Friday, November 17, 2006

U.S. Consumers Finance China's Military Expansion

If there were ever a good reason to rethink the U.S. free trade policy with China, which sends our middle class manufacturing jobs to workers in China who labor under inhumane conditions for 30 cents an hour, this should be our wake up call.

The trade imbalance has given China's treasury billions of surplus dollars to spend on building up their military might. Our closets and knick-knack shelves are overflowing with cheap goods from China. It's becoming difficult to find much of anything produced elsewhere. It's time to change our spending habits.

Even Condi is beginning to have her doubts.

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer

Rice: US Concerned about Rising China

The United States has some concerns about a rising China, including a military expansion that may be excessive,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

Beijing has spent heavily in recent years on adding submarines, missiles, fighter planes and other high-tech weapons to its arsenal and extending the reach of the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest fighting force.

Its reported military budget rose more than 14 percent this year to $35.3 billion, but outside estimates of China's true spending are up to three times that level.

"There are concerns about China's military buildup," Rice told a television interviewer. "It's sometimes seemed outsized for China's regional role." ...

Read the entire article at

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unfair, Unbalanced and Slanted Hard Right

FOX News has been under increased scrutiny since reports surfaced that a $2 million ransom was paid for the release of two kidnapped Fox news employees. Details are still sketchy about who paid the ransom, but it's probable there is now increased risk of abduction for all media personnel working abroad.

Huffington Post published an internal memo from the Fox Vice President in charge of news, who's looking to put just the right spin on the Democratic victory on November 7:

"And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress."...

If this is their idea of "fair and balanced," it leaves me a bit perplexed.

35 Million Americans Have Food Insecurity

The USDA is removing the word hunger from official reports this year, substituting the phrase "food insecurity" for the 35 million among us who require assistance in putting food on the table at least part of the year.

Of those, 11 million report going hungry at times, so they will now be described as having "very low food insecurity."

"In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the annual USDA report -- which consistently finds his home state one of the hungriest in the nation -- was fabricated."

This year the annual USDA report did not appear in October, as usual, but instead was released after the election cycle. How convenient.

Source: Washington Post

Bush Plans to Increase Troop Level by 20,000

From today's Guardian:

The Iraq study group is expected to issue it's recommendations centered around the fact that Bush has said no to withdrawal.

Four-point strategy
· Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq
· Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
· Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others
· Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thom Hartmann on Air America Radio

Ron Davis posted an interesting comment this morning at Chatter about Clear Channel pulling Air America from the airwaves of liberal Madison, WI despite the gain of significant market share there. I received this email from Thom Hartmann in October during the election frenzy, and thought it appropriate to post it today, for your consideration.

I have read Thom's latest book, Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It, and highly recommend it.

Why Air America Matters
by Thom Hartmann

There are times when doing the profitable thing is also doing the right thing.

That's certainly what Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch thought when they lost an average of $90 million a year for about five years before the Fox News Channel became profitable. It's what Reverend Moon believes, as his Washington Times newspaper lost hundreds of millions of dollars and, according to some reports, even today continues to lose money. And its what the people who have made Air America Radio possible - names you probably wouldn't recognize because they've invested millions of their own money but don't seek the limelight - believe.

Each of these endeavors hit nail-biting times.

In Murdoch's early days building News Corp. (which then helped fund Fox News), as The Hollywood Reporter noted in a 2005 article:

"[C]orporate expansion and the stock market crash of 1987 conspired to create a financial crisis for Murdoch in 1990, when News Corp. reported revenue of $6.7 billion and saw more than $7 billion in debt come due. With News Corp. shares plummeting from $24 to $8 as a result of the Black Monday crash and Murdoch's buying sprees continuing unabated, creditors became nervous. A refinancing plan was put in place, but at the last minute, one small bank in Pittsburgh refused to go along with the scheme, demanding repayment of a $10 million loan.

"That $10 million loan nearly caused the entire collapse of News Corp.: An extraordinary race against time ensued in which Murdoch and his financial advisers struggled to convince the company's 100-plus creditors to agree to a deal by which they would all be paid at the same time. Only at the eleventh hour did the Pittsburgh bank capitulate, to Murdoch's great relief.

"The mogul managed to get through the ordeal without parting with substantial blocks of stock, which likely would have forced him to lose control of the company he created (a fate that befell his rival, Turner). At one point, though, Murdoch reportedly did have to sign over as security personal assets, including his New York penthouse."

There was, however, a happy ending (for Murdoch), which helped fund the money-losing Fox News Network:

"Today, the studio and the Fox owned-and-operated stations are News Corp.'s cash machines."

Brit Hume noted, in a 1999 interview with PBS:

"This operation loses money. It doesn't lose nearly as much as it did at first, and it's -- well, it's hit all its projections in terms of, you know, turning a profit, but it's - it will lose money now, and we expect for a couple more years. I think it's losing about $80 million to $90 million a year."

This is not, of course, to celebrate losing money. It's just a demonstration of the old truism that sometimes "it takes money to make money." And sometimes it takes money to make a difference in the world, as well.

While Fox News and The Washington Times have devoted themselves to promoting the interests of America's most wealthy, most of the programming of Air America Radio has been committed to discussions of labor, the middle class, and holding up the founding ideals of this nation. These were best expressed by America's first liberal president, George Washington, when he said: "As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."

Liberal or conservative, the nation has often moved as its media has moved.

Rupert Murdoch's investment in Fox News not only produced profits for him, it changed America. As Richard Morin noted in The Washington Post on May 4, 2006, in an article titled "The Fox News Effect":

"'Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect,' said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkely and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.

"In Florida alone, they estimate, the Fox effect may have produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush -- clearly a decisive factor in a state he carried by fewer than 600 votes."

Similarly, Air America Radio may have had a significant effect in awakening people across the United States to positive liberal alternatives to the conservative vision of Fox and Bush. In a democracy, which depends on a vital and ongoing exchange of free ideas for its survival, this is essential.

It's a tragedy that for the lack of an investor the size of Rupert Murdoch Air America is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But its existence and ongoing presence in the marketplace is an essential part of the dialogue that is known as democracy.

In a letter about Shay's Rebellion, which some argued was incited by newspapers, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"The people are the only censors of their governors; and even their errors will tend to keep them to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs, through the channel of public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.

"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide, whether we should have a government without newspapers, ore newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers, and be capable of reading them."

Had radio existed in 1783, Jefferson would have probably expressed similar sentiments about it.

As Jefferson wrote in 1786 to his close friend Dr. James Currie, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

But ever since Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1881, leading to an explosion of acquisitions and mergers, and Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, leading to an even more startling concentration of media in a very few hands, freedom of the press in America has become as much a economic as a political issue. This is problematic, because no democracy can survive with only one voice in the media.

Back in the years when I often visited Russia, the well-work joke that everybody knew had to do with the names of the two biggest newspapers, Pravda and Ivestia. "Pravda" is a Russian word that translates as "truth" and "Ivestia" means "news." The joke every Russian can recite from memory is: "There�s no news in Pravda, and no truth in Izvestia."

As Russians well learned, single-party-news is corrosive to democracy. Jefferson made his comment about newspapers being vital to America just at the time he was being most viciously attacked in the newspapers. The core requisite of democracy is debate. When there's only a single predominant voice in the media, American democracy itself is at greatest risk.

Losing the voices of Air America would harm this nation, just as much as would losing the voices of conservative talk radio.

We need them all to really be America.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network. His most recent book is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Were Robo-Calls Rove's Plan B?

I'm wondering if the glut of robo-calls were supposed to be Rove's ace in the hole for 2006. Hopefully we can get some legislation going to ban these intrusive and obnoxious calls.

Several of my friends reported their phones ringing several times a day in the last two weeks of the campaign. If they didn't answer, the robot kept calling until they picked up.

My phone number is unlisted, and I received only one call from a real person, a pro Talent-Stem Cell caller. She asked me what I thought about Michael J. Fox "attacking" Jim Talent, and asked if I was pro-life. By the end of the phone call, I think I had convinced her to vote Democratic. That worked out well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hallelujah - Now for 2008

Congratulations to Claire McCaskill and Susan Montee.

Stem Cell looks like it will make it.

Cheap smokes are in. Under 21 drinkers are out.

Minimum wage by a landslide. Thank You.

Nancy Hagan and Doug Harpool ran good races. I had high hopes for both. Would more money have made the difference?

I'm already thinking forward to 2008, and to influencing legislation between now and then.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Where Is The Outrage?

Today's post from Blue Gal, Red State has a succinct listing of the reasons why the Republicans need to be relieved of their stranglehold on the congress.

To summarize, it comes down to just one word. Iraq.

We may never know the details of the Republican deceit that landed us there, but we should all feel the outrage of their incompetent implementation of this conflict, and their failure to properly equip and care for our troops.

Jim Talent serves on the Sentate Armed Services Committee, yet he has missed 65 of 95 scheduled hearings. Jim--hello--troops are dying in Iraq... Meanwhile, you have something more deserving of your attention?

I really can't say it better than Blue Girl, Red State. But I can say it repeatedly.

Wake up, Missouri voters. This man does not deserve to be re-elected to the Senate. Please vote for Claire McCaskill, and give us a voice in Washington who will attend to business.