FCC plays Monopoly with media monsters
Sojomail - May 28, 2003
|Quote of the Week Linus Pauling on what's (not) changed|
|Batteries Not Included David Batstone: FCC plays Monopoly with media monsters|
|Funny Business Understanding D.C.-speak|
|Politically Connect Senator Robert Byrd: The truth on Iraq will emerge|
|Soul Works Joan McBreen: Willows|
|Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply|
|Culture Watch Bonhoeffer film opens on June 20|
|Web Scene Recycle technology to benefit the poor | Travel to an alternate reality | Every church a peace church|
|QUOTE OF THE WEEK||^top|
During the past hundred years there have been astounding developments in science and technology, developments that have completely changed the nature of the world in which we live. So far as I can see, the nature of diplomacy, of the conduct of international affairs, has changed very little.
- Linus Pauling, Nobel Peace Prize recipient in his book, "No More War!"
|BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED||^top|
FCC plays Monopoly with media monstersby David Batstone
The renowned sociologist Robert Bellah once spoke to my students at the University of San Francisco about the myth of American individualism. It's a fascinating concept that we are all individuals, he declared, then added, "I'd just like to meet one." He went on to note that we listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, aspire to the same goals. Homogeneity, not diversity, marks our culture today.
There are many elements of commercialism that contribute to this condition, yet perhaps none as powerful as the media. How ironic that we have more media channels than ever but fewer choices. Increasingly, the media speaks as one.
I'm not just addressing aesthetics here - though it does pain me to drive across the country and hear the self-same music and news programming, whether I'm passing through Utah or New Jersey. More cause for concern is the structural issue - the ownership of our means of communication is shrinking. And I hate to bear bad news, but the situation is about to get worse.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing to weaken media monopolization laws. On June 2, in a closed-door session, the FCC is likely to end the ban in most cities on cross-ownership of televisions and newspapers. This proposal feeds a trend that gives corporate conglomerates the license to gobble up media outlets virtually unchecked. Several years ago the FCC allowed the monopolization of local radio. No surprise, three corporations now own half the radio stations in the U.S.
On June 2 - unless popular opinion can sway commissioners to vote against the regulatory change - behemoth publishers like the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times will be given permission to extend their empire in the electronic universe. Simultaneously, Disney, AOL Time Warner, and Viacom will be able to control TV stations that collectively reach half the U.S. population.
Citizens must not stand by and watch the foundations of a democratic society be sold to the highest bidder. Political conservatives and liberals alike can join arms to oppose the consolidation of power in the hands of a few moguls. It is not often that I find occasion to cite William Safire as an inspiring voice. But in his New York Times column last week, he valiantly clamored for media independence, declaring, "The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy."
So express some rugged individualism today (for the common good). Join Sojourners on an e-mail campaign to urge the five FCC commissioners to put down this monopoly proposal. Voice your opposition today at http://www.sojo.net/action. After you send the e-mail, you will then have the opportunity to inform your friends, family, and co-workers of this FCC ruling. We urge you to spread the word.
E-mail the FCC before it's too late! Go to:
Send David Batstone's commentary to your friends. Go to:
Understanding D.C.-speakby Ed Spivey Jr.
Last week's unexpected resignation of EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman provides another look at the strange language of official Washington, a language that is both subtle and complex, and, as George Will would unhelpfully add, obfuscatory. But nobody ever understands George Will anyway, which is precisely the point. People in Washington say one thing, but often mean something completely different.
In announcing her departure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (motto: You Breathed Yesterday, So Why You Gotta Breathe Today?) Whitman explained that she merely wanted to rest, to read, and spend more time with Ari Fleischer's family. At first glance, her appreciative and positive resignation letter seemed fairly standard for Washington. But if we read between the lines we see a frustrated bureaucrat determined to leave the nation's capital before she has to explain global warming to her boss one more time. (Whitman: Yes, Mr. President, it is a little chilly outside, but that doesn't mean it's global cooling. It just means it's May.)
In an effort to better understand D.C.-speak, and the way it often obscures the truth, we present the official words of Ms. Whitman's resignation letter, and then, in helpful SojoMail fashion, a translation into real English...
Read the full translation at:
Senator Robert Byrd: The truth on Iraq will emerge
"What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are 'liberators.' The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but 'liberation' implies the follow-up of freedom, self-determination, and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of 'liberation,' we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years."
Read Senator Byrd's entire speech at:
Willowsby Joan McBreen
One day in March you lined up
"These will take" you said,
I placed mine in water
Even when they did and white fronds
In September you left. The first frosts now
*Joan McBreen, from her new collection of poetry "Winter in the Eye: New & Selected Poems," available from Salmon Poetry:
I am appalled by the severe restrictions placed upon the humanitarian activities of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron and the threatened deportation of CPT member Greg Rollins, a Canadian citizen. These actions against CPT, a pacifist human rights organization sponsored by the peace churches (Mennonite, Quaker, and Church of the Brethren), are especially odious. What do the Israeli government and army have to fear from nonviolent witness to their actions? Evidently, a lot!
It is especially ironic that Greg Rollins and other CPTers have acted as human shields for Israeli as well as Palestinian civilians. CPT's motto is "Getting in the Way" (of violence) and they have consistently shown their willingness to protect innocent civilians on both sides of this tragic onflict. CPT is committed to nonviolence and human rights for all people. It's a shame that the Israeli government and army are not.
James Ferguson writes from Sydney, Australia:
Karen Davison wrote in Boomerang: "...The idea of faith-based initiatives...is just a cynical way of relieving the conscience-less super-rich from paying taxes [and] feed[ing] on the consciences of true people of faith who will contribute from their own pockets." I agree, but I sense Karen sees this as a bad thing, and there is another side to the coin.
The idea of governments providing a safety net like this is relatively recent in historical terms and was promoted by Christians in a time when the idea of a "Christian nation" was closer to valid. Now that Western nations have become post-Christian, perhaps it is appropriate that this role is returned to the church, which carried it out originally in the Middle Ages. That way charity can be seen for what it is, a virtue of people of faith, not a "human right" that can be demanded from the universe. People will be forced to realise that if they have idealistic goals, they have to back them up from their hip-pocket and can't just talk about them and let the government handle the day-to-day practice.
SojoMail reader Marie Rourke writes:
For years I made less than $20,000 annually while I raised four children alone and dealt with legal and medical bills with no help from my ex-husband. The EITC helped me stay off the welfare rolls. Without it, our lives would have been pretty miserable. With it, I managed to raise the children and instill in them pride. To take this away from families is unconscionable and irresponsible!
Val LeGore writes from Frederick, Maryland:
While there is much to criticize in the spending priorities set forth by the federal government, I wonder if Sojourners staff and others have really thought through the tax cuts and their effect on our economy as a whole. It seems to me that incentives to make an investment (buy stock) in a company that will grow, producing more jobs for more taxpayers, is a better way to grow a strong economy than to raise taxes on the "rich." The cut in taxes on dividends will provide incentives to corporate boards to share their profits with the stockholders (often the employees themselves) rather than resort to shortsighted schemes to keep the stock prices rising. The focus will be on actually producing something rather than paper profits. In Tax Policy 101, one learns that if you want more of something you tax it less (allow deductions); if you want less of something you tax it more (disallow deductions).
It might be worthwhile to consider proposing and pushing tax policies that can help people help themselves, rather than paying office buildings full of bureaucrats to "administer" programs. For example: Allow all taxpayers to itemize, not just homeowners paying mortgage interest. This would give tax incentives to everyone for charitable giving, medical expenses, allow a break for people who must purchase tools and uniforms for their jobs, provide for their own education, etc. How about allowing tax deductions for all health insurance, whether it is paid for by an individual or a small business (right now only corporations get that break)? We'd see a boom in health care coverage, charitable giving, and appreciation from the tradesman.
Denise Gallegos of Albuquerque, New Mexico:
I enjoy Sojomail very much and agree with almost all of your views, but I cannot agree with your concern on the Earned Income Credit. I was a tax professional for four years, and it was an eye-opening experience as to the unfairness of the tax code and as to the attitudes of people. Believe me, I'm all for compassion for the poor and it is obvious that this administration cares nothing for the poor and is in the process of creating more of the poor with every decision that they make. But if you really want to bring justice for the poor, Earned Income Credit (as it is now) is not the program to fight for. It is horribly abused!
Most of the recipients are young unmarried mothers. With $4,000 or more on the line, there is a frequent race between the two (divorced, separated or living together parents) to see who can file their taxes first using the child or children's social security numbers. Often, the child was living with one parent and getting their support from one parent, but the absent parent would get the money and never give that child any support, financially or emotionally. Sometimes they lived in another part of the country. When this happened, the legitimate recipient had to report it to the IRS and provide letters and receipts showing that they were the one supporting the child. This could take months or years to resolve.
I agree with the IRS on this one. Every year they get many letters claiming that someone falsely claimed the EITC. As Christians we should want to care for those down on their luck. But these programs should be fair and include all of the needy, not just some. We should see that these programs are protected from those who would abuse them and endanger the whole program's existence.
George Roberts writes from Spartanburg, South Carolina:
Thanks for Rosemary Radford Ruether's article on keeping the peace movement alive and how to do it [SojoMail: 5-14-03]. Living in an area where most people supported the war and Bush and his administration's policies, her article provides clarity for me as an ongoing way of dialoguing, fighting for, and praying for peace.
Bonnie Mandell-Rice writes from Lafayette, Colorado:
Legislation introduced in June 2001 and reintroduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on April 8, 2003, would create a cabinet-level Department of Peace in this country. Its creation would make peace an organizing principle of our society and would go a long way toward making peace a reality - both domestically (where our rates of violent crime are among the highest, if not the highest, in the world) and internationally.
A copy of the bill (HR 1673) can be obtained at http://www.dopcampaign.org. The bill takes a proactive approach by seeking to address the causes of violence and provides (among other things) for the resolution of conflicts through nonviolent means. The bill has 49 co-sponsors, all Democrats and one Independent. It will take many letters and phone calls to all members of Congress, particularly to representatives and senators since the Republicans control both houses of Congress, to get the bill passed. But pass it will, sooner or later, because it is an idea whose time has come. I plan to make it sooner and invite all SojoMail readers to assist in this effort.
Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:
Bonhoeffer film opens on June 20
First Run Features announces the release of "Bonhoeffer," the riveting story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous German theologian who offered one of the first clear voices of resistance to Adolf Hitler and was eventually executed for joining the plot to kill him. The film weaves archival footage - including a speech by Hitler praying for God's blessing on him and the German people - and Bonhoeffer family footage, with revealing interviews with family members, friends, and associates who knew this remarkable man. Directed by Martin Doblmeier, the documentary will premiere in the U.S. on Friday, June 20, at New York's Quad Cinema. A national release will follow. See http://www.bonhoeffer.com for more screening information.
SOJOMAIL QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
What's your favorite film of a religious activist? Send replies to Boomerang [firstname.lastname@example.org], including name and hometown.
*Recycle technology to benefit the poor
The Assemblies of God offers a program that recycles inkjet/laser cartridges and cell phones to benefit children's after-school and reading programs. Donate to this project or copy the program for your own nonprofit activity:
*Travel to an alternate reality
Take a trip in to the BoohBah Zone. Your life never will be the same:
*Every church a peace church
The church could turn the world toward peace if every church lived and taught as Jesus lived and taught. Discover the blueprint at: