Auros (auros) wrote,

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politics potpourri -- Arizona residents, please look!

Today's batch comes from Working Assets.

One of them is particularly important -- it addresses the media monopolization issue I posted about the other day... Senator McCain is the head of the committee that oversees the FCC, so he has special influence over their proceedings. If he can be moved to oppose immediate implementation of new rules, we'll have a shot at getting a public hearing of just what those rules mean -- which would almost certainly mean an end to them.

Just to make clear how important this issue is -- it's not even just about avoiding a world where Fox News is the only news, though that's certainly a pretty big issue. It's also about saving lives. About six months ago, there was an incident where a small town in the northern midwest, where all the major radio stations were owned by ClearChannel, suffered a disaster situation involving a cloud of toxic gas. (I forget whether it was to do with a natural condition or some kind of chemical spill; if anyone's interested, remind me, and I'll look up the details in my archives when I get home.) Authorities tried to call the radio stations to get the word out, but ClearChannel didn't have anyone manning the phones at the local office, and their national offices were too incompetent to field the calls and figure out a way to get the news onto the air on just those stations, and too recalcitrant to bump programming on all the regional stations in order to save lives.

People died.

For their violation of the rules about having somebody manning the phones at the stations, ClearChannel got a fine. Way to send a message, FCC!

Media diversity matters. Pass it on.

Subject: John McCain, Stand Up to Rupert Murdoch
To: Senator John McCain

Contact info for the Senator. Please consider sending a fax or making a phonecall -- that will have far more effect than sending an email. I'd recommend trying the local office nearest you first; if on your first few tries, you get busy signals or get left on hold, try the DC office, and then the other local offices.

Dear Senator McCain,

The Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of passing sweeping new rules that would dramatically alter the media landscape in the United States. The proposal would gut long-standing rules to slow and limit the growth of media monopolies and would allow media conglomerates to own all of the major media outlets in one city, including a dominant newspaper, television station, radio station and cable outlet.

The FCC is the federal agency that is charged with regulating the public airwaves on behalf of the American public. Yet, FCC Chairman Michael Powell is pushing ahead with a June 2 vote without any public comment. The FCC proposal had been kept secret until two commission members forced the proposal into the open. The public deserves that such far-reaching changes to the rules governing media ownership be publicly discussed and debated.

Last time similar rules were changed over 1,000 radio stations changed hands, local news and music play lists were decimated, and two companies, Clear Channel and CBS radio, came to own nearly half of the radio stations in the entire country.

I urge you to speak out and to call on FCC Chairman Powell to postpone or cancel the scheduled June 2 vote until there can be a significant public discussion and debate on the sweeping changes being proposed to media ownership rules.

Please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


The rest of this batch is below...

Subject: Debt Forgiveness for Iraq
To: Treasury Secretary John Snow

The first of these goes to Treasury Secretary John Snow. As is typical for Bush cabinet officers, it's pretty much impossible to find contact info for Snow on the Treasury Department website. So, you can either use this contact info to send a paper letter, or you can be lazy like I was and use the Working Assets site.

Dear Secretary Snow,

I am writing to express my appreciation that you are calling for Iraq's odious debts to be cancelled. Rep. Cole's Resolution (HR 198) rightly calls on France, Russia and Germany to cancel the debts incurred by Saddam Hussein, citing the injustice of the impoverished and brutalized Iraqi people having to repay billions of dollars in loans which funded Hussein's palaces and secret police. This will go along way towards rebuilding a nation broken by decades of sanctions and war. Debt cancellation for Germany was a significant part of the Marshall Plan which helped them to become a strong and prosperous democracy post-WWII and can aid Iraq as well. If Iraq is ever truly to be a peaceful and prosperous democracy, its citizens must be allowed to start anew. After all, who should repay the estimated $400 billion that Saddam owes? The dictator who incurred the debt or those he oppressed and brutalized?

However, we undermine our credibility by continuing to hold debts against other nations around the globe that were made to equally brutal regimes. For example, Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere, is still paying billions in loans made to the corrupt Duvalier regimes. Argentina is still repaying $40 billion lent to a military junta under Lt. Gen. Videla, who seized power after Peron's death and imposed martial law, resulting in some 10,000 political arrests and over 20,000 "disappearances". Clearly these debts are as unjust as those incurred by Hussein.

The United States should take the lead on this issue and cancel these illegitimate and unjust debts. Only then can we credibly call on nations to do the same. We must not lose this historical opportunity to set a just global precedent for dealing with odious debt! We are calling on you to take a leading role in debt cancellation for all impoverished nations!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important issue.


Subject: Send Disposable DVD Idea to the Dump
To: DisneyCorp

The next one is being sent to the offices of the Disney Corporation. Again, finding appropriate direct contact info will probably be painful, so I recommend just hitting Working Assets.

Dear Disney,

I was shocked to read about Buena Vista's plan to begin marketing disposable, self-destructing rental DVDs this coming August. This illogical, wasteful, environmentally-harmful plan should be halted immediately.

In 2002, 891.4 million DVDs were rented. If just 10% of those had been disposable, that would have added more than 89 million DVDs to our landfills, in addition to wasting valuable energy resources to create millions more DVDs than are currently manufactured.

We already have enough disposable discs entering our waste stream, thanks to AOL's ubiquitous discs, and services already exist to allow easier return of rental DVDs, like Netflix's U.S. Mail return system. Video-on-demand, which your chairman Michael Eisner recently announced your company will also be testing later on this year, is another alternative that would not generate the waste that this ill-conceived plan would generate.

I have heard that Disney is arguing that the discs will be recyclable. Decades of consumer experience with recycling demonstrates that unless something can be put into a recycling bin at the consumer's home or apartment, calling it recyclable does not mean it will actually be recycled. Promising to make it easier down the road is avoiding your responsibilities now.

Please do not move forward with this wasteful plan, and please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


Subject: Vote No on Extremist Judicial Nominee J. Leon Holmes
To: Senators

Dear Senator,

I am writing to urge you to vote "no" on the nomination of J. Leon Holmes for district judge.

Mr. Holmes is an anti-abortion activist who has compared the abortion rights movement to Nazis, has written that abortion should not be available to rape victims because he believes "conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snow in Miami" (when in fact a recent study indicates that approximately 25,000 pregnancies occur each year in the U.S. as a result of rape), and has written that "the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband." These are not the statements I would expect from someone being considered for a judgeship.

Please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


Subject: Investigate Republican Abuse of Homeland Security Agency
To: Senators

Dear Senator,

I am outraged by the recent activities of Tom DeLay and the Texas Republicans in their recent attempt to redistrict the state of Texas.


  • Congressman Tom DeLay misused his power when he asked the Justice Department and Federal Aviation Administration to get involved in Texas politics. His actions should be investigated.

  • Texas Republicans abused the federal Department of Homeland Security by asking them to track Democrats' locations. Their actions should be investigated.

  • The role of and costs incurred by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Aviation Administration in local Texas politics should be investigated.

  • The Texas Department of Public Safety immediately and questionably destroyed all records relating to their search for Democratic legislators. Their actions should be investigated.

Please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


Subject: Oppose S. 659: Special Legal Immunity for the Gun Industry
To: Senators

Dear Senator,

The extremist gun lobby is pushing legislation (S. 659) that would take away legal rights of gun violence victims and provide special legal protection for the gun industry at the expense of innocent Americans who have been harmed by the dangerous and irresponsible actions of firearm manufacturers and sellers. The gun industry should be subject to the same legal standards of conduct that govern all other people and industries in society.

I urge you to OPPOSE S. 659, legislation that will deprive gun violence victims of their rights in court.

Please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


Subject: Bad IT policies threaten the accountability of voting systems.
To: Attorney General John Ashcroft

Sending something like this to Ashcroft, of all people, has to be the ultimate act of futility. If you want to just take a token action to voice your opposition, there's a Working Assets petition. If you want to join me in screaming into the maelstrom, here's the Department of Justice's contact info page.

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft,

American voters are being threatened with disenfranchisement by new technologies: touchscreen voting machines with no paper trails and computerized purges of voter rolls.

In 2002, Congress passed the wrongly-named "Help America Vote Act" which requires every state to computerize, centralize, and purge voter rolls before the 2004 election. This is the very system that the state of Florida used to remove tens of thousands of eligible African-American and Hispanic voters from voter registries before the Presidential election of 2000.

The Act also lays a minefield of other impediments to voters: an effective rollback of the easy voter registration methods of the Motor Voter Act, new identification requirements at polling stations, and perilous incentives for fault-prone and fraud-susceptible touch-screen voting machines.

While computers have the potential to make elections more efficient and secure, current policies are heading in the wrong direction. Computers were part of the problem in Florida, not the cure. It is critical that NO voter be purged from centralized voter rolls without proof positive that the voter is ineligible. Further computerization of balloting should be halted until such methods are protected from political manipulation, fraud, and racial bias, through non-partisan, unbiased oversight.



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