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News :: Alternative Media

Pirate radio station claims new channel

Pirate radio station claims new channel
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — For the past year, 96.3 FM sure sounded weird in Mid-County.

Even weirder than usual.

Rolling through Live Oak and Capitola, drivers heard broadcasts from the Free Radio Santa Cruz pirate station and the Air 1 Christian rock channel duking it out on the same frequency.

The result was an unintentionally hilarious mix of sounds and messages.

One moment, there would be poetry slams, howling punk bands and angry broadsides against the City Council. The next moment born-again boy bands would be crooning about Jesus.

The clash is over. On May 8, Free Radio’s self-described anarchist pirates moved off the 96.3 FM frequency, saying they wanted to be responsible stewards of the airwaves while making "a good faith effort to avoid interference with Air 1."

The pirate station also has moved to a new downtown location. But the 9-year-old Free Radio’s switch to 101.1 FM, an unoccupied portion of the bandwidth, won the programmers no favors from the federal government.

Just five days after the move, Federal Communications Commission investigators came knocking at the relocated station’s doors and, according to the pirates, told them to cease broadcasting.

A Free Radio broadcaster asked the FCC investigators if they had received complaints of interference, and, according to the collective, "both agents said the only problem was the station isn’t licensed," and "threatened to return with a warrant."

The FCC has made other visits to Free Radio over the past few years, including one that provoked a supportive resolution from the City Council. None has led to confiscated equipment or arrests.

An FCC spokeswoman would not confirm or deny a visit to the station. The FCC would only reiterate that pirate stations are a concern because they’re unlicensed and can clutter the bandwidth.

The FCC regulates radio licensing. Would-be low-wattage broadcasters must enter long waiting lists for a shot at their dreams. Aside from regulating bandwidth, the FCC can levy hefty fines, and revoke licenses of stations for repeated "blue language" offenses.

Pirate stations escape this oversight by sidestepping license requirements altogether.

While the FCC insists they oppose pirate stations because they are unlicensed, local pirates insist the government is trying to reign in "underrepresented voices."

‘An intelligent move’
In regard to the FCC visit, Vinnie "V-Man" Lombardo of Free Radio said he’s "preparing for the worst but hoping this is just a routine visit."

But he vowed that if the FCC tries to bring him and others to court, "it will not be the end of Free Radio Santa Cruz. It’s a collective group effort. If they raided our station, our listeners would come to our defense and we would be back on the air in no time at all."

As for Air 1, Lombardo insists his station did not cause problems because Santa Cruz is not in Air 1’s primary broadcast area.

He said Air 1 caused far more interference to Free Radio than vice versa, but that the station wants to be responsible and, in certain parts of Santa Cruz County, the broadcasts "sounded like crap."

This is not the first switcheroo for Free Radio. In the mid-1990s, when Free Radio Santa Cruz started out, its frequency was perilously close to KUSP FM. The late Peter Troxell of KUSP contacted the FCC about the problem and also made calls to Free Radio, which agreed to a frequency change.

Listeners welcomed the latest move.

"Sounds fine to me, maybe even better than before," wrote one fan in an e-mail.

An Air 1 broadcast engineer, Richard "Skip" Bushell, credited Free Radio with "a very intelligent move" when it switched to 101.1.

"It was the best thing they could do, said Bushell, 64, of Salinas, who owns a 10-watt Air 1 repeater high on Fremont Peak, which picks up a different Air 1 frequency out of Hollister and electronically translates it to 96.3.

Bushell, legally licensed to use the 96.3 frequency, has been doing so for about a year. He said he switched to that frequency from 95.9 FM, because of interference with a Spanish-language station. After the switch, he said he tried to call Free Radio and ask it to move over but did not get a call back.

In fact, said Bushell, a Free Radio contributor once called him up and asked what he was doing on their frequency, "and the legality of this." Bushell said the conversation was "cordial ... But I told him, change channels. I don’t have that option."

Two messages, one frequency
It’s hard to imagine two stations with more different programming strategies.

Free Radio is run by volunteers who keep the station alive with money out of their own pockets, from T-shirt sales and listener contributions, including money given to the station via PayPal, an online service that lets users e-mail payments directly to another account. The money pays for rent and equipment costs.

Free Radio’s primary goal is "to be more inclusive to communities that are underrepresented in the mainstream media," among them, "women, people of color, the queer community" and the homeless.

Free Radio embraces illegality as a form of civil disobedience. The Web site features a doctored image of FCC chair Michael Powell, appearing to wear a Free Radio shirt.

The most famous contributor is Amy Goodman, whose popular "Democracy Now" show runs on Free Radio. For the most part the programming, which runs 24 hours a day, features local programs, from an "oldies" show to occasional knock-down debates with a guest from the City Council.

Music and profanity flow freely. There is no top-down structure, no corporate-mandated playlists and no censorship, though the collective says it frowns on hate speech.

Among its featured artists: traveling singer-songwriter David Rovics, author of "The Flag Desecration Rag," an anti-jingoism sing-along. Sample lyrics: "But the flag is just a rag, just a worn-out, tired, dirty, blood-soaked rag."

In contrast, Air 1 is a branch of a nonprofit ministry dedicated to spreading "the message of Christ" while relying on donations "to keep the airwaves positive and uplifting." Subscribers get a verse of the day, via e- mail.

The station publishes a list of belief statements, such as, "Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is returning soon."

Among the featured artists is Skillet, whose most popular song is "You Are My Hope." Sample lyrics:

"Angels sing, Jesus reigns, and every knee bows down."

Bushell is a Moody Bible Institute grad whose politics are conservative, "though I don’t consider myself a radical right-winger by any means.

For most of Air 1’s 96. 3 coverage area — primarily Watsonville to Monterey and down the Salinas Valley toward Soledad — there were no problems due to Free Radio broadcasts.

Air 1 also broadcasts from the UC Santa Cruz campus on another frequency, 90.7 FM.

However, before the pirate station’s switch, Air 1 reported some "destructive interference" in areas halfway between Salinas and Santa Cruz.

Bushell said his mild annoyance would have been far more intense if there were more interference.

In fact, he said that if Free Radio ever seeks to "do something legitimate, we’ll do the engineering for them free of charge."

Bushell still speaks of Free Radio with a mixture of bewilderment and amusement.

He laughed as he spoke of driving around Santa Cruz, thinking he would tune into some Christian light rock, only to hear "someone ranting at the City Council, ranting at the Bush administration."

Bushell said he was surprised the FCC had paid a visit to the station after the frequency switch.

"Why they would get a (warning) afterwards, I have no idea. Normally that would make them receive less attention. I suppose the commission was about to come down on them anyhow."

Bushell said Free Radio is only asking for trouble from the FCC when it keeps making fun of the agency.

Such lampooning is "an invitation for the government to shut them down," said Bushell. "It’s like saying, ‘I dare you, Big Brother.’ "

Contact Dan White at dwhite@santacruzsentinel.com.

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Commentary :: Education & Youth

Moderate Islam should not be ignored

ILAN BENJAMIN and TAMMI ROSSMAN-BENJAMIN, a professor and a UCSC lecturer repectively recently published this op-ed the Sunday Sentinel. The USCS Muslim Student Alliance condemned him, posted anti-Mohammed fliers all over campus, and organized a boycott of his lecture. This is ironic since Dr. Mohammed, an Islamic Imam, was promoting peace between Islamics and Israel based on Koranic teachings. "Don't take my word for it," he urged the audience. "Do a google search under Koran and look up chapter 5, verse 21." Dr. Mohammed claims these Koranic verses proclaim that God granted Israel to the Jews. His "controversial" position that Islamics should recognize the State of Israel based on Islamic teachings have already garnered him death threats.
(reprinted from the Santa Cruz Sentinel op-ed for May 23, 2004)

Militant Islam poses a serious threat to the entire world. As early as 1998, the imam and religious scholar Khaleel Mohammed, an assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University, described the way in which xenophobic interpretations of the Koran are being used to legitimize the anti-Semitic and anti-Western animus of Osama bin Laden and others like him.

On April 21, Mohammed lectured at UC Santa Cruz on the Islamic view of Jews, Judaism and Israel. He was invited by a group of university faculty and members of the Santa Cruz community who wished to redress the imbalance of ideas presented on the UCSC campus.

Mohammed explained his view that the Koran itself emphasizes religious tolerance of Jews and their God-given right to the land of Israel. Centuries later, politically motivated interpretations begin to portray the Jews as "infidels" and enemies of God, and call for violence against them. These latter-day interpretations are used to rationalize the most militant forms of Islamic belief and practice today.

Professor Mohammed advocated a return of Muslims to the earlier, more tolerant Koranic traditions and concluded that there can be no peace in the Middle East until Muslims reject anti-Semitic teachings and accept the right of the Jews to a state in their ancestral homeland as specified in the Bible and the Koran.

Khaleel Mohammed is a courageous man. His critical analysis of contemporary Islam puts him at odds with most Muslims around the world. Scholars such as Mohammed are rare in the Arab world because those who dare to challenge the prevailing understanding of Islam may be targeted for assassination and must flee to the West.

And yet even in America, and especially at our universities, where it is the responsibility of scholars to analyze and often challenge deeply rooted ideas, few voices of moderate Islam are heard. In part, this is the result of money wielded by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. As reported by Lee Kaplan in FrontPageMagazine.com (April 5), the money that Arab governments and citizens are pouring into our universities in the form of gifts and endowments is astounding — $5 million was donated to UC Berkeley’s Center for Middle East Studies from two Saudi sheiks linked to funding al-Qaida; $20 million to the University of Arkansas; $11 million to Cornell; $8.1 million to Georgetown. Other recipients of Arab government largesse include UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, USC, American University, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Rice, Rutgers, Syracuse, Texas A&M and the University of Chicago.

But there is another reason why Mohammed’s scholarship, which speaks directly to the serious threat that militant Islam poses for the entire world, is not being given the fair and objective hearing it deserves at universities around the country. In the current climate of political correctness that pervades so many of our college campuses, Mohammed’s call for a return to a more tolerant and authentic Islam has, ironically, itself been labeled as a racist attack on Islam, and his important and timely message ignored.

This was the case when Mohammed came to speak at UCSC last month. Of the 10 university departments, colleges and research groups that were asked to co-sponsor Mohammed’s talk, not one agreed; one explained that Mohammed was too controversial, even though all 10 academic units had previously co-sponsored numerous talks and events vilifying America and Israel. Also, in the weeks leading up to his visit, fliers announcing his talk were systematically torn down or obscured by fliers of a Muslim student group, denouncing Mohammed and disputing the legitimacy of his scholarship.

No one who keeps abreast of world events can deny the alarming rise in worldwide violence committed in the name of Islam. Whether or not one accepts Mohammed’s thesis of a direct relation between distortions of the tenets of Islam and the heinous acts perpetrated in its name, at the very least his scholarship deserves to be heard, discussed and debated at our institutions of higher learning. When universities such as UCSC ignore or marginalize scholars like Mohammed, choosing instead to promote those who deny the existence of any relation between Islam and world terror, all whose tax dollars fund the university, and whose children are educated there, should speak up loudly and clearly.


Ilan Benjamin is a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Cruz. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer in Hebrew at UC Santa Cruz.

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:: Environment & Food

ELF Interview

ELF Interview

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:: Government & Elections

The Un-PATRIOT-ic Left

A debate between Heather MacDonald and Joe Williams.

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Commentary :: Peace & War

Behold the Torture Apologists

By Ted Rall

Republicans Oppose Basic American Values


Ted Rall



Related Links
• Ted Rall's Editorial Cartoons



NEW YORK--"If American life and values change radically because of the attacks," ABC's Sam Donaldson wrote, ten days after 9/11, "the terrorists will have won."


Well.


As photo after photo confirms story after story of systemic torture, rape and murder by American servicemen, CIA (news - web sites) goons and mercenary rent-a-cops in U.S. concentration camps from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad to Bagram Air Base near Kabul to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a legion of right-wing fifth columnists is finally revealing themselves as a band of wannabe fascists.


Incredible as it seems, these "Americans" actually approve of torture.


Talk radio king Rush Limbaugh, comparing the SS-style siccing of vicious German shepherds on Iraqi POWs to a fraternity initiation prank, led the charge of the torture apologists: "All right, so we're at war with these people. And they're in a prison where they're being softened up for interrogation. And we hear that the most humiliating thing you can do is make one Arab male disrobe in front of another. Sounds to me like it's pretty thoughtful. Sounds to me in the context of war this is pretty good intimidation--and especially if you put a woman in front of them and then spread those pictures around the Arab world." If cruelty is carefully calibrated to cultural mores, who cares whether it's wrong?


Besides, argues El Rushbaugh, the torturers were just funnin': "You ever heard of emotional release? You heard of need to blow some steam off?" Boys (and girls) will be (psycho) boys.


Days after articles of impeachment were introduced against him in the House of Representatives, the indefatigable Don Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that even now, even after Abu Ghraib, denying POWs sleep, starving them, subjecting them to painful "stress positions" and other forms of torture are still being inflicted upon inmates--guilty or innocent and always uncharged--throughout his Defense Department gulags.


His reception was a friendly one.


"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment [of Iraqi POWs]," spat Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a card-holding member of the Party of Lincoln, to fellow members of the Armed Services Committee. "You know, they're not there for traffic violations. They're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents."


Actually, according to the Red Cross report on Abu Ghraib, 90 percent of the detainees had been "arrested by mistake."


Inhofe's rant continued: "I have to say when we talk about the treatment of these prisoners that I would guess that these prisoners wake up every morning thanking Allah that Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) is not in charge of these prisons." Yup, that's no doubt the expression on their faces: gratitude.


Liberals don't have a monopoly on moral relativism.


You have to go down a long way to get to the darkest cellars of immorality. As Bush Administration apologists point out, there are worse fates-- far worse fates--than being stripped, beaten, bitten or even anally raped. A worse fate befell Nick Berg, the cellular phone entrepreneur who was beheaded by Iraqi insurgents. So what's the point? Dishonest attempts to reduce the moral baseline merely reiterate one's own ethical inferiority. The fact that other human beings can conceive of miseries even crueler and more painful to inflict cannot exculpate us for the sins we commit. Is the robber less guilty because he can look down on the kidnapper? Shall we forgive Hitler for killing six million Jews if someone else kills seven?


Other leading lights of conservatism are handling the prison torture scandal by ignoring it. In a TV appearance columnist and Fox News regular Ann Coulter blamed Abu Ghraib on "girl soldiers," but her column has been conspicuously silent about the biggest story since the end of the Democratic primaries. Coulter's last two missives focused on the hot topics of airport security and the need for tighter immigration. Maybe she's playing ostrich to avoid criticizing the Republican conduct of the Iraq (news - web sites) war--a conflict so poorly conceived that no one even bothered to name it. Either that, or she approves of torture. In any case, her refusal to condemn American atrocities makes her a torture apologist too.


In a way, so is General Antonio Taguba, author of the famous Abu Ghraib report. He blames the prisoner abuse scandal on "failure in leadership from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever, and no supervision." Yet anyone with half a brain knows that shoving a flashlight up a man's anus as he howls in agony is torture. You shouldn't need instruction in the intricacies of the Geneva Conventions to figure that out.


(Ted Rall is the author of "Wake Up, You're Liberal!: How We Can Take America Back From the Right," out now. Ordering information is available at amazon.com.)




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News :: Poverty & Urban Development

Union rep blasts council

May 5, 2004

Union rep blasts council
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — The ongoing budget crisis means larger workloads and postponed pay hikes for public-sector "rank and file" workers, from cashiers to building inspectors.

These workers, represented by Service Employees International Union, received their last pay hike, of 4¼ percent, in April 2002.

Salaries have been frozen since that cost-of-living adjustment. Now SEIU, which represents about 450 city employees, has agreed to postpone potential pay raises at least until December, continuing its collective bargaining agreement into the fall because of a projected $1.7 million city budget deficit.

Mayor Scott Kennedy said the union’s action will give city government time to react to potential state government takeaways.

Over the past two years, about 70 positions have been chopped from the city’s payroll. Of those positions, more than half fell under SEIU representation.

SEIU took its recent action in large part to avoid or at least minimize future layoffs. While union reps said they want the workers to work in concert with the city to weather the budget crisis, they say employees have already given back too much.

City workers faced an optional weeklong unpaid furlough in December while library staffers had a mandatory unpaid furlough in April.

For some of the library employees, the furlough amounted to a 6 percent loss in pay.

Leslie Auerbach, who works in youth services for the Central branch of the Santa Cruz public library system, said workers are working harder to make up for consolidations.

"Everywhere you look, people are trying to do the same amount of work with fewer bodies," said Auerbach, who is also a union steward for SEIU and a member of the executive board.

These salaries range from about $12 an hour for cashiers at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to around $30 an hour for engineering technicians and senior building inspectors. SEIU does not represent the much higher-paid administration and department heads.

Leslie Scanagatta, chief spokesperson for SEIU Local 415, said the city has been remiss in not encouraging more revenue development.

Scanagatta, who has also called for pay reductions to the highest-paid city administrators, said the council and residents have discouraged businesses that could help sustain services and staffing levels.

While she says the current council, compared to its predecessors, is "trying to get out of this anti-growth perception," she expressed concern about "efforts to make it more difficult for Home Depot to come in."

She was referring to the efforts of Home Depot opponents to institute a moratorium on large home/garden operations in industrial zones, and also to the City Council considering a use permit requirement for such businesses in industrial areas.

Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement business, has been eyeing the vacant Lipton’s building in the industrial Westside.

"We need to get out of this whole ‘not in my town’ attitude," Scanaggata said. "I just don’t know how much more the workers can give. If the city wants services, if it wants to keep the library open, they need to quit stalling and opposing every revenue-generating project that comes our way."

Councilman Mike Rotkin said the budget picture remains so dire that there are no guarantees when it comes to future layoffs or cutbacks.

But he said the City Council is not even close to making a decision on the Home Depot proposal.

"I don’t think the City Council has been dragging its feet about revenue-generating," he said. "We are not the ones who decided, ‘Let’s put a spike in Home Depot.’ There are a lot of citizens concerned about the impacts of Home Depot. The city must take those concerns seriously, whether we approve it or not, but it’s premature to say we’re thwarting revenue development."

The SEIU’s decision closely follows a move, in late March, by unions representing police and firefighters, to forgo guaranteed pay raises for six months each of the next three years, saving a projected $300,000 annually for the next three years.

But it’s difficult to predict how much money the SEIU delay will save because the bargaining unit was still negotiating a new contract at the time of its decision.

SEIU workers will soon be expected to kick in a larger share of their Public Employee Retirement System costs.

The city’s payments to the PERS system are slated to climb from $3.9 million to $5.1 million in the next year.

Under PERS, when public safety workers in Santa Cruz turn 50, they become eligible for benefits equivalent to 3 percent of their salary for every year of their employment. For non-public safety employees of the city, benefits kick in when they are 55, and amount to 2 percent of their salary for every year of employment.

Contact Dan White at dwhite@santacruzsentinel.com

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News :: Peace & War : Resistance & Tactics

Peter Lumsdaine in Najaf

American Activists in Holy City Hoping to Prevent U.S. Assault
By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press

Friday 30 April 2004

Five American peace activists, who are carrying U.S.-troops-go-home banners through militia-controlled streets, said Friday they hoped their presence would help prevent an assault on this holiest of Shiite cities by U.S. forces.

"We want to let the U.S. military know that if they launched an attack on the citizens of Najaf there would also be American citizens with them," said Peter Lumsdaine, member of an ad hoc peace delegation, which arrived in this tense city a week ago.

Lumsdaine said he would probably unfurl his banner in the face of any U.S. troops moving into the core of the city. But the group didn't appear to have a concrete plan.

Najaf and the neighboring city of Kufa, including two sacred mosques, were seized by followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr April 4, and negotiations for a peaceful end to the crisis have dragged on since.

U.S. forces ring the twin cities and have stationed more than 200 troops within the metropolitan area. But commanders say they realize an attack on the sacred sites, where al-Sadr is headquartered, would likely create a powerful backlash throughout the Muslim world.

The group said they felt safe inside Najaf and had been warmly welcomed by ordinary citizens as well as representatives of al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the moderate religious leader who commands the widest following among Iraqi Shiites.

Al-Sadr's group, which they described as "calm, informative and supportive," offered them bodyguards but they declined.

"It's safer to be an American without weapons in Iraq than one with a gun," said Bryan Buckley, a Catholic Church relief worker from Louisa, Va.

"The people in Najaf have been so hospitable. They've just opened their hearts to us, especially as they find out that we are here to confront our military. They offer us tea and support and smiles from ear to ear," said Peter's wife Margaret, a Lutheran pastor from Santa Cruz, Calif.

She said residents would honk their car horns and cheer when they saw them carrying a placard reading "USA don't be the new Saddam. Come Home" and "No to the American occupation."

Margaret also met earlier in the week with U.S. commanders and coalition officials just as a mortar attack was launched on their base, located four miles from the main mosque.

Mario Galvan, who works with the pacifist group Peace Action, said that a number of people in Najaf didn't support al-Sadr but said his followers were not "thugs" as some U.S. commanders have described them, but rather products of depressed social and economic conditions.

"I think the whole town would breathe a sigh of relief if everyone with guns would leave the city - both al-Sadr and the Americans," Galvan, of Sacramento, Calif., said. Despite misgivings Iraqi's may have about al-Sadr, many would be outraged if he was killed by the Americans, he said.

"We've really seen a shift in Iraqi public opinion from limited acceptance to a rising, growing tidal wave of opposition to American military occupation of Iraq," Peter Lumsdaine said. Some members of the group visited Iraq in October.

The group said they have received messages from around the world supporting their effort and were hopeful that others would join them in Iraq, although many friends told the five they were "crazy to come."

"The risks we take pale in comparison to the risks the Iraqis take every day of their live in this holy city," Peter's wife said.

"The U.S. military can level this town in one day. I hope the U.S. has the sense to recognize what a firestorm they would unleash," Galvan said. " I just have this intuition that they U.S. recognizes that this is a tinderbox."

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:: Civil & Human Rights : Globalization & Capitalism : Peace & War

Message from an Iraqi mother

An Iraqi Mother is worried more about bombs dropping rather than worrying about schools.

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