28 February 2006

Air America Phoenix has now disappeared into the ether

And general manager Bob Christy pens a farewell and thank you note to all the fans of Air America Phoenix, KXXT 1010 AM.
You helped take an unrated, unprofitable AM radio station and pushed it to a tie for 3rd place out of 25 AM stations in Phoenix. You took that same AM station and made it profitable in less than a year and even after the sale was announced you stood by Air America Phoenix and we kept on making money even when our future was in doubt and we didn't know when our "plug" was going to be pulled. In fact, the last month we were on the air was the 3rd best month we've had financially!

Air America Phoenix has now disappeared into the ether and Phoenix is left with multiple Christian formats, some in English and others in Spanish, several "brokered" time stations (you know the radio stations selling you vitamins, good bowel movements and financial advice) a bagful of right wing "Conservative Talk stations" featuring Rush, Sean, Laura, Bill Bennett, Savage, Medved and all of their local imitators, three "Sports Talk" stations that live off the largess of their sister stations in the big corporate clusters that dominate the dial in Phoenix. Is anyone enjoying Tony Snow on KTAR — did anyone ask for him? And there are 3 "nostalgia" stations on AM and another on the FM dial. (The inside radio joke on nostalgia is that listeners are "dying" for it!) CBS new "Free" FM is another station loaded with sophomoric chatter, but without the interruption of overplayed songs! Free FM is a continuous loop of bad FM morning show humor 24 hours a day! CBS should have stood by Howard Stern and they will regret the day they didn't!

As I've stated before, while I wasn't so enamored with most of the network Air America programming, I enjoyed listening to the Charles Goyette program, one of the few media outlets telling the truth on the illegal, immoral invasion of a sovereign nation that posed no threat to the United States, as well as some of the other local programming. The Al Franken show, when broadcast live, was also informative, but really not a caller talk show. Shows like Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and others were just as bad as the neoconservative yakkers occupying the remainder of the radio dial.

How KXXT catapaulted from obscurity to money maker in a short period is a vivid illustration of how there is an unserved market that will go unserved again (as it was before AA came to Phoenix in 2004). Lots of folks will now tune out or set their dial to the corpo-federali NPR speak to get their talk radio fix. Otherwise, the remaining radio talk pickings are just dripping of brain dead neocon sycophants or infomercial hell. Reason #10798 to subscribe to satellite radio, I reckon.

And, BTW, Jess Spurgin is the new GM at KXXT 1010 AM.

Brave men died in our Revolutionary War to give us the opportunity to do business with dictatorial, undemocratic monarchs

An editorial that makes the case that putting an undemocratic government in charge of our ports is a bad deal, in terms of both economics and security.
The United Arab Emirates itself is made up of several small Islamic kingdoms, each with an unelected emir, or king, who inherits a throne. In turn, the most powerful of these is chosen as the unelected leader of the entire UAE.

There is no religious freedom and little if any freedom of speech or press. It is this unelected, undemocratic monarchy which owns the company that will control operations at our ports.

While much of the hysteria over this economic arrangement is just misdirected rabble rousing and/or silly jingoism (i.e., the canard that they have had dealings with Al-Qaeda, when our own government has been in cahoots with the likes of Al-Qaeda and other monstrous barbarians), the author here is on the mark for pointing out that the U.S. is turning over assets to a "unelected, undemocratic monarchy". A monarchy that rules over a nation where freedom of expression is limited and where up to 90% of the country's workers are migrants, who according to Human Rights Watch are exploited, with charges of salary withholding and sexual abuse.

But I'm not singling out this deal, by any stretch. In fact, this is another perfect illustration where our sovereigntry is being parceled out, piece by piece, to a globalist, corporatist agenda. A "new world order" where the interests of the corporatists and the globalists are not always in sync with the hearts and minds of American workers, or any denizens around the globe, subserviant to a plutocratic cartel.

22 February 2006

This was a South Texas hunt, of course there was drinking

Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer
Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.

Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.

According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

Yeah, it's a rant peppered with anonymous sources. And hunting accidents are an unfortunate happenstance. However, this is another perfect illustration of how some folks frp, Washington are allotted special treatment, and remain above the law.

While the cited article is weak on substantive references, here is what we do know for certain:

  • Law enforcement was not given permission to interview the shooter until any chance of discovering whether or not alcohol was a factor was gone.

  • At first, questions about party alcohol consumption were met with outright denial. Then Cheney confesses that he had "a beer". How many people have simply stated they just had "a beer" when queried about their drinking?

  • Heart medication, like the kind Cheney must take on a regular basis, doesn't mix well with alcohol.

  • Hunting accidents, like motor vehicle crashes, often are the result of excessive alcohol indulging.

  • Vice president Dick Cheney has a past history with multiple DUI convictions.

  • Unlike Cheney, other hunters who have accidentally shot fellow humans have faced punitive consequences for their deeds.

Again, one set of rules for you and me, a different set for the privileged Washington cabal.

These bacteria don't belong there

Fast-Food Ice Dirtier Than Toilet Water
Jasmine Roberts never expected her award-winning middle school science project to get so much attention. But the project produced some disturbing results: 70 percent of the time, ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than toilet water.

The 12-year-old collected ice samples from five restaurants in South Florida — from both self-serve machines inside the restaurant and from drive-thru windows. She then collected toilet water samples from the same restaurants and tested all of them for bacteria at the University of South Florida.

In several cases, the ice tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which comes from human waste and has been linked to several illness outbreaks across the country.


13 February 2006

A lightbulb manufactured in 1901 burns bright to this day


Republican conversion to ethics

Tom Delay awarded spots on the committee controlling money flows and the one supervising investigations of corruption. Oh, I guess Republicans are serious about reforming their culture of corruption.
The indicted Republican congressman, forced to leave his House leadership post, has landed a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

GOP leaders also awarded the Texas Republican with a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department. That panel is investigating acknowledged influence-peddler Jack Abramoff and his ties to Capitol Hill lawmakers.

12 February 2006

You have turned our lives into a seemingly endless series of crises and our suffering is day and night

The misinformation and myopia in this Arizona Republic letter to the editor regarding Iraq is astounding and emblematic of the general public's dupability and blind acceptance of state propaganda.
Many people question the validity of U.S. military actions in Iraq. They base these questions on the information they obtain through television news networks.

Actually, television coverage has been, for the most part, sanitized in alignment with the Bush administration's wishes. Critical questions weren't asked prior to the illegal, immoral invasion of a nation state that posed no threat to the United States, and even after, mainstream media coverage has been totally skewed in a pro-war shroud. But all one has to do is power on their computer and pour over volumes upon volumes of information, news and perspectives from all different angles. And the simple task of signing up for a library card can provide the missing perspecitve that our "professional media corps" have failed to provide.

Based on those reports, one would believe the cost of our actions in Iraq has been too high and that our military has made little or no progress in the country. That is not so. Most news reports are biased and incomplete.

Yes, there are good stories to be shared about heroic American forces doing their utmost to make a difference. But those successes are drowned out by the weight of larger truths — insurgent attacks are still on the rise and every day in Iraq brings yet another long list of "security incidents".

For example, last week, for the first time in more than eight years, the people of Baghdad had running, drinkable water, a significant achievement barely mentioned on the news. Our efforts to restore services in Iraq will take time. Saddam Hussein appointed friends and family to head the utilities of the nation while in power. Those people refused to maintain those facilities in away that would provide energy, water, sewage, hospitals and schools for the common citizen.

Overall, news developments on this front arn't near as optmistic as this dreamy eyed writer depicts.

More importantly, Iraqi citizens are no longer in fear of religious persecution and are free to make the spiritual choices that God has given them. What we are doing is not only just, it is necessary

With the rise of fundemantalist Islamists, freedom for Christians, women, and all Iraqis is bound to diminish.

For a nation to be, in the truest sense, patriotic, its citizens must love their land with a knowing, intelligent, sustaining, and protective love

It's now three years old, but Wendell Berry's A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America essay is still a worthy read.
While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists... (p. 6)

A democratic citizen must deal here first of all with the question, Who is this "we"? It is not the "we" of the Declaration of Independence, which referred to a small group of signatories bound by the conviction that "governments [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed." And it is not the "we" of the Constitution, which refers to "the people [my emphasis] of the United States."

This "we" of the new strategy can refer only to the president. It is a royal "we". A head of state, preparing to act alone in starting a preemptive war, will need to justify his intention by secret information, and will need to plan in secret and execute his plan without forewarning. The idea of a government acting alone in preemptive war is inherently undemocratic, for it does not require or even permit the president to obtain the consent of the governed. As a policy, this new strategy depends on the acquiescence of a public kept fearful and ignorant, subject to manipulation by the executive power, and on the compliance of an intimidated and office dependent legislature. To the extent that a government is secret, it cannot be democratic or its people free. By this new doctrine, the president alone may start a war against any nation at any time, and with no more forewarning than preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Would be participating citizens of a democratic nation, unwilling to have their consent coerced or taken for granted, therefore have no choice but to remove themselves from the illegitimate constraints of this "we" in as immediate and public a way as possible.

Berry, in a cogent manner, identifies the incongruent beliefs used to justify a radical transformation of our nation's political character.

The epigraph of Part III of The National Security Strategy contains this sentence from President Bush's speech at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001: "But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." A government, committing its nation to rid the world of evil, is assuming necessarily that it and its nation are good.

But the proposition that anything so multiple and large as a nation can be "good" is an insult to common sense. It is also dangerous, because it precludes any attempt at self criticism or self correction; it precludes public dialogue. It leads us far indeed from the traditions of religion and democracy that are intended to measure and so to sustain our efforts to be good. Christ said. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And Thomas Jefferson justified general education by the obligation of citizens to be critical of their government: "for nothing can keep it right but their own vigilant and distrustful [my emphasis] superintendence." An inescapable requirement of true patriotism, love for one's land, is a vigilant distrust of any determinative power, elected or unelected, that may preside over it.

And the utter hypocrisy of a nation upholding the rule of law after declaring itself above the rule of law.

There is, first of all, the contradiction of peace and war, or of war as the means of achieving and preserving peace This document affirms peace; it also affirms peace as the justification of war and war as the means of peace and thus perpetuates a hallowed absurdity. But implicit in its assertion of this (and, by implication, any other) nation's right to act alone in its own interest is an acceptance of war as a permanent condition. Either way, it is cynical to invoke the ideas of cooperation, community, peace, freedom, justice, dignity, and the rule of law (as this document repeatedly does), and then proceed to assert one's intention to act alone in making war. One cannot reduce terror by holding over the world the threat of what it most fears.

This is a contradiction not reconcilable except by a self righteousness almost inconceivably naive. The authors of the strategy seem now and then to be glimmeringly conscious of the difficulty. Their implicit definition of "rogue state," for example, is any nation pursuing national greatness by advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors -- except our nation.

If you think our displeasure with "rogue states" might have any underpinning in international law, then you will be disappointed to learn on page 31 that …We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.…

The rule of law in the world, then, is to be upheld by a nation that has declared itself to be above the law. A childish hypocrisy here assumes the dignity of a nation's foreign policy.

7 February 2006

Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free

Paul Craig Roberts answers queries on how he has evolved from Reagan staffer to one of the harshest critics of the George W. Bush presidency.
We have reached a point where the Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people. Bewitched by neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course, were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.

Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.

The United States is undergoing a coup against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself. The "liberal press" has been co-opted. As everyone must know by now, the New York Times has totally failed its First Amendment obligations, allowing Judith Miller to make war propaganda for the Bush administration, suppressing for an entire year the news that the Bush administration was illegally spying on American citizens, and denying coverage to Al Gore's speech that challenged the criminal deeds of the Bush administration.

The TV networks mimic Fox News' faux patriotism. Anyone who depends on print, TV, or right-wing talk radio media is totally misinformed. The Bush administration has achieved a de facto Ministry of Propaganda.

But the last paragraph is the most poignant:

Americans need to understand that many interests are using the "war on terror" to achieve their agendas. The Federalist Society is using the "war on terror" to achieve its agenda of concentrating power in the executive and packing the Supreme Court to this effect. The neocons are using the war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Police agencies are using the war to remove constraints on their powers and to make themselves less accountable. Republicans are using the war to achieve one-party rule--theirs. The Bush administration is using the war to avoid accountability and evade constraints on executive powers. Arms industries, or what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex," are using the war to fatten profits. Terrorism experts are using the war to gain visibility. Security firms are using it to gain customers. Readers can add to this list at will. The lack of debate gives carte blanche to these agendas.

6 February 2006

One for the Thumb

A most improbable playoff run for the Pittsburgh Steelers nets them a fifth Super Bowl trophy, 26 years after their last capture of the coveted Lombardi trophy.

The Steelers, after losing three straight in the middle of season, faced a win-out scenario to have any chance at all of qualifying for the post season in the highly competitive American Football Conference. They did so in convincing fashion and ended the season securing the sixth and final seed of the playoff poll.

In playoff game one, pitted against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers knocked out the opposing team's star quarterback on his first pass of the game, in route to a convincing 31-17 victory on their enemy's home turf.

Playoff game two was a game for the ages, where the Steelers dominated early but had to fend off a Indianapolis comeback with a smattering of bizarre twists and turns. From NFL admitted atrocious official's replay reversal that overturned an obvious Troy Polamalu interception to an egregious no call on a bltatant pass interference against Steeler receiver Randel El. To an anomalous game ending where we witnessed a future Hall of Fame running back, who fumbled the ball not once during the regular season, cough it up on a first and goal from the Colt one yard line — and a Colt victory thwarted by a Ben Roethlisberger shoestring tackle. The stress was simply too much for some Steeler fans to endure. Then, incredibly, the most accurate field goal kicker in the game today shanks a field goal attempt to tie the game. The football gods were indeed smiling upon the Steelers on that Sunday.

On to Denver, where the Steelers have their way with a team that was used to dominating on their home field.

And finally, yesterday, Super Bowl XL where everything went in the Steelers favor. All the close calls tilted their way, and the Seahawks were unable to take advantage of their early edge in play. Seattle fans, no doubt, are sore at the officials, but the Seahawk squad squandered opportunites by missing field goals, managing the play clock inefficiently, and yielding big plays. Despite the storybook finish for a spectacular Steeler Super Bowl victory, the game boiled down to three giant plays:

  • A mad scramble by Roethlisberger on a 3rd down and 28 that lead to a 37 yard pass completion to Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward in the second quarter that setup a Steeler strike that put the Steelers ahead for the game duration.

  • A Super Bowl record setting 75 yard run by Willie Parker on the Steeler's first possession in the third quarter.

  • A stunningly successful gadget reverse pass play that saw the ball go from Steeler quarterback hand to Willie Parker's hands, then handed to Randel El who in turn threw a strike to a streaking Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward. Both the Steelers receivers who touched the ball on that play were quarterbacks in their college days, and that experience paid off handsomely for the Steelers.

Hines Ward is awarded the Super Bowl MVP, and what a fitting prize for a football player who epitimizes the blue collar spirit of the Steel City. Not the fastest, or the most talented receiver by any stretch, Ward has forged himself into a star by his discipline and hard work.

4 February 2006

A world without television

An economics professor writes about his family's experience of living without television. There are some real gems in this essay.
This is a particular area in which television's costs are great. Becoming informed takes some work. This traditionally involved reading books, newspapers, and magazines to develop opinions about what you believed (or didn't). Unfortunately, some of the most uninformed people I meet each day receive their news solely from television, which reduces complex social problems into emotional, highly manipulative one- or two-minute segments.

And these people vote.

The Framers of the Constitution created a decentralized republic, and explicitly not a democracy, because they knew that the latter tended toward centralization and tyranny. Even Jefferson believed that the small role actual voting would play in the new country would only be tolerable with an educated electorate. Not only would he hate television, he'd despair over a culture that promotes democracy and television as goods that must be universally available. What does it mean for freedom when so many voters are only informed to the extent possible through CNN and Fox News?

While I haven't chosen this drastic a course for my own family's television viewing practice, I completely share Mr. Westley's sentiments. As it is, I feel the monthly satellite fee (along with the high definition package, a recent upgrade purchase) is mostly wasted, as I rarely watch television, except for sporting events. It's been a conscious decision, and inertia at times propels me to switch the television on in a mindless stupor — before I become cognizant of the choice, and immediately power off.

Like the author of this article, I frequently feel left out of work place (or other public settings) conversations where the topic is a popular television show. And when, on infrequent occasions, when I do take in some cable news network fare, I'm simply stunned at how stories are framed, compared to in depth reads. Sure, the visual imagery can be overpowering, and overly enhances the emotional impact for big earth shattering stories like Katrina or a terrorist strike aftermath — but minus the historical background and missing the complete truth.

3 February 2006

Rock stars ... is there anything they don't know?

Bono knows religion, as the lead singer for U2 addresses the President at the National Prayer Breakfast event last Thursday.

As for Bono's words, first came a homage to the biblical prophets, then a carrot, followed by a stick, and finally a request:

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

It's extremely doubtful, aside from a few inquisitive souls on the internets, that anyone will associate anything of significance other than the obligatory photo op with the president. Bono has stated that he'd meet with the Devil if it did some good, though I'm not implying that getting chummy with President Bush and Jesse Helms is the metaphorical equivalent.

Some argue that Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours, and does more harm than good. Others contend that before any meaningful change, the United States and Europe must stop treating Africa as their colony.

1 February 2006

Censorship in Pursuit of Profit

While Google battles the U.S. government over a subpoena seeking user search result data, it consents to play censor for the Chinese government. It is curious that tech company giants like Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and Yahoo have traversed the same route of providing repression services in China for some time, but once Google entered the fray, the U.S. Congress gets involved.

While Google's actions appear to be less objectionable that some of their industry brethen, it still raises a question on the moral culpability of corporate aiding and abetting totalitarian governments. Giving them the tools to efficiently track and punish dissidents and other political foes, while not on a scale of delivering ovens to a maniac government to committ genocide, strikes me as morally wrong.

However, many are rallying to Google's defense, with a belief that the wonderous technology Google provides can only aid reform movements there. And it's not as if the U.S. government hasn't resorted to such draconian crackdowns and seizures.

But I think that the internet is bigger than Google, or Microsoft, or Yahoo!, or any other search engine provider. In fact, I'd wager that as this world wide web phenomenon continues to evolve, the traditional search engines will become less signficant, and supplanted by superior social bookmarking and/or community sites. Web applications like, reddit, or any future upstart where a better mix of user participation acts as a stronger virtual filter, sifting out the spam, axes the astroturf attacks, and allots top ranking to quality content. Algorithmic power, alone, without diffusible control, will prove inferior. Even the big dog search engine companies are keen to such eventual shifts.

And while it's not certain to me that this condition will remain true in coming years, the internet thus far interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.