Friday, June 27, 2008

Tent City to Protest War


We can start building a world with peace, healthcare, education, food,
housing, a safe environment, and democracy. Experience the power of
nonviolent social change and the joy of building a community of
resisitance. Activists with an number of organizations including the
Washington Peace Center, CodePink DC, Washington Homes Not Jails,
Propositon One and Food Not Bombs met this May in Washington DC to plan
some of the logistics for the Tent City Protest. Proposition One has
been protesting everyday outside the White House for over 25 years. We
agreed to start the main action the August 6th to give us more time to
plan. Everyone is invited to gather at outside the White House at noon.

The U.S. and Israel are planning to bomb Iran. This could cause the
global economy to crash. We are facing a crisis. Millions of Americans
are losing their homes and jobs as the federal government spends
billions on illegal wars and domestic repression. The presidential
candidates are offering no solutions to the failing economy or
addressing the crisis of climate change. They are calling for war
against Iran which could bring the world to economic crisis. Twenty
percent of the world's oil would be cut do to this conflict. Oil prices
are already causing hunger and driving millions into extreme poverty.
"That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage. I
will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat from Gaza to
Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a
model of success, and must be deepened. As president, I will implement
a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance
to Israel over the next decade investments to Israel's security that
will not be tied to any other nation. First, we must approve the
foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our
cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to
our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always
stand up for Israel's right to defend itself in the United Nations and
around the world. Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep
the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and
our ally Israel."

We invite you to join us outside the White House at Lafayette Park at
the Proposition One Vigil.Lafayette Square is a seven-acre public park
located directly north of the White House on H Street between 15th and
17th Streets, NW. When arriving in Washington DC you can stop at the
CodePink House at 712 5th St NE between G&H (5 blocks from Union
Station- Red Line) Please call the house at 202.290.1301 or email the
house at dc[at] The house will be closed on June 28th
through July 4th but you are free to stop by before the Tent City
Protest or during the rest of the summer. You can also check in at the
Washington Peace Center at 1233 12th Street, NW, downstairs. Call the
Washington Peace Center at 202/234-2000 or email them at wpc(at)

At first because of the laws against camping in Washington DC we
invite you to bring a life size card board image of a tent as well as a
pop-up tent that you can set up on the street. Food Not Bombs plans to
provide vegetarian meals so a bowl, cup and silverware is helpful. Also
bring a sleeping bag and plastic to cover yourself in the rain. if you
can help cook and have a propane stove, pots, spices and other cooking
equipment that is also helpful. Those interested in First Aid can bring
medical supplies. Bring a sign to announce the name of your
organization. Music, puppets, street theater is also welcome. Water
jugs are also very important as the summer is very warm in Washington

Join the Tent City Protest to stop the U.S. attack on Iran, to end the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while showing that we can create world
free from domination, coercion and violence.

While marches, vigils and rallies are important the Bush
administration has shown it can ignore these one day events. On the
other hand long ongoing actions are impossible to turn a blind eye too.
Tent City Protests during the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, Camp
Casey in Crawford, Texas, the 27 day Tent City Actions in San Francisco
and the 600 day farmer's action at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Square in
Sarajevo were powerful and inspired change. Activists are also planning
to organize Tent City Protests outside military installations, federal
buildings and U.S. embassies. All peace and social action groups are
invited to join in the tent city protest.

There is a vigorous debate about what strategy might work to end the
crisis caused by the "war on terrorism." Rallies, marches and petitions
haven't done enough to stop torture, secret prisons, the use of cluster
bombs against civilians, wire tapping and data collection, laws such as
the Military Commissions Act and the Violent Radicalization and
Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. At the same time actions to
protect the environment, healthcare, education and housing haven't been
successful. One strategy that has proven effective at bringing positive
social change has been the tent city protest.

We are facing an urgent crisis. Bush is talking of World War III
against Iran using nuclear weapons, the global economy is failing for
most, climate change continues to become more urgent and the U.S.
empire is using every measure possible to protect its power. Bush has
pointed to the power of tent city protests to bring political change.
Lets show him that we can also bring democracy and peace to the United
States. Join us in participating in the Tent City Protest. CONTACT YOUR

• The 2005 Palestinian / Israeli Peace Camp and actions to plant
olive trees for peace united the community
• The tent city protest outside the Parliament Building in Kiev
during the Orange Revolution restored the democracy of the Ukraine.
• Thousands of protesters joined Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey outside
Bush's Ranch in Crawford, Texas. Her tent city protest brought our
opposition to the war to world attention.
• The National Coalition for the Homeless organized 250,000 to appear
in Washington, D.C., in October 1989 with its Housing Now! March.
• A coalition of homeless and peace groups organized the 27 day Tent
City protest for homeless peoples rights in San Francisco in 1989 which
ended the police violence and opened additional homeless programs.
• The 600 day tent city action at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Square
in Sarajevo. The action was organized by the Sarajevo collective
'food-not bombs!,' with the goal to support the informal citizen group
that has been gathering as of December 2005 in front of the Square of
the earlier BH Parliament, and in order to simply discuss and publicly
talk about the problems that bear a heavy weight on the majority of the
Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens, female, male, and surely all others.

Imagine a tent city that provides universal healthcare, education,
cultural events, free organic meals, solar energy and provides an
example of the world we can have if we stop spending our wealth on war.



THE TENT CITY PROTEST IS ENDORSED BY: Voices for Creative Nonviolence,
Venice Santa Monica Food Not Bombs, Code Pink DC, The Iraq Moratorium,
Arlington Food Not Bombs, PeaceMajority Report, A Window on the Peace
Community in America, The Food Not Bombs Menu, Dayton Food Not Bombs,
Moscow Food Not Bombs, Proposition One, Washington Homes Not Jails.
Please contact us to endorse this powerful action.



The Tent City Protest 2008
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Nashville Activists Arrested in Indiana


June 20th 7am, Evansville Indiana -- In the early morning hours of June 20th, around 25 police officers from the Indiana State Police (ISP), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Gibson County Sheriff's office descended on the scene of the anti-I69 tree sit, just south of State Road 68 in southern Gibson County (20 miles north of Evansville). The police officers, many of them trained specifically for this purpose, brought in 'cherry pickers' and other platform raising equipment in order to reach the sitters. The two people in the trees at the time of eviction were lowered to the ground, after being forcefully and dangerously approached by Conservation Officers of the IDNR. Erk Magas, Michelle Soto, Emily Cross, and Laura Barnett from Nashville were arrested and were released on bail.

Sitting on platforms suspended 40 feet above the ground, the tree-sitters were not in positions from which they could be easily and safely removed. Arresting officers' reckless behaviors, however, resulted in protesters' quick eviction. One protester was not attached to a safety line during the eviction, but was still hostilely handled by the Conservation Officers. As they reached her with the cherry picker, they pulled her unattached to anything that would have prevented her tumbling to the ground, putting her life in great danger.

After evicting the first sitter, officers moved on to the second. They raised the cherry picker below the platform to threaten the sitter, and then lifted the platform with the cherry picker. They proceeded to cut the support line that was holding it in the tree. This protester had locked himself onto the ropes using a 'lock box' device intended to help him evade eviction. The officers cut that rope, leaving this protester also without any form of safety.

After the tree-sitters were forcibly removed from their tree top positions, they were lowered, cuffed and placed on the ground below the trees. From a telephone recording made during the eviction, it is clear that the arresting officers purposefully laid one of the protesters face down into a patch of poison ivy.

People not involved in the tree-sit eviction this morning have reported to the media office that state police officers are pulling people over on the state highways in the vicinity of the sit. One person reports that they were surrounded by 5 police vehicles when stopped. As well, it has been reported that one car had its tires blown out by the state police in order for them to arrest all of the occupants of that vehicle.

The information in this press release was compiled by the I-69 Media Office, an independent anti-I69 media clearinghouse. All questions should be directed to the media contact given in this release.

Nielson to Perform at Greens Benefit

Award Winning Folk Musician to Perform in Nashville for Green Party Candidates

On Saturday June 28th, Tom Neilson an award winning folk musician will do a benefit performance for Green Party candidates Christopher Lugo, U.S. Senate candidate, and John Miglietta, U.S. House candidate 5th district. The fundraiser will take place at the home of Eric and Beth Lewis 7978 Highway 100 in Nashville. The event starts at 6:00 PM with a potluck. The musical performance starts at 7:00 PM. Admission is $10 at the door. Tom Neilson has been described as the Jon Stewart of folk music. He has won numerous awards including the 2007 South Florida folk festival and was a finalist at the 2008 Plowshares and 2006 Kerrville Folk festivals. For further information contact Christopher Lugo 593-0304, or John Miglietta 364-7150

Christopher and John are running campaigns which focus on ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as advocating single-payer healthcare, environmental sustainability, developing alternative energy, electoral reform, and fair trade among other issues. For more on Chris and John please visit their respective websites Chris Lugo, John Miglietta,

Friday, June 20, 2008

ACORN Hosts Biennial Conference

DETROIT, Mich. - ACORN members from around the country began arriving in Detroit Friday, June 20, for the organization's biennial convention at Cobo Hall. You can join us LIVE online for former Sen. John Edwards, on Monday 23, 10 am EST .

If you were unable to join us in Detroit this year, you can still participate online in many ways. We have online videos of all the speakers and open sessions. We are featuring members stories, photographs, and blogs. Check back often as we have some exciting activities yet to be announced and the site is being updated often.

This year's convention theme, "Building Dreams Across America," reflects on ACORN's major campaigns of stemming the foreclosure crisis, ending poverty, winning immigration reform, fighting for health care for all and rebuilding New Orleans.

Detroit was chosen because Michigan is among the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates. Thousands of ACORN members and ACORN Housing counselors canvassed distressed Detroit neighborhoods Sunday, reaching out to troubled borrowers and offering on-the-spot counseling and assistance.

"We believe that change is on the horizon and that change will build the dreams that have too long eluded low- and moderate-income Americans," said ACORN President Maude Hurd.

About 2,000 ACORN members have arrived for a weekend of planning, action, and celebration of ACORN's 38 years of winning victories for low-income Americans.

Hear speeches by going to the ACORN website from Edwards, who is working with ACORN on the new "Half in Ten" campaign to cut poverty in half in 10 years; Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.); Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D-Mich.); Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Rep. John Conyars (D-Mich.) and other progressive leaders.

The ACORN National Convention is one of the best opportunities to see and feel the impact of the organization's success in winning change for low- and moderate-income people. Since the 2006 convention, which focused on Raising the Minimum Wage, ACORN-backed ballot initiatives passed in Arizona, Colorado, Ohio and Missouri, raising the state minimum wage by $1.35 or more - delivering raises to 1.5 million workers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TTPC Denounces Memphis Hate Crime

TTPC Denounces Brutal Anti-Trans Hate Crime Attack by Memphis Police

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) denounces the cowardly attack by Memphis Police Officers upon Duanna Johnson, an African American transgender woman on February 12.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition was first made aware of this attack several weeks ago, but we did not issue a public statement in deference to Ms. Johnson's attorney's wishes. Last night's release by Memphis station WMC-TV of the video, capturing the brutality of the attack, and the indifference to her suffering by other members of the Memphis Police Department as well as by the attending nurse allows us to comment today.

"This reprehensible attack upon a person who was not resisting simply because of her gender expression has no place in a civilized society," said Dr. Marisa Richmond, President of TTPC. "The brutality of this attack must be dealt with by the judicial system. If Shelby County District Attorney, William Gibbons, who is reportedly considering a run for Governor in 2010, will not prosecute the officers involved for this obvious hate crime, then he should be removed from office for dereliction of duty," continues Richmond.

This past Saturday, the Memphis Police Department had a recruiting booth at Mid South Pride in Memphis, just steps away from the TTPC booth. "While we welcome the MPD's outreach effort to the GLBT community of Memphis, the fact that they still have not fired the officer who actually performed the assault calls into question their commitment to opening their doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and especially, transgender employees. Their presence at Pride was an important step, but the video shows how far they have to go," maintains Richmond.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition extends our sympathies and support to Johnson and her legal team.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
(615)353-1834 fax

ACLU Files Suit for Transgender Trucker

ACLU Sues Old Dominion Freight Lines Over Firing Of Transgender Trucker

KNOXVILLE, TN – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sex discrimination lawsuit today against Old Dominion Freight Lines for illegally firing a truck driver for impersonating a female after she informed the company that she was transitioning from male to female. A prior EEOC investigation into the firing sided with the driver, Kaylee Seals, finding there was reasonable cause to believe that Old Dominion discriminated against Seals based on sex and sex stereotyping.

“Getting fired was one of the worst things that ever happened to me,” said Kaylee Seals. “I was always taught that you should be judged based on how hard you work. I gave my all to Old Dominion, working extremely long hours under very difficult conditions. Yet none of that mattered when my bosses learned that I was transitioning.”

Seals, 33, worked for Old Dominion for approximately 2½ years during which time she was given several awards for her service and safe driving. In November 2005, Seals, who was still living and dressing as a male at the time, was sent from Morristown, TN, to Jacksonville, FL. While there, a manager at the company began harassing Seals because she had been given a voucher to stay in a motel rather than a company bunk house. According to the manager, male employees were supposed to stay in the bunk house. Although Seals was dressed in gender neutral clothing (sweat pants and a sweat shirt), the employee began aggressively questioning Seals about her sex and her appearance. Unaware that the bunk house was even still operational, Seals readily agreed to stay in the bunk house for the remaining night of her stay.

When she returned to Tennessee, Seals informed her immediate supervisor, whom she trusted, about the harassment she received and also mentioned that she was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder and intended to complete the transition to the female sex.. Shortly after this conversation, Seals was summoned to a meeting with the supervisor and other managers at the company. At this meeting, an Old Dominion supervisor, noting Seals’ “feminine voice” and the fact that Seals wore jewelry, accused Seals of imitating a woman in order to be able to stay in the motel. The supervisor then terminated Seals, claiming that Seals’ actions violated company policy. The EEOC did not find this explanation credible since four other male employees also received motel vouchers at the Jacksonville location during the same time period and had not been disciplined.

“No one should be fired simply because she does not fit traditional gender roles,” said Christine Sun, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “Fortunately, sex stereotyping discrimination is illegal and Old Dominion will now find itself defending this case in court.”

Marisa Richmond, President of Transgender Political Coalition, added, “Transgender employees need to be able to earn a living and support themselves just like everyone else. Through this lawsuit, I hope all employers learn that they should respect transgender employees, because if they don’t, they can be held liable for illegal discrimination.”

Seals took the firing especially hard. She became severely depressed and was house bound for three months. Through the help of a co-worker, she eventually sought legal help and made a complaint to the EEOC, which found that her claim had merit. According to government statistics, only five to six percent of EEOC investigations result in a finding that there was reasonable cause that discrimination occurred.

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Seals against Old Dominion for sex discrimination. In the complaint filed today, the ACLU charges that Old Dominion violated Title VII federal sex discrimination laws by terminating Seals on the basis of sex and sex stereotyping.

Seals has since found employment with another trucking line but is now earning significantly less. After living as a woman for more that a year, Seals is anxious to begin sexual reassignment surgery, but due to the loss of income, is unable to afford it.

The lawsuit, Seals v. Old Dominion Freight Lines, was filed in Federal District Court in Knoxville. A copy of the complaint, photographs of Seals and additional information is available at:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sixth Circuit Hears House Case Again

In a surprise move, a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals gathered in Nashville today to consider an appeal filed by Paul House which claims that the state should by barred from re-trying the case. House’s federal defender, Steve Kissinger, argued that the state is not in compliance with Judge Mattice’s December 7, 2007 order which asserted that House should be retried or released in 180 days. Today marked 180 days since that December decision. The court is also considering whether or not House should be released if the case is remanded back to district court for further consideration.

The state argued vigorously against barring retrial and that the Sixth Circuit did not have the authority to grant House’s release since House is now in state custody and is unable to make bail. In an ironic twist, Jennifer Smith of the Attorney General’s office asked that the court deny this appeal as she was concerned that its consideration might delay the resolution of the case. After the state has denied House relief for 23 years by playing games with the courts, now it has the audacity to claim that the defense is dragging its feet.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nashville Adopts Non-Discrimination Policy

Nashville Public Schools Adopt Fully Inclusive Non-Discrimination Policy

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is pleased to announce that last night, the Board of the Metropolitan Nashville Public School (MNPS) adopted a non-discrimination policy recommended by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. This makes the Nashville-Davidson County school system the first in Tennessee to ban discrimination against its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

The MNPS joins university of tennessee at knoxville (December 2007) and the tennessee board of regents (February 2008) in adopting fully inclusive non-discrimination policies.

We want to thank the MNEA, the union which represents Nashville's public school teachers, for its work in getting this policy approved by the Board. We encourage all of the remaining local school districts in Tennessee to join Nashville in adopting a similar policy. We also encourage the remaining institutions in the University of Tennessee system, along with all of Tennessee's private institutions of higher learning, to follow suit. We also hope this will lead to a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy for all of Nashville's public employees.

In addition to expanding the non-discrimination policy, the Board also voted to expand the anti-bullying and harassment policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity as well. The work on this matter has been led by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Support Student Safety Coalition. This makes the Metro Nashville Public Schools the second school district in Tennessee to adopt such a policy, joining the Knox County Schools which added sexual orientation and gender identity in 2005.

We greatly appreciate the work of everyone to ensure and safe and fair environment for students, staff anf faculty in the Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Marisa Richmond

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
(615)353-1834 fax

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bill Moyers: 'Journalism in Profound Crisis'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Today, legendary journalist Bill Moyers electrified an audience of more than 3,500 in Minneapolis, calling the media reform movement "the most significant citizens' movement to emerge in this new century."

Watch Bill Moyers' keynote speech:

Moyers was speaking at the National Conference for Media Reform, an event that brought together thousands of people dedicated to making America's media system more democratic, diverse and accountable.

Addressing the packed auditorium, Moyers said the work of the media reform movement has "challenged the stranglehold of mega-media corporations over our press" and fostered "alternative and independent sources of news and information that people can trust."

Moyers cited the recent exposés about government propaganda in mainstream media as a symptom of "journalism in profound crisis."

"You couldn't find a more revealing measure of the state of the dominant media today than the continuing ubiquitous presence -- on the air and in print -- of the very pundits and experts, self-selected 'message multipliers' of a disastrous foreign policy, who got it all wrong in the first place," he said.

At the root of this crisis, Moyers said, is media consolidation.

"As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses and broadcast outlets, news organizations are folded into entertainment divisions. The news hole in the print media shrinks to make room for ads, celebrities, nonsense and propaganda, and the news we need to know slips from sight."

The complete transcript of Bill Moyers' remarks will be available early next week on the Free Press Web site (

Tonight, an action-packed plenary will begin streaming live at 8 p.m. at Emceed by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, and Baratunde Thurston of Laughing Liberally, the exciting line-up for the evening includes:

Dan Rather, former anchor, CBS News
Arianna Huffington,
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
Michael Copps, FCC commissioner
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
Tim Wu, Columbia University law professor
Rev. Romal Tune, Clergy Strategic Alliances
Silvia Rivera, Radio Arte
Shá Cage, MN Spoken Word Association

This year's National Conference for Media Reform builds upon the success of previous events in Memphis in 2007, St. Louis in 2005 and Madison, Wis., in 2003.

Full coverage of the conference -- including video of keynote speeches and audio from more than 60 panels -- is available during and after the event at

Dan Rather Slams Corporate Media

Dan Rather Slams Corporate News at National Conference for Media Reform

MINNEAPOLIS -- On Saturday, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather gave a blistering critique of corporate news at the National Conference for Media Reform hosted by Free Press -- the national, nonpartisan media reform group.

The following are Dan Rather's prepared remarks:

I am grateful to be here and I am, most of all, gratified by the energy I have seen tonight and at this conference. It will take this kind of energy -- and more -- to sustain what is good in our news media ... to improve what is deficient ... and to push back against the forces and the trends that imperil journalism and that -- by immediate extension -- imperil democracy itself.

The Framers of our Constitution enshrined freedom of the press in the very first Amendment, up at the top of the Bill of Rights, not because they were great fans of journalists -- like many politicians, then and now, they were not -- but rather because they knew, as Thomas Jefferson put it, that, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was and never will be."

And it is because of this Constitutionally protected role that I still prefer to use the word "press" over the word "media." If nothing else, it serves as a subtle reminder that -- along with newspapers -- radio, television, and, now, the Internet, carry the same Constitutional rights, mandates, and responsibilities that the founders guaranteed for those who plied their trade solely in print.

So when you hear me talk about the press, please know that I am talking about all the ways that news can be transmitted. And when you hear me criticize and critique the press, please know that I do not exempt myself from these criticisms.

In our efforts to take back the American press for the American people, we are blessed this weekend with the gift of good timing. For anyone who may have been inclined to ask if there really is a problem with the news media, or wonder if the task of media reform is, indeed, an urgent one... recent days have brought an inescapable answer, from a most unlikely source.

A source who decided to tell everyone, quote, "what happened."

I know I can't be the first person this weekend to reference the recent book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, but, having interviewed him this past week, I think there are some very important points to be made from the things he says in his book, and the questions his statements raise.

I'm sure all of you took special notice of what he had to say about the role of the press corps, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. In the government's selling of the war, he said they were -- or, I should say, we were "complicit enablers" and "overly deferential."

These are interesting statements, especially considering their source. As one tries to wrap one's mind around them, the phrase "cognitive dissonance" comes to mind.

The first reaction, a visceral one, is: Whatever his motives for saying these things, he's right -- and we didn't need Scott McClellan to tell us so.

But the second reaction is: Wait a minute... I do remember at least some reporters, and some news organizations, asking tough questions -- asking them of the president, of those in his administration, of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and -- oh yes -- of Scott McClellan himself, once he took over for Mr. Fleischer a few months after the invasion.

So how do we reconcile these competing reactions? Well, we need to pull back for what we in television call the wide shot.

If we look at the wide shot, we can see, in one corner of our screen, the White House briefing room filled with the White House press corps... and, filling the rest of the screen, the finite but disproportionately powerful universe that has become known as "mainstream media" -- the newspapers and news programs, real and alleged, that employ these White House correspondents -- the news organizations that are, in turn, owned by a shockingly few, much larger corporations, for which news is but a minuscule part of their overall business interests.

In the wake of 9/11 and in the run-up to Iraq, these news organizations made a decision -- consciously or unconsciously, but unquestionably in a climate of fear -- to accept the overall narrative frame given them by the White House, a narrative that went like this: Saddam Hussein, brutal dictator, harbored weapons of mass destruction and, because of his supposed links to al Qaeda, this could not be tolerated in a post-9/11 world.

In the news and on the news, one could, to be sure, find persons and views that did not agree with all or parts of this official narrative. Hans Blix, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector, comes to mind as an example. But the burden of proof, implicitly or explicitly, was put on these dissenting views and persons... the burden of proof was not put on an administration that was demonstrably moving towards a large-scale military action that would represent a break with American precedent and stated policy of how, when, and under what circumstances this nation goes to war.

So with this in mind, we look back to the corner of our screen where the White House Press Corps is asking their questions. I have been a White House correspondent myself, and I have worked with some of the best in the business. You have an incentive, when you are in that briefing room, to ask the good, tough questions: If nothing else, that is how you get in the paper, or on the air. There is more to it than that, and things have changed since I was a White House correspondent -- something I want to talk about in a minute. But the correspondents -- the really good ones -- these correspondents ask their tough questions.

And these questions are met with what is now called, euphemistically and much too kindly, what is now called "message discipline."

Well, we used to have a better and more accurate term for "message discipline." We called it "stonewalling."

Now, cut back to your evening news, or your daily newspaper... where that White House Correspondent dutifully repeats the question he asked of the president or his press secretary, and dutifully relates the answer he was given -- the same non-answer we've already heard dozens of times, which amounts to a pitch for the administration's point of view, whether or not the answer had anything to do with the actual question that was asked.

And then: "Thank you Jack. In other news today... "

And we're off on a whole new story.

In our news media, in our press, those who wield power were, in the lead-up to Iraq, given the opportunity to present their views as a coherent whole, to connect the dots, as they saw the dots and the connections... no matter how much these views may have flown in the face of precedent, established practice -- or, indeed, the facts (as we are reminded, yet again, by the just-released Senate report on the administration's use of pre-war intelligence). The powerful are given this opportunity still, in ways big and small, despite what you may hear about the "post-Katrina" press.

But when a tough question is asked and not answered, when reputable people come before the public and say, "wait a minute, something's not right here," the press has treated them like voices crying in the wilderness. These views, though they might be given air time, become lone dots -- dots that journalists don't dare connect, even if the connections are obvious, even if people on the Internet and in the independent press are making these very same connections. The mainstream press doesn't connect these dots because someone might then accuse them of editorializing, or of being the, quote, "liberal media."

But connecting these dots -- making disparate facts make sense -- is a big part of the real work of journalism.

So how does this happen? Why does this happen?

Let me say, by way of answering, that quality news of integrity starts with an owner who has guts.

In a news organization with an owner who has guts, there is an incentive to ask the tough questions, and there is an incentive to pull together the facts -- to connect the dots -- in a way that makes coherent sense to the news audience.

I mentioned a moment ago that things have changed since I was a White House correspondent. Yes, presidential administrations have become more adept at holding "access" over the heads of reporters -- ask too tough a question, or too many of them, so the implicit threat goes, and you're not going to get any more interviews with high-ranking members of the administration, let alone the president.

But I was covering Presidents Johnson and Nixon -- men not exactly known as pushovers. No, what has changed, even more than the nature of the presidency, is the character of news ownership. I only found out years after the fact, for example, about the pressure that the Nixon White House put on my then-bosses, during Watergate -- pressure to cut down my pieces, to call me off the story, and so on... because, back then, my bosses took the heat, so I didn't have to. They did this so the story could get told, and so the public could be informed.

But it is rare, now, to find a major news organization owned by an individual, someone who can say, in effect, "The buck stops here." The more likely motto now is: "The news stops... with making bucks."

America's biggest, most important news organizations have, over the past 25 years, fallen prey to merger after merger, acquisition after acquisition... to the point where they are, now, tiny parts of immeasurably larger corporate entities -- entities whose primary business often has nothing to do with news. Entities that may, at any given time, have literally hundreds of regulatory issues before multiple arms of the government concerning a vast array of business interests.

These are entities that, as publicly held and traded corporations, have as their overall, reigning mandate: Provide a return on shareholder value. Increase profits. And not over time, not over the long haul, but quarterly.

One might ask just where the news fits into this model. And if you really need an answer, you can turn on your television, where you will see the following:

Political analysis reduced to in-studio shouting matches between partisans armed with little more than the day's talking points.

Precious time and resources wasted on so-called human-interest stories, celebrity fluff, sensationalist trials, and gossip.

A proliferation of "news you can use" that amounts to thinly disguised press releases for the latest consumer products.

And, though this doesn't get said enough, local news, which is where most Americans get their news, that seems not to change no matter what town or what city you're in... so slavish is its adherence to the "happy talk" formula and the dictum that, "If it bleeds, it leads."

I could continue for hours, cataloging journalistic sins of which I know you are all too aware. But, as the time grows late, let me say that almost all of these failings come down to this: In the current model of corporate news ownership, the incentive to produce good and valuable news is simply not there.

Good news, quality news of integrity, requires resources and it requires talent. These things are expensive, these things eat away at the bottom line.

Years ago, in the eighties and the nineties, when the implications of these cost-trimming measures were becoming impossible to ignore, and the quality of the news was clearly threatened, I spoke out against this cutting of news operations to the bone and beyond. Even then, though, I couldn't have imagined that the cost-cutting imperatives would go as far as they have today -- deep into the marrow of what was once considered a public trust.

But since the financial resources always seem to be available for entertainment, promotion, and -- last but not least -- for lobbying... perhaps there is an even more important reason why the incentive to produce quality news is absent, and that is: quality news of integrity, by its very nature, is sure to rock the boat now and then. Good, responsible news worthy of its Constitutional protections will, in that famous phrase, afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted.

And that, when one feels the need to deliver shareholder value above all, means that good news... may not always mean good business -- or so goes the fear, a fear that filters down into just about every big newsroom in this country.

Now, I have spent my entire life in for-profit news, and I happen to think that it does not have to be this way. I have worked for news owners who, while they may have regarded their news divisions as an occasional irritant, chose to turn that irritant into a pearl of public trust. But today, sadly, it seems that the conglomerates that have control over some of the biggest pieces of this public trust would just as soon spit that irritant out.

So what does this mean for us tonight, and what is to be done?

It means that we need to be on the alert for where, when, and how our news media bows to undue government influence. And you need to let news organizations know, in no uncertain terms, that you won't stand for it... that you, as news consumers, are capable of exerting pressure of your own.

It means that we need to continue to let our government know that, when it comes to media consolidation, enough is enough. Too few voices are dominating, homogenizing, and marginalizing the news. We need to demand that the American people get something in exchange for the use of airwaves that belong, after all, to the people.

It means that we need to ensure that the Internet, where free speech reigns and where journalism does not have to pass through a corporate filter... remains free.

We need to say, loud and clear, that we don't want big corporations enjoying preferred access to -- or government acting as the gatekeeper for -- this unique platform for independent journalism.

And it means that we need to hold the government to its mandate to protect the freedom of the press, including independent and non-commercial news media.

The stakes could not possibly be higher. Scott McClellan's book serves as a reminder, and the current election season, not to mention the gathering clouds of conflict with Iran, will both serve as tests of whether lessons have truly been learned from past experience. Ensuring that a free press remains free will require vigilance, and it will require work.

Please, take tonight's energy and inspiration home with you. Take it back to your desks and your workplaces, to your colleagues and your fellow citizens. magnify it, multiply it, and spread it. Make it viral. Make it something that cannot be ignored -- not by the powers in Washington, not by the owners and executives of media companies.

Write these people. Call them. Send them the message that you know your rights, you know that you are entitled to news media as diverse and varied as the American people... and that you deserve a press that provides the raw material of democracy, the good information that Americans need to be full participants in our government of, by, and for the people. T

here is energy here, that can be equal to that task, but this energy must be maintained... if the press -- if democracy -- is to be preserved.

Thank you very much, and good night.

Grassroots Radio Conference July 25th

Grassroots Radio Conference

The Grassroots Radio Conference is being held in Portland, OR, July 25
– 27th, at the Native American Student and Community Center, at
Portland State University.

The Grassroots Radio Conference is an annual gathering of community
radio activists in support of this mission: " More than audio outlets,
volunteer-based community radio stations are cultural institutions in
their communities, reflecting the unique concerns and passions of the
people who live there. With a system of governance based on openness
and collaboration, and diverse programming produced by volunteers and
funded by listeners, these stations are cornerstones of participatory
democracy, offering ordinary citizens the chance to exercise First
Amendment rights in a mass medium and audiences the opportunity to
directly support the programming that is of importance to them.”

Each year, the conference provides skill building workshops, space for
important discussions and information exchange, and panel presentations
on a variety of relevant topics. We are currently soliciting panel
participants and workshop leaders in the following topic areas:

Live remote broadcasts
Diversity issues – taking out barriers to inclusion
Addressing “isms” – creating social change within our stations
Role of community radio in disaster response
Writing for radio
FCC issues – current topics and concerns
Multi-media challenges and opportunities
Internet streaming
Hands on production track
Interviewing skills
News reporting basics
Field recording
Fundraising—beyond the membership drive
Youth radio
Crisis management – when things go awry
Art of broadcast—how to make compelling radio that works for listeners
Music & mission
Radio theater
Collaborations between stations
Functional collectives
Volunteer recruitment
Non-violent communication within stations / conflict resolution
DIY – equipment / studios and ???

If you have questions or ideas, please contact Ani at by June 15th. GRC-13 is being presented by KBOO
Community Radio, KPCN-lpfm, Portland Center for Public Humanities at
PSU, PSU Department of English, PSU Department of Communications, and
KPSU fm.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Commentary by Robert Smith

McCain says “I’d spy on Americans ,Too.”

“If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrant less wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president’s wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.”

Perhaps they do? I am not a lawyer, so I couldn’t tell you about that. In this he is following the reasoning of the current administration for breaking the law. However I have seen no report that CONGRESS HAS DECLAIRED WAR. In which case the actions of the administration consist of felonies and need to be addressed by the courts and the American people. Warrent less wiretapping, holding people without charges or trial, signing statements and all the rest of the administrations actions by his own admission consist of felonies. Neither Mr. Bush nor any other person has the right or power to perform these acts without at the very least a declaration of war. Talk about high crimes and misdemeanors. The President has no powers beyond what is given to him by the Constitution and should never have such power. Nor does he or any other elected or appointed official have immunity from the laws of the land including the supreme law of the land which is the Constitution and such treaties as we are bound by.

Perhaps the President can’t be charged with these crimes while in office, but He better be, once his term is over. Either that or the Constitution is just a piece of toilet paper and the US Government has been declared null and void. In which case we are fifty separate nations and free to act independently.

TCASK Abolition Update

Bail Hearing for Paul House

Though hopes were dashed when Judge Harold Mattice did not release Paul House at a May 28th hearing in Nashville but instead gave the state of Tennessee the authority to hold him for re-trial, there is yet another opportunity for House to be released to his mother’s care. A hearing will be held on Friday, June 6 in Union County to set bail for House. The state is proceeding to re-try him on first degree murder charges but will not seek the death penalty. Instead, the state will seek a life sentence, making House eligible for bail. TCASK will keep you informed as more information becomes available and will be planning a fundraising effort to assist with the bail.

Tennessee Cases Reveal More Problems

Though Paul House’s case is perhaps the most publicized of Tennessee’s problematic cases, many other cases on Tennessee’s death row are full of egregious issues which the courts should be seeking to remedy. Ineffective assistance of counsel and faulty eyewitness testimony plague many of these cases. And because the system lacks a basic understanding of how to engage those with mental illness, mentally ill defendants are often misunderstood and do not receive the defense they need. The death penalty system continues to be rife with such problems, highlighting why the work of the Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty is so crucial.

Recently, thanks to the outstanding work of post-conviction attorneys and federal defenders, several death row inmates in Tennessee have received some relief:

Arthur Copeland

The case of Arthur Copeland is a classic “whodunit” involving many actors but no definitive answers. Arthur T. “A.C.” Copeland was tried, convicted, and sentenced for the April 1998 murder of Andre Jackson in Maryville, TN. Copeland, an African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury based on the testimony of a witness who changed her original statement to police and by another witness who was a known drug abuser. The court did not allow the jury to hear critical testimony from a national expert concerning the unreliability of eyewitness identification. The lower court's exclusion of this key testimony was crucial in the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision issued in May 2007 which reversed both Copeland's sentence and conviction. Copeland’s new trial is currently scheduled for March 2009.

Richard Taylor

Richard Taylor, a man with severe mental illness who spent 18 years on death row in Tennessee, had his conviction and death sentence reversed by a Tennessee appeals court in March. On June 3, Taylor who was twice forced to stand trial despite his severe mental illness, agreed to serve a life sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to the 1981 murder of a Tennessee prison guard — a crime committed only after prison officials stopped giving Taylor his anti-psychotic medication.

Wayne Bates

Wayne Bates has been an inmate on Tennessee's death row for over 22 years. He recently had his death sentence overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct during arguments and was given a life sentence.

Darrell Wayne Taylor

Darrell Wayne Taylor's case was settled in state post-conviction procedures on a Middlebrooks claim. Such a claim states that the felony which secured the underlying conviction cannot also be the aggravating factor upon which a death sentence is given. Taylor is now serving a life sentence.

Gussie Vann

Death row inmate Gussie Vann will be granted a new trial after a judge ruled his defense attorneys did not provide an adequate challenge to claims that he raped and murdered his 8-year-old daughter in 1992. Vann asked for a new trial during his last court appearance in McMinn County in September. During the hearing, forensic experts testified there were flaws in the state's handling of evidence following Vann’s daughter’s death, which was originally reported as an accidental hanging. The experts said there were no signs of sexual abuse as originally reported in the autopsy prepared by former medical examiner Ronald Toolsie of Bradley County. Forensic experts also accuse Toolsie of botching the autopsy of 14-month-old Angel Delashmitt, who was found dead in a McMinn County pond in 2003. Angel's father is charged with raping and killing the infant and is awaiting trial.

Hunger Strikers Protest Arms Race

Day 13 of my solidarity hunger strike
by Bruce Gagnon

We had six people on the street today for my vigil in Brunswick. Only one more day for me before I hand the hunger strike over to Mary Beth Sullivan who will take my place. I have begun to hear from folks who are going to join the one-day fast against Star Wars on June 22. I've decided to compile a list of people who contact me. Many more of course will be fasting all over the world that day. These are the names I know of so far:

Bob Anderson (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Dennis Apel (Guadalupe, California)
Sally Breen (Windham, Maine)
David W. Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Kathe Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Michael Connelly (Rochester, New York)
Becky Farley (Damariscotta, Maine)
Bruce Gagnon (Bath, Maine)
Starr Gilmartin (Trenton, Maine)
Matt Gregory (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Regina Hagen (Darmstadt, Germany)
Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle, Maine)
Tensie Hernandez (Guadalupe, California)
Nancy Hill (Stonington, Maine) June 19-24
Tom Kircher (Biddeford, Maine)
Isolt Lea (Gainesville, Florida)
Jeanne Pahls (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Judy Robbins (Sedgwick, Maine)
Robert Shetterly (Brooksville, Maine)
Mary Beth Sullivan (Bath, Maine)
Margaret Weitzmann (Potsdam, New York)
Mariah Williams (Liberty, Maine)

This morning I got an email from the group Stop the War Machine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are organizing to participate in the June 22 fast and will hold a day-long vigil at the gate of Kirtland Air Force Base in their city that day. Kirtland AFB is testing laser weapons for Star Wars and has many aerospace corporations located nearby doing the research and development work on these space weapons systems.

New Mexico has a long history with military space weapons work. Right after World War II former Nazi rocket scientists (100 of them along with 100 copies of Hitler's V-2 rocket) were brought to the New Mexico desert to create the U.S. military space program.

Maj. Gen. Walter Dornberger was in charge of Hitler's program and was one of those brought to the U.S. to work on these systems. It was Dornberger that had the "vision" to put orbiting battle stations in space. The former Nazi rocketeer went on to become Vice-President of Bell Aerospace in New York.

The proposed U.S. Star Wars radar deployment in the Czech Republic would be one key piece in this larger program of Pentagon "control and domination" of space. The Czech radar would help communicate with orbiting military satellites and give the U.S. the ability to launch first-strike attack on Russia. Nearby "missile defense interceptors" in Poland would then pick off any remaining retaliatory strike that Russia might fire.

This new arms race in space has long been in the making. The Pentagon clearly understands that whoever controls space will control the Earth below.

It is our job to stop them. Our taxes should be spent for health care, education, and dealing with climate change not creating a deadly and destabilizing arms race in the heavens.

June 22 will signify a day of education about Star Wars and global resistance to it. Please join us.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (Blog)