Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BBC Caught Using Phony Photo to Promote War in Syria

The BBC published the above photo on its website on the date of May 27th, 2012. It cites an "activist" and "cannot be independently verified" but "is believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial."

Houla is a city in Syria that is currently the site of anti-government protests and reports of widespread political violence. The reported "massacre" in Houla (the confirmed details of which are still vague in the Western media) is being used by the media to hype the possibility of a NATO-led military "intervention" in Syria, one very similar to 2011's "intervention"in Libya.

The photo was actually taken on March 27th, 2003 in Iraq by photographer Marco di Lauro. Di Lauro works for Getty Images and has been published by newspapers across Europe and the United States. The photo does not depict "bodies of children" but rather skeletons found in the desert.

This is either extraordinarily uncharacteristically negligent editing and fact-checking on the part of the BBC, or someone within the BBC purposefully used this photo with the intent of inflaming Western popular opinion against Syria in order to justify military action. Remember that the BBC is a publicly-funded semi-autonomous public service broadcaster that ultimately responds to the British government.

Monday, May 28, 2012

June 2012: Vote NO on California Proposition 29!

Proposition 29 is on the June 5th, 2012 ballot in California. Proposition 29 adds a new $1.00 tax to each pack of cigarettes sold in the state, on top of the existing $0.87 tax that is currently in place.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office projects that the tax will raise $735 million in new revenue.

Proposition 29 creates a massive, new bureaucracy to administer these funds. The bureaucracy will be run by a 9-member governing committee made up of 3 University of California chancellors, 4 individuals appointed by the Governor, and 2 individuals appointed by the Director of the California Department of Public Health.

Approximately $16 million will be used to administer this new bureaucracy (collecting, auditing and distributing the revenue). Approximately $23 million will be diverted to law enforcement agencies to fund their anti-tobacco efforts. Approximately $30 million will be diverted to the California Department of Education to fund their anti-tobacco education efforts. Approximately $585 million, by far the biggest chunk of the revenues, will be used to subsidize the medical sector of the economy through government loans and grants to the private sector along with government funding of capital expenditures like building and facilities construction.

California faces a $16 billion deficit right now, in the midst of a deep recession in the real economy. Proposition 29 would raise taxes, create a new state bureaucracy, and increase subsidies to the private sector medical industry that is already massively subsidized in California through Medi-Cal and previous anti-tobacco tax funds.

So who is pushing this initiative? Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of New York City), who does not even live in California, is a major bank-roller of the initiative. However, the main bank-rollers of the initiative are many of the same entities that are likely to benefit from the government loans and grants that Proposition 29 will create: the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Volunteers Organized for Community Empowerment, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and others.

Vote NO on California Proposition 29!

Even the liberal Los Angeles Times, which has a track record of supporting anti-tobacco initiatives, does not support Proposition 29.

Vote NO on California Proposition 29!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Racial Demographic Changes in Major American Cities: 2000 - 2010

This is one of the best demographic resources I have found:

Block by block demographic changes mapped across major urban regions: 2000 to 2010 (LA, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Phoenix, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte)

June 2012: Vote NO on California Proposition 28!

California Proposition 28 is also known as the California Change in Term Limits Initiative.

Proposition 28 weakens terms limits.

Currently, California legislators can serve 6 years in the Assembly and 8 years in the Senate, for a total of 14 years. Proposition pretends to strengthen term limits by reducing the total number of years that a legislator can serve to 12. However, under Proposition 28, those 12 years can be served in whichever chamber in whatever combination. So a legislator will be able to serve a full 12 years in the Assembly OR a full 12 years in the Senate.

It is statistical fact that legislators are at their most vulnerable when they change districts or move from one chamber to the other. Incumbents are forced to challenge incumbents. It ensures turnover in the legislative body and healthy competition of ideas. It prevents politicians from becoming entrenched. It makes it more difficult for parties to establish hegemonic "machines" in districts with low turnout.

The end result of Proposition 28 will be less turnover in the legislative body, entrenched politicians and more partisanship.

Proposition 28 was funded by lobbyists.

Two of the major donors to the pro-Proposition 28 campaign are Majestic Realty and LA Live Properties. LA Live Properties is controlled by Philip Anschutz. Majestic Realty is controlled by Ed Roski. Roski and Anschutz have been competing to build an NFL stadium in Los Angeles. In order to complete a project as big as building a stadium in LA County one must cut through miles of red tape, much of it imposed by the legislature. Majestic Realty's donation came two months after the Legislature exempted a Majestic Realty project from having to follow environmental laws.

Don't let the legislature roll back term limits!

Californians put term limits into place in 1990 with Proposition 140.

In 2002, the President Pro Tem of the California Senate, John Burton (D - San Francisco), led the campaign for Proposition 45. Proposition 45 was an attempt to soften term limits by allowing legislators to serve an additional 4 years. The electorate defeated it.

In 2008, public sector unions led the campaign for Proposition 93, an effort to extend legislator's terms to 12 years in a manner very similar to today's Proposition 28. Once again, the electorate defeated it.

These forces are at work today with Proposition 28. They think if they keep forcing the issue onto the ballot over-and-over they will eventually win. They have lots of campaign funds but not much grassroots support.

Protect democracy in California - vote NO on Proposition 28 in June!