- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Personal Voices: Setting the Record Straight
By Michael Moore, AlterNet
April 15, 2004
I have never seen a head so far up a Presidential ass (pardon my
Fallujah) than the one I saw at the "news conference" given by George
W. Bush. He's still talking about finding "weapons of mass
destruction" - this time on Saddam's "turkey farm." Turkey indeed.
Clearly the White House believes there are enough idiots in the
country who will buy this.
I've been holed up for weeks in the editing room finishing my film
("Fahrenheit 911"). That's why you haven't heard from me lately. But
after Tuesday night's Lyndon Johnson impersonation from the East
Room - essentially promising to send even more troops into the Iraq
sinkhole - I had to write you all a note.
First, can we stop the Orwellian language and start using the proper
names for things? Those are not "contractors" in Iraq. They are not
there to fix a roof or to pour concrete in a driveway. They are
MERCENARIES and SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE. They are there for the money,
and the money is very good if you live long enough to spend it.
Halliburton is not a "company" doing business in Iraq. It is a WAR
PROFITEER, bilking millions from the pockets of average Americans. In
past wars they would have been arrested - or worse.
The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are
not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the
REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow - and they
will win. Get it, Mr. Bush? You closed down a friggin' weekly
newspaper, you great giver of freedom and democracy! Then all hell
broke loose. The paper only had 10,000 readers! Why are you smirking?
One year after we wiped the face of the Saddam statue with our
American flag before yanking him down, it is now too dangerous for a
single media person to go to that square in Baghdad and file a report
on the wonderful one-year anniversary celebration. Of course, there
is no celebration, and those brave blow-dried "embeds" can't even
leave the safety of the fort in downtown Baghdad. They never actually
SEE what is taking place across Iraq (most of the pictures we see on
TV are shot by Arab media and some Europeans). When you watch a
report "from Iraq" what you are getting is the press release handed
out by the U.S. occupation force and repeated to you as "news."
I currently have two cameramen/reporters doing work for me in Iraq
for my movie (unbeknownst to the Army). They are talking to soldiers
and gathering the true sentiment about what is really going on. They
Fed Ex the footage back to me each week. That's right, Fed Ex. Who
said we haven't brought freedom to Iraq! The funniest story my guys
tell me is how when they fly into Baghdad, they don't have to show a
passport or go through immigration. Why not? Because they have not
traveled from a foreign country - they're coming from America TO
America, a place that is ours, a new American territory called Iraq.
There is a lot of talk amongst Bush's opponents that we should turn
this war over to the United Nations. Why should the other countries
of this world, countries who tried to talk us out of this folly, now
have to clean up our mess? I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking
the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm
sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began
and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until
enough blood has been let that maybe - just maybe - God and the Iraqi
people will forgive us in the end.
Until then, enjoy the "pacification" of Falluja, the "containment" of
Sadr City, and the next Tet Offensive - oops, I mean, "terrorist
attack by a small group of Baathist loyalists" (Hahaha! I love
writing those words, Baathist loyalists, it makes me sound so Peter
Jennings!) - followed by a "news conference" where we will be told
that we must "stay the course" because we are "winning the hearts and
minds of the people."
I'll write again soon. Don't despair. Remember, the American people
are not that stupid. Sure, we can be frightened into a war, but we
always come around sooner or later - and the one way this is NOT like
Vietnam is that it hasn't taken the public four long years to figure
out they were lied to.
Now if Bush would just quit speaking in public and giving me more
free material for my movie, I can get back to work and get it done.
I've got four weeks left 'til completion.
More Michael Moore is available on his website.
Liberal Radio Goes Dark
By Howard Blume, LA Weekly
April 15, 2004
Air America, the liberals' answer to Rush Limbaugh, is on the air.
Er, make that off the air.
The fledging network, 2 weeks old, was yanked Wednesday in Los
Angeles and Chicago; the nation's second and third largest media
markets. The owner of these stations, WNTD 950 AM in Chicago and KBLA
1580 AM in L.A., said Air America bounced a check and owes his
company more than $1 million. Air America executives denied breaching
financial obligations, said the network's absence is temporary and
pledged to pursue relief in court if necessary. General counsel David
Goodfriend characterized what happened as a contract dispute over the
station in Los Angeles.
In the meantime, devotees in L.A. and Chicago can listen to
broadcasts online or on Channel 167 of XM Satellite Radio. The online
feed is calibrated to New York time, so the shows will play three
hours earlier than listeners are used to. But you'll still get that
increasingly familiar, unrelenting mix of hosts learning to do radio,
ads for New York museums and public-service plugs for the United
Negro College Fund.
The unplugging came at the hands of New York City-based MultiCultural
Radio Broadcasting, the nation's 18th largest broadcaster, with 43
stations, two of which had leased airtime to Air America.
MultiCultural's specialty is ethnic radio, which explains why its Web
site is in Chinese - and why a New York staffer couldn't provide
reporters with so much as a press release in English. But
MultiCultural counts as something of a player within its niche,
having just acquired Miami-based Radio Unica, a Spanish-language
network with 15 stations, for an estimated $150 million. The
acquisitions included KBLA, which had been an all-sports station in
MultiCultural produces some original programming, primarily targeting
the Chinese community in Los Angeles and New York City. But for the
most part, it sells blocks of time to ethnic programmers. Its on-air
tongues include Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and
Until 7 a.m. Wednesday, its newest language was liberal. Air America
fit in because it, like MultiCultural's other customers, was seeking
to purchase airtime.
The bonds with Air America were strictly financial.
Air America contends that it intentionally withheld payments to KBLA,
because KBLA was illegally reselling airtime already paid for by Air
America. The disputed airtime rolled by in February and March, before
Air America began broadcasting. To fill the time, MultiCultural
slotted in Spanish talk and apparently earned revenues by doing so.
These revenues should have gone to Air America, said Air America
general counsel David Goodfriend, because his network owned that
time, even if it wasn't yet using the time for its own programming.
"We sent a letter to them Monday," said Goodfriend. "We said, you've
violated our agreement in Los Angeles, and you owe us money. We will
negotiate some settlement with you, but we're not happy." Goodfriend
said these negotiations were under way the next day, Tuesday, in New
York City. "We were engaged in what appeared to be settlement
negotiations, and then we find that we're taken off the air in
Chicago and Los Angeles. We were all paid up in Chicago, under a
separate contract, and they take us off the air anyway."
So, for those L.A. listeners who tuned in this morning, the sudden
format change - to Spanish - was not, in fact, a calculated attempt
to get Latinos to vote Democratic.
MultiCultural's representative declined to go into as much detail,
but said it was a case of no pay, no play. What happened "is not
unusual in our type of radio," said Dave Sweeney, executive vice
president of MultiCultural's West Coast operations. "We sell block
time to many different people. If they can't or don't pay their bill,
or bounce checks, we take them off. It's just a matter of paying your
bills. We're in the business to sell airtime, not in the business of
taking it away from people." He added, "As a general rule, there's
plenty of time given to people who fall into default."
MultiCultural owner Arthur Liu said he was simply taking care of
business. "It's a default," said Liu in an interview with the Chicago
Tribune, which got out one of the first stories. "They have paid only
a very small portion of what they owe us . . . They've been
saying, 'We're going to get you the money' for the past two
months . . . They're not honoring our agreement."
MultiCultural plainly caught Air America by surprise. "MultiCultural
Radio Broadcasting's conduct in this matter has been disgraceful,"
said Air America chair Evan Cohen. "To shut off a broadcast that
listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is
the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media
industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of their contractual
obligations, and we are seeking legal remedies against them in
Goodfriend said that a court hearing over the Chicago station was
scheduled for Thursday.
Wednesday's bad news came one day after an upbeat press release
announcing the network's expansion into six new markets, which, at
the time, gave the network 16 stations. Air America had started on
March 31 with four stations. Yesterday's new additions included
stations in Sacramento (1240 AM), West Palm Beach and Portland,
The network's business plan contemplated losing money for as much as
four years, so presumably, investors were prepared for the financial
pain of keeping the doors open in L.A. and Chicago. Which is one
reason why Wednesday's events were so puzzling.
So can this be seen as a strike by the vast right-wing conspiracy? Or
perhaps an unfortunate misunderstanding? Or hardball business tactics
that spiraled to a confrontation?
Stay tuned, Los Angeles and Chicago.
If you can figure out how to do that.
Howard Blume writes for LA Weekly.
Show Me the Jobs
By Judith Gorman, AlterNet
April 19, 2004
For the past several weeks, President Bush has been barnstorming the
country to tell us the good news - the nation's payrolls grew by
308,000 in the month of March, the largest one month jump in four
years. "People are finding jobs, and the nation's future is bright.
America's families and workers have reason to be optimistic."
So what are these "new jobs?" Well, 13,000 of them are California
grocery workers returning to work after an extended strike. Another
31,000 represent new government jobs. 71,000 "new jobs" are in the
construction industry, a seasonal upswing independent of the
President's policies. 11,000 "new jobs" are in credit intermediation,
reflecting the surge in home refinancing due to low interest rates.
And 36,000 "new jobs" are in health care or social assistance, jobs
created to help people who no longer have jobs.
What the President fails to mention is the bad news. As New Jersey
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) remarked: "Only in the Bush 'economic
recovery' can our country gain jobs and increase the unemployment
rate in the same month."
Unemployment figures rose in March for all adult workers across the
board, irrespective of race, gender, or income level. Fewer whites,
blacks, Asians, and Hispanics had jobs in March than they did in
February. Only teenagers showed a slight drop in the jobless rate,
sliding from 16.6% unemployment in February to 16.5% in March.
2.4 million U.S. jobs have disappeared since the recession began 33
months ago. 331,000 jobs were lost last year, on top of 1.5 million
jobs lost in 2002.
The last time payroll employment fell in two consecutive years was at
the end of World War II, as war-related manufacturing declined. The
current figures stand in stark contrast to the average of 300,000 new
jobs created every month between 1995 and 2000. And as a recent study
by economists at the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows, a far
greater share of recent layoffs have been permanent, rather than the
temporary cyclical layoffs which occurred in most previous
Some 8.4 million people who want to work are still out of work.
Manufacturing employment has been stagnant at 14.3 million since the
last quarter of 2003. The Economic Policy Institute reports that
manufacturing has lost three million jobs since its most recent peak
four years ago. "As a share of total employment, manufacturing has
fallen from 13.1% to 11%, a sharp rate of decline in historical
The only noticeable sector in which jobs are surging is temp work,
which added 212,000 jobs over the past year, a measure of the
desperation of those looking for full-time permanent jobs, but unable
to find them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "In March, the number of
persons who worked part-time for economic reasons increased to 4.7
million, up 300,000 since February. Those individuals indicated that
they would like to work full-time but were working part-time because
their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find
BLS figures show that the number of persons who were "marginally
attached to the labor force" was 1.6 million in March, roughly the
same as one year ago. "These individuals wanted to work and were
available to work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12
months, but were not counted among the unemployed because they had
not actively searched for work in the four weeks preceding the
In March, there were more than half a million "discouraged workers,"
about the same as last year. "Discouraged workers, a subset of the
marginally attached, were not currently looking for work specifically
because they believed no jobs were available for them."
Taken together, the unemployed, discouraged workers, and those
marginally attached to the workforce made up 9.9% of the civilian
labor force in March. That statistic does not include those employed
below their skill level, those who are out of work but designated as
self-employed, those whose wages and hours have been cut as a result
of the recession, and those whose unemployment benefits have run out.
The long-term unemployed, those who have been out of work for at
least six months, rose one percentage point in March to 23.9% of the
jobless, the highest level since July 1983, when the unemployment
rate was 9.3%. By the middle of 2004, benefits will expire for an
estimated additional two million unemployed workers.
In March, the average (non-farm) work week fell to 33.7 hours, the
manufacturing work week decreased to 40.9 hours, and real average
weekly wages for working Americans decreased by 0.7%.
So where does President Bush's good news come from? Corporate profits
have risen 57.5% since the first quarter of 2001, while private wage
and salary income has fallen 1.7%. According to Business Week, the
average compensation for CEO's of large corporations in 2003 was $8.1
million, up 9.1% from the previous year. In the Bush lexicon, that's
called a "recovery."
My thanks to James Crotty, Professor of Economics, UMass, Amherst and
staff economist at the Center for Popular Economics
(populareconomics.org) and to Betsy Leondar-Wright at United for a
Fair Economy (ufenet.org) for helping me navigate the chasm between
the illusion of job creation and the reality.
Judith Gorman is regular contributor to AlterNet.