ZP Heller

Ten Things You Can Do to Help Progressive Journalism

What's wrong with this picture? Air America vanishes into the ether, while Glenn Beck indoctrinates 2.7 million daily viewers with his histrionic brand of right-wing lunacy. Independent news agencies must continuously solicit donations from readers to stay afloat, while hate-filled shock jock Rush Limbaugh makes $50 million a year. On the other hand, there's still a lot of great progressive media on the airwaves, including Democracy Now!, which airs on more than 800 TV and radio stations worldwide, along with radio shows by Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller. The Nation and TheNation.com are part of a progressive journalistic community that is challenging the right in every medium. ZP Heller, a writer (HuffPo, OpenLeft, AlterNet) who is working on a novel lampooning corporate media, lists ten steps you can take to help keep progressive journalism alive:

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Troop Increases Help Drive Spread of the Insurgency in Afghanistan

The International Council on Security published maps of the insurgency's presence in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The United States added troops in Afghanistan in each of these years. ICOS's maps show that none of these troop increases arrested the growth of the insurgency. In fact, analysts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and UK's DFID suggest that the presence of foreign troops drives Afghans to join the insurgency.

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Right-Wingers and Some Military Leaders Want to Pressure President Obama into an Immediate Escalation

Over the last several days, folks like Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, Bill Kristol and others have tried to join forces with escalation supporters in the military to pressure the president into supporting a strategy that will undermine American security and increase human suffering in Afghanistan.

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US Military Escalation Leads to Record Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and a newly released UN report, there were 800 civilian casualties between January and May 2009. Armed clashes between insurgents, the US military, and the ISAF are up 24 percent this year, and have displaced tens of thousands more people. With over 1,000 recorded incidents of violence in May alone, Afghanistan is experiencing the worst security since the war began. And to make matters worse, the UN reported concluded, “The next period will likely experience an increase in the level of violence compared with the same period last year, including complex suicide attacks, intimidation and assassinations carried out by insurgents.” That period, unfortunately, coincides with the Afghan presidential and provincial council elections slated for August.

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Did Michael Moore Just Ask Us to Save Our CEOs?

Check out the surprise teaser for Moore's newest documentary about the economic meltdown.  I always love his ability to bring much-needed attention to serious issues using humor.  If you think the bailout for AIG, Goldman Sachs, CitiBank and Bank of America simply wasn't enough, it's time we dig deeper and help out those poor, struggling CEOs!  Apparently, when this teaser aired in select theaters in LA, New York, Washington, D.C, and Chicago, ushers walked down the aisles with collection jars and some audience members actually contributed.

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94 Billion Reasons to Rethink Afghanistan

US airstrikes in Afghanistan like the one that killed over 100 civilians last week have reached all-time destructive highs.  According to Air Forces Central, US warplanes dropped a record 438 bombs in Afghanistan during April.  The number of dropped bombs has increased steadily over the past few months, and just yesterday, Gen. James Jones claimed the US will continue conducting airstrikes despite President Karzai's admonishment that these bombings are counterproductive, turning Afghan civilians against the United States.  Yet as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to deteriorate, Congress will decide this week whether to approve $94.2 billion in supplemental wartime spending.

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The Perils of Predator Drones in Pakistan

The situation in Pakistan is deteriorating by the hour. This nuclear-armed nation already plagued by political and economic turmoil now faces a massive humanitarian crisis, as 500,000 people flee the Swat valley in the face of armed conflict between Pakistani authorities and Taliban extremists who have taken control. As President Obama meets with Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai today, the question becomes what the U.S. can do to prevent all-out war in Pakistan.

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How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die for a Mistake in Afghanistan?

What happened today in Washington was, as Senator Russ Feingold called it, "historic."  Thirty-eight years nearly to the day when a young John Kerry shocked the nation with his fiery anti-Vietnam war testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rick Reyes, a former US Marine Corporal, delivered an equally puissant testimony in which he expressed his disenchantment with the war in Afghanistan.  How appropriate Kerry should be sitting directly across from Reyes as Committee Chairman, listening attentively as Congress heard one of the first major voices of dissent on this war.

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Lieberman Still a Fan of Waterboarding

I've long said it's time to give Joe Lieberman the boot, and his stance on torture makes me think we need to revive the Lieberman Must Go campaign.  In an interview with Fox's Greta Van Susteren yesterday, the hawkishly Independent Connecticut Senator said of President Obama's decision to release the torture memos, "It wasn't necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn't really help us."

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Ten Things You Can Do to Oppose the War in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is a quagmire bordering on a catastrophe. With a current price tag of $2 billion a month, this drawn-out conflict took the lives of 155 American soldiers and 2,118 Afghan civilians last year--the bloodiest year of the war to date. Western airstrikes alone killed 522 civilians, fueling hostility toward the United States and causing more Afghans to join and support the Taliban insurgency that has spread into Pakistan. President Obama has escalated our military presence by committing an additional 17,000 US troops and 4,000 trainers to work with Afghan security forces. Where is the public outcry? The Nation and Z.P. Heller, editorial director of Brave New Films, have put together a list of things you can do to oppose the war.

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Is Andrew Bacevich Right About Oversight Hearings for Afghanistan?

There's no question Andrew Bacevich has been one of the staunchest critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In part one of Rethink Afghanistan, from which this clip is excerpted, Bacevich called the 17,000 additional troops President Obama has committed "a drop in the bucket."  And in a recent conversation with me, Bacevich said Obama put the cart before the horse by escalating the war before finishing his policy review.  So I was surprised when Bacevich, a Boston University International Relations professor and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, told me we wouldn't see congressional oversight hearings anytime soon.

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Time to Take Back the Economy

Not only did AIG take $170 billion in bailout funds, but it gave $165 million in executive bonuses to its Financial Products subsidiary that was responsible for the firm’s collapse.  The details of the bonuses are pretty appalling: 73 employees took home at least $1 million, while one person got a whopping $6.4 million. What’s more, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo proved AIG’s excuse about needing these “retention” bonuses to keep employees at Financial Products was (believe it or not) complete and utter bullshit, since 11 of these bonus recipients have since left the company.

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The Sex Appeal of Congressional Oversight Hearings

Where is the public outcry for congressional oversight hearings on the war in Afghanistan?  Granted, the words "congressional oversight hearings" aren't particularly sexy--certainly not as alluring as "shock and awe," "insurgency," "counterinsirgency," "airstrikes," and "Hellfire missiles."  But one thing that is always sexy is power, and Congress has the power to prevent these airstrikes and missiles from killing thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, thereby removing some of the hostility toward our country and reasons for joining the Taliban's insurgency.  As Tom Hayden wrote his week, Congress has the power to bring in experts to examine the overall goals for this war; costs and budgeting; skyrocketing casualty rates; use of private contractors; human rights violations and torture.  If that kind of power isn't sexy, I don't know what is, but the fact of the matter is Congress won't call for oversight hearings until we make them.

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The Armageddon-Provoking Employee Free Choice Act

We’ve been fighting for Employee Free Choice for months.  Together with SEIU, we pressured Burger King to backtrack on their anti-labor position.  We pushed for Hilda Solis, a true progressive champion of the working class, to be confirmed as Labor Secretary.  And all along the way, we’ve dispelled the myths about Employee Free Choice, calling out Fox News, Republicans, and anti-union CEOs like Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus and Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott for distorting what this bill would mean for hardworking Americans.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Big Change Moment

Big and bold. That's Mike Lux's recipe for sweeping, transformative change. That's the way for progressives to achieve a Big Change Moment, as Lux calls it in his new book, "The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be." Lux likens progressive ideals to American ideals, and calls for progressives to pressure cautious Democrats hesitant to spend political capital.

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Bernie Sanders to the Rescue

President Obama delivered a fantastic speech Tuesday night. It's tone alone will go a long way toward reassuring a nation mired in economic crisis.

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Congressman Conyers Gets Ready for Cramdown

Who's ready for cramdown?  Congressman John Conyers sure is, President Obama seems to be, and now Speaker of the House Pelosi wants to bring a housing bill to a vote this week that would empower bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage terms for borrowers on their primary residences.  As David Dayen (aka Dday) explains, "This is an important provision, which most economists believe will be the best tool homeowners can have for them to stay in their homes, and for lenders to agree to loan modifications."  Dayen and Rep. Conyers, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, discussed the importance of cramdown as part of Brave New Films' Fighting for Our Homes campaign.

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Murdoch and News Corp Up to Their Old Racist Tricks

Much has been said and written about the NY Post's racist cartoon that likened President Obama to a slain monkey, and rightly so.  Jack and Jill Politics blogger Baratunde Thurston posted a must-read article about the connection between Blacks and apes, citing Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff's thoughts on how this cognitive association leads to increased racially motivated violence in our society.  (Thurston and Young Turks host Cenk Uygur are holding an ongoing YouTube conversation on the issues of race surrounding this cartoon.)  Open Left's Paul Rosenberg has a good piece breaking down "colorblind racism."  And Earl Ofari Hutchinson took Rupert Murdoch and New York Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan to task for the Post's pathetic attempt at an "apology."

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Who Will Rein in the War in Afghanistan?

“We are asking here in Washington for some action, action from the Congress of the United States of America which has the power to raise and maintain armies, and which by the Constitution also has the power to declare war.  We have come here, not to the President, because we believe that this body can be responsive to the will of the people, and we believe that the will of the people says that we should be out of Vietnam now.”

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What Will Keep 9 Million People from Losing Their Homes?

President Obama unveiled his $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative today, which could be a start to ending the foreclosure crisis that plagued 2.3 million Americans last year.  While Obama acknowledged his plan won’t be able to save every home, he claimed it would stop “the worst consequences of this crisis from wreaking even greater havoc on the economy.”

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Michael Moore Needs Your Help to Expose Wall Street Swindle

Michael Moore is about to uncover “the biggest swindle in American history,” and he needs your help.  In an e-mail yesterday, Moore asked for anyone connected to Wall Street or the financial industry to contact him at bailout@michaelmoore.com with information about the economic meltdown.  All correspondence with him will be kept confidential.

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Millions of Americans Facing Foreclosure Can Make Their Voices Heard

We have already heard too much from bailed out banks.  Their corporate greed clearly knows no bounds as they continue predatory lending practices after taking tens of billions from the government, which they failed to use to jump-start economic recovery.  And now we've heard from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who rolled out his controversial Financial Stabilization Plan today that will devote $50 billion to help dam up the flood of foreclosures drowning our economy.  Who have we not heard from?

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FOX Continues to Attack Black America

We first created FOX Attacks Black America two years ago in an effort to illustrate FOX's penchant for airing bigoted views.  Not only do they bring on racist guests, but some of the most inflammatory remarks come from African Americans guests like Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson--FOX's insidious attempt to lend credence to their racial prejudice.  And despite Barack Obama's historic election, the network continues to smear the President and black America with the same kind of hateful rhetoric we saw throughout the election cycle.

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GOP and Fox News Bully ACORN Over Economic Stimulus

The GOP and Fox News have been ganging up on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) like a couple of bullies picking on the scrawniest kid in the schoolyard--and they can only push that kid so far until he gives them a well-deserved bloody nose.  Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) unjustly accused ACORN of receiving a $4.19 billion bailout from President Obama's economic stimulus package.  His false claims were echoed by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) on Fox, who claimed this money was a "payoff" for ACORN's activism in the last election.  That was all it took for bloviators Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin to resuscitate allegations of ACORN's voter fraud.  They even blamed the low- and moderate-income advocacy group for the subprime meltdown, rather than discuss the banks actually caused this mess and have subsequently received tens of billions in bailout funds they continue to squander.

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Bank of America Blows Bailout Bucks on Big Bowl Bash

Just when you thought Bank of America couldn't abuse the bailout any more than they already have, the nation's largest bank threw a lavish 5-day Super Bowl extravaganza worth $10 million, according to ABC.  Apparently, the tents alone for this party alone cost $800,000.  And the The Huffington Post reports that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bank of America's multi-million dollar professional sports sponsorships.

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Iraqi Government Finally Bans Blackwater Over Nisoor Square Shooting

We're seeing some long overdue justice for one of the Iraq war's biggest profiteers.  Today, the AP reports that the Iraqi government is barring Blackwater from providing security for US diplomats because the mercenary firm used "excessive force" in the 2007 Nisoor Square shooting that killed 17 Iraqi civilians.  While neither the Iraqi government nor the US Embassy has given a date for Blackwater personnel to leave Iraq yet, what is of particular note here is that the Iraqi government now views these guards for what they really are: criminals.  Five of the Blackwater guards involved in the Nisoor Square shooting face manslaughter charges in our own country right now, while a sixth has already pleaded guilty.

SEIU Calls on Bank of America to Oust CEO Over Executive Bonuses

The SEIU wants Bank of America to kick CEO Ken Lewis to the curb because the company approved $4 billion in bonuses for Merrill Lynch executives after accepting $25 billion in bailout funds last October. Is there any wonder why Bank of America is bad for America?  While the nation's largest bank was handing out hefty bonus checks, they were drawing up plans to layoff 35,000 of their 247,000 employees; investing billions in overseas banks and Washington lobbyists; flying executives around on corporate jets; foreclosing on homes; cutting credit to consumers; and refusing to pay employee health care.  To top it off, they had the nerve to request $20 billion more from our Treasury.

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Afghanistan Is Starting to Look an Awful Lot Like Vietnam

If I told you our country was fighting an insurgency in a small, Asian, war-torn nation that has a feeble government riddled with corruption and a dangerous border serving as a safe haven for terrorists, would you say we were fighting in Afghanistan or Vietnam?  And if I said we were fighting something of an invisible enemy under the guise of preserving U.S. security, all the while thinking we will prevail (however long it takes) based on nothing more than hubris and a false confidence in our military superiority, which war would you say this was?

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Did Dick Cheney Just Confess to a War Crime on National TV?

Not only has the Bush administration committed war crimes in plain sight, but now Dick Cheney is freely confessing it on national television.  In an interview with ABC, Cheney admitted he directly authorized the CIA to use highly controversial enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding, as well as the torture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. 

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Blackwater Guards Indicted for Manslaughter in Baghdad Shooting

Blackwater became the first armed U.S. private contractor to face legal justice today.  The Justice Department has made public a manslaughter indictment for the guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in 2007.  Five of those six guards surrendered in Utah today, and the sixth struck a plea deal in Washington, DC.  The move to surrender in Utah was a sneaky legal strategy devised to try the case in a far more conservative venue than DC, where Blackwater, the Iraq war, and President Bush are none too popular right now.

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Former Gitmo Prosecutor Breaks Silence About Torture

Despite Bill O'Reilly's delusional rantings, there is no debate that the U.S. military tortured detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  Not when you have former Gitmo prosecutors like Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld coming forward to testify about the atrocities that occurred there. 

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