Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please join us at the NEW Radioornot.com

The Nicole Sandler Show continues online at Radio Or Not, Monday through Thursday from 6-8pm EST/3-5pm PST.

If you're still arriving at this blog, you're following the old link. Please click here or point your browser to www.radioornot.com to visit the new and improved website.

Beginning Monday, February 1, we'll have a live audio-only stream in addition to the video stream I've been using since transitioning to internet only following the demise of Air America radio.

Please go to the new site for more information, and be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating....

It’s odd that on the day that the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons when it comes to first amendment rights, the corporation that I worked for died. There will be no funeral or burial for Air America, just a lot of people either mourning its loss or cheering its demise, and Monday morning quarterbacking why and how it failed.

All I know is that I’ve been here before. A couple of times.
Many of my listeners know that I came to talk radio from the music side. I had the opportunity to be part of a radio station in Los Angeles that was truly a treasure. KSCA fm 101.9 was the last station owned by Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasters. As his health was failing and the radio consolidation boom was in full explosion mode, Jackie Autry pulled the plug on LA’s Finest Rock.

We had some warning, and we held a wake. I still get emails from listeners asking me if there’s anything like KSCA anywhere. (Yes, but that’s a story for another day…)

A few years later, I was fortunate to be in on the start up of another “Triple A” station in Los Angeles. Clear Channel had decided to take two small signals, both at 103.1 FM, and simulcast an adult alternative format on them, and hired me as Music Director/Afternoon host. Channel 103.1 wasn’t quite KSCA, but it was still a wonderful radio station… until consolidation got the best of us again.

When Clear Channel merged with another broadcasting behemoth, the resulting mega group had too many stations in Los Angeles, and some had to be divested. My station included!

However, by that time, the internet boom was in full swing, and we were a unique format– a type of music station that wasn’t in every city. Clear Channel had recently launched their internet department, and I made the case to my boss that we could make history as the first radio station to go from a terrestrial signal to internet only. Much to my pleasure and surprise, they decided to do it!

You can read my account of the transition, the Chicago Tribune’s coverage, Washington Post, NY Times… You get the idea. We were the first. We were revolutionary. We made news.

We were too early! The dot com bust happened less than a year after the transition, and the door was shut on worldclassrock.com in August 2001.

I’ve seen too many radio entities, into which I had put my heart and soul, die.

It’s now ten years after my first radio to internet only venture failed. We’ve reached new levels of connectivity and technology that makes it possible to pick up internet radio. The Consumer Electronics Show held just a few weeks ago featured a new in-dash wifi internet radio, as detailed in this Consumer Reports article, and I constantly hear from listeners who are hearing my show on their iPhones.

So, here we go again. This time, I hope, we’re right on time!

When you log back on to RadioOrNot.com, you’ll notice a brand new website (thanks to the amazing Heather Chase!). Now that I’m my own boss again, I’ll give myself a better time slot, so I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

So, starting tonight, The Nicole Sandler Show will be live from 6-8pm ET/3-5pm PT. While I figure out the best solution for audio streaming, you’ll be able to watch and listen to the show live via the ustream link embedded directly into the RadioOrNot website.

Shortly after the end of the show, the video will be archived, and the audio stream will be ready for podcasting or downloading.

There’s obviously still a lot of work to be done, and speed bumps to traverse. I hope you’ll check out the new website, and feel free to send any bugs you find, or suggestions about how to make it better. Stay tuned for info about the audio stream in the next few days. And please help spread the word. This can only work if you help!

That said, should you in a position to help financially and are so inclined, The Nicole Sandler Show is now listener supported.  There’s a paypal link in the upper right hand corner of the page. All contributions are truly appreciated!

My show will also be available for radio stations to run. Please feel free to call or write you local station and suggest they carry it!

Thanks again for all the wonderful emails and kind thoughts since we got the news. They mean more to me than I can express.

As long as you want to hear the show, we’ll keep going…. Radio or not….

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life Goes On or Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

***Post corrected! The new time for The Nicole Sandler Show, beginning Monday Jan. 25, is 6-8pm ET.  You can find the links to watch/listen right here at RadioOrNot.com ***

It's been a really rough week.



It started last Sunday, when my boyfriend and I realized it was time to put his dog down. Orion was 12 years old, and had suffered for the last year from oral melanoma. Despite David's superhuman efforts, love and ridiculous amount of money spent, Orion closed his eyes for the last time Sunday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Scott Brown won the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for the last 46 years, and killing the supposed filibuster-proof majority (not that it did the Dems much good, anyway).

Thursday started off badly enough, with the Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted democracy in the USA. No, I'm not exaggerating. The laws that limited corporate campaign contributions that have stood for over 100 years were overturned by five activist members of SCOTUS.

While I was scrambling Thursday afternoon to bring you a show to spell out how serious an event that was for our country, I got the news that Air America radio had closed its doors.

No, it was not a good week at all.

I still had to do a show Thursday night. As a radio lifer, it's what I do.

I had gone through a similar situation in 2000-2001. The station I was working for at the time, Channel 103.1 in Los Angeles, was sold. It had been owned by Clear Channel but, due to a merger with another broadcasting behemoth, had to be divested.

The internet boom was in full swing, and we were a unique format-- a type of music station that wasn't in every city. Clear Channel had recently launched their internet department, and I made the case to my boss (the wonderful Charlie Rahilly) that we could make history as the first radio station to go from a terrestrial signal to internet only.

You can read my account of the transition, the Chicago Tribune's coverage, Washington Post, NY Times... You get the idea.  We were the first. We were revolutionary. We made news.

We were too early! The dot com bust happened less than a year after the transition, and the door was shut on worldclassrock.com in August 2001.

Then 9/11 happened, and I found myself without a microphone. It was tough to sit by that day and watch the world change and not be able to interact with people on the air.

So, when our world changed on Thursday via the Supreme Court decision and, albeit in a smaller way, though the loss of Air America, I knew I had to keep talking.

Thankfully, I had started webcasting my show recently using ustream. Though this website, Facebook and twitter, and my email list, I was able to spread the word that I would do my show Thursday night.

By scrolling down to the right blog entry, clicking the link to your left or clicking here, you can watch the show I did Thursday night. And if you just want the audio, click here to listen.

You can also subscribe to my podcasts via iTunes here.

In the days and weeks ahead, I'll be figuring out the best way to bring you the show live via audio and video streams, as well as a podcasting model. I hope you'll bear with me as I get all the pieces of the puzzle placed. But I want to keep the show going uninterrupted while I do all of that.

Beginning tomorrow-Monday- I'll move the show to a more reasonable hour. I'll be live from 6-8pm, Monday thru Thursday, for now anyway. I hope you'll join me! 

All you need to do is come here to www.radioornot.com for all the links you'll need to watch or listen. And please spread the word to your friends and other interested people.

Thanks for your continued support. It means more to me than you know!

Friday, January 22, 2010

My first post Air America show

Today was a tough day. After learning that Air America had ceased operations, following the horrendous Supreme Court ruling on corporate campaign contributions, I knew I had to get back on the air, or web, as it were.

Thanks to all who came and watched & listened. I appreciate the support more than you know!

I'm going to take tomorrow off, have a long weekend, regroup, and I'll be back Monday. I'm not sure what time I'll be on, though. The late night thing does take it's toll, so I'll likely move the show to an earlier time slot. Your suggestions are welcome (nicole at nicolesandler.com).

Please check back here over the weekend or Monday morning, as I'll be sure to have an update here!

In the meantime, here's tonight's show.... just in case you couldn't stay awake!




Thursday, January 21, 2010

SCOTUS Screwed Us

Watch this video for the information on how the Supreme Court screwed the American people today with their ruling on Citizens United vs. the FEC

Air America Radio - RIP, but Radio or Not lives on!

I'll have to really take some time to put together a fitting eulogy for the company who helped bring a progressive message to a country inundated with right wing propaganda.

But for now, I'm focused on getting through tonight's show. Yes, you heard right. I will do a live show tonight in my former 11pm-1am ET timeslot on Air America.  On the left hand side of the page you'll see a screen that will go live when the show begins at 11pm.

Today brought such bad news from the Supreme Court, and I spent all day putting together a show to help get the word out about what the ruling in Citizens United vs. the FEC means.

I'll be joined by John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action, and the director of the new campaign for a constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations are not people and the constitution doesn't give them rights under the first amendment, at www.freespeechforpeople.org.

I'll also speak with Congressman Alan Grayson (who's launched a website to help turn things around at www.savedemocracy.net) and Congresswoman Donna Edwards (who is introducing legislation for a constitutional amendment) about what happened today.  And we'll lighten things up a bit with my regular Thursday night guest John Fugelsang.

I hope you'll join me too.!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary Mr. President... or Not


Today marks one year since we all watched Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of these United States. Tonight we'll take a look at how he's doing.

I'll be joined by Ellen Ratner of the Talk Radio News Service, Bill Adair- Washington Bureau Chief of the St. Petersburg Times and Editor of PolitiFact.com, legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas, and Jason Leopold - Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and Editor-at-Large of  The Public Record.

You already know my thoughts, though I'm sure I'll elaborate tonight. And I look forward to hearing what you think of Obama's first year in office too. Feel free to post them here, and call in tonight between 11pm and 1am ET at 866-303-2270.

Watch me talk, or just listen to the audio stream by clicking on the links!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why We Need Real Health Care Reform (and what we've been given so far isn't)


I don't understand the people in this country who think we don't need health care reform. Perhaps they lack the compassion gene. How can anyone deny that we have a serious problem in the United States when a family can lose everything simply because one of its members got sick?


Compassion is a theme to which I keep returning, for good reason. Access to quality, affordable health care should be a basic human right, not a privilege for the wealthy. The United States is the only developed nation on the planet that doesn't take care of its citizens in this most basic and, yes, compassionate way.

In this country where the middle class is quickly dwindling, our health care stem is only helping to accelerate the process. With real unemployment hovering at around 17.3%, more and more Americans are losing their employer-provided insurance policies each day. COBRA is prohibitively expensive but, if you're lucky enough to have enough money squirreled away to pay the premiums, watch out when the 18 months is up.
< Along with probably millions of other Americans, I'm living the problem right now.

On August 22, 2008, I lost my job. The morning show I hosted on South Florida's then-progressive talk station was replaced by Imus(!), followed by a full format flip six months later, but that's a story for another day!. On Sept. 1, I went on COBRA.

COBRA is an acronym for The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows workers and their families who lose their jobs, and therefore their benefits, to continue participating in the group plan for up to 18 months, by paying for the full cost of the policy, up to 102%.

With so many Americans losing their jobs during this recession, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offered some help by way of premium reduction. Eligible people would only have to pay 35% of the COBRA premiums, with the other 65% reimbursed to the employer through a tax credit.

This break originally was to last for nine months, but was later extended to 15.

Unfortunately for me, to be eligible, "the involuntary termination" must have occurred between September 1, 2008 and February 29, 2010. Yes, I was fired on August 22. If only for eight days more...

But that still wouldn't help me now, as the length of COBRA coverage is only 18 months. My coverage runs out on February 28, 2010.

So, I've been shopping around to see what's available.

My plan doesn't allow for conversion to an individual plan, so that option is out. There are a number of websites that will allow you to shop for health insurance, so I began looking. At first blush, it seems almost manageable.  But don't be fooled.

I turned 50 in November. I'm relatively healthy, but I challenge you to find a 50-year old who doesn't have at least one "pre-existing condition." You'd certainly have to look beyond me to find one!

I got a representative from United Health Care on the phone to find out what my options were. I answered her litany of questions before getting to the kicker: In the last 10 years, have you had any abnormal physical exam, x-ray, EKG, MRI, CT scan or any adverse or abnormal laboratory or other test results?

Well, duh! In 10 years? Of course. Here we go...

I had to disclose that I've had two bouts with skin cancer. A malignant melanoma a few years ago, and that pesky squamous cell carcinoma that was removed from my nose just three weeks ago. Bingo.

According to one of the brokers I spoke with, who represents Aetna, Cigna, Humana and a number of other extortionists health insurance companies, in order to be approved, one must be "squamous-free for 10 years!"

So, do I have any recourse? Yes. There are six questions you're asked to determine if you are eligible for a guaranteed issue "HIPAA" plan.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, in addition to being responsible for all those privacy papers you have to sign at any visit to a doctor, also makes some provisions for continuation of coverage.

If you answer yes to all of the following questions, you're eligible to buy insurance from the company you're currently with, with a caveat. Of course, there's always a caveat. Hold on, it's coming.

But first, the questions:

  1. I do not have any other health insurance coverage (or it will be involuntarily terminated soon).
  2. I have been insured by creditable coverage1 (as defined below) for the last 18 months or more with no lapse in coverage of more than 63 days.
  3. My most recent coverage was under a group health plan2 (as defined below), a governmental plan, or a church plan; or under an individual plan that terminated due to: the insurer's insolvency; the insurer's discontinuance of all its individual coverage in Florida; or the fact that I no longer live in a Florida service area of my prior insurer's network plan.
  4. My most recent coverage was not terminated due to nonpayment of premiums, fraud, or intentional misrepresentations.
  5. I am not eligible for any coverage under a conversion plan, a group health plan2 (as defined below), Medicare, or Medicaid.
  6. I accepted and exhausted any group continuation of coverage (including COBRA) that was offered to me.
Yippee! I answered yes to all six questions! I can get insurance! Oh yeah, the caveat.

If you answered YES to all six questions, your current insurer has to cover you, pre-existing conditions and all, for 10% above the cost of the policy, multiplied by two!  Did you get that?

My insurance extortionist company, United Healthcare, has one plan that they can offer me. It's their "co-pay select". They offer it with a choice of at $2500 or $5000 deductible, with 80/20 co-insurance. I asked the woman on the line what that would cost.

She was only able to give me ballpark figures, but here's what I was able to write down through my anger and tears.

She said that the $2500 deductible plan was somewhere around $476 a month, plus 10% then doubled, with the grand total for me coming out to $1073 a month. When I asked about the $5000 deductible, it came out to around $800 a month. For me only! Plus a $5000 deductible.

If the health care bill passes as it now looks, I'd be the not-so-proud owner of a "Cadillac Plan!" The definition of a Cadillac plan is one that costs more than $8500 a year for a single person.

With the higher deductible, this policy would cost me $9600 with another $5k out of pocket before the insurance pays, for a grand total of $14,600.  With the lower deductible, I get to pay this leech $12,876 plus another $2500 before they come to the party, for a total of $15,376. 

And REFORM would tax me on that to boot?

John McCain campaigned on the absurd notion of taxing health care benefits; Barack Obama opposed it. Why then is President Obama pushing it now? Doesn't he get what he's doing to middle class working people like me?

I'm getting screwed from both sides, and it's certainly not fun.

This is not the change I voted for. And if the Democrats and the administration are wondering why the base is turning on them, all they have to do is read my story. I am not alone. There are millions more Americans just like me, fighting to keep their heads above water but getting deeper by the minute. If they don't fix this bill while they still can, we're all going to drown.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What If Martha Coakley loses?


Let's consider the possibilities. Conventional wisdom says that health care dies with her senatorial bid. Not so fast, my friend. And, honestly, it might work out for the best!

To those who are saying that the House would just have to pass the Senate bill as it stands so that they wouldn't need 60 votes in the Senate again, I say it's that kind of thinking that took Single Payer off the table even before dinner was cooking!

Let's face it, we were sold out by the same Democrats who promised us change. Instead of change, we got more of the same government for the big corporations who bribe make the biggest campaign contributions.

The fact that the Democratic Party is faced with the loss of the Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for 46 years should be a massive wake-up call to the party of Hope & Change!  WE VOTED FOR CHANGE! We voted for REAL health care reform, not a massive corporate giveaway to the for-profit health insurance extortionists industry.

If Martha Coakley loses tomorrow, it's time for the Dems to make a deal. Not with Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman or Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln. But FOR us, the American people who voted them into office. Because if Martha Coakley loses tomorrow, it'll be because of the deals the White House and the ConservaDems and the Blue Dogs made with the devil for which they sold us out!

This deal should be for the people, pure and simple. The House will agree to pass the Senate bill as it is, on the condition that immediately, a companion bill is introduced through budget reconciliation - that would only require 51 votes to pass - that would give us a robust and meaningful public option, a medicare buy-in for people aged 55-64, re-importation of prescription drugs, and the end of the insurance industry anti-trust exemption.

And what if Martha Coakley wins tomorrow? They should do the same exact thing!

Democratic Leadership, LISTEN UP: Learn from your mistakes, and realize that the people are turning against you because we believe that you've turned against us. Show us that you're fighting for us, and  we'll remember that feeling we had last January 20, when we really believed things were going to get better. If you don't learn from this experience, get ready for the Scott Browns to crawl out of their rat holes all over the country and wipe the floor with the Martha Coakley's because most of us won't believe a single thing you say, and will have no desire to vote for you at all.

Tonight, I'll be joined on my Air America radio show by Brent Budowsky, who's written a couple of pieces for The Hill on this topic ("If Massachusetts goes Republican, all hell breaks loose with healthcare!"   and "Win One For The Ted," and Brad Friedman of BradBlog  who has a warning about tomorrow's special election in Massachusetts because of the Diebold optical-scan machines in use there.

Listen live from 11pm-1am ET by clicking here, or on either the audio or video stream to your left, and call in at 866-303-2270!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Also on the show tonight...

In addition to speaking with Bob Ferguson of Oxfam America, I'll be joined by Larisa Alexandrovna, managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story. We'll talk a bit about what's happening in Haiti, and she'll also fill us in on a disturbingly sad story about former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

It was a busy week in the war against prohibition. In our second hour tonight, I'll be joined by Judge Jim Gray, retired CA Superior Court judge who's a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and author of  Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs."  

And we'll wrap up the week on the same subject with Raw Story's Stephen C. Webster, who's responsible for the vast majority of drug war reporting at Raw Story, who'll fill us in on where we are in this insane waste of money. 

Look to your left for links to listen and/or watch the video stream live.  Calls are welcome too, at 866-303-2270 from 11pm-1am ET/8-10pm PT.

A Heartbreaking Week Comes To An End

I'm certainly glad it's Friday. This has been an incredibly difficult week.

Although Monday was just another day, the world changed on Tuesday afternoon at 4:53pm ET.  It's impossible to avoid the heartbreaking stories and images coming from Haiti, where the death toll today is estimated at somewhere around 150,000 people.

Schools, hospitals, homes and most of the other buildings in and around the capital city of Port Au Prince collapsed under a massive earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. As the days pass, the chances of survivors being pulled from the wreckage lessens.

And we watch, helplessly, though not hopelessly.  We're still hoping for the best, yet sadly, aware that this is truly the worst for a country that has already seen so much disaster and sorrow.
                                                                                 The silver lining to this very dark cloud is evident in the depths to which Americans have reached to help our neighbors in the Caribbean. It's difficult not to feel pride when the lists of relief agencies run pages long, and the posts on Twitter and Facebook show our friends and acquaintances filled with compassion and care.

Most of us (the Rush Limbaughs of the world notwithstanding) are coming together in solidarity to do whatever we can to help these people, and in our thoughts/prayers/wishes that help arrives as soon as possible.

Tonight I'll speak with Bob Ferguson who works for OxFam America as their Music Artist Relations coordinator about what musical artists are doing in our worldwide quest to help. 

Many of us have taken advantage of the ease of text message donations. Today, the Red Cross crossed the $10 million threshold of donations received from people texting Haiti to 90999. Each time someone does that, $10 goes to the Red Cross. I did that on Wednesday, as did so many others.

There are now many other relief organizations who are tapping in to the text network for donations as well. Tonight OxFam America, who is on the ground in Haiti providing clean water and sanitation to survivors joins in. Text OXFAM to 25383 to make a $10 donation to their Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all agreed to waive their regular texting charges for these donations, and Verizon has agreed to pay all the money pledged immediately, rather than wait until the cell phone bills are paid. The others are expected to follow suit.

In addition to those two text donation numbers, here are some others you might want to help:

  • Text HAITI to 25383
    International Rescue Committee
    Donates $5
  • Text HAITI to 52000
    Salvation Army
    Donates $10
  • Text YELE to 501501
    YĆ©le
    Donates $5
  • Text HAITI to 864833
    The United Way
    Donates $5
  • Text CERF to 90999
    The United Nations Foundation
    Donates $5
  • Text DISASTER to 90999
    Compassion International
  • Text HAITI to 20222
    The Clinton Foundation
    Donates $10
And should you want to check out a long and growing list of relief organizations to help in other ways, here's a great list provided by The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC:



Although the week is ending, the nightmare in Haiti has just begun. We'll be helping them for a long time to come, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  
Photo credit: Raedle/Getty  

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baseball, Politics, and Humor!

It's a busy show tonight, and I want to make sure you have links to all the guests and most of the topics!

We'll kick things off at 11pm ET/8pm PT with John Amato of Crook & Liars. I've been a fan of that site for a long time, and this is John's first appearance on my show, so I'm quite excited about it.

But I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, as the story he wants to talk about tonight deals with baseball player Mark McGwire, his steroid use, and the fact that former George W. Bush spokesliar Ari Fleisher has stepped in for steroid damage control.

But I have a secret weapon at my disposal. My boyfriend, David Sloane, happens to be a sports agent who exclusively represents baseball players.  So he'll join in on the conversation to help me look good, as he usually does!

At 11:30 ET/8:30 PT, we'll head out to Los Angeles to speak with the woman who will hopefully be the next Congresswoman from CA's 36th district, Marcy Winograd. On Saturday, the Blue America PAC will announce their first 2010 endorsement, and Marcy Winograd is the candidate who gets the honor. 

The midnight hour is saved for my regular Thursday night guest, comedian John Fugelsang.  We'll talk about anything and everything in the news and more.  And tonight we really want to hear from you, so pick up the phone and call in at 866-303-2270.

To listen live or watch the video stream of me talking into the microphone, just look to your left and click on the appropriate link!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou Compassion?

For some time now, I've bemoaned the lack of compassion in today's world.  But we're not all lacking in that area.  It seems that the most compassion-deficient in the US today are of the Republican persuasion.

If we didn't already know that Rush Limbaugh was a drug-addled, sexist, over-paid windbag, that conclusion would have been a no-brainer to anyone who heard some of his comments today:

Limbaugh claimed that President Obama was somehow happy about the catastrophic loss of life and property in Haiti because he'd be able to use our response to boost his credibility with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."



That was only a small part of his despicable reaction to the earthquake in Haiti and the charitable response of the President and many Americans.  In fact, Limbaugh said that we needn't help the people of Haiti at all, as we already do.  He actually said, "We've already donated to Haiti.  It's called the U.S. income tax."



The lack of compassion is astounding.  But then again, I'd expect nothing less from Rush Limbaugh. He's a pig and he's always shown himself to be a selfish piece of shit.  In that same clip, a listener suggested that we shouldn't donate any federal funds to help the people of Haiti... that's what churches are for, so he said.

So, we should look to the religious community for compassion?  Now I'm not saying that all people who claim to be Christians are insensitive to the plight of those who are suffering.  But as one who holds himself out there as, according to his website, a "Broadcaster, Humanitarian, Author, Christian, Businessman, Statesman," Pat Robertson is nothing but a fraud.

On The 700 Club today (who knew it still existed?), on the Christian Broadcasting Network (which he founded), this hypocrite and charlatan in Christian clothing proffered the ultimate insult to the people of Haiti by actually claiming that Haiti was suffering because of a deal with the devil.  Seriously.

ROBERTSON: And, you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal."
And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.




I thought compassion was supposed to be a hallmark of Christianity.  I guess not.

As for Rush Limbaugh's sanctimonious proselytizing, he and his supporters should just crawl back into the hole where they belong, and let the rest of us get on with humanity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Small Step for CA, One Giant Leap Toward Ending Prohibition


The state of California made history today! Until today, no U.S. state legislature had ever even considered voting on a measure that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Today, not only did the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee consider it, they voted on and passed A.B. 390!

The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) passed the committee by a vote of 4-3, clearing the way for it to move to the Health committee before heading to the Assembly floor for a full vote.

This is huge news not only for the pot smokers of America, but for the people of California who've been suffering under a terrible budgetary drought. According to the LA Times, "by some estimates, California's pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year."

And, it signals reason for optimism that that the rest of the country may soon follow suit. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana when 56% of the voters passed Prop 215 in 1996. Oregon, Washington and Alaska followed in 1998. Maine came on board in 1999. Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada legalized medical marijuana in 2000, followed by Montana and Vermont in 2004, Rhode Island in 2006, New Mexico in 2007 and Michigan in 2008. And just this week, New Jersey became the 14th state to approve medical marijuana when the state legislature approved legislation that would make it available from state-licensed dispensaries to seriously ill patients.

Already following California's lead on dropping the medical requirement from the marijuana, voters in Washington state on Monday announced the start of a petition drive to get a legalization question on the ballot in November, and activists in Nevada are planning a similar campaign.

And the town of Breckenridge, Colorado legalized marijuana in November. The law allowing residents and tourists alike to carry up to an ounce of marijuana, along with the paraphernalia that goes along with it, with no worry of any civil or criminal penalties, went into effect on January 1. And Denver voters actually decriminalized small amounts of pot in the Mile High City, though the state law still makes possession illegal.

The United States is spending an inordinate amount of money and resources in fighting the so-called war on drugs. At a time when every state in the nation is in financial straits, this is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars-- money that could certainly be better used to provide necessary services like education and health care.

In June of 2009, Congressman Barney Frank re-introduced his measure "Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults."

Groups like Law Enforcement Professionals Against Prohibition even take it a step further, encouraging legalization of all drugs with this statement on their website:

After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 37 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled making building prisons the fastest growing industry in the United States. More than 2.2 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more guaranteeing those prisons will be bursting at their seams. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 35 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer than ever before. We would suggest that this scenario must be the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease!

So, hurray for California. You know the old saying, As goes California, so goes the nation. Let's hope that's true... and let's hurry!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Night Mash-Up


If you happened to watch any of the MSNBC shows today or listened to progressive talk radio, chances are you heard a lot about the new book Game Change, about the 2008 presidential election.

Tonight, on my Air America radio show, I won't be talking about the book. But I will discredit one of the authors.

In October of 2007, before we knew exactly who would be in the running for the presidency, Mark Halperin of Time magazine wrote a book called The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President, which he presented as an unbiased look at the seven people who he thought stood the best chance of running and winning.

At the time, I was hosting the morning show on what was then Miami's progressive talk station, 940 WINZ (which, unfortunately, no longer exists). Halperin joined me on the air to discuss his book. Although it started off on a cordial note, I soon called him out on some of the items that I perceived to be quite partisan.

So, tonight, we'll listen to some of that interview, so you can hear why I don't consider Halperin to be a very credible source and therefore take what he's written in this book with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Also on tonight's show, a follow-up to a segment from Friday night with Coleen Rowley. I invited Coleen on the show to talk about the plight of whistleblowers, as she's lived it. Coleen was named one of three "Whistleblower Persons of the Year" by Time magazine in 2002 for her role in exposing the problems in the FBI's prosecution of 9-11.

On Friday afternoon, the latest of our nation's high profile whistleblowers started a 40-month federal prison term. Brad Birkenfeld was a "mid-level banker with an undistinguished history," according to a 60 Minutes piece on him last week, with UBS bank in Switzerland. When his conscience got the best of him and he went to the feds with information on 19,000 Americans defrauding the US government by keeping their money tax-free in Swiss banks, he became probably one of the most important whistleblowers ever.

When I wondered why he was going to jail when no one else associated with this case would, neither Coleen nor I knew the answer. Tonight, I'll be joined by Steve Kohn, Birkenfeld's attorney and executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center.

And finally, the cries in favor of ending the filibuster in the Senate are getting louder! Tonight, I'll speak with Jonathan Tasini, candidate for the US Senate from New York, who has also just launched a petition to kill the filibuster.

One final note for tonight.... I've been speaking out on behalf of progressive organizations who are actively supporting progressive candidates, with the key word being PROGRESSIVE. So, imagine my surprise when I read that Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the Congressional PROGRESSIVE Caucus was endorsing and headlining a fundraiser for BLUE DOG Jane Harmon!

I sent a note today to Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America, asking for their response, as Lynn Woosley is also on the PDA board of directors. The response was this letter that will be delivered to Rep. Woosley next week. Please read and, if you agree, click here to sign on!

Dear Lynn,

In recent days, ever since the announcement of your scheduled appearance as the headliner at the January 16 fund-raising event in Venice for Rep. Harman, we have been hearing about it from many PDA activists and other progressives in California and around the country. The tone and emphasis of the responses vary, but the overwhelming gist is clear: The progressive base is upset about your scheduled involvement and hopes that you will withdraw from this event.

As an organization, Progressive Democrats of America joins in that request.

Given your longstanding and exemplary leadership on a wide range of peace and justice issues, it would be counterproductive to aid Rep. Harman’s re-election efforts. Her pro-war record is well known, having voted most recently to spend billions to continue the occupation of Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan. Her October 2002 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was in stark contrast to the "no" votes by most House Democrats. Harman has an equally appalling record on civil liberties, having lobbied the New York Times to suppress the story about Bush's wiretaps on the eve of the 2004 election, then going on television to defend the illegal wiretaps. In addition, she voted for the bankruptcy bill, then more recently voted against mortgage relief in bankruptcy court, despite the fact that several thousand of her constituents are facing foreclosure. On the health care front, she recently voted against fast-tracking affordable generic medications for patients with breast cancer, brain tumors, Parkinson's and rare diseases.

Fortunately, Rep. Harman faces a strong primary challenge from someone who exemplifies the idealistic commitments and progressive values that have been central to your work in Congress. Marcy Winograd’s decades of dedication to working for economic equity, social justice, civil liberties and peace offer a sharp contrast to the incumbent in California’s 36th district. Unlike the incumbent, Winograd will represent the public interest, not Wall Street or war profiteers.

As Marcy Winograd said in the speech that kicked off her current campaign: "Jane Harman took us to war without taking a second look at the National Intelligence Estimate, which highlighted and boxed analysts’ doubts about the fictitious weapons of mass destruction. Jane Harman not only took us to war, but continued to waste our taxpayer dollars on supplemental budgets that hid the true cost of the war by not including the price tag in the Defense Department budget."

The reason that we have Rep. Donna Edwards in the House today as a stalwart advocate for peace and justice is precisely because of her successful primary campaign that unseated a non-progressive Democratic incumbent. Surely such victories are in the interests of all progressives.

This is a painful letter for us to sign, particularly because of our longtime admiration and deep respect for you. But we hope you'll agree that progressive principles must prevail among friends. We urge you to withdraw from the fund-raising event for Rep. Harman’s campaign.

We look forward to your response.

Peace and justice,

Tim Carpenter
National Director, Progressive Democrats of America

Mimi Kennedy
Advisory Board Chair, Progressive Democrats of America

Donna Smith
Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign Co-chair

Norman Solomon
Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign Co-chair

Nicole Sandler
Radio or Not

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Dangers of Whistle-blowing


According to wordnet the definition of whistle-blower is an informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it.

Common sense tells us this is a good thing. So can anyone explain to me why whistle-blowers in the United States who've helped uncover fraud, wrongdoing and other heinous crimes are being prosecuted and imprisoned?

The latest, and possibly most abhorrent example of the despicable treatment of someone coming forward for the right reasons came to a head today, when Bradley Birkenfeld reported to a federal prison to begin serving a 40-month sentence!

Birkenfeld was an international banker working for the Swiss banking giant UBS. In 2007, he came forward to US authorities with information on how thousands of Americans were hiding assets in secret Swiss bank accounts.

Due to Birkenfeld's information, UBS pleaded guilty last February, paid a $780 million fine, and agreed to turn over the names of nearly 4500 of it's American clients (out of an estimated 19,000 they claim have secret accounts with them).

Federal prosecutors have admitted that this fraud scheme would likely have never been uncovered if not for Birkenfeld, yet he's the only one connected with UBS to serve time!

According to the National Whistleblowers Center,

The facts of the case are clear:

  • Mr. Birkenfeld repeatedly tried to correct the illegal UBS tax fraud scheme internally.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld resigned from UBS when they failed to correct the problem internally.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld voluntarily approached the U.S. government with his allegations.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld made full disclosures to the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
  • Every UBS tax cheat that has been prosecuted has received probation, fines, and/or community service - NO jail time.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld is the ONLY person connected with UBS to receive a prison sentence.
Why are whistle-blowers being persecuted and prosecuted?

Tonight, I'll speak with another whistle-blower, who was recognized as such by being named one of Time Magazine's Whistleblower 2002 Persons of the Year. Coleen Rowley began her career as a special agent with the FBI in 1981. In May of 2002, Rowley brought some of the pre 9/11 lapses in the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui to light. According to Time,
Coleen Rowley is the FBI staff attorney who caused a sensation in May with a memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller about how the bureau brushed off pleas from her Minneapolis, Minn., field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now indicted as a Sept. 11 co-conspirator, was a man who must be investigated.
The 9/11 Commission subsequently described Moussaoui as an "Al Qaeda mistake and missed opportunity," the investigation of whom may have led to the center of the Al Qaeda plot if it had been pursued in a timely and effective manner.

In June of 2002, Coleen testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems faced by the FBI and the intelligence community. In April of 2003, following an unsuccessful attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, she "stepped down" from her legal position and returned to being an FBI Special Agent.

It's another sad indictment of the way things work in America. Honest people trying to do the write thing are ostracized and prosecuted while the people they're blowing the whistle on are whistling all the way to the bank.

Tonight, Coleen Rowley will join me on Air America radio to discuss her story and what's happening now to Bradley Birkenfeld. Listen live beginning at 11pm ET.

Where In the World Would You Go?


There are a few times in my life I've thought about becoming an expat. I certainly gave it great consideration during the months leading up to last November's presidential election when there was a chance we'd have a McCain-Palin administration!

In recent months, as I've watched as President Obama's campaign promises -- for transparency, real health care reform, correcting the underlying causes of the economic failure and many more -- all seem to be gone with the wind, I've begun thinking about the possibilities again.

Earlier this week, International Living magazine released their 2010 Quality of Life Index, in which they rank and rate 194 countries to come up with their list of the best places in the world to live.

As I've been dealing with the imminent loss of my health insurance (my COBRA will run out at the end of February), I'd already been thinking about Canada. Although I've never been there, Vancouver is on my short list of places I could imagine living. The fact that they have a single payer health care system is, of course, the main reason I'd consider venturing north. According to International Living's index, Canada ranks as the 9th best country in which to live!

After seeing Michael Moore's Sicko, France was looking pretty damn good too. Not only do they have the world's best health care system according to the World Health Organization's rankings, but they offer their citizens a free education from pre-school through university too!

Since I don't speak French, the language might be a problem, and then there's the problem of the French being basically rude and that they have a reputation for being anti-Semitic. But I'd probably be willing to give France a shot... They ranked #1, again, on the International Living Quality of Life index.

As for the good ole' USA, we ranked #7, down from #3 last year. We didn't fare very well when it came to health care, although we outshone all the others in infrastructure.

The most surprising category in the index was freedom. Of the top 10 countries on the list -- France, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, Luxembourg, US, Belgium, Canada and Italy -- eight scored 100 in the Freedom category. The United States and Italy both garnered a score of 92.

Italy has Berlusconi, and here in the US, we have warrent-less wiretapping, "free speech zones," government sponsored torture, we're currently waging wars in two countries who haven't threatened us and, sadly, the list goes on.

Hmmm, France is beginning to look even better.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ray McGovern on the CIA

I just wrapped up one of the most fascinating shows I've ever hosted. With the recent spate of national security and intelligence failures, I invited Ray McGovern on the show.

I first learned of Ray McGovern some 3 1/2 years ago, when he stood up to challenge Donald Rumsfeld about the lies that got us in to Iraq at a speech Rumsfeld was giving in Atlanta. You might remember this:



Since that introduction to Ray, I've been reading his articles and have had the opportunity to interview him a few times.

Today, he published an article at consortiumnews.com entitled "Why Counterterrorism is in Shambles."

Over the past couple of weeks, he's written a few other pieces that certainly piqued my interest. On December 22, he wrote "Break the CIA in Two" and on the 29th, "Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA?"

All are required reading! And when you're done, click here to listen to my interview with Ray McGovern!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Eric Massa and Howie Klein

Two great Americans. Seriously! And they were my first two guests of the new year on my Air America radio show last night.

Howie Klein is an old acquaintance from my days in music radio in Los Angeles, and Howie's days as President of Reprise Records! As our lives progressed and I moved to issues-based talk radio and Howie retired and launched DownWithTyranny.com, he's become a frequent guest and friend.

Through DWT's partnership with John Amato's Crooks and Liars and Digby's Hullabaloo, they formed the Blue America PAC which identifies and helps progressive candidates around the country.

One of the candidates they helped is Eric Massa, Congressman from Western NY state. Eric Massa is one of the most outspoken and principled members of the House and, as such, as being targeted by the right. You can help support him at www.massaforcongress.com.

Both Congressman Massa and Howie Klein joined me on Air America radio for my first show of the new year. (Click on the links to listen to the interviews.) Now, that's the way to kick off a decade!

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Blame Game


Here we stand at the start of a new year, and a new decade. Oh, if it were only as easy as turning the page on a calendar to get a blank slate on which to begin a new year.

But such is not the case.

The aughts began on a much higher note than the teens. (OK, I know officially we're only in the tweens and, as the mother of a 10-year old daughter, I'm not anxious to rush the process. But we're talking about a decade here.)

As Bill Clinton was preparing to leave office, the country was -economically speaking - in great shape. Although Clinton brought about some changes and policies that I didn't agree with, his time in office was certainly was an era of prosperity for the country.

But then came that decade-- The George W. Bush years, and the downfall of the United States of America as we knew it.

So many of the battles scars we're nursing today and the new injuries we're sustaining come as a direct result of that administration.

Let's begin with the attacks or attempted attacks that bookmarked the uh-ohs (my preferred name for the decade that just ended). George W. Bush took office on January 20, 2001. The U.S. was attacked on September 11 of that same year. By that time, W had already spent 96 days on vacation! Seriously, do the math and you'll find that in his first nine months in office, the 43rd president was on vacation 41% of the time!

He was, indeed, on vacation at his Crawford "ranch" when the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6 warned that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike in the U.S. But he was too busy hauling brush to deal with that imminent threat.

Do you recall anyone on the other side of the aisle chastising him for that? I don't.

I do remember a country that came together around our president to do what was right for our nation.

This magnanimous attitude, by the way, came after years of the Republicans trying to take down a popular Democratic president because of an extramarital affair-- something that Republicans have since proven very proficient at.

Fast forward to the end of the decade. On Christmas day, in the final week of the uh-oh decade, the terrorists who hit us on 9/11/01 attempted another attack. As opposed to their "successful" attack on the World Trade Center which resulted in bringing down the twin towers, a coordinated hijacking and crashing of four planes over US airspace, and the murders of more than 3000 innocent people, this one would have taken out one plane and a few hundred people. Thankfully, it failed.

But the vitriolic finger-pointing from the right toward this president and the Democrats in control has taken us to new depths of despicable politics, and the Republicans seem to have cultivated it as an art form.

This Hypocrisy (yes, with a capital H) is maddening, and the fact that Dick Cheney's constant venom-spewing is covered as news is infuriating and sickening.

He and his puppet George inhabited the White House for eight very long, very frustrating and very costly years. They took us into war -- two wars -- which we should not have been in and, to make matters worse, they refused to pay for them!

The U.S. had never before entered into a war without raising taxes to pay for it. But Bush/Cheney did just that. And now they're trying to blame Obama for the massive deficit that's bankrupting our country and its people?

Connect the dots.

That's the phrase being bandied about in the media today for how the Christmas underwear bomber was able to get on the plane with explosives on his person. No one connected the dots.

Well how about we start this new year, this new decade, by connecting the dots to show us how we got here?

Let's stop paying attention to the man behind the curtain and finally expose Dick Cheney for the walking disaster he is and the bigger one he helped create. At least W has had the sense to remain, for the most part, quiet. Perhaps Dick should, for once, follow the lead of the man who was his boss and just shut up.