Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Maverick Media's Rebel News Round Up is taking a Thanksgiving break. No broadcast this week, but we'll be back on the air December 3 at 11:30 AM. In the meantime, check out this broadcast from two years back. Topics during this Thanksgiving edition included the Mumbai attack that week, Obama’s cabinet, bailout fever, news fatigue, holiday movies, and drug news. With special guests, my son Jesse and co-host FP Cassini's dad.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This week on Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. The Question: Will Vermont Yankee close in 2012? Then, getting physical at the airport, unemployment insecurity, the US as a Banana Republic, medical marijuana in Arizona and Vermont, art and the economy, Bernie Sanders welcomes Sandia Labs, and the rumor of the week.

Live Stream: http://www.theradiator.org/drupal/webcam.html
Live Call-in: (802) 861-9666


If you believe the struggle over the Vermont Yankee nuke plant closing in two years has ended, think again. Just because the legislature voted, that doesn’t mean that the nuclear industry is ready to walk away.

The day after the mid-term elections Entergy announced that it wants to sell the 38 year-old nuke. The idea seems to be to present a better PR image, even better rates, so that the plant’s license can be extended – by just a few years. At first.

Not likely? Perhaps, with new voices like Anthony Pollina and Phillip Baruth in the state legislature. But the strategy is to muddy the waters, to somehow get people to forget that it’s been one bizarre incident after another at the plant, compounded by lying about leaks. However, unless the legislature actually does something – like setting up a high level waste fund and generally making Entergy or any company that wants to buy the plant responsible – the industry will fight to keep that piece of Vermont available as a site, if not now then sometime in the future, and hope they can change public opinion.

So, the question for this week – really the question for the next session of Vermont’s legislature – is this: Will Vermont Yankee actually close in 2012?



Just in time for the holidays, traveling by plane has become a bit more titillating. Would you prefer a virtual strip search or a public stroking?

The T& A – sorry TSA, or the Transportation Security Administration – recently announced a proposal to use full-body X-ray machines to check out air travelers at some airports. The problem is that the machines show detailed images of naked bodies and provide a dose of low level radiation. That’s the virtual strip search option.

The other choice is a very up-close-and-personal pat down. It’s the kind of frisking that used to be reserved for serious suspects of crimes. Now anyone who wants to board a plane is a suspect. That’s apparently the new definition of reasonable suspicion. And anyone who objects to both options? Well, they’re not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, at least on an airplane.

One person recently made headlines by threatening to have a screener arrested if his “junk” was touched. Fat chance. Many more people are angry. But look at it this way: if you’re looking for a short not-so-sensual massage in a public place, now you know where to go.


Part One: Unemployment. In less than two weeks, on November 30, the federally funded program that provides emergency unemployment insurance benefits will expire. At the moment it gives additional weeks of benefits to people whose 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment run out before they can find work. But unless Congress steps in all federal unemployment insurance benefits will end in 40 states. The number of weeks available in the other states will also shrink. The result? Several hundred thousand people who exhaust their state benefits every month will receive no more help, and many of the 5 million workers now getting federal emergency benefits will lose their remaining weeks. Welcome back to the 19th Century.

Part Two: Income. It’s Banana Republic time. The richest one percent of people in this country now take home almost 24 percent of the income. That’s up from around 9 percent in 1976. The US now has a more unequal distribution of wealth than many traditional Banana Republics, including places like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

In 1980 – 30 years ago – the CEOs of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker. By 2001 they were getting 531 times as much. But the most astounding statistic could be this one: From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of the total increase in US incomes went to the richest one percent.


One of the strangest political twists this season is that Arizona, ground zero in the fight over immigration and home for millions of aging sun worshippers, has approved a medical-marijuana program. State health officials expect people to be getting relief by next summer.

What bothers me is that I left Arizona before this happened. On the other hand, what I like is that this version of medical-marijuana includes a provision to set up dispensaries.

So far no one has challenged Prop. 203. But every sheriff and county attorney across the state, plus several top state officials, came out against it. If nothing changes, Arizona will be the 15th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, though they don’t know where the money to fund the program – about $800,000 – will come from. Ongoing costs will be covered by fees charged to dispensaries and patients.

During the campaign, one of the main arguments was about whether patients could get marijuana for "chronic pain." The proposition talked about "a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces . . . severe and chronic pain." Opponents see this as a loophole.

Once patients receive a doctor's recommendation, under the new regime they will be able to register for ID cards and then receive up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every 14 days from non-profit dispensaries. If they live at least 25 miles from a dispensary, they can grow up to 12 marijuana plants of their own. Up to 124 dispensaries will be allowed, but local communities will get to decide what kind – cultivating facilities, retail stores or infusion facilities like marijuana bakeries.

Now, if we can just get enough people in Arizona stoned, we may be able to settle the immigration debate.



Vermont also has a medical marijuana law. But here you can only have two ounces at a time, or two mature plants and seven immature ones. It’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle while high, by the way. You know who you are. But more important, no provision for dispensaries was included in the law. So, right now people have no legal way to fill their prescriptions.

How can you qualify for a medical prescription? Step one: you have to suffer from a serious or terminal illness whose symptoms or effects have been treated. Step Two: You have to see a doctor for at least six months before he can recommend, in writing, that you get medicinal marijuana. Step Three: You have to become a registered patient. That means completing a Registered Patient Application Form, having your physician complete a Department of Public Safety medical verification form, paying a $50 application fee, and waiting up to 30 days to be notified.

About the dispensary problem, something Arizona and other states are managing to handle, Governor-elect Shumlim is on record in favor.

Considering Vermont’s reputation, its other marijuana laws are pretty harsh. Get caught with less than two ounces and you can receive up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. First-time offenders can get their sentences deferred. But get caught twice and you could be sentenced to two years in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Same goes for being caught with more than two ounces or cultivating more than three plants. The more weight, the bigger the penalty. More than a pound equals up to five years. More than 10 pounds could get you 15 years in the slammer.

What’s the result? According to a report by Doctor John Gettman, the arrest rate for marijuana offenses in Vermont went up over 4 percent annually from 2003 to 2007. But rather than reducing use, it rose. Basically, penalties and enforcement have little impact.

Last year, two bills that would have reduced the penalty for an ounce or less, from up to six months jail time to a $100 civil fine, failed after House Judiciary Chairman Bill Lippert neglected to schedule a hearing. Obvious question: Was he high? A bill proposed by Sen. Jeanette White to establish dispensaries also stalled. But the new governor was a sponsor of that bill, so things look a bit better for next year. Now, focus everyone…


Like any other member of congress, Bernie Sanders likes to bring home the bacon in the form of new business and jobs. That’s apparently why he was pleased last week to announce progress in bringing a satellite operation of Sandia National Labs to Vermont. According to his website, he’s “spearheading” the effort to “transform our state into a real-world lab for the entire nation.” The promises include “increased energy efficiency, utility bill savings, a state-of-the-art ‘smart grid,’ and an engineering resource for Vermont companies to help them create jobs.”

“We're at the beginning of something that could be of extraordinary significance to Vermont and the rest of the country," said Bernie.

One problem: Sandia is part of the mega military contractor Lockheed Martin, and its top national security mission is “nuclear weapons to ensure a safe, reliable nuclear deterrent.” Once upon a time it was a player in the development of the Atomic bomb. Today its primary job is to develop, engineer, and test the components of nuclear weapons, although it also conducts research and development in energy and environmental programs, as well as the safety of critical national infrastructures.

Peace activists like Joe Gainza don’t think this is the type of business the state needs, or that Sanders should be crowing about. In a recent e-mail, Gainza asks: “Is this the kind of business we want in Vermont? Do we want the nuclear camel’s nose inside our tent?”

If you want to check out Sandia, it has a website at www.sandia.gov. Or you can leave Bernie a question or message on his site. Is it just more jobs improving energy efficiency and developing clean technologies, or is the leader of the Vermont left inviting a central player in the military-industrial complex to set up shop in Vermont?


As I reported recently, Vermont businesses bring in at least half a billion dollars a year in defense contracts. But guess what part of the Vermont economy is almost as large? The arts. A new study commissioned by Main Street Landing in Burlington concludes that the economic impact from the arts is around $443.5 million annually.

The study was done by Doug Hoffer, who just lost a race for State Auditor. He used Census information and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average wages in the arts aren’t great, he admits. But “people work in the field because they love it,” he says. “It gives them something more than a paycheck.”

He also says he was surprised by the size of the number. And that doesn’t include the impact of restaurants and bars. “Unfortunately, meals, rooms, alcohol and sales taxes are only reported monthly, so it’s not possible to analyze food and beverage sales on days with and without performing arts events,” Hoffer writes. “However, it is obvious that food and beverage sales increase significantly on nights with arts events.”

Decriminalize pot and that figure will be even higher. Just a thought.



We considered several candidates. For example, Donald Trump may run for President. But that rumor came from Trump, which violates “rumor of the week" rules on conflict of interest. How about the rumor that movie star Ryan Reynolds is the sexiest man alive? First question, who’s Ryan Reynolds? But that one was disqualified because it came from People Magazine. So my research team at the Center for Perception Regulation (CPR) settled on this:

China may have hijacked 15 percent of all Internet traffic for 18 minutes last April. The score supposedly included confidential emails from NASA and the army. This rumor comes from a security report delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday. Of course China denied it. But if true, this would be one of the biggest hijacks of sensitive information in the history of the Internet.

What do we know? Well, earlier this year Google said it would stop censoring results on its Chinese search engine after a sophisticated cyber attack, supposedly sponsored by the Chinese government, was directed at the company. Google also claims that it has evidence of at least 20 companies that have been infiltrated from China.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that some group in China may be the culprit in cyber attacks on at least three US oil companies The incidents, kept secret after they occurred 2008, involved Marathon, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips. The companies didn’t realize how serious their problem was until the FBI alerted them. The Feds said that proprietary information had been flowing out to computers overseas. According to former cyber-czar Richard Clark, corporations think that the “millions of dollars they have spent on computer security systems means they have successfully protected their company’s secrets.” They’re wrong. Intrusion detection and prevention systems sometimes fail.

The report to Congress said that about 15 percent of global internet traffic was routed through Chinese servers earlier this year. Information was allegedly rerouted at a small Chinese ISP called IDC China, then passed to China Telecom. This included encrypted mail from the US Senate and Defense Department. Dmitri Alperovitch, a threat analyst at McAfee, called it "one of the biggest – if not the biggest hijacks – we have ever seen." No one except China Telecom knows what happened, he said. "The possibilities are numerous and troubling, but definitive answers are unknown."

But hey, don’t worry. Enjoy the upcoming holidays and, if you need a thrill, go to an airport and get screened.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This week on Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Fridays on WOMM (105.9-LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. The Question: Where do we go from here? A look at November events that changed history – and their implications for today, plus Obama in Asia, Bush rewrites history (again), the NBC-Comcast merger, high speed rail in Vermont, and the rumor of the week.

Tune in Friday to the Live Stream: http://www.theradiator.org/drupal/webcam.html
Live Call-in: (802) 861-9666


In the recent mid-term elections the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, but the Democrats clung to control over the Senate. Afterward Barack Obama continued to talk about reaching across the aisle while Republican leaders said that their top priority is to make him a one-term President. As the warden told Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

The GOP strategy, apparently, is to hold as many congressional investigations as humanly possible, dragging the country into a two-year scandal-watch. Call it Un-Reality TV. There could even be a government shutdown if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. It looks as if we’re moving beyond gridlock to something even more dangerous – a death match that could put the fragile recovery underway at risk.
So, the question of the week is: What lies ahead? Is the US headed for even tougher times and deeper polarization? Or is there an alternative?


As a way of thinking about our current predicament, let’s look back at some milestones from the past that happened at this time of the year. We’ve had technological marvels, emerging creatures, landmark films, escalating international conflicts, a government shutdown, and the addition of a new phrase to describe random violence. But first…

Revolutionary Logic

November 12 was a key date in American Revolutionary history. On that date in 1777, a Saturday, the Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation, a form a government that some people seem to favor again. For those who don’t recall, the Articles were the country’s first Constitution. Under this system, states retained control over all government functions not specifically relinquished to the national government. Sound familiar?

People like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton weren’t happy, since they felt confederation wouldn’t allow for affective government. There was no president, executive branch, or judiciary. No tax base. No way to pay off debts from the war years. The idea was an alliance of states with a weak central government. But what happened? Congress couldn’t levy taxes. All it could do was ask the States for help. And they often declined.

When John Adams went to London in 1785 representing the US, he couldn’t get a commercial treaty because there was no way to ensure that the states would agree. Since the national government had no power to regulate navigation, it was each state for itself. When some New England states closed their ports to British shipping, for instance, Connecticut opted to profit by opening its own. Congress couldn’t protect manufacturing, defend borders, or protect frontiers.

In the end, Hamilton organized a group of nationalists, won Washington's endorsement, and petitioned Congress for a constitutional convention in Philadelphia to resolve the crisis. In 1788, with Congressional approval, the Articles were replaced by the US Constitution. Some people saw it as a coup.

Today the Tea Party and nullification groups across the county are arguing for a return to something similar: a limited government with many similarities to the old confederation. Secession groups go even farther, saying there is no hope of improving a broken system.

The Age of Inventions

Speed forward to a century ago… On November 12, 1910 the first movie stunt was performed: a man was filmed jumping into Hudson River from a burning balloon. Now the dangerous part would be swimming in the Hudson. A few days later, on November 15, the 1st airplane took off from the deck of a ship in Norfolk, VA. We were well into the age of flight. Today, if one of the new F-35s took off from an aircraft carrier, it could very well melt the deck. (For more on F-35s, see Maverick Chronicles for 10/22/10- Ed.)

Moving on to the 1920s…. on November 12 in 1927 the first underwater tunnel opened, connecting New York and New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel. A year earlier, on the 15th, NBC became the first Radio network with 24 stations. Communication and transportation improvements were clearly changing the way we related.

In 1933, two creatures were ready for their close ups on November 12. In Germany, the Nazis received 92 percent of the vote. Meanwhile the first known photo of the Loch Ness monster was taken. Six year later, on the 15th, the Social Security Administration approved the first unemployment checks. We’ve had those benefits now for 71 years. Today they are frequently used as a political football.

Seventy years ago Walt Disney’s Fantasia was released on November 13. It was the most trippy cartoon of the era and, you could say, launched a psychedelic filmmaking style.

Showdowns & Shutdown

On November 13 in 1956 the Supreme Court struck down segregation on public buses, a landmark decision. Two days later, the first Elvis Presley movie opened – Love Me Tender. Another kind of landmark. A few years later, on November 15 in 1959 – there was no love when the Clutter Family was murdered in Kansas, leading ultimately to Truman Capote’s breakthrough book, In Cold Blood. This one was a brutal landmark in senseless violence.

In 1965, a Sunday 45 years ago, US regular forces had their first major engagement with the North Vietnamese on November 14. The US War in Vietnam was officially on. Fourteen years later, that war was over but the US was embroiled in another conflict, this one in Iran. On November 12, 1979, in the early days of the Iranian hostage crisis, President Carter announced an immediate halt to all imports of Iranian oil.

Move forward another decade and, on November 14, 1991 a Postal Service employee went on a rampage, killing 4 people and ultimately himself. A new phrase was born – “going postal.” On the same date 15 years ago (1995), a budget standoff led to closing national parks and museums, the beginning of a government shutdown. It looks like we may be headed that way again.


Barack’s Trip, Bush’s Book, Conan’s Comeback &
a Mystery Missile

Some of the big stories this week were Obama’s Asia adventures, Bush’s Decision Points, a mysterious missile launch off the California coast, and Conan O’Brien’s return to television.

On Monday, O’Brien, who was squeezed off NBC when Jay Leno reclaimed his Tonight Show gig, returned on TBS at 11 p.m. Early ratings indicate that he crushed the competition, including The Daily Show. But it may have been the novelty factor at work.

Also on Monday, a missile was launched over the ocean about 35 miles west of Los Angeles. At first, the Pentagon couldn’t – or wouldn’t -- explain where it came from. Later they said that the strange streaks people saw in the sky were probably just contrails from some airplanes. Sure.

The President was on the road, notably to India and Indonesia. In India, he said he was promoting American jobs and India on the UN Security Council. In Indonesia, he reflected on his childhood there, giving the wackos another reason to talk about why he’s a Muslim. Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 and 1971. The strangest revelation was that he grew up with a gay transvestite male nanny in the house. The New York Times reported:

“His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia’s relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta’s streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.”

Meanwhile back at home, George W. Bush rolled out his memoir, Decision Points, still promoting the idea that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. When some interviewers tried to nail him down, he claimed that he was really just trying to sell a book. But he was also trying to sell something else: a version of history in which he was actually in charge of the government and cared about places like New Orleans.


Speeding up the Rails

The largest rail project in Vermont since Amtrak was created kicked off last week – a $50 million high speed rail connection that is supposed to reduce the travel time from St. Albans to New York City by an hour and a half. The new tracks between St. Albans and Vernon will make it possible to travel at around 80 miles an hour. Vermont has also received a planning grant to look into restoring services in the Bennington area.

Governor Douglas took credit for the project, but Bernie Sanders also had something to say. "Today if you want to go from St. Albans to Boston, you have to drive," he noted. "We can do better than that." Typically, he posed it as a choice between giving tax breaks to billionaires and investing in improved transportation. "Needless to say I say we invest in projects like this."

Bernie vs. Big Media

Bernie also had something to say about the pending $30 billion merger of NBC and Comcast, which hopes to acquire a majority share of NBC Universal from General Electric. He’s circulating a petition to stop it. If the merger does happen, some experts say subscribers will pay at least $2.4 billion more for their services – unless regulations are put in place to control this behemoth. Companies that compete with NBC-owned cable channels fear that Comcast will relegate them to hard-to-find channel locations. The Justice Department and the FCC are expected to weigh in before the end of the year.

RUMOR OF THE WEEK: $200 million a day for Obama’s Junket

This one started with an Indian official who claimed (he was just guessing actually) that the cost of the president’s recent trip to Asia would be $200 million a day, or a total of $2 billion. An Indian Website picked it up. Without bothering to check, some Republicans and the usual talking heads ran with it. Fox News added impressive graphics and a growing bunch of bizarre stats. For example, 10 percent of the Navy was being deployed for backup – 34 ships and an aircraft carrier. The Pentagon called that “absolutely absurd.” But it didn’t stop the rumor mill.

Obama was renting 870 rooms in India’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the crazies claimed. The hotel actually has only 560 rooms. Thousands of people were going with him, they charged. Also not true.

If the rumors had been true, it would mean that the trip had cost more per day than the war in Afghanistan, which reportedly comes in at $190 million every 24 hours. Not that presidential trips are cheap. A similar 12-day trip to Africa in 1998 cost $42.8 million, or about $3.6 million a day. That includes Air Force One and the other planes, hotels and other expenses, communications and vehicles rented in other countries.

So far we have no final figure on the price of Barack’s excellent adventure. We do know that the rumors are off by a mile. But will that make a difference to those who already think the president is a Muslim Manchurian candidate? Hardly.

We have learned one other thing. Some news media will run with anything that fits their story line. Fact checking – that’s just too 20th Century.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Rebel News is taking a break this week, but will be back on the air at 11:30 AM November 12. Tune in to The Radiator (WOMM-LP, 105.9, or on the web). Meanwhile, here is a show originally broadcast on November 14, 2008. This wide-ranging, post-election discussion covered the fight over gay marriage, secret operations and final assaults at the end of the Bush era, Barack as Marketer-in-Chief, Cheney's Midas touch, and South America's reponse to the drug war. The news hour concluded with Greg’s Comment on what seemed to lie ahead at that time

Monday, November 1, 2010

Overcoming Irony Deficiency

Jon Stewart sums it up at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear: