Jul 1, 2011

Rebel Without a Clue Tom Petty wants Michele Bachmann to quit using his song. Can he make her?

Every major Republican candidate for president eventually runs into the same problem: Musicians and songwriters are overwhelmingly liberal, and they don't like it when their songs get used at GOP campaign events. After Rep. Michele Bachmann took the stage to Tom Petty's "American Girl," Monday, the musician's lawyerssent the campaign a cease-and-desist order to stop using the song. Petty was similarly unenthused when George W. Bush used "I Won't Back Down," in 2000, and the rock band Heart was none-too-pleased when Sarah Palin adopted "Barracuda" as her theme song. Does this mean Bachmann has to find a new song?

Not if the campaign has the correct license. Petty doesn't personally approve every use of his music. Like thousands of other songs, "American Girl" is distributed by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, meaning that any entity that is licensed with ASCAP can play a song without getting the artist's explicit permission. This license can be held by a venue, like a club or a sports arena, and apply to all events that take place there. Or it can be held by an organization for use at their events.

Assuming the licenses were all in order, Petty probably doesn't have much legal recourse. But it would be a much different story if the campaign had used the song in an ad or a promotional video. While an ASCAP license covers the right to perform a song, you need a separate "synchronization license" from the publisher to put the song in an ad. Some artists ask for stipulations in their contracts with publishers that prevent their songs from being used for political advertisements or any other causes they find objectionable. (Neil Diamond, for example, is known to be very reluctant to license his songs for programming that is even vaguely political.)

It's very common for musicians to object to the use of their material. In 2008, the McCain campaign ran afoul of several artists, including John Mellencamp and Van Halen. In both those cases, the artists were objecting to the use of their songs at rallies, where an ASCAP license would apply. The McCain campaign agreed to stop playing Mellencamp songs voluntarily. The issue also frequently crops up with Christian groups that do not wish their material to be used at events they find objectionable.

Explainer thanks Gordon P. Firemark; Steve Gordon; Lawrence Iser; Kathy O'Connor of the Xcel Energy Center; and Barry Shrum of Harris, Martin, Jones, Shrum, Bradford & Wommack.

Note: The Explainer first tackled the question of whether politicians can use songs over the objections of recording artists back in 2008. This piece uses material from Chris Wilson's article "Will McCain's Heart Stop?"

Story - "Rebel Without a Clue" , boy they nailed that right...!!! Monte

Jun 30, 2011

Ungodly News: The Periodic Table of Atheists and Antitheists

This is just a graphic I put together of some of the people, both current and historical, that have taken the time to question religion. Some are famous, some run little blog sites like myself, some are among the best minds mankind has ever known. I edited my list down, I certainly could have added more, but I wanted to keep the graphic in the traditional shape of the periodic table of elements. I'm sure I have missed people that should have been included, and there would most certainly be arguments that some people shouldn't qualify to be on the list. Some who made the cut have been known to be members of churches and various congregations, it is true. I would counter that each person on this list has made statements in their lifetimes concerning the validity of religion. Enjoy!


Jun 29, 2011

Bachmann's Unrivaled Extremism - The Daily Beast

In April 2005, Pamela Arnold wanted to talk to her state senator, Michele Bachmann, who was then running for Congress. A 46-year-old who worked at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Arnold lived with her partner, the famed Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, on a farm in Scandia, Minnesota. Bachmann was then leading the fight against gay marriage in the state. She'd recently been in the news for hiding in the bushes to observe a gay rights rally at the Capitol. So when members of the Scandia gay community decided to attend one of Bachmann's constituent forums, Arnold, wanting to make herself visible to her representative, joined them.

A few dozen people showed up at the town hall for the April 9 event, and Bachmann greeted them warmly. But when, during the question and answer session, the topic turned to gay marriage, Bachmann ended the meeting 20 minutes early and rushed to the bathroom. Hoping to speak to her, Arnold and another middle-aged woman, a former nun, followed her. As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. "Help!" she screamed. "Help! I'm being held against my will!"

Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that she was "absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her." The Washington County attorney, however, declined to press charges, writing in a memo, "It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann."

Lots of politicians talk about a sinister homosexual agenda. Bachmann, who has made opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of her career, seems genuinely to believe in one. Her conviction trumps even her once close relationship with her lesbian stepsister. "What an amazing imagination," marvels Arnold. "Her ideology is so powerful that she can construct a reality just on a moment's notice."
Michele Bachmann anti-gay platform,Bachmann IowaCharlie Neibergall / AP Photo
Belief is the key to understanding Michele Bachmann, who announced her presidential candidacy during Monday's Republican debate. Herimpressive performance, which catapulted her close to the front of the presidential pack, surprised some, who perhaps expected her to be as inarticulate as Sarah Palin, to whom she's often compared. But in Minnesota, even those who don't like her politics say she shouldn't be underestimated. "The fact that she's not a heavy lifter, the fact that she's relatively unconcerned about the substance of legislation, does not mean that she's not crafty, that she's not intelligent and she's not fast," says former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican. Her ideological radicalism should not be mistaken for stupidity.
"Michele Bachmann says certain things that sound crazy to the general public," says Frank Schaeffer. "But to anybody raised in the environment of the evangelical right wing, what she says makes perfect sense."

On Monday, Bachmann didn't talk a lot about her religion. She didn't have to—she knows how to signal it in ways that go right over secular heads. In criticizing Obama's Libya policy, for example, she said, "We are the head and not the tail." The phrase comes from Deuteronomy 28:13: "The Lord will make you the head and not the tail." As Rachel Tabachnick has reported, it's often used in theocratic circles to explain why Christians have an obligation to rule.

Indeed, no other candidate in the race is so completely a product of the evangelical right as Bachmann; she could easily become the Christian conservative alternative to the comparatively moderate Mormon Mitt Romney. "Michele Bachmann's a complete package," says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition wunderkind who now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "She's got charisma, she's got an authentic faith testimony, she's a proven fighter for conservative values, and she's well known." She's also great at raising money—in the 2010 cycle, she amassed a record-breaking $13.2 million in donations. (Bachmann's office didn't respond to requests for comment.)

Bachmann, who was born in Iowa, was in high school in Anoka, Minnesota, when she was swept up in the wave of evangelical Christianity then surging through the country. "People were coming to the Lord left and right," she said in a recent speech. A pretty cheerleader, she was a member of student government and was elected to the homecoming court. But her family life was unsettled. Her parents divorced in 1970, and her father disappeared from her life and those of her three brothers. When she was in high school, her mother remarried, to a man with five children of his own. Working-class Democrats, the family went to a Lutheran church regularly, but it wasn't until she was born again at 16, she has said, "that the Gospel finally made sense to me."

After graduating from high school, Bachmann went to Israel with the evangelical youth group Young Life. Then, at Winona State University, she joined the evangelical Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, where she met her husband, Marcus Bachmann. At the time, the evangelical movement was not particularly political. Indeed, according to Randall Balmer, who is both an evangelical and a historian of American evangelicalism at Columbia University, it was the born again Jimmy Carter who first marshaled the era's newly awakened Christians. "He brings them into the political arena. There's no question about that," says Balmer. "And the great irony is that they turned so rabidly and rapidly against him four years later."

That's exactly what happened with Bachmann, who campaigned for Carter in 1976—she and Marcus even went to one of his inaugural balls—but soon tacked sharply rightward. A key moment in her political evolution, as for many of her generation, a was the film series "How Should We Then Live" by the theologian Francis Schaeffer, who is widely credited for mobilizing evangelicals against abortion, an issue most had previously ignored. A Presbyterian minister, Schaeffer argued that our entire perception of reality depends on our worldview, and that only those with the right one can understand the true nature of things. Christianity, he argued, is "a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence." Theories or assertions from outside this system—evolution, for example—can be dismissed as the product of mistaken premises.

This accounts for some of the bafflement that occasionally greets Bachmann's statements. "Michele Bachmann says certain things that sound crazy to the general public," says author Frank Schaeffer, Francis Schaeffer's son and former collaborator. "But to anybody raised in the environment of the evangelical right wing, what she says makes perfect sense."

Bachmann honed her view of the world after college, when she enrolled at the Coburn Law School at Oral Roberts University, an "interdenominational, Bible-based, and Holy Spirit-led" school in Oklahoma. "My goal there was to learn the law both from a professional but also from a biblical worldview," she said in an April speech.

At Coburn, Bachmann studied with John Eidsmoe, who she recently described as "one of the professors who had a great influence on me." Bachmann served as his research assistant on the 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which argued that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy, and that it should become one again. "The church and the state have separate spheres of authority, but both derive authority from God," Eidsmoe wrote. "In that sense America, like [Old Testament] Israel, is a theocracy."

Eidsmoe, who hung up the phone when asked for an interview, is a contentious figure. Last year, he withdrew from speaking at a Wisconsin Tea Party rally after the Associated Press raised questions about his history of addresses to white supremacist groups. In 2010, speaking a rally celebrating Alabama's secession from the Union, he claimed that Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than Abraham Lincoln.

Reading Eidsmoe, though, some of Bachmann's most widely ridiculed statements begin to make sense. Earlier this year, for example, she was mocked for saying that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery. But in books by Eidsmoe and others who approach history from what they call a Christian worldview, this is a truism. Despite his defense of the Confederacy, Eidsmoe also argues that even those founders who owned slaves opposed the institution and wanted it to disappear, and that it was only Christian for them to protect their slaves until it did. "It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible," he wrote.

After graduating from Coburn in 1986, Bachmann went on to get a degree in tax law from William and Mary School of Law in Virginia, while her husband studied psychology and counseling at Regent University, the school founded by Pat Robertson. His thesis was about the harmful effects of day care on children. "[T]he best interests of the public would be served if one parent did not work outside of the home unless it was absolutely essential," he wrote.

Nevertheless, when Bachmann's children were small, she worked at the IRS while Marcus got his Christian counseling business up and running. Finally, in 1992, she said, "I realized my lifelong dream, which was to be a full-time mother of children at home." That same year, she received her foster care license.

Bachmann often says she has "raised" 23 foster children. That may be a bit of a stretch. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Bachmann's license, which she had for 7 1/2 years, allowed her to care for up to three children at a time. According to Kris Harvieux, a former senior social worker in the foster care system in Bachmann's county, some placements were almost certainly short term. "Some of them you have for a week. Some of them you have for three years, some you have for six months," says Harvieux, who also served as a foster parent herself. "She makes it sound like she got them at birth and raised them to adulthood, but that's not true."

Yet Bachmann clearly had some of her foster children long enough to enroll them in local schools, and it was through them that she got involved in school politics. While she taught her own children at home before sending them to private Christian schools, state law required foster kids to go to public school. Seeing their curriculum, she became convinced that "politically correct attitudes, values, and beliefs" had supplanted objective education. She helped found a charter school but soon left the board amid allegations that she was trying to inject Christianity into the curriculum. Then, in 1999, she decided to run for the local school board.

School board elections in Stillwater, Minnesota, had been nonpartisan affairs, but when Bachmann ran as part of a slate of five Republican candidates, culture war issues were injected into the race. "I remember being called by someone and asked where I stood on abortion," says former school board member Mary Cecconi. People felt that it was "sullying the process, that the partisan aspect doesn't belong at the local level," says Bill Pulkrabek, a Republican county official who helped organize Bachmann's slate. It was the only election she ever lost.

But the race served as her springboard into the statehouse. In 2000, she challenged incumbent state Sen. Gary Laidig, a moderate, for the Republican nomination. Bachmann, says Pulkrabek, had an extraordinary ability "to motivate activists and delegates to action." She won on the first ballot.

In the statehouse, Bachmann made opposition to gay marriage her signature issue. Both she and her husband, by all accounts her most trusted political adviser, believe that homosexuality can be cured. Speaking to a Christian radio station about gay teenagers last year, Marcus, who treats gay people in his counseling practice, said, "Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels this or thinks this, doesn't mean that we're supposed to go down that road."

In 2004, Bachmann gave a speech warning that gay marriage would lead to schoolchildren being indoctrinated into homosexuality. She wanted everyone to know, though, that she doesn't hate gay people. "Any of you who have members of your family in the lifestyle, we have a member of our family that is," she said. "This is not funny. It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay."

She was clearly talking about her 51-year-old stepsister, Helen LaFave, who had lived with her partner, Nia Wronski, for more than 15 years. As Bachmann became the public face of opposition to gay marriage, her relationship with her stepsiblings grew strained. "Helen always liked Michele, always," says Linda Cielinski, one of Bachmann's other stepsisters. "They lived together as teenage girls. They were very close at that time." Bachmann's anti-gay activism, Cielinski says, "was a hit to the gut."

And so, in April 2006, when the Minnesota Senate judiciary committee met for a hearing on Bachmann's proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Helen LaFave, Wronski, and several relatives including Cielinski were all in the gallery. "I wanted Michele to put a face to this whole thing," says Cielinski. "These were family members she was hurting." They didn't intend to talk to the press—LaFave has always shied away from media attention—but journalists quickly learned who they were and surrounded them. (LaFave declined an interview request, citing concern about the effect of the controversy on her 87-year-old father, who is still married to Bachmann's mother.)

The ensuing brouhaha further tore at the family. In a Star Tribune story headlined "Bachmann, stepsister hold opposing views," Bachmann claimed that she'd polled her siblings and stepsiblings, and that six of the nine agreed with her. Her stepbrother Mike LaFave was horrified. "The reality was she hadn't taken a family vote count, nor would my family ever do such a thing," he says. "I just find it terrible that when Michele was taken by surprise by a question she wasn't prepared for, the first thing she did was throw not only my sister but her whole family under the bus."

Over the years, several letters from disgruntled Bachmann relatives have appeared in local newspapers, though they usually don't mention their relationship. "I have a suggestion for Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, since she's interested in watching gay people," Cielinski wrote in a letter published in the Pioneer Press in 2005. "Instead of hiding behind bushes with a security guard, go to the grocery store, a PTA meeting, ballgames, concerts, church, the movies, or take a walk around the lake…[T]hey are our friends and family members who have added so much to our lives." Bachmann never responded.

None of this is likely to sour her many devoted fans. Indeed, it's precisely her unwavering ideological commitment that endears her to them. "She's not afraid to say things that other people on the right are probably thinking, but they're just too wimpy to say," says Pulkrabek, who supports Bachmann's presidential ambitions. "She says these things and she promotes these views because she really believes them."
WOW...  a peace of work... !!!  Beyond words...  Monte 

Jun 28, 2011

Today's Energy Panacea: Biochar! | The Energy Collective

Would you like to curb or even reverse global warming? Help feed the world? Generate renewable energy?

Biochar is the answer, say its most fervent advocates.

If only life were so simple.

Biochar, alas, isn’t ready yet to be a meaningful solution to the climate crisis, or a way to enhance agricultural productivity at scale. But it’s an intriguing substance that has been around for thousands of years, and the production of biochar may prove to be one of the technologies that governments and business deploy to deal with the threat of climate change. As, potentially, a carbon negative technology, it’s worth a look.

Biochar, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a charcoal-like substance that is created today bypyrolysis of biomass. In layman’s terms, biochar is made by taking organic material, like agricultural waste, heating it to very high temperatures, and allowing it to decompose in the absence of oxygen.

Jonah Levine

To learn about biochar, I met recently in Boulder, Colorado, with Jonah Levine, who is a co-owner of his own small biochar business and, until recently, was an executive with a startup called Biochar Engineering. Jonah, who is 30 and lives near Boulder, got involved with biochar when a friend asked him to organize a conference on the technology in 2009 at the University of Colorado. A passionate environmentalist, he had previously worked as a wildlife biologist and as an engineer advising utilities on how to incorporate renewable energy into the grid.

Now he’s bullish on biochar.

“I feel like like I’m watching the beginning of an industry,” Jonah says. “Within a decade, I feel this will be a functional business space.”

He told me that the history of biochar can be traced back to Brazil, where dark soils in the Amazon region are known as “Terra Preta.” No one can be certain about their origin, but some scientists believe they were created as long as 4,500 years ago, and that they helped support a complex, farm-based civilization in the Amazon, despite the region’s poor soil.

Johannes Lehmann, a leading biochar researcher at Cornell University, writes:

Terra preta research inspired the development of a revolutionary technology that can have tremendous impact on rural livelihoods as well as carbon sequestration. It builds on the application of stable organic matter in the form of bio-char (biomass-derived black carbon or charcoal) in conjunction with nutrient additions. This bio-char is very stable, provides and retains nutrients for millenia, as seen in Terra Preta.

As Jonah explained it to me, organic matter—crop waste, wood chips or even sewage—can be turned into biochar by heating the materials to between 300 and 900 degrees C. This generates a synthetic gas that can be converted into liquid fuels, used for heating or generating electricity, as well as the biochar, which is then worked into soil to improve farm productivity. (The yield of products from pyrolysis varies with the temperature; lower temperatures produce more char, higher temperatures make more syngas.) Proponents claim that the biochar then sequesters carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years—carbon that would otherwise be released into the air if the organic matter were burned or allowed to decompose.

Consider, for example, the vast swaths of pine trees being killed by mountain pine beetles in the Rocky Mountains. Some, I’m told, are being shipped to Europe to be burned as fuel in coal plants. Others are allowed to decompose, emitting CO2. If, instead, the dead trees were turned into biochar through pyrolysis, and the char was then used in agriculture, substantial amounts of CO2 emissions could be avoided even as renewable energy was created.

The business model for biochar is simple: Buy cheap organic waste, process it and then sell energy and biochar to create two streams of revenue. “If you have $150,000 and 90 days, I can sell you a piece of equipment that will make 50 to 100 pounds of char an hour,” Jonah told me. He says the process will also release about 2 million BTU per hour of producer gas. “We need all the revenue streams we can get, including soil product value, energy value, carbon value, waste mitigation value and more,” he adds. The process, he assures me, requires far less energy than it generates, but the technology for making char isn’t well-developed yet.

James Lovelock, the British scientist who created the Gaia hypothesis, and prominent climate scientistJames Hansen are biochar advocates. More than 500 academic papers have been written about biochar, Jonah told me, many of them focusing on its impact on agricultural yields. Research is going on all over the world, including at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and at an experimental farm in North Carolina. Here’s a global discussion list with lots of information on biochar research; another good source of information is the International Biochar Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

Various companies in Europe, Australia and the U.S. either sell biochar or biochar production units; all are small scale. One of the most intriguing is a startup based in Camarillo, California, called Cool Planet Biofuelsthat is developing “negative carbon fuels” with biochar as a byproduct. The company website says:

Imagine driving high performance cars and large family safe SUV’s while actually reversing global warming, and without using any foreign oil….the more Negative Carbon “N100″ fuel you use, the more carbon you permanently remove from the atmosphere.

It sounds too good to be true, but investors in Cool Planet Biofuels include Google Ventures, General Electric, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips.

If they think biochar is worth their attention, it’s probably time for those of us concerned about the climate crisis to take it seriously, too.

[Biochar photo credit: Jonah Levine]

Why Is Multi-Billion Dollar Telecom Time Warner Fretting About a Small City in North Carolina? | Media | AlterNet

A story of how the public sector can vastly outperform the private one.
June 27, 2011

Thanks to Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for contributing to this article. You can, and should follow his reporting on public networks at www.muninetworks.org.

Conservatives would have us believe the public sector can’t compete with the private sector. The private sector itself knows better. Nowhere is this more evident than in the telecommunications sector.

People hate their telecommunications companies. The poster child for poor customer service in the public sector may be the Department of Motor Vehicle Bureau, but its unresponsiveness and arrogance pales into insignificance to those of Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and AT&T. In 2010 Comcast, the largest cable company in America bested 31 other companies from all sectors to win Consumerist.com’s Worst Company in America award.

As if to prove it was worthy of the award, Comcast recently pulled $18,000 in funding for a girl’s summer camp because one of the organizers had disapprovingly tweeted about Commissioner Meredith Baker’s jump from the FCC to Comcast just four months after approving Comcast’s $13.75 billion union with NBC. In an e-mail to the group, Steve Kipp, a vice president of communications for Comcast explained, “Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding — especially when there are so many other deserving nonprofits in town.” (The resulting uproar from the mainstream media’s reporting led Comcast to rescind the cutoff.)

The increased importance of high speed broadband in everything from business to education to entertainment coupled with soaring prices, slow speeds and bad service from private providers finally led cities to take matters into their own hands and build their own broadband networks.

Today, over 54 cities own citywide fiber networks. Another 79 own citywide cable networks. Over 3 million people have access to these networks. Hundreds more own and/or operate network connecting only schools and municipal buildings. An interactive map showing these networks can be found at Community Broadband Networks, a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Cities now view high speed broadband networks as essential infrastructure like water, sewer, and roads. Says Doug Paris, assistant to the city manager in Salisbury, which launched its Fibrant network in 2010, “It’s really not a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity.”

For Harold DePriest, head of Chattanooga’s state of the art broadband network and its municipally owned electricity company an even more fundamental issue is involved. Who will write the rules for our information future? “(D)oes our community control our own fate, or does someone else control it?,” he asks.

Soaring telecommunication rates are straining already stressed public budgets, leading many cities to build networks for their own use. Montgomery County, Maryland’s network allowed it to stop leasing lines to schools and public buildings, resulting in remarkable savings.

Even the District of Columbia, often trotted out as the epitome of government incompetence, has proven it can outcompete private telecom firms. DC-NETserves over 350 public buildings, including schools, libraries, public hospitals and community centers, saving taxpayers some $5 million per year compared to the costs of leasing circuits. Moreover, with more layers of redundancy than in a typical commercial network, DC-NET has achieved a reliability record far better than the industry standard.

For many cities, publicly owned networks are a key element in an economic development strategy. Jory Wolf, Chief Information Officer of Santa Monica’s publicly owned fiber network explains, “When I talk to prospective post-production and tech businesses seeking to relocate to Santa Monica, they tell me it is no longer the cost of real estate, but the cost of IP [transport] driving the decision.” Fiber has helped Bristol, Virginia hold onto existing businesses as well as attract new ones. Chattanooga’s fiber network, which offers 1Gbps speeds, has led to hundreds of new jobs before it was even completed 15 months after startup.

When Real Competition Comes to Town

When a public network opens for business, a town finally experiences effective competition, and it shows.

After Monticello, Minnesota began financing its citywide fiber network, incumbent telco TDS began building its own despite having maintained for years that Monticello did not need more telecom investment. Monticello is now the only city in the country with two competing fiber-to-the-home networks. After Lafayette began building its network, incumbent cable company Cox, which had previously dismissed customer demands for better service as pure conjecture scrambled to upgrade conceding “the people in this area have made it very clear they want faster speeds”.

A Tacoma, Washington, resident who benefits from Click!, its municipal cable network writes, “I have Comcast in Tacoma and all I know is since there is competition down here Comcast is about half the cost as it is in Seattle…A friend in Seattle once called Comcast with both of our bills with similar service and mentioned my price and they said I must live in Tacoma and they wouldn’t match the price. Such is the power of competition.”

A Level Playing Field?

If forced to, private companies will compete, but they much prefer to spend tens of millions of dollars buying the votes of state legislators to enact laws that thwart competition rather than spend hundreds of millions to improve their networks.

Today four states have outright prohibitions on municipal networks. Fifteen others impose significant roadblocks. For example, Alabama requires each communications service (phone, Internet access, and television) offered by a public network to be self-sustaining in isolation from the others. Similarly, in Utah, if the public network wants to offer retail services it must conduct feasibility studies to show the network will cash flow in the first year and that separate services will each cash flow separately. Making a network –a hugely capital intensive investment — cash flow in the first year is all but impossible.

Sometimes the juxtaposition of the public sector’s success in the marketplace and the private sector’s success in rewriting the rules of the marketplace is breathtaking. The small city of Kutztown built one of the first muni fiber-to-the-home networks and Verizon just about broke its neck rushing to the legislature to outlaw the practice before others could duplicate it. Kutztown’s HometownUtilicom has produced $2 million in savings, a result both of its lower rates and the lower prices charged by the incumbent cable company in response to competitive pressure. This is real money in a small borough.

In 2004 Governor Rendell gave Kutztown an award for its network. Shortly thereafter he signed Verizon’s bill ensuring no other community would be able to duplicate it.

One would think the private sector, which repeatedly insists the public sector is inept, would have no trouble competing with public networks, especially with all the enormous built-in advantages incumbents have. Incumbent telephone and cable companies long ago amortized the costs of building their network. When a new competitor enters the market, it must build an entirely new network, passing the costs onto subscribers or investors in the form of higher prices or reduced margins. Large incumbents have much more power in negotiating channel contracts because channel owners need massive companies like Comcast to carry their channels. A new network serving a single community might pay 25- 50 percent more for their channels.

Despite the odds, cities have proven quite capable of competing. Rather than recognize that success, the telecom companies have spent years trying to get rid of the competition, most recently in North Carolina.

Time Warner had been trying for years to prevent competition in North Carolina. Its failure to do so has allowed six communities to build public systems, most recently Wilson with its Greenlight network and Salisbury with its Fibrant network. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance compared the rates and speeds offered by Wilson and Salisbury to those offered by large telecom companies like Time Warner Cable and AT&T in North Carolina. The public sector wins hands down.

The success of Salisbury and Wilson led other North Carolina cities like Chapel Hill to seriously investigate public ownership, instilling panic in Time Warner’s corporate boardrooms. Its full court legislative press, coupled with the legislature’s more conservative makeup after November’s elections, finally proved successful. In May, the North Carolina legislature passed a Time Warner Cable-written bill audaciously entitled An Act to Protect Jobs and Investment by Regulating Local Government Competition with Private Business.

The legislation is popularly known as the Level Playing Field bill, the catchphrase of the cable companies. “The bill is intended to create a level playing field so if local governments want to provide commercial retail services in direct competition with private business, they can’t use their considerable advantages unfairly”, Time Warner announced. “We’re all for competition, as long as people are on a level playing field,” Dan Ballister, director of communications insists.

It’s not surprising that Time Warner would cry foul. That’s what sore losers do when they’re getting whupped. But that legislators echoed this bizarre claim was both surprising and infuriating. For you have to go a far piece to believe that tiny Salisbury, North Carolina has a competitive edge over the mammoth Time Warner.

Time Warner’s annual revenues at $18 billion are more than 500 times Salisbury’s $34 million. Time Warner has 14 million customers. Salisbury’s Fibrant network has 1000. We tried to chart the comparative revenues and customers of Time Warner Cable and Salisbury and as you can see Salisbury is so minuscule it doesn’t show up at all!

Let’s be clear. All publicly owned networks would enthusiastically welcome a genuine level playing field in which both the private and the public sector play by the same rules. They know that in a fair fight they win hands down. Heck even in the current situation in which the incumbents have the vast majority of advantages, public networks are winning more often than not.

The private sector’s definition of a level playing field goes only one way.

The recently passed North Carolina law is a case in point. Time Warner Cable can build networks anywhere in the state but the public sector is limited to its political boundaries or very close to them.

A public network must to price its communication services based on the cost of capital available to private providers. This means that if a city can borrow at a lower rate it cannot use this lower cost to offer a lower price.

Which leads to an obvious question. Would the private sector support a similar law prohibiting Wal Mart, for example, from lowering its price to reflect its lower borrowing costs compared to independent small retailers? To ask the question is to answer it.

North Carolina also requires public networks to charge prices taking into account taxes comparable to those paid by private networks. Florida has had such a law for ten years. A 2003 study found that in fact public networks were paying 2-4 times the taxes paid by the private sector.

Terry Huval, Director of Lafayette’s LUS Fiber describes some of the aspects of the currently unlevel playing field.

While Cox Communications can make rate decisions in a private conference room several states away, Lafayette conducts its business in an open forum, as it should. While Cox can make repeated and periodic requests for documents under the Public Records Law, it is not subject to a corresponding… Louisiana law limits the ability of a governmental enterprise to advertise, but nothing prevents the incumbent providers from spending millions of dollars in advertising campaigns. … To be sure, the ‘playing field is not level,’ but it is the government which is disadvantaged, not the private companies.

During the early stages of planning and development, public networks often must release their strategies, marketing and product plans to incumbent competitors. Publicly owned networks are unable to surprise their competitors with new products or pricing plans, a significant disadvantage. If incumbents truly desire a level playing field, will they open themselves to the same level of public scrutiny? Of course not.

The North Carolina law, as with many such state laws, prohibit public networks from cross-subsidization, using surpluses from one part of the city to finance the telecommunications system. But the law doesn’t prohibit private networks from doing so. Time Warner Cable can use predatory pricing against competitors because it cross-subsidizes from its vast customer base (largely in uncompetitive areas).

Scottsboro, Alabama overbuilt an incumbent cable company. After Charter bought the incumbent, it cross-subsidized from other markets to finance its predatory pricing against the City. Scottsboro customers were offered a video package with 150 channels for less than $20 per month, even while Charter charged customers in nearby communities over $70 for the same package. Additionally, Charter offered $200 cash for those who made the switch to Charter Cable and another $200 for switching to Charter Internet. In a proceeding at the FCC, experts estimated Charter was losing at least $100-$200 year on these deals and even more when factoring in the cost of six major door-to-door marketing campaigns.

A referendum by the voters is frequently required before a city can issue bonds to finance a public network, a referendum in which the incumbents often outspend those in favor by more than 10 to 1. In Minnesota a supermajority of 65 percent is needed before a public network can offer phone services.

But the North Carolina law specifically exempts cities from any requirement that they obtain voter approval “prior to the sale or discontinuance of the city’s communications network”.

What is to be Done?

What can be done to foster genuine competition in the telecom industry and allow people to decide whether they want to participate directly in establishing the rules governing their digital networks?

1. Speak up. Publicize the successes of the public networks and demand that the choice of whether to build one should be left to the community. Throw the “level playing field argument” back at the Time Warner Cables and Comcasts of the world by fashioning legislation that forces them to play by the same rules as cities. Educate yourself – MuniNetworks.org is a good start.

2. Tell the FCC and Congress to prohibit states from stripping communities of their right to build essential infrastructure. If states rights is justified on the basis of the argument that governments closest to the people should make decisions, the argument is even stronger for local government rights.

3. Demand that federal subsidies allow communities to build their own networks rather than leasing services. For example, federal E-Rate funds aid local schools and libraries in buying broadband. Unfortunately, the rules prohibit communities from using the funds to purchase or build their own network. Federal funds should encourage communities to be locally self-reliant, not increasingly dependent on absentee corporations subsidized by US taxpayers.

Jun 27, 2011

Ventrac….More Than Just A Mower « Hope to have one before I pass on... !!!

Ever wonder just how many things you can do with a Ventrac? Well…wonder no more! Our newest videos will give you plenty of inspiration and more ideas than you could ever dream of. For Jack Wiley, of Moline, Illinois, having over 35 attachments for his Ventrac is normal. While most people might consider mowing a chore….it is his passion…his hobby….something he absolutely loves. Jack loves his Ventrac and how easy the tractor allows him to do more than he ever thought possible. Operating his tractor is an every day occurrence. Enjoy the videos!

Slope Mowing with Ventrac
- Jack Wiley explains why Ventracall wheel drive compact articulating tractors excel on slopes. Wiley explains why Ventrac is safer and causes less turf damage on slopes than other tractors. This clip also explains safety requirements for slope operation. Wiley is a retired engineer and currently resides in Moline, IL where he manages his property with slopes up to 28 degrees.

More Than a Mower
- Jack Wiley describes how he uses his Ventrac for much more than mowing steep grades. Wiley owns over 35 attachments that he uses with his Ventrac. “It is a hobby,” Wiley says. “It’s a passion. I’m a tractor guy.” Wiley is a retired engineer and currently resides in Moline, IL where he manages his property and helps out his neighbors, church, and a nearby wetland preserve.

To see these and more recent Ventrac video releases, visit the Ventrac Compact Tractors YouTube Channel or click on the links above.

“Hot Coffee” Documentary Exposes Corporate Attacks on Consumer Rights, Features Expert Insights from Public Citizen

“Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?” Premieres on HBO, Monday, June 27 at 9 p.m. (Eastern/Pacific) and 8 p.m. (Central). It will be available on-demand later this month. For more information about the documentary, follow this link.
What Really Happened?

Stella Liebeck, 79-years-old, was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car having purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee. After the car stopped, she tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the lid. However, the cup tipped over, pouring scalding hot coffee onto her lap. She received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body, necessitating hospitalization for eight days, whirlpool treatment for debridement of her wounds, skin grafting, scarring, and disability for more than two years.

Despite these extensive injuries, she offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. However, McDonald’s refused to settle for this small amount and, in fact, never offered more than $800.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages — reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault — and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. (To put this in perspective, McDonald’s revenue from coffee sales alone was in excess of $1.3 million a day.) The trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000, but did state that McDonald’s had engaged in “willful, wanton, and reckless” behavior. Mrs. Liebeck and McDonald’s eventually settled for a confidential amount. The jury heard the following evidence in the case:
McDonald’s Operations Manual required the franchisee to hold its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit;
Coffee at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns (the worst kind of burn) in three to seven seconds;
Third-degree burns do not heal without skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in permanent disfigurement, extreme pain and disability of the victim for many months, and in some cases, years;
The chairman of the department of mechanical engineering and bio-mechanical engineering at the University of Texas testified that this risk of harm is unacceptable, as did a widely recognized expert on burns, the editor in chief of the leading scholarly publication in the specialty, the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation;
McDonald’s admitted that it has known about the risk of serious burns from its scalding hot coffee for more than 10 years — the risk was brought to its attention through numerous other claims and suits, to no avail;
From 1982 to 1992, McDonald’s coffee burned more than 700 people, many receiving severe burns to the genital area, perineum, inner thighs, and buttocks;
Not only men and women, but also children and infants, have been burned by McDonald’s scalding hot coffee, in some instances due to inadvertent spillage by McDonald’s employees;
McDonald’s admitted at trial that its coffee is “not fit for consumption” when sold because it causes severe scalds if spilled or drunk;
McDonald’s admitted at trial that consumers are unaware of the extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee served at McDonald’s then required temperature;
McDonald’s admitted that it did not warn customers of the nature and extent of this risk and could offer no explanation as to why it did not;
Liebeck’s treating physician testified that her injury was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.
McDonald’s did a survey of other coffee establishments in the area, and found that coffee at other places was between 30-40 degrees cooler.

Moreover, the Shriner’s Burn Institute in Cincinnati had published warnings to the franchise food industry that its members were unnecessarily causing serious scald burns by serving beverages above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. In refusing to grant a new trial in the case, Judge Robert Scott called McDonald’s behavior “callous.”

Morgan, The Recorder, September 30, 1994. From www.hottcoffeethemovie.com.

Those with "the Gold", can paint a picture anyway they want to... Wake-up  democracy... !!!  Movie trailer makes me want to see this movie... Monte

Video: space station’s streaming webcam to let users spy on earthlings | SmartPlanet

When it first arrived, Google Earth’s concept of letting internet users take terrestrial high-resolution snapshots from space was quite revolutionary. So you figure the logical next step would be an upgrade to something like live streaming high-definition video, right?

It’s now six years later and the satellite-assisted program has a few more bells and whistles like the ground-level “street view” feature and Google Ocean, which allows users to explore the ocean floor via 3D rendering — but still, no video.

Now, UrtheCast, a lesser-known Canadian-based company, has decided to pick up where the internet search giant has left off and provide customizable real-time, streaming views of Earth. The company has teamed up with Rutherford Appleton Labs and the Russian Space Agency and to install a pair of HD video cameras aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The project is scheduled to launch on June 28th and cameras will begin beaming footage in the spring of 2012 — which is when the real fun begins.

Here’s a preview of what users can expect from the Urthecast webstreams:
The ability to track the location of the Space Station and anticipate when it will pass over a particular geographic location.
The option to search for videos of a specific location, type, or theme and will have the ability to interact with the HD video feed from the UrtheCast servers.
Camera controls that allows for in and out zooms, ability to virtually steer the camera from side to side, rewind, and fast forward on areas and sites of interest.

The cameras, built by UK based Rutherford Appleton Laboratories, are each designed to carry out different functions. One camera will offer medium resolution three color views with a swath of 45 kilometers and a resolution of 5.5 meters. For high-resolution views, the another camera serves up a frame rate of 3.25 frames per second with a resolution that is comparable to Google Earth and should allow users to see man-made objects and groups of people.

The RSC Energia will deliver UrtheCast’s cameras and handle the necessary maintenance and transfer of the data.

According to the company’s promotional video, users will be able to watch things like “political, environmental and sporting events at potentially any given time.”

Now that’s my kind of people watching.

Thanks to Lee Swanson for this news link...  Monte

Twin Whitetail Fawns - Hines Farm

Twin Fawns Caught on Hines Farm Trail Camera 06-26-2011

Twins Mother - Doe Caught on Hines Farm Trail Camera 06-26-2011

Some things in nature are priceless!  ... Monte

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google‬‏

Optimistic and Counter Intuitive Cloud Vision
Nicholas G. Carr's (aka Nick) [the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google] viewpoint about his counter intuitive vision for mankind who find themselves at the loosing end as a result of centralization of technology.

Great insight into Cloud Computing... !!! Monte

Food Ark - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

Conservationist Cary Fowler at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway
Food Ark
A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

By Charles Siebert
Photograph by Jim Richardson


Must read... Monte

Agricultural Law: National Geographic Discusses Decreasing Genetic Diversity in Our Food System

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/img/food-variety-tree-754.gif - Large Version

The recently released July issue of National Geographic Magazinehighlights the issue of genetic diversity, or more accurately, the lack of genetic diversity in our modern food supply. The feature article is Food Ark by Charles Siebert. It discusses the rapid loss of genetic diversity and explains why this loss should be of concern to us.

Food varieties extinction is happening all over the world—and it's happening fast. In the United States an estimated 90 percent of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished. Of the 7,000 apple varieties that were grown in the 1800s, fewer than a hundred remain. In the Philippines thousands of varieties of rice once thrived; now only up to a hundred are grown there. In China 90 percent of the wheat varieties cultivated just a century ago have disappeared. Experts estimate that we have lost more than half of the world's food varieties over the past century. As for the 8,000 known livestock breeds, 1,600 are endangered or already extinct.The article discusses the risk that this presents by highlighting current concerns regarding the wheat stem rust, Puccinia graminis, a fungus with a "virulent and fast-mutating strain dubbed Ug99." Ninety percent of the wheat currently under commercial cultivation is susceptible to this deadly fungus. As the article points out, "[t]he irony is that the dangerous dwindling of diversity in our food supply is the unanticipated result of an agricultural triumph" as we continue to specialize production and isolate the traits we wish to encourage. Other articles and graphics in the issue include Counting on Uncommon Chickens, a graphic series that highlights the impact of "world’s reliance on a few high-yielding breeds." Nearly a third of chicken breeds are at risk for extinction. And, there is a graphic series titled Sustainable Beef that addresses cattle breeds; That's a Potato, considers the amazing diversity of this important food crop; Seeds Worth Saving, highlights the importance of non-food, but food-related genetic diversity; and a Sidebar features tips on Growing Your Own Heirlooms. One of my favorites is the following graphic - Our Dwindling Food Variety. A lot to consider.

Time to fight back against multinational corporations like Monsanto who want to monopolize nature... Save seeds... Start seed banks...Before it is too late... Monte

8 Reasons Justice Clarence Thomas Must Step Down | Civil Liberties | AlterNet

Time was when, at any right-wing gathering, chances were that you'd hear the justices of the Supreme Court derided as black-robed usurpers of democracy. Today, not so much. Ever since the seating of the Roberts court, the right has been pretty happy with high court's decisions, especially the outcome of Citizens United v. FEC, the case through which the court, in a decision handed down last year, opened the floodgates of corporate money into the electoral system. No single justice has been more stalwart for the causes of the right -- indeed, even the far right -- than Justice Clarence Thomas, who, notes ThinkProgress, may just be the most ethically challenged justice since Abe Fortas was forced to step down from the court in 1969 for accepting tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy benefactors. While Thomas does not appear to have accepted direct donations (though he has accepted gifts, and possibly luxury travel aboard private jets and a yacht), it is clear that the conduct of his relationships with the wealthy and powerful -- and one magnate, Harlan Crow, in particular -- present some pretty obvious conflicts of interest, especially in regard to the court's decision in Citizens United, in which Thomas sided with the majority in declaring corporate campaign funding to be constitutionally protected. Thomas could have recused himself from the case, but he did not. A New York Times exposé published on June 19 detailed the role of Clarence Thomas' friend, real estate magnate Harlan Crow, in bankrolling a pet project of the justice's, the Pin Point Museum and Cannery outside Savannah, Georgia. Crow also funded a Savannah library dedicated to Thomas, and Thomas was given a bust of Lincoln valued at $15,000 by the American Enterprise Institute, to which Crow is a donor, and which files briefs in Supreme Court cases. But other aspects of Thomas' relationship with Crow are far more troubling, especially Crow's involvement in providing the seed money for the Tea Party group founded by Thomas' wife, Ginni. Now, it appears that Ginni Thomas may have derived a direct benefit from theCitizens United decision. And that is not the only ethically troubling incident in the annals of the Thomases' professional lives, which we detail below. But if there's any one big lesson to be learned from the saga of Clarence Thomas and the sullying of the high court, it's that Supreme Court justices are not bound by the code of ethics that applies to other members of the federal bench; it seems they are not legally bound by any code of ethics at all. In the wake of the Thomas problems, that fact has led more than 100 law professors to sign a letter calling on Congress to make the ethics code for federal judges apply to those who grace the bench of the highest court in the land. Because of this legal loophole, Thomas cannot be forced off the bench. But, for the sake of the republic he claims to love, he could step down -- and should. (A Credo Action petition calling for just that is here. UPDATE: And Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called today for an investigation of Thomas, as reported by ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser.) At AlterNet, we've followed the antics of Thomas and his wife, Ginni, closely since the launching of her Tea Party-aligned advocacy group made news last year. Here we detail the reasons that Thomas must go -- both for reasons of conflict, and for the appearance of Thomas' alignment with groups that have called for armed insurrection against the U.S. government. 1. Conflict of interest - Citizens United and Liberty Central: In November 2009, just two months before the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United was handed down -- but just after the case was argued before the court -- Ginni Thomas incorporated her Tea Party advocacy group, Liberty Central, as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4). As an issue-advocacy organization that sponsors advertising and endorses candidates, Liberty Central stood to gain directly from the outcome of Citizens United. Assuming that Ginni Thomas drew a salary and/or expenses from the group, the onus on Clarence Thomas was to recuse himself from participating in the Citizens United case, which he did not. 2. Conflict of interest - Harlan Crow's bankrolling of Liberty Central: When AlterNet first reported on the launching of Liberty Central with Ginni Thomas at the helm, we noted that the group was formed with an initial donation of $500,000 by a then-unnamed donor. Politico has since revealed that donor to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate who is a major donor to political causes, and a good friend of Clarence Thomas -- such a good friend that he bestowed upon the justice a Bible that once belonged to Frederick Douglass, a gift valued at $19,000.

3. Soliciting donations? Unanswered questions: The Times revealed that it was Thomas himself who suggested that Algernon Varn, owner of the Pin Point Cannery (where Thomas' mother once worked), hit up the justice's good friend, Harlan Crow. Varn told Times reporter Mike McIntire:

“And Clarence said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend I’m going to put you in touch with,’ ” Mr. Varn recalled, adding that he was later told by others not to identify the friend.

The land was subsequently purchased from Varn, to the tune of $1.5 million, by a real estate partnership run by Crow. If Thomas felt no compunction at sending Varn to seek backing, with his imprimatur, from Crow for what may have amounted, according to the Times, to $2.8 million in land and construction costs, it is not unreasonable to suspect it was Thomas' influence that compelled Crow to donate $500,000 to Ginni Thomas' organization. Clarence Thomas refused to answer questions submitted by the Times. 4. Calls for insurrection: If Crow's half-million-dollar donation to Ginni Thomas' Liberty Central were not troubling enough, there's Liberty Central itself. AsAlterNet reported, at its inception Liberty Central was linked to two groups -- theMissouri Sovereignty Project and Gun Owners of America -- whose leaders called for the making of war on the U.S. government, and one, Tradition Family and Property, whose leader called the Spanish Inquisition "a beautiful thing." Each of these groups were listed on the Liberty Central Web site as "Friends of Liberty Central." Liberty Central officials refused to comment on whether or not the groups had paid a fee or donation to Liberty Central in order to earn the listing.

If a justice of the Supreme Court solicited a donation for a group whose success not only would benefit the justice's own household, but is also linked to groups that called for war on the government whose constitution the justice is sworn to uphold, that should be enough to warrant his stepping down. (In the wake of controversy over Ginni Thomas' role at Liberty Central, she stepped down and Liberty Central merged with the Patrick Henry Center. Ginni Thomas then opened a lobbying shop called Liberty Consulting, run from the same address as Liberty Central -- an address that turns out to be a mailbox in a UPS store, according tothis video by Brad Blog.) 5. Conflict of interest - health-care reform: No sooner had the Affordable Care Act -- the health-care reform law that set off the Obama administration's battle royal with the American right -- passed into law than it became apparent that challenges to the law launched by Republican state attorneys general would likely make their way before the Supreme Court. Liberty Central opposed the bill, and appeared at a Tea Party rally sponsored by FreedomWorks calling for its repeal.

It's one thing for the spouse of a justice to be politically active on issues that may appear before the court, but quite another for a justice to solicit donations, whether implicitly or explicitly, for an organization headed by his spouse that advocates for cases that could appear before the court. At the very least, Clarence Thomas needs to account for his role in securing Liberty Central's $500,000 in start-up money from Crow. 6. Conflict of interest - Koch Industries fundraiser: In January 2008, Clarence Thomas addressed a fundraising gathering convened in Palm Springs, California, by Koch Industries, the privately held conglomerate helmed by Charles and David Koch, for major backers of the Tea Party movement and right-wing think tanks, including the Heritage foundation, for which Ginni Thomas worked for a number of years. Although, according to the New York Times, a court spokesperson described Thomas' appearance as "a brief drop-by," Thomas' own financial disclosure forms claim reimbursement for an undisclosed sum by the Federalist Society -- an organization that receives Koch funding -- for four days at Palm Springs.

Either way, the justice appeared at a gathering that is designed to raise money for right-wing institutions that advocate legal opposition to policies enacted by Congress and the Obama administration. Revelations of Clarence Thomas' appearances before the Koch gathering prompted Common Cause to launch apetition earlier this year, calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the involvement of both Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia in the Koch Industries gathering. The Koch brothers, as both donors to and creators of right-wing institutions, were major beneficiaries of the Citizens United decision (in which Scalia, naturally, also sided with the majority). 7. Failure to disclose spouse's income: Taken alone, Clarence Thomas' failure to disclose, for 20 years, his wife's income from such right-wing institutions as the Heritage Foundation -- which also files briefs for Supreme Court cases -- might not be reason enough to demand his ouster from the court. After all, he did amend his disclosure forms to provide the relevant information once the "oversight" was reported in the media. But taken in aggregate with the other ethics breaches and questionable activities noted here, it simply adds more fuel to the fire. 8. Travel questions: Thomas has refused to answer questions about whether or not he has been treated to high-style gratis travel to speaking engagements on Harlan Crow's private plane and his yacht. The Times exposé reveals coincidences that suggest he has.

At a time when Americans' faith in their institutions of governance is at record lows, the continuing presence of Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court undermines the very underpinnings of democracy. It's time for him to go. To sign the Credo Action petition demanding that Thomas step down, click here.

This crook needs to go now...!!!  Monte

Jun 26, 2011

NCMR 2011 - WikiLeaks, Journalism and Modern-Day Muckracking

Wikileaks has sent shockwaves through the diplomatic community worldwide.

This panel, presented at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston on April 8, discusses how the release of these documents has reinvigorated the great journalistic tradition of muckraking. It also raises the fundamental questions about how journalism is done in an age of digital whistleblowers and online leaks.

Panelists: Emily Bell: Tow Center for Digital Journalism; Glenn Greenwald: Salon.com; Greg Mitchell: editor, author and blogger for The Nation; Micah Sifry: Personal Democracy Forum; and Christopher Warren: Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance. The panel was moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Thanks to Walt Kosmowski of Beverly Community Access Media for the footage.

 To see more of the conference, go to www.conference.freepress.net. For more about media issues, go to www.freepress.net.