Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We've had several journalists who have been waterboarded and afterword report nightmares for many months there after. Even though they were only waterboarded once, not 80+ times. That's long term mental harm.
When we went into Iraq one embedded reporter David Bloom died of a a pulmonary embolism. It was caused by deep vein thrombosis from the many hours sitting in a humvee not moving around. And the problem became something most people became aware of.
Advisories went out that on long car, plane, bus or train trips one should get up every hour or so (or stop at a gas station) and walk around a bit.
The more we learn about deep vein thrombosis and the problems caused by immobility the more claims of larger death toll than previously thought, of Africans being crammed into ships and brought to the new world as slaves takes hold.
But beyond that is that 18 hours of immobility was proscribed for detainees (most of them innocent) under "enhanced interrogation." The hours of being, hung, tied, shackled, put into a confinement box, etc. in immobile positions/poses was later revised down to 8. But that's still too long.
In nursing homes immobile bedridden patients are supposed to be turned every hour to keep the skin from breaking down (due to lack of oxygen on pressure points) and infection setting in. That's what a bedsore is, and it takes a lot of time, patients and work to heal. But the subject matter here is pulmonary embolism caused by immobilization.
Other risk factors [for Deep Vein Thrombosis] include advanced age, obesity, infection, immobilization, use of combined (estrogen-containing) forms of hormonal contraception, tobacco usage and air travel ("economy class syndrome", a combination of immobility and relative dehydration) are some of the better-known causes.
Today there are many discussions about torture. Creating a situation where someone is placed in long term immobility (when not medically necessary such a cast for a broken bone) IS torture.
It creates the conditions for a pulimary embolism and since we know this it violates the Geneva Conventions and President Bush and Gonzles' often statement of causing "no permanent physical or mental harm."
At the June 22, 2004, news conference, Gonzales said the White House defined torture as a "a specific intent to inflict severe physical or mental harm or suffering. That's the definition that Congress has given us and that's the definition that we use."
Since we know what long hours of immobility can do, those that died in our custody from a pulmonary embolism were murdered. And that what those who authorized the policies should be charged with. There may not have been the intent to cause death but there was the knowledge that it very well likely would.
Rules of conduct and laws are there to guide us through the toughest times, when it's easy to stumble and fall into behavior that removes our humanity and causes us to act immorally and drives us out of the "city on the hill."
We have known for a long time that torture doesn't work, it makes people give false information or hardens their resolve not to talk. It wastes time and reinforces the idea that we are a cruel people, despite our words.
Information was gained faster when interrogators showed that we as a people are what we claim to be, that we have lines that we will not cross, that we are not the cruel dictators they have come to know.
You are always in a better position when you have and hold the high ground, not when you sink into the abyss.
must read . . .
Torture Autopsy Reveals Death by Enhanced Interrogation
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I was in 11h grade at the time, and I was already politically active and politically aware. My bedroom door was adorned with notices of upcoming demonstrations, slogans for the causes I believed in and newspaper clippings diligently cut out of the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, Westword (when I could find it) and some underground newspapers (benefit of living near a college campus).
Several of the clippings were of pictures of students protesting and being beaten in Iran. Having been up on my bedroom door for two years they had already yellowed. But I had believed in them then, their fight against the Shah.
It wasn’t a popular position to take, even though Denver had become more left, very few people understood why I supported a revolution against a friend of this country. Many of the things I told them about how the Shah came to power, Savak, the abuses and our part in all of this, they refused to hear. Maybe it was just overload after Vietnam, Watergate, I’m not sure, but they wanted to cling to that shiny brass knob instead of recognizing how tarnished it really was.
What the hell did I know anyway, an idealistic, naive 9th grader?
The Iranian Revolution moved swiftly by January 1979 the Shah had left Iran, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile. February 11th saw the Palavi dynasty come to an end when the Iranian people took back their government over the one the US had installed and pretty much the puppet of.
Most people at that time had only vaguely heard of Mossadegh. We didn’t have the internet back then, no CNN and international phone calls were expensive, very long (while you waited for the person on the other end to hear what you had said and then you waited to hear their response), you frequently got disconnected and the sound quality was poor.
The news you got came from the newspapers, radio and 5 television stations (PBS, Ind, CBS, ABC, NBC). Back then Denver was still known as an “Oversized Cow Town,” and often those values clashed with the young people, the former hippies streaming in, the immigrants and refugees who settled in Denver, and those who feared the change.
I tell you this to give you a sense of the climate, how different is was from what you saw and may have experience at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
News exploded from everywhere November 4, 1979. Our embassy in Tehran had fallen and hostages taken.
The intensely political girl with known sympathies to the Iranian students now became a target. Strange things began to be shoved through the slots of my locker door. Sometimes taped to the front were signs saying “Iranian Lover.”
Denver, like most of the country, anger swelled at Iran and at Iranians here at home.
Rumors of a campus demonstration began to surface. I caught sight of a homemade Iranian flag and overheard a group talking about burning it at the demonstration. My high school's administration (like many I suppose) worked to quell the anger, protect the Iranian immigrant students on campus, and squash the demonstration. The flag was confiscated.
Then the shots rang out.
November 11, 1979
Thirteen boys from a neighboring high school went out looking for trouble that night. They went looking for an Iranian to "hassle." They went to a near by college campus reasoning that there would be Iranians there, and on an apartment mailbox they found a name that "looked" Iranian.
Reports back then said that they threw rocks through the plate glass window. One now says they were wielding baseball bats. Then they took off as shots were fired.
Two boys were hit in the legs and arm, a third boy was killed.
The anger boiled over not at the boys for looking for trouble, but at the Iranian. He had a gun, how could he have a gun? This was an extreme response to mischief, etc. etc. etc.
In my own house the almost constant political battles I had with my Dad reached a new high as I sided with the Iranian. I argued with my Dad that given the climate and the fear Iranians in this country must be experiencing it was only natural for him to seek to protect himself. What the boys did was wrong, and my Dad would have done the same thing.
That position would cost me more at school too. The district of the high school where the boys attended buttressed the district of my high school. Many of the kids in my school knew the boys who had been shot.
President Carter immediately placed the Iranian in protective custody.
That Christmas I sent the Iranian, Afshin Shariati, a card. I figured he was receiving horrible mail and I wanted to let him know someone, like this stupid 17 year old, supported him. He never got it though, I had addressed it wrong and it came back in the mail.
Afshin was acquitted of murder in December of 1980. His lawyer, Walter Gerash, pretty much arguing the same idea in front of the jury that I had argued with my Dad
Gerash brought tears to jurors' eyes with his insistence that a frightened Iranian had as much right to defend his "castle" from attack as any red-blooded American.
I was happy about the verdict, but then all thoughts were replaced by getting through the last semester of high school and going on to college.
August 1981 came and I was sitting in the gigantic lecture hall at the University of Colorado at Denver, waiting for Chemistry class to begin. This was before the Auraria campus was finished and many classes were held in the converted old rapid transit trolley building.
In this classroom the seats for the students were not tiered, we were all on one level, And if you had the unfortunate business of coming in late and sitting at the back, you needed opera glasses to see the board.
On this first day the professor called roll. This was a long and arduous process the class had over 100 students for the lecture, we were broken down into smaller groups for lab and TA class time.
It was all pretty standard stuff with the name and either “here” or silence following. Then with those who had already been called not listening any more and getting restless, the professor called out “Afshin Shariati.”
The room caught a collective breath and grew silent.
“Here” came a voice from the back of the room.
Slowly all eyes turned and came to rest upon this man. He was lean and bearded and was painfully aware of the eyes.
The next name was called, but no one turned back around. The silence only broken by the professor and those that responded.
“I have to meet him,” I determined. “I need to let him know we aren’t all against him.”
I figured that with the trial, and all, he hadn’t been able to finish his education.
As luck or providence would have it, he was in the TA and lab class I was in. So I introduced myself. We spent many hours talking, he became one of my two lab partners and the three of us would often have lunch together. I told him about the card I sent him. He replied that he had never gotten it. I said I knew, and eventually handed it to him. I had kept it, I don’t know why.
He told me about his experiences. Without his knowledge I took the past 2 years of my life and our meeting and wrote a paper for my English class. I said much the same as I have written here, though probably far more eloquently.
The paper received an “A” and I showed it to him. He was pleased and touched and asked for a copy.
We were never more than friends, and that was all that we seemed to want and enjoy from one another. His friendship and the perspective it gave me is something I will always treasure.
Years went by and we both did different things. But we would often see each other at the grocery store by what used to be Cinderella City. We’d catch up, he met my daughter, still a toddler at the time. And then life took me away from even that contact, we moved to Massachusetts and I lost touch.
Through the years I have thought of him often. Probably none more than I do now, and along with that the seeming desperate need inside of me to contact him. I want to make sure he’s okay, let him know that our friendship still survives, to reconnect.
Today another three letters will go out to addresses that may still be his. Maybe one will reach him. I keep looking, keep hoping.
The events of the past few days feel so familiar to me.
I’m hoping they haven’t triggered too much in him.
Crossposted at DailyKos
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Now we need your help to make sure EVERY liberal progressive who is able to get the signal, wants to stream on-line, or just show support, knows about this.
If you have liberal and/or progressive family and/or friends who live and/or work in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire or Northern Rhode Island (today I discovered the signal carries down that far) please email them the note below.
It's up to us to support and promote liberal progressive talk radio.
Please copy and paste everything in the blockquote
SUBJECT: Guess What? It's Back!
Liberal/Progressive TALK radio is back in Boston and Eastern Massachusetts! At WWZN-Boston AM 1510 http://revolutionboston.com/
You may have wondered where the “counter” to Rush Limbaugh, Jay Serverin, Sean Hannity and the like were on Boston radio. Isn’t a healthy debate where at least two sides of an issue are represented? Like many liberal talk radio formats across the country progressive talk radio in Boston disappeared.
It wasn’t and isn’t because left wing radio isn’t marketable. That’s a fairy tale. It is because it hasn’t been supported by the companies that owned the radio stations. After all, if you can’t make liberal progressive talk radio work in the bluest city in the bluest state in the union, you have no business in radio.
WWZN-Boston AM 1510 is the new home of liberal progressive talk radio in Boston. With a 50,000 watt signal to reach the greater Boston area, west to Worcester, south to Brockton and north to Concord, NH. The signal has been found strong enough to reach as far south as Attleboro, MA and Pawtucket, RI some 40 miles away!
Here is the Monday - Friday line up
* The Jeff Santos Show 6am - 10am
* Stephanie Miller 10am - 12pm
* Ed Schultz 12pm - 3pm
* Thom Hartmann 3pm - 6pm
You can find out more about the hosts below.
You can listen to AM 1510 in your car or on the train to and from work, and you can LIVE STREAM on your computer at http://revolutionboston.com/
Forward this email to all your liberal and progressive friends and family who live and work in Eastern Massachusetts! Let them know that “Progressive Talk Radio is BACK in Boston!”
on twitter http://twitter.com/JeffSantosShow
on twitter http://twitter.com/radioguychris
on twitter http://twitter.com/thomhartmann
Support progressive talk radio!
(After 7pm M-F and on the weekends WWZN-Boston AM 1510 is almost totally sports)
Please check the links before you send out the email (to as many people as you can) because some email programs do not like the way I've formatted the links.
Thank you again for your help!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
So you want a family/friend game night, but "Sorry," "Life," & "Monopoly" will make your head esplode
We had about 15 to 20 board and card games to choose from. That was a decent selection, but ours was nothing compared to my aunt and uncle. They were a very conservative religious family and had banned tv from their home. Instead they had a music room and a converted pantry off the kitchen devoted to holding their games. Top to bottom on all three walls, on every shelf there were board and card games.
Call me a "geek" (I'm proud of the label, btw) but I thought it was heaven.
You may have thought about beginning a "game night" for your family and friends, but are either non-plussed by the games available at Toys-R-Us, Walmart, Kmart or Target. Or you want to expand from the games you already have. Follow me over the fold for suggestions of games you've probably never heard of and a brief introduction into a subculture you may know little to nothing about.
There is something about face to face gaming that you can't get playing on a computer, either with the computer as your opponent or on-line with humans as you opponents (even if you have headphones and a mic and interact with others). It's the many levels of socializing that occur when your sitting across the table with someone. One learns to tell what is nuance, sarcasm(snark), humor and body language and balancing that with what one actually says.
Gaming is also a non threatening way to engage your tween and teenagers.
Besides they are cheaper than tickets to the movies. )There are reasons poor college students form gaming groups.) A $30.00 game can be brought out many times. Plus sometimes there is no better way to spend a winter's day, time in an airport during a long layover, or stuck in a camper while it's raining cats and dogs outside.
You may have once liked games and may still feel like playing a game with friends and family, but the thought of playing the board games from your youth leave you a little cold.
Three day monopoly games and constant cries of "let's play Sorry" from you little sister (for the 1,255,357 time) can do that to you.
I can actually see it in people's eyes when I mention that I'm a gamer. They reach back in their memories to Clue, Life, etc. that they overdose on, were forced to play, or simply didn't like the selection, and you can see their edges start to turn a sickly shade of green.
They even express surprise that board and card games are even being made any more.
But wait! There are more games than what you find at Toys-R-Us, Walmart, Kmart and Target. And more board and card game companies than just Hasbro (who bought up Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers).
A Short, Brief, Minuscule, Intro into the Gaming Subculture
These board and card games and there companies offer a greater variety of the type of game and the strategy needed to win. These are companies with names like Face 2 Face Games, Z-Man Games, Cheapass Games, Rio Grande Games, Game Wright, and Days of Wonder, to name a few.
These games can be found a niche game stores all over the US. Here are examples from three states Danger Planet, The Compleat Strategist, Rivendell Books and Games, Game Keeper (which is the company store for Face 2 Face Games), The Wizard's Chest, and Bonnie Brae Hobbby. I don't know where or if there is a list of these niche game stores across the US, but asking about it on the Game Groups Forum at BoardGameGeek should help point you in the right direction)
What's neat about these niche game stores is that they are a focal spot for the gaming community. Not only to many teach games, but they provide space to pay games. You can also find flyers for active gamin groups in your area (you are generally happy to teach games), and flyers for local, national and international gaming conventions (that's a whole nother diary), they teach games there too. And if you can't find the game you want on-line or on ebay, you can purchase games on-line from many game stores and have them shipped.
I guess at this point I should tell you that I have taught games in after school clubs and summer camps for a few years now.
It also may not hurt to tell you that my little girl wish came true. We are a gaming family (all 6 of us) and have about 100 games (that's nothing a friend of mine has 300).
The following, without further ado, are 10 games that I can recommend. They are fairly easy, and I will explain them and give a sense of the minimum age that enjoys them. I am hoping I will be able to write a few more diaries on this, the why of games, games that teach, games that allow people to understand politics, how games help us at all stages in our lives and yes, recommend more games.
But for now, here's my first 10 recommendations:
The pieces of this game look just like they belong in Tetris. Each person has their own colored peices (four colors) and must place as many of them as they can on the board. One piece per turn. If a player cannot place a piece during their turn they are out.
Each of a players pieces must touch at least another of their pieces, but ONLY at the corner. Two (or more pieces of the same color) cannot touch anywhere but a corner, straight edge touch is disallowed.
However two pieces of different colors may touch along the straight edge.
up to four players, can be found at Toys-R-Us and niche game stores
helps with spatial relationships
minimum = 1st grade (though I know kindergartners who like this game)
2. Ice Cream
This is essentially a matching game and girls really, really love it. I didn't believe that claim at first but saw it time and time again.
The game begins by everyone getting a "pint" of ice cream card. There are different "flavors" of ice cream and the object is to collect as many scoops of ice cream as you can to fill your pint of the same kind of ice cream.
You score points by how much ice cream you get in the pints during four rounds.
After players have received their first pint, players then take turns making ice cream cones. No cone can have more than four scoops, but scoops can be any flavor. The only limit to the amount of ice cream cones that can be made is limited by the number of ice cream cone cards.
After all the scoops are on the cones, players are dealt another pint card.
Then taking turns each player can either "take a cone" or take another pint card.
If they take a cone they must be able to put the majority of scoops into the matching pint(s) they hold in their hand. What scoops they cannot use from the cone is put into the discard pile.
Points are award by how many pints have scoops "in" them.
At the end of the round gather up the scoop cards, shuffle and do it again.
That's the major gist of game play. Face to Face games has a pdf of the rules on it's website.
minimum = 1st grade
This is a game set in the French Revolution (in fact my middle son brought it to school so they could play it while they were on the section about the French Revolution)
On one end of the table the stand up cardboard picture of a Guillotine is placed. Then the cards of 12 nobles are placed in a straight line leading to the guillotine.
Players earn point for the nobles that reach the guillotine (earn more points for those in a certain group), lose points for every innocent to reach the guillotine and play cards that rearrange the line order, give one a point advantage, etc.
There are three rounds (days). The end of the day is reached when there are no more cards in line to the guillotine. However if Robespierre reaches the guillotine the day is over no matter how many cards are left in the line.
minimum = elementary
In every aspect Tsuro is a beautiful game, from the artwork to the simplicity of play.
Each player picks their pawn (looks kind of like a worry stone) and places it somewhere on the board edge at the various "start" ticks (yellow lines).
Then three tiles are dealt to each player. The first player (and then each player afterward) places his tile in front of his pawn and then move the pawn along the "road" to the edge of the tile.
Once a tile is placed a new tile is drawn, until the dragon tile is reached. The next person to go out once the dragon tile is out hands remaining tile to the holder of the dragon tile.
That player chooses the tile he/she wants and places the remaining tiles into the new draw pile, with the dragon tile on the bottom.
Ways to go "out"
The path created for the pawn leads them off the board = out
The path leads to two pawns on the same path (that's a "crash" as I've told the kids) = out
A player can only place a tile in front of their pawn. However if that tile creates an extension of the path in front of another players pawn, that pawn has to move along the new path too. (you can cause someone else to go out)
Pawns may not make right angle turns. They can only move straight along the path before them (or along it's curve).
5. Zeus on the Loose
As long as someone you can add and subtract up to 100 anyone can play this game.
Play number cards to add up to 100. Play the lesser god wamy card that can reverse the number reached (73 becomes 37), skip someones turn, steal the Zeus figurine.
Players get Zeus by making the numbers in play add up to a multiple of 10,playing a card that is the same number as the one before it, or using a lesser god card that allows the steal.
The person who has Zeus once the cards/numbers in play add up to 100(+) wins. (It may not be the same person who brought the cards/numbers in play to 100)
minimum = must be able to add and subtract 2 digit numbers
rules on line
6. Mag·Blast Third Edition
Pick your alien space faring race, and ships that will guard the mother ship/planet. These ships can also "fire" on your opponents guarding ships and mothership/planet.
However attacks can be repelled completely if the attacker fails to make the necessary space weapon, explosion sound OR if the sound made is not determined good enough by the other players. (oh yes it does happen)
Fire from one ship can only hit the same side of the other ship (left to left) unless an all encompassing weapon card is used also not all weapons can be used on all ships (an orange weapon will not work on a green ship).
minimum= 8 years old
7. Can't Stop
You may have played this game as a kid, well it's back!
In this Sid Sackson classic, there is a board with all the possible results of two six-sided dice: two through twelve. The object of the game is to move a little marker to the top of three columns by rolling that result, but you need many more sevens than you need twelves, based on the likelihood of each result. During your turn, you roll the dice and place temporary markers onto the board. You can continue moving these markers until either none of your dice match (your turn is over and all progress you've made is gone), or cut your losses and end your turn (placing a permanent marker in your rows). Nice light filler for opening or closing a session.
You can totally find out how risk adversed you are.
minimum= 6 years old
8. Liar's Dice
Five six-sided dice with traditional dot faces are generally used per player, with dice cups used for concealment. Poker dice can also be used, but some systems for bidding become difficult or impossible to use.
Each round, the players roll their dice while keeping them concealed from the other players. One player begins bidding, picking a quantity of a face 2 through 6. The quantity states the player's opinion on how many of the chosen face have been rolled in total on the table. A 1 ("ace") is often wild and counts as the stated face of the current bid, however the game can also be played without wilds (see variants). In a five-dice, three-player game with wilds, the lowest bid is "one 2" and the highest bid "fifteen 6s In turn, each player has two choices; believe the previous bid is true and make a higher bid, or challenge the previous bid as being wrong. Raising the bid means either increasing the quantity, or the face value, or both, according to the specific bidding rules used. Different bidding rule sets are described below.
If the current player thinks the previous player's bid is wrong, he challenges it, and then all dice are revealed to determine whether the bid was valid. Revealing the same number or more of the relevant face than was bid is a successful bid, in which case the bidder wins. Otherwise the challenger wins. A challenge is generally indicated by simply revealing one's dice, though it is customary to verbally make the challenge, by saying "I call you up", "I call", "You're a liar", or simply "Liar".
* Example: if a bid of "seven fours" is challenged, the bid is successful (and the player who made it wins) if there are seven or more fours, or less than seven fours but enough wild aces (1s) to total seven or more fours and aces (four fours and three aces, or five fours and two aces). The bid fails (the bidder is a Liar and the challenger wins) if there are fewer than seven total fours and aces combined (or if aces are not wild; see variants).
You can make this game yourself. Just do to a game store and buy 5 - six dice for each player (for 4 players you need 20 six sided dice) and tumblers like you can find from tupperware or cheesex dice cups (you can buy six sided dice there too).
(this was also "Pirate Dice" from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" )
minimum age = 8 years old
ehow to play
Wikipedia - Liar's Dice
This is a tile game set in medieval Europe. (There is actually a town/village of Carcassonne in France)
First players pick their pawn color. By the game playing public these pawns.playing pieces are called "Meeples" (they look like little wooden people).
Players randomly draw tiles (usually from a bag - I've bought many Crown Royal bags from Crown Royal drinkers for this purpose) and place them next to each other. Then the player who places the tile can claim something on the tile by using their meeple. Those "somethings" can be a road, a city, a monastery or a field.
Tile placement must make sense. for example: a road cannot end in a field )
You gain points by completing roads, cities, monastery grounds and how many cities/villages your farm supports. The person with the highest points wins.
mimum age = 8 years old
rules and more info
Oh there are many different versions of Fluxx but they all have one thing in common, there are no set rules.
The rules change with every play of the hand as set for by the cards players lay down. One moment you think your about the win because you have laid down all but one of the "keepers" required for the goal. Then someone changes the goal.
I can't explain the game better than that. Here's what boardgamegeek said:
A card game where the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. By playing cards, you change numerous aspects of the game: how to draw cards, how to play cards, and even how to win.
If your still confused (or you think this might be really fun) look at the picture below.
Though I do recommend playing Family Fluxx as regular Fluxx game deck is quite a bit bigger. (there is also "Stoner Fluxx," "Eco Fluxx," "Monty Python Fluxx," religious Fluxx and blank cards so you can make your own rules and keepers and such.
Minimum - 8 years old
All pictures from BoardGameGeek
More games next week.
Friday, March 06, 2009
March 3, 2009 on Larry King liberal talk show host, Stephanie Miller said:
MILLER: Nancy, you are right about one thing. We love this episode of Republicans eating their own. It's delightful and it's not solving any of the serious problems that the country is facing. You know who is it good for? Rush Limbaugh. He loves this attention. If I could say something tonight that gets me that kind of attention, like maybe: Rush Limbaugh should be executed for treason. How about that?
it's at about 1:15
Thursday afternoon Noel Sheppard picked up on it, Lib Talker: 'Maybe Limbaugh Should Be Executed For Treason'
Predictably Miller's email box began to fill with right wing hate mail. (Friday morning she read many on air throughout the show.)
Then around 1am EST March 6, 2009, World Net Daily picked up on it. Execute Rush Limbaugh for treason? That's what Obama-loving talker suggests on CNN
Hot Air also picked it up. It may be hitting right wing websites like a metal ball in a pinball machine.
This is exactly what Stephanie Miller stated she wanted on yesterday's program. They are making her day!
What is funny is that the transcripts on both Newsbusters, Hot Air are WRONG and incomplete in regards to what Stephanie Miller actually said. (the quote above IS correct) Funny, but not surprising.
Miller was clearly joking, but many conservatives haven't picked up on that fact.
I wonder if Rush will comment on it today or "wait" for a caller to his show to bring it up today.
Still waiting and watching Drudge.
UPDATE: Freepers got it too! Interestingly enough their transcript has the same omissions and mistakes. Hmmm you think they are copying and pasting the purported "transcript" without looking at the video? /snark
I've been out and have so idea if Rush answered this.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
For the past two decades this country has been treated to the rantings, ravings and, what passes for deep, thoughts of Rush Limbaugh. Despite what you might think of him, he has been an absolute genius of cornering, marketing and imaging making of talk radio. I first heard of him as the subject of a newsgroup title on usenet.
It was kind of strange seeing a newsgroup devoted to discussing and disseminating his teachings as if he were a prophet from God, his or herself. He had a following even then and quite a few detractors. But that newsgroup and others about him that followed, were the bellwether to not only his talk radio dominance but of the successful use of mass media to promulgate the neo-con message, dog whistles and furtherance of it’s oft hidden agenda.
We laughed and underestimated and we lost the ability to play.
Liberal and progressives have had to play catch up. Even as Clear Channel and other mass media companies grew in size and power and little local stations were gobbled up and cast aside, we woke slowly. We either did not understand the threat of being defined by those that oppose us, or what the cost of the loss of the microphone, any microphone, would do to us. In that failure we did not move to protect assets, like small radio stations, or pick up a network on the nascent cable (network explosion) when it was much cheaper to do so.
So we sit here now. After years upon years of hard work to gain some of our democracy back we have:
1. We are only now showing a benefit to programming progressive television talk and opinion shows. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have the only two shows of this type that are exceeding their market projections and helping MSNBC to finally, steadily, march up the ratings in the key demographic (sorry BillO you need to look at the whole book not just the demographic of 70 to dead)
With those positives why has it been so hard to get MSNBC to program more progressive political talk shows? There is a market, and it is growing. Now I know there are rumors that MSNBC is looking for another progressive talker to host a show and names have been flying, Aaron Brown, Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartman, etc.
To those who want to get the gig I say look at what Rachel Maddow did prior to her show. Her “Campaign Asylum” vids on youtube are essentially audition tapes. She showed that she has camera presence. She spoke directly to the camera, no interviewer, no interviewee, no audience, just her. Currently Cenk Uygur is doing much the the same thing.
2. We still haven't been able to get MSNBC on to basic cable packages to compete with Fox News. What's good about that is that even with an artificially engineered decrease in viewership opportunities, Keith and Rachel's shows are growing.
What's bad, well that's obvious, there is no counter message to Fox News. In a democracy, more than one side of the political spectrum must be represented. The right will yell that the left has PBS. They know it's comparing apples to oranges, commercial and public TV are not the same thing.
It's also pretzel logic because they want it both ways. They say liberal thought can't exist but on public tv/radio no one will pay for it, but then say we can't demand a commercial station because we have public radio/tv.
When I was in Pakistan I also learned that MSNBC had been made unavailable on satellite packages. As in it WAS available, but now it's not. Fox News, however, was still available. So overseas only one side of our political discourse is being heard. With that kind of news it is no wonder their view of us has tanked even lower.
3. We have Democratic Senators and Congresspeople who still don't understand or care that part of the 2006/2008 success is due to the free exchange of the internet. It has been one of the only avenues available to project progressive/liberal thought, to connect liberals and lead them out of the right wing imposed cone of silence, is the internet.
Without the internet, the web, liberal blogs, on-line magazines, live streaming of radio, we would not be as far as we are in coming back. Net neutrality is a big part of that.
If big Republican owned companies can tier the speed of which web sites get loaded onto a browser the fastest, based (they say) on payment from the site to get into the fastest tier (like the difference between 1st class and coach on an airplane) who do you think will go to the end of the slow tier line?
Like it or not, the internet has made us rather impatient. If a site takes too long to load (in a person's mind) people will move on to another site. Opposing ideas to conservative/Republican/neo-con speak will be lost, and we will go back to being isolated.
Net neutrality is very important to us, and it is one of the reasons they push so hard to end it.
Make sure our senators and congresspeople know and understand it.
4 Liberal Talk Radio.
Liberal talk radio has been credited with greatly assisting our wins in 2006 and probably 2008.
For years Rush Limbaugh et. al. have pushed the idea into the American collective thought that liberal talk radio isn't on because it is not commercially viable. This thought persists and is championed by the right even though it goes against every idea of capitalism; find an unmet need, fill it, be successful. The right wing used to say that there weren't enough pockets of liberals to make it economically feasible, except:
A. there have always been states and large cities that have always voted for the Democratic candidate.
B. people of like minds like to meet with and talk to each other
C. there were no liberal talk stations in these place to give them the opportunity.
Now I don't think it's to hard to understand why the Republican leadership would not want there to be liberal talk radio even though it goes against their vaunted laissez-faire capitalism (hell, these people will tank/crater/dismember an entire national economy and risk the international economy, thousand and millions of lives just rid the US government of the ability to offer safety nets, provide for education and infrastructure and to make themselves even more obscenely wealthy)
But the disconnect of average people have from saying they believe in capitalism , to looking but not seeing the evidence before them, to spouting the right wing bull shit is amazing. Now, despite more states turning purple and blue, the right still says uses these talking points, though their reasons are more transparent.
They point to Air America going bankrupt, saying that it totally failed. Even though they started saying that the day AAR started (they were a failed concept even before words were spoken into the microphone of the first AAR show). They totally ignore that AAR was on an advertisers blacklist. It's now out of bankruptcy.
They try and say that all progressive/liberal talk show hosts are from Air America (there fore they by extension must be failures). Only a fraction of liberal talk show host are with AAR now, but we also propagate that lie by thinking hosts like Ed Schultz, Bill Press, Stephanie Miller, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, etc. are with AAR.
Progressive Liberal Liberal talk radio is now more diverse in talent and in management.
While some progressive talk radio stations were created by companies like Clear Channel, they have also changed more progressive talk radio station formats away from it. Sort of like giving someone a lollypop just to shut them up and then taking away because it was too successful.
Even progressive talk radio stations that were once thought of as "safe" have been turned to music or sports formats.
Often times the changing of formats defied reason. Take Boston for example. The radio signal Clear Channel had given it's progressive talk station was a crappy daytime signal. It wasn't very powerful and if you were lucky to get it, you lost it at sundown unless you lived IN Boston itself.
The station was also run on autopilot. There was no local talent on weekly, just national shows which switched between offerings automatically (Rachel Maddow (then Young Turks), to Stephanie Miller, to Al Franken, to Ed Schultz to Randi Rhodes, etc.) and there wasn't a sales department. Really, a commercial radio station with no sales staff, in short, a lollipop.
When Clear Channel switched the format to salsa music (the 5th such station in the market) they also upgraded the signal (which we had long pleaded for) and got local on air talent and a sales staff..... ooh looky there!, and actual radio station with desires to actually succeed.
Despite that their ratings for many quarters did not come close to or much less meet the ratings they had with the crappy signal autopilot progressive talk station, they never turned back. The argument that this is a money making decision is laughable.
(update from trojanrabbit: the Boston salsa station that WAS Boston Progressive Talk Radio has "disappeared off the chart for the latest Fall ratings book." )
Many progressive talk radio hosts have said this is all about ownership, and they are right. As John Mayer sang "when they own the information they can bend it all they want." But for the Drobneys attempts to organize to start buying stations I've not seen much in that area, it seems that many progressives want to abandon terrestrial radio all together.
There are several problems with this idea.
We cannot keep, maintain, or turn red to blue if we cede the terrestrial airwaves to right wing radio. In doing so we will fail to reach with our message those who cannot afford satellite radio. We will in effect give our message only to the first class passengers and give the finger to the majority in coach.
The right wing will again get to define what and who we are. And we could begin to see our gains slip away.
We will confine ourselves to a smaller number of media options, with less flexibility to meet challenges, changes and risks. What happens if space debris takes out the satellite? It's not as far fetched as you might think.
We must maintain if not expand ourselves on terrestrial radio. We have the means to start buying stations, we have wealthy progressives/liberals who could invest and thousands upon thousands of liberals who could give $5.00 to an actblue type effort. Starting with the newly blue and purple states/cities we should be buying troubled stations (don't think the Republicans are waiting to gobble up more land, assets, media, etc. whose owners are in trouble, they are it's part of Disaster Capitalism.)
Then move either to red states/cities to start chipping away at it. Or go to blue cities and states to maintain and reward, I'm not sure what order is best for 2 and 3 or even a sort of alternating approach 2,3,2,3,etc.
In short, of this long winded diary, we must do, it is imperative that we compete in all forms of media, just as we have competed in all states. To cede any media is to let the right wing have a chance, and an opening to define what we are. We've seen the disastrous results.
When we compete in every state, in all media, we win, on our ideas alone.