Saturday, March 31, 2012

Whose Recovery?

by Robert Reich

Luxury retailers are smiling. So are the owners of high-end restaurants, sellers of upscale cars, vacation planners, financial advisors, and personal coaches. For them and their customers and clients the recession is over. The recovery is now full speed. Protesters rally against economic injustice.

But the rest of America isn’t enjoying an economic recovery. It’s still sick. Many Americans remain in critical condition.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 percent third quarter growth). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13 trillion, $3.3 billion more than previously thought.

Yet it’s almost a certainly that all the gains went to the top 10 percent, and the lion’s share to the top 1 percent. Over a third of the gains went to 15,600 super-rich households in the top one-tenth of one percent.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Activist Judges on Trial

Three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health care law demonstrated for all to see that conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature, diving deeply into policy details as if they were members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senator, excuse me, Justice Samuel Alito quoted Congressional Budget Office figures on Tuesday to talk about the insurance costs of the young. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts sounded like the House whip in discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell. He noted that without various provisions, Congress “wouldn’t have been able to put together, cobble together, the votes to get it through.” Tell me again, was this a courtroom or a lobbyist’s office?

It fell to the court’s liberals—the so-called “judicial activists,” remember?—to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Veteran

Democracy Now!

As the Trayvon Martin case draws national attention, we look at another fatal shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. 

Audio of the entire incident was recorded by the medical alert device in Chamberlain’s apartment. We’re joined by family attorneys and Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who struggles through tears to recount his father’s final moments, including the way police officers mocked his father’s past as a marine. "For them to look at my father that way, (with) no regard for his life, every morning I think about it," he says.

Finding the Wisdom We Need to Survive

by Robert C. Koehler

I’m far more interested in forgiveness than justice.

I say this just to calm myself down after a morning of media overkill, so to speak. There are so many murdered mothers and children in the news, some with names and faces, so many just adding anonymously to one death toll or another.

An Iraqi mom, 32 years old, is beaten to death in her house in El Cajon, Calif. A note by her body reads: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Was it a hate crime? An isolated incident?

The guy who killed Trayvon Martin is still at large, somewhere. But his 2005 mug shot is everywhere, making him the poster child of vigilante justice. Do I have to reduce the killer to that viral scowl to feel compassion for Trayvon?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Get Ready for the Crackdowns

by Kelley B. Vlahos

The show of paramilitary force at the national party conventions held since the 9/11 attacks has been nothing less than shocking, though the vast majority of America doesn’t know it because they weren’t there, or they simply don’t care.

Still, since the Occupy movement has brought on new and creative crackdowns on Constitutionally-protected protest activity in towns and cities all over the country, you can bet that when it comes to security at this summer’s Republican and Democratic Party confabs, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Antiwar protesters nevertheless plan to join demonstrators of myriad stripes, many under the Occupy rubric, as they converge on three major events this spring and summer, beginning with the NATO summit in Chicago in May, the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, and the twin Democratic confab in early September.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feeding The Homeless BANNED In Major Cities All Over America

reposted from: The Economic Collapse

What would you do if you came across someone on the street that had not had anything to eat for several days?  Would you give that person some food?  Well, the next time you get that impulse you might want to check if it is still legal to feed the homeless where you live.  Sadly, feeding the homeless has been banned in major cities all over America.  Other cities that have not banned it outright have put so many requirements on those that want to feed the homeless (acquiring expensive permits, taking food preparation courses, etc.) that feeding the homeless has become "out of reach" for most average people.  Some cities are doing these things because they are concerned about the "health risks" of the food being distributed by ordinary "do-gooders".  Other cities are passing these laws because they do not want homeless people congregating in city centers where they know that they will be fed.  But at a time when poverty and government dependence are soaring to unprecedented levels, is it really a good idea to ban people from helping those that are hurting?

This is just another example that shows that our country is being taken over by control freaks.  There seems to be this idea out there that it is the job of the government to take care of everyone and that nobody else should even try.

But do we really want to have a nation where you have to get the permission of the government before you do good to your fellow man?


I Have A Question

by S. Paul Forrest

Given the rush to judgment in the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, are we who are emphatically claiming a case of racism really acting in a racist manner albeit reversed?  After all, innocent until proven guilty is still Justice's credo so why are so many, as was the case of Casey Anthony, so quick to judge and condemn Zimmerman without substantial proof?  Is it because we do not want to be seen as racist or in anyway supporting of it if it did in fact, exist? By collectively hating a "hater" have we have become the same kind of racist we so emphatically judge Zimmerman to be?

Ask yourself this: If Zimmerman were a black man, would we all be so quick to judge this as racism or a hate crime? Likewise; if Trayvon were white, would justice have been so slow in rendering a verdict and would have investigators done their job properly? The view of this incident is as murky as any other where none of us were physically present when it transpired. We can only know what happened in Sanford by information told to us in reports from news agencies which have in the past, only been used to guide our opinion instead of reporting actual fact.  None of us were there. Supposition is not evidence nor is it enough to render judgment in any case; even this one.

Racism and prejudice do exist in America in a devastating way but this travesty cannot define exactly why we see so much of it across this country and be solved it by electing a martyr; nor can it be used to change the reality of Trayvon Martin’s death. What it can do though, is open our eyes to the reality of how the color of skin and ethnicity of those involved affects our reaction but also, how it opens the door into a land of self awakening where we all realize that George Zimmerman is not the only one who should be accused of racism. We all in some part, large or small, should be judged of the same for not only our immediate desire to look righteous but our desire to judge without evidence the guilt of one man which if I recall from these same news agencies, was exactly what Zimmerman is said to have done in his jugement of Martin. 

These are not the only questions to ponder. What about “Stand Your Ground” as a defense to justify a man killing someone in a neighborhood when he was the one pursuing, not being pursued? I teach my children to defend themselves if a stranger walks up to them and they feel threatened but according to this Law, if they attempt to fight off a would be abductor or attacker, that attacker now has the right to shoot them. This incident has major potential to take gun control and those who use such Laws to act as vigilantes to a deadly level and all but render us all victims rather than allowing us the security we are told we have a right to.  How many more of these incidents do we have to witness or how many will go unnoticed in this nation before we either self-destruct or we come together to find real solutions to our ever growing social dilemmas?

Racism: Alive and Well in America

by S. Paul Forrest

As the last show was unfortunately cancelled, we will be discussing this as one of the stories - 04-02-12 - Breaking Taboo - - 7:00 PM EST - Be sure to tune in.

Racism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”  Racism is not just a term though, it is an evil action of mind and body that both erodes and degrades our human race by poisoning it with beliefs of superiority when it is in and of itself, the very thing which makes us so inferior as a Nation.

This ugly word has become the singular issue surrounding the Trayvon Martin case in Florida this past month.  Racism is being tossed into the ring regarding a vigilante neighborhood watchman with a weapon who somehow became compelled to shoot to death a young black teenager walking home from the store because he fit the profile of other black man who “always get away”.  Those words sound perfectly normal from a racist but the fact remaining is how charges have not yet been filed because  somehow, proof does not exist showing it was in fact, a hate crime.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Trayvon Martin and the fatal history of American racism

by Kevin Powell

So are you. And so is any human being who has ever felt cornered, in a dark and desolate alley, between life and death. Add the grim reality of skin color in America, and you have the disastrous spectacle of 250lb George Zimmerman, 28, pursuing 140lb Trayvon, 17, until that man-child is screaming "Help!" – and then gasping for air after a bullet from Zimmerman's 9mm handgun had punctured his chest. A majority-white, gated community became, on 26 February, the makeshift mortuary for a black boy who will not get a chance to live, to go to college with his exceptional high school grades, to make something of his life. Trayvon's fatal act: a mundane walk to the nearby convenience store to buy a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

This is what racism, the American version of it, means to black boys like Trayvon, to black men like me. That we often don't stand a chance when it has been determined, oftentimes by a single individual acting as judge and jury, that we are criminals to be pursued, confronted, tackled, and, yes, subdued. To be shocked and awed into submission.

Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords

by Manuel Valdes and Shannon Mcfarland

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

America's Wars: Creating a Historical Legacy of Shame and Dishonor

by Michael Payne

Is there no end to these endless, misguided wars that are bringing shame and dishonor upon this nation? How much longer will this nation waste its wealth and resources on the proliferation of unjustifiable wars? The image that America now projects to the world is that of a warring nation, one that settles its differences with other nations, not by diplomacy, but by military force.

Those shameless war profiteers who dominate our nation's capitol are people who have no conscience and have, long ago, lost their moral foundations. Money and power are what drives them and if their sordid agenda results in the needless loss of lives of people in other nations and our troops, it bothers them not in the least. They live in their own world of wealth and privilege, with not the slightest concern for their fellow human beings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Little Unfinished Business

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

If President Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq based on lies and deception, please explain why the U.S. is not responsible for repairing the horrific damage inflicted on those two countries and for paying reparations. By some estimates more than 1 million Iraqis have been killed, more than a million have been wounded, more than a million have lost their homes, two million have fled the country, and millions are without adequate electricity and other services essential for civilized life.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s ongoing war in Afghanistan is claiming some 4,000 civilian lives a year and forcing hundreds of thousands of Afghan residents out of their homes. And what of those citizens of both nations who have lost their jobs, starved to death, been stricken by diseases which previously did not exist, such as cholera, and doused with radioactive poisons from uranium-tipped shells and have been unable to obtain medical care as doctors and health technicians fled in the face of the invasion or because hospitals, (yes, hospitals) were destroyed in the fighting or commandeered by the Pentagon?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Police State Blues

by Phil Rockstroh

At mid-evening, on Saturday, March 17, upon the six-month anniversary of the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the NYPD initiated another brutal operation to expel OWS activists from the premises, and to discourage, in general, those who might venture attempts to exercise their right to free assembly and free expression across the whole of the city of New York as winter proceeds into spring.

After all, the NYPD suffered no ill consequences from its search-and-destroy mission launched in the late fall of 2011 to scour the park, renamed Liberty Square, of liberty.

In a police state, unjust actions by authoritarian bullies, operating at the behest of privileged bullies in power, act by caprice and will escalate their level of brutality by the degree that the public at large reacts with support and indifference to the state’s assaults on civil liberties and common decency.

Five Ways US National Security Policies Will Erode Civil Liberties in 2012

by Karen Greenberg

"Brace yourself: Drone killings of US citizens will continue, more government whistle blowers will be brought to trial, and Washington will become even more secretive."

By now, you'd think we'd be entering the end of the 9/11 era. One war over in the Greater Middle East, another hurtling disastrously to its end, and the threat of al-Qaeda so diminished that it should hardly move the needle on the national worry meter. You might think, in fact, that the moment had arrived to turn the American gaze back to first principles: the Constitution and its protections of rights and liberties.

Yet warning signs abound that 2012 will be another year in which, in the name of national security, those rights and liberties are only further Guantanamo-ized and abridged. Most notably, for example, despite the fact that genuinely dangerous enemies continue to exist abroad, there is now a new enemy in our sights: namely, American oppositional types and whistleblowers who are charged as little short of traitors for revealing the workings of our government to journalists and others.

Here and elsewhere, it looks like we can expect the Obama administration to continue to barrel down the path that has already taken us far from the country we used to be. And by next year, if a different president is in the Oval Office, expect him to lead us even further astray. With that in mind, here are five categories in the sphere of national security where 2012 is likely to prove even grimmer than 2011.

Obama Apologies For Kandahar But Not His Drone Strikes That Also Kill Civilians

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

How shall the world view the apology by President Obama for the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers allegedly by a lone U.S. serviceman in Kandahar Province when the President is himself personally responsible for the extra-judicial killing of hundreds of civilians by means of drone aircraft strikes whose crime he defends? Army Staff Sgt., Robert Bales, of Lake Tapps, Wash., is being held in prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Mr. Obama is free to travel the campaign trail.

“We’re heart-broken over the loss of innocent life,” the president said of the Kandahar massacre. His seeming expression of contrition rings hollow, though, particularly if one considers how Mr. Obama goes about his daily routine ordering drone strikes and seemingly is unaffected by the “loss of innocent lives” they cause, as well as by the hated companion night raids on Afghan homes, also the result of his policy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Forgotten Struggles of America’s Soldiers

by S. Paul Forrest

If you missed the discussion - 03-19-12 - on Breaking Taboo - - 7:00 PM EST - Be sure to listen to it HERE
Recently, the media had been ablaze with the reports of an American soldier who, after walking into an Afghanistan village, shot and killed 16 civilians, most of them, women and children. America’s response was quick and calculated: He will be tried for murder and will receive the death penalty when proven to have committed the acts. Afghanistan officials want him tried in their country but either way, the soldier has been slated to die. 

The uni-polar decision to condemn this man for his actions, albeit somewhat justified, should be recognized as more than just a crazy man gone vigilantly; it should more appropriately be looked at as the result of a system that has taken our soldiers from people to property in the grand game of economic war paid for with the blood of those who are forced into endless tours of duty and the policies of death employed by the military industrial complex. When a drone kills innocent civilians, it is called an accident even when it was known the targets were civilians.  When a lone soldier does so, it is defined as an act of murder by a mentally troubled person rather than by the machine he was trained to be.

Scoundrel Media Afghan Massacre Cover-Up

by Stephen Lendman

In all US war theaters, troops commit unspeakable atrocities. Trained to dehumanize enemies, their mission involves killing, destruction, and much more.

Local treasures are looted. Women are raped. Civilians are treated like combatants. Children are indiscriminately harmed like adults. Prisoners are tortured. Mutilations are common. Crimes of war and against humanity are institutionalized. It's all in a day's work like taking out the garbage.

Viciousness defines US wars. No crime's too great to commit. Human lives are valueless. Only winning matters, then on to the next war. Lies, deception, unspeakable brutality, and cover-up define them.

President Obama signs Executive Order Allowing For Control Over All US Resources

by Kenneth Schortgen Jr

On March 16th, President Obama signed a new Executive Order which expands upon a prior order issued in 1950 for Disaster Preparedness, and gives the office of the President complete control over all the resources in the United States in times of war or emergency.

The National Defense Resources Preparedness order gives the Executive Branch the power to control and allocate energy, production, transportation, food, and even water resources by decree under the auspices of national defense and national security.  The order is not limited to wartime implementation, as one of the order's functions includes the command and control of resources in peacetime determinations.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rediscovering American Poverty

by Barbara Ehrenreich

It’s been exactly 50 years since Americans, or at least the non-poor among them, “discovered” poverty, thanks to Michael Harrington’s engaging book The Other AmericaIf this discovery now seems a little overstated, like Columbus’s “discovery” of America, it was because the poor, according to Harrington, were so “hidden” and “invisible” that it took a crusading left-wing journalist to ferret them out.  

Harrington’s book jolted a nation that then prided itself on its classlessness and even fretted about the spirit-sapping effects of “too much affluence.” He estimated that one quarter of the population lived in poverty -- inner-city blacks, Appalachian whites, farm workers, and elderly Americans among them. We could no longer boast, as President Nixon had done in his“kitchen debate” with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow just three years earlier, about the splendors of American capitalism.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Liberal Magazine, Prominent U.S. Rabbi, Warn Obama Opening Door To Israeli Preventive Strike on Iran

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Although President Obama says “now is not the time for bluster” about Iran, his administration “has adopted a strategic approach that is moving the United States closer to war,” “The Nation” magazine warns in a March 26th editorial.

While Iran has  the right to enrich uranium under international law, Mr. Obama has made it U.S. policy to stop Iran from doing so despite the fact all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran has abandoned its earlier nuclear weapons program.

“Another questionable proposition” (embraced by the Obama administration”) is that “an Iranian nuclear weapon is a threat to Israel, and therefore Israel and the U.S. have the right to launch a preventive military strike,” the magazine says in its lead editorial.

Terror, Trauma, and the Endless Afghan War

by Amy Goodman

We may never know what drove a U.S. Army staff sergeant to head out into the Afghan night and allegedly murder at least 16 civilians in their homes, among them nine children and three women. The massacre near Belambai, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has shocked the world and intensified the calls for an end to the longest war in U.S. history. The attack has been called tragic, which it surely is. But when Afghans attack U.S. forces, they are called “terrorists.” That is, perhaps, the inconsistency at the core of U.S. policy, that democracy can be delivered through the barrel of a gun, that terrorism can be fought by terrorizing a nation.

“I did it,” the alleged mass murderer said as he returned to the forward operating base outside Kandahar, that southern city called the “heartland of the Taliban.” He is said to have left the base at 3 a.m. and walked to three nearby homes, methodically killing those inside. One farmer, Abdul Samad, was away at the time. His wife, four sons, and four daughters were killed. Some of the victims had been stabbed, some set on fire. Samad told The New York Times, “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No More....No War

Why are so many in support of this brutality; this insane reflection of greed and corruption.  This is not what America stands for; it is not what We the People - the true Patriots - represent but still, so many blindly ignore it and by proxy, support it.  Welcome to the America's quasi Democracy...America's death.

Assange: Pentagon Attempting To Stifle Coverage With "Espionage" Charges

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

The Pentagon is attempting to quash coverage of its activities by alleging that any reporter seeking classified information is collaborating with the source and guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says.

In an interview published in “Rolling Stone” magazine, Assange, now under house arrest in England, said the Pentagon demanded “we not only destroy everything we had ever published or were ever going to publish in relation to the U.S. government, but that we also stop ‘soliciting’ information from U.S. government employees.”

Assange asserts the Pentagon is trying to create a new legal precedent that forbids “a journalist simply asking a source to communicate information.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps

by Naomi Wolfe

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration (and continue to be implemented by those under Obama).

America's Afghanistan Legacy

by Stephen Lendman

In his book titled, "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire,"John Pilger discussed Afghanistan, saying:

"Through all the humanitarian crises in living memory, no country has been abused and suffered more, and none has been helped less than Afghanistan."

He described what looked more like a moonscape than a functioning nation. In Kabul, "contours of rubble rather than streets (exist), where people live in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue....(with) no light or heat."

If hell on earth exists, it's headquartered in Afghanistan, but has many global affiliate locations.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Education Has Lost Its One, True Purpose

by S. Paul Forrest

If you missed the discussion on Monday, 03-12-2012 on Breaking Taboo, 7:00 PM EST - you can listen to it HERE

Testing is a part of every student’s life from athletics to scholastics.  In the latter case, children and young adults are tested to determine their performance and retention of course information.  These tests are necessary to gauge in what area a student needs work in order to enhance their education.   To ensure that the students are achieving the desired level of minimum educationn, in 2001, No Child Left Behind was passed into Law requiring that schools test students in public schools. In America’s educational system today though, the testing process has taken a turn for the worse, turning it into a performance-based institution rather than one which is meant to stimulate intellectual prowess.  This attempt to reform education seemed harmless enough at first but when the reality of its implications began to set in, many quickly realized how errant a policy it was.

As Anton Batey has stated, “At first glance, the concept of standardized tests seems reasonable. Children should be tested, and the tests are clear indicators either of how intelligent they are, or of how much the school is teaching them. But what is the school "teaching" them, exactly? The answer is simple but unfortunate: They're teaching them how to take the test.” Testing is important but when school administrators and teachers are given the sole task of ensuring their students perform well else risk losing Federal funding or even, their jobs, it only opens the door to fraudulent recording of scores, purposefully omitting “special needs” students and dismissing all extracurricular efforts only to appear as successful in their educational methodology.  

Part of the issue with this testing method is in it’s determination of “how intelligent a child is”.  When the child’s results, which may be recorded as poor; directly attributable to their low performing school, are posted publicly as required under this Law, the affects on a child’s confidence and future potential, can be extremely destructive. But this is not the only test that can be detrimental in this manner.  Intelligence, personality and career testing all attempt to assist young people in finding their place in our society but these measurements may also negatively affect their self-image. While a child may be incredibly artistic they could fail in reading or mathematics or be assigned a low I.Q. and as determined by these tests, could very well be “left behind” as a failure in their own minds, taking from them any hope for success. 

The question becomes then; is teaching our children to be performers as opposed to thinkers detrimental and is this approach diminishing the true purpose of education; that of empowerment.  By using our children as gauges as opposed to encouraging free thinking, future leaders, we are doing more harm than good to not only their futures but our collective society’s. What we all should be asking ourselves is:  Are we empowering our children and feeding their potential, inner genii or are we handicapping them in an inane effort to simply adhere to an errant, short term philosophy; doing more harm to them than good?  

Evidence of War Lies Public Pre-War This Time

by David Swanson 

Tears of Israel: Prayer for the Dying by John Aaron
When President George W. Bush was pretending to want to avoid a war on Iraq while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going, we had a feeling he was lying.  After all, he was a Republican.  But it was after the war was raging away that we came upon things like the Downing Street Minutes and the White House Memo.

Now President Barack Obama is pretending to want to avoid a war on Iran and to want Israel not to start one, while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going.  We might suspect a lack of sincerity, given the insistence that Iran put an end to a program that the U.S. government simultaneously says there is no evidence exists, given the increase in free weapons for Israel to $3.1 billion next year, given the ongoing protection of Israel at the U.N. from any accountability for crimes, given the embrace of sanctions highly unlikely to lead to anything other than greater prospects of war, and given Obama's refusal to take openly illegal war "off the table."  We might suspect that peace was not the ultimate goal, except of course that Obama is a Democrat.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ignorance Is Strength

by Paul Krugman

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And afterWorld War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.
About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith. But Mr. Romney’s response to a high school senior worried about college costs is arguably even more significant, because what he said points the way to actual policy choices that will further undermine American education.

We The People Must Protect Our Liberty, No Matter The Cost

by S. Paul Forrest

America today is no longer a Land of Opportunity but one of basic survival for the middle to lower class tax brackets. The hope we once knew and looked toward in our daily struggles as a beacon of light at the end of the labor tunnel is quickly being extinguished by corporatism and entitlements for the rich while we at the bottom slave to minimally support our families.

Our governmental representatives sit in Washington, D.C. deliberating our collective future, while We the People can only hope they are doing so in our best interests. To date though, this has not happened. To date, they have done nothing but add to our national deficit with corporate bailouts and tax havens for their contributors while our national education system has come under attack, our teachers lose their jobs, citizens lose their homes and our elders face the loss of Medicare and the elimination of social security, a fund into which they have paid their whole, working lives. To date, they have only appeased us with pointless debates while the same corporations that feed from the public trough fill these politician’s pockets with “campaign contributions”.

In addition to this, the military complex continues to cripple our economy under the guise of National Security and the global trade policies pushed by a corporatist agenda have all but rendered us global sheep in a broken field of dreams. Adding insult to injury, American factories have been allowed to leave America, exporting our jobs and are able to ship their goods in without tariffs or trade restrictions through legislative manipulations like NAFTA and CAFTA. Currently, our government is trying to initiate a Global free trade policy that will further cripple our workforce by forcing them to labor for lower pay and fewer benefits in order to remain competitive with third world workers.

H.R. 347 - Another Step Toward Amerikan Fascism

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

This bill covers much more than the Pres, VP, and their houses

(1) the term ‘restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area--
(A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds;
(B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or
(C) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance; and
(2) the term ‘other person protected by the Secret Service’ means any person whom the United States Secret Service is authorized to protect under section 3056 of this title or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.

(a) Whoever--
(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so;
(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions;
(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or
(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds;
or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b)."

Read also:  Independence Day: We Shall Overcome

On Regaining a Spirit of Defiance: 'I'm Worried Now but I Won't Be Worried Long'

by Phil Rockstroh

The "beautiful" trans-Alaska pipeline
The course of action taken by the present day U.S. political class in addressing the era's rising tide of economic hardship and ecological peril has proven as helpful as tossing an anvil to a drowning man.

The following two, axiomatic headlines reveal much about the dovetailing mindsets manifested by members of both the drowning class and the moral compass-bereft captains of the ship of state:

Nike Foamposite Galaxy Shoe Spurs Frenzy At Malls (Associated Press, Saturday, February 25, 2012)

Mitt Romney: Wife Ann Drives ‘A Couple Of Cadillacs’ (The Washington Post, Friday, February 24, 2012)

Inadvertently, Mr. Romney's declaration, stated in his own blandly deranged way, captures the As Above/So Below nature of consumer state psychology.

By means of incessant, womb to tomb, commercial propaganda, the corporate class has promoted the idea that an individual's identity is based solely on the sum total of his worldly possessions. Yet, when young people, denied a decent education and stranded in circumstances where they have been deprived of a means to gain a sense of identity by acquiring the skills and the development of the talents necessary for the pursuit of their individual aspirations, have the temerity to reflect the societal values they have internalized -- for example, by acting in an aggressive manner in a mindless pursuit of material items that they have been conditioned to believe will bestow a sense of self worth -- then media elites and bamboozled bourgeois should not, as they can be counted on to do, react with consternation, carrying on as if these acts of desperation on the part of the young are wholly devoid of any cultural context.

Inside the Keystone pipeline: How much would it really help US consumers?

by Mark Clayton

Often lost in the political wrangling over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline – on hold afterPresident Obama rejected TransCanada’s initial construction proposal – are some key findings that run counter to the rosy picture of abundant supply and lower prices so often painted by US politicians.

Canadian companies backing the Keystone XL – touted as enhancing US energy security with a big new surge of imported Canadian oil – actually expect it to supply more lucrative Gulf Coast export markets as well as raise Midwest oil prices by reducing “oversupply” in that region.

These little-publicized findings are contained in the studies and testimony of experts working for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands across America’s heartland to Gulf Coast refineries.

Some of these concerns popped up, albeit briefly, in US congressional testimony last year on the pipeline project, and have given rise to a recent proposal to bar the sale of Keystone oil overseas.

Don't Wanna Be an American Idiot

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why the American Empire Was Destined to Collapse

by Nomi Prins

Author and social critic Morris Berman says the fact that we're a nation of hustlers lies at the root of our decline.

Bottom of Form
Several years after the Wall Street-ignited crisis began, the nation’s top bank CEOs (who far out-accumulated their European and other international counterparts) continue to hobnob with the president at campaign dinners where each plate costs more than one out of four US households make in a year. Financial bigwigs lead their affluent lives, unaffected, unremorseful, and unindicted for wreaking havoc on the nation. Why? Because they won. They hustled better. They are living the American Dream.

This is not the American Dream that says if you work hard you can be more comfortable than your parents; but rather, if you connive well, game the rules, and rule the game, your take from others is unlimited. In this paradigm, human empathy, caring, compassion, and connection have been devalued from the get-go. This is the flaw in the entire premise of the American Dream: if we can have it all, it must by definition be at someone else’s expense.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

To the Last Drop

Residents of one Canadian town are engaged in a David and Goliath-style battle over the dirtiest oil project ever known.

Filmmakers: Niobe Thompson and Tom Radford

The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta is facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the Tar Sands project, which may be the tipping point for oil development in Canada.

The local community has experienced a spike in cancer cases and dire studies have revealed the true consequences of "dirty oil".

Gripped in a Faustian pact with the American energy consumer, the Canadian government is doing everything it can to protect the dirtiest oil project ever known. In the following account, filmmaker Tom Radford describes witnessing a David and Goliath struggle.

Is Big Government Good or Bad for America?

S. Paul Forrest

Elizabeth Mendes has stated, “Americans' concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.

Historically, Americans have always been more concerned about big government than big business or big labor in response to this trend question dating back to 1965. Concerns about big business surged to a high of 38% in 2002, after the large-scale accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom. An all-time-high 65% of Americans named big government as the greatest threat in 1999 and 2000. Worries about big labor have declined significantly over the years, from a high of 29% in 1965 to the 8% to 11% range over the past decade and a half.

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

A report from Rolling Stone about the financial disaster that lingers beneath the environmental one

by Common Dreams staff

Image above: Overspray of drilling slurry at 
hydro-fracking drill site. This by-product from
mining operations includes rock debris, drill
bit lubricants and possibly residual radioactive
material. The overspray at the top is a violation
and a danger to any bodies of water downhill. 

Dimock, Pennsylvania. From
A profile of billionaire natural gas tycoon, Aubrey McClendon, by Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell is out today and it paints a frightening, if not complex, picture of one of the men profiting most from the nation's insatiable appetite for fossil fuels.

Kimberley McCoy of Syracuse at right demonstrated against gas fracking last year in New York. (Mike Greenlar / The Post Standard)Speaking to Goodell over a $100 glass of Bordeaux, McClendon, who is CEO of and co-founder of Chesapeake Energy, challenges the objections to the gas extraction practice known as 'fracking' in which huge amounts of pressurized water and chemicals are pumped down deep into shale formations in the earth to unlock trapped natural gas, forcing it to the surface.  "Where is the mushroom cloud?" McClendon asks. "Where are the dogs with one leg? Where are the people that have been maimed or hurt?"

He is referring to environmentalists and homeowners who claim that fracking is inherently dangerous and underregulated and that is leads to contamination of drinking water supplies and creates enormous amounts of surface waste in and around the communities where drilling operations exist.  If he really wanted to know where the damage was occuring, he might start with Josh Fox's documentary, GasLand, which has served as a rallying cry for anti-fracking activists.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Would War with Iran Look Like?

by Jeffrey White

The debate over what to do about an Iranian Islamist regime apparently bent on acquiring nuclear weapons has been on or near our front burner for at least six years, and is now almost a settled feature of the policy landscape. There is general agreement in the United States on two points. First, an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is “unacceptable”, as both the Bush and Obama Administrations have put it; and second, we prefer getting to an acceptable outcome without using force. The debate gets testy when we consider that means short of force, such as sanctions and covert technical sabotage, might not work.

It may be too simple to reduce the argument to just two sides—those who fear the regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons more than the consequences of a war to prevent it, and those who fear the consequences of a war above all else—but in this case simplicity has the virtue of capturing the essence as observers ponder which set of unpalatable risks they would rather run. What is remarkable, though hardly surprising, is that the two sides usually put forth very different assessments of what using force would entail. Those who fear Iranian nukes above all else tend to minimize the risks of using force, while those who fear war tend to exaggerate them. Neither side, however, has persuasively spelled out the reasons for their assessment, leading one to suspect that much of the argument rests on less than rigorous analysis.

What would an honest assessment of the risks of military conflict with Iran look like? How should we think about it? These are difficult questions even for those who are not partisans of one side or the other. Wars are notorious for yielding unintended and unexpected consequences; for reasons explained below, a war against Iran is even harder than usual to bound, analytically.