52 Journalists Remain Imprisoned In Iran

New York, April 1, 2010—“The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed that several Iranian journalists continue to be held in inhumane conditions at the notorious Evin Prison. At least one journalist is reported in deteriorating health, and two are under severe duress to “confess” to charges that could bring execution.

The daughters of Badressadat Mofidi, the prominent Iranian journalist and secretary of the banned Iranian Journalists Association, have published a letter describing the appalling conditions in which their mother is being held. Mofidi has been held in solitary confinement and deprived of phone calls and family visits for several months, according to the letter. Mofidi’s family also expressed concerns about her deteriorating health. She suffers from a heart condition and is being given strong tranquilizers as the interrogations are causing her a great deal of stress and exhaustion,” her daughters wrote. Mofidi’s lawyer has not been able to meet with her or gain access to her file.

Mofidi was arrested on December 29 after discussing the government’s press policies in an interview with the Persian service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. No formal charges have been disclosed against her.”

“CPJ research found that at least 52 journalists were behind bars in Iran as of March 1.”  -Committee to Protect Journalists

The Coffee Party – A More Rational Approach To Politics?

I saw it on “KCET’s “SoCal Connected” last night.  Judy Muller reporting on a new approach to politics called the “Coffee Party.”   It appears to be people getting together over coffee to discuss politics without going nuts.  How refreshing.  An attempt at sharing information and ideas without tearing one another to pieces.   Where the Tea Party people seem angry, irrational and lacking in focus, the Coffee Party folks appear….well….collegiate.   People who advocate getting involved in the process to promote constructive change by standing in opposition to the obstructionism that seems to permeate government.  The following is from their website.

“COFFEE PARTY MISSION STATEMENT: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.” –The Coffee Party, USA

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‘”Using social networking outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, it has garnered much attention in its short existence, apparent through its substantial media coverage. While some news organizations portray these movements as honorable and necessary, others criticize the sensationalism and the sometimes-ridiculous outbursts of members during rallies and town hall meetings.

  • Until now, there hasn’t really been an organized counter movement to the Tea Party. So if the Tea Party movement has put a bad taste in your mouth, then grab a mug and join the Coffee Party. The Coffee Party movement is a grassroots campaign that “gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government.”’-GSU Signal

Saudis Set To Execute TV Show Host For Sorcery

Saudi Arabia is threatening to behead a man for “sorcery.”  Really.   He has been charged with insulting God, and in Saudi Arabia,  any perceived insult against God can be punished with execution.

‘ “The condemned man hosted a satellite TV show in which he predicted the future.

He was arrested by the Saudi religious police while on pilgrimage to the country in 2008.

Malcolm Smart, head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said it was “high time the Saudi Arabian government joined the international trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions”.’-BBC

We need to follow Brazil’s lead and go green.  Do whatever it takes to get away from any need to do business with these backward people because of our ongoing dependency on their oil.  They treat women like cattle and execute men for sorcery.   Welcome to the 13th century.  Their ignorance and intolerance is beyond disgusting.  It’s thoroughly  inexcusable.

We’re America for God’s sake.  We won two world wars and went to moon.  And we can’t  gain our energy independence from a crude, backward society like the Saudis?   Of course we can.  Time to lead by example?

Churches Face Foreclosure

photo: flickr

No one escapes the wrath of the banks.  No one.  Not even the nation’s churches.   Reuters reports that foreclosure proceedings against churches have nearly tripled since 2007.

“Court records also reveal more than 100 churches have declared bankruptcy in the last year, often in a last-ditch attempt to halt a sheriff’s sale. That number could rise fast.

An investigation by a Memphis television station found hundreds of churches in the city fighting foreclosure. Jackson estimates thousands of African-American churches nationwide are in danger of foreclosure, with 200 in Atlanta alone.” –Reuters

This is feeling more and more like the 30’s, real Bonnie and Clyde era stuff.

Pope Claims Immunity From Prosecution

 

 photo:  agência brasil

Here’s a new one, the Vatican claims the Pope is immune from legal prosecution because he’s a head of state.  So says Giuseppe dalla Torre, the head of the Vatican’s tribunal.

‘”Dalla Torre outlined the Vatican’s strategy to defend the pope from being forced to testify in several lawsuits concerning sexual abuse which are currently moving through the U.S. legal system.

“The pope is certainly a head of state, who has the same juridical status as all heads of state,” he said, arguing he therefore had immunity from foreign courts.”‘ –Reuters

While circling their pontifical wagons, church leaders are lashing out at the American media, including the NY Times.

“In the article posted Wednesday on the Vatican’s Web site, Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: “I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness.” –AP

Cesar Chavez – Real vs. The Ideal

 photo: wiki commons

An interesting opinion piece by Miriam Pawel in the LA Times on the legacy of Cesar Chavez.

“Chavez merits an important place in the history books, as a civil rights leader, an inspiration for a generation of Chicanos and the founder of a movement that transformed thousands of lives. But the history is more complex than the hagiography, and more enlightening. His birthday, March 31, should be an occasion to educate new generations about Chavez’s remarkable accomplishments, and to learn from his life in all its complexity and contradictions.

Chavez masterminded a grape boycott in which uneducated farmworkers fanned out across the country, persuaded millions of consumers to shun the fruit and forced growers to sign the first-ever labor contracts. Then he doomed the contracts by administering them poorly.

He taught workers how to exert power, then fired leaders who rose up from the fields to use their newfound power.” – Miriam Pawel

Miriam Pawel is the author of “The Union of Their Dreams — Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement.”

Fox Cuts LL Cool J Segment From Palin Show

        photo: wiki commons

Matea Gold reports in the L.A. Times, that Fox has dropped a segment featuring LL Cool J from tomorrow night’s Sarah Palin show, after the rapper issued a complaint.

‘“Fox lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palins Show,” he tweeted. “WOW.”

Fox News said the program, “Real American Stories,” included an interview the performer gave to the network as part of an online project of the same name that launched during the 2008 election. But producers are now excising his interview from the show after LL Cool J, whose real name is James Todd Smith, raised objections.’-L.A. Times

CNN Hemorrhaging Viewers

The NY Times reports that CNN’s big name hosts have lost nearly half their viewers over the past 12 months.   The ratings are also down for MSNBC while the Fox News Channel just experienced its best quarter ever.

“The losses at CNN continued a pattern in place for much of the last year, as the network trailed its competitors in every prime-time hour. (CNN still easily beats MSNBC in the daytime hours, but those are less lucrative in advertising money, and both networks are far behind Fox News at all hours.)”-NY Times

Conclusion?

People want what they want and not what they need, and what they want is entertainment, not news.   And so the dumbing down continues.

Need proof?  Here it is.

“Sarah Palin is hosting a special — her first as anchor — on Fox News Channel tomorrow night in Greta Van Susteren’s 10 o’clock time slot.

The show, called “Real American Stories,” is another step for Palin toward a substantial TV career and perhaps away from a run for the White House in 2012.

It will be her second TV show in less than a month.”-NY Post

Newspaper Addiction?

A newspaper guy spends a week without looking at a paper, and finds-

“Newspapers can really be an addiction: I use the word “withdrawal” because those of us who love print can find it extremely difficult to start our day without a newspaper. My wife needs her tea to get going, I need my newspaper. It took all the willpower I had to not hunt down a paper, off someone’s lawn if necessary. 

The digital experience can be very good, if you visit the right places — and invest the time: Between DNAinfo (of course) and my quick visits to a handful of sites, I more or less knew what was going on, but I was still in the dark about many things that happened during the week. Turns out keeping up with the news online requires a serious time commitment.”  –DNAinfo

Sree Sreenivasan concludes his piece by saying he’ll continue to subscribe to the printed edition of the Times, for so long as it exists.

Republican Romp At Sex Club

The national Republican Party spent $1,946 on a visit to the sex-themed Voyeur Hollywood West Club in West Hollywood in January.

“The Republican National Committee fired a staffer who helped organize the Jan. 31 visit to Voyeur Hollywood West, which features topless dancers, bondage outfits and erotic themes. It said it will recoup the money from a donor who paid the tab and was reimbursed by the party on Feb. 4.” –AP

You can’t make this stuff up.  These are probably the same guys who think Mr. Obama is the Antichrist.

The Republican Party, it just gets stranger and stranger.

Republicans Think Mr. Obama Is Muslim

 

That’s what a recent  Harris poll says.   57 percent of our Republican friends think President Obama is Muslim.   45 percent believe he was not born in the U.S.  Two-thirds think he’s a socialist and 24 percent say “he may be the Antichrist.”

Historians have said that the founders, were they to suddenly appear and take a look around, would undoubtedly be amazed our democratic experiment has survived.   With so much disinformation being promoted by people who should be held accountable for their irresponsible self-serving actions but are instead being allowed to get away with it by a media that’s been mostly neutered, you have to wonder how much longer we’ll be able to hang on.

Legendary Teacher, Jaime Escalante Dies

 photo:  msu.edu

It’s being reported that Jaime Escalante, the teacher made famous by the movie “Stand and Deliver,” is dead at the age of 79.  Escalante, is credited with turning around the math program at Garfield High here in Los Angeles.   His skills as a teacher were later portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver.”

It was my privilege to have met Mr. Escalante.  I didn’t know him well, but he appeared to be a gentle soul who genuinely cared about others.  Condolences to his family.

KABC-TV reports he died at his home in Sacramento.  RIP

Poizner And Whitman – The Same Old Political Hash

And so the fight between billionaire, Meg Whitman and millionaire,  Steve Poizner, has come down to the same old worn out hate-mongering “blame it on the immigrants” catcalls of the past.   I suppose it appeals to the far right, which is the voting block these two are going after in the primary.  Here’s part of Poizner’s pitch-

“As governor, he will address the challenge of illegal immigration boldly and unapologetically.  Steve will use the governor’s authority to fight illegal immigration with every tool at his disposal.  As governor, he will advocate for the following policies:

1. Cutting Taxpayer-Funded Benefits To Illegal Immigrants

2. Holding Employers Responsible For Following The Law

3. Ending Sanctuary City Practices

4. Securing Our Borders ” (stevepoizner.com)

Oh really?  How?  Notice that it says he’s going to “advocate” and not actually do anything?

That’s not what the anti-immigration argument is designed to make you think.  It’s designed to make you think that Steve Poizner is the cure for our immigration ills, and that he will somehow get it done by advocating policies which include securing the border with Mexico, whose residents come here to work and (or) escape the drug war in their homeland.   A drug war fueled by America’s appetite for illicit narcotics and our refusal to admit that the “war on drugs” was lost long ago and it’s time for people of reason to take a look at a new and more realistic direction on just how our national drug use problem should be handled.

Maybe legalizing and thereby controlling marijuana would be a place to start?    You know, fewer people in prison which would save us untold millions on law enforcement and incarceration?

“In 2007 the Department of Justice reported that there were 1,841,182 drug arrests in the United States; the report noted that there were  more drug abuse arrests than any other category of offenses.  Marijuana arrests accounted for 47.4% of the drug abuse arrests. This allows us to estimate that about 872,720 persons were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-nine percent of these arrests were for possession. The 2007 arrest data is even worse  than 2006 when 829,627 people were arrested for marijuana (a Project Censored’s top 25 story in 2008).  In 2005 there were 786,545 marijuana arrests, meaning that the number of arrests increased by 86K in just two years.   Clearly, marijuana is an intense focus of police interest and activity; far more, apparently, than the less important crimes occurring at the same time on Wall Street.” –Socialmedicine.org

If you want to turn someone into a hardened criminal, throw him in prison.  That’s what the hardened criminals say.

There will be a referendum on the California ballot in November, asking the state’s residents if they want to legalize and tax marijuana or continue paying the high price for throwing thousands in prison on pot violations.   Should be a no-brainer for anyone still in possession of a functioning brain.  I say this, only because roughly 50% of our population is walking around while under the influence of prescription drugs.   But that’s okay.  Or is it?

Here are some interesting numbers from the state of Florida:

“An analysis of 168,900 autopsies conducted in Florida in 2007 found that three times as many people were killed by legal drugs as by cocaine, heroin and all methamphetamines put together. According to state law enforcement officials, this is a sign of a burgeoning prescription drug abuse problem.     “The abuse has reached epidemic proportions,” said Lisa McElhaney, a sergeant in the pharmaceutical drug diversion unit of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s just explosive.”

    In 2007, cocaine was responsible for 843 deaths, heroin for 121, methamphetamines for 25 and marijuana for zero, for a total of 989 deaths. In contrast, 2,328 people were killed by opioid painkillers, including Vicodin and Oxycontin, and 743 were killed by drugs containing benzodiazepine, including the antidepressants Valium and Xanax.”-Truthout

Did you catch the part about marijuana being responsible “for zero” deaths?

But I digress, we were talking about clamping down on illegal immigration, a concept which is interesting in and of itself because California has been losing population.

“For years more people have fled the Golden State than have arrived. In the year ended July 1, California was the country’s biggest loser, with nearly 100,000 more residents leaving than moving in.  Still, that was an improvement over earlier losses: In 2006 the net decline was 313,081.”  -CNN Money 12/27/09 

But hasn’t that big wall Mr. Bush built on our southern border made a difference?    That 700 mile-long wall that runs along our 2000 mile-long border with Mexico.  Hasn’t “The Great Wall of Mexico” done anything to stop the flood of illegal immigration?

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times calls the fence “A high-tech, low-result border fence.”   According to the paper, the fence is a billion dollar bust.   Not sure whether they are including the $50 million Homeland Security had to contribute to mitigate environmental impact issues. Anyway, what’s $50 million here or there when you’re talking about a billion dollar project?

Why are there always unanticipated cost overruns on government projects?  But back on point, why is the immigration problem we’ve created through decades of offering jobs to illegal immigrants and only made worse by our national drug habit now at the center of a heated debate for our two good Republican candidates here in California?

To her credit, Meg Whitman, appears to be taking the more realistic approach.

“The truth is we are always going to have a problem with illegal immigration as long as there is a demand for undocumented labor. We need to build an “economic fence” with a strong e-verification system that holds employers accountable for only hiring documented workers. The lure of well-paying jobs is the ultimate magnet attracting illegal immigrants to our state. To remove it, we have to give employers the tools they need to do the right thing, and then we must strictly enforce the law.

We also need to crack down through legislation on sanctuary cities like San Francisco that shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration laws.

But the real key to this issue rests in the hands of Congress and the president. The bottom line is we need more federal Border Patrol resources at the Mexican border. The California congressional delegation needs to work together with other border-state representatives to get something done on border security once and for all.” – Meg Whitman

Give employers “the tools they need?”  Crack down on cities like San Francisco?  Beef up resources on the border?

It’s all been said before.  It’s all been tried before.  It has all failed before.  Anyway, if you admit “the real key to the issue rests in the hands of Congress and the president,” aren’t you admitting a certain powerlessness to impact the situation?

Poizner, by the way, is now criticizing Whitman for agreeing with President Obama’s ideas on immigration reform.  More red meat for the far right.

We’ve tumbled through the looking glass, Alice.  We openly condemn a situation we helped to create and continue to support every time somebody hires an undocumented worker, passes a joint or pays a dealer.

California continues to lose population and jobs as companies relocate to more “business friendly” states.  The San Francisco Business Times reports a loss of 79,000 factory jobs over the past 12 months.

Never mind all that.  Advocate away while you throw more money at it.  Enforce unenforceable laws against hiring undocumented workers.  Build a bigger fence that doesn’t keep people out.  Put more guards on the 2000 mile-long border.  Continue putting people in prison for a prohibition that continues to fail in a war that can’t be won while we go broke paying for their incarceration.

And when the next election cycle rolls around, blame it on the immigrants.  It’s a political ploy that’s worked for decades.

Please Consult The Guide

Mr. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan resulted in numerous references to the Bagram Air Base.  Repeatedly, I’ve been forced to listen to American  broadcasters pronounce the name of the base as “bag-ram.”  According to the AP Pronunciation Guide, the correct pronunciation is ‘bah-GRAHM.’

When in doubt, please consult the guide or ask someone who has been there.   I’m not sure whether the AP continues to issue annual updates (it used to be available on the AP broadcast wire), but there are old copies of it floating around you can refer to.

Bankrupt Tribune Pays Big Time For Legal Fees

Since going into bankruptcy court 15 months ago, the Tribune Company has been hit up for $138 million in legal fees.  That’s one-quarter of their cash flow.

“Carey was the U.S. bankruptcy judge in Delaware who last year warned lawyers in the Tribune Co. case that they had better think twice about charging more than $1,000 an hour.

Chicago’s Sidley Austin, the lead debtor’s attorney, filed a top rate of $925. New York’s Chadbourne & Parke, which represents unsecured creditors, charged $955.” -Chicago Tribune

God help you if you have to hire an attorney or other “legal professionals. ”  These guys are almost as bad as the health insurance companies.  Almost.