Progressive Calendar 01.09.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Sat, 9 Jan 2010 00:02:52 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   01.09.10

1. Peace walk        1.09 9am Cambridge MN
2. Salvador          1.09 10am
3. Depleted uranium  1.09 10am
4. Plan 3.20 protest 1.09 1pm
5. CUAPB             1.09 1:30pm
6. Northtown vigil   1.09 2pm
7. City repair       1.09 4pm
8. Cynthia McKinney  1.09 9pm

9. Stillwater vigil  1.10 1pm
10. Peace walk       1.10 6pm RiverFalls WI

11. Nichols/McChesney - How to save journalism
12. Ramzy Baroud  - Freedom of expression is at risk/ the media vultures
13. Missy Beattie - Shall we gather at the CIA?
14. Arun Gupta    - Hope has left the building
15. ed            - One question quiz

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From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 1.09x 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street

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From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at]>
Subject: Salvador 1.09 10am

Coffee Hour: El Salvador-Recent Developments and Responses to Its
Truth Commission Report - Jan. 9

Saturday, January 9th, 2010
At the Resource Center of the Americas
3019 Minnehaha Ave, Suite 20, 1/2 block south of Lake
Street. Park on the Minnehaha side of the building.

What are the issues facing Presidente Mauricio Funes?
How is El Salvador recovering from Ida's rains?
What are the plans for the 30th anniversaries of the assassination of
Monsenor Romero and the murder of the U.S. church women?
What has happened to the findings of the Truth Commission?
What is the work of El Salvador's Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad

These are some of the issues to be addressed by Duane Krohnke, Adjunct
Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he co-teaches
international human rights law. He has been a pro bono attorney for
Salvadoran asylum-seekers and has been to the country five times, most
recently in 2003 as an election observer for CIS.

Presented in English.
CONTACT Speaker: Duane Krohnke Email: dkrohnke [at]

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Depleted uranium 1.09 10am

Coffee with AlliantACTION: "The Lethal Legacy of Uranium-Core Munitions"
Saturday, January 9, 10:00 a.m. to Noon Van Cleve Park Building, Corner of
Como and 15th Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis.

Join Susu Jeffrey and AlliantACTION to learn more about depleted uranium.
Refreshments served. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by:  Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom, Minnesota Metro Branch (WILPF)
and AlliantACTION. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Visit or

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From: IPAC <iraqpeaceactioncoalition [at]>
Subject: Plan 3.20 protest 1.09 1pm

First planning meeting for March 20, 2010 anti-war protest.

Saturday, January 9
1:00 PM
Mayday Books
301 Cedar Ave. South

March of 2010 will mark seven years of the U.S. war and occupation
of Iraq. This benchmark comes as the U.S. is escalating the war in
Afghanistan and threatening to escalate the war into Pakistan, Yemen and
other countries.

Many national and local anti-war coalitions, networks and organizations
are planning mass protests on Saturday, March 20, 2010 to mark the 7th
anniversary. The January 9 meeting will be a chance to start planning a
Twin Cities mass demonstration as part of this national effort.

There is a great need for the largest possible number of people to be in
the streets with the anti-war message. Over the next two and a half
months we can reach out to the widest possible numbers of people with the
anti-war message and urge people to turn out on March 20 to oppose the
wars and occupations with a highly visible, enthusiastic and educational

Please be sure that someone from your organization, community, school,
church or union is able to attend the January 9th meeting.

Iraq Peace Action Coalition

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From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: CUAPB 1.09 1:30pm

Meetings: Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue

Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 1.09 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

-------7 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: City repair 1.09 4pm

SAT. JAN. 10, 4pm @ May Day Books
gives a presentation on
Community Gardening! DIY!
Re-Claiming Public Space! MURALS!

301 Cedar Ave. S. *basement of HUB Bicycle)
WEST BANK, Minneapolis
Hear more in an archived interview (latest one) on NORTHERN SUN NEWS @

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Cynthia McKinney 1.09 9pm

Dear Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may

Saturday, 1/9, 9pm and Tues, 1/12, 8am
"Cynthia McKinney, Part 1"

The 6 term US Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party Pres. candidate speaks
candidly about lobby power in Washington DC, her experiences in trying to
break the siege of Gaza, her experience running for public office as an
outsider, the role of primary elections in her home state of GA and much

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From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 1.10 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

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From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 1.10 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

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How to Save Journalism
by John Nichols & Robert McChesney
Friday, January 8, 2010
The Nation
Common Dreams

The founders of the American experiment were even by their own measures
imperfect democrats. But they understood something about sustaining
democracy that their successors seem to have forgotten. Everyone agrees
that a free society requires a free press. But a free press without the
resources to compensate those who gather and analyze information, and to
distribute that information widely and in an easily accessible form, is
like a seed without water or sunlight. It was with this understanding that
Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and their contemporaries instituted
elaborate systems of postal and printing subsidies to assure that freedom
of the press would never be an empty promise; to that end they guaranteed
what Madison described as "a circulation of newspapers through the entire
body of the people...[that] is favorable to liberty."

Two centuries after Madison wrote those words, American news media are
being steered off the cliff by investors and corporate managers who soured
on their "properties" when the economic downturn dried up what was left of
their advertising bonanza. They are taking journalism with them. Newsrooms
are shrinking and disappearing altogether, along with statehouse,
Washington and foreign bureaus. And with them goes the circulation of news
and ideas that is indispensable to liberty. This is a dire moment for
democracy, and it requires a renewal of one of America's oldest
understandings: that a free people can govern themselves only if they have
access to independent information about the issues of the day and the
excesses of the powerful, and that it is the duty of government to
guarantee both the promise and the reality of a free press.
When we recommended government subsidies last year in a Nation cover
article ("The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers," April 6), some
publishers and pundits objected, forgetting their Jeffersonian roots and
arguing, with no sense of irony, that policies promoting diversity and
robust debate would foster totalitarianism. Even well-intended
Congressional hearings on the crisis avoided discussion of this logical

But as 2009 wore on and the crisis extended - with the venerable Christian
Science Monitor and newspapers in Seattle and Ann Arbor ceasing print
publication to exist solely online, with papers in Denver, Tucson and
other cities closing altogether, and with talk of closures from San
Francisco to Boston - the urgency of the moment, and the recognition that
journalism would not be reborn on the Internet or saved by foundation
grants, made it harder to dismiss subsidies. By year's end, the Columbia
Journalism Review was highlighting a report by Leonard Downie Jr. and
Michael Schudson that proposed requiring "broadcasters, Internet service
providers, and telecom users to pay into a fund that would be used to
support local accountability journalism in communities around the
country." CJR called the idea a "radical suggestion."

If the rather modest proposal by Downie and Schudson is "radical," then it
is merely a fraction of the radicalism of America's founding. And like so
many founding precepts, it is a radicalism that has long since been
accepted as common sense by the rest of the world. Now Americans must
re-embrace that common sense if we are to have journalism worthy of the
Republic's promise and sufficient to meet its needs. This is an
unavoidable reality. No reasonable case can be made that journalism will
rebound as the economy recovers from a recession that accelerated but
certainly did not cause the crisis confronting newspapers - or that a
"next big thing" will arrive as soon as news organizations develop good
Internet business plans. Many of the nation's largest papers are in
bankruptcy or teetering on the brink, and layoffs continue at an alarming
rate. The entirety of paid journalism, even its online variant, is
struggling. There are far fewer working journalists per 100,000 Americans
today than existed one, two or three decades ago. At current rates of
decline, 2020 will make 2010 look like a golden age. When the Federal
Trade Commission held its unprecedented two-day conference on the state of
journalism in December, the operative term was "collapse." Conversely, the
ratio of PR flacks to working journalists has skyrocketed, as spin
replaces news.

The implications are clear: if our policy-makers do nothing, if "business
as usual" prevails, we face a future where there will be relatively few
paid journalists working in competing newsrooms with editors,
fact-checkers, travel budgets and institutional support. Vast areas of
public life and government activity will take place in the dark - as is
already the case in many statehouses across the country. Independent and
insightful coverage of the basic workings of local, state and federal
government, and of our many interventions and occupations abroad, is
disappearing as rapidly as the rainforests. The political implications are
dire. Just as a brown planet cannot renew itself, so an uninformed
electorate cannot renew democracy. Popular rule doesn't work without an
informed citizenry, and an informed citizenry cannot exist without
credible journalism.

This is more than academic theory; it is how the Supreme Court has
interpreted the matter. As Justice Potter Stewart explained in 1974, the
framers believed the First Amendment mandated the existence of a Fourth
Estate because our experiment in constitutional democracy cannot succeed
without it. That is hardly a controversial position, nor one that is
necessarily left wing. It should be inviting to readers of the Wall Street
Journal and BusinessWeek, as markets cannot work effectively or
efficiently unless investors, managers, workers and consumers have the
credible information produced by serious journalism. Moreover, political
decisions about economic issues will respect Main Street concerns only if
citizens are kept abreast of the issues by independent news media.
American officials urged Asian economies during the financial crisis of
the late 1990s to develop independent media or suffer from the corruption
and stagnation of "crony capitalism." We need to take a dose of our own
medicine, and fast. Unfortunately, misconceptions about the crisis and the
proper relationship between government and media warp the debate.
Addressing these misconceptions, and getting beyond them, will be the
great challenge of 2010.

The most dangerous misconception has to do with journalism itself.
Journalism is a classic "public good" - something society needs and people
want but market forces are now incapable of generating in sufficient
quality or quantity. The institution should be understood the way we
understand universal public education, military defense, public health and
transportation infrastructure. The public-good nature of journalism has
been largely disguised for the past century because advertising bankrolled
much of the news, for better and for worse, in its efforts to reach
consumers. Those days are over, as advertisers no longer need or seek to
attach their appeals to journalism to connect with target audiences.
Indeed, to the extent commercial media can scrap journalism standards to
make the news "product" more attractive to advertisers, the cure will be
worse than the disease.

This takes us to the second great misconception: that the crisis in
journalism was created by the rise of the Internet and the current
recession. In fact, the crisis began in earnest in the 1970s and was well
under way by the 1990s. It owes far more to the phenomenon of media
corporations maximizing profits by turning newsrooms into "profit
centers," lowering quality and generally trivializing journalism. The
hollowing out of the news and alienation of younger news consumers was
largely disguised by the massive profits these firms recorded while they
were stripping newsrooms for parts. But that's no longer possible. The
Internet, by making news free online and steering advertisers elsewhere,
merely accelerated a long-term process and made it irreversible. Unless we
grasp the structural roots of the problem, we will fail to generate viable
structural solutions.

By ignoring the public-good nature of journalism and the roots of the
current crisis, too many contemporary observers continue to fantasize that
it is just a matter of time before a new generation of entrepreneurs
creates a financially viable model of journalism using digital
technologies. By this reasoning, all government needs to do is clear the
path with laxer regulations, perhaps some tax credits and a lot of
cheerleading. Even David Carr of the New York Times, who has consistently
recognized the point of retaining newsrooms and journalism, falls into the
trap of assuming that the "cabals of bright young things" who are swarming
New York might create a "fresh, ferocious wave" of new media that will
turn the Internet from killer of media into savior. Carr's vision may work
for entertainment media, but it is a nonstarter for journalism. As Matthew
Hindman's new book, The Myth of Digital Democracy, convincingly
demonstrates, the Internet is not some "wild west" incubator, where a new
and more democratic journalism is being hatched. Internet traffic mostly
gravitates to sites that aggregate and reproduce existing journalism, and
the web is dominated by a handful of players, not unlike old media.
Indeed, they are largely the same players.

There is no business model or combination of business models that will
create a journalistic renaissance on the web. Even if the market and new
technologies were to eventually solve journalism's problems, the notion
that we must go without journalism for a decade or two while Wall Street
figures out how to make a buck strikes us, frankly, as suicidal.

There will be commercial news media in the future, and the right of anyone
to start a business that does journalism should remain inviolable. But
there is no evidence that the news media democracy requires will be paid
for by advertisers or subscribers. Nor will they be supported by
foundations or billionaires; there simply are not enough to cover the
massive need. And while it might be comforting to think we can rely on
tax-deductible citizen donations to fund the news media we need, there is
scant evidence enough money can be generated from this source.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Henry Waxman was right when he
told December's FTC workshop on journalism, "This is a policy issue.
Government is going to have to be involved in one way or another."
Journalism, like other public goods, is going to require substantial
public subsidy if it is to exist at a level necessary for self-government
to succeed. The question, then, is not, Should there be subsidies? but,
How do we get subsidies right?"

To do that, policy-makers, journalists and citizens must take an honest
look at the history of journalism subsidies here and abroad, and they
cannot cling dogmatically to the Manichaean view that press subsidies
inexorably lead to tyranny.

Even those sympathetic to subsidies do not grasp just how prevalent they
have been in American history. From the days of Washington, Jefferson and
Madison through those of Andrew Jackson to the mid-nineteenth century,
enormous printing and postal subsidies were the order of the day. The need
for them was rarely questioned, which is perhaps one reason they have been
so easily overlooked. They were developed with the intention of expanding
the quantity, quality and range of journalism - and they were astronomical
by today's standards. If, for example, the United States had devoted the
same percentage of its GDP to journalism subsidies in 2009 as it did in
the 1840s, we calculate that the allocation would have been $30 billion.
In contrast, the federal subsidy last year for all of public broadcasting,
not just journalism, was around $400 million.

The experience of America's first century demonstrates that subsidies of
the sort we suggest pose no threat to democratic discourse; in fact, they
foster it. Postal subsidies historically applied to all newspapers,
regardless of viewpoint. Printing subsidies were spread among all major
parties and factions. Of course, some papers were rabidly partisan, even
irresponsible. But serious historians of the era are unanimous in holding
that the extraordinary and diverse print culture that resulted from these
subsidies built a foundation for the growth and consolidation of American
democracy. Subsidies made possible much of the abolitionist press that led
the fight against slavery.

Our research suggests that press subsidies may well have been the second
greatest expense of the federal budget of the early Republic, following
the military. This commitment to nurturing and sustaining a free press was
what was truly distinctive about America compared with European nations
that had little press subsidy, fewer newspapers and magazines per capita,
and far less democracy. This history was forgotten by the late nineteenth
century, when commercial interests realized that newspaper publishing
bankrolled by advertising was a goldmine, especially in monopolistic
markets. Huge subsidies continued to the present, albeit at lower rates
than during the first few generations of the Republic. But today's direct
and indirect subsidies - which include postal subsidies, business tax
deductions for advertising, subsidies for journalism education, legal
notices in papers, free monopoly licenses to scarce and lucrative radio
and TV channels, and lax enforcement of anti-trust laws - have been
pocketed by commercial interests even as they and their minions have
lectured us on the importance of keeping the hands of government off the
press. It was the hypocrisy of the current system - with subsidies and
government policies made ostensibly in the public interest but actually
carved out behind closed doors to benefit powerful commercial
interests - that fueled the extraordinary growth of the media reform
movement over the past decade.

The argument for restoring the democracy-sustaining subsidies of old - as
opposed to the corporation-sustaining ones of recent decades - need not
rest on models from two centuries ago. When the United States occupied
Germany and Japan after World War II, Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur
instituted lavish subsidies to spawn a vibrant, independent press in both
nations. The generals recognized that a docile press had been the
handmaiden of fascism and that a stable democracy requires diverse and
competitive news media. They encouraged news media that questioned and
dissented, even at times criticized US occupation forces. They did not
gamble on the "free market" magically producing the desired outcome.

In moments of crisis, our wisest leaders have always recognized the
indispensible role of journalism in democracy. We are in such a crisis
now. It is the character of the crisis, and the urgency of the moment,
that should make Americans impatient with blanket condemnations of
subsidies. State support is vital to higher education; on rare occasions
professors have been harassed by governors or legislators over the content
of their research or lectures. But only an extreme libertarian or a
nihilist would argue to end all public support of higher education to
eliminate the threat of this kind of government abuse. Likewise, the
government does not tax church property or income, which is in effect a
massive subsidy of organized religion. Yet the government has not favored
particular religions or required people to hold religious views.

As for the notion that public broadcasting is a more propagandistic or
insidious force than commercial broadcasting because of the small measure
of direct state support it receives, the evidence suggests otherwise. When
the United States geared up to invade Iraq in 2002, commercial broadcast
news media, with only a few brave exceptions, parroted Bush administration
talking points for war that were easily identified as lies. In contrast,
public and community broadcast coverage, while far from perfect, featured
many more critical voices at exactly the moment a democracy requires a
feisty Fourth Estate. Not surprisingly, public broadcasting is the most
consistently trusted major news source, with Americans telling pollsters
it deserves far greater public funding.

Perhaps the strongest contemporary case for journalism subsidies is
provided by other democracies. The evidence shows that subsidies do not
infringe on liberty or justice; they correlate with the indicators of a
good society. In The Economist's annual Democracy Index, which evaluates
nations on the basis of the functioning of government, civic
participation, civil liberties, political culture and pluralism, the six
top-ranked nations maintain some of the most generous journalism subsidies
on the planet. If the United States, No. 18 in the index, spent the same
per capita on public media and journalism subsidies as Sweden and Norway,
which rank 1 and 2, we would be spending as much as $30 billion a year.
Sweden and Norway are also in the top tier of the pro-business Legatum
Group's Prosperity Index, which measures health, individual freedom,
security, the quality of governance and transparency, in addition to
material wealth. The United States ranks ninth.

The evidence is also clear that huge journalism subsidies and strong
public media need not open the door to censorship or threaten private and
commercial media. Consider the annual evaluation from Freedom House, the
pro-private media organization that annually ranks international press
freedom. It has the keenest antennas for government infringement of
private press freedoms and routinely places nondemocratic and communist
nations in its lowest, "not free" category. (It ranks Venezuela, for
example - highly regarded by some on the democratic left for its
commitment to elections and an open society as well as its wide-ranging
adversarial media - as having a "not free" press.) Strikingly, Freedom
House ranks the heavy subsidizing nations of Northern Europe in the top
six spots on its 2008 list of nations with the freest news media. The
United States ties for twenty-first. Research by communications professor
Daniel Hallin demonstrates that increases in subsidies in Northern Europe
led not to a docile and uncritical news media but to a "more adversarial
press." In short, massive press subsidies can promote democratic political
cultures and systems.

But must Americans pay $30 billion a year to get the job done right?
Possibly not. Digital technologies have dramatically lowered production
and distribution costs. Still, the main source of great journalism is
compensated human labor, and, as the saying goes, you get what you pay
for. We're longtime advocates of citizen journalism and the blogosphere,
but our experience tells us that volunteer labor is insufficient to meet
America's journalism needs. The digital revolution has the capacity to
radically democratize and improve journalism, but only if there is a
foundation of newsrooms - all of which will be digital or have digital
components - with adequately paid staff who interact with and provide
material for the blogosphere.

The moral of the story is clear: journalism and press subsidies are the
price of civilization. To deliver this public good in sufficient measure
to sustain democracy, it must be treated as we treat national security. No
one would dare suggest that our military defense could be adequately
covered by volunteer labor, pledge drives, bake sales, silent auctions and
foundation grants. The same is true for journalism. Cautious proponents of
press subsidies think in terms of nickels and dimes, but we need to think
in terms of billions. Columbia Journalism School professor Todd Gitlin got
it right: "We're rapidly running out of alternatives to public finance....
It's time to move to the next level and entertain a grown-up debate among
concrete ideas."

How can we best spawn a vibrant, independent and competitive press without
ceding government control over content? There are models, historic and
international, from which we can borrow. No one-size-fits-all solution
will suffice, since all forms of support have biases built into them. But
if citizens spend as much time considering this issue as our corporate
media executives and investors do trying to privatize, wall off and
commercialize the Internet, journalism and democracy will win out.

In our new book, The Death and Life of American Journalism, we offer
proposals for long-term subsidies to spawn independent digital journalism.
But we do not claim to have all the answers. What we claim - what we
know - is that it is now imperative that emergency measures be proposed,
debated and implemented. People need to see tangible examples of "public
good" interventions, or the discussion about renewing journalism will
amount to little more than fiddling while Rome burns. The point now is to
generate popular participation in and support for a small-d democratic

The starting point could be a debate about "bailouts" to keep struggling
commercial news media, especially newspapers and magazines, afloat. As a
rule, we oppose bailing out or subsidizing commercial news media. We
believe subsidies should go primarily to nonprofit and noncommercial
media. We are not doctrinaire on this point and believe it should be
subject to debate, especially for short-term, emergency measures. If
subsidies do go to commercial interests, the public needs to get something
of substance in return. But the lion's share of subsidies must go now and
in the future to developing and expanding the nonprofit and noncommercial
sector. Journalism needs an institutional structure that comports with its
status as a public good.

What are we talking about? For starters, spending on public and community
broadcasting should increase dramatically, with the money going primarily
to journalism, especially on the local level. We never thought one
commercial newsroom was satisfactory for an entire community; why should
we regard it as acceptable to have a single noncommercial newsroom serve
an entire community? Let's also have AmeriCorps put thousands of young
people to work, perhaps as journalists on start-up digital "publications"
covering underserved communities nationwide. This would quickly put
unemployed journalists to work. Let's also craft legislation to expedite
the transition of failing daily newspapers into solvent nonprofit or
low-profit entities. It is healthy for communities to have general news
media that cover all the relevant news and draw everyone together, in
addition to specialized media. Shifting newspapers from high-profit to
low-profit or nonprofit ownership allows them to keep publishing as they,
and we, complete the transit from old media to new.

Americans will embrace some of these ideas. They will reject others. The
point is to get a debate going, to put proposals forward, to think big and
to act with a sense of urgency. Let's assume, for the sake of journalism
and democracy, that there will be subsidies. Then all we must do is put
them to work in the same spirit and toward the same end as did the

 2010 The Nation
John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney were the founders, with Josh Silver,
of Free Press, which has launched a campaign to save the news. Their
latest book is The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media
Revolution that Will Begin the World Again.

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate
editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. Nichols is co-author
with McChesney of Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin
Elections, and Destroy Democracy - from The New Press. Nichols' latest
book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Robert McChesney is research professor in the Institute of Communications
Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the
University of Illinois. He is the author many books including Rich Media,
Poor Democracy, The Political Economy of the Media, and Problem with the
Media: US Communication Politics in the 21st Century.

--------12 of 15--------

Freedom of Expression is at Risk
The Media Vultures
January 7, 2010

As you flip through a range of channels on your TV or browse through a
stack of newspapers and magazines at a newsstand, you may feel lucky about
living in a world where such a plethora of viewpoints is available. It
might also seem that the apparent increase in media choices also increases
the chances for the public interest to be understood and served fairly.
Unfortunately, this is far from the case. The media world is shrinking by
the day.

Welcome to 2010.

The coming year might go down in history as that of major media
consolidation, as in concentration of media ownership in the hands of a
few large conglomerates and powerful media moguls. Predictions regarding
mergers of media companies are very bleak, and to a degree frightening.

In his Los Angeles Times article "2010 predictions: Another turbulent year
ahead for media", Joe Flint determines that the debate in the media world
over which is king 'content or distribution' was settled in 2009. As a
result, a new wave of mergers is likely to follow. Giant media will guzzle
other giant media, which had already swallowed less enormous media
companies, who in turn had .. well, you get the point.

When US President Thomas Jefferson made his famous assertion that "the
only security of all is in a free press," he hardly had media
consolidation in mind. Giant media companies reflect the giant, albeit
specific business interests of their owners and their advertisers. Neither
News Corp nor Viacom are dedicating their services to serving the public.
Such companies are dedicated only to financial growth, even at the expense
of what matters, or should matter most to the majority of their consumers.
In other words, while media companies proudly propagate the value of
democracy, as they gain from a very specific interpretation of it, they
are neither democratic nor representative.

How will democracy, mass participation or public interest be served by the
Comcast Corp's purchase of NBC's Universal or the Disney Company's
acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Inc.? The media industry has turned
into a jungle, where the survival of the fittest is determined not by
value of content, or by contribution to society, but rather by "smart"
business deals that ensure survival in an increasingly demanding media

Times are changing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was in
fact established with a clear mandate (the Communications Act of 1934) to
operate in the benefit of "public convenience, interest, or necessity".
Whether the FCC lived up to that mandate or faltered in some of its
responsibilities, the fact remains that the FCC is now part and parcel of
the incessant efforts aimed at concentrating the ownership of the media in
fewer hands. More, even the courts that kept the FCC in check might
possibly concede in favor of more media consolidation.

"Get ready for a flood of media consolidation deals," Ira Teinowitz wrote
in The reason is simple, but requires a short detour.

In the mid 1990's, the FCC began relaxing its regulations on media
ownership. In 1996 a process of "deregulation" led to a wave of mergers,
as thousands of radio stations were sold to a few larger companies, and TV
ownership became more concentrated than ever before. In 2003, the FCC once
again moved to deregulate US laws regarding media, and this time the new
media ownership laws targeted local media across the US. Fortunately, a US
court moved in to thwart the FCC's concessions that seemed to mainly serve
large media conglomerates. But the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit's decision is being challenged once more.

The economic recession in the US has hit many newspapers hard. One hundred
and fifty newspapers have either gone out of business altogether or are
now online, the Seattle PI and the Christian Science Monitor being major
examples. Thousands of media outlets across the US are barely breaking
even and many are struggling to come up with a viable business model, with
little hope on the horizon.

The time is ripe for media vultures to make their move. In 2007, the court
blocked the FCC's attempt to change the rules of ownership. Now it is
reconsidering that decision. "A three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit Court
of Appeals in Philadelphia, which had put the stay in effect, ordered the
FCC and consumer groups to 'show cause' by mid January (2010) why the stay
should not be dropped".

If the rules are reversed, the mergers and further media consolidation
will affect the top twenty markets in the US. Knowing what we know about
the history of encroachment of large media companies, we can only guess
that this is just the beginning of further concentration of media
ownership, and subsequently the stifling of freedom of expression for the
large majority of people, especially those whose opinion is not consistent
with the business (or political and ideological) interests of media owners
and their benefactors.

Unfortunately, this trend is not confined to the US. The economic
recession is global, and giant media companies are not operating within
specific geographic boundaries.

"The Spanish media sector saw the start of a wave of consolidation amid
signs that at least two of them were close to announcing a tie-up,"
reported the Financial Times on December 17. This seems to be a repeated
media-related news story in various countries. More, the media
consolidation is felt in all media sectors, including film, music and

The continuation of this trend is terrible news for public interest, civil
society and democracy as a whole. We must resist shameless efforts of the
few at owning everything we see, hear and read. By owning all the
influences that shape our views of our surroundings and the world at
large, the public will soon be forced to surrender every available outlet
of expression, and eventually its very self-definition. Yes, even the way
we define ourselves will ultimately be determined by a billionaire in some
penthouse, who makes his wealth selling us packaged lies as news and trash
as entertainment.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of His work
has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest
book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

--------13 of 15-------

Be There or Be Scared
Shall We Gather at the CIA?
January 8 - 10, 2010

On January 16th, peace devotees will gather at Central Intelligence Agency
headquarters in Langley, Virginia to protest the use of unmanned aerial
vehicles (drones), operated primarily by the CIA to kill al-Qaida in Iraq,
Pakistan, and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. These attacks have
killed many more civilians, children included, than the "terrorists" they

I often wonder, especially when I'm trying to fade into sleep, if many
Americans are considering the collide-with-disaster tragedy our leadership
is directing. It seems the majority go about their lives as if the most
important contemplation is selecting a fast-food joint to patronize or
what to watch on television.

We are a country that now accepts torture. According to a Pew report, 67
percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats support its use. We
imprison and place in solitary confinement the young and the old, those
who may be guilty of one thing only - being in the wrong place at a time
when justice has been rendered meaningless by something called the Global
War on Terrorism and the Patriot Act, a weird acronym for "Uniting and
Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism Act". This chilling mouthful, especially "Providing
Appropriate Tools," describes a nation gone rogue.

For decades, we have endured inept lawmakers and cabinet appointees. But
9/11 turned many into caricatures. The invasion of Afghanistan with its
resultant war fever added another level of absurdity. We witnessed
jaw-dropping, waste-of-time lunacy during the buildup to topple Saddam
Hussein. When France refused to sign on to the disastrous destabilizing of
the Middle East, French fries were renamed freedom fries on the menus of
eateries run by the House of Representatives. This derangement was
contagious. Francophobes poured French wine down sink drains. Restaurants
removed it from their wine lists. Germany weighed in on the side of
France. Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor at the time, said, "War may never be
considered unavoidable". His sanity was anathema to a nation of
warmongers. Soon, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to
France and Germany as "old Europe". All this would have been farcical had
the Project for the New American Century not been so diabolical.

We have watched Congress become frenzied to avenge the deaths of those who
died on that September morning by funding operations that have killed
hundreds of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, creating a
widening gyre of violence that has expanded to Pakistan. The director of
the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, Ajmal Samadi, reports "at least three
children were killed in war-related incidents every day in 2009".

At least a half million people who lived in the lands we've ruptured have
been displaced. Their countries are environmental disasters as a result of
our weaponry.

Army historians now say that early errors are to blame for the current
problems in Afghanistan. This is inaccurate - because the initial mistake
was invading in the first place.

With the Christmas 2009 "incident," Yemen has become the new front in the
war on terror. Yemeni leaders stress that they don't want our boots on
their ground, and Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, said
the US has no plan to deploy troops to Yemen. But with Obama's
continuation of his predecessor's policies, the Bush Doctrine of
preemptive war forebodes more aggression.

Each day of combat is another 24 hours of desolation somewhere. Here at
home with the ringing of the doorbell by a messenger of death. In lands
far away where entire families are incinerated by the technology of drone
warfare, war fire, war power.

We created what we're fighting and we've become what we're fighting. Our
troops are illegal enemy combatants.

So, how do we forge peace? What can we do to reach inside our hearts and
find humanity - that which connects each of us regardless of ethnicity,
borders, religious beliefs, gender, philosophies? How can we hold what
seems to be moving inexorably from our grasp, nurture, and then deliver it
to those who will shepherd its safe passage through the tomorrows of our
children and grandchildren?

Only by taking nonviolent action can we stop the atrocities, can we stop
the dronings, stop the suffering, stop the wars.

Come to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on January 16th to protest
drones. If you can't make the distance, organize a rally in your
community. Also, participate in Peace of the Action
( in Washington, DC, starting in March and
continuing until our troops come home.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public
Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush
Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families
for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her
nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she
has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:
Missybeat [at]

--------14 of 15--------

Hope Has Left the Building
by Arun Gupta
Friday, January 8, 2010
The Indypendent (New York)
Common Dreams

If one case encapsulates the disaster that is the Obama administration, it
may be the dustup over the A.I.G. bonuses last March. Recall that extreme
gambling by A.I.G. Financial Products nearly crashed the world in 2008,
necessitating a taxpayer bailout of $182.3 billion (and counting).
Following this, A.I.G., now 80 percent government owned, rained more than
$400 million in bonuses on Financial Products employees for their
performance in 2008. The Obama administration, which knew of the bonuses
for months, played defense for A.I.G. by unspooling a bloated Larry
Summers to argue, "The government cannot just abrogate contracts."

The problem was the feds had just demanded that auto workers abrogate
their hard-won contracts before Detroit got a bailout. United Auto Workers
leaders complied, sacrificing "job security provisions and financing for
retiree health care," plus agreeing to cuts in base pay, overtime pay,
break time, raises, skilled worker positions and chopping wages for many
new hires in half to $14 an hour.

Far from failures or mistakes, these episodes illustrate how Team Obama,
which surfed a tsunami of corporate money and savvy branding to victory,
is doing exactly what it was elected to do: redistribute money upwards.
It's hard to think of a decision by this White House that would have not
elicited cackling glee from the Bush administration. The number of
horrendous policies] enacted by the Obama administration in barely a year
boggles the imagination. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list,
just a few dozen of the worst.


Even Time magazine has concluded that "Obama's Latin American Policy Looks
Like Bush's." While many hoped Obama would lift the 48-year-old embargo
against Cuba, Obama loosened a few restrictions only for Cuban Americans.
Last April, Obama declared the United States a "full partner" in Mexico's
calamitous drug war. Months later, the White House slapped Bolivia with
economic penalties, allegedly for not being an enthusiastic drug warrior,
but more likely for pursuing an independent agenda. And there is the
Honduran coup, which Obama endorsed by recognizing the rigged election in
November. Most ominously, his administration inked a deal in October for
seven military bases in Colombia, convenient for launching new wars
against socialist governments in the region.


Before Van Jones was thrown under the bus, Obama promised to create five
million green jobs in plug-in hybrids, weatherization, renewable energy,
biofuels and clean coal. Biofuels and clean coal? Okay, maybe it's a good
thing this promise was snuffed. But as Naomi Klein points out, between the
stimulus, the auto bailout and the Wall Street rescue, Obama had the
leverage and political capital to fund mass transit and a smart electrical
grid, restructure government-owned automakers to focus on green technology
and force bailed out banks to fund industrial restructuring and green
infrastructure. Instead, we get a White House vegetable garden the size of
a New York apartment.


While the original Troubled Assets Relief Program was "only" $700 billion,
the program's watchdog estimates taxpayer money at risk is a phenomenal
$23.7 trillion. The Obama administration has been more interested in
defending obscene executive pay, blessing more of Wall Street's highrisk
trading, stonewalling on how the TARP funds were used and abused, and
resisting real regulation, rather than prosecuting Goldman Sachs and other
banks that peddled risky mortgage-backed securities while secretly
betting they would plummet in value - a textbook case of securities fraud.
But what do you expect from a candidate who raked in the most dough from
Wall Street, real estate, commercial banks and hedge funds?


In comparison to the bank bailout, relief for homeowners is limited to a
miserly $75 billion under Obama's Making Home Affordable program. As of
December, only 31,000 homeowners have received permanent mortgage
modifications. The real winners are loan servicers. Of the top 25
participants, 21 were "heavily involved in the subprime lending industry."
The parent companies of the lenders, which have vacuumed up more than $21
billion from the program, include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan
Chase and Citigroup. Homeowners in the program who don't get permanent
help are left with wrecked credit scores while they continue to pay for
homes they can't afford, which may be lengthening the crisis. Meanwhile,
the number of homeowners with mortgage debt greater than the value of
their homes was 23 percent as of September and could peak at 48 percent in
2011. Even modest measures, such as allowing bankruptcy judges to lower
mortgages, were abandoned by the Obama administration.


There is a method to Obama's madness. First, his economic philosophy is to
subsidize private entities to provide public goods. Second, his main
tactic is to appeal to bipartisanship. (Never mind that there was plenty
of bipartisanship during the Bush era when Democrats surrendered to
virtually every heinous decision.) In the case of healthcare, a much
simpler and more effective single-payer system was rejected because
Republican support was supposedly needed. The bipartisan tactic allowed
the Obama administration to replace single payer with a fake public option
that was then dropped. As for the healthcare bill, it will skim $500
billion from publicly funded Medicare and Medicaid and use it to subsidize
individuals who will be forced to buy for-profit insurance or pay a fine.
The bill does nothing to control costs, ensure quality coverage or prevent
workers from losing job-related insurance. It allows for wildly different
rates based on age and region, and will deliver millions of new
"customers" to insurance and drug companies and for-profit hospitals.


While President-elect, Obama was largely silent about the Israeli
slaughter of 1,400 civilians in Gaza. Three days after being inaugurated,
Obama ordered Predator drone strikes inside Pakistan, expanding the
illegal U.S. war. Over the last year, Obama has committed another 64,000
soldiers to Afghanistan, effectively launching a new year. There are still
115,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The use of private military contractors is
surging, with 121,000 (and growing) in Afghanistan alone. Obama has
continued to threaten Iran over its uranium-enrichment program. And many
believe the White House is "initiating a low-level war in Yemen." Author
and Ret. U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich writes that Obama has effectively
signed on to "perpetual war."


Despite reportedly pouring $450 million into Obama's campaign and
providing thousands of volunteers, organized labor has been unable to
advance its main cause: a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act that
would make it easier for employees in a workplace to unionize. The Obama
administration says it is committed to passing the bill, but it has not
put any muscle behind it. That may be because wealthy Obama backers,
including three Chicago billionaires who own hotels, vehemently oppose the

 2010 The Indypendent
A founding editor of The Indypendent, Arun Gupta writes about energy, the
economy, the media, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of food and other
subjects for The Indypendent, Z Magazine, Left Turn and Alternet. Gupta is
a regular commentator on Democracy Now! and GritTV with Laura Flanders.
He.s writing a book on the decline of American Empire to be published by
Haymarket Books. From 1989 to 1992 he was an international news editor at
the Guardian Newsweekly.

--------15 of 15--------

Q: In January 2010, those who are still Obama enthusiasts are:
   1. mentally deficient
   2. morally deficient
   3. all of the above.

A: This is a trick question - there are no Obama enthusiasts now.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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