Sunday, July 31, 2011

From Civil Disobedience to Civil Defiance

Voices For Creative Nonviolence

"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience ... Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves ... [and] the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem." -Howard Zinn 

Over the years, I've been jailed numerous times. Each such event arose from what is loosely called "civil disobedience."

The tactical value of arrest and ensuing "court witness" and "prison witness" is that they can generate news helping to bring vital, often neglected, issues to public notice. These mindful acts can boost solidarity and the grassroots campaigns in which they are embedded.

At a personal level, court and trial witness help us keep our "edge," maintain our focus, clarify our values. Such public stands impede co-optation. Court witness provides the opportunity to craft trial statements articulating why one has taken part in a given direct action. Along with such statements, the testimony of defense witnesses can be used to turn the tables on the prosecutors. They can put militarism (or whatever issue is at stake) "on trial." And they can be published, reaching well beyond the courtroom.

Boehner’s Hoax

by Jared M. Grifoni, Esq.

As the House prepares to vote on the Boehner plan this evening many Republicans and so-called fiscal conservatives have finally started to line up in support of the TARP-supporting Speaker’s plan. As of last night, the Speaker was unable to secure enough votes for passage so today the Republican establishment has been working overtime in order to bring enough votes over to their side. The establishment Republicans have thrown a bone to the tea partiers in Congress by adding a Balanced Budget Amendment requirement to the second scheduled debt ceiling increase six months from now. Under the Boehner plan as currently written, the debt ceiling will be raised before the August 2nd deadline (a short-term increase) in an amount that would result in the U.S. reaching the new debt ceiling limit again in six months, thus requiring another increase. During the next 6 months, the Congress will need to pass a balanced budget amendment by a two-thirds majority and then send the amendment to the states for ratification. If the Congress does not send a balanced budget amendment to the states during these next six months between debt ceiling increases then we will all be back in this same situation again at that point.

The United Loony Bin Of America

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

“Have we as a nation gone mad, waging war in the Persian Gulf while society crumbles?” Seymour Melman asked rhetorically when I interviewed him for The Progressive 19 years ago.

Even though Melman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University's school of industrial engineering, departed this life in 2004, his question still haunts our society, as the American War Machine since then has only gained in momentum, immensity, universality and cruelty.

To answer Melman: “Yes, we have gone mad.” That's because presidents and Pentagon chiefs start new wars even before they finish fighting the old ones! Who can recall a time in our history when the U.S. initiated aggressive wars against five nations(Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen)?

Between 1947 and 1989, Melman said, the U.S. spent $8.2 trillion (in 1982 dollars) on the military. When I said I couldn't grasp a figure that large, Melman replied, “Think of it this way: In 1982, the total money value of all America's manufacturing, industry and its infrastructure amounted to $7.3 trillion. You could have replicated the largest part of everything made by people in this country with what the military got.” (Everything made by everybody? All the houses? All the highways? All the schools? All the hospitals? A new America? Everything?)

Melman went on to say, “Half of every dollar you pay in Federal taxes goes into the military account. Pentagon contractors are awash in billions while the infrastructure that underpins our economy collapse around us and human misery spreads everywhere.”

America's New Civil War

by Kathy Kiely

For the president, the potential catastrophe loomed as "such a far-fetched proposition as to be almost existentially impossible." Voters from across ideological and geographical lines deluged Congress with letters and petitions urging compromise. "People were starting to grasp the potential costs -- the literal costs" of not reaching one

Nope, we're not talking about this weekend in Washington. It just feels a lot like the atmosphere on the eve of the Civil War as vividly described in Adam Goodheart's new book 1861.

The similarities to today's apocalypse-almost-now moment are striking, and underscore that the debt ceiling debate now grid locking the nation's capital is about far more than economic policy. On the 150th anniversary of the war that pitted American against American, we seem to be spoiling to secede from our "more perfect union" again.

A Call For A Progressive Presidential Campaign In 2012

by Dave Jette

Working together, the Obama administration and the Republican Party are preparing to sell the American people down the river. In order to ensure that the corporate class doesn't lose one penny of their ever-burgeoning largesse, the rest of us will be forced to shoulder the entire burden of the economic calamity that was engineered by none other than that same corporate class.

The big question now facing those of us who define ourselves as progressives, socialists, Greens, anti-corporatists, and/or environmentalists is: Are we going to continue to support a Democratic Party that no longer represents our interests or will we stand up to mount some sort of challenge outside of the two-party duopoly?

We have known for quite some time that the Republican Party is moving ever more rightward, and now is controlled by social reactionaries. It is ideologically opposed to providing government services, and unabashedly supports the transfer of wealth to the very rich, repression of the working class (particularly of trade unions), and support of American imperialism.

The Democratic Party, while supporting some progressive social policies, is also moving ever rightward, with the same political objectives as the Republican Party (upward transfer of wealth, repression of the great majority of American people, imperialism).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Biggest Threat to Western Values

The paranoid style in politics often imagines unlikely alliances that coalesce into an overwhelming threat that must be countered by all necessary means. Political scientist Samuel Huntington's thought revolved around the idea that a "clash of civilisations" between East and West would define the post-Cold War era. (EPA)

In Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington conjured an amalgamated East - an alliance between "Confucian" and "Islamic" powers - that would challenge the West for world dominance. Many jihadis fear the Crusader alliance between Jews and Christians. They forget that until recently, historically speaking, populations professing the latter were the chief persecutors of the former.

Now Anders Breivik has invoked the improbable axis of Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism, together colonising Europe. As he sees multiculturalism as essentially a Jewish plot, Breivik has managed to wrap up the new and old fascist bogies in one conspiracy: communists, Jews and Muslims.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bill Approved To Create Massive Surveillance Database Of Internet Users

by Steve Watson
Prison Planet

Legislation that will force Internet providers to store information on all their customers and share it with the federal government and law enforcement agencies was significantly beefed at the last minute yesterday and approved by a U.S. House of Representatives committee.

Under the guise of protecting children from internet pornographers, the House Judiciary committee voted 19-10 to approve a bill that will require Internet Service Providers to store temporarily assigned IP addresses for future government use.

In addition, the bill was re-written yesterday to also include the enforced retention of customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

As Declan McCullagh of CNet reports, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored.

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

It represents “a data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who led Democratic opposition to the bill. The Californian Representative described the legislation as a “mess of a bill” and a “stalking horse for a massive expansion of federal power”.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted that the bill would open a Pandora’s box of government abuse.

We're Still in the Middle of the Storm


This article was produced by the investigative reporting workshop at American University in partnership with New America Media.

A widely touted strategy aimed at keeping Maryland residents from losing their homes by bringing banks and homeowners to the bargaining table has met with little success as the nation braces for another wave of foreclosures.

Maryland passed a law a year ago that gave homeowners in foreclosure the right to mediation, if they ask for it. The Justice Department reported in a November study that there were 25 mediation programs in 14 states.

As of May 31, just 56 homeowners in the state have gotten a modification of their loan through the mediation program. Borrowers complain that lenders are more interested in foreclosing than negotiating. One borrower was horrified to discover that the bank had sold her home during the mediation process.

Foreclosures slowed in the early part of 2011, as lenders dealt with accusations of "robo-signing"—approving foreclosure documents without looking at them. But now, they're coming back with a vengeance: In March, almost 30,000 notices of intent to foreclose were filed, more than twice as many than in any month since the state began keeping records in 2008, according to an analysis of state records by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.

Food, Control and the Growing Police State

by Szandor Blestman

Food has always been a tool the elite have used to control the masses. When you control the food supply, you control everything, even life and death. A starving man is more likely to sell his soul for a potato then someone with a full tummy. The relatively free market of food production and distribution that has been in place in this nation for a few centuries now has led to unrivaled prosperity. Food can, in fact, be grown for practically nothing if you have the land, the time and can afford to buy just a few heirloom seeds to grow the organic vegetables necessary for good health. This will save you money, is better for you than grocery store vegetables which may be genetically modified or may contain unwanted chemicals, and helps you to become less dependent on the state for your survival.

It is the last part of the above statement that frightens government officials. They want you dependent on them. For some, it makes them feel important. Others may just want to feel needed or helpful. Still others may just want the paycheck. Whatever the case, they don't seem to just want to leave you alone to your own devices. Perhaps that's why they're attempting to pass laws making it illegal to grow your own garden. Perhaps that's why they want to make sure you're a compliant grass farmer just like your neighbors. Perhaps that's why they're trying to control the food necessary for life.

How The Military Became Our New Civic Religion

by Andrew Bacevich

Many Americans seek validation and self-regard in displays of "support" for our military. But this unexamined, unearned self-forgiveness is cheap and dangerous.

Fenway Park, Boston, July 4, 2011.  On this warm summer day, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays.  First come pre-game festivities, especially tailored for the occasion.  The ensuing spectacle -- a carefully scripted encounter between the armed forces and society -- expresses the distilled essence of present-day American patriotism.  A masterpiece of contrived spontaneity, the event leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and not least of all about themselves -- precisely as it was meant to do.

In this theatrical production, the Red Sox provide the stage, and the Pentagon the props.  In military parlance, it is a joint operation.  In front of a gigantic American flag draped over the left-field wall, an Air Force contingent, clad in blue, stands at attention.  To carry a smaller version of the Stars and Stripes onto the playing field, the Navy provides a color guard in crisp summer whites.  The United States Marine Corps kicks in with a choral ensemble that leads the singing of the national anthem.  As the anthem’s final notes sound, four U. S. Air Force F-15C Eagles scream overhead.  The sellout crowd roars its approval.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

U.S. Needs To Replace Pentagon's Approach With Peace Corps

Contributed by Sherwood Ross
Photo from The Way

If the United States attempted to “conquer” by love rather than force of arms, it might be respected, not reviled, globally.

If the White House took an altruistic approach in foreign affairs---that is, if it rejected greed, exploitation, and war in favor of fair play, charity, and humanitarian assistance---it might enjoy such prosperity as exists beyond the dreams of its misguided rulers.

It is no naïve suggestion to urge the Congress to transpose the budgets and numbers of personnel of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps. Naïve is how one would define the Pentagon's 10-year-long failure to conquer Afghanistan by force of arms. Naïve is how the Pentagon can claim the U.S. has improved Iraq when that country far is worse off today than when the Pentagon first bombarded it eight years ago.

The U.S. has invested 10 years and $3 trillion in attempting to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan and what does it have to show for it, apart from the increased hatred of peoples throughout the Middle East? Congress has taken the Pentagon's road and what's been achieved apart from massive slaughter and despoliation of those nations and a bankrupt Treasury at home? For President Obama to prosecute these criminal wars, based on a tissue of lies, and to initiate new wars is naïve as well as criminal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is America Caught In The Closed Mind Trap?

by Paul Craig Roberts

Closed Mind by Jimmy Changa
A reader responded to my recent column about how the US president was becoming a Caesar with a question: "Wouldn't a Caesar be preferable to a democracy in which the people are too ignorant, disinterested, and stupid to engage in self-government?"

Before I became a widely read columnist with many reader responses, I would have disagreed with the reader's characterization of the American people. Today, I cannot answer the reader's question with a "no" as confidently as I would like.

I receive appreciative words from many readers who are well aware of what is going on. I also hear from many who are so partisan and have such strong emotional responses that they are unable to follow an argument. I don't know what percentage these groups comprise in the population, but there seem to be a number of Americans, both on the left and the right, who are prepared to censor and even to kill in order to defend their illusions and delusions.

I remain a suspect bogyman for some on the left, because of my association with the Kemp-Roth bill and Reaganomics. As I, and others, have explained so many times, Supply-Side economics reversed the monetary/fiscal policy mix in order to cure stagflation. But some leftists persist in their insistence that it was all a trick to cut taxes for the rich -- the rich being those with more money than they. A stressed-out $100,000 a year guy with a family in a high-cost city is thrown into the rich class with the hedge fund manager who paid himself one billion dollars.

To give the leftists their due, at least they know that I was a member of the Reagan administration. However, the right-wing zealots think that I am a pinko-liberal-commie.

A Victory In The War Against Profiteering

"War is a racket," wrote retired US Marine Major General Smedley D Butler, in 1935. That statement, which is also the title of his short book on war profiteering, rings true today.

One courageous civil servant just won a battle to hold war profiteers accountable. Her name is Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse. She blew the whistle when her employer, the US Army Corps of Engineers, gave a no-bid $7bn contract to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) as the US was about to invade Iraq. She was doing her job, trying to ensure a competitive bidding process would save the US government money. For that, she was forced out of her senior position, demoted and harassed.

Just this week, after waging a legal battle for more than half a decade, Bunny Greenhouse won. The US Army Corps of Engineers settled with Greenhouse for $970,000, representing full restitution for lost wages, compensatory damages and attorneys' fees.

Her "offence" was to challenge the KBR contract. It was weeks before the expected invasion of Iraq, in 2003, and Bush military planners predicted Saddam Hussein would blow up Iraqi oilfields, as happened with the US invasion in 1991. The project, dubbed "Restore Iraqi Oil", or RIO, was created so that oilfield fires would be extinguished. KBR was owned then by Halliburton, whose CEO until 2000 was none other than then Vice President Dick Cheney. KBR was the only company invited to bid.

Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security

This phony debt crisis has now passed through the looking glass into the realm where madness reigns. What should have been an uneventful moment in which lawmakers make good on the nation’s contractual obligations has instead been seized upon by Republican hypocrites as a moment to settle ideological scores that have nothing to do with the debt.

Hypocrites, because their radical free market ideology, and the resulting total deregulation of the financial markets, is what caused the debt to spiral out of control this last decade. That and the wars George W. Bush launched but didn’t have the integrity to responsibly finance. The consequence was a banking bubble and crash leading to a 50 percent run-up of the debt that has nothing to do with the “entitlements” that those same Republicans have always wanted to destroy. 

Even Barack Obama has put cuts in those programs into play, warning ominously that a failure to lift the debt ceiling could cause the government to stop sending out Social Security checks. Why, when the Social Security trust fund is fully funded for the next quarter-century and is owed money by the U.S. Treasury rather than the other way around? Why would we pay foreign creditors before American seniors? The answer, offered as conventional wisdom by leaders of both parties, is that we cannot endanger our credit by failing to back our bonds, even though the Republicans have aroused the alarm of the main U.S. credit rating agencies by their brinkmanship on the debt.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Fellow American

S. Paul: Will you be among those who stand with the perpetuation of ignorance and further degradation of our American multicultural beauty or will you be among those that realize how Islam phobia and the tireless propaganda delivered through our corporate media system is being used to support hatred and to fuel the fires of brutal genocide against an entire culture?  I choose the latter. I choose humanity.  I choose the true, American Spirit. I support my fellow Americans and those abroad.

Don't believe the lies.

What Sharia Is and Isn't--Panel at Center for American Progress

by Marta Steele

At the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC today (26 July 2011), a packed room listened to several experts, including three panelists, speak about Understanding Sharia Law--specifically centered on Conservatives' Skewed Interpretation, which Needs Debunking.

It is neither those ignorant of Sharia nor those heavily involved with eliminating Islamophobia and all the associated prejudices who are to blame. The guilty consist of some of those in the center, who know little about Islam--just enough to find prejudice within themselves and do their best to spread the word and the hatred, to the level of government.

Twelve states are working on legislation to make Sharia illegal, including Iowa.

The first point made regarding this idiocy was that it meshes well with the agenda of terrorism, diverting attention away from this genuine threat.

These bigots equate sharia with fascism.

                                               *****What is Sharia? 

The Oslo Attacks: More False Flag Evidence

by Steve Lendman

Flase Flags by Alex Pardee
The memorable line from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore explains what's so often true, saying:

"Things are seldom as they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream."

With considerable mass media help, especially America's, misinformation diverts public attention from vital truths, playing their usual gatekeeper role, providing fiction and irrelevancies, not fact.

For example, initial reports cited Islamic militants, naming Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami (aka Helpers of the Global Jihad), though no one knows if the group actually exists.

On July 22, New York Times writers Elisa Mala and J. David Goodman headlined, "At Least 80 Dead in Norway Shooting," claiming with no corroborating evidence:

"There was ample reason for concern that (Islamic) terrorists might be responsible. In 2004 and again in 2008, the No. 2 leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after the death of Osama bin Laden, threatened Norway because of its support of the American-led NATO military operation in Afghanistan."

In fact, no verifiable evidence confirms it. The claim is based on an alleged April 2003 Al Qaeda tape, urging Muslims to strike US, UK, Australian and Norwegian embassies and commercial interests because of their Afghanistan and/or Iraq involvement.

As The U.S. Empire Spreads Abroad It Becomes A Police State At Home

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

As America's empire spreads abroad, it becomes ever more the police state at home. The methods used for the suppression of foreigners by military force and violence are eventually mirrored in the “homeland.”

In an article last September 25th titled “It Is Official: the US Is A Police State,” author Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Treasury Secretary during the Reagan years, wrote, “'Violent extremism' is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning's FBI foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with 'the material support of terrorism'...”

The FBI raids at home are reminiscent of U.S. military raids overseas. In Iraq, for instance, labor union offices were raided and rifled and labor leaders imprisoned by the Occupation forces. Their “crime” was to oppose sweetheart contract deals with private oil firms.

The vast U.S. prison system, which houses 2.4 million Americans, may be compared with the Gulag the U.S. has built abroad. America today is the World's Jailer. As Allan Uthman reported on AlterNet, in 2006 the Bush regime began building “detention centers” to warehouse inmates for unspecified “new programs” when the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root nearly $400 million. What we do abroad, we do at home.

Audit of the Federal Reserve Reveals $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

The first ever GAO(Government Accountability Office) audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months due to the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which passed last year. Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator, and Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, led the charge for a Federal Reserve audit in the Senate, but watered down the original language of the house bill(HR1207), so that a complete audit would not be carried out. Ben Bernanke(pictured to the left), Alan Greenspan, and various other bankers vehemently opposed the audit and lied to Congress about the effects an audit would have on markets. Nevertheless, the results of the first audit in the Federal Reserve’s nearly 100 year history were posted on Senator Sander’s webpage earlier this morning.

What was revealed in the audit was startling: $16,000,000,000,000.00 had been secretly given out to US banks and corporations and foreign banks everywhere from France to Scotland. From the period between December 2007 and June 2010, the Federal Reserve had secretly bailed out many of the world’s banks, corporations, and governments. The Federal Reserve likes to refer to these secret bailouts as an all-inclusive loan program, but virtually none of the money has been returned and it was loaned out at 0% interest. Why the Federal Reserve had never been public about this or even informed the United States Congress about the $16 trillion dollar bailout is obvious — the American public would have been outraged to find out that the Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks while Americans were struggling to find jobs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Norway's Attacks Reveal World of Hatred

Initial reactions to the attacks in Norway showed a "clash of civilisations" exists, but not in the way many understood.

The Norwegian terrorist who murdered more than ninety innocent civilians - many of whom were teenagers - did not act alone. Or rather, he acted within a cultural and political context that legitimises his fearful and hate-infested worldview. It is now clear that Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to large amounts of right-wing propaganda. This tragedy underlines the urgency with which normal people around the world must combat fundamentalist nationalists and chauvinists wherever they may be. But it also demonstrates the extent to which reactionary bigotry has infected mainstream thought.

Many reacted to the news from Oslo with wide eyes and a pointed finger. The most animated reactionaries took to the pages of the New York Times comment section to issue sweeping proclamations about the Clash of Civilisations and something called "the cult of death". In many ways, readers were merely reinforcing the paper's woefully editorialised reportage. As Glenn Greenwald helpfully pointed out, the editors of the NYT - America's allegedly liberal newspaper - reserve the word "terrorist" solely for use in conjunction with the word "Muslim".

When news emerged that the perpetrator of the murders - the terrorist - was a man whose religion and skin pigmentation closely resembled those of the editors of the NYT, the story changed. The terrorist became a deranged "Christian extremist" whose tactics clearly mirrored "Al Qaeda's brutality and multiple attacks".  In that way, the paper linked the terrorist with Muslims, despite his strong antipathy for them.

Blame for the Western media's panting pursuit of a non-existent Muslim triggerman quickly focused on the feckless, credulous, overeager and inept source of the NYT's journalistic failure. Will McCants - proclaimed by one of his acolytes to be at the top of a "list of five terrorism experts you can trust" - was quickly discredited. In his defence, he only sought to affirm the confirmation bias that he and the editors of the NYT suffer from. The meme that underpins their worldview goes something like this: "Muslims are bad. When bad things happen, Muslims are responsible." This is a mainstream view in the US today; it cuts across party lines.

A Ruinous Meltdown

by Bob Herbert
New York Times

Life on The Economic Edge:
A story that is not getting nearly enough attention is the ruinous fiscal meltdown occurring in state after state, all across the country.

Taxes are being raised. Draconian cuts in services are being made. Public employees are being fired. The tissue-thin national economic recovery is being undermined. And in many cases, the most vulnerable populations — the sick, the elderly, the young and the poor — are getting badly hurt.

Arizona, struggling with a projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall, took the drastic step of scrapping its Children’s Health Insurance Program. That left nearly 47,000 low-income children with no coverage at all. Gov. Jan Brewer is also calling for an increase in the sales tax. She said, “Arizona is navigating its way through the largest state budget deficit in its long history.”

In New Jersey, the newly elected governor, Chris Christie, has proposed a series of budget cuts that, among other things, would result in public schools receiving $820 million less in state aid than they had received in the prior school year. Some well-off districts would have their direct school aid cut off altogether. Poorer districts that rely almost entirely on state aid would absorb the biggest losses in terms of dollars. They’re bracing for a terrible hit.

Be Prepared

by Robert Wolff

After Armageddon
This is going to be hard to say just right but I'll try.

North America and Europe, the two most "western" parts of the world, are struggling with an economic disaster and very divided political views of what to do now. To me they, we, begin more and more to look like rudderless ships wallowing in an ocean that is getting stormy. We are split in two or more ways of seeing.

Simplifying, I see three blocks: a determined, vocal, loud, group of people who are angry because things are no longer as they were. They express their anger by voting for extreme right wing representatives who believe in let's say the Ayn Rand view of what humans are: It's essential to be selfish, every man for himself. Get rid of everything that supports my worthless neighbor; if they cannot afford a meal, or a doctor's visit, so be it. Everybody who does not think as I do is an enemy, immigrants must be expelled. I don't know how large this group is, I am guessing maybe a quarter of the 800 million largely white people.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott’s Plutocratic Florida

by Joy-Ann Reid
The Miami-Herald

There’s a reason no amount of robocalls and prefab letters to the editor will save Rick Scott from his dismal poll numbers: the nagging suspicion, including among a growing number of Republicans, that whatever his motivations, Mr. “777” isn’t in this for the Sunshine State.

Scott has no history of public service. He popped up on the political radar in 2009 to wage war against healthcare reform. His business mantra was: Let us make a profit, so what? This was back when he was running Columbia/HCA and dreaming of privatized Medicare. So far though, Scott has personally lost money on his $70 million gubernatorial investment.

He doesn’t seem to know much about Florida, and doesn’t appear to be all that interested. He spends more time appearing on Fox News than in media that actually reside here.

Scott’s icy demeanor and blink-free stare could lead the most sober mind to conclude he might be some sort of alien life form. Asked to defend his policies, he blankly spits out Heritage Foundation talking points — kind of like Medicare voucher Rep. Paul Ryan, without the hair.

Meanwhile, his trip to Colorado for a secretive meeting, hosted by David and Charles Koch, with other Republican governors, seemed like creepy confirmation that this guy isn’t so much the governor of Florida as he is one of several interchangeable ideologues elevated to state and federal government in part thanks to the faux grassroots “tea party movement.”

The Koch brothers are in many ways the hidden hand behind the tea party, which mind-melds corporate interests, libertarians, and the fanatical, 1950s-era John Birch Society.

The Kochs’ father helped found the Birchers, who deemed the New Deal, civil rights laws and taxes to be communist plots. Now that they’ve captured the Republican Party, which even now is threatening to plunge the nation into default to prevent a single millionaire from losing the tax deduction on his private jet, they’re embedding Bircherism into universities including Florida State, and into the fiscal policies of states like Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan and Florida.

These states’ governors, some of whom attended the Koch brothers’ Colorado klatch with Scott, are pushing almost identical agendas.

They’re seeking to lower — and ultimately eliminate — corporate taxes, even though since 2009, 88 percent of real national income growth has gone to corporations, versus just 1 percent to wages, according to a Northwestern University study.

They’re slashing state workforces and gutting public sector unions, ending collective bargaining for teachers, firefighters and police, and even seeking to weaken child labor laws.

They’re brazenly promoting policies that favor the rich. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently used his line item veto to cut aid to his state’s working poor, to women’s healthcare and even AIDS funding, then put through $150 million in larder to wealthy school districts.

They’re privatizing everything from public services to schools. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s “economic martial law” gives his “emergency managers” the power to dissolve entire towns and hand public schools over to private charter companies.

They’re blowing open the doors to more development and weakened environmental protections, which in Florida means putting state parks and the Everglades at risk.

They’re competing to outdo Texas Gov. Rick Perry at attracting low wage jobs in less-regulated industries, and they can live with a less educated workforce to get there.

The Kochs’ father, Fred Chase Koch, built his oil refinery fortune between the roaring 1920s and World War II, a time when America was, for all intents and purposes, a plutocracy. Men of great wealth roamed the financial plains, while a garment, mine or factory worker could labor 14-hour days for an entire lifetime and never earn more than a few dollars a day, with no health coverage, no pension, and no Social Security or Medicare to fall back on when they got old.

That’s the America the Kochs are nostalgic for (without the pesky 16th Amendment allowing for federal income tax). And governors like Rick Scott are their vanguard.

Tea partiers may think they’re driving this train, but Scott’s decision to accept SunRail after rejecting less costly, federally funded high-speed rail, makes it clear that in the end, they are only as important as the next photo op. In a contest with big business like SunRail beneficiary CSX, they will lose, every time.

Scott isn’t an alien. He’s a plutocrat.

SPaul: But he is just following a pattern most of us have not known of before but has existed all the while in America.  It is only now that it has become so openly recognized.

Is Climate Change a Global Security Threat?

The UN Security Council has expressed concern that climate change may aggravate threats to international peace and security after what diplomats described as intense negotiations between Germany and Russia, which initially opposed any council action.

Small island states, which could disappear beneath rising seas, are pushing the Security Council to intervene to combat the threat to their existence. Meanwhile there has been talk of a new environmental peacekeeping force - the green helmets - which could step into conflicts caused by shrinking resources.

The final statement expressed "concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security".

The Security Council had failed to agree on whether climate change was an issue of world peace in 2007, when Britain brought up the matter. This is one of the first debates that will be occurring within that forum, which raises the whole issue of the security implications around climate change and the potential security implications for the world.

Is it a real opportunity to achieve significant results or an attempt to divert attention away from the root causes of the problem and from the countries that cause global warming and to distribute the burden evenly on all nations?

Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, discusses with guests: Sabrina Chesterman, a climate change consultant based in South Africa; Tobias Seakin, a senior research fellow and the director of National Security and Resilience; and Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow with the Energy, Environment and Development Programme.

Pledge Circus

by Anthony Barnes

Pledge-Junkies -- Isn't it time for Republican pledge junkies to get that monkey off their backs?

"I can quit anytime I want to; famous last words that came back to haunt you." -- recording artist MF Doom

I must admit that at times I've succumbed to the allure of the pledge.  I'd break off a few bucks every now and then to send to my local NPR affiliate hoping against hope that my meager contribution would in some way help shorten the pledge season.   As a kid, I reveled in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school, especially during outdoor assemblies where you could really belt it out. The compulsion may have been familial -- in a different sort of way.  My mom seemed, at times, to project an intractable urge to relentlessly Pledge our home's wooden coffee and dining tables, apparently hoping they'd wind up with the kind of shine you could see your face in.  Lemon Pledge remains her favorite.   But those pledge-related activities pale in comparison to the pledge-based agenda the GOP seems to believe will help the party clean the Democrats' collective clock in 2012.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Arts of Life They Changed Into the Arts of Death

by Phil Rockstroh
Counter Punch

As of late, Pat Robertson has been waxing apocalyptic regarding mankind's imminent reckoning with wrathful divinity, while liberals have been sharing scary bedtime stories by the ghostly light of computer screens…telling sleep-banishing tales of Michele ("Crazy Eyes") Bachmann, now stalking primary states, assailing common sense and chewing the scenery of sanity during appearances on the twenty-four/seven Creature Feature Theatre, otherwise known as, Cable News programming.

Granted, the sense of unease displayed by right wing, fundamentalist Christians regarding the state of the nation is understandable; although, their attribution as to the origin and cause of the destructive drift of U.S. culture is so far off the mark they would fail to get wet if they fell into a baptismal pool the size of Lake Michigan.

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson et al, these late empire zealots of shopping mall, militarism, and heterosexual hegemony, harbor a comic, yet mortifying vision of the conditions they believe would bring rebirth and renewal to the nation. Believing, it seems, all that is good and decent can be salvaged, if only the U.S. would be transformed into an earthly analog of their fantasy of an immaculately scrubbed and deodorized, caucasoid heaven (which, of course, to all others, seems a nightmare world where W.A.S.P. faces are permanently affixed on the whole of multi-visaged humanity -- a death mask made of white bread) -- a creepy, blood-bereft, restricted country club Hyperborea, sustained by holy militarism, where well-turned out, obedient children of the lord await the Second Coming -- a cartoon universe deus ex machina -- vis-á-vis the arrival of their version of Jesus Christ -- who seems to resemble a cross between a muscle-blessed, Hollywood super hero and an eternally vigilant, sin-scouring Tidy Bowl Man.

Invoking an impassioned narrative of blood, thunder and descending, supernatural balm, fundamentalism is an attempt, albeit desperate and misguided, to mitigate the uncertainty and angst incurred by the poetry-decimating literalism of the industrial/consumer age.

The Fix Is In: Washington's Planned Social Contract Destruction

by Steve Lendman

The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan, united against working household interests. In fact, lawmakers yield on virtually everything big money wants, notably when banks and other corporate favorites are affected.

Last December, Obama capitulated to Republicans, rigging a deal for up to $1 trillion dollars in handouts, mostly to corporate giants and America's wealthy with working households almost entirely left out.

They still are, enduring a protracted Main Street depression, stiff-armed by Obama-led bipartisan crooks. In fact, he's more crime boss than president - stealing from the many for the few. More on his dirty scheme below.

As a result, America and other "(e)conomies are being turned into rentier ('tollbooths') to pay debts that ('real' ones) can't sustain," according to Michael Hudson. "It's a losing game," but goes on, criminally defrauding millions of people to assure creditors are paid, sucking massive amounts of wealth to their coffers, unreported by major media scoundrels, suppressing what people most need to know.

In fact, new audit figures show that Bernanke's Fed gave Wall Street and European banksters at least $16.1 trillion (called emergency loans) from December 1, 2007 - July 21, 2010, besides unknown amounts earlier and in the past year.

Moreover, it's well known that trillions of dollars are stolen, handed to corporate interests and never returned, as well as gotten in other illegal ways. As a result, taxpayers get stuck with the bill, the nation with unsustainable mounting debt, heading it eventually for ruin.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Militarizing Latin America

by Noam Chomsky

The United States was founded as an "infant empire," in George Washington's words. The conquest of the national territory was a grand imperial venture, much like the vast expansion of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. From the earliest days, control over the hemisphere was a critical goal. Ambitions expanded during World War II, as the US displaced Britain and lesser imperial powers. High-level planners concluded that the US should "hold unquestioned power" in a world system including not only the Western hemisphere, but also the former British Empire and the Far East, and later, as much of Eurasia as possible.

A primary goal of NATO was to block moves towards European independence, along Gaullist lines. That became still more clear when the USSR collapsed, and with it the Russian threat that was the formal justification of NATO. NATO was not disbanded, but rather expanded, in violation of promises to Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not even fully extend to East Germany, let alone beyond, and that "NATO would be transforming itself into a more political organization." By now it is virtually an international intervention force under US command, its self-defined jurisdiction reaching to control over energy sources, pipelines, and sea lanes. And Europe is a well-disciplined junior partner.

Throughout, Latin America retained its primacy in global planning. As Washington was considering the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1971, Nixon's National Security Council observed that if the US cannot control Latin America, it cannot expect "to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world." That policy problem has become more severe with recent South American moves towards integration, a prerequisite for independence, and establishment of more varied international ties, while also beginning to address severe internal disorders, most importantly, the traditional rule of a rich Europeanized minority over a sea of misery and suffering.

ECHELON -- The Global Eavesdropping Scheme Dwarfs Murdoch's "News of the World"

Contributed by Sherwood Ross
Originally posted at

As eavesdroppers go, next to Uncle Sam and John Bull, Rupert Murdoch, the moral force behind Fox News, is an amateur.

That's because a global eavesdropping scheme being run today by the United States and Great Britain dwarfs anything that Rupert Murdoch's editors at The News of The World (TNTW) ever dared attempt.
British Prime Minister David Cameron may well deny he knew TNTW was tapping the phones of members of UK's Royal household or those of American 9/11 victims. But he can't claim he doesn't know his country is a partner in ECHELON, which, according to Washington journalist Bill Blum, is a “network of massive, highly automated interception stations” that is eavesdropping on the entire world.

"Like a mammoth vacuum cleaner in the sky, the National Security Agency (NSA) sucks it all up: home phone, office phone, cellular phone, email, fax, telex...satellite transmissions, fiber-optic communications traffic, microwave links, voice, text images (that are) captured by satellites continuously orbiting the earth and then processed by high-powered computers," Blum writes in his book "Rogue State" (Common Courage Press).

Calling it the greatest invasion of privacy ever, Blum says the ceaseless, illegal spy system sucks up perhaps billions of messages daily, including those of prime ministers, the Secretary-General of the UN, the pope, embassies, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, and transnational corporations and that "if God has a phone, it's being monitored."

The Road Home For Veterans

by Toni Atkins
SignOn San Diego

San Diego remains a military town, with more recently returned veterans living here than in any other city. Most veterans are successfully integrated back into civilian life and become our neighbors and co-workers. But for far too many, coming home means a sleeping bag and a shopping cart beneath an overpass or nights spent in a homeless shelter.

Countywide, homelessness has increased almost 20 percent since 2008. Job loss and home foreclosure resulting from the nation’s financial crisis has clearly taken its toll. But homelessness was shockingly high even before the economic meltdown. Untreated mental health issues, often combined with substance abuse, are a leading reason why someone ends up homeless. Family breakups, devastating medical bills, unemployment and a lack of affordable housing can tip the scales for a person living on the margin.

About 20 percent of homeless San Diegans are veterans. Most are single white men, but the number of homeless women vets is increasing. A homeless vet is far more likely to be African-American or Latino than is a non-vet who is homeless. Most served in Vietnam and the years following, but one-third are veterans of conflicts in the Middle East.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The New Party of Reagan

The Washington Post

After he switched to the Republican Party in 1962, Ronald Reagan famously quipped: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

Now, the Republican Party is doing the same thing to him — and Democrats are happy to take Reagan back.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting of the House Democrats, caucus chairman John Larson rallied his colleagues for the day’s debt-limit debate by playing an audio recording of the 40th president.

“Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility,” Reagan says in the clip. “This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.”

“Kind of sums things up,” Larson said, playing the same clip again at a news conference.

Nobody knows what Reagan, who died in 2004, would make of the current fight over the debt limit. But 100 years after Reagan’s birth, it’s clear that the Tea Party Republicans have little regard for the policies of the president they claim to venerate.

Tea Party Republicans call a vote to raise the debt ceiling a threat to their very existence; Reagan presided over 18 increases in the debt ceiling during his presidency.

Tea Party Republicans say they would sooner default on the national debt than raise taxes; Reagan agreed to raise taxes 11 times.

Would Michele Bachmann be a submissive president?

Washington Post

I didn’t want to write a column about Michele Bachmann, but my husband told me to.

Naturally, I listened. 

Poor man, he can hardly get me to pick up the dry cleaning.

Apparently, things are different Chez Bachmann. Running for Congress in 2006, the Minnesota Republican explained her decision to specialize in tax law.

She’d never taken a tax course in law school, Bachmann told the Living Word Christian Center, but her husband decided she should pursue an advanced degree in the subject.

“Tax law! I hate taxes! Why should I go and do something like that?” Bachmann recalled thinking. “But the Lord said, ‘Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’ ”

Welcome to the ever-evolving world of gender politics, evangelical edition. Someday, perhaps, after the first few female presidents have served their second terms, the country will have worked its way through the thickly seeded minefield of gender and politics: Will she be strong enough? What to call the first husband? Is it safe to talk about her clothes? Until then, every succeeding election, I suspect, will present its own set of gender-related wrinkles.

The 2008 campaign simultaneously showed that a woman could be tough and knowledgeable enough — and that being a woman was not enough in itself. Hillary Clinton’s never-say-die primary battle put to rest questions about female grit. Sarah Palin’s never-learn-substance vice presidential campaign showed that the Geraldine Ferraro moment — plunking a woman on the ticket merely for the sake of two X chromosomes — was long past.

20 Signs That The Fabric Of American Society Is Coming Apart At The Seams

The American Dream

There is wild disagreement about what is causing it, but what most people can agree on is that there is something fundamentally wrong with America.  The fabric of American society just does not seem to be as strong as it used to.  In fact, many would argue that society is coming apart at the seams. Corruption and decay seem to be everywhere.  I spend a lot of time in my other articles blaming a lot of this corruption and decay on politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders, but the reality is that they are only part of the story.

The truth is that those who are leading us are a reflection of what we have become as a nation.  If you got rid of all of our corrupt leaders that would not suddenly "fix" this country.  Millions of ordinary Americans have become deeply corrupt as well.  The kinds of things that you are about to read about below were very rare in past generations.  Society is falling apart all around us and we haven't even seen the complete collapse of the U.S. economy yet.

A lot of people like to blame the increasingly bizarre behavior of the American people on the economy, but the reality is that things are not nearly as bad as they are eventually going to be.  Yes, the U.S. "Misery Index" recently hit a 28 year high.  Tens of millions of American families are deeply suffering.  Unemployment is rampant and unprecedented numbers of Americans have been getting kicked out of their homes.

But that is nothing compared to what is coming.

So what is America going to look like when true economic suffering comes along?

That is something to think about.

NYC Schools Approve $2.7 Million Deal with Murdoch-Linked Firm to Track Student Performance

Democracy Now

The New York City-based group Class Size Matters has just launched a petition calling on New York officials to reject a no-bid contract that would give the company Wireless Generation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, access to the personal data of schoolchildren. The deal was awarded shortly after the former head of New York City schools, Joel Klein, joined News Corp.’s board. Klein attended the British parliamentary hearing with Murdoch on the phone-hacking scandal today in London.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Master's Children

by David Glenn Cox
I was out meeting folks last week. Seems that no matter where I go; while the accents may change the stories they tell stay the same. I met a man named Tom; he was an electrician and a sort of jack of all trades. He told me, "The more jobs you can do the more work you can get." I could relate to his feelings as they were mine as well.

Tom's fifty six years old and since he lost his house he splits his time between his mother's couch and his girl friend's house. Like millions of other Americans he once knew prosperity, raised a family and looked towards the future. Now like me, he catches as catch can. We were working on a job together rehabbing a 19th century farm house. Tom was sleeping at night on a dusty old couch in the corner of the room. I asked just out of curiosity, "Where are you eating?" This country house is stripped bare with only a refrigerator in the garage.

"There's some ham and some bottled water in the refrigerator out in the garage," he explained.

"What are you doing about the mosquitoes?" I was compelled to ask this because them critters were fierce in the shade even during the day and moved in ravenous waves at night. He answered with a sly hint of a smile, "you stay close to the fan and fight the good fight." Then he added, "I hope we get paid today, I'm almost out of smokes."

As we worked we talked, he had worked for the railroad and had lost that job when the Burlington-Northern had merged. They had bought him out and he had used the money to open an electronics repair business. He added, "There isn't any electronics to fix anymore, it's all plug and play or throw it away." I just nodded in understanding. I'd heard his story so many times before. I've even lived a chapter or two of it myself, with me it was the industrial engine business, but I've heard the story told before with the printing business or the painting business and the contracting business or the landscaping business until the stories begin to rhyme.