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News & Opinion

Interview with Jeremy Scahill in the Yale Herald on the anniversary of 9/11.  Scahill won the Yale University Windham-Campbell prize which rewards the winners with an unrestricted $150,000.  The whole interview is really good with a lot of detail about his views on things and war stories, so to speak, along with details about how they traveled to Somalia and Afghanistan and did their investigative journalism there without getting killed or kidnapped.  I excerpted the part where he talks about his next project.  I know what I hope it's about but we won't know that for awhile because he's playing it close to the vest. But he's got some money to work with now too.  I've got fingers crossed about two particular things that I really hope he will take on and being familiar with him because I've followed him closely, I think he just might be headed in those directions.  I recommend reading the whole article which is really, really good even if you've read and watched all his interviews. There is some new stuff in here.

Sitting down with Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is a natural born truth teller. He has spent his career uncovering the secret worlds of American military power, whether it be through profiling the private military contractor Blackwater USA in his International bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, or Obama’s drone wars in his New York Times bestselling book-turned-cinematic documentary, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. A fellow at the Nation Institute, Scahill is one of America’s most deserving heirs to our shared history of investigative journalism. On Tues., Sept. 10, Yale awarded his work with an inaugural Donald Windham—Sandy M. Campbell Literature prize. On Wed., Sept. 11, the Herald sat down with Scahill to discuss Syrian intervention, journalism in the 21st century, and the legacy of 9/11.


YH: So what’s your next project? What are you going to do with the money?

JS: I’m definitely going to give part of it away. With a portion of it, I’ve thought about setting up some kind of a scholarship for a high school student, but I’m still working out the details on that. I’ve been talking to some people about how that would work.
In terms of the money for my own work, I can’t really talk about what it is right now, but I already have spent part of the money on a trip that I’m taking in the next few weeks which has to do with an investigative story that I’m working on with a colleague. If I didn’t have this prize, I would have had to just front it myself because I don’t have a home yet for this story, or beg for a grant or something. So I’ve already spent part of the money. I should probably put the check in the bank so I don’t max out my credit card.

This kind of reporting is expensive. I don’t know how much the Somali trip cost in the end, but it was tens of thousands of dollars to go there for ten days, because of all the security. The flights are expensive, accommodations, we had to get body armor, all of these supplies, sattelite phones, other things. So I’ve become a professional beggar, and this will mean that I don’t have to annoy the people who I know who have money and ask them for, like, the fiftieth time, to support a trip that I’m trying to take.
It’s an incredible thing. When you do this type of work, the most annoying thing is that I spend months of my year raising money so I can do the work that I want to do. And those are weeks that I lose that I can’t do work. And so for somebody to plop down a year’s plus worth of working expenses is unbelievable. It’s like the dream of everyone who does this kind of work.

YH: That seems to be the goal of this new prize.

JS: It is. I had never heard of Donald Windham or Sandy Campbell before, and I’ve gotten a major bio from their friends and other people. And they were ridiculously interesting, and I really relate to Donald Windham, because I don’t have a college degree. He didnt have a college degree; he didn’t come from money. He came to New York to be a writer, and it was almost like a Forrest Gump-type thing. He was around all of these amazing people—Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote—and became good friends with them. And at the end of the day, he put in the language for the prize that he wanted special consideration given to people who had no academic affiliation. I think there was something subversive he was doing. He puts it in at Yale—one of the most elite universities in the world—and puts in that he wants special consideration given to people with no academic affiliation. Hence, it results in a college dropout being invited to give lectures to a bunch of Yale students.


If we don’t train a generation of solid investigative reporters, it’s gonna die, and that would be awful. We have to preserve it. I feel like we’re guarding some kind of a grail because of the digital age. We need fact checking. We need peer review. We need on-the-ground reporting. You can just live off of Twitter and Instagram and Skype calls. A lot of reporters just phone it in.

This is one of the things that motivates me or rather the kind of thing that motivates me.

Inform the Public? Not My Job, Says Chuck Todd

Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe today (9/18/13), Todd responded to Ed Rendell's claim that Obamacare opponents are full of misinformation about the program by explaining that this was because Republicans  "have successfully messaged against it." But wasn't journalism's job to expose misinformation? No, Todd insisted; if the public was misinformed about the Affordable Care Act, it was the president's fault for not pushing back:

What I always love is people say, "Well, it's you folks' fault in the media." No, it's the president of the United States' fault for not selling it.
A conference call
National Conference Call with Robert Reich and Howard Dean - Inequality for All

oin Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Governor Howard Dean to discuss the upcoming documentary "Inequality for All" and income inequality in the United States.

Enter your information to the right. To join the conference call you must provide your phone number. You will receive a call to join the conference and this will be the only way to participate.

Wednesday, September 25th

Co-Hosts: Democracy for America, Roosevelt Institute, Generation Progress

With Robert Reich as our guide, the feature film INEQUALITY FOR ALL explores the causes and consequences of the widening income gap in America and asks what it means to the future of our economy and our nation.
This Sundance Award winning film hits theatres nationwide September 27th, click here to view the trailer and find a theatre near you.

Inequality for All

Why is the Federal Poverty Line So Far Off?

In 1999, a single mother struggling with this question sent an email to the Health and Human Services employee whose job it was to calculate the federal poverty line. She wrote:

I am a single Mother and work two jobs which equal about $18,000 per year. We barely afford rent, electric, cable, phone, water, food, taxes and vehicle expenses. [But] the federal poverty level is $11,060. My daughter and I have zero, no, zilch money left after paying the bills for medical or clothing. How on earth does the Federal Government expect us to pay for cars….There just is NOT enough money left at the end of the month for a car payment….Please tell me…how they expect people to live on under $20,000 per year.
The poverty line in the email, $11,060, was the federal poverty guideline in 1999 for a family of two. Today, that figure is $15,510 — still less than what the woman was struggling to get by at the time.

That raises a crucial question: why is the federal poverty cutoff so far off?

I noticed a report this morning on CNN about a big drug bust with the goods coming from Venezuela.  I think this is the kind of thing that normally wouldn't rise to the top of the news, but today it did.  I wonder why.
Venezuela asks UN to take action against US over visa dispute

Venezuela has sent a letter to the UN chief asking him to take measures against the United States over the denial of visas for some members of its delegation who are scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.

The letter sent by Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Samuel Moncada, requests that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon take action in response to the apparent denial of visas, which President Maduro has said seems intended to “create logistical obstacles to impede” next week’s visit.

Venezuela further requests that the UN “demand that the government of the US abide by its international obligations” as host of the 68th UN General Assembly.

On Thursday, President Maduro first raised the issue of the apparent denial of visas to members of his country’s delegation, saying that “we are not traveling to New York as tourists on vacation…we are going to a UN function. I cannot accept that they have denied a visa to Major General Wilmer Barrientos” and indicated a similar situation for another member of his cabinet.

Guilty! UN Report on Syria Does Not Say What John Kerry Says It Said

The UN released its report on chemical weapons use in Syria. You can read it here. It’s not that long, just some forty pages including legal appendices. John Kerry says it confirms that the Assad regime fired the gas rockets. Unfortunately, that is not what the actual report says. In a court, Kerry’s case might be seen as circumstantial at best, certainly not enough for a jury to return a guilty verdict in a murder trial.


Stop Watching Us organizing a march on Washington.
A Rally Against Mass Surveillance

Right now the NSA is spying on everyone's personal communications, and they’re operating without any meaningful oversight. Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA.

On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

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Matisyahu - Sunshine

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