A random assortment of things here:

-First, I was reading a great piece over at salon.com (and I don’t know about you, but I find that site so hit or miss; sometimes some really great stuff, some stuff just pointless to stupid) about New York Times writer David Barstow winning a Pulitzer for his work uncovering the fact that these “retired generals” offering their independent take on, say, issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS were actually part of a Pentagon program and often even had ties to private companies who stood to make tons of cash from those wars.  The article mentions that even to this day- despite being the focus of a Congressional investigation and the fact of Barstow’s Pulitzer, none of the TV or radio outlets who used these talking heads (and continue to use them) have given a second to cover the story.

Not only is the story itself a really good one, but in reading the salon.com piece I learnt that it’s actually illegal for the U.S. government to engage in propaganda!  From a piece on prwatch.org covering this story a year ago:

The Pentagon military analyst program unveiled in last week’s (April 2008) exposé by David Barstow in theNew York Times was not just unethical but illegal. It violates, for starters, specific restrictions that Congress has been placing in its annual appropriation bills every year since 1951. According to those restrictions, “No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.”

As explained in a March 21, 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service, “publicity or propaganda” is defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to mean either (1) self-aggrandizement by public officials, (2) purely partisan activity, or (3) “covert propaganda.” By covert propaganda, GAO means information which originates from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it came from a third party.

Um, OK, so I guess about 80% of what the U.S. government does is actually illegal by its own standards… cool!  Both the salon.com piece and the PRwatch.org one are very interesting reads.

-In other news, I’ve been thinking a bunch about softball lately, as the Montpelier Men’s League will be kicking off in about a month.  Regular readers may remember earlier in the year I mentioned my plans to do some site upgrades around here; a re-vamp to the look, etc.  Included in those plans I’ve been thinking about giving our softball team its own site rather than just a page here.  Unfortunately, neither of those things have happened as a direct result of a) I’ve been broke for about 3 months now, and b) we’re gearing-up to open the Three Penny Taproom- Montpelier’s soon to be amazing specialty beer bar- on May 1.  In light of renovations and all the other insanity entailed in opening up a bar I just simply haven’t had a chance to do much of anything around here.  But none of it has fallen off the radar; just moving slowly as getting ourselves open is the top priority.

-Speaking of May 1: If you can get down (or up) to Montpelier it’s going to be a day to remember.  There’s the grand opening of the Three Penny Taproom, as I just mentioned.  There’s also a great show over at my Alma Mater the Langdon Street Cafe featuring the absolutely incredible Mathematicians, who, if you can believe it, offer math-based hip hop that I like to describe as “a cross between the Beastie Boys and Revenge of the Nerds“.  They tore apart the Cafe last time they were there, and did pretty much the same at last year’s Northeast Kingdom Music Festival.

Also in Montpelier on May Day over at Black Sheep Books will be an awesome photo exhibit of Central Vermont (particularly Barre) anarchists from throughout the past century, focusing largely on the anarchist tradition of Barre’s granite industry.  They’re looking to host some discussions and speakers about the history of May Day and the area’s radical history, which should be very interesting.

And then of course May 1 is the culmination of a year’s worth of organizing efforts by the Vermont Worker’s Center: the Healthcare Is A Human Right Rally to be held on the Statehouse lawn at noon.  Thousands are expected to attend in hopes of urging the Vermont government (the Legislature really, since the Governor is clearly a lost cause in terms of getting anything actually progressive and positive enacted) to adopt universal healthcare.  From the press release:

 

Well over one thousand people are expected to attend this historic rally,
which is being coordinated by the Vermont Workers’ Center and is already
being sponsored by over 70 other organizations.  Invited speakers include
Senator Bernie Sanders, Dr. Deb Richter, will have musical performances,
street theater, giant puppets and even a
Dump-the-Insurance-Companies-Dunk-Tank.  The rally will include many
prominent politicians, faith community leaders, activists and citizens —
along with thousands of everyday Vermonters — who are committed to creating
a healthcare system that will cover *every* Vermonter no matter what.

“The Healthcare is a Human Right campaign is ultimately about shifting the
way we think about healthcare and building enough power to change what is
“politically possible” in Vermont,” said Dawn Stanger, President of the
Vermont Workers’ Center about the rally, which takes place at Noon on Friday
May 1. “Having thousands of Vermonters, from all walks of life, at this
rally will be a huge step towards claiming our fundamental right to
healthcare.”

 For almost a year, the Vermont Workers’ Center has been organizing the
“Healthcare is a Human Right” campaign, devoted to dramatically changing our
broken healthcare system, which leaves more than 66,000 Vermonters —
including, tragically, an estimated 11,000 children — with no insurance.

 As part of the campaign, volunteers from Brattleboro to St, Albans, and
every place in between, have polled over 1,500 Vermonters, asking to hear
their views and experiences on the Vermont healthcare system.

 The results were astounding: 95 percent of those polled said they believed
healthcare should be a human right.

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