Monday, December 26, 2011

Why you should keep everything ...

 at least if you're a reporter, journalist, interviewer, or whatever. You never know when you might need the information again. Take this piece from the Washington Post by Bob Woodward: ["In his debut in Washington’s power struggles, Gingrich threw a bomb"].
There are only two pages of the article available online - you have to pay for the rest - but you get the idea.
It's interesting that Woodward, who is probably better known now for his books than any reporting he did in the old days, never published this interview. Maybe he was working on a Republican revolution book that he never finished; maybe he sensed something was in the water.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Recommended Holiday Reading for the Caring, Agitated Mind


Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
1. America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz (Democracy Collaborative Press and Dollars and Sense, 2011). If you want to see how community economies are spreading to displace the sales and influence of companies such as Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Aetna, ADM and McDonalds, this is your book. Democratic credit unions, local renewable and efficient energy, community health clinics and farmer-to-consumer markets are some of the possibilities outlined in this optimistic book.

2. Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen E. Schultz (Portfolio/Penguin Hardcover, 2011), award-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal. This book meticulously documents how big business and their attorneys avariciously turned pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters and profit centers, at the expense of millions of trusting, loyal workers. This is the searing story of corporate greed on steroids.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Congressional Tyranny, White House Surrender


 Guest perspective By Ralph Nader/In the Public Interest 
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Capitol Hill. A majority of Congress is just about to put the finishing touches on an amendment to the military budget authorization legislation that will finish off some critical American rights under our Constitution.

Here is how two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, described in the New York Times the stripmining of your freedom to resist tyranny in urging a veto by President Obama:
           
“One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past….

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More data about the Top 1% and income inequality

Finally catching up on issues of the WSJ that have been sitting around this week and found this piece from Dec. 6, to be quite interesting: ["Tax Rates, Inequality and the 1%"].
While one might find anything written by a fellow from the Cato Institute suspect, there are a few nuggets of truth in here that are worthy of further analysis. 
First, the share of income increased by the Top 1% post 1979 seems to not be as drastic as first thought, especially when looking post 2007. It's 11.3 percent not 17 percent, according to Alan Reynolds' analysis.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Closing down the Noise chart

Late last month, TMax from the Noise emailed me to say that due to space limitations, he probably wasn't going to have room for Top 30 chart in this month's edition of the Noise. I told him that wasn't a problem since my computer was being fixed and I didn't have access to all the data and wouldn't have made the deadline this month.
We got to chatting over email and came to a decision that we should probably stop producing the chart. It had gotten cumbersome, since few radio stations were sending me the lists - I'd have to hunt them down or do audits on various websites - and I was missing the deadline for the print edition repeatedly. I have promised him that I will put together a top list of the year for the online edition, and then, we're going to call it a day.
Almost 10 years of tracking Boston radio station local music airplay. Quite an accomplishment, actually.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not Made in America


Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
"Here, look at this handsome L.L. Bean catalog and tell me what you want for Christmas," said a relative over Thanksgiving weekend. I started leafing through the 88 page cornucopia with hundreds of clothing and household products, garnished by free gift cards and guaranteed free shipping. I wasn't perusing it for any suggested gifts; instead, I was going through every offering to see whether they were made in the U.S.A. or in other countries.

This is what I found: over 97 percent of all the items pictured and priced were noted "imported" by L.L. Bean. The only ones manufactured in the U.S. were fireplace gloves, an L.L. Bean jean belt, a dress chino belt, quilted faux-shearling-lined L.L. Bean boots (made in Maine), a personalized web collar and leash (for your pet), and symbolically enough, the "made in Maine using American-made cotton canvas are the Original Boat and Tote Bags" to carry all those goodies coming in from China and elsewhere.

Finalists for Lie of the Year

I'm on the PolitiFact email list but I admit that I don't get a chance to read many alerts these days. I'm just too busy with other things.
However, while clearing out email earlier today, I came across this email offering PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: ["Finalists announced for 2011 Lie of the Year"].
There are some pretty good whoppers there, from both sides of the political spectrum. :-) Personally, I think Congressional Republicans have introduced dozens of bills on social issues and other topics, but "zero on job creation" and The stimulus created "zero jobs" are the best - or in this case, worst - ones. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The state of Occupy


 Editor's Note: Writer and political activist Steve Iskovitz has occasionally emailed around updates from Occupy Wall Street. I asked him recently if he minded if I posted them and he said No. So, here's his latest update, from Nov. 23:

It's been slow around here since my last post. Strange to say this, since up to recently things have been frantic.

We're still hanging in, securing housing for ourselves and running meetings again. I went to a spokes council meeting the other night. It was kind of nice to see the process functioning. Spokes council is a cumbersome process, but it's quite democratic. Of course, it's a messy process, lots of arguments, and then the next day everyone else yells about the decisions made. Once you explain the reasons, they lower the volume of their yelling a bit. I suppose groups making decisions about how to conduct themselves is by nature complicated and controversial and always will be.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Instead of Occupy out, how about Occupy in?


Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

From New York City to Oakland, and several cities in between, the police, on orders from city officials, have smashed the Occupy encampments and evicted the protestors from public parks and spaces. More politicians from Congress to the state and local level want the Occupy people OUT!

Well, why don't they start letting them into the places where decisions are being made against their legitimate interests? 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Road to Twenty One Presidential Debates in 2012


 In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader, 11/2/11

What people would not want Presidential Debates in multiple cities all over America in September and October 2012? Why, the people at the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). CPD is a private corporation created in 1987. It is controlled by the Republican and Democratic Parties and acts as the iron gatekeeper regarding the number of debates, who is chosen to ask the questions and who is excluded from most important forums for reaching millions of people interested in the presidential elections.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is On the Move


 Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The question confronting the Occupy Wall Street encampments and their offshoots in scores of cities and towns around the country is quo vadis? Where is it going?

This decentralized, leaderless civic initiative has attracted the persistent attention of the mass media in the past five weeks. Television cameras from all over the world are parked down at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Wall Street.

But the mass media is a hungry beast. It needs to be fed regularly. Apart from the daily pressures of making sure the encampments are clean, that food and shelter are available, that relations with the police are quiet, that provocateurs are identified; the campers must anticipate possible police crackdowns, such as that which has just occurred in Oakland, and find ways to rebound.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Jersey Shore" ... costumes ...

 This is so, so wrong, in so many ways I can't even explain it ... "Jersey Shore" costumes at Wal-Mart for $19.99. I wonder what their cut is for something like this. Is it like a CD royalty or something, maybe $1? $2? I mean, I guess they probably don't care what happens to their lives at this point, considering what goes on during the show. But really, a Halloween costume? That's downright scary! Boooooo!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

November 2011 Top 30 Noise chart


14 different radio and internet stations reporting

1. The Grinds – Whatcha Lookin’ At? EP
2. The Grownup Noise – This Time With Feeling
3. Juliana Hatfield – There’s Always Another Girl
4. The Hush Now – memos
5. Eolune – Tiny Oceans EP
6. Tan Vampires – For Physical Fitness s
7. Buffalo Tom – Skins
8. The Lights Out – Primetime
9. The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library – Volume One
10. Count Zero – Never Be Yourself
11. The Diamond Mines – The Diamond Mines
12. The Future Everybody – It Takes Nothing
13. Kingsley Flood – Dust Windows
14. The Fatal Flaw – Narrow Hours
15. Freezepop – Imaginary Friends
16. Blackout Mafia – The Dark Season
17. Guillermo Sexo – Secret Wild
18. Gentlemen Hall – Give Us Roots, Give Us Wings EP
19. Comanchero – The Undeserved
20. Ado – Ado
21. The Organ Beats – Mishmash
22. Full Body Anchor – The Restless EP
23. Girls, Guns and Glory – Sweet Nothings
24. My Own Worst Enemy – Electric Like The Moon
25. The Rationales – The Distance In Between
26. Naked on Rollerskates – Naked on Rollerstakes
27. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
28. Township – One More Summer
29. Ad Frank & The Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
30. Bring the Knife – Bring the Knife

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jill Stein to announce presidential run for Greens on Oct. 24

Dr. Jill Stein, a two-time gubernatorial candidate for the Green-Rainbow Party in Massachusetts, will announce that she is running for president on Oct. 24, in Boston, at the State House.
The Lexington resident who has served as a Town Meeting member and also ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State there, announced the presidential run in an email blast late last night.
"The coming year represents an extraordinary opportunity for the Green Party to emerge as the people's alternative to the incumbent parties who are servants of Wall Street," she stated, inviting people to get involved in the process with her and others.
Her site is JillStein.org.
Richard Winger of Ballot Access News told me earlier today that the Greens are on 15 state ballots and possibly 16, after Ohio grants them ballot access in the coming days. Building alliances with other third parties like what's left of the Reform Party and leftwing and progressive groups in other states could help the effort get on more state ballots. 
I'll have more analytical comment about this later but I can tell readers that Stein is a relentless campaigner. She doesn't give up. She doesn't give long policy speeches (she gives short ones). Stein talks to people, fires them up and activates them, and then continues on and on and on. With money that can be raised via presidential matching funds, a lot of anxiety out there concerning the two major political parties, and a decent campaign team that focuses the traditional movement building-types into active electoral participants, she'll be a force in the next general election.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Herald.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let Our Farmers Grow


 Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Although Rep. Paul has introduced several bills like this one in the past, there are several reasons that this bill should be passed now. Hemp has an amazing number of uses. Its fiber can be used in carpeting, home furnishings, construction materials, auto parts, textiles, and paper. Its seeds can be used in food, industrial oils, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. There are assertions, reported by The Guardian and in Biodiesel Magazine that using industrial hemp in biofuels instead of crops like corn and other feedstock provide greater environmental benefits. The expansion of industrial hemp as a feedstock for biofuels could also help to reduce oil imports.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obama's Pipeline Quagmire


 Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
It was the most extraordinary citizen organizing feat in recent White House history. Over 1200 Americans from 50 states came to Washington and were arrested in front of the White House to demonstrate their opposition to a forthcoming Obama approval of the Keystone XL dirty oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'll be on 1510 AM in Boston Saturday a.m.

 Sorry for the short notice but I'll be on the radio in Boston and over the Web from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, tomorrow. I'll be subbing for Samantha Clemens who is on holiday overseas. In metropolitan Boston, the station can be heard on 1510 AM. Online, it's revolutionboston.com.

I'll be joined by Aaron Donchin and we'll be talking about the Sept. 11 anniversary, the New Hampshire primary and presidential politics, and legal issues and the death penalty.

Our guests include Marc Forter, a regional editor at Patch.com in New Hampshire, based out of in Portsmouth.

We'll also be talking with Attorney David Barron, Asst. Public Advocate, Dept. of Public Advocacy, Capitol Post Convention Unit, in Frankfort, Ken.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nader writes Labor Day letter to Obama


 In the Public Interest: Obama’s Laborious Labor Day 
By Ralph Nader
September 2, 2011

Dear President Obama:

Happy Labor Day! This is your third opportunity as President to go beyond your past tepid Labor Day proclamations.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Blogspot interface

I haven't been doing a lot of blogging. Been too busy with other things. However, I must admit that I'm liking this new Blogger interface change they've put into the CMS. I saw the link this morning and clicked on it thinking, What's that?
The new interface is less busy, with more white space, and seems to offer a lot more bells and whistles. It also offers the badly needed Insert Jump Break (a nice feature in the previous corporate Wordpress accounts I used to work with) that keeps the long opuses from filling up the entire page.
I'll noodle with it a bit more another time and report back anything else that is interesting about it. But out of the box, I'm liking it. 

Ralph Nader: 10 painful lessons of 9/11

Note: This was published in the USA Today and sent out by Nader to other publications.

The commemorative ceremonies that are planned for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 massacre are those of pathos for the victims and their families, of praise for both the pursuit of the supporters of the attackers and the performance of first responders and our soldiers abroad.

Flags and martial music will punctuate the combined atmosphere of sorrow and aggressive defiance to those terrorists who would threaten us. These events will be moments of respectful silence and some expressions of rage and ferocity.

But many Americans might also want to pause to recognize — or unlearn — those reactions and overreactions to 9/11 that have harmed our country. How, in this forward-looking manner, can we respect the day of 9/11?

Here are some suggestions:


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sun and Sanity

 In The Public Interest By Ralph Nader

This is the second week of protests, led by Bill McKibben, in front of the White House demanding that President Barack Obama reject a proposed 1700 mile pipeline transporting the dirtiest oil from Alberta, Canada through fragile ecologies down to the Gulf Coast refineries. One thousand people will be arrested there from all fifty states before their demonstration is over. The vast majority voted for Obama and they are plenty angry with his brittleness on environmental issues in general.
   


Dark Horizon at Verizon

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
It was only a matter of time before the "pull down" NAFTA and WTO trade agreements on U.S. wages and jobs would be followed by "pull down" contract demands by U.S. corporations on their unionized workers toward levels of non-unionized laborers.

The most recent illustration of this three-decade reversal of nearly a century of American economic advances for employees is the numerous demands by Verizon

Here are just a few of the concessions the new Verizon CEO, Lowell McAdam, is insisting upon:

Wakefield's 200th ...

OK Sox, we're getting down to the wire toward the end of the season. I know winning is everything, but so are personal goals. Kick it into gear and help Wakefield get his 200th win already. Stop messing around!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Retreat, Surrender, Can He At Least Plead?

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The headlines came quickly after President Obama concluded the deficit-debt deal with the Republicans Sunday evening. There were few shades of gray. The New York Times editorial was titled "To Escape Chaos, a Terrible Deal: Democrats won almost nothing they wanted except avoiding default."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Corporate Tax Escapees and You

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The all-consuming Washington, D.C. wrangling over debts and deficits, spending and taxing is excluding a large reality of how these financial problems can sensibly and fairly be addressed. These blinders in Congress and the White House come from fact-starved ideologies--mostly from the Republicans--and fear-fed meekness--mostly from the Democrats. Both are furiously dialing for commercial campaign cash.

August 2011 Top 30 Noise chart

Reporting: 14 different radio stations and Internet programs

1. Freezepop – Imaginary Friends
2. Gene Dante & the Future Starlets “The Love Letter Is Dead”
3. Girlfriends – “Cave Kids”
4. The Fatal Flaw – Narrow Hours
5. Lindsay Starr & the Chemical Smiles – Fake It EP
6. Buffalo Tom – Skins
7. The Lights Out – Primetime
8. Guillermo Sexo – Vivid Nights
9. Lowfives – “Goldsharks”
10. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
11. The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library – Volume One
12. Hands and Knees – Wholesome
13. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
14. The Sheila Divine – “Carve Away”
15. The Longwalls – Careers in Science EP
16. Corin Ashley & the Chocolate Olivers – The Abbey Road Sessions
17. Old Jack – Gone Before You Know EP
18. Radio Control – Hot Audio
19. Mean Creek – Hemophiliac EP
20. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – “French Translator”
21. The Diamond Mines – The Diamond Mines
22. The Macrotones – First Signs of Danger
23. Hallelujah the Hills – “Country Before Kings”
24. Soft Pyramids – Electric Scenes EP
25. John Powhida International Airport – Dirty Birdy and Funny Bunny
26. Gentlemen Hall – Give Us Roots, Give Us Wings EP
27. Jade Sylvan – Blood & Sand
28. Sleepy Very Sleepy – Unlimited Circulation
29. This Blue Heaven – Spinning & Shining EP
30. The Luxury – This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"You will always be a Superhero to me, Tony ..."

Sometimes, you really don't know the role you play in other people's lives ... really ... I took some time to write and think about this post before actually letting anyone else read some of my thoughts. It hasn't been the easiest thing to write but here it goes ...
Recently, I left a job I loved to try something new and different in the same field. For slightly more than four years, I was the editor of the Belmont Citizen-Herald in Belmont, Mass. I commuted between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, four to five times a week, working out of the GateHouse Media New England Lexington office. I spent anywhere from two to three hours in the car, spending thousands of dollars on gas, just to get to work. People used to shake their heads at me sometimes when I would talk about my love of journalism and how I didn't care about the commute ("There are 3,500 songs on my iPhone," I would say ...). Crazy, insane, sure, but when you love your job, you love your job (here is a link to my goodbye column, if anyone is interested in reading it: "Schinella: Goodbye to Belmont again").
I've been working in media for a long time. I kinda stumbled into it by accident after working long stints in retail, some political jobs and political efforts (mostly Dems and progressive indies), and both free and paid radio, etc.
I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I had experimented with all kinds of jobs and interests. I had done everything I ever wanted to do and journalism was one of those things on the list of things I wanted to do.
Before going back to the Citizen-Herald in 2007, I worked at WKXL radio in Concord. Before that, I was the editor of The Winchester Star, in Winchester, Mass., and was the reporter at the Citizen-Herald. I had spent 13 years doing radio at WMFO, the Tufts community FM station, and WUNR, a foreign language radio station. I hosted talk shows on both stations and also played various kinds of music. I also published my own nationally distributed music fanzine off and on for six years. I was in and out of various music groups, put out my own records and CDs, and played on a ton of other musicians' projects. And before and during all of that, I would write columns and letters wondering if anyone was really reading anything or thinking about new and different ways of doing things.
I had always loved journalism as a reader; so I was overwhelmed by it when I started doing it for work.
That is one of the reasons why I'm so excited that I have this new opportunity with AOL's Concord NH Patch site (concord-nh.patch.com).
One of the reasons I love working in journalism is the reaction people have about what you do. For the most part, it has been positive for me. Even the "negative" stories get a positive reaction because you're exposing corruption, fraud, or whatever. That's part of the job.
Another example is this: The reaction from literally hundreds of people after announcing my departure from the Citizen-Herald in May. Like I said at the beginning of this post, you really don't know what role you play in people's lives ... until you leave. Seriously, hundreds of emails, phone calls, notes online, and personal well wishes. It was shocking, actually, and, for a few fleeting moments I wondered, "What the hell am I doing?"
Some were so surprised I was leaving, literally screaming "Noooo!!!" or "What?!" in their email messages ... Most were pretty standard "Good luck" ... "You've done a great job" ... "You'll be missed" ... "It's such a loss" ... etc., as well as a ton of thank yous ... all heartfelt and touching notes that really moved me to no end.
Most of the nasty people, thankfully, stayed silent, which was nice. I personally liked a lot of them and found them to be colorful, thoughtful, and even brilliant people, if they weren't such nasty human beings (aren't a lot of people nasty human beings these days? So sad!). Most, generalizing, had two basic problems: A complete lack of understanding about what it means to be a journalist or were simply being spoiled brats.
There is nothing you can do about the latter. I was surprised though about how little empathy some readers - many of my generation, many with supposedly "liberal" or "progressive" values or thoughts - looked at things and acted upon them. "Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine," all the time, without any forethought of how their demands harmed other people, often in the name of children.
The former was pretty shocking, especially for an over-stimulated - and, in many cases, over-educated - class of people, who have become so polarized by their own personal beliefs of what the facts are that, in many cases, they have no idea what the facts truly are (these are the nasty, crazy people I am speaking of, not everyone in Belmont). Some had deep mental health or emotional issues - which was depressing and sad. Many others were users or "fair weather friends," if you will, who would quickly turn on a dime on anything (you get used to that in this business though ...).
I could write a book about the town ... and maybe I will someday. I don't know.
But overall, what a positive, nurturing experience it was covering Belmont. And you can see that in all of the goodbye comments and notes people sent. I mean, wow ... here are a few that really hit me the hardest.
First, this one woman, a very good source and a great community asset, wrote:
"I haven't written because I've been so distraught that you are leaving. Good for you.. bad for us. You really have been a joy - your savvy, your irreverence, your sense of humor and your intelligence. Award winning doesn't begin to cover it. You are fearless. You will always be a Superhero to me, Tony, with the cape and tights. Thank you."
I started crying when I got that one. Who is this person you speak of, I thought? That's not me, is it?!? Yeah, sometimes, I would joke that I'm "Super Tony, I can do anything!" But it's just a joke, it's not, well, real ... Later, I ran into this person and together, we could barely contain the tears ... part sadness, part joy, all humanity ...
Here's another from Ruth Foster, this amazing 80-plus-year-old woman in
Belmont who wrote the newspaper's great gardening column. She ended her June 2, column by writing:
"I cannot end without a sad goodbye to my Belmont Citizen-Herald Editor, Tony Schinella. It has been a pleasure to have been a columnist for him. Over the years, I have had many editors, starting 35 years ago at the Christian Science Monitor, then the Boston Globe, and many magazines. Only a very few editors are real newspaper people. These professionals can make a story come alive. They intimately know the politics, the groups, their agendas, and the people of the town they cover. Tony is one (of) these very few. He is a true, talented and analytical professional. Belmont will greatly miss his historical knowledge and journalistic insight."
Wow. This, from a former Globe scribe, some of the nastiest human beings in the business who treated me like dirt when I was politically involved in Boston during the 1980s and 1990s. Amazing.
One of our other columnists, Tony Oberdorfer, also wrote kind things and thanked me for not ceding to pressure from some of the liberals in town to ban his column. As I always said to him and others, "I'm not in the censorship business, I'm in the freedom business."
Good journalism is about freedom, and not in the political sense but in the personal liberty sense. Everyone should learn to embrace what others feel and think so that you can learn more about the people around you. You also learn more about yourself. And the more information you take in, the more educated your own decisions and opinions are. And yes, everyone should listen to everyone else too! But we don't censor people; we don't tell them to shut up and go away; we don't tell them to move if they can't afford whatever thing you want. That defeats the entire purpose of being in the communication and information business.
For all the talk about our business "dying" one has to wonder. Not only with the new gig but the response from the old gig, people really do care about what they absorb and what they read. They want to know what is going on around them. And we - both journalists and the corporations that we work for - have a responsibility to deliver it to them in a healthy, responsible, and meaningful way. We shouldn't be cheating them or punishing them with financial tricks or some of the crap we have seen on Wall Street or in board rooms in the past decade or so. This is journalism, it's information, it's important, more important than spreadsheets, percentages, etc.
So your supposedly superhero writer moves onto a new gig with AOL's Patch. I'm very excited about it. I encourage you to join me in following the site, checking out all the political news we'll be offering there, being a primary state and all. More about that and the future of Politizine.com later.

Waging Another Unconstitutional War

Guest Perspective By Ralph Nader
The meticulous Harvard Law Review editors should be rolling over in their footnotes. The recidivist violations of constitutional and statutory requirements by their celebrated predecessor at that journal – Barack Obama has reached Orwellian dimensions in the war against Libya.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fighting for FOIA

In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader

The 45th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) next month should remind all who have used this wonderful citizen tool against government secrecy and cover-ups of FOIA’s towering champion Congressman John Moss (D-Calif.). Last year alone, using John Moss’s brainchild, there were 597,415 separate FOIA requests filed with federal departments and agencies.

As a legislator, John Moss was a wonder of integrity, diligence, strategic and populist follow-through. Although Moss was not a lawyer, he read more bills cover to cover than most lawyers who were members of Congress.

As a freshmen legislator in Sacramento, he took on the powerful speaker of the state’s House of Representatives for having too much concentrated power. You can count on the fingers of both hands the number of new lawmakers who have done that anywhere in the 50-state legislatures over the past century. It usually means, at the least, the end of the upstart’s political career. Talk about courage.

Moss came to Congress in 1952 and by 1955, his 12 years of relentless drive for the public’s right to know was underway. He had to take on the corporate lobbies and their cushy relationship with the secrecy-loving bureaucrats, including their president Lyndon B. Johnson. Moss successfully built support in Congress and nationwide.

Later in 1974, I worked with Chairman Moss to advance the strengthening amendments that allowed judicial review of agency denials of information requests. Toughening the best freedom of information law in the world prompted each of the states to pass their own state freedom of information laws.

Before Moss and FOIA, the Navy Department refused to divulge to environmentalists the amount of sewage dumped into bays from naval bases. Seems that the Navy brass thought the Russians or Chinese, with such data, could figure out how many sailors were stationed at a particular base.

The Postmaster General kept secret public employee salaries. Americans could not access their FBI files. Meat and poultry inspection reports were often held in closed government files. In the foreign policy/military area, the national security state behaved as if secrecy was their birthright.

Each time you see a great segment on “60 Minutes,” or read exposés in the newspapers and magazines, chances are that they were made possible in part, if not in whole, by reporters using the FOIA. Americans learned about how far up the George W. Bush chain of command the torture policy in Iraq reached from an ACLU request under FOIA.

To be sure, federal agencies are known to delay or redact far more than they should. These agencies take more advantage of the specific exemptions in the FOIA than they should. But compared to the pre-FOIA laws, our ability to find out what the government is or is not doing is almost like night and day.

Our Freedom of Information Clearing House (http://www.citizen.org/litigation/free_info/) has filed dozens of lawsuits against government agencies for unlawful secrecy. We have won most of them and in the process, improved agency procedures. Our cases provided the evidence showing the need for the 1974 amendments to FOIA as well.

Coming from a humble background – his mother died when he was 12 years old - John Moss is an American hero. His 25 years in the House of Representatives was marked by leadership in the areas of consumer protection and a level of Congressional oversight of federal agencies, almost unknown by today’s abdicatory Congress.

His life should be a model for high school and college students. They should want to see how his singular character and personality put reality into the saying – “information is the currency of democracy,” rather than just following the latest peccadilloes of tawdry entertainment and sports celebrities.

Now the young and adults alike have the new book that does Chairman Moss overdue justice. From Michael R. Lemov, chief of the counsel to the Congressman’s two major subcommittees, comes People’s Warrior. This 237-page book covers the personal and professional life of Moss who believed in the political accountability of politicians. More than anyone else in Congress, he gave us a unique law that is invoked only by the desire of people or institutions in the U.S., and sometimes from outside the country. We are the ones who apply this law by using it and improving it.

Of all the legislators I have worked with, John Moss was the most no-nonsense craftsman of them all. Sitting in his office, one did not have to worry about his caving to commercial interests. He took on the auto industry lobbyists in shepherding the Magnuson-Moss Warranty bill through the House (for example, if you bought a lemon car, you can remedy your situation thanks to Moss and his formidable drive for justice.

In so doing, I recommend People’s Warrior especially for young people today, beset with cynicism about Congress or simply “turned off” from politics. The book is an awakening antidote that shows, not so long ago, that there were key members of Congress who made regular, significant decisions on behalf of the people. They were not “cash and carry” politicians as is the norm today at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Contract peonage

In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader
It is time to shine the light on the big, affluent corporate lawyers who anonymously create those non-competitive fine print contracts we all have to sign to purchase goods and services.

It’s time for an open letter to these Darth Vaders of business law who have destroyed our freedom of contract and built a new road to serfdom made of corporate cement.

Dear Attorneys for Contract Incarceration:

Remember when you were at law school studying contracts? Your professor pressed you socratically to understand Hadley vs. Baxendale et al. You spent just one or two classes on what are called "contracts of adhesion"—those fine print one-sided contracts that only make up 99% of all the contracts we’ll ever sign.

There they are—page after page exuding the silent message of "take it or leave it." If you "leave it", then you must cross the street to a competitor—an insurance company, credit card firm, bank, auto dealer, hospital, realtor, airline, student loan company or cell phone company, awaiting you is the same fine-print contract designed to nail you to the mast. Then there are the shrink-wrap software contracts you can't even see before you buy.

If your contracts professor bothered to explain why so little course time is spent on these standard form contracts involving trillions of dollars in annual sales, he/she might have used the French phrase—"fait accompli." After all, the consumer signed or acquiesced in some way. That met the basic principle of a binding contract, say the courts (with a rare exception now and then) which is a meeting of the minds between the willing seller and the willing buyer.

Discussion over! As a shopper, prepare for the daily coercive harmony.

Imagine all the times you’ve "met the minds" of Bank of America, Metropolitan, Aetna, General Motors, Wal-Mart, American Express, AT&T, Sallie Mae, U.S. Air and your favorite time-sharing company for that vacation trip to Antigua. What a myth!

In this legal fiction land, the law presumes that you’ve read the fine print and understood it. Inscrutability is no defense. It doesn’t matter that law professors, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and your partners admit to not reading the dense legalese when they shop. Why waste their time? They can’t get out of contractual prison anymore than you can. But you make zillions figuring out how to lock millions of Americans into one-side anti-consumer contracts.

You misuse your intellect to create a modern contract straitjacket that gets tighter year by year. Your innovations are enforced by status-quo judges, credit ratings, credit scores and the absence of any competition over contracts between companies in the same industry.

The straitjacket is made of figurative steel fibers composed of enforceable words. Here is a partial list of your inventions which Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren aptly calls "mice type" the equivalent of "shrubbery for muggers!"

They include (1) seller's power to unilaterally change terms or assign the contract, (2) waiver provisions of the seller's liability and payment of seller's attorney fees, (3) acceleration and delinquency clauses, (4) binding arbitration and blocking the consumer's resort to the courts and right to jury trials, (5) liquidated damage clauses. On and on go the layers of incarceration.

Pretty clever maybe, but, you aren't being fair to the powerless consumers. Remember, you've got a professional code of ethics that informs you of the obligation sometimes to say no—enough already—to your demanding corporate clients even if they can always go to another law firm that they can pay handsomely to say yes. It can be, for you, a dilemma.

Listen, I've got an exit plan for those of you pondering quitting or retiring because you can no longer stand destroying peoples' freedom of contract—one of the main pillars of our democracy—with their consequential losses of money, time, health and safety.

Come to the other side. A movement for consumer contract justice is heading your way. Don't laugh as General Motors once did in the Nineteen Sixties. Don't think that the complexity of these fine prints cannot be communicated to the buying public. ABC's Peter Jennings showed the opposite with a crisp five part TV series a few years ago. This fall, a sure best seller by David Cay Johnston titled "The Fine Print" is coming out. He has prior best sellers on tax laws that clarify the abstruse to arouse readers.

There is a huge compression of repression and resentment ready to be unleashed and converted into a widely perceived injustice. Ridding themselves of the feeling that "that's the way it is," this consumer uprising will be holding you and your companies responsible by name.

Quit and join the right side of the coming historical change breaking the chains of contract bondage. Bring your knowhow and stored archives (names redacted) of "mice type" to faircontracts.org, directed by the relentless lawyer, Theresa Amato. Soon!

Your brother in law,
Ralph Nader, Esq.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Revitalizing the AFL-CIO

Ralph Nader/In The Public Interest

When Harry Kelber, the 96 year old relentless labor advocate and editor of The Labor Educator speaks, the leadership of the AFL-CIO should listen. A vigorous champion for the rights of rank-and-file workers vis-à-vis their corporate employers and their labor union leaders, Kelber has recently completed a series of five articles titled “Reasons Why the AFL-CIO Is Broken; Let Us Start a Debate on How to Fix It.” (http://www.laboreducator.org/broken.htm)

The reaction: Silence from union leaders, their union publications and at union gatherings.

Kelber, operating out of a tiny New York City office, knows more firsthand about unions, their historical triumphs, their contemporary deficiencies and their potential for tens of millions of working families than almost anyone in the country. Over the decades, no one has written more widely distributed pamphlets that cogently and concisely explain unions, the labor movement and anti-worker restrictive laws like the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, than this honest, sensitive worker campaigner.

At a perilous period for both working and unemployed Americans, facing deep recession, corporate abandonment to China and other repressive regimes, and the Republicans’ virulent assault on livelihoods and labor rights, Kelber believes that AFL-CIO should be on the ramparts. Instead, he sees it as moribund, hunkering down, with control of the power and purse concentrated in the hands of the silent and Sphinx-like Federation officers and the tiny clique of bureaucrats who run the show.

“In the AFL-CIO, the rank-and-file have no voice in electing their officials, because only the candidates of the Old Guard can be on the ballot,” he writes.

Certainly, the AFL-CIO is not reflecting the old adage that when “the going gets tough, the tough get going.” They recoil from any public criticism of Barack Obama, who disregards or and humiliates them by his actions.

Mr. Obama promised labor in 2008 to press for a $9.50 federal minimum wage by 2011, and the Employee Free Choice Act, especially “card check,” and then forgot about both commitments. He has not spoken out and vigorously fought for an adequate OSHA inspection and enforcement budget to diminish the tens of thousands of workplace related fatalities every year. He’s been too busy managing drones, Kandahar and outlying regions of the quagmire of our undeclared wars.

Nothing Obama does seems to publically rile the AFL-CIO. In February, he crossed Lafayette Square from the White House with great fanfare to visit his pro-Republican opponents at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yet declined to go around the corner and visit the AFL-CIO headquarters. Where was the public objection from the House of Labor?

He prevents his vice-president from responding to the Wisconsin state federation of Labor’s invitation to address the biggest rally in Madison, Wisconsin protesting labor’s arch enemy, Republican Governor Scott Walker. Biden, a self-styled “union guy”, wanted to go but the political operatives in the White House said NO. Still no public objection from Labor’s leaders.

Kelber describes the lack of a strong, funded national and international strategy to deal with the growing gap between rich and poor and the expanding shipment of both blue and white collar jobs abroad. He laments AFL-CIO’s failure to develop a “working relation with the new global unions that are challenging transnational corporations and winning some agreements.” He also notes that the AFL’s top leaders “have minimal influence at world labor conferences. They rarely attend them, even when they are invited.”

Pushing for higher wages and worker rights in the poorer developing countries, including the adoption of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards has great merit and is also a constructive way to also protect American workers.

Kelber believes it is obvious “that U.S. cooperation with labor unions from other countries with the same employer is the best way to organize giant multinationals, but the AFL-CIO has spent little time, money and resources in building close working relations with unions from abroad.”

What is restraining AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka? A former coal miner, then a coal miners’ lawyer, and president of the United Mine Workers, Mr. Trumka has been at the Federation for over a decade. He knows the politics of the AFL-CIO, makes great speeches about callous corporatism around the country, and has a useful website detailing corporate greed.

Unfortunately, words aside, he is not putting real, bold muscle behind the needs of America’s desperate workers.

He can start by shaking up his bureaucracy and put forth an emancipation manifesto of democratic reforms internal to the unions themselves and external to the government and the corporate giants. They all go together.

When I asked Harry Kelber whether there were any unions he admires, he named the fast-growing California Nurses Association (CNA) and the United Electrical Workers.

CNA’s executive director Rose Ann DeMoro is on the AFL-CIO Board and has urged Mr. Trumka to be more aggressive. She has secured his stepped-up support for a Wall Street financial speculation tax that could bring in over $300 billion a year. He may even join her and the nurses in a symbolic picketing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters next month.

The ever fundamental Kelber, however, sees a plan B if the AFL-CIO does not change. “Union members should be thinking about creating a new bottoms-up labor federation,” he urges, reminding them that in the nineteen thirties, the Committee of Industrial Organizations (CIO) seceded from the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and went on “to organize millions of workers in such major corporations as General Motors, General Electric, U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Hormel and others.”

The new labor federation, he envisions, for today’s times would be controlled by the membership and led by local unions and central labor councils that are impatient with the sluggish leadership of their international union presidents.

Harry Kelber, you epitomize the saying that “the only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals.”

(Visit Harry’s Kelber’s website www.laboreducator.org for more of his insights.)

Another music benefit ...

This one sent to me by Ray Mason. Looks like another good one.
Sunday June 12 - Benefit Rock Show For Charlie Chesterman (Scruffy The Cat, Harmony Rockets, Chaz & The Motorbikes) @ T.T. The Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Central Square, Cambridge, MA (617) 492-0082. www.ttthebears.com. Featuring The Upper Crust, Roy Sludge Trio, Raging Teens, Ray Mason Band and a "Friends Of Charlie" All-Star set! 12 noon - 5:30 p.m. Michael J. Charles says "Charlie was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. His spirits are good and he's been making progress. His outlook has broadened. He used to take things a day at a time and it's nice to see him get excited about things "down the road" like this benefit on June 12th where he intends on performing. Hope you can make it!" We love Charlie! He's been a friend and major inspiration for years. One of the greatest American rock n' rollers! See you at T.T's!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Exciting news coming ...

A quick note to let all of my blog followers and readers know that I will soon have some exciting news to announce about a new gig I have landed.
I'll give everyone a little hint: I'm going to be covering the New Hampshire primary, some State House news, and local police/fire and municipal government in Concord.
In order to succeed at this new thing, I'm going to need a lot of help from all of you. So stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A great show and a great cause

The 1st Annual FREDSTOCK benefit to raise cancer awareness & Fred Ciampi memorial concert will be held at the Magic Room Gallery in Brighton at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 (www.magicroomgallery.com). Tix are $20. Check out this line up, including reunion shows by Miles Dethmuffen, The 360s, and Curious Ritual. Wow!

7:15 Andy pratt
7:45 Annette Farrington
8:15 Revolutionary Snake Ensemble
8:45 Peter Moore & Sarah Rabdau
9:00 Miles Dethmuffin
9:30 Up Your Bucket
10:00 360’s
11:00 Curious Ritual
11:30 Linda Veins
12:00 Special Friends Jam

Saturday, May 21, 2011

June 2011 Top 30 Noise chart

Reporting: 14 different radio stations and Internet programs

1. Faces on Film – Some Weather
2. The Rudds – Get The Femuline Hang On
3. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
4. The Bynars – The Bynars
5. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
6. Gene Dante & the Future Starlets “The Love Letter Is Dead”
7. The Lights Out – Primetime
8. Audrey Ryan – Thick Skin
9. Chop Chop – The Spark
10. Girlfriends – “Cave Kids”
11. Hallelujah the Hills “ Country Before Kings”
12. Hands and Knees – Wholesome
13. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
14. The Longwalls – Careers in Science EP
15. The Macrotones – First Signs of Danger
16. Old Jack – Gone Before You Know EP
17. Radio Control – Hot Audio
18. Soft Pyramids – Electric Scenes EP
19. John Powhida International Airport – Dirty Birdy and Funny Bunny
20. The Fatal Flaw – Narrow Hours
21. Spirit Kid – “Wrong Kind of Money”
22. Mango Floss – Monsters EP
23. Buffalo Tom – Skins
24. The Cinnamon Fuzz – Cruise of the Century EP
25. Freezepop – Imaginary Friends
26. J. Mascis – Several Shades of Why
27. Mean Creek – Hemophiliac EP
28. The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library – Volume One
29. Mount Peru – My Sweetheart The Destroyer
30. The Sheila Divine – “Carve Away”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jon Huntsman coming to N.H.

Potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is coming to New Hampshire this weekend for a number of events. Huntsman will be at house parties and meet-and-greets around the state. Here are some of the public events, if anyone is interested:
May 19, 5:30 p.m. Meet and greet at Jesse's Restaurant in Hanover.
On Friday, May 19, he'll be in Keene, Hancock, and will speak at the Concord VFW Post 1631 at 6 Court St. at 4 p.m.
On Saturday, May 20, Huntsman will deliver a SNHU commencement address at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Later in the day, he'll have photo ops at Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett and Robie's Country Store (a requirement for anyone running for president). At 5 p.m., Huntsman will speak at a Windham GOP meeting at the Nesmith Library.
On Sunday, Huntsman will be in the Lakes Region and in Franklin; on Monday, he'll be in Durham.
As always, the events are subject to change.

Couple of quick GOP poll notes

Two new GOP polls were released yesterday which are worth a quick mention.

First, Suffolk University in Boston revealed the results of its latest national poll showing former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney "surging" in the wake of former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee and showman Donald Trump bowing out of consideration for the 2012 Republican nomination: ["Suffolk poll data"].

Another admittedly more curious poll coming out of Iowa by a site called the 2012 Iowa Report shows former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Caine's support at nearly 30 percent of those polled (I'll get to that in a moment). U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann received 14%, Ron Paul had 10, and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty with 8 and change. The rest were below 8 percent: ["Iowa Report survey"].
The 2012 Iowa Report seems to be a blog and not a "professional" polling association (not that that means anything; polling agencies have been known to manipulate the data or produce data that is speculative at best). The site describes itself as "a project of Grassfire Nation" and "is a special survey of Iowa conservatives conducted weekly to help measure where Iowa conservatives stand on the 2012 Republican presidential field."
So, this means that Caine and Bachmann are getting a good chunk of support from those who consider themselves "Iowa conservatives" and are surveyed by the site, not people randomly called on the telephone or invited to participate in an online survey. It's a snapshot, just like everything in politics, and worth mentioning since the caucus process is completely different than a primary. Caucuses rely on rabid support and interaction, especially when held in the dead of winter. More on that as we all get closer to the election days ahead.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Huckabee decides not to run

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced tonight he would not run for president in 2012. Most folks figured this would be his decision. I even stated such in March: ["Can Giuliani be a player in 2012?"].
You never really know until the person makes the decision. Everything else is just speculation. Most folks, it would seem from a quick Google search, were predicting he would stay out of it.
In his announcement, he took some shots at pundits and the media, and also noted that he was polling well in and out of the South, which he seemed to find surprising.
Having interviewed Huckabee twice, I can tell you that he is extremely likable, very charming (as is his wife), and, frankly, probably the strongest potential candidate for Republicans in 2012. Not just because he would run strong in southern states, working class places, and the rust belt, areas of the country that have been creamed by globalization, but also because he historically had the support of blacks in Arkansas, a voting bloc Republicans have always had problems galvanizing. He wasn't afraid to go into Democratic strongholds to look for votes - and win them.
Interestingly enough, Ted Nugent was Huckabee's guest tonight, performing a rollicking version of "Cat Scratch Fever." Huckabee was clearly enjoying himself, even rolling his eyes when Nugent offered his more sexually graphic lyrics, which seemed to embarrass Huckabee. If he is having fun and he's happy, that's a good thing. Why wreck it running for president?

Ron Paul speaks in Exeter

Thanks to state Rep. Seth Cohn, R-Canterbury, for posting this AP video quote highlight reel of 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul speaking in Exeter on his facebook account: (Seth and his wife are the ones sitting behind Rep. Paul, center-right):

Friday, May 13, 2011

End the Land Mine Plague

In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader
5/13/11

Everyday around the world innocent people, many of them children, are killed or injured by millions of unexploded land mines and cluster bombs. Some of the cluster bomblets look like candy or a toy which attract a child in a field, orchard, schoolyard or by the roadside.

Powerful aggressor nations are responsible for most of these anti-personal weapons being laid from land or by air. Most recently, Libya’s rulers laid mines on the outskirts of Ajdabiya as part of its battle against the resistance.

In 2006, Israel laid huge numbers of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon each of which contains lethal bomblets. For many months after the ceasefire, the United Nations could not get Israel, to provide its cluster bomb algorithms to UN experts so they could safely neutralize these heinous weapons. In that period many Lebanese, adults and children, became cluster bomb casualties. (Visit http://www.atfl.org and see the Cluster Bomb Victims photo gallery.)

Two broad-based international treaties address the humanitarian necessity to ban both weapons, just as many horrific chemical and biological weapons have been banned for years. For both treaties—one on land mines, the more recent on cluster bombs—the United States has been the egregious odd man out under both Republican and Democratic Administrations.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty has been signed by 133 countries including many U.S. allies. Not the United States, Russia, Israel and China all of whom are major producers, users or sellers of these lethal weapons. As reported by Human Rights Watch, 68 U.S. Senators—enough votes to ratify the Land Mine treaty, have urged President Obama to move on this urgent matter. Sixteen Nobel Peace Laureates have urged their fellow Laureate, Barack Obama, to live up to the spirit of this award and lead the U.S. in embracing this treaty.

But the “permanent government” persists especially when its current President is so preoccupied with all his wars, attacks, incursions and intrigues with foreign leaders, tribes, clans, and spies.

Presently, the U.S. has a stockpile of ten million land mines. Washington claims “it has not used any since the 1991 Gulf War, has not exported any since 1992 and has not produced them since 1997” according to a Reuters report. The federal government also says it spent $1.5 billion since 1993 to help clear landmines and treat accident victims.

The State Department and the Pentagon stall and say year after year they are reviewing U.S. landmine policy. Years pass. Still no decision. One reason is that the U.S. wants flexibility to maintain mines in areas like the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

When it comes to the more grisly cluster bombs, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty banning the “use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions” and disassembling and clearing the remaining stockpiles within ten years, has been signed by 108 nations. It went into effect August 2010 without the signature of the United States.

From Laos to Kosovo and from Chechnya to Iraq, these savage weapons continue their daily devastation. Pictures of the survivors with lost limbs provide the evidence of what havoc weapons profiteering and unaccountable bureaucrats can wreak. Some of these unexploded ordinance in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan can be reworked into the dreaded IED’s against U.S. soldiers. Maybe that’s a wakeup call for the White House.

Still Obama fiddles and perplexes our allies with his indecision. He displays no such hesitancy about ordering more and more drones to fire on homes, buildings and vehicles with the imprecision of suspicion that has blown up wedding parties, gatherings of innocent non-combatants and recently, nine boys collecting firewood for their families.

More and more international civic organizations, often backed by their governments, are working together for a “mine-free world.” However, sluggishness in Washington can be compared with the speedy innovation by defense firms in the demonic configuration of ever more deadly cluster bombs. Wait and see what nanotechnology can do when basic research moves to application in this violent area.

There is all too much secrecy and too little open discussion in the political and electoral arenas. Obama’s annual weapons destruction report does not tell Americans why he refuses to sign either Treaty.

Mr. Obama has been to many ceremonies and photo opportunities lately. Perhaps he can reserve some space on his calendar to take a photo with some children seriously maimed by cluster bombs and land mines coupled with an announcement that he will take this next long-overdue step toward disarmament and lessen man’s inhumanity to man.

In the meantime, go to Human Rights Watch’s website (hrw.org) and sign their anti-landmine letter to President Barack Obama. And call the White House comment hotline (202-456-1111) and voice your resolve to end this scattered and often invisible scourge plaguing war-torn areas of the world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No Labels? How did I miss this?

This morning many of us opened our work email inboxes to find a press release about a panel discussion being presented at Northeastern University tomorrow night discussing how "to break down the political divide and combat the excessive polarization of our politics."
To those of you who live and/or work in the Boston area, this might be intriguing to you. According to the press release, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, Ron Shaich, the co-founder and chairman of Panera Bread, and John Avlon, CNN contributor and author, will headline a No Labels panel discussion, at the Curry Student Center at Northeastern University.
No Labels folks are meeting around Massachusetts to discuss some of the issues around the movement and what can be done to fix national problems without the political labels. The press release noted that the group was formed in December 2010 and is made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents "who believe that America’s toughest challenges will never be solved by one party alone."
I won't be able to attend due to work commitments which are starting to become a bit overwhelming (I rarely attend personal things on Tuesday night anyway). I'm intrigued, however, about some of these ideas and just how this org will attempt to move the nation forward, especially during a presidential primary year.
This is also the first I'm hearing about this org which surprises me a little. It means that I'm either really too busy with work and family or just not paying attention (It's the former, trust me). I will also say that this is something I have really been looking forward to seeing in our political system.
I seriously hope that members of this organization will come to New Hampshire to talk in the near future. They will find a much more receptive audience here than in Massachusetts, considering the makeup of our state, politically, the fact that indies wildly swing elections (which means that both parties actually listen to them up here), and that Democrats and Republicans really do work together sometimes.
I also hope that this really is a serious effort to bring people together and not just another phony organization created to damper or control indie swing voters who make the political process so interesting. If it is a serious effort, good luck to them! We need this kind of discussion.

Here are the event details included in the press release:
WHAT: Ron Shaich, John Avlon Headline No Labels Panel Discussion in Massachusetts
WHO: Ron Shaich, John Avlon, and No Labels Massachusetts leadership
WHEN: Tuesday, May 10th at 7:30PM
WHERE: Curry Student Center at Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
Online @ nolabels.org.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nader speaks about Chernobyl anniversary

This was emailed out to folks the other day:

Remarks by Ralph Nader on the 25th anniversary of the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

The disaster at Chernobyl’s reactor on April 26, 1986 continues to expose humans, flora and fauna to radioactive lethality especially in, but not restricted to, Ukraine and Belarus. Western countries continue to reflect an under-estimation of casualties by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA’s figures top off at 4000 fatalities since 1986 that is highly questionable given IAEA’s conflict of interest between its role of promoting nuclear power and monitoring its safety. An agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) provides for WHO’s deference to IAEA’s casualty figures which has compromised WHO’s priority of advancing health in the world. The United Nations naturally adopts the IAEA figures and the West’s nuclear regulatory agencies, similarly committed to promotional functions, ditto these under-estimations.

The position that the level of mortality and morbidity from Chernobyl over the past quarter century is much larger comes from a compendious of 5000 scientific studies, mostly in the Slavic languages edited by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko titled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. (Read it online here: http://books.google.com/books?id=g34tNlYOB3AC&lpg=PP1&ots=O15WjRWXc8&dq=alexey%20yablokov%20chernobyl&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false ) Dr. Yablokov, a biologist, is a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences. The translated edition was published under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences.

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on March 25, 2011, attended by C-SPAN, CNN and independent media, but not the mainstream media, Dr. Yablokov summarized these studies and estimated the death toll over nearly twenty five years at about one million and mounting.

Because of the mainstream media, including the major newspapers, blackout on the Yablokov report since its translated edition came out in 2009, I asked Dr. Yablokov this question at the news conference:

“Dr. Yablokov, you are a distinguished scientist in your country, as reflected in your membership in the Russian Academy of Sciences, what has been the response to your report by corporate scientists, regulatory agency scientists and academic scientists in the West? Did they openly agree in whole or in part or did they disagree in whole or in part or were they just silent?”

Academician Yablokov replied that the compilation of these many reports has been met with silence. He added that science means critical engagement with the data and implied that silence was not an appropriate response from the scientific community.

Silence, of course, is not without its purpose. For to engage, whether to rebut, doubt or affirm, would give visibility to this compendium of scientific studies that upsets the fantasy modeling by the nuclear industry and its apologists regarding the worse case scenario damage of a level 7 or worse meltdown. It would require, for example, more epidemiological studies ranging into Western Europe, such as the current review of 330 hill farms in Wales. It would insistently invite more studies of the current health and casualty data involving the 800,000 liquidators—workers passing through since 1986 who have been exposed in and around the continuing emergency efforts at the very hot disabled Chernobyl reactor. And much more.

Public silence has not excluded a sub silentio oral campaign to delegitimize the Yablokov compendium. A quiet grapevine of general dismissals—unavailable for public comment or rebuttal—has cooled members of the press and other potential disseminators of its contents, including the National Academy of Sciences, the science advisers to the President and any other thinking scientists who decide that there isn’t enough time or invulnerability to justify getting into a contentious interaction over the Yablokov report.

The ability of corporate science and its regulatory apologists to inflict sanctions on dissenters is legion. There is a long history of censorship leading to self-censorship by those who otherwise might have applied Alfred North Whitehead’s characterization of science as “keeping open options for revision” to the ideology of atomic power.

I call for an open rigorous public scientific-medical debate on the findings and casualty estimates of the Yablokov report, to determine its usefulness for necessary programs of compensation, quarantine, accelerated protective entombment of the still dangerous reactor, and expanded studies of the past and continuing ravages issuing from this catastrophe and its recycling of radioactivity through the soil, air, water and food of the exposed regions. Such a public review is what the science adviser to the President and the National Academy of Sciences should have done already and should do now. The continuing expansion of the Fukishima disaster in Japan provides additional urgency for this open scientific review.

Stripmining America, unpatriotically

In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader

It is time to apply the standard of patriotism to the U.S. multinational corporations and demand that they pledge allegiance to the United States and “the Republic for which is stands…. with liberty and justice for all.” This July 4, 2011 would be good day for Americans to demand such a corporate commitment.

Born and chartered in the U.S.A., these corporations rose to their giant size on the backs of American workers and vast taxpayer-subsidized research and development handouts. When they got into trouble, whether through mismanagement or corruption, these companies rushed to Washington, D.C. for bailouts from American taxpayers. When some were challenged in foreign lands, the U.S. marines came to their rescue, as depicted decades ago by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine General Smedley Butler.

So what is their message to America and its workers now? It is not gratitude or loyalty. It is “we’re outta here, with your jobs and industries” to dictatorial or oligarchic regimes abroad, such as China, that know how to keep their impoverished, and abused workers under control.

Note that these company bosses have no compunction replacing U.S. workers with serf-labor, but they never replace themselves with bi-lingual executives from China, India and elsewhere who are willing to work for one-tenth or less of the huge pay packages executives get from their rubber-stamp boards of directors in the U.S.

Just this week, the Wall Street Journal headlined “Big U.S. Firms Shift Hiring Abroad.” Veteran reporter, David Wessel writes:

“U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers, have been hiring abroad while cutting back at home, sharpening the debate over globalization’s effect on the U.S. economy. The companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, new data from the U.S. Commerce Department show.”

While Mr. Wessel acknowledges that other economies, especially in Asia, are growing rapidly, he noted that “The data also underscore the vulnerability of the U.S. economy, particularly at a time when unemployment is high and wages aren’t increasing.”

Keep in mind that, while receiving all the public services, subsidies and protections in this country, large corporations have been abandoning America by shifting jobs overseas and by making our country perilously and unnecessarily dependent on foreign governments that naturally put their own interests first.

For example, the drug companies no longer have any plant in the U.S. to manufacture essential raw ingredients for important antibiotics like penicillin. In 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb closed the last such factory in East Syracuse, N.Y. The drug industry always made lots of money here. One of every two Americans are on a prescription medicine. But the pharmaceutical companies want to make more so they have moved their production to Asia.

In 2009, The New York Times reported that “the critical ingredients for most antibiotics are now made almost exclusively in China and India. The same is true for dozens of other crucial medicines, including the popular allergy medicine prednisone; metformin, for diabetes; and amlodipine, for high blood pressure.

This flight to Asia raises serious questions. Senator Sherrod Brown (Dem. Ohio) held hearings because he accurately believed that “the lack of regulation around outsourcing is a blind spot that leaves room for supply disruptions, counterfeit medicines, even bioterrorism.”

Industrial scale production of Penicillin was developed by the U.S. war production board in World War II and many drug companies made it in U.S. plants, until the Chinese government lured the industry there with many freebies and weak safety regulations. A few years ago 95 Americans died from a Chinese produced counterfeit ingredient in the drug heparin, an anticlotting drug needed for surgery and dialysis.

As Belgium drug industry consultant, Enrico Polastro, told The New York Times: “If China ever got very upset with President Obama, it could be a big problem.” The Times concluded: “So for now, like it or not, China has the upper hand.”

Who gave China that dominant position? U.S. multinational drug companies, who along with other big U.S. companies, pushed through Congress, with Bill Clinton’s support, ratification of both NAFTA’s and the World Trade Organization’s “pull down” trade agreements. They created the very globalized structure that they now claim they are beholden to in order to meet the global competition. Clever, aren’t they?

Other unpatriotic acts include the oil companies who, despite being given a rich oil depletion tax allowance to invest in energy in the U.S., invested in oil production overseas. The U.S. is now dependent on foreign sources for most of its petroleum. Don’t forget the military-industrial giants that thrive on U.S. military expansion abroad and sell modern weapons to many dictatorial regimes which they use to oppress their people and endanger our own national security.

U.S. multinationals that export jobs abroad, show too little regard for our country, or to the U.S. communities that sustained them for decades. Greedy corporate lobbyists continue to press for more privileges and immunities, over those held by real humans, so as to be less accountable under U.S. law for corporate crimes and other mis-behaviors.

If U.S. companies continue to expand their rights of personhood through U.S. Supreme Court’s political decisions (eg. the latest being the notorious 5 to 4 Citizens United case opening up the floodgates of corporate cash against or for electoral candidates), then, they should be judged as “persons” and evaluated for their loyalty to their country of creation.

Since corporations are clearly “artificial” entities and not real human beings, narrower civil liberties standards can be applied to the impersonal and massive concentrations of power, capital and technology known as corporations

Independence Day July 4th presents an opportunity for a national attention to the need for calling out these runaway corporate giants who exploit for profit the patriotic sensibilities of Americans, but decline to be held any patriotic expectations or values.

Readers interested in joining such an effort for July 4, 2011 contact info@csrl.org.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pretty amazing video ...

This video was reportedly filmed earlier this month from the top of one of Spain's highest mountains. The detail of the stars is pretty amazing.