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UNDERNEWS: August 22, 2011

UNDERNEWS: August 22, 2011

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it

THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW

Michelle Rhee runs from media as her myth disintegrates

FCC agrees to erase record of doctrine that prevented current media madness

The FCC - acting under pressure from the GOP - has agreed to remove the so-called Fairness Doctrine from its books.

As described by Wikipedia, "The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission, introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced. The FCC decided to eliminate the policy in 1987. . .

"According to Steve Rendall of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (which supports reinstating the Fairness Doctrine):

The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented."

It could be reasonably argued that the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine helped to create the current environment of political extremism and media craziness.

Stupid Houston judge tricks

Houston Chronicle - A Houston judge entered an order on June 24 which prohibits a father from leaving his children alone with any man they aren’t related to “by blood or adoption.” Because there was no allegation of abuse in the case, family law practitioners say the order is an unheard of infringement on the rights of parents and a judicial condemnation of the fact that the man, William Flowers, is not only gay but married to his partner, Jim Evans.

Attorneys who practice family law in Texas point out that in cases of abuse, it is common for courts to prevent children from being alone with specific people. But those same lawyers say that they’ve never heard of a case in which a step-parent or long-term partner is permanently enjoined from being alone with his or her step-children when abuse is not even alleged, let alone proven. No lawyer consulted for this story has ever heard of an order which prohibits children from being left alone with an entire gender.

Obama tied with Romney and a toss up with Giuliani, leads everyone else

Bank of America exec tells Perry, "We'll help you out."

Nation of Change - A top Bank of America executive was caught on camera yesterday whispering to Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), “Bank of America. We’ll help you out,” as the GOP presidential candidate attended New Hampshire’s Politics and Eggs breakfast. The executive has been identified by the financial website Zero Hedge as James Mahoney, Director of Public Policy for the bank. Mahoney is on the board of directors for the New England Council, the sponsors of the Politics and Eggs breakfast.

But far from being just a regional banker, Mahoney is a key national executive. In a statementabout the incident, bank spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told Politico the only “help” Mahoney was offering was nonpartisan policy expertise. Di Rita said Mahoney does policy and not lobbying for the bank. This unsolicited reassurance from a top Bank of America emissary comes just days after Perry appeared to publicly threaten the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke.

VIDEO

Obamadmin cuts men's rights in campus rape cases

Peter Berkowitz, Wall Street Journal - On April 4, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, distributed a 19-page "Dear Colleague" letter to "provide recipients with information to assist them in meeting their obligations."

At the cost of losing federal funding¬on which all major institutions of higher education have grown dependent¬colleges and universities are obliged under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) to thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, including the felony of rape. They are also obliged, according to Ms. Ali, to curtail due process rights of the accused.

OCR's new interpretation of Title IX "strongly discourages" universities from permitting the accused "to question or cross-examine the accuser" during the hearing. In addition, if universities provide an appeals process, it must be available to both parties¬which subjects the accused to double jeopardy.

Most egregiously, OCR requires universities to render judgment using "a preponderance of the evidence" standard. This means that in a rape case, a campus disciplinary board of faculty, administrators and perhaps students serves as both judge and jury. Few if any of these judges are likely to have professional competence in fact-gathering, evidence analysis or judicial procedure. Yet to deliver a verdict of guilty, they need only believe that the accused is more likely than not to have committed the crime.

This is the lowest standard. It is much less demanding than "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is used in the criminal justice system, and the intermediate standard of "clear and convincing proof." Yale, Stanford and many other universities have rushed to comply with OCR's directives.

Wall Street got $1.2 trillion in secret loans from the Fed

Bloomberg - The Federal Reserve provided as much as $1.2 tillion in public money to banks and other companies from August 2007 through April 2010 to head off a depression.

Morgan Stanley, along with Citigroup Inc., and Bank of America Corp., were the biggest borrowers under seven Fed emergency-lending programs. The three banks' combined $298.2 billion in hidden Fed loans was triple what they received in publicly disclosed bailouts from the U.S. Treasury.

The Royal Bank of Scotland took $84.5 billion in loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve's emergency-lending programs.

UBS AG, Switzerland's biggest bank, got $77.2 billion in loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve's emergency-lending programs.

Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs

Roger N. Lancaster, NY Times – Most criminal justice advocates have been reluctant to talk about sex offender laws, much less reform them. . . In fact, the crimes that most spur public outrage ¬ the abduction, rape and murder of children ¬ are exceedingly rare. Statistically, a child’s risk of being killed by a sexual predator who is a stranger is comparable to the chance of being struck by lightning. The reported incidence of most forms of child abduction, including the most serious, has declined since the 1980s.

The most intense dread, fueled by shows like “America’s Most Wanted” and “To Catch a Predator,” is directed at the lurking stranger, the anonymous repeat offender. But most perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members, close relatives, or friends or acquaintances of the victim’s family. In 70 to 80 percent of child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect, a parent is held responsible. . .

Because sex crimes are broadly defined and closely monitored, the number of people listed in public sex offender registries is growing rapidly: 740,000 at latest count, more than the population of Boston or Seattle. The registration and notification rules ¬ the result of efforts by victims’ rights advocates, crusading journalists and tough-on-crime politicians ¬ violate basic legal principles and amount to an excessive and enduring form of punishment.

Newer laws go even further. At last count, 44 states have passed or are considering laws that would require some sex offenders to be monitored for life with electronic bracelets and global positioning devices. A 2006 federal law, the Adam Walsh Act, named for a Florida boy who was abducted and killed, allows prosecutors to apply tougher registration rules retroactively. New civil commitment procedures allow for the indefinite detention of sex offenders after the completion of their sentences. Such procedures suggest a catch-22: the accused is deemed mentally fit for trial and sentencing, but mentally unfit for release.

Laws in more than 20 states and hundreds of municipalities restrict where a sex offender can live, work or walk. California’s Proposition 83 prohibits all registered sex offenders (felony and misdemeanor alike) from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, effectively evicting them from the state’s cities and scattering them to isolated rural areas.

Digital scarlet letters, electronic tethering and practices of banishment have relegated a growing number of people to the logic of “social death,” a term introduced by the sociologist Orlando Patterson, in the context of slavery, to describe permanent dishonor and exclusion from the wider moral community. The creation of a pariah class of unemployable, uprooted criminal outcasts has drawn attention from human rights activists; even The Economist has decried our sex offender laws as harsh and ineffective.

Word: The corporados

[These men] combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country-the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization. - Theodore Roosevelt

Baltimore homes selling for $10,000

Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun - Andrew Wells is hoping to buy a Baltimore home for around the cost of an old car: Less than $10,000. Turns out he's in good company.

One of every 10 city homes sold during the first half of the year ¬ about 275 in all ¬ fell in that price range. Twice as many sold for under $20,000.

Almost exclusively a city phenomenon ¬ very few homes in Baltimore's suburbs sold for less than $10,000 ¬ it's a market that has expanded rapidly. More city homes sold for less than $10,000 between January and June than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined. Dozens of city neighborhoods had at least one such sale this year.

As very cheap homes change hands, average sale prices in Baltimore have plummeted. Seventy city neighborhoods saw average prices drop more than 20 percent versus a year ago, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. That's half of the neighborhoods with enough sales to allow for comparison.

Bernie Sanders’ list of worst corporate income tax avoiders

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent

Rick Perry tries to disagree with his book

Adam Sorenson, Time - As widely discussed, Rick Perry wrote a book, published last November, in which he argued that the [Social Security] program is unconstitutional, a Ponzi scheme, and “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” Now that the national eye has turned to the matter in light of his presidential run, well, this is happening:

||| [Perry's] communications director, Ray Sullivan, said Thursday that he had “never heard” the governor suggest the program was unconstitutional. Not only that, Mr. Sullivan said, but “Fed Up!” is not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix the program. |||

45,000 Verizon workers return to jobs without a contract

Common Dreams - The nation’s longest and largest strike in the age of austerity ended this weekend. But the labor standoff continues as 45,000 Verizon landline technicians and customer service employees on the East Coast will return to work on Tuesday without a new contract.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing thousands of workers striking the nation’s largest wireless carrier, announced an end to the biggest walkout in recent labor history and the resumption of contract negotiations. However, at the present time, this is not a victory for the workers by any means.

After two dynamic, energetic weeks of walking picket lines and receiving no paychecks, Verizon workers are returning to work under the previous contract while revived negotiations with an obstinate standard-bearer of corporate greed make the prospect of a prolonged contract battle almost certain. Union leaders say they decided to end the strike after the company agreed to bargain seriously on contentious issues that Verizon had refused to budge on until now.

So workers will return to their jobs without having won anything concrete from the company. If anything, in addition to two week’s pay, workers have lost considerable leverage as union leaders freed the telecom giant from the pressure of a massive work stoppage that was causing major service delays and damaging the company’s image.

The latest deal has left many rank-and-file workers upset and worried that the likelihood of beating back concessions demanded by the company are now severely diminished.

Protecting land and seas won't be enough; biodiversity still collapsing

Science Daily - Continued reliance on a strategy of setting aside land and marine territories as "protected areas" is insufficient to stem global biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive assessment published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Despite impressively rapid growth of protected land and marine areas worldwide -- today totalling over 100,000 in number and covering 17 million square kilometers of land and 2 million square kilometers of oceans -- biodiversity is in steep decline.

Expected scenarios of human population growth and consumption levels indicate that cumulative human demands will impose an unsustainable toll on Earth's ecological resources and services accelerating the rate at which biodiversity is being lost.

Current and future human requirements will also exacerbate the challenge of effectively implementing protected areas while suggesting that effective biodiversity conservation requires new approaches that address underlying causes of biodiversity loss -- including the growth of both human population and resource consumption.

Pocket paradigms

If Gadhafi is kicked out, we shall have succeeded in eliminating over the past few months two minor international ruffians, one with a force of approximately 2,000 and the other with an army three percent the size of the US military.

For these marginal achievements we shall, in the former case, have exhibited a contempt for international law as well as for the Constitution’s determination of who gets to declare war. In the latter case, we shall have lost not only the World Trade Center, but our economy, our democracy, our Constitution, and our global standing. And we have been left with a government more corrupt in more ways than has ever been the case.

Successes against petty tyrants can not be used to justify the collapse of our own republic – Sam Smith

Obamacare in deeper trouble as corporados cut benefits

Kaiser Health News - In 2012, 63% of employers will increase the employee percentage contribution to premium costs, and 39% will increase in-

Fewer employers offer retiree benefits to current active employees, with 26% covering all current actives and 38% covering a portion of their actives. Very few employers offer retiree health benefits for new hires, with 12% offering coverage to pre-65 retirees and 7% offering post-65 supplemental coverage to new hires.

The top strategies being used to control retiree health care costs are capping company contributions (45%), increasing employee contributions (31%) and eliminating coverage for future retirees (28%).

The Hill - Businesses are shifting away from co-pays, wherein employees pay a fixed dollar amount for healthcare services and the plan picks up the rest. Instead, they’re charging workers a percentage of the total costs.

“We are clearly seeing a march toward a more aggressive consumerist system,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. Darling said Thursday that shifting from co-pays to coinsurance is “a more subtle way to increase what the consumer pays.” She predicted that eventually, only governments and unions will keep offering fixed co-pays.

Physicians for a National Health Plan - Most of the businesses surveyed are very large corporations (83 percent have over 10,000 employees). Their corporate executives and their passive shareholders have done very well in the last few decades, being beneficiaries of the upward transfer of wealth in our society. Their employees have not done so well and have experienced greater difficulties in managing their personal finances.

Supposedly employers are still contributing a large share of the premium, but only nominally. Most economists agree that employees pay the employer component of the premium though forgone wage increases, and wages have certainly been flat. Again, this is regressive financing.

In crafting the Affordable Care Act, efforts were made to protect employer-sponsored plans so that they would still be the largest source of health care coverage. Is this wise?

Not only is the financing regressive, it leaves in place the administratively wasteful private health plans that intrude on health care by taking away certain benefits and taking away choices of health care providers. It leaves in place the fragmented financing model of private plans that has been incapable of slowing the rate of growth in costs to a level closer to those of other industrialized nations. Furthermore, it leaves health policy decisions in the hands of corporate executives who are beholden above all to their investors, whereas the employees are mere pawns to be used to create wealth for the investors. Why else would they be using so many means to shift more health care costs to the employees?

Why the media loves Huntsman but ignores Paul

Conor Friedersdorf, Atlantic - Neither Huntsman nor Johnson nor Paul is likely to win. All three are challenging orthodoxies of thought in their party. In doing so, all have an opportunity "to affect the political conversation for the better" and to "shine light on the evasions of his rivals, even if it fails to change the outcome of the race."

Here is the difference.

Huntsman is challenging orthodoxies of thought that afflict the GOP alone, and taking positions that reflect the conventional wisdom in the media: evolution is a fact, so is climate change, and the debt ceiling had to be raised. In contrast, Johnson and Paul are challenging orthodoxies of thought that are bi-partisan in nature and implicate much of the political and media establishment.

For questioning America's aggressive, interventionist foreign policy and its failed War on Drugs, policies that are tremendously costly, consequential, and executed in ways that are immoral and demonstrably damaging to our civil liberties, Paul and Johnson aren't given points for speaking uncomfortable truths, shining light on evasions, or affecting the political conversation for the better.

They're ignored, and the excuse given is that they can't win.

In fact, lots of candidates who can't win have garnered more coverage -- Donald Trump, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich, for starters. But the Huntsman example shows most clearly how the political press unconsciously reinforces the establishment's orthodoxies of thought. Some "protest candidates" are lauded as truth-tellers virtuously speaking against their political interests, so long as they're critiques reinforce rather than undermine centrist-consensus positions.

Word: CNBC cites dumb economists

CNBC told its audience that 56 percent of the economists who responded to a National Association of Business Economists Survey thought that spending cuts were better than tax increases for reducing the deficit. It would have been worth reminding people that almost all of these people were too incompetent to see the $8 trillion housing bubble that crashed and wrecked the economy. - Dean Baker

The sanity of ordinary people

We have long argued that some of the best political decisions are made by ordinary people. . . ranging from creating illegal accessory apartments in cities that don't allow them (40,000 in Los Angeles) to some of the most effective population programs including birth control and later marriages. Here's another example. Although the Economist clearly doesn't like the idea, it seems to be having an effect.

Economist - As The Economist reports this week, many women in the richer parts of Asia have gone on “marriage strike”, preferring the single life to the marital yoke. That is one reason why their fertility rates have fallen. And they are not alone. In 83 countries and territories around the world, according to the United Nations, women will not have enough daughters to replace themselves, unless fertility rates rise. In Hong Kong, for example, a cohort of 1,000 women would be expected to give birth to just 547 daughters, at today’s fertility rates. (That gives Hong Kong a “net reproduction rate” of just 0.547, in the language of demographers.) If nothing changed, those 547 daughters would be succeeded by just 299 daughters of their own, and so on. At that rate, according to some back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Economist, it would take about 25 generations for Hong Kong’s female population to shrink from 3.75m to just one.

The prisons reduce crime myth

Three teachers take on the test tyrants

Super junta members on the take big time from lobbyists

Great moments at the Capitol

The US Capitol has the most cops per acre of any place in America, but since they don't arrest members of Congress for their crimes, they have plenty of time to do things like stopping the selling of lemonade.

Pocket paradigms

Respect is essential in a functioning society, yet not only are we losing the concept, we don't even hear much about it. In a society where citizens exhibit mutual respect, class and ethnic conflict is mediated, people feel better about themselves and children are sent in good directions. In a society lacking respect, we start to behave like too many rats in a cage, we lose the sense of both the needs of others and of their value to us, and adult and children alike become lonely warriors in false empires of one. - Sam Smith

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Test tyrants hurting creativity, imagination and humor in children

MNN – In a 2010 study of about 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s, Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, found creativity has decreased among American children in recent years. Since 1990, children have become less able to produce unique and unusual ideas. They are also less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas, Kim said.

"It's not that creativity can necessarily disappear," said Ron Beghetto, an education psychologist at the University of Oregon. "But it can be suppressed in particular contexts."

The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering development of creativity among kids, Beghetto said. "There's not much room for unexpected, novel, divergent thought," he said.

But the situation is not hopeless, Beghetto said. In fact, there's evidence to suggest that, worldwide, youngsters are very creative, particularly with their use of digital media, Beghetto said. And a recent study found that, at least in their playtime, kids are becoming more imaginative.

Experts agree changes can be made in the classroom to cultivate creativity.

"I believe No Child Left Behind … really hurt creativity," Kim said. "If we just focus on just No Child Left Behind ¬ testing, testing, testing ¬ then how can creative students survive?" Kim said. Other culprits may be the rise in TV watching, a passive activity that doesn't require interactions with others, Kim said.

American & Afghanistan close to pact to allow US troops to stay until 2024

First time: More corn used for ethanol than for food

Southwest Farm Press - More corn will fuel U.S. gas tanks in the coming year than will feed U.S. livestock and poultry.

Amid cuts to yield estimates for corn and soybeans, the USDA’s Crop Production and Supply/Demand Report projects that ethanol plants will use 200 million more bushels of corn than animals will eat.

Sustained high corn prices resulted in a lot of red ink for livestock producers, forcing many to shrink their livestock and poultry stocks to reduce costs and to get a better price.

Sierra Club names twenty top green colleges

Tree Hugger - Sierra Club named 20 schools celebrated for their green efforts, sustainable initiatives, and immersive environmental education.Here's the list:

1. University of Washington
2. Green Mountain College
3. University of California, San Diego
4. Warren Wilson College
5. Stanford University
6. University of California, Irvine
7. University of California, Santa Cruz
8. University of California, Davis
9. Evergreen State College
10. Middlebury College
11. University of New Hampshire
12. Appalachian State University
13. Colby College
14. Western Washington University
15. University of California, Los Angeles
16. University of Connecticut
17. Clark University
18. Cornell University
19. Bowdoin College
20. University of Maryland

Schools that graced the list did so for different reasons. Middlebury in Vermont, uses biomass to keep warm during the winters and plan to be carbon neutral by 2016. Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash. plans to go carbon neutral by 2020. Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt. uses cattle to harness biomass from manure and has already achieved carbon neutrality. And number 1 University of Washington constructed every building since 2006 up to Gold LEED standard.

American scorecard among advanced countries: it's not pretty

Gus Speth, Solutions - Among the 20 major advanced countries America now has

• the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;
• the greatest inequality of incomes;
• the lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP on social programs for the disadvantaged;
• the lowest number of paid holiday, annual, and maternity leaves;
• the lowest score on the United Nations’ index of “material well-being of children”;
• the worst score on the United Nations’ gender inequality index;
• the lowest social mobility;
• the highest public and private expenditure on health care as a portion of GDP,

yet accompanied by the highest

• infant mortality rate;
• prevalence of mental health problems;
• obesity rate;
• portion of people going without health care due to cost;
• low-birth-weight children per capita (except for Japan);
• consumption of antidepressants per capita;

along with the shortest life expectancy at birth (except for Denmark and Portugal);

• the highest carbon dioxide emissions and water consumption per capita;
• the lowest score on the World Economic Forum’s environmental performance index (except for Belgium), and the largest ecological footprint per capita (except for Belgium and Denmark);
• the highest rate of failing to ratify international agreements;
• the lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GDP;
• the highest military spending as a portion of GDP;
• the largest international arms sales;
• the most negative balance of payments (except New Zealand, Spain, and Portugal);
• the lowest scores for student performance in math (except for Portugal and Italy) (and far from the top in both science and reading);
• the highest high school dropout rate (except for Spain);
• the highest homicide rate;
• and the largest prison population per capita.

The figures: Media ignoring Afghan war

John Hanrahan, Neiman Watchdog - The United States is bogged down in a 10-year-old war in Afghanistan in which 100,000 American troops and 40,000 other NATO personnel are fighting at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $2 billion a week in a country beset by grinding poverty and ever-increasing civilian and military casualties. There is no shortage of news to be covered, all of it with serious ramifications for the Afghan people and for American foreign policy and military spending, decision-making and the ravages of war.

Yet, other than in its early stages in 2001-2002, the American press has greatly under-reported this war. Only handfuls of reporters are stationed there for more than brief periods. They often do remarkable reporting but face numerous problems that can affect coverage: roadside bombs; the threat of kidnapping if they stray too far from Kabul on their own; language barriers; strict constraints when they are embedded with the military; having to cope with the military's spin on particular battle actions or policies; budget issues that can limit a reporter's support personnel, etc. And when they overcome such problems the reporting is still sparse: There are just too few reporters to describe the war and life in Afghanistan.

In a July 18-24 survey, the Afghanistan war scored so low in coverage that it didn't show up on the chart, meaning it was below 3 percent, after being at 5 percent the previous week.

As skimpy as newspaper coverage of the Afghanistan/Pakistan war has been, TV has been even stingier. The Tyndall Report, which monitors network TV news (but not Fox or CNN), reported that in 2010 the Afghan war received a total of 416 minutes of coverage out of some 15,000 minutes of news broadcast by ABC, CBS and NBC in their 30-minute weekday evening news programs. This represented a 25 percent drop from the 2009 figure of 556 minutes. CBS led with 174 minutes of coverage in 2010, followed by ABC at 150, with NBC lagging with 91 (7 minutes more than the Vancouver Winter Olympics, 23 minutes more than airline anti-terrorist security stories, and 26 minutes more than the Toyota jammed-accelerator story). The NBC coverage figures out to average 21 seconds per newscast - or less than 2 minutes per week. The Iraq war fared even worse - 94 total minutes from all three networks, with CBS the lowest at 24 minutes - one minute every two weeks.

The whole fucking thing is coming down

Punk Patriot video

I work full time in a factory
but that doesn't mean I can afford to eat
I've got student loans, but no degree
so I'm gonna die working at a machine
No health insurance, we're all temporary hires
so if we get sick we'll just hurry up and die

wages so low we can't afford the rent
so we have to rely on the government
but the rich man doesn't want to pay his taxes
so the social programs, they'll all get the axe
we don't complain, we don't bitch
the only thing we've got left to eat is the rich

Georgia Republicans resegregating state through redistricting

Most & least popular celebrities

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll

Below is a list of the top 10 most popular personalities with their "favorable" rating by percentage of voters.

1. Betty White ...........86 pct favorable
2. Denzel Washington .....85 pct
3. Sandra Bullock ........84 pct
4. Clint Eastwood ........83 pct
5. Tom Hanks .............81 pct
6. Harrison Ford .........80 pct tie
7. Morgan Freeman ........79 pct tie
7. Kate Middleton ........79 pct
9. Will Smith ............77 pct
10. Johnny Depp ..........76 pct

Below is a list of the top 10 most unpopular personalities with their "unfavorable" rating by percentage of voters.

1. Paris Hilton ..........60 pct unfavorable
2. Charlie Sheen .........52 pct tie
3. Britney Spears ........45 pct tie
4. Kanye West ............45 pct
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger..44 pct
6. Tiger Woods ...........42 pct
7. Kim Kardashian ........38 pct
8. Mel Gibson ............33 pct
9. Donald Trump ..........31 pct
10. LeBron James .........29 pct

12% unemployed in California

Critters fleeing global warming

And another story on this topic

German village produces 321% more energy than it uses

Tree Hugger - We've seen one UK town aim for 30% renewables by 2015, and the United Arab Emirates' Masdar is often touted as the world's first clean energy city. But few communities could beat the huge push for renewables seen in Wildpoldsried, Germany, a town which has grown a clean energy industry bringing in $5.7m in annual revenue in just over a decade. And they've done it debt free. BioCycle has a fascinating report on this German village that produces 321% more clean energy than it needs:

In May 2011, Mayor Arno Zengerle walked the community through a massive list of accomplishments that include nine new community buildings (including the school, gym and community hall) complete with solar panels, four biogas digesters with a fifth in construction, seven windmills with two more on the way, 190 private households equipped with solar, a district heating network with 42 connections, three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control and a natural wastewater system. Wildpoldsried (pop. <2,600) now produces 321 percent more energy than it needs and is generating $5.7 million in annual revenue. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that turned a village with no industry into an industry of renewable energy with the help of local entrepreneurs and pioneers.

Judge orders Obamadmin to release names of all White House visitors

Center for Public Integrity - In ordering the Obama administration to disclose the names of all White House visitors, a federal judge has rejected claims that doing so could harm national security and be too time consuming.

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Secret Service claims that it would be "virtually impossible" to omit names of persons whose identities should be shielded for security reasons. The judge ruled that culling out those names was not "so unreasonable as to require a blanket rejection."

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Friday that the administration is reviewing its options in response to the suit brought under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, a public interest group.

"This is the most transparent administration in history and the president is very proud to be the first White House with a voluntary disclosure policy that provides visitor records to the American public. Administration lawyers are reviewing the decision and I'd refer you to the Department of Justice for any further questions about next steps," Schultz said in a statement.

Nine percent of American kids labelled ADHD

Feingold rules out running in 2012

How FDR handled the GOP

Perry supports criminalization of gay sex

Mother Jones - Perry is (still) a supporter of the Texas "homosexual conduct" statute, an archaic law that made it a crime for two consenting, unrelated adults to have sex if they were of the same gender. The law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the landmark 2002 case Lawrence v. Texas, but, despite repeated efforts, Texas has yet to formally repeal the statute. When Perry was asked about the Lawrence case in 2002, he defended the anti-sodomy statute: "I think our law is appropriate that we have on the books." He wrote about the case in his 2011 book Fed Up, too, citing the Lawrence decision as the product of "nine oligarchs in robes" and an example of what's wrong with our judicial system. And last spring, when Perry ran for his third full term as governor, he did so on a state GOP platform that exlicitly stated "we oppose the legalization of sodomy."

Retailers quietly jacking prices on back to school items

Teaching against culture

Matt Amaral, Teach4Real - This new generation, the one we cram into tiny classes with way too many students, has not been defined by the experts. This generation has its own culture just like all the generations before them. It is an American culture that is a unique mix of religions, practices, beliefs, morals, and all the other ingredients that create who we are. Unfortunately, that mix seems to be diluted by dumb.

For example, if our young women want to hear the highest paid speaker this country on abstinence, they will listen to the words of someone who has never practiced it, and has a child because of all the sex she had. If they dream of touring the country giving speeches, like Mark Twain, or Cornell West, they no longer need a PhD. Now Universities like Rutgers are paying the dumbest people on earth a year’s salary to speak to their college students simply because they were on television. In fact, the most popular of these “tours” is by a man who was born with everything, and has spent that everything on mounds of cocaine and porn stars.

This isn’t anything new. Critics of the direction of American culture have been pointing this out for decades. Whether you want to blame Elvis’ happy hips, MTV, or Reality TV, it seems we have reached the point of no return…

Here’s my problem.

Our students come to school and we try and teach them the exact opposite of everything our culture is telling them. We tell them that to practice abstinence you can’t be an expert on sex. We tell them that if you want people to listen to you, you have to know what you’re talking about. We tell kids that if you want to write a book some day, you need to learn how to write. But none of this is interesting. None of this is entertaining. So we find ourselves feeling like the adult’s in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, telling kids to study hard and be respectful. WAAAAWAAAWAAAA.

Why be respectful? That ain’t going to get them on television. They’d rather be like Chris Brown. . .

We are teaching against everything our culture is screaming, and we are losing. People want the easy path to success, and don’t want to have to work hard. So when we try to get them to work at all, they don’t see the value in it. They don’t see the value in education, and they don’t see it because our culture doesn’t put value in education either.

Think I’m exaggerating? Who are we as a society taking benefits away from even as we speak? Teachers. Who are already notoriously underpaid, and a laughing stock among professionals? Teachers. Where are we making cuts and sending out pink-slips? Education. The kids aren’t making up in their head that education isn’t important. Our policies and the way we treat those in education are showing it to them.

We live in a country of extremes. Our music is extremely ignorant, our TV shows are extremely repulsive, and our experts don’t have expertise, they are just popular and good looking¬so that’s really all our kids want to be.

How Perry and God are getting along

Timothy Egan, NY Times - A few months ago, with Texas aflame from more than 8,000 wildfires brought on by extreme drought, a man who hopes to be the next president took pen in hand and went to work:

"Now, therefore, I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas."

Then the governor prayed, publicly and often. Alas, a rainless spring was followed by a rainless summer. July was the hottest month in recorded Texas history. Day after pitiless day. . .

In the four months since Perry’ request for divine intervention, his state has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Nearly all of Texas is now in 'extreme or exceptional' drought, as classified by federal meteorologists, the worst in Texas history.

Lakes have disappeared. Creeks are phantoms, the caked bottoms littered with rotting, dead fish. Farmers cannot coax a kernel of grain from ground that looks like the skin of an aging elephant.

Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’ second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.

"I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, “God: You’re going to have to fix this,” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’ most serious problems could be solved.

Gentrification by age

While blacks have lost their majority by a narrow margin in the town once called Chocolate City, the disparity by age is far more dramatic. Reports the Washington Times:

Among 70,000 residents between 25 and 29 years old, 51 percent are white and 30 percent are black, census statistics show, a higher percentage than in both [suburban] Fairfax and Montgomery counties. Whites outnumber blacks of every age between 22 and 34 years in the District.

Democratic members of super junta tell a false story about economy

Pocket paradigms

I have always tried to separate cause and character and have enjoyed a happy if inconsistent relationship with those of the cloth. Besides, we are all members of what Weber called the pariah intelligentsia, including teachers, ministers, writers, intellectuals and activists. In other words, moral outsiders of supposed integrity, passion, and faith providing guidance to a market, politics, and culture that would often just as soon do without it.- Sam Smith

Why “The Help” helps

Sam Smith

A few months after the last scene depicted in “The Help,” I started The Idler, which would eventually morph into the Progressive Review. In the first issue I ran excerpts from letters from Mississippi written by my friend, Gren Whitman, who was taking part in the 1964 Mississippi organizing. Gren would survive the summer but three other young men - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner wouldn’t. They were murdered while working for black voting rights. Chaney was black; Goodman and Schwerner were white.

When, the following February, the US Civil Rights Commission held hearings on the subject in Jackson I went down to cover it. My story began:

And the Lord came to the Good Man and said, “Son, I want you to go to Mississippi and help the poor people down there.” And the Good Man replied, “Lord, I’ll go if you’ll be there with me.” And the Lord said, “Son, I’ll go with you, but only as far as Memphis.”

Mississippi, despite civil rights laws, statements of principle and hints of progress, still inspires Negroes to tell such stories, stories born in the deepest frustration, despair and anger.

Last February, the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights went the other side of Memphis, to Jackson, Miss., to view for itself this state, that, 100 years after the end of Civil War, remains morally and philosophically seceded from the Union.

Several thousand words later, I ended:

Mississippi is changing. As the stranger sees the small signs and smiles, his confidence is renewed in the process of democracy.

He leaves the state shoving the memories of callousness and cruelty aside to make room for more pleasant thoughts of progress, statements of principle, and communications between the races.

But as he stares out the window of his compartment on board the Southerner rumbling towards Birmingham, Atlanta and the North, the memories keep forcing their way back. Tar paper drooping from wretched walls; torn, rusted iron roofs that will not last another season, and weathered faces that deteriorate silently as the train passes.

An aging Negro stops in a field to wave at the train, then turns without waiting to see if anyone is waving back.

Mississippi is changing.

Will he know it?

I had been in Jackson, Mississippi, about a year after story of “The Help” ended. And, like those in the film, it had changed my life forever.

In the next five years I would end up as the guy who dealt with the media for Washington’s SNCC chapter, headed by another twenty-something named Marion Barry. I would be sitting in the basement of the SNCC office when Stokely Carmichael arrived and announced that whites were no longer welcomed in the civil right movement. Not long after, I would be covering the riots in Washington for the community paper I edited. Two of the four major riot strips were in our neighborhood, one just a few blocks from our house. Biracial efforts to stop anything like that in our community had failed. Then, just two years later, I found myself helping to form a local third party comprised of blacks and whites who had somehow forgotten that things were hopeless. The party would hold elected posts for 25 years.o


I had been introduced to change.

Several writers for progressive news services have attacked “The Help.”

Wrote Julianne Escobedo Shepherd:

“In The Help’s case, the history of civil rights in the virulently racist Southern town of Jackson, Mississippi, is neatly packaged into a heartstring-tugging Hallmark card. . . “

The Association of Black Women Historians declared::

“Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. . .

“Similarly, the film is woefully silent on the rich and vibrant history of black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi. . .”

Richard Schickel is a bit kinder:

“It is not quite a game-changer. The movie is, for all its well-made slickness and sniping racism, too genteel. It is aimed at a feel-good ending. . .The movie rarely gets at the things that truly hurt and distort the relationships between an upper class and an underclass. It is all hominy grits instead of true grit, aiming finally at a foretold reconciliation that rings false. There has to be a lingering suspicion (and hatred) that “The Help” cannot bear to contemplate. It wants us to believe that all involved learned their costly lessons in the Mississippi of 50 years ago.”

The articles prepared me not to like the film. Instead, I found myself more troubled by the criticism, reflective of time when even individual stories are supposed to be properly branded to be worth anything. When we have all become tools of an iconic and ideological machine shop and if we don’t die saying something like “fight racism” as our last words, we shall have failed.

But life isn’t like that. And neither is change. It’s one of the reasons liberals have so much trouble these days. They’ve forgotten the people part of the story.

We are people, not causes. We do things that are stupid, half-right, heroic, funny or sad. And when they are interesting enough, authors and film makers tell us about them.

Further, people produce change, not slogans. And these are people who are of the same variegated quality as one finds in the rest of life.

“The Help” is the story of a few people who helped to produce change. They don’t have to have appropriate accents, be game changers, or address all the historical events around them.

I found myself thinking of some activists. People like my college buddy Gren, who had been a paratrooper, high school wrestler and nicknamed Rocky, and in 1964 had gone to Mississippi. I thought of Stokely Carmichael, the guy who told us that whites were no longer welcomed in the civil right movement, visiting the civil rights activist Julius Hobson despite the fact that Hobson had a white wife. Carmichael learned things from Hobson and so did I.

I thought of black civil rights activists dissin’ white liberal members of Congress as unreliable and of the man they called an Uncle Tom, Mayor Walter Washington, standing up to J Edgar Hoover and telling him, no, he was not going to shoot looters during the riots. I thought of my two Texas white bosses at the radio station and news service for which I worked, who sent me out as early as 1959 to cover protests and interview civil rights leaders because they cared about it all despite their color, accents and place of birth.

I thought of how a younger person might find the church scenes corny because they had never, as I did once, held hands with those beside me and sung 23 chorus of We Shall Overcome waiting for someone to show up.

I thought of a handful of important civil rights activists I worked with who later lost their way and ended up in prison, one of them being Marion Barry.

And so on. . .

Part of our problem is that we have hard time following the sage advice of Barbara Tuchman who said, “To understand the choices open to people of another time, one must limit oneself to what they knew; see the past in its own clothes, as it were, not in ours.”

So the sound of a southern black voice from the 1960s does seem fake. Something like a black man speaking of the police chief, “Now, Mr. Dan - he’s real nice. He’s always polite to me.” But that wasn’t from “The Help;” that was from actual testimony before the Civil Rights Commission in 1965.

Or the use, in the articles we ran, of the term “Negro,” then the standard description, but now somewhat jarring.

One irony about the criticism is that “The Help” is an unusual film about civil rights in that women play the leading role. Women, both black and white, too often got the short end of things in those days and, in fact, the attitude of male civil rights activists towards women helped build the feminist movement.

The best way to look at a film like “The Help” is to bear in mind the wonderful description of saints: sinners who try harder.

To institutionalize change, to be too judgmental of those participating in it, to make too many rules about the right way to talk about it, doesn’t help change at all.

I was reminded of this near the end of the film, which actually has an uncertain and not positive ending, when Aibileen spoke of loving one’s enemies. It’s an alien idea to many liberals these days, even if Martin Luther King reminded his aides that one day the people they were fighting would be their friends. There’s no way you can really produce change and have things stay the same.

But too often today, people think it’s enough just to trash the Tea Party and others who are being misled by the rightist powers that be. The idea of conversion has all but disappeared.

I sometimes remind folks that we have always had Christian fundamentalists; we just used to call them New Deal Democrats because their political minds were on something else. I have always tried to go after the big bastards and treat the rest as their victims, to be freed or educated or given something better to think about. So I smiled when the just fired Aibileen said what she did.

And there’s one other reason I liked “The Help.”

I grew up in a well-off family with six children and a black cook.

Things were strict. For example, Sunday funny papers were banned. It was customary to head for the kitchen on Sunday afternoon and read them anyway in a large food closet, certain that Rosetta Minor would cover for us in the event of a parental intrusion. Throughout our lives, Rosetta ran an internal underground railroad for "my children," using guile -- and prevarication if necessary -- with steadfastness and skill.

In the kitchen, the radio played gospel music and sermons from a low power station. Even through the static, the rolling chords, joyous voices and charismatic cajoling were in stunning contrast to the stolid hymns and stifling liturgy of the Episcopalianism to which I was being rigorously introduced. It never occurred to me, however, that religion was any different than the color of your skin; it was just something with which you were born. Still, the sounds from that low power station were laying the foundation for future apostasy. In this and many ways, Rosetta's kitchen became a school for my subconscious.

Further, Rosetta was the one person in the house I could go to and feel – as Aibileen told Skeeter – smart, kind and important.

Once, I mentioned to Rosetta that when I had suggested leaving our baby boy with my parents while we took a trip, my mother had said, “I have raised six children and I don’t want to raise any more.”

In a rare moment of anger, Rosetta responded, “What she mean she raised you?”

I couldn’t argue with that then and I can’t now.

It may even help explain why, like Skeeter in “The Help,” I became a writer and did some of the things I did.

And how I learned that change doesn’t have to be neat; it just has to be in the right direction.

Perry calls for total anarchy

"We’re calling today on the president of the United States to put a moratorium on regulations across this country, because his regulations, his EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America. We’re sending out a request today asking President Obama to put a moratorium on all regulations,"

Bachmann fib of the day

Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again, That will happen. - Michelle Bachmann

Great moments at Twitter

Consumerist - A diner at a Houston restaurant was given the boot after she decided to Tweet her opinion of the staff while she was still at the eatery. According to the restaurant's owner, a manager was checking out Twitter from home when he saw a Tweet from the customer calling the establishment's bartender a "twerp." ...The manager called the restaurant to speak to the diner and then told her to leave....The booted diner took to Twitter once more as she was leaving, saying she exited the restaurant "in tears after the GM called up and asked the bartender to hand me the phone. He proceeded to curse at me and ask me to leave."

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