Sunday, December 21, 2008

Your tax dollars at work

The Democratic Activist

Why is the ultra-conservative Bush administration requiring no real accounting of bank bailout funds?

Aren't prudence and accountability supposed to be core conservative values?

Hundreds of billions of dollars of our money ... and ... no tracking or reporting? None, whatsoever?

What's going on, here?

Why are we allowing this?

Distilled from a recent article by Frank Rich of the New York Times:

The question in the aftermath of the Madoff calamity is this: Why do we keep ignoring what we learn from the black boxes being retrieved from crash after crash in our economic meltdown?

Last week ABC News asked 16 of the banks that have received handouts from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program the same two direct questions: How have you used that money, and how much have you spent on bonuses this year? Most refused to answer.

Congress can’t get the answers either. Its oversight panel declared in a first report this month that the Treasury is doling out billions “without seeking to monitor the use of funds provided to specific financial institutions.” The Treasury prefers instead to look at “general metrics” indicating the program’s overall effect on the economy. Well, we know what the “general metrics” tell us already: the effect so far is nil. Perhaps if we were let in on the specifics, we’d start to understand why.

In its own independent attempt to penetrate the bailout, the Government Accountability Office learned that “the standard agreement between Treasury and the participating institutions does not require that these institutions track or report how they plan to use, or do use, their capital investments.” Executives at all but two of the bailed-out banks told the G.A.O. that the “money is fungible,” so they “did not intend to track or report” specifically what happens to the taxpayers’ cash.

Nor is there any serious accounting for executive pay at these semi-nationalized companies. As Amit Paley of The Washington Post reported, a last-minute, one-sentence loophole added by the Bush administration to the original bailout bill gutted the already minimal restrictions on executive compensation.

All the talk about restoring “confidence” and “faith” in capitalism will be worthless if we still can’t see what’s going on in the counting rooms.

We’ll keep believing, not without reason, that the whole game is as corrupt as the game show in “Slumdog Millionaire” — only without the Hollywood/Bollywood ending. We’ll keep wondering how so many at the top keep avoiding responsibility and reaping taxpayers’ billions while relief for those at the bottom remains as elusive as straight answers from those Mumbai call centers fielding American debtors.

When will we learn that the "free market" simply cannot be trusted to police itself?

Are we still drinking the deregulation Kool-aid?

Still trusting with glassy eyes and lazy characters the words of habitual, unrepentant liars and thieves?

How bad will it have to get for Americans to finally rise up and put a stop to the kind of mind-blowing incompetence, irresponsibility, immorality, and criminality such as that which we've endured for the past eight long years (actually, for the past 28 years)?

When will we fully awaken from our hypnotic, consumerism-induced trance to realize that the religion of exploitative, Reaganomic "free market" fundamentalism proselytized all these years by pro-corporate, "greed is good," media-0wning monopolists has, for the vast majority of average Americans, been nothing less than a huge, manipulative sham and an utter, horrific ripoff?

Will we do so in time to pull ourselves out of this near-vertical nose dive before we splat ourselves full-speed against the pavement ... or is the pain of a brutal economic crash landing the only thing that will shake indolent American consumers out of their chronic passivity and stupidity?

I think we're about to find out.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Above the law, below the pale ...

The Democratic Activist
Could anything, ever, actually land a U.S. president in jail? Is there ANY crime so abhorrent, so egregious, so low-down or pathological that an American president, were he to commit it, would find himself prosecuted and behind bars?

Or is the president, in fact, above the law?

From a must-read article by Glen Greenwald:

"The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution? The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous ..."

And then there's the disgusting, stomach-turning complicity of invertebrate congressional democrats who "looked the other way" as Bush and Cheney legalized torture, committed war crimes, and destroyed many of the most basic, cherished constitutional civil liberties that once comprised the very foundation of our nation ... all in the name of promoting "freedom and American values."

Quoting near the end of the article linked above:

"Here -- from July of this year -- is one of the more remarkable quotes of the Bush era; it's from Nancy Pelosi, who was explicitly briefed on the CIA's torture program in 2002:

Q: You’ve ruled against impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney, and now Kucinich is trying to pass that. Why do you insist on not impeaching these people, so that the world and America can really see the crimes that they’ve committed?

PELOSI: I thought that impeachment would be divisive for the country. . . . If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story."

What kind of country, what kind of people, knowingly and deliberately allows its elected leaders to order and direct, for years, this kind of rampant illegality, utter immorality, torture and murder, on a wide scale, in its name, with total impunity?

Do Americans believe laws are actually important ... or not? That they should be enforced? Or just written and then ignored?

Is the president a king? Is nothing he does illegal? Is "moving on" more important than preserving the rule of law in America?

Does any people so unethical and irresponsible that it would willingly consent to such wickedness deserve the freedom it so devalues?

Thank you.

Pass it on.

---

UPDATE: Greenwald has just written another piercing article on the subject of America's reformation as a torturing nation, in which he examines the suspect notion of committing war crimes for the "right reasons." Highly recommended.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, November 7, 2008

If It Is Good ... It Is Possible!

The Democratic Activist
Before the hard work begins, let's drink in for a while longer the miracle that's just occurred, and remember The Day: 4 November, 2008.

Only 43 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed legally ending Jim Crow apartheid-like oppression in America, Americans voted a black man into office as the next president of the United States!

We can stop pinching ourselves, now. This is not a dream. It's real.

Not just an epic historic milestone in the maturing of America, Barack Obama's victory in last Tuesday's election is also clearly a defining moment in world history, as evidenced by the world's reaction to his selection as America's next president:

---

"Now comes the tough part, of course. But the symbolism of this magnificent choice by the American people cannot but illuminate the world."

"Let me tell you that now I believe in American democracy," said Mostafa Eqbali, a merchant in the Iranian capital, Tehran. "Honestly, I did not think that Obama would be president. I thought that the invisible hands of the big trusts and cartels would not allow a black man to be president of the United States."

"This election is going to improve the image the U.S.A. has in our neighborhoods," Lozes said of France's heavily Muslim working-class enclaves. "The American dream comes back to life."

"A lot of people told me they had tears in their eyes last night. I was one of them," Randa Habib, a Jordanian writer and political analyst, said Wednesday. "I saw his speech. I was very moved. This is a lesson to us all, that blacks and whites in America can have such a shameful past between them, yet they come together and learn how to live together."

"There's a feeling of hope that things will be right in America ..."

"... Obama can make you once again respect the U.S. for its values and democracy and all those things we had forgotten about over the last eight years."

"Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place ..."

"Obama won, the map of the United States was transformed and for Mexico an extraordinary opportunity has opened . . . because it will be infinitely simpler to be a neighbor, partner and friend of the United States with Obama."

"... Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory," said Britain's Guardian newspaper. "Savor those words: President Barack Obama, America's hope and, in no small way, ours too."

"It shows that anyone can do anything ..."

(To read the quotes in context, click here, here, and here.)

---


We were petrified that, despite our huge investment of hope and hard work, any one of a number of forces beyond our control would, in the end, rob us of the victory we so desperately needed. The "Bradley Effect." An October surprise. Israel (or the U.S.) would attack Iran. Massive vote rigging. The election would be stolen ... once again.

But it didn't happen. It just didn't happen.

We ... won!

(See here and here.)

The United States and the human race are different, now. Once the impossible appears and stares us right in the face, we can never be the same. Like landing on the Moon in 1969, no one can deny that, if we can do this (and we just did!), we truly can do anything.

Of course, we have much to do in our never ending work to perfect our union, our selves, our world. So many, many things are yet to be accomplished.

But now, truly, we have real reason to be hopeful, even confident, that we can do what needs to be done, that we can in fact be successful. We now have solid, permanent proof positive that nothing good is impossible for America, or for any nation, or for any individual, or indeed for mankind. No matter what else happens, that truth, that fact, cannot be taken from us. It is reality. It is history. It is ours. It is part of Who we are.

Because of this victory of the human spirit, we can never again really believe in resignation, defeat, or despair. From now on, if we choose to believe in those things we can only pretend to do so, because if the United States of America can elect Barack Obama, son of a black Muslim father and a white single mother, as president, in 2008, clearly no good thing is too hard, too unlikely, or genuinely off limits for any or all of us.

Yes, we can.

Yes ... WE CAN!


Thank you.

Pass it on.

---

UPDATE:

Have you come down out of the clouds yet? Is your thinking a bit foggy? Everything still a bit surreal? I think it's called "Joy-Shock."

Joy-shock: marked dizziness and disorientation brought on by the sudden loss of a few pints of cynicism. Often accompanied by exhaustion, euphoria, tremendous relief, teariness, and unexplained crying.

No need for a doctor. Just a few days rest. Then, back to life as usual.

Still, life will never be the same again. It's the end of the world as we know (knew) it. And lots of other cheesy pop song lines.

Highlights from The Day:

The Moment: Live Reaction At Grant Park (Video)

CNN Coverage: Obama Elected President (Video)

NBC calls an Obama win (Video)

Obama Victory Speech (Video/Text)

CNN: Colin Powell Reacts to Obama Victory (Video)

NBC: Change has come to America (Video)

Obama's Victory Celebration in Chicago (Photos)

Grant Park Obama Rally (Photos)

Reactions Around The World (Photos)

See The Obamas And The Bidens Celebrate (Photos)

Tears For Obama (Photos)

Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls

Obama Wins: Why All Americans Have a Reason to Celebrate

Suddenly, it may be cool to be an American again

Tears to Remember

An open apology to boomers everywhere

Grant Park on Election Night

Obama Victory Sparks Cheers Around the Globe

MoveOn.org – The Hope Wall


Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Criteria For Veep: Snow White's Looks And Resume. Is That "Good Judgement?"

The Democratic Activist










The Huffington Post has it right. Sarah Palin does bear a striking resemblance to beloved Disney Character Snow White.

If only her governmental service resume wasn't also about as thin as Snow White's.

Here is is:

City Council member – Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 9000): 1992-1996
Mayor - Wasilla, Alaska: 1996-2002
Governor - Alaska: 2007 to present (less than half a term in office)

That's it. Three lines.

From John McCain's official statement:

---
Governor Palin is a tough executive who has demonstrated during her time in office that she is ready to be president.

---
Huh??

During her "time in office?" What time in office? Not even two years?

Is this what John McCain calls "good judgement?"

It's clearly a huge, desperate gamble by McCain, because his thesis above is so abjectly ridiculous.

But, apparently, he's counting on the notion that a great many of those disaffected feminist over-50 female Hillary supporters and independents who are so terribly disappointed that a woman wasn't selected as part of the Democratic ticket are so vacuous and gullible that they'll vote for any woman, just because she's a woman.

I'm sorry to say I think McCain may be actually be right about this. That's what scares me. Van Jones, writing in an article for the Huffington Post about McCain's puzzling and potentially disastrous pick for veep, isn't as worried as I am, however (apparently, Palin is so extremely right wing and anti-choice that she opposes rape and incest allowances for abortion, etc).

At least we know the truly stunning Democratic National Convention that just concluded with 80,000 attendees in Denver succeeded in killing the "experience" argument which had been the Republican's best card. Now the G.O.P. appear intent on neutering the "change" argument so masterfully and powerfully presented by the Democrats this past week.

However, with Karl Rove's greasy fingerprints plastered all over it, McCain's cynical "Palin Ploy" is so crazy ... it just might work.

The Obama/Biden camp is going to have to walk a very thin line to avoid losing to this panicky but crafty move (although Palin may strike herself out – she's already under investigation). Obama and Biden must be extremely careful in how they attack this Snow White in governor's clothing, as the Right Wing Smear Machine will be sure to attempt to plaster the word "sexism" all over Obama no matter his team does to warn the nation of Palin's obvious and dangerous lack of qualification to be the president's understudy:

"Obama's attacking Palin because she's a woman! He did it to Hillary, and now he's doing it to Snow White ... I mean ... Sarah Palin! How sexist and awful those Barack Obama people are!

Isn't it refreshing to have the leader of the Democratic Party show in no uncertain terms that he's fully willing and able to scare the pants off the Republicans? Not knowing whether or not Obama had the guts and street smarts to finally take the gloves off had been my greatest worry about his campaign, until now. But after the explosive Democratic convention, it's clear that Barack Obama isn't one bit afraid to catch the crap, call it crap, and throw it right back at the Republicans double-strength and twice as hard.

From an article at Huffington Post about Palin:

---

To think that McCain turned down far more nationally qualified individuals who have now been relegated to subordinate status in the pecking order GOP politics:

1. Mitt Romney
2. Tim Pawlenty
3. Tom Ridge
4. Lindsey Graham
5. Charlie Crist
6. Joe Lieberman
7. Carly Fiorina

How must they feel? Dwarfed at the altar by a total unknown. Each rejected candidate now having to gamely march out before the national media to defend this singular act of a political Hail Mary pass. To steal an old adage of former Secretary of State James Baker... putting Sarah Palin into a debate with Joe Biden is going to be like throwing Howdy Doody into a knife fight!

---

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Your mortgage ... or life-saving medications?

The Democratic Activist
Which would you pay for, if you had to choose? You, or someone close to you, may soon have to make that awful decision.

Even health insurance may not protect you from having to make such a terrible choice.

A quiet new move by insurance companies (made possible by the Bush prescription drug plan) is right now making this horrible delimma an actual reality for many Americans ... who already have health insurance!

That's correct. Even if you're one of the lucky ones who have medical insurance in our wonderful, privatized, for-profit health care system, your prescription drug bill may soon cost more than your monthly mortgage payment – or even exceed your entire income! Although you may only $20 per month for prescriptions today, you could be paying hundreds, or even thousands, by the time you wake up tomorrow morning.

Could the reason television news is ignoring this story have anything to do with all the advertising revenue it collects from the pharmaceutical industry? (More than 33 billion dollars ... in 2004!)

Insurance companies are stealthily incorporating this new prescription benefit system, known as "Tier 4," into many individual and group health insurance plans. A rapidly growing phenomenon, up to 10% of private insurance plans already include tier 4 or even tier 5 drug categories.

(A recent article in the New York Times gives the details.)

Remember when the U.S.A. was the most advanced, prosperous, healthy, humane, ethical, free, loved and respected nation on earth? The "greatest country in the world?"

Not anymore!

When will we stop putting up with the accelerating destruction of the American middle class and of classic egalitarian American values like honesty, accountability, humanity, and the dignity and liberty of all persons?

Will average Americans continue to vote against their own best interests, for a torturing, bullying government "of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations?"

Do we, as individuals and as a nation, first have to crash and burn before we'll open our eyes to the corporatist snow job we've been sold these last 28 years?

Or ... will we finally stand up and utilize those freedoms we still have left to turn our nation away from the cliff's edge while there's still time to do so?

What will it take?

Have we had enough, yet?

Upcoming elections may tell.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Poem for George and John

The Democratic Activist
... inspired by "Dick and Jane" books, and by the Inspector General's report confirming what we all knew all along: that George W. Bush, the president of the United States, approved the use of torture and committed war crimes.


Lie, Lie, Lie


~

Lie, lie, lie

See George lie.

Lie George, lie.

Lie, lie, lie.

Lie some more.

See John run for president.

Run John, run.

See John hug George.

Hug, hug, hug.

See John lie like George.

Lie John, lie.

Lie, lie, lie.

Bomb Iran, John, bomb Iran.

Bomb, bomb Iran.

Watch T.V.

T.V. likes George.

T.V. likes John.

Lie T.V., lie.

Lie, lie. lie.

America likes to sleep.

Sleep America, sleep.

Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Lie, lie, lie.

(Copyright © 2008 Chris Borland. All rights reserved.)

~


Reference:

Where Is the Outrage?

OIG Report on U.S. Complicity in Torture

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democatic Activist

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FOX Analyst Latest To Invoke Killing Obama!

The Democratic Activist
This is too much. This is beyond too much. This could well be criminal. And this time it's FOX "News" with it's license (or worse) on the line.

I'm not an attorney, but isn't openly and publicly advocating the assassination of a presidential candidate a felony?

On Sunday, 5/26/08, journalist Liz Trotta was interviewed on FOX "News" by Eric Shawn about the recent invocation of the RFK assassination on the campaign trail.

Here's what Trotta said:

"And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh, Obama. Well, both, if we could."

(Then, she laughs.)

See it for yourself:



To view video of Trotta's remarks in full context, click here (the offending statement begins at approximately 1:23).

For further info on this incredible and despicable FOX "News" crime, click here.

Isn't "broadcasting threatening or intimidating statements about an individual or group" over the public airwaves a violation of FCC rules and grounds for the immediate revocation of the offending station's license?
Are we going to stand for an endless parade of old white people intimating or brazenly suggesting with the help of the mainstream media that an uppity black Democrat who may well be our next president could or should be killed??

First, it was Hillary (who's referred to RFK's assassination multiple times during her campaign against Obama), then Huckabee (video here), and now Fox.

Is a simple apology enough to excuse this kind of dangerous and grossly irresponsible behavior?

Is America already becoming a third-world banana republic wherein raising the spectre of mafia-style, targeted assassination is accepted and fashionable as a domestic political strategy and tactic?

Are we now seeing the advocacy of murdering one's political opponents as the logical extension of the Bush/Cheney/Rove/Clinton/Fox "win at any cost" ethos?

Has FOX's reactionary propaganda network now crossed the line into propagating political violence and hate crime – with the full blessing of the FCC?

How much lower are we Americans willing to let our nation sink?

Here's what you can do:

---

1. Compose a short message referencing this outrage and demand that the FCC act immediately to revoke the license granted to FOX to broadcast in the U.S.

Then, send this message to the FCC "general information, comments, and inquiries" address and to all five FCC commissioners:

General information, comments & inquiries: fccinfo@fcc.gov
Chairman Kevin J. Martin: KJMWEB@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein: Jonathan.Adelstein@fcc.gov
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate: dtaylortateweb@fcc.gov
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov

2. Turn the message you composed into personal letters addressed to each FCC commissioner c/o the following address:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

4. File an online complaint with the FCC at the following address:

http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm

- For "Complaint Type," chose "Broadcast (TV and Radio), Cable, and Satellite Issues," and then click "Next" at the bottom of the page.

- For "Complaint Category," choose "Unauthorized, unfair, biased, illegal broadcasts" (you'll be charging FOX with violating FCC rules by "Broadcasting threatening or intimidating statements about an individual or group"), and click "Next."

- Then, click "Continue to Online Form" at the bottom of the page, fill out the complaint form (for date, type 5/25/08; use the message you composed to fill in the details of your complaint in section 5.c.), and click "SUBMIT" to send your complaint to the FCC.

5. Call your congressperson and senators – express your outrage and state your demands over the phone to the staff person who takes your call.

Here's the toll-free Capitol Switchboard number (just ask to speak to the office of the congressperson or senator you wish to contact):

1-800-828-0498.

If you wish, you can also send your message as a letter or email to your congressperson and senators. Make sure to insist that they work immediately to pressure the FCC to act quickly and forcefully to punish this despicable behavior of FOX "News" in gross violation of federal law and FCC rules. You can send email messages and get postal addresses for your congressional representatives and senators here (just enter you zip code in the field provided).

6. Sign a petition to help sack Liz Trotta (click here).

7. Contact FOX – and give 'em hell!

FOX NEWS
1211 Ave. of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 1-888-369-4762
Fax: 212-301-4229
Feedback@foxnews.com

8. Spread the word!

Send a link to this post to everyone you know who cares about restoring sanity and safety to political campaigning in America, alerting them to your specific concerns and urging them to take action.

---

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Support the Troops" = 6,000+ Suicides Per Year

The Democratic Activist
From a recent article by Juan Cole:
---

"Memorial Day is about honoring those who have sacrificed themselves for the nation, in our armed forces. We cannot honor them properly unless we know the full extent of their sacrifice.

Investigative reporters at CBS News found that in 2005, 6,250 veterans took their lives, nearly 18 a day. Emanuel Margolis writes,

'Dr. Ira Katz, chief of mental health services for the Department of Veterans Affairs, sent an e-mail to a VA colleague this past February that read:

"Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before somebody stumbles on it?"'

Margolis charges that Katz covered up this startling statistic, showing 12,000 attempted suicides a year while in VA care, when he testified before Congress.

Have 30,000 veterans died of suicide in the past 5 years? Have 60,000 tried to? Shouldn't these deeply depressed men and women be added to the casualty tolls? Is war a plague on the mind of those who fight it?"

---

An SF Chronicle article confirms the story:

VA mental health chief sorry about 'Shh!' on suicidal vets.

Apparently, creating the conditions for 60,000 suicide attempts among American soldiers during the five year course of the Iraq occupation is what the current neoconservative administration calls "supporting the troops."

How long will the American people put up with the continual parade of these kinds of utter disgraces, one after the other, year after year? Have we finally had enough of this garbage? Will we Americans continue to choose this kind of insane, barbaric mis-leadership? Is this what we want? Is this who we are?

We may get the answers, this coming November.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Torture R Us ... The new U.S.A.

The Democratic Activist
Is this really America? Is this what we've become?

-
Enforced nudity, stress techniques, and worse common at Abu Ghraib, et al
-

Yes, it is.

And each one of us who allows it to continue is responsible.

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/04/hbc-90002779

http://gailjonas.blogspot.com/2008/03/exposure-bushs-refusal-to-give-up.html

http://gailjonas.blogspot.com/2008/03/torture-r-us-what-do-you-think.html

Here's something you can do:

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2165/t/1027/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=23997

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Fight for Internet Freedom Comes to Stanford

The Democratic Activist
(Update: complete information about the Stanford FCC hearing on 4/17/08, including the precise campus location at which the meeting will be held, start and end times, a map with specific directions, and a meeting agenda – which DOES include a two-hour period for public comment – can be found by clicking here.)

Do you live in or near the San Francisco Bay Area?

If so, be sure to block off 4/17/08 on your calendar as a day to travel to the beautiful Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California to attend the FCC hearing on Net Neutrality and the future of the internet.



Net Neutrality is the movement to keep the internet on a level playing field so that Joe's Bookstore can compete on an equal basis right alongside Amazon.com, and The Democratic Activist can be accessed just as easily and conveniently as The Washington Times. Preserving a free and open internet is perhaps the central free press issue facing America today, and is a critical economic issue, as well, for anyone who makes their living directly or indirectly through some form of online activity (isn't that just about everyone, these days?).

Here's the scoop ...

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and other giant corporations want to own the internet. Recently, they've have been caught red-handed, with their grubby hands deep in the cookie jar, blocking, filtering, and spying on your internet activities. They plan to turn the internet into just another profit-generating arm of the mainstream media, which, like radio, television, and cable, are off limits to ordinary people and smaller companies, available only to big guys with deep pockets. Should giant telecoms succeed in their effort to kill Net Neutrality, to steal the internet for their own private use and profit, it would literally mean the death of the internet as we've always known it.

The purpose of the FCC meeting is to address the question of "Net Neutrality" and the future of the internet from deep within the heart of the beast, in Silicon Valley, California. Internet industry experts will be giving testimony, and – in a rare move – all five FCC commissioners will be coming to Stanford to attend the 4/17 meeting, as well.

Unbounded corporate arrogance!

At the FCC’s first hearing in Boston, Comcast was actually caught paying seat-fillers to pack the room and keep out the public (read all about it, here)! Now is the chance show our support for Net Neutrality ... to make visible our commitment to preserving in law a free, neutral, vital internet as a public resource available equally to all people, all voices, and all businesses in America.

Can you make it to the meeting? Can you let others know about it?

Here's what you can do:

---

1. Attend the FCC meeting at Stanford on 4/17, if at all possible ... and bring others with you!

For the latest info on the event (including the precise location and time set for the meeting, a map with detailed directions, and an agenda for the meeting) click here or call: 877-888-1533, extension 204.

Note: there WILL be a two-hour period near the end of the meeting for public comments. Get your short, powerful, passionate speech ready ... and then deliver it live and in person to all five FCC commissioners!

2. File your own comment with the FCC ... whether or not you can personally attend the 4/17 meeting at Stanford.

Click here and fill out the form with your comment in support of Net Neutrality (your remarks will be automatically forwarded to the FCC).

Here's a sample message:

-

Commissioners,

The internet is a public resource, built and birthed with public money, and today is used with equal access by all Americans. The free and open internet has strengthened, broadened, and enlivened American democracy and the American economy in countless ways. It should, by right, stay that way.

But the internet as we've always known it is now being gravely threatened by a few giant private companies that would rob the American people of this great national treasure and make it into their own private, profit-generating tool. Their plan is to steal the public internet for their own private gain, and turn it into just another arm of corporate mass media like radio, television, and cable.

The FCC must act now to protect the Internet from corporate gatekeepers that want to block, filter and discriminate against the Web sites and services Americans everywhere use every day, and create and enforce strong regulations that would permanently guarantee Net Neutrality -- the principle that all Americans should have equal access to the amazing miracle of the internet.

The internet in America should continue, in perpetuity, to be owned jointly by all Americans. All of us in this country have an equal right to utilize this phenomenal public resource to express our views, conduct business, and otherwise better our lives ... not just a few wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals!

Keep the internet free and open!

Support Net Neutrality!

Thank you.

-

3. Spread the word!

Send a link to this post to everyone you know who cares about a free and open internet. Let's fill the meeting room at Stanford on 4/17 with like-minded Net Neutrality advocates, and show the FCC how very much this issue matters to the American people!

---

At Thinking Out Loud, blogger Gail Jonas has posted a wonderful article on Ben Scott, head of freepress.net, the driving force behind savetheinternet.com and the Net Neutrality movement ... recommended reading for all Net Neutrality Ninjas.

Here is an article in the Stanford Daily about the 4/17 meeting, here is a flyer you can download and use to promote the event, and here is another action page you can utilize to "tell your friends."

Let's do it!

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Will America Sieze The Opportunity To Be Lead By Someone Great?

The Democratic Activist
The speech is amazing. A home run.

This man is not perfect. But he is certainly a good man, maybe a great man, unquestionably a statesman, perhaps even a true, gifted, and inspired leader ... the first one America has had the chance to have in many, many years.

Will America recognize this opportunity? We shall see.

If you haven't already, please consider taking the time to read something that could bring tears of recognized truth and renewed hope to your eyes, as it did to mine.

Then, I invite you to tell someone else of your own hopes for perfecting our nation, or to take further action in your own way to make them come true.

Barack Obama: "A More Perfect Union."
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Plan To Steal The Internet

The Democratic Activist
(Note: parts this post are not original, utilizing text copied from an email alert I recently received from savetheinternet.com requesting action on this issue.)

Quite simply ... it would be the death of the internet as we've always known it.

Big telephone and cable companies want to own the internet. Their goal is to turn the internet into just another arm of commercial mass media, like radio, television, and cable. But first, they must get rid of Network Neutrality, the fundamental principle that prevents them from discriminating against your favorite Web sites and services.

Under their plan, ordinary people and all but the largest businesses would be practically shut out, unable to host content on the superfast "preferred network" that only the largest companies could afford to utilize, relegated to a grossly undesirable internet "slow lane" that almost no one would use to access news, opinions, or buy products or services.

In firm opposition to the giant telcos' attempt to steal the public internet, Net Neutrality is strongly supported by groups as politically diverse as Gun Owners of America, the Christian Coalition, MoveOn.org, and the American Library Association.

In 2006, the 109th Congress allowed laws that had always guaranteed Net Neutrality to expire, setting the stage for a private takeover of the public's internet by America's largest telecommunications companies.

A new bill by Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Chip Pickering (R-MS) called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 (H.R. 5353) would re-establish Net Neutrality as the law of the land. It deserves and needs our full support.

Unless we speak out to our members of Congress, they could move to allow large telephone and cable companies to control what you do, where you go and what you watch online.

Here's what you can do:

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1. Learn more. Go to savetheinternet.com and check out what's at stake.

2. Join others in sending a loud message supporting Net Neutrality to Congress (click here).

3. Contact your congressional representatives directly. (Click here, then enter your zip code in the field provided). Urge them to give their full and enthusiastic support to the cause of Net Neutrality in general, and to the Internet Freedom and Preservation Act of 2008 (H.R. 5353) in particular.

4. Spread the word about the urgent need to protect Net Neutrality! Send a link to this post to everyone you know who values the democratizing miracle of the free and open internet we've always known, or who depends on it to conduct their business or maintain their livelihood.

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Radio and television were, in their infancy, openly available to ordinary people of modest means to broadcast their own individual messages, if only locally. Now, the internet provides the same ability to any ordinary citizen or small business ... but on an unbelievably vast, world wide scale!

This could, quite easily, all go away – as happened with radio and television – unless we act now to save the internet.

Support Net Neutrality!

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Monday, February 25, 2008

Will this man become the "Elvis" of classical music?

The Democratic Activist
This young conductor is poised to change the history of music.

Slated to take over as the musical director of the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009, Gustavo Dudamel knows how to communicate the essence and beauty of western classical music in a way no one seems to have seen before. He may, in fact, be the one who rescues classical music from cultural obscurity and puts it back at center stage on radios, ipods, and ... well ... stages everywhere, where it belongs.

Dudamel was saved by music and the Venezuelan System (a government-sponsored initiative to train poor children to become accomplished musicians as an alternative to impoverishment and criminal street life). Who knows how many other game-changing individuals like this are just waiting to be given a chance to get past the need simply to survive, so they can share their powerful talents with all of humanity?

If you have a few minutes, give yourself a gift and watch the video piece on Dudamel recently produced by 60 Minutes (be sure to check out each of the ten short clips that make up the piece; all are wonderful).

Gustavo reveals, through his own genius and passion, the special genius and passion inherent within each of us. He reminds us, through music, that this is it. This is what it is to be human. This is what the struggle is for. This is why it all matters.

If you love music, life, or both ... you may never be the same.

Enjoy!

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Now THAT'S an economic stimulus package ...

The Democratic Activist
Want to stave off recession and build a vibrant, robust, modernized American economy?

The answer could be as simple as planting glass wires and legislating federal Net Neutrality rules to finally bring to fruition the dream of an open, lightning-fast, level internet superhighway we were promised during the Clinton years.

The following article gives details:

Broadband Legislation Would Provide Economic Stimulus of $134 Billion Annually

Quoting from the article:

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"A report released by national non-profit Connected Nation measures the national economic stimulus of broadband legislation currently under Congressional consideration. The report details the potential state-by-state impact of legislation to accelerate broadband access and use. Its findings suggest that the U.S. could realize an impact of $134 billion annually from a modest increase in broadband adoption."

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In Japan, broadband that costs $40 per month gets you speeds literally 50-100 times faster than what you get for that fee in the good 'ol USA.

Unfortunately, what's most important in neoconservative America is protecting the profits and backsides of the telecom industry executives – not economic stimulus.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oh my God ... in Dallas, of all places!

The Democratic Activist
From an article appearing yesterday in the pages of Star-Telegram.com (web facade of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram):

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"Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

"The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

"Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on."

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What in the world is going on, here?

Secret Service personnel order local police to stop checking thousands of people for weapons for one full hour as they enter a live event where Barack Obama will be speaking?

Is this the kind of federal "protection" Obama can expect if he survives long enough to be elected president?

Are we living in the United States of America ... or in some tin-pot, third-world dictatorship where "mistakes" like this end up conveniently eliminating popular young leaders bearing messages of change that threaten the entrenched power structure?

This is exactly the issue I've been most worried about regarding an Obama presidency – the greatly increased probability of an assassination.

After I read this terribly disturbing story, picked my jaw up off the floor, and collected my thoughts, I realized I could think of only two possible explanations for the facts: surreal stupidity, or conspiracy. Either this act of astounding idiocy simply typifies the profound incompetence, utter carelessness, and criminal negligence imposed on us every day by the neoconservative Bush administration ... or it really is in fact evidence of the total willingness of antidemocratic elements in the U.S. political establishment to do absolutely anything, no matter how sick, twisted, brutal, or perverse, including covering up the truth about 9-11, staging another false-flag event to start a war in Iran so that yet another neocon psychopath can take office or martial law can be declared, you name it – to commit any despicable crime of any kind – in order to gain and retain power.

I think we may have to admit that Occam's Razor may actually suggest conspiracy as the simplest way to account for this event and for others so hard to explain any other way. We don't have to go nuts with it, but it could well be that this is the best exegesis for the observable facts at this point.

I don't know why I'm still surprised. But I am.

Here's what you can do:

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1. Pass along this story and a link to this post to as many people as you can (to your entire address book, if possible).

2. Contact major national media to insist on coverage of this story. To do so, click here and here.

3. Get in touch with your congressional representatives and demand an investigation into how such a thing as this could possible happen in today's security-obsessed America. Click here to find and contact your representatives (just enter your zip code where prompted).

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If this latest great insanity doesn't generate a firestorm of public protest and outrage, probably nothing will. If these alarming facts don''t command the attention of the mainstream media or awaken deep concern within the mind of Joe Average, it's because we're living in denial of the dreadful seriousness of the truly dire situation in which we Americans find ourselves in 2008.

Standing dumbfounded and frozen like a deer staring into oncoming headlights doesn't help.

Action does.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's official: George W. Bush is by far the most unpopular president in modern American history

The Democratic Activist
A new poll by the American Research Group found that only 19% of American adults (never mind babies ...) approve of the job Bush was doing as president, while a whopping 77% disapprove.

In blasting through the previous record held by Harry Truman (22% approval, during the Koren War), Bush has succeeded in highlighting the signature accomplishment of his presidency: unpopularity ... of his own administration at home, and of America and Americans throughout the rest of the world.

From an article by blogger Will Bunch:

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And so now George W. Bush has shattered a record that has stood for 55 long years, and there's not any one reason. It's everything, although I suspect that liberals would more likely say Iraq and torture, conservatives would say immigration and runaway spending, and everyone would now say the economy.

It takes more than unpopularity to become the worst president ever, but this may be the straw that broke the camel's back on that front. It should remind us all what the 2008 election is all about, and it's not about Hillary's wardrobe or an off-the-cuff remark or who is the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan.

It's only about who can undo the damage of the last eight years. It's amazing so many people wanted such a difficult task.

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In light of the coming election, it behooves us to examine the factors that led to Bush's failure as president, his selection by the American people not only once, but twice, as the person best qualified to lead our country, and the refusal (so far) of our representatives to remove him from office – that such tragic mistakes might not be repeated.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Weeping Liberty

The Democratic Activist
Which are worse: criminal, neo-fascist, Republican neocons ... or enabling, quisling, faux-0pposition Democrats?

Answer: enabling, quisling, faux-0pposition Democrats.

Read ... and weep.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This could be it ... Conyers can be moved

The Democratic Activist
This could the moment we've been waiting for.

According to an email sent out today by democrats.com, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers may finally be seeing the light:

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"On Thursday, Chairman John Conyers' House Judiciary Committee held a hearing at which Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that he would not investigate torture or warrantless spying, he would not enforce contempt citations, and he would treat Justice Department opinions as providing immunity for crimes.

None of this was new, but perhaps it touched something in Conyers that had not been touched before. Following the hearing, he and two staffers met for over an hour with two members of Code Pink and discussed activism and impeachment, including Congressman Robert Wexler's proposal to begin impeachment hearings on Cheney.

Conyers expressed his concerns about what might happen following an impeachment, the danger of installing a Bush replacement or losing an election. But he said he's listening to several advocates for impeachment, including Liz Holtzman and David Swanson of Democrats.com. He hinted he could be swayed by a convincing argument, leaning out of his chair for dramatic effect."

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In what may have been the last straw for Conyers, Attorney General Michael Mukasy came right out and said flatly last week that he simply will NOT enforce contempt of Congress citations against White House staff members Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, et al. Together with the startling recent admission by the Bush administration that, despite constant denials of the use of torture in interrogations, the U.S. has indeed used waterboarding on prisoners (recently reconfirmed by the U.N. as torture, a war crime), their monarchistic arrogance may finally have become to much for Conyers to stand.

Now will Mr. Conyers move impeachment forward?

Or will he instead go down in history as the man who traded away the essential principle of checks and balances in our American system of government to prevent what he for some reason feared could be negative political ramifications for his party in an election year?

Within the context of impeachment proceedings Bush and Cheney's claims of "executive privilege" would be unquestionably moot and without legal standing. With Mukasey's recent refusal to enforce congressional contempt citations against Bush administration officials, impeachment is now literally the only way left for Congress to exercise it's constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities.

There's no any longer excuse not to impeach. None. Without impeachment over the refusal of the executive branch to acknowledge and permit congress to exercise its oversight duties, no future president will have any reason to honor congressional subpoenas. The precedent will have been established: "executive privilege" means no one the White House doesn't want to have under oath will ever have to give sworn testimony. The executive branch will no longer be accountable before congress or the people. Congress will have no ability to compel testimony of individuals within the executive branch, and without any meaningful oversight capability or function, no checks or balances will remain within our system of government. No more democracy in America. Monarchy in the U.S.A.

Is the shamelessness of Conyers, Pelosi, and the Democratic Party leadership so extreme as to allow this to happen ... to let the crucial separation of powers doctrine just die, and American democracy with it, without any fight or opposition, on their watch, for the sake of their own pathetic timidity and inexcusable, terminal cautiousness and obsessive concern about possible political inexpediency?

Is this the legacy John Conyers intends to leave to his posterity? Are the Dems really this shallow? This gutless? This embarrassingly, criminally spineless and negligent? Do they actually value democracy in America so very little as to allow this to happen? Are they really such utter sellouts and quislings?

Here's what you can do:

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1. Contact HJC Chairman John Conyers, and demand that he finally allow the Cheney impeachment resolution to move forward and impeachment hearings to begin. Remind Mr. Conyers of the terrible damage and dishonorable legacy that he and other Democratic leaders will leave behind them if they continue to ignore the constitutional requirement to impeach brazen criminals occupying highest elected offices in our land, and in so doing fail in their sworn duty to "support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic ..."

Any and all forms of contact with Chairman Conyers are important and encouraged at this critical time: phone calls, emails, faxes, letters. Can you generate one of each? Can you do it more than once? Every day this week? A phone call only takes a minute (if the lines are busy, try sending a quick email message or fax).

Here is John Conyers's full contact info:

Chairman John Conyers, Jr.
House Judiciary Committee
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-5126
Fax: 202-225-0072
Email: John.Conyers@mail.house.gov

2. Spread the word! Send along a link to this post to as many people as you can, with your request that they join the impeachment effort at this critical time.

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If Conyers refuses to allow impeachment to go forward in light of Attorney General Mukasey's flat refusal uphold the law and honor congressional authority, Conyers will be known as the man with all the power who nevertheless did nothing while the match was put to the torch that destroyed American democracy.

Mr. Conyers is now, more than ever, the pivot point. He is exactly where all pressure needs to be applied at this moment. Everything is already in place. A bill of impeachment sits waiting for his committee to act on it. The power to begin impeachment hearings is his, and his alone. All that needs to happen is for Mr. Conyers to give the word.

Nearly 80 years old, I bet Congressman Conyers is thinking about how he wants to be remembered. My guess is he does not want to do down in history as the man who could have saved American democracy, but instead chose not to. Right now, finally, he's movable. With our added pressure at this crucial moment to convince him to do what's right for our country and for his own personal legacy, impeachment may actually materialize ... and with it, the hope that our children and grandchildren will live in a democratic United States of America.

Now, more than ever, your efforts and mine are essential. We may finally have the chance to roll the impeachment ball over the top of the hill and down the other side.

Please – now and for the next several days – it's time to deluge John Conyers with communications demanding immediate impeachment of Dick Cheney!

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, February 1, 2008

The "Protect America Act" is EXACTLY what Orwell had in mind

The Democratic Activist
In a 30-second video making the rounds on YouTube, Senator Russ Feingold gives a masterfully concise explanation of exactly what telecom immunity means, and what we stand to lose, if the Dems let Bush and Cheney get his way just one more time.

The "Protect America Act" (Orwellian for the "Destroy America by Eviscerating the Constitution Act") is precisely what Orwell prophesied in his prescient classic novel, 1984.

This 30-second video says it all:



Should PAA be enacted as permanent law with provisions granting immunity for telecom companies that colluded with the administration in Bush's illegal NSA domestic spying program, 1984 will have come to life in 2008. Criminal and civil cases against guilty telecoms will forever be disallowed, and we will likely never be able to find out the truth about the depth and breadth of the Bush administration's assualt on our privacy rights or hold the individuals involved accountable for these extremely serious crimes against our nation.

Earlier this week, the Democrats once again gave their lunch money to bully Republicans by passing a 15 day extension of PAA, keeping it alive until 2/15/08. In an excellent post on DailyKos two days ago, author mcjoan debriefs us on meeting Senator Feingold held on 1/29/08 "with a handful of bloggers to talk abut critical issues facing the Senate," chief among them being the proposed updates to FISA, PAA, and the urgent need to prevent the granting of immunity to telecom companies guilty of cooperating with Mr. Bush is his illegal NSA domestic spying operations. The post is a must read, and does a fine job of dissecting the complexities of the various amendments being offered to FISA.

In addition, the DailyKos post provides the following list of Democratic senators "most likely to cave to Republican pressure." It's these particular Democrats that we need to target:

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Bayh (IN)
Phone: 202-224-5623
Fax: 202-228-1377

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Carper (DE)
Phone: 202-224-2441
Fax: 202-228-2190

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Feinstein (CA)
Phone: 202-224-3841
Fax: 202-228-3954

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Inouye (HI)
Phone: 202-224-3934
Fax: 202-224-6747

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Johnson (SD)
Phone: 202-224-5842
Fax: 202-228-5765
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Landrieu (LS)
Phone: 202-224-5824
Fax: 202-224-9735

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Lincoln (AR)
Phone: 202-224-4843
Fax: 202-228-1371

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McCaskill (MO)
Phone: 202-224-6154
Fax: 202-228-6326

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Mikulski (MD)
Phone: 202-224-4654
Fax: 202-224-8858

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Nelson (FL)
Phone: 202-224-5274
Fax: 202-228-2183

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Nelson (NE)
Phone: 202-224-6551
Fax: 202-228-0012

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Pryor (AR)
Phone: 202-224-2353
Fax: 202-228-0908

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Rockefeller (WV)
Phone: 202-224-6472
Fax: 202-224-7665

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Salazar (CO)
Phone: 202-224-5852
Fax: 202-228-5036

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Here's what you can do:

1. Contact your own senators ... and make sure they get the message: NO TELECOM IMMUNITY! (To find your senators, click here.)

2. Contact the 14 senators listed above ... and deliver the same emphatic message.

3. Send a link to this post to everyone you know who values the rule of law and democracy in America, and urge them to do as you've done!

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Emails sent to congressional reps make a big difference, also ... especially when done "in mass." Here's a very simple way to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your emailing efforts:

A. Compose a short, passionate, generic template message (150 words or less) urging NO TELECOM IMMUNITY.

B. Go to Congress.org, enter your zip code in the field indicated for finding your representatives, select "Federal," select the the particular officials you wish to contact and the type of message you want to send (email, letter, or *Extra Impact), and send them all a copy of your message with one click!

* Select the "Extra Impact" option when sending your message ... and for just $8.95 your message will be arrive speedily in your rep's office as a hand-delivered "Advocacy Express" letter!

C. Go to the Congress.org Media Guide, enter your zip code in the "Local Media" field (be sure that "Show national media ..." is checked), select up to five local and/or national media outlets at a time, and with a single click send your message to all of them, as well!

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The senate will vote on various FISA amendments on Monday, 2/4/08, and so our energetic activity in firm opposition to telecom immunity is immensely important right now ... and will remain so until the expiration of PAA set for 2/15/08.

It will take about 20 minutes to call your own senators and the 14 listed above. Committed activists may be able to find to the time to do it each day until 2/15/08! But even just a few calls from the list above made each day would go a long way to convincing reluctant senate Democrats to finally do what's right and stand up as a group to the big, bad, scary Republicans.

Let's all do all we can at this critical time!

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist