Thursday, April 27, 2006

An Official "Lefty Blog"

Yesterday withoutApurpose was finally added to LeftyBlogs. Perhaps not my greatest claim to fame, but my hits doubled today. Please, no "doubling zero is still zero" jokes. My actual greatest claim to fame was the time Steven Wright made a joke about me. I'll write another post on that sometime.

Letter from Senator Lieberman

Cross-posted from MyLeftNutmeg

A while back I contacted Senator Lieberman's office criticizing him for not supporting the Feingold Censure Resolution. Today I finally received a reponse by e-mail. It's amazing that someone can fill an entire page with words, yet say absolutely nothing. Don't you just love career politicians?

Well, I'm sure glad the Senator has taken a stand. I just wish I knew what it was!
April 27, 2006

Mr. Neal Fink
Fairfield, CT 06824

Dear Mr. Fink:

Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding a Senate resolution (S.Res. 398), which was introduced by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), that would censure President Bush for authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans in the United States while communicating with people overseas. I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I believe that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required the President to obtain court approval before conducting this surveillance. The Administration argues otherwise. I find the Administration's arguments unconvincing and unsettling. Every Senator who I have spoken with, including Senator Feingold, believes the new technologies employed by NSA to listen to phone conversations and read emails of suspected terrorists, should continue to be used to protect our security, but they should be used only after a court order.

I believe we would better spend our time in the Senate working to bring this NSA surveillance into the judicial system in the future. However, I do not want that decision to leave any uncertainty about my opinion of the way the Administration carried out this necessary and important surveillance program without court approval. It was wrong.

Please be assured that I will continue my commitment to maintaining the balance between the crucial need for tools to fight the war on terror and the equally important need to protect our constitutional liberties.

My official Senate web site is designed to be an on-line office that provides access to constituent services, Connecticut-specific information, and an abundance of information about what I am working on in the Senate on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. I am also pleased to let you know that I have launched an email news update service through my web site. You can sign up for that service by visiting http://lieberman.senate.gov and clicking on the "Subscribe Email News Updates" button at the bottom of the home page. I hope these are informative and useful.

Thank you again for letting me know your views and concerns.
Please contact me if you have any additional questions or comments about our work in Congress.

Sincerely,


Joseph I. Lieberman
UNITED STATES SENATOR

JIL:ae



Run, don't walk, to www.nedlamont.com and make a donation now. We desperately need money to perform a Lieb-otomy!


I don't care how big the tent is, there's no room for an elephant!

Neal

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Penny for Joe

An interesting discussion came up recently over at MyLeftNutmeg. The question is whether Joe Lieberman should return contributions from Democrats if he ends up running as an Independent. After all, if someone gives him money because they support him as a Democrat, and then he flips, the money would have been taken under false pretenses. Anyway, I'll leave that for the ethicists and lawyers to debate.

In the meantime, that discussion developed into the idea of sending Joe miniscule donations. Would the campaign bother to deposit checks for 1 cent? The administrative cost of handling such checks would be far greater than the value of the contribution. But, if I understand the FEC regulations correctly, they would have to either deposit my check or return it. A hassle for them either way.

So, I figured the only way to find out would be to try a little experiment. Today I sent off my contribution to Friends of Joe, Lieberman's official campaign committee, to "show my support." Here's a copy of my check and the text from my cover letter. Feel free to use this as the basis for your own letter and micro-contribution. Please make sure you contribute generously (no
micro-contributions please) to Ned Lamont for Senate. We know Joe's not going to change. Ned Lamont is the solution.


April 24, 2006
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
Friends of Joe Lieberman
PO Box 231294
State House Square
Hartford, CT 06123


Dear Senator Lieberman:

Although I disagree with you on many issues, including your support of the war in Iraq, I feel it is important to support Democrats when they run for office. As such, please accept the enclosed contribution as a show of my support. I would also like to mention some issues that you will hopefully address during the remainder of your term, and the next if you are re-elected.

  1. Bring the war in Iraq to a quick and peaceful end, and return our troops home to safety.
  2. Support Censure of President Bush. You have acknowledged that the administration used illegal wiretaps. It is also clear that President Bush lied to Congress and America in order to garner support for an illegal war. No one is above the law; not even our President.
  3. Work to rescind the punitive bankruptcy bill that you supported. This type of bankruptcy form hurts well intentioned middle-class citizens that run into financial problems. You claim to support the middle-class and be their voice in the Senate, yet this bill is nothing but a handout to the credit card banks and big business.
  4. Publicly apologize for your careless remarks regarding proposed Connecticut legislation regarding emergency contraception for rape victims. To say that a woman, after being beaten and raped, can take a taxi to another hospital is absolutely reprehensible.
  5. Always remember that your job is to represent the will of the people of Connecticut and not your personal opinions. Your recent television commercials suggest you may have forgotten your role within our system of representative democracy. In one commercial, you state “some of you feel passionately against my position on Iraq, I respect your views…” Every poll shows that the citizens of Connecticut overwhelmingly oppose the War. By continuing to support President Bush’s “stay the course” strategy, clearly you are not respecting our views.

Lastly, if you claim to be a real Democrat, then please commit to remaining a Democrat and support the primary process. As the world’s greatest democracy, we have systems for addressing disagreements with our representatives. One method is to voice concerns to our legislators, hoping to influence their positions. If that fails, another method is to select a new representative. On August 8th, if the voters of the Democratic Party, your party, select a different candidate, I urge you to respect this choice. Your threats to run as an Independent cause me to question your true loyalty to the Party as it not only undermines the Democratic voters, it may have a severe negative impact on others running in critical races.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts.

Sincerely,


Neal R. Fink
So, please send those letters and teeny tiny checks to Joe. And, don't forget to send your REAL contribution to Ned Lamont for Senate.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Things I'm Embarrassed About

  1. I once agreed with something that George Bush said - he was talking about chocolate chip cookies
  2. I have a slight crush on Anderson Cooper. He's liberal, cute, has a rich mom, and is rumored to like guys.
  3. I have occasional fantasies about Katie Couric (sorry Anderson, don't be jealous)
  4. I once worked on an off-Broadway production of "Rasputin: The Musical" (and it wasn't even the one written by Ozzie Osbourne)
  5. I love animals, but vegetarians annoy me
  6. I have 4 computers and often use them all at the same time
  7. I liked Steel Magnolias. Who cares if it's a chick flick. The tough guys at Maximcan kiss my ass.
  8. I keep my "For Dummies" guides hidden so the books on my shelves make me look smarter
  9. I told my son that there's no Santa Clause when he was two (I figured we're Jewish, so who cares? Apparently the other kids at pre-school. Oops.)
  10. I drive a gas guzzling SUV and yesterday it cost me $56.15 to fill the tank

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hypocrites all Around

So much has been written about the Senate's failure to act on my Feingold's censure proposal. It's incredible that clear and obvious violations of the Constitution don't seem to merit reprimand. I've avoided the now trite comparison to Clinton's impeachment because to me this minimizes the egregiousness of Bush's crimes. The Lewinsky affair and lies that followed certainly showed poor moral judgment, and I feel did deserve reprimand. Though in Clinton's case Censure would have been the more appropriate route rather than impeachment. Bush's misdeeds, on the other hand, have led us on a path to worldwide disaster and the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis, American soldiers, and other bystanders including reporters and peaceworkers from around the world.

Last night at a DFA meeting, someone mentioned this quote, allegedly from a closed door session between Bush and several top Republican officials in November 2005.

"“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, Bush screamed back. "It'’s just a goddamned piece of paper!"
There's more about this meeting at Capitol Hill Blue's.

This quote was widely written about on the blogs last December, many of which attributed Capitol Hill Blue's. At the time it seemed so extreme a comment even for King George, that I questioned whether it was true. Although I still can't prove he actually said these words, it certainly splausiblesable. Furthermore, after months of circulation, no one has come forward to deny the remarks.

So, why write about this today, after much of the noise has died down? Well, a friend just sent me this picture which swayed me a bit on the Clinton vs. Bush argument.



Have a happy day!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fair and Balanced

Does the right-wing control the media? Lately I have found myself engaged in this dicussion quite a bit. I've heard all the arguments, and frankly can't make up my mind. Part of me feels that liberals are just angry that Fox News is so incredibly popular. It's also obvious that massive media conglomerates have profit incentives that likely influence their spin on the news and selection of programming.

Last night I went to see Ned Lamont speak to the New Haven chapter of Democracy for America. During the Q&A period, Lamont was asked if he would support legislation to bring more balance to the media. He responded that more competition, and not legislation was the solution. He went on to say that the Internet (with a nod to his supporters from the Blogosphere) is a great equalizing factor.

These are two very popular arguments. Though neither really satisfies me. With regard to competition, there used to be strict regulations limiting the ownership of TV/Radio Stations and newspapers. In the 1970s, the FCC and the Federal Courts started chipping away at these limits. The 1996 Telecommunications Act blew the doors off, allowing the creation of today's media conglomerates. Most recently, an FCC review in 2003 further eased restrictions on TV and Radio ownership (these most recent changes have not yet taken effect.) Today we have a small number of companies each controlling a large chunk of the mainstream media. Thus, less competition with little opportunity for new upstarts. The few newcomers that do manage to gain traction are quickly gobbled up by the media giants. It seems pretty clear that there was less media bias, and the quality of TV and Radio news was generally better before the FCC started deregulating.

As for the Internet being the great equalizer, it's a bit too early to know for sure. But, already the same Fortune 500 companies that own the mainstream media, control a massive portion of the Internet. AOL Time Warner is the onramp for millions of Americans accessing the Internet. Fox and CNN are the most popular news destinations online. Even Google, with their "don't be evil" motto is becoming more like a media conglomerate every day (they own the site where this blog is hosted.) This isn't a criticism of Google. They have to answer to shareholders just like NBC/GE, AOL Time Warner, Fox, and the rest of the gang.

I'm certain that the Internet will continue to provide open access for sharing views and opinions. Whether it's blogging, PodCasts, or the next innovation, the barriers to entry will remain incredibly low. Individuals like me and responsible news sites like CommonDreams will always have an opportunity to put our message online. The question is whether we will be able to attract an audience.

There's only so many hours in the day. The 20 minutes a week you spend reading this blog is 20 minutes you didn't spend at Fox, CNN, or CommonDreams. The giants are not going to sit idle while millions of people get their news and entertainment from properties they don't own. No one knows exactly how it will play out. Just don't be surprised when one of them buys CommonDreams (even the greatest idealists among us have a price) or starts saturating the market advertising until the independents can't afford to compete for visibility. Already the media giants are using whizbang technology to make their online news more exciting and appealing to a larger audience. How can an independent site or upstart ever hope to compete with the sizzle of CNN Pipeline?

It would be really nice if I could wrap this up with a nice solution, or at least a conclusion. But I'm still trying to digest the problem. I do think that some type of media ownership limitations, but less restrictive and more up to date than the old 7 Radio / 7 TV station rule is in order. But, we can't legislate our way out of this problem. Plus, only a suicidal politician would dare take on this issue. After all, the media controls the message1. Remember what happened to Howard Dean when he suggested breaking up the media conglomerates2?

Another component of a long term solution would be a massive overhaul and upgrade to our educational system. I believe that a better educated America, comprised of people that appreciate the lessons of history will demand greater fairness and objectivity from our media. After all, the audience ultimately decides whether the media companies live or die. In other words...If Fox News was on TV in the forest and no one was there to watch, would Sean Hannity make a sound? Probably not.3

1. As always I welcome your e-mail and comments. Just please don't write to tell me that no one can control the message in the Blogosphere. I agree and have said it many times. But if you think that's relevant then you didn't get my point.
2. Matt Drudge doesn't need any more promotion, it's just a good transcript of a Dean interview on the subject.
3. Before you write to ask, no I don't believe that everyone who watches Fox News is stupid. Just most of them.

Special thanks to Sufi for making me think about all this, though I could have been watching TV instead.