On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to relax the rules for owning American news media. Further relaxing of the rules is the absolute last thing we need unless you happen to want more Clear Channel and Fox News. Increased deregulation is sure to make it easier for the Rupert Murdochs of the world to buy up existing cable channels, radio frequencies and print publications, frequently in the same region of the country. The negative effect this sort of thing has on civic democracy is well documented.
There are a number of groups working hard to resist the drive toward further deregulation, including the Media Reform Network and the Center for Digital Democracy. (Click here for a list.) Check them out if you want to get involved in media reform. Also see Jeff Chester and Gary Larson's Twelve Step Plan for Media Democracy, which offers useful talking points and activist opportunities.
You can also contact your elected reps and tell them to preserve current media ownership rules for the sake of competition, market fairness and diversity of ideas. It'll take about ninety seconds using the Nation's new online activism kit. And, as much as they don't seem to listen, it could help make a difference.
More than 1 million low-income Americans have lost or will soon lose government-subsidized healthcare, recent reports estimate, as states slash funding to contain spiraling deficits caused largely by cuts in federal funding.
Forty-seven million Americans nationwide receive Medicaid, the federal/state health care program for the poor and disabled. About two percent of those--children, seniors and low-wage workers--will lose their healthcare due to the cuts. The defunding will also mean further overcrowding and closures of hospitals and clinics and increased strain on the medical emergency infrastructure.
But there's still time to demand an end to this insanity. Congress can prevent these cuts by passing a budget resolution that sends increased federal tax dollars to the states specifically to protect essential healthcare. And you can help by joining the SEIU's Put Families First All Call Day. Contact your elected legislators on WEDNESDAY MAY 7. (Click here for contact info or call toll-free at 1-888-280-6279.) Let your reps know know that working families in your state need Congress to pass a budget with sufficient Medicaid funding. This is a political battle that can be won.
GLASGOW -- The red shirts worn by activists with the Scottish Socialist Party featured the phrase "Axis of Evil," a reference to President Bush's identification of nations that were on the wrong side of his "with-us-or-against-us" equation. In parentheses next to the phrase was the word "revised" and beneath it were outlines of Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the Glasgow Kelvin parliamentary constituency.
"We did not want any confusion. We're not with Bush. We're not with Blair. And we were not for their war," said Andy McPake, a Glasgow University student who wore the red shirt and a yellow "Vote SSP -- Stop the War" sticker on the night of May 1, as he watched votes being counted in elections for the Scottish Parliament.
Though the elections for the separate parliament that serves Scotland were about more than just the war that played out during the course of this year's campaign, a good many Scots shared McPake's view that the balloting offered an opportunity to send Blair and Bush a message. Polling before the election suggested that a substantial number of traditional Labour Party voters would bolt because of their anger over Blair's prowar stance, and that appears to be precisely what happened. The militantly antiwar SSP, whose leader Tommy Sheridan appeared frequently at antiwar rallies throughout the campaign and continued to wear a "No More Wars" pin even after the fighting in Iraq slackened, had held a single seat in the previous parliament. On May 1, the SSP won six seats. The Greens, who shared the antiwar stance if not the radical passions of the SSP activists, won seven seats. And independents who expressed anti-war sentiments took several more positions.
There's no denying that George Bush knows how to stage patriotic spectacles at sea, but the reality back on shore is not so technicolor pretty. Did you know that Top Gun Bush is poised to become the first President since Herbert Hoover to preside over job destruction rather than job creation? Thanks to Daniel Gross's article, recently posted on Slate, we also know that Bush's last tax cut, the largest cut in American history, has so far "cost" America 1.7 million jobs and counting.
For a good comparison of how Bush's record of job destruction compares to previous presidencies since World War II, check out the following compilation by the International Association of Machinists, which looked at the average growth in monthly employment during the terms of the last fifteen presidential administrations.
Truman First Term: 60,000 jobs gained per month
Truman Second Term: 113,000 jobs gained per month
Eisenhower First Term: 58,000 jobs gained per month
Eisenhower Second Term: 15,000 jobs gained per month
Kennedy: 122,000 jobs gained per month
Johnson: 206,000 jobs gained per month
Nixon First Term: 129,000 jobs gained per month
Nixon/Ford : 105,000 jobs gained per month
Carter: 218,000 jobs gained per month
Reagan First Term: 109,000 jobs gained per month
Reagan Second Term: 224,000 jobs gained per month
G. Bush: 52,000 jobs gained per month
Clinton First Term: 242,000 jobs gained per month
Clinton Second Term: 235,000 jobs gained per month
G.W. Bush : 69,000 jobs LOST per month
Don't go looking for the compact discs of country singer Toby Keith and jazz player Ellis Marsalis, Jr., in the same section of a music megastore. Don't expect to find a concert venue where downtown poet Patti Smith will share the stage with uptown pianoman Billy Joel. And don't even imagine that you will be able to tune in that magic radio frequency where Neil Diamond's croons, Pearl Jam's rocks and Van Dyke Parks explore the musical byways of Americana.
An examination of the CD collections of most Americans will still reveal the sort of diverse tastes that find room for the acoustic folk rock of the Indigo Girls, the alternative rock of Michael Stipe and REM, and the classic rock of Don Henley and the Eagles. But an increasingly corporate and commercial media rejects this very American penchant for diversity in favor of tightly formatted radio stations, lowest-common-denominator marketing strategies and the sort of homogenized and sanitized music that sounds as if it was created by a poll or a focus group -- as opposed to an artist.
Musicians of all stripes are starting to recognize that the galloping consolidation of American media -- especially in radio, where most Americans were first introduced to their favorite songs -- has reduced the ability of recording artists to take the risks that reshape our consciousness, to explore new ideas and new sounds and, ultimately, to be heard. Since Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which removed barriers to the number of radio stations one media conglomerate could own, the largest of these conglomerates -- Texas-based Clear Channel -- has grabbed more than 1,200 stations and shaped a musical mix characterized by the homogenization of playlists, the death of programming diversity, less local programming, reduced public access to the airwaves and rapidly declining public satisfaction with radio and the music it plays.
Stanley Kubrick's brilliant 1962 black comedy about politics, power and technology is one of the greatest antiwar films ever made. And, now, forty years after it was released, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb seems like a satirical time bomb, more relevant in the age of "preemption" than ever before.
In light of the film's sadly enduring significance, a new group has emerged, Operation Strangelove, which as its first major action is orchestrating nationwide showings of Dr. Strangelove on Wednesday, May 14. Screenings throughout the US--in cinemas, living rooms, schools, offices and community centers--will be followed by panel discussions/benefits, many of which will raise money for activist groups and relief organizations working in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Operation Strangelove grew out of the Lysistrata Project, which inspired more than 1,000 staged readings worldwide of Aristophanes's bawdy antiwar play this past March. The readings also raised more than $100,000 for peace and humanitarian groups like RAWA, Madre and United for Peace and Justice. Organizers are looking to top that figure with the film showings on May 14.
Conservative talking head and former Bush speechwriter David Frum was quoted yesterday by Howard Kurtz in his online Washington Post media column criticizing my "amazing breath control" and "dazzling long-windedness" during a recent TV program on which the two of us appeared.
I must apologize if Frum felt deprived of his fair share of air time. As we all know, conservative pundits tend to be shy and reserved. Pity Frum and his comrades--Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Fred Barnes--for not being able to express themselves fully in the face of the widespread "microphone-hugging stunts" of the "hard left." Next time, I am on-air with Frum, I promise--really, I do--to throttle back so that his side finally has a chance to reach the public. And perhaps he will take that opportunity to engage the arguments at hand and not worry so much my breathing. Though if he is really interested, I can send him the name of a good yoga instructor.