Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcome to the Asylum

by Chris Hedges

When civilizations start to die they go insane. Let the ice sheets in the Arctic melt. Let the temperatures rise. Let the air, soil and water be poisoned. Let the forests die. Let the seas be emptied of life. Let one useless war after another be waged. Let the masses be thrust into extreme poverty and left without jobs while the elites, drunk on hedonism, accumulate vast fortunes through exploitation, speculation, fraud and theft. Reality, at the end, gets unplugged. We live in an age when news consists of Snooki’s pregnancy, Hulk Hogan’s sex tape and Kim Kardashian’s denial that she is the naked woman cooking eggs in a photo circulating on the Internet. Politicians, including presidents, appear on late night comedy shows to do gags and they campaign on issues such as creating a moon colony. “At times when the page is turning,” Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote in “Castle to Castle,” “when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!”

The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth, as Karl Marx observed, is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism. This quest, as there is less and less to exploit, leads to mounting repression, increased human suffering, a collapse of infrastructure and, finally, collective death. It is the self-deluded, those on Wall Street or among the political elite, those who entertain and inform us, those who lack the capacity to question the lusts that will ensure our self-annihilation, who are held up as exemplars of intelligence, success and progress. The World Health Organization calculates that one in four people in the United States suffers from chronic anxiety, a mood disorder or depression—which seems to me to be a normal reaction to our march toward collective suicide. Welcome to the asylum.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars

by Robert Freeman

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is the Supreme Court About to Mobilize Latino Voters?

by Adam Serwer

Almost two years ago to the day, activists in Arizona assembled in front of the state capitol in Phoenix to protest SB 1070, the harsh immigration law that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about on Wednesday. The activists' 100-day vigil signaled a growing political awakening of Arizona's Latino residents—a shift that could affect the outcome of this year's election and many more to come. If the Supreme Court allows the Arizona law to stand, activists say, it could trigger an even greater shift in Latinos' attitudes.

"If the Supreme Court gives Arizona the green light to legitimize discrimination and racial profiling, it's going to mobilize Latinos in an unprecedented way in the 2012 election and beyond," says Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration reform group America's Voice. "I think it'll be a defining moment."

Immigrant rights' activists say they've seen this story before. In 1994, while running for reelection, California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson supported a ballot referendum, Proposition 187, that would have ended access to any public services for undocumented immigrants and directed local law enforcement to question anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Wilson and Prop 187 won handily. A federal court found the law unconstitutional, and it never actually went into effect. But political scientists credit the fight over Prop 187 with turning the state of California solidly blue by making Latino voters in the state overwhelmingly Democratic.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A War Upon Us

by David Glenn Cox 

I heard this news story the other day, "The worst housing downturn in seven decades," okay, lets be honest about something here. They are referencing the "Great Depression" of the 1930's when the American population was only a 150 million people. So just by the weight and the sheer volume of the numbers and of the dollar amounts involved, we are talking about a home foreclosure crisis which, by itself, becomes an event unprecedented in the annals of American history and in all world history, as well.

After over a decade of perpetual war, suicides among active duty
military personnel exceed three each week. 164 last year, 159 the year
before and that's still only counting those on active duty. We can build
better armored tanks or the stealthier aircraft but people break,
they're fragile. You can't put young people under murderous stress after
training them to do the opposite of what they have been taught all of
their lives without breaking some of them. The war has become unpopular
now and so is no longer newsworthy, but they still must grind on, doing
the ugly work of empire.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Big Empty: Eating Cheetos with the Hungry Ghosts of a Corporate State

by Phil Rockstroh

Due to the consolidation of wealth and privilege into fewer and fewer hands, thus requiring escalating amounts of officially mandated surveillance and brutality to maintain social order, the natural trajectory of unregulated capitalism tends towards hyper-authoritarian excess, even towards fascism. Moreover, by the standards of capitalist ideology, and exacerbated by the rigged nature of economic and social arrangements -- large segments of society are deemed losers, and, resultantly, will grow restive, if scapegoats aren't invented to mitigate a sense of humiliation and displace rage. Accordingly, rightist demagogic fictions can seize the psyches of large segments of the general public: immigrant interlopers wreck the economy; minority layabouts suck-up public funds; gays and women, possessed of dubious morality, destroy the nation's moral fabric; lefties are driven to challenge the system, but only because of their spite, borne of jealousy.

The "purer" the form of capitalism the faster the rise of fascism. There is a dark and bitter grace to this: Fascism is the deranged agency that sends the capitalist machine into systemic runaway, thus the system crashes and burns -- and out of its ashes and debris…a more humane system can come into being.

Although the yearning for freedom is inborn, as is the case with the development of any skill or talent, one must open oneself to its promise by discipline and practice. Otherwise, attempts at exercising freedom -- free will's dance with resistant and changing circumstance -- can be an ugly sight to behold.

The NSA Is Watching You

by Amy Goodman,

Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained - sometimes at gunpoint - and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.

The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to "see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world." Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, "After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA," as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.

Congress Steering US Economy Toward a 'Fiscal Cliff'

by John W. Schoen

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke calls it the “fiscal cliff.” It might be better thought of as the next economic Armageddon.

Unless Congress acts to soften the blow, economists are warning that a looming year-end collision of massive, “automatic” cuts in federal spending and the expiration of sweeping Bush-era tax cuts could crush an already weak U.S. economic recovery.

And unlike the central bank’s response to the Panic of 2008, the Fed would be powerless to offset the catastrophic impact on the economy and financial markets.

"There is absolutely no chance that the Federal Reserve would be able to have the ability whatsoever to offset that effect on the economy," Bernanke told reporters Wednesday, following a two-day meeting of the Fed's policy-making committee.

The risk of a potential economic train wreck stems from a series of contentious political decisions that Congress has been ducking for years, postponing a long list of tough choices until the end of the year, until after the national elections.

A Nation of Morons

by Stephen Lendman

Jefferson called an educated citizenry "a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

Madison warned that "A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or, perhaps both."

Jack Kennedy said "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."

In 1748, Montesquieu said "The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."

In a June 1950 commencement speech, Boston University President Daniel Marsh said, "If the (television) craze continues....we are destined to have a nation of morons."

Well before television arrived, journalist Walter Lippmann called the public "the bewildered herd." In policy matters, their function is to be "spectators," not "participants." 

"The common interests elude public opinion entirely," he said, and that's the way it should be. 

America's privileged class alone should manage them. Only they need proper education and training. Treat others like mushrooms - well-watered and in the dark. In other words, distracted by bread and circuses. More on that below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How Liberty Was Lost

by Paul Craig Roberts

Liberty Lost - Lakota Phillips
When did things begin going wrong in America?

“From the beginning,” answer some. English colonists, themselves under the thumb of a king, exterminated American Indians and stole their lands, as did late 18th and 19th century Americans. Over the course of three centuries the native inhabitants of America were dispossessed, just as Israelis have been driving Palestinians off their lands since 1948.

Demonization always plays a role. The Indians were savages and the Palestinians are terrorists. Any country that can control the explanation can get away with evil.

I agree that there is a lot of evil in every country and civilization. In the struggle between good and evil, religion has at times been on the side of evil. However, the notion of moral progress cannot so easily be thrown out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

America’s New Slavery

by S. Paul Forrest

In order to function or rather, survive in these United States, We the People must pay a price.  We must pay for food, phone, insurance (health, car, home owner’s, etc) as well as cable, car payments, mortgage or rent, electricity, water, food, taxes, et al.  We must on average, somehow come up with a base income each year to live within our self-made and ignorantly perpetuated matrix.  It is the price we must shoulder to support our allegiance to a system which operates on greed and centers upon materialism propagated by media and deeply engrained in our psyche. It is the price we must pay in order to “survive” in a nation that has made profit a priority instead of provisions for its people. 

For many in America, this price is too high.  As reported by Cornell West and Travis Smiley, one in two Americans or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty or could be classified as low income. The economic realm in which these 50% exist, as opposed to the plantation days where room and board were at least guaranteed, their slavery is dependent upon the ability to somehow, in whatever way possible, obtain the money to survive upon the plantation else end up on the streets; discounted among the rabble and at the mercy of the in-place system.

The Koch Brothers – Exposed!


If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.

But no need to invent – Charles and David Koch are the real deal. Over the past 30-some years, they've poured more than 100 million dollars into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy organizations, lobbyists and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They don't oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the the holiness of free markets. Still, you can't help but notice how neatly their philosophy lines up with their business interests.) They like to think of elected politicians as merely "actors playing out a script," and themselves as supplying "the themes and words for the scripts." Imagine Karl Rove’s strategic cunning, crossed with Ron Paul’s screw-the-poor ideology, and hooked up to Warren Buffett's checking account, and you’re halfway there.

Charge That Iran is "Existential Threat" To Israel Not Substantiated By Evidence of Past Aggression and Contemporary Military Preparedness

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Just looking at the facts, it appears far more likely that the U.S. will attack Iran again than Iran would attack the U.S. or Israel, America’s Middle East pawn. I say “again” because the U.S. has already an embarrassing record of aggression against Iran, so, if past is prologue, the U.S./Israeli alliance will strike Iran, not the other way around. A review of the historical record and contemporary military outlays and actions tends to support this view. In 1953, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian Premier  Mohammad Mossedagh, a crime for which the U.S. has never apologized. The overthrow put Mohammad-Reza Shah(king) Palevi on the throne, a man whose dictatorship  savagely tortured and killed thousands of Iranians for 26 years.

As all this occurred long before Iran had the beginning of any nuclear activity so in no way could the U.S. make the claim it makes today that Iran’s nuclear program  then represented some kind of existential threat to U.S. ally Israel that justified an attack. Instead, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the view the CIA intervention came about because Iran kicked out the Anglo-Iranian oil company (known today as BP) when the British firm swindled the Iranians out of their fair share of revenues from the oil fields. The Shah’s savagery led to angry Iranians toppling his regime and storming the U.S. Embassy in 1979, holding its  54-member staff prisoner for 444 days and embarrassing the U.S. before the world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Down With Everything

by Thomas L. Friedman

Does America need an Arab Spring? That was the question on my mind when I called Frank Fukuyama, the Stanford professor and author of “The End of History and the Last Man.” Fukuyama has been working on a two-volume opus called “The Origins of Political Order,” and I could detect from his recent writings that his research was leading him to ask a very radical question about America’s political order today, namely: has American gone from a democracy to a “vetocracy” — from a system designed to prevent anyone in government from amassing too much power to a system in which no one can aggregate enough power to make any important decisions at all?

“There is a crisis of authority, and we’re not prepared to think about it in these terms,” said Fukuyama. “When Americans think about the problem of government, it is always about constraining the government and limiting its scope.” That dates back to our founding political culture. The rule of law, regular democratic rotations in power and human rights protections were all put in place to create obstacles to overbearing, overly centralized government. “But we forget,” Fukuyama added, “that government was also created to act and make decisions.”

Psychiatric Bias and Bigotry in Mainstream Corporate Media

by Don Weitz

In a democratic system of thought control…[it is] necessary to take over the entire spectrum of opinion, the entire spectrum of discussion, so that nothing can be thinkable apart from the party line; not just that it be obeyed, but that you can’t even think of anything else.
~ Noam Chomsky, linguist and political activist

The myths and stereotypes surrounding “mental illness” and the “violent mental patient” are unfortunately alive and well. Medical reporters and columnists, editors and producers in the mainstream, corporate-controlled media in Canada and the United States constantly parrot psychiatry’s discredited medical model of “mental illness,” “mental health,” “safe and effective medication” and “lifesaving” electroshock as though they were proven scientific facts. I charge the corporate-controlled media with promoting fraud – presenting psychiatric opinion and “mental health” ideology as “medical science.” They air psychiatric propaganda – psychobabble – almost every day, repeating like a mantra that “schizophrenia” is a brain disease; that “bipolar mood disorder” is caused by a “chemical imbalance in the brain”; that “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD) is a neurological disorder. So-called objective and balanced articles and TV specials on “mental illness” or “mental health” broadcasts by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and published in The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and the National Post never cite credible medical or scientific evidence to support such claims – because there is none.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto

Democracy Now!

The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto." Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. "There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that," Smiley says. "I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one." West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, "the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination."

Unplugging Americans from the Matrix

by Paul Craig Roberts

Americans, the British, and Western Europeans are accustomed to thinking of themselves as the representatives of freedom, democracy, and morality in the world. The West passes judgment on the rest of the world as if the West is God and the rest of the world are barbarians in need of chastisement, invasion, and occupation. As readers know, from time to time I raise questions about the validity of the West’s extreme hubris. (See for example, the following articles: Washington’s Insouciance Has No Rivaland Is Western Democracy Real or a Facade? )

China is often a country about which Washington’s moralists get on their high horse. However, China’s “authoritarian” government is actually more responsive to its people than America’s “elected democratic” government. Moreover, however incomplete on paper the civil liberties of China’s people, the Chinese government has not declared that it can violate with impunity whatever rights Chinese citizens have. And it is not China that is running torture prisons all over the globe.

Regulating domestic drones on a deadline

by Benjamin Wittes and John Villasenor

In February, President Obama signed into law a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that requires the agency — on a fairly rapid schedule — to write rules opening U.S. airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles. This puts the FAA at the center of a potentially dramatic set of policy changes that stand to usher in a long list of direct and indirect benefits. But the FAA is not a privacy agency. And although real privacy concerns have arisen about these aircraft, asking the agency to take on the role of privacy czar for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would be a mistake.

UAVs; commonly known as drones, offer real promise for an array of domestic applications. In an era of ever-tighter budgets, they could dramatically reduce the cost to law enforcement agencies and private companies involved in gathering vital — in some cases, lifesaving — information. UAV research and innovation are driving the creation of companies and the jobs that accompany them. Many of these innovations are pushing the frontiers of robotics in ways that will help U.S. competitiveness in this industry and beyond.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earth Day 2012: Still Desperately Seeking Environmental Justice

by Robert Bullard

The world is very different this Earth Day 2012 than it was three decades ago in Warren County, NC where protests against apolychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) landfill sparked the national Environmental Justice Movement. These protests and arrests also provided the impetus for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice to issue its landmark "Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States" report in 1987. The UCC report found people of color overrepresented in communities near hazardous waste sites. Two decades later, the 2007 UCC Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty report found African Americans and other people of color make up the majority (56%) of the residents living in neighborhoods within two miles of the nation's commercial hazardous waste facilities, nearly double the percentage in areas beyond two miles (30%); they also make up more than two-thirds (69%) of the residents in neighborhoods with two or more clustered facilities.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do We the People Really Have any Rights at All?

by S. Paul Forrest

If you missed the discussion on Breaking Taboo  7:00 PM EST - Be sure to listen to it HERE

We the People are currently being inundated with CISPA, SOPA, CIA deals with FaceBook and Google search engines designed to engineer our interests.  We have been sold phones, highway toll counters and automobile assistance mechanisms that can all be used to track us and record our activities.  All of these wonderful items of technological ingenuity are prying into our lives and actively dictating our allegiances to everything from purchases to political party affiliation. These weapons of mass manipulation have been questioned by Libertarians, Liberals and even Conservatives who all have become concerned whether our Rights to Privacy are being erased.  At the end of the day, the question is not whether our rights are being erased but whether we had any to begin with.

Everyday, many of us contemplate our freedoms as if we have any choice in their existence, implementation or deletion.  After all, the government allows us our rights and it is the government which stands poised to take them away without our participation.  From Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, the Right to Vote and even the right to Assemble have all come to the forefront in our discussions and to the negating floors of Legislative Halls. Many of these rights are currently being challenged by governmental players (or is it puppets?). The only question which comes to mind in the argument over our rights and the seeming rush of governmental “leaders” to deprive us of thoe provisions of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, is a simple one: Have we ever truly had any rights?

Even though the concerns are warranted for the ongoing erosion of our freedoms stemming from the Patriot Act and National “Defense” Act (which more appropriately be called the “Offensive” Act), the fact remains that any rights or liberties we have been given were placed there by government and it is that same government which can take them away. One must also consider the definition of what “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are.  Those favoring the actions of SOPA , TSA body groping or the ever expanding body of Laws allowing government to pry into our lives, will say the Laws are there to protect us from terrorists.  In this same way, Occupy Wall Street protestors are assaulted and their right to assemble, deprived because political based media states they pose a nuisance to business thereby depriving proprietors of their Pursuit of Happiness or society their ignorance of the problems at hand.

Rights are a simple concept; you may have as many as you want as long as you follow the system’s definition of them, obediently.  As an example; I have the "right" or as some will contest, "privilege", to drive down the road as long as I have a license, insurance, go the speed limit, etc…Likewise, I have a right to speech, assembly, etc as long as I follow the rules or Laws that apply to their exercise.  The problem though is when the rules keep changing and the road becomes a route through a myopic spectrum where how you dress, how you look or what your age, sex, ethnicity or class association is determines which laws apply to you.  We all should have the equal right to own a car and drive down the same roads but as this nation continues to channel its xenophobic angst against those who do not fit the mould of the day, the road becomes a rail and control takes the place of our freedom leading some of us into a tunnel where we quickly face a collision with the speeding locomotive called injustice.

The Right to Contraception

Contributed by Pierce Giboney

Doublespeak - language that deliberately (or ignorantly) disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.

The latest example - I have a "right" to "free" contraception.

To pronounce that you have a right to the goods and services of others is a grave distortion of what it means to have rights.  To carelessly proclaim a personal desire for a “right” cheapens what it means to have rights and threatens to undermine the rights we actually do have.  To believe this distortion is to believe that rights are derived from law - from power.  To believe this distortion is to not believe in rights at all.  To understand the danger of the premise – rights are derived from laws – we need only follow it to its logical conclusions.
"Life, faculties, production—in other words; individuality, liberty, property (rights)—this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts precede all human legislation and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." – Frederic Bastiat - The Law
The rule of law, in its proper form, gives sanction to the use of force to protect individual lives, liberties, and property – our rights.  In its increasingly common and most perverted form, the “rule” of law gives sanction to the powerful to use force to protect their own interests.  Unfortunately, the proper form of law over time gradually devolves into its perverted form.  And this is the danger with the premise that rights are derived from law – A man or woman can only have rights so long as their form of government has lawmakers willing to pass legislation to grant those rights.  The fatal flaw in this thinking is most easily demonstrated under a totalitarian system of government.  If this premise is true, the unfortunate individuals living under the boot of a dictator would have no grounds to claim that their rights were being violated.  They may suffer, they may be oppressed, but their rights as human beings could not be violated as the dictator has not enacted laws to grant them rights. 

First They Come for the Muslims

by Chris Hedges

Tarek Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced Thursday in Worcester, Mass., to 17½ years in prison. It was another of the tawdry show trials held against Muslim activists since 9/11 as a result of the government’s criminalization of what people say and believe. These trials, where secrecy rules permit federal lawyers to prosecute people on “evidence” the defendants are not allowed to examine, are the harbinger of a corporate totalitarian state in which any form of dissent can be declared illegal. What the government did to Mehanna, and what it has done to hundreds of other innocent Muslims in this country over the last decade, it will eventually do to the rest of us.

Mehanna, a teacher at Alhuda Academy in Worcester, was convicted after an eight-week jury trial of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and providing material support to al-Qaida, as well as making false statements to officials investigating terrorism. His real “crime,” however, seems to be viewing and translating jihadi videos online, speaking out against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and refusing to become a government informant.

Stephen F. Downs, a lawyer in Albany, N.Y., a founder of Project Salam and the author of “Victims of America’s Dirty War,” a booklet posted on the website, has defended Muslim activists since 2006. He has methodically documented the mendacious charges used to incarcerate many Muslim activists as terrorists. Because of “terrorism enhancement” provisions, any sentence can be quadrupled—even minor charges can leave prisoners incarcerated for years.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do You Live in An Exceptional Nation?

S. Paul note:  I received this letter from a friend (who happens to also be an ideological Tea Party member) and am not quite sure how I feel about it. Though I agree that our country is better than most, the idea that some how our “exceptional” nature and original charter allows us to somehow take control of the world as if we are its Sheppard, gives me pause. 

The abundant issues facing this nation and the battles along party lines left aside, we do live in an exceptional nation.  It is the term “exceptionalism” which worries me especially when used to justify closing our borders to immigrants, lessening our responsibilities to our citizens of less fortunate means or forcing Christian beliefs about contraception and the place of a woman in our society into being simply because we “are still better than” other nations.  Please let me know your thoughts on this.

The following letter was written by Alexander Green
via. Spiritual Wealth

Dear Reader,

Of all the arguments being made this political season, perhaps none is sillier than the left/right debate about American exceptionalism.

As every schoolchild knows, the United States has a unique history founded on principles of individual freedom. Our Declaration is a timeless statement of inherent rights, the proper purposes of government and the limits of political authority. Our core beliefs are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the longest-serving foundation of liberty in history.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected

by Nancy Scola

The recent blowing up of the Invisible Children viral video might have some of us thinking that Malcolm Gladwell was onto something with his biting critique of online politics, the so-called "slacktivism" debate. But the attention to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and, even more so, the connected debate over Stand Your Ground gun laws and the distancing of some of the country's biggest companies from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, shows how online organizing actually can work. And that, reasonably, seems to be causing palpitations in the hearts of everyone from Coca-Cola to the Koch brothers.

That's why even if, as Politico reports, the gun debate isn't happening in Washington, the N.R.A. shouldn't be unconcerned.

To itself, ALEC is an organization dedicated to the advancement of free market and limited government principles through a unique "public-private partnership" between state legislators and the corporate sector. To its critics, it's a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country. Started in the mid-1970s, ALEC's existence has been long known but its practices, largely, have not; the group hasn't been eager to tie its bills in Wisconsin to those in Ohio to those in North Carolina.

Challenging America's Plutocracy: The Power of Individual Voters to Transform Their Government

by William John Cox 

America is once again in crisis! All three branches of its government and its major political parties are controlled by a plutocracy composed of large corporations and the wealthy elite. Irrespective of the candidates they elect, the voters are neither represented nor protected. Every American is at great risk, not only for their freedoms, but for the very safety and well being of their families and for the future of their children.

Individual voters are the essential element of every democracy. Their effectiveness and the power they exercise determine the quality and extent of the freedoms they enjoy and the protection of the government they employ.

U.S. voters appear to be increasingly powerless to fight the plutocracy which runs their government. As a result, Americans are living in an ever more repressive police state that is illegally committing acts of violent aggression around the world.

The only thing that can possibly transform the U.S. government to one that cares for the voters who elect it, rather than for the plutocracy that controls it, is a unified opposition by allof the People, irrespective of their social class or political beliefs. The energy driving such a mass movement must flow from the personal actions taken by each of its individual participants.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pentagon Keeps Building Overseas Bases From Which It Can Menace The World

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

U.S. Bases in the Middle East
If the Iraq war is over and the Afghan war is winding down, what is prompting the remorseless expansion of the Pentagon's vast network of overseas military bases?

Veteran foreign affairs journalist Eric Walberg says the bases are the modern version of colonies. The U.S. has a whopping 1,100 of them in 63 countries so they're the preferred method by which the Pentagon seeks to dominate the planet.

That's why President George W. Bush could tell an Abu Dahbi audience on Jan. 13, 2008, “The United States has no desire for territory.”  It doesn’t need any more. The Pentagon’s real estate holdings include 52,000 buildings on gazillions of acres on bases around the world. It already is in a position to intimidate or attack virtually every country with overwhelming firepower, including nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Winds of War

Written by Stephen Lendman

When Washington plans regime change, wars are waged if other methods fail.

For over a year, Western-generated violence ravaged Syria. Assad remains firmly in control. As a result, expect war. All signs suggest it.

Annan's so-called peace plan is sham cover for what's planned. A longstanding imperial tool, he's part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of pointing fingers the right way, he blames Syria for insurgent crimes.

So does Ban Ki-moon, calling Assad "fully accountable for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law." He added that government forces are using the so-called April 10 halt to violence deadline as an "excuse" to increase it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thirteen Ways Government Tracks Us

by Bill Quigley

Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Obama Wreaks Duplicity

by Stephen Lendman

Like most in Congress, he serves wealth and power alone. People needs don't matter. Rule of law principles are spurned.

Peace is deplored. War is official policy. So are other duplicitous foreign policies for unchallenged global dominance.

Imagine what's ahead in a second term, regardless of which party controls Congress. Both are in lockstep on issues mattering most. They include pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran.

At the same time, Obama delivers mixed messages on Iran. Conciliatory comments follow baseless accusations and hawkishness, then more threats. In late March, he appealed directly to Iranians, saying there's "no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another."

Poetry, Plasticity, Philosophical Activism

by David PalumboLiu, 
Truthout | Op-Ed

This last term was evoked by the legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs during her recent speaking tour. She simultaneously called for "philosophical activists" and the need to reimagine work and the value system that we use to determine what work is worth. Here, I want to connect Bogg's comments to Catherine Malabou's critique of neuroscience and to link both to the Occupy movement.

The formula, "99 percent," seems at once incredibly rhetorical and real. We are used to hyperbole; we are less used to an absurdly lop-sided figure that is actually matched by a reality. Poetic figuration meets statistical validity.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

America’s Political Plasticity

by S. Paul Forrest

Be sure to tune in Monday - 04-09-12 -  to Beaking Taboo on   We will be discussing - What a Conservative is, what is a Liberal is and how today's descriptions of such are being blurred and misrepresented on both sides of the aisle...or are they?

Webster’s Dictionary defines Conservative as “favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change” whereas Liberal is defined as “favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others.” One would be lead to believe by these definitions that it is a simple matter of same old, same old versus open to change for a better tomorrow but considering the lack of any solid base belief or even, realization of any positives held within them which should in some way, be serving our national interests, each of these terms has come to signify nothing save for what advantage it has gained for the employers of in the politics of quasi ideology.

Take the right wing, Republican stage as an example: We have suffered through the theatrics of what should be, what was and what could have been to the point where very few people truly know what the Right wing even represents any more.  The Reagan Republicans say one thing, the Tea Party Conservatives, another and the fiscal, “true” conservatives, coupled with their religious mania driven counterparts, another.  Likewise, the Democrats, caught between the Alinsky mantras of radicalism and the social engineering of unrealistic socialism, have no real idea of what they even stand for anymore.  The plasticity of these parties has grown to such an extent that even those who would have in some past time, made sense, are dismissed as radical or even, fanatical demagogues, as they most reasonably, should be.

All one has to do to understand the dilemma facing our circus-like, political system to realize how far this nation has fallen away from the reality of what our Republic was supposed to be and what it is no longer, is examine either the words of our present, Presidential hopefuls or the false promises of the current, White House occupants. One does not have to stumble far along in the fog of manipulated drama to understand the obvious: The longer we believe that we are being served by these actors performing in the worst of Shakespearean nightmares, the more likely we are to fall victim to their deceit and the closer we come to the destruction of our national essence.

We Americans are surrounded everyday by the plasticity of persona, physical appearance, media entertainment and political theater:  It inundates our lives daily through billboards, mindless television shows and interpersonal connections but rarely does it affect our lives in a hugely, negative way. After all, if we do not like the scenes in front of us, we can simply ignore them and choose to focus on a different reality.  The transparency dominating the political arena of this nation and by proxy, our individual lives ought to be as easy to ignore but whereas our taste in food, face or clothing are merely temporary distractions and soon enough deemed irrelevant, the long term affectations of America’s political plasticity has major, potentially destructive ramifications and so cannot and should not, be so easily ignored.  Fairy tales are loved for their "Happy Endings" but if We the People do not awaken from our current, ignorant slumber, the ending will be less than happy; it will eventually become a nightmare from which, we will not be able to awaken.

How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses

by Naomi Wolf

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protestinganywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."

In surreal reasoning, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices' decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven't been introduced into a prison population.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government — what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How the Young Are Indoctrinated to Obey

by Noam Chomsky

Forty years ago there was deep concern that the population was breaking free of apathy and obedience. Since then, many measures have been taken to restore discipline.
Public education is under attack around the world, and in response, student protests have recently been held in Britain, Canada, Chile, Taiwan and elsewhere.

California is also a battleground. The Los Angeles Times reports on another chapter in the campaign to destroy what had been the greatest public higher education system in the world: "California State University officials announced plans to freeze enrollment next spring at most campuses and to wait-list all applicants the following fall pending the outcome of a proposed tax initiative on the November ballot."

Similar defunding is under way nationwide. "In most states," The New York Times reports, "it is now tuition payments, not state appropriations, that cover most of the budget," so that "the era of affordable four-year public universities, heavily subsidized by the state, may be over."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Truth About the US Postal Service

by Jim Hightower

What does 50 cents buy these days? Not a cuppa joe, a pack of gum or a newspaper. But you can get a steal of deal for a 50-cent piece: a first-class stamp. Plus a nickel in change.

Each day, six days a week, letter carriers traverse 4 million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching the very doorsteps of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. From the gated enclaves and penthouses of the uber-wealthy to the inner-city ghettos and rural colonias of America's poorest families, the U.S. Postal Service literally delivers. All for 45 cents. The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.

So, naturally, it must be destroyed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Supreme Court’s Abominable Strip-Search Ruling

by Kevin Gosztola 

As widely reported yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that officials could strip-search individuals being admitted to jail, even if they had committed minor offenses.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the decision that he was not willing to “second-guess the judgments of correction officials.”

Those concerned about Americans’ rights to privacy unanimously opposed the decision that further legitimized a practice the American Bar Association argues violates international human rights treaties.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) condemned the decision, though it admitted that the impact of the decision remained to be seen.
“Today’s decision jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year and brought to jail, often for minor offenses,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU. “Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion. Jail security is important, but it does not require routinely strip searching everyone who is arrested for any reason, including traffic violations, and who may be in jail for only a few hours.” “The practical impact of the decision remains to be seen,” Shapiro added. “Ten states prohibit strip searching minor offenders as a matter of state law, and those laws are unaffected by today’s opinion. In addition, the Court was careful to recognize that strip searches may still be unconstitutional under certain circumstances.”