actions did not support our beliefs and I am dealing with that personally, within our family and with my friends and peers.

I understand the gravity of my actions and have learned from this experience. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. I love being part of this school and this community and I would be so grateful for your forgiveness.

Humbly,
GHS Student

Here is the second apology letter.

Dear Students, Faculty, and Parents,

Especially all who have been affected by this week’s events regarding a highly offensive, racist rap that was brought to attention. The moment I heard that someone had heard and reported the rap to the principals office, I was fully aware that my life was about to change forever. I have gone over this day after day, thinking about what I was going to say to the people hurt, and utterly disgusted at the content of the recording. I understand that there are many unanswered questions and multiple versions of rumors regarding when, where, and why the rap was made. I have never been so utterly humiliated and ashamed in my entire life, because if you know me, you know you will never meet a human being with as much unconditional love and kindness in their heart as me.

First I will address all questions regarding the specifics. I am currently a junior in high school, and was a freshman at the time the song was recorded. It was a freestyle, meaning I just said whatever came to my head that would make people laugh. At this time in our lives, racism was not the talk of the country nor had we ever witnessed the true power of social media, twitter was still fresh and we had never heard of anyone getting in trouble for posting anything on social media, it was the beginning of this social era. I was 14 years old and was ignorant to the words coming out of my mouth. As kids, we hear racist jokes all times of the day. It’s what we’re around, it’s the jokes we heard.

The words that came out of my mouth were knives to your ears, and even listening back on it now, it sends me into a state of utter disbelief that this was me. I am doing my best to help people understand what might have been going through my head when I said these horrible things.

Teachers, Parents, and Students who have known me for many years know that this is the furthest representation of my character possible. In my own home, my entire life I have never heard a foul or judgemental word for another race ever leave my parents’ mouths. I myself have witnessed others spit racial slurs or comments and have been completely dumbfounded to the point of tears. The person I am, the person I will now be remembered as, the person who would do anything to take back the words that have hurt and offended so many has accepted the fact that when people are hurt, they want someone to be held responsible. They need someone punished.

The hurt in my heart for the students and parents who don’t know me and who have to hear something so horrible is overwhelming and is the worst punishment of all to me.  All I can say at this point is that I am so deeply sorry for the foul, horrible words that have hurt so many. I pray that there is peace in your heart and understanding that I too am a person. I hope you have forgiveness in your heart when you imagine your child in a situation like this. I send nothing but my sincerest apologies and love to anyone with a sad heart. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an essay in my creative writing class, the topic being “culture.” It’s just a few short sentences but I poured my heart out on the page:

“When you look at the rainbow and see the colors that come together to create this beautiful arch of magic, that excites you every single time, despite the millions you’ve seen before, this is how every human life should be perceived. The magic that encompases diversity. The different shades of tan, brown, black, white, that act as primary colors such as red, blue, yellow, from which every color combination stems. From these three colors we can create an endless spectrum of possibility. The power of that in itself, is just- magic. To those who are colorblind in their beliefs and range of spectrum is limited- I say that I am truly sorry for the piece of you that is missing. The people who think only in one direction, unable to look to the left where there are beautiful forests of green, or to the right where powerful beasts walk the ground unrestrained by fear, or behind them where stories and legends all that is, can be explained. To those people who will never understand the magic of a rainbow, I pray it rains until you do.”

I am a good kid, I work hard, I laugh hard, and I love hard -- anyone, from anywhere, at anytime. I made a big mistake and if I had remembered it existed, it would have been destroyed as soon as its existence crossed my mind. I would do anything to take it back. I pray for your forgiveness, and open sincere hearts, and that you will believe me when I say, I am so so deeply sorry.

Respectfully,
GHS Student

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Categories: Media

Racist, Anti-Immigrant Posts on NYPD Blog Infuriate Public

Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 8:19am
In one post, a Middle Eastern cab driver is termed a "third worlder" who should have his "head split open."

Week after week, racist posts appear on Thee Rant, a blog for current or former New York City police officers: African Americans are called "apes;" a retired officer says one of the blessings of retirement is not having to work the Puerto Rican Day parade, with its "old obese tatted up women stuffed into outfits that they purchased or shoplifted at the local Kmart store"; a Middle Eastern cab driver berated by an officer is termed a "third worlder" who should have his "head split open."

And week after week, the department's top officials are embarrassed and powerless.

"It's very disturbing stuff. Outrageous stuff," said Stephen Davis, the chief spokesman for the NYPD. "We see it. It's a problem."

At the heart of the problem are the limits the department faces in what it can do.

"Monitoring these things is challenging," Davis said. "There are privacy issues involved. We can't go and peel back email names and tags and try to find out who these people are."

The issue of the blog, started by former NYPD officer Ed Polstein in 1999, has gained notoriety most recently after a white South Carolina police officer shot a black man to death. Shortly after a video of the officer appearing to shoot the fleeing man in the back went viral on the Internet, Thee Rant blew up with comments.

"Cop looked good in his stance," read one post.

Polstein, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has said previously that anyone wishing to post on the blog has to provide proof that they are current or former members of the NYPD. But whether they are, and how many have signed up, are among the many mysteries surrounding Thee Rant. The blog says it garners 120,000 page views daily.

Leonard Levitt, a respected former Newsday reporter who runs the website NYPD Confidential, said he has stopped assigning much significance to Thee Rant.

"To be honest, I don't read it," Levitt said. "I'd say these guys represent the worst elements of the department. I don't think they speak for the average cop. I have a feeling it's four or five guys doing most of the yowling."

Incidents of officers being investigated or punished for their behavior online, in social media or on personal cell phones, have cropped up in Illinois, Missouri and Florida in recent weeks and months. In a St. Louis suburb, an officer was fired after posting racist remarks about the protests in Ferguson. In San Francisco, eight officers were fired for exchanging racist and homophobic text messages.

Relations between the police and minorities have been fraught in New York for decades. The assault on Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo during Rudy Giuliani's administration sparked a rise in tension. The aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics during Michael Bloomberg's mayoralty deepened the mistrust and anger. And the choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island last year provoked protests and slogans.

William Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio's police commissioner, has acknowledged the poor relations and vowed to improve them. The existence of Thee Rant, and the occasional, perhaps outsize attention it gets, has not made Bratton's efforts easier.

Garner's death prompted some of the more extensive back and forth on the blog. Garner was killed when an officer sought to subdue him during a stop for illegally selling loose cigarettes. Bratton initially said it appeared the officer had used an improper chokehold. But a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict the officer. On Thee Rant, support for the officer was substantial. And occasionally ugly.

"A more accurate headline would be "Non Compliant Fat Bastard Gets Just Due In Resisting Law Enforcement Officers," read a post in reaction to headlines in the city's papers.

"Yes, they'll pay off the 'family,'" started another. "It's a lot cheaper than a riot…And therein lies the problem...The cities of America are held hostage by the strong-arm tactics of the savages."

Davis, the NYPD spokesman, said department policy is that officers should not be on social media, as well as blogs, except for official business. The department has shown it is willing to act against problem officers when it can. In 2012, New York City police officers were disciplined over racist and violent comments made on Facebook, many of which targeted the annual Labor Day West Indian Parade, describing the event as a "scheduled riot" and comparing it to working at a zoo.

"We don't know how many active police officers are on it," Davis said of Thee Rant. "If we did identify active officers speaking on the site in that capacity they would be disciplined for violating policy."

"Unfortunately," he added, "it's one of these things that we don't have ownership of. We don't have any control over it. Some say that's good, others maybe say it's bad."

Davis said he did not know of any active effort to determine whether current officers are commenting on the site or who they are. He said the department would investigate any specific allegation that a particular officer was behind objectionable comments.

"It's, in a sense, unfortunate that a lot of it is done under the banner of freedom of expression now," Davis said.

Polstein, who joined the department in 1988, told the New York Daily News in 2005 that he'd started the blog as his personal diary. "It was how I felt at the moment," he told the News. "It is my constitutional right to vent."

Over the years, the local media has occasionally reported on Thee Rant. In one recent instance, the blog decided to go after a reporter who had done a story about the South Carolina shooting comments. One contributor to the blog found a video of the reporter at a conference, posted it, and encouraged others to mock the reporter's looks.

The coverage prompted objections from at least one current or former officer, who suggested Polstein should take a more active role in moderating the blog.

"There hasn't been a moderator on here in days," the officer wrote. "If Ed had any loyalty to active duty cops, he'd remove the law enforcement angle of the board and let er rip. As it is, anytime a lazy reporter wants to smear the NYPD, all he has to do is come here and read the ravings of some diaper wearing geriatric that fell hard off the Aricept train and say that it was an active NYPD cop saying it."

The NYPD's Davis said he hoped the police union might step in to rein in the blog.

"A lot of retired people are still active in the union and it doesn't do anybody any good to have these remarks out there," he said. "They really don't help. But that's the nature of the social media beast right now."

Al O'Leary, spokesman for the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, declined to comment for this story.

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Read the Letter Gyrocopter Pilot Doug Hughes Attempted to Deliver to Congress

Democracy Now! - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 5:55pm

A mailman from Florida landed a tiny personal aircraft known as a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in a protest to demand campaign finance reform. Doug Hughes was carrying letters to every member of Congress calling for them to address corruption. He flew about an hour from Maryland into restricted airspace and onto the Capitol’s West Lawn, stunning authorities and bystanders.

Related story from today's show: Rep. Alan Grayson on Money & Politics: 'If We Do Nothing, We Can Kiss This Country Goodbye. Well, Pucker Up'

The Tampa Bay Times published the letter Hughes intended to deliver:

Dear ___________,

Consider the following statement by John Kerry in his farewell speech to the Senate —

"The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself. They know it. They know we know it. And yet, Nothing Happens!" — John Kerry, 2-13

In a July 2012 Gallup poll, 87% tagged corruption in the federal government as extremely important or very important, placing this issue just barely behind job creation. According to Gallup, public faith in Congress is at a 41-year record low, 7%. (June 2014) Kerry is correct. The popular perception outside the DC beltway is that the federal government is corrupt and the US Congress is the major problem. As a voter, I'm a member of the only political body with authority over Congress. I'm demanding reform and declaring a voter's rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson's description of rights in the Declaration of Independence. As a member of Congress, you have three options.

1. You may pretend corruption does not exist.

2. You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform.

3. You may actively participate in real reform.

If you're considering option 1, you may wonder if voters really know what the 'chase for money' is. Your dismal and declining popularity documented by Gallup suggests we know, but allow a few examples, by no means a complete list. That these practices are legal does not make them right! Obviously, it is Congress who writes the laws that make corruption legal.

1. Dozens of major and very profitable corporations pay nothing in taxes. Voters know how this is done. Corporations pay millions to lobbyists for special legislation. Many companies on the list of freeloaders are household names — GE, Boeing, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, Citigroup, Dow …

2. Almost half of the retiring members of Congress from 1998 to 2004 got jobs as lobbyists earning on average fourteen times their Congressional salary. (50% of the Senate, 42% of the House)

3. The new democratic freshmen to the US House in 2012 were 'advised' by the party to schedule 4 hours per day on the phones fund raising at party headquarters (because fund raising is illegal from gov't offices.) It is the donors with deep pockets who get the calls, but seldom do the priorities of the rich donor help the average citizen.

4. The relevant (rich) donors who command the attention of Congress are only .05% of the public (5 people in a thousand) but these aristocrats of both parties are who Congress really works for. As a member of the US Congress, you should work only for The People.

1. Not yourself.

2. Not your political party.

3. Not the richest donors to your campaign.

4. Not the lobbyist company who will hire you after your leave Congress.

There are several credible groups working to reform Congress. Their evaluations of the problem are remarkably in agreement though the leadership (and membership) may lean conservative or liberal. They see the corrupting effect of money — how the current rules empower special interests through lobbyists and PACs — robbing the average American of any representation on any issue where the connected have a stake. This is not democracy even if the ritual of elections is maintained.

The various mechanisms which funnel money to candidates and congress-persons are complex. It happens before they are elected, while they are in office and after they leave Congress. Fortunately, a solution to corruption is not complicated. All the proposals are built around either reform legislation or a Constitutional Amendment. Actually, we need both — a constitutional amendment and legislation.

There will be discussion about the structure and details of reform. As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress. Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money. This you must do — or your replacement will do. A corporation is not 'people' and no individual should be allowed to spend hundreds of millions to 'influence' an election. That much money is a megaphone which drowns out the voices of 'We the People.' Next, a retired member of Congress has a lifelong obligation to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That almost half the retired members of Congress work as lobbyists and make millions of dollars per year smells like bribery, however legal. It must end. Pass real campaign finance reform and prohibit even the appearance of payola after retirement and you will be part of a Congress I can respect.

The states have the power to pass a Constitutional Amendment without Congress — and we will. You in Congress will likely embrace the change just to survive, because liberals and conservatives won't settle for less than democracy. The leadership and organization to coordinate a voters revolution exist now! New groups will add their voices because the vast majority of Americans believe in the real democracy we once had, which Congress over time has eroded to the corrupt, dysfunctional plutocracy we have.

The question is where YOU individually stand. You have three options and you must choose.

Sincerely,

Douglas M. Hughes

www.TheDemocracyClub.org

Categories: Media

Open Veins, Healing Wounds, in Latin America

Democracy Now! - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 2:17pm

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

For the first time in more than half a century, the presidents of the United States and Cuba have had a formal meeting. Barack Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro at the 7th Summit of the Americas, held this year in Panama City. Cuba’s participation has been blocked by the U.S. since the summit began in 1994. This historic moment occurs with some sadness, however: Eduardo Galeano, the great Uruguayan writer who did so much to explain the deeply unequal relations between Latin America and the U.S. and Europe, died as the summit ended.

Galeano’s best-known book is “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.” It was published in 1971, and was among the first to explain the impact of colonial domination of the hemisphere, across the broad sweep of history. Galeano himself was swept away by events as well. He wrote the book “in 90 caffeinated nights,” he said, “to interlink histories that have been before told separately and in this codified language of historians or economists or sociologists. I tried to write it in such a way that it could be read and enjoyed by anyone.”

The book’s success made him a target, as U.S.-sponsored coups toppled democratic governments in the region. He was imprisoned in Uruguay, then, after release, began a life in exile. He settled in Argentina, where he founded and edited a cultural magazine called Crisis. After the U.S.-backed military coup there in 1976, Galeano’s name was added to the list of those condemned by the death squad. He fled again, this time to Spain, where he began his famous trilogy, “Memory of Fire," which rewrites North and South American history.

And now, a piece of that history is being rewritten, between the United States and Cuba. President Obama has sent a State Department report to Congress, which recommends that Cuba be removed from the official U.S. government list of nations that sponsor terrorism. The peace group CODEPINK applauded the move, saying in a statement, “The infamous U.S. terror list includes only three other nations: Iran, Sudan, and Syria and curiously omits North Korea.

Many people around the world found it hypocritical for the United States to single out Cuba while ignoring support for terrorism by U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Israel, especially since Cuba is known for exporting doctors, musicians, teachers, artists, and dancers — not terrorists.”

I asked a former Cuban diplomat in Havana, Carlos Alzugaray Treto, for his reaction to the critics of Obama removing Cuba from the terrorism list, like Republican Senator, and now presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida. Alzugaray said Rubio “should worry about having terrorists, a terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles, living in Miami. He has the terrorism not 90 miles from Florida; he has one in Miami. He doesn’t complain.” Luis Posada Carriles was a CIA operative who admitted to masterminding the bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. Venezuela has long sought his extradition, but the U.S. government refuses to comply, leaving Carriles a free man living in Miami.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba, one of the most enduring and punishing relics of the Cold War, remains in place, however. This central pillar of a half-century of hostile U.S. policy toward Cuba is increasingly unpopular here. The U.S. business community is tired of losing out on opportunities that are enjoyed by investors from Canada, Europe, Japan and China. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hailed President Obama’s moves to normalize relations. Businesses like Facebook and Airbnb are in Cuba and planning on expanding, as soon as it is legal to do so. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said recently, “Our Cuba policy, instead of isolating Cuba, was isolating the United States in our own backyard.” And President Obama, when announcing his intention to normalize relations with Cuba last December, admitted, “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.”

The Summit of the Americas has ended, and the trajectory of U.S./Cuban relations is on a new course. When Obama first attended the summit, in 2009, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez handed him a copy of “Open Veins of Latin America.” If he hasn’t already, Obama should read the book. As British writer John Berger has said of Eduardo Galeano, “To publish Eduardo Galeano is to publish the enemy: the enemy of lies, indifference, above all of forgetfulness. Thanks to him, our crimes will be remembered. His tenderness is devastating, his truthfulness furious.”

R.I.P. Eduardo Galeano. There are probably few things that would make him happier than if the embargo were buried as well.

Click here for Democracy Now's archive of our interviews with Eduardo Galeano, as well as video of a 2006 public conversation between Galeano and Arundhati Roy.

Subscribe to Amy Goodman’s podcast on SoundCloud and Stitcher Radio.

Categories: Media

CREDO Members (or not): Only 2 weeks left to vote for Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 2:17pm

This month, CREDO members vote to distribute 2015 donations funding — and how much Democracy Now! gets in April depends on you. The more votes we receive, the greater our share of funding. Voting ends April 30th — so vote today!

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Categories: Media

6 Contortions Women Perform to Avoid Street Harassment

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 2:17pm
New study lays out some of the insane lengths women go to avoid street harassment—like avoiding an entire city.

There exists out there the absurd notion that street harassment is a form of flattery. That women should – and even secretly do – love having strangers yell uninvited commentary on their looks and bodies. A new study finds (because the repeated testimony of women isn’t enough; we have to actually keep proving this stuff over and over again) that women not only don’t find street harassment enjoyable, they often go to great lengths to avoid it.

A partnership between Cornell University and Hollaback!, the study comes right in the midst of Anti-Street Harassment Week (April 12-18). Most women know the way that street harassment makes riding the subway an exercise in anxiety, or how it can turn walking down the street in broad daylight into an uncomfortable experience. But the study reveals that the level of unease women feel is so great that many alter their dress, travel routes, and even their jobs, to circumnavigate street harassment. Most of these findings will come as little surprise to women, but here’s hoping street harassers take note. (We realize this is unlikely.) These are just a few of the things women do to avoid street harassment:

1. Take a Different Route Home or to Their Destination. An overwhelming majority of women – more than 85 percent – answered yes to having taken a different route to get where they were going because of street harassment. That means an awful lot of women are literally going out of their way to avoid the unwanted attention of street harassment. So, congratulations street harassers – you are literally making it more difficult for women to navigate the world!

2. Choose to Take Different Transportation. Nearly 73 percent of women answered in the affirmative. For example, women said they took cabs instead walking or taking the bus as a way to avoid experiencing street harassment. In many cases, that means women are opting for more expensive means of travel (taxis, livery cars, driving) instead of cheaper ones (walking, public transportation, etc.) Score another one here for street harassers, who are managing to make getting around pricier for women than it has to be.

3. Avoid a City or Entire Area. More than 72 percent of women said that they didn’t travel to certain parts of the city where they thought they’d likely experience street harassment. This goes hand and hand with another finding: just over 68 percent said that there were areas of their own towns and cities they didn’t travel to because of street harassment. In other words, women’s travel, even in their own hometowns, is often restricted because of street harassment.

4. Not Go Out at Night. Nearly 70 percent – a large but not surprising majority – of women said yes to this. Because the burden of rape culture places the onus on women not to be harassed, or raped, instead of on rapers not to rape, it’s not particularly news that women would choose not to go out during periods of the day when they feel their safety is more likely to be challenged.

5. Change What [They] Are Wearing. The implied accusation of “What were you wearing?” has clearly had a big impact on women, causing a little over 66 percent of respondents to change their clothes to avoid being harassed. Just as in rape situations where a woman’s ability to be seen as a legitimate “victim” can be compromised by the length of a hem or a neckline, women are conscious that clothing is used as an excuse for harassment.

6. Not Go Out to A Social Outing Or Event. Almost 55 percent of women polled said they had opted not to take part in a social activity – going out to a bar, movie, etc. – because of street harassment. So more than half of women are, at least on occasion, not participating in events they’d like to because of the discomfort and anxiety caused by street-level harassment.

This is just a sample of the study, which also found that many respondents said they had been late to school or work (34 percent), moved homes (35.6 percent), or been forced to leave or resign from a job (7.9 percent) because of street harassment. Street harassers should take note that a hefty minority of respondents (41.5 percent ) also reported they’d chosen to take self-defense classes to fix the problem.

The survey interviewed 4,872 women under 40 in the United States. Check out the report in its entirety, here

 

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Categories: Media

WATCH: Chris Christie Likes to Take His Suit Coat Off and Just Throw It

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:59pm
Watching this supercut of the phony New Jersey governor getting down to business is priceless.

Some people believe the way to prove that you are ready to roll up your sleeves and do some straight shootin’ – that is, that you are not fucking around – is to take off your coat and throw it at someone that works for you. Chris Christie is one of those people, apparently. Brian Donohue, of New Jersey Advance Media, made a supercut of Christie tossing off his coat and a staffer catching it over and over and over and over again and it is, in a word, glorious

 

A video posted by Brian (@bdonohuenj) on

Jun 11, 2014 at 1:06pm PDT  Related Stories
Categories: Media

Professor Live Tweets Her Son's Abstinence Only Sex-Ed Class with Hilarious Results

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:07pm
Teaching kids "sex is bad" -- in addition to being ineffective -- sounds just plain dumb.

Here, succinctly, is what studies have found about abstinence-only sex-ed programs: they suck at stopping teens from having sex. Likely bearing this in mind, noted author, Northwestern University medical school professor and avid tweeter Dr. Alice Dreger decided to sit in on her son’s abstinence-only sex-ed class. And to live tweet what she observed. The results might be called “hilarious” – if by “hilarious” you mean a sad indictment of an absurd "education" philosophy that fails miserably by pretty much every measure. 

Dreger’s tweets are below. (You know it’s getting good when, out of nowhere, they drag marijuana into it.) 

 

 

You should really read the rest of Dreger's tweets, where she describes basically having a meltdown and a debate with the teacher. This woman is a national treasure. Check out the entire stream of tweets, here

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Categories: Media

WATCH: Jon Stewart Nails CNN for Using Police Killings as 'Ticker Fare'

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 8:48am
Good morning, murder? Yes, they said that.

Jon Stewart hammered the television news media last night for both absurdity and callousness. On the one hand, on day two of Hillary Clinton's campaign, reporters stampeded after her car in Iowa as if it were an ice cream truck and they were five year olds. On the other hand, some cable news channels are using footage of recent police killings virtually as screensavers. 

As more and more videos of these horrendous crimes emerge, television news is already showing itself to be unable to handle them in an intelligent way. Yes, videos like that of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager gunning down Walter Scott are newsworthy and should be analyzed and shown. No, they should not be used in a montage of ticker fare.

“They end up just running as background wallpaper in your discussion,” Stewart said. “Sometimes, it’s the whole f*cking wall. It’s been happening for months now. News shows were looping the Eric Garner choking footage like it was a gif on a Buzzfeed list.”

Meanwhile, the word "fuck" is bleeped out of these videos. Because, you know, kids might be watching.

Watch:

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

 

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Californians Rally Against the Comcast Mega Merger

Hear Us Now - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 4:24pm

The battle to stop the Comcast mega merger moved to Los Angeles this week where the California Public Utilities Commission held a hearing on the deal on Tuesday.  The hearing took place less than one week after Commissioner Mike Florio announced his opposition to the merger, the latest sign that Comcast’s takeover scheme may be in trouble.

The stakes are particularly high in California.  If the merger goes through, Comcast would gain a potentially permanent statewide monopoly serving up to 84 percent of households in the state.  In L.A. County, Comcast would be the only choice for high speed broadband for more than 70 percent of county residents living in the company’s post-merger territory.

Prior to the hearing, opponents of the merger held a rally and news conference organized by Presente.org and other local community groups that attracted an enthusiastic crowd of around 100 people and numerous media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times.  Speakers highlighted how the merger would harm competition and hurt Californians and called on the CPUC to reject it.

Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, emphasized how the merger would have a particularly negative impact on Latinos:

“The proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger would be a disaster for the entire nation, particularly Californians, and a huge defeat for advocates of accessible internet.  And for Latinos, this is the most dangerous merger our community has seen in recent memory, creating a total monopoly endangering the Latino communities’ access to uncensored media in English and Spanish and affordable internet. We simply cannot allow one company to control nearly all our access to media and the internet.” 

The CPUC hearing, held in a jam-packed auditorium at the Junipero Serra state office building, featured nearly 2 ½ hours of testimony from the public.  Predictably, Comcast and Time Warner Cable lined up representatives from nonprofits that have gotten grants from the companies who testified in favor of the merger.

Opponents of the merger turned out in equally large numbers and nearly 40 of them were able to speak out against the deal before public testimony was eventually cut off.  Many local residents noted that they had not received any financial support from either Comcast or Time Warner Cable in contrast to most of those who spoke in support of the companies.

The testimony from AJ Jones of Studio City was typical of the remarks offered by others:

“If this merger were allowed to go through, I would be stuck with another cable company with a national reputation for bad customer service.  With almost 30 million subscribers, I struggle to see how its service could possibly get better!  I understand that you have offered to approve the merger subject to a set of conditions.  If Comcast cannot keep its promises to its own existing customers, what assurance do you have that it will keep its promise to the people of California?” 

Jones was referring to the administrative law judge’s proposed decision in the CPUC’s review of the merger.  The judge concluded that the merger was anticompetitive and would harm Californians but nonetheless recommended it be approved subject to 25 conditions that aimed to make up for that harm.

Comcast has arrogantly objected to all 25 of those conditions.  That should give the Commissioners good reason to doubt whether Comcast can be held accountable for complying with any conditions they are able to extract in exchange for approving the deal.  The good news is that the CPUC has another alternative – to reject the merger outright as Commissioner Florio has proposed.

Commissioner Peterman announced during yesterday’s hearing that it is unlikely that the PUC will vote on the merger on May 21, the earliest date that it could take action.  It looks like there will be another public hearing on the deal in the coming weeks.  That gives us another opportunity to keep up the pressure.

Consumers Union is proud to work with such a talented and effective group of advocates working to defeat the merger in California.  Among those who helped make the events in Los Angeles such a success are Courage Campaign, Color of Change, Common Cause, Free Press, Greenlining Institute, Media Alliance, Presente.org, TURN, and Writers Guild of America, West.

Categories: Media

Opponents Rally Against Comcast Mega Merger Before CPUC Hearing in Los Angeles

Hear Us Now - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 12:54pm

Hundreds Rally to Oppose Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger before the California Public Utilities Commission Meeting

California Community and Business Leaders Unite in Opposition of Comcast-Time Warner Merger

Los Angeles (April 14, 2015) Hundreds of consumer advocates, business and community leaders gathered today in front of the Los Angeles offices of the California Public Utilities Commission in strong opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner merger currently being considered. Citing a lengthy list of serious concerns and threats to key sectors in California, various organizations convened today’s rally including Presente.org, Estrella TV, Consumers Union, Writers Guild of America, West, Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce, Willie C. Velasquez Institute, Courage Campaign, Media Alliance, Common Cause, TURN, Entravision Communications, Anahuak Soccer League, and many others.

As opposition to the merger continues to mount, the rally focused on the devastating impact the merger will have on California consumers, jobs, Latinos and working class families, content creators, Hollywood, and many other key sectors.  Following the rally, community and business leaders testified before the California Public Utilities Commission during a public hearing on why the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is bad for all Californians.

Below are statements from the organizers of today’s action along with a fact sheet citing some of the key concerns.

  • Images and Footage of the press conference available upon request

Statement by Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org:

“The proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger would be a disaster for the entire nation, particularly Californians, and a huge defeat for advocates of accessible internet.  And for Latinos, this is the the most dangerous merger our community has seen in recent memory, creating a total monopoly endangering the Latino communities’ access to uncensored media in English and Spanish and affordable internet. We simply cannot afford to allow one company to control nearly all our access to media and the internet.”

Statement by Lenard Liberman, CEO of Estrella TV:  

“Estrella TV is taking a stand today and urging the California Public Utilities Commission to reject the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger as it will be damaging to California businesses and consumers. My company has experienced first-hand Comcast’s unfair treatment of TV networks that compete with its other-owned media properties. This merger will give the already powerful cable giant even more power, effectively giving Comcast complete control over the cable industry in California. This merger will put my company out of business. It will kill jobs in the already suffering television production industry in our state and reduce content options for consumers, making Comcast a gatekeeper of programming options for pay-TV subscribers.”

Statement by Dr. Paul Song, Executive Chairman of Courage Campaign:

“The Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would be one of the most damaging corporate takeovers in our nation’s history — leaving millions of consumers in California and across the country with skyrocketing rates, fewer options, and even worse service. Courage Campaign and our over 900,000 members strongly urge the CPUC to have the courage to stand up for consumers and the freedom of choice, and reject this merger without conditions.”

Statement by Marcelo Gaete, Vice President of Public and Governmental Affairs of Entravision:

“Entravision opposes the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable because it will result in the creation of a monolithic gatekeeper due to the number of subscribers they will control.  This harm is especially of concern to Latinos, owing to the number of major Latino markets where the combined entity will provide cable and Internet services.  Antitrust theory tells us that Comcast will have every incentive to shut out independent providers of Latino-oriented programming and to use its buying power to drive down the income derived by those providers that remain.  In the end, this merger will mean that the growing Latino community will not be provided with programming prepared by California-based Latino program providers who seek to serve the diverse elements of our Latino community, including our youth, bilingual Latinos and bi-cultural Latinos.  Our community deserves better.”

Statement by Shawn Ryan, Board Member of Writers Guild of America, West:

“The California Public Utilities Commission should vote for Commissioner Florio’s decision to reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. The merger is not in the public interest of California. Writers and consumers have benefitted greatly from the vibrant competition Internet distribution of content has made possible. Expanding Comcast’s national and statewide control of content distribution will only increase its power to pay programmers less and charge consumers more. There are no conditions that could effectively limit Comcast’s gatekeeper power if it were granted the near-monopoly status in statewide broadband distribution it is asking for. The only outcome that protects content creators and consumers is to deny the merger.”

Statement by Ana Montes, Organizing Director of TURN, The Utility Reform Network:

“Bigger doesn’t mean better for consumers. Californians won’t benefit from the creation of a media monster with a near monopoly on broadband, especially one already known for poor customer service and high prices.  Low-income customers need high-quality options for phone, cable and internet service, not fewer choices, which is what this merger would result in.”

Statement by Michael McCauley, Media Director of Consumers Union:

“This merger should be rejected because it would give Comcast a potentially permanent monopoly over our high speed broadband options.  If its approved, Californians and consumers across the country can expect to pay more and have even fewer choices as Comcast uses its market power to muscle out the competition.  And a bigger, more powerful Comcast will have little incentive to improve its notoriously lousy customer service.”

Statement by Todd O’Boyle, Program Director of Common Cause:

“Nearly a million Americans – including thousands of Californians – have spoken clearly. This merger would be a disaster for competition online and on the cable dial. Just as bad, it would undermine the crucial marketplace for ideas on which self-government depends. The CPUC must not bless the further ”

Statement by Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director of Media Alliance

“Given that Comcast has raised prices nearly 70 percent over the last five years, and Internet Essentials has a better record as a Comcast public relations project than as a broadband adoption program, the CPUC needs to consider whether virtually constant price increases, data caps and channel-slamming of public access channels can be anticipated to have adverse impacts on Californians. We say yes they will, and no merger should be approved.”

Statement by Stephanie Chen, Energy and Telecommunications Policy Director, The Greenlining Institute:

“While Time Warner Cable certainly has its flaws, it is a maverick provider in its industry.  It has tried new things that Comcast has not tried, and that’s good for consumers.  Allowing the merger to go forward and eliminate that maverick would virtually guarantee that things will never improve in an industry that is sorely in need of improvement.  There are no conditions that will negate all the harms created by the proposed merger, and it should not be allowed to go forward.”

For Information:

Molly High, 907-750-1999, molly@fitzgibbonmedia.com

Kristen Rockwell, 323-308-8598, KRockwell@mercuryllc.com

Categories: Media

Fox’s John Stossel Smacks O’Reilly Over Christian Victimhood Claims: ‘You’re Just a 10-Foot-Tall Crybaby’

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 11:17am
In an exchange with secularist Stossell, O'Reilly said that Christians are "verbally being killed."

Self-avowed “secularist” John Stossel challenged Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday, arguing that the Factor host was overstating his allegations that Christianity was under attack in the U.S.

“Your ‘war on Christianity,’ you’re just a 10-foot-tall crybaby,” Stossel told O’Reilly. “It’s not so bad. Christians aren’t being killed.”

“Not yet,” O’Reilly replied.

“Not in America, and they’re not going to be,” Stossel countered.

“They’re verbally being killed,” O’Reilly insisted. Stossel scoffed in response, asking, “So what?”

The exchange came a day after O’Reilly argued that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already has an advantage in her presidential campaign because it was “open season” on Christians and white men.

“You shouldn’t be diminished because you believe a certain way,” O’Reilly told Stossel. “Aren’t you outraged by that?”

“What’s diminished?” Stossel asked, before alluding to an ABC News poll saying that 83 percent of Americans identified as Christians. “You are the majority. You’ve won.”

“It’s not a matter of winning,” O’Reilly replied. “It’s a matter of respect.”

O’Reilly then complained that “secularists” were arguing against religion in an attempt to pave the way for “unfettered abortion, gay marriage” and “legalized narcotics.”

“I’m a secularist, and I don’t want unlimited abortion,” Stossel noted. “I think you paint with too broad a brush. I don’t criticize religion.”

“Not all secularists do,” O’Reilly said. “But you’re not a secular progressive — that’s what I should have said.”

Watch footage from the discussion, as posted by Media Matters on Tuesday, below.

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Categories: Media

4 Most Idiotic Election 2016 Stories So Far

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:54am
The press seems to consistently fail at serious coverage, opting instead to discuss the most trivial details.

With the kickoffs of the Cruz, Paul and Clinton campaigns, political journalists have launched their own campaign: 20 months of obsessive coverage of the race from every possible angle.

While some of this coverage has been excellent (for example, David Sirota's recent scoop on Jeb Bush funneling pension money to his brother's fundraisers), we've also seen a lot of clunkers focusing on the most trivial details of candidates' personal lives or banal activities on the campaign trail. Here are some of the worst offenders so far.

1. The Hidden Hand of Chelsea Clinton

Politico's lead investigative reporter Ken Vogel devoted a long magazine piece to “the shadowy role of Hillary's most important adviser”— her daughter, Chelsea. Chelsea's hidden influence includes interventions like the following, from the 2008 campaign trail:

During an off-the-record gathering in a Philadelphia hotel bar, the mother-daughter team held court with the campaign press corps. Riding high in Keystone State polls, the candidate was upbeat. Holding a cocktail in one hand while eating nachos with the other, she regaled the assembled reporters with a riff about the physically intimidating presence of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. In mid-story, her daughter gently touched her forearm and shot her a disapproving look. The message seemed to be that Hillary should stop talking while eating, and she abruptly did. Reporters later marveled at how unquestioningly the powerful mother deferred when corrected by her daughter.

2. Rand Paul's Inability to Be Consistent Is a Strength

The Week's Marc Ambinder argued that Paul's inability to nail down concrete positions on policy issues is not a reason for voters to distrust him, but is instead a strength:

His value to Republicans is that his final position on a number of issues cannot be predicted from his past statements. This is valuable, and not a knock against him, because his unpredictability will force the rest of the field to respond in real time to a politician who seems willing to change his mind.

3. Every Detail of Hillary Clinton's Road Tour Must Be Reported in Painstaking Detail:Soon after her announcement, Clinton decided to take a road trip to meet with voters. To the press corps, this has been an opportunity to report on her every banal move with incredible detail. There were dozens of articles about her stopping at a Chipotle in Ohio, and the same security camera footage of Clinton ordering a chicken burrito bowl found its way into report after report. The press has cheerfully dubbed her van the “Scooby Van”; here's footage of scores of reporters chasing the van as a single MSNBC writer, Alex Seitz-Wald, stood his ground.

4. Check Out Marco Rubio's Cheerleader Wife: There have been no less than nine articles written about Marco Rubio's wife, Jeanette, none of them focusing on her policy worldview or anything remotely in the public interest. One topic the articles seemed to focus on is the fact that she is a former cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins.

The presidential race is perhaps the nation's most consequential election. The person elected to the White House will have control of the nuclear arsenal, vetoes over congressional legislation and the ability to nominate Supreme Court justices. Yet despite the vast importance of this decision, the press seems to consistently fail at serious coverage, opting instead to discuss the most trivial details.

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Categories: Media

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Experiment Using a Food Stamp Budget Is Prime Example of Poverty Tourism

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:20am
Paltrow attempted to live on a food stamp budget of $29 for one week.

Last week, Hollywood icon and occasional social activist Gwyneth Paltrow took on Mario Batali's #FoodBankNYCChallenge to live on a food stamp budget of $29 for one week.

For me, this conjures an image of the statuesque starlet hauling her sustainably produced, fair-trade organic canvas shopping totes down to Whole Foods for nothing more than a photo op. Apologies to Gwyneth and her fans, but she is, after all, the woman whose Holiday Gift Guide once famously included a nearly $1,000 cashmere throw blanket. Everywoman, she is not, nor ever will be.

Gwyneth tweeted a photo of her weekly food purchase on a $29 budget. It took all of about 29 seconds for the ridicule to start.

For my part, I was trying to fathom what Gwyneth could possibly prepare from the food she purchased, that would keep her satiated for longer than two days.

I decided two things about this photo: 1) however much she tires of eggs, beans, rice, and salad, Gwyn would certainly get her vitamins; and 2) everybody needs to stay upwind for a while, because that girl is going to be a rootin' tootin' machine.

Others have already determined Gwyneth's grocery haul would fall short of the caloric needs of a healthy, active adult by a few hundred calories a day, while others wondered what the hell she could be doing with seven limes.

This all leaves Gwyneth, not for the first time, perceived as laughably unrealistic when it comes to the plight of the rest of us, especially anyone living at or near poverty.

Which brings us to the real story concerning this effort, and the conversation to which it contributes. Sure, Gwyneth's grocery haul may be unrealistic for a real person. But so does the act of surviving for a week on $29 fall short of illustrating the actual experience of poverty.

When we were first married, my husband had just graduated from college. I was working as a secretary for a whopping hourly $6.75. In the months he sought work, we lived at roughly one and a half times the poverty level. When he did manage to find a job, it added a whole $5 an hour to our monthly budget.

For most of the next two years, after rent, a car payment, gas, utilities, and student loan bills, our food budget was around $30 per week. For the both of us.

True, this was 25 years ago. Yes, the cost of living in our part of the country is fairly reasonable. But, seriously. $30 per week, people.

Lucky for us, I'd become the budget diva in college, when I'd worked three part-time jobs just to afford school. I had a system: no single item over $1 went in my cart. Not cereal, nor milk, nor real cheese. We lived on Ramen noodles, peanut butter, balloon bread, boxed dinners, canned soups, ground beef, eggs, potatoes, beans, apples, bananas and lettuce.

There was a grocery store with a weekly double coupon special. So our Tuesday date night was hightailing it over to Ridley's for the extravagance of Cheerios.

Today I cringe at the amount of sodium and fat and preservatives we regularly ingested. On the plus side, since we couldn't afford cable, walking whenever the weather permitted was entertainment.

These days, although I think I've gone to near heroic efforts to keep our food budget in check, I still spend roughly 10 times what I did then on groceries. Of course, we're also now feeding three teenagers, and I have the luxury of higher standards, which for us includes hormone-free milk, organic eggs, local seasonal produce, and microbrew.

Could I handle such a challenge today while mitigating for picky eaters, food allergies and diets? Could I willingly give up good beer? The answer is probably yes, especially given the fact that it's only for a short time, and knowing I've been able to handle it before. But is that the point?

Here's the thing: when we were living on a shoestring, neither of us ever felt poor, and now, the understanding that we were living so close to that federal designation is somewhat surprising. Because, in addition to our teensy food budget, we were bolstered by:

Faith: Our situation was short lived. We were educated professionals with entry-level jobs in a recession. We didn't know when, but we would have our day.

Purpose: Even after we stopped needing to stretch each paycheck, we continued to be frugal, and within a short time had saved enough to buy our first house.

Other Resources: We had our health, the time to plan and prepare meals, and double-coupon night. In times of dire emergency we also had family available to help.

Hope: Above all, we had a future to look forward to that wasn't ever bleak. Hardships were only temporary.

I don't believe a single week of living on a cramped budget gives anyone more than the briefest of glimpses into the reality of poverty, for Gwyneth, or for the rest of us. Poverty is more than a number on a receipt or a row of vegetables in a photo.

The irony in this whole situation is that the judgment Gwyneth is experiencing is probably not too dissimilar to that of a single mom pulling out her EBT card as others peruse the contents of her cart. It should serve as a reminder to all of us about the place for compassion and empathy.

Gwyneth will not become someone else as a result of all her kale and black beans and limes. Poverty will not cease once some or all of us learn about shopping on a tiny budget. But a conversation about the plight of others facing dire circumstances, and the work we could be doing to help, is never pointless.

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Immigrant Mothers in Detention Launch Second Hunger Strike Despite Retaliation

Democracy Now! - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 4:50pm

After five months in detention with her two-year-old son, Kenia Galeano joined a hunger strike with about other 70 mothers to push for their release. Today she described how she and several others were held in isolation as punishment.

“Inside this room it was really cold. It was dark. The toilet was right next to the bed. My son was in there with me this entire time,” Galeano said.

She also recalled threats that families would be separated if the strike continued.

“A guard told us if we didn’t eat we would not be equipped to take care of our children, and risked having them taken away,” Galeano said.

The women ended their strike on April 3 but now ten more have vowed to begin again Wednesday to refuse to eat except for one meal each evening. Like last time, they want bond hearings so they can be free while seeking asylum, as well as improved food and conditions at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, which is run by the private prison company, The Geo Group.

Galeano, who is from Honduras, was released on a $7,500 bond after the hunger strike ended. Her family paid $3,000 and the rest was supplemented by the Family Detention Bond Fund. But she said she can’t stop thinking about the hundreds of women she left behind, like her cellmate who had an eleven-year-old son.

“I saw how much her son really suffered in detention… He didn’t want to go to school, couldn’t sleep. He would hide under the covers,” Galeano said.

Her roommate is part of a category of detained mothers who have been refused bond because they were previously deported. Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz observed this pattern in March when she visited the immigration courts in San Antonio where women appeared via a video monitor from detention.

“It was an interesting Catch-22, because [the judge] would offer a bond to their child, but he would say that ‘you’re not eligible for relief.’ So, your child’s release is conditional on your release; you’re not getting out, therefore your child’s not getting out.” See more here.

On Tuesday immigration advocates delivered a petition to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington, D.C. asking ICE Director Sarah Saldaña to lift the ban on bonds for women who have been deported before as part of their “deterrence strategy.”

The retaliation faced by the detained mothers echoes a pattern of pushback by ICE and prison authorities against their advocates on the outside. One of the sources for a March report by Democracy Now! on family detention has since been denied access to Karnes. A paralegal who wrote a critical essay about Karnes in The Texas Observer was also blocked from further visits.

Two incident reports provided to Democracy Now! show a group of Karnes detainees tried to draw the attention of a helicopter that flew overhead on April 2 by making large letters on signs that spelled out “libertad” which means liberty. Staff who documented the incident called it an "insurrection."

On May 2 a nationwide protest is planned outside the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the other facility where hundreds of women and children have been detained since seeking asylum from violence in Central America. The event will kick-off a week of actions that end on Mother’s Day.

An organizer with the We Belong Together campaign frames family detention as an issue central to women’s struggle for equality.

“These women are blocked from achieving their full potential because of deeply flawed immigration policy,” said Andrea Cristina Mercado.

Click here to see Democracy Now!’s report on the South Texas Family Residential Center that includes an interview with a mother and her son who were held in isolation for a week. You can also watch the report in Spanish.

Our report noted nearby Crystal City, Texas, was home to a federal internment camp for Japanese and German men, as well as their wives and children, and a local newspaper has referred to the South Texas Family Residential Center as an internment camp despite objections by Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison company that operates it.

Advocates say the comparison of that facility to present day family detention centers in Texas could haunt President Obama.

"He could go down in history not just as the deporter in chief," said Cristina Parker, with the group Grassroots Leadership, "but as the president who presided over the return of modern day internment camps on U.S. soil."

Categories: Media

Writer Eduardo Galeano & Photojournalist Sebastião Salgado in Conversation with Amy Goodman (2000)

Democracy Now! - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 11:13am

In 2000, Amy Goodman interviewed acclaimed Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano and photojournalist Sebastião Salgado at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event was sponsored by the Lannan Foundation. Galeano died on April 13, 2015. His books include the trilogy "Memory of Fire" and "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent." Salgado is a prize-winning Brazilian photojournalist. He was featured in the recent Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Salt of the Earth."

Eduardo Galeano has appeared on Democracy Now! many times over the years. Visit our online archive to watch our interviews with him.

Categories: Media

Watch: Eduardo Galeano in Conversation with Arundhati Roy

Democracy Now! - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 9:57am

In 2006, two of the world's most celebrated writers, Eduardo Galeano and Arundhati Roy, shared the stage of Town Hall in New York City for a historic evening of readings and dialogue. Eduardo Galeano is a Uruguayan author who died on April 13, 2015. His books include the trilogy "Memory of Fire" and "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent." Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, "The God of Small Things." Her other books include, "An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire" and "Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers."

Both writers have appeared on Democracy Now! many times over the years. Visit our online archive to watch our interviews with Eduardo Galeano and Arundhati Roy.

Categories: Media